Partner Yoga

17 Feb
This blog post was inspired by a partner yoga class on February 14, Valentine’s Day, at the Lansing Community Center in Lansing, New York.  Brenda D’Angelo is the teacher of this Kripalu Yoga Class.
Partner Yoga
Put your mats side by side; sit back to back.
Interlock your arms, feel the other’s breath.
Now stretch, now lean–first backwards, then forwards.
Come together, come together.
Ask your partner, “Can we move now?”
“Am I hurting you?” “How does it feel?
Always move in sync, always speak your mind.
Come together, come together.
Try a partner twist, then stand up, form two trees.
Now a buddy boat pose, foot to foot,
Do a partner forward-fold, clasp the arms, feet in a V.
Come together, come together.


28 Jan

Harlan and Sukey Brumsted at Bob’s Lake


From lower left, then clockwise, Jimmy, John, Dave, Sukey, Harlan, and Alan Brumsted


I came to know my mother’s best friend, Sukey, when my parents attended Grandma Lela’s November funeral in Monticello.  The edict had come down from my pediatrician that it might not be a good idea for such young children–I was six and my brother was a toddler–to go to a funeral.  As a result, we both ended up in Sukey and Harlan’s house on Cornell Street in Ithaca.   Sukey had been in my life since my beginning, but this stay was my first solid memory of her.  I was full of wonder, not used to a household so dominated by four children of the male species. The house smelled of boys–that mixture of dirt, washed and unwashed clothes, and creatures, living and dead.  Sukey was in perpetual motion in the house; it seemed like she never sat down and was always doing laundry.  I didn’t always know what to do with myself during the visit, so I often found myself climbing upstairs and going into the room of the oldest boy, David.  She was one of the people who taught me to float–at Flat Rock, no less and she did try to teach me how to sew, a session which ended in tears on my part, because I didn’t understand what she wanted me to do.
Harlan was in Natural Resources and his son became a collector of butterflies and moths, carefully pinning and mounting them in what I remember to be display cases.  The other boys were less formed at that point, especially Jimmy, who was my brother’s age.    One of my most embarrassing moments during my stay came when I was playing with the boys outside.  I didn’t know how to play with boys, so when Alan and some of the boys from the neighborhood pantomimed peeing on their bicycles, I pretended I had a penis, too, and copied them.  Alan thought this was hysterical.  “Did you see what she just did?” he laughed and I was mortified.
Mom and Sukey’s relationship dated back to their days as Cornell students and sorority sisters.  One day Mom was sitting on the wall next to the campus store and a friendly girl walked over to her and said “hello.”  That was Sukey Call.  Mom became the little sister to Sukey’s big sister in Delta Gamma. Sukey took Mom to Batavia, New York to meet her family and see the family farm, which was originally a dairy farm and now grows veg crops.  Mom has categorized the Calls as friendly, confident, and highly intelligent.  When Sukey showed Mom around the farm, she lamented the days when she grew turkeys, but she was close to her family, and that impressed my mother.  After they graduated from Cornell, they both came back to Ithaca with their spouses.  A letter from Sukey to Mom at the time is signed, “Love, Sukey,” and talks about Harlan attending Cornell to achieve his PhD in Natural Resources.
Sukey was always considered to be a wonderful hostess and there was no difference with me, even though I was six.  I’d been shocked when I heard that my Grandmother Lela was dead, and, all of the sudden, here I was in this vivacious woman’s house having a completely different experience from a funeral.  Her most unique physical characteristic was the way her conversation was punctuated with laughter.  She would throw out her hands to greet you and laugh, and then say hello, and then laugh again. One day she took me for a ride in the car and I said, “Mrs. Brumsted,” and then I asked her a question.  She said, “Just call us Sukey and Harlan,” and I always did after that.  That marked an important moment in my life.  Even though her relationship with my mother would always come first, I realized that this was the family that wasn’t biological, but still was family and I would always be a part of that.
In many ways theirs was a relationship based on similarities.  They moved through their lives in tandem. Both of them had majored in different subjects in what was then called Home Economics at Cornell.  They were both allowed by their parents to go to school where they wanted to and had parents who expected them to do well.  When you walked into a room and they were there, they were among the best-looking people and you were able to hear their voices above the din.  It has always surprised me that such dominant personalities meshed, but it was always a working friendship.  Sukey was Mom’s “big sister,” so not surprisingly she started having children first, but two of her children were the same age as me and my brother.  My mother and Sukey were literally so close in timing with one of their pregnancies that Sukey took over my mother’s bed in the hospital, where Mom had given birth to Barth, to give birth to Jimmy.  Significantly, the two boys were to become friends.
Every Christmas Eve our families met after church at the Brumsted home, which was now a palatial stone house in Cayuga Heights.  Everyone was dressed up because we had just come home from church and back then people wore their very best on such occasions.  Of particular note was the clothing Harlan and my dad wore.  They always paid attention to their appearance: Harlan was the only son of a haberdasher (an older term that Harlan used meaning a seller of men’s clothing) in Batavia and my father was so tall that my grandparents had his clothes made for him by a tailor.  The suits they wore fit perfectly and their ties were silk and exquisite, maybe not what you would expect from two small-town boys.
The Christmas Eve exchange has as much to do with food and drink as it did with good conversation.  Harlan served an array of drinks including spiked eggnog, whiskey sours, bloody marys, gin and tonics, and vodka tonics.  He took great enjoyment in listing all his offerings.  His whisky sours were the best I’ve ever had.  Our food included Christmas cookies from both families, crackers with herring sauce or cheddar cheese atop, and shrimp.  Our family exchanged grapefruit from Florida, all sectioned by my father in preparation for Christmas morning, for a breakfast ring from Sukey.  This Christmas I was very aware of Sukey’s passing when breakfast came around.
When both couples were in their fifties, they accompanied each other on a plane for Munich that left out of New York City.  It was the occasion of my parents’ thirty-fifth wedding anniversary and Sukey’s sister, Liz, was designing a professional kitchen in Munich.  When they got on the plane, the stewardess informed them that the seating arrangements had been based on the passengers from a previous flight, and that even though they had tickets, they needed to sit down immediately to make sure they stayed on the plane.  Thinking quickly, Harlan said, “Well, that’s good to know, because my wife is pregnant.”  She still looked good enough to pass for a much younger woman, but she was furious with him, right on the spot.
Once they arrived at the hotel, they took time to recuperate and then all three couples joined together for dinner at the hotel.  A German man named Herman, who had rented my parents’ apartment, arrived in a tux with a bunch of Gerber daisies and a menu that he had designed himself.  Of course, he did this to celebrate the anniversary.  The Brumsteds helped us mark a number of important dates.  They were present at my brother’s wedding in Ohio, the location of which made the number of guests from New York rather skimpy.  Sukey participated in my father’s funeral in a way that was uniquely hers.  When I was getting ready to iron the pants that my father would wear when he was laid out, Sukey grabbed them, saying, “I have a lot of experience ironing men’s pants.”  She said this with verve and a laugh.  At the graveyard, when no one knew what to say when the minister asked for comments, she piped up, “He was a great dancer!” , which was a perfect summation of my father.
As in every relationship, there were some disagreements.  One went back to an incident that occurred at Shackleton Point.  From what I remember it was my birthday, but my chief memory of the day is that Alan bit me.  I might have been six or seven.  When we were visiting Sukey at the hospital during the early part of her illness, somehow that topic came up and apparently it was still a matter of contention.  “Alan did not bite Kathy,” Sukey said with high irritation. At the funeral, I mentioned the incident and Alan said, “I probably did bite you.”  He was with his daughter and she said that she was known as a biter when she was a toddler, and to emphasize her point she opened and shut her mouth, showing her perfectly  straight white teeth several times.  That day in the hospital, when the topic came up, David and I just rolled our eyes at each other, as in “Here we go again.”
In the last months of Sukey’s life, Mom went to visit her and I sometimes came along. It was a strong relationship that had lasted throughout their lives.  Initially she brought flowers, but at the very end she just brought herself.  One of the last things that Sukey said to Mom will always stay with me: “Friendship doesn’t end at death.”




The tree frog & the kangaroo mouse

10 Dec

This is a blog post from a friend of mine, Claire Perez..

19 years on a farm….

In the Fall of 2012, my husband started mowing down our squash patch.  Usually full of acorn squash, butternuts and a variety of gourds, this particular year the patch produced almost nothing.  The occasional relief from a summer drought did not provide enough rain for this low-lying patch of earth.

Before beginning to mow, Radames glanced around to see what creatures might be hiding among the bent stalks and drying leaves.  Creatures looking for seeds and other vegetation.  He spotted a grass frog, also called a leopard frog, and tried to get it away from the mower, but it jumped into the mower deck shoot.  Radames stopped the mower and grabbed the frog.  He walked it over to the pond and was about to throw it in when  he envisioned the bass and thought “Why save the frog just for the bass’s dinner.” He proceeded…

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Grandma Lela

18 Nov


Janet, Grandma Lela, Grandpa, Johnny, Bruce, and Kathy


Janet, Kathy, Karen

A couple days ago I went searching through the card box looking for a blank card, only to find four letters written to my parents by my Grandma Lela Mapes in the months before her death. The letters are written in a sloping, elegant style I associate with my father, and each letter is headed with the day and time, but not the date. Her sister, Becky, has decided that she must not be told she has cancer, but the letters reveal an ever-encroaching awareness that she is very sick. She doesn’t know about the cancer, but she does know she is getting progressively weaker. I’ve covered the background of these events in my grandparents’ lives before, but suffice it to say that the letters reflect that the State of New York had taken half of their land through the power of eminent domain and they are still living on the confiscated piece when she writes the letters. My grandparents’ bedroom slowly becomes her sick bed.

The threatening legal maneuvers of the state face my grandparents and my aunt and uncle, who live together with each family living in one half of the old-fashioned side-by-side. Grandma Lela relates this predicament in a straightforward manner in a letter written on Thursday at 2:30 pm: “We were all served with summons again yesterday telling us we were living her illegally. There will be a hearing in the court September 17 to show why we have not vacated and why we should be here.” My mother was present during one of the times a process server came to the house. She told me that when the man said he needed to serve Lela Mapes, Grandpa said he would kill him if he got near her. She had never heard Grandpa, who was a gentle man, talk that way. The next day Grandpa went to the judge and made arrangements for her to die in her own house. It was clear she wasn’t going to make it to the new one.

In the same letter Grandma reports that “the men are putting up the forms for the foundation but I don’t think the foundation will be poured this week.” In the meantime she is happily choosing bathroom fixtures, a bath tub, and tiles. She didn’t live long enough to see them. One bathroom was tiled blue with pink towels; the other was tiled in pink with blue towels. The blue bathroom contained the tub, and, as my mother always reminded me, the long wooden bench that was chosen by Grandma so her grandchildren could sit down when they toweled themselves off.

All of the letters contain references to her grandchildren. Unfortunately, she was never to meet my cousins, Corinne and John, or her six great-grandchildren. In this letter she is taking a strong interest in my schooling and that of my cousin, Bruce. She says, “I am so glad that Kathy was anxious to go to school. Does the school pick her up at the door, or does she walk to a central point.” My Aunt Alice has told her that “Bruce’s grade [is] going to try and do a year and one half in one year. . . . Maybe they won’t have time at the end of the year just reading comic books.” She finishes her thoughts with “Friday morning. A beautiful day. Plenty of rain in the night. Dad is waiting for me so good by for now. Love to all, Mother.”

However, even as she became more ill, my grandmother focuses on the foundation of their new house on the remaining land. One Wednesday at 7:30 pm, she writes, “I think–I hope–everything is ready for the foundation to be poured tomorrow. It has seemed an interminable length of time getting it ready but they have worked steadily on it and I never realized the detail that is involved in getting forms ready. It doesn’t look as though they skimped or cut corners in doing it and it should be very sound when it is done. If they pour the cement tomorrow, Dad says they probably won’t do any more on the house this week as it takes several days to dry.” Even though she is headed toward the end of her life, she is making decisions about her future house.

Behind all this is a deeper anxiety about being evicted: “Tomorrow is the date of the court hearing. Bill said none of us needed to go unless Dad wanted to. Guess their office has prepared some affidavits.” This concern is accompanied by her frustration with her family who were reluctant to have her take care of my cousin, Karen, while my Aunt Carol and Uncle Bill were on vacation: “Alice and Becky are going to look after Karen. I want to help too, but they are still carrying me around on a silver platter.”

In her next letter, headed with the inscription, Wednesday, 10 pm, she initially seems much more relaxed.  Her sister, Becky, and daughter-in-law, Alice (my aunt), have held a Smorgasbord at the church and raised $430.  Other people are taking care of Karen, but she finally gets her hands on her: “Karen seems to be enjoying her vacation too.  Becky took care of her from Fri till yesterday morning, then Dad and I went to Wanaksink and then brought her home and looked after her yesterday afternoon and today and Alice will probably take over tomorrow.”

She’s getting out with Grandpa and Ida, her sister, on a Sunday outing to the Forstman Estate at Claryville, where the New Jersey Y.M.C.A. has taken over and built a new conference center, and on a Monday visit they drive to see a Mr. Brimelow, whose wife had just died, but admits “I overdid a little Sunday and Monday and haven’t been feeling so brisk.” Later she says, “Guess I’m not the gal I used to be, it seemed to be too much for me.”  Her health must have given the coming move a new urgency: “Did I tell you we must vacate here by Dec. 31st?  When I think of everything that has to be done between now and then, I want to give up.”

Still, she continues to focus on her grandchildren. I am the next one she mentions in the letter: “Jack asked me the other day if you had said anything about Kathy’s eyes lately. He seems to think they are better. What do you think?” She closes the letter with “Love and kisses to that little school girl and her brother.” But she can’t end without a P.S.: “Tell Kathy I’d like to see her without her teeth.”

I’m not sure if she did see me “without my teeth,” but I did see her in the final months. The moments  I remember are like the letters–dateless. One time we drove to Monticello to visit her and she waved to us from the balcony of her room in the hospital like a queen–she was about three stories up, so I couldn’t touch her. There were strange attitudes about visiting patients in hospitals back in those days. Many years later, when  our Grandfather Mapes was nearing the end, my cousin, Corinne, climbed into his room through the hospital window. I guess she was just more enterprising. On another occasion, when I visited the Old House, I found Grandma  in her bedroom, surrounded by big oxygen tents and too many people. She had beautiful white hair and I remember how it looked as she lay there among the pillows.  I feel as though the letters help to fill in some of the blanks concerning what I didn’t know at the time.

The last of the letters, headed Wednesday, 7:15 pm, reveals the gravity of her situation.  She is now bedridden: “The Doctor was here this morning, he has only come every other day since Saturday, said to continue to take my medicine and stay in bed.  To tell the truth, that’s what I want to do.  He said I had three patches of pneumonia but was now more in the pleurisy stage.”  The extent of her confinement becomes obvious one day when she is left alone and one of my father’s work friends from Cornell drops by.  She admits to being frustrated because she cannot go downstairs to greet him: “I heard someone around the house that day and saw a car drive out of the driveway but I didn’t attempt to go downstairs to find out who it was as I knew I wasn’t supposed to.”  Her handwriting looks smaller  on the page in comparison to the three previous letters.  I don’t know if that is because of her fading health or the fact that she is using a smaller piece of stationery.  The construction of the house continues: “The four men, two Averys and two Couch’s are working steadily on the house.”

I was only six years old when she died, but remember her well, partly I think because she had such a lively personality and partly because she was so interested in her grandchildren.  At the beginning of the last letter, she wonders  what gifts my parents have bought with  Grandpa’s and  her money: “Our telephone visit interrupted so quickly Monday that I didn’t find out what you shopped for in Rochester, I only know you each got one thing.  Do you suppose it will be ‘continued in the next’ or will it be a mystery ‘whodunit’ that leaves you guessing.”  I cannot help but ponder if she was talking about the Great Beyond or just being whimsical.


Sunflowers at Flat Rock

11 Oct


Today after doing my run-walk around Cornell Plantations, I read a couple chapters of my mystery and made my way down to Flat Rock, which is part of Fall Creek and runs alongside the gardens. On the way across the road, I picked up a Wooly Bear caterpillar that will freeze during the winter and later become a Tiger Moth.

I have been trying to figure out how to take pictures of the blue heron chicks that I have seen their parents superintending every day but today when I walked by. I took a picture of these sunflowers instead.

More of Bern, More of Aare River, University of Bern

28 Sep

Coleman looking casual. He’s my nephew-in-law, having married Anna over a year ago. He’s pretty much unflappable. All the way through the trip he helped my mother into our rented van. Sometimes he actually lifted her in.


Hannah and Joe are two of Gwynne’s colleagues at the University of Bern. Hannah is from Norfolk, England and Joe is from Australia. Joe visited with Barth and Rhonda for Christmas in Ithaca, New York last year, where he was able to enjoy wearing the same pajamas everyone else wore.   Gwynne is getting her doctorate in Linguistics.


Gwynne Mapes’s Office–We all wanted to see where my oldest niece worked.


This is a picture taken last winter of Gwynne in her office.


My nieces Rebecca and Meghan are looking at the view outside Gwynne’s Office.


Library at University of Bern


Evangelical Reform Church with Tower, View from Gwynne’s Window


Closer View of Clock Tower

Soldier on Tram


Mom and Me in Bern

Drain in Bern.jpg

When we went shopping in Old Town, I stood on this center drain in the middle of the street.  I had never seen a drain in the center.  I could hear rushing  water beneath my feet and wondered if the Aare was underneath the city as well as around it.



Gwynne and Rhonda, my sister-in-law, walking in Old Town


Upper View of Buildings in Old Town


Rebecca in Munster Cathedral


Coleman and Rhonda in Munster Cathedral


Munster Cathedral in Bern


Munster Cathedral in Bern 2


You can’t have a capital city called Bern without Bern (bears). I haven’t decided exactly how I feel about bears being in a zoo, but these bears–there were about five–have a good set-up. I noticed that the caretaker placed food around the small park they live in to get them to move around for the tourists. I’d be curious to know if they live longer in zoos or in the wild. Because of bear hunts, it isn’t an easy question to answer.


More bears!


This is a picture of me with Bern in the background. After we saw the bears, we took a short hike  to the top of a nearby hill.


Picture taken in same spot.


Same spot. You can see the Aare River.


Probably best picture at this site.


This is the spot outside Bern where everyone relaxes after going swimming. There are two swimming pools and a diving pool. Evidently, the Swiss have fewer hang ups about nudity because men and women are together in the changing rooms and no one pays any attention.
If you look at the lower right of the picture, you will see my party near the greenish-yellow umbrella. Mom is reading. The others are in swim suits
The two large pools are well laid out, which is in keeping with the emphasis on order I observed in the rest of the country.


Same area, pointing the camera a different direction. You can see the Capitol Building (Bundeshaus or Federal Palace)  in the background.


Swimmer in Aare River.  Note the railings on the right-hand side of the frame.


Another Swimmer in Aare River.

A weekend activity that residents of Bern are drawn to is swimming in the Aare. The idea is to jump in and navigate to the middle where there are fewer rocks. The water speed is very fast (at least faster than any rivers I’ve been in ) and the water temperature averages around 62 degrees. That is very cold. To give you a frame of reference, Cayuga Lake, next to Ithaca, New York where I live, is 72 degrees right now, and while you can still engage in water activities,  most people would choose not to.  Many swimmers hug onto beach balls or sit on rubber rafts. Six or seven sets of stairs are located on the left-hand side of the river. When you get tired, you are supposed to grab the railings and pull yourself up the stairs on the bank.

When I jumped in, I immediately realized that it is was too cold for me. After about twenty feet I swam to the side and scrambled up the bank, asking for help. A woman came and gave me a hand.   Sometimes I think it’s good to know your limits. I love swimming, but I did not love the temp. I had huge scrapes on my left leg the rest of the trip.



Bern, Focus on Gurten

22 Sep


Gurten is located just below the lower left-hand corner of the map. It is directly south of Bern. My niece,  Gwynne, has marked off a number of places, including the restaurant where we had dinner with Hans and Ulla.
>Michelin map



The Aare River is probably the most striking of all Bern’s fantastic features due to its unreal shade of green and awesome speed.  The average temperature of the water is 62 degrees. The houses with their terra cotta roofs are not unlike those we observed in northern Italy.  I would call Bern picturesque if it were not for the river, which struck me as unearthly and powerful.

Anna at Bern Restaurant.jpg

I love this picture of Anna.  She looks so pretty and it is a typical pose of hers. 

Hans and Ulla Olsen came from Denmark via Zurich to see us and they were in the restaurant, Lötschberg, that night.  It was probably the most expensive restaurant we went to, which brings up one problem in Switzerland, the high cost of dining out. Actually the time I ordered a second carafe of wine might have been the most expensive meal.  :>)

Hans is our former Danish exchange student through the Rotary program and a good friend of my brother, Barth.  Mom insisted that he sit next to her.  Hans is often the life of the party so that was a good choice.

Hans and Barth enjoyed many adventures across the U.S.A., including almost getting run over by a beach machine in Nantucket at a beach where they stayed overnight and staying fed in Las Vegas by partaking of the free food at the casinos.

Mom and Hans

I sat next to Ulla, who was quite entertaining.

Ulla Olson, Rebecca, and Rhonda

The next day the twelve of us took a hike up Gurten, a hill or what Mom referred to as the “small, old-looking mountain,” which looked squashed like one of the Catskills, outside the city.  Because of the arthritis in my knees, I was often behind my family on other hikes, so I appreciated the fact that Ulla stayed with me.  I thought we might run out of topics, but we seemed to do fine discussing banking, Swizz farming, and such.


I mentioned in another blog that the Swiss are very neat farmers–their grass is closely cropped and well-sculpted.  This farm was a more contemporary farm with John Deere-type machinery.  I wish I had taken a picture of one machine to make my point.



At this point in going up the hill, I turned to look back at Bern.  Even though it is only 2,815 feet high, I came to feel every single one of the feet by the time I reached the top. The Swiss refer to what you can see close up in this picture as the Bernese Oberland (the higher part of the Bernese canton, south of Bern.)

About halfway up we came across a dairy farm. The curious thing for someone like me with relatives who were farmers was the lack of any farmers to talk to or actual farming taking place. It looked like a model farm, the kind you play with as a child. The smell of manure wasn’t even that strong. Of course, these are heifers.



Dairy Farm on Gurten 3.jpg

You can see my family way up the road. The thing I couldn’t quite compute was the cylinder of what looked like wet hay to the right in the picture.

Sean Petting Cat on Gurten.jpg

We all stopped to pet a kitty, including Sean, Gwynne’s boyfriend. Gwynne was not around to observe him. My oldest niece is definitely a dog person.


Ulla Olson on the clim up Gurten.jpg

Ulla, my hiking companion, is always decked out in the latest fashion.  When I first met her, in Ithaca at a fancy restaurant, she had on a very short dress and boots.


Anna claimed I looked like Paddington in my sun hat.


Nearing the Top of Gurten


My niece Rebecca looking stylish (note the stripes), her father and my brother, Barth, talking.  They are standing near the gondola that Mom and Hans, always a gentleman, took with her both ways.  I took it going down.  Everyone complained about the downward trip, making me thankful I’d chosen not to walk downhill.



This is a picture from the Bern Tourism website.

The Gurten, a belvedere or summer house at the top of Gurten is quite striking, but what really made us interested was the wedding with its fifties theme: the girls in poodle skirts and pony tails.