What an emotional time it has been! And how hard we worked for this historic moment in our nation’s history. So much has been written about the election that I won’t bother you with my effusions, except to say that it will be wonderful to go to Kenya and Tanzania this month, as well as to other parts of the world, and feel proud of my country once again. It’s been a long and difficult eight years, and, like so many of you who have written me, there is joy in our hearts and hope and optimism in the air despite mounting economic and international problems. Attitudes seem to be changing and there is a feeling that we, as Americans in an ever-shrinking world, need to reevaluate our priorities, shore up our values, and realize that now, more than ever, we are all interconnected as human beings.
I shall be leaving on November 29 with my daughter, Martha, to travel to Kenya and Tanzania, climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, which eluded me twenty years ago, and go on safari in the Serengeti. We’ll return on December 22nd in time for a family Christmas. This was to be a trip for the extended Peterson clan, but only Martha and I could get away, so it will be our first overseas trip together since she lived in Europe. Cary, my eldest, has traveled with me to Mt. Kailash and Dharamsala. Sharing such journeys with my daughters is a supreme pleasure. It’s wonderful to live such experiences with them as we grow older.
I must correct two errors from my trip to the Canadian Rockies for all you climbing purists. First, I misnamed Sleeping Poet’s Pond, and called it Sleeping Poet’s Tarn. But it’s a bit confusing since this pond is, in fact, a hanging tarn. Go figure. Also The Nub, which we climbed, is 9,000 ft., not 8,000. I don’t want to sell myself short. But it will seem like a mere hill when we hit Kili’s 19,500 ft. summit.
I’ve had several communications from Ine Doorman, whom I met at Mt. Assiniboine. She was there with members of a ladies’ hiking club whose name really tickles me. They call themselves the W’s—Wacky Wandering Wilderness Women. Kind of makes me think of my daughter Cary’s expression for older women. Instead of calling them LOLs (Little Old Ladies) she calls them WOWs (Wonderful Older Women). Perception is everything! Ina’s club should be an example for others around the country who dig hiking and exploring, which is why I’m mentioning it. Their mission: To exercise body and soul in the company of like-minded women in the surroundings of nature. And they have an ambitious ongoing program that keeps them on their toes, literally. This should be an inspiration to those of you who want to team up with others of all ages and explore the natural world.
Most recently I spent a weekend in Vienna, VA, near Washington, DC, to visit with my old friends, Robert and Lynn Rubright. They were attending a meeting of the Board of the American Hiking Society www.americanhiking.org a national organization dedicated to promoting and protecting foot trails and the hiking experience. It draws its membership from a great number of other outdoor organizations interested in conservation and outdoor recreation. Robert, whom I’ve mentioned before as the author of two popular hiking books and the soon-to- be-published Breakfast, Lunch, and Diner (yes, I spelled that right), a witty commentary on and history of St. Louis area restaurants, is the president of the Board of Directors of AHS as well as the president of the board of the Open Space Council in St. Louis. Lynn www.lynnrubright.com is my old traveling buddy of storytelling fame and a teacher and documentary film maker in St. Louis. Her most recent book is Mama’s Window. We socialized at the home of Greg Miller, executive director of AHS and his wife, Vibha Jain Miller, and spent several hours the next day roaming around Great Falls National Park in Great Falls, VA, and Mather’s Gorge, named after Stephen Mather, who spearheaded the formation of an independent national park service. Ed Talone, the AHS office manager and another avid hiker who has walked across much of the U.S., regaled me with stories of heroes and heroines of the great outdoors, such as Mildred Norman Ryder, who walked 25,000 miles across the country for peace. Some people called her the Peace Pilgrim, or the American Mahatma Ghandi. She was a spiritual teacher, non-violence advocate, and a prophet for peace. Look her up on google. Now there was a live well lived.
I almost forgot to mention my friend Phyllis Bitow, who is competing with me as the theater guru of New Jersey. She greeted me on my return from the Rockies with tickets to an amazing production of Chekhov’s Seagull starring Kristen Scott Thomas. After that I managed such hits as Tale of Two Cities, Horton Foote’s Dividing the Estate, Richard Strauss’s Salome with the magnificent Karita Matilla (and the famous nude scene), Fifty Words with Norbert Leo Butz, Spamalot, Beachwood Drive, Basic Training with Kahlil Ashanti, the San Francisco ballet, the incomparable Patti LuPone in Gypsy, and The Atheist, with a superb Campbell Scott. Right now Phyllis is on another of her whirlwind trips, this time to Jordan and Israel. I feel grateful to have so many friends willing to share and enjoy the artistic bounty of New York City. But it’s always great to return to peaceful Maplewood (where I can rake leaves and kill myself trying to track down the mold in my basement).
I mention some of these cultural activities, like the two Plainfield Symphony concerts I played in this Fall, so I can entice some of you travelers to enjoy our home grown talent while you’re waiting for your next international adventure.
As you know, music is very close to my heart and I feel strongly that it not only enriches our lives in many different ways, but also brings people from all parts of the world together in a shared “harmony.” Nowhere has this been more evident than in the work of a young man, Mark Johnson, who appeared on Bill Moyers’ NOW October 25th and told of his organization, Playing for Change: Peace Through Music. If you look it up on line you can hear his first experiment (on YouTube), taking a blues tune played in the U.S. by a street musician and introducing it to musicians in every corner of the globe, who take it up in turn and play it (in the same key), adding the nuances of their particular culture until it becomes a multi-layered composition of exquisite beauty. He is now building music schools, with the help of local citizens, for people who have a passion to express themselves musically. And it gives a great deal of hope to many whose life has been full of tragedy and deprivation. This is a project that bears supporting.
A warm, harmonious Thanksgiving to you all….