‘All Things Bright And Beautiful’

I heard the church bells this morning, ringing like they do each Sunday.

There’s a group of dedicated folks who show up every Sunday and ring the bells for at least a quarter of an hour. They ring steadily, one after the other occasionally overlapping, tolling in a pattern of order that never seems to change.

At least three of the bell ringers live down the road from us and I know most of them never stay for the church services that follow. Asking why doesn’t seem appropriate even though I’d love to know why they ring the bells so consistently each week and then go home. I wonder if they’ve ever lingered to listen or maybe taken a seat on a pew.

In general, churches in England seem to barely have enough parishioners left to keep the lights on and all these lovely little village churches stand mostly empty during the week and not much better on Sundays. I’ve been to services in our village church a few times and I have to admit I don’t feel a big desire to hurry back.

I prefer to worship in another way.

Cornwall 2013 - Elizabeth Harper

Cornwall 2013 -Elizabeth Harper

Elizabeth Harper

Birdbox Cornwall - Elizabeth Harper

Music, Memory, & “Joy To The World”

Growing up, my world view was severely limited by the life I had with my mother and step-father. In their house, anything normal was considered a privilege which could include everything but breathing, depending on their mood. Television and music fell directly in the privilege column and were both a tightly controlled experience that didn’t happen all that often.

Music was limited to their mostly country collection of artists like Charlie Rich, Tanya Tucker, and Glen Campbell and if I was lucky, they might mix in a little Elvis which fortunately was more vintage 50s than the music of the jumpsuit wearing 70s. It turns out that I like a fair amount of country music artists now, but back then I yearned for something more.

I didn’t know what more might be until I heard Three Dog Night’s “Joy To The World” blasting through a classmate’s transistor radio on the school bus ride home. I know some of you youngsters are likely thinking, “Transistor radio, what year is she even talking about?” I think I was about eleven so it would have been around 1971 and I was hooked from the moment I heard the words, “Jeremiah was a bullfrog.”

I remember some of the kids were practically dancing in their seats and the boy holding the radio was up on his knees encouraging those closest to him. In my mind he is eternally cute and definitely crush worthy, especially to someone who’d been living in what felt like musical wasteland while the rest of the world was listening to more variety.

By 1974, I’d moved to Georgia to live with my dad and step-mom. My father worked with someone who was taking his daughter and one of her friends to a concert and they invited me to join them. When my dad dropped me off at their house, the man he worked with said, ” They’ll be down in a minute, they’ve been listening ‘The White Album’ all afternoon.” I remember it was said in a way that assumed I knew what he was talking about which would have been a reasonable given the concert we going to.

Sadly, I had no idea what he was talking about and at 14, I didn’t even know who The Beatles were. It was November 28, 1974 and George Harrison, Ravi Shankar, and Billy Preston were playing the Omni in Atlanta, a venue that was torn down in 1997. A few things still stand out for me when I think about my first concert and it was the recent death of Ravi Shankar that made me remember George Harrison singing “My Sweet Lord,”and Billy Preston dancing as he sang “Will It Go Round In Circles”

I’ve been to loads of concerts since 1974 and worked backstage at a few of them over the years as well. When I read the news last week about Ravi Shankar’s death, I went back to my studio space and pulled out a box filled with notebooks that hold half-written stories and ideas for more that I might write one day. Tucked into the mix was a program from that first concert.

George Harrison 1974 Ravi Shankar

It’s kind of funny what I’ve held onto over the years and interesting that this souvenir made the cut when I shipped my 200 cubic feet  of remaining stuff to England.

I’d be curious to know the first song you remember and your first concert if you’d like to share it in a comment below.

Down A Slippery Slope

While away in Dorset for John’s birthday in late September, we spent a day walking near the cliffs around Lulworth. This part of the Jurassic coast is famous for the limestone arch, Durdle Door. You can’t see it without doing a bit of walking so come prepared to expend some energy

As I was photographing the man above working on a shot of Durdle Door, John disappeared in another direction following after his daughter and her dog. I was so intent on what I was doing that I didn’t notice they’d left and it was only after having a good look around that I spotted them.

We had already passed this warning sign so I did not expect what I saw next.

If you look to the left about halfway down, you can see a woman in a blue coat with her dog making her way down. (You can click to enlarge)

 

Look closely at this one and you can see a man with a backpack is with them. I’m sure you don’t need three guesses to figure out who we’re looking at here.

Just in case you need a bit of help, here’s a close up of the adventurous ‘rule breakers.’ Maybe they missed the sign … it’s easy to when there’s so much beauty to distract you.

Hurrying to catch up to them, I passed this barrier to the steps that normally enable walkers to reach the beach at Durdle Door. Bad weather had made it impossible to use and John and his daughter followed another path that some folks on the beach had used before them.

After seeing them reach the beach safely, I couldn’t just watch from the side of the cliff so I went down the slippery slope after them, all the while hearing the echo of every mother’s warning, ‘If your friends jumped off the cliff, would you jump too?’

Arriving safely at the bottom, I stepped down into a shifting surface that while not as soft as sand, gave way under my feet leaving impressions that announced to anyone following which way I’d gone.

Seeing Durdle Door from the beach was well worth the trip down and I felt enormously lucky to sit next to John and watch the sea.

 

After a few photos to remember the moment, it was time to move on.

Moving on meant climbing the slippery bit to get out. John and his daughter went first, followed in the shot below, by me.

I’m in orange near the bottom and the woman in the foreground is on her way down to the beach. It was far slippery than we make it look and  I was half worried that if she came too close she might slip and take me to the bottom with her like a bowling ball picking up a spare pin.

Once we were all safely at the top, John took this mud free photo of us (no one did a slip and fall) before setting off on the windy walk back to the car.

Celebrating The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee & The Stories Within The Story

Yesterday was a big day for many in Britain as people across the country rolled up their sleeves and created a huge outdoor party to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

There are those who think the time for a monarchy has passed and they were noticeably absent, but I enjoyed the afternoon’s festivities and the opportunity to get know some of my neighbors a bit better. There were games for all but with a focus on the children and the food we brought to share was bountiful and delicious.

We had gorgeous weather yesterday which was much appreciated especially by the people who had worked so hard to make our village ” block party ” a huge success!

Going through my photographs from yesterday’s celebration, I kept seeing images that while they were clearly taken at the two events I attended, they had the appearance of another story, one with details not as obvious as the reason we were all together and some that were completely unrelated.

Ten years ago Britain celebrated the Queen’s Golden Jubilee. I was aware of course, but I wouldn’t visit the UK for the first time until the following summer in 2003 so it didn’t mean as much to me then. I admired the Queen though for a variety of reasons and marveled even then at how much she managed to do at 76. Ten years later she seems to have barely slowed down.

If you had told me in 2002 that I would be here for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, eating Pavlova and singing “God Save The Queen,” I’m not sure I would have believed you, but I would have certainly considered that it might make a good story.

Dora got into the spirit with a few banners to dress up her look a bit.

My sweet tooth and camera went into overdrive with all the colorful cakes and pastries decorating the long table.

I missed the Empire Biscuits when they made it to the table. Interestingly, these were called German biscuits until WWI when they were renamed.

My friend Tina … taking a break from watching the Saffron Maids dance.

The Saffron Maids like to get the audience involved in the dance and you don’t need to be a maid to participate.

For some strange reason this dance made me think of A Chorus Line.

This Pavlova was my favorite thing … I understand why people rave about Pavlova so much now.

Walking To Clovelly Through The Fog By The Sea

John and I drove slightly north a week ago crossing into Devon to walk a different part of the coast path. We left the car about 11:45 after stopping to pick up sandwiches and drinks and set off to see a part of the coast I’d not seen before. As it turns out, we didn’t see much of the coastline on the way to Clovelly, but there was still a great deal that caught my eye. This stretch of Devon coast was different from the Cornish coast path with abundance of trees being the obvious difference.

The birds were calling out to each other as we walked alone along the path and it felt more like the beginning of the day rather than the middle of it. I lingered as I always do taking “just one more photo” before running to catch up with John.

I was actually much farther away when I took this picture of him, but I cropped it later to bring him in closer. Look below to see me hot-footing it to close the distance between us.

John took this one of me just before I snapped the photo of him above. We could hear the waves below us through the woods to the right, but we couldn’t see a thing until we reached the bottom of the hill and moved towards the water.

I love it when we come across old buildings that make great places to frame a shot. Watching John walk past me, I saw the color contrast of the life-preserver, the signage, and the sea, and hurried to snap a few before running to catch up again.

I like how I managed to get this shot with John in the background. Can you see him above the far right edge of the pink sea-drift flowers?

Here’s what can happen when you rush to catch up. You can’t really see it here, but I’m making a face and trying catch myself from going into the water. John took this photo right as my left foot slipped off the rock and got wet. I’ve taken some funny looking tumbles in the past where I was protecting my camera on the way down. This was not one of those times and the only calamity was a wet foot.

A look back at the hill we came down and the empty remains of some old buildings that John said were used for lime kilns.

Later, we stopped in a field of what looked like mostly flowers for John to check the map. We were climbing higher and the fog was getting thicker. I considered having my sandwich there as it was getting later and I was hungry when we began, but John promised me a better spot so I put away my pretzels and carried on.

Coming into another clearing, we moved through a gate and crossed into a meadow with cows and trees that looked faint in the distance hidden still by the fog.

Hmm … my growling tummy made me consider the bench around the tree in this photo, but still I carried on.

After thinking we might walk all the way to Clovelly before stopping to eat, I came round a corner to see this special shelter tucked between the woods and the sea. It was a perfect place to have lunch and I said to John as we listened to waves below us still hidden by the fog, that this gave new meaning to the idea of taking your sandwich outside for your lunch break. Of course, I was visualizing the days when I was happy to grab a few minutes on a bench somewhere outside when I worked for about eight months in an area with no windows and the whole day could pass without my knowing it except by watching the clock. It’s easy to guess which I prefer.

Come back tomorrow for the rest of the walk into Clovelly when the fog finally lifts and the view changes. 

Forget The Dog Chew, Just Pass Me A Pint

There’s something special about a place where even your dog can have a seat at the table. I had to take a photo last week when I walked past a family having lunch in our village pub and saw Maisie sitting there like she was waiting for her order.

Interestingly, while dogs are allowed in this part of the pub, children are not. There’s a special family room for people with children under thirteen and yes, dogs can go in there too.

I love this picture … I can almost hear the man saying, ” No Maisie, you may not have a pint. I told you before we came, you can have the dog chew the barman gives you, but no beer, not after the last time! “

Balancing Acts – NaNoWriMo Week 2

There have been many times in my life where I focused too much on the needs and expectations of my employer. I’ve always prided myself on doing the best job possible and sometimes, make that many times, my personal life has suffered. I won’t go into all the reasons, but fear, ego, and a strong desire not to disappoint would top the list.

Financial fear was most compelling when I was a single mom and it’s fear that can still launch me into hyperdrive. Only now it’s not such much about money, but more about delivering what I’ve talked about for years.

Many of you know that I am participating in NaNoWriMo this year for the first time and I really appreciate the messages of support I’ve received since I wrote about it here.

I took two days off from writing last week trying to find some balance between my darling, undemanding husband, my part-time job, and my work on the novel, and then couldn’t find my way back to the sweet spot of inspiration I had before my time off turned into a into a plot-line procrastination fest.

Having never written a novel before, I find myself getting bogged down in problem solving such as how to move a character from one period in time to another along with a whole host of what I tend to think of as ‘housekeeping’ issues. I’ll have to talk more about ‘housekeeping’ and what I mean by that later as the sun is well up now and I need to get to work.

I am way behind on my word count and my characters are standing around looking so bored that I’m afraid if I leave them much longer on their own, they’ll move on like Pirandello’s, Six Character’s in Search of an Author.

I should be back here in a day or two, but the only promise I’m making now is to getting more words on paper. I’m a long way from the 50,000 I need to make it a successful NaNoWriMo experience, but I’m still committed.

I’m leaving you with a few pictures from our day out last week. These were taken close to home at places we’re been many times before.

It’s interesting how easy it can be to discover new things if you’re open to revisiting familiar places.

If you need me, I’ll be at my desk.