The tale, Part I

“A year jammed full of adventure and misadventure,
strides forward and many steps backward, another year in my topsy-turvy,
Jekyll-and-Hyde existence.”

Anthony Kiedis


(the lone baggage carousel in the Pellston, MI airport / Julie Cook / 2017)

What do you notice about the picture up above?

Well, there seems to be a couple of stuffed animals…which might
give the impression that the location of this particular carousel is somewhere
in the wilds of nature.

Secondly you might notice it’s empty…as in no luggage is currently riding
the merry go round….

And that’s exactly what we saw late one afternoon last week when we flew into this
upper Michigan tiny little regional airport—

This is a long story that I want to keep brief so I’m cutting to the chase as
quickly as possible…
I’m going to be leaving out a good bit of detail so do
your best with your imagination as I offer you the basic facts…
But I will post it in two parts as it is, like I say, a long story.

I don’t fly often…maybe once, maybe twice a year if at all.
So the question is…why has Delta lost my luggage on 4 separate occasions
during the past few years?

Good question.

Second question, why was I surprised that it happened again on this
latest adventure.

Let’s back up.

If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know that my past
three years of life have been trying at best.

From caring for elderly parents who didn’t live nearby and didn’t want caring—
both suffering from dementia and yet requiring help, lots of help….
One being a stepmother who ended up resenting everything and everyone…
so much so that she began claiming she was not married,
nor had she ever been married…to my dad…this after 20 years….
If she had those thoughts in the beginning, things might be easier now,
but I digress.

There was the commuting to and from the city for months upon months
Think Atlanta traffic….

We then had a year of successive loss.
We lost my father-n-law, my niece and then my dad…
and if you count my stepmother being moved out of state following dad’s death,
well that’s a quasi sort of loss.

We’ve suffered and are currently suffering again through the anguish of cancer.
My husband is still embroiled in a legal nightmare over his dad.
As we have grown weary of mind, body and soul.

Our son took a job at the onset of Dad’s illness and he and his wife had to
hurry to the city where they leased an apartment while their house here sat
sort of empty sort of not….for a year now.

Then there was the putting together of the pieces of Dad’s world
following his death…
a process that is proving monumental and still seemingly nightmarishly
unending….
Mourning got put on the way back burner as wrestling more with anger
and resentment pushed sorrow to the side.

Our son and his wife next moved into Dad’s old house, cause that’s what
Dad wanted….
Yet it is an old house needing much work.
As we are still wading through that.

Our son is changing jobs.
All of this as we now race, with everyone driving back and forth
to empty and clean the house here in order to put
it to market….
too many houses and apartments currently in our lives.

Throw in my husband’s retail business and those worries and hassles,
throw in our own home, our own lives and worries….
and you’ve got a toxic mix for a potential meltdown.

Enter the notion of getting the heck out of dodge…
aka taking a much needed vacation.

My husband has never shut down his business for any reason—
not even for death…not his mind you….
So when he announced that he was past tired and thought
he’d close the week of the 4th,
and please find somewhere cool we can go for a few days
(sadly he isn’t a fan as I am of the beach),
I wanted nothing more than to make him happy.

A time to get away,
to change the pace,
to forget the looming nightmares
and to clear both our minds and ours sights.

He was really excited.

We haven’t taken a trip like this in a long long time and getting far away,
seemed to be something most needed.

All seemed to fall neatly into place.
Someone to watch the cats.
Someone to watch the closed store.
A new roof going up at Dad’s.
Tickets all aligned.
Everything was good to go.

That was until we got to the final point of airport destinations
when Delta decided to keep my husband’s luggage in Detroit
while my luggage met us in Pellston.

I wearily approach the gal at the one small counter of this
regional airport’s only desk.
She assures me that its “no problem…”
Delta will bring the luggage to our hotel tomorrow morning.
“But we have to be on a wilderness train ride at 7 AM and my husband needs
his jacket and tennis shoes.”
“Well there’s a Wal-Mart about an hour from here…
and where is your hotel?”
“Salut Ste Marie”
“US side or Canada side?”
“Canada.”
“Oh.
“What do you mean oh?”
“We can’t take luggage across the border.”
“WHAT?”
“There’s a Wal-Mart about an hour from here.”
“What time is the next flight in from Detroit?”
“5 and 1/2 hours.”
“WHAT?”
“We have to drive the almost two hours to Canada this evening”
“There’s a Wal-Mart about an hour from here”

We had no choice but to wait on the flight.
While the hot tears formed in my eyes, I stewed over the lost
time of daylight and of the afternoon we’d planned to use
to explore the region before checking into the hotel in Canada…
as I forlornly lamented over our precious limited time being
needlessly eaten away…

This entire little airport shuts down in-between flights as flights are
so few and far between.
The car rental windows shut, the agents leave, the baggage handler leaves, the
TSA agents leave…
they all leave…
but us.

There was however a little restaurant / bar upstairs where we could sit
for a spell, having a bite of supper.

We put the things we did have in the rental car,
a car that reeked like a giant ash tray,
and came back into the airport in order to camp out for the near 6 hour wait.

We opted to make our way upstairs, and ordered a typical
Michigan whitefish dinner…which was actually quite tasty.
There was a nice family sitting next to us who couldn’t help
but hear our accents.
Southern accents oddly stick out like a sore thumb everywhere
but in the South.

When this family had finished with their meal,
as this is about the only restaurant / bar available in this small town,
they made their way to our table to ask where we were from and what had
brought us to their neck of the woods.

We explained about our trip and then about our luggage.
They offered suggestions for our various destinations and were most
kind and welcoming.

Once we said our goodbyes, we went back to our whitefish.

Just a few minutes later the wife came back into the restaurant
making a beeline for our table….
excusing herself for appearing to be stalking us but that she had a sense
from God that she was to pray for us and asked for our names.

“Wow!!” I thought as now happy tears entered my eyes.

Long story…we finally got to the hotel in Canada at almost 1 AM.
No sleep as we were up and going at 5AM readying to get to the train station
for the 7AM departure.

12 hours of riding a train through the rocks and woods with nary a view
or vista.

Once to the canyon, everyone clambered out to enjoy the hour and a half of
exploring and picnicking.

The one glitch being that the passengers were not informed that the
mosquitoes and gants would be swarming horrendously,
so much so that folks practically trampled over one another getting back on
the train in order to wait until beginning the 6 hour descent back to town
through the same rocks and trees.
Did I mention the tons of goose poop?

There was much itching, scratching and silence…
most folks slept all the way back to town.

We eventually reached what was to be the best part of the trip,
Mackinac Island.

A marvelous place of a life without motors…
a place of only bicycles, 600 resident work horses and lots of feet.

The only issue is that this small island is inundated with tourists from the
mainland throughout the entire summer season.
My husband quipped that from all the arriving ferries and tourists,
it was a wonder the island didn’t sink.

The staff at the hotel we were to spend our time were all young,
foreign and kept reminding me of the youthful staff at Disney–
a strange sea of constantly smiling international faces whose english was
halting and who were a little hard to understand.

I proceeded to check us in.

“Mam we have you arriving today and checking out in two days.”
“Well no, we’re actually checking out in three days.”
“Okay mam, whatever you say,
but it is on the 7th that we have you checking out.”
“No, we’re checking out on the 8th, see….”

And that’s when I saw my mistake.

Panic gripped my entire being.
“Do you have another night’s room available? I asked as I tried to
contain the rising hysteria.
“I will put you on the waiting list Mam but we are very full” this all said
with a great big smile to a woman who was about to reach critical mass.

In all my years of plotting and planning trips, adventures, outings…
From all my years of teaching and making certain that every last detail
was on schedule and secure…
how, of all times, had I failed to cross check these dates???!

I felt the hot tears building in my eyes.
This while my very hard of hearing husband kept asking me what the girl,
he couldn’t understand, was saying…back and forth I went from the smiling
hard to understand girl to my hard of hearing not smiling husband.

The tears in my eyes and my very red cheeks tipped him off that the
conversation was not good.

I turned to my husband, as I thought I would now throw up, and practically
shrieked that the island was so crowded, we’d never find a room…
panicking and practically wailing I announced we should just go home…
as in now…..

My poor husband calmed me down as best he could…
this from a man who is not known for calm or patience…
He suggested we wander back down to town to find a bite of lunch,
as we wait for the room to be readied allowing us time to regroup.

I had tried so hard to make things perfect for him, for us,
as this was one of those a big deals that I tend to take way too seriously.
We had worked so very hard and had gotten through so very much
just to be able to actually now try and get away and forget life’s worries
for just a few days—
only to have it turn into one misadventure right after another…
as I was now just about overwhelmed by every misadventure.

All of this was now making it very difficult for me to breathe
let alone concentrate.

So here is where we’ll break off until tomorrow…
Hang on cause there’s more to come and the best part will be worth the wait….

How a David met a Goliath and made a tiny difference

“But so much of what is beautiful and valuable in the world comes from the shepherd, who has more strength and purpose than we ever imagine.”
― Malcolm Gladwell

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(a wooden cross made from the wood taken form one the many wrecked ships attempting to ferry refugees from Northern Africa to Lampedusa, Italy. It stands as a solitary reminder in the British Museum that ours is a living history of struggle and hope, death and life…Image courtesy of the BBC)

What would you do if you lived in the crosshairs of one of the greatest humanitarian crisis since World War II?
What if you found yourself sitting at the epicenter, the starting point of a massively overwhelming crisis and never ending tragedy…standing as David facing a Goliath?

What if you were a curator to one of England’s largest and most important museums… you had found yourself reading and watching the news, like everyone else, feeling overwhelmed and helpless watching the thousands of refugees desperately trying to reach the shores of Italy’s Lampedusa eventually making their why to the safety of asylum scattered throughout the European Union?
You were nothing but a mere David staring at a distant Goliath….

Lampedusa is the largest of the Italian Pelegia Islands.
It sits closer to Africa than it does Sicily.
Think Key West, in proximity to Cuba verses the US, and you get picture.

And very much like the Cuban refugees who once flooded onto makeshift rafts and dinghies in order to flee the oppressive poverty as a result of Castro’s iron fisted communism, hoping almost beyond hope to make the precarious journey to US controlled waters, refugees by the thousands have left Africa’s northern shores hoping against hope to make their harrowing journey to the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa…and eventually to freedom throughout Europe.

The problem is finding and funding passage from the coast of Northern Africa to the almost 8 square mile Island of Lampedusa and eventually to the continental shores of Europe.
The ferryman are scrupulous.
The ships painfully overcrowded, dangerous and there are not enough life jackets.
The ocean is treacherous and very unforgiving.

Many ships do not make it.
Many “passengers” drown.
Many are small children and infants.

What do you do if you are one of the Italian residents of this overtly tiny island who has made a simple living as a carpenter, yet you see almost daily the sadness of the bodies washing ashore.
You see the survivors who anguish over their drowned loved ones…the children who did not survive.
You see the beaches littered by the wood from the ships which broke apart mid journey…

You find yourself one Sunday at Mass, attended by many of the same refugees who seem lost, alone, afraid—as you each pray to the same God…you search the static image of the Crucified Christ hanging before you for answers….

You decide to quit your furniture business and you head off to the beach.
You gather as much of the broken bits of wood from the shipwrecked refugee boats that you can and you set out to carve and fashion together crosses.
Crosses which are a symbol of both sacrifice and death as well as salvation and hope.

You fashion a large altar cross for your parish church.
Your priest proudly places it on the altar as a reminder to all who worship that there is a massive crises in a very fluid state just outside the church’s door.
Soon word spreads and more church’s want the crosses.
Pope Francis receives a cross.

The BBC runs the story about the crosses and soon a curator to the British Museum sees your story and she too wants a cross…not for herself but for the museum…as a solemn reminder of the current overwhelming moment of human history currently taking place in the world.
The greatest mass exodus of human beings since World War II with the numbers even eclipsing that time.
How better could a museum, visited by thousands from across the world, share in the story of our currently hurting world.

Just how a small David could meet a giant Goliath and could manage to make a meaningful difference.

Here’s the link to the full story…

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-35360682

No matter how we feel about the refugees—as I now wonder how can Europe ever absorb so many individuals,
wondering how can we keep ourselves safe as we offer safe haven.
I worry about the terrorists who use this crisis to their own advantage as a means of mixing and blending and disappearing until later, much later.
I worry about how so many people can be housed, fed, cared for—60 million people and growing daily….
I worry about this world.
I don’t know any answers…
but I do know we need to try to do something