Early December

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S’s Scottish adventures on November 30 into the early morning of December 1 included St Andrews Day. S was delighted to send me pictures of folkways like Pin the Kilt on the Haggis. This mythical creature has a variety of funny features, including fangs (apparently, the cartoon version here doesn’t tell the whole story). They tell children that it roams the Scottish highlands and can only run on hills, the left legs being shorter than the right. It’s also where haggis meat comes from.

The street ceilidh:

St Andrews student carolers–they sound so good!

And back here, at Henry’s Tree Farm:

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Now into the winter break, I have two weeks off from teaching. Last year I was working on National Boards (passed!); this year feels like a real holiday. I’ve got a lovely long reading list, events on the calendar, and all my chickies will be home!

 

November Milestones

Three November 2018 milestones: A. turned 15, K won 1st place in classical Avocational 1 at  Puget Sound NATS, and S had her first Thanksgiving away from home. Here’s a taste of her St. Andrews Thanksgiving feast with friends on Saturday (when the halls aren’t catering meals).

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And back here at home:

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My choice for this year’s Thanksgiving poem: Alberto Rios’ When Giving Is All We Have

 

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness

Earlier this autumn:

IMG-2243The Cornelian cherry tree in our front yard is an ornamental, but it was so heavy with fruit this year that I looked up information on whether the cherries are edible–they are! They aren’t true cherries, and they’re quite sour–perfect for combining with sugar for jam.

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Camping at Fay Bainbridge netted a sleepless night (loud Barred Owls, passing vessels) but also some really delicious apples that I juiced.

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2018-09-29 09.38.49The Bloedel Reserve is a great place to see just how gorgeous this autumn is.

2018-09-23 12.03.52And we’ve been keeping up with S in Scotland–here she is at the opening ball at St. Andrews:

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Finally, it’s pumpkin time!

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Settling S at St Andrews

Our fledgling is spreading her wings under Scottish skies now, and it’s a very good feeling to have left her happy, safe, and ready to fly.

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2018-09-08 11.19.59-1Being fitted for a gown and shown how to wear it 1st year (all the way on but never buttoned), 2nd year (one shoulder off), 3rd year (mid-way down one’s upper arms), and 4th year (by then, around the elbows).

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IMG-2117I was so excited to walk along the pier!

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2018-09-07 12.41.14St. Andrews Cathedral, built in 1158. It compels quite a powerful sense of awe even in ruins.

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2018-09-07 12.51.202018-09-07 19.17.15-12018-09-07 19.23.412018-09-08 10.52.03-1This is the view out of S’s roomy room.

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IMG-2137Blackfriars Chapel, built in the 1520s.

img-2217.jpgLow tide at East Sands beach.

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2018-09-08 19.39.28On the other side of St Andrews lies West Sands Beach, the Chariots of Fire beach. S was there a couple of days ago with the Ultimate Frisbee team, sharing the strand with a couple practicing ballroom dancing and a group playing cricket.

 

Late Summer

This summer, the bioluminescence in the Puget Sound was breathtaking. We waited until it was just dark enough to see the sparkling churn of the water, about 11:15 p.m. Slight movements of tiny fish near the surface were darting fireworks; walking sticks we trailed through the water became magic wands that stirred smoky, melting curls of blue-green light. I had never seen bioluminescence in the ocean before, and cupping a handful of watery stars that clung to me and ran down my arms, I felt the astonishing wonder of childhood again. When A. jumped into Hidden Cove he became a magical outline of a young man, covered in sparkling jewels and trailing glorious blue fire.

S’s 18th birthday and family pictures:

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Propagation success! This summer I started 10 new angel wing begonia and pothos plants. This is day 3 of the stems in water in a line-up of mason jars on the kitchen window sill: img-1955.jpg
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This has also been the summer of Poor Tasha with her Broken Toe. We don’t know how her toe broke, but she’s had to be in a splint with a wrapped cast from June until August, with weekly vet visits. She’s still not supposed to walk on it very much, which is utterly depressing for a Corgi. A day after the cast was put on, she still wouldn’t acknowledge the leg as part of her body. I thought a visit to my classroom would cheer her up, but nope.

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IMG-1614Lots of cuddle time.

IMG-2004Walking to the vet to get the cast off!

Some of the books I’ve read lately:

Lagom: Not Too Little, Not Too Much: The Swedish Art of Living a Balanced, Happy Life by Niki Brantmark

What to Remember When Waking by David Whyte. This audiobook has been a revelation–it feels like the poet-philosopher is authentically speaking with the listener, pausing to choose the right words and phrases. He also reads poetry in a repetitive, recursive way that makes it intelligible and crystalline. I realize that I could do much more of that kind of re-reading aloud with my students.

The Road to Middlemarch: My Life with George Eliot by Rebecca Mead (I found this one at Chapters book store in Dublin; the U.S. title is slightly different)

• Mystery novels by Elizabeth George (beach reads set in England)

Dublin

The itinerary, driven by A’s interest in Ireland: the Book of Kells, Irish trad music, cliff walks, castle tours, bookstores.

IMG-1862The grand Trinity College library.

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The Book of Kells is just astonishing in its vibrancy of colors and intricacy of detail. I think A’s introduction to the manuscript must have been the movie The Secret of Kells, which is one of our kids’ all-time favorites.

 Circa 800, the folio page that opens the Gospel of John

 A page from the Gospel of John. Hand-writing (in this case, Insular majuscule) as integral to art really appeals to me. The Book of Kells is such a masterpiece not only because of its age (c 800 CE) but because Viking raids at this point disrupted the monasterial labors, and thereafter no comparably ornate manuscripts were produced.

IMG-1875Hearty pub fare at O’Neill’s and grocery-store lunches in the hostel.

One of the reasons I like staying in hostels is rubbing shoulders, so to speak, with people from all over, and usually people who are pretty friendly or interesting. It’s not what I would call a relaxing way to travel, but it is one of the ways to intensify one’s experiences in a different city. In this case, our hostel was a converted school, with soaring ceilings and massive windows. The night of England’s success in the World Cup quarter-final, the hostel and the streets outside took until the wee hours of morning to quiet down. Earlier in the day B had asked an Irish woman who she was rooting for, Sweden or England, and she brought one corner of her mouth up toward her squinted eye, saying, “Well, they both invaded us, didn’t they?”

2018-07-05 17.28.48“Let us go forth, the teller of tales, and seize whatever prey the heart long for, and have no fear. Everything exists, everything is true, and the earth is only a little dust under our feet.” (Yeats, The Celtic Twilight)

A traditional Irish musical evening was delightful! Starting out in the Ha’ Penny Bridge Inn:

We had dinner at long tables; we happened to be seated next to a family from the Netherlands and I love the way the paterfamilias is keeping time with his hand. Here’s Eamonn, Paddy, and Erin:

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IMG-1871Dublin Castle, which houses mainly government offices.

IMG-1816The River Liffey and the Ha’Penny Bridge.

The picturesque fishing village of Howth is a half-hour train ride north of Dublin. Its cliff walk is just stunning!

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2018-07-06 16.32.47A. set out on every side spur of the trail, exploring higher vantage points and coming back with his legs covered with stinging nettle lashes. They didn’t really slow him down.

The seaside city of Dalkey is a half-hour train ride from Dublin’s city center, this time to the south. In the process of the castle tour, we learned about some of the literary luminaries who have called Dalkey home: James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, Maeve Binchy, George Bernard Shaw.

IMG-1927Dalkey Castle (more properly, a fortified town house from the 14th century) is fun in large part because of the dressed-up re-enactors who expound on the castle and St. Begnet’s Church (10th century).

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One of my very favorite poets, Eavan Boland, was born in Dublin and educated at Trinity. This is the end of her poem “The Oral Tradition”.

I had distances
ahead of me: iron miles
in trains, iron rails
repeating instances
and reasons; the wheels

singing innuendoes, hints,
outlines underneath
the surface, a sense
suddenly of truth,
its resonance.

 

 

Stockholm

Last week I took a trip I’ve been looking forward to for a long time — best of all was visiting an old friend.

2018-06-30 17.00.24B took some time off and we brought A with us. R and her family are a treasure!

Sweden is 9 hours ahead of Seattle and the first night there, I couldn’t sleep. At 59 degrees north, it doesn’t quite get dark at night. Here’s what 2:30 in the morning sounds like and looks like from one of R’s windows on Lidingö:

IMG-1684This great climbing stump is behind the U.S. ambassador’s residence in Nobel Park.

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Happy kiddo with a soft-serve cone. Stockholm is simply gorgeous; we all came away quite smitten.

IMG-1645We visited Skansen, a fascinating and extensive open-air museum showcasing authentic dwellings and structures from across Sweden and times past.

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A. was so happy to finally find the stilts the kids had been telling him about. B. liked the Viking-era rune stones, and I liked the cafe R found with a fika spread:

The sandwiches were a miss with the kids but a hit with the sharp-eyed birds near our outdoor table.

The work underway in the summer pasture barn was fascinating — traditionally, the work was taken up solely by young women, who would have spent the summer months in the separate pasture and barn, keeping an open fire going to make loads of butter, cheese, and whey butter (messmör). Skansen’s milkmaids shared this last with us; the flavor is a strange combination of caramel and gravy.

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On Lidingö: The path from R’s house down to the sea goes through a charming door. Down the other way lies the forest and lake. Low wild blueberry bushes blanket the forest floor, with small ripening berries. The lakeshore rocks are really slippery, I hear — A. fell in even though he was using the chain to brace himself.

2018-07-01 18.59.44R’s peaceful, verdant backyard.

There is a snippet of a Swedish poem I’m reminded of:

The airy sky has taken its place leaning against the wall.
It is like a prayer to what is empty.
And what is empty turns its face to us
and whispers:
“I am not empty, I am open.”

–from “Vermeer” by Tomas Tranströmer, translated by Robert Bly