|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.
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.