Sunday, August 9, 2015

Welcome to Ithaca

Yesterday, I drove south to Ithaca, and i am so glad i did. One of my friends lived here with her family while her husband was on the faculty of the Cornell Vet School, and she gave me great suggestions, via Facebook, on where to go and what to do.

I drove around the Cornell campus, and once again had a stab of regret that i had not applied myself earlier in life, but it soon passed because i got so absorbed in all of the gorgeous houses in the area..

One of Susan's suggestion was to have lunch at the Moosewood Cafe, the mecca of delicious vegetarian cooking. Unfortunately, by the time i got there, they had closed for lunch.  I parked my car nearby and walked around Ithaca Commons, looking for somewhere to eat.  I never thought I would say this, but i was sick of pizza and road food.  I wanted something clean and delicious.  I craved fruit and vegetables.

I came upon an Ethiopian restaurant, which fit the bill, especially because you cannot get Ethiopian food in Vero Beach. So I ordered an avocado, tomato, and onion salad and injera , the spongy ethiopian bread used to mop up the delicious stews, along with a cup of spicy, hot Ethiopian tea.

I had the place to myself until two young men arrived for lunch.  I couldn't help but hear their conversation because they were sitting so close, and one of them mentioned Miami. I asked him if he was from there, and he said, no, he was from Florida City, and had lived in the Keys, in Islamorada.  Both guys were surprised I had left a paradise like Vero, and Florida City asked me why i was on the trip.

I told him i was looking for a place to live that might suit me better, and he asked me what my qualifiers were. I told him i wanted to live in a place with a diverse, intelligent population, and he laughed and said, "you found it here."

The other guy was concerned that i might not like the winter weather, but i have taken climate out of the criteria, because other things are more important to me in a place to live, like the people and the vibe of the place.  Ithaca has a really interesting vibe.

I don't want to live in Florida full time.  The summers are brutal and the hurricanes were frightening.  I was so sick from allergies to sea grass and mold.  Since i have been away, i am breathing better, and my chronic pain has improved, probably from being more active. I have yet to have a migraine, and haven't been cranky or irritable at all.

After my late lunch, I followed Susan's instructions, and found Taughannock State Park, about seven miles outside of Ithaca, and found a great parking spot under a shady tree, and close to the restrooms, for the concert that was being held on the lake.  Since the concert didn't start until 7 pm, i took a walk up to the amazing falls that Susan had told me about.  It was a gentle walk, about 2 miles round trip from where i parked.

The trail was busy, even at 5:15, with families, couples, and solos, like me making the pilgrimage.  The walk was so worth it.  The falls were incredible, and the rock formations were fascinating.  I worked up a sweat and got to stretch, and it felt so good.

I am so happy that i could do it, considering that in early April, i could barely climb out of bed because of another debilitating episode of depression, as well as all of the other traumas my poor body has been through.  Each day, I am able to stand up straighter, and i am stronger. 

After the concert, I drove back to Geneva, found a convenience store where i got water and used the restroom, found a really safe, sheltered spot on the Hobart campus, and settled in for the night.

This morning, I slept until 9, got myself together and went to find coffee.  I found the coffee at a convenience store, and a restroom at the Geneva Visitors Center by the city marina.  The sounds of the lapping waves lulled me, so i wrote for a while, as i watched the boaters putting their crafts in the water.

My friends, Ivy, Charlene, Laura, and Linda, were having lunch at the Vero Beach Hotel and Spa at 11:30 for the first time since i've left, so I called them on Facetime. It was almost as good as being with them.  I am not homesick, but i miss my friends, who were so kind to me in Vero.

After the call, I changed into shorts, and took a walk along the lake, under the blowing willows.  I found a peaceful spot in the shade of a willow tree, and stretched out on my back, becoming one with the tree.  Breathed and rested, and then went to find pizza, salad, and wine for dinner with the Peters/Benedetti Family.

I am so grateful for technology on this trip. My phone has proven to be invaluable to me, especially for finding things like pizza in an unknown place.  I was led to F n A Pizza (,  which i chose because of the bad ass name (i found out later that F n A are the first initials of the owners) , in the nearby town of Waterloo, where i picked up three pizzas and some salad, and then tried to find wine, an impossible task at 5:15 on a Sunday in the New York State wine region.

Claudia and I both laughed when we finally met up, because we both had been driving by wineries all day, and never thought to pick up wine.  In Virginia, where they're from, and in Florida, you can buy wine at grocery stores every day of the week.

The woman who owned the place was wonderful, helping me find a winery open, especially when i told her that i was meeting people who had been in the car for two days with two young children.  Finally, she sent me to the Belhurst Castle (, on the other side of the lake, and well worth the trip for two bottles of a nice red wine described as a pallet pleaser and a great accompaniment to pizza.


It was so great to be with my friends, who are really my family after almost thirty years.  Claudia and I worked together in DC, and our friendship was forged in a lobbying/public affairs firm when she was right out of college, and i was fresh out of a divorce.  She has taught me more about being positive than almost anyone I know.  She has a successful career, a wonderful husband, and two beautiful daughters.  Mark, her husband, is kind and calm, and has a really funny, understated sense of humor.  He is a great dad, braiding his eight year old's long, beautiful hair like a boss, and diving into the cold lake to grab his four year-old's fedora,when the wind blew it off her head. 

When Claudia and Mark were first dating, like in the first few weeks of the relationship, they helped extricate me from a terrible living situation and an abusive boyfriend.  Even though Mark would never hurt a fly, he stood there and made sure no harm came to me while we got my stuff out of the house, and managed to keep the crazy ex-boyfriend at bay.  

Barbara, Claudia's mom, is wonderful, too, and i have always loved talking to her, because she is intelligent, well-traveled, and well-read. 

Claudia and I used to take long, rambling walks when we both lived in the DC area, where we would talk about everything - life, love, work, the future.  She has always been supportive of me, and really makes the effort to stay in touch, even with all of her responsibilities. She's the one of the first people to teach me that you can be a spiritual and good person without being religious.  She has run marathons, and she and Mark climbed Mt. Killamanjaro, among other exciting adventures.  

A few months before my mom died in 2001, my parents were in LA, where Claudia was living, for my cousin's wedding.  My parents loved Claudia and her sparkling, upbeat personality, so my mom called to arrange for them to meet up.  She left a message on Claudia's answering machine, and her message went on and on, like they always did.  

After my mom's death, Claudia sent me a microcassette with the message on it. She said that when her dad died, one of the things she missed most was the sound of his voice.  And she had a star named for my mom.  
When my dad died in 2012, Claudia sent me a big box that arrived about a month after he died, from Dean & DeLuca, the specialty food store.  It was filled with all kinds of delicious comfort food, including au gratin potatoes, macaroni and cheese, and brownies.  She knew that when someone dies, people are there during the first month, but then the attention trickles off, when it is most needed.  It brings tears to my eyes whenever i think of this, because the box came at one of the loneliest times of my life. 

I love being with this family, and watching Claudia and Mark as they raise their children.  Graciously, they gave me the loft room, upstairs, that has the most wonderful memory foam mattress, along with a desk and a huge easy chair perfect for reading.  

Bella, the four year-old, said she was going to sleep with me, which surprised and flattered me. But, she said, I had to put my arm out so she could sleep on it, and she wanted me to sing 'Amazing Grace,' like her mom does every night.  Did i know it, she asked.  

I started singing it and she was amazed. She said, "How do you know that song?" I told her that her mom taught it to me.  I told her that her mom taught me all the wonderful things I know, and I wasn't exaggerating.

After a long day, everyone went to bed in their own beds, except for Mark, who graciously took the couch, and I am sitting her in my nest, feeling contented and loved.  

Although I am on own, I know, because Claudia keeps showing me, that I am not alone, and that i really am part of their family.  For that, I am so grateful.  

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