We were driving through the rolling hills and plains of central Indiana and southwestern Ohio a couple of weeks ago. It was smack dab in the middle of a winter freeze, so the patchy snow and the gray-brown horizon of leafless trees presented a rather somber welcome. In some strange way we hoped for an unusual blizzard, or a sudden ice storm to sweep through, as they can be incredibly beautiful . . . but those moments are few and fleeting as the winter months drone on. (more…)

We arrived in Indiana on a Monday afternoon. After a wonderful dinner at Piper’s on the southside, we drove to beautiful Brown County, where we settled in for a good night’s rest. The next morning a brisk walk seemed in order. In less than a minute, Harold single-handedly assembled the “motorcycle” from its pieces, which were casually scattered about the living room floor. (more…)

7:oo am, Thursday morning.

Phone rings.

The voice is unrecognizable to me as I groggily sit up in bed trying to figure out who this might be. They speak in familiar ways as if we chat this time every day, asking how I’m doing and when we got back in town. Slowly, fitting the pieces together, I finally hear a phrase and a tone of voice that gives it away—mystery solved. (more…)

Years ago before visiting Florence for the first time, I remember thinking that it was probably some Mediterranean wonderland—balmy, blue skies and all that stuff. After all, if you take a spin around the rivieras from Spain, across France and down through Italy, you’re enjoying some of the world’s most spectacular weather in a huge and dreamy arc of beaches and rocky coastlines. However . . . (more…)

I looked up and saw something incredible.

There on the hill across the valley was the star that I had all but forgotten about. It’s actually a deep woods surrounded by olive groves and old farm houses, where the edges of the woods are delineated be different plants so that it resembles a three-dimensional star gently laying on the hillside. I first saw it about 6 years ago when my mother (then in her early 80s) and her husband, Harold, were visiting for several weeks. I’ll never forget it. (more…)

Simone and Alessia arrived around mezzogiorno, noon the other day for lunch with us in the country. The sun was bright and the air was clear with that unmistakable fall crispness. We hadn’t seen them for over a year, so it was especially fun for us to have that time together to sit and talk awhile. And even though we enjoyed our conversation, there was a bit of a distraction that occupied most of our attention. As you might have guessed from their pictures, they were not alone! (more…)

Midnight. Cheryl, Aaron, and I were sitting around the kitchen table playing the final hand of Rummy, anticipating that Aaron would win . . . again. Knowing that the game was about over, the rest of us abandoned any hope of making a spectacular comeback as we accepted the inevitable. I was sitting there minding my own business when the strangest thing happened. For some reason, Cheryl started doing cheerleader fingers across the table. Surely you know what I mean. (more…)

Yesterday morning Cheryl received a sketchy  message about a developing family situation. A more detailed email arrived a few hours later, followed by an explicit phone call that afternoon. Today we must go to the airport to explore options and make arrangements—one foot out the door, while the other foot remains grounded in this writing project, resisting as it is slowly dragged along. Previous commitments must wait. The jumble of possibilities are rationalized and thought-through. The initial gut reaction wins out and the decision is made—she must go! (more…)