Written In Stone; Stories From The Churchyard

I find a story almost every time I look around our village churchyard and recently, I noticed two gravestones that made me think about the lives of the three people buried there.

Look at the gravestone to the left.

Now look at the gravestone to the right.

The gravestone in front of the window is connected to the one you are looking past from behind. The two stones face each other directly divided only by the path that runs between them.

Sophia Rich, was the first wife of Thomas Olver Rich. You would not know this if searching online as a popular ancestry site has her listed as unknown, but notes her maiden name may have been Pengelly, a name you see a lot in Cornwall. As you can see from her gravestone, she was not a Pengelly, but the daughter of John and Elizabeth Crowle.

Sophia died at 34 in 1865. She left Thomas with the six children I mentioned earlier, with the youngest being born only six months before her death. There was a sweet inscription on her gravestone.

A virtuous Wife in prime of life,

By death is snatched away;

Her soul is blest, and gone to rest,

Her flesh is gone to clay.

She’s left behind a Husband kind,

Three daughter’s and three sons;

May they prepare to meet her where,

True joys are to be won.

 

Across the path next to the window, Thomas shares a grave with wife number two. Thomas lived another fifty years without Sophia and later remarried a woman listed simply as Ellen on the gravestone they share. The ancestry site lists the names of his six children with Sophia along with the names of the children he had with his second wife, Ellen. It looks as if he fathered a total of ten or eleven children. (one of his later children with Ellen is missing a name) Ellen has little listed other than her age and the date of her death which tells me that there was at least a 17 year age difference between Thomas and Ellen. Her name is not on the ancestry site either even though you can see the names of her children.

A final interesting note, the house we live in sits on land that was purchased by a local builder in 1993 from a woman who had bought it with her first husband when her last name was Rich.

(Remember you can double-click on any of these photos to enlarge)

 

Snow Days And Nights In Cornwall

Morning light across the village green.

The last two days have seen our little village fairly cut off from the rest of the world by all the snow we’ve had over the last few days. All day yesterday and late into today only those with 4 wheel drive could make it in or out. Around 3:00 pm, John was finally able to get through the lanes to the main highway and drive the five miles or so to the closest supermarket. He picked up a few things for a neighbor and let another know we are now well stocked in case things freeze as the weather reports are predicting. He had to leave the car and hike up the hill to the house with the groceries, but he made it home safely just before things began to freeze.

Our village shop was pretty cleaned out today with certain items such as milk being made available first to those with small children and the elderly in our community. Even though I wanted some milk for baking, I liked seeing those who really needed it receive it first. I walked back up our street from the shop with Len and Mary who are friends and neighbors that live on our street. I watched as they knocked on the doors of the homes of several people in their 70s and 80s checking in to be sure they were doing all right.

I managed a good long walk through some of my favorite places around the village and of course snapped a few photographs to share. Much of the UK is experiencing a slow down or in some cases no movement at all. Schools are closed and hospitals are asking that only those in dire need come in and I feel fortunate that I have no where pressing to be over the next few days. Seems like a good time to do a bit of baking … I’m thinking maybe a nice big batch of cinnamon rolls to go with all of the hot chocolate we’ll be drinking over the next few days.

These are photographs from the last two days:

The buttercup field under cover of snow.

This is the old stone bridge we cross to get to the buttercup field.

Me, on the other side of the bridge.

John crossing a farmers field with the entrance to our village in the distance behind him. (see the church tower)

Our village on the hill.

Me making a snow angel.

Not bad for being no angel myself.

Night fall – I stepped out on the patio to snap the sunset just as bunch of sparrows flew over.

Still Walking The Same Path

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In 1975, the two men in the center of this photograph met through a mountaineering club in the Midlands of England. That’s thirty-four years they have been camping, climbing, hiking and walking together. In case you don’t recognize my husband John from this picture taken after a trip to Nepal in 1982, he’s the second man from the right. Standing next to him on his right (wearing a vest), is his long time friend Ray.

John and I were walking on Dartmoor today with Ray and his girlfriend Mij. While we covered about nine miles, I was snapping away taking so many pictures I was frequently lagging behind the three of them. Not surprising to me, I seemed to catch most of my photographs of them from behind. It was an amazing walk and I’ll be back tomorrow with more pictures to share, but I wanted to post a couple of John and Ray from today… still walking the same path after all these years.

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The Synchronicity Of It All

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Late last night while I was sleeping, Kerstin from Gypsylife was reading this post I wrote for TMAST this past Tuesday. She left me a lovely and intriguing comment that caused me to go back to her site to search for a picture to illustrate her comment about her cat which looks surprisingly like the cat, Mephisto in my story. I’ve pasted Kerstin’s comment below:

“Wow, what a story. I am glad you took the direction you did, it was very intriguing. I dream a lot, too, as you know, but don’t usually pay too much attention, either. Maybe I should. And I have to tell you, Elizabeth, my cat looks EXACTLY like the one in the photo! Even your description of the eyes is spot on! It’s a little creepy actually looking at that photo … and I would love to hear the continuation of Mephisto’s story! I look forward to more TMAST stories next year, they’ve been so enjoyable. Have a great trip! Kxo”

One has to wonder at times about the synchronicity of life and how after reading her post on Tuesday during a break from writing my own, the evolution of my story developed in a way that made it possible for me to share several of my real dreams through a character named Minnie. In crediting her as inspiration, she came to my blog and saw the cat that looks just like hers. I love that about life.  I hope you’ll take a look at both cats in the links I provided above…the two cats do look as if they could be the same and it’s pretty amazing to consider that my cat picture was taken here in England, while hers was on the West coast in America.

If you’ve had a similar experience, I love for you to share it. Perhaps more of us will find a link we were unaware of before now.

Things That Make Your Heart Feel Tender

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We all know that things don’t matter as much as people, but sometimes when the people you love are far away there are some things you just don’t want to be without. Yesterday, after 78 days and trip that began back in America, some of my special things finally arrived from Georgia. It was a bit surreal seeing the things I had pared down to as the most essential from my American life taken off a truck in the tiny village in England I now call home.

I had to open some boxes right away to ensure there was no damage and my art pieces were the first ones I tore into. I was opening at a good pace with an excitement similar to a child on Christmas morning when the watercolor piece above stopped my excited frenzy of paper tearing with an audible ooooooh… followed by a loud ,”John, come look at this one….”

This sweet little watercolor is a tender connection to my daughter’s childhood and to her every time I see it. She brought it home one day very early in her school career somewhat rumpled as large project can be when carried by small hands. I loved it from the beginning and after claiming a space on the side of the refrigerator reserved for special things, I eventually took it down and rolled it up intending to have it framed. It took about five years before I could make up my mind how I wanted to frame it which occurred right about the time my daughter would have preferred that her middle school age friends not see the art work of her early years. She called this little bunny, “Cerit Body” or “Carrot Body”  as she told me when I mispronounced it the first time based on her written words at the top of the painting and if you look closely at the bottom, you can just make out the young artist’s signature too.

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I felt a bit tearful seeing this little watercolor painting and held it so closely that John picked up the camera to capture my emotional moment. I am so glad to have it with me and I’m already thinking about the best place to hang it when the dust settles around here.

Some things will have to stay boxed until my new space is finished and since our master bedroom is going through a renovation and extension too with the addition on an en-suite bath, nothing can be unpacked for that room yet either. Yesterday afternoon, John and I moved boxes of clothes and linens & towels up to the attic while creating a temporary holding space in the living room corner for the 9 boxes of books I shipped over along with a section for art and other collectables. The kitchen is overflowing with dishes and china, along with bowls and cooking things my grandmother once used on a regular basis. The wooden bread bowl carved by my great grandfather quickly replaced the basket that John kept fruit in and will have a place on the table once it’s cleared of all the pieces I placed there while unpacking yesterday.

Last night when all the lights were out and I was heading for bed, I followed my nightly routine of checking all the doors to be sure the house was locked up tight for the night. This habit is one I inherited from my father who always made this a part of his bedtime ritual. He called it shutting down the house. That I do it now reminds me of my father on a more frequent and personal level than seeing his photograph on my shelf…proving that sometimes a memory or tradition can be as valuable in some ways as our possessions. Last night however, as I lingered at the kitchen door and looked back into the messy room, I was more than happy and content to see the physical examples of my family and my story waiting to find a place in this new home.

Packing It Tighter Than OctoMom’s Uterus

DSCN4506As most of you who’ve been following my blog lately are aware, I’ve just completed the enormous task of downsizing 48 years of my physical life into a box measuring 200 cubic feet for shipping to England where I now live with my husband John. As you might imagine, 200 cubic feet is not a lot of space especially for a woman with a tendency to place value on the memory of a day or event and hold on to whatever object heightens the memory. Thank goodness my daughter Miranda was willing to take on some of the things that were too difficult to part with over the last few weeks.

I was fortunate to find a home for most of my furniture and big things last May when I came to England for my first long stretch. What I left behind in storage seemed in my mind to be a smaller amount to sort through than it turned out to be after I saw it all again. I wrote here about what it looked like when I began the weeding out process and below you’ll find a couple of pictures before I condensed it to a more manageable group of boxes.

 

Group One Of Boxes

Group One Of Boxes

Group Two Of Boxes

Group Two Of Boxes

As you can see, I had stuff in two places…one a basement room and one in the garage of my step-mom’s home.  She was so gracious about it all. As hard as I tried to keep it all contained to a few places, there were times when it spilled over briefly into other areas as I went through it.  Everything you see is the before image. All of these boxes had to be opened and sorted and repacked. I went through everything creating piles to re-box and take with me or packing them up to give to Miranda. What was left went into a section for my garage sale which netted enough to pay about half the cost of shipping my stuff over.

 

Day Two Of Sale

Day Two Of Sale

I had some telling signs up for my garage sale and between my Craigslist posting and a few signs, I did little else to alert the world that there was good stuff to be had out in Marietta. I did blog about it and three of my blogging buddies showed up  to say hello and help finance my move….thanks to Jules, Leslye and Taylor  along with some long time friends, Patrice and Scott. Additionally, two old boyfriends that I’m still friendly with from 25 and 30 years ago stopped by to say hello.  It was good to see each of them and I was pleased to see some things that were special to me go to people I know. Taylor bought a birdcage that I loved and I can’t wait to see what cool photographs she creates with it. You can see her first image of it if you go here.

A few more shots of stuff no longer mine from the sale…

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By the time the movers came to box up the breakables, I had packed the rest of it. I could pack the non-fragile items, but had to leave the boxes open for the movers to note before sealing. Here are a few images from that day.

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I shipped loads of art over as well as a chair that looks like the female version of one John has. I’ll post them side by side when it arrives.

Below are some of my boxes repacked and stacked to mimic the dimensions of the storage crate.

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The wooden crate you see above is what ALL of my stuff went into.  You’re going to see why I chose the title I did for this post in a minute.

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These men from Atlantic Relocation Systems did an excellent job packing the breakables up and numbering everything. They have a history of working with Rainier, the company I contacted to do the international move and everyone from Doug Wiviott at Rainier to Mike Orlin with Atlantic Relocation Systems and all of the guys who did the hard work of packing it up have been great to work with. I’ll update you in 45-65 days when my crate arrives as to the condition of things, but it’s been good experience so far.

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Remember what I said about OctoMom’s uterus….well….it wasn’t eight babies, but it was pretty tight!

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Going

Going

 

Going

Going

 

Gone!

Gone!

The next time you see the crate will be when we’re unloading it here in Cornwall. I wonder if it will seem strange to see my things in this setting. I have to say that as they were putting the very last thing into the crate, I got a little teary. The last two things were a large framed photograph of Miranda as a barely walking toddler sitting in my grandmother’s wicker rocking chair and the last minute addition of sewing box given to me many years ago by my Aunt Wylly, the children’s book author. There was something about seeing that old sewing box slip into a little opening to make the journey that caused me to feel something other than relief and exhaustion. I think it was the thought of Aunt Wylly and her sense of adventure that affected me in the moment. She was such a special woman and an inspiration to me in many ways…thinking of her and knowing how she lived her life…I think she’d approve of this new love and life in Blisland .

Just In Time For Mother’s Day

 

Mother's Day Rose 2009

Mother's Day Rose 2009

Two years ago Miranda asked me the question mothers everywhere begin to hear as Mother’s Day approaches. Always fairly forthright she said, “What do you want for Mother’s Day?”  More time with you…is never what a nineteen year old wants to hear so instead I suggested an activity that might ensure more than a few hours together. I asked her to help me plant some bushes and flowers around the front of the house. We picked out some plants and a small rosebush and dug and watered and settled them into the soil of their new home. If you live in the Atlanta area, you know the last few years have been fairly dry and although I watered and watched over them for a year, when I left for England last May I wasn’t sure they’d survive.

Arriving at the house last week to move the stuff I’d left locked in the attic, I immediately saw that one of the plants had died and the other one looked as if it was not far behind. The next day Miranda joined me to help load everything into a truck to move it to Marietta to sort for shipping to England. Towards the end of our work day I noticed a bit of color along the white picket fence that borders the front yard. Growing around the fence posts was the rosebush. I’d missed it there hanging on bravely through the drought, still green and alive and blooming with the sweetest little miniature roses you’ve ever seen.  It’s interesting how something that seems so fragile at times is really quite resilient and just when you least expect it…surprises you with a strong showing.  

I hope your day was as lovely as mine!

Diversions And Updates

dscf4319I’m still waist deep in boxes and sorting as I decide what will move to England with me. The shippers come a week from Monday and I’m working steadily to go through everything and repack the non-breakables. (the shippers have to pack the fragile stuff)

I’m having a huge, mammoth yard sale on the 15 th & 16 th so I have a good deadline for getting it all done before sending what’s left off on the 18th. In addition to the stress of completing such a task, I find myself getting terribly maudlin at times seeing so much of my past spreading out before me. 

Late at night or in moments when I grab a bite of food, I slip to my computer to do a fast catch up on the blogs I read. Those of you who pop by mine should know how much a quick look at your words and images shakes me out of the past and reminds me of the life I have in the present.  It’s a big help to me right now. 

Today over a breakfast bagel and my third cup of coffee, I took a look at a favorite blogger that I follow. Rima, over at The Hermitage, lives a life most of us couldn’t dream of and her lovely space is alway a delight. The post I read today reminds me of Cornwall and John and what waits for me on my return. Please take a minute to go by and read her post, What I Saw By The Wayside.  While you’re there, take a good look around her site…she’s a wonderful artist and paints the most amazing scenes on the clocks that she makes.  

Have a great weekend and I be back in a bit…once I get through all of this mess.

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In The Air Again

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I’ve “moved house” as they say here in England so often I feel as if I could almost do it in my sleep. As a child, we moved so many times that I missed a good bit of what was important in school…thank goodness I was a big bookworm or I’m afraid I’d know very little. By the time I was in the ninth grade, I’d been to 10 schools and in one extreme year of elementary school, I occupied a desk in 4 different schools on both the east and west coast. It’s no wonder that I grew up with a fierce case of wanderlust.

At 18, I joined the Army and left home moving after completing basic training to my first duty assignment, a post in Baumholder, Germany. I arrived there with what I could carry in two large suitcases and an over stuffed military duffel bag. The rest of my childhood things stayed in Georgia with my family so deciding what to pack was not too difficult. These last few months have presented a different set of choices with regard to packing and moving… some of which have been more difficult than others.

As I leave to fly back to Atlanta today, it is with a clear goal in mind. During the next few weeks, I’ll be sorting through what’s left of my physical life in Georgia. Ever a saver with too much stuff, I’ve been going through things since early last year when John and first considered the possibility of sharing a life together in Cornwall.

It was during the first bit of sorting and selling that I came up with the name of my blog…Gifts Of  The Journey. Having surrounded myself so long with things that held memories that I considered part of my story, I never would have believed I would or could consider letting them go. It would have seemed almost as if I were being asked to slice off a finger or a toe. I thought I needed those things to help me balance and connect to what was important. It was during the time when I was selling off the furniture and things that made my house so cozy, that I realized the gifts I was receiving in learning how to let go of the physical stuff in exchange for my deepening connection with John. I had no idea where we would go or really how we would get there, but what I did know was that my house and all the things inside were not what made it a home. Freeing myself from the belongings that I thought had to have, gave me the opportunity to start over in a life I could not have imagined would be so right for me.

I’m back in the air again soon and my next post will find me sorting through books and art and bits of my old life…choosing with the care and heartache my immigrant ancestors must have felt when moving to America so many years ago.  All I can think is…thank goodness, I don’t have to only bring what I can carry.

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Fairy Spirit Or Twist Of Light

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Fairy Spirit Or Twist Of Light?

I live in a place that is a wonderland for the imagination. Stories lie in wait around every turn and each time I step out for a walk or a run I return with a headful of ideas begging to find a bit a permanence and a place to call home. Whether on the moor or walking over the ancient bridges that cross the river that runs through our little village, I see possibilities wherever my eyes stop to rest. I find myself talking to the animals I see along the way and can easily understand how Beatrix Potter could create worlds where bunnies and geese talk back while cats and dogs do the shopping and farm work. These are fertile grounds for story making and the peace of my rural life is perfect for coaxing life into new characters and situations.

I have so much material that I often feel overwhelmed with my choices much like the way one might when standing before a huge buffet table, only instead of choosing between fried chicken southern style or asian sweet and sour , my banquet table is weighed down with ideas. It’s a wonderful problem to have, but for a woman prone ever so slightly towards being easily distracted…too many choices can be troublesome. So the ideas tend to pile up, waiting in a long queue for their moment with some moments taking longer to arrive than others. If I forget to write it all down…the story can disappear, but sometimes there is evidence, a lasting trigger with an image of mine to remind me.

Such was the case with a walk in Scotland on the Isle of Skye at sunset a few years ago. Day or night, the sky there is always stunning and I crawled over a thorny patch to capture this image lit by the setting sun. Skye has long been a magical place for me and seeing what looked like a bit of a fairy spirit captured in the lens of my camera created  more of a feeling of confirmation than surprise.  I have a series of these taken from different angles and the image is the same …twist of light or fairy spirit…you choose. I’d love to hear your thoughts…

 

(My lens was clean…in case you’re wondering…with no smudges or dust)