In The Air Again

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I’ve “moved house” as they say here in England so often I feel as if I could almost do it in my sleep. As a child, we moved so many times that I missed a good bit of what was important in school…thank goodness I was a big bookworm or I’m afraid I’d know very little. By the time I was in the ninth grade, I’d been to 10 schools and in one extreme year of elementary school, I occupied a desk in 4 different schools on both the east and west coast. It’s no wonder that I grew up with a fierce case of wanderlust.

At 18, I joined the Army and left home moving after completing basic training to my first duty assignment, a post in Baumholder, Germany. I arrived there with what I could carry in two large suitcases and an over stuffed military duffel bag. The rest of my childhood things stayed in Georgia with my family so deciding what to pack was not too difficult. These last few months have presented a different set of choices with regard to packing and moving… some of which have been more difficult than others.

As I leave to fly back to Atlanta today, it is with a clear goal in mind. During the next few weeks, I’ll be sorting through what’s left of my physical life in Georgia. Ever a saver with too much stuff, I’ve been going through things since early last year when John and first considered the possibility of sharing a life together in Cornwall.

It was during the first bit of sorting and selling that I came up with the name of my blog…Gifts Of  The Journey. Having surrounded myself so long with things that held memories that I considered part of my story, I never would have believed I would or could consider letting them go. It would have seemed almost as if I were being asked to slice off a finger or a toe. I thought I needed those things to help me balance and connect to what was important. It was during the time when I was selling off the furniture and things that made my house so cozy, that I realized the gifts I was receiving in learning how to let go of the physical stuff in exchange for my deepening connection with John. I had no idea where we would go or really how we would get there, but what I did know was that my house and all the things inside were not what made it a home. Freeing myself from the belongings that I thought had to have, gave me the opportunity to start over in a life I could not have imagined would be so right for me.

I’m back in the air again soon and my next post will find me sorting through books and art and bits of my old life…choosing with the care and heartache my immigrant ancestors must have felt when moving to America so many years ago.  All I can think is…thank goodness, I don’t have to only bring what I can carry.

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Fairy Spirit Or Twist Of Light

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Fairy Spirit Or Twist Of Light?

I live in a place that is a wonderland for the imagination. Stories lie in wait around every turn and each time I step out for a walk or a run I return with a headful of ideas begging to find a bit a permanence and a place to call home. Whether on the moor or walking over the ancient bridges that cross the river that runs through our little village, I see possibilities wherever my eyes stop to rest. I find myself talking to the animals I see along the way and can easily understand how Beatrix Potter could create worlds where bunnies and geese talk back while cats and dogs do the shopping and farm work. These are fertile grounds for story making and the peace of my rural life is perfect for coaxing life into new characters and situations.

I have so much material that I often feel overwhelmed with my choices much like the way one might when standing before a huge buffet table, only instead of choosing between fried chicken southern style or asian sweet and sour , my banquet table is weighed down with ideas. It’s a wonderful problem to have, but for a woman prone ever so slightly towards being easily distracted…too many choices can be troublesome. So the ideas tend to pile up, waiting in a long queue for their moment with some moments taking longer to arrive than others. If I forget to write it all down…the story can disappear, but sometimes there is evidence, a lasting trigger with an image of mine to remind me.

Such was the case with a walk in Scotland on the Isle of Skye at sunset a few years ago. Day or night, the sky there is always stunning and I crawled over a thorny patch to capture this image lit by the setting sun. Skye has long been a magical place for me and seeing what looked like a bit of a fairy spirit captured in the lens of my camera created  more of a feeling of confirmation than surprise.  I have a series of these taken from different angles and the image is the same …twist of light or fairy spirit…you choose. I’d love to hear your thoughts…

 

(My lens was clean…in case you’re wondering…with no smudges or dust)

 

 

A Ladybug Love Story

 

Jersey Ladybug Or (Ladybird)

Jersey Ladybug Or (Ladybird)

In England many things have different names than what I’ve grown up with in America. Here, ladybugs are called ladybirds. Farmers and gardeners love them because they eat up the aphids that threaten the plants they labor to raise, but ladybugs have a different reason for being special to me.

If you’ve read any of my writings at my old blog you may remember my friend Marty who I wrote about here.  He was an important teacher for me in many ways. In fact, I would have to say that much of what I learned from talks with him such as why he made certain decisions in his own life, had a great influence on some key decisions I’ve made in my own.

Marty died of melanoma while we were next door neighbors and his decline was difficult to watch. He impressed me with his wisdom in the way that he lived and without knowing, he left a last lesson for me after his death. A short time after he died, I was talking with David, who had been his life partner for 14 years, about finding love. David told me a story that Marty had told to him when they were discussing David’s future life without Marty. David is one of the kindest, sweetest, souls you can imagine and Marty was worried someone might try to take advantage of him later when he was alone with his grief. Marty spoke of his concerns that his status as a physician might bring out those less interested in David and more interested in his position in the community.

So it was in a way that was so uniquely Marty, he told David the ladybug story that David later told me when we talked of how love finds us.  As I remember it, but perhaps not exactly as was told, Marty said words to this effect, ” When the day is beautiful and the weather too perfect for words, you decide to go on a hunt for a ladybug. So you take yourself to your favorite meadow and search and search everywhere looking for the tiny red and black creatures. You look high and low even bringing out a magnifying glass as you try as hard as you can to spot the tiny winged bugs that contrast so brightly with the green of new leaves and grasses.

When you’ve worn yourself out with a slightly desperate search for your ladybug, you stop to rest, unrolling the quilt you dropped in the grassy meadow a few hours earlier and you sit and enjoy the light breeze that keeps the day from being too hot. Feeling thirsty from your labors, you open a bottle of your favorite wine and take out a little package of cheese and crackers and you drink and eat until you feel quite satisfied. Listening to the soft hum of the insects buzzing around you, you begin to feel sleepy as the sun warms your quilt and the wine soothes your busy thoughts to a calmer, slower pace.  Lying back on the quilt you close your eyes and you sleep, a peaceful, restful sleep with dreams you can’t quite remember. Waking slowly from your summer dreams, you notice your hand lying on the worn patchwork fabric of your grandmother’s quilt and on your hand, sitting very still, you see a tiny red ladybug covered in spots.”  

I don’t think I need to explain the moral of his story…that real love comes to us only when we are ready inside and not when we search for it with the desperation of the hunt… for the ladybug or for love.

Marty Thompson - Embracing Every Moment!

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House Of Love

dscf8088This is the enchanting home we stayed in while John and I were visiting his daughter and her family in Jersey. The house on the other side as well as this one are typical of the 18th century granite farmhouses found in Jersey. Aside from its obvious beauty…there were a few things I didn’t know about homes like this one that I’d like to share with you.

dscf8087Originally know as the Dower House,  the one pictured above would have provided a home for a woman after the death of her husband. The main house that you see on the left in the first photo would have gone to the heir and the dowager would have moved into the dower house. There have been a few exterior changes to their home with the addition of the french doors and a large kitchen window that provides a beautiful view of their garden. One thing that remains the same is the inscription on the stone above the doorway. Marriage stones are usually found on the southern side of the house and have the husband and wife’s initials along with a heart and the wedding date inscribed into them.

 

Marriage Stone

Marriage Stone 1839

Sometimes though, the date is not a wedding date, but rather some other significant date for the couple. Or a stone might have been added when alterations were made to the building.

A Second Marriage Stone

A Second Marriage Stone 1958

The house on the other side is a bit older with a date of 1753 on the marriage stone above the doorway. I don’t have a picture of it, but to help put it into perspective I thought you might  look here to see some of the historic events that occured in 1753.

Telling Time With Dandelion Clocks

 

Dandelion Clocks - Nature's Timepiece

Dandelion Clocks - Nature's Timepiece

We’ve been away for a few days resetting our internal compass to multidirectional fun and giving our imaginations a good spring shake out.  The little Jersey girl above has been our tour guide and timekeeper for the last few days and I was sad in a way to say goodbye and head for home. John and I had a great time with his younger daughter and her husband, but his little granddaughter…she was the best part of the trip for me.

There is nothing like the energy and enthusiasm of a child to make the mundane magic and help you see the world through fresh eyes. I’ll be back with some Jersey stories after I shake the sand off my shoes and sift through the 1151 or so photographs I snapped since last Thursday.

Spring Trailblazing

Spring Trailblazing

Temporary Jersey Girl

 

Jersey

Jersey

I’ve left Cornwall for a few days with John to take a little trip down to the Jersey shore. If you’re American like me, you might hear the word Jersey and think I’m referring to New Jersey, a U.S. state that some people may associate with Bruce Springsteen who still calls it home. 

Not long after we met, John mentioned having a daughter living in Jersey and I think I probably said something like, ” Hmmm,” as if I knew exactly what he was talking about while thinking to myself, how quickly can I google the word Jersey. I consider myself fairly well traveled having both visited and lived many places as a child and adult as well as spending a few years in Germany in my early 20′s. I have to admit though, when he said Jersey, I was hearing Bruce crooning Jersey Girl in my head for about half a second.  Before I could get to the keyboard to shift my focus, he began to describe Jersey and it’s location among the other Channel Islands. It’s everything he said and more, a beautiful little island with loads of shoreline located about 60 miles south of England and 12 miles from the French Coast. 

I’ve been taking tons of pictures since we arrived and would like to share some stories as well as some of the interesting history of Jersey, but I can’t get a proper signal on my laptop so it will have to wait a few more days until we get back to Cornwall.

I managed to get online for a minute so here’s a quick look at one image for now.

The Ways We Remember, Those We Cannot Forget

Virgina Tech Campus - April 17, 2007

Virginia Tech Campus - April 17, 2007

Almost everyday we hear of a tragedy so horrible it’s difficult to comprehend. Like many, I see the suffering recounted in the media and when I am overwhelmed, I do what many cannot. I turn off the television, radio, or computer and step away from what is too painful to watch. Two years ago, my daughter was part of a community of people who became unwilling participants in a group memory they will always share. It’s one they can never turn off or step away from, nor is it likely one that they will ever forget.

A recent graduate of Virginia Tech, Miranda was in the last few weeks of her sophomore year when a fellow student went on what is now known as the deadliest shooting rampage in U.S. history by a single gunman. His actions disrupted the small town of Blacksburg’s sense peace and security and had a devastating effect on the lives of the families of 32 people, most of whom were parents of students at the university. While in no way comparable to the loss of a loved one, this tragedy has had a lasting effect on those who call themselves “Hokies.”

On the morning of April 16, 2007, I received a call from my daughter telling me there had been a shooting on campus. She was referring to the two students killed at the first site, but was at that point unaware of the shootings at Norris Hall, where 30 more people lost their lives.

She called me between 9:32 and 9:40 and I immediately turned to CNN to see what information I could pick up from the news. While on the phone together, we learned about the second shooting site at Norris Hall. The morning was cold and windy with a bit of  light snow falling, feeling more like winter  than the calendar would suggest. It was a combination of the weather and a high grade point average that made Miranda decided to skip her 8:00 am class and sleep in. That decision kept her safe that morning. She would say later that she would have been gone and on her way back to her residence hall by the time the shooter arrived at Norris and maybe so, but three of her classmates in her 8:00 class died that day in the next class they attended in Norris Hall.

She doesn’t like to talk about that day. Understandably so. She told me recently that when she talks of changing jobs, people ask about her degree and once they realize  she is a VT grad, they always want to discuss the shooting. She obliges politely, but with reservations. She knows people have questions, but I don’t think at 21, they should look for the answers from her. I can’t begin to know what it’s like to be so young and to know and perhaps on some level dread being asked the same questions over and over. I know she’ll be remembering April 16 today, my fear as a mother is my concern that she may remember it everyday. There is a penetrating sadness for me and an awareness that I can’t kiss away her pain now or erase those memories with same distractions I could when she was a child.

As you would imagine, today is a Day of Remembrance at Virginia Tech. I wish Miranda could be there today with the same group of people who share her experience. Graduating early as she did in December, she seems to miss the feel of the place she called home for almost four years and a family and community of people who understand today even if they can’t really talk about it.  I don’t know the private ways in which my daughter chooses to remember or forget, but I stand ready to listen or sit in silence, grateful that I did not lose the chance to do so now… on April 16, 2007.

I hope you’ll take a moment to remember the 32 who lost their lives that day and if 32 is too many to comprehend at one time, perhaps you can remember the three from Miranda’s 8:00 am class. I feel sure she’ll be thinking of them.

Their names are listed below…running with them in mind is my way of honoring their memory.

Remembering

Remembering

The picture at the top was taken by Miranda on April 17,2007 at the candlelight vigil for those who died.

Saying Hello – A Surprise From Paris!

 

Carolyn & Kim In Paris

Carolyn & Kim In Paris

Just imagine you’re finishing up your day…wrapping up a few things and taking a last look through your Google Reader to see if any of your favorites have posted lately to their blog. Last night I doing just that when I noticed that Carolyn from My Sydney Paris Life had a new post. Clicking on it to check her location, she and her partner Clive have been on the road and in the air for the last few weeks and it’s been quite interesting to share their journey so I was curious to see what fun they’d been up to. I was quickly intrigued to see the heading, ” To Elizabeth, from Paris.”  I didn’t automatically assume the Elizabeth was me as there are a lot of Elizabeth’s out there…even Elizabeth Harpers, but it was a message for me though and very sweet. If you go here, you can read about the details.

I’d like to add that one of the very best things I found through blogging is the friends I’ve made along the way. Blogging is like hunting for treasure without leaving your home and “meeting” people like Kim from Sassiland and Carolyn from My Sydney Paris Life enriches my life in many ways. I was really touched that they were thinking of me as they gathered together to meet in person. I hope next time I can be there too.

I Can’t Believe She’s 35!

 

Jennie & Elizabeth 1974

Baby Jennie With Elizabeth 1974

Almost 14 years separate us in age. Born on Easter Sunday, my youngest sister was a surprise in many ways. My dad, having remarried when I was 12, never expected to have more children than the two he’d had in his first marriage to my mother. I know my stepmom was as surprised as anyone when she found herself sitting in her doctor’s waiting room with women much younger and their developing belly bumps. In 1974, women who were 40 or older were more likely to be planning for their first grandchild’s arrival than a baby of their own.

So it was that Jennie, not Jennifer like so many girls born in the 70′s, came into my life. You could say she was a gift from the Easter bunny having arrived on the day when children wake to find surprises left by the fluffy symbol of Easter. Her maternal grandfather called her Bunny right from the start, making it a special nickname that only he would use in conversations with and about her.

I moved into their new baby household when Jennie was about six months old, stretching the limits of what my stepmom had probably planned for her life when she married for the first and only time at 38. Looking back, I am amazed at how well she handled all of unexpected  changes in her transition from single working woman to new wife, before all too quickly being called on to mother an infant and teen.  

Jennie, having been born to older parents grew up almost like an only child. While I was around and involved, I was a teenager after all and pretty well focused on my school and social life. Jennie and I played together, but I don’t remember having had too much required of me…as in no forced baby sitting or sulking about it as I can recall. I remember building her a little puppet theatre and covering it with a hideous pink fabric left over remnants of the 60′s… found somewhere I can’t remember. I made puppets and stories to go with it forcing her to endure and participate in my first playwriting experiences. (Sorry… no pictures seem to exist of the theatre to share.)

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Jennie was my model when I tried my hand at 17 with my first forays into posed portrait work. She was such a good sport especially since she was barely four at the time this poor quality image was taken.  

 

Jennie At Four

Jennie At Four

Joining the Army at 18, I was a visitor mostly after that, a sister who sent letters or gifts from other countries with occasional visits home while on leave. During the 5 years that I was away from Georgia, Jennie changed quite a lot during that time growing out of her little girl self of four into a more outspoken performer of nine. By the time she reached high school she was performing in musicals, sometimes winning the leading role. She began college as a performance major, but changed directions along the way, moving towards a degree and profession aimed at helping others.

 

Miranda Wearing Jennie's College Cap On Graduation Day

Miranda Wearing Jennie's College Cap On Graduation Day

After a few difficult years of helping children through Family and Children’s Services, she returned to school for a master’s degree in community counseling and added a certification to it that would enable her to provide counseling and support to children in a school setting. It’s there she seems to have found her home working with children who frequently need a listening ear and directional support. She spends her days in a rural setting where some of the children come from difficult home situations. Jennie’s quick to recognize a need where someone else might overlook it and at times has gone so far as to buy shoes for a child who didn’t have any they could wear. She does good work there making sure all of the children have equal opportunities for success along with a bit of nurturing and acceptance they may not receive at home.

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Jennie with Mitzi - At Home In North Georgia

It’s hard to believe that she’s 35 today … Happy Birthday Jennie!

From A Distance

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Machu Picchu - Morning Light

My tendency in photography as well as life has been to get in close to what is in front of me. I am generally more interested in what is under the surface than the obvious. I like the intimacy of sharing and hearing a snippet of a story will almost always make me want to hear more. With my photography, I have been drawn for years to the details as well, believing I think that on some level getting in close was requirement for communicating the emotion of the image.

Living in a space now with so much wide open sky and so few people has had an effect on my perspective, although on reflection I can see it’s been happening for quite some time. As far back as my first visit to Scotland in 2003, I began to pull back taking in a larger view than before. By the time I saw the sun rise over me in Machu Picchu in 2005, my attraction and need for big sky and wide open spaces was becoming obvious in my photography and my life. While my first tendency is to zoom in tight to see what the people in the photograph are doing, sitting with this image reminds me how small I felt that morning and how peaceful it was to observe from a distance.  

Thanks to Stephanie Roberts over at Shutter Sisters for her inspiration this morning.