Mayo Clinic Day 2

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Geese on the run at Silver Lake. Ok, they’re not all running.

It’s Day 2 and I”m beginning to know my way around, where the different buildings are, where to pick up the shuttle, where to go to eat. The husband is getting better at it too, but he doesn’t go anywhere alone and likes to have someone to follow.

Our appointments were not scheduled the way we would have wished but we were told it was possible to change some of them. The schedulers told us “Be a checker!” and wrote it on our instruction sheet. I had to ask what that meant. It’s their suggestion that you be on hand for the test you want to get, in case someone cancels. It’s like “standby” at the airport. We were on hand at 7am and 12 pm, the designated times, with no success.  But again, the people working here are all helpful and so good at what they do. It wasn’t a bad day.

After our morning wait, we went down to the business office and asked about our insurance authorization for the needed PET scan. It was not a busy place and a very competent person helped us right away. She made some calls and told me that Dr. Jones’s report had been sent to the insurance company. I will call tomorrow morning and see if it has had any effect. And again, no lines, prompt service, and people asking us what we needed before we had to ask them. Can this place be real?

Going back and forth as many times as we did gave us some good experience riding the shuttle. It is easier and cheaper than driving and will be our main mode of transportation.

We are finding ourselves very easy to entertain. Today we shopped at Walmart, took naps, read, watched TV and ate our snacks in the room. We’re doing one meal a day at a restaurant. Tonight’s choice was Outback.

I am trying to resurrect memories of my year in Rochester while in nursing school. It was so long ago that I’m afraid my dorm attached to Methodist Hospital, Clara Madsen Hall, has been torn down and replaced by some larger, imposing building. I couldn’t find it. Almost everything downtown around the Clinic itself looks unfamiliar to me, although the main street, Broadway, still had many older buildings. There are also some one way streets that I don’t remember being there (but that I will never forget again…).

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Ducks and geese abound. Watch where you step.

After dinner we drove around a bit and I was relieved to find one place was much the same. Silver Lake park was still there. The lake itself was part of the Zumbro River and there was a power plant connected in some way with it. Because the water was warmed by the power plant it didn’t ice over as quickly as other bodies of water in the area. It was home to great multitudes of Canadian geese all year round and quite a sight to see. I remember times when it was cold enough to warrant goose rescue attempts for those animals that were getting frozen into the ice. The geese are still there, along with a sign asking people not to feed them. A large goose produces 3 lbs. of poop per day (who knew?) and all that creates a significant bacteria problem for the lake.

Tomorrow we will be on standby for the neuro-psych evaluation again, and hopefully will get time to visit my Aunt Evelyn in the afternoon. The husband (and Mom and I) are worried about Julia. Hurricane Florence is heading toward North Carolina and Greensboro is in the center of the all important cone of possibility. We know what hurricanes are like… This world is full of things we can’t control. How plain that is. Just sayin’…

A to Z: Selling Our House (Letter T)

T  for Touch Ups, Thresholds, Tools, Titles, Timetables, Temporary Troubles, Trips, Tired, Thankfulness

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I should have added Trash to the T list because it seems we do indeed have a roomful of it to go to the curb each trash day.

At the beginning of this project, selling the house, there were big endeavors like whole house painting, like reworking an electric panel, like moving the renters out. Now some of those things are past and for the last two or three days I’ve been working on smaller details. I call them touch ups.

The rental house with fresh paint looks (and smells) better, but amazingly I was left with more touching up than I expected. I didn’t think I was that picky about paint, but I’ve found that the line between baseboard and wall is more important to me than I remembered. I was glad there was left over paint. And as I scrubbed the floors around the edges, there was paint spatter to be scraped off.

There’s something about a completely empty room that draws attention to things like switch plates and electrical outlets. Really, what else is there to look at? Some of them are beige, some are white, sometimes the cover plate is one color and the switch itself is the other – so noticeable, in not a good way. I am not ambitious enough to make them all the same throughout the house but I did try to deal with the ones that were close enough to be seen together. I like white.

All the heating/cooling vents had been removed for painting, and I guess I must have said I would put them all back. Some of these were really old and rusty so “touching up” means cleaning and painting them. Bath fans needed new grills put on. One of the bath vanities had curiously lost two door knobs and a drawer handle which needed replacing. Light bulbs were missing or burned out in numerous places. Door stops and wall protectors were needed. Today alone, I made two trips to the hardware store and it’s been this way most of last week. I am getting very familiar with the layout, and it’s a big store.

All those other T words in the title have meaning for me, especially the last one – thankfulness. Time, another T word, has brought great changes. I am amazed that we are this far along and thankful that each day brings a little more progress.

 

Times and Travels: Orca Watching

The waters of the Pacific Northwest (PNW) are home to many kinds of sea mammals. Some of the most exciting ones to encounter are the pods of whales that roam around the islands of Puget Sound and the Canadian boundary waters. On our recent trip to San Juan Island we were hosted on a small excursion boat with a crew of one, Captain Jim. Many thanks to Ryan’s parents for setting up this unusual outing, and for ordering perfect weather for carrying it out.

Our excursion started the west side of San Juan Island, the small harbor of Mitchell Bay. The whale watching boats are independently owned and operated by men who know the islands and surrounding waters well. We were six in number and a pretty good fit for the captain’s boat. We set out from the harbor with no idea of where to look for whales – a problem which was solved by communicating with numerous other boats on the water. The closest pod of orcas that had been spotted was about an hour north, close to the Canadian border so off we went.

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I loved the tiny cabins at this resort. Have to go back and stay longer!
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Captain Jim getting us on his boat.
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Captain Jim’s boat is equipped with GPS, depth finders, binoculars, and a bathroom!

The sun was out, the temperature was moderate, the water was relatively quiet. All this was not the usual. We went north and west to the Strait of Georgia. You really need to look on the map sometime in order to know how crazy the international boundary is in that part of North America. It zigs and zags through the islands and is connected to some little known history of the Pig War. I had never heard of this war but most of the islanders can tell the story and it is rather colorful.  By the time we located the orcas we were in the Strait of Georgia within sight of Vancouver, in Canadian waters.

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Another whale watching boat and the ferry on the nearly glassy smooth Strait of Georgia

The Strait is a very large area and often has ocean size swells, but as I said, it was almost glassy still. We had Dramamine with us but didn’t need it at all. There were three or four other boats watching the pods with us as we followed them along. The orcas are not whales but are the largest mammals in the dolphin family. They travel in social groups, as large as 40 members, that get numbered and are recognizable by individual dorsal fin characteristics. They are often called killer whales because they are skilled hunters and feed on other marine mammals. They cooperate in the hunt, acting a bit like a pack of wolves.

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Exhale!

If I remember right, we were watching pod 34 and possibly pod 37, which were both resident pods. They stay close year round, whereas other pods travel through as transients.  A number of dorsal fins would appear as the orcas came up to breathe, and we would hear the rush of air as they exhaled. They would dive again and reappear farther ahead.  We kept hoping they would find something to feed on and actually breach completely out of the water, but that didn’t happen. Boats are restricted from getting closer than 200 yards from orcas and are not to block their path or be closer than 400 yards ahead of them but we still got good views. Captain Jim had binoculars for everyone which helped.

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We used binoculars.
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And evidently not just for the whales.

 

After an hour or so of watching, we headed back through the islands, often slowing to photograph the awesome views. Mt. Baker is the volcano visible in many of the photos. What a perfect day it was to be out on the water in the PNW!

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Esther and Ryan enjoying the sun and the water
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Gorgeous scenery like this the whole time.
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Majestic Mt. Baker in the distance

Times and Travels: San Juan Farmer’s Market

I love seeing evidence of people being productive in basic ways, and nothing is more basic than providing food. That is why I enjoy farmers, coming to market to sell to the end user.

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Coming off the ferry at Friday Harbor

San Juan Island is one of many islands in the Puget Sound area of Washington. Ferries are as common as buses around Puget Sound. We took the ferry from Anna Cortes to the small port of Friday Harbor – it happened to be on a Friday too, but that had nothing to do with the name.  We arrived late in the day so it wasn’t until Saturday morning that we returned to Friday Harbor for the San Juan Farmer’s Market.

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Living on an island prompts many people to value independence. They like to produce their needs locally so they don’t have the extra cost of importing from the mainland. The many small farms on the island grow crops, raise animals and bring products to the market in hopes of selling them. I think they enjoy the sense of community as much as anything else. The vendors get to talk with their customers, face to face, explain their wares and answer questions. Shoppers get to see and learn about many interesting products and processes. We were looking for breakfast.

In and around the community center building is where the market is held. It didn’t take us long to find the inside table of baked goods, manned by a couple of local ladies. They were selling all kinds of pastries, quiches, brownies… it all looked like breakfast to us. I bought a pastry and a generous slice of something made with egg, cheese, potato, veggies and pasta. I’m glad we got there when we did because their table was sold out by the time I came back hoping for a brownie. Oh well.

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Music, island style.
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Island produce – good stuff.
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Fresh seafood, cooked on the spot – a popular place.

There were vendors selling crafts as well as food. A potter, some water color artists, some jewelry makers, all gave us shoppers something to look at and consider. There was a trio of musicians providing festive tunes – way better than “elevator music”. Around the perimeter were tables and chairs for eating and visiting. The sun was shining, children were playing, laughter and conversation abounded. Makes you want to go there, doesn’t it? Maybe you should find a farmer’s market near you and check it out this week!

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Yes, they got the last brownie (but they shared).

Great Smoky Mountain Adventure

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The sun rising in the east over our deluxe accomodations on the day of our hike… (I’ve stayed in worse, for sure.)

Time has gone by minute by minute, and our vacation is almost over – something to be looked back upon. As usual, it never seems right to be leaving part of my family anywhere, anytime. Julie and the dog had not yet left when we drove away from the motel.

Yesterday was by far the highlight day of our trip. Julie had to leave Tess the dog at the motel with Dennis the husband while we did our day hikes. Dogs are not allowed on most of the trails in the park. Husbands are allowed, but only if they want to go. Dennis is still not up to hiking and has had an uncertain time with his blood pressure and medicine side effects.

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This hike out and back was only about 2.5 miles but the falls was definitely at a higher elevation, lots of climbing. We didn’t see any llama pack strings.

We chose to go to Grotto Falls first, knowing that it would only get busier as the day progressed. It is a shorter hike and close to Gatlinburg so many people are taking it.  We did the 1.3 mile uphill climb, taking pictures along the way. The woods was beautiful, as was the river. The falls itself is known for the path that goes under the waterfall.  Being there, with that wall of rushing water between me and the world was quite cool, literally. Natural air conditioning courtesy of the turbulence of air and water and shade. It’s a unique and beautiful experience.  People of all ages were standing around on the rocks, nervously watching their children trying to get close to the water, taking pictures, drinking in the aura of the place.

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Does not make for a smooth trail, but very pretty to look at.

We took our own pictures, went a short way up the trail on the other side of the river and then headed back the way we had come. Mount LeConte was more than six miles away up the trail and not on our list for the day.

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The Roaring Fork Nature Trail is a one way motor loop up to Grotto Falls and was a great way to see the forest and several more creeks.  Going back down through the woods was fun but the best part was at the end, nearly into Gatlinsburg, when the line of cars we were in slowed and stopped.  People were out on the road taking pictures of something, which turned out to be a bear. A few seconds later another bear, on the other side of the road, came nearly up to our car. I think it was a mama and cub that got separated.  The mama looked a bit confused and didn’t want to cross with all of us in the way. I hope they got reunited.  WE SAW A BEAR! Unexpected bonus. I’m glad we were in the car.

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Our bear, on her way to check us out.

Our second hike was a loop starting with the Little River Trail, to the Cucumber Gap Trail and ending with the Jakes Creek Trail. We parked and headed upward along one of the most beautiful rivers I’ve had the privilege to see. It was full of rocks, some as big as a small house, and the rapids and pools were everywhere a wonder. This trail was a road in an earlier age when wealthy families from the cities came up to cool off in their summer lodges. The Park Service has since bought the properties and is taking the old buildings down, leaving only the chimneys and fireplaces that look like monuments along the road.

The Cucumber Gap Trail was smaller and more typical of Smoky Mountain hiking trails. It was on this stretch that we noticed the weather was changing. It was getting darker. Then it was thundering and lightning. And then, of course, it was raining.  At first the canopy kept us from getting too wet, but the trail was heading upward still. The canopy was thinning out and providing less shelter. I thought of all the places I wouldn’t want to be in a lightning storm. Sure enough, on top of a mountain with my feet in a puddle was one of them.

These trails are for people when they’re dry, and for water when it’s raining. They become little rivers with slick, muddy bottoms. At times we could walk on the bank above or below the trail (in the poison ivy) and other times there was no option but to get our boots soaked. I was so thankful for my new trekking pole. It was a lifesaver. We stopped taking pictures and wrapped our phones in plastic. You are being spared seeing us looking like drowned rats.

This was a near six mile hike and we decided to say that at least three of those miles were in the rain. We actually enjoyed it, realizing that it was an experience we might easily have missed, since we never would have started out in the rain. The wetness, the uncertainty of the storm, the added difficulty of the trail was just enough of a “rush” to make it memorable. I loved it. Towards the end, as we were searching for the parking lot and our car, we were getting a bit hypothermic. The temperature was down to 67 degrees and we had been wet for quite a while. Now I have a “hiking in the rain story” with each of my daughters. Thankfully this time it wasn’t 32 degrees, and we weren’t camping.

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They actually grind grain and make bread for the restaurant here. Very interesting historical place and the food (and service) was GREAT.

The day ended well with hot showers, dry clothes, and a top notch dining experience at the Old Mill Restaurant in Pigeon Forge.  What can I say? It has been a great trip, hotel expense courtesy of BlueGreen vacations.  I’m writing in the Knoxville Airport, where our flight on Allegiant has been delayed 3 hours. That’s about the only inconvenience we’ve had to endure. And no, we didn’t buy a timeshare, just sayin’…

Getting Away in Gatlinburg!

Tomorrow the husband and I are getting on an early flight to Knoxville for a short vacation. Never mind that we have never taken vacations before – we’ll learn how to do it. Never mind that we’re only doing this because it’s a time share sales pitch and we have to resist listen to a two hour hard sell.  We get three nights, four days in the Smoky Mountains! Sweet.

Our time away from home has always consisted of trips to see family, business trips, and solo trips where one of us stayed home. We have gone out to dinner a number of times, does that count? Part of our problem has been that it is hard work to plan and take a vacation. It is harder work than just staying home and going to work as usual. And it is costlier than staying home, for the most part. Watching TV away from home can easily costs $100 a night whereas at home, the same amount pays for a whole month! Enough of that, we’re going.

Our destination is close to Gatlinburg, the “gateway to the Smokies”, which sounds lovely to me. I want to wander the quaint streets with occasional glances at the nearby views of mountains and streams. I want to ride the cable tram over the valley.  I want to be a tourist!

One of the days I am promising myself a hike to a waterfall. I have looked at the maps and there are so many trails to choose from I’m going to have a hard time picking just one. Daughter Julia hopes to truck over from North Carolina to hike with me. My new trekking pole doesn’t quite fit in the suitcase we’re taking but the husband is going to find it “necessary” for his stability in the airport, so it’s going.

A late breakfast tomorrow in Gatlinburg. It will be wonderful! The only thing that could ruin it would be if we came back owning a time-share. Just sayin’ … (and prayin’…).

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Encouraged by the message on a flyer in the mail, she set off on a vacation.

Going Again: Cambodia, Rest at Veranda

Why do we rest here? As Trish put it “It never disappoints.”

I took many pictures the last time I stayed at Veranda. It was raining, which made the stone walkways clean and reflective with water, great for photos. This time the weather was perfect for sitting at the pool, taking a hike, thinking and writing in beautiful places.

The jungle is lush and full of noises around our bungalows. A trailing vine is lodged in our bathroom skylight, along with a few small lizards that call it home. Birds fly around in the rafters of Secret Restaurant, accustomed to sneaking into the morning breakfast buffet for some rice or whatever else they can steal. There are so many good views with comfortable seating that I have trouble deciding which one to enjoy.

What makes a place restful? For me it means some things which are decidedly Western, but I am who I am and cannot fool myself into thinking I love to “tough” it all the time.  I like:

  • Reliable wifi, easy to access and in lots of places
  • Security, room locks that work, a safe, reasonable amount of privacy
  • Cleanliness – clean, clean, clean
  • Good maintenance – my air conditioner was leaking water and a man with a ladder was here within minutes, at night, to fix it. Things work that are supposed to work.
  • Good food – there is regular delivery of organic produce, although I don’t know what that means over here
  • Simplicity – the natural stone and wood materials are found everywhere here, the colors are lovely and restful
  • Peaceful people – soft spoken, helpful and courteous, all

Veranda has all this and does it with a difference that clearly reflects the Cambodian culture. It’s not exactly like any place else that I’ve ever been. Love to rest here. Thank you  Cambodia.20170611_170727

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I don’t usually do a lot of bathroom pics, but isn’t this lovely?

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Ordinary Times and Travels: Alki Drive, post 7

Come along. Charlie (the dog) and I are going for a walk.

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A summer shot along the sea wall from Alki Beach.

West Seattle is a peninsula of sorts with a variety of geographical features. In previous visits I’ve posted about the Alki lighthouse, the stairways leading up the steep bluffs, the old growth forest in the interior, and some of the sights along the default exercise walk, Alki Drive. Today, Charlie and I went on that walk just to see what it looked like in winter.  It has been so cold, wet and windy that we were glad to have time outside on a calmer, warmer day.

On Alki Drive one can traverse the western side of West Seattle from the lighthouse and Alki Beach all the way up to the northern point where there is a good view of downtown Seattle across the water. It’s hard to describe in words so you really have to look at a map. Puget Sound has many islands, inlets, peninsulas and bays and is a long body of water. There are some beaches but often the shoreline is rocky and steep. My daughter’s house is only a few blocks from one of the few beach areas so that is where my walk usually starts.

There is the water, a sandy beach which gives way gradually to a cement sea wall, then a wide grass and shrub strip, then the sidewalk for walkers, another strip of shrubbery, the wide paved area for bikers, skaters and long board riders, then the street, the sidewalk again, a row (sometimes two) of dwellings and finally a steep, unbuildable cliff covered with trees and vines. Every once in a while there is enough of an outcropping that someone feels safe attaching houses to it, but the roads to them are narrow, switch-backed and have very inventive parking areas.

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The bluff is not very high here. Another row of houses hanging on up top.

Although it is cold here, it doesn’t freeze hard enough to kill many of the plants and shrubs. There is green grass, many of the trees still have leaves and the houses and condos along Alki Drive looked much like they do in the spring and summer. I passed the monkey tail tree, araucaria araucana, one of the oddest conifers I have ever seen.

This is the thought game I play while I walk past all the small summer houses, the old ones. Many of them are run down, poorly maintained, and some are uninhabited (condemned most likely), in spite of the high priced land they are sitting on. I look at them and plan what I would do first if I lived there. Give me a sledge hammer, some paint, a shovel. They beg me to pull the weeds, pick up trash and simply make them look like someone loves them. I know if they are not fixed up they will soon find themselves replaced with high rise condos.  Some are fixed up and are very cute – showing that it can be done.

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Draw a circle around the one that is not like the others.

The goal today is to walk to the so-called “flower house”. Nestled between two high rises, a small house and adjoining building have become locally famous for being festooned with flowers throughout the summer, extremely festooned. The flower house is right on the sidewalk and the owner has seating for tourists to have their pictures taken surrounded by flowers. I’ve posted photos of my daughter and I in those very seats last year. This winter the décor is more sparse but still lovely.

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On the way back, the house that wins my vote for Christmas prettiness is this one. I choose it mostly because of the blue lights which are my favorites.

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I walk a little further and see another one of my colorful favorites, the Blue Moon Burger joint. They have some crazy good sweet potato fries there.

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One of many eateries lined up along Alki Drive in the beach area.

And then we head inland a couple blocks and are back to Esther’s house, “Ocean’s Arms”, immediately below the path leading into Schmitz Park.  To end, I am showing you a picture of the Star of Bethlehem tree, which you saw in the dark a few nights ago.  This is how it looks in the day, along the walk going up into Schmitz Park. Both pictures are from my bedroom window. We think they must leave the star up there all year, although Esther has not thought to look.

 

Thanks for coming along on my walk down Alki Drive.

Ordinary Times and Travels: St. Marks Cathedral

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We traveled to Capital Hill to St. Marks and experienced this.

This was exactly as described, “quiet night and perfect end”. Esther and I entered the cathedral almost half an hour before the appointed time, but it was already nearly full. We went up to the front and put our blankets on the floor, using the short wall as our back rest. Esther said this was prime seating. In spite of the crowd, the sanctuary was quiet and dark, except for the candles lighting each row and the altar area. We saw the singers assembling.

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The music was old, historic, mysterious, haunting at times, joyful at times, sacred in quality. There are very few opportunities to appreciate the beauty of the chant, of harmonies in a building so acoustically perfect. Part of the experience is being surrounded by others who are also curious, amazed, calmed and blessed by the words and songs.

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pipe organ, back of church

Much of the music was acapella. Occasionally handbells joined the singing. And at the end of the half hour, the pipe organ began to enrich the empty places with tangible layers of sound.

With the departure of the chorus most people filed out quietly, but the organ continued to play. The complexity of the sound demanded that we get a closer look, and there did seem to be people in the organ loft. We found the stair and joined a small group watching the organist. This virtuoso was a young man in plaid flannel, whose fingers flew over the four levels of keys, and whose feet were all but running over the foot pedals. At the finish he stood and bowed slightly, seeming almost embarrassed to be watched.

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not what I was expecting, talent in flannel

I now love the word compline, for its meaning and for the memory of this experience. St. Marks Episcopal Cathedral, Capital Hill, Seattle, WA. You will not be disappointed.

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front of sanctuary