Kelly Rae Roberts – Taking Control With Flying Lessons

Remember that e-course I mentioned here and what I revealed about myself here, well we are winding down now after five weeks of online lessons with loads of positive information and ” flight plans ” useful in getting a creative idea and business off the ground.

While I picked up some really great ideas and business tips, I think what I enjoyed most was watching how inspired the collective group was and the energy that came through when so many taking the class began implementing big projects right away and sharing them online with each other.

So many of my classmates already had the skill and creative abilities (their shoes, if you will) that helped define them in their roles as artists, but still needed a bit of help in the taking control aspect that is necessary when going from creative artist to someone able to earn a living doing the work they love.

I am in deep in the process of expanding my vision for myself now and over the next few months will be unveiling a few projects of my own as I work out all the nitty-gritty details. The biggest take away for me during this process has been about lifting some of the limitations I tend to put on myself. Although I have long been identified by friends and co-workers as the kind of person who thinks outside the box, I have often limited my own creative movement while encouraging others to reach for something more.

In the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy had those lovely red shoes that could have taken her home with just a click had she known the ability she already possessed. I have been thinking lately about what I already know … what each of us know within ourselves about our dreams. I’ve been thinking too about the ways in which we can develop the vision required to take our dreams from being just a possibility to something that actually gets off the ground.

So I have been busy here … working steadily on my ” flight plan ” while opening boxes that have held a few dreams for far too long. What about you … what have you got packed away that feels boxed up so tightly it’s like a memory of what you once dreamed of for yourself?

If it’s direction you need, you might find some inspiration over here today. The topic has to do with a technique that has helped me define mine for years.

It will be worth your time, I promise.

Auntie Norah’s Weed

Auntie Norah's Weed

There is a flower in our garden that John always refers to as Auntie Norah’s Weed. It’s interesting to me that as much as he knows about gardening and proper plant names that he seems content to identify this flowering plant in the way that he does.

Some of you may not know that my husband John has done a great deal of research into his family history picking up on the work done by his father before he died. He likes to tell stories of how his dad was so into genealogy that at the age of 81 he flew to Singapore and Australia for three weeks on his own to attend several conferences.

It was Auntie Norah who started it all though. In 1961 John recorded this bit of conversation between Auntie Norah and his grandmother Marie where they’re discussing some relatives and family history with him. John is only eighteen in this recording.

Here’s a bit from the website of John Winchurch:


Norah was my great aunt and her sister Marie my grandmother. They are pictured above about 1903. It was a conversation between Norah and Marie in 1961 that was an early inspiration for both me and my father to look into family history more. Dad began straight away, my research had to wait a few decades.

At this point, at the age of eighteen, I was fascinated by sound recording and had just built my second tape recorder. My family provided the material for testing its capabilities.This is one short excerpt that I am particularly glad I captured.Norah talks about ‘mother’s father’s father’ being a ‘wonderful violinist’ and ‘coming over with a German band’

Listen to Auntie Norah in forty seconds of history.  ( You can hear John at 20 and 22 seconds into the recording)

She was almost right, Francis George Sternberg was actually a generation further back and was a trumpeter with the Royal Horse Guards. He settled in Northampton, married Frances Furnivall and established himself and his family in a music retail and education business.At the time of this recording in 1961, it was two hundred years since Francis’s birth. It is an interesting example of how family information can be passed down the generations.

L to R - Alice Brown, Francis Victor Winchurch, baby John Winchurch, Harry Brown, Margaret Winchurch, Marion Winchurch, Norah Alice Brown

To finish this post which began about Auntie Norah’s Weed I want to tell you a bit more about her. John’s grandmother was one of three sisters with Norah being the eldest by three years. As Norah never married it was she who took care of their aging mother living with her until she died leaving Norah alone at sixty-six.

She worked at several jobs during her lifetime in libraries in the area and took tons of photographs over the years as an avid hobbyist. In her 80′s when she could no longer live alone she came to live with her sister John’s grandmother Marie who was by then in her 80′s as well.

With Norah crowding into the small home already occupied by her sister, John’s mother, father, and brother she had to get rid of many things during her move. With so much family in one space, Auntie Norah did a big clear out even trying to get rid of many of her family photograph albums which were rescued from the rubbish bin.

One thing she couldn’t leave behind was the yellow flower you see above. While this is not one of her original plants, it is the same type of flower that John’s grandmother labeled a weed based on the way it overtook the garden. Aside from Auntie Norah’s Weed, when I asked John what he remembered most about her he quickly said her laughter. He said she was always laughing and you can hear it on the link above that John recorded in 1961.

Sitting in my studio I can see Auntie Norah’s Weed growing across the garden in an almost direct sight line to my desk. While the garden space is compact, as lovely as this flower is I cannot imagine a time when I would ever not appreciate the brightness it adds to my daily view.

Of course it might be nice to know its proper name if any gardeners out there want to pass it on, but personally … I like remembering the laughing spirit of a woman I never knew and hope Auntie Norah’s Weed spreads its roots as deeply in the garden as she has now in my memory.

Sharing A Story – My Teary Moment With Kenny Loggins

In 1997, my life was in the middle of major changes when I saw that an old musical favorite of mine was coming to town to sign copies of a book that he had co-authored with his wife. I knew virtually nothing about this book, but what I did know was how at various points in my life his music had offered a soundtrack for the emotions and struggles that I had experienced particularly in my 20′s and early 30′s and something in me felt a need to go to his book signing.

If you’ve been reading my blog for long you already know that storytelling is so throughly a part of who I am that the idea that I might wait in line at a bookstore to have my newly purchased book autographed without mentioning the significance of his music and then quietly slip away was not even in the realm of possibility.

As I stepped up to meet him with a long line of people at my back, I considered how I might communicate the importance one song in particular had for me during my divorce from my daughter’s father and how I had listened to it over and over hanging on to the words like a life raft when I felt as if I might drown in all the sadness and disappointment I felt in myself and my failures.

Although very few of us are entirely responsible for the end of a marriage, for a while I believed that burden was all mine and I cried my way through years of pain that while unrelated in some ways surfaced during the final days and weeks of my marriage. I wanted more for a child of mine than two parents living separate lives shuttling back and forth between two houses and I struggled with keeping my own childhood sorrows from overshadowing my need to ensure that she felt safe and loved.

It was during this time while dressing for work one morning that I saw Kenny Loggins sing a song on a morning television show and listened as the words in his song mirrored my own experience. I remember stopping what I was doing at the time and just sitting as I watched … feeling for the first time that maybe things would be alright. The words in his song echoed exactly what I had been feeling and later I listened as he talked about the changes in his life and the joy that was now present.

His song had given me hope and a bit of solace back then and made me see that I was not alone in my sad experience and I as I stood there waiting I thought, I’m going to tell him. For a moment I considered, what if he thinks I’m silly, stupid, or God forbid, groupie-ish, but in the end I decided to share the importance hearing that particular song had for me during a time of crisis.

What you see in the photograph below is me telling him my story. I had given my camera to the woman behind me to take my picture with him and as I was talking I knelt down for a minute so my position shifted from what you see here. I told him of that morning only a few years earlier and how the message in his song had provided a starting place for healing and a form of forgiveness that I while I was still working on for myself, was slowly coming together after years of not trusting my own voice and my own sense that my feelings and dreams were just as valuable as those who wanted to be in relationship with me.

Kenny Loggins - Elizabeth Harper

As I told him my story, his eyes began to tear up … filling close to overflowing while we spoke and not because of the sadness in my story, but I believe now having read his book, because of the similarity. I think he was touched by my story because he had lived parts of it himself, different in ways to mine certainly, but the same at the core.

The woman who followed me in line brought my camera to me after having her book autographed and said, ” You made him cry … what did you say to him? ”  Without going into my whole story, I told her that I just shared an important moment in my life and how one song had made a difference. Having taken a risk to share something so special to me, I can’t tell you how pleased I was that it was received in the way I had intended.

There’s a release that comes in speaking your truth. It doesn’t need to be public or released in a song as has often been his way, but sharing your story can be a gift to someone who just might need the message in your own experience. Most of us do this everyday never really knowing the impact our words may have.

I’ve been speaking my truth here at GOTJ for the last 24 months. Today marks two years since I wrote my first blog post at giftsofthejourney.com where my first 82 posts still live. In February of 2009, I moved GOTJ to this WordPress account and during the last two years the combined total of 338 posts have garnered 76,853 page views and the kind and generous comments of many of you likely reading this today.

I want to take a minute to thank you for including my words and images in your daily life. Even though I don’t always have a chance to respond on the comments left here, please know that they are so appreciated and mean a great deal to me. Quite often as you’ve shared bits of your own story in response to something I’ve written I have been moved to tears as Kenny Loggins was that day and I am always grateful whenever my story connects in some useful way with your own.

I’m not sure what Kenny Loggins was writing in everyone else’s book, but he could not have picked better words for me personally than those two you see at the bottom of the page,” Trust Love.”  I frequently tell people that I could not have imagined that I would ever have the life I have now, but you all know my story if you’ve been reading GOTJ for long.

Trusting love is what brought me to this sweet life with John and the awareness that change had its own gifts to offer led me to create Gifts Of The Journey and a chance to share the experience with anyone interested in their own gifts and their own journey. My thanks to each of you who through Gifts of the Journey are now a part of mine.

John Winchurch & Elizabeth Harper - 2008

Altarnun Church – Cathedral Of The Moors

Photo by John Winchurch

Alternun Church is known as the Cathedral of the Moors and while from the outside it looks at a glance like many other parish churches in Cornwall, this one has tower which is 109 feet tall (3rd tallest in Cornwall) and is partly constructed of moorstone which is not quarried stone, but granite lying about on the moor. The original church of St. Nonna was Norman and built in the 12th century, but only a few pieces still remain. Named after after the mother of St David who left her native Wales around 527, the church as you see it now was built in the 15th century.

In the photograph just above and below you can see a Celtic cross from the 6th century which would have been standing during St Nonna’s time.

The Celtic cross is to the left of the church gates.

Moving inside the church the first thing you see is the light from the long row of windows and the faces on the huge font below.

The baptismal font is one of the few remaining pieces from the 12th century church and according to a church guide written by William Kneebone (parish vicar from 1936 to 1967) is typical of the late Norman style. The faces and radial motif along with the square shape are typical of the period in contrast to the rounded fonts favored during the Saxon period.

I think they look fairly fierce in a simple sort of way.

I can’t imagine having a baby baptized over a font that has been in use since the 12th century.

One of the things this church is known for and one reason John wanted to see it was the collection of carved bench ends. These are also unusual in that the work is signed. As you can see above, the 79 bench ends were carved by Robart Daye during the years 1510-1530. Some are traditional Christian symbols.

Some depict scenes from the renaissance period like the medieval fiddle above.

On this one you see a jester which seems an interesting choice for a church bench.

Some of them have had the faces destroyed.

This box was interesting in that not only was it dated 1684 based on the carving you see, but it was still in use. There’s loads more in this church that is historical and interesting. To read more about it you can go here or come to Cornwall to see it for yourself.

Altarnun – Pausing To See More Than A Road Sign

As is often the way here there are unexpected surprises sometimes waiting just around the next bend in the road. John and I took the time to discover one a few weeks ago. For as long as John has lived in Cornwall, Alternun has been just another name on small roadside sign, one of many villages scattered just off the A-30 as it snakes it’s way through Cornwall all the way to Land’s End where it does what everything does there, it ends.

While he is often given to impromptu side trips to explore new places, John had never taken the turn to the village below. Last Christmas his cousin Mary came to stay with us for the holiday and while she was here shared a story with him about this sweet little village that had been one of her mother’s favorites. Cousin Mary if you remember is 87 and has had a fondness for Cornwall since she first came here as a child. As we were driving back from an errand in another village John saw the sign and detoured taking us straight off the A-30 to see Alternun.

We parked near the church which has an interesting history that I’ll share here in a post here tomorrow.  For now I’ll take you on a little walking tour around the village. The bridge above was built in the 15th century and is known as the packhorse bridge.

John took this photograph from a grassy patch near the village hall. The church tower is tucked just behind the trees on the left and the building in front is a row of cottages.

This sweet little bridge as I said earlier is called a packhorse bridge and not wide enough for cars.

This was taken from the packhorse bridge and that is John in the striped shirt off in the distance near where he stood while taking the second photograph in this post.

Just over the footbridge you see this memorial to those who died in several wars. In the distance you can see a row of cottages with the one on the end having a big garden. This is all right in the heart of the village which adds even more visual interest.

Here’s another view looking down the main street.

See the monument in the shadows of the right corner, this row of cottages is to the right of it.

Here is a shot of that pretty little veggie patch I mentioned.

I found this row of cottages pretty interesting. There was a small running stream right underneath the stone slate footbridges that led to each front door. I asked John if these were designed this way in order to dump waste into the stream for removal when originally built … he was not sure, but it did seem likely to us both.

This had to be one of the best looking rural phone boxes I’ve seen in Cornwall. With cell phones so accessible and in wide use the need for pay phones is not really necessary. People have protested the removal of the easily recognizable red phone booths based on how they’ve come to be symbolic images associated with the UK and while they stay in place for now, most are beginning to look pretty uncared for.

I’m not sure about this building, I’ll need to go back sometime soon to ask some questions about the history of the buildings from some locals. It was very quiet when we were there and so I came away with lots of questions and little answers.

John graciously agreed to pose next to this door so you could see how low the entrance was. No one lives here now and it could use some renovation and repair.

This may not look too odd to some of you … just and old farmhouse cottage across the street in a Cornish village in southwest England until you notice that silver thing with the bell hanging off the back end of it. Hmm … this might look familiar to any Americans reading this post.

Yep, I do believe that says U.S. Mail on it which seems so out of place in Altarnun particularly with the word cottage on the wall behind it. Someone has removed the red flag normally found on the side of the mailbox. I like the use of the bell as an alert.

If you look behind the row of cottages you can see the church on the hill. Just inside the gate is a Celtic cross said to date to the 6th century. Remember … come back tomorrow for a little show and tell as to what makes this church so special.

Building A Home One Mouthful At A Time

Sometimes when feeling overwhelmed by a sizable to do list, I don’t need to go far to be reminded of how much can be accomplished when broken into small steps or as in the case of the House Martins who share close quarters with us for several months of the year, what can be done one mouthful at a time.

The House Martins build nests up under the eaves every year or reuse the ones left behind and the nests are protected by law in the UK while they are being built or if there is active nesting going on. John is always quite pleased to see them and doesn’t seem to mind cleaning a bit of bird poo that falls from the area at times.

They have a tendency to build little bird duplexes side by side or as John would say, a semi, short for semi-detached, a name used here for two houses joined together on one side.

These photos aren’t my best work. It’s difficult to get close and I was too lazy to pull out my Nikon and good lens, but my little Canon G9 did a fair job picking up some decent images. I would love to show you a completed semi from the work above, but House Martins need mud to build these nests and with the beautiful weather we’ve had lately, there’s been little rain to create the necessary materials.

This birdie duplex is over the garage and appears to be occupied only on one side this year. Can you see the little bird peaking out on the left?

Look, there are at least two beaks waiting inside for their supper.

Some people don’t like having what looks like a great clump of mud in the eaves of their house, but I’m amazed and inspired when I consider that it must have taken hundreds of trips back and forth to build this temporary sanctuary and birthing center. It helps my perspective every time.

You can go here to hear what House Martins sound like. There’s an audio link right under the name on the left once you get there. Thanks to my bird-loving husband John for sending this to me.

Dancing For Your Life

You may remember this post the other day where I wrote about chewing on an idea, what I didn’t mention at the time was how difficult it was to get a macro shot of the caterpillar I used for that post. Every time I came in close to snap a photograph, the caterpillars would suddenly lift their back ends up and hold them aloft moving them up and down slightly in a waving motion.

This morning I did some research as I was curious to see what they might look like as butterflies. I was having no luck searching through Google for websites until I stumbled across a link that mentioned dancing caterpillars. It turns out they will never be butterflies as this type of larvae are known as Sawfly larvae which look more wasp-like than anything else after it goes through its final changes.

As for the dancing movement, that is commonly said to only be seen in this particular type and is a survival technique that is supposed to protect them from harm. They only do it if you get too close, but when they went into defensive dance mode with me it seemed kind of slow if the goal was to protect them from birds and other fast-moving predators. A few days later I went back to the bush to see what had become of them and to see if anything remained of the plant they had been munching their way through only to discover the branches empty and bare.

While they had eaten quite a lot of the leaves, more remained than were missing which made me wonder if perhaps those little caterpillars had not danced fast enough to avoid becoming a dinner snack for some of the birds in our back garden.

Of course nothing is ever only an educational experience on one level for me, not content with just an impromptu science lesson, I spent some time thinking about these dancing caterpillars and considered all the protective dance moves I’ve used in my own life. I considered the effectiveness of what nature had taught these little future flyers as I thought about the ways I’ve used denial and avoidance in the past to sidestep important issues and I wondered whether that had hurt or saved me in my transformative years.

Can you tell I’m working on something a bit deeper in my daily writing than just happy pleasant things? What about you, are you doing any dancing lately and is it working? Maybe you can teach the rest of us a few new steps … in case we need them sometime. Regarding dancing, I should tell you that I am notorious for trying to lead but I’ll try not to step on your toes.

Calling All Photographers – A Question For You

Decisions, Decisions, Which Way To Go

This morning I left the comment below over at Chookooloonks, after reading about Karen Walrond’s big love for Nikon.

I’ve been asked a few times in the past about what I shoot with and thought this might be a good time to share that info and ask my readers for a little help as I try to decide what type of point and shoot I should buy to replace my Canon G9 which goes everywhere with me now. My abbreviated camera history can be found below. Remember it’s information I wrote in a comment this morning so it may seem a bit different that my usual posts and to make it more interesting, I’m including a few examples of photographs taken with my two favorite cameras. There are a few shots using my Nikon D200 here and almost everything on this site in the last year has been taken with my Canon G9 including the image above.

My comment to Karen -

” I know what you mean about choosing a camera, I’ve been shooting for years, and have had several important cameras, beginning with a Mamiya medium format which I bought while in the army and stationed in Germany and later traded at a camera shop in California for a Minolta SLR and a couple of lenses. After college, I found myself busy with a baby and a quickly changing life complete with all the baby things one tends to haul around each day so I went with a series of small point and shoots that were so nondescript that I can’t even remember them. Around 2000 or 2001, I was introduced to digital and that was it for me with regard to film. Eventually I went back to SLR’s and photography with an eye and intention on getting the best possible photograph. After doing loads of research that came down as it did with you, between Nikon and Canon, I went with Nikon. I have two Nikon D200′s and more nice glass than I probably deserve, but I’m afraid I tend to use my Canon G9 on a daily basis due to its size and abilities. It’s a bit of a struggle to carry my Nikon gear with me when hiking the coast path here in Cornwall or to carry it 105 miles through the Alps on the Tour of Mont Blanc, but as we make ready for our next big trip (Two months in New Zealand) I am looking towards Nikon for a new point and shoot to suit my needs.

I should add that many times since moving to England I have left what I consider my ” best gear ” behind because it seemed too much to carry and I’ve had some regrets. Later this fall when my sister is here, we’ll be headed to Paris which is one of my favorite places to photograph and I’m taking my Nikon D200 and some good glass this time even if there’s no room for clothes.

I’m off now to have another look at what the latest offerings are for top quality Nikon point & shoots, I have to say that I’m not convinced there are any that can pass the test for me as well as Canon or perhaps something else, but I’m open to any suggestions or street talk regarding your experience. I pay as much attention to the reviews of those already using the camera equipment I’m considering as I do the specs so please share what you know “

So there it is … help me out if you can, what’s the buzz out there in your photo community … any suggestions?

Two-Ton Tessie And Other Vile Things

“I have had more than enough of your abuse thank you very much and if that’s all you have to say then I am not going to listen. You’re too right that things have to change around here and the first thing is how you speak to me!” She said all of this standing in front of me looking straight into my eyes after I’d had another in series of meltdowns. Always proud in the past of my ability to maintain some self-control, I’ve been losing it more and more lately.

“How can you call me such names and do the things you have to me, why can’t you find other ways to deal with your anger, heartache, or frustration instead taking it out on me? Haven’t I always been there for you, remember all the times when you barely slept, or were so stressed at work that you thought you’d lose your mind, I was there for you, I kept you going! “

I listened to her, ashamed that I had lost control again. How could I after all the promises I’d made over and over in the past. I’d worked hard on myself talking at length with those with more experience to sort through all the reasons why I kept losing control, but still here I was again spewing out those same old nasty hurtful words that I said before, words full of shame, blame, and disgust.

Listen, she said, ” You are so much more than you think you are and all of this is within your power to change if you would only change how you see yourself.”

I listened knowing what she said was true and how if I could just let go of my need to feed my emotions then the last piece of my life could come into balance.

Speaking more tenderly than I felt I deserved after my mistreatment of late, she said,” You know yourself so well, just listen more carefully the next time you hear the words,’ I’m hungry ‘ and think, is it truly your body talking or some other need.”

” I need for you take better care of me ” she said, ” Be kinder to me please and no more nasty name calling.”  Standing in a wreck of a room, with clothes heaped around me that no longer fit, I stood there staring into the mirror, absorbing her words and resolving once again to do better next time.