Off to The Grand Canyon

Colin Fletcher called the Grand Canyon a “huge natural museum of the earth’s history”. Okay, so I didn’t know who Colin Fletcher was either, until I signed us up for this Road Scholar trip. Now that I am a retiree (excuse me, “lifestyle manager”), I have time to actually READ the suggested background materials.

Colin Fletcher wrote “The Man who Walked Through Time: The Story of the First Trip Afoot Through The Grand Canyon”. Given that the canyon was inhabited by Native Americans for about 10,000 years before the first Europeans arrived, it isn’t hard to imagine that one or two of them might have sauntered from one end of the canyon to the other before he did, but then again, THEY never published their adventures and thoughts. I shouldn’t be too hard on Mr. Fletcher, though. After all, his book was written in the early 1900’s; half a century later, when I was in school, we still were being taught that Columbus “discovered” America, as if it were completely devoid of human inhabitants when he arrived.

So, now that I’ve gotten beyond the title, what did I learn from his book? Other than that I would never, ever even CONSIDER hiking through the canyon, I learned that you can tell the age of the rocks from their colors. I created this little chart so I’d know what I was looking at when we get there, starting from the rim and moving on down to the bottom:

Rock Color Thickness Age
Limestone White 400 feet 225 million years
Sandstone Pale brown 350 feet 250 million years
Shale and Sandstone Red 1,000 feet 275 million years
“The Esplanade”, Limestone Blue gray, stained red 800 feet 450 million years
Bright Angel Shale Layered greenish gray and purple 600 feet 475 million years
“Tonto Platform”Tapeats Sandstone Brown 225 feet 500 million years
Schists Dark gray with granite Depth is unknown Almost 2 billion years

Okay, so I have no concept of what 400 feet (or any of the other number of feet, for that matter) looks like–but when I get there, and take photos, and post them, well, then we’ll ALL know. And we’ll also know how long those bloody rocks have been plopped there.

I do better with visuals. So here’s a picture of where we will be for the week, starting and ending in Phoenix.

grand canyon

This trip will have an added element of adventure. The original plan was that this trip would be my father’s day present to my dad. He and Mike were going to room together, and I would be rooming with my “childhood” friend, Augusta. My dad’s knee became uncooperative, causing him to have to cancel out. Well, I notified Road Scholar and told them to change my roommate to Mike. I then learned that doing so would mean that Augusta might be assigned a female roommate, which wasn’t quite what she’d had in mind. So, Mike being an all around wonderful guy, decided to ‘take one for the team’ and agreed he’d be the solo traveler. No, that doesn’t mean HE gets the female roommate. He will only be matched up if there is another solo male traveler. The adventure part? We won’t know how this will shake out till we arrive tomorrow night.

Just think of the possibilities… Mike’s assigned roommate is a Sean Connery look alike, who gazes upon the lovely Augusta and is immediately smitten, causing us to swap roommates faster than your average college freshman. Beautiful sunsets, the canyon as a backdrop..could this be a made for TV movie, or what? Lifetime channel, perhaps?

More likely, Mike will be roommate-less. Hmmm. Maybe we shouldn’t mention that we’ve been married for 37 years. That way, if I am spotted doing the “walk of shame” out of his room some morning, it might liven up breakfast discussions.

So, which part of the blog did YOU find more interesting– rock colors and ages or the possibility of “seniors gone wild”?

Retirement Redefined

P1030219

Sometimes the most valuable insights are the ones you stumble upon.

I’ve been very fortunate to be able to spend time in other countries, learning about different cultures, values and philosophies.  Doing so brought American culture into sharper focus, but what really helped me examine our way of life from a different vantage point was a piece written by Dr. L Robert Kohls, the Director of International Programs at San Francisco State University.  Entitled “Why do Americans Act Like That”, it was intended to help international students deal with culture shock.

Here comes the insight part.  It struck me that four of Kohls’ thirteen points provide a great explanation of American attitudes toward retirement.  See what you think.  I’ve changed the order of the points  and slightly shortened some of them, but otherwise directly quoted.

Action/Work Orientation

“Don’t just stand there, do something!”  This expression, though normally used in a crisis situation, in a sense describes most Americans’ waking life, where action – any action – is seen as superior to inaction.  Americans routinely schedule an extremely active day.  Any relaxation must be limited in time and aimed at “recreating” so that they can work harder once their “recreation” is over.  Such a “no nonsense” attitude toward life has created a class of people known as “workaholics” – people addicted to, and often wholly identified with, their job or profession. The first question people often ask when they meet each other in the U.S. is related to work: “what do you do?”

Self-Help Initiative

Americans take credit for only what they accomplish as individuals.  In an English-Language dictionary, there are more than 100 composite words that have the word “self” as a prefix: self-aware, self-confident, self control.  The equivalent of these words cannot be found in most other languages.

Time and Its Control 

Time is of utmost importance to most Americans.  It is something to be on, kept, filled, saved, used, spent, wasted, lost, gained, planned, given, even killed.  Americans are more concerned about getting things accomplished on time than they are with developing interpersonal relations.  Their lives seem controlled by the little machines they wear on their wrists.

Future Orientation

Americans value the culture and the improvements the future will surely bring.  They devalue the past and are, to a large extent, unconscious of the present.  Even a happy present goes largely unnoticed because Americans are hopeful that the future will bring even greater happiness.

Wow.  That sure got ME thinking!  Or should I say, becoming more “self aware”?

When I announced my intention to retire, the most frequent question I was asked  (can you guess?) was  “what are you going to do all day”.   There you have it–the perfect display of our “work/action orientation”.  I’ll admit that after almost 40 years of “to do lists”, objectives, project plans and performance reviews, it took a while for me to truly realize that I don’t HAVE to do anything.  A day can be perfect even if at the end of it, I can’t point to a single significant accomplishment. Okay, did you just get a mental image of me plopped on the couch, glassy eyed, with remote in one hand and cheese doodles in the other?

If your ‘self worth” is defined by what you have “made” of yourself,  which is generally taken to mean what occupation you have, then retirement can indeed feel like a loss of identity.  Couple that with our notions of time and our future orientation, and it becomes clear why many Americans fear the unstructured time that retirement provides.

I realize how fortunate I am to have been able to  choose to retire, rather than having retirement thrust upon me because of poor health or job elimination.  But for those of you with negative stereotypes about retirement, well, maybe the term “retirement” needs a make-over.  Hey, I’ve spent the last 6 decades being bombarded by advertising.  I know  Madison Avenue can help with this.  So, here’s how Peggy Olsen and Don Draper would wordsmith my answer to the question, “what do you do”?

I am the CEO of Destination Now, (well, as its only employee, I am also its receptionist, administrative assistant and janitor, although my husband Mike might argue that last job title belongs to him.  But hey, this is MY blog so I get to say what I want) a “lifestyle management” company (whose only customers are Mike and me, although occasionally my bossiness–I mean “management skills”– expand to engulf close friends, sisters and cousins).

Our current projects include containing health care costs,  (Okay, so we go to the Y regularly, and I cook healthy meals–no high fructose corn syrup for us, and I swear the red wine and dark chocolate are only consumed for their health benefits)  supporting the global economy,  (I take my obligation to buy from local vendors very seriously when we travel.  That’s where my contest prizes come from!) and promoting early childhood literacy (this last one is real).  How’s that?  Better?

Now, about that “Future Orientation”…this blog is entitled “Destination Now” to remind me that I have arrived.  The first 30  years of my life was preparation: getting educated, finding a life partner, starting on a career path, becoming a mother.  The next 30 was implementation: putting all that preparation to work.  And now it is fruition: enjoying all of the fruits of prior labors, focusing on the here and now, making the most of every day, even if that means allowing the day to unfold without any plan or need for accomplishments.

Way back during my high school days, one of my closest friends shared with me this definition of success.  (Maybe Emerson was the author, maybe not, but does it really matter?)  I think it is the perfect ending to today’s post.

Success

To laugh often and love much; to win the respect of intelligent persons and the affection of children; to earn the approbation of honest citizens and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to give of one’s self; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived—this is to have succeeded.

Home Town Hero

Every town should have its very own super hero. Henry Huttleston Rogers was Fairhaven’s.  If you’ve never heard of him, that’s an indication that you don’t live in Fairhaven  and you probably took I-195 from Providence to Cape Cod, instead of the more scenic Route 6. Sure, I-195 will get you to the beach faster, but what you miss is a chance to see the impact one of Standard Oil’s “robber barons” can have on a sweet little town.

Henry Huttleston Rogers Memorial on Huttleston Avenue

Henry Huttleston Rogers Memorial on Huttleston Avenue

After you clear the bridge from New Bedford, the highway’s name changes to Huttleston Avenue, and if you look to your left, you’ll see one of the many reasons the town has chosen to honor its home town hero.

Fairhaven High School

Fairhaven High School

The gorgeous Elizabethan stone structure, completed in 1906, is actually Fairhaven High School, Henry Huttleston Rogers’ last gift to the town before his death in 1909. I have never been inside–I attended a regional high school–but my sister Sue (the source of all my inside information) tells me the school has marble floors, wood paneling, and carved gargoyles in the auditorium.  The adolescent version of me probably wouldn’t have noticed these grand architectural features anyway.  I would have been too busy hoping one of the other auditorium “creatures” would ask me out after the assembly ended.

I DID pass many afternoons during my teen years as a volunteer at Our Lady’s Haven.

P1000086

Completed in 1905, the building was originally known as the Tabitha Inn.  Designed to resemble a Shakespearian era Inn, it was described as the grandest hotel outside of New York and Boston.  Samuel Clements, better known as Mark Twain, was one of its frequent guests. It became a home for “the elderly and infirm” after it was purchased by the Catholic Diocese in 1944.

I stopped in to say hello and to take a look around the lobby.  Back in my day, it was run by the Carmelite nuns, but today only one nun remains.  Lovely Sr. Eileen from Ireland is now running the show, making sure Fairhaven’s senior citizens receive tender loving care.

Next to the Tabitha Inn is  a red brick schoolhouse, another gift from Rogers.  The school’s last class graduated this year, and the building is now closed, so all future students will be studying in a more modern building.

Rogers Elementary School, closed in 2013

Rogers Elementary School, closed in 2013

From June through September, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, the Fairhaven office of tourism offers 90 minute guided tours, starting at 10 AM  from the town hall — and yes, Rogers donated that too.  Click on this link for more information about the tour and the town.

Fairhaven Town Hall

Fairhaven Town Hall

I wasn’t crass enough to photograph the interior of Our Lady’s Haven, (not everyone enjoys getting their image blasted into cyberspace) but the interior architecture of the town hall is very similar…so you get the idea of how lovely both places are.

Town Hall Interior--grand staircase, with arches and carved wooden railings

Town Hall Interior–grand staircase, with arches and carved wooden railings

My very special childhood place is across the street from the town hall.  The Millicent Library was built in 1890 as a memorial to one of Rogers’ daughter’s, who was 17 when she died.

Millicent Library

Millicent Library

I don’t think this is a statue of Millicent.  Pretty racy for a small town in the 1900’s, wouldn’t you say?

Statue in the library reading room

Statue in the library reading room

My summer days were spent in the children’s reading room, where  I discovered that “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” was only the first in an entire series L Frank Baum wrote about the magical land of Oz.  Those books kept the 9 year old me entertained for an entire summer!

As I was leaving the library, one of the friendly residents (did I mention that Fairhaven people are VERY friendly?) asked whether I had noticed Dante atop the library.  I never had before–but here he is, for your viewing pleasure.

P1000079

So, who was Henry Huttleston Rogers–and how did he amass such a huge fortune? Rogers got his start in Pennsylvania, where, in 1861, he and a partner started a small business refining oil. By 1885, he had joined with John D Rockefeller, eventually becoming one of the three key men of Standard Oil. Known as “the Brains of Standard Oil Trust” and “Hell Hound Rogers”, he was a captain of industry.

He was also a generous man who befriended Booker T Washington and paid for Helen Keller’s Radcliffe education.

The “giving” tradition continued with Rogers’ granddaughter, (official name when she died: Mary Millicent Abigail Rogers von Salm-Hoogstraeten de Peralta-Ramos Balcom, but she went by Millicent Rogers–and who can blame her?) who founded the Millicent Rogers museum in Taos, New Mexico to house native American art.  The daughter of Rogers’ only son, she was quite a fascinating character–but that’s a subject for another time.

Visitors to Fairhaven should stop at Margaret’s or Elizabeth’s for a great meal. The restaurants are side by side, near the waterfront.  If you are lucky, you might get lovely Kristen for your server, and Kevin may be your chef!