Birthday Surprises!

John Winchurch (Painted by Lauren Finley)

John Winchurch (Painted by Lauren Finley)

You probably already know this about me, but if you don’t I’ll say it now.

Sentimental and Mushy

I am a seriously sentimental mush and my gift giving behavior usually reflects this. 

Knowing that John had a significant birthday this year, I wanted to be sure that I acknowledged it in a way that would be lasting and memorable. I try very hard to give thoughtful gifts that will be appreciated and I rarely give something that someone could buy on their own unless I know it’s something they want but wouldn’t splurge on for themselves.

A Constant In Our Relationship

One of the unexpected gifts of my life has been my time with John, a good bit of which has been spent walking. I know that may sound awful to those who don’t enjoy walks in the country or along the sea, but even when the trails have been tough, I’ve loved the experience and sharing it with him.

Long walks and mountain climbing have always been a part of his life, along with periods of dinghy building and sailing when living near the sea. While I’ve been an outdoorsy sort and have done a good bit of running over the years, I’d never considered doing something like our 105 mile hike through the Alps in 2008 or thought that my everyday life might include the coast path walks we do regularly in Cornwall.

We’re just a four months shy of the fifth anniversary of our first face to face meeting and I have thousands of photographs of John. I have always taken more photos than he necessarily liked, ten images where two would have been welcomed and I can often be heard saying, ‘Just one more shot, please?’  

It was one of my photographs that inspired my birthday gift to John. I took it during one of our coast path walks in Cornwall and it reflects his spirit in a near perfect way. Looking rugged and windblown, I can almost smell the sea behind him and I am reminded of the times I’ve tasted a faint bit salt on his lips when we’ve stopped on the path for a kiss.

My friend, Lauren Finley turned the photograph into the more lasting gift you see above. She is an accomplished artist who does lovely things with watercolor and I never considered anyone else once I decided to give John a portrait of himself for his birthday.

(A Side View To See What It’s Painted On)

Lauren and met for coffee last summer while I was in Atlanta to discuss the photo I’d chosen and when I returned to England a few weeks later, I brought the painting back with me. John never saw it until the day of his party and was very pleased with what he thought was a more handsome version of himself.

My Birthday Surprise – A Dream Of Things To Come

Some of you know the story of how I woke up dreaming of John on my birthday, in September of 2007, a few months before we met online. 

You read that right, I said before we met!

I’ve had some other dreams and waking experiences that were unusual, but even I thought it was strange to dream of having such an overwhelming feeling of love for a man who I identified in the dream as my husband even though I’d never met him and had no idea why I would dream such a thing.

It was very powerful and stayed with me for a few days, but as it didn’t fit the life I was leading in Atlanta and made no sense, I forgot about it until five months later when I made a trip to Cornwall to meet John.

We were out on the coast path and I was walking behind him pausing as I do to snap a photo and I looked up as he crested the hill in front of me and watched as he walked into the sun causing his body to appear mostly in shadow and backlit.

He was the lean image of the man I seen in my sleep and I was suddenly flooded with the memory of the feeling I’d experienced in my dream.

It was an ‘Ah hah’ moment of grand proportion. I got a bit teary as the awareness flooded over me, whispered a quiet thank you to the origin of the dream and hurried on to catch up. 

People often ask me how I could change my whole life as I did by following my heart to another country and the only answer that really makes sense is, how could I not? 

 

Through The Valley Of The Sheep – On The Path To Polperro

 

John and I set off yesterday on a coast path walk that was new ground for us. While we’d been to Polperro in the past, we had not walked the path we took yesterday. This shot reminded me of a trip I took the summer of my 20th year to the dusty Greek island of Ios. The lone tree with all the sheep around it took me straight back in time except it was cooler here and green, with the only dust being that our feet kicked up in a few well worn places when we picked up the path later.

It’s always easy to spot when you’re in an area where you may run into sheep. Walking the coast path can sometimes take you through farmers fields and while you are free to walk on the designated path, you must be very careful not to do anything that scares the sheep if you stray off it. Dogs have to stay on a leash and there can be serious repercussions if a farmer catches a dog chasing the sheep.

Sometimes following John can mean diverting from the path … ‘ Don’t mind us,’ I tell the sheep as we walk right through their seaside café.

He can often get ahead of me when I linger to take … ‘ Just one more photo ‘ an expression he’s heard me use many times since we met. You can see John in the distance if you look to the right.

Here’s another shot of John that I took while running to catch up.

Because we were walking through a field, we had to hop a fence or two to get back on the coast path … John went first.

Then I showed him my technique for climbing over barbed wire fences.

Not long after, we walked into this lovely space as we came down the coast path.

I stopped to touch the nose of the chestnut colored horse on the way down to the beach.

Before I went down, I turned back to photograph the horse on the hill. I liked the balance in the space between the horse and the tree.

There’s John off to the right … waiting for me, again.

This is one of my favorite shots of the day. I loved the lines in this photograph … that’s John enjoying the view for a minute before continuing on into Polperro.

Polperro is one of my favorite fishing villages in Cornwall and is different from others in a few ways I’ll come back to in another post.

We walked into the village next to the harbor coming from the direction near the tip of the trees you see slightly off-center in this photograph. You climb up and down a lot of hills on the path to Polperro.

We were halfway back to where we started by the time we reached this spot. Our goal was a visit to the Talland Church on the hill before going on to where we left the car. From here it didn’t look as if we had far to go, but as anyone who drives through the lanes here will tell you, a quick trip can take longer than you think and even more so when you are walking rather than driving through the lanes.

I was in a hurry to get to the church before the sun changed too dramatically as I was worried about losing the light. We took a wrong turn that carried us right past this view and I loved the way I was able to show the church and the fairy balanced in the same shot.

After a few more hills we reached our destination, although not our final one of the day.

The church was locked which is generally not the case with village churches at least during the day, but we didn’t mind so much after finding a well placed bench with a view of the sea.

Happiness Lives Here

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Welcome to Gifts of the Journey.

If you are reading this first post  you’re probably a friend or family member and it is primarily for you that I’ve created giftsofthejourney.com.

Most of you are aware that in the last six weeks my life has changed dramatically, I’ve gone from having an American zip code to a post code found in the United Kingdom and a new living situation along the Cornish coast of England.

I hope to share my life here in England though regular posts written for you like a series of picture postcards from abroad. Please drop by often and say hello.

This has been moved from my original GOTJ website and dusted off to take its place with the others.