Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Tucson, AZ

After a few anxiety-producing pregnancy issues and a couple days of tests to be sure I was travel-safe, I went to Tucson, AZ this week for the gem show. This is like at least forty gem shows that take over the town -- convention centers, giant tents, whole hotels where every room is a different vendor. . . it goes on and on and on.

It's overwhelming for the heartiest of shoppers, and was definitely a bit much for this way pregnant lady. I stopped a lot, watched a lot of demos and presentations and workshops, and chugged a lot of water. I saw people I knew and met people I'd heard of, tried new tools, learned about gems, and I had a very good time. I bought just a few things; mainly I got an understanding of the scene for other trips.

My friend, jeweler Jade Moran, traveled with me, and we stayed with my wonderful aunt. So, it was as safe and comfortable and fun as possible. The last day, the three of us just went and played. We drove down to the artist colony town Tubac (a day before their extensive arts fair began!) and wandered galleries and outdoor sculpture gardens for half the day. (This fountain dripped water off of her hair, which was super cool....)

Then we went back north to the Sonoran Desert Museum, which has miles of trails going to various outdoor live wildlife exhibits. Since the kicking beachball and I were a bit tired by then and we had a short amount of time to see the sights, I got wheeled around in a wheelchair at high speed, screaming and laughing as we visited bobcats and ocelots and several enclosed aviaries.

We admired the view from the visitor center of Saguaro National Park, then stopped in a mountain pass to watch the sunset before going out for Mexican. It was a fabulous day.

I'd only been north of Phoenix before, so it was a real treat seeing the cacti and very Western movie type landscape of closer to the border. I don't think I'd want to mountain bike there...they had me nervous enough about going flying from the wheelchair. See, it's a rather sharp place: always have to make sure you're not being followed!

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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Tips for Taking a "Babymoon"

Go somewhere warm. Not super blazing hot, but warm. It adds to the ways you can just relax. If you're going to a foreign city and not minding the cold since you'll need to stop and have something to drink or rest frequently anyway, don't forget that many cafes and restaurants in the world are extremely smoke-filled.

Don't stay in hotels known for their nightclubs. Even expensive hotels with popular clubs don't always shield their sleeping customers from noise. There's nothing more pathetic feeling than a total lack of sleep while you're pregnant in a foreign place.

Stay in places that are near stores or restaurants so that it's easy to have a constant supply of bottled water and snacks, and you can make decent last minute or fatigued decisions about meals.

Don't plan in too much walking. Maybe you're a hiker, and maybe you Really want to be an active pregnant lady, but guess what? You get tired more easily. And you'll be a lot more frustrated by that than by not having tired yourself.

If you're traveling anywhere with remote, bumpy off-road travel involve, you may want to rethink your plan. Riding over big potholes in dirt roads actually really hurts the new ligaments supporting your stomach, and occasionally your lower back. Body parts that hurt have a tendency to thwart sleep, and overtired pregnant people feel horrible. And, really, no one likes a scrambled baby.

In fact, do as little as possible. This is really hard for super Type A travelers and very self-sufficient people. However, get over it. Sleep in a hammock by the beach for hours. Take a cab those couple of miles. Have security guards give you a ride up to the summit of some site you want to see. Treat yourself. Especially if you've traveled to a place where people actually act respectful to pregnant women.

Walk on the beach and swim in the warm ocean or a warm pool for your exercise (no hot tubs!). If you hike constantly in your pregnancy, take some short hikes. If you kayak, paddle a little, but take it easy. Everything is about moderation, from the fried food craving to the exercise.

If you're pregnant in a cold season and traveling to a hot place, be prepared for other bodily changes – extra weight makes for faster body temperature rises, harder hill climbing, chafing, heat rash and more. Even more water intake is necessary.

Bring Tums, possibly chewable fiber pills, and your vitamins.

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006


We're having trouble booking a vacation to the Caribbean. Lots of places are more expensive than we thought. [burp] So, we'll probably go to Puerto Rico, the one place there I've been as an adult. Oh well, there could be worse problems.

My mother-in-law and I had a play date today. We made fun of maternity clothes and examined the baby gear possibilities in the outlets near her, she took me out to a yummy lunch and then we played with alcohol-based inks in the afternoon. She is amazing and created all these wild abstract colors and shapes. It was fun. One of the best things about art projects is that I forget I'm pregnant while I do them. [burp]

So there my kid will get beach and art and baked goods and my dad is itching to play with the kid and picnic under the planes at the local airport and feed the ducks together and this all makes me feel really loved and relieved and excited.

When I got home the nurse had left a message that she had "great news" so I think the amnio went well, but the eek part is that I'm afraid to call tomorrow as I will then know the gender of my child. That makes me this weird, uncomfortably high-strung combo of nervous and excited...(so does saying "my child").

Have I mentioned that I burp all day lately?


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Wednesday, November 15, 2006


A friend in San Fran just pointed out that the Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel article I'm quoted in made it to CNN's Travel section. It doesn't really benefit me and my aging guidebook a whole lot, but it's fun.


Monday, November 06, 2006

Nice Surprise

I feel really kind of schlumpy dumpty lately. My pregnant stomach is in the realm where I don't fit well in my pants but am too small for maternity wear so I just look kind of fat. My hair, which grows fast anyway, has been growing super fast and I've been letting it and I've been feeling stupid looking. Then my hip bones have started aching horribly from sleeping on them so I feel really old in the morning. And I'm always tired.

So, I finally got tired of feeling like crap and bought some memory foam for the top of the bed which helped and bought some stretchy waisted jeans and got my hair cut today. Then I took myself out to a nice solo lunch and lingered over some magazines. While reading Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel, I found myself quoted in an article about how experts suggest one choose a good travel guide. I totally forgot I had chatted back and forth with that writer online months ago. I toasted myself with a cup of coffee and felt like I had changed the self esteem tide a little finally.

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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Tex in the City

We were in Dallas for a wedding this weekend. When we got off the plane it was lunchtime, so we decided to brave the Lone Star State's best at the Texas State Fair.

What to eat? There were oozing yellow industrial nachos, but then there were fried corny dogs, fried oreos, fried snickers, fried COKE (really coke flavored batter in coke syrup), fried marshmallows, fried pralines, fried peanut butter & jelly & banana sandwiches, fried green tomatoes, fried okra, and fried cheese-stuffed, tortilla-rolled sausages.

As always, the saddest part about fried food comes after it's all gone. You know, in the space before the waves of nausea and regret.

There was a mammoth car show, tons of agricultural events with prize-winning pigs and sheep and goats and horses, a short history of locally made Dr. Pepper, a large midway, and much more. We didn't dare any rides after eating but we did decide to venture into a freak show booth that promised us two-headed turtles and snakes and were not disappointed!

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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Gulf Hagas

Last weekend I finally made it to Gulf Hagas, a wonderful gorge in Maine that I've meant to visit for years. My hubby and friend joined me and we drove up into the area past the Katahdin Ironworks checkpoint to the spot I reserved months ago. It was excellent car camping – we seemed to be nearly a quarter mile away from the closest site and were quite wildernessy and situated just above a roaring river.

We had some rain just before we set camp and just after we cooked dinner, so it worked out beautifully. The rest of our trip had picture perfect weather and starry skies.

The next day we hiked into the gulf, first crossing a small river and then striding through The Hermitage, a Nature Conservancy preserve of King's Pines and along the Pleasant River where there were more camp sites. Eventually we hooked up with the Gulf Rim trail, a wonderful side trail off the Appalachian Trail.

Here at Gulf Hagas (which locals seemed to say as "Haygus"), the Pleasant River drops and the rock cliffs rise about 400 feet. As a result, the rim trail is a rocky, rooted, mossy place overlooking steep drops and visiting multiple waterfalls.

One of the bigger falls here is Screw Auger Falls. There is actually a more well known set of falls with the same name in Grafton Notch. This one is about 30 feet of serious rushing water landing in a deep rock bowl. I wanted to swim in all of the falls but was a bit over tired and battling some abdominal pain. But on the way back I asked my friend to peer pressure me into it and he started ripping off his clothes and mercilessly goading me. It worked, see the splash?

It was an unbelievable thrill with the excitement of the rushing water. Many of the other falls had good pools or fun eddies to play in, but this one was the big rush. I'll definitely return.

If you go, you can call the Katahdin Ironworks Checkpoint and reserve sites. Some were along the river, some along falls, and some required crossing the river with your gear. It was only mildly buggy in early August, fires were permitted (bringing some wood is a good idea if you're driving to your site), and there were clean outhouses. No man made running water is available. The trail is not steep but is very rocky and can be extremely slippery.

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Sunday, August 06, 2006

Tough Weekend

While I recover from my tough weekend of napping by waterfalls, be sure to check out this amazing art island in Japan.


Wednesday, July 12, 2006

East and North

Been busy the last couple of weeks. Got to go up to Maine…way Down East and then up the woods. Talked glenn into stopping at one of my favorite places, Liberty Tool, then to the coast.

We traveled Route 1 up, east of Acadia, winding around small towns and berry bogs, stopping to eat crab and lobster and collect fresh strawberries and pies. We stopped by Gouldsboro for a visit at Darthia Farm where they produce amazing food, preserves, and novels. We camped by an inlet and ate nearly an entire pie while playing cards. I think the only thing that stopped us from eating the whole pie was that we eventually donned mosquito nets.

The next day we collected food at farmer's markets to bring to visit our friends' cabin, then stopped at one of my favorite beaches in Machiasport. It is called Jasper Beach and is covered in amazing, tumbled smooth rocks. We visited the falls and then headed to Eastport.

We stopped at Rayes, the famous old mustard mill and peeped in on the 4th of July festivities downtown, where a big Navy ship was in port and kids were screaming on inflatable slides. We ate smoked salmon from a vendor and examined pictures of Old Sow, the giant whirlpool off the town (biggest in the western hemisphere), then we hopped back in the car.

We stopped briefly to see Cobscook Bay and talked about the 20 foot tides in the area. Later we stopped again in a storm as we took pictures of a double rainbow connecting Canada and the US over the St. Croix River. Then we were off to Forest City, where our friends met us in a little runabout and took us over to the island they partly own in East Grand Lake. The next morning we went back and got our kayaks so we could paddle (internationally!) around and look at the wildlife on this relatively unspoiled lake.

It was a wonderful stay with some of our favorite people in a rustic cabin with no electricity and a propane powered refrigerator. Early morning bracing swims, eating, relaxing on the porch, stomping around the island alone carefully watching and listening to the world, and playing in the lake. . .it was wonderful. At night I could hear the water, chortling loons, and the squeaking bats in the rafters. I could have moved right in, it was relaxing in all the right ways. Except for the large mosquito population this year.


Friday, May 19, 2006

Jim Moran

My dear friend and hiking partner, Jim Moran, died last Thursday night. His wife Susan and I were with him. It was a difficult death from lung cancer, and it was unbearable seeing him in so much pain. Though he had not been able to open his eyes all day, at the very last minute before he left, he opened his eyes wide, looked at Susan and repeated three sounds that were undoubtedly "I love you. I love you. I love you."

His memorial was held on Saturday. He designed it, music, speakers and all. A friend read "Do Not Go Gently," three other friends reflected on their friendship and whatever topic Jim assigned them. His brother spoke. We listened to, and in some cases sang along to, songs. A letter was read to Susan that Jim wrote for the occasion. After all of that, I had to find a voice and speak. It was really hard. Jim asked me to speak on our friendship and on sobriety. At his death he was 18 years clean and sober, and this included cigarettes. Here's what I read:

I taught writing in the early nineties, and had one student who added a real charge to the class. By opening up, he created an atmosphere of trust in the room.

He wrote an essay about storm watching on Black Rock Beach near his old apartment in Cohasset. It had the kind of carefully chosen details we were working toward, the kind that require a real presence and awareness. And he included some confessional musing about being sober that clearly took courage. I wrote in the margin of his essay that I'd shared some similarly "sobering" experiences.

We didn't care that I was the teacher, that he was 26 years older than me, that we were male and female. We just found each other, worked on creative projects, stayed sober, and started climbing mountains.

In other words, we routinely exposed our souls, stayed alive together, and were humbled by forces bigger than ourselves. It was a very powerful recipe for friendship and for life. Some of the purest moments of joy in my life have just hit me out of the blue while walking along a trail with Jim.

Jim and I helped keep each other on the path for the next 15 years. We showed up and tried to be present for spiritual, physical, and psychological hurdles, constantly arming ourselves with new tools for expression. And we supported each other unconditionally in these endeavors. New forms, new media, new people, new programs, new languages.

This support was possibly my first real understanding of the idea of unconditional love. It's astounding how many people he gave this to.

He also taught me not to bottle up positive feelings. He would be talking about how glowy the light in here is or "look at that stained glass with the little dots in it!" and then probably take up stained glass. He never seemed to take anything for granted. Jim could add celebration to your world the minute you walked in a room "Beth-a-ny!" he'd exclaim, grinning like a fool. He said I was his tracker, keeping him on trail. If I was his tracker, he was my compass.

We spent weekends, sober anniversaries, and holidays together. And one year while five miles up Mt. Carrigan in a hailstorm, we found some shelter, he had me turn away, and he surprised me with tall, strawberry shortcake with whipped cream for my birthday.

We contemplated a great number of things in cars, over coffee, and on the trail. We discussed:
Whether art might be the difference between being dissatisfied and doing something about it.
Or, if you change yourself, and you give yourself to the community as a whole through your service, whether you may indeed be changing the world.
Whether it's possible you need to have lost someone you care about to learn real compassion.
And most importantly, just what would happen if a priest, a duck, and a mouse walked into a bar . . .

Jim had attained a certain degree of self-awareness that allowed him to tap into his core and while sometimes he struggled with what he found in this well, there were also these big bubbles of mirth that rose up. We giggled together with abandon, child-like awe, and total goofiness. And I think the risk taking involved in being sober, the facing and talking about difficult things and walking through them to the other side is what allowed us this gift of humor and fun.

One time when I arrived home alone after camping in Alaska for two weeks, I played my answering machine messages and heard, "Hi Mr. and Mrs. Ericson, this is Jim Moran, a friend of Bethany's. I am so sorry Beth was eaten by that bear. I just wanted you to know that before she left she told me that if anything were to happen to her that I should have all of her camping equipment."

His humor gave him an incredible attitude during physical hardships. I remember when I took him to the pharmacy after he hurt his shoulder and he'd drawn a smiley face on the tennis ball his hand held while his arm was splinted. The tennis ball had a very funny discussion with the pharmacist about Jim's needs.

And he could even laugh in the face of cancer. I was with him on one of his earliest of many scary meetings about his prognosis. The doctor was flustered. "Hello James. I see you've brought your. . .your. . . a um, well I see you've brought a young lady with you." The doctor then explained how a person can get lung cancer 18 years after quitting, and stopped after each point and looked at me and explained the equivalent in breast cancer. We burst out laughing when he left the room.

After waiting too long in the VA clinic one day we had a loud mock fight pretending he gave me his cancer cooties. I told people he got his cancer on We arrived nervously for one of his P.E.T. scans under a sign that read Boston PET Center, and laughed our way in the door. When he told me last month that he wanted Ted and I to bring some of his ashes to Mt. Osceola, I complained that he was just trying to get us to finally carry him Up a mountain.

Jim was my role model, and he fought for life every last inch of the way. He and Susan's love for each other and the work they did to make sure each other knew it has been incredible to witness. Jim once told me about the idea that hope manifests in us as long as we have a voice in what happens to us. The fact that I am speaking in a memorial he designed, says his hope was so strong it outlived him. When he asked me to speak he told me sternly "you have five minutes." We stared silently at each other. Then we burst out laughing.

When Jim was given four months to live in July, he said he'd just live his life in four-month increments until he was in his eighties. It wasn't until a month ago that he and I had a discussion about his impending death rather than impending life. He felt that what would happen after death was that he would live on as energy in other people, slowly fading out over time.

I am forever grateful Jim walked next to me for a while. And his energy connects this whole room full of people, and many, many more. This connection is possibly one of his greatest achievements. Don't leave him here. Bring him along with you: Live every day fiercely present, with grace, honesty, and humor.

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