Our consolation

Franconia Notch State Park, a place of refreshing solitude.  May 2009

New Hampshire’s Franconia Notch State Park, a place of refreshing solitude.  May 2009

“Gladly do we quit the dust and din …to go and breathe peacefully in some far-off nook of the woods, all surprise that the brook is so limpid, the forest so still, the solitude so enchanting. Thank God there are yet these uninvaded corners…The realm of silence is vaster than the realm of noise. Herein is our consolation.”
Charles Wagner

One year ago I quoted a different passage from this same work by Wagner, noting the irony that his words were penned over 100 years ago, before the onslaught of electronic stimulation we face today.  The need for quiet places to find solace in nature seems a timeless and universal trait of humans.

Today, I hope you will grab your planner and prioritize a time this afternoon, this week or this month to step outside your routine obligations and bask in the enchanting solitude Wagner describes.  It may not be urgent, but it has always been important.

One year ago today:

Souls yearn


  1. bobmielke

    A certain amount of peace & tranquility can be found within ourselves. I find a respite at the zoo, interacting with the animals, flowers and trees. I’m perfectly happy hiking to the top or base of waterfalls. The sound of rushing water has its own tranquil affect.

    • I totally love the sounds of water — rainfalls, creeks, oceans. The creek behind our Alexandria home makes a lovely sound after heavy rains, loud enough that we can hear it from our deck or porch, or with the windows open. I figured out long ago that most anything from nature — animals, trees, flowers, the sound of wind in the trees, even just the green of the grass — was the best stress relief around for me. I really miss our dog (who died June 30 after 16 years with us) and I hope when life settles down a bit, we can adopt another one. He was a great comfort in tough times. I can imagine that being with the zoo animals is peaceful too — or at least interesting! 😀

  2. raynard

    Julia, I can just go to the river next to my job.( Delaware River where Dupont was founded) I dont still know why people”swim in that water”Next to a chemical plant … I digress While going to the beach is somewhat the same, you dont see any trees( unless you are in the desert lol). I feel “my first cup of Joe calling… Be blessed and have a great day…..

    • Raynard, you would not catch me getting in that river (or really, probably not in any river) but I love to watch them. We have a beach nearby on the York River and it has some trees not too far away, but some would argue that’s not a “real” beach. When I’m staying in the hospital with Matt or Jeff I typically live on coffee, but your comment reminded me I haven’t had any yet (they don’t keep it free on tap here like they do at Walter Reed/Bethesda, so I have to brew my own, one cup at a time, hee-hee) I think it’s calling me too! Have a great week this week – I wish you lovely weather!

  3. Longing for a break… Teachers are lucky in that way. The summer vacation begins in less than two months. But these is the toughest months in terms of the weather. That photo really soothes.

    • These are the best months for us in terms of weather, except perhaps in the autumn – I wish I could send you some of our springtime! Is it already getting hot there? I used to hate those last few weeks of the school year when the weather would turn warm and it felt very restless to be stuck in a classroom all day. I used to envy teachers those two months off but from watching my sister, it seems that her summer vacation flies by and if anything she stays even busier during those months. But at least it’s a different kind of busy! Hope the next few weeks pass easily and happily for you!

    • Rene

      These are the toughest months in terms of the students, as well!

      • Yes, I can well imagine that they would be! Teaching has to be one of the most demanding jobs out there.

  4. MaryAnn

    As I mentally put my feet in this soothing stream, I am praising our Lord for His Creation!
    Matt is on my mind constantly, I continue in prayer for “my” Dentons. Thanks for the updates as you respond to your bloggers.

    • Mary Ann, you’re welcome. Matt’s surgeon was just by and seems pleased with how Matt is doing overall. He said he thought Matt would certainly be able to leave the CICU by tomorrow, which is encouraging. He believes some of the nausea is due to the pain meds which have to be continued as long as he is on the chest tubes, but that should get better with time, especially if they are able to disconnect the chest tubes soon. Matt’s adult congenital cardiologist and EP (electrophysiology) cardiologist and NP have also been here, so he’s getting lots of close attention and I’m getting some reassuring feedback. Thanks so much for your thoughts and prayers.

  5. Sheila

    Julia, although I don’t quite know the setting there, I can imagine when you’re able to step away from Matt’s bedside, you find that spot of solitude and comforting consolation. When I read about the medical team, the expertise, the nurses, the love and caring, I just want to shout, “Thank you, Lord”… And that’s from my heart!

    • Thank you, Sheila, I feel the same way. It take a special kind of stamina and caring to be an ICU nurse, not to mention the doctors like Matt’s cardiologists who have been on this case literally 7 days per week, no real days off for them. I am so happy to have you sharing our joys and sorrows, as well as our gratitude. ❤

  6. Amy

    Just checking in on you. Praying all is well tonight and reading the above comment I am encouraged. Love you all.

    • Amy, things are SOOOO much better than they were two days ago. A few more bumps in the road today, but lots of caring medical professionals on hand to help us through them, and plentiful smiles and optimism all around. Thanks for caring and for your prayers. Love you too!

  7. Carolyn Miller

    Glad to hear that things are coming along with Matt. I know that this is a tough time for you and Jeff. Hope he can leave the CICU soon. We love you all and prayers are always going up for you.Tell Matt hello for me. Hugs and love to all.

    • Thank you Carolyn, we hope he can leave the CICU today. Hugs to you too! ❤ Matt says "I love you Ms. Carolyn, I have been praying for you at night, I pray for Mr. Terry too."

  8. Michael

    I mentioned last week our stair walk in Volunteer park, Seattle. At the top of the water tower is a display about the Olmsted brothers who designed many parks in Seattle and most famously Central Park in NYC. They wanted to create-“sanctuaries of solitude to escape the din of the city.” We owe them such a debt-never to be repaid, but at least we can visit their creations.

    • Between them and their father, they designed a great many of the most famous parks in America. It’s interesting to me that sports stars and movie celebrities are more honored or at least remembered by most of us than they are, but as you say, we owe a lot to their vision and foresight. These places they helped to provide are even more important now than they were when they were first created, in my opinion.

  9. Michael

    Teddy Roosevelt also comes to mind and his passion for the outdoors and preservation of same for generations to come.
    I hope you will write a book someday-memoir- about your journey- through the medical maze. How many can say they have walked the dark hallways of cancer and serious cardiac conditions? As if they would want to. You have enlightened me much on cardiac disease and I had no idea that the artificial valves have to be replaced on a regular basis. And the tricuspid valve is the most tricky-right? “Anatomy of an iIlness from the standpoint of the patient ,” was a memoir I came across just this last summer in NYC and it opened my eyes to a number of issues, the importance of the placebo affect notwithstanding. The placebo affect and its hidden power is more a force than we know. It’s relation to faith is obvious. But faith is more than a placebo? Someone we know might say, “I digress.”

    Yes, tell me what Michael Jordan has done for our environment?

    • It’s possible that TR’s greatest achievement was his influence on the preservation of our country’s natural resources, including most notably the National Park System. He backs up the oft-asserted claim that hunters are actually the most ardent conservationists. Based on the hunters I’ve known, I’d say that statement is easy to defend. As with all such things, hunters as a group are sometimes identified with its worst and most irresponsible members, but I have never known anyone more enamored of nature (and animals in particular) than my father and brothers, all hunters.

      Anatomy of an illness by Norman Cousins is among a handful of books that come to mind when the question “has a book every changed your life?” is raised. I read it decades ago and so much that I had long believed (especially as regards the very real power of the placebo effect, as well as the importance of laughter) was clearly articulated in that classic work. It crystallized what little I knew up to that point, and has been tested and validated by my experiences in the years following first reading.

      As soon as Jeff was diagnosed, I gave him my old but still readable copy of the book and asked him to read it. It was the first thing he read in chemotherapy as the IV was pumping toxins into his body. I hope it has helped him and will continue to help him. I find the closing words especially powerful: “It all began, I said, when I decided that some experts don’t really know enough to make a pronouncement of doom on a human being. And I said I hoped they would be careful about what they said to others; they might be believed and that could be the beginning of the end.” – Norman Cousins, Anatomy of an Illness: As Perceived by the Patient

  10. What a gorgeous spot you’ve shared in your photograph here Julia. Almost like a dream. It is really hard to find these quit spots anywhere in the city. We’re very fortunate to have a great park system next to the river away from the hustle and bustle (we’ll be living very near it too), but you can still hear the din of the city in the distance. One of my favourite ways to get away, is to put on my iPod and create something in the Boom-room. Just me, myself and some tunes. I can’t hear the phone, but that’s ok, they’ll leave a message. There’s actually a bit of a controversy brewing in Banff National Park right now. A new attraction that takes you out over a glass bridge in the park (just like Grande Canyon) is drawing critics. Naturalists (me included) feel the park should be free of this kind of commercialism and left to nature and man, who’s willing to hike to these vista’s for their photo ops. At 20 million dollars to construct, they’re hoping to draw tourist to the park because attendance is down. I could have told them how to draw tourists and not spend a dime doing it. Lowering lodging rates and dining prices would go a long way. It’s robbery what they charge through-out the park. I feel too many businesses take advantage of the local to make hay. Who’s going to enjoy paying $25.00 a plate for burgers and fries? Many families (including us) refuse to be taken advantage of and just drive through the park, maybe take a day hike but find accommodation much more affordable outside the park gates. Sad but true. The park experience should be accessible and affordable to EVERYONE, after all this land belongs to ALL Canadians.

    • I never saw the glass bridge at the Grand Canyon but it does seem like one of those things that would be way more attractive from the inside than from the outside. One good thing about it is that it will make such sights more accessible to those with mobility impairments, but it seems as if there could be other solutions to that — probably even free helicopter rides would cost less than building such a permanent structure that sort of creates a visual blight on the park’s beauty. It’s kind of tacky to turn such places into tourist attractions to raise revenue. At least they don’t plan to put a casino in? (I hope not, but that seems to be another popular way to get money.)

      I agree with you that it’s regrettable how expensive the fees are in “public” places. I know that Yosemite was having a hard time at one point with overcrowding; I don’t know if Banff is having the same situation, but I guess keeping prices high prevents having so many people that it destroys some of the peace people come there to enjoy. We made the mistake of going to Yosemite during spring break one year, and it felt somewhat incongruous to have Disney-style crowds everywhere in these beautiful, once remote natural splendors. It just didn’t have the same calming effect with lumbering tour buses and noisy chatter everywhere. Perhaps one answer would be to have a reservation system of some sort so that fees could be lower while preventing having such big crowds as to threaten the beauty of the park (the more crowded it gets, the more problems with things such as safety, waste disposal, etc.). In Hawaii we used to get “kama’aina rates” that allowed locals to visit many attractions for a lower cost. I think that is a good idea too, since local people sometimes could not afford to see the beautiful spots in their own home state.

  11. You have a couple of sensible ideas there J. I can’t imagine why the Federal Gov’t decision makers can’t come up with these things. When we enter the park gates, anyone who wants to stop in the park pays a fee. Whether you’re stopping for lunch, a hike or overnight it’s the same fee. I gladly pay it or even double to maintain the public areas, roads, hiking trail and scenic lookouts. You can even buy an annual pass which is great if you live close enough to visit often or travel to BC a lot. I just don’t really get the feeling the businesses cater much to the average Canadian family anymore, which is disappointing. We find pricing is over the top and it’s just two of us. I can’t imagine a family dining out. They probably have to go for fast food.

    Sounds like spring break is not a great time to travel anywhere. That’s a shame it was so crowded in Yosemite. Mr B and I were in Disneyland once, super crowded and we found out it was spring break. Then we got married on April 12th and hit the coast of Texas after marrying in Dallas, again spring break…LOL, we’re slow learners.

    • To make things worse, spring break is hard to predict since different places have it at different times. It’s totally crazy. We’ll have to make sure NOBODY is on spring break when you and Alys come.

      When our boys were little we pretty much NEVER ate out except at the kind of restaurants where kids eat free, hee-hee. Not exactly high brow. Fortunately I have very plebian taste in food – my favorite restaurant is Cracker Barrel and I’ve already discussed my addiction to Cheez-its. But it does bother me how much such things cost now. I cringe to think how much debt young families would have to pile up to take even moderately priced vacations. Just one-week passes to Disney now cost more than an entire vacation used to cost us when ours were little. OK I’d better stop, I’m sounding like a old woman again. One good thing about vacationing in DC is a whole lot of stuff is free, as long as you don’t try to park a car anywhere or eat out anyplace really nice. At least you can stay at Chez Denton where the price is right 😀 .

      • I like that word ‘plebian’ and had to Google it. I guess I’m a bit the same but in a very limited way. I’m really bad because I never want try anything new. There’s limited vegetarian menu items at most restaurants, so I generally order the same thing at each. I don’t eat fancy, in fact my favourite meal out is french toast or pancakes but I can’t always talk Mr B into breakfast at dinner time.

        It’s so nice of you to extend an invite to Chez Denton. I think we will have to insist on an accommodation near by. You have more than enough on your daily plate sweet Julia without two house guests milling about. I know from 25 years of lakeside living, where company is a given, no matter how much you say, “make yourself at home”, you’re still in hostess mode the entire time. How about we spoil you for the week? I think you deserve it more than anyone I know xoK

        • No worries, you won’t have time to be milling about much, and I am legendary for being an inattentive hostess 🙂 so you might be fending for yourself more than you realize! Seriously, we have lots of room so we’ll have to re-visit this question as the time draws nearer. 😀

          • 😀 That sounds great! Oh BTW, Alys and I have both admitted to snoring…LOL

            • Well that just means one of you can have the bedroom downstairs, and one can have the sofa bed in the den downstairs! But you will still have to share the bathroom. 😀

  12. Michael

    I really only read this book last summer at St. Luke’s hospital in Manhattan. It is one of the books in the chaplain’s library. I don’t have a copy and really should get one. It really is a life changing book with a message that is really revolutionary. So many patients I meet have no idea of what their disease is about, are passive about their illness, dependent on their doctors-“I don’t know they have not told me yet,” and take little responsibility or initiative in their treatment.
    Did you happen to hear NPR interview on Posman’s (sp?) bookstores in Manhattan? They are growing and adding new stores. Life lesson: they realized with the closing of many Border’s stores- it is a different world and you can’t have the same store in every city doing the same thing-so they focus on niche needs. No McDonalds approach here. Their store in Grand Central caters to travelers and their store in Chelsea -near the Chelsea market -has many, many items centered around the world of cookery. Very smart- four stores now in Manhattan and I had not heard of them.
    I am at the cabin. The grass is over one foot high. It will take some time to mow.

    • Michael, the importance of Cousins’ book only grows as health care becomes more and more complex and ever-changing. As provider have less and less time with each patient, taking responsibility for directing one’s own health care is crucial (for those who have the ability to do it; others will rely on assertive advocates or suffer the consequences of falling through the cracks of a well-meaning but inadequate system).

      I was happy to hear about Posman’s. One thing that bothers me about all these enormous stores (though I loved Borders, and generally find consistency comforting and familiar) is that places are losing a lot of what made them unique. At one time each city had its unique department stores. NYC had Macy’s and Gimbel’s; Atlanta had Rich’s and Davison’s; DC had Woodward & Lothrop and Hecht’s, and so on. Now everywhere you go it’s just Macy’s. New York used to be magical and fabulous because there were so many things you could do there and only there; now pretty much any big city has the full spectrum of shows, concerts, global cuisine eateries, etc. That’s a good thing in terms of having such things accessible to everyone, but I miss the days when big cities were not so alike. I think every place still has its unique charms, but they might require more time “off the beaten path” to find and appreciate.

      One foot high grass! Jeff would freak out. Maybe you can borrow a riding mower (if you don’t have one) or hire it out.

Thanks for encouraging others by sharing your thoughts:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: