Category Archives: General

Wind Dancer

I am a dancing windmill, turning freely in the wind. Birds fly around me cawing and screeching as if scoffing my solo performance. I don’t care what they think. The wind is my music, a varying tempo pulsating against me, around me, pushing me into a carefree state like bubbles floating, flitting into the cornflower blue sky. When the wind stops, I stand tall and proud like a general addressing his troops or a ballerina posed beautifully, perfectly still on her very straight, trained tips of her toes. A small breeze teases me, an encore to perform again like a peony blossom revealing itself in stages until all the colorful layers are peeled back. I do not perform for anyone. I dance for myself: the wind and I, partners in life. I am a wind dancer.

Nancy Huber

Nancy was an OLLI staff member for almost 10 years before retiring in May 2018. Born the middle child in a family of seven kids on a farm in northern Illinois she has lived in North Carolina since 1999. She loves reading, swimming, brisk walks, writing, old movies, and filling her bucket list with travel ideas. This piece was inspired by a photograph she saw while in a writing class.

Life is a Crapshoot

Sarapiqui rainforest

Our tour group stopped at a restaurant for lunch on a hot February afternoon on the way to the rainforest in Sarapiqui, Costa Rica. My tablemate, Donna, wouldn’t be continuing with the group. She had been having intermittent chest pains and since the next site was so remote, she felt, with the encouragement of the tour leader, that she should have this checked out at a nearby clinic. “Life’s a crapshoot,” Donna said as she left to get into the taxi. I thought it ironic that she uttered the same term I had been using for the past two months. Random episodes of mishaps started soon after my husband and I downsized to a two-story townhouse, rather than move into an apartment in a continuing-care-community.

Urgent Care

First, I came down with bout of the flu. The flu morphed into “walking pneumonia.” As the pneumonia symptoms subsided, I slipped on a wet floor, lacerating the side of my face as I hit the corner of a table. I dropped-in to Urgent Care for the second time within a couple of weeks.

 

Toucan

We had planned a vacation to Costa Rica months before the move. Thoughts of my recent vulnerability began to circulate in my head. Would the active pace of this tour prove too great a challenge? But if life was indeed a crap shoot, I had no reason not to take this trip. Our first morning in Sarapiqui, we woke to a thunderous rain pounding on the roof of our cottage. I had signed up to go white-water rafting for the first time. The rapids were a class three. How rough was that, I wondered knowing that the international rating classification goes up to a six. Besides the storm didn’t cancel the event. I knew I would regret not going. Ten gutsy, or clueless, participants, out of fifteen in our group, showed. Most of us were in our seventies. One man admitted to being eighty. We stood by the water’s edge as the downpour plummeted us.

rapids (1)

After listening to brief instructions, we donned life jackets and helmets, grabbed a paddle, and took a seat in one of three inflatable rafts. The rafts rose, dropped, and tossed in the swirling currents. Our guide shouted orders over the noise of the river and rain. “Row” “Stop.” “Down.” “Down” was the scariest. I can still see the raft rushing toward a thick tree trunk extending over the river. The leaves from the tree swept across my face as I hunched on the bottom of the boat. Had I sat up, I surely would have been decapitated. The rain subsided. The three rafts drifted on the calm river as our guide pointed out the birds and reptiles that watched us from the trees and shore.

break at rapids (1)

Halfway into our trip, we beached the rafts, shared a pineapple and watermelon snack and posed for a group picture. (I am fourth from the right) Finally, we pulled the rafts to shore and relinquished our oars. Hiking back to the hotel, tired but exhilarated, we congratulated ourselves that none of us fell into the rapids. Later that afternoon Donna returned. She had gotten a clean bill of health.

Marianna Crane, OLLI Member 

Marianna was one of the first gerontological nurse practitioners in the early 1980s. A nurse for over forty years, she has worked in hospitals, clinics, home care, and hospice settings. An award-winning author, her work has appeared in The New York Times, Examined Life Journal, and Stories That Need to be Told: A Tulip Tree Anthology among others. Her memoir, Stories from the Tenth-Floor Clinic: A Nurse Practitioner Remembers, has been recently released. Her web site is http://www.nursingstories.org. She is a member of the OLLI Writers’ Group.

Farm To Feet Socks – Textile Rebound

farm-to-feet.jpg

Mt. Airy, NC, is the home of a unique company called Nester Hosiery.  Last Christmas, my daughter in law, Kim, gave me two pair of socks called Farm To Feet, and on the eye catching sock holder was a person’s picture, name and a little bio about what they did at the plant and their back ground.  This perked my interest, and reading on, I discovered the socks were manufactured in Mt. Airy and used all USA materials.  From the merino wool farmers to the other materials, it all came from the United State of America.

pink-sock.jpg

I immediately fell in love with the socks, their unbelievable comfort,and they even came with a lifetime guarantee.  After checking out the Farm To Feet web site I discovered it had a discount store very close to the plant.  I just had to go to Mt. Airy and check out this company.  I thought textiles died in our state years ago, yet here was a thriving company.  How come, I wondered?  There must be a fascinating story behind their success, so this summer my wife and I drove to Mt. Airy with the expectation of getting a plant tour and checking out the discount store.  The store was fun with bins of “seconds” at about half price.  We could not see defects on any of the socks, but the company is so quality conscious, that any minute flaw got sent to the seconds bin.  When I was ready to check out, Libby, the very personable and do-it-all lady who runs the store, asked if I was a military veteran and I said “yes” and showed her my identification.  She thanked me for my service and said “all veterans get a 50% discount”.  I thought she said 15% discount and I asked her to repeat what she said, “All veterans get a 50% discount”.  With this unbelievable discount I went back and picked out more socks! When we got all the socks for us and gifts for others, I asked her if the plant did tours, and she said. “Yes” and called the plant.  Returning she said, “The person giving the tours was gone to some sort of “sock convention”, (my interpretation) and was not available.  That led to our second trip to Mt. Airy, Tuesday, December 17, with a tour appointment and an understanding I would write a blog on the Farm To Feet story

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The tour given by Frankie Vernon (Human Resource Manager) surpassed all my expectations of a company that has resurrected a part of the textile business and is doing it with highly skilled local labor, and only USA materials. Another interesting fact is they consider themselves a “green” company, by utilizing as little resources and energy as possible to manufacture socks.

A few facts about Nester Hosiery:  The Company was founded by Marty Nester in 1993 and its current president and CEO is his nephew, Kelly Nester. Both Marty and Kelly gainedextensive experience in the hosiery business, coming from another similar company.  The Nesters located their first plant in Dobson, NC, not too far from Mt. Airy.  It wasn’t long before they outgrew that facility and moved to Mt. Airy.  The Farm To Feet logo is their brand and has been highly successful.  The socks cost a little more than their competitor’s socks, but both quality and American made have won a considerable following.

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The plant now produces 2000 dozen pairs per day, which includes some other name brand socks.  This is all done by a work force of only 181 employees including the owner. The knitting process runs 24 hours a day Monday through Friday.  It is fascinating to see how machines, programmed by computer experts, and tended by highly skilled employees, make such beautifully designed socks.

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The Farm To Feet brand supports over 2000 workers in the US, all the way from the sheep farmer, spandex manufacturer, thread makers, knitters and eventually the packaging and shipping department.

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Its location, 1546 Carter St., Mount Airy, NC, and only about a two and a half  hours’ drive from the Raleigh/Cary area, make a day trip well worth the time.  And of course, you can also take in the many sights and sounds of “Mayberry”, made famous by The Andy Griffiths TV show and Mayberry R.F.D.

By Larry Kingsley,

OLLI Member, OLLI Writers Group, Member of OLLI Voices Editorial Team

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Stroll in the Park

The author of this piece, Douglas Johnston, would welcome comments and discussion on the topic so feel free to add your voice after reading.

A Stroll in the Park

“Is there any pleasure which all persons find at all times in every park? If so, upon what does that pleasure depend?” asked Frederick Law Olmsted for the sole purpose of answering his own questions.

“Yes,” he answered, “there is a pleasure — common, constant and universal to all parks. It results from the feeling of relief experienced by those entering them, on escaping from the cramped, confined and controlling circumstances of the town, a sense of enlarged freedom — to all, at all times, and in the proportion by which there exists the general impression of undefined limit and sense of indefinite extent.” (Frederick Law Olmsted, Public Parks and the Enlargement of Towns, 1870.)

Central Park

Olmsted worked to create spaces where people could “easily go when the day’s work is done, and where they may stroll for an hour, seeing, hearing, and feeling nothing of the bustle and jar of the streets where they shall, in effect, find the city put far away from them.”

That was how Olmsted pitched his vision for what city parks should be. A park shouldn’t feel like the city, Olmsted believed. It should feel like an escape in the city from it.

 

And that is what Central Park and 500+ other Olmsted parks and green spaces remain today. He was a man who helped make cities livable, and who changed America forever.

In a little over two years we will celebrate the 200th anniversary of his birth. What more exciting time to explore, understand and participate in  Dorothea Dix Park’s first steps to address the complexities of developing a health-promoting place for all, its sustainability and resilience, and the legacies that Olmsted and Dix champion.

Dix Park

 

Douglas Johnston – OLLI Member.

Before retirement, Douglas taught at the UNC School of Public Health, was counsel to the State Treasurer, and held the rank of Commander, US Navy, so for him, it’s natural to see Dix Park as an investment in the community’s well-being and our civic common ground.  

 

 

His Handwritten Letters

Writer’s note:  The letter shown here is a prop.  This story about my father’s letters, however, is true in spirit, and largely in fact.

Black ink

 A man of routine, his letters were never written from home.  Time at home began sharply at 6 p.m. and was given to his wife, eventually of sixty years, and to us, his three children who left his home and his town in our early twenties.  His letters to us were mostly newsy.  He always wrote them on white paper which rested on the glass counter off to one side of his long, narrow furniture store, He sat on a rickety stool.  He could have repaired that stool as he was handy with such things, or selected a new one since he sold a variety of stools, but he chose this ancient relic in need of re-gluing that swayed with his words.  Always teased about that stool by us and by mother, he argued that its creaks and groans were words understood only by them.  In his mind, the stool was his writing partner.  Words were chosen carefully and crafted in broad black script by the two of them over their many years together.

Handwritten Letter

He and his stool composed letters to manufacturers, letters to his sister, and letters to his children.   His descriptions flowed over and around customers who came into his furniture store during the day to browse or buy.  He preferred them to buy, of course.  He didn’t follow them around the store.  He let them browse, and he wrote about their behaviors, which were usually what one expects of customers, but occasionally the odd duck would arouse his humor, and he was a funny man.

His letters were as much about his captivation with form and visual beauty of penmanship as with news. The formation of letters and words with haughty flourishes and steep peaks and swooning u’s and y’s were as much cursive art as news of his and mother’s day.   His fat red fountain pen was legend in our family.  He would invite me to watch him fill it from the ink bottle.  That, too, was a ritual he and his stool shared.  Our father would settle the bottle of black ink on the glass counter and sidle the golden tip of his fat red pen into the reservoir and lift the gold lever built into the side of the instrument.  My father, gingerly wielding the lever, would cause his pen to drink like a humped camel from the bottle and fill its black rubber bladder with the fluid that formed his words.  It was a delicate, nearly religious experience.  I wish I had asked my father why the filling of his pen was such an important ritual, but I didn’t. I imagine now he would have had much to tell me.

Red Pen

On the occasion of one of his pen-fillings, I asked him what his favorite word was, and without hesitation, he replied, “swimming.”  “Why?” I asked.  “What’s so special about that word?”   With his fat, full pen held in his hand properly, with the golden blade extending the proper distance from his fingertips, he swirled out the word “swimming” on a clean sheet of letterhead.  His beige paper was expensive, so I knew this lesson was important. The word on the beige paper was at once a mountain range of peaks and valleys. It was a brook of swells and waves formed by w’s and m’s and n’s and i’s excited by the wind.  My father painted the word “swimming” for me.

Cursive W

When I’m missing my father, like this morning, with my dime store pen, I write his word.  Swimming.  I can’t swirl the peaks and valleys and and ripples the way he did, but for the long moment when my pen is trying to be his pen, we are sitting together at the glass counter.

A cursive “swimming” has been my favorite word since that day in my father’s store.  I see the glass counter and beige paper and his strong hand holding his fat red pen. Wherever I am, and I’m missing him, I write out his word. He and I have shared his favorite word hundreds of times over the years.

By Tim Hoyt

Tim says “It seems like I’ve been an Encore and now OLLI member ever since Uncle Rex punctured his wrist on the cow yoke. I retired from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh in 1999, and moved to NC a year later. I grudgingly maintain our house and yard in fair shape, and happily stay in touch with the kids in Wisconsin via “dad’s daily letter.” But mostly, I focus on keeping my mind in good shape with OLLI classes and by writing. Lots and lots of writing. Tim leads three Special Interest Groups – Readers Theater, OLLI Questions Across the Spectrum and the OLLI Family Stories Writers Group

 

 

 

Happy Hearts Trip – Nashville, Tennessee

Nov. 7-10, 2018. Four days of non-stop fun things to see and do.

Nashville was a place I had never visited and always wanted to, so my wife and I jumped at the chance to be part of this fabulous trip.  We belong to Cary First Baptist Church and have gone on other trips, but this was special.  I may now have to buy and learn to strum and pick a guitar.  I believe there are more guitars in Nashville than people!  The eight hour ride via a very nice modern bus was long, a little tiring, but made tolerable by our entertaining tour manager, Jane Trexler, and our very excellent driver, Willie.

LK 1

Our arrival to the Gaylord Opryland Resort hotel was one of the big surprises.  The Gaylord is the largest hotel in the US, advertising a whopping 3000 rooms, covering nine acres, lavish gardens (and I mean lavish), countless waterfalls, a tantalizing water fountain show, and even a river boat ride through the extraordinary tropical gardens.  And of course shops and restaurants galore.  It is large, but well mapped with signs to reduce getting lost, however getting lost is part of the fun at this resort.

2 waterfall

The next day included a bright and early departure for Fontanel Mansion, megastar Barbara Mandrell’s, former home.  It is a 27,000 square foot log home with 13 bathrooms, 5 fire places, 2 kitchens and much more.  The house is now owned by an investor group that run daily tours.  Our tour guide was Steven Whitson a masterful story teller, singer, guitarist, and he gave us two beautiful renditions of songs he composed.  Luckily he had a recorded band back up which shielded the two guitarists, Penny Jacobs, and Larry Kingsley, trying to come up with at least one chord that was right.

4 trio

We moved on to visit The Parthenon, a full-scale replica of the original Parthenon in Athens, Greece.  Built in 1897 as part of the Tennessee Centennial Exposition, and is the center piece of Nashville’s Centennial Park.  Under the main structure is a private collection of some very fine paintings.

5 acropolis style

After lunch we toured Belle Meade Plantation renowned for breeding numerous Triple Crown thoroughbreds, including Secretariat, War Admiral, Affirmed, American Pharaoh and this year’s winner, Justify. Since the paddler wheeler trip and dinner cruise was cancelled we were entertained at the Nashville Nightlife Dinner Show.  A top rated event that in the past featured Hank Williams and Patsy Cline and some of the superstars of today like Sara Evans and Toby Keith.  It was a delightful evening with budding stars performing.

7 performer

The following day was my favorite, a tour of RCA Studio B.  Built in 1957 it became known as the cradle of the Nashville Sound.  More than 35,000 songs were brought to life here including more than 1,000 American hits, 40 million singles and over 200 Elvis Presley recording!  We all took turns standing on the blue tape X on the floor where the artist stood to record the many hit songs.  Following the Studio B tour we boarded the bus to the Country Music Hall of Fame Museum.  It was self-guided and featured the earliest folk roots of music and memorabilia and of the super stars including my favorite, Elvis’s car!

9 car

No visit to Nashville would be complete without visiting Ryman Auditorium.  Revered by many as the “Mother Church of Country Music”, the Ryman Auditorium was the home of the Grand Ole Opry from 1943 to 1974.  The building was built in 1892 by Captain Tom Ryman, after his religious conversion at a tent revival held by Sam Jones.  He wanted a building large and grandiose enough to properly represent God’s church, so the revivals continued until morphing into The Grand Ole Opry home.  Our self-guided tour gave us a sense of history of the years of music that was performed there.  After Dinner at the Opry Backstage Grill, we made our way back to the Ryman Auditorium for a two hour concert which featured about eight different singers and acts along with radio timeout commercials for cowboy boots, hats and western clothing.  It was a delightful evening sitting just a few feet from the “Grand Ole Opry” historic stage.

10 stage

Of course all trips have to end and the next day we made the eight hours bus ride back to Cary with lasting memories of a city built by music.

 

Blog writer: Larry Kingsley

Photos: Gary Frazier

Fairies

GV FAiries

 If I believed in fairies, which I don’t, I wouldn’t have looked for them around the trees in my neighbor’s yard.  But that is where I found them early this morning on my walk. It’s before eight a.m. and I am startled by a view that stops me in my tracks: hundreds of sparkles of light around the trees; rays of dancing, frolicking pinpoints that could only be described as fairy lights.

GV Fairies 3

They are tumbling down shafts of water droplets between leaves and branches between and around the trees, cascading onto the ground in discreet balls of brilliance.

Geraldine V Fairies Nov 2018

It could only be fairies as nothing matches the sheer awe and joy the sight gives me. Laughing, I take out my cell phone and snap picture after picture. A gift has been bestowed upon me, touching some fundamental childhood self that always wanted to find a fairy. And now I have, hundreds and hundreds of them displayed before me in living proof that dreams can come true.

Geraldine Velasquez (OLLI Member, OLLI Instructor, OLLI Writers Group)