Saturday, July 18, 2020

De Ziua Tatei


Zilele de iulie in Iasi sunt in flacari. Inconjurat de asfaltul topit, te simti ca in gura unui cuptor inchis – arestat, fara scapare! Aerul nu se misca si amortirea lui iti ucide orice speranta ca focul in care iti este cuprins tot corpul va avea vreun sfarsit. Sudorile curg siroaie. Te topesti. Respiratia e tot mai grea, si singura mancare de care mai ai chef e doar cateva cuburi de gheata sa te racoresti. Seara, cand crezi ca dupa ce soarele se culca vei scapa un pic de tortura caldurii, apar tantarii – vampirii rapaci ai noptii. Si sudoarea nu se opreste si pe orice pui mana sau oriunde te intinzi se lipeste de tine si iti tine in continuare si mai cald.

Cand eram copii, petreceam lunile de vara la Pojorata, in inima Bucovinei. Tata a crescut acolo si mereu a privit meleagurile acelea ca pe un paradis pierdut al copilariei lui. Si-a dorit sa impartasim si noi tinutul acela de poveste, unde spinarile muntilor se apleaca umil asupra satelor adormite, unde brazii inca se mai ridica mandrii sub piscurile pietroase ale Raraului si Giumalaului, unde animale lenese isi plimba turmele prin pasuni verzi si pline de fragi si afine , si unde oamenii vorbesc poetic si ascund tragedii de neimaginat in spatele unor zambete melancolice si al unor ochi pierduti in visare.

Verile la munte erau opusul celor din Iasi: caldura toropea suportant doar in mijlocul zilei. Diminetile erau pline de roua si racoare. Serile erau reci si proaspete. Vantul fosnea printre brazi si linistea de mormant nu era tulburata decat de un tren ratacit sau de vreun satean care isi batea coasa. Tantari nu existau! O data cu venirea serii, stateam toti pe “gang” (cerdac) si luam ziua care se scurse la disecat – discutand orice mic detaliu despre oricine ne venise in cale, si planuind urmatoarea zi de munca sau de petrecere, daca era vreo sarbatoare.

Eu si sora mea petreceam toata vacanta de vara aici, si parintii veneau in “vizite” doar in cateva weekenduri. Tata, nascut in iulie, incerca sa isi petreaca ziua de nastere aici si cand cadea intr-un weekend aproape intotdeauna si-o petrecea la munte. Pentru ca de obicei veneau de la servici, mama si tata ajungeau la noi vineri seara, cateodata foarte tarziu. Noi stateam cu urechile ciulite sa auzim masina tarandu-se incet pe ulita cu pietris incepand inca de pe la 12 ziua. Dupa ce descarcau masina, stateam toti la masa, oricat ar fi fost de tarziu, si tata spunea mereu acelasi lucru: “Bai, am condus, da?! Am condus pe o caldura ca imi venea sa mor! Am si eu voie sa beau un pahar de cognac?” Si radea ghidus, ca si cum cineva ar fi zis vreodata “nu”?! Raspunsul era mereu acelasi din partea mamei: “Da bea, draga!” Si isi punea tacticos un pahar de cognac pe jumate plin si il dadea peste cap intr-o inghititura.

A doua zi, de obicei sambata, abia asteptam planurile pe care ni le facea el. Cateodata mergeam la Mestecanis, cateodata la Campulung, cateodata la vreo manastire, dar intotdeauna tata isi facea timp sa mergem cu totii la cules de bureti. Asta era pentru el nu numai relaxare dar o pasiune si un dar pe care si-l facea singur in fiecare an. Eu nu am fost niciodata atletica, nici mom, dar sora mea si tata erau in fruntea clanului de culegatori! Mereu inaintea tuturor, si tata gasind mereu cele mai multe ciuperci. Noi stiam foarte bine de la rudele la care locuiam care sunt bureti buni si care nu. Lectia asta o invatasem singure. Cateodata il mai invatam si pe tata. Colindam padurile ore intregi, dupa micul dejun pana la o amiaza, asa pe la 4, cand ne coboram incet, lenes, sper casa, fiecare cu o plasuta de ciuperci, si intotdeauna tata avea cea mai mare recolta!

Desi culegeam bureti (si fragi si afine si zmeura) toata vara in sederea noastra la Pojorata, culesul de bureti cu tata era ca o bijuterie de pret, un mister, un balsam pentru un suflet plin de dorinta pe care il asteptam un an intreg! Era minunat sa il vad pe tata transformat din omul “de oras” pe care il stiam in cele 364 de zile a anului, intr-un adevarat om de munte, care nu se temea de animale salbatice, care urca pe rape abrupte fara sa cada si fara sa se teama, care ne vorbea despre istoria acelor locuri, care descoperea transee si metal din foste gloante si bombe prin padure si care ne vorbea despre cum muntii ne vor apara de comunisti, pentru ca acestia stiu ca daca te ascunzi in munti e greu sa te gaseasca si sa iti controleze mintea. Pentru el (si pentru noi) muntii au fost mereu simbolul libertatii supreme, si excursiile acestea in inima lor erau marturia celebrarii acestei liberati. Ne vorbea si despre balmus si despre cum se face branza, cum se cresc vacile si oile, si despre cum izvoarele sunt cele mai bune si cele mai curate cand sunt pline de broaste, pentru ca inseamna ca au apa buna (ne-otravita) de baut.

Asteptam ziua asta de mers prin padure cu tata un an intreg, si cand venea, de obicei in jurul zilei lui, era un cadou la fel de mult pentru noi cat si pentru el. O sansa de a ne retrage din viata noastra de zi cu zi, departe de Iasul care se topea de caldura si se framanta muribund sub povara tantarilor si a mirosului de canal, o sansa de a ne regasi in prospetimea si racoarea padurilor de brazi, si de a ne cunoaste mai bine; o sansa de a lasa natura, inima muntilor sa ne protejeze si sa ne imbete de splendorile ei neprefacute. O reintoarcere la vatra strabuna, la o simplitate si frumusete pure.

Ajunsi acasa, el se apuca de facut vreun foc pentru gratarul de cina. El era bucatarul principal si ceilalti se agitau in jurul lui si ii dadeau la mana, ca niste ucenici loiali, orice cerea el: “Lemne, adu-mi lemne! Zi-i lui mama ca mai trebuie sare! Adu-mi si mie niste apa rece! Da, rrrece!” Noi trebuia sa curatam buretii. De fapt, el si mom ii curatau si noi ii spalam – cea mai grea sarcina din cate exista! Oricine a spalat vreodata bureti stie ca un burete nu e niciodata curat, in oricate ape l-ai spala!

Cateodata, cineva din familia la care stateam turna cate o galeata cu apa rrrece de izvor pe tata sa ii spuna “La multi ani” - un obicei localnic ciudat si tata se supara (apa rece de izvor pe un corp incalzit de la urcarea muntilor in iulie iti poate ori inima, spunea el) si eu ii luam apararea. Dupa ce se usca langa focul de la gratar si in aerul racoros al serii, masa era cam gata si ne adunam cu totii, vreo 12-15 oameni, in “familie” la marele ospat.

Sedeam la o masa de lemn, lunga, cu doua banci de o parta si de alta ca si scaune care era intinsa afara, in fata casei, sub cerul liber. Stateam unii langa altii ca si cum am fi fost toti rude de sange, desi numai noi patru eram o familie – ceilalti erau oameni buni, cunostinte, care ne gazduiau de ani de zile, si care, pana la un final, au devenit mai apropiati ca rudele. Era o masa de taina, de o apropiere si de o prietenie adanca. Atunci nu stiam ca rar ne va oferi viata o legatura cu altii care putea fi mai puternica si mai sincera ca aceea.

Mancarea era intotdeauna delicioasa: buretii culesi de noi erau piesa centrala a ospatului, dar aveam de toate: carne cat cuprinde (nu exista masa cu tata fara vreo 5 feluri de carne), branzeturi, fragi cu smantana, mamaliga proaspata si taiata in cuburi cu ata, invaluind intreaga masa cu aburi apetisanti. Totul era simplu (nici un somon fume, sau caviar, sau fructe de mare), dar facut cu dragoste si cu gust. Of – amintiri … Oriunde am fi in lume, acestea inca raman. 

Astazi, de ziua tatei, mi-as dori, pentru el si pentru noi, sa mai avem parte de multe veri racoroase, sub umbra muntilor, de multe mese pline cu bureti si mujdei de usturoi si mamaliga, si de multe pahare de cognac (el) si de bere de casa (eu). Impreuna.

La multi ani, tata! Cu bine, sanatate si, poate, cu regasirea paradisului tau pierdut. Te iubesc.



Cca 1989 - tata, intotdeauna sprijinindu-se de mom, fericit la Pojorata, unde muntele coboara la tine ... 

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

15 Years


15 years today I started blogging here (or anywhere else for that matter). This makes this entry number 545. 

I started blogging (http://wander-world.blogspot.com/2005/07/why.html) from a need to communicate, but also from a love of writing and not least of traveling. 15 years ago, I was avid of finding out what life was about and share my findings with you all.

I never amounted to many followers, in the traditional sense of the word, but I know many of you read this blog, because in the meantime following to a blog has become so much more complicated: 15 years ago, people were blog followers on Blogspot, or at the most, they’d subscribe with an email address. But today, I advertise my blogs on Facebook and on twitter, sometimes even on LinkedIn, and there are so many more people following them through there … My second blog (http://livingwithfh.blogspot.com/) is linked to an external website altogether (https://thefhfoundation.org) and another audience is created there. Social life and newsfeeds have become much more fragmented and complex. Following is not that important, really, to me, because I am thrilled and humbled when my words touch even one person, regardless of how they found me.

It’s been quite a journey! I sat on the title and the url of this blog for a while till it dawned on me: it had to have something related to “travel” in its name. I think one of the top reasons, if not the top reason for immigrating here, was so that I can, one day, have an American passport that will open the door to most any country I wanted to visit and which would allow me to skip the whole “requesting a visa” process. Well, in 15 years, that dream did come true – the one about the American passport. With the new world of the Coronavirus pandemic, the borders of most of the countries in the world are closed to Americans now. So, there, I guess life has shown me.  

But I did travel some – I crossed America twice, I lived in the West and came back to the South-East of The States, I traveled many countries on three continents, and I have learned a lot – about travel, about people, about myself. I try to write as often as I feel like it, but nowadays I have several outlets for writing, some of them more private than others. Life, again, has gotten more complicated.

As long as I live, I know I’ll write, and to some extent, as far as the world around me will allow me to go, I will travel. Just like 15 years ago: whether I travel across the country or sit in my living room and travel in my imagination across the world, or take a day trip across town – my mind will continue to stay open and inquisitive and my feelings and senses will hurry to the blank pages to tell the story and share it with the world.

After 15 years of … everything … I still know one thing for sure: that life is indeed … a trip. Thank you for coming along on my journey. Here’s to new roads and to the next 15!





Saturday, July 04, 2020

All Countries Will Break Your Heart. Eventually.


July 4th, 2020

I can make this statement because at least two of them broke mine. One that I chose myself. And one where I was born, that chose me. Just like people, countries have their faults. At 45, I have stopped looking for perfection. Right about now, I am happy with the little good I find in every day. For it is not little, most of the time.

I came to America with a head full of dreams, hoping and wishing more than anything I ever wished for in my life that I have reached a promised land where not much can go wrong if you truly want it to go right. 22 years later, I can say, just like I said about my first country 22 years ago: America has broken my heart.  For the first time in … I am not sure how long, or ever … I feel like America should be scolded and not celebrated today. She has a lot of learning still to do. The reasons are obvious to all the heart-minded and humanity-loving people, so I won’t belabor the point. This is meant to be a short post.

But despite all the anger I feel, despite all the grief I have grieved for the past year, despite all the pain I see unravelling every day, despite all the wrongs, I must love America. I love it like you must love a sister that stole your boyfriend. Or a father that lived only to make you happy and ensure you have everything, a father that taught you everything from tying your shoe to what kind of man you should allow to love you but then turns around and votes for Trump. I love it like you’d love a mother who’s dying of lung cancer and is still smoking like a freight-train, forcing you to watch the decay. I love it like you love a son who’s committed crimes but rescues kittens. 

Maybe it is wrong. This is a country I am talking about, not a person. Not my flesh-and-blood. But it is my home. It is the home I chose. I am not loving it from a sense of obligation. More from a sense of belonging. If any of this grief is her fault, it is as much as it is mine for choosing her. And where would I be without a home? Just like without a family, I would not know where I belong and who I am without one. I might not be high up and singing her praises today, but I have big hopes that one day it will live again up to the name she made around the globe for hundreds of years.

Whatever America is to you and however you choose to celebrate it today, or not, I hope you at least stop and ponder whether it is the perfect country you were taught it is, or if it can get better. And if you think it can, I hope we can all find it within our hearts to get her there.

And, also … make the most of today, however you spend it. God knows life is short. And that’s not at all   a debatable fact.


July 4, 1998 - my very first Independence Day celebration in Myrtle Beach, SC. You can't quite tell here, but I was crying. I was so moved that I was celebrating Independence Day in what I thought to be the greatest country in the world. I hope all of us can see that belief a reality in our lifetimes. 

Sunday, June 21, 2020

The Trail That Has Everything: Chinqua-Penn Walking Trail

We have found so many trails around us lately - all I can do is be grateful we live in such a beautiful state and country. For nature lovers like us, there is really no boredom when it comes to where to go next - so many choices, and now, we finally have the time. 

We usually get a different landscape with every trail we try: it could be a paved, city trail, or a dirt road, or it could be a true nature trail, not maintained much, paved with nothing but underbrush, pine needles and dead leaves. We walk sometimes by lakes, sometimes streams, sometimes farms, sometimes pastures, sometimes just trees and bushes. 

But we finally found a trail that has it all: the Chinqua-Penn Walking Trail in Residsville, NC. About an hour North from our house, the trail has been maintained by NC State University in more recent times. The trail sits on the old grounds of the Chinqua Penn Plantation, so you'd find old fixture buildings from those days, alongside gorgeous, enormous, ages-old trees, a well-maintained farm, a couple of ponds, and a beautiful, tranquil stream running right through it, complete with a couple of waterfalls. Amongst those, the "Little Niagara" fall (with emphasis on "little"), flowing over a quarried rock wall. 

The trail is about 1.7 mile long, nestled in Rockingham County, in the middle of a sleepy community. If it were to describe it in one word, it would be quiet. Or better yet, peaceful

The day when we explored it, there were hardly any visitors on the trail, only two other cars in the parking lot besides ours. It feels like the world has not found it yet, which suits us just fine. 

This is the first trail we have found since we moved back to NC that promptly had us both say "let's go back to it tomorrow!". 

Here are some pictures that don't do it justice, but that might entice you to visit, if you live around these parts. 

The entrance to the trail reminds you why you're here. The stained glass "quilt" pretty much summarizes what you're about to see (you can click any of the pictures to see a larger version): 





The trail is a mix of dirt road/ gravel and wooden boardwalks, and it's virtually all flat. The boards come in handy over the marshy areas: 





Some of the old fixture buildings on the property were like hidden gems, just popping around all over the place: 

The stew site (a place where they gathered for the fall Brunswick stew parties): 



A locally harvested rock bridge that dammed a koi pond:





They used the same kind of rock for the pump house which sits on the stream:



A supporter of the Trail project paid to have this "observation" platform and stair walkway in front of the bridge. It dipped bellow the bridge, and it was framed by bamboo and a kudzu wilderness. It was like walking into The Emerald City: 



This shelter was built by a group of Boy Scouts, so, it is newer than the old Plantation, but it fit in with the rest of the place nicely. We were thinking we might need to use it, because a massive thunderstorm was threatening to approach as we were walking around: 



Part of the trail meandered alongside age-old, massive trees: oaks, and elms, and maples: 



A face in one of the trees besides the trail:



We saw a handful of creatures on our walk. The place is like a private reserve for bluebirds. They are everywhere. They fly, they perch, they chase each other, they are curious and gorgeous spots of blue peppered all over the meadows: 







There was surprisingly a penury of butterflies, but then again, the wildflowers are not in full bloom yet. We did see a couple, and a couple of dragon flies and other winged friends, too: 






A sparrow was friendly and chatty:


This is one of the ponds, the more "wild" one, tucked between trees and a meadow:



The koi pond looked mostly man-made, as it was barred by the dammed bridge. It actually did have koi in it:


... and turtles:




The stream was snaking around the heart of the forest and among bamboo groves, making these pretty waterfalls now and then. The moss carpet was soft and fresh, embracing exposed roots like soft, silky gloves. It almost didn't look real:




The blackberries were almost ready:



Some squirrels were hopping about, eating acorn: 



These arrows should really read "Farm to the right", "Wild nature and forest to the left". The estate is beautifully shared by a wild nature preserve (really) and a farm. They are both equally nicely maintained and gorgeous. You can kind of see the approaching thunderstorm: 



Farmland as far as the eye can see. And much quiet, and lazy: 










This picnic spot towers over the koi pond and the bridge. The picnic table and chairs are made from the same beautiful rock as all the other fixtures. 

Click the picture to see the whole album, and if you can, make this your next outing. Hope you agree with me that you would have found a new (to you) NC gem: 


Sunday, May 31, 2020

The Peace of White Lilies


On the first weekend of summer, we drove down about an hour to the sleepy town of Southern Pines. We spent no time in the little Southern town, although we have heard good things about it and plan to go check it out at leisure one day (we figured there won’t be much open during this pandemic, anyhow), but we went there with one purpose in mind only: to have a 2-mile walk (and a picnic sandwich) around Reservoir Lake, the David R. White Greenway trail.

I won’t bore you with all the details of that walk – an easy, wide, dirt trail around Reservoir Lake, not as populated as state park trails around the NC Triangle area – but I will share some of the pictures I took. There were not many creatures out that day, although the day was not hot, but crisp and fair, but the one thing that just left me speechless were the thousands of water lilies. I love water lilies and lotuses because they are such an oddity. They almost need no soil and they come from the dirtiest, nastiest, smelliest, marshful depths to only be one of the most delicate, fragile, and absolutely perfect creations that ever existed on this earth.

In these times of such unrest and turmoil, they were like a pathway to freedom and peace …

Enjoy …


We did the David R. White trail (green) - about 2.2'ish miles


The first peek at Reservoir Lake. It looked so peaceful. Not a sound, not a boat. Just pines, oaks, and water 


They don't call this area "Southern Pines" (next door to Pinehurst) for nothing. Huge Southern pines lined the lake and the trail


The trail was mostly shady, easy and flat. Wide enough that we could dodge other people and puppies without too much closeness


At one point, this opening revealed some creatures: ducks and turtles, and white water lilies beyond. More peaceful.



The ducks shared the log happily with the turtles. And this cute mallard had an awful itch he had to get to! 



More ducks were asleep in the shade of this beautiful branching tree.


About mid-way on the trail there was this tiny stream, flowing lazily into the lake. Just a trickle made a peaceful sound in this mostly quiet area. 


The trail is peppered with these peekaboo "windows" into the lake, where more waterlilies and ducks disturb the spotless surface.






Carpets and carpets of white and green water lilies everywhere, beautifully laced together in perfect harmony.


You don't have to be a Buddhist to believe in enlightenment. For Buddhists, enlightenment equals becoming a Buddha. As living creatures, we're all on a journey to seek enlightenment. 
Water lilies are a close cousin of the lotus flower. When I see them, it reminds me of the most ubiquitous mantra of Buddhism, "Om mani padme hum". 
There are many translations and interpretations on the web for it, so look it up and find your own. For me, the most eloquent one says this: "We have within us the seed of purity, the essence of a One Gone Thus (Tathagatagarbha) (sic), that is to be transformed and fully developed into Buddhahood." (quoted here: https://www.shambhala.com/snowlion_articles/om-mani-padme-hum-dalai-lama/)


Click the last picture to see the entire album.