Back at home now a week following my month-long travels to Wisconsin and five days in Maine, I am visited with memories that appear in my mind’s eye.

From Wisconsin, it is the genuine kindness I found to be universally true among the people I met and stayed with. The pride in gardens of hydrangeas, Black-eyed Susans, and coneflowers. The intoxicating scent of fresh corn on the cob. Rolling hills and limestone outcrops. Appreciating deep ties and friendship with Gretchen B. and her daughter Teddy, Ann, Kris and Rusty, Tom and Megan, and TraceyJoy. Rediscovering my deep roots to Wisconsin, the place of my birth, I felt content and free to be.

A Wisconsin map keyring. Note the thumb on the right. That’s Door County.
Zinnias and Black-eyed Susans at Garden Door, run by UW Master Gardners in Sturgeon Bay

In Maine, it was a reunion with Linda, who I first met in 1960 Illinois when I was five, plus friends Carolyn, and sisters Patty and Bridget, who I met through Linda following our move to California in 1972.

Wearing friends’ reunion T-shirts gifted to us by Patty, are from left, Kate, Linda, Carolyn, Bridget and Patty

On my last day in Maine Aug. 24. I sat on Linda’s front porch reflecting on all we had done in the short five days: genuinely enjoying her two young granddaughters’ company while we made a fairy world, a whirlwind visit to Boston, awe at Linda and Chris’ daughter Katie, her husband Henrik, and their family; the never-ending wit of Linda + Chris’s son Kyle, the easy familiarity with Linda’s brother Rick and his wife Rene—whose wedding we attended with our baby daughter Gillian in 1990—Linda and Patty’s swim in the Atlantic, spirited talks around the table, swimming, corn on the cob, lobster, and Salem MA on my last day.

Friends Linda & Chris Hanson’s front porch in Berwick ME

As someone who is most at home in the natural and occult worlds, I appreciated Salem’s devotion to magical women, Finz Salem, a wonderful seafood restaurant, a visit to The Finery Shop, where its owner Jazz greeted me with genuine kindness and Circle of Stitches knitting and ‘purveyors of witchy goods’ store.

The flowers behind the Ropes Mansion are one of Salem’s beautiful gardens. Later, as Linda drove me to the airport, I drank in the vision of the beautiful old houses of Salem and said I would return with Bill. I do feel at home with Salem’s vibe and felt it beckoned me to return.

Coneflowers in Ropes Mansion Garden in Salem MA
Carolyn among the sunflowers at Ropes Mansion in Salem
Salem mansion behind Ropes Mansion garden

Arriving home after midnight—and so grateful to see Bill after a month’s absence in the early hours of Aug. 25, I slept a few hours before getting up to swim and reunite with my mermaids in Goss Lake. Gretchen L. was up visiting from Mexico. Missed seeing dear Barbara, who with some health issues has had a pool installed so she can continue her aquatic therapy. Having visited her at home this week, I was glad to reconnect with her in person. I have missed her presence in our regular swims.

Filthy premium Bloody Mary mix. Delicious. Enjoyed without vodka on my Delta flight from Boston to Seattle
Among some of the women I enjoy swimming with. From left, Kate, Gretchen, Sharon, Sophie, Lindsey, Betsy. Photo taken by Helen Price Johnson

If you can do it, I recommend taking a trip on your own, perhaps exploring your roots. For the  sometimes emotional challenges I had to contend with—me being extremely empathic and absorbing all the energy around me—the mental house cleaning such a trip provides is terrific therapy.

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