Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Long Day's Journey...

Our thoughts are very much with my father right now as he faces the grip of illness; but for now, I would prefer to remember him striding along that beach on the Isle of Harris in 2002, when Judy and I escorted our parents around the Highlands and Islands.

Soon after I took this photograph, he stripped off his shirt and continued along, unperturbed by a flock of Petrels that bombarded him as he walked.
He loved that trip and had always wanted to visit the Hebrides and so we were delighted to be part of his journey there.

On this same trip we visited not only Harris, but Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. 
Lewis, home to Callanish, the great circle of standing stones, which have been battered by such harsh winds and weather that the even the granite has yielded to the ravages of time and nature.

And yet, even still, an unsurpassed beauty silently bears witness to the life of the standing stones...

You have traveled too fast over false ground;
Now your soul has come to take you back.

Take refuge in your senses, open up
To all the small miracles you rushed through.

Become inclined to watch the way of rain
When it falls slow and free.

Imitate the habit of twilight,
Taking time to open the well of color
That fostered the brightness of day.

Draw alongside the silence of stone
Until its calmness can claim you.

John O'Donohue


Monday, 30 July 2012

Travel again...

Judy and I will be travelling back to the UK on Thursday and staying for two weeks. My father's health  has again deteriorated and so we are preparing for the worst.

At this time I am grateful for the symbolism and imagery from this Totem pole which sits in the living room of our friends at Long Lake. It is similar to the totem pole which was given to my Grandfather in the 1940s by the Kwakiutl Native Americans as a token of gratitude for all that he had done there. He gave it to me a year or so before he died and the symbols of eagle, bear and salmon combine to create a story of thanksgiving to Creator and the power of connection to the spiritual.

This morning a hummingbird flew outside our living room and hovered at the window as if peeking inside. It was an extraordinary moment as it looked at me, looking at it.

And then before I could get the camera, it had gone.


And then, tonight, after a long day of making flight arrangements and cancelling training times with my new job, as if on cue, against a golden orb of light came the night birds, the bats, to dance in the fading light.

They used to frighten me as a child, stories of them tangling in my long hair, biting me, their saliva filled with rabies...it was terrifying really...

Now, this night, I see them as the beautiful creatures they are, flying with sonar, plotting their flight by bouncing sound off of objects. In their blindness...they have found their way.

We can see little in this season, as a family, as individuals. We are all poised on the edge of something we have never known. We send out our supplications and our prayers and they come back to us, ever so gently...they keep us safe and help us to gather nourishment, help us to navigate the darkness as we rest in the knowledge that we are surrounded with a gracious and unending love.


Sunday, 29 July 2012

Deeper Reflections

Spending time back here at the cottage has been deeply peaceful... a chance to observe the play of light on water and the endlessly changing surface of the pond.

My father's health continues to decline... and its a difficult time for Judy and I to decide when we return to the UK, but it is  likely to be in the next ten days or so. And so, as we wait, I am grateful for the watery reflections and the deepening stillness of the pond.

This weekend marked my beginning of a new job at the Finger Lakes School of Massage, I applied and interviewed for a position teaching massage last October, but rather than the job I originally sought, I was offered and have accepted a role as co-coordinator of the part-time program.  

The light on the pond when I came home tonight gave me an image that literally spoke to what I was feeling after and intense 20 hours of training...
In an instant, the surface of the water seemed to be divided into little squares of colour and form, part the reflection of the trees and sky above, part the pond itself. But, beyond this, what became clear to me was that all of my training was about to be put to use...

Actress, massage therapist, counsellor, teacher, writer...all come into play communicating with students attempting to graduate from the 1000-hour program, on week-ends, across an 18-month period, while they keep their 'outside school' lives going. It has a different set of challenges than full-time school and I hope I will be of great service to each of them and my colleagues.


Saturday, 28 July 2012


This morning a deluge of rain poured down about this cottage, refreshing the pond and greening the leaves. Later, the sun broke through and clouds took shape about the horizon like sculptures in the wind...

And it was just after the rain had come that a bird flew up to our deck and perched for a good 15 minutes or so... it was a Belted Kingfisher, about 9 inches long and with a crop of unruly hair about its head. And just as I reached for the camera it disappeared as quickly as it had come.


Today I began work at the Finger Lakes School of Massage-I am a co-coordinator of student services for the part time program, which is kind of like being vice principle, guidance counsellor and administrator all rolled into one....it is challenging and I have a lot to learn, but it is a wonderful environment and I feel privileged to be entering into this new chapter.

On our way back down the hill from Ithaca to the cottage, here was the sky that met us.


The dramatic evening sky reminded us of the moment-to-moment gift of light and life and blessed us with majestic splendour.


Friday, 27 July 2012

Return home...

We drive home to Peruville today, going south through the Green Mountains of Vermont and bypassing Albany.
Our trip to the North East was fabulous, taking in sweeping vistas of tree covered mountains and the sea, with Monhegan Island 12 miles offshore, basking in the afternoon sun, a last stop before the 3500 miles of the Atlantic.
You can just see the island down on the horizon in this window shot from  New Harbor, the fishing village that was featured in the film, 'Message in a Bottle'.

Last night, huge thunderstorms struck New York state, but with luck we'll only drive through light rain today.


For my birthday, Nicholas arranged 2 nights at a beautiful hotel and spa in Vermont. It was built at the turn of the last century for the then governor of Vermont, Allen Miller Fletcher. It is no where near as old as the stately homes Nicholas and I have visited in England, but designed in the English Cotswold style, built using Californian redwood trees and locally quarried gneiss...it feels quite nostalgic for us.

Today, we head home to our little cottage by the pond. We pick up our new car this afternoon, I begin my new job tomorrow and we complete on the land sale on Monday (we hope....) Everything is moving forward.

We also work with our architect again this week to finalize his drawings and pricing.

I saw a wondrous reminder of homes while on Monhegan Island, in the midst of Cathedral Woods, there are dozens and dozens of little "fairy houses" built by those walking through the woods, designed to provide housing for the little people who dwell there. I don't know when it began, or who built the first of them...but these were a few of my favourites...
Maybe we should consider lining our driveway with pinecones...
They remind me that there are unexpected joys in unexpected places...but I have to keep my eyes focused and my heart open to see them.


Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Green and White Mountains

We have had a wonderful time in Maine, visiting Monhegan Island and the coast, including Pemaquid Point Lighthouse and the rocks by the sea. It has been amazing, visiting such places and I am conscious of the connection between Maine and Scotland as the rocks are very similar. 

Looking due East from here would land the sightline directly on the shores of Northern Scotland!
Driving up here across New Hampshire and Vermont today I was struck once again by the immensity of the landscapes here... tree covered hills and mountains going on for miles.
Judy and I have a two day break here at Ludlow and then we drive south on Friday.


What a wonderful time we have shared with friends I have loved at different seasons of my life. 

I am amazed at the gift of "picking up where we left off"...the ease of conversation and intimacy when connections run deep and true.

In the Adirondacks there is a particularly beautiful use of wood in the architecture, this is a picture of this style:
Imagine my delight when something quite similar enhanced the outdoor amphitheatre, surrounded by pine trees at North East Music Camp in Maine!

The similar patterns remind me of the order of things, the comfort in familiarity, the necessity of both for our lives.

In Maine, as in the Adirondacks, we heard the loons, plaintive and compelling, inviting us to another world with each song. What a blessing.

As we continue to have the challenge of Nicholas' Dad's health and the nurture of his Mother, Mem as we call her, we likewise continue to be overwhelmed with the love and support of friends and family on both sides of the Atlantic.

A final note, a final thanksgiving....in revisiting both of our long-time friendships we were also delighted in two new friends...
and Gizmo...
The first belongs to Ed and Rebecca, the second to Marian and Nathan....
How precious to be invited into each moment by unconditional, 4-legged, love.

Saturday, 21 July 2012


We have been in the heart of the Adirondack State Park, about one fifth the land area of New York State... Staying on Long Lake we have experienced glorious sunshine, a huge storm and the sound of the loons on the lake. It rained solidly for four hours Wednesday night and we had a power cut; and have been out of internet contact all week.
Two days ago we visited the summit of Whiteface Mountain. At about 4800 feet we could see for mile after mile.
We've been out on Long Lake most days and the cloud scopes there have been stunning...

Now, we have arrived in Maine after an 8 hour drive through the Green Mountains of Vermont, the White Mountains of New Hampshire where we saw Mount Washington in full sunshine and then a drive across Maine,.
Thank you to our friends Ed and Beck for a glorious stay on Long Lake! It has been a fabulous time.


We are so incredibly grateful for the sublime quality of light and water, of mountain and forest in the Adirondacks. The park is the largest in the United States and, yet, it is one of the few that allow people to live year round within its boundaries. Because of this, there is a uniqueness to the experience and a sensitivity of how the footprint of humanity impacts on the natural world.

The road that led us up to Whiteface was created by FDR, begun when he was Governor of NY State and completed when he was the President. The vision to imagine creating a road that would allow people to see this beauty, even if they couldn't walk or hike to the top was a gift that was given to us today.

Look, just look at what we were gifted with...


Sunday, 15 July 2012


We travel up to the Adirondack mountains tomorrow, the Largest State Park in the US, I believe, where we hope to spend a few days on Long Lake. 
My father's health unfortunately, continues to deteriorate, so our plans are provisional.

Researching ways of getting back to the UK in case of need further reminds me just how big this country is and there is now easy way, quickly.
Today, heavy rain fell just south of us here in Rochester, but tonight the skies are calmer and a sense of 'big sky clouds' has fallen upon the evening.


The ebb and flow of a life are deeply evident when we meet childhood friends after long absences.

Today, I was blessed with one of those days. My next-door neighbors, the kids I learned to ride bikes with, played Lost in Space (lying upside-down on the couch in the basement to simulate the weightless experience) with, laughed, and  fought, and made-up with for the first 10 years of my life...I was with them.

It was a graduation party for one of their children and in gathering around a table of beautiful food and loving conversation we remembered. 

We remembered who we had been and we learned a little bit about who one another had become. How I wish I lived next door to them, if only for a few weeks or months, so that I could learn more, laugh until I cried and found the way to thank them, each of them, for the uniqueness of their gift to my life.

They are like the shining reflection in this photograph, bright and beautiful...and no matter what life has brought to them, they have met each event with faith and hope and unending love...I celebrate them all...


Saturday, 14 July 2012


Driving up here from New York four weeks ago I was stunned by the scale of the trees in the landscape of Northern Pennsylvania and New York state... trees that are two or three times the size of their UK cousins and the hills were covered as far as the eye could see. When the early settlers first saw the Appalachian mountains stretching out before them, ridge after tree covered ridge, they must have been equally amazed.
These willow trees at the foot of Lake Cayuga made a fabulous stand in the wind two weeks ago when we walked in Stewart Park in Ithaca, and, we hope we can be able to plant a willow or two on our land in Dryden when we come to landscaping there.

We are both blogging about trees today, I grew up on a road called Seymour Street in the village of Houghton, NY, which was lined with willows. I remember their silhouettes in winter, the palest yellow-green shoots in early spring, playing counterpart to the melting ice on the creek surface alongside. 
It was they that provided a kind of secret hiding place for my reading, my writing, my dreaming.
Here, in Rochester, my parents live in a much less rural setting, but in front of their townhouse is a beautiful birch tree, another of my favourites, and also one we hope to plant on Applewood Lane at the new house.

It was only just as tall as the porch roof when they first moved in 21 years ago. 
Trees and children...they remind me just how quickly time passes...

Friday, 13 July 2012

Driving North

We are staying with Judy's parents here in Rochester for a few days before we head off to the Adirondack Mountains and Long Lake next week.
Judy's father drove six hours today down to the mountains of Pennsylvania for a weekend retreat and so we will be spending time with Judy's mother.

This photograph was taken of the three of them in Paris in 2004 on the occasion of their 50th anniversary at a famous bistro called Le Grand Colbert which has featured in a number of films. They are remarkable for their age, he now 80 and she 79!

Here is another of my favourite Paddington photographs, taken during England's heatwave of 2003...

Everytime we turned the fans on, Paddy plunked himself down in from of one of them and looked up with one of these "Oh...much better...thanks guys" looks like this. 

He would have struggled with the weather we have been experiencing since arriving here. It helps to know that when I miss him, and I do miss him terribly.

Paddy's expression here reminds me to seek bliss...to find relief, or pleasure and pull up, right along side it, making no apologies and holding back nothing in response to what makes us happy.

Thanks for the lesson Padders...I am going for bliss!

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Hanging paintings...

We've now unpacked 9 paintings at the cottage by the pond and the place seems more like home for it. It's wonderful to see the paintings again and to be reminded that there are about 250 or more still in storage!
This painting, entitled Requiem for the Rain Forest was exhibited at the Red Dot art fair in Miami in December last year and until last week was stored up in Rochester. 

It evokes a spirit of color and mystery and also is a visual poem about the fragility of the planet's rain forests.


The feeling of joy I have when Nicholas' paintings surround me is palpable. 

As paintings long-stored came out of boxes and bubble wrap, we were reminded of the journey we have been on together...with the art...with one another...to Paris, Florence, New York, Porto Recanati on the Adriatic, Hamburg, Edinburgh, Harvard and Leipzig...and now Ithaca.

This painting, called The Lovers, has always remained in our personal collection, it has never been shown. The shadows, the light, the bold strokes, the emergent forms, all speak to me of the process that is the unfolding of intimate relationship.


Wednesday, 11 July 2012

The Jet Stream...

We heard today that the UK is suffering an absolute deluge of rain, hail and thunderstorms! And apparently, its all to do with the relocation of the Jet Stream.
Dorking's cockerel roundabout is flooded with water and traffic delays are everywhere.

I heard that my father's condition is a trifle improved... his medication helping him function better. So I am a little relieved.

Here in the US, our dry hot weather continues with temperatures in the high 80s for at least another ten days. That too is to do with the Jet Stream relocation...

And now we hear that torrential rains are hitting the southern states. 
Outside above the pond the dragonflies flit about like jet fighters displaying unbelievable turns of speed and direction.
And the fish swim about lazily, turning this way and that, completely unable to snatch them from the air.


This is another of the beautiful gardens here at our respite.
Here the bold golden coloured flowers are framed against the lush green forest behind...it is such blessing to see the changing foliage and blossoms. The old lets go and the new is emergent.

I am glad for the opportunity to be reminded of the speed of change, of the need to pay attention, of the ease with which small things can go undetected, unnoticed even.

So often I have journeyed in an almost unconscious manner, worried about a future event that never happens, or regretting something from the past that I cannot possibly alter. 

When I see a garden full of life, or the iris blossoms surrounding the pond give way to seed pods, or the baby blackbird gaining confidence and changing colours....I am reminded...nothing stays the same...nothing.

What a gift I bestow on myself in remembering this. I might feel the same tomorrow morning, but I won't be...not really...I will have changed...I will have a new thought, a new dream might have taken hold overnight, a pain might have lifted...

Always new...every day....every breath...

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Water and Light...

We found our way down to Cass Park at the Southern end of Cayuga Lake...
The marina here seems as if it is by the sea...
an amazing sense of scale

and, when we got back to our temporary home, I spotted a hummingbird dancing amongst the Be Balm plants we had planted on the deck, for a minute or two...

So we were walking towards Cayuga Lake and saw this tall, wooden structure in the distance...it seemed empty and abandoned until we drew near.

It was then that we saw the bald eagle! How had it made a nest and created a safe haven for new beginnings at the foot of Lake Cayuga?

Today I signed an offer of employment for myself at the Finger Lakes School of Massage...I know...Finger Lakes...anyway, rather than teach actual massage therapy, I have been offered the opportunity to nurture and support the entire part-time student population as a kind of guidance counsellor, clinic supervisor, got-to person when it all gets tough...I will be sharing this privilege with a woman who reminded me of my best friend from massage school and that made my spirit say "Yes". 

So, the frame, the structure seems to have been prepared for me...now, I will begin to make a nest, settle in and see what can be created....


Monday, 9 July 2012

A Golden Flash of Wings

This afternoon, I spotted a bright flash of golden orange flitting about in the pine trees across the pond.
It was a Baltimore Oreole, a beautiful bird, the likes of which I have never seen.

And then, within minutes it had flown away.
My photograph only just captures a sense of it, because the lens was at the limit of its capabilities.

And then I managed to capture a  photograph of one of the large dragonflies, resting on a lily...


So this home we are privileged to occupy until our own home is built...this home is surrounded by the trees that invited the Oriole, the ponds that entice the dragonflies and dozens of beautiful little touches of humour and beauty, with a uniqueness that is utterly spectacular. 

It seems the slower we move, the more we see, the more we experience of this sense of place expressed in such a remarkable manner. 31 years in the making this garden, this place, this retreat...

Above the fenced in garden, filled with an abundance of vegetables, just beginning to fruit and flower is a portal of sorts....

To the left of the entrance is a sculpture of the Green Man from Celtic origins...but what I most loved this morning were the quirky little birdhouses, reminding me that there is respite and a sense of the Divine to be found in unlikely places.

And, above, ever so faintly the 1/2 moon, giving way to the brightness of the new day.

Blessings come so easily when the heart's eyes do the seeing.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Changing Times...

Grocery shopping here in the US is a totally different experience from the UK.
Our local Wegmans store is the size of a football field and the vegetable section alone is larger than the entire Waitrose we were used to in Dorking.

Here is the cheese section!

Last night I woke at about 3 am with the full moon glowing softly in the southern sky... and then I spotted a dark shape moving amongst the wisteria bush above the deck.
It was a racoon... and, when it saw me, it slunk away into the darkness without a sound.
This morning we discovered that our entire suet cage (including the suet) had gone! 
Truly, a masked thief in the night.


We bought a new computer when we arrived here and one of its gifts is to allow us to set our screensaver as a slide show of images from our personal photographs....this one popped up today...

It catches me by surprise to see Paddington in our lives here, even in photographic moments...all of it seem seems oddly so far away, England, the cool, the rain, the life I inhabited only weeks ago.

Paddy would have struggled with this heat, his coat was much more suited for the winter, the Arctic...but he would seen that racoon off last night!

How deeply the connections we hold dear, how quickly the heart is stirred, how gently the need to hold life while in transition.


Saturday, 7 July 2012


A few minutes before I took this photograph we had watched an astonishing ripple of dark cloud build up to our West... and then, seconds later, an enormous bolt of lightning struck down followed by one of the loudest claps of thunder I have ever heard!

More storms are forecast tonight.
Outside the lilies seem fresher for the rain and the pond is all stirred up.
I am experimenting with my new camera... each picture is a stunning 36 megapixels which takes up a whopping 120mb of disc space. Thank goodness for the new computer.

One of the first things we had to do here, was look for a car...here is one we saw today...it kind of sums up the reality that Ithaca is the most liberal small city in the nation...I especially like the "Minds are like parachutes...they only function when open" bumper sticker, actually it ties with "well-behaved women seldom make history". I thought to myself this would be a great truck to be stuck behind in traffic, but there isn't much of that here...this was parked outside our local market.

This, isn't the car we are buying...a task that has filled some of our time since we arrived...nope...this is our new car...

a crossover SUV by Hyundai called the Santa Fe. It rides like a dream and we got a fabulous deal!!! 

Another thing, I was given a long-stemmed red rose after we put our deposit down. Now...THAT never happened in England. We pick this beauty up on Tuesday morning and will begin dreaming of road trips in our near future.


Friday, 6 July 2012

A full moon and light on the water...

Today, temperatures have been consistently above 85 degrees: there is a suggestion of cloud building up in the high skies, but, at the time of writing, no sign of a break.
Much of the USA is being subjected to a heat wave of unprecedented proportions... 
And, across the pond, England is being deluged with rain.

These atmospheric distinctions are a fitting symbol for the difficulties with my family. My mother alone in her apartment, mourning the absence of my father, and my sister, steady as a rock, doing all she can do, with wisdom and compassion. 
My father is surrounded by nurses and care of all kinds.
We can't know what the future holds right now...

This photograph of watery reflections captures some the moment for me as I write. Taken with a new camera, right off the deck.


Life...it moves on and I can do little about the direction of some of its twists and turns...as I write this, my father-in-law, a friend, who is more a sister of my heart's choosing, and the daughter of beloved friends all lie in hospital beds in England.

This photo taken last week, part looming storm, part light shining through, speaks to me this evening...

The brilliant red of the tree bark, the bold light on the leaves, the first glimpse  of rainbow, gorgeous prism of reflected light...I will focus on these...yes, the dark sky is present...

But, it is not all I see in this moment.

I see the light and commit to move towards it, always....


Thursday, 5 July 2012

The separation of water

Sometimes the enormous distances from the UK are more vivid than others and, today, with my father still in hospital, the separation in time and space from him are made more acute. His health has declined very rapidly, unexpectedly so, in the last few weeks and now we await tests, therapies and, with hope, pray that he might find some sort of improvement.
Speaking with my mother on the phone I am aware just how alone she feels; but thankfully, we have friends in Dorking who are incredible in the way that they are helping and, my sister is stalwartly providing support in every way she can.
Such difficulties are to be expected... he is 80 years old and she 79; but I send them my love across the water and across time.


This moon shone brightly last evening.

It's dusky, reddish hue, subtle against the explosion of colour and energy in the firework celebrations taking place.

Today, as we hold Nicholas' Dad in our hearts and our spirits, I am reminded that early in our love story, Nicholas and I were speaking on the phone, it was 4am in NYC and 11pm in Surrey, and I asked him to look up at the moon.

It was a beautiful full moon, quite spectacular in colour and form, not unlike this one....he could see it, together we held the moon in our gaze, joined by its reflective light.

For a moment, the ocean disappeared and we were alongside one another. 

I hope the moon is shining in England tonight.