Saturday, 30 June 2012

Clouds and ripples

I photographed this cloud shape on Judy's birthday, four years ago. It was a remarkable phenomenon, changing slowly over the thirty or so minutes that we watched and sipped champagne.

I used to love watching clouds as a child; used to imagine huge castles and shapes forming above my head. 

Today we have a 20% chance of thunderstorms and rain, but the sky is bright and hot. Further south in  Washington DC and surrounding areas, huge storms have cut power to millions...

and outside in the pond, the frogs chitter to each other.


I was thinking this morning about ripples, it isn't too difficult to focus on them really when this is just outside your backdoor....

With every nuance, every subtle shift in the wind, the surface changes, the reflections vary. 

Here in this moment, a fish briefly snatched at a fly and then back, once more to its watery home. If you look very closely you can see the impact of its action, the ripples have created a spherical pattern emanating from the centre.

A life is like this. Each action we take has an effect, a circle widens around the smallest gesture, a word of kindness, an act of compassion. 

Reminding me, anew, that we are connected to one another, and this world, in a a manner beyond my wildest imaginings...


Friday, 29 June 2012


Here is the front elevation of our proposed new house...

It may not look much on paper, but we are so excited to begin a visualisation of our future new home.
Our architect/builder is confident it can be done and, yesterday, we looked around a new house he is building not far from where we live.

Architecture is the stuff of dreams... the bringing together of imagination and reality, and now, when we have secured a mortgage, we will begin a new house and a new home.

Outside on the deck of this pond side home, a baby red-winged blackbird hops around, looking for leftover nuts. Its parent hovers and feeds it from time to time. And, a few minutes later, two mourning doves fend off a chipmunk...


And just before the doves, a cardinal graced our little deck...

We have found that putting the food out at about the same time as our dinner keeps the chipmunk less active, while the birds seem definitely more inclined to visit in the diminished heat of day.

It is definitely warm here, the highs in the 90's are not what we were used to in England. 

That being said, it is a lovely feeling to have the warmth of sunshine and light with frequency. And it was equally nice to have the rain last week.

I am excited to see the seasons unfold here, for everyday, no...really every moment...holds a new visual experience,
a new picture for us to hold dear. I know I have said this with a degree of regularity since we began to write back in April, but it really is, for me, about slowing down and noticing things. In so doing, my life is richer and fuller and I am so very much less afraid...of everything...there is only today, this moment, this breath...everything else is an illusion...


Thursday, 28 June 2012

A Magnificent Day...

Today, the Supreme Court of the USA voted in favour of the Affordable Care Act of the Obama Administration... 
To those on the other side of the pond it is difficult to convey just how significant this is for this country.
Today I heard news that my efforts as a GP for the last year have been struck down by ridiculous target based bureaucracy and that money will be clawed back for our efforts. I am still unfortunately immured in the stupidity of the system in the UK that values targets over real medicine and I will have to find funds to bridge the difference. 

Thankfully I had anticipated such madness...
but I am so grateful to be removed from it all right now and to celebrate the change here in America. 
And to be very far away from it all.

This image of one of the wind sculptures here in the garden  reminds me of the spirals of Aesculapius... the ancient Greek God of medicine.
It shines in the light, and is a symbol of the art of medicine.


So...I was very proud to be and American today, proud to see the judicial branch of government acting independently, mostly relieved that those who most need support and care will receive last.

Health is something I value greatly, I am the daughter of a breast cancer survivor, I have friends, like sisters to me, who are breast cancer survivors, some in the UK, some in the USA....they are all now, entitled to care, and entitled to the peace of mind that goes with that entitlement.

In the midst of the utter madness that has been American politics in my lifetime, today I felt deep peace. This system of governing is not perfect, not by any means...but it is evolving, emergent, growing with each generation. 

Earlier this evening, during a free bluegrass concert on Ithaca Commons, this man embodied what I felt. 

The music is energetic, all around him are in motion...but, he sits, meditating, committing to being in the moment. 

The connection between this image and my spirit this day, following this landmark might seem obscure...but, I am so very much at peace. We are, indeed, forming a more perfect union....always...


Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Red Cardinal

I have spotted the red cardinal on our deck a number of times, but the bird is very shy and hard to photograph before it dashes away.

The four chipmunks have now consumed two entire feeders worth of nuts!
Not so the hummingbird which sips delicately at the nectar feed for a few seconds at a time. 

We've also been discovered by a blue jay who loves tapping away at whatever it can find after the chipmunks have gone.

The privilege of life here beside the water continues to grow upon us and we've had another day of gorgeous sunshine and tree bending breezes. 

We are now in the process of applying for a mortgage so will wait anxiously to see how that goes. It is a vital next step for us.


Set in the midst of all the splendour of an enchanting garden in summertime, is this swing...

A swing is a very special gift. As a child it was the place we pretended we could fly, pumping higher and higher, kind of scary...but not really, mostly it was just exciting and exhilarating.

As a woman, it is neither of those, for I know I am not flying and I know that the moment I allow my feet to touch the ground, I slow myself down...nothing to fear.

Maybe more than anything, though, the swing reminded me today that there is great joy in simply being present in an activity. There is definitely no "goal" in swinging, for one does not go anywhere, just back and forth. 

Or maybe we do, go somewhere. Maybe we go into a place within our adult selves, where the child lives and dreams and believes that the best work is play, that creativity is penultimate, and that all things are possible. a lot of mileage from two pieces of rope tied onto a board and a big tree matter how you measure...


Tuesday, 26 June 2012

More Reflections...

Today, for most of the day, we were graced with buffeting breezes and the movement of air; the trees about our pond were filled with the sound of leaves, rustling in the wind.
It takes time to become absorbed by this place; to become emmeshed in such a different life. And I am hugely thankful for it, and for the newness of it all.

I have a Social Security number now... ten days after we arrived!
Next stop, my driving test.

And now, we have returned home to our haven and to the calm still waters of the pond that are unruffled by the air; the winds have gone.


Today, after a restful day at the cottage, we needed to run a few errands at the shops which are about a 5 minute drive away.

As we were near our land, I said I needed to go visit again, to see it, to stand on it, to feel the breezes and see the clouds. 

An unbelievable bonus was the company of our friends Paul and Cindi, our soon-to-be neighbour, Skip and...the unexpected and deeply healing presence in the form of  Dustin! Paul and Cindi's beautiful boy....oh, gosh...nothing like a little doggy love to make you feel welcome and right at home! I didn't even mind that he had taken a little doggy-dip in the little stream that flows behind the properties.

For a brief moment I was reminded of Paddy and wished his smiling fluffy self was here with me, but then I remembered that things are as they should be...always...

Sometimes it is so incredibly difficult for me to hold that truth, to trust it, to be at peace with it...but today, with Justin and a Social Security number for was all joy...


PS Dustin didn't seem to mind that I was a licensed massage therapist either.
    Win/Win !

Monday, 25 June 2012


I am still awestruck, looking at this beautiful pond in all lights: reflections in the water, or to quote Claude Debussey, 'reflets dans l'eau'; it is as if all creativity is made manifest here in the light.
I can imagine Monet's last creative years... surrounded by such elegant beauty and creating those timeless paintings. 

Last night in the early hours, an enormous clap of thunder pealed out in the dark: I am not frightened of storms; and remember cascades of thunder as a child in East Africa,as huge weather systems stalked about our horizon.

I am so grateful for this gift of circumstance; to be here in the America, adopting a new life.

Today we met with our builder/architect to discuss the plans for our house... we talked in a diner in Dryden, over coffee and eggs, and toast.

And we returned home to find that the chipmunks have eaten us out of house and home; all nuts gone, and the lard feeder swinging, empty, in the wind. 



A sudden flash of light cuts through a darkened sky, red bark is illuminated, striations of brilliant colour revealed...there is life, there is movement, there is beauty.

Today, Nicholas heard an East African accent, a man who had lived here for 16 years, having lived most of his life in Kenya, spoke with us about our kitchen, but also about a life the two of them knew, a bright unexpected encounter.

A friend I worked with on Broadway is here, in Ithaca performing for the next few weeks, in all the world, we will meet again, here, after nearly 18 years...

These are the seemingly chance events, the outwardly random events, that we inwardly know, if we dare to believe, are anything but...


Sunday, 24 June 2012

Dreaming of Monet...

Looking at these beautiful lilies proliferating day by day I am struck with the thought of what life must have been like for Claude Monet with his lily ponds at Giverny near Paris. He must have had an idyllic life painting and experiencing the joys of colour and form. This photograph of lilies here at Peruville captures a hint of such beauty...

We now have two chipmunks feasting on our nut feeder... and this afternoon a bright red cardinal stopped by for a while. We are expecting storms tomorrow and I can't wait to see the pond in the rain...


What a privilege to sit quietly and observe. To witness the elements of nature, to hear the wind, to feel the rain.

As I watched this woodpecker and her young return to the feeder numerous times these past few days, I was quite amazed by her ability to balance. She is flexible and focused, and by being so, she is able to feed herself and provide for her young. She is able to survive and hopefully thrive.

Balance is the key. Flexibility is a necessity. Focus...penultimate. 

What extraordinary lessons these winged teachers are giving me. My job, as student, is to move toward the stillness...


Saturday, 23 June 2012

More visitors...

Today we have been visited by two small woodpeckers a parent and an offspring. Cautious at first they now feed regularly as we sit outside on the balcony and love both the suet block and the seed feeder.

Judy has been planting out Beebalm, red and purple salvia, thyme and oregano and we're hoping the hummingbirds and butterflies will be attracted to the brightly coloured flowers. 

Our chipmunk is growing bolder too and has found its way up to the seed feeder where it stuffs its face and then rushes off.

Oh, this is such a great amount of pleasure in feeding birds and trying, in some small measure to be stewards of such glorious natural expression. Every moment yields another treasure, another discovery, another smile.

For me, this morning, it was a female downy woodpecker and her chick. At first she was doing an acrobatic balancing act on the feeder, flying off to feed her chick and then flying back. By lunchtime, the chick was alongside her in the protective branches of the wisteria that climbs up the side of the deck.

After lunch, I put a suet square, loaded with nuts, into a wire both Mama (Pecka) and chick (Woody) are feeding themselves, with the chipmunk (aka Chippy) happily hoovering up any remnants that have dropped into the soil of the large planter below. 

We miss our Sooty muchly...but feel our new friends are making a glorious welcome for us!


Friday, 22 June 2012

A new visitor...

This afternoon we were delighted to see a new visitor on the balcony... within minutes of hanging a nectar feeder we spotted a small hummingbird for a moment or two!
Such contact with nature is a continuing privilege here, as we continue to become immersed in the woods and the trees surrounding the pond.

A clutch of red winged blackbirds are nesting in the cattails on the other side of the water and it is a joy to watch them cavort about; I spotted one almost parachuting down through the air as it larked about. 

But trying to photograph them is another challenge altogether...! As it will be to capture the hummingbird next when it visits. A much easier subject is this gorgeous wind sculpture...


How amazing it is to see the dark surface of the pond illuminated with lilies, each one perfectly expressing its own creation, opening to the light, revelations of beauty and unique form. 

Water lilies, like all flowers, have their roots in the depths. We cannot see the process of growth, the plant's search for nutriment, and all that is needed to sustain it. What we mostly see is the evidence that it has been found.

So too, a life.


Thursday, 21 June 2012

Fireflies and deep reflections...

Last night, Judy woke me at 2am... it was an amazing moment as she beckoned me out to the deck above the pond. Look! she said... look at the fireflies, they are beautiful...

I have never seen such beauty: I looked out into the dark as the lights of the fireflies lit up like glow worms against the dark silhouettes of the trees about the pond. And above us were the stars of Cassiopeia, the Big Dipper, Delphinus and so much more...

This is a magical moment where for us, time seems suspended and the ripples of movement across our pond seem like echoes in a brilliant cave.


It seems we have arrived during one of the hottest Junes on record (the other was the weekend of our wedding in 2000, when temperatures went above 100F) We have managed to stay somewhat cool, to adapt, to make choices that fit the circumstances.

In our little cottage, without central A/C, I am reminded that this is a good experience, kind of uncomfortable and enervating. Life is like that, sometimes....but it is only like that for a season, then a storm comes, high pressure meets low pressure, rains fall and all that seemed unbearable shifts.

Today we have had some challenging news from England, and people we deeply love have exhibited extraordinary grace and compassion, in a way that  takes our breath away. 

This picture is taken looking back at our little cottage from a part of the 62 acres of gardens and wetlands and woodlands that it sits upon, some of which we walked this evening. 

I post it in honour of the deep and abiding friendships that sustain and nurture us and those we love. Much like this little pergola, you have refreshed our spirits and offered us respite this day. Thank you does not come close...


Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Pond Life...

We are now back at Peruville and have unpacked a car load of shopping, including two fans, two reclining patio chairs, candles, frying pans, kitchen utensils, and, of course, some chilled beers. It has been 95 degrees this afternoon...

We joined the Island Health Club in Ithaca, a fabulous gym set right beside the foot of  Cayuga Lake and, it opens at 5:30 am should we be so inclined!

After a deep afternoon siesta, we sat on the downstairs deck and looked out over the pond: a dragonfly buzzed around above the lilies as a mysterious looking black fish swirled about underneath popping up now and again to snag at some bugs.

Tomorrow we enquire about a bank account and we'll visit the health club, but long before the temperature builds.


A lake is a landscape's most beautiful and expressive feature. 
It is Earth's eye; looking into which 
the beholder measures the depth of his own nature. 

We have somehow, with love of friends and family, with focus and dedication to our dream, with strength and perseverance...arrived at this moment...arrived in this place.

When we discussed nearly two years ago what we might like to do in our first year of life in the USA, each of us came to the idea of something akin to Walden's Pond, not as primitive, not as remote or solitary...and yet, a conscious commitment to seek stillness and increase awareness were goals each of us shared.

This reflective surface is ours to gaze on in this season. In the brief moments spent enjoying its beauty on this warm and sultry afternoon, we were gifted with a chorus of birdsong, led by a red-singed blackbird, a frog belting out his raspy ribbit, the calm of the water briefly interrupted by the stealth activity of a large silvery fish, keen to sup on one of the dozens of water-skimming bugs, doing their own private dance on the surface of a mirror.

The heat was enough to encourage us back inside after only an hour or so, but this unseasonable warmth is due to leave us in a few days and when it does we shall, I know, spend hours "measuring the depth of our own natures."


Tuesday, 19 June 2012


Last night we were woken at just after 4am with flashes of lightning and then a series of loud rolling thunderclaps. For our American friends this is nothing new, but the weather is an almost record breaking heat for this time of year. 92 degrees... and hotter tomorrow. 

As I write, Colorado wildfires are burning  huge tracts of land amounting to nearly 100 square miles.
I suggested a walk along the Erie Canal to Judy today but she suggested that walking in 95 degree heat would not be so pleasant. So it will be nice to return to our ponds tomorrow and to be amongst the trees and bushes there.



This is just one of the few waterfalls located near our new abode. They rush through the gorges and create a glorious contrast to the sun and the heat.

We will be spending lots of time exploring the NY State Parks, hiking and finding which are our favourites in the coming weeks, months and years. 

All that being said, there are more thunderstorms predicted for Friday, and by this coming Monday the temperature will have dropped by 20 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Talk about change!


Monday, 18 June 2012

Thoreau part 2

We woke early this morning to the sound of the bullfrogs and birds hovering about the pond.
Gradually, as the morning developed the lilies expanded gently to reveal pure color amongst the green pads. We sipped coffee on the balcony watching a small chipmunk ferret around for some sunflower seeds.

Its sinking in gradually now; that we have begun a new life  over here and there is much to do. I will apply for a mortgage in the next few weeks and plan to get my US driver's license too.
We drove north via the hills of northern Pennsylvania yesterday; mile after mile of tree covered hills that were outstandingly beautiful. I have never seen so many huge trees!


Today we are visiting Mom and Daddy in Rochester, NY. 
They wanted to give Nicholas a very special (belated) birthday gift...
An American flag which will decorate the front of our new house. It is made by the same company that embroidered the flag that graced Lincoln's grave.
A piece of history.
A piece of future.


Sunday, 17 June 2012

A sense of Thoreau...

We've arrived at our fabulous rental property and our sitting room and porch overlook a large pond, filled with lilies.
At 5am, the Queen Mary passed under the Verazzano bridge with only several feet to spare and then we saw the statue of Liberty, like a beacon in lower Manhattan.

256 miles of so later we are in Peruville; I have been granted Lawful Permanent Resident Status in the USA and my Green Card is to be sent to me soon!


We are here...the seemingly endless details have fallen into place, our transition from England to the USA completed at last!

Eve and Annette, thank you for meeting us, for driving us to our rental car pick-up, for feeding us and loving us. Mic, John and incredibly sorry we missed you at the terminal (it takes a looooong time to process an immigrant!) We will see you soon and love the photo.

Stopped by Maple Ridge on our way to the rental is more beautiful than ever and the drive from NYC to our future home was lush with green trees and flowing rivers. As I type this the frogs are croaking, the birdsong is just quietening, as are we. We are in for quite a journey!


Saturday, 16 June 2012

Coming Home

We are still in the thick of Atlantic grey… seas flecked with white foam, endless skies. It seems unbelievable that we have come so far (2900 miles) and are only just over 300 miles away from New York.

We dock tomorrow at 6: 30 am, having sailed under the Verrazano Bridge at just before 5am. The Captain tells us we should see the Statue of Liberty at 5:15 am…we will muster in the Chart Room at 08: 45 and then go on down to immigration. 

Chapter 2 begins…


On June 14th, 1998 I flew back across this vast expanse of salt and water a changed person. I had gone to a little island in Scotland to heal from the painful ending of a painful marriage and, to my utter delight and disbelief; I had fallen in love with an incredible man, a man who lived on the other side of the salty ocean.

It is now June 16th 2012; we have just seen the first contrail of a trans-Atlantic jet arriving in JFK from somewhere in Europe. I flew 22 of those flights in two year’s time…I have been married to my beautiful Nicholas for 12 years and his constancy and presence have awakened me to different a side of me, a side of love, a side of being alive, I never knew until I knew him.

As we approach the New York border we are nearing Montauk, place of early holidays with him, place of my honeymoon, gateway to Manhattan and all of my years of friendships and theatre and all the struggles in-between. I am aware that it will be momentarily the same, remembered, familiar...but, in such a profound way it is all new.

I return to this country, my country, altered, and yet not. I return after 14 years of a life deeply lived with a renewed commitment to never, ever, forget the wonder of saying, “Yes” to love and transformation.

This is a picture of me on the day we set sail from Southampton, in the moment I fully felt the joy of coming home…


Friday, 15 June 2012

Into the Fog

Last night the ship’s foghorn sounded every two minutes for the entire night. We have hit the thick fog banks south of Nova Scotia and the sea seems quite different for all that.

But it’s an apt metaphor for our journey right now as we begin the ending of our beginning.
Today, by chance, I got snagged by the bridge club, playing tournament “dummy hand” bridge, in the Atlantic Room, of the 11th floor; we had gone there innocently expecting a quiet lounge only to be beckoned in by the instructor and asked to sit down as one of a pair.  An hour and a half later I emerged, somewhat crestfallen, completely fogged, having forgotten everything about bids… no matter. Judy had escaped to the 12th deck.

Tonight is the last formal dress-wear night…we anticipate a visit to the Commodore Club last thing and, tomorrow, we may even see a whale!


Nova Scotia….New Scotland seems a fitting place for us at this moment.

I remember reading once that Scotland, parts of the Maritime Provinces of Canada,  and Maine are made of the same earth, split into separate land masses, when the continental drift occurred. As we travel these thousands of miles across this great expanse of sea, I am reminded that I have crossed it in an airplane 22 times, and Nicholas, twice, before our wedding. It has given me pause, this crossing by ship…what a vast separation we had between us. How incredible that we met, on a tiny island in the Atlantic, for 72 hours, 14 years ago…

Perhaps a coincidence…perhaps…I didn’t think so then and I am more and more certain with each passing day that it was part of something greater, part of a plan beyond our wildest understanding.

We journeyed across time and space to be united…may our shared life be a blessing to those we draw alongside….As we continue to make our way in the fog of the Atlantic, I am holding fast to this image of Scotland, knowing that things will become clear, defined and beautiful…but until they are, how glorious to be held in the vessel upon which we are journeying…


Thursday, 14 June 2012

The Grand Banks...

We’ve crossed the deepest part of the Atlantic now and are just about to sail across the tail of the Grand Banks, a much shallower stretch of sea off the coast of Newfoundland.
It hardly seems possible to have sailed just under 2000 miles from the UK but it all seems very very far away now.
Bird life is becoming much more active with dozens of sea birds flying about the ship.
This morning we woke at 4 am and walked around deck 7 for two miles… a gorgeous sky greeted us like a painting come from the East. You can just see the crescent moon.


So…last evening we are walking on Deck 3 following dinner and suddenly a voice called out, “Dr. Down. Dr. Down. Nick!” Yes, the Oxshott Medical Practice found him here on board! 2 very nice patients from his years as a physician are also on QM2 with us and are treating us to a pre-dinner drink here, in the Commodore Bar tonight. Talk about a small world…

Earlier today, after breakfast, we played a mean game of Scrabble at the games tables. There was a classical pianist playing, just next door, in the Royal Court Theatre…sublime…this is an unbelievable journey.

As I am typing, the foghorn on the ship is sounding with a degree of constancy, apparently the Grand Banks are notorious for fog as thick as pea soup (it is also the same location as the sinking of the Titanic…fog seems a good option to me.