Monday, October 29, 2012

Three Weeks in England

Latona and I have been to England several times together.  We are fortunate to have very good friends living here, and who have always been gracious with invitations to visit them.  After selling the house, we decided it was our best time to make (perhaps) our last international adventure.  

Landing in London (Heathrow), we booked a room in Earl's Court and spent two days walking around the city, taking in all the sights that are typically "British" - 

like the double-decker buses...

Big Ben and the London Eye (ferris wheel)

and another  special aspect of British culture - the presence of the Public House or Free House collectively referred to as the "pub".  Each is unique in name, decoration, and the ales known as bitters.

After two days in the city, it was time to head north to Yorkshire to visit friends Edward and Sheila.  We met Edward hiking the Appalachian Trail in 1991 - trail name Duke of Gorp.  He has visited us in Maine, and we have had several wonderful weeks with him in England.

Edward's Flat in Ripon

Path along one of the rivers in Ripon

One of the signs indicating a Public Footpath.  Perhaps one of the most amazing things we discovered about England is the miles and miles of public footpaths dedicated to walkers.  No bicycles or horses are allowed to use these paths.
I would love to visit this country, walking for 4-6 months. One would never need to retrace any steps.

On our way to Masham, to visit the Black Sheep Brewery - to see how those bitters are made - and we caught this rainbow out ahead.

Edward, Tone and I with our free sample after the tour.

The many paths around Ripon are known collectively as the Sanctuary Way.
We walked each of the legs during our week in Ripon. 

While staying with Edward and Sheila in Halifax, we went to visit
a mansion known as Shibden Hall. 

Ripon Cathedral only 100 yards from Edward's flat.

Signs of the Diamond Jubilee

After visiting Edward and Sheila we headed for the eastern part of the country and the town of Ipswich to visit Dick and Val.  they are dear friends we met when we were hiking in New Zealand in 1996.
One of our days was spent hiking and visiting the town of Flatford, the home of the artist John Constable.
Along the footpath...

One of the spots where Constable painted.

Lovely thatch

Information in the small museum for John Constable

A photo of one of his paintings

Dick and Val and Tone preparing for a scone with cream and strawberry jam.
Cafes or pubs always offer a reward for walking a few miles.

This is just the beginning of our sharing of some of the photos from our trip, and the many things we learned and saw and enjoyed.  For us the best of any experience is reconnecting with special friends and renewing the joy of our friendships.  This trip was no exception.  For Edward and Sheila, and Dick and Val - CHEERS!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Another Queen in Maine

It seems like the "queen" theme is everywhere!  After all, it is the diamond jubilee year for the real Queen of England.  During our month of transition from owning a house to being on the road full-time, we had another special experience.  Our friends, Harriet and Janet came to visit us and we all decided to spend our five days together in Bar Harbor.  One of the fun parts of the elegant vacation was watching the cruise ships that "parked" in front of our hotel.  One was the Queen Mary II.

Note:  We have been friends since 1965, and Latona and I cherish our annual 'get togethers'.  We are looking forward to seeing them soon as we travel south.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Where are we now??


On August 31, 2012, we signed the papers selling our house to a lovely young couple.  We have been thinking about this decision for several years, and finally decided that we were away from "home" so much of that time that it didn't make sense to continue to own the property.  Since the actual sale, one month ago, we have been processing and grieving, now on the road full-time.

Our first stop, was Labor Day Weekend with Carrie and Jay and the girls to celebrate Carrie's birthday. It was a wonderful family time.  

Then we planned a ten-day trip to the woods in Cobscook Bay State Park.  For us, the woods always provide a place of healing, solitude and spiritual renewal. 

Home Sweet Home

Favorite way to get our Vit D.

Our front yard

Our site was special and private enough to give us the peace and quiet we needed.  In addition, two dear friends from Maryland traveled to visit with us and camped in the spot right beside us.  We had a grand reunion, also.

Time then to visit with friends, Joan and Lucille and Pat and Jean, who have been supportive of our new "on the road" lifestyle.  We also had time to visit with Phillip and Simon in Winter Harbor, as well as Trine, Mike and our granddaughter Torrey. 

 It is good to have a backup network when the weather turns too cold for us to live in the van.  We will stay in Maine until Thanksgiving this year.

Now the big news!  Tomorrow we will be flying from Boston to London to visit friends that we met hiking.  Edward "the Duke of Gorp" and his friend Sheila will host us for two weeks in northern England (in the Yorkshire Dales area), then off to visit friends Dick and Val who we met while traveling in New Zealand.

Just for the fun of it, I am sharing a story I have written about an event in my childhood that makes me feel quite excited to be heading to London!

When I Grow Up I Want to Be the Queen of England

My third-grade teacher sent notes home to our parents that all students could stay home of 

February 6, 1952, to observe the coronation of the new queen of England, Elizabeth II.   

Fortunately for me, a few years earlier, my dad had decided we could afford one more monthly 

payment, so we “owned” a small black-and-white television, one of the earliest models. 

Sitting on the floor, my back propped against the blue living room couch, I glued myself to the 

ten-inch screen and absorbed all the wondrous details unfolding before me. The entire 

broadcasting schedule was devoted to covering this historical event, and the glorious images 

filled all of time and space for me.

The newscasters reported many things about the childhood of Elizabeth, including descriptions 

of the training that the queen-to-be had endured, almost since her birth.  They explained that the 

weight of the coronation robe and crown was monumental.  As I heard about how she had to 

practice walking and standing in preparation for the ceremony, my own spinal column braced. 

 My little voice inside said, “I could do that.  I want to learn to be a queen.”  Of course, I didn’t 

know that the true weight of her reign would come from much bigger burdens than her physical 

crown of regality, her robe of authority, or her sceptre of power. 

All day, I watched and waited, hardly moving from my seat.  Finally, the scene was Westminster Abbey -- the horse-drawn carriage arriving after traveling the short distance from Buckingham Palace.  As trumpets sounded, Elizabeth stepped down from the carriage, entered the packed cathedral, and began her slow walk down the center aisle to receive her crown and her kingdom.  Every eye was focused on her, the new hope of the monarchy and the British Empire. 

I held my breath, praying that her neck and shoulders would bear the weight of her scarlet robe and that she wouldn’t fall or trip.  I joined my spirit with her as she walked down that aisle, and I felt so proud when the crown was placed on her head.   By the end of the ceremony, I was crying with joy as she was presented to the people of her kingdom -- Queen Elizabeth II.

The chimes rang out across the land.  The people cheered.  History was being made.  And, in my child’s mind, I had determined, that some day, I would be queen, too.
In the spring of my sixth-grade year, it was time to select the May Queen of our grammar school.  From my class, three girls were to be chosen by secret ballot to present themselves to all the other classrooms, to be voted on, and in this way, one would be selected to be the queen.  The other two would be members of her court.  I paid no attention to this process, thinking there would not even be an “honorable mention” for me.

I was shocked when I was voted to be one of the three candidates. And during a morning that passed as if I were in a whirlwind, amazingly, I was selected by all the students of the grammar school to be their May Queen.  I would preside over the festival that featured the dance around the May Pole, the centerpiece of all activities,  

When the day for my coronation finally arrived, the playground had been transformed into a royal courtyard, and, when Pomp and Circumstance played over the scratchy public address system, I braced my spine, and marched the red carpet with my shoulders back, my head held high. I processed to my throne in the spirit of Queen Elizabeth II.  Although my crown was only a wreath of spring flowers, when it was placed on my head, I tightened my neck muscles to bear the weight as if it held the crown jewels.  My kingdom was small, but the uplifting cheers rang in my ears as I was crowned.  Amazing.  I was truly fulfilling my early dream of becoming a queen.
My fantasies never seemed to lose their power to draw me toward greater fulfillment.  When, I 

was a sophomore at Penn State University, the brothers of the Alpha Zeta fraternity asked me to 

be their nominee for “Miss Agriculture”, and I allowed myself to be cajoled and persuaded to 

enter the competition, never believing I had any chance at all to be again selected as a queen.

Each candidate was required to fill out an application and write an essay. I was studying pre-veterinary medicine, and although I was good at Chemistry and Physics, my weakest area was definitely English composition. My roommate must have helped with my essay, because I’m not sure how else I could have made it to the group of finalists otherwise.

The selection committee telephoned me to say that at 2:00 pm, Sunday afternoon, I was to present myself to the interview board at the HUB – the red-brick student union building in the center of Penn State’s sprawling campus.  The closer the date grew, the more frightened I became.  That Sunday, I was more nervous than when, as a fifth-grader, I had stood before the judge in juvenile court.  But at the appointed time, I managed to force myself to walk to the union, dressed in my roommate’s beautiful suede leather suit, and wearing her elegant green jade pin for luck.

Seated before the five members of the panel, I was questioned for almost an hour, and I seemed to be finding words that made them smile in response.  The final question was one that might be expected at a school so famous for football: a judge asked me if I happened to know if Oklahoma had won it’s game the day before.  Being a big sports fan myself, I had read the scores, and was able to reply immediately, “Yes, indeed. They won 10-6 over Missouri!”  I saw his eyes sparkle as he nodded to the other judges, and I suddenly thought, “Oh, my goodness.  They are going to pick me.” 

If I had been shocked to be selected as May Queen in the sixth grade, now I was completely staggered to be informed that, in a very few weeks, I was to be crowned “Miss Agriculture” of Penn State University. 

The AZ fraternity brothers were very excited and threw a party in my honor.  Not knowing what was expected of me as queen, I was pleasantly surprised when I was asked to have my picture taken for the cover of the magazine published by the Botany/Plant Physiology department and invited to present the ribbons and trophies at the State of Pennsylvania Dairy Cattle Show held at Penn State.  My reign seemed painless, a continuous wonderful honor.  In my heart somewhere, I probably thought I was still a candidate for the starring role at Buckingham Palace.

My enjoyment of royalty was about to change.  When I was told that I must represent Penn State University as a princess at the Apple Blossom Festival in Shenandoah, Virginia, I was ready to turn back the crown.  The trip sounded so frightening to me that I felt sick to my stomach every time I thought about it.

However, I had given my word to serve as “Miss Agriculture” for an entire year, so, I forced myself to prepare for yet another huge leap into the royal unknown.  My boyfriend agreed to drive me to the three-day event, and my roommate helped me pack my one small suitcase with my black cocktail dress, her reddish-brown suede suit that I had borrowed for the interview.

When I arrived at the site for the pageant and had my first look around, I was mortified.  Initially, I was part of the introduction ceremony with the other forty or so princesses -- a group that included many young women who came from wealthy southern families -- many being educated at colleges that I would describe as finishing schools.  Several had been competing in beauty pageants since childhood and were in training for the Miss America contest. Their wardrobes were extensive and expensive.  When it was my turn to be introduced to the queen of the festival, I was absolutely convinced that I was about to endure the worst experience of my life.  Her father was the ambassador to Panama at the time, and she was exquisitely beautiful.  There wasn’t another “Miss Agriculture” in the crowd.  I am sure I never mentioned my title.

While I was unpacking my bag, I was also observing the wardrobe of the other young woman in the room with me, and I realized that I was lacking about five of the outfits that I would need for all the various events planned for us.  The one black cocktail dress that I owned was truly inappropriate for a morning brunch or an afternoon tea.  So, I would be wearing that heavy suede suit (in the heat of Virginia) to a lot of occasions. Thank goodness, the festival committee provided the elegant matching gowns that all the princesses would be wearing for the main event.  Otherwise, I am sure my escort from the Virginia Military Institute would have turned and ran when I appeared.

To make matters even worse, I realized I had forgotten to pack a nightgown, and would have to sleep in the half-slip that I brought to wear under the cocktail dress.  At this point, my mind was so shrouded by fear and shame that all I could do was pray that, somehow, I could keep breathing through the three-day experience and escape the second my duties were over. 

Well the shame didn’t kill me, but what did get completely rooted out of me was any desire to be a queen again.  I now couldn’t wait for the moment when I could take the crown off my head and bestow it on next year’s “Miss Agriculture”.

I believe that every person wants, needs and deserves to have a moment when the world seems to 

center on the fact of her or his existence – with a crowd waiting to see this person presented to 

the world with pomp and circumstance.  I hope that for all children, this coronation happens 

when they are born and at least once somewhere else along the way.  And I hope that shame or 

embarrassment doesn’t tarnish the crowning moments of the experience.

My days of wearing a crown as the May Queen, and Miss Agriculture were primarily occasions to feel valued and admired, while my tortuous days as an Apple Blossom Princess showed me I had certainly been looking in the wrong places for any sense of personal validation -- and that I probably wasn’t the heir apparent to the throne of Queen Elizabeth II.

As I look back to my third-grade self, I realize that I wanted the challenge, the responsibility, and the power to effect people’s lives as much as the crown, the robe, and the glory.  Fortunately, I don’t need to be a queen to do that.

 But, I’m sure that somewhere deep inside, I still believe that, given the training and the wardrobe, I could have done it!  

                    SMILE!!    You'll hear from us from England if I can work the IPAD!