I said okay.

When you work for a bank, and you are presenting a loan to your boss for approval, stop talking when the pen goes to the paper and scrawls out a signature. Just stop. There is no need to say a word more.

Architecture Field Trip

On Sunday, June 25, my husband and I visited Allentown, PA, for a house tour sponsored by the West Park Civic Association. If you follow my art blog, you will know that I participate in an art show in the park each June. We were there last weekend (though it was held in the Masonic Temple, next door to the park, because of the weather; look here if you want to see more). Usually the house tour is set for the following day, and I never have had the energy to go back to try it out (we live about an hour away).

This year, though, the tour was held the following weekend. We decided to make a day of it.

We got to Allentown about 10 AM so that we could have something to eat before we walked around. We chose a restaurant recommended by a friend a short distance from the park (thank you, Adrian!) called Union and Finch. I can recommend it now myself, too – our meals were delicious, and everyone there very friendly.

Here is the apartment building across the street that you saw reflected in the window of the restaurant. I love the name of it, Julian Court. Very elegant sounding. The building is also beautiful – look at the brickwork and other details.

I’m warming you up for the tour by showing you this building. This section of the city dates from around 1900-1920. It’s densely settled, with apartment buildings, businesses, and rowhomes or twins lining the streets. Space is at a premium, so West Park itself makes an oasis of green and openness in the city layout.

After lunch we parked at the Masonic Temple and walked through the park to the ticket location outside the Church of the Mediator, located on the edge of the park.

Lots of people there. (You can see my husband in the chili-orange shirt.) Once we paid, we got a booklet with a map and some info on each house, and we set off.

I won’t go into much detail about the houses we visited, as photos were not allowed. Generally, the houses were tall and narrow and featured layouts with lots of bedrooms and less living space than you might find in today’s homes. Previous ages needed this layout because of larger families and yet fewer possessions. Kitchens in particular are small in this age of house, although we saw some innovative ways they had been enlarged or adjusted.

We also saw a lot of beautiful woodwork and flooring. We went in one house, now the headquarters of a local business, with the softest glowing wood on the stairs – I read later that it was Brazilian mahogany. Think about that!

So, I’ll give you a view of the outsides of the kinds of houses we saw.

Besides the street access, many houses had alleys running behind them. I’ve walked along these alleys in the past and I think it is more interesting what you can find in these spaces than along the front, many times.

One building really stood out to me – a church located at 15th and Turner, right off the park. I’ve noticed this building for years but never been inside – it has been closed for as long as I can remember except for a short period a couple of years ago.

A former Episcopal church, built in two parts – 1907, I think, and 1930. It is not enormous, but it takes up the entire lot, coming right on to the sidewalk. An individual now owns it and hopes to develop it in some way. We took a look inside – here is the 1930 section (pews removed some time ago) and a nice window – there were quite a few throughout the building.

It’s difficult to say what will happen to this building – for one thing, it has no parking. The neighborhood presses right up against it on all sides. And for another, it is very expensive to maintain, I am sure. Still, I hope a use can be found for it.

After that, we retrieved our car and went home – to our 1950’s split-level. And though I enjoyed visiting these older homes – they reminded me of our previous house, a Victorian from about 1890 – once again I reflected on the good fortune that brought us to our current home, airy and spacious-feeling as it is.

There is no place like home, that was the theme for this day.

Orienteering and Doing It Somewhere You Might Not Expect

Last week on June 14 my husband and I participated in an orienteering event. I’m going to tell you all about it. But first, I’ll talk a little about the sport of orienteering.

Basically, orienteering is following a course from point to point using a map and a compass. You progress through the points in order and check in with an electronic device at the marker at each location. It’s a competition, with the fastest person winning, but winning is also relative.

For one thing, at events, there are different courses set up over the same ground with varying difficulty levels. So there’s a “fastest person” in several categories. And then there is the idea of the personal challenge – getting around the course at all (my goal), figuring out how to manage obstacles, completing the course in the most efficient manner…all these things are achievements. Last, the pleasure of being outside, in the woods or meadows, and the fun of climbing or scrambling around or running on trails…that’s maybe the best part of all.

We belong to the Delaware Valley Orienteering Association and we are rank amateurs, having started last year and done maybe ten events. But we really enjoy it and I can’t say enough about how friendly, helpful, and encouraging the group has been to us.

Anyway, I participated in the orienteering event in the recent Senior Games. And I’ll take this moment for an aside: my photo appeared on the cover of the 2017 brochure from my 2016 performance – I am in the upper left corner wearing the pink sweatshirt.

Anyway, while there, I learned about a Wednesday night series the DVOA was doing this summer. The idea was to go to a different location each week, offer two courses at beginner levels, and shoot for an event lasting about 2 hours at most. It sounded like a great way for me to improve my skills. My husband’s participation is dependent on the course; he is still recovering from his fall and rough terrain is not good for him.

A couple of weeks ago, we did the event at the Schuylkill Nature Center – two courses in a traditional wooded trail setting. I did both courses and my husband cheered me on. But then – we realized there was one coming up we both could do. And it was something unusual for the club as well – the location was the grounds of the Norristown State Hospital.

One of the buildings still in use. The grounds are open and green with trees and lawns and plenty of space.

This facility is a mental hospital, founded about 140 years ago, a large campus located about 30 minutes from our house. The Norristown Farm Park, immediately adjacent to it, and where I did orienteering in the Senior Games, is now a county park. It was originally the farm attached to the hospital, where patients worked in fields, a fish hatchery, and with livestock, as was common practice in the past.

The hospital now is almost entirely closed down. There are still some patients who live there; some of it is used for day programs; and there is a heavily guarded forensic section (we did not go near this part of the facility). The remaining residential patients are transitioning out. Most buildings on the campus are closed and some are being torn down.

 

 

All this means for our orienteering experience is that acres of landscaped grounds with an array of buildings are there, waiting for the challenge. And, since it is a “tame” landscape, nicely mowed, my husband could participate.

OK. We arrived at about 6 PM and got ourselves set up. I planned to do course #2 first and he took course #1. We clicked the start and got our maps.

 

 

The control points are numbered and straight lines connect them (not that you should follow those lines, indeed. It’s harder than that). There is also a key to the locations’ exact positions once you arrive in the general area – I use the one written out rather than the one done in symbols.

 

You are looking for these markers. When you find the one you want, you insert your clicker into it to register your arrival.

 

 

I won’t go into the details of my two sessions – just a an overview of things. And while I talk, I’ll show you pictures of the grounds as I go along. (I took them after the event, not while I was running.)

Keep in mind that unless I say differently, every one of these buildings is closed and mothballed, no longer in use.

First of all, you need to understand that I am a good runner, pretty fast and with endurance. Number two, I am terrible at relating the map to the actual landscape. Just terrible. My technique is sort of like water circling the drain – I get close, I go around and around, I run back and forth, and I finally come in to the control point with a big flourish and an internal sigh of relief.

 

I ran over these stairs several times on my way to control points. They traverse a semi-sunken passageway between buildings in the older section.

I also have a tendency to miss the plain and simple things the map is shouting at me and so I often end up very perplexed; when I review the situation suddenly it is clear, and I would have sworn the map had changed, in my hand. This tendency leads me to explore a lot of places I didn’t have to on my way to the control points.

 

I did have a nice talk with two workers on a break who wondered what we were doing. I stopped for a couple of minutes to show them the map and they helped me by pointing out the control point I was looking for behind a hedge. Remember, they knew nothing of orienteering before I came along, but they could read a map…

 

This building is in a newer section – it has an interesting circular auditorium inside the rectangle form of the building, or so it looked, through the windows.

 

But I digress. My husband, on the other hand, though a slower runner than me even at his best, can go directly from point to point. Hits the target every time. It all just flows for him. He was held back by his walking speed on this occasion.

 

Anyway, I finished the course I was on and he was already in. I decided to go out again and do the course he had done, while he rested. I beat his time (I’m running, remember) by about 15 seconds.¬†Well, if you run in circles, this is what is going to happen.

 

I’ve got a better idea now of what I need to do to improve. First of all, I know I can’t go from point to point. I do better when I pick out intermediate points in between and work my way along. Second, before I start running off, I need to slow my thinking down enough to focus HARD on the map so as to try to anticipate the places I will get confused and what will signal me that I have gone badly wrong. Third, standing and thinking is ok. I don’t have to let the clock ticking in the back of my head urge me on before I am ready.

 

I got very mixed up in this area. I thought the control point should be in front of me, in the grass to the left. It was behind me, hidden by a hedge (which was of course on the map…)

 

Nonetheless, I really love the focus and the exhilaration of orienteering. I love running along with a goal in mind and meeting the challenges of each segment of the event.

I also found that the experience of playing a game in this particular location led to quite a bit of reflection. Not that long ago these buildings would have been full of people – a whole society existed here. As I ran along I imagined what memories these buildings, all silent now, hold in their bricks and concrete. I wondered if it were disrespectful to the patients and their suffering that I was running heedless through their walks and courtyards or jumping over stair railings.

 

 

I noticed, though, that the outside world is seeping in. There is free access to the site now, with an open gate. Near our start point a large crowd of brightly-dressed children were playing in a soccer game while their parents cheered, sat on lawn chairs, and ate dinner from coolers. There is a community garden with greenhouses, worked by members of the surrounding neighborhood (they have signs advertising their plant sale at the gate). I noticed quite a few people obviously out for an evening stroll or walking a dog – people from nearby making use of the lovely grounds.

As my husband said, it is a good thing that we can add happy memories to the history of this location. I think he is right. I am very grateful for being able to have the simple pleasure of doing an outdoor activity with other people, all of us enjoying ourselves.

twenty years

As they say, a lot can happen in twenty years.

the insubstantial

It is what holds the pieces of your life together.

Getting the Hurt Leg Fixed, Chapter 10

On June 7, we visited the surgeon. It was time for a checkup on my husband’s left knee.

To remind you, this story started on Christmas, 2016, when he fell down the stairs and completely severed his left quadriceps tendon. This serious injury cannot heal by itself and required surgery, done on January 6, 2017. He went home in a brace, unable to bend his leg for weeks or even touch it to the floor. He required assistance with every detail of living, and so I was fully occupied for months. Remember this scene from Chapter One – in the hospital awaiting surgery?

 

January 6, 2017.

 

As he healed, things got easier – first he could touch his foot to the floor, put weight on it, bend his leg in the brace, walk without crutches, and finally say goodbye to the brace itself. He has faithfully attended physical therapy and regained full flexibility in the knee.

Other changes have come about. This experience forced us to think about how we manage daily life, and some changes were made. For one thing, my husband moved his office to a suburban location for a variety of reasons, one being that it made his schedule easier for PT, but also added to our quality of life by making work more accessible and convenient. He also was able to work from home during his recovery and found that it could be done with good results. These changes are permanent and I like the new schedule – we have more time together. That means a lot to me.

We also were reminded how much we value being able to run, to hike, to take walks, to exercise. The recovery process for his knee will take about a year. Though it has healed now, it is weakened, as is the right leg, and it will take another six months or so for that strength to come back, as much as it will. Still, my husband last week ran about 100 yards on the track at the high school – a milestone. We do not know the final outcome, but we do know that with this doctor visit, we are ending one phase and beginning the next one.

But I’ve gotten ahead of the story. The doctor was pleased with the knee’s status. He said, “I could torture you with asking for another visit in three months, but I don’t think you need it.” We were very happy to agree and left the medical office building for the last time. I had a bit of superstitious worry about making such a statement, but I have decided to be firm with the fates and let them know we’ll do our part if they will do theirs!

So, take a look, as we wave goodbye. And end the story of the hurt leg here, with our characters driving off in the car toward home.

Doctor's office 6-7-17 small

I was not in that city

If that is your story, then that is your story. Your past behavior may foster belief in your words; failing that, solid proof.

a little more tired, a little more

To this I say, sit down, and take a load off your feet.

Running

I’ve been working on returning to running – the past few years have been so up and down for my exercise and this past winter, with my husband’s injury, really added to the confusion.

So, I’ve been doing the run/walk method – you run some, walk some. I’ve got a plan and I’m working along with it.

When I run, I don’t listen to music – I just think. I come up with all kinds of odd things.

A couple of days ago I was going along and I made up a little cheer for myself. I must – I must tell you.

It owes a lot to the fact that I’m currently on a sequence of walk 2 minutes, run 5, walk 2, run 8…and to that old high school cheer 2-4-6-8…you’ll see.

Here goes:

Two five two eight
who do I appreciate?
Legs and feet, arms and abs
Claudia McGill machine is fabs!

See, I knew you’d like it. Now imagine me running along and chanting this little bit of encouragement (inside my head, of course, because I need all my breath to run…)

Lady running 4x4 11-16 small

he did

It’s time for some more advice from the little artist trading cards. You can look forward to a few bits of…something… coming along here, in bits and pieces, here and there, now and again…

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