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The Gathering Place, Tulsa, Oklahoma

“The opposite of love is not to hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”
Elie Wiesel

Close your eyes and imagine a place where children can climb trees, slide, rollerblade, swing, and run around without their parents fearing for their safety. A place where children under four are securely gated in space for running around. Parents sit on benches and chat with each other while their children are safe. No hard surfaces to fall on. The ground is made of spongy colorful material. None of the children are playing with iPhones, iPads, or other electronic devices. Children cry not because they fall down, but because they have to go home. Now, open your eyes. You have entered The Gathering Place.

Children climbing on pods

The Gathering Place in Tulsa, Oklahoma is open 365 days a year. It has 80 plus tree species. It is a place for both adults, teenagers, and small children. It engages, excites, and educates. Children use their muscles, improve their physical growth, laugh, run, and learn about getting along with others by interacting peacefully with each other face to face.

Tulsa has its problems as do other towns and cities in the USA. People tend to stay close to home. Children don’t play with neighborhood children. There are cultural tensions. People who don’t meet with others who are not like them are more apt to hate or have bad feelings for those who are different. The Gathering place was an idea by George Kaiser to serve as an anchor for the community of Tulsa.  A ship that won’t sink. The Gathering Place will help to improve the social, economic, and environmental sustainability in Tulsa.

It is Thanksgiving Day, and my adult daughter has brought me to the park. It is 2:30 and an unusually warm day in Tulsa. The turkey is in the oven, and the cranberry sauce is made. We have two hours to explore the park.

The park brings together all people, black, brown, Muslim, Indian, Native Americans, and white. Grandparents and parents holding tightly on to the hands of children walk the pathways.

It is a place that inspires imagination. A place to play, learn, interact, relax, and “gather together.” There are 120 ft. of a suspension bridge. There is a pirate ship, a small village, canoes, kayaks, restaurants, and bathrooms.

A small children’s village

It is funded by the George Kaiser family foundation and given as a gift to Tulsa. There were no tax funds used. A combination of 80 corporate and philanthropic organizations was involved. The project began in September 2014 and opened to the public in September 2018. It is built on 100 acres of Tulsa waterfront along the Arkansas River at the cost of 465 million dollars. It is the largest public park gifted in US history.

If you live or visit Tulsa, don’t forget to include the Gathering Place in your itinerary.

Rocking chairs facing the water

 

 

If These Castle Walls Could Talk

Today is a perfect day to visit a castle in Ireland. Grey, misty, damp, and a bit of mystery in the air. Castles are mysterious, secretive and overwhelming.

Ireland never had any kings. They were under the kingdom and power of England. The Normans came to Ireland in the Medieval times and built castles that didn’t last long. They were trying to conquer Ireland. Many of the castles became ruins or were destroyed. Irish castles were built by foreigners trying to overtake and control the Irish people.

My four classmates, a married couple from New Jersey, two Irish women, and I pile into an old blue Ford van. Members of the Ireland Writing Retreat on Donegal held up in the inn for almost four hours because of the continuous rain.  It does that a lot in Ireland. The land looks desolated. There are a few farmhouses, some goats roaming around and eating grass, and a lot of green. It is green everywhere. At home in Arizona, I see the desert. Cactus, snakes, coyotes, and bobcats. It is exciting to experience a different climate.

 Glenveagh Castle is located in Churchill, Letterkenny, Ireland. It is pouring. We jiggle the door latch to open the door. The door slides open and out we jump. My umbrella refuses to open. Norma, one of my Irish classmate attempts to share hers with me. Norma is an author. She has written two books. She is a very happy woman in her 80s and we have become friends. Her daughter is the same age as mine and we both lost our husbands about three years ago. She has become my hiking buddy. There is only one minor problem with the umbrella situation. She is much shorter than I. I slowly slip the umbrella out of her hands and hold it over both of our heads. We share a laugh. We head straight to the information center. The room is very small. The receptionist is behind the information desk. There are at least eight other people squeezed into the space. A family with two young boys is sitting on the bench. The older boy keeps asking his father “Do we have to see another castle? Can I wait in the car?” This kid is castled out. We get our tickets and have to wait for about twenty minutes. I am not waiting in this crowded office. I go outside and take pictures.

I have my trusty raincoat with a hood that I bought on Amazon one week before the trip. Thanks to the quick delivery provided by my Amazon Prime membership, it arrived two days before my flight. I am sure I will be protected. It is raining much harder now. My curiosity will not go away rain or not. I take out my camera. Cover the lens to the best of my ability and start snapping away. I am in the garden. The garden is walled and was planted and taken care of by the wife of John Adair, the original owner of the castle. Unlike her husband, Cornelia was a kind landlady and very generous to the poor. The garden was modeled after Italian gardens. There is a total of eleven hectares of informal gardens with a different theme. I wish I could see the flowers without the rain. The smell of the rain and the flowers are powerful for someone like me who sees rain twice a year. Yellow dahlias, pink and white roses, Japanese cherry blossoms, yellow osterglocken (daffodil) from Wales, white orchids from Panama (Holy Spirit Flower), and the pink Scottish Bluebell (national flower of Scotland). It is September and many of the flowers have reached their peak season.

yellowflowers

I find a small bench and sit for a while protected from the torrential rain falling around me. I look around me and the mist has fallen and taken over the beautiful scenery of the garden.  I find my mind wandering off and thinking what life would be in a castle. I look at my watch and realize our tour will begin in five minutes. I navigate my way to the entrance. I feel like I am walking in heaven. The rain makes me happy and gives me energy. It adds mystery to the castle.

John Adair was one of the most hated men in Ireland. Many Donegal natives would consider it a curse to even mention his name in conversation. Adair had a temper and felt a sense of entitlement that most people did not appreciate. He became a very affluent man by traveling to New York in 1850 and working on land speculation. In 1870, he returned to Glenveagh, Donegal. He began to buy up smaller portions of land the locals owned to create his large estate. The local farmers were struggling to keep their families fed and clothed. Adair was not interested in the problems of the people around him. He had no interest in helping them.

Adair had a dream. He wanted to build a castle that would be much bigger than Balmoral, Queen Victoria’s Scottish Retreat. In 1870 he built the castle on 16,958 hectares of mountains, bogs, lakes, and woods. Glenveagh Castle is four stories tall, rectangular, and made from granite. The walls are 11/2 meters thick. The castle includes turrets, a round tower, and fortified battlement ramparts to keep out the enemies. Adair didn’t have any enemies to keep out. He wanted to keep out the Irish farmers. They were no threat to him. Just a nuisance.

Our tour begins in the entryway. The walls are off-white and four pairs of deer busts with their antlers adorn the hallway. Two of them mounted on the wall and two on small pedestals. John Adair was an avid hunter. He replaced the poor Irish people with deer.  How could a man be so cruel. We enter the music room. It is small, a blue ceramic fireplace is in the corner, blue/green plaid wallpaper on the walls (reminds me of my school uniform), an antler chandelier hangs in the center of the room, and a big window opens to the lake below.

Our guide tells us this is where the men hung out, smoked their cigars, and shared hunting stories. We visited the oval bedroom. The guests slept here. If they needed anything, they had a little bell that would summon the servants. There were twelve indoor staff and eight gardeners.

One of the bigger rooms in the castle is the Drawing Room where the women would meet. They gossiped, worshiped themselves in their mirrors and worried that their makeup would melt because the room was so warm. They didn’t want to “lose face”.  The women talked about their husbands, boyfriends, and children. They didn’t have any household duties. If they needed someone to attend to them, they rang the bell and someone would be at their beck and call.

I wanted to find out how the castle was built. Who were the laborers who carried the stones from the lake and painstakingly built the walls? Were they paid for their work? Were they the poor Irish farmers living on the land of John Adair? The guide didn’t give us this information. Another mystery.

The first thing Adair did was to evict the local families. Some say it was because he wanted to “improve the view from his castle.” Who wants to look at the poor?” The local families lived in homes with thatched roofs made of cereal straw and reed covered with wooden rafters. The walls were double packed with earth. The floors were flagstone or packed earth that didn’t help in keeping the home warm. A hearth was located in the central area of the home. There were neither chimneys nor windows for the smoke to escape. The people would have had to pay more taxes for the windows. The soot-blackened homes were known as “black houses”.

The locals became very upset and protested his hunting retreats crossing over their lands. They reported him as trespassing. He became furious and even more determined to get these people off of the land. Adair wanted to use the land as a sheep farm. He had brought his own shepherds who eventually got into a bit of trouble. One of them was accused of murder and having an affair with a dead man’s wife. She became pregnant and was sent off to Scotland.

Eviction of the locals began with Adair acquiring the necessary documents that would allow him to send his “crowbar men” house-to-house evicting families. The first house they came upon was the home of a widow and her seven children. After the family was given the news, their house was destroyed so that they could not come back and live in it. A total of two hundred and forty-four people were homeless including one hundred and fifty-nine children. Michael O’Grady paid for half of the people to move to Australia. O’Grady had purchased land in Australia for the sole purpose of providing land for the displaced farmers. Forty-two of the evicted ended up in workhouses in Letterkenny. These evictions were the most infamous in the history of Ireland.

John Adair passed away in 1885. His wife lived until 1921 and was remembered as being kind-hearted. Glenveagh was bought by a Harvard professor, Arthur Kinsley Porter. He led a very lavish lifestyle. Frequent dinner parties, deer stalking, fishing, and kept a wonderful garden. He disappeared from nearby Inishbofin Island in 1933. His death is a mystery.

Castles are pieces of European history. They represent the great divide between the rich and the poor. Who built this grand castle in Glenveagh? There is no mention of the men who carried the massive granite stones one by one up and down the hills. Were these men paid? How much were they paid? Where are the answers? I can only guess that some of the farmers left behind built the castle with no pay. They were slave laborers. There is no plaque or description of the builders. Could it be something that people just want to forget? It is important to remember history and to honor those who put so much sweat into this great castle.

I left the castle with these questions.  We stopped at the restaurant in the visitor center. There were pies, cookies, chocolates, tea, and coffee. I ordered coffee and a piece of cheesecake. I asked my group if they knew who built the castle. No one had the answer. The information desk wouldn’t give me an answer. Is it a secret? I want to know.

The van arrives. The rain slows to an annoying drizzle. I am disappointed. I would like to spend more time at the castle. We drive down the road and I can’t resist turning around and looking at the castle tower. It is so tall and profound. I can imagine what the life of the people outside of the castle and inside the castle was like. Two completely different groups occupying the same land.

The road we travel back is the same road that so many of the Irish walked to arrive at their ships taking them out of their country into a far and distant place. Places such as the USA and Australia, no longer in charge of their destiny.

bridge

This bridge was crossed by the evicted farmers and their families.

stone

A message carved in Gaelic wishing everyone safe travels and mourning the loss of those who never returned

I look out into the vast green farmland. It is quiet and has an eerie feeling. There are no people in the fields, driving cars, or walking around. Was it always like this? It looks so lonely. No one talks as we make our way back to the Tec.

countryside

The countryside as it is today

One Night Stance in Bisbee, AZ

I almost felt like I was entering an ashram when I opened the old wooden door and heard the bells ringing, but the building quickly made
itself known as an old boarding house.
Myra

Two friends, Myra, Ruth Ann, and I arrived at our hotel in Bisbee, Arizona. Myra was the designated driver, I was in charge of reserving the hotel, and Ruth Ann sat in the back very quietly biting her lips and gesturing with her index finger the way we ahould turn as we became confused and circled a roundabout 5 times before we exited. The drive was 3.5 hours from Phoenix. It was not a straight shot. We stopped at a monastery, St. David, bought homemade prickly pear jam, walked around the meditation garden, took pictures, visited the cemetery, and entered the church. I bought a small medal and had it blessed in hopes that it will ward off any future dangers.

St. David’s Monastery

Bisbee is an old mining town inhabited by ghosts, antique shops, locally owned restaurants, bars, and hotels. The Lavender mine is located on the outskirts of town. It was one of the main employers from 1950–1974. Phelps Dodge opened the mine in 1950. The mine produced 86 million tons of ore averaging about 0.7% copper. Turquoise was also a by-product of this mining activity. Bisbee turquoise, also known as Bisbee Blue, is amongst the finest turquoise found anywhere in the world.
There aren’t many miners running around town these days. Some of them have returned as ghosts and are said to inhabit our hotel, The Inn at Castle Rock.

Lavender Mine

I chose the hotel by cruising through the listing on booking.com. The first hotel I made reservations with was the School House Inn Bed and Breakfast. It was listed as a room for three people. Four days later I went to review the reservation. There was a picture of only one king size bed. I knew we were not all going to sleep in the same bed. Those days are over. I wanted to keep these friends. I canceled the reservation and made another one at the Inn at Castle Rock. There was a room with three separate beds. Yes, we will take that one.

A delightful quirky, squeeky , old building with lots of history… Nothing fancy. Frank (Comment on booking.com)
“Kitschiest, strangest property, but really interesting and cool.” — shannon

Quirky, unique, quaint

I became nervous as we approached the hotel. We arrived about 5:00 pm. The front desk clerk, a very friendly young man, carried our luggage up a narrow steep flight of stairs to our room on the second floor. I unlocked the room and walked in. I thought it was interesting but I wasn’t sure what was going through the minds of my friends. Would they trust me to find the hotel on our next excursion or will this be the last time they ask me to make the hotel reservations? We were all very happy to see that we would have our own beds. There was a balcony outside. The balcony was decorated with very colorful “Christmas” lights, red, green, and blue. The porch had a rocker and two chairs. The location was great. We could walk everywhere. We parked the car and didn’t use it again until the next day when we went home.

We sat on the porch, chatted, and watched the people go by. I was worried that my friends did not share my interest in the hotel. Should I ask them what they think? Maybe later.

Entry into the hotel was past what appeared to be a hitching post in days of long ago. The sign clearly stating Kiwi Parking Only mystified all of us. The door was not welcoming but gave the suggestions that one enters at their own risk. The lobby, and I use that term loosely, featured a natural spring that one could look over the edge of it and see what appeared to be water.
Ruth Ann

 

The well

We returned from dinner about 7:00 pm. The room didn’t have much light. There was a ceiling light which appeared to be yellow, and lamps on each bed table. Not enough light to read a book. A view of the Peace Memorial and a projection of a bat on a rock were directly across the street. A bathroom with a kitchen sink. A shower we couldn’t use because the water was too cold. We didn’t let the water run long enough. A fake wall between the bathroom and a very small private bedroom. Two beds in the main room, one double the other single. Pictures of interesting people on the walls. Strings of colored lights on the balcony, outdoor gazebos, and two fireplaces in the community rooms. A breakfast room with coffee available at all times. Breakfast included: cereal, bread, toast, bananas, and a few oranges. Help yourself. Don’t forget to wash your dishes and leave them in the sink. Everywhere we explored we found a “surprise”.

We sat on our beds and chatted until about 11:00 pm. The beds were comfortable minus the nylon sheets. There was a little noise coming from the outside. We were on the main drag. The noise died down about 11:00. We slept and no one snored.

ladypicture

The picture above the bed

It was hilarious and I’m sure not too clean, but the room named Return to Paradise was way too dark to make a judgement. It had the required three beds for us. It did have a delightful porch overlooking main street, but as my feet were planted I had the feeling one might go through the very old plywood floors. We sat in rocking chairs looking out across the street at a giant boulder where the hotel had displayed the Bat call signal from the Batman television series.
Ruth Ann

Our friendly front desk young man, Alex, gave us a tour. The hotel was built over the flowing Apache Springs Well. Yes, there is a well next to the front desk. Every room has a theme: Jungle, Victorian, Cherlys, and Return to Paradise. We stayed in Return to Paradise.

well

Apache Springs Well

The Inn at Castle Rock was built in 1890 as a miner’s boarding house. The mine shaft is in the dining room of the bed and breakfast serving as a koi pond. The hotel has survived fires and floods including a fire in 1908

Did you sleep well last night? asks the lady at the front desk
Did you see any ghosts?
Ghosts? we asked

Little did I know we had just slept in a hotel that is haunted by some of the miners who lived there .
One miner has stayed around as a ghost. Slept in the same room we did, Return to Paradise. He is rumored to play with your toes if you sleep in his bed. He wants to disturb your sleep so he can get his room back.

One story from the early 1900’s is of a soldier cleaning his rifle on the front verandah when it went off accidentally, fatally shooting a woman walking up the other side of the road. It is said that she still searches the Inn looking for the reason. The shooting is documented in local news of the time.

The boarding house opened up as an Inn in 1980. The owner of the hotel, Chris Brown, is from New Zealand but settled in Bisbee in 2002 “because it is the nicest place in the world”. It is his vision to bring the Inn back to its former glory.

I was disappointed because I wanted to eat at Hazel’s Table 10
Hazel is from Nicaragua and a successful interior decorator. She came to the states with one of her wealthy clients. He died in Las Vegas. She tried to live in Phoenix but it was too hot for her.
She rented a room at the Inn at Castle Rock and launched Table 10. She only cooked three evenings a week. According to the reviews, her meals were a surprise to all. She no longer lives in Bisbee. She moved to Tucson.

Were there bugs in the room? Was the carpet clean? Were the sheets clean? I don’t know. It didn’t matter. There was no strange smell and the bathroom was clean. Ruth Ann brought a nightlife for the bathroom. That helped.
Were there ghosts? If there were, they didn’t bother us. We just ignored them.
Would I stay here again? Sure, it was a unique experience. Would my friends stay there again? I am not so sure.

marketcafe
Market Cafe

We had breakfast at the Market and Cafe. It is a five-minute walk from the Inn at Castle Rock. We sat outside on red plastic chairs with brightly colored red and blue umbrellas. The store sold homemade cookies, honey, biscuits, and juices. Pottery, odds, and ends, and quirky items. The food was tasty. A great way to end our one night stance. Would I do it again? Yes, I would. Would my friends? I hope that would.

Welcome to Historic Old Bisbee’s High Desert Market and Café
Come enjoy our gourmet food and gifts market, our delicious café offerings,
and our new smoothie, juice and espresso bar.
Open 7am to 7pm, 7 Days a Week!

5 Advantages of Traveling After Retiring

There is so much to do after retiring and traveling is one of them.

Certainly, travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.
— Miriam Beard

The freedom to travel at any time of the year

Avoid the summer vacations. This is the only time that families can travel because of school breaks. Parents arrange their vacations around their children. Everywhere you go, there are crowds. Travel in October- May. You can find deals that are not available during the peak months of vacation.

More time to do research on your travel destination

You don’t have to go where your kids want to go. No more Disney. Choose the places you want to go. Remember the museums that you really didn’t get to experience because your kids were bored. Use the computer to find places less traveled. Airfares are cheaper during off-peak times. Sign on to a site that will alert you when the airfare is cheaper. There is no hurry. Remember, you are retired.

Research hotels. Don’t stay in chain hotels. They are more expensive and add extra fees. Most chain hotels are privately owned. Not all of them are clean and well kept. I stayed in a Holiday Inn. The fee was $120. The window was cracked, the curtains and carpet were dirty. The breakfast was donuts, coffee, and cereal. The people cleaning the hotel looked like the parents of the front desk clerk. This was a hotel in the USA. Check out the reviews on Booking.com or Trip Advisor. Some hotels let you make cancellations without a penalty of up to three days before you check in.

Don’t stay in American chain hotels in other countries. They are expensive. Help the locals who privately own their hotels. Do your research. You have plenty of time.

More time to just hang out

You can take the time to sit in a cafe and observe the people. There are no children running around and rushing you to finish. Wander around the city, beach, or town. Take pictures, eat ice cream, and smile. There is no rush.

You can eat when you are hungry. Maybe you don’t want to eat dinner at 6:00. Eat at 9:00 or 3:00. Explore the places you couldn’t when you had the kids with you. Maybe you will make a new friend.

Stay longer at your destination

You are not working. You have more than a one week vacation. What’s the rush? Take a trip to the outside of the city. Walk through the forests, up a hill, or just drive around. Look for things that you would not see if you were with your kids. The flowers, clouds, birds, and other animals.

Discounts for seniors

This is the time to take advantage of the fact that we are old. Pull out that discount card whenever possible. Discounts are offered at museums, national parks, supermarkets, and theater. Many restaurants offer senior discounts. Senior discounts are not as popular countries outside of the USA. If it is important for you, check it out before you buy.

I’ve learned that the secret of growing old gracefully is never to lose your enthusiasm for meeting new people and seeing new places.

— Unknown wise person