My Favorite Traveling Companion……
I don’t know exactly how long I have been writing and sending out these Dukes newsletters/blogs- I think I started in 2008 or 2007. It is something that I enjoy doing, and I am glad that so many of you enjoy my musings and experiences. It is something that is important to who I am. The performer in me likes having an audience and putting out good energy, and the educator in me loves sharing ideas, experiences and more with people. It is just who I am, and I am grateful that so many of you let me into your inbox on a regular basis. I sincerely thank you for that.
If you have been reading these missives for a while you know that one thing John Colgan-Davis loves is traveling and seeing new things. You have read, for example, about birding trips to Magee Marsh in Ohio, Cape May, NJ, Heinz Wildlife Refuge in Philly and more. You have followed along on many of the camping trips to Wellsley Island, the Finger Lakes, Golden Hill State Park, and Lake George all in NY. I told you about finding wonderful wildlife refuges in Maryland, museums and gardens in Orlando and Key West; night skies, elk and seeing the Perseid Meteor Shower on a deck next to a mountain in New Mexico. Lotus blossoms, monuments, and museums in Washington, DC. Times spent at Ivylea Provincial Park, the Grand Canyon, and in the wonderful cities of Kingston in Ontario and Chestertown in Maryland. I have brought you with me to small towns, hills, music festivals, campsites, lakes, and more.
Through all of these travels I have been with my favorite travel buddy and friend, my wife, Penny Colgan-Davis. Some of you have met her at gigs and some of you knew her from some of her many other activities and involvements; she was a very busy woman and involved in many things. But most of you do not know her except through these missives and my telling of our travels. I am sad to say that I have lost my partner, my best friend and the greatest travel buddy ever. Penny passed away Tuesday morning at about 5:30 AM at our home in Mt. Airy. She had been ill for a while, battling melanoma since November of last year. She died peacefully and lovingly with my son and myself there with her. It was a sad but lovely passing. We were fortunate to be with her though the whole illness, and it was a fitting end.
Penny and I were married for nearly 38 years, and we traveled together and birded together almost from the beginning. We would go to Tinicum (now called Heinz Refuge), down to Brigantine Wildlife Center, (now called Forsythe), Cape May, NJ, and places in Delaware. We had a camping honeymoon through upstate NY, Maine, and Canada. And as a young family we camped in the Poconos and spent several years at Lost River State park, a lovely spot in West Virginia. Penny herself was a great traveler long before she met me. She and her sisters had been to Ireland, the Netherlands, and England, so she was ready to go places. And like me, she loved to not just go to a place but to explore in and around it. We would camp in a spot and bird and hike the trails there. But we would also spend times in nearby towns and cities, eat at diners where the locals ate, visit cemeteries, gardens and historical sites and visit the libraries. She got me into gardening and trees and plants, and we could spend hours at an arboretum, nursery or public garden. I still remember going to the National Botanical Gardens, Kenilworth Park, and the National Arboretum in DC. several times with her. I will miss traveling and exploring and having funny and sometimes scary adventures with her. And I am so grateful for all of the things we saw that took our breath away and will stay with me forever. Seeing thousands of monarch butterflies and hundreds of sunflowers on Amherst Island in Ontario; looking down from above the clouds and seeing circling vultures after hiking up Craney Crow in West Virginia; watching the sun play off a waterfall with circling cedar waxwings on Cape Breton in Canada; standing on a bluff in the Grand Canyon and looking around at so many different shades of brown and red, unreal clear blue skies, and so many differently shaped rocks. And much, much, much more.
So there is a hell of a lot of pain, a lot of loss and some big hurt going on right now. I do not know when and how the tears are going to come; they just do. And I do not know how long they will last each time they come. My breath gets short, some anger comes out, and I lose it for a while. And all of our family and good friends are also feeling that pain, going through this along with my son and myself. This grief thing is so much more than just a solo enterprise, and I am so glad for that. And at the same time, there are the memories, the images, and the smiles brought about by looking at pictures and maps and brochures and remembering and talking with people about our many wonderful travels. They are just as important as the pain, and just as real. And they are treasures. My mom used to say that when people felt and expressed great pain and hurt and cried their eyes out, there was also joy hidden in there. For to be felt that deeply, the love and loss had to be real and truly, deeply felt. To have known and experienced a love that deep and real was truly a great blessing in my life. Thank you, Penny. Thanks so much. And today, it feels like camping weather.