May 20, 2014

Not my usual food post

The sun setting at Tenney Park (Susan's memorial).

Looks like I've been on a bit of a blog break, doesn't it? I didn't plan it, exactly, but timing and circumstances have a way of shaping life differently from what we might have planned. I meet monthly with a group of women to discuss various topics of interest to us, and last month our discussion was about the best and worst things about growing older. This is a discussion that could take place at just about any age, when you think about it — leaving the elementary school years and entering high school, graduating from college, entering the twenties and thirties and seeing many of your friends get married and have babies, turning 40, 50, etc., etc. For my discussion group, approaching the older end of the age spectrum, we all agreed that one of the worst things about getting older was losing family and friends. The month of April was a particularly tough one for me because in one five-day period I lost two friends — one a good friend with whom I was still close, and the other an old friend who I haven't been in close, recent contact with, but with whom I shared a mutual friend, and loads of memories. Both women died very soon after being diagnosed with cancer — so soon, in fact, that I barely had time to process what was happening.

My friend Susan and I had known each other for at least 30 years, and we both left Madison at the same time — she got married and moved to Cleveland, and I moved to the West Coast. After we left, we both planned our summer visits to Madison to overlap, so we could spend time together. Last summer we went to the Art Fair On the Square, as we often had done in the past. We'd also usually try to fit in a contra dance, if there was time. Now there is no more time, and I still can't believe she's gone. She was a soft-spoken and gentle women with a far reach. She was a childbirth educator, storyteller, environmental educator, author of two oral history books, prisoner advocate, and fearless and trusting human being. The fact that three memorials in three different cities are being held in her honor says more than I can write about here.

When I learned that memorials were being held the same week in Madison for both friends, I knew I had to go. I believed that sharing my grief with others would help me cope with the loss, but now I realize that only time will do that. I miss you so much, Susan and Carole. The trip was physically as well as emotionally difficult. We caught a 12:30 a.m. flight on Wednesday, arrived in Minneapolis at 3:30 a.m. and were in Madison at 8:30 a.m. We went straight to the co-op to buy food for the memorial/potluck being held later that evening, stopped into St. Vinnie's to grab a couple of serving utensils, then checked into our hotel for a few hours sleep, before heading to the memorial at 5 p.m. It was a beautiful memorial with stories and music, and though the reason for the gathering was heartbreaking, it was a comfort to be surrounded by so many mutual friends and acquaintances.

Pink Poodle bounty.

My heart was heavy and my pace much slower than it usually is when I'm in Madison, but we tried to balance the sadness with lighter moments getting together with friends, and visiting favorite, familiar places. On Thursday morning we strolled through the always outrageous Pink Poodle consignment shop. The Pink Poodle is the craziest resale shop on earth — so big you can get lost, and so over-the-top that there's no place to look to rest your eyes. I don't know why I like it so much, but I do love it. I usually find something I can't live without, even though I always complain that it's over-priced. I can't help it. I found a lightweight cotton cardigan with a brown animal print. you want it, too, don't you? After my thrift shop-induced hallucinations, I spent a lazy afternoon with my old next-door-neighbor and-partner-in-crime. We went to the tea shop for lunch, then wandered among the neighborhood shops. Thursday night my husband and I met a group of old friends for dinner.

On Friday morning we visited Olbrich Botanical Gardens to wander the beautiful and tranquil grounds, and view the Thai friendship pavilion. We also toured the indoor tropical observatory which we were delighted to find still charged only $2 for admission. After our peaceful garden break, we joined old friends for lunch at The Green Owl, Madison's only all-vegetarian restaurant. I didn't bring a camera on the trip, and wasn't feeling like photographing anything, so you'll just have to imagine my wonderful cajun blackened tofu sandwich. After lunch I paid a visit to a friend who didn't know I was in town, and I'm so glad I did. It was wonderful to see her. On Friday night we had a delicious dinner with good friends at an Indian restaurant. I love when restaurants clearly mark the vegan dishes on their menu, don't you?


On Saturday morning we headed downtown to the farmers market. It was a little later in the morning than we wanted to leave, but we were hoping that the late start to the growing season would mean smaller crowds — we were wrong. The market is held on "the square" — the sidewalks that comprise the four sides of the capitol area — and it's big and wonderful, filled with food, plants, people, musicians, etc. The lawns around the capitol were green, and lush with flowers and cavorting children — quintessential Madison. Truthfully, I was feeling a little overwhelmed by the crowds, and we only made it around two sides before heading to a children's shop on the square, owned by an old friend, so we could say hello. We also walked down State St., the main shopping drag that connects the downtown with the UW campus. We stopped into The Soap Opera and I purchased a chocolate bunny soap to bring back to Miss E.

We headed back to the hotel to lunch on leftovers, and pretty soon it was time to drive back to the co-op to purchase food for Saturday's memorial, and head out to the country to Carole's simple but beautiful, rustic home. Carole was a registered nurse in her working life, but when I think of her, I think of a woman deeply connected to the earth. She loved her 20 acres — she nurtured her gardens like they were her children. Carole shared her life with horses and dogs, and they were there along with her friends and family. I connected with people I hadn't seen in a long time as we shared memories and sadness. After the potluck, we were all gathering on the lawn to start sharing stories, when rain started to sprinkle on us. It wasn't much — just enough to form a large rainbow in the sky as if Carole were saying, "hello."

Mothers Day dinner by Aaron and Kate.

We caught a 7 a.m. flight back to Seattle on Mothers Day, and arrived at the airport at 10:30 a.m. It's two hours earlier here than in Madison, and the lack of sleep, time zone changes, stress, sadness and what have you, left me in a daze. Reading and writing blogs was not gonna happen. We had a lovely Mothers' Day dinner (polenta, roasted cauliflower and mushrooms, white beans, and arugula salad) at our son's and his gf's house, before heading home and collapsing into bed, exhausted.


30 comments:

  1. What a beautiful tribute, Andrea. May we all be able to have so many wonderful things said about us when we've gone.

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    1. Thank you Abby. And let's also remember to tell people how much we appreciate them while they are still here.

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  2. So sorry to hear about your loss, they both sound like wonderful people.

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    1. Thank you. They were both unique individuals.

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  3. I'm so sorry, Andrea. It was nice that you were able to get back for the tribute.

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    1. Thanks. I'm really glad I made the trip.

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  4. I'm so sorry to hear about the passing of your friends, Andrea. This has been such a heavy spring, it seems. I am thinking of you with warmth and love.

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    1. Thanks, Cadry. I appreciate your thoughts.

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  5. So sorry to hear about your loss,

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  6. So sorry for your losses, Andrea. Sending warm and healing thoughts your way.

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  7. Losing friends is probably the hardest thing about growing old. I have lost a friend (who was in her thirties) to cancer a couple years ago. It's not easy to think of it.
    Thanks for sharing such a nice tribute.

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    1. It's very hard to lose people we care about — especially our good friends. I'm sorry you lost your friend. She was much too young to lose her life.

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  8. So sorry about the losses. I know your life was enriched by their friendship and I'm sure yours was by theirs. I often don't take the time to tell my friends how much I appreciate them... but I sure appreciate YOU and Mr Easy Vegan. XO

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    1. Well Claire, I really appreciate you and Alan, too. Can't wait to see you again in July!

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  9. I'm so sorry for your losses and my heart is with you <3.

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  10. So sorry to hear of your losses, my friend. Thoughts are with you.

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  11. I'm really sorry to hear that you lost two people in such a short space of time, particularly after a 30 friendship - that must be beyond tough. How amazing to have had a great friendship for all that time.

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    1. You know, I still have a hard time believing I won't see them again this summer. Thanks for your thoughts.

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  12. Andrea, my heart goes out to you. I know all too well what you just went through. In October last year, I lost three wonderful friends in one week. Three funerals in one week was overwhelming. Reading your post rekindled my always-there-sadness, and I cried again. I hope your heart heals soon.

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    1. I'm so sorry to hear about your friends. I'm finding that it's still hard to believe my friends are gone, and my eyes fill every time I realize it's true. I know just how you feel.

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  13. Andrea, I’m so sorry for your loss, my deepest condolences go to you and their families. Thank you for sharing this touching tribute. I don't have the courage to write this in public and to explain why I've been MIA a little while ago, but I am currently losing someone dear to cancer and she doesn’t have many days left to live.

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    1. Thank you, Rika. So sorry for what is happening to your loved one. It's very hard to say final goodbyes to those we love. I'll be thinking of you and the one you are losing. My condolences.

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  14. Hi Andrea- My heartfelt sympathies.
    My prayers go our to Rika as well.
    Thank you for stepping through the grief and commemorating your dear friends.
    On a different note. great score at the thrift place.

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    1. Thank you GiGi. Loosing these two beautiful women was a sad, sad experience. And thanks for commenting on the thrift find — life is a strange balance.

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  15. My heart goes out to you. I often think what it will be like to lose a close friend...losing acquaintances is hard enough. This was a really good blog post, and I just always think you are so fun and beautiful and wonderful.

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    1. Thanks so much, Jenny, for your words of support. I miss you when you aren't blogging, but I know your life is very full.

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