Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Looking Past the Vistas

Don't get me wrong, I love the beautiful, vast vistas of the Mississippi Delta. The swamps filled with majestic cypress that are called home by egrets, eagles, alligators, and turtles (on logs of course!). The farm fields that stretch from one horizon to the other, broken up only by the winding creeks or tree lines that mark their boundaries and provide protection from the southwesterly winds. The glorious sunsets that not only rival, but remind us, of sunsets over the ocean because there is nothing that stands between you and the setting sun except the flat lands of the alluvial plain known as The Delta.

Yes, I love those vistas. But those are the ones you see most often. Those are the ones that just naturally catch your eye. Those are the ones that, left to their own devices, will dominate your senses and absorb all of your attention, leaving nothing left to take in the subtleties of the Delta.

Over the past couple of years, as I head down Highway 61 South from Memphis and as I return home by Highway 49, I have spotted, out of the corner of my eye, the flash of yellow, purple, pink, or blue wildflowers that line the road and border the fields.

Exploring the creek banks on days where there are no Big Blue Herons taking off or wood ducks swimming by, I notice the lavender wisteria, the butterflies that can't resist the pale pink flowers, and flowering vines, resembling necklaces, that link the ever-present telephone poles that dot the landscape. And the layers of color as crops fade into yellow wildflowers that fade into the vines along the creek.

Ditches are filled with black-eyed susans and an occasional iris marks where a home once was years ago.

And, although they are usually grown as a crop or in gardens, the Delta's sunflowers bring a smile as we pass by.

The next time you are in the Delta, slow down and look past the vistas that usually absorb your attention. Look for the details, the smaller pieces of the Delta that add a richness to your experience, even if they are not your usual focus.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Cristie Goes to Bern

There is a great back story to my trip to Bern, Switzerland this last August.

In reality, I invited myself, but it was in a joking manner. Never did I really think that they would invite me and I would actually go!

My blog post from 2012 tells the beginning of the back story (read it here). The back story ends when Johanna Anna Kremer Hovinga Strebel stopped off in Memphis in June 2014 on her way to a meeting (a congress as she calls it) in Milwaukee.

Me and Johanna at the
Tunica River Museum, Tunica, MS
Pat and I took her to dinner where she invited me to come to Switzerland for the 2nd Steering Committee meeting of the TTP Registry focused on Upshaw-Schulman Syndrome housed at the University of Bern. While taking Johanna on a whirlwind tour of the Top of the Delta (aka, Tunica) the next day, I accepted her gracious invitation in spite of my fear of heights, traveling to Europe, and being alone in an unfamiliar place. I knew this would be the trip of a lifetime and it was!

The highlight of my trip was having the opportunity to spend a few minutes on the first day of the meeting talking about Daddy.

Members of the Upshaw-Schulman TTP Registry Steering Committee are
from Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Norway, Japan, Czech Republic,
United Kingdom, and USA
I am sure my personal reflections were not that interesting, but I wanted them to know more about him as a person, not just a physician. They indulged me and seemed happy with the gifts I brought:

A copy of my "Natural Beauty" photo taken in my favorite swamp near Tunica in the Mississippi Delta. My father was born and raised in the Delta and I now have a weekend home there myself. My two brothers and I still own the family farm near the small town where Daddy was born. So, it is a special place for us.

Reinhard Schneppennheim, Hamburg, Germany,
arrived late so sent a picture from home in his Bama
hat with his 16 year-old son
An Alabama cap. Daddy went to the University of Alabama to college and later to Johns Hopkins University for medical school. He was a passionate Alabama football fan. All of my brothers, as well as myself, my nephew, my mother, and my grandfather also went to Alabama. Everyone put the cap on at the meeting in Bern to remember Daddy.

Yoshi Fujimura, retired original member of the
steering committee, donned his Bama hat
 his colleagues gave him
And, of course, something "Elvis" (a mug from Graceland). Elvis is synonymous with Memphis which is where Daddy practiced medicine for 45 years and where I live now. 

The remainder of my trip was spent touring Switzerland, some days with Johanna and her husband Niklaus, and all days with my newfound friends from Oklahoma, Sara Vesely (one of the TTP Registry advisors from Oklahoma City) and her mother Marianna Vesely. They were so kind to let me tag along and I loved being with them and sharing our adventures together. 

I will not be so bold to invite myself to Bern again, but I do hope to stay in touch with Johanna about the progress of the registry and with the others as they continue to identify the best treatments for patients with Upshaw-Schulman Syndrome.

Here are some photos I took on my once in a lifetime trip to Switzerland!

Castle Chillon on Lake Geneva
Murren in the Swiss Alps

Murren in the Swiss Alps

Murren in the Swiss Alps

Bern with the Alps in the background above the clouds

Old City of Bern


Bern with the green Aare River


Ballenberg open air museum


Chapel Bridge in Lucerne


Lake Geneva village

Lake Thun