House on the River Bluff

Belle Grove Plantation at Port Conway, King George, VA

Birthplace of James Madison and a Premiere B&B hosted by Michelle and Brett Darnell. A verifiable gem of a place backed by genuinely passionate people.

 

 

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17 August 2014

Today is the seventh anniversary of Ruth’s passing.

I’ve flown back to Virginia to honor the date in my usual manner by visiting with her at the University Cemetery in Charlottesville. I believe I’m now more familiar with this section of The Grounds than any single other. Until the move to California I’d been in habit of visiting several times a year. I had thought from time to time about moving to C’ville just to be closer to the site. I suppose there are other reasons not the least of which the affinity with the area in general and the University in particular but the more I pondered the possibility the more it seemed a poor idea.

Dealing with memories is an uneasy task for me. By nature I’m inclined toward the past, nostalgic bordering on melancholy. The characteristic has it’s advantages, especially for someone who, almost paradoxically, is also inclined to be impulsive. The various voices of reason that press their debate inside my head fluctuate between calm reflection and screeching demand. It can get chaotic in there and frequently does.

Ruth had a way of handling that  – that is to say, me – and could bring me down on the side of reasoned calm more often than not. So it might be my idea of relocating to be closer to her remains would somehow re-established that calming effect. I haven’t given up the idea of living in C’ville but if I do ever make that move it will have to be for other reasons. It’s an impulse I fight on a daily basis, but there is no future in living in the past.

The visit today is uniquely different from prior ones because I’m going in company with Ruth’s sister Kathleen. AnnaSummer accompanied me on one past visit but otherwise I always make this journey alone. It allows me to verbalize my thoughts – talk to Ruth – take in the spiritual essence of the moment – meditate I suppose. Today will be an adjustment. A pleasant one I think.

A lot runs through my mind when I’m standing there reading the inscription on the face-stone of Ruth’s niche in the Columbarium Wall. Aside from how much I miss her each and every day of my life there is in my mind an indisputable fact that had it not been for her I would not be alive. It’s an irony I will never understand but one for which I’m grudgingly grateful every time I think of Charles and AnnaSummer and every time in the course of my life that I’m privileged to help another human being – or especially an animal – improve their lot. I’ve always thought had she lived and I hadn’t her contributions to the world would have had a much greater impact than mine has or ever will, but we don’t determine such things. The cosmos is what it is, whether I understand it or not; whether I accept it or not.

It’s different in one other way: we’ll also visit Elinor’s gravesite in the Monticello Memorial Park. She passed in June having just turned 94, outliving her youngest by seven years. I was not here for her funeral so today I will make amends on my behalf and those of Anna and Charles.

We had a number of family portraits done over our years together, formal and informal. Ruth fueled the idea and to some degree that has fueled my current pursuit of familial photographic documentation.  But the last portrait was far from formal, completely unplanned. We were visiting in Richmond with AnnaSummer and her house-mate, Laura, at the beginning of Anna’s third year at Virginia Commonwealth University. It was August 2006. Laura snapped a picture of the four of us standing on the front porch. It was the last made. I guess if we’d known that we’d have looked a little different – for a number of reasons. But we didn’t so it was just us being us. I have a copy of the picture that I carry in my wallet. I’ll share it with you.

The Last Family Portrait

The Last Family Portrait – Richard, AnnaSummer, Ruth, Charles. Aug 2006

We miss you Ruthiecee.

The Columbarium Wall, University Cemetery, Charlottesville, VA

The Columbarium Wall, University Cemetery, Charlottesville, VA

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Time Will Tell

According to the plaque, this Cedars of Lebanon has occupied its spot along the garden wall at James Madison’s Montpelier estate for nearly two hundred years. Regardless, it’s a magnificent tree, befitting its station.

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All The Way Up

Certainly one of the highlights of visiting The Big Island was the drive up to the top of Mauna Kea. It summits at 13, 796 feet above sea level (4205 m) and it’s possible to drive all but the last 50 feet or so. It has to be one of the more, if not mo,st accessible peaks in existence. (I stand ready to be corrected.)

The Mauna Kea Road

The Mauna Kea Road

There are 13 observatories up here supported by a collaboration of 18 nations. If you’re a stargazer, there is probably no better place on earth, certainly none as open as this one, to practice your obsession.

When we left the visitor center – at 7000 feet (2134 m)  – the temperature was about 55 degrees F  (13 C) and we expected it to be much more brisk on top. It wasn’t. The temperature rose about 10 degrees F. Bright – very bright – and balmy.  It did not take long for the change in altitude to work its effects though so we spent less than an hour on top.

There are lots of things to see and do on Hawaii but this was the highlight for me.  This is on the go-back list.

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