My Changing Perspective On Finding Community

When my husband and I met for the first time in person only six weeks after meeting online, I came to him. I had loads of frequent flyer miles and two weeks of vacation time that I would lose if I did not use it before the end of that month so off I went to England to meet the man I had found quite by accident online.

I had no idea what to expect really even though I had seen photographs of John and Cornwall and even bits of his house and the village, I still did not have a real feeling of what life was like there.

While there are some properties that have parts as old as the 12th or 14th century in the village, we live in a more modern section with many of the houses around us being only twenty or so years old and our home a very young one at thirteen years.

Seeing the houses built so tightly together with so much open land all around them was a surprise to me. I’m not sure why exactly, but I remember thinking at first what a shame it was that the houses were so close. I considered how difficult it must be to feel as if you had any privacy with the houses built as they were.

The view was beautiful though and I was able to see a far distance over the village from my early morning position on the sofa where I would sit with my laptop and write. Blessed with all this beauty I still grumbled to myself about how, as pretty as it was, it would be prettier without the rooftops of other houses.

Can you believe I actually thought that! Let me tell you what’s different about my view now. After living here off and on for most of 2008 and continually since 2009, I’ve settled in and met and made friends with many of the people sheltered underneath those rooftops I once moaned about interfering with my view.

Thanks to days like this and people in the community who reach out to care each other in good weather and bad, I’ve had a chance to meet my neighbors and really learn what it means to be one. I’ve lived so many places in my life and I have become great friends with some people who lived close by, but there’s something different about living in a community as small as this where people come together in the pub, village hall, church and even the village shop.

Finding your own sense community can be difficult due to time and responsibilities. Most of us have too little of the first and too much of second, but if we’re open to looking at things a bit differently we might be surprised by how easy it can be to shift our perspective.

The other day when John was up on the roof working on the house, he encouraged me to climb up and have a look at the view. What I realized standing up there was how differently those rooftops look now that I know the people living beneath them and how much richer my life is for the closeness I feel not just in their physical proximity, but also in the kind way they’ve welcomed me into the community.

I’ve included a rooftop view to help illustrate my new perspective. What about you … is there anything in your life that could benefit from a shift in perspective?

All This And Each Other Too

Yesterday, after a working on my studio space which is almost ready for its big unveiling, John and I took a little walk. We went out the door with a clear mission seeking the first signs of spring. We were hoping to find Snowdrops, the flowers you see below.

Pushing through the earth on an old grave in the churchyard, we caught our first glimpse of the green and white flowers.

Moving farther down the hill, we went to a secret place we know of that will look like a carpet of green and white in a few weeks as the snowdrops raise their heads and begin to open. Most of them are still budlike and new, but if you go in close for a better look, scattered among the green stalks with their bowed heads of tightly closed petals, you can see a few opening with centers that look almost etched with color in vibrant shades of green.

We follow a familiar path as we walk through the buttercup field and cross over this water. As I take this photograph,  I comment to John that this is the shade of green I wanted to duplicate in my studio space when I bought the fabric to recover an old chair.  I promise you these are real colors saturated by nature, not Photoshop that light up like this even in the late afternoon light of a shadowy wood.

More shades of green with a leaf tucked in the space were it fell last fall.

The bluish purple of this water always calls me to this spot and I have tried to duplicate it in my studio color scheme. It is one of the many colors in the fabric I used to recover my daybed.

It was about here that John took my hand and said, ” We are so lucky to have all this and each other too. ” I often think the same thing and have said it myself. It’s lovely to know that we share an appreciation of our space and each other in such a similar way.

This celtic cross marks the way into our village and behind it you see a stile I cross over sometimes on my way through a farmer’s field. It’s from this field, I was able to photograph a snowy view of our village a few weeks ago with the church tower in the background.

These horses always come to greet me when I pass by. ( I must remember to bring the sugar cubes I bought for them )

After our walk, we stopped by the pub for a cider for John and diet lemonade for me before heading for home. I gave a few dogs in the pub a good cuddle and we chatted with some friends before stepping outside into the evening light. I couldn’t help but snap a few pictures trying to capture this peaceful scene as we walked up the hill towards home.

Where Oh Where Has My Little Dog Gone

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Sometimes on Wednesday nights John and I walk down to the pub and because Wednesday is trivia night, we usually have a bite of dinner and stay to play trivia. We tend to end up somewhere in the middle of all the other teams rarely scoring enough to be considered a contender for first place although we do have a lot of fun. Once we came in second, but we’re usually quite happy with third or fourth place. Poor John is a good bit handicapped with me as a game partner since at least two-thirds of the questions are related to British life and history. Sometimes, I know the answer to those, but frequently he’s on his own.

Tonight was a particularly significant game night as we joined forces with a group of four who always do much better than we do and it was the first time we won. That’s right a big old first place. We didn’t let it go to our heads as we could see by our participation what we might have missed if we had been on our own. Jean and Robert were two of the team members tonight and I think it was at a trivia night that I first met the little dog in the picture above.

Jasper as you can see by the photograph is a cutie. He’s getting on in years, but always is very friendly and happy to share any part of your dinner that you’re willing to give up when he comes to the pub with them on quiz night. Our pub like some others I’ve seen always welcomes a dog as long as the dog remains controlled and on a lead. (leash)

In our pub, dogs always get a treat from the bartender when they come in. I was quite charmed by this when I saw it the first time, but I never realized the impact it had on some dogs until I heard Jean tell a story about her dog Jasper.

It seems one day Jean was getting ready to take her dogs for a walk. Jasper and Molly enjoy an outing now and then, but they’re not always in a hurry to head out the door.  One evening while getting Molly together for a walk, Jean looked around for Jasper and could find him anywhere. In fact the place where he usually sat waiting near the gate was empty as if he had waited for Molly to get it together for the last time.

Realizing that Jasper appeared to have grown tired of waiting and worried that he might be headed for open road, Jean began to look everywhere for her little dog. She walked back and forth in front of the house then around to the back garden and up the road in the direction they usually walked calling his name concerned about where he might be.

Going down the hill, she walked past her house towards the village green thinking it a fine open space that might appeal to any dog, but a quick sweep of the center of the village told her Jasper was not hiding in the grassy area. Seeing the open door of the pub, she walked quickly in that direction intending to ask inside if anyone had happened to see her little runaway. As her eyes adjusted to the pub’s darkened interior with the rows of mugs lining the ceiling absorbing most of the natural light, she saw Jasper sitting near the bar like a regular coming in for his evening pint. Jasper it seems had decided a chewy sounded good and he had taken himself off to the pub to get one on his own.

I believe if I remember the story correctly, he had been given one to chew on while the pub staff considered what they should do next. Assuming correctly that Jean and Robert might not be far behind, they made Jasper comfortable and waited.

Calling All Master Bakers

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I have a funny story to tell you about the photograph above, but first I have a request. My husband John has a birthday coming up in a few weeks and I need the very best carrot cake recipe you have. If  you’ve got one that others rave about then I want a chance to bake for him. So please send me your favorite and let me give it a try.

Now about that story…. A few months ago, John and I had been out for a little walk and decided to stop by the pub before walking home. As is my way, I had my camera with me and although I don’t usually take pictures that aim quite so directly  into someone’s home, I’m afraid I did that day. Walking by a charming 200 year old cottage that I frequently pass on my runs and walks, I saw the carrots in the picture above hanging in the kitchen window. No one was around and it wasn’t like I was peeping in or anything plus the road is very close to the cottage. Because it’s so close, I was walking only a couple of feet from the window making it easy to snap two discreet pictures very quickly. I didn’t see anyone and I thought no one saw me. Remember now, we live in a village with about 500 people and sometimes I bump into people at the pub who might recognize me. Usually it’s because they know me now since I’ve been here off and on for the last 19 months and I’m pretty friendly and not at all shy. Well, a few weeks go by and John and I are in the pub on a Saturday afternoon and I go up to the bar to get a refill for John and to say hello to my favorite bartender Roger who you see below.

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While I’m at the bar, a man who is buying drinks for his daughter and wife turns to me and says something along the line of, ” You’re not  from here are you?”  Okay, I can’t remember exactly what he said, but in the course of our conversation I find out where he’s from because I can tell he’s not a local. It turns out he and his wife are staying temporarily with his daughter and her partner in that sweet little cottage I think of as Carrot Cottage even though it’s really named after a flower not a vegetable. His daughter was new to the village so I had not had a chance to meet her yet. Going over to the table I introduced myself and asked her about the carrots I saw hanging in the window a few weeks earlier. Since I’m living in a country with different customs as well as expressions that can get you into trouble such as, ” Stop being such a pain in my fanny ” because words may have a totally different meaning, I assume this hanging your carrots thing must be unique to the UK.

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As I’m describing what I saw that day she said, ” Did you have a camera with you?”  ” Well…yes,” I say thinking, ” uh oh.” She said I thought I saw someone out there taking pictures and told my partner Colin, (not his real name)  “I think there’s a woman out there taking pictures of your carrots!” As she said this, I felt kind of silly, but only for a moment. I mean, I think I managed to get a really nice picture of a bunch of carrots. Thank goodness their windows were so clean. It turns out the carrots on a string had no meaning other than he’d just washed them and was giving them a chance to air dry.  I haven’t seen them since, but I always do a quick glance at the window whenever I go by now. I thought I might print out the photograph so that it is in a greeting card form and leave it behind for them with a personal note and maybe a little carrot cake for two.

Remember….John’s birthday is fast approaching so please send me those carrot cake recipes. If you leave your recipe in the comment section we can all have a chance to sample some versions different from the ones we normally use. Everyone except me…I don’t have a carrot cake recipe of my own yet.