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50 Latitudes (USA) Feature

The 50 Latitudes Feature will showcase Latitudes from a resident of each US state in their own words to illustrate that despite age, sex, location, or occupation, every living being on the planet has a favorite Latitude.  A person's favorite Latitude is not restricted to their home state.

Thursday
Dec152011

Washington

In 1998 I was living in London with three school friends.  One long weekend, Bill, one of my roommates, and I decided to leave the familiar territory of Kensington Park Gardens and head for the British countryside.  I believe our intention was to take a day trip to see Melrose Abbey, maybe see Edinburgh, but we left the flat late that day and missed our train.  Bill and I looked around the station and decided we should get on a train nonetheless. 

We were, after all, there to travel.

We hopped on a northbound train that would, had it been hours earlier, gotten us to one of our destinations.  But leaving London late in the afternoon, it got us as far as the seaside town of Scarborough before the line—and the train station—shut down for the night.

I don’t remember what the plan was or even if we had one.  What we did, was spend hours looking for any place to stay the night.  Bed and breakfast, hostel, anything.  I think we walked down every side street, alleyway and thoroughfare in Scarborough.  After a while of wondering why every B&B was booked, it dawned on us that this was Easter weekend, and we were in a popular holiday destination.  What’s more, I, in those days a dedicated smoker, had run out of matches.  Things were looking dim, and slowly the idea we might be in trouble, began to sink in.

Scarborough is a peninsula off of North Yorkshire made famous by the Simon and Garfunkel song “Scarborough Fair.”  Although it was spring, it was still a sharp March night, and the cold of the place was intensified by the fact that the winds blew the chill off the water from both directions.  It was getting bitter cold, and although we had each brought travel bags, we were wearing all the clothes we had.  Bill cursed that he had been fooled by the idea of a spring weekend in the English countryside.  He mentioned, though, that should things get worse, he had a towel. 

Bill had just read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, in which, travel rule one is: always bring a towel.  Apparently, among the many uses for a towel on the road, is the ability to wrap it around your head for warmth.  My friend was thrilled he might actually have a utilitarian use for the towel he brought, as the book had instructed. 

I thought wearing a towel was silly.

We had faith that some lodging would yet be found, but after miles and miles of nothing but “No Vacancy” signs and closed doors, we found ourselves on a main road down by the water’s edge.  Shuttered stores, restaurants, bars and tourist shops lined the path facing the water.  As we walked we heard sounds and lights which lifted our spirits, and before long we came across a carnival-style arcade which was the last open storefront.  No food or drinks, but it was heated, and they had all sorts of games to distract us from the fact that we were about to be homeless for the evening.  What’s more, they would be open until 10:00, which gave us about 2 hours of worry free time.

The arcade was almost entirely empty, but the machines created a cacophony of bells and chimes reminiscent of a Las Vegas casino floor, which made our oasis more welcoming.  I found a coin push machine and settled in to play.  I’ve always loved coin pushes, and here in Scarborough, not only was the goal to win more coins than you put in, but there were prizes scattered atop a sea of 5p coins.  After about ten minutes Bill, who somehow had the energy to scout the rest of the arcade, found me. 

“What are you doing?” he asked. 

I thought this was an obvious question.  “I’m playing the coin push.” 

He pressed the issue.  “But why are you playing the lame coin push?” 

I was intrigued... 

“There is a high-roller 10p coin push, with better prizes, over there.” 

And he was right; my eyes gleaned as I turned the corner and saw the loot.  Lighters, along with other assorted bric-a-brac were there for the taking, the best of which was at the very back, taunting me.  The lighter that caught my eye was a toilet, which erupted a flame out of the bowl when you flushed.  Not having had a smoke in hours I was hardly able to contain my excitement, and procured many, many 10p coins.

Two hours later I had cleared out the entire coin push.  Although I had lost a vast amount of money, I was flush in small toys, cheap jewelry, and, at long last, lighters.  I had won two from the machine, having inadvertently scored a lighter shaped like a bottle of champagne in addition to the coveted toilet, not to mention earrings made of “genuine Austrian crystal” and some gold jewelry from the Mr. T fall collection.  But my good fortune was quickly curbed when we were asked to leave shortly after—it was 10:00 already.

Bill and I stepped back out into the cold, which had intensified in the few hours we had spent indoors.  The hope that anyplace would be open at this point had vanished.  But then there was a flicker of light, and we rushed toward what we soon realized was that of an open door.  Although we didn’t know what the place was, a voice behind the door said “If you are coming in, hurry up.”

I walked in first, and stopped short.  I was on stage with the members of a musical band, playing Irish tunes to the room.  Bill, equally taken aback by the position we were in demanded “now what have you done?”  As our eyes adjusted to the light, we made our way off the stage and down into the pub, which was locked down.

One of the innkeeps explained that pubs had to close at 10:00, but enforcement was light enough that every so often on a good night, they would lock everyone inside.  No one came in or out unless they turned off the music and lights for the rest of the night.  After quickly confirming that indeed, there were no hotels which would be able to accommodate us, we made the most of our good fortune and ordered some beers.

I have no idea how long we stayed in the lockdown, these were the days before cell phones and I had not yet started to wear a watch.  But many beers, ales and whiskeys later, we were asked to clear out yet again.  We left with the band, the last people out of the tavern.

Warmed, at least in spirit, we found a graveyard outside an old castle at the very top of the city and contemplated staying there, but concluded it was too creepy and too windy to sleep exposed atop crypts in a medieval graveyard on a hill in those kind of temperatures.  We pushed on. 

Still out in the cold, Bill and I wandered to the water.  He went down to the shoreline to get a better look at the comet hanging in the sky over the ocean (later we found this had been Hale-Bopp,) while I carved four letter words into the sand with my heel. 

We all experience nature’s majesty in our own way, I suppose.

Eventually we rededicated ourselves to finding a place to bunker down against the cold of night.  We found a stone bus stop, enclosed on three sides, which sheltered us from most of the wind.  Bill donned his towel, wrapping it around his head and I smoked and shivered, wishing I had a towel also.  I think I had closed my eyes for a second when lights pointed in our direction.  Headlights from a police car, specifically.  A hasty, whispered conversation ensued.

“Don’t move! They might see us!”

“What’s the big deal, we’re not doing anything.” I replied.

“No, of course not,” Bill hissed.  “We’re foreigners, vagrants, two single guys sleeping in a bus shelter in a seaside town underdressed on a cold night Easter weekend, we’ve been drinking and you’ve been defacing a public beach. No, nothing sketchy there at all.”

I saw his point.

As soon as the police car rumbled off down the strip and was comfortably past the shelter, we took off at a dead run up the hill, heading for the cover of a stand of trees.  Not 50 yards from the bus stop I yelled to Bill, “Stop!” 

He turned and with panic in his eyes yelled back “What?” 

“We have to go back.” 

“Why?!” 

“I forgot my smokes!” 

“No you didn’t, they are right here!”  he shouted, reaching over my shoulder to seize  the pack of Silk Cut had lodged itself in the strap of my bag.  

Relieved beyond description—I had, after all, spent 2 hours and about £50 on something to light them with—I began to run again.  Eventually we lost the fuzz, if they ever were chasing us at all.  On the other side of the trees, not far from the cemetery we’d considered earlier there were lights, so we headed in that direction.  Once in the middle of the field, however, a loud crack came out of nowhere. 

I asked, “How are we in the middle of a giant, empty field in the night, evading capture, and you find the one branch to step on?” 

“I was just thinking the same thing about you,” said Bill. 

The field was pitch black and we looked around, talking about how this would make a nice opening to an X-Files episode about the Scarborough Monster.  We left the open field expeditiously.

We passed the wee hours of the morning wandering the town’s narrow streets, searching in vain for another place open all night, or perhaps a café that would welcome us as soon as the sun rose.

By 5 the sky lightened, and we hovered outside the doors to the train station we’d left hours earlier.  As soon as the doors were unlocked we heaved coins into the sandwich machine, wolfing down whatever was to be had, and caught the 6:20 south to London, our trip aborted but not exactly unsuccessful.

Although I have been many places and had many adventures since then, I don’t think I’ve ever had such a good time in such uncomfortable circumstances.  I always look back fondly on that night.  Scarborough, traveling to unknown places, making the most of unfortunate  circumstances and spending time with great friends is my Latitude.

Wednesday
Jun292011

Ohio

Michigan Stadium is the largest stadium in the United States. It is the pantheon of College Football and home to the all time winningest College Football program in the country. Keith Jackson once said if you really want to know about the history of Michigan Stadium, aka "The Big House" - the name he coined during a live telecast - you go there late at night when there is nobody in the stadium... and listen.

Each season, the last Friday of training camp, (aka two-a-days / Groundhog's day) after the second grueling practice in the unforgivable humidity, a soak in the ice bath, shower, buffet dinner and 2 hours of additional film analysis, a full team meeting was held to bring the team together to officially "break" training camp.

Coach Carr would share the story of Keith Jackson describing The Big House.  He wanted to make sure every player - especially the freshmen - in the program understood the history, memorable games and teams that played in "that hole" and how important it was to defend that great stadium.

We started our walk from the practice fields at Schembechler Hall to The Big House at dusk - a trek that takes about 5 -7 minutes. Every man was dressed in some sort of team issued gear: shorts, t shirt, shoes or sandals. Now that the sun was down, the humidity loosened its grip and some guys wore team issued sweatpants and sweatshirts. Small talk ensues as we make our trek, but for the most part guys are focused and are prepping their minds for "meditation" and the season ahead.

We crossed the parking lots to the east end of the stadium with the lights atop the press box (which at the time consisted of 4-6 large bulbs) providing the only beams of light onto the field.  As we approach the gate which protects the tunnel to the stadium ("there is only one way in and one way out" Coach used to say) all the chatter that occurred up until that point is now gone and every man walks into the tunnel focused and silent.

Only a few flood lights shine inside the tunnel to illuminate our path down to the hole. As I descend down the tunnel path, under the maize and blue painted "Go Blue" sign, I recall the times I had walked the same path in previous seasons.  I think about the adrenaline rush that hits me each and every time I walk down that path. In my mind, I can hear the marching band chanting "Let's go blue!" rhythmically timed with the percussion section feeling the bass drums in my chest as I near the end of the tunnel.

We meet at midfield.

Coach Carr shares some of the greatest memories that have happened on this great field, in the great stadium:

"Look in the end zone! That's where Desmond Howard made 'the catch!'"

Coach then pointed to the 25 -30 yard line on the south end of the field:

"Look men! that's where Anthony Carter caught the pass from Wangler!"

He then asked us to walk the turf; start thinking about how we were going to protect and defend our field; our backyard.

This year would be different for me as it was the first time I earned the right to start and play. I started thinking about all the hard work and tough times I endured to get to that point in my life - losing my Dad at 11, everyone that doubted me back home that said I couldn't play at Michigan, all the hard work in the weight room, running stadium stairs (and subsequent vomiting), the golf course runs - the culmination of all the hard work was about to pay off.

I often reflect on that night in Michigan stadium. When I need a pick me up, or an reaffirmation that you truly can accomplish anything if you want it bad enough-  I think of The Big House.

Not only is Michigan Stadium the largest stadium in the country, but it's also the largest symbol of accomplishment that I have in my life, something I will always leverage to harness positivity when I need it most.  It is my Latitude.

See Jeremy Miller's Latitude HERE in the Gallery

Wednesday
Jun222011

Alaska

We may live in Alaska, but our hearts are in central California, specifically, Monterey Bay area and the Monterey Peninsula, and points South.  From the moment you drive south over the Santa Cruz mountains on Route 17 (in itself a scenic drive) and along the beach towns of Santa Cruz County, you finally come to the point on the bay where you can see the Monterey Peninsula and Point Pinos sparkling in the distance. 

Through the rich agricultural towns of Watsonville and Castroville (and possibly indulging in a French-fried artichoke heart or two), past the old deactivated Ft. Ord (from whence so many soldiers departed for Vietnam) and the rolling dunes of Seaside and Sand City, the beautiful historic city that served as capital of California and the Presidio for the Mexican colony of California Norte appears, with its ancient eucalyptus trees shading the Naval Postgraduate School, past colorful Fishermen’s Wharf, and on to the charming town of Pacific Grove, with its Lovers Point landmark and Victorian cottages.

Charlotte and John (then a sailor) lived in one of those cottages when we were first married, and remember long relaxed walks along the water, watching the sea otters play and hearing the seals bark.  Occasionally a chilling fog would roll in, obscuring all but the closest tidepools, and we would head over to John’s parents house in Pebble Beach for a delicious dinner and good cheer.

Other venues, almost too numerous to mention, charmed us and still do, since we occasionally visit the family home in Pebble Beach.  Wonderful shops and art galleries in Carmel, restaurants like the Mission Ranch with its fabulous Sunday brunch and Passionfish, the MontereyAquarium, the Carmel Mission, over two hundred years old.  Point Lobos, with its giant stands of poison oak and rugged coast, surf pounding below sheer cliffs, and seals and sea otters constantly amusing themselves (and us) in the tidal waters. 

Further south, Big Sur with its redwoods, hippies (many of them in their seventies and eighties), the Esalen Institute, the Post Inn, and above all, glorious Nepenthe with its outdoor seating and views fify miles down the coastline, and friendly interesting people hanging out, soaking in the sunlight.

The Del Monte Forest itself, a private residential preserve where Robert Louis Stevenson wrote and lived and played, giving way to the classic golf course developers who have created a golf nirvana with Pebble Beach, Cypress Point, Spyglass Hill, Monterey Peninsula CC, Poppy Hills, and even tiny little Peter Hay Par 3 across from the Del Monte Lodge.  It was at the lodge where Charlotte’s parents and John’s parents first broke bread as they gave their blessing to our marriage, and at the lodge where John probably had his last restaurant lunch with his mother just weeks before she died in 2005.

Too many memories are bound up in this relatively short coastline (perhaps less than one hundred miles) to go through one by one, but this latitude of heaven, nature, pounding surf, interesting vegetation, artists, hippies, golfers, and above all, lovers, will remain our happiest Latitude. 

Wednesday
Jun152011

Iowa

My Latitude is always over the horizon.

That may sound like I’m someone who has trouble living for the moment... but that’s not the case. 

It’s just the opposite. 

I’m a Journalist, so I’ve been blessed with a life that changes with the headlines. 

One day I might be touring a Navy Destroyer, another, I’m interviewing a Candidate for President of the United States.  My job allowed me to be a few feet from the Pope, and it’s given me the chance to play golf with a Major Championship winner.

It’s not always so glamorous of course.  I’ve also covered countless budget meetings for County Government.  I’ve stood out in the rain or sun or snow waiting for police to tell me what’s going on at a crime scene.  I’ve covered more Christmas Shopping than I care to remember.

On my worst days, personal or professional, it’s my job that reminds me to keep a perpetual optimism.  There will always be another story to tell tomorrow. 

Tomorrow’s story may be the one you’ve always dreamed of telling...

Tomorrow’s story may be the one you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy...

Both offer the possibility I’ll be challenged...

Both offer the possibility of an adventure...

Both offer the possibility of a life lesson worth learning...

So my Latitude is over the horizon wondering how tomorrow will add to my story.

Wednesday
Jun082011

Colorado

Sports and travel have been two important parts of my life for as long as I can remember. Therefore it’s only fitting that my Latitudes are a combination of these two endeavors.

As a kid, I played and watched every sport that I could.  But as the years went by, two sports stood out for me - golf and tennis. While I was ultimately more talented at golf, and I would go on to become part of the Men’s Golf Team at The University of Michigan – the sport I loved playing beyond others was tennis.

There is a uniqueness to tennis...  It’s an extreme physical test in perfect combination with an intense mental challenge. You are playing your game, but you are also playing your opponent whom you can defeat with your tennis skills and through your mental toughness and psychology. When I watch a big match, like a US Open night match on center court, I think it’s still the closest thing we have to the days of the gladiators in the coliseum – two players enter the arena, fight it out to the point of exhaustion, and only one leaves the arena alive to fight on for the rest of the tournament.

I also grew up with a love to travel. Family trips to Florida, Colorado and Northern Michigan stand out as some of the happiest times in my life. I think travel creates your most lasting memories and expands your thinking as you venture beyond the boundaries of your everyday life.

I have had an incredible journey back to the sport of tennis and back to traveling, and that is a big reason they are my Latitudes today.

In 1998, I was involved in a diving accident at the age of 19. My neck was broken and I became a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the chest down with limited use of my arms and no movement in my hands and fingers. My life was changed forever in a split second.  It was an incredibly difficult thing to face the prospect of living the rest of your life in a wheelchair at such a young age.

I had to dig into the depths of my soul and summon incredible mental toughness to make peace with what happened to me. And now, almost 13 years later I’m proud to say I live an incredible life. I’m married to an amazing women, we have our first child on the way, I’ve got a great job, we’ve been fortunate enough to travel the world to extraordinary places together and we have awesome friends to share our life with. I truly consider myself blessed and there is not a single moment I spend looking back to think about what could have been.

In the process of going through my accident and learning to live with my disability, you are first confronted with a sense of what you may have lost. And questions arise such as, “Will I still be able to do the things that I enjoy, like play sports and travel?”

It was in the course of trying to answer that question that I stumbled upon the sport of wheelchair tennis – my first Latitude. The great thing about wheelchair tennis is that the only difference between it and regular tennis is that a wheelchair player gets 2 bounces. Everything else is exactly the same – balls, racquets, court size, ect. I can play against other wheelchair players or against able-bodied players straight-up.  So even with my disability, I can roll out onto a tennis court and escape fully into my favorite sport to play. 

Playing tennis in Colorado is especially great. Many of the courts I play on have views of the majestic Rocky Mountains as a backdrop.  I love the feeling of the warm Colorado sunshine on my body as I play. The smell of new tennis balls and the fresh mountain air invigorate me. I hear the ball bounce and I know by the sound how I should approach it and what type of shot I’ll need to make. I can taste the Gatorade that is fueling me as a competitive match presses on towards the end. And when I’m at the baseline serving to close out a match I’m winning or trying to serve my way back into a match I’m losing, there is no stress, there is no disability, there are no distractions... I’m in the moment with this incredible fun challenge.

I’m that gladiator in my personal coliseum.

My second Latitude is travel. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to travel much after my accident, and even if I could and wasn’t sure what it would be like.  All of that changed in the Summer of 2002 when I met my wife Jennifer. Travel is now a strong Latitude for both of us. Her life long goal is to have traveled to more different counties than her age.  At the time I’m writing this, she’s been to 41 different countries and she’s 31, so she’s winning by 10.

Her love and determination to travel was infectious and just the spark I needed to recapture my passion for it. Together we’ve had the great fortune to go skiing in Argentina, to go on safari in Botswana, to go on cruises through the Caribbean and to scuba dive the reefs of the tiny island of Bonaire. 

There is something incredible about the feeling of anticipation and energy you have as the days leading up to a trip approach. I love the way all stress melts away once you’ve checked your bags at the airport and all that awaits you is your upcoming adventure. Travel is the smells of oceans, mountains and foreign lands.  The tastes of new foods you’ve never tried, or ones found only in the place you are visiting. The sounds of music and conversations unique to an area. Taking in beautiful sights that you may never have the chance to see again and the wonder that comes with seeing something new for the very first time. There is nothing like travel.

When I can’t escape on a trip or onto a tennis court - I can have these experiences in my mind and call upon these feelings, emotions and memories to bring me to a place of happiness and gratitude. These are my Latitudes and I challenge you to find yours.

Wednesday
Jun012011

Vermont

Northwest Vermont between Lake Champlain and Mt. Mansfield is my Latitude.

After college graduation and a promising career requiring relocation, my wife and I chose this peaceful rural setting on a dead end gravel road to build our home.  A spectacular panorama including Mt. Mansfield was an added bonus for us and  continues to inspire and bring much joy when we're together at family gatherings and events.

This region east of the Champlain Valley is populated with dairy farms and hardwood forests containing high percentages of Sugar Maples known for the sap which is processed into our famous maple syrup. The habitat is ideal for white tailed deer, bear, wild turkey and countless other small wildlife.  Immersing oneself in nature has been easy for our family and has led to varied family interests and passions that are in harmony with the seasons. Skiing, hiking and biking with family and friends or solo are my favorites, enabling my regular escape from the corporate culture.

Now as our local maple syrup producers enter their busiest month of April, skiing for another season is ending.  Very soon the annual spring migration of geese will begin with countless flocks passing overhead from sunrise to sunset.  The winter quiet will be broken by the familiar honking, inviting a skyward glance revealing  thousands in flight and in typical formation.  With longer daylight hours, there will be more time for hiking and the beginning of a new biking season.

Early morning or evening biking on less traveled country roads and trails always brings rewards ranging from unexpected wildlife sightings or unusual cloud formations and meadow fog, to spectacular sunrises and sunsets.  These random rewards along with the highs that come with any intense physical endeavor are sufficient to keep me engaged and committed. Hiking and skiing are equally energizing for me with similar rewards depending on where I choose to go.

Extensive travel in the US and some international travel has enabled me to  undertake these types of activities in some unimaginable locations with dramatic settings and a much higher ...“awesome” or “I can't believe this” ...experience factor.  And with this incredible experience a schedule is always awaiting and dictating how much you can enjoy and when you have to leave.  What is known is when I return home more enjoyment is possible, perhaps not on as grand a scale but there also won't be a schedule or decisions dictating when and for how long I can partake.  No planning is required and decisions can be spontaneous since it all can occur at my doorstep.

With all the possibilities that exist for escaping our structured lives and enjoying nature, for me nothing can top the beauty and peacefulness of a crisp, sunny autumn day with the bright foliage displayed on the mountains and in the valleys of my Latitude.

See Andy Horr's Latitude HERE in the Gallery

Wednesday
May252011

Hawaii

The place where I find the most peace and joy is in my room.  Here I am able to look out my window to the beautiful view of the windward side of Oahu.  My room is a place of tranquility where I can escape to from all the craziness going on.  I enjoy gazing out my window to appreciate the beauty of the Ko’olau mountains, the Pacific Ocean and my hometown of Kailua.

When I’m in my room, I stop thinking about all that is on my mind and just relax and let go.  I kind of fall into a dream where I get away to my own safe haven.  When I’m stressed, I lie in my bed and relax with no distractions around me and focus on all of the positive things in my life.

At times, I kneel down and pray to God so that I can tell him what is stressing me out and he can offer his advice to me.  I also think about all the people that love me and talk to some people who can try to calm me down so I can be less tense and worrisome.

I think that I’m best when I’m in my room because I can stop and pause to reflect on my life and how I am doing.  I tend to be very content when I’m here because I can have my time away from everyone to collect my thoughts.  I tend to be in the greatest mood here because I can ponder of everything in my life that is meaningful.  

My favorite place on earth is church because there I pray to God and he listens to anything and everything I have to say.  Church is super unique because I’m in God’s home and there is no better place to be then with him.  Even though I can’t see him, I still believe he is there in spirit with his presence in the word.  He heals all of us no matter what sins we have committed.

This place is special to my entire family, too, because it’s a place of worship where we can come together and be united as one ‘ohana (family) every week.

These are my Latitudes.

Wednesday
May182011

Rhode Island

As a little girl in rural upstate New York, I always remember time spent at my grandmother’s house. This usually meant going there on a Friday night, so that, come Saturday morning, when Grandma would do all of her baking for the upcoming week, I would be there, ready to go at the crack of dawn.

I fondly remember my grandmother’s house after all these years with the uneven floors, creaking stairs and the sound of her chiming clock, striking at each hour in the front living room. Friday night would usually be spent with my grandparent’s, playing cards before we’d turn in for the night. I’d go to bed looking forward to the next morning when the fun would begin.

A day of baking!!!

Grandma was a fantastic baker and a true artisan with the patience of a saint. She could make breads, donuts, muffins, pies, cakes and the most scrumptious filled cookies that would put any modern bakery to shame. As little as I was, she always allowed me to climb up on the old wooden bench next to her and let me get my hands in the dough, trying my best to mimic every move she made. Even though that was over 50 years ago, I can still smell the aroma’s that would come out of her kitchen every Saturday morning.

The real treat was when she’d slice into a freshly baked loaf of bread, hot from the oven. We’d always sit down for a “spell”, as she’d say and enjoy it with a cup of tea, poured from a little china teapot.  The tea always tasted better at her house as we’d drink it from a cup with a saucer from her mix- matched china collection. That didn’t matter. It was just so memorable, how she made me feel special, like I was the only one in the world at that time.

Little did I know, she was molding me into who I am today.

I was married at the young age of 18. I was a stay at home mom, so it allowed me to carry on Grandma’s legacy and the love of providing my family with freshly baked goods. My husband and I raised 2 daughters. Both left home after high school to go to college. A few years later, my husband took a job in his home state of Rhode Island. What a culture shock for a country girl, but I was ready for whatever this new life offered us.

One day I was watching TV and saw a commercial for Johnson & Wales University in Providence, RI, known for its culinary programs. I thought to myself, “oh if I was only 20 years younger”, I would enroll and take my love of baking to the next level, but quickly dismissed the idea, after all, I was too old to go back to school, or so I thought.

My youngest daughter, who was a student at Rhode Island School of Design in Providence at the time, called me one day and told me to get ready because she was going to pick me up. Not telling me where we were going, I changed my clothes and anxiously awaited her arrival.  Low and behold, she took me to an open house at Johnson & Wales University with a tour of the school.

The rest is history…  I enrolled in the Baking and Pastry Arts program and three years later, graduated with honors.  Somehow, I think my grandmother was looking down from heaven with a smile the day I walked across the stage to get my diploma.

I currently work as a sales administration manager in the corporate world.  Many days, my stress levels are more than I think anyone my age should have to deal with, however it’s earning me a good living and paying the bills.  No matter how long and stressful my day is, I know I can always come home and bake something to escape the rat race and relieve the stress.  Making something with my hands and sharing it with family and friends.  This is the place that makes me the happiest, my Latitude.

Both daughters are now married.  My oldest daughter gave birth to triplets almost 8 years ago, and they are the joy of my life.  I look forward to them coming by and baking with them as Grandma did with me.  One of the first things that usually come out of their mouth is “what can we bake today, Grandma?”  I’m just so happy that they want to learn, just like I did, so many years ago.

Maybe one day, they’ll have a story to tell of their grandmother who spent so many special times together with them, teaching them how important these memories are.

Wednesday
May112011

Minnesota

There is no place on Earth I’d rather be than Minnesota… at least the one week of the year we like to call “summer”.   Right around January, now that’s when I find I am frequently dreaming of my Latitude.   Most of the time my Latitude is anywhere warm, but not always.   Sometimes it’s far away, other times it’s somewhere in my own home.  Sometimes it’s in the isolated outdoors, sometimes it’s the middle of a bustling city.   But there is a common theme to my Latitude – it’s anywhere with fantastic food.

Now I don’t want to sound like a food snob, but I am one.  In my opinion, food is simply one of life’s best pleasures.  Don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t have to be expensive, or rare, or served on a bed of caviar.   I just have an appreciation for memorable food – a dish that for some reason rises above the other 100,000 meals some of us are lucky enough to enjoy in a lifetime.

When I think of that particular morsel that makes me forget everything else in the world for a few seconds, a rush of associated memories comes boiling back.   The sights and sounds of Mexico City can be overwhelming, but a quick recall of a particular plate of chicken mole and juicy carnitas wrapped in a warm tortilla with fresh avocado and tomatillo make me consider surfing over to Orbitz and finding the first flight out. 

Food is after all, the great enhancer – I may vaguely remember the sun coming up in Siem Reap, but the rippling red sphere crossing the forest canopy may as well have happened yesterday as I recall the big bowl of ka tieu I slurped right down to the yellowing china dish.  I’m sure someone has already done a scientific study to show the effect of food on memory retention, but you’ll have to be the one to look it up, because I’ve got short ribs going in the oven.

I waited outside for an hour once in subzero temperatures in Tokyo because I was promised good food in broken English.  The wait was worth it, because despite having no clue to the name or offerings of the small restaurant with a counter for ten people, I sampled sushi that couldn’t have been fresher if I were a shark.  But the thing that amazed me the most is the dedication with which the sushi chef crafts his work, a single piece of food laid out without excessive fanfare or decoration, but instead prepared with the pride of knowing that his customer is about to try the best of something he or she will likely try in their entire lives.

I don’t even have to know what I’m eating – take the little stand in the Mercat de la Boqueria in Barcelona.  That dish with the white beans and little octopi and some kind of sauce… my Spanish is weak, but I didn’t need to speak the language to know that someone had put seriously deep thought behind those few simple ingredients, the sum of which made up unspeakable flavors.

And finally, I’d be remiss to fail to mention the phenomenal tastes of our own country, a stir-fry of eclectic people and climates that rivals the offerings of any other country on earth.  That salty San Diego beach air makes your sandwich from Board and Brew a little tastier, the northeastern accent served with your street kebab in Boston a little more flavorful, and a house-cured pastrami and egg sandwich across the street from me at Be’Wiched Deli… well that just makes the Minnesota winters a little more bearable.

See Greg Schulte living his Latitude HERE in the Gallery

Wednesday
May042011

New Mexico

At the age of 5 my parents would drive from Raton, NM, Southwest to Cimarron, Red River, Clear Creek, and by the Palisades on the return trip to Raton.  My dad was a photographer back then and would take pictures for post cards and stop at the various stores to sell film and photographer supplies that were sold in the 50’s.

This drive is a picture perfect place, especially in the fall.  In Northern NM the Rocky Mountains are rugged, tall, and magnificent.  On the side of every slope is cascaded with green pines and golden aspen trees in the fall.

When driving down the 13 horseshoe curves on a the side of mountain near Red River, I would look out the car window and see patterns of yellow mixed in the mountain green of pine.  With a child’s imagination, I’d see yellow animals all among the green.  Mixed within the yellow and greens would be small amounts of red from Virginia Creeper Vine or a Mountain Oak.  These made for great red eyes in that yellow cat on the mountain across the valley from the road we were on.

As the car descended down the curves, I would look out the back window of the car to see the road which we just left growing higher with each foot the car went.  The tall thin tree trunks would replace the road as it disappeared from view.  Only a new vision would appear, the dark brown trunks of the pine mixed with the white barks of the aspen was like Zoo cage bars holding those yellow imaginary animals in their places on the side of the mountains.

And at the bottom of this road was a peaceful stream where we would spread a cloth for our lunch picnic.  What grandeur place could God have created both from a child’s eye and now from my adult eyes?  I close my eyes and still see the silver sparkling water running over those rocks as the sun reflected back into my eyes.  It was like seeing a stream of silver dollars.  And then the sound of the rippling brook, it is loud and ever so peaceful just like God talking to me.  With eyes closed, there is the smell of the pine mixed with other woods that awaken the senses even more.

When the words “time to go” woke me from my slumber, I boarded the car with the hope of a return trip. 

Wednesday
Apr272011

Wisconsin

At age 62 and being blessed with three Grandsons, ages 6, 5 and 14 months, my Latitudes often include these three, affectionately nicknamed “my favorite people,” or “my treasures.”  (They are my favorite people and my most cherished treasures!)

When I find myself in a stressful situation, usually in the dentist’s chair or doctor’s office waiting to be poked, prodded or humiliated in some fashion, I close my eyes and envision one of these 3 little miracles as an infant, lying on my “gramma pillows” while we’re resting in a recliner.  We’re warm and sleepy.  I’m cradling his little wrapped body in my arm and we’re both covered with a soft “blankie”.  His little head is resting on my shoulder and my chin rubs against his soft head and his fine hair tickles my nose with the best smell ever of a freshly bathed baby!

Sun, sand and water play an important role in two more of my Latitudes which include, not just the beach on a hot, sunny day, but the people I’m with, who are as important as the place I’m at! 

It’s hot in the sun and not much cooler in the shade.  The beach is good “sand castle” building sand and the water is clear and a bit chilly with those first steps, but once submerged is incredibly refreshing - bobbing up and down in water up to my neck, letting that coolness seep deep into my body.

Spending an afternoon at “the lake” with the combined smells of sunscreen and lake water and gasoline from the boats, burning wood from campfires and meals being prepared on barbecue grills, along with the sounds of motor boats and kids splashing and shrieking, “Gramma!  Watch me!” are as much an escape as sitting on the white sands at 7 Mile Beach in Grand Cayman.

My Grand Cayman Latitude is a bit more exotic and includes my sisters, the three of us, experiencing sun, sand, the beautiful blue waters of the Caribbean, the fragrance of tropical air and watching and listening to the waves as they reach the shore, appearing to be the fingers of God gently massaging the shoreline. 

These are the places I let my mind take me.  Simple, God given images, memories, events I’m so grateful to have experienced.   

Thanking Him, sharing my troubles with Him, knowing He is with me and cares for me.

These are the greatest elements of my latitudes.  With God in my life, I have joy, I have peace, I have comfort and I have LATITUDES! 

Wednesday
Apr202011

North Carolina

When I heard the world ‘latitude’ my first thought was “if I’m going to write about ‘my latitude’ I’d better have a clear understanding about what ‘latitude’ means.  To the dictionary I went and found its standard meaning “an imaginary line around the Earth parallel to the equator.”  Another of its meanings I found more intriguing “scope for freedom of e.g. action or thought; freedom from restriction.”  It is this meaning I will address for I find it much more pertinent as to where I find my greatest solace on Earth.  My Latitude. 

My life has not afforded me the opportunities of physical travel, some due to financial and responsibility constraints and some due to my natural tendencies to not place much importance on such things.  I can imagine that certain places heighten tranquility and enlightenment, however I have come to believe that my Latitude must come from within.

These moments have been fleeting but have left lasting impressions of places my mind longs to return.  They are those moments when time stands still and I am surrounded by the awe of something greater than myself, I am warmly enveloped in safety, and my body is a lightness of illumination.  Allow me to expound by giving some scenarios in my life when this has happened.

It happened in my teens when I visited Aunt Po and Uncle Everett during summer break. They lived on what impressed me as a plantation in Grove City, Pennsylvania.  Far from wealthy, they took care of the grounds for the onsite owners and lived in a refurbished stable house.  Days weren’t measured in time, but rather sunrise to sunset and all the seemingly meaningless activities that could be experienced within that window of opportunity.  That lightness of being I’m speaking of would overtake me after my nightly bath in an old claw foot tub filled with spring water.  I’d don crisp line-dried pajamas and watch television with Aunt Po and Uncle Everett while a myriad of nightly sounds and smells entered through the country windows.  A simplicity existed that lured me back every summer; a simplicity I have rarely found since.

It happened in my 20’s while living in Hollywood, Florida and my life’s path was somewhat uncertain.  I was jogging to unwind after my day at work and the presence of a spirit jogging to my side overcame me.  During the stretches of time this presence jogged beside me my world stood suspended; the only sound was that of my feet hitting the pavement and my breath, a calm descended, and my heart was enveloped by love.  It reappeared several times almost to reassure me and then it disappeared.  I couldn’t hold onto it.

This happened in 30’s.  I had been married and because of a turn in events married people never think is going to happen to them but does, my husband and I had been separated for a period of time due to his illness.  He had just returned.  My 3 sons were asleep in the bedroom next to ours, the house was quiet, and my husband was asleep next to me.  I became aware of a quiet presence over our bed.  It was a welcoming presence that enveloped us in safety and I heard the words repeated ‘your husband is healed.’  The words lifted my heart’s burden and tears filled my eyes.  When I opened them I saw the image of an angel over our bed and it did not leave me.  Rather, it stayed until I become completely sure of its existence.  Our family was whole; that was my Latitude.

Today I find my Latitude in the practice of yoga and taking care of neonatal infants.  I haven’t perfected it by any means.  I miss yoga class because I convince myself that my life is just too busy to fit one more thing in although it is there when I practice meditation that I find it easiest to return to that place of enlightenment.  I complain about going to work even though after I’m immersed in the neonates a spiritual calm descends upon me I rarely feel elsewhere. 

I’ll quit rambling for you know the message is always more interesting to the writer than to the reader and leave you with the moral to my story.  Just like in the “Wizard of Oz” when Dorothy awakens in her own bed, surrounded by Aunt Em, Uncle Henry, and the 3 farmhands,  I realize if my Latitude isn’t in my own backyard it is unlikely to be anywhere else...  including somewhere over the rainbow.

Tuesday
Apr122011

Missouri

Where do I go in my mind when I need to escape?  I go to the beach for serenity... not just any beach, but the Hillsboro Beach in South Florida. 

It is such a special place for me and it evokes many special memories.... my family vacationed there when I was a child, visiting my Aunt Jean and Uncle Homer and my cousins.  I spent a semester of college there to "find myself."  My husband Tom and I were married there almost 40 years ago and we spent our honeymoon there. 

We took our daughters there every Thanksgiving to visit  Aunt Jean and Uncle Homer and to play on the beach.  Now Tom and I have a winter home there and we can walk the beach every day, showing our family and our friends where we got married.  Tom calls it "the scene of the crime"!  We love to share this place of our history and our dreams of the future with all our family and friends.

When I need to go somewhere in my head for peace and serenity, that's where I go.  I can close my eyes and picture the turquoise blue of the ocean.  I can feel the warm sandy beach and the wonderful ocean breeze.  I can hear the sound of the surf.  I can smell that special tangy ocean salt smell mixed with Coppertone. 

I can see in my mind's eye my Aunt Jean and Uncle Homer.  I can see a young adventurous couple in sandals being married on the beach 40 years ago.  I can see my daughters when they were toddlers wearing their brightly colored bathing suits and digging in the sand at the water's edge.

This is my Latitude.  It has always been my special place.  I hope to grow old there with Tom.  I hope to see our future grandchildren playing on the beach someday. 

I love to think about Hillsboro Beach when I'm at home in Missouri... it returns me to that serenity that I cherish and I need. 

Saturday
Apr022011

Virginia

My favorite Latitude is Washington D.C.  Washington D.C. is my favorite place because there is so much to see and most of it is free.

I have seen the White House, the Capital building, some memorials, and a couple of museums.  I like seeing the memorials because they are so fascinating.

Then comes the fun part… going inside them.  The way they are built and carved is so cool like the Lincoln Memorial with Abe Lincoln sitting on his seat.

One of my other favorite places to see is the White House and the Capital building.  The White House is where the President lives.  Right now Barak Obama is the President.

Finally, come the museums.  One of my favorite museums in Washington D.C. is the Building Museum.  I went there once with my friends to go see Lego designs of some buildings from around the world.  They were designed and built by Adam Reed Tucker.  My favorite one was Falling Waters. They were all pretty cool.

I feel really lucky because I live about an hour west from D.C.  My cousins live right near D.C. so I get to go to a lot of sports games at the Verizon Center.  My favorite game is when Syracuse comes to play Georgetown in college basketball.  I’m a huge ‘Cuse fan.  Go ORANGE!

Another place in Washington D.C. that I have been to is Ford’s Theatre. Ford’s Theatre is where Abraham Lincoln was shot by John W. Booth. It felt to me that it was taking me back in history and feeling what it was like there.

A wonderful place in Washington D.C. is the Bureau of Printing and Engraving. This is where they print money. Millions of money is printed each day. WOW!!

One warm spring day we met up with our friends and went paddle boating around the tidal basin and went right by the Jefferson Memorial.  After, we took a break on the steps and listened to some music being played.

I also went with my cousins to the National Geographic Museum to see the Terracotta Warriors.  They were AMAZING!!  They were built by the emperor of China to protect his nation. They have been buried underground for over 2,000 years and have recently been discovered.

I just love going to Washington D.C. and whenever I go back it just keeps getting better!

See Josh Roach near his Latitude HERE in the Gallery

Tuesday
Mar292011

Pennsylvania

When I graduated college in 1996 I headed off to Graz, Austria for what turned into a two year stint as an English teaching assistant.  Those two years had a significant impact on my life.  For starters, it laid the foundation for my career as a professor of Germanic Linguistics. But perhaps more importantly, during those two years I met many people who even now, 15 years later, I still count as close friends.

It is these friendships and several of my more memorable experiences while living in Austria that I often turn to when life’s pressures begin to wear me down. It’s funny, when people discover that I lived in Austria for two years, once they’ve gotten past the standard one-liners about whether the hills really are alive with the Sound of Music, they always ask me what my favorite thing is in Austria.

My answer is inevitably “the people I met there.”

For example, my second fall in Graz a group of string players from my orchestra travelled to the coast of Slovenia for an intensive week of chamber music.  So here I was, the lone American, amongst a bunch of Austrians (with a couple of Germans thrown in for good measure).  We spent all day practicing—music to my ears.  But the best part of each day was after finally packing up our instruments for the night, we’d head out to one of the local seafood restaurants.

It was early September, so even at night the weather was still warm.  We would sit outside with the waves of the Adriatic Sea crashing against the shore and the smell of salt in the air. We’d all order a beer, and after a long day of playing music, oh did that beer taste good! Then came the food… 

We’d order fresh seafood platters.  And when I say fresh, I mean fresh.  The fish and calamari I ate each night had probably been swimming in the ocean less than six hours before it ended up on my plate.  However, beyond the food and drink what I remember are the conversations.

It was on this trip that I started to feel like I was one of the gang.  I began to understand some of the inside jokes; I started to tell my own jokes and people actually laughed.  The best part?  These jokes, as with the rest of the conversations, all took place in German.  I realized that not only had I made friends in a foreign country, I had done so while speaking in a foreign language.

This feeling of accomplishment, that I had managed to become an integral member of a community of Austrians, and that I was no longer “the American”, but just “Carrie”, struck me even more when, seven months later, I toured with the same orchestra to The Netherlands.

One day we were between rehearsals and had wandered around Utrecht checking out the sites.  It was March, so it was cold and rainy outside.  We were all in desperate need of coffee to warm up and ended up at Le Café Journal.  We sat there for several hours, writing postcards, drinking our coffee—strong, Dutch coffee—and chatting about whatever.  At some point I looked around me and realized, all of these people are speaking German.  Many of them are speaking in their local home town dialects, with accents so strong that less than two years earlier I could barely understand a word they said.  And now I could understand every word.

How cool is that?!

These are just two of many events from my time in Austria—events ranging from the extraordinary to the downright ordinary— that I can pull from my memories to remind me of how great those two years were.  They also highlight why I see Austria not just as a geographical location on a map, but a place I can always return to and affectionately call my second home.

Tuesday
Mar222011

Michigan

The lake is called Walloon.

It’s located in northwest Michigan not far from the town of Petoskey.  Walloon is almost unnaturally blue, so blue in fact that as it comes into view when I return to it – no matter if I’ve been away for an hour or a year – the sight takes my breath away. 

It was here on Lake Walloon that our family was defined.  And it is here on Lake Walloon that our family continues to evolve and grow. 

This place … this house on this lake … is the emotional and spiritual epicenter of my life. 

It began at a place on the shores of Walloon called Michigania, the University of Michigan Alumni Family Camp.  On one level Michigania is a collection of comfortably rustic cabins, a dining hall, tennis courts and a beach.  But on another level, as those who have been there will attest to, Michigania is much, much more than that.  It is a place filled to overflowing with love.  There’s no other single word to describe it.

It is my love for this place that has fueled lifelong friendships and painted extraordinarily vivid memories in the scrapbook of my mind.

My wife Marnie and her family were among the very first UM alumni families to camp at Michigania.  She worked there as a lifeguard every summer while she was in college in Ann Arbor.  With our daughters Emily and Gillian, we went to Michigania for over a dozen consecutive years.  Emily became the very first second generation staff member, and sat on the very same lifeguard chair that her mother used years before.  Gillian worked on staff every summer during her college years.  And years ago, I wrote a song about the place called Hey, Michigania!   Campers still sing it, which makes me very proud.

The Dark Green House is located about a mile down the shore from Michigania, on a hill overlooking the lake.  I still can’t believe the house is ours.  We purchased a small home on the site in 1999.  Two years ago, we tore it down and built the Green House.  We did this in spite of some very daunting economic challenges because at the time nothing in the world was more important to us.  The old place was small and cramped.  The new house has enough common space and bedrooms to accommodate our entire family – Emily and Colin and their two daughters Kenna and Lila; and Gillian and Steve and their baby daughter Eva.  And there’s plenty of room to grow.

There is simply no better time than when we’re all there together – playing tennis, playing with the kids, taking Kenna tubing, grilling, playing horseshoes, BlongoBall and board games, sharing a good Scotch with my sons-in-law and just plain wallowing in the joy of being in one another’s company.

I take that back. 

There is one slightly better time.  That’s when Marnie and I are in the Dark Green House on the Clear Blue Lake, just the two of us, the snow falling outside, seated in front of the fire.  That is heaven.

And that is my Latitude.

Tuesday
Mar152011

Massachusetts

My Latitude is Chatham, MA, or more specifically, Lighthouse beach in Chatham, MA. 

It's 4pm in late July and most of the tourist crowd has cleared out by now.  I am sitting on the beach in one of our old, rickety beach chairs, reading a book (usually a recent John Grisham or Jodi Picault because what else is summer for?).

My toes are nestling in a hole I carved out in the sand, the waves splashing over them occasionally.  My face is a little burned after spending all day outside, but after spending the week never seeing sunlight, it is much needed.  I have a Dartmouth sweatshirt on over my bathing suit and am sporting my old-fashioned sorority sunglasses that have recently come back in vogue.

My mom is sitting next to me and we make small talk occasionally, sometimes reaching for our diet cokes in tandem and laughing about how lucky we are.  My little brother is somewhere nearby, off shamelessly flirting with a pack of tan blonds- only a sophomore in college and already breaking hearts.  Luckily, he still acknowledges my presence and always asks for my approval before taking a girl out.

My dad is not here...  He left at noon after about an hour of sitting in a chair, in all his clothes, on a towel, on a blanket.  Heaven forbid any part of him ever touches the sand. His beach tolerance is limited to an hour, maybe two at max.  All is well though, he is out on the golf course, probably playing his third round of the day. He is going to get home and complain to the dogs about how much his hips hurt, but at least it was worth it.

Ever since I can remember, I grew up coming to Chatham every single weekend in the summer, and then on all the big holidays.  Our house on 54 Crow's Pond Rd is a family meeting ground of sorts.  There is never a quiet or dull moment, and we are never, ever short of both familiar and unfamiliar cars in the driveway.

The house belonged to my grandfather and grandmother, and they graciously offered to share it with their kids, grandkids, extended family, and neighbors.  Most of my childhood memories are from Chatham, the beach, and that house. 

Building forts in the basement with my cousins, going for walks around the neighborhood with our three goldens, going tubing and waterskiing and wake boarding for hours on end, golfing with the family, famous and oftentimes infamous birthday parties, to only name a few.

I don't think I could ever find a more peaceful, picturesque place than Chatham in the summertime.

There is nothing like watching a late summer sunset and feeling the cool ocean breeze sweeping across your face at the end of a long day. 

Tuesday
Mar082011

New York

My parents were raised during the Great Depression and came of age at the beginning of World War II.  My father entered the military at the age of 17 and served in the U. S. Navy in the Pacific.  My mother became a “Rosy the riveter” building aircraft for the war effort.  They married after the war and raised nine children in Lewis County, New York.

The economy here consists largely of forest related industries and dairy farming.  This area, located east of Lake Ontario in the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains, is known for its heavy snowfall. When people think of New York State the only picture that comes to mind is large crowded cities, but much of New York is rural. Lewis County is one of the least populated counties in the state.

Outside of family, my father’s passion was hunting.  Deer were not as plentiful then as they are now and great effort had to be expended in order to be successful.  In Dad’s later years he and I often hunted together, just the two of us.  On this particular day I took Dad to an area of state forest land surrounding Half Moon Lake. 

This area is located in the northwest part of the Adirondack State Park.  The lake is aptly named as it is shaped just like a half moon.  It is a beautiful area of rolling hills covered with hardwood forest interspersed with large white pines and hemlock trees.  Streams cut through the woods and provide homes to beaver, otter, muskrat and brook trout.  The area is perfect habitat for white tail deer and black bear.

I was familiar with this area but Dad was not so the plan was for me to take Dad to a spot and have him stand while I attempted to push deer toward him.  This is a tried and true hunting technique but is difficult to accomplish successfully with only two people.  But we were there to hunt and success wasn’t always our primary purpose.  Both Dad and I loved being in the woods.

It was snowing hard this day-big fluffy snowflakes.  This was lake effect snow.  If you live near any of the Great Lakes you know what I mean.  I had never hunted in snowfall that heavy.  There was no wind so the smell of pine hung close to the ground.  There was about a foot and a half of snow on the ground already when we got to Half Moon. 

We walked about a mile through the snow.  I placed Dad next to a small stream.  It was dead silent in the woods, the heavy snowfall covering all sounds.  All Dad would hear for the next two hours would be the sound of water rushing over rocks.

I walked another mile and then cut west into the area I wanted to push toward Dad.  I started zig zagging through the area to cover as much ground as I could.  The snow continued to fall and it was getting deeper, now up to two feet.  Walking was difficult and I was sweating so I stopped often and enjoyed the beauty of the snow covered surroundings.

I never expected to move any deer because I was sure I would have to nearly step on them to get them up out of their beds.  That’s what smart animals do during a snowstorm, they lay down. 

Visibility was very limited due to the snowfall.  I was walking along a very narrow ridge top when I stopped.  The snow on the ground was now three feet deep and moving was very difficult.  I changed directions and started down the ridge when I saw two explosions of snow.

It was right in front of me, like someone had thrown two hand grenades.  I couldn’t see anything except falling snow.  I moved down to the spot and saw the impression of two deer beds and tracks of running deer moving away from me.  I followed the tracks and found that one of them had changed direction but the other was still heading directly toward where I thought Dad was. 

I then heard the sound of a muffled shot.

I waited for another shot but none came.

That’s Dad I thought, laughing to myself.  He never shoots more than once, he doesn’t like to waste ammunition.  A lesson his upbringing and the war taught him no doubt.  I continued following the track and it led directly to Dad. 

He was standing exactly where I had left him.  He always did that, no matter how cold it was he would stay in one position on watch.  Always standing, never sitting.  He was covered with snow.  When he did move I remember looking at his footprints in the snow-just two of them.  He had not moved one inch in over two hours.  The buck lay dead about 15 feet from him.

Dad is gone now but whenever I think of him I think of that spot where he stood under the tall pine and hemlock trees next to that special stream.

But I also go to that spot in my mind in times of trouble because it conjures up images of total whiteness, softness and silence, of being one with nature and with my father and it all brings me comfort. 

See Bill Campeau with his Dad HERE in the Gallery

Tuesday
Mar012011

Florida

I’m a Florida girl through and through. Born and raised.

I left the state after college and lived in the New England area... 

...but I circled right back to Florida 3 years later.

Why?

Because my Latitude has three basic elements: sun, a cool breeze, and water.  

  • The sun brings a smile to my face (plus gives me a vitamin-D boost!).
  • The cool breeze (although elusive in the South Florida summertime) is refreshing.
  • The sound of the water, whether from the canal outside of my home or from the waves crashing on Ft. Lauderdale beach, brings calm and relaxation.

The desk in my home office sits right next to a large window.  I take conference calls sitting outside in the shade.  I take walks around the lake whenever there’s too much chaos and I need a 10-minute mini-getaway.  I sit by the pool to read.  My dear hubby even gave me the nickname “Sunshine.”

Living in a place like Florida is a dream for a girl like me.

Although I reside in one of the warmest places in the United States, the place that says “serenity now” and provides a mental escape for me is in Cape Town, South Africa.  Cape Town (and more specifically Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope) is the most stunningly beautiful place I have ever been blessed to visit.  It is one of those places you go where you can spend a few hours in awe and silence, captivated by God’s brilliant handy work....long stretches of sandy beaches and breathtaking coastal cliffs overlooking the Atlantic ocean.

Spending time in Cape Town - my Latitude - whether physically or mentally/visually is an ever present reminder of God’s splendor, goodness, and vastness....and with that reminder comes joy.

Not happiness, but true joy which is present amid chaos or turbulent times.

Joy.

Knowing that, no matter what, He cares for me and that I’ll grow through whatever it is that I go through.

If I could bring all of my loved ones with me....all the precious people who make life wonderful, I’d live in my Latitude all year long.

Until then, you’ll find me among the palm trees in Sunny South Florida.

See Shae Bynes at her Latitude HERE in the Gallery

(click on Shae's Latitude banner above to visit her website)

Sunday
Feb202011

Maryland

After I graduated from law school, I took a six-month trip around the world.  Highlights of the trip included trekking to Machu Picchu, journeying deep into Amazon, exploring the ruins of Ankgor Wat, diving on the Great Barrier Reef, attempting the samba in Rio de Janeiro and beach combing in Fiji. 

However, none of these once-in-a-lifetime adventures measured up -- literally or figuratively -- to the highlight of the trip, Sagarmatha ("Goddess of the Sky" in Nepali).  Westerners call it Mount Everest.

The trek to Everest began with what is probably the world's most harrowing 30-minute flight.  Trekkers take a small turbo prop plane that seats 12, from Kathmandu, Nepal's capital, to Lukla airstrip.  Lukla is an impossibly short runway that is carved into the Himalayas.  It sits at a steep angle to help planes accelerate on take-off and decelerate on landing.  At one end of the runway lies a sheer mountain face, at the other end lies a several thousand foot drop-off. 

After the white-knuckled flight, I began hiking with my guide, Basu.  The round trip hike from Lukla (9,100 feet) to Everest Base Camp (18,000 feet) took twelve days and crossed the world's most spectacular and serene terrain. 

There are no roads, no cars, no multi-story buildings, no pollution, no cell phones and no fast food restaurants.  Only sherpas straining under Sisyphean-like conditions, Buddhist monasteries and prayer flags, take-your-breath-away starscapes, an occasional yak train and awe-inspiring peaks.

Basu and I spent our days plodding ever upwards and our nights in Sherpa guest houses. The hike itself was not terribly strenuous but the lack of oxygen often made it feel like a Sumo wrestler was sitting on my chest. 

After eight days of hiking, we reached the base of the world's tallest mountain, often referred to as the Ceiling of the World.

At its busiest, Base Camp is not much more than several hundred tents staked to the Khumbu ice flow.  However, by the time I reached Everest Base Camp in early June, the climbing season had just ended.   The world's most exclusive club of athletes -- those that had summited (and survived) Everest -- had left no trace. 

Basu and I had the place to ourselves, surrounded by nothing but the grinding and groaning of the ice underfoot and Everest's 29,035-foot regal peak overhead.  

This was true bliss.

I cried several times during the course of the hike to Base Camp, saddened by the thought that I would never see anything as beautiful again the rest of my life.  Although it is true that I have not seen anything comparable since, I look back and recognize how fortunate and blessed I was to experience the world at its most magnificent. 

See Dave Roth at his Latitude HERE in the Gallery