cruise

Photo 101: Day 14: Scale and Observation

This was a fun exercise. In a travel photography course I’ve taken, the teacher suggested we bring something small to slip unobtrusively into the photo, to connect the pictures. I took the idea a step further and invited my “frog”, Marley, on our cruise around the British Isles. Here is Marley scaled with the Atlantic Ocean in the background, and Marley and my husband, Bill, resting after a long day of touring Glasgow, Scotland. It was easier to make Marley look small in scale.

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I took these photos of Marley today:

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Photo101: Weekend Gallery

We are experiencing crazy weather this weekend. During the week, the temperatures were in the 80s, but today we are in the cold, dreary 40s of winter. So, not having a lot of light to play with, and with the grandkids running around, I found these in my archives to share with you.

I took these photos while on a recent cruise around the British Isles:

 

These were taken as the ship cruised into the port city of Cobh, Ireland

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sun just coming up as we cruise into port

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Morning sun on the houses overlooking the harbor.

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Blue skies at midmorning

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No shadows at midday

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The golden light of late afternoon

 

Staying in Focus: Better if by Sea

One of the best things about taking a cruise is arriving at a new country or city by water, which is so more interesting and scenic than arriving at an airport. I’ve been in several international airports and they all look the same. But each city looks entirely different when seen from the ocean’s eye view.

Sometimes the ship arrives in port overnight and when I open my drapes and look out, I see an entirely different view than the day before. Sure beats opening my blinds at home and seeing my backyard every day. It took four hours for us to traverse the islands of the Stockholm archipelago before reaching port. What a beautiful way to view Sweden for the first time! All of these photos were shot from my balcony aboard the Eurodam.

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Stockholm Sweden

Here are a few harbor views:

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Kristiansand, Norway

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Stockholm

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Stockholm

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Stockholm

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Stockholm

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Island in the Stockholm Archipelago

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Oslo, Norway

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Oslo, Norway

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Helsinki, Finland

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Stockholm Harbor at sunset

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Gothenburg, Sweden

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Kristiansand, Norway

Staying in Focus: Cruise Setting: Writing 101

If I could be transported anywhere at this time,  I would choose a cruise ship. We have taken two cruises, one to Alaska and one to Great Britain. If you’ve never been on a cruise ship you can’t imagine what they are like, but I will try to paint a picture for you.

As the bus nears the pier where the cruise ships berth, an audible gasp can be heard as the bus pulls up, completely dwarfed by the massive ships. Looking up, out of the bus window, you can’t even see the top, just deck after deck of balconies, and each one representing a room. You cue up in line to check in, fill out a paper stating you do not have a fever and pass through security as if you were boarding a plane. But this is where the likeness ends.

As you enter the ship, you get your picture snapped and then either board an elevator or climb a wide staircase to your deck. You,  exit the elevator and feel as if you are in a hotel. Corridors lined with door to the rooms and suites are a bit narrower than a typical hotel but you feel like you are in a hotel on land. You find your room, small but space efficient and if you open the drapes you will realize you are not on land, but  on an enormous floating hotel. As you explore the ship you see a beautiful, wide spiral staircase, elevators which offer you a view as they travel up and down, gold accents, rich wood paneling, places to shop, a movie theater, several pools, a spa, an infirmary  and restaurants, nightclubs, and  a theater with a stage. There are expensive perfume and diamond jewelry shops, gift shops, and clothing boutiques. Outside, lounge chairs line the decks and surround the pools. Playing on the jumbo TV above the pool is a rock concert.

After a while, you learn what is on which deck, you learn forward from aft, and most importantly you learn the Lido deck is the place that serves food 24 hours a day.

But while the setting of a cruise ship is quite overwhelming, what I love best is waking up each morning, opening the drapes and finding myself sailing into the port city of a new country almost every day. On our trip last summer we awoke as the ship pulled into St. Peter Port, Guernsey, Liverpool, England, Cobh, Ireland and LeHavre, France to name  a few. I also enjoyed returning from an excursion and seeing that beautiful enormous “home” waiting for us to come aboard.

And one more word about setting. On board a cruise ship, away from lights and land, you will see the most amazing sunsets, sailboats backlit by a setting sun, the play of light and clouds on the water.I n case my feeble attempt to describe the setting of a cruise ship has failed, here are some picture s. As you can see, the settings are most spectacular.

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elevators

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The Caribbean Princess

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approaching St. Peter Port, Guernsey

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purple dominates the sunset

purple dominates the sunset

rays of sunlight stream across the water

rays of sunlight stream across the water

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the sun sets bringing an end to the long Alaskan day

the sun sets bringing an end to the long Alaskan day

my first sunrise at sea

my first sunrise at sea

 

 

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a nightclub

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approaching Cobh, Ireland

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Staying in Focus/Daily Prompt: Always Something There to Remind Me

IMGDaily Prompt:  A song comes on the radio and instantly, you’re transported to a different time and place. Which song(s) bring back memories for you and why? Be sure to mention the song, and describe the memory it evokes.

The song that evokes the most emotion for me is the song we chose to dance to at our wedding reception, “Here, There and Everywhere” by the Beatles.  As I mentioned in my last post , neither Bill nor I were comfortable dancing but it was dancing, or rather not dancing, that brought us together. The year before we married, we were both in his sister’s wedding party.  I spent most of the reception hiding from the best man so I would not have to dance. Bill was also disinclined to dance, and so we spent some time getting to know each other in the hallway outside the reception room. We started dating before the newlyweds returned from their honeymoon.

When we arrived at our wedding reception, the band asked us what song we wanted for our first dance as husband and wife.  We didn’t really have a song we called “our song.” We had not really thought about this, having put the dancing part of the festivities to the back of our minds, but Bill suggested “Here, There and Everywhere”. It was appropriate, as he is a big Beatles fan, even if it wasn’t “our song” per se before the wedding reception.

Bill’s dad had given us some quick dance lessons prior to the wedding, and I managed to get through two dances, one with Bill and one with my dad.

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Touring John Lennon’s house , July 2, 2013

This summer we travelled to England and visited the city of Liverpool. We took a Beatles Tour and actually had the opportunity to tour both John Lennon and Paul McCartney’s childhood homes. Of course, the bus driver had Beatle songs playing while we drove about, and “Here, There and Everywhere” was one of them. When it came on, I said, “Hey, they’re playing our song. “

As we drove along listening to the words, the feelings of that special day so long ago came flooding, back – excitement, nerves, anticipation in beginning our life together.  The future was ours, the path ahead open and inviting. All the experiences we would have together, the family we would create, the ups and down’s of life we would face – all ahead of us, all, yet, unwritten.

The words of the song ring true to us now as they did thirty-eight years ago, on September 4 th, 1976:

Here, There and Everywhere

By John Lennon and Paul McCartney

To lead a better life I need my love to be here…

Here, making each day of the year
Changing my life with the wave of her hand
Nobody can deny that there’s something there

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Bill at Paul McCartney’s house

There, running my hands through her hair
Both of us thinking how good it can be
Someone is speaking but she doesn’t know he’s there

I want her everywhere and if she’s beside me
I know I need never care
But to love her is to need her everywhere
Knowing that love is to share

Each one believing that love never dies
Watching her eyes and hoping I’m always there

I want her everywhere and if she’s beside me
I know I need never care
But to love her is to need her everywhere
Knowing that love is to share

Each one believing that love never dies
Watching her eyes and hoping I’m always there

I will be there and everywhere
Here, there and everywhere

A bi tof trivia about the song:  It was named 4th best song of all time by Mojo in 2000. Paul McCartney has said it is one of his favorites, and John Lennon once commented that he thought it was the best song on the album (Revolver).

Staying in Focus:Daily Prompt: Good Time

 Daily Prompt:Imagine that tomorrow, all of your duties and obligations evaporate for the day. You get the day all to yourself, to do anything you please. What types of fun activities would make your day?

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http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/02/21/daily-prompt-good-time/

a path of gold from the sun to me You have to see this place!

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I awaken just before sunrise, after a good night’s sleep free of the crazy, Technicolor dreams induced by my medications. I get out of bed, quietly tiptoe across the room, and peek out between the drapes. The sun has just cleared the horizon and the beautiful hues of pink and orange sunrise dance across the waters toward my feet. As I take pictures of the beautiful scene, I enjoy total silence – no one would believe thousands of people surround me. As the sunrises, it reveals mountains covered with snow, their lofty peaks shrouded in mists. Small icebergs float by, jewels of aquamarine. Slightly ahead and off to the right, I am treated to the breaching of a humpback whale.

The day that has just begun will be filled with amazing scenery, more whale watching, maybe exploring a coastal town, say Juneau  or Sitka, followed by a delicious dinner, an evening’s entertainment, maybe some trivia in one of lounges. The sun is unwilling to set in this Land of the Midnight Sun and we are reluctant to stop for the day because this is an imaginary day and tomorrow reality returns.

I am reminded of a scene in the movie Groundhog Day, when Bill Murray, trapped in time and made to repeat Groundhog Day again and again recalls a far better day in his past life and says,  “… that was a pretty good day. Why couldn’t I have that day to live over and over…”

I try, on special days like these, to be present, in the moment, but as hard as I try, the day slips away, leaving only memories. I look at the pictures I have taken on such special days, and think to myself, was I really there?  Why didn’t I pay more attention? But I can close my eye and remember all the beautiful places I’ve seen and one of the most beautiful is Alaska. As I hold to the adage, “Think Big!” I could think of nothing bigger or more  beautiful, than spending my imaginary day in Alaska.  The following is  a poem I wrote following my visit to Alaska in 2012.

This one is a sestina.  It has 6 verses and each sentence of each verse must end in one of six words.  I chose; Alaska, glaciers, aquamarine, paradise, mountains, whales.  In each verse these words move around according to a preset form.  It ends with a tercet (3 lines) and in each of those lines are two of the six words. It is a form of poetry that uses repetition.

And Did I Mention the Water is Aquamarine?

a pristine wilderness, wild and untamed,  a place called Alaska

a land of bears and  bald eagles;  graced with icy glaciers

and did I mention the water is aquamarine?

our ship slowly starts passage into the fjord, a slim slice of paradise

we pass the silent sentinels,  the mighty mountains,

a sudden disturbance in the water;  we are in the company of whales

we spy a spout of steam,  a telltale sign, we watch for the whales

in summer, they come to feed on small fish off the coast of Alaska

fresh water runs in rivers from the melting snows of the mountains

slowly they move, ages old, ever changing,  grinding rock and ice, the glaciers

glow on a rare sunny day in July. We are thankful to be here in such a paradise

enchanted,  we watch the sunlight sparkle on waters of aquamarine

this is a color rarely seen – a translucent version of aquamarine

so pretty when it swirls, and suddenly,  there appear two killer whales

azure skies, the brilliant sun, running waters, crystal ice, this is my paradise

and a dream come true – long have I waited to come to Alaska

to see blue ice glowing in the fissures of the glaciers

and marvel at the snow- capped peaks of lofty, rugged  mountains

beaches are fine, but take me to the mountains

especially those that surround waters of aquamarine

crack! the sound echoes, as  ice splits from the glaciers

in the gold of the setting sun, the breach of a whale

I’ll forever remember the unrestrained beauty –Alaska

has all the facets of a true paradise

I walk in the beauty of this wilderness paradise

where wisps of fog conceal the tops of the mountains,

the leaves strung with pearls of morning dew.  Of Alaska,

I’ll always remember that incredible shade of aquamarine

and that sound in the night – the exhaling  breath of a whale

and those blue icebergs sailing by,  spawned by the glaciers

despite their age, there is a fragile beauty in the glaciers,

which is woven in the fabric of this natural paradise

I can hear it calling to me in the singing of the whales

as it  echoes through the canyons of the waiting mountains

and reflects in the waters of aquamarine

it’s a song of the wilderness,  – the song of Alaska

I came in search of whales, and the snow-capped mountains,

which rise in silhouette above the glacier icefields, in a paradise,

a dream taken form in aquamarine – Alaska.

Staying in Focus: An Autumn Wedding, Autumn Colors and a Look Back

Well, we are back from our next to last trip of 2013, and what a summer of travel and fun with family and friends we have had! We visited Atlanta in late May with our friends, Kathi and Don.We were exploring the Gone With the Wind Trail and highlights there were a bus tour of historic Jonesboro and  a tour of the Margaret Mitchell house where she wrote GWTW. We also took in a Braves game, where once we had hope for an exciting postseason. But that is a subject for my other blog, Focus on the Atlanta Braves. We also celebrated Mom’s 90th birthday on May 20, with a party at my sister’s house. She had a rough time this summer battling back a second attack of breast cancer, but her strength and positive outlook is getting her through.

My Mom at 90: So strong in her battle with cancer

My Mom at 90: So strong in her battle with cancer

Later in June we drove to Washington, DC to attend the wedding of our niece, Jeanette and Jarred Tafaro.  A week later found us flying to Heathrow airport in England to board the Caribbean Princess for a cruise around the British Isles. IMG_1375We toured St. Peter Port on the Isle of Guernsey and made ports of call in Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, France and England. We covered everything from Stonehenge to The Beatles, sampled the local cuisine and searched for Nessie on a boat ride across Loch Ness. Bill saw the church in which his great grandparents married, and we visited The Cavern, a launching pad pub for the Beatles. We learned much about each place we visited, and the people in each country were delightful!

We returned home and attended a Monkees concert with our boys (what fun!) and then enjoyed a week with our house guests, Denise and Geoff, and dogs  Buddy and Bailey. Although there were some stressful moments as Denise and Geoff negotiated the closing on their house and the delivery of appliances and furniture (quite a nightmare at times) we really enjoyed having them stay with us. They moved out into their new home just before our family from NJ arrived. We enjoyed the usual shopping forays and looking at new houses, not to mention the traditional goodbye at Goodberry’s.  A few weeks later and we drove up to NJ to see our other niece, Becky, marry her new husband, Ally Randazzo.  As they took off for a honeymoon in Fiji, Bill and I headed to our haven in the Poconos for a few days of rest and relaxation. Here is a look back:

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And now we look ahead to the holidays, my favorite time of year. I love the fall, the changing leaves and that glorious blue sky free of the heavy, humid air of summer. That first nip in the air speaks to me of warm sweaters,  long nights, firelight, the crackle of leaves under my feet, hot apple cider and bowls of chili.  With all the holiday festivities and preparations, it will be time to pack those suitcases again for our annual Christmas visit to New Jersey before we know it!

New Jersey and Pennsylvania are a bit ahead of us in the autumn color display, so here is a sneak peek:

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Daily Prompt:Staying in Focus: Writing Regrets

Daily Prompt  :Regrets, I’ve Had a Few

I entered the classroom, palms wet with sweat and stomach in knots.  I took my seat and glanced at the enemy, the overhead projector, standing ready to aid in my total humiliation. The teacher entered the room without a word, and flipped the switch. The enemy sprang to life.

“Today we begin with a short story by Pat…”

A loud buzzing filled my ears, blocking the drone of her voice.  I closed my eyes, too, so I could not see my paper, projected in what seemed like letters ten feet high, slashed and savaged by the ruthless attack of her red pencil.  I only wished the ground to open up and swallow me.  My anxiety about sharing my writing began that day.

My biggest regret is letting the comments of a high school English teacher keep me from writing seriously for such a long time. Her unkind comments and the slash of her vicious red pencil alone were enough to make me swear off writing for life. Then when she started using an overhead projector to beam my savaged papers on the classroom wall, I wanted nothing more than being as far away from this killer of dreams as I could get.

There are ways to critique and there are ways to cripple and this person embraced the latter approach. Happy was the day I graduated from high school and pushed her into the farthest reaches of my mind, but so insistent was her voice, and so deep the trauma, that even though I received an A on every paper I wrote in college, the niggling feeling that I could never be a  real writer persisted.

I wrote for myself. Even my nemesis could not still my need to write. I wrote poetry, and kept travel journals, and a personal journal, and then, one day, when my children were young, my husband and I were discussing his ideas on politics, the space program, life in outer space, and being science fiction fans, we decided to take some of his ideas and write a science fiction novel. We sketched out an outline and I was ready to go.

The next day I dropped my son off at preschool, drove to the library, pulled out my newly sharpened pencils and a legal pad and began to write. The floodgates opened then, and when I left the library I had a prologue and the first chapter completed. When I gave them to my husband to read, he was pretty amazed. I wrote that entire book out in longhand. I initially planned to include the book in a trilogy but life intervened and I never did finish the saga. We had various people read the book when it was finished, all of whom really enjoyed it, but still that niggling voice would break through now and again. I sent out a few queries and sample chapters, but lost my momentum after a while as work and motherhood took over my time.

Where I did find my niche as a writer is in writing essays.  I have had several published over the years in newspapers and magazines. My first published piece is on my blog, listed on the right side of the heading. And now, with this essay, I will have published 184 posts on WordPress. I think I’ve finally silenced the voice, but I still regret not finishing that trilogy. The book needs a lot of revising now, as science has progressed and theories come and go, and the Soviet Union in no more, but I really should finish it, if nothing more than for closure, not for me so much as for my poor characters, left battling aliens in space for all these years…

In the end, however, I really  have no time for regrets because I’m too busy writing!

Staying in Focus: Daily Prompt: State of My Year

Daily Prompt: State of My Year

Over the course of a lifetime we all have ups and downs, experience highs and lows and this year has been a microcosm of a lifetime, with moments of sheer delight mixed with those of sadness and concern.

My mother began the year in relatively good health not knowing the year would bring another bout of breast cancer, a second mastectomy and a grueling experience with chemo. My sister and I watched as the vibrant woman my mother was began to fade away as the chemo ravaged her body. The doctors suspended that course and are trying to suppress the cancer with another treatment. She is at peace with her choice to live her last days with as much quality to her life as she can. She was able to attend her granddaughter’s wedding, and party with family and friends to celebrate her 90th birthday in May.  We do not know how much time she has, but at least for now, she is back to her old self and celebrating every day she is given.

Just a few weeks ago, my good friend, Debbi, was diagnosed with breast cancer and is beginning her treatment.  She is a strong woman and I know she will beat this. I sincerely hope a cure for this disease is found soon.

On the upside we traveled to Atlanta this summer to meet up with our friends, Kathi and Don for a weekend to follow the Gone with the Wind Trail, and see the Braves play baseball at Turner Field. Our friends from Poughkeepsie, Denise and Geoff, have decided to move here finally (we’ve hounded them for years) and we had the weddings of two of our nieces to celebrate, one which took place in June and one which will take place in October.

We took a 12 cruise around the British Isles, and spent 2 days in London before flying home. We had a wonderful time. Bill was able to see the church in Ireland where his great grandparents were married; we walked in the footsteps of the Beatles, his all-time favorite group, and were able to walk through John and Paul’s boyhood homes. When we got home, we had the chance to see my favorite all time group, The Monkees. It was the first time I had ever seen my favorite, Mike Nesmith, in concert.  Our boys went with us and it was a rocking evening. Add to all that, the Atlanta Braves are in first place in their division, and there is plenty of reason to celebrate life.

My colonoscopy this year was all clear, and five years from surgery, that is a good sign. My Parkinson’s disease, now, is being handled by exercise and medication.  I choose to live moment to moment, and not worry about what is to come – a cure for both my mom and me could be just around the corner.

Given the choice, I think most of us would choose life despite the pitfalls and challenges that may await us in the days and years ahead. So at mid-year I have to say, we are doing pretty well, all things considered. We are here to watch the sun rise every morning, celebrate each precious day, and enjoy what time we have with family and friends. We move forward not knowing what lies before us, but because life beckons us to do so…

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Staying in Focus: Final Thoughts and What I Learned on My Summer Vacation

Some final thoughts and musings on the best vacation ever. And what I learned on my summer vacation this year.

1. One of the things I enjoy the most about cruises is the escape. Just for a little while,  I am transported into a different world. A world where food is prepared for me, served elegantly,  and I don’t have to clean up afterward.  A world where my bed is made in the morning,  turned down at night, with a chocolate resting on my pillow. I can be pampered  at the spa, or relax  in the hot tub after a long day of sightseeing while I watch movies under the stars. In the theatre, talented singers and dancers entertain me. Numerous clubs offer after dinner drinks, trivia games, karaoke, dancing and entertainment.  A little TLC is welcome every now and then and the cruise lines have this down to a science.

2. I love waking up each morning somewhere else!

3. And the ships themselves, tastefully decorated and impeccably clean. I applaud the Princess and Holland America Lines for their excellence in this regard. Until I saw one up close , I had no idea how big these ships are and my admiration also goes to the captain and the crew who manage to steer these floating hotels.4

4. On this cruise I had the opportunity to complete a  “Walk on the Deck for the Cure,” in honor of my mother and my friend, Debbi, who are fighting breast cancer. I applaud the social director who set this up  and gave us  a chance to be socially involved while on the high seas. We had to complete 6 circuits of the ship to make the 5K goal. I was proud of myself, at 60 and with Parkinson’s disease , to have completed the walk. Below is a picture of me, still standing! A wonderful opportunity to take part in such a worthy cause.

5. In addition to making each moment of our cruise one to remember, the cruise line was so helpful in transporting us to our hotel in London, and two days later driving us out to the airport  for our flight home.

6. One of the nicest advantages of taking a cruise is the fellowship we quickly develop with the other passengers and the crew as well. A few dinners in the dining room, playing trivia in the lounges and taking excursions, and the faces begin to look familiar and  a camaraderie soon develops.

On our cruise last year , our social director, John, pointed out how, during the cruise, for a week people from all over the world spent time together aboard ship, shared a dinner table and conversation and  were considerate of  each other.   In other words, we all got along and if we could do it for a week, certainly  the rest of the world could do it , too, if they reall.y tried. This year our cruise lasted 12 days and again, people got along. Perhaps the answer is putting everyone on a cruise ship – wouldn’t that be fun! But we  can’t stay on vacation forever, and we need to find ways to be tolerant and accepting of others in the everyday world.

And what I learned on my summer vacation this year is just how similar we all are, no matter where we call home I was sitting in the Edinburgh Castle in Scotland,  finishing my soft drink and just watching the people walk by, and I thought, you know, I can’t tell if this group walking by is English, or Canadian or Australian. They are just  people enjoying  a tour of the castle on a sunny afternoon in Scotland. Mothers pushed their babies in strollers, backpacks were slung over shoulders, young people wore jeans and T-shirts, most of them with some sort of “smart” electronic device in their hands.

I realized, then, that what seemed most different about the countries we visited was not the people, but the scenery. Basically, people are just people wherever you go. Our similarities are far more numerous than our differences. I didn’t feel like  a stranger in a strange land, I felt a part of the people gathered here at the castle . Later in the trip, on a walk through Green Park in London, there were people playing frisbee, and soccer, people sitting on lawn chairs and resting on blankets spread on the ground just enjoying  a warm summer night in England, a scene I’m sure was repeated all over the globe that day.

I wonder why it is so hard for us to  celebrate our shared humanity,? Why not build on those things we share – families, home, life, love and watch the differences shrink away? As my friend from Liverpool once wrote “You may say I’m a dreamer..”  Maybe one  day dreams like this will become  reality.  But until then, I’ll remember , with fondness, the people I had a chance to meet and share a wonderful experience with, once upon a time, on a cruise. Here are some pictures of the beautiful Caribbean Princess, which carried us away and brought us together, if only for a little while.

Still standing after the 5K walk the deck for the cure

Still standing after the 5K walk the deck for the cure

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