On Travels And Organization

England 2018
I drove over to my favorite Harrison’s Yellow rose the day we left, and took a few petals in a little silk pouch on our trip to remind me of home.

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Canterbury Cathedral

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England 2018
My mom standing by the loo in the “most haunted building in Canterbury.” We loved how short the doorways were.

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I’ve been trying to figure out a way to condense my recent trip to Europe and the U.K. into something vaguely resembling coherent blog posts. It’s difficult to figure out how to pare down an experience into something small and readable, so of course I’ve been avoiding working on it in hopes of a bolt of organizational inspiration! I’ve decided to break it up into smaller more chronological posts just for ease and so nothing is too overwhelming. Hopefully this way it will be easy to read and won’t be too arduous.

The first leg of our trip Kevin and I traveled to Alkmaar / Bergen in The Netherlands for my friend Cassidy’s wedding. We stayed in Bergen, and enjoyed several days seeing old friends and attending the wedding ceremony. It was so lovely to be there to see my friend get married! After the wedding we met up with my friend Chloe in Amsterdam, and enjoyed a day wandering around the city, sipping mint tea, “ooh-ing” and “ah-ing” at the old houses, and sampling cheese. There was something so comfortable about the city, and both Kevin and I were completely enamored. We can’t wait to go back, and are hoping to visit the Anne Frank museum on our next trip.

From Amsterdam, we spent several days in London, which was an absolute whirlwind! We ate Indian food, visited the Museum of Portable Sound, wandered around Bloomsbury, got lost in the London Review Bookshop (there were many temptations), saw some bizarre installations at the Tate Modern, and took a day trip to Canterbury Cathedral. The cathedral was beautiful, yet was filled with the eerie reminder of Thomas Becket’s murder in 1170. The murder spot is marked with a slightly macabre cross made of swords, meant to represent the swords of the knights who slew Thomas. There was also a singular candle left burning at the place where Thomas’s alter used to stand before it was destroyed in the reformation. I was so glad to finally visit Canterbury, especially since I loved reading the Canterbury Tales in college. It was so fun to reach the site of Chaucer’s fictional pilgrimage (even if the pilgrims in the tales never made it themselves!)

Perhaps one of the most enjoyable parts of our whole trip was seeing a production of “As You Like It” at the Globe in London. I had been to a play at the Globe when I was studying abroad, and it was just as magical this time. We saw a matinee, so the stage was lit with natural light, and the actors performed without amplification, so it’s just as it would have been in Shakespeare’s time. Highlights include: actors dressed as sheep, false identities, amazing costumes, lots of singing, and a group dance at the end. It was a fantastic show, and we all left with huge smiles on our faces – and an ice cream cone for me! I wish I could snap my fingers and be there again.

The last pictures in this post are from the village of Stowe-on-the-Wold, home to St. Edwards Church, which we visited on our way from London up to the Midlands. Supposedly, the door flanked with yew trees inspired J.R.R. Tolkein in his description of the Doors of Durin. The church was cool and quiet, and we wandered around the churchyard, admiring the daisies that were growing among the graves. It was a helpful moment to slow down after all the activity at the beginning of our trip, and I was so glad we had a chance to visit this lovely place.

There are so many more things I have to share from this trip, and so many ideas and thoughts I’ve had about travel and folklore and writing all wrapped up together. I’m trying to catch up a bit since we have holidays looming on the horizon (Lammas is only a couple weeks away!) I hope you’re all enjoying these long, sunny days, and are finding ways to stay cool.

Sending summer cherries and sunshine!

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Buffalo in the Yard {playing catch-up}

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A common grebe at the park – this is the first time we’ve seen one of these birds in Colorado!

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Kevin recording evening birdsong.

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An owl at dusk on a rainy night.

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The funny thing about summer is that I always simultaneously feel like I have all the time in the world, and no time at all. The days seep past so slowly – hot and loud with cicadas screaming in the trees and sprinklers whirring next door. But somehow, every year, summer slips past me. It’s a strange paradox, since these hot months are the hardest for me – I prefer cooler weather – yet I feel like I need to relish each moment before it’s gone.

These pictures are largely from a trip we took to Wyoming in mid May. The most astounding thing was a herd of buffalo who came by our cabin each day, lounging in the backyard and rubbing their itchy winter fur off onto the fence and the playhouse. Every day around 2pm they would appear, staying for a few hours until some spirit urged them onward. I’ve been doing some reading about buffalo medicine recently, and realized that the message of the buffalo is to take the path at whatever pace is right for you, and to persevere through hardship. Buffalo are methodical animals, using their great strength to survive the harsh and cold winters up north. They arrive at their destination when the time is right. I’ve been trying to keep this in mind as I move through this season of life, and this season of the year. Things will move at whatever pace they need to, and I will arrive at my destination when the time is right.

We just returned from a three week trip to Europe and the U.K., and I’m trying to parse how to include those photos on the blog. As you can imagine, I took SO many pictures, and want to share them without being too overwhelming or too vacation centric. I also have some thoughts about summer celebrations to share, and am looking forward to doing some tidying and improving in this space.

Now is the Month of Maying

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A Blue-winged Teal on the lake. I am always so awed and excited by the appearance of new birds in our little ecosystem.

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Another new bird, a Hermit Thrush. We noticed this little guy running around the undergrowth in the garden. Isn’t he so darling?

May Day was bright and sunny and marvelous. I made a flower crown with cherry blossoms, grape hyacinths and lilac foliage and wore it all day. It was the perfect way to celebrate May Day. This holiday comes from the Roman holiday Floralia, which celebrates flowers and the beginning of summer. I read recently that May 1st used to be considered the first day of summer (which explains why June 25th, midsummer, is the “middle of summer.”) The holiday is also associated with Beltane, part of the pagan wheel of the year. When this holiday was later christianized, it retained many of its early ties to pagan celebrations. We celebrate by dancing around the May Pole, singing May songs, wearing flower crowns and having special food. This year our celebrations were rather confined to my flower crown, but we tried to bring some flowers indoors and appreciate the spirit of the garden. May Day is now also International Workers’ Day, and is recognized as Labor Day in Europe.

On May 2nd, it began to rain and rain. It rained all evening and then all day on Thursday. We needed the moisture so badly, and it was so wonderful to smell how fresh and beautiful everything was after the storm. It reminded me of my time living in England and made me feel nostalgic for tea and clotted cream and dreamy green hills. Tomorrow we’re going to have a little derby day party and watch the race. I’ll make sure to catch some pictures of our mint juleps.

Oh! and here’s a little song we used to sing in the Early Music Ensemble I was part of at the Waldorf School. I always think about this song at the beginning of May.

 

Now is the Month of Maying by Thomas Morley, performed by the Cambridge Singers.

For more information on May Day: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/May_Day

Snow Queen

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There’s one apple tree nearby that blooms with such abundance, I’m amazed every year. Luckily, this year I was able to go capture it in full swing! I have a picture of it from last year in the spring as well as one during the fall (you may have to delve into those posts a bit to find pictures). I think I might try and capture the tree in the height of summer and during a winter snow to round out the seasons. The tree always reminds me of Anne of Green Gables’ “Snow Queen.” It’s so enormous and full, a big beautiful old apple that has probably been there for years. The blossoms, when closed, are a beautiful blush pink, and when they open, turn white. The fragrance is delicate and nostalgic, especially delicious on warm days when the heat of the sun warms the blossoms.

I’ve been out for a while with a stomach bug, but am starting to bounce back, and have noticed something amazing happened while I was ill: LEAVES! EVERYWHERE! I went outside this morning and looked down our street to see trees bursting with green. The skyline is obscured, different than it once was a few weeks ago when we had winter branches. Now, everything is turning green so quickly I can hardly keep up.

Tomorrow is May Day (or Beltane) the celebration of spring flowers and the awakening earth. I recently read that May 1st used to mark the beginning of summer, which also explains the earliness of June 25th as Midsummer. Back when I was a student at the Waldorf School we celebrated May Day with maypole dancing, flower crowns, and a May festival. I’m still trying to concoct some ideas for celebrations tomorrow, especially since I’ve been out sick. We’ll see what we dream up.

I’d better sign off for now, Kevin and I need to go get some groceries for dinner. Sending everyone May flowers.

Eastertide

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Spring is really here! I wrote about the equinox in my last post, but now we are truly awash in blossoms. The trees are all popping with colorful and fragrant blooms: palest pink, white, and deep fuchsia. Along with the awakening of the earth, we embrace the awakening of our own creativity and vitality. Kevin and I have been participating in National Poetry Writing Month by writing a poem every day for the month of April. I have to admit, I lapsed a bit recently because I’ve been a bit under the weather, but this has been a rejuvenating way to reconnect with my creativity. The point is not necessarily to write something lengthy or even something good, the point is to create consistency in routine and form a writing habit. What a lovely way to welcome the spring! Kevin and I have also been welcoming the warmer days by sitting on our porch having a nice bottle of Topo Chico (our favorite at the moment) and watching the world go by. We’ve had some lovely afternoons this April, and recently replaced the old dusty porch swing with a cute little cafe table and chairs on the front porch. It’s the perfect place to sit on a warm afternoon, and I’m so looking forward to adding pots and candles to this space for the summer.

Do you remember my cleaning project I mentioned all the way back in January in this post? Well I’m happy to report that I’ve finished! I Konmari-ed my way through all my clothes, books, paper, odds and ends, bathroom products, dishes, decor, and sentimental items (plus a whole lot more). It feel so amazingly good to reduce the amount of things I own, and to take more responsibility for what I do have. I’ve just finished organizing my room and rearranging everything. I think the key is to give everything a home, once it has a nice little place to rest, it won’t clutter up your surfaces. I’ve totally been bitten by the cleaning bug, and I’m helping Kevin and my parents get going on projects of their own. It feels so rejuvenating to live in an organized and beautiful space. I will admit, de-cluttering begets de-cluttering, and I still feel as though I could go further and get rid of even more. Ah well, I’ll have to rein myself in at some point.

We’re having a rainy and drizzly afternoon today, and I love the way the garden smells when it rains. Pure heaven. Sending gentle spring rain to everyone!

Welcoming Spring

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Happy Vernal Equinox! I’m so happy to be spinning into the warmer months of the year. I know, I know, I’m always the first to say I’d like more snow and rain – but this year I’ve been feeling ready for long sunny evenings. Bring on the warmer weather! I can’t wait to be outside in the garden more.

Last Sunday, Kevin and my mom and I planted some spinach and radishes. Any day now we are expecting to see the first few shoots peeking up through the soil. We also spent some time cleaning up the beds from winter detritus. The apple garden (we call our herb / wildflower garden “the apple garden” since there used to be a big old apple tree there) was surprisingly green for how early in the season it is. Herbs were already regenerating, and even little shoots from the tarragon were coming up. I’m so excited to continue to plant! We are staggering our spinach crops this year so hopefully they won’t all be ready to harvest at the same time and we can have yummy greens for longer.

We had a fun birthday celebration for Kevin last week, serving mussels cooked in beer for dinner. Has anyone tried this cooking technique before? It’s DELICIOUS and even better if you drink the same kind of beer with your mussels. YUM. We also celebrated St. Patrick’s Day on Saturday! It was a fairly simple celebration, with a new little shamrock to brighten up the table and Irish soda bread smeared with the best Irish butter. Kevin and I also listened to some Irish tunes on the way to see some of my students in their high school play. All said and done, a lovely festival day. No one is surprised that I’ve already been cooking up plans for St. George’s Day (on April 23rd). St. George is the patron saint of England, so this festival is like English St. Patrick’s. We are already musing over dinner at a local English style pub or some cream tea in the afternoon. Either way, I’m glad to have other festivals coming up soon, especially since Easter is so early this year.

Speaking of festivals – let’s talk about the Vernal Equinox! We celebrate mostly by acknowledging the burgeoning spring with flowers and lovely spring-themed foods. At the moment, I’m teaching creative writing in a high school and for our writing prompt today I had the students write about what they are excited for during their spring break. This was a lovely way to meditate on the wonderful changes a shift in season can bring. I think of this time of year (and any time of year that involves transitions) as an opportunity for new beginnings. In particular I find the equinoxes to be moments of deep change in our seasonal rhythms. The transition from winter to spring or summer to fall always feel like the biggest shifts of the year, demarcating the warm months from the cold months. Now, at the turning point between winter and spring, the air is still cool in the mornings and evenings, but the light lingers a bit longer, and sometimes the wind feels a bit warmer. We just had a snowfall on Sunday, reminding us that winter isn’t quite gone. But as I write, it’s still light outside and birds are chirping their lullabies as they go to rest for the night. Kevin and I have also noticed our inclinations changing from winter hibernation to more external pursuits. We crave the outdoors, lighter foods, cool drinks, and spend more time socializing rather than cozied up with a book or movie. It’s an odd thing, these deeply rooted rhythms, but every year I feel moved by them.

I’m off to go help with dinner. Sending spring sun and daffodils.

Festivals in Late Winter

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Wow it’s been a little while since I was last here! We have certainly been busy over in this little corner of the world.

On February 13th we celebrated Pancake Day (AKA Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, or Shrove Tuesday). Traditionally, this day was the last chance to party and eat fatty foods before Lent began on the next day, Ash Wednesday. Pancakes are associated with this day because often all the fat needed to be used up before Lent began, and what better way than making buttery delicious pancakes? We played New Orleans Jazz, wore masks, lit candles and made some delicious flapjacks! This was a new holiday for me to celebrate, but I have to say, it was just the pick-me-up I needed this time of year when everything is still cold and dreary and I’m itching for spring.

The next day was St. Valentine’s day (they sure all seem to come at once don’t they?) Kevin and I celebrated by going to see the Degas exhibit at the Denver Art Museum and cooking a yummy dinner. I always enjoyed St. Valentine’s Day, but have found a new love for it after doing research about the origins of the holiday. You can read my post from last year about the ancient history of St. Valentine’s Day. I was looking over this article and I had forgotten Valentine’s Day greeting cards date back to the Middle Ages. They were popularized in the 17th and 18th centuries in England, and were mass produced at the start of the 20th century. Definitely not a Hallmark holiday! I also read a new little tidbit about a Valentine’s Day folkloric custom in my book “Animal Speak” by Ted Andrews. Apparently there used to be superstitions that the first bird a young woman spotted on Valentine’s Day symbolized the man she would eventually marry. So a crow might bode well, or a sparrow might disappoint, depending on the qualities you were looking for in your man. I can’t remember who I saw first that day…

We celebrated my birthday the next week, and since then, have been enjoying a little lapse in festivities. I’m looking ahead to next week when we’ll celebrate St. Patrick’s Day AND Kevin’s birthday. Us Pisceans have to stick together!  We’ve tucked into our first loaf of Irish Soda Bread… The flavor is totally nostalgic and wonderful, and I’m looking forward to getting more before St. Patrick’s Day.

Around here, we’ve had lots of wind and sun. The March winds seem to be blowing winter away, and I’m starting to feel that itchy “I want to be outside all the time” feeling. There are crocuses blooming everywhere, johnny jump-ups in the garden, and some hellebore or “Lenten Rose” blooming in our neighbors’ yard. I’m getting over a little cold, and I’m looking forward to feeling better in the next week so I can go outside and enjoy the sunshine more. Kevin and I were commenting on how we are growing more excited to sit outside and drink a beer after dinner. A true warm weather activity.

One last little thing – the leeks are back in full force. Do you remember my leek-fueled health kick last spring? Well I completely stand behind that old folk medicine, and we just made a huge batch of bright green leek and spinach soup. Perfect to get us ready for warmer weather and to bolster us up!

Sending leeks and sunshine!