Ellen and I have been extremely fortunate throughout this Covid-19 pandemic. Our health has been good; we’re both retired from our major life’s work (Adulthood I); our children are grown (and have children of their own), yet we have opportunities to see them and our five grandchildren; since we both are basically introverts, we’ve been able to enjoy the extended time at home with various projects. We’ve found new ways to stay in touch, and occasionally be, with friends. And we continue to enjoy the outdoors, particularly the joys of kayaking.
What about traveling, you might ask? You will see from the photos below, we have also found ways to pursue our passion for traveling.
Basically, we’ve stayed closer to home and explored near-by parks and trails as close as just two miles from our house. Additionally, we’ve take several car trips that have allowed us to discover some of our country’s treasures that had previously escaped us.
Today’s post, the 11 photos below and the linked slide show, feature Ellen’s continued fascination with her cameras and her ability to capture what her unique eye sees. (Maybe it’s her missed career?) These photos are all from a recent second trip to a small, mountaintop lodge, The Swag, near Waynesville, NC, where we were able to spend days simply wandering among the many, many trails in The Great Smoky Mountains.
Thanks to our travel agent, aka Ellen Miller, we were able to get away from DC for five days after almost five months of staying at home. Ellen found a small mountain inn – The Swag – in the Great Smoky Mountains near Waynesville, NC. It turned out to be just what we hoped for – individual, lovely cabins, just a few guests (we never saw more than 20 people the four days and nights we were there), good food, careful attention to virus safety precautions, and best of all, a wonderful setting.
Ellen had never been to the Smokies – they are called “Smokies” for short but are often spelled “Smokey” Mountains by those on the western North Carolina side of the mountains. I had only once drive through them on a trip down the Blue Ridge Parkway many years ago with our younger daughter. So a week ago, Ellen and I set out on a seven-hour drive and arrived at the inn late in the afternoon to find both a setting and place to explore that more than met our needs and expectations. Plus the 70 degree temperature was almost 30 degrees cooler than what we left in DC.
Each morning, following a healthy breakfast on a porch overlooking the spectacular landscape, we’d pick up our packed lunch, a walking stick for me and two cameras for Ellen and head out for a three or four-hour walk-hike in the mountains. Several days we were accompanied by two naturalists — a husband and wife team that knew the Smoky Mountain area well and were able to introduce us to the flora and fauna (mostly flora, tho we did see one non-poisonous snake and bear scat and footprints). Other days we headed out on our own along ‘well defined’ trails and didn’t get too lost, though one day we didn’t make it back before the heavens unloaded on us.
In the late afternoons we hung out and read on the porch of our cabin and watched the afternoon rain, sometimes by a fire in one of the two fireplaces in the cabin. We’d join other guests for a ‘masked’ drink and then socially distanced dinners at the main lodge, usually on the porch. Returning to the cabin, we’d again ‘build’ a fire until either it went out or we fell asleep.
The short trip ended all too soon, and we are already planning to return to this “most visited National Park in the US,” which did not seem to us to have many visitors at all.
Although Ellen had not planned to create a slide show or do one of her many photo books, once home, she found she had enough worthy photos for us to post. Below are a half dozen, and if you want to see more, which I strongly recommend, you can link to a slide show at the end of this post.
For the best viewing, click on the little arrow at the top right of the first page of the linkto start the slide show. Definitely see all the photos in the largest size possible (use a laptop or desktop computer if you have access to either). They are much sharper and show more detail than the ones above.
Ellen recently came across the German word Fernweh in an article on a travel site she follows, Atlas Obscura. This particular article struck both of us as an additional way to think about travel. We now have had some time to consider this idea of Fernwith even more, and it’s a concept we want to pass on to others.
Fernwith literally translates as “farsickness.” It’s the idea of feeling homesick for a place to which you’ve never been. What a wonderful idea, and one that rings true for me. One example: for at least 30 years I wanted to go to Antarctica for reasons I only partially understood. So too about traveling to Alaska, China, the Southwest in the US, the Lake Country in England, and other places. (We’ve been fortunate in being able to travel to all those places and many more.) Our traveling will cease for the foreseeable future. If, as we all hope, the world emerges from the current COVID-19 crisis and its fallout, we will of course travel again, including to places to which we have never been.
We wonder if others have experienced a sense of Fernweh?
In the meantime, we’re posting our third and final edition of commentary and photos from our recent SE Asia trip. In the 12 photos below you’ll see a combination of just a few shots from Bali, Singapore, and more from Papua New Guinea (PNG). There are links to three new slide shows if you want to see more. (We previously posted about the tribal peoples we met in PNG Before They Pass Away.)
A few more details to add about our stay in Papua New Guinea. As we mentioned we had a very special guide there — Alan Manning fromSouth Sea Horizons. We based our week in the countryside in two towns, Goroka and Mt. Hagen, both in the Highlands region. From there we explored the central highlands and daily life; took a deep dive into coffee growing, grading, and exporting business; had dinner with a family who is involved in both the coffee business and also in running a school; took an unforgettable day-long drive between the two towns mentioned above with stops at roadside stands and markets; and took extended walks through local markets and villages. We concluded our time in PNG with one day in the capital, Port Moresby and enjoyed its outstanding ethnographic National Museum & Art Gallery.
Singapore was an unexpected learning experience. We knew very little about its 50 year experiment with a type of government that appears to put community above the individual, albeit with strong authoritarian leadership. This is a very “planned” country/city, pretty much opposite from PNG and only partially similar to other major places in the world. In architecture it is a city both ultra modern with colonial aspects preserved. Its Chinatown, Arabtown, Indiatown, etc. contrasts with its 81 skyscrapers, more than 4,000 tall buildings, numerous high-end malls, and it has spectacular gardens. The food, as predicted, was fantastic, from the hawking markets to the small restaurants to the haute cuisine ones. The cleanliness and orderliness was unlike any other Asian country/city where we’ve been. (We did not try to confirm the rumor that if you spit on the streets you will be arrested.)
We had terrific guide who, over three days, not only introduced us to the city/state we describe above. We learned how it is governed and details about its housing, transportation, city planning, environmental, social, and medical policies which we found advanced, thoughtful, and very progressive. I have continued my reading about Singapore and particularly its visionary first leader, Lee Kuan Yew, who is in large part is responsible for the direction of the country over the past 50 years. Our Singapore ‘experience’ has led to my reexamination of our American belief that the individual and personal independence comes first, ahead of community.
,We ended our month long trip with four days based in the interior of Bali (Indonesia) in the town of Ubud. This was planned as a luxurious, relaxing end to our almost month long trip. However, as is probably not surprising, we turned it in to further exploration of a place we had never been. Again, we had a guide whom we continuously questioned and who patiently told us about his island, language, customs and rituals of its people. One long day was also spent with a delightful young man who took us to a mere seven of the more than 15,000 temples in Bali and told us more than we will ever remember about the role and rituals of religion in Bali. Another full day was devoted to a long drive to the eastern part of Bali and the best cooking ‘class’ we’ve ever had, which included almost two hours in a market, learning about, sampling, and gathering the ingredients that we later spent four hours preparing and finally eating. We did, of course, fit in three additional fine meals.
And then we began our 24+ hour return to the US, through airports where everyone seemed to be wearing masks and to be avoiding each other and where we had promised our children we’d do our best to stay safe. To our children’s relief, (and our own) we have been home now for well over a month and have shown no signs of illness.
Enjoy these 12 photos and check out the three slide shows if you want to see more of PNG, Singapore, and Bali through Ellen’s lens. (See link below.)
Almost every evening I stand at kitchen sink and look into our back garden while I’m fixing dinner.
Lately, I’ve been admiring the wonderful late fall colors, particularly of the Japanese Maple which dominates the space, and a new sculpture we purchased last spring in Santa Fe. The late afternoon light, the very red maple, and the bamboo all together made a glorious picture.
So, of course, over the last few days, with clear skies at near sunset, I picked up my camera to try to capture it.
Sometimes, we just have to look in our own backyard.
Contrary to what some of you may think, Ellen and I are not spending all of our time traveling, going to movies, reading books, seeing friends, finding wonderful restaurants, following baseball, or stressing about the state of our nation.
We now have five grand children, and when Ellen is not making picture books from our travels (she’s up to 25 now!), she focuses on Eli, 10, Abigail, 8, Ryan almost 6, Samantha 3, and Brooke 18 months.
Today’s post are photos from the last three or four weeks, some from a weekend when all five were together and some from KC and others from DC/MD.
Soon Richard and I will formally celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary. (Gasp!) But actually we’ve been celebrating it for a month, starting with a two week trip to Spain where we explored Valencia for a few days, stayed at a beautiful restored farmhouse near Fuentespalda (northwest of Barcelona), and rented a home on the Costa Brava between Tamariu and Begur. We ended with three days in Barcelona, a city we love returning to and have done so a number of times. It was a tough trip. Wine, fine food, friends, and (mostly) fine weather, medieval villages to explore, art, architecture, and exquisite, picture perfect views.
So here’s my usual post-trip visual report. Below you’ll find five of my favorite pictures from the trip. And if you follow the link at the end of these five photos, you’ll find another 65 or so.
I initially chose MillersTime as the title of this website because I thought it described my newly retired status and defined what I wanted to write about — my varied interests and activities. (If you are want to know more about my interest in writing, see an earlier post, Why I Write.)
In my mind, “MillersTime” was a singular endeavor (Although I couldn’t figure out the mechanics of putting an apostrophe in the title, I like that it sounded a bit like my own newspaper). As it developed, I began to include, along with my travel writing, photos that Ellen (my wife) had taken of the trips.
For some of you, Ellen’s photos are one of the best aspects of MillersTime.
For those of you who have enjoyed Ellen’s photos from one or more of our various trips, I’m posting below a list of and links to all of her photo slide shows (in case you might have missed one or two).
Remember to use your largest possible screen (laptops and desktops are much better for these photos than smartphones, for example). Also, once you click on the link to a particular slide show, be sure to click on the tiny arrow inside the little rectangle at the top right of your screen to start the slide show.