Yesterday was a day where I felt contemplative for the most part. The Underground line we needed was overcrowded and Margaret and I made our way on trains that made me feel a bit claustrophobic. After much waiting, we finally arrived at the Tower of London which had a fair amount of people milling around and we split up like we tend to do taking as Margaret put it the other day, “ separate field trips.”
Having been to the Tower before, I went more slowly than I would when exploring a historical space and spent a lot of time thinking about the lives of the people who had lived within its walls as both the keeper and the kept. There is no escaping the burden and responsibility of those who had the power and those who coveted it.
As the afternoon wore on a rainstorm came up suddenly, sending people hurrying for shelter and I went in search of my sister. I was tired of thinking too much anyway … stuck as I was on what memories we leave behind when we die. It is difficult not to think about when all around you are the stories of those whose lives were impacted by their own actions or those of others.
All Hallows By The Tower
Walking away from the Tower, we came across a small church of great significance. All Hallows by the Tower has been as they put it a “ A Christian Beacon on Tower Hill since 675 AD. ” If you are ever in London, I would suggest you visit this place where The Saxon Abby of Barking founded the church as their literature states in 675 AD.
Underneath in a crypt there is a small museum complete with tiny cobblestones from a Roman floor and other evidence of city life for almost 2000 years. There is a link to American history as well as details about the almost total destruction it suffered during WWII.
All of its history and artifacts made for interesting reading, but the important part of our visit was found as one usually expects or hopes in its service. Margaret and I happened to arrive as they were getting ready for a something called a Taizé Service which is a short service using prayer, chants and silence. Simple and meditative was just what it was with a perfect mix of scripture readings and music made up only of voices.
It was exactly the thing I needed to lift my spirit and an unexpected gift on a day heavy with too much contemplation and dark thoughts. There was biblical reading about, “ all those who seek me … “ and the service finished with a simple prayer that ended gently with the words … “ Have the courage to live your life.”
Afterwards when I stepped outside on to a wet London sidewalk and looked up to see the image below, I couldn’t help but remember from the bible stories of childhood about the message from God found in each rainbow. It was an interesting finish for a doubting, but still seeking ” Thomas.”
While I don’t usually ask for gifts and I am generally funny about receiving them, I wonder if I might ask for one from those of you who are reading this today. It doesn’t matter if you come across this after September 10th, I will still see a comment if you leave one for me. If you would … please take a second to tell me your favorite post I’ve written here at Gifts of the Journey or maybe a little something about yourself if you’d rather.
I’ll be back tomorrow with Day One, the final post of the big birthday countdown and I want to say thanks to all of you who have been reading and commenting over the last few days in particular. It makes all the writing mean just a bit more to know it matters to someone other than just me. xo
I can’t pick a favorite! If I must, it would be this one because of the beauty of the images and the gift you offer your readers of tagging along on your journey. There is a heaviness in the air that comes along with this anniversary each year, but I found promise as you relate visiting places that have existed for so very long. The rainbow must have been marvelous and having the opportunity to photograph it even more so! It was appreciated here as I begin my day. I’m planning my first trip “overseas” next October and I wish we could visit London. Right now, our trip is planned just for Ireland, but I’m very excited. You’ve made England so real and so enticing, tho! All the best as your journey continues and thanks so much for sharing your travels and your home.
Glad you are having fun exploring with Margaret.
My favourite post would have to be the one where I found you.
I like seeing links and knowing there is something interesting, profound or in the case of the monkey shoes, something that will make me smile. You’re a part of my day now.
Beautiful post. I saw the Tower in 1988 but I don’t remember this church. I was not too observant then, unfortunately. I would say this is my favorite post so far, though.
My 19 year old daughter, a senior in high school, decided to move out of my house rather than follow my rules. I am very worried about her. Please say a prayer. Thanks.
Hi Elizabeth, and a hello to Margaret too, hope we get a chance to meet up before you return home as Elizabeth has talked a lot about you.
I enjoyed your post of yesterday, probably because of the non compliance – I admired friends in school who didn’t always comply, probably because I was too scared to rebel.
A premature happy birthday Elizabeth as we will be travelling to Heathrow tomorrow in preparation for our flight to Turkey on Saturday.
It sounds like you are both having a great time, and I’m sure that you’ll have a great day tomorrow as John has told me he’s organised a surprise, can’t say more as promised him I wouldn’t tell!!!
Sadly Robert’s father died last week and the funeral in Cumbria is taking place on our return from Turkey.
See you in a few weeks time.
A ‘family history’ footnote.
John Winchhurst married Rachel Doorset at St Katherine’s by the Tower on 16 June 1680.
Rachel was John’s second wife and St Katherine’s is very close by.
You are indeed treading in the footsteps of history.
Apparently scientists aev now got the voices out of walls – used to be hokum talk but I read they did it “scientifically” a few years back. Given the role of the tower, do you wonder at feeling melancholy??!
I don’t have a favorite post, even though one of them is about me!! I like your body of work overall. I think it’s safe to say that it was some others plus you and your work which were a major factor in me starting to blog this year, in earnest and with commitment to myself and my readers, not the half-assed attempt I kicked off with before that. You also unknowingly pushed me into picking up my camera once again, fighting past the menu system to go after the kinds of shots that I knew I could do, had no confidence of doing again, but had to try because I’d done them before so could not avoid the evidence, and part of me was just longing to do it again. By links from your blog outwards to people, I am now linked with others too. You’ve shown courage in what you talk about, given me some huge belly laughs and encouraged many other people not just myself. A legacy to be proud of. It’s a great example and a great act to follow, even though I feel I’m more alongside it, a traveling companion in a parallel and linked journey of adventure of my own.
Happy Birthday in anticipation, sunshine. What is your preference in cake flavo(u)r?!
Taize from the monks in Taize, France – see about Taize video ..http://www.taize.fr/en_article6822.html
I can’t name a favorite post but I know for sure that yours is a favorite blog of mine. So many things I love – you are courageous, intelligent, inspiring, and so very creative and talented, and I love that you share so much of yourself and your life here!
I first found your blog a little over a year ago and your wonderful love story caught my attention immediately. It is a beautiful and inspiring story, and I kept coming back and finding more and more to admire about you as you revealed more and more of your life story.
Thanks for keeping this blog – I’m grateful to be able to tag along and peek in on your very interesting life!
Happy Birthday Elizabeth!
Hello Dee, I will be praying for you and your daughter too.
Oh, Elizabeth…so much of this post is utterly lovely. I think your pic at the top is picture perfect the old lit up against the new. I cannot tell you how surprised I was with my own response to the Tower when I first visited it (summer 2001) on my own. I had planned two hours and spent 4. I have been back twice and still would go back for more, of much the same as you did. and now I have another reason to visit London again (I didn’t need a reason)by way of the church you mentioned and the history in it. YOur service and God’s response of a rainbow quite overwhelmed me…this is one of my favorite posts. Quite honestly, I have a number of favorite post of yours…when you talked about the field of gold blooms you and JOhn visited on your first day of ever visiting him in Cornwall, y’all’s sweet wedding day…your local pub its people and its doings….your pasty making contest….your love (like mine) for Pioneer Woman. Like a friend, there are many reasons why I come to visit a while. Thank you for sharing these days with me/us. I would one day have hope for my sister and I to share a traveling experience together…just the two of us. Early happy birthday Elizabeth.
Honestly, I don’t have a favorite. I love your writing and your insights and your photos. I am fascinated by Americans who have chosen to live elsewhere. I love Great Britain and want to know more about it. I have only visied there twice. My dream is to be able to spend more time there. Also, I lost the love of my life and wish I could be open to another love. Your love story makes me smile.
Also, I have never been that fond of jewelry and wearing a ring or a necklace made me feel strangled. My one and only visit to the Tower and seeing the jewels made me realize why people love jewelry! I wish I could have stood there and stared at it longer!
Too many to choose from. Your stories are heartfelt, and the photos are lovely.
I have friends who live in London now, and all of you provide good reasons for me to want to file for a Passport and do some travels
I will say your story about a relative having to go to the hospital emergency, then passed away, and the funeral after,
made me feel as if you might be writing about a member of a family my own
Elizabeth, I have read you all the way from the get go…
I’ve been a bit under the weather and have not had the energy to post a reply…
I have to say , I love all the posts you have shared with us, but this one here is my most favorite… It resonates with me..
Having been the recipient of the gifts of Spirit at times when I thought I would never make it, this post is sweet.
I love how you open wide and share the depth of your heart… Thank you !
I don’t know if I can pick a favorite. The posts about your childhood were really powerful.
Overall I just appreciate your authenticity and complexity. Your voice in writing is warm, earthy, loving and generous. I appreciate how you take ordinary moments and in your photos and words make me think a little more carefully about life in general.
I won’t pick a favorite because it excludes the other good ‘uns.
My church (United Church of Christ — Obama’s own!) has a Taize service each week, after work, with soup and bread for the attendees. I have not gone. Perhaps I should.
Keep posting! Please.