Every new state we visit has a personality, a unique "feel" to it, with a palpable change occurring at every state line. I usually play a game of picking a word to define a state's personality. If I had to choose one word to describe Delaware, it would be "tender," a strange word to describe a state, but that's how it seems. For example, the road signs on Delaware highways say, "Share the Road." The road is not just for motor vehicles. It's for pedestrians, bicyclists, joggers, walkers. Some drivers think the road belongs solely to them and their fast cars. This road sign is a tender way to remind people to be courteous drivers and to refrain from using it as a private racecourse.
Speaking of roads, the "highways" in Delaware are mostly country roads that sprawl out across the state and seem to meet with, and depart from each other constantly, like partners at a Square dance. The roads meet, connect for a while, and change partners again, going off in different directions. For example, a driver might start out following Route 404. For an hour he'll drive thinking he's on Route 404, only to find out he's been on Route 12 for the past 20 minutes! How'd that happen? He consults his map. Oh,well, it's okay, just a small detour. So he continues on Route 12. Half hour later he finds himself on Route 14. Consult the map again. It's still okay. Again, just a small detour. But then he finds himself on Rte 404 again and then Route 12 again and so on. Well, after many road-adjustments, he finally finds Dover. It's almost as if Delaware doesn't want visitors to miss any of its other towns on the way to its capital city. The roads break off suddenly -- without notification -- leading tourists on to a different road altogether to show off sites not planned on one's agenda. But all roads eventually lead to Dover, so you may as well just enjoy the ride and visit the small towns along the way. Take comfort in knowing that on the way home you will be treated to an entirely different selection of roads than those you mapped out. Forget the plan. Relax. Enjoy. For in Delaware, there's the map, and then there's reality. The two are irreconcilable. Surprisingly, though, these wayward diversions are not annoying. Once you realize that your map is useless, it's fun to see where Delaware wants to take you. And, of course, none of the roads are heavy with traffic so that each and every route is a joyride through some small town or another. It's very adventuresome and visually rewarding.
Birds of Bombay
There have been a few places on this trip, a few strange occurrences, oh, about a half dozen times, when I become unbounded by Earth and allowed to enter The World Beyond. This, the Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, is one such place. The sublime beauty of Delaware's 12,000-acre preserve of tidal swamps and marshes, home to ducks, geese, egrets, blue herons, whistling swans and other shore birds, has a special, enigmatic beauty in winter. Perhaps it's the desolate quiet. The abysmal solitude. The sheer absence of Man. Perhaps it's the contrast of a wintry wind against an arabesque line of gentle, elongated shore birds. I don't know, but I feel unearthly here, quit celestial. My mind is quiet as a catacomb. My heart is fluid. Time stands still. For a moment.
Suddenly the spell is broken by a blizzard of white. It looks as though Heaven has unleashed a battalion of snowballs with a determined velocity, and a shrill, squeaking noise. But they are not squeaky snowballs. Not snow at all. It's snowgeese! Thousands of pure white snowgeese make this place their home from November to March. While wintering here and resting on the water, they make the bay appear to be covered in a plush blanket of white that floats in musical rhythm with the rippling waves. This is when the snowgeese are at rest. But when they take flight, in unison, they make the sky seem to be in the throes of a wild snowstorm from the fluttering, frolicking, feathery flight of these white winter guests. To be a silent witness to these birds, at rest and in flight, is to be one with the world. I am overwhelmed with gratitude for having this wondrous interlude, this peek into a world beyond the mundane.
A generous state
There's something else about Delaware that needs mentioning. Every state-run museum we visited this week was Free of charge. Donations accepted, but for those with empty pockets, "c'mon in anyway and see what we have for you," says Delaware. And every place we toured, we were treated with the most considerate, knowledgeable, and giving tour guides. They gave of their time and generously spread their wealth of knowledge and their love for the subject. Without exception, every single tour guide, costumed interpreter and administrator we met was gentle, kind, and generous of their time, as well as patient with our persistent questions. A tip of the hat to the state of Delaware, a most gracious and generous state.
New year, new word
I'm glad I stopped making New Year's Resolutions and instead to pick a word, just one word, to practice all year long. It's much easier to remember one simple word. Let's see how long have I been doing this? First, was "FORGIVE." That was easy. Someone insults me? Forgive. Someone cuts me off in traffic? Forgive. Forgive. Forgive. Forgive. The next year, was "PATIENCE." Things not going my way...patience. Don't rush results. The next year, "THANKS." Give thanks for every day. Then there was the year of "GRACE." And, for the past two years, I've had to repeat "PATIENCE" again. So, let's see, 1,2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 . . . Seven years I've been doing this. (Guess I started this the year I married Ken. I wonder if there's any connection?) Anyway, I marvel at this new model of New Year's resolve, and its effectiveness. One word packs more power than a list of rules. Silently repeating one word all year, alters my behavior gradually and painlessly. When I feel sad, or angry, I just think of my "Word for the Year" and it calms me. Now the year 2000 is here. This year I want a happy word. Something lighthearted. I choose the word JOY. Each morning I write the word JOY in today's date on my desk calendar. But after three days, it feels false. Like I'm lying to myself. I don't think I'm ready for JOY. It belongs to someone more spiritually mature. Sadly I give up JOY and look for another word, one similar to JOY but not so . . . well, not so highfalutin. Perhaps FUN is a nice derivative. For a couple of days I try FUN. It, too, falls flat. Can't seem to trick myself into thinking I can have fun everyday. FUN is downgraded to CAREFREE. Not exactly JOY, not exactly FUN, but a word that can lead to Joy and Fun. I've been using CAREFREE for a couple of days now and it works. It fits. I like it. CAREFREE. It's like opening both the front and the back door of my mind. A bad thought may enter my brain but it cannot linger for the constant breeze of being "Carefree" blows away all bad thoughts. Yes. It's a good word for the Year 2000.