Solitude isn’t the same as isolation, at least in my heart and mind. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines solitude as “the quality or state of being alone or removed from society” and isolation as “the action of isolating or the condition of being isolated.” I find something relaxing and restorative about solitude, while I never associate isolation with any positive. Prisons have isolation cells, hospitals have isolation wards, horror movies are often set in isolated cabins, you get the picture.(more…)
What’s an Abbey? August 2, 2019
I wish we could have spent more time exploring County Kerry, but we had other adventures planned. We got an early start, making a brief stop in downtown Killarney. The blanket Tricia had purchased the previous night had a pull in it and she wanted to see about exchanging it. The lovely shopkeeper was able to fix the pull in the blink of an eye and we headed north to Connemara.
We passed so many places we wanted to stop but Kylemore Abbey was our planned destination and with last admission at 4pm we had limited time to make it there and do some touring. Not being Catholic, I wasn’t really sure what the difference was between an Abbey and a Monastery. Honestly, I’m still not sure I understand it, but the story of Kylemore is rather interesting. It began as a home for a wealthy businessman in the late 1800s. During World War I, it became the home of Benedictine Nuns fleeing Belgium and is still run by the Benedictines today.
The sun was valiantly trying to shine when we left Killarney, but the clouds continued to build and rain showers intermittently fell followed by a couple of snow flurries. The moment we put the car in park at Kylemore it began to hail quite violently. I was worried about the car being damaged and the rental agency charging me for it.
When the hail let up a bit we made a dash for the visitor’s center. The ground was completely white with hailstones the size of large marbles! We get hail in Florida, but I’ve never seen it come down like this.
At the ticket counter we learned the main house was closed for renovations but we could purchase a discounted ticket to tour the grounds and visit the chapel. Tricia thought I was crazy to want to tour the gardens in this weather, but the sun had come back out and we were already there so we bought the ticket and waited for the tram to the walled garden. (It was a reasonable distance away and I wasn’t completely crazy. There was still a little rain and a lot of cold wind).
Even without much blooming the walled garden was a sight to see. The brick wall helped to cut the wind, the rain had now stopped and the sun was shining brightly. I don’t remember seeing anyone else out here so we pretty much had the place to ourselves. We spent around an hour admiring the design of the garden and visiting the head gardner’s house, a rather cozy and well appointed home.
We took the tram back to the visitor center and then walked past the Abbey to the chapel. There was a bit of hail along the way, but it was much smaller and only a brief shower. I’m glad we carried on. The chapel was amazing.
To think this was built for the man’s wife and obviously no expense was spared is mind boggling. I can’t imagine how much it cost to maintain much less build. We studied many of the intricate details, but could have spent hours more marveling at all of the carvings.
I sat in one of the pews to soak in the atmosphere and say a silent prayer. While I sat there, the clouds that had formed during our walk parted and a shaft of sunlight fell through one of the tall windows right onto where I was seated. It was a special moment that gave me goosebumps and I hope I will always remember.
After a peaceful and restorative time in the chapel we ambled back to the welcome center as the sun was starting to dip down to meet the mountains. We had just enough time to pick up a couple of souvenirs. I found these hot pads with the cutest sheep comics on them. My mom used to collect hot pads with photos of waterfalls or other nature scenes from our trips to North Carolina when I was a kid but now they are hard to come by. I struggled to chose just one for her and a smaller one for myself.
Fortunately, our drive from Kylemore wasn’t too far, and we managed to arrive at our new bed and breakfast just before dark. We found this place on AirBnB and weren’t quite sure if we were getting the whole cottage or if the host/hostess would be on site. I am thrilled the hostess was on site because she was an absolute gem and a true highlight of our entire trip. I’ll tell you all about Pauline and Furrymelia Cottage when we meet again next week.
Where Have All the Flowers Gone? August 15, 2016
Do you ever start projects then get distracted and lose track of what you were working on? If not, please comment below with your secrets to avoiding this trap. I started this blog in May, but it was late at night and I promised myself I’d finish it the next day. Alas, life happened and I didn’t sit down to work on it again until August.
I have this insatiable need to plant, but I can’t say I have a green thumb. My grandparents both grew up on farms, and in his retirement my grandfather returned to the land with a garden that filled a large portion of the yard. Maybe the need to plant is in my genes. (more…)
Making Old Traditions New Again July 7, 2014
With Jessie finally written, edited, formatted, and awaiting launch on July 20, I have started research on my next book in the Seasons of Faith series. A new character began tickling my brain a few weeks ago. He’s a blues singer and I know virtually nothing about blues music so to the library I went.
I didn’t know what exactly to look for, but managed to find a couple of books to get me started. When I was working on Jessie I found simple biographies in the children’s section on Neil Armstrong and Gus Grissom that provided a quick snapshot of information. I found a children’s book on blues and jazz on this trip to the library and again, it gave me a good basic understanding of the roots of both genres and ideas on where to go from there. The next book I started reading was by George Mitchell, Blow my Blues Away. Mitchell’s book is a collection of interviews with African-Americans in the Mississippi Delta region compiled during the 1960s.
I only had time to read one interview before I had to return the book to the library, but I was struck by the discussion of working in the fields, mostly cotton, as well as the home garden, which provided most of the family’s food. As I read, I thought about how the settlers of America had to rely on their home gardens until towns grew and markets could be established. Through the years home gardens continued to fall by the way side and many traditions were lost.
Over the past ten years or so there has been a movement to organic foods and more people are tying to grow their own vegetables. Large cities have started community gardens and those with tiny balconies as well as those with small yards are doing container gardening. Do a search on urban gardening and you will find pages of websites with educational videos and how-to articles.
My grandparents had a garden that grew a bit every year. Even when my grandfather’s health was failing, he still spent time in his garden, perhaps remembering his youth in the fields of North Carolina.I’ve been trying my hand at gardening the past couple of years. I don’t quite have the green thumb by grandparents did, but I am learning.
Last weekend I took some of my fresh tomatoes to a friends’ house and taught them how to make and can salsa. It made me feel closer to my roots, sharing an old practice that is being made new again.
Wild in the Backyard March 31, 2014
I don’t live in the country by any means, but I do live on the edge of town, with a patch of woods behind the house and a nature preserve a few miles down the road. I have visits from Blue Jays, Doves, Painted Buntings, Black Birds, Cardinals, a family of raccoons, and most recently a rooster. I’m not sure where the rooster came from, but I love it when he comes running by. He looks just like a jogger, his head back and chest out. I wish I could get a video of it.
While I working on the patio a few days ago, I looked up to find one of the raccoons and the rooster, a couple of feet apart, scratching at the ground, scavenging fallen bird seed. It was entertaining to watch them dance around each other, the raccoon would get spooked and dash into the woods, then slowly creep back out. The rooster on the other hand, didn’t seem to pay much attention to the raccoon. He pecked away, only racing past the raccoon once after he’d had his fill.
I love never knowing what I will see when I look out the back window. It keeps life interesting and fresh.
The Joys of Spring March 17, 2014
Florida doesn’t usually see much spring. We tend to go from not terribly hot to disgustingly hot overnight. This year we’ve actually had some very pleasant days mixed in, with temperatures staying in the 60s and 70s. We even had a low in the 40s this past week. We don’t worry about frost too much down here when we start planting our gardens. (more…)
Laughter, Love, and Lemons February 3, 2014
Growing up, my family was part of a family life group at our church and the times we shared together were deeply ingrained on my subconscious. I don’t remember how old I was when the group started to drift apart for a variety of reasons, but then again, I am getting older and memories are harder to call upon.
However, I do remember the love, laughter, and feeling of safety of those nights singing and studying the Bible. I’ve measured every church group since then against the feeling that settled deep in my heart during those gatherings. (more…)
Lemons for Christmas December 29, 2013
I hope you all had a nice Christmas. Growing up we always had a big Christmas breakfast after opening gifts and then my mom would have to go to work from 3:00-11:00 so we never really developed the tradition of a big dinner of Christmas Day. Even after she moved from the hospital to the doctor’s office with the holiday off, we didn’t really develop a specific meal for the day, and I’m happy about that, because it gives a chance to try new things.
I had no idea all the goodness I was missing by not reading Southern Living until this first edition came and I found a recipe for Lemon-Rosemary-Garlic Chicken and Potatoes. My lemons are FINALLY ripe so there was no question this would be our Christmas dinner. I made sure we had everything we would need and went to sleep Christmas Eve with lemons, rather the sugar plums, dancing in my head. (What is a sugar plum anyway?)
The big day came, we opened our gifts, ate our breakfast, then went for a drive. I’ve been wanting to tour the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge for months now to shoot some photos and video for my new book trailer. Who knew we’d spend most of the day exploring, visiting places my dad hadn’t seen in twenty years or more? By the time we came home, we were too tired to cook so we nibbled on cake and pie, cheese and popcorn.
Never fear, though. I wasn’t going to let my lemons go to waste. We made our new dish the following day and enjoyed it all the more for the extended anticipation.
The lemon tree still bears plenty of fruit and I have a hankering for some fresh lemon tarts as soon as all of the other treats are gobbled up.
Life of a Lemon October 28, 2013
I enjoy using lemons in my cooking and baking and ever since I read about lemon trees kept in pots in Under the Tuscan Sun I’ve wanted my own potted lemon tree. This spring I went the local nursery and picked up a Meyer Lemon sapling. I was thrilled when it started popping out blossoms. The sweet aroma welcomed me each time I stepped out onto the patio, promising a bounty of fruit. Sadly, I had to remove many of the blossoms since the tree wasn’t large enough to sustain so much fruit.
When my first tiny lemons started to appear my mouth watered at the prospect of grabbing fresh fruit any time I needed zest or juice. I waited and waited, watching the fruit grow ever so slowly. It’s now been six months since that first tiny ball emerged and I still haven’t been able to use the fruit.
I noticed the first sign of yellow on one of the lemons about six weeks ago and was sure that I would be able to use it in no time, but not so. I’ve learned that growing lemons is a lesson in patience. Now I have six lemons in various stages of ripening. When the first is finally ready to eat, I know it will be even sweeter for the wait.