Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Beautiful Day

Dear Andy,

This morning before the insane heat set in, I went for a long walk. Daisy was sleeping in the Ergo, Casey was running ahead off-leash, and my iPod started playing Beautiful Day by U2, although it really isn’t a beautiful day with the smoke and the heat, but anyways, it made me think of you. These days I try not to let my mind stray too far from the task at hand for fear of the tears bubbling just below the surface. For thinking about how much I hate cancer. But, instead of tears, I thought about our visit to your Great Aunt and Uncle’s house outside Cologne, Germany. You boasted of your German, and claimed we wouldn’t have any language barrier issues; and you were right – after only 30 minutes of trying to explain that we were related. And then they fed us piles of cold cuts and cheese cubes and we drank pints of beer. That was before the double-scoop ice cream cones. And then they took us to a fancy dinner. I remember sitting down looking at the lovely lake view, and thinking that we were obviously having a bit of translation problems. Oye! I still remember how full I felt. Then, I thought of our time in Amsterdam when we split that “brownie” and I swore to you up and down that I didn’t feel the special ingredient baked into the batter, and you made me sit down at the train station because I was nonsensical while buying our tickets.

In fact, I’m so glad you talked me into visiting Amsterdam as that was one of my favorite cities on our European jaunt. Remember that night we went to the coffee shop, split one of the specials, and after we walked back to our hostel stopping for some pancakes, frites and more pancakes and frites. (I’m noticing a theme here…) And then we stayed up for hours playing Gin Rummy in our hostel, laughing like we had not a care in the world.

When you moved out to California, thirteen odd years ago, I never imagined that we would become friends first, cousins second. You were a college grad, talked with a Bostonian accent and said stuff was “wicked” – in other words, you were an aspiring Hollywood screenwriter. You were a dreamer, laid-back, and took chances. And I was a teenager who was anal, impatient and practical. And yet, we managed to forge a friendship – not just a friendship, but you became a confidant, a role model and comrade. In fact, when I was nervous about moving to a foreign country, you encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone. You are generous. You are kind. And you are funny. You always challenged me, and for that I am grateful.

Also, you are courageous, always have been, always will be, and that’s how I think of you most. In fact, you even have Der Mut on your left arm which roughly means “courage, heart, spirit, braveness and grit.” I remember sitting on my parents’ patio and you told me how you wanted that to remind yourself of your mother’s German family, wanted to never lose sight of these traits in whatever walk of life you were experiencing. Later that year, I went with you to get the word Soule tattooed on your shoulder. You wanted to recognize the Swan side, and our ancestor George Soule’s courage and bravery for surviving the Mayflower and that first, hard cold winter in Plymouth. And just like good ol’ George, you are a survivor. And it is that bravery and heart that are at the core of your spirit. It’s a clumsy metaphor, I know, but you seem to help so many people like that, to demonstrate what it means to fully embrace life, to go after your true passions. I want to say thank you for that.

I miss you and Jen and Nicholas in California, but I know you are better back in Boston and being treated at a top rate cancer institute. I look forward to the celebrations we’ll have when we beat this disease. And the smiles and the laughs, and the tears of joy we’ll shed. And, the margaritas we’ll drink - as if we won’t have a care in the world.

Much love,


Saturday, September 04, 2010

The beauty of vacation

“No man needs a vacation so much as the man who has just had one."   ---Mark Twain

Two weeks ago I was hiking to this:


Drinking cold, fruity, adult beverages:


Stopping to admire the view of these:


Keeping my eyes peeled for some of these:


And spending my days with my two favorite people:


Our little family holiday was lovely, and by the time we reached Santa Fe I felt fully recharged. However, from the minute we returned my life has chaotic, intense, and stressful. But, alas, at least I learned a few take-aways from this vacation:

a) Driving through the desert in August is HOT. HOT. HOT.

b) Hands down, New Mexico has the best food in the US of A. They put green chilies and red sauce on everything.

c) I should not attempt mountain biking until I’ve had my morning coffee.

We left on a Friday afternoon and headed for Las Vegas to visit family (not to mention, take advantage of free room & board), before we drove, quite literally, through the middle of nowhere-ville Utah, to Arches National Park where we spent the next two days leisurely melting in the hot sun while we hiked around with a 15-pound weight on our shoulders.


It should be noted, by the way, that in order to recover from our day and a half of hiking through Arches National Park, we spent the next few days doing much of this:


And I now have memorized Caps for sale: A tale of a peddler, some monkeys and their monkey business. (Don’t worry, lest you think I am some sort of memorizing genius; it’s a 6-page rhyming board book.)

By the end of our week we managed to do a little of everything – hiking, shopping, sights, eating, lots of driving – and we spent our evenings drinking margaritas on our patio while watching lightning bolts dance across the sky; counting the seconds in-between for thunder. There is little I love more in life than a good summer thunderstorm: the smell of the rain, the beauty of the lightening, and the cool, quiet blues that follow the storm’s wakes.



I planned to take pictures of my Santa Fe, uh souvenir and parade it about the Internet – and by souvenir, I mean the cowboy hat that I drug J and Daisy all over Santa Fe trying to procure, but instead I find that I have papers to grade, a car battery to fix, and library books to return. Thanks for raining on my parade, real life! I can post more pictures of our Southwest trip and jaunt to Minnesota though, if you’re interested. But unless you’re one of my parents, one of J’s parents, or a member of the Taos Tourism Board, I’m not entirely sure you will be.