Feeling The Sun From Both Sides

 To love and be loved is to feel the sun from both sides  - David Viscott

Young sunflowers follow the sun their heads turning as the day changes from morning to night powerless to resist the movement of the light, but mature sunflowers hold fast, firmly planted and permanently facing east. They stand like silent sentries content to feel the warmth as the sun passes over as if they know somehow the benefits that will come from feeling the sun from both sides.

Three Years

Today is our third wedding anniversary. John would say getting married was a piece of the puzzle necessary for immigration which sounds decidedly unromantic, which he is not.

He would say that the date we met online and the date we met in person are more significant for him and more noteworthy than our wedding day and I can see why he would feel this way.

Wedding Day - John Winchurch & Elizabeth Harper - 2/2/2009

Our wedding day was our most public declaration and more of a celebration than the deeply moving experience of some marriage ceremonies. It was a period at the end of the sentence that meant I could stay forever.

Snowy Wedding Day - John Winchurch & Elizabeth Harper

While all three dates have their place in our history there’s one we note more privately which is how it occurred. We both see it as the most significant of the three and the one that marked a defining moment in our relationship. I’ve written about it before, the look that passed between us while standing on bridge built in the 14th century only eight days after we met in person.

This photograph of me was taken almost immediately after that moment occurred. I’m standing on Helland Bridge with no doubt and no fear, loving the man and the moment, ready plant my feet and face permanently east. 

Taken only minutes later, this is one of my very favorite photographs of John. There are a million reasons why, but this act that came later is just one of many that confirmed what I already knew that day.

Much has changed since I wrote my first blog post, but as you can see from the title if you follow the link, some things are exactly same.

If you’d like to share a sweet story of your own either through a comment or link, I’d love to read it.

A Moo-ving Experience

When my American friends Jamie and Barbara arrived last Saturday to spend a few days with us during their visit to the UK, I wanted to be sure they saw some of my favorite places while they were here. On July 4th our day started with a little excitement right from the beginning when we took them by to see the bridge where this marvelous thing occurred back in February of 2008 and later John asked me a very important question.

You know the one I’m talking about, don’t you? The one with four little words that began with Will and ended with Me and led to this sweet day early last year. Since Helland Bridge is such a significant place for us we just had to take Jamie and Barbara by to snap a photo or two. As you can see in the series below it turned out to be a very moo-ving experience for them.

Jamie & Barbara At Helland Bridge

After taking a couple of photographs of them standing in the very spot where John asked me to marry him, I stepped off the bridge for some distance shots and happened to be in the right position to catch the cattle stampede.

Okay, so stampede might be a bit of an exaggeration, but see the man walking quickly towards them … he’s letting them know that now might be a good time to moo-ve. (sorry I can’t help myself)

I bet they thought they were leaving the country life behind for a few weeks when they left the small town where they live in the US.

You guys better hoof it.

There’s some serious traffic moo-ving behind you.

Looks like they’re safely off  the bridge.

Now if I can just get past this load of bull to catch up with them, we’ll be off to explore Lanhyrock.

Safety First

This is a photograph taken by a kind stranger in May of 2008. I had just returned to England from my home in America about a week earlier having … quit one job, said no thank you to an offer of another job from a law firm I had interviewed with for several months, rented my house out to strangers, sold off most of the lovely contents of my home and my car as well and packed myself off to the UK completely secure as I kissed my friends and family goodbye that I was on the right path for me.

Having only been to Cornwall once for two weeks when John and I met for the first a few months earlier, most of the people who loved me thought on some level that I had lost my mind. John and I had known each other only about four and a half months when this picture was taken. Looking back now if any of my friends had made so many major changes for love, I would have thought they were a bit nuts too. If you’ve followed our story for very long, then you know it has all worked out so well that it feels as if it was all just meant to be.

A few things have changed since the picture above was taken, we’ve been married for over a year, and since that first bike ride we’ve had change in attitude with regard to safety when cycling on the Camel Trail. Even though most of our bike riding is confined to car free, easy bike trails where one might feel safe enough as we did back then to ride without a helmet, today when we go out for a ride along the same path we’ll be wearing some protective headgear.

This shift in our cycling attire has a great deal to do with our recognition of how special what we have is and our desire to safeguard it right down to protecting our physical bodies from harm. The realization of just how fragile our lives really are can supercede quite a lot including the discomfort of a helmet when it comes to protecting life and love. In the pictures below, notice in the first one John’s headgear and in the second, my helmet hair after we stopped along the way to take a photograph on Helland Bridge, a place that will always be special to us both.

The Camel Trail

John & Elizabeth – Helland Bridge

What A Day!

Jubilee Rock – Bodmin Moor – My Girl

What a day, what a day, remember that check list of places and things I wanted to share with Miranda … here are a few images from yesterday.

Helland Bridge

Lavethan Wood   (Photograph by Miranda)

We also managed to take in a bit of the Camel Trail on foot and we walked through the buttercup field which is a little low on buttercups as it’s still early for them. Lunch was fish & chips at Rick Stein’s in Padstow, a meal and a port town we’ve been trying to get to all week and after a little sightseeing and shopping, we were off to an antique store in another town that I had mentioned earlier and she’d wanted to see.

Last stop was the library because it was that time again and after a quick trip to the pub where we had hoped to catch sight of some darling puppies, we headed for home where we finished off our day with a knitting lesson for me. Whew!

The best part of it all was we had a great time even though it was such a busy day. Miranda was both interested and a good sport as we went from place to place and at some point began to say, Helland Bridge … check, Camel Trail … check, Lavethan Wood  … check, but in a cute way that made me think she was glad to have a chance to see more of the places in person that I’ve been writing and talking about over the last two years.

I’m giving her a wake-up call in a few minutes because today’s another day and we’re off to see Stonehenge! Guess who’s driving

Almost Time To Go

It can’t really be possible that it’s almost time for her to go … didn’t we just pick her up at the airport the other day? I still have a million things I want to show her and things I want to say. I know I’ll see her in July when I go back to Georgia for a few weeks, but I want to teach her how to make pasties while she’s here and have time for her to teach me how to knit again while sitting side by side in my studio space. I want to see her feeding the wild ponies too many sugar cubes on Bodmin Moor and take her picture on Jubilee Rock and Helland Bridge. I want to have enough time to ride bikes along the Camel Trail and walk with her through the buttercup field and show her how magical the bluebells look lining the hills of Lavethan Wood. I just want more time

Reading When I Should Be Writing

A variety of books litter the landscape of my new studio space with those from my own pared down personal library mixing in with the plastic protected books belonging to the public one. Scattered throughout the house, they can be found in a variety of places such as my desk, the daybed, and dare I reveal it, even the bathroom. I tend to read two, three, or even four books at the same time and an impromptu visit to our home might lead a visitor to think that there are more than two readers in the house.

I have noticed that John tends to read one book before starting another, always leaving it on a small table next to his favorite chair in the living room. I hesitate to call it his chair as he will always offer it to guests and has frequently said that I should sit there whenever I feel like doing so.

Occasionally, I take him up on his offer and when I make a move to change places when he comes into the room, he will say, ‘Stay,’ and choose a place on the sofa settling in so comfortably and with such little fuss that I can see he really means it when he tells me that I am welcome to sit in what I think of as ‘his chair’ anytime I wish.

Going back to how I read instead of where, I tend to treat books the way some people do food by going on word binges instead of fried chicken or Hagen Daz ice cream. That said, anyone who knows me well can tell you of times when I have made a meal of the partial contents of four or five pints of my favorite flavors of what most would consider dessert rather than dinner.

Because I like a variety of taste and texture in my food, I generally buy the flavors with crunchy nuts, toffees, or cookie dough, always rounding it out with my favorite, Hagen Daz vanilla. That vanilla would be my favorite seems strange to me even based on my desire for the variety that comes with a mix of flavors and textures. I think there must be something in the silky denseness of the vanilla that acts almost like a glass of milk along side a plate of cookies. After all the taste testing of the other flavors, the vanilla brings things back to a simple, almost palate cleansing final taste.

Lately, I have been scarfing up books instead of ice cream, unsure whether it’s the result a too tight waistband or a desire for more facts and fantasy. You see, I go from book to book depending on which room of the house I happen to be in at the time. If I am sitting at my desk, I may be reading Write Away, by Elizabeth George which is a gift to writers wishing to become novelists. I have read a few on this subject and her writing/teaching style makes perfect sense to my brain which tends to absorb information in through the right versus the linear left.

If you popped into the family loo, you would find a very dated travel guide to Tenby, Wales complete with advertisements, black and white images, and old maps from 1929. I have been using it for research and it is just one of several well preserved travel guides that belonged to my husband’s grandfather who documented much of their families travels in the old photographs that John still has today.

In my personal bathroom, you would see a copy of The Last Crossing by Guy Vanderhaeghe that I picked up in a hurry during my visit to the library last week to drop off books. I can never leave books behind without grabbing up a couple on my way out. I noticed it because of the color of the book spine which may seem odd, but color can often attract me to a book when browsing long before I notice the title or author’s name.

Of course even when in a hurry, descriptive blurbs that begin with words like, ‘epic and painstakingly researched,’ along with ‘ spiritual quest and murder,’ draw me in and when I see phrases like, ‘richness in writing,’ it quickly goes into a special bag that I reserve for trips to the library.

Yesterday morning I was still musing over The Lady Elizabeth, by Alison Weir which I had finished just before going out for a run. It was an easy read that provided a somewhat fictionalized version of Elizabeth I’s early life, written by an author known more for her nonfiction. Alison Weir doesn’t appear to depart too far from her normal role as a historian as she weaves her own version of Elizabeth I’s life before becoming queen into a dramatic tale based on historical fact.

She does however allow herself the liberties needed to help the reader feel as if they were tucked behind a curtain ease-dropping on a conversation between Elizabeth and her sister Queen Mary in much the same way that some of her characters did in the book described by one reviewer as, ‘an exceptionally perceptive as well as imaginative interpretation of the most significant monarch in English history.’

Ms Weir’s book carried me so throughly back to the 16 century that I found myself wondering if the famous queen had ever traveled to Cornwall as I was running past structures that predated her birth. Moving in the direction of Helland bridge which was built in 1381 before renovations in the 15 century left it in its present state, I thought about how long ago she ruled and how the bridge on which John proposed to me, had already been in use for 152 years by the time she was born in 1533. I love a book that has such a hold on to me that it stays in my imagination as this one did even after reading the last word.

This morning I began another book I took from the library called, The Widows of Eastwick. Some of you may remember a movie made in 1987 called, The Witches of Eastwick. With a cast of characters played by American actors Jack Nicholson, Susan Sarandon, and Michelle Pfeiffer along with singer turned actor Cher, it was a hit with movie goers looking for something different on a night out. A mix of comedy and gothic horror tied up with a loose red ribbon of sensuality, it worked in reverse as some movies do and sent me in search of the book almost before I had licked the last of the buttery popcorn off my fingertips.

Remembering how much I enjoyed the The Witches of Eastwick, I picked up the sequel which begins three decades later and started reading. I was only a few pages into it before I began to notice the writing and not just the story line. This can happen for one of two reasons, not surprisingly reserved for writing I consider either very good or very bad.

Shades of grey writing tend to be the everyday meat and potatoes of word assemblage for me and while bad writing is more akin to a cold reheated fast food hamburger with wilted lettuce and a slightly off pickle, really good writing is like a meal made up off all your favorite foods along with an appetite that turns you into the most voracious nibbler of all time. With authors I enjoy the most, I tend reread certain sentences or whole paragraphs directly after having it read it the first time.

Being someone that doesn’t always check the author when reading a book especially one picked up during a hurried trip to the library, I sometimes have no idea who I am reading at the time. There are authors who can write something like, ‘We are all swaying on the makeshift rope bridge that society suspends above the crevasse.’ that make it impossible for me not to pay attention to the writer whose words I am reading.

I was not surprised to flip the book over to find the author was John Updike whose novels have won a variety of awards including the Pulitzer Prize. I can see already that this new book will be a more leisurely read as is my way when beautifully done. Occasional gluttony may be one of my sins, but when it comes to feasting on a well written book, I only worry when it takes me away from my own work. Well … that and the fact that the sedentary life of a reader and writer can over time cause as much damage as a Hagen Daz binge when trying to keep ones aging backside from increasing in size.

As much as I would like to keep reading Updike’s book this morning, I think I should lace up my shoes and go out for quick run first and be thankful that the village shop doesn’t stock Hagen Daz before I settle in for the days reading, I mean writing, of course!