Mrkan Island, my terrace view

My morning ritual begins anew. It is early and I glance up from my desk and notice the flowering lavender plants swaying in the gentle southern wind. The sky is brightening to blue with the horizon blushing with a rosy pink. The radiant blue Adriatic Sea is as smooth as glass and I gaze lovingly at Mrkan Island,. I am lucky to sip my morning coffee on the terrace, peacefully enjoying each minute of the new emerging color palette. The sea has forever given me peace and a calming effect, it is a very pleasurable beginning of a new day in my beloved Cavtat. Listening to Christmas music has made my mind reminisce of so many past holidays. My return to Croatia was inevitable, my heart and soul thrive in Cavtat, my Shangri-la.

This past year has given me a new prospective which has reaffirmed my love affair with Croatia> I made my first trip to my parents’ home country in 1954. My childhood was filled with their personal stories of the ‘old country.’ As I matured (hopefully) the desire to revisit this beautiful country became stronger. It was the summer of 1971, when the dramatic event of turning thirty, thinking I was getting so very old, that I began my many journeys across the pond. TWA and Pan Am jetted me into Dubrovnik. That trip was a total reaffirmation of my love for Croatia. Spending time with my beloved Teta Anka (Aunt Ana) in my mother’s birth village of Orebic was one of the many delights. And in Dubrovnik, the old zicara (cable car) slowly glided up Mt Srd (surge) to the then fabulous disco where I danced the night away. It became clear in my mind; standing in the ruins of Fort Imperial, gazing down on the twinkling night lights of Dubrovnik, I made my solemn vow. ‘One day I will live here.’

This special Christmas season will be filled with good food, spending time with warm and loving neighbors, sipping homemade walnut liqueur and remembering the loved one I have lost. It will be four years since my beloved best friend Ivo lost his courageous battle to cancer. His devotion to his family gave him the will to give us Christmas Day, his birthday and he passed on Sveti Ivan, his name day, 27 December 2014. I do not mourn his passing, yet I do recognize the emptiness his passing has left in my life. My time this year will be spent eating our holiday treats, drinking the best Dalmatian wines and toasting the New Year, a new beginning. We will also salute his cousins, Davor and Ilko, the best two brothers who I was fortunate to know and love. I believe there are now together, laughing and regaling wild stories of their lives. These three men live in my heart and I remember our younger years as we Dir (stroll) down the Stradun, stopping at many of the small local cafes for a drink and many evenings dancing the night away, under the stars of the Jadran cafe.

All these wonderful memories called to me during the four months I spent visiting Beth and Graham in their home in McMinnville, Oregon. I had been evicted from the apartment in Cavtat which I had shared with Ivo. It was a shock to my emotions and, in a panic, decided to return to the States. Beth and Graham opened their hearts and home to welcome me and I will forever be grateful for their compassion and kindness and patience. There are not enough words to describe how they gave me hope again. The transition from Croatia to the USA was extremely difficult for me. With guidance from Beth and Graham, and their multitude of charming friends, I finally began to live again.

During my many travels, I had only driven through Oregon on a trip to Canada. My very first impression of Oregon was one word, GREEN! Driving from Portland to the small town of McMinnville (Mac) located in the prolific wine region of Oregon opened new vistas of rural life. The terrain was filled with a multitude of a diverse variety of trees and shrubs and my mind savored the beauty, always a delight during the four summer months. My experience in Mac was filled with fabulous home cooked meals made by Graham’s loving hands. Our wine selections were akin to my Dalmatian wines, many far superior and all made our evening meals delightful.

There were so many precious and special experiences for Abby and me while we began our new adventure. First a charming home with an expansive yard for Abby to run back and forth, passing the very interesting plants being grown. They appeared to be familiar, but it took me time to recognize the species from an earlier chapter of my life. Oregon, a forward thinking state, had passed laws for the use of cannabis to help the many suffering unabated pain, has given the many a renewal for living again. Congratulations to Oregon on taking care of those in need.

During my limited time spent in Mac, I experienced meeting kind and gentle and very interesting people. My mind often wanders (age?) and I begin to fondly reminisce those very special characters which touched my life. Mary, a warm and kind woman every person dreams of claiming as a friend.. She is a giving and loving lady who was always there when help was needed. As we worked together in Beth’s commercial kitchen, I listened to her share about her special trip to see her son and grandchildren. As she spoke, I heard nothing but loving praise for her family, unfortunately miles from her. This makes me wish she had her own private plane. She is a true gift of devotion to her family and deserves to be able to spend more time with them. My wish to Santa is to bring her unlimited time and funds.

Having a delightful supper with Carla and Alan was one of my many highlights. A gorgeous home filled with her imaginative and artistic acumen. The warmth of a home filled with a gentleness which welcomed me with open arms and made me wish I could stay forever. Toby, their black poodle was a joy and it became apparent he ruled the dwelling, along with their cat who studied me from afar. My wish to Santa is that they will come to Croatia to visit me.

Aundrea, an amazing woman, she took me back to my days of youth. Bold and blunt, she speaks unrelenting opinions, many of those which I also believe to be true. I believe she is the soul mirror of myself, when I was her glorious young age. I share her pain today, the loss of her Oscar, a beautiful cat which was her constant companion for many glorious years. Listening to her as she described her life in Portland, her beloved city of birth, was a gift for me. My wish to Santa for lovely Aundrea is a new person to come into her loving heart and a new kitten who deserves a home.

I also met Kim at the Buena Vista Supper Club. A nearby neighbor who is courageously sitting vigil at her dying mother’s bedside, she grabs a few minutes once a week for a time for normal social interaction. I enjoyed our conversations so much because we both had traveled extensively and enjoyed comparing our different destinations. It was a though I had know Kim for decades. My Santa wish for Kim is for her to visit Cavtat in the near future.

And the very most important Beth and Graham, there are not enough words for me to share how they guided a broken, unhappy bitch on wheels into becoming a human being again. Their strength and knowledge was the family I needed and wished to have. How patient blindness allowed me to wallow in self pity and never demeaned my loss of thoughtfulness. The strength of joy of life has been renewed and for all their gifts I now only think of them with much love and respect. Hvala vama (thank you) for being part of my life. My wish to Santa is their continued friendship to guide me.

As I now place my hand to my heart sending love and respect to the many who have touched my life. Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah to all and together let us bring peace into our lives for the New Year.

Terrace View