I just got back from a weekend at Long Beach Island, New Jersey. Two things made it special. The first was catching up with a friend I’ve known for over 30 years. We were both community college presidents; she went on to become a university professor and, since retiring, has served on two university boards, is directing research for an National Science Foundation grant looking at STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math)students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and is actively involved in her community’s efforts to sustain racial diversity.

Another friend joined us for part of the weekend. She also had a career in higher education and is now a Deacon in her church. She was recently asked to serve on a task force to redesign education programs for the church’s religious leaders.

As I transition to my own retirement, it was inspirational to hear about the intellectual, social and spiritual endeavors that contribute to such full lives. I remember attending a workshop once on “The Third Age” that began with a presentation by “scouts,” people in their 80’s still actively forging new paths and making a difference. This was a chance to hear about similar accomplishments, but from women my own age I already know and admire.

Of course we saved some time to talk about our families, our aging bodies, various home renovation and decorating projects and on-line wardrobe shopping. It was such a joy to continue this 30-year conversation from a new vantage point. We do not see each other often, but being with them never fails to nourish my soul.

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The second thing that made the weekend special was a kite festival. We did not know this was going to take place, but we were greeted by whales and other unusual shapes in the sky as we came over the bridge to the island. Saturday afternoon was as sunny, warm and breezy as a summer day. The beach was crowded with people of all ages, many of course with small children, but others, like us, just out to enjoy the spectacle. I loved the solo and group kite ballets set to music, which I had never seen before. Fortunately, my friend has a four-year-old grandson so she could explain some of the characters to me. I had no idea the little yellow creatures with big glasses were “Minions!”

Sunday was mostly gloomy and rainy, but it was clear enough at night for the festival to continue at the lighthouse park. We had no idea what to expect, but it was wonderful. Each kite was lit up, often with changing colors. Because it was dark you couldn’t see the strings, so it looked as though they were floating across the sky, ethereal shapes moving among the stars. On the ground, you could barely make out the people, but saw instead a sea of colored glow sticks that had been given out with admission. The scene was beyond my iPhone’s capability (or more likely my own skills), but I will always have the memory, perhaps even more so now that I am writing about it. 

It was so nice, for a moment, to forget about gun violence, offensive tweets, the renewed attack on women’s rights, and everything else that assaults us on the front page and social media. Fear and anger were replaced with “oohs” and “ahs.” It was enough to restore my faith in simple pleasures.

It was magic.



Barbara ViniarComment