Postcards from Malta

Places like Malta make me want to spend my time going around looking at beautiful sights and taking photos.

Images © Melissa Corcoran.

The charm of memory

It was where an adventure began. Everything had the charm of novelty—learning how to grocery shop, what was available over the counter in a pharmacy, the virtues of pointing and pantomime, that it was okay to drink wine at lunch, what a wealth of cheeses there was to explore, that the French know their way around a tarte citron, and what it was like to live in a language and culture not my own.

There was the thrill of standing on an exposed section of the Roman road—not cordoned off but there to stand on, and boats going through the lock of the canal, and sunshine, blue sky, and flowers even during the winter. When we walked a geocaching trail on the Canal de la Robine on a golden day in December, I realized that I was over feeling that Christmas should be cold and snowy!

There were day trips—learning to drive standard shift as a teenager came in handy since automatic-shift rental cars were hard to come by—that took us to interesting places. We explored the countryside around the city and the nearby seaside towns. Along with navigational triumphs (and mistakes), we seemed—every single time we came back into town—to drive the length of Boulevard Marcel Sembat at least three times. We also discovered, and to this day, still say, that the last 30 kilometers are the longest.

There were things to dislike of course: an annoying amount of dog poop on the sidewalks, the mistral blowing for several days in the winter, the frustrating self-serve gas stations that didn’t take cash or our credit cards (because they didn’t have the security chip needed) when we wanted to refill the gas tank of a rental car late at night. Set against that were great meals and friendly people and beautiful sights.

While you can’t go back and there will never be another first time, it was lovely to return to Narbonne recently, walk streets still familiar, visit favorite places, and enjoy the charm of memory.

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My other mother

Our mothers were such strong women; it is strangely quiet without them. But they are at peace and, given their respective difficult last few months, it is strangely comforting. Y’all are like siblings – thank you.

These words were part of a thank-you note for flowers my siblings and I sent to the funeral of our ‘other mother’ last year. Almost as long as I can remember, Kay was part of our lives. I think that she and my mom met when her son and my brother were classmates in grade school. As a child, I didn’t think too much about Kay’s life outside of my own field of vision, but I remember how my mom would stop by their house on our way back from somewhere and run in to chat. She would always say, “I’ll be just a minute”, but of course, it never was ‘just a minute’. They always had lots to talk about! There were dinners at their house (I still remember Kay’s scalloped potatoes), and playing in their backyard (they had a sandbox!), and our mothers going to meetings of the Catholic Daughters of America and later, singing in the church choir together. As we grew older, I realized that Kay was quite accomplished—a B.S. in Nursing, director of a school of nursing in my hometown, went back to school for a Master’s degree. Perhaps she inspired my mom to get her degree; whether she did or not, I know she supported her all the way.

There have been several older women in my life who were a voice not-my-parents, a mentor, a friend, a counselor, but Kay was my other mother. She referred to herself that way and I referred to her that way. Kay was one of the two people we called when we made the decision to petition for guardianship for our mother and again when hospice care was started for her. She remained a steadfast friend to my mom as she slipped into dementia, even as she herself dealt with serious health problems.

When my mom died, her wishes stated that she did not want visitation hours, but Kay was one of the few people who joined us at the funeral home for a private visitation. I remember her rolling herself in her wheelchair to my mom’s casket and saying “I sure am going to miss you, Beth”, and chastising my mother for going before her, saying that they had planned to go together. We heard stories that day we had never heard before, like Kay and my mom having a girls’ night out and some men at another table buying them drinks!

So, on this Mother’s Day, I feel a pang of loss for my mother, but also for my ‘other mother’ and all the older women in my life who at one time or another encouraged me, acted as a sounding board, set an example. Happy Mother’s Day to you all.

Antarctic light

Light in Antarctica—otherworldly, mysterious, dramatic, stark, muted—I’ve used each of these words to try to describe it. Perhaps the images will convey its qualities better.

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Images © Melissa Corcoran.

At sea

If it hadn’t been for the expedition photographer, I might not have used my camera much on the days we were at sea. However, at a workshop he gave, he suggested we could capture interesting images at sea by incorporating the ship into the image. We took up the challenge!

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Images © Melissa Corcoran.