On hot, humid summer days there are cooling options besides dipping in the pool and drinking a gallon of ice tea.
One choice is cleaning closets, but only if the house is air-conditioned. Turn the stat to a cool 70 degrees and let the closet exploration begin. I question that anyone in the Heartland has more interesting closet contents than I do. I am not referring to what is in the average clothes closet, like blouses, skirts, and slacks that haven't been on this body in years.
If you have trouble discarding clothing, try 10 containers of treasured material gathered on trips all over the world. Haven't you heard the song "Around the World in 10 boxes?" I wrote it. Home is good, but travel is educational and more fun. In addition to the homework that should precede a trip, I still say never pass up a travel brochure or a map, and buy a good book to take home for reference. It's a personal rule that has become overwhelming. The storage containers are not shoeboxes but hefty sizes.
The project took three days because I am reminiscing as I sort through the boxes, and the more I reminisce, the more difficult it is to take things to the trash. I can get it downstairs to the sun porch, but then I go get it back. Anything regarding Machu Picchu in Peru will never be thrown out. Of my many trips, it is the one I think about most often and wonder if I should go again. It's an easy flight from Miami to Lima, Peru, and from there to Cuzco, and on by train to Machu Picchu, the ancient Incan civilization on the side of a high mountain. It's a tough climb up the steep mountain, and breathtaking beyond description. The Incans worshipped the sun and put their best hand-hewn stone blocks forward to get as close to their god as they could. I could meditate for hours overlooking the ancient ruins and marvel at their ingenuity 2,000 years ago.
In contrast, only cookbooks were saved from a Puerto Rico box. It is not a place I would return to. I just couldn't get with it in sweltering hot San Juan, even though it is a plus not to have to exchange money because it is a United States commonwealth, has miles of beaches, and a fascinating array of foods influenced by many cultures.
If money and health allowed, I would return to Kenya, if for no other reason than to have tea with the giraffes at the Giraffe Manor, next to the Giraffe Center, near Nairobi. The handsome animals with batting eyelashes and 18-inch tongues are pets of the manor house owners. They bend their long necks low to peer through the window to watch us having tea and crumpets. One of the giraffes ducked its head to follow me into the house until he was lured away with a treat. Overnight guests booked on the second floor can expect to see the curious, friendly animals looking in the window.
Kenya is a country of diverse moods. After driving through thousands of acres of wilderness where animals roam free, suddenly the Land Rover arrived at an upscale gated hotel with all conveniences. Because the visitor can be certain native families will be begging at the gate the next morning, the enjoyment of the hotel is mixed with sadness. Many times since giving her the pens from my purse, I have thought of Alaine, a lovely little girl at the gate who wanted to write.
One of the heaviest containers that is back on a closet shelf, untouched, is labeled "Nova Scotia" in big red letters. The maritime province has been pure delight on each of three trips. All were in summer. I imagine it gets pretty chilly in winter, but for right now it's a grand destination; drive or fly to Halifax and head out from there. Expect lupins blooming in wild abandon on the roadside, and if you are lucky a church is having a lobster dinner for a few dollars.
Digby is the charming fishing village that claims to be the scallop capitol of the world, and it is my Digby's namesake. I should take him there to meet the mayor.
Nova Scotia is a gathering of quaint towns with hospitable people. It's a good idea to take extra days to go to Prince Edward Island, Canada's smallest province, either by ferry or driving on a beautiful new bridge. When I am asked for memories of the best meal anywhere, I recite the story of the steamed mussels and crusty, heavily buttered bread eaten on a party boat on the Montague River at Prince Edward Island. Lunch on board was a double whammy. Not only were great mounds of mussels steaming in large cookers under our noses, but the boat passed mussel-harvesting production near the shore. It doesn't get any fresher or more casual than that. For the record, a September trip will be to western Canada, to Calgary, to board a train to travel through the Rocky Mountains, with stops in scenic cities and ending in Vancouver.
A lesson in Cardiff, Wales emphasizes the importance of brochures. We were not certain how to see Wales until we picked up a brochure left in a hotel lobby by a retired couple who take small groups in their van. We lucked out. Their three-day guided tour was a highlight of a trip to Wales, Ireland, and Scotland. Travelers should be cautious, but we must also be open-minded to learn all that we can about faraway places from people who live there.
I hope a discarding mood will prevail as more than 500 photographs are sorted. But it's like the natives in Nairobi say when the bus is listing from so many people clinging to the outside, and others eager to climb on: "There is always room for one more."