Leaving Cornwall – Moving On

Cornwall 2013

” How do geese know when to fly to the sun? Who tells them the seasons? How do we, humans know when it is time to move on? As with the migrant birds, so surely with us, there is a voice within if we would only listen to it, that tells us certainly when to go forth into the unknown. ” ~ Elizabeth Kubler -Ross

A local friend of mine told me the other day that he’ll be moving at the end of the month. He is leaving Cornwall to be closer to the family he has left. Having been born in Cornwall, he is what you don’t often meet here, a true Cornishman. His words are of those of acceptance, but they are tinged with a sadness that I can almost feel.

We have talked at length about Lanhydrock, a place very familiar to him and his lively stories have made a place already special to me, even more memorable.

Last week John and I walked into Lanhydrock from a new direction. We parked at Respryn Bridge and wandered down a long tree-lined road that once welcomed carts and carriages and the first automobiles. I thought of my friend as we enjoyed the fresh beauty of our long-awaited spring weather. The sun came and went as we walked with dark clouds shadowing us at points along the way before retreating without even a drop of the rain I thought might come.

After hearing me talk about distance running not long after we met, my Cornish friend shared a bit about his running days … telling me of a time when his feet knew the way to all the best paths around Lanhydrock. It will be impossible not to think of him on days like the one we had even though his season of running has passed and his time in Cornwall is at an end.

I imagine I will see him there from time to time in my mind when the weather shifts as it did with us. I’ll think what a fine day and suddenly he will be there, on the path in his running shoes with no need for walking sticks … moving easily in a place between the past and the future.

Safe travels, my friend.

Cornwall 2013

Cornwall 2013

Cornwall 2013

Cornwall 2013

Cornwall 2013

Cornwall 2013

Cornwall 2013

Cornwall 2013

Cornwall 2013

Cornwall 2013

Cornwall 2013

Feeding The Spirit

Sometimes getting outside is just what a body needs. Yesterday delivered with a mostly sunny Monday and John and I took some time off to smell the roses … okay, there weren’t really any roses, but the flowers are beginning to pop here and it felt like a big hug from the universe to do nothing but what we wanted on such a gorgeous day.

I took this photo about a week ago thinking then how much it looked as it was saying, “C’mere you and let me give you a hug” which makes it perfect for this post as it’s what I’d like to do to say thank you for all the kind comments on the “Am I Blue …” post from Sunday. I heard from folks through Facebook and email as well and I want to be sure you know how much I appreciated your messages.

While winter appears to have left us, there are still reminders everywhere. Yesterday was the first time it’s felt seriously springlike this year with a mostly blue sky day and a warmth that allowed me to leave my coat behind.

Of course, I had to take a few photographs to share. The new shoots on this tree were so soft they reminded me of feel of a young boy’s head after a summer buzz cut when his hair even when cut super short, still has the softness his baby years.

This one was a surprise! As soon as I saw this butterfly, I thought that’s it, spring must really be here or this beauty would not be. I managed to snap only one slightly soft image before it flew off leaving me still marveling at how early it was to see it. (If any one knows what kind it is, I’d love for you to share it in a comment)

This tulip was inside one of the biomes at Eden Project which was our first stop of the day and I had to do some contortions to get it without climbing into the flower bed.

This yellow lovely was growing outside the biome and John said that it’s a Kingcup and member of the buttercup family, a flower I fell in love with for its beauty and its significance in our early relationship.

Things got steamy inside the rainforest biome making my lens go fuzzy faster than I could snap the shutter creating the moody shot above.

The purple pops in this image of this Dwarf Iris.

This Horsetail plant is one of my favorites at Eden Project and I went in close this time to photograph it at the beginning of the plant that looks and feels like a horse’s tail.

We had lost a some of light by the time I took this one, but it was back a bit later in time for a walk through the gardens at Lanhydrock.

While there was a good bit of green at Lanhyrock, (it’s always green in Cornwall) I had hoped to see some of the flowers that add to Lanhyrock’s charm. It was too early see more than a few blooming trees so after a quick look around and a sunny rest stop, we headed for home.

The face of a patient man waiting for a wife who has to always spend ” just a minute ” in the resale bookstore at Lanhydrock where sometimes there’s a treasure hiding in plain sight.

The Lanhydrock Gatehouse

Fleeting And Forever

Juliana sighed deeply and watched from her desk as the last of the visitors made their way through the gatehouse finally leaving as they did this time each day. Strangers in her house, how had it ever come to this she thought as she listened out of habit for the familiar footsteps of her husband. He moved so silently these days that he was able to slip up without warning surprising her even now as she still held the poem she had found tucked in a book in her private library.

His voice was full of memory as his eyes took in the faded sheet of paper she held and he said, ” My dear, you really shouldn’t bother yourself with my old ramblings, my heart was quite broken when you left me.”

Taking the hand he offered in hers, she stood and said, ” All those years together before the fire, we were so lucky weren’t we, Thomas? “

” We still are my darling girl, we still are … ” His voice trailed off softly as he lifted her hand to his lips lingering just long enough to leave a gentle kiss that felt both fleeting and forever.

Inspiration 

I found the poem above tucked in a book being sold with others in an area set aside in one of the old sections of stable at Lanhydrock. I took a photograph to remember it and put it back in the book for the next person to find. Seeing it in my photo files the other day made me think it might be useful in a post. While I don’t usually read romance novels, I am always intrigued by fiction that includes a bit of love and longing in the plot and it didn’t take long for an idea to come to me.

Having read about the fire that destroyed much of the house in 1881 and led to the death of Lady Robartes four days later, I couldn’t help thinking about forever love when I saw that her husband of more than forty years died less than a year later of what many said was a broken heart.

Lanhydrock is one of my favorite National Trust properties and I wanted to imagine more to their story than one that ended in death. We’re frequent visitors to the house and gardens and I never tire of walking up her stairs and down her hallways. Having created another ending for Lord and Lady Robartes, I wonder if I’ll hear his footsteps behind me the next time I’m there.

 

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.

         

Too Much Computer Time … What I Say When People Start To Talk

Back in 2003, a pen and notebook were the tools I used to record my stories and thoughts. Blogs didn’t exist for me and my personal computer was used mostly for photos and email. I had a laptop for my pharma sales work life, but any creative writing I managed to fit into an overstuffed schedule went into a notebook like the one you see on the table.

I never could have imagined I would be able to compose at the keyboard. Typing was always a chore for me and even though I’d struggled through a typing class in high school, I’d never been successful at memorizing the keyboard and I couldn’t seem to use more than a couple of fingers when completing reports or sending emails.

These days, I spend loads of time writing and my computer is never far from me for long. Blogging and writing comes up in conversation a fair amount of the time and I should not have been surprised when a friend in the village quoted some statics she’d heard about the disproportionate amount of time some people spend on their computer as compared to time with their partner.

She looked dead at me after sharing this with a table of people in the pub and said, ” I thought of you when I heard that.” I considered what she said for a moment and said, ” I do spend a huge amount of time at my keyboard, but I treat it as my job. ” I may not be paid for my writing yet, but I will be and everything I do now is with that in mind. So you’re right, I probably do at least on most days, spend 60 percent of my time at my computer, but it’s my work, paid or not it’s my job and this job actually gives me more time to spend with John than if I left the house everyday for the kind of work I’ve done in the past.”

I was writing this post earlier today when John came in to my studio space and said that he was thinking about going over to Lanhydrock for a walk around the gardens since the weather was so sunny and warm. I was writing away and he said, ” You probably don’t want to go do you? ” He knows I can be very disciplined when I’m working and sometimes I do decline a day trip even when the weather is a stunning as it was today.

Although I was right in the middle of this post and another installment of ” Dear Madame, ” I said, ” No, I want to go. ” Thirty minutes later we were out the door and not long after, we were strolling around the grounds snapping photos of spring. Working for yourself means you get to change your hours if you want and I’m glad I did, but I have things to finish before this day is done (word count) so I’m back at the computer even though it’s almost 7:00 and John’s at the pub with friends.

I’m leaving you with a look at our afternoon, but I have a question for you too.

What I need from you

I’m pretty excited about how the next post for ” Dear Madame ” is looking as well as my notes for future installments. What I need from you is … which day of the week is the best day for you to spend a few minutes indulging in a serial novel because that’s what this looks like it’s going to be? Let me know in a comment and I’ll do my best to comply with the general consensus.

A Georgia Transplant’s Dogwood Days In Cornwall

Dogwood trees in the American south are some of the early signs of spring and one of the things I missed about my home in Georgia when I moved to the UK. I had no idea they grew in Cornwall as my first spring here came and went without the unmistakable explosion of blooming color.

We were well into a month I would normally associate with summer time when I discovered some gorgeous dogwood trees during a garden walk at Lanhydrock, one of my favorite National Trust properties. Noting my delight, my sweet husband John surprised me with one on a birthday trip later that year.

My dogwood has been growing in a pot outside since we brought it home, living through the building extension, waiting to be planted in a place in the garden where I might see it from my desk as I write. Last winter, Cornwall was blasted with freezing temperatures unusual for this part of England and I worried all the way from New Zealand where we were on an extended holiday, that it might die from the cold sitting outside in its container.

A few days ago, John gently cleaned my little tree of all the dead leaves still clinging to its branches and noted as he did so that it had new leaves. I was thrilled to hear this as I had not held out much hope as poorly as it looked a few weeks ago.

I have to thank Mary for her words and beautiful images this morning. Seeing her dogwood trees in flower made me take a closer look at my special tree. While my tiny dogwood is not in full bloom yet, it looks as if it may have flowers for the very first time later this year.

If you click twice on these photos, you can see some texture that reminds me of the fuzzy softness of a newborn lamb’s ears.

I had to add this imperfect photo which turned out to be my favorite. I went outside twice this morning in my robe and bare feet to photograph my tree and ended up loving the way my robe picks up the color in the tiny dot of pink near the bud on the tree. (Click twice to see)

* The burgundy colored robe I’m wearing was my dad’s and has kept me warm on many cold mornings in the twenty years since his death. There’s something kind of special about seeing it sneak into my dogwood picture along with my barefoot completely unnoticed by me until I downloaded the image. I’m usually pretty aware of what else might be happening when I shoot and was pleased to see this one got past me.

Feeling Puny

In the American South, where I spent much of my life, to describe one’s self as ‘feeling puny’ meant you were sick or ill in some way and not your usual self. That’s me today, feeling puny even after sleeping eight hours and having had a nap the day before. I have so much I wanted to do today, but with a throat that feels as if it’s on fire and an overall unwell feeling, I think I’ll just go back to bed … at least for a few hours.

For the record, that’s not my bed in the photo above. It belonged to the master of the house at Lanhydrock. Although it does look inviting, I rather be snug in my cozy bed below. I may be back later today with a book review I’ve been working on, or I may not. I hope your Saturday is more productive than mine appears it’s going to be …and Donna, if you’re reading this, ‘ Thanks for the hostess gift. ‘

Seriously, I do hope she’s feeling better. After leaving us on Thursday, she began to feel ill by the time she made it back to London and according to an email, she felt even sicker on Friday. Being ill away from home makes it much worse and I’m grateful for my warm bed and my sweet husband who’s close enough to check on me now and then.

By the way, the online dictionary I use does not define puny as having anything to do with feeling ill so I’m guessing it’s just a southern thing.

English Weather And Other Things

Bedruthan Steps

Weather in Cornwall can change dramatically in a short amount of time. I lived in Germany for several years when I was in the army and it was much the same. One might wake to a day that was grey and wet, see that give way to blue skies, and then be surprised by a short burst of hail from the same sky an hour later.

Two days ago Bedruthan Steps was wrapped in a sheet of cloud cover and rain which was a continuation of the winter weather we’d been having. It looked as if it would stay that way all week, but yesterday we were pleased to have blue skies when we toured Lanhydrock.

I know from visiting some of my readers online, that they are still being slammed with loads of snow so I won’t whinge (whine) on about how wet and grey it is again today.

John’s eldest daughter has been with us since late Thursday and had a chance to visit the house and gardens with us at Lanhydrock. She’s been before, but it’s a great place to revisit. I never get enough of National Trust properties and there are plenty across the UK. I must admit that I have a special attraction for Lanhydrock and joked yesterday with several of the staff that as National Trust members, we visit so often it feels like our second home.

I never get tired of shooting this view from an upstairs window.

Having a church right on the property must have been pretty amazing for the family that lived there and Lanhydrock is one of only three National Trust properties that have churches on the estate. You can read more about it here.

Not all the gardens are as formal as the small bit you can see here.

The church is a working church that still has Sunday services.

Remember a few photos earlier when I said that I can never get enough of this view, at least this one is taken from a different window.

I’ve photographed the light through this window before and I always want to grab a book and a cushion and curl up there for a few hours. If I dressed in period clothing and sat very still, do you think anyone would notice?

There are several heart-shaped door handles in one of the gardens that always get my attention. This one is usually covered over in greenery and more difficult to shoot than it was yesterday.

I had to get really low to the ground to get these tiny buds pushing up through the soil.

This was a bud on a tree that looked kind of odd to me, but pretty in a different way than the more traditional looking bloom below.

I walked all the way around the churchyard taking photographs as I went, squeezing through hedges and actually climbing partway under one to get the shot below.

If you look to the right you can see the hedge I crawled under and partly through. I can’t imagine what someone would have thought had they walked up while my backside was sticking out from underneath it.

This is one of my favorite angles because of the gravestones and the mounds you see around them. Even though the church is active, the cemetery is closed to new burials.

A view from the gate house.

The greens are electric with color especially wherever you see moss. The daffodils are just beginning to bloom here and soon this field will be full of bluebells.

While I have never seen a cow or a sheep anywhere near this gate or even in a field close by, I do as I’m asked like any good guest would do.

After a morning of rainy grey skies and a bit of hail, the sun has come out again today. It’s still overcast, but with patches of blue I am optimistic that we may still have a dryer afternoon. I never thought I would spend so much time talking about the weather, but everyone does it here and it just seems to go with my English life.

When Friends Come To Visit

John & Elizabeth - Bedruthan Steps - August 2010

When friends come to visit you have an opportunity to see things a bit differently than you normally might. John and I have had our picture taken here before, but only on a self-timer. When my friends David and Steven arrived last Friday from Atlanta by way of London, we had a chance to see ourselves through someone else’s eyes.

I love the picture above that Steven took of us at Bedruthan Steps. You may remember that this is the spot John took me to right after I stepped off the plane in Cornwall when we first met face to face on Valentine’s Day in 2008. Below is the picture that preceded the one above where John is looking a bit sweet and bashful.

There were a series of others like this where the spontaneity could not have been captured using the self-timer on my camera and I’m glad Steven was there to snag them. We managed to squeeze a lot of the Cornish experience into their visit beginning with a lunch of pasties made by me. David took the three pasty pictures below.

Steven & David

You can’t see it very well, but Steven and David are holding up score cards giving my pasties a 10 and a 9. They were playing around, but they did eat every bite so I think they really liked them. I also made two blackberry/apple crumbles and three blackberry cobblers along with a key lime pie. Blackberries are everywhere right now and I’ve picked over fifteen pounds so far. Most of the berries are in the freezer, but I couldn’t resist making a few sweets to share with our guests.

Photo Credit - David Morris

After lunch we were off to Lanhydrock which is our closest National Trust property and perfect for a rainy day.

Photo Credit - David Morris

If you look closely into the reflection on the silver serving dish cover, you can see me with my new camera and Steven off to the right.

After a look around for some rainy day headgear (the one David is holding won’t do at all) we take a look outside to see if the rain has slowed enough to have a walk around the grounds.

We move outside to see what we can find in the gardens around Lanhydrock.

I managed to capture this leaf and the church below with my new camera with no worries about the rain as it’s waterproof, a valuable quality when living in a country where we don’t let a little rain keep us inside. (Panasonic DMC-TS2)

David is using his new Canon G11 which is the other camera I wanted. ( I know … I’m greedy when it comes to camera gear.)

Only one more shot and we’re off to our next location.

If you come back tomorrow, I’ll show you more of our journey around Cornwall.

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.