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Equinox

20 Sep

Rollrights.  Solstice and equinox, I like to visit.  (See: Rollright redux; Rollright stones; Stones at the end of the rainbow; Seventy-three)   Here near our Autumnal Equinox, I saw more people walking the stones than I have ever seen before.  Good weather?  Scottish Independence?  I don’t know what drew people to walk the stones on a slightly overcast but fresh fall day.  I didn’t care, I suppose.  It was a good feeling to see the stones surrounded by visitors.

IMG_20140912_144545edThe number of formations changes every time I walk the ring of stones.  And I do walk it.  There’s something peaceful in the pacing of the stone ring.  Always something poetical about the shifting lumps and crevasses of the stones, and the changing colors of the lichen.  I’m reminded that the lichen on these stones are probably some of the oldest life forms I’ve ever met.

IMG_20140912_145236edThe curving walk to the Whispering Knights is surrounded by blackberry bushes, blooming.  This may be the secret to the many visitors to the stones.

IMG_20140912_145604edThe knights huddle in their slumping splendor, overlooking the rolling cotswold hills.

IMG_20140912_150637edAcross the road, my witch has finally fallen.  Fallen, and disappeared entirely.  “The King won in the end,” speculated my son.  But I stood on the witch’s spot, threw my arms out at the king, and recited her curse.  So, who won?

IMG_20140912_122803edA visit to the Rollright Stones remains one of my favorite days out, and a quarterly touchstone to my year.  And every visit is punctuated most satisfyingly with pies and Hooky at puddingface, in Deddington.

This visit had an extra weight of promise and transformation underneath it — many changes happening behind the scenes here in Camelot.  It satisfies me to know I have been able to spend three whole circles of the sun visiting these ancient stones, and that they will continue to wait out their purpose long after I am able to walk their circle in spirit only.

In, not of, with roses.

25 Jun

I heard myself say the other day:  “I love England.  I don’t love living in England, but I love England.”

Sometimes when you open your mouth and speak without thinking, truth pops out.  I’ll leave you with that bit of personal ambiguity and my annual photo spread of something about which I feel no equivocation — the gorgeous roses that bloom in our garden.  When I turn the corner to walk to my house, the scent of these roses hit me before I can even see the front door.  Some brave blooms show up as late (or as early) as New Years Day, but most reach their fulsome loveliest now, in June.

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Want more roses?  See my post from two years ago, Jubilee and Roses, or look up the roses tag.  I’m still a rose-moron — I have no idea the names or types of these roses which bring my life so much beauty.  Yet in these few years I find my idea of what is required in a garden has changed.  There must be roses.  There must always be roses.

A midsummer madness

22 Jun

Midsummer.  The longest day of the year.  The one day in England where I can rejoice from the first twinkle of light to the very last, knowing I am as safe from the days of darkness as I will be all year. And what did fair befall me today, but the most worthy, most perfect summer’s day.

And where could we go, but where we have been so happily before?  One of my favorite places in England, Shakespeare Country.  (See previous posts: Day out: Mary Arden Farm, Uncertain glory of a summer day, Snapshot: pigs!, Respite, Day out: Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, That in season grows.  Heck, I even used a photo of the cottage as an example of my fantasy home when we were first house hunting.)

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The cottage was looking extremely well.IMG_3451edPresided over by the King and Queen of Summer.

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That eye-catching crescent moon still orbits the garden.IMG_3480ed

And the garden is in full summer bloom.IMG_3481ed

No, really.  It was the most incredible day, ever, of all time.IMG_3483ed

A want to be a rose — this rose — in this garden — and bloom forever.  But even on this day, we had to move along.  We left Anne Hathaway’s Cottage for Mary Arden’s Farm, just a few minutes up the road and this year hosting a series of midsummer celebration events.  We’ve been here so many times, it is fun to see what small changes happen between each visit, and what stays the same.IMG_3502ed

Millie the Owl still swoops over heads and grabs mice corpses from her human.IMG_3505ed

Those cute piglets?  Have grown and GROWN.IMG_3529ed

A warm day.  I love the ducks’ sinewy necks curling into their water stone.IMG_3511ed

A view over the vegetable garden, toward Palmer’s farmhouse.IMG_3513ed

We’ve been at this door before.  Enter.IMG_3514ed

The kitchen, mostly cleaned, after the midday feast.IMG_3517ed

The table, cleared, and main bedchamber beyond.IMG_3519ed

The cold cellar.IMG_3521ed

The table set in the masters chamber.IMG_3523ed

Upstairs, view across the floor through the first three rooms.  Check out that hobbit door.IMG_3524ed

Adult bed with child’s trundle.
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The last room on the top floor, where lesser beings sleep and work.IMG_3536ed

On this day, storytelling and fairies in the Rickyard.IMG_3545ed

Followed by music and dancing. (“Now we’re horses!  Now we’re horses!” Called out the lead dancer.)IMG_3540ed

And perfectly groomed paths through the fields — with hand sanitizers — for long, quiet, anti-bacterial walks.IMG_3546edMidsummer madness.  On this longest day of the year, it seems that time stretches out. I had seen more sun before 11am today than I would see in a full day in mid-December.  Heck, in December, the sun hardly seems to peer gloomily over the world before 10am.  I would build a Stonehenge, myself, if I thought that would guarantee a day like this at least once a year.  For today, I’m content enough to wake at 4am, and refuse to sleep until the stars come out near midnight.

 

Make do and mend

4 May

Another detour.  Emergency surgery!  What a way to experience another culture.  I can’t recommend this method enough.  Really, I … can’t … recommend … it.

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Royal Deeside

We had a beautiful trip to Scotland over Easter.  Like our trip two years ago, we found sunshine and magic everywhere we looked. (Want to see?  Start here and move forward.)  I can’t wait to share those moments with you.

But I was sidetracked on our return.  Waking up one morning in pain which quickly turned me useless and nearly senseless, we rushed to A&E (the UK version of the ER).  The difference in culture is obvious from the first: no one cared about my insurance.  Name, date of birth, address, and the consultant will see you now.  Health care is a HUMAN RIGHT in the UK and I LOVE THAT.

I had the misfortune to be ill on a three day weekend — a Bank Holiday Monday, the day after Easter.  This was very silly of me, as anyone on staff with any sense or seniority had the day off.  But the bare-bones holiday shift did their best for me.

And you should have seen their faces when I asked how soon after emergency hernia surgery I could get back to CrossFit.  I may have managed to recruit both surgical consultants to my warmly-loved box.

An overnight on the surgical ward in a large shared room was another example of the differences in UK and US health care culture.  I had the brief thought that being in a large shared space would feel industrial.  Like I was a chicken in a large coop.  (I was on significant pain medication, I was not thinking clearly.  I definitely pictured us all on roosts, clucking away.)  Instead I found the presence of others in recovery comforting.  The nurses were kind and seemed to care about the individual dignity of all us chickens.  The quiet susurration of daily life in my ears kept me from isolation and depression.  And honestly, there was always the reminder that while I might feel wretched or sad, I was surrounded by women who had already experienced worse and were still making do and mending themselves.

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Ribbon tree, Avebury

And did I mention the tea?  Nothing cures like a warm cuppa.  Apparently.  I was offered tea at regular points throughout my stay, and the tea lady was so upset when I declined.  Who doesn’t need a nice cup of tea, I could see her thinking.  I couldn’t stop thinking of that M*A*S*H episode with the recuperating British soldiers who want their tea even when it’s making them more ill:

Hawkeye: Jolly good, Major, but not all your traditions work out quite so well.
Maj. Ross: For instance?
Hawkeye: For instance, giving your lads tea when they’ve been hit in the belly. That leads to another tradition. Peritonitis.
Maj. Ross: You’re sure about that?
Hawkeye: Quite.
Maj. Ross: Well, that does a make a bit of sense. I’ll take it up to higher authorities. But I don’t know…if it was anything but tea.

The tea lady and I finally settled on my having a nice warm cup of beef broth.  She clearly felt that the balance of the universe had been restored when she could bring me a warm cup of liquid.  I said a silent thanks to Hawkeye.

So home I came, about 36 hours after first tottering into A&E, wheeled out on a chair straight out of 1950, by a friendly nurse who had been inconsequentially and cheerfully gossiping away with me about kids and schools during my whole stay — the medicine of sociability must never be discounted.

It would be nice to think that I’ll catch up on all sorts of blog posts while I’m recovering.  I’ll keep thinking that, as I dose off in front of the fire while the rain pours down and I drink my not-tea.  Catch up with y’all later.

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Nobody here but us chickens, Forest of Dean

London postcard

18 Mar

Oh, I’m having trouble.  Either the weather is great, so I want to be outside and away from the blog and not do anything but enjoy the sunshine.  Or the weather is horrible, and I want to hibernate in front of the fire and not do anything but wish for sunshine.  But somewhere in there we made a long weekend visit to London and saw some sights.  We haven’t been to London with the kids since February two years ago, when we went up the London Eye and on a Duck Tour.  This year, we got some sunshine, which transformed the city into something beautiful.

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Boat tour on the Thames.IMG_1975ed

Trafalgar Square … in the sun!  This was the first time I’ve ever visited London in the sunshine.  I wasn’t sure it was possible.  IMG_2000ed

Parliament, Big Ben, that London Eye.IMG_2060ed

There are so many iconic photos of the Tower of London, I’m just not even going to try.  Almost all of my photos from this trip look identical to the ones I took nearly twenty years ago when I first visited London.  For this trip, we stayed in a hotel nearby and walked over in the evening to see the Tower lit up … arrived early one morning for our visit … did all the usual things.  By getting there early and going straight to the Crown Jewels, we were able to go round the jewels three times, with no crowds.  Dropped in and out of the Beefeater tours and wandered to our hearts content.  As our trip was timed during the national school holidays, we also were able to enjoy many extra activities (think costuming and faux executions).IMG_2131edThe British Museum.  My children, world-weary travelers, decided it was not as impressive as the Louvre. (Paris postcard.)  Ahem.  

IMG_2219edBehind the scenes at Tower Bridge, in the engine room exhibit.  Might make a steam-punk-y sort of blog post about that visit.  Pretty cool.

IMG_2297edFor reasons unknown but likely connected to movie marketing, Mjölnir appeared in Greenwich.

IMG_2303edThe National Maritime Museum in Greenwich is impressive, and a big kid favorite.

20140218_142056edView from the Royal Observatory.

20140218_143851edFound our first daffodils of the year in Greenwich.  I super-thumbs-up recommend Greenwich as a green and calm respite from London hurly-burly.

And that was it!  Or at least all the photos worth bothering to share.  I can’t possibly give you the character of London from these few photos and our few visits.  However, I came home and read through a series recommended by thebookgator (first review here: A Madness of Angels) that reveals a living geography of London through strongly written vignettes of color, sound, taste, smell, and rhythm.  (With, you know, magic and murder thrown in.)  When I’m hibernating — or reading in the sunshine — it’s a fun way to remember the feel of life in London.

White choral bells

6 Feb

Do you know this sweet little round?

White choral bells, upon a slender stalk, 
Lilies of the valley deck my garden walk.
Oh don’t you wish that you could hear them ring?
That can happen only when the fairies sing.

I know snowdrops aren’t lilies of the valley, but when I see a hillside covered in their tender buds, I can’t help but hum along, and look for winter fairies.

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Not frost … not snow … snowdrops.IMG_1846ed

An ocean of snowdrops!IMG_1862ed

Snuggled up to large trees … snowdrops!IMG_1872ed

Not yet blooming, but completely unconcerned with winter chill … snowdrops!IMG_1877ed

A spotted blanket over the ground … snowdrops!IMG_1920edAbove, below, behind, everywhere … snowdrops!

All found at Painswick Rococo Gardens.  Snowdrops are at their peak now and through the next couple of weeks.  If you’re hunting for these (as I have been in previous years), check them out.

 

Stones at the end of the rainbow

7 Jan

You know.  You know where I went already.  You know because I go there near about every solstice — summer and winter — and I just mentioned it last week, again.  And because there are rocks in my head and I live in circles.  Yes — back to the Rollright Stones.

I love the view from here.

IMG_1441edBut, what we did not expect to find:

IMG_1419edER … MAH … GERRD

IMG_1425edMy beloved/feared witch has finally fallen.  And appears to be the pot at the end of the rainbow.  Good luck, strange witch, in the future’s compost heap.

IMG_1437edAgain the reminders that other circling travelers like to visit this time of year.  It’s a comfort, really, to know I’m not the only one.

IMG_1453edThey even left poetry for the Whispering Knights, in a gesture I can’t help but approve.

IMG_1432edStones and circles in my head, what can I say?