Friday, February 27, 2015

In Sickness and In Health

Sometimes plans change in major ways. We had plans to be in Ashland Oregon for a concert a week ago, but here we are today only as far as Ukiah, California. We had plans to explore five national parks in California and ended up seeing only three of them. And we had a plan to get this blog posted a week ago: it was going to be called “California’s National Parks,” but that changed. 

Hiking in Joshua Tree National Park
We had a lovely time at Joshua Tree National Park which was a favorite from 2003 and is still a favorite today. Besides these beautiful trees, which are not trees at all but members of the Yucca family, this park has spectacular climbing rocks, which we don’t climb at all but from which we derive a great deal of pleasure just in the viewing. We spent two days there, took some long walks, and practiced our music. After a quick trip to Pahrump, Nevada for supplies, we headed for Death Valley National Park. This was the perfect time of year to see this beautiful park and we spent a night there at 200 feet below sea level and enjoyed the spectacular panoramas as we slowly drove the whole length of the park. It was also very moving to read about the history of this area, where the hot weather and lack of water created a major impediment to early travelers heading westward. Death Valley is the hottest, driest and lowest place in the United States.

Lilypad dwarfed by Sequoias
Next on our list was Sequoia National Park, but the road was closed due to snow, so we found a southern route across the Sierras, then drove up the valley on the west side to the northern entrance of the adjoining King’s Canyon National Park, missing Sequoia all together. But King’s Canyon, with the giant Sequoia trees, was spectacular. There was snow here too, and only one campground open, but the weather was good and a night in the forest was wonderful. 

And then Pinnacles National Park got crossed off the list as we found ourselves short on time for our next date, which was a long-anticipated stay in Fremont California, at the Motherhouse of the Sisters of the Holy Family, home of Liz’s dear friend Sister Angelina. Liz and Sister Angelina were buddies when they both worked at Our Lady of Compassion Care Center in Anchorage, more than 20 years ago. So we moved out of Lilypad and enjoyed the hospitality of the Sisters for two days, sleeping in real beds, eating all of our meals with the Sisters, and playing cards in the evening with Sister Angelina.  The Sisters of the Holy Family is a uniquely American institution, founded in 1872 in California and serving ministries in Alaska, Hawaii, and elsewhere for the benefit of children and families. Many of the sisters have given their lives in service, and are now retired and living together in community at the Motherhouse. We had a delightful time in conversation with women whose paths had crossed ours in Alaska and we got invited to share our music with them as well.

We fit right into the crowd at the Motherhouse
The sisters are embarked on a remarkable plan to phase themselves into oblivion. This order stopped taking novitiates some time ago and their youngest member is 54 and the oldest is 101. They just retained a Baptist senior services management team to take care of the last of them so it was very interesting to talk with them about this transition. They are demolishing their outdated Motherhouse to create space for affordable housing and they will become tenants on the property they once owned. Many of them receive services through Cal-Med’s innovative On Lok Lifeways program, community-based medical and social services designed to keep seniors healthy and active and in their own homes. These services will help keep the sisters together as they age. We were very intrigued to hear about these plans and the years of work and prayer that had gone into making these decisions. We bid a fond but sad farewell to Sister Angelina with a fiddle and concertina concert in the parking lot and headed up the highway to see some other old friends, Andrea and Priscilla in Sausalito.

Then our plans really changed. By evening it was apparent we had left the convent with an uninvited guest, a little tiny flu bug. Janna was sick enough that we did not go into the home of our friends. Instead, Andrea and Priscilla brought dinner out to Lilypad at China Camp State Park and ate with Liz while Janna stayed quarantined in the back of the rig. The next day we moved to the Santa Rosa County Fair RV Park and there we sat for an entire week while we both suffered from the worst sickness we’ve had in years. But once again we landed jelly side up. Two other Alaska friends, Harold and Olivia, now living in Santa Rosa, hovered nearby, bringing soup, water, fruit and library books to keep us going. They brought grocery sacks and placed them near Lilypad and after a safe interval we would creep out and grab the goods. Finally we recovered enough to move over to their neighborhood and have a decent visit, interrupted periodically by serious naps and sporadic coughing fits.
Great to breathe the salty air of the Pacific once again!
We were still too weak to do much, but Harold and Olivia took us on a most gorgeous drive out to the Bodega Bay Headlands and the Sonoma Coast, past the site of Alfred Hitchcock’s filming of “The Birds” and the location of “Running Fence”, a major art installation by Christo and Jeanne-Claude which Liz remembers seeing with her father in the fall of 1976. We are delighted our friends have settled in this beautiful area and hope to return when we are healthier so we can properly explore some of these sights, and so Liz can spend a day joining Harold in fishing off the beach.

So here we are in Ukiah, alternating naps with short walks as we try to regain some strength. Sister Angelina tells us the convent went into lockdown the day we left with many of the sisters being ill, and we hope that by now they are also all in recovery. We’ve been on the road for a year and a half, and until now, have been unusually healthy. This was a reminder that we really are very lucky and that life is what happens when you are busy making plans.

1 comment:

  1. This is the worst year I can remember for flu bugs. The two of you are so hearty and healthy and upbeat, that to be wiped out for as long as you were is a testament to the nastiness of the viri. Along the way, though, good friends helped! As Plato once said, "We can do nothing without friends." Those sequoias are astounding; Lilypad looks like a toy next to them. I hope you have glorious and healthy remaining travels northward....and a few more gorgeous days at parks.