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Fall's Masterpiece unveiled!

Here we are in the early days of October and it seems that already every leaf peeper on earth is out on the trail.  Even my, otherwise, quiet hamlet of Easton, Connecticut, has turned into a bumper-to-bumper standstill of city folks hauling shiny pumpkins to their automobiles and waiting in lines at Sherwood’s Farm to partake of slow hayrides through the pumpkin patch.  Likewise, if you are trying to book an overnight stay at a New England Country Inn, good luck!

There is no better time than now here in New England to join the many other trailblazers and go outdoors.  To really rejigger, collect a few colorful leaves and scatter them as decorations indoors.  If you have friends living in less colorful areas, plan a day trip with the sole purpose of collecting leaves for them.  Then for five bucks or less, laminate them on an oversized sheet and drop the creation along with a sweet note into the mail. (I actually borrowed this idea from a woman I overheard at a copier shop doing this very thing for a friend.)

Color, color &, yes, more color!

Isn’t that the best way to rejigger, share your joy of the day-tripping experience with a friend?  Let’s face it, e-mail is a convenient way to keep in touch, but taking the time to send an “I care” package packs a stronger message of love

World's Largest Buffalo Statue in Jamestown, N...

Image via Wikipedia

This past summer, Parade Magazine had a delightful write up, titled, “Visit an American Original.” The gist of it was a list of 50 giant-sized landmarks.  From the world’s largest buffalo in Jamestown, N.D. to a giant roller skate in Anchorage, Alaska.

Does your town/city/village have a giant…something?  If it doesn’t, is there anything colossal to visit?  Think of the statues in your area around town and in parks and don’t forget your local cemetery too.  Are there any diners or eateries donning a giant hotdog or mega-burger on the roof or on its premises? Think.  You’ve probably passed it by.  Now, go and visit the landmark again.  Take some photos; delve deeper and find out who was responsible for the landmark.  I mean, I can understand the world’s largest strawberry in Strawberry Point, Iowa, but the world’s largest filing cabinet in Burlington, Vermont?

Atop Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul

Rejigger and set your next day trip travels around something big; big may not always be better, but it sure gives you lots of food for thought—with no calories.  It’s a great way to teach kids about a quirky way to appreciate and learn about things that may be big and under our noses, but we still miss them each and every time.

Maine Night

Image by Vanderlin via Flickr

“I’m alive,” he said to the boy, as they ate a bunch of dates one night, with no fires and no moon.  “When I’m eating, that’s all I think about.  If I’m on a march, I just concentrate on marching.  If I have to fight, it will be just as good a day to die as any other.

“Because I don’t live in either the past or my future.  I’m interested only in the present.  If you can concentrate always on the present, you’ll be a happy man.  You’ll see that there is life in the desert, that there are stars in the heavens, and that tribesmen fight because they are part of the human race. Life will be a party for you, a grand festival, because life is the moment we’re living right now.”

~ The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho

Want not! Nature Center, Hammonasset Beach State Park, Madison, CT

Outdoors, winding down after a long day of travel, I chatted last night with a good friend. I should say, I chatted. She, on the other hand, exclaimed, raising her arms toward the night sky, “It’s so clear! So clear. The moon is like a moon on a clear night in Maine. It’s a Maine night. Look how clear you can see the stars and…look at that moon. It’s crystal clear.”

I nodded, glanced and kept up my talk…how I would straighten out the world and everyone in it, if only…mind chatter that equaled mindless chatter…blah…blah…blah. In the toilet bowl of my mind, I missed “the moment.” I was alive. She was alive. We would never meet at that point in time again. I missed it, because of the gray matter nonsense between my ears. When I find myself in that messy place, quite frankly, it’s not real; it not the place of here and now.

Suddenly the sweeping skyscape swept me off my feet; my mind became as clear as the night’s sky. “Wow, do you see those blue stars? They are so blue, they are almost violet.” One flush of that messy gray matter, and I transported myself back to life…the real, perfect McCoy.

On your next day trip, rejigger and stop talking about yourself for a moment and start talking “it” up; “it” being those insignificant things that are so significant when we stop and notice and say, humbly and sincerely, “Thanks! I am not the end all and be all, and I can rest in your supreme and perfect presence.”

I took the news personally and was dizzy in delight to hear that Dick Allen, a Trumbull resident, was named Connecticut’s new poet laureate in June.

Canterbury (CT) Public Library: Ever think I could be as great as Connecticut’s new poet laureate Dick Allen?

In the late 1970s, after getting partially off a rollercoaster ride via the adolescent addiction route, I took a poetry writing class at the University of Bridgeport with Dick Allen.  At the time, I was sandwiched in between a drug-induced past, conveniently whisked away under a shatterproof floorboard of denial, and a future that I did not dare glimpse. 

In his classroom twice a week, I emerged from my dark and solely occupied cocoon.  When Mr. Allen read his poetry, the classroom’s walls boomeranged with intonations and a rhythmic style that could dissect, pluck and reach so far into my soul that the process shook and awakened those parts in me that had been so comfy and so sleepy, wrapped in inertia, for so damn long. Although it took nearly six more years for me to shed fully my Rip Van Winkle-esque existence, the first building blocks in that course of action Mr. Allen’s influence mortared.

In other words, Mr. Allen taught me that in order to experience great poetry, like great life, you have to be alert.  Listen intently.  Peel away the brainy part of the head so that the heart has the room that it requires to breathe fully and, yes, love without restraint.  Love every damn thing down to the wart. 

As I ventured forth to become a travel writer in the 1990s, I approached each newfound milieu with a keen ear, sharp eyes and overzealous appetite that Mr. Allen had first mirrored to me in his classroom.  On my journey, nothing, absolutely nothing, whether a gnawed chicken bone on a supper plate or ladybug on a car’s windshield was mediocre.  My ears heard poetry everywhere. 

On your next day trip, before summer bats her last eyelash, whether you go on a rollercoaster ride or hide away in an alcove at an out-of-the-way library, see, hear, breath poetry.  Get off the jaded road before it is too late to hear poetry for poetry is everywhere…fine tune the hearing.  Afterwards, pick up a book written by the present Connecticut’s poet laureate, go home and read the poetry out loud as if it will be your final voice; then take this same principle on your future travels.


By Dick Allen

Almost invisible, but once you look for them
nearly everywhere
like moss in crevices and drifting thoughts,

ferns are what it must mean
to love without yearning. Protectors
of everything small that needs to disappear,

deermice and tossed trash, bad brushstrokes in a painting,
theirs is the softest name, the softest touch.
They are social workers

as social workers should be—so full of calm
even those who don’t trust them
come into their care. Fiddleheads or not,

the rumor that once a year, on Midsummer’s Eve,
ferns blossom with tiny blue flowers
and if a pinch of fern seed falls upon your shoes

you will be less apparent—this rumor
is baseless: ferns have tiny spores
that travel in dew and raindrops,

no more magical
than Henri Rousseau, composing “The Peaceable Kingdom,”
or adder’s tongues, cinnamon, wall rue.

In the world’s secret corners,
men wish to vanish, but ferns are what look on,
trembling, holding all light green places.

From Ode to the Cold War: Poems New and Collected, Sarabande Books, 1997.

New Canaan, CT, Nature Center Greenhouse




Old Orchard Beach, ME, Pirate’s Cove Mini-Golf

Speaking of blue skies in the previous post, Big Skies Play the Blues,

summer seems to bring out the truest, bluest landscape. 


Have you taken the time to notice?  (Or are you too busy complaining about…how hot…humid…whatever it is?)

 On your next day trip, here’s your assignment (yes, that’s right, assignment; I am after all a teacher!):  Observe the blues.  Relish in them.  Feel grateful to be alive.  Feel grateful to see…wow, what a privilege.  Feel grateful to be and, just be.  Feel Grateful; live GREAT&ful.


 Who shouted with glee when the color blue was born?

~ “The book of Questions,” Pablo Neruda



Old Orchard Beach, Maine: Beautiful Blues


You say there are no miracles?  Look above, no I’m not just talking heaven here, I’m talking that there have been some unbelievable sky masterpieces around our neck of the woods.  As I refresh, rejuvenate and rejigger* on my day-tripping experiences, I can’t get over the spectrum of blues ranging from robin egg to turquoise that have colored the sky. 

The clouds, too, have been potent and interesting.  You can spend an hour guessing what the puffy forms resemble.  The other day, I found mermaids, puppy dogs and rabbit ears!  Whether you live in Big Sky, Montana or Brisbane, Australia, as you take a day trip, remember to glance up at the summer’s sky.  It will take you where you need to be, in the here and now. 

Look up and feel the blood pressure go down.

*  “Quietly but noticeably over the past year, Americans have rejiggered their lives to elevate experiences over things. Because of the Great Recession, a recent New York Times/CBS News poll has found, nearly half of Americans said they were spending less time buying nonessentials, and more than half are spending less money in stores and online,” In Recession, Americans Doing More, Buying Less; NYT, January 2, 2010.


Outside a window of Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry--Nature's Museum!

Early in my travel-writing career while writing about amusement parks, I learned an indispensible truth: travel in a counter clockwise direction.  In other words, from the main entrance gate when the crowds go left (modus operandi in amusement parks), you go counter clockwise, right. 

Sometimes the best way to refresh, rejuvenate and rejigger,* is to take the opposite direction from the crowds.  Once taking a day trip at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, I followed the crowds onward, eyes straight ahead, until, that is, I looked outside a window in the  museum and saw nature’s museum. In a patch of sweet hued and sweet fragrance gardens, butterflies danced and flitted.  The dramatic movements made my mind break into a lyrical version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.”  So now when I think back to my Chicago day trip, I recall not one museum perspective, but two!

Outside a window of Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry--Nature's Museum!

And that’s what I learned from my backyard therapy experiences,  instead of looking straight ahead, look up or down; instead of going in the direction of the crowd, go counter clockwise…sometimes going against the tide gives you the most memorable vantage point. 

Look up!

Next backyard therapy adventure: Look in far-off areas!

Tucked behind the grand piano, The Spencer Hotel, Chautauqua, NY

Skip the hotdogs & eat Thai Food this July 4th! (Bangkok Restaurant, Danbury, CT)

One of my friend Eileen’s favorite Christmas memories was going to a Chinese restaurant and a movie with her newly divorced daughter.  Eileen was a recent widow, and her daughter did not have custody of her children on that particular Christmas Day.  As she shared about the novelty of this adventure, her face glowed in glee.  Historically, her family had always celebrated Christmases past with a traditional holiday feast and presents.  On what marked a holiday that both women had initially dreaded turned out to be one of the best ones (except the absence of the young children did tug on their heartstrings) that they had ever experienced.

On this same note, my friend Dian, who used to spend oodles of money buying Christmas gifts for her grown-up daughters, now takes them on exotic trips instead—talk about elevating experiences over things!  Don’t even ask which holidays stay in the forefront of this family’s mind!

A very important thing that my day-tripping experiences have taught me is that I can basically do what I want and with whom I choose.  So as we celebrate Independence Day weekend, I like to think about my independence and what would best suit my family’s lifestyle to refresh, rejuvenate and rejigger.*  The fact is, we don’t have to watch the fireworks.  We don’t have to have hamburgers and hot dogs.  We don’t even have to think about the meaning of the holiday.  When the kids were little and my travel-writing career was booming, in fact, most of our most memorable July 4ths were spent at places ranging from Thai restaurants  to museums.  We also spent a few exciting Independence Day weekends watching firework displays in faraway towns, miles away from our home. 

Thai food on the July Fourth? Definitely! (Bangkok Restaurant, Danbury, CT)

Day-tripping experiences have really taught me my preferences, and that I have the power to choose where I want to go as much as I have the power to choose whether or not I will have a good day, but, of course, going on a day trips sprinkles fairy dust on any given day.

Happy, safe 4th of July; celebrate in your own fashion!

*  “Quietly but noticeably over the past year, Americans have rejiggered their lives to elevate experiences over things. Because of the Great Recession, a recent New York Times/CBS News poll has found, nearly half of Americans said they were spending less time buying nonessentials, and more than half are spending less money in stores and online,” In Recession, Americans Doing More, Buying Less; NYT, January 2, 2010.

Inn at Mystic, Mystic, CT

Oceans, lakes, streams, reservoirs and ponds, ahhh, particularly on a sultry summer day, nothing can refresh the body, mind and spirit, but especially the body, like water. Nearly 70 percent of the earth is composed of water, as is the human body.  I don’t believe that this is sheer coincidence.  Since the beginning of civilization, each generation has benefited from the therapeutic value of water. 

Mystic, CT

For me, the next best thing next to the spa experience in helping one relax, rejuvenate and rejigger* is to go to the coastline.  In fact, in the mid-1980s, I spent many hours a week walking the sands while my mind rambled, pained and powerless, during one of the toughest periods of my life.  No matter how tremulous my thoughts were, as I trampled up one side of the beach and then another, the rhythmic, constant companionship of the waves splashing forth, helped squelch my overly critical thoughts.

Mystic, CT

As I arrived each day to walk the beach, the salt air signaled the start of the familiar ritual and no matter how burdened I felt, immediately I experienced a sense of calm, and a glimmer of hope flicked on my grimly dark horizon like the first crack of dawn.

Stonington, CT

Linda Samuels puts it so well in her blog when she writes, “…lately I’ve spent more time by the rivers—walking, sitting, eating, and just being. There is something restorative about water. My mind quiets enough to simply focus on the scenery before me. The “must dos” and “should dos” take a back seat while nature works it magic, bringing me to a calmer, clearer place.”

Olde Mistick Village, Mystic, CT

My mind, these days, may not be so pained, but it still runs overactive, and I, like Leslie, feel so much calmer by the shoreline.  Although I like to wander the beach four seasons a year, summertime, of course, is when the swarms of pedestrians think likeminded.  But even amidst a lot of company, which can become pretty noisy, I still walk away, sand coarse between my toes, feeling restored—even during the times I didn’t feel I needed restoration!  And that’s the thing, I think if everyone in the world was required to go to the water for a few hours every week, health care costs would plunge. Simple, huh? Even if you think you don’t need some restorative time, try a walk by the water before summer flits away like a Monarch butterfly.

Inn at Mystic, Mystic, CT

Mystic, CT

Make a beeline to beauty, Hammonasset Beach State Park, Madison, CT

In the introduction of “Consummate Connecticut: Day Trips with Panache,” I end with these words, “TAKE THE LONG WAY HOME…May the road ahead greet you gently at each turn and may you never lose the wonder to travel that extra mile. ”

This was my topic at hand for my next blog.  Before I could sit down and write about it, guess what?  I had to run an errand in Bridgeport, CT, and I decided, yep, you guessed it…to rejigger * and take the long way home; actually, I decided to investigate a little side street that I was on, and, right at the corner, the sight of a brick factory made me regress to being eight years old again. 

Just as I suspected, I espied a tiny Wonder Bread factory outlet across the street.  Pulling into the parking lot, after I strode in, I immediately felt the hovering presence of my dad beside me in his crisp, blue-ironed shirt, car keys jingling in his hand.

Here, in this minuscule place, I recaptured a giant rush of youth; so much of it spent grazing on Twinkies and spongy white bread.  The taste of memory was even sweeter as I remembered my father who, ironically, possessing an oak-tree stature, was a scarce presence in my childhood.

“How long has this store been here?”  I asked the sales clerk at the checkout counter.

“At least 50 years.”

“Wow, I haven’t been here since I was eight,” I explained, recalling how my dad, planting a seed for my adult bargain-hunting penchant, whittled away many weekends taking me to shop here with him.

“I get people in here all the time who say that,” she said with a smile from ear to ear. 

Needless to say, the day trip queen ended up eating a Twinkies while taking another chunk of the day to refuel my memories of my dad, who, I realized, wasn’t so non-existent in my early life after all, as I refueled the car, knowing the extra miles were worth the experience, certainly the wonder of reuniting with the Wonder Bread outlet.

Winding road inspiration: Stewart B. McKinley National Wildlife Refuge, Sheffield Island, Norwalk, CT

*  “Quietly but noticeably over the past year, Americans have rejiggered their lives to elevate experiences over things. Because of the Great Recession, a recent New York Times/CBS News poll has found, nearly half of Americans said they were spending less time buying nonessentials, and more than half are spending less money in stores and online,” In Recession, Americans Doing More, Buying Less; NYT, January 2, 2010

Consummate Author! Consummate Journalist! Consummate Motivator!

Through simple secrets to a happier life like day-trip adventures and a gratitude journal by the bedside, I have not only been able to overcome many obstacles in my life, but erase negative and useless thinking…and, yes, learn to relax, rejuvenate, rejigger. *

Rejigger *

* “Quietly but noticeably over the past year, Americans have rejiggered their lives to elevate experiences over things. Because of the Great Recession, a recent New York Times/CBS News poll has found, nearly half of Americans said they were spending less time buying nonessentials, and more than half are spending less money in stores and online,” In Recession, Americans Doing More, Buying Less; NYT, January 2, 2010.

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Day Trip Travel — Experiences Over Things

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