July 7, 2010

Dear Family and Friends,

    This was not a day we had expected or planned. Most surprising was the drizzle and fog we woke up to this morning. Gray pea soup outside. We couldn’t see our meadow from the bedroom as we lay in bed with our coffee this morning. The thermometer read 48°—very un-July like weather. We know we need the moisture, especially with high fire danger throughout the state. The grass had been crunching and the scent of dried pine needles had been strong underfoot along our road and trails. It is in the spirit of green meadows and reducing the risk of fire danger that we accept the occasional grumpy weather.
Maul and Woodpile
    The other unanticipated event—a non-event really—is that we are home. A month or so ago we had planned a two or three week road trip to the Canadian Rockies after July 4th. But important social and medical commitments have made a road trip in July next to impossible. So, July will pass and we will likely have been here most of the time. (The one positive in this stay-at-home summer is we get to enjoy our gardens for a change, and watch the complete Tour de France which we would have missed if we were in the RV.)

    So while we look ahead to the summer remaining, looking back to the past spring reminds us that our life in the mountains continues to be, at any time of the year, as good as we’d hoped for when we retired here over 18 years ago, time in our lives filled with interesting surprises, good friends, and satisfying and rewarding activity.

Judy and Dogs in Snow
    Heart Repair. Of course the biggest surprise occurred at the end of March when Hughes had four stents placed in two coronary arteries in two separate procedures. A few weeks later he had his carotid arteries checked and found they were in good shape. He seemed to recover pretty easily from the stent implant procedures and followed that with eight weeks of cardiac rehab three days a week (monitored treadmill and bicycle exercise). Though he could have continued with the therapy program for an additional four weeks, he seemed to be making only slight but steady progress with no observable issues. He often did another hour of bike riding in the Boulder area. On the days when he didn’t have therapy sessions, he added more logs to the wood piles, cut them all into 17" lengths and began splitting them, a task he has not quite finished. When done, we’ll have about five cords ready for at least two more winters. This is our 18th year of gathering, cutting, limbing, splitting, and stacking wood for heat, and we still gain a lot of satisfaction in the process.

    A Dirty Trick. Mother’s Day came and passed with the promise of spring’s reawakening, the greening of the world around us. The aspens were beginning to leaf out, the pasqueflowers had emerged from the hard soil of winter, and hummingbirds had flocked to our feeders. In many parts of the country, Mother’s Day is thought of as a safe and appropriate time to plant gardens. Not here. Five days later, a late spring snow storm caught us off-balance; in two days the snow blocked our drive, broke branches under the weight of 18" of wet snow, and pushed us inside for the rest of the week. We should never be surprised at what the weather might be: since we lived here, we’ve had snow every month except August. Still, we cling to old weather rhythms and patterns learned from living in the east and Midwest for so many years.

    Visitors. We enjoyed two guests this spring: the first a former doctoral student of Hughes’s, Leslie Prosak-Beres, who has had an outstanding career as Professor of Education at Xavier University in Cincinnati. She was in Denver for a retreat at Regis College and came early to spend a few days with us before her main event. In addition to catching up with family news and with colleagues in common, we slow-hiked the edge of the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area, lunched at Boulder’s historic Chautauqua dining hall, and gave her an inside look at downtown Nederland.
Hughes and David
    We had anticipated Leslie’s visit for the previous six months. Our other visitor came out of the blue: David Delo had gone to Antioch with us and graduated with Hughes in 1962. We parted after college and had lost touch until, as David explained, he thought about some of his old dorm mates and tracked us down via the internet to see what we were up to. He discovered that we lived a half-day drive from his home in Delta, Colorado, and when he emailed “Hello,” we made the invite immediately. David and Hughes had done a lot of things together—sang together in a quartet, performed in a college musical production of “The Boyfriend,” and shared quarters in the same dorms for the first two years on campus. They even recalled drinking a few beers together at the Old Trail Tavern in downtown Yellow Springs from time to time. Can you imagine!?

    He stayed just one night—not nearly long enough for the three of us to completely bridge the gap of nearly 50 years—but we gave it a good try. David, who is a gifted and successful writer, historian, and artist, came with copies of three of the books he’s authored and a beautiful pen and ink drawing, which we’ll frame and proudly add to our art collection. We spent most of our time filling each other in about what directions our lives had taken since college. David won the prize for the most twists and turns in life. We parted leaving much more ground to cover and, therefore, lots of good excuses to reconnect again in the near future.
College Birthday
    [Note: The group gathered around the piano is celebrating Hughes’s birthday in 1960. This faded and aging photo is from an ancient 3x5 print Hughes found in an envelope of old photos; the scanned image shows its age. David is leaning in to the right of the piano player; Judy is still in New Hope finishing high school. In case you are uncertain, Hughes is in the gray sweater behind the piano player. He remembers the names of everyone in the photo save for two familiar faces to which he cannot put names. He also does not remember who took the photo, nor what has happened to most of the folks in the photo. If you are in the picture, or know something about someone who is, we hope you’d contact us. We’d love to hear from you.]

    If Hughes’s heart attack slowed him down some—and it has just a bit—Judy seemed to have uncovered boundless energy. She really got things done this spring!

    New Beds. On our Alaska trip we saw a home in Sitka with a flower bed built around a tree in their front yard: a real brass bed with a wood frame that held the flowers up off the ground. Judy had the idea some time ago and seeing one set up spurred her to make one herself. For a couple of years we have shopped around for a a pair of brass beds for ourselves: one for flowers and one for vegetables. Not only would they be attractive, but we thought it might help to keep the critters away from fresh flowers and tasty veggies. Last year we found both, built frames for each, and this spring filled each with rich soil, fertilizer, and peat moss. Judy began planting, covering the veggies with a cloth to protect against the harsh sunlight and to help keep insects out. The result has been fresh spinach, lettuces, arugula, and snow peas on demand. And we’ve been home enough to enjoy the fruits of her efforts.
Veggie Bed
    New Volunteer Work. Lucy has not yet developed the attitudes and skills required of a hospital therapy dog, so Judy has not been making her weekly rounds at Boulder Community Hospital. She misses the chance to do patient visits. She and Lucy have been going to a number of different group dog training classes and even some private one-on-one sessions with a dog trainer. Lucy almost always performs beautifully, but has also shown an unpredictable nature that warns Judy that she can’t be trusted to meet and greet all people in a friendly manner all the time. Learning what the issue(s) might be and how to deal with the problem remains a puzzle, though Judy continues weekly sessions with her. That’s Wednesday mornings.

    In the meantime, Judy’s become well known and respected by the hospital staff such that when an opening came up for someone to work the front desk of the main hospital, they asked Judy if she was interested (on a part-time volunteer basis). That’s Monday mornings.

    Nederland is now the location of one of the most charming and original carousels in the country. It opened on Memorial Day weekend after 25 years of carving (34 original animals and one mermaid), mechanical restoration, and constructing the building that houses the carousel year round. Judy thinks the Carousel of Happiness is the greatest place in the world to work, and she’d love to sell you tickets when you come to town ($1/ride and all profits go to charity!). Like the folks who come and take a ride (or two or three), she leaves each day with a smile on her face. That’s Wednesday afternoons.

    Hughes continues to meet and greet folks at the Nederland Visitors Center, enjoying each and every day. The pace is suited to a fellow recovering from heart surgery and, besides, he usually rides his bike the five miles to and from town. The hills help keep him fit. That's Tuesday afternoons.
Avery Beer
    Hitting the Roads and Bike paths. Speaking of bicycles, both of us bought new bikes this spring. It started with Judy urging Hughes to get one that he can use for “keeping fit.” Not another mountain bike, but one a bit lighter and more comfortable to ride (i.e., it fits him better, keeps him in a more upright position befitting a man of his age and dignity, and can soften some of the minor bumps on the paved roads). He found a very gently used Trek 7500 that is like moving up from a used pickup to a Buick. Judy, whose claims the mountain bike she has had never did fit her properly, decided she needed a new one also. So she shopped the internet, found what she wanted, and waited for a terrific sale on a new Trek FX 7.3 that she not only can lift with one hand, but sits as comfortably on it as she does her rocking chair. She loves it—and Hughes loves his. Road trips will be all the more enjoyable with two new bikes that fit and are a pleasure to ride. Hughes and Michael (who has taken up biking for exercise and fitness with a vengence—20 miles a day!!) began a Father’s Day tradition with a hour’s ride down in his part of the county where bicycles ride on flat bike paths instead of hilly dirt roads. Judy joined them that day when she was done running and together they put in another easy six miles.

    Judy’s spring running schedule has been modest this spring. She decided not to join a training group in preparation for the Bolder Boulder 10K as she has done in the past (she suffered occasional injuries that put her on the DL for that year’s Bolder-Boulder). She figured that weekly runs on Sunday with the Boulder Roadrunners, weekly Saturday runs with an informal group who call themselves “The Purple Runners,” and 3–4 days of running on her own up here at altitude would get her into shape to perform well at the Bolder Boulder Memorial Day 10K. She was right. Once again she won her age group (this year by 3½ minutes) as she has each time she’s entered (we’ve lost official count of how many). Her training must have been appropriate: she lost only one minute over her time two years ago (she was injured last year).

    However, at age 68 she’s at the upper end of age groupings at most races, which generally use 5-year or 10-year age groups depending upon the number of runners (for the Bolder Boulder, with over 50,000 runners, awards are based upon a runner’s age; this year Judy beat out 76 other women who were 68 years old). As a result, this spring she placed second in the Boulder Distance Carnival 5K and the Joe Colton’s Off Road 5 Mile Run, both won by younger members of the 60–69 age group. She did win her age group and a case of beer (a practical alternative to another medal) at the 4 on the 4th sponsored by Avery Brewing in Boulder. She can’t wait to hit 70 when she’ll be the youngster in her new age group.

    In addition to training runs up here, Judy has taken Lucy running with her on shorter runs on Ridge Road (about 2 miles) since Lucy seems to have near boundless energy. Judy keeps her on a three foot stretch leash that gives the dog some flexibility while still keeping her under control in traffic. Bella would have enjoyed that also when she was four or five, but not at the ripe old age of ten.

Griff's Graduation
    We were a little surprised this year to find ourselves with a grandchild graduating from high school. Where did the time go? How did it pass so quickly? The event reminded us that everyone around us is getting older! Of course we wanted to be witness to this life changing event. We flew back east in June for a long weekend to help celebrate Griffin’s high school graduation from Thayer Academy.

    Thayer was founded in 1877 in Braintree as a coed college prep day school with traditions that reach back to the 19th century. Like many New England prep schools, Thayer emphasizes achievement in scholarship, athletics, and the arts, and Griff worked to live up to those traditions. He was one of 23 students in a class of 116 who were members of the Cum Laude Society and was on the high honor roll each semester. He earned three varsity letters each in tennis and cross-country, won the Latin Award four years in a row, was awarded the Brown Book Award for outstanding writing, and an wrote an award-winning article the award-winning school literary magazine, Voice. If all this sounds like grandparent boasting, well, it is. We're very proud of what he has accomplished. He should continue his achievement at Wake Forest University beginning this fall.

    We spent two mornings attending Thayer ceremonies. “Last Chapel” is a time to honor faculty, for undergraduate award presentations, and to hear last words of wisdom from a faculty member chosen by the students (he was excellent). The next morning was an outdoor graduation ceremony with student speakers (who were outstanding) and a guest speaker who was a graduate of Thayer years before. Griffin received his Latin Prize and his diploma, which Dan presented as a parent-trustee. Julia participated as member of the student choir who performed during the ceremonies. We could not have been more proud of them both. After the formal ceremonies, we waited with Dan, Debra, and Dan’s parents who live in nearby Hingham, while Griff and Julia mingled with fellow students and faculty.

    In addition to graduation, we attended a concert in which Julia sang solos and accompanied herself on the piano. She showed real poise on stage, as well as her blooming talent which she has worked on for several years. She has always participated in Thayer theater productions, both dramas and musicals. She’ll be a junior there in the fall. We were glad to finally have a chance to see her show her talents in person.

    As if all those festivities were not sufficient, Debra and Dan treated us to a home-cooked lobster dinner, and what a treat it was! The icing on the cake for the weekend was a Sunday afternoon ball game at Fenway Park, one of the truly great ball parks in the county. Deb and Dan are among the fortunate to have seats behind the dugout four rows back from the field in potential foul ball area. The Sox lost to Philadelphia, but it didn’t spoil a great afternoon.


    We still continue to enjoy our bridge-playing friends in the area. The Nederland duplicate group has managed to find ways to meet on a monthly basis despite travel plans that each of us have; with only one member still holding down a full time job, the rest of us like to go places. While it’s easy to get up a foursome on the spur of the moment, getting eight together remains a challenge.
Brass Band
    The Barker Dam Brass Band made a return appearance in the Nederland 4th of July parade and performed to the delight and applause of the hundreds (thousands?) who lined the street. Granted the band is the only musical group in the parade, and we do play stirring patriot music, sassy blues tunes, and drinking songs. But the crowds recognize the quality and their enthusiasm remains high. We go around the parade route twice and are always greeted the second time with even louder applause and shouts of encouragement.

    The reading list of the Mystery Book Club (always available by request) has selected some real clunkers the past few months. However, if you’re seeking a high energy story with interesting characters, intense drama, and an intriguing mystery with plenty of twists, we have all agreed that the three-book series by Stieg Larsson beginning with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is about as good as it gets. (They are best read in order.) The first book has been out as a movie for several months (in Swedish with English subtitles) and the second movie adaptation (The Girl who Played with Fire) is due out shortly. Those of us who read the first book and saw the movie agreed the movie adaptation was worthy of the book. None of the books is for the skittish or easily offended, but they each will satisfy those who come seeking a white-knuckle emotional ride.
    That’s it from the mountains. The snows have melted, the gray-soup sky days will soon give way to warm, blue sky days, and the wildflowers are just about at their peak. It is a great time to visit. Thanks to those of you who keep in touch. It means a lot to us to hear from you and what you and your family are up to.

Best Wishes,
Judy and Hughes

Judy and Hughes Moir
Home Email H&J Letters USA Travels Foreign Travels