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Dear Friends and Family:
Looking back over 2015, it was a golden year for the Brigish clan. But it didn’t begin that way as the winter from hell descended on us as the year turned.
Joyce and I snuck off to Cuba in the middle of February. Getting there through Canada was part of the adventure we could have done without, arriving late at night in Havana with lost luggage, no local currency and 2 words of Spanish. But it got better soon thereafter as our beloved friends, Eileen and Ivan Shaw flew in from London. The four of us became friends in London exactly 50 years ago, weeks before we both got married so it was a fantastic reunion and double golden anniversary for the 4 of us.
It was interesting for me to compare Havana which I had visited 13 years before. More traffic, more tourists, very few Americans. Shabby chic is the term that, for me, captures this enchanting retro city. We were so pleased to visit before the hordes of Americans begin descending on the town, as is inevitable in the next 10 years.
The Vineyard winter was so miserable, that we took off again, a few weeks later, and had a fun week touring the west coast of Florida staying with friends. Later, as part 2 of our year-long anniversary celebration, Hal and Jackie gave us a night on the town in New York with dinner and a Broadway show. What a great way to celebrate. We are very fortunate to have such good, caring kids.
It was finally getting warmer in May, when I spent 2 weeks in upstate Massachusetts at a Buddhist silent retreat. Set in gentle hills of forests, streams and a lake, IMS is an idyllic habitat; it was like a dream. Imagine it— just meditating, walking, eating and sleeping for 14 days. — with a hundred others — no talking, (no need for a game face), no technology (email, texts, news, Facebook), no meat, no sugar or caffeine, limited reading and note taking. Last year, when I did a week in San Francisco, I said that “that the experience was not only magical, it was trans formative”. It certainly was, and I returned in June for another long weekend there. As you know, meditation and yoga are a central part of my life, and I’ve never felt better.
In August, we assembled every member of our immediate family in one place. We were thrilled to welcome Katy and her lovely daughter, Serah, who came with Hal from Virginia via Katy’s original home in Quebec. We even managed to bring all of the family dogs together. This was part 3 of our golden wedding anniversary celebration and we celebrated with an afternoon sail on the tall ship, Alabama.
The third and most ambitious part of our golden year was a journey that Joyce and I have been planning for a decade. We share a great love for the veld of Africa. Being eyeball-to-eyeball with the wildlife and people of Africa is like going home. We had left the continent of our birth 50 years ago and we wanted a homecoming. Kenya has some of the largest herds of wildlife, and we planned our trip to try to coincide with the Great Migration of wildebeests, other antelopes and zebras. We had very high expectations, that were exceeded at every level. Traveling by small plane, we moved between 2 magnificent, but very different camps in very different habitats in the north, before heading south to the Maasai Mara for the large herds.
As the sun rises each morning, in the heart of northern Kenya, with the birds kicking up a deafening song , the wildlife begins to stir and we are there to silently witness the ancient, primeval sense that permeates everything. This is what it must have looked like millions of years ago in this very place. Our earliest ancestors must have stood on this very spot and looked in wonder at the great orb, making its way over the distant mountains.
The Maasai Mara National Reserve is a large Kenyan game reserve, contiguous with the Serengeti in Tanzania. It is named in honor of the ancestral inhabitants of the area, the famous Maasai people who live in villages among the trees, scrub, and savanna. The area is famous for its large population of lions, which rule at the top of the food chain in an area that is remarkable for the quantity of game of all different types, especially at this time of year, during the Great Migration of the Wildebeest and other animals.
Finally, we are here. Everywhere you look, there are wildebeest silently inexorably heading for the Mara river. At one of the crossings we sit and watch as they come by the thousands and stop at the river. They know they must cross, but danger lurks everywhere, with lions in the long grass, and huge crocodiles waiting in the fast-moving water.
There are anywhere from 10 ,000 to 50,000 wildebeest here and once one of them literally takes the plunge, they will all go. And go they did. Some of the photos can be seen at www.desktopsafari.com, but I’m working on video which will post in a month or so. Sign up a the bottom left of the home page of the site (Join our Community), if you want to see that. It is amazing.
All of the family is fine and are thriving. In the back row, top left is Jackie’s husband Dan, who received an impressive promotion this year, and is now a Managing Director with a large financial services firm. Top right, are my son, Hal and girlfriend Katy. Hal is in the process of selling his half of the farm that he owned with his ex-wife. It’s a really gorgeous property. Katy is a woman of many parts, a French teacher, artist and yoga instructor. That’s her daughter, Serah (7) in the photo, head to head with our golden retriever, Zach.
In the center row are Jackie with young Jake (5). Jackie and family just moved into a beautiful new house in Berkeley Heights NJ and now have enough room to enable Joyce and I to stay over (hooray). Joyce continues to be a whirlwind of activity, working at the local food pantry, taking Zach on therapy visits to the island residence for chronically dependent, long term care, and being on the boards of Camp Jabberwocky and Women Empowered. And Cy still has his 2 jobs, keeps fit with exercise (he often swims 60 laps 2x a week in his local pool) and attends Camp Jabberwocky for his annual month-long camp experience every August.
Ashley (12), with the family dog, Patches, is a first rate student, a student of drama, who swims competitively. Recently, she has taken up volleyball and is now competing in inter-town competition. Kevin (9), sitting with Jeter is also doing exceptionally well in classes although his first love is sports. He’s a really strong all round sportsman; an outstanding baseball pitcher, soccer goalkeeper, and basketball player, competing in inter-town competition.
Lastly comes Jeter, our second golden retriever, who we rescued last year and has become an integral part of our family. He’s a fabulous, affectionate and funny dog, who sadly has been diagnosed with cancer, which is not responding to chemotherapy. So, we take it day-by-day with him.
And so, that’s all the news for the year. We send our love and best wishes to all of you.
Alan, Joyce, Zach & Jeter