My Sailor Comes Home From The Sea

John has been away for the last few days sailing across the English Channel with his eldest daughter and his brother, David. It is his second trip across the Channel this summer as he helped David sail his boat over to Guernsey when I went home to the US in July for a visit.

Even though I was back in Cornwall and could have gone with him when he left for the return last Thursday, I opted to stay home and get some down time before my sister Margaret arrives on Friday. Okay, I did have a coffee catch up with Tina after my run one morning and a lovely girls night out dinner with Jean and Helen, two local ladies from the village who are killer quiz players. Plus, I spent some time picking berries and making my very first blackberry jam which John loved, but I am still not too sure about so although I was pretty busy, I did keep a fairly relaxed schedule here on my own.

John came back late yesterday having jumped ship at a port close enough to catch the train to within five miles of home. It turns out he was only home for one night as we are driving to meet up with the boat in nearby Fowey in a little while where he will rejoin David along with his daughter to sail the boat on to Falmouth in the morning. I am once again passing on the sailing experience. It’s not that I don’t enjoy sailing because I do, but I dislike being in a small space with other people for most overnight experiences. This was definitely an issue during my time in the army and one I am glad I have some control over now.

I have such empathy for the 33 miners in Chile who are “2700 feet underground in a space the side of a large living room.” If it were me, I would be eating those antidepressants they’re sending down by the fistful and to top it all off some of those poor men have to lose weight to even fit through the two foot wide exit tunnel. Gracious! I cannot imagine the nightmares they must be having. I wonder what I would do to make it through the four months they say it might take to reach them. Can you imagine it … four months underground, limited contact with the outside world, and the stress of such a small space. I want to hear their stories when they reach the surface … don’t you.

I’ve Been Here Before – St Michael’s Mount

I just spent far too long putting this post together only to have it disappear so I’m afraid you will have to make do with a shorter version as I have blackberries in the kitchen calling to me to turn them into jam.

When I knew David and Steven were coming to Cornwall, I suggested we pay a visit to St Michael’s Mount and as they were going to be here on a Sunday, we made a plan to attend the Sunday service.

To reach the church you must cross the cobblestone path you see in the photograph above.

This is easy enough as Steven demonstrates above until the tide comes in.

Here you can see the exterior of the church nestled with the castle around it. I took this on an earlier visit.

I managed to snap a discreet photo just before the service began. After the service David photographed a few of the stained glass windows with two shown below.

David is in the photo below with Marazion in the background.

Can you see the tide coming in the photograph below? People are hurrying to get across.

Below is a another look at the water and people … it’s partly under water now.

You can see a close-up of what the stone path looks like as the water spills over it. John took this of me in 2008 and I altered it a bit for this post.

Elizabeth At St Michael’s Mount – 2008

You have two ways to cross as I said earlier and this trip we came back in the boat below. I wrote a post about my first church experience at St Michael’s Mount in 2008 and thought some of you might find it interesting.


Elizabeth - August 2008

Sit Down You’re Rocking The Boat

Originally posted – August 13, 2008

I have thought a good bit over the last few days about this post. What to call it and how to write it. Sometimes it can be difficult to say what is on my mind. My internal editor tends to call out from the back of the room where she sits in my head. Arms crossed over one another she has a defensive posture she likes to assume when she feels as if I’m stepping off into a place of too much controversy. She’s there now, shaking her head giving me the look that says, “ Are you sure you want to talk about this?” “ Shush, I say … get lost,” and with that I step off into the murky waters of spiritual questioning.

I don’t like church services or organized religion. I dislike anyone telling me what I must think or do in order to know God.

In England where many I’ve met consider themselves to be atheists, saying those words out loud doesn’t seem to have the same effect as it would in the bible belt part of the US where I was born. Mind you I feel that I have been to enough church services to speak from a place of experience as to why I don’t care for them. It’s pretty simple really. The only voices I hear in any house of worship are those in my head. Cynicism, skepticism, and judgement, both of others and myself tend to make so much noise that the voice of God is never present there.

So I don’t go anymore.

Recently I made an exception to my usual avoidance of church attendance when I spent an hour or so in a historic chapel attending the Sunday service. The Chapel on St. Michael’s Mount was completed in 1135, although much of it had to be rebuilt after an earthquake in 1275. I had mentioned to John that I would like to see what a service was like there when we had visited it originally a month earlier. I said it was for the experience you know … I mean how many times does one get a chance to hear scripture quoted in a place where souls have gathered for a same purpose for almost 900 years. I said I wanted to go in order to see how a Church of England service might differ from the Lutheran beliefs that I’d grown up with.

That’s what I told him and that was the truth at least in part, because the core of who I am is a woman with an insatiable curiosity. In most situations I have a strong desire to experience things firsthand, but the rest of the story is that on some level I thought in a worship service held where people have come together for hundreds of years I surely might find some whisper of God’s voice.

I wasn’t necessarily looking for direction communication as in a voice from a burning bush, but I thought just maybe …

So early one Sunday morning we made the trip to St Michael’s Mount and I took a small boat with a few strangers across the causeway. The castle and chapel are perched on an island that must be reached by boat except at low tide when a cobblestone pathway appears from the water inch by inch.

Once my feet touched dry land I was off at a brisk pace up a steep path of large uneven stones to the top of the mount to claim a seat in the tiny chapel next to the ghosts of the Benedictine Abby established on St Michael’s Mount in 966. On my way to the top I passed a group of woman who looked to be of retirement age chattering their greetings to one another and largely blocking the narrow path. “Ugh!” I thought as I nodded a tight polite smile to the four women who seemed oblivious to anyone else.

The sound of their voices stayed with me as I walked on a bit faster in an attempt to hang on to the place of stillness and contemplation I was trying to encourage in my head.

The ladies chattered on like the magpies who hang out in John’s garden as they followed behind me more quickly than I imagined they could for women with walking sticks. Suddenly, they seemed right behind me as I stood in the short aisle deciding where the best seat might be for seeing and hearing the service. Hearing them talk over the sounds of the pre-service organ music I decided on a seat as far from them as possible.

The ladies settled down as the service began and I adjusted my average-sized behind on the tiny cushion meant to provide a bit of padding. The small seats of the individual chairs were placed in tight rows possibly anticipating the crowds of people the church hoped to welcome, but the church interior remained largely empty with only fifteen to twenty people dotted round the sanctuary.

As hard as I tried to have an open mind and heart so that I might feel some spiritual connection, I could only think of the historical issues that have and still plague the religious institutions that try to minister to souls in need.

That would be me you see in the boat at the top, always questioning, but still searching. Somewhere there must be a community of people like me who are looking for something simple and honest that may only be found I think, in silence.

Don Henley, one of the members of The Eagles, a band I grew up with in the 70’s sang a song called, Sit Down You’re Rockin the Boat! These are just a couple of verses of the song so you can get the picture.

I dreamed last night

I was on the boat to heaven

By some chance

I had brought my dice along

And there I stood

And I hollered someone fade me

But the passengers they knew right from wrong

And the people all said sit down

Sit down you’re rockin the boat

The people all said sit down

Sit down you’re rockin the boat

Cause the devil will drag you under

By the sharp lapels of your checkered coat

Sit down Sit down

Sit down you’re rockin the boat

Oooh Oooh Oooh (scat)

Oooh Oooh Oooh

I suspect I’m not alone in my little boat so I’ll just keep on rowing for now.

When Friends Come To Visit Part II- Climbing Rough Tor

As I continue sharing our three-day visit with friends David and Steven, I want to show you our trip to Rough Tor. David took the photo above as we struck out for Rough Tor.

John went on with ahead with Steven while I lagged behind a bit with David as he and I took time to snap a few photos along the way. The three images below were taken by John. In the one just below you can see two tiny dots in the center. ( click to enlarge )

In the image underneath you can see the tiny dots a bit better. I am the dot on the left and David is the one on the right.

Do you recognize the pile of stones below? Oh wait, there’s someone missing … look at my border at the top and you’ll see me standing on the same pile of rocks. Steven has long appreciated that photograph and wanted his photograph taken there above all else during his visit to Cornwall. Due to the fierce wind and the slipperiness of the wet rocks he had to use another stone as a stand-in.

See the rock above David’s head (he’s in the blue jacket ) … that’s the one Steven wanted to stand on.

Even I didn’t want to risk it this time, but I did slip my shoes off to climb up on the one next to it on the back side. (two photos below) Can you see the moorland pony down left of Steven … it’s a long way down from the top of the rock. (click to enlarge)

After I slipped off my shoes, I felt much more secure climbing up the back side of the rocks below. My neglected rock climbing skills came in handy and I’m glad I was still in shape ( hah!) well, at least well enough to get as high I did below.

Yep … that’s me. The wind was wicked.

From my lofty advantage I managed to get a photo of John ( ant-sized figure in the center)  as he was taking pictures of me.

Did you find John? He’s down there with his arms outstretched. I had to step back to show you the cool impression carved out by weather on the rock .

Here’s a photo of me with Steven after I came down off the rock. I’m wet and bedraggled from wind and rain along with still being barefoot.

Steven & David

John did a bit of climbing himself.

I think by the time this one was taken John was ready to go.

I couldn’t resist finishing with David and his runaway brolly. It’s a long way down although easier than the climb up and about halfway back to the car David decided he’d had enough of the rain and decided to find his own cover. His umbrella clearly had other plans.

I’ll be back with more later if you’re interested. Sunday took us to St. Michael’s Mount for a service in a church built in the 14th century and I have some good pictures from our last day to share with you.

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.

Change And Possibility

I becomes we

and then you and I

and then just you

and then just I.

~ e.e. harper

In the process of writing a post for today I think I wrote a tiny poem. I don’t write poetry and I am afraid I have not read much either so I am not even sure this could be called a poem, but here is for you to consider.

Of course I have a story that goes with it, but in looking at the words and rolling them around on my tongue I thought about all the possibilities and different stories that any of us could create from the sixteen words above.

If you come back later I’ll share one story with you … the one that inspired it.

(Having both a first and middle name that begin with E, I could not resist signing my work in the manner of a real poet.)

Is Life Really A Cabaret – Dreaming Of Joel Grey

This morning I woke up suddenly, startled out of sleep after seeing Joel Grey walking along a Paris street near a flower shop like the one above. Before this morning, the only two things I knew about Joel Grey had to do with his career as a stage and screen actor and that he was the father of Jennifer Grey of Dirty Dancing fame.

Although he’s played many characters in his lifetime, he is most well-known for his role in Cabaret and is also as I just discovered, a fine photographer who based on his work, might find my photography a bit tame. As someone who dreams in color and almost always sees a deeper meaning in most of my dreams, there is far more to this dream than I can share. I try very hard to be careful when sharing stories that involve other people especially when their story is not even remotely a part of mine.

So while I wish I could reveal more, I am going to practice a bit of restraint and keep the deeper meaning of Joel Grey’s dreamy visit to myself. How about you … do you struggle with how much is too much to share either in a blog or your everyday interactions with others?

When Drowning – Remember – Hope Floats

He had a head full of hair bleached almost white from his days lifeguarding in the sun and long tanned legs covered with tiny hairs so blond they shimmered like a million curly threads of gold. You might not think this would be my overriding memory of the day I almost drowned, but it remains a strong image almost 38 years later.

I don’t remember names easily and have a variety of mnemonic devices I use when meeting new people, but I remember his name, the golden boy who was almost a man that summer who quietly saved me from drowning in a lake at summer camp. Other children splashed and played barely noticing as he dove into the water and made his way to me.

In the moment I saw him coming, I realized how badly I was struggling to keep my head above water having worn myself out trying to swim to a raft anchored in the center of the lake. There were older and bigger kids playing and resting around it and I wanted to join them and set off without thinking too much about the distance.

Due to lack of experience, I was not as strong a swimmer as the others and all my desire and belief in my ability couldn’t save me, but Gordon did. Gordie, as the other campers called him when giggling about his good looks came across the lake in a flash and gently flipped me over onto my back talking softly to me as I floated my way back to shore.

I remember feeling ashamed and slightly babyish worried about what the other kids might think, but no one really noticed. Another key thing I remember is that I never made a sound. No cries for help, no waving for someone’s attention … I just struggled in the water while life went on around me.

I read a post this morning about how easy it is to miss the signs of drowning and it occurred to me how often in life we may feel as if we are going under for the last time even when there is no water involved.

Sometimes it’s life that pulls us under and it can happen in sight of the shore surrounded by people we know. It can be difficult to determine when someone needs just a bit of assistance like the gentle guidance of Gordon that day or someone requiring full on resuscitation.

If I had only remembered what I already knew, I would have flipped over on my back and floated until I was rested enough to go on. Fear took over when I became overtired and I lost all sense of reason. Looking back now, I can see the larger lesson of that day.

Years later I saw a movie where Sandra Bullock’s character Birdie tells her daughter,

“Childhood is what you spend the rest of your life trying to overcome. That’s what momma always says. She says that beginnings are scary, endings are usually sad, but it’s the middle that counts the most. Try to remember that when you find yourself at a new beginning. Just give hope a chance to float up. And it will … “

I thought the poem below might be good for Penelope Trunk who writes her own poetry here and for anyone else struggling today.

Lie back daughter, let your head

be tipped back in the cup of my hand.

Gently, and I will hold you. Spread

your arms wide, lie out on the stream

and look high at the gulls. A dead-man’s

float is face down. You will dive

and swim soon enough where this tidewater

ebbs to the sea. Daughter, believe me,

when you tire on the long thrash

to your island, lie up, and survive.

As you float now, where I held you

and let go, remember when fear

cramps your heart and what I told you:

lie gently and wide to the light-year

starts, lie back, and the sea will hold you.

– Philip Booth

All Shook Up – August 16, 1977

I was sixteen on the date above and the story below tells you what happened to me on that day.

At Fifteen

At fifteen, she sits in the dark making a chair out of the hood of someone’s car. Old and white, it belongs to a boy whose parents wanted a newer model. At least, that’s what she thinks now. At fifteen, she doesn’t drive yet and while cars mean freedom, she’s in no hurry to take the wheel.

It’s as if she knows that when she’s sixteen, she’ll crash her first car driving too fast in the rain. When the police question her, she’ll say she was only going forty because that was speed limit going into the curve. She’ll shrug when he points first to the place where she left the road and then to a group of trees in the distance.

“Those trees are two-thirds the length of a football field from where you first lost control” he’ll say, and then he’ll wait as if he thinks she has a different story for him. “Maybe, I hit the gas pedal instead of the brake…” She’ll offer this up as a potential explanation and hold firm to this possibility.

Her dad and stepmom will both come to the crash site, and after hugs all around, she’ll go home to an ice pack and a place on the couch for ease of observation. She’ll know she was lucky that day.

No seatbelt, airborne in a steel tank of a 69 Ford, she’ll remember the uncontrolled lift off of her body as it slammed forward hitting the glass while struggling to find an opening in the tiny space between the windshield and the broad dash of the old car. She’ll never forget the windshield holding firm as her body left its place behind the wheel or the feel of the impact with the trees that ended the free flight of her first vehicle.

She’ll hear on the news later that day that the King is dead. She’ll think about the crying mass of people at Graceland and wonder about why he died and she didn’t.

But for now she’s only fifteen, sitting on the hood of that old car, caught unaware by an impromptu portrait artist with a Polaroid camera. If she knew, she would be smiling. She’d look directly at the camera and paste on a happy face.

Hiding her questions, her doubt, and her childhood sorrows behind a smiling mask of good teeth and the unlined face of fifteen year old, she’d light up on cue when prompted.

She’ll remember a lot about fifteen, but she won’t remember this night or this picture until it shows up 33 years later in something that will be called an email from a boy who took her on a road trip of hope, at fifteen.

Many thanks to JL for saving an old memory and passing it on.

* This is a repost from October 19, 2008 but seemed timely given the anniversary the death of this man.


Changing The Odds

At the risk of changing the odds, I am going to tell you about a contest that you might find fun to enter. There’s more to win by going over to Vision and Verb that just the great prize they’re giving away. There is a daily combination of words and images sure to make you smile, ponder, or want to share.

In the interest of sharing, I’m sending you over to have a look and hope you will consider entering the contest. You only have a few more days left before the winner is selected so you better be quick about it if you want a chance at the prize I’m hoping has my name on it. My entry is already there and if you are curious … then you can click here to see it.

Two Tickets To Ride

Internet Image For War Horse

You may remember this post back in May when I told you that my sister Margaret was coming for a visit in September. I asked for some suggestions as to what you thought we might enjoy during our week in London and another in Paris. There were lots of great ideas and I’m looking forward to sharing more of what our plans include, but for now I want to tell you about our tickets to see War Horse.

When I was in Atlanta last month my friend David told me he was planning to see it and he was so excited that he had me sit down right then and look at a short video on the production. It looked so amazing that I got excited too and after talking with Margaret I ordered two tickets which arrived today. Take a look at the video on the official War Horse website and let me know what you think.

Don’t let the name stop you … go on have a look.