Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Farewell, not goodbye

Here's one thing I like about England--everything is so old.  This cereal is made by a family who has been milling since 1675!

Starting out on our final hike--from Thirlmere over Hellvelyn to Glenridding.

Chris on the trail.

Made it to the top!

And glad to have made it too!

This bold sheep wanted our apples.  We didn't comply.

A sheep enjoying the view.

We descended via Striding Edge.  I took the lower path for much of the way, but Chris scrambled over the rocks.

Patterdale--I have misread the bus schedule in the past, but this was a doozy.  Turns out there's no bus to Windermere from Glenridding on weekdays.  We took the bus to Patterdale and called Roger, who rescued us.

Roger turned the rescue into another lovely trip through the Lakes.  Here's Windermere at sunset.

Jeff Cowton and I had lunch the other day, and he asked me if my time in Grasmere had been everything I had wanted.  I thought he would say “expected,” and “wanted” made me think a little bit more.  It certainly was more than I expected. I hadn’t really known what to expect, and part of the adventure was not having much of an agenda in terms of research.  Like Jeff, I expected I would spend nearly every day at the library, but I hadn’t counted on my research taking me into areas that required outside research at the British Library and the Quaker Library—certainly not to the extent that it happened.  I hadn’t expected other duties to take my time away from the library in the last few months.  But was my time in Grasmere what I had wanted?  What had I wanted anyway?  I had wanted uninterrupted time to research and to think about Wordsworth. Though the last few months didn’t work out in a way that had me in the library regularly, all that I was doing was still connected to Wordsworth in some way, so yes, I still end the trip feeling this desire was met.  I wanted to immerse myself in Wordsworth instead of splitting my time between Wordsworth and other authors—yes, I definitely achieved that goal. I wanted to be of service to the Wordsworth Trust.  I think I’ve been some help.  I wanted to refresh myself spiritually—yes, I feel refreshed and ready to return to the classroom.  And Chris and I wanted to see what it was like to live in England for an extended period of time.  After all, people often fantasize about living in another country, but is it all it’s cracked up to be?  Well, we got to live here for six months, and I have to say that we are only more in love with the place and the people than ever.  Whoever said that British people were reserved or unfriendly (a stereotype we’ve heard) hasn’t had the opportunity we have had to get to know the locals.  People in Grasmere and the surrounding area couldn’t have been nicer.  We were warmly welcomed and made to feel part of the community.  We truly feel as if we now have a second home.  And I have to tell you, it is very, very hard to leave.  In fact, we couldn’t leave the country right away!  We are withdrawing in stages—first to Oxford for a week of researching, then to London to visit friends, and finally to Manchester for a little more abroad planning and our flight home.  We hope this staged withdrawal will make it easier to leave.  I think we are both already counting the months to our next possible return to the Lakes.

As this is my last blog, I have many, many people to thank:

Jeff Cowton—thank you for making me feel so welcome from the moment I first emailed with a question about the trip months before I arrived.  You have been an invaluable resource, and I look forward to continuing to work with you on future projects.
Beccy Turner—thank you for supplying me with both just the right material and good humor throughout the winter!
Kate Hollier—thank you for helping me organize my group visit and answering my endless emails.
Everyone at the Trust—you are too many to list, but every person at the Trust made me feel welcome and always seemed happy to see me.
Sue and Peter Coward—thank you for making it possible for us to live here for six months and for making us feel so very much at home.
Roger Haigh—thank you for your friendship first and foremost.  And second, thank you for showing us all around the Lakes and helping us to see it through a local’s eyes.  Thank you for driving us to church every week.  And thank you for rescuing us on Friday!
All our friends at First Church of Christ, Scientist, Kendal—thank you for giving us a warm church home.  From the beginning, you’ve made us feel as if we belonged and had something to contribute.  Thanks for the lovely cake Isobel!
Grasmere—can one thank a place?  I think I have to.  Thank you, Grasmere, for providing countless hours of peace, reflection, hiking, entertainment.  We have indeed felt at Home at Grasmere.  As John said after church on Sunday, it's farewell, not goodbye.  We will be back.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Lifelong Learning Trip--part 2

Ginny, Flo, and Lynn rest by the riverside near Skelwith Bridge.

Laurie stands in front of Skelwith Bridge.

The group waits for the bus in Ambleside.

A stunning bank of irises in the garden at Rayrigg Hall.

Diana and Dave (in the center) make a group of Americans feel very welcome.

The path towards Easedale.

Allison captures the view.

Debbie stands alone with her thoughts and nature.

The days just keep getting better and better.  Wednesday was the day to hike to Hawkshead.  Skelwith Bridge was our halfway stop, and the group enjoyed a scrumptious lunch at Chester’s CafĂ©.  From Skelwith, half the group continued on to Hawkshead while the other half enjoyed relaxing by the river and then took the bus onward.  Unfortunately, Wordsworth’s school in Hawkshead was closed “due to illness.”  The bus group had just enough time to look around Hawkshead and get the feel of the place when the hiking group and the return bus arrived at the same time.  Hikers came in happy and inspired.  The evening was a real treat—dinner at Diana and Dave Matthews’s home at Rayrigg Hall, a beautiful manor home which was begun possibly as early as the 1300 and whose building stopped in the late 1700s.  As beautiful as the house and grounds were, the graciousness of the hosts outshone both.  We were made to feel most welcome—an American flag flew from the flagpole in the garden!  We heard stories about the history of the house and its most famous resident, abolitionist and friend of Wordsworth, William Wilberforce.

The next day was one I have waited for for some time.  It has long been my desire to include our British friends in the activities offered by Principia, and Thursday  saw the first fruits of that desire.  Five local Christian Scientists arrived at the Grasmere Village Green to join us for a full day, beginning with a hike around Grasmere Lake (for those who don’t know, Principia College is a university for Christian Scientists).  We stopped at the shore of the lake for lunch and for a brief testimony meeting.  It was a wonderful time of inspiration and sharing.  After the lunch, we reconvened at the Wordsworth Trust where the group enjoyed the special exhibit on Dorothy Wordsworth.  Next, Jeff Cowton introduced the group to the world of curation in the library.  The highlight for the group was the opportunity to work with facsimiles of the beginnings of the poem “Old Man Travelling,” which I had read from Lyrical Ballads at lunchtime.  We saw how Wordsworth worked and reworked images until they feel into their final poetic forms.  In this case, the lines he fashioned became two poems, “Old Man Travelling” and “The Old Cumberland Beggar.” But by far, the highlight of the day was dinner inside Dove Cottage.  Wilf’s provided a delicious dinner of typical food from Wordsworth’s era—poached trout, fresh spinach, pickled vegetables and bread.  While the food was fabulous, it was the experience of gathering around the fireplace as the Wordsworth’s would have done that felt so special—that an a very moving reading of Wordsworth’s poem, “Michael.” Jeff Cowton started us off with the reading.  I’ve wanted to hear Jeff read a poem by Wordsworth since I first came here as his northern accent would have been close to the one Wordsworth had.  During his years at Cambridge, Wordsworth was teased for this northern accent, but listening to Jeff read (and John and Roger after—both northerners), one could hear the original cadences and tones, something lost in either an American accent or a received British accent.  We will all of us remember this night with its candlelight atmosphere and the echo of words coming to us in fresh ways 200 years after their first composition in the very house in which we were sitting.

Today found half the group taking a break from hiking to enjoy more of Grasmere.  Some went shopping; others returned to the museum to read the exhibit at greater leisure.  A small group of us hiked to Easedale Tarn.  The day started out in an unpromising way with pouring rain, but by the time we left, the rain had dwindled to a mist, and except for a few brief moments of actual rain and a few misty moments, the hike was dry and cool.  The ever resourceful Chuck Wilcoxen spread a tarp on the ground in the shelter of a hill so that we might have a comfortable picnic lunch. The view was outstanding.  And the weather kept enough people off the trail to make us feel as if we had the fell all to ourselves.  

Chris and I said goodbye to the group at the bus stop.  They headed off towards Keswick to catch another bus to Stonethwaite where the Borrowdale YHA awaits them.  Originally we thought the group would hike to Borrowdale, but the clouds hanging over the ridges made that hike impossible.  Nevermind.  Everyone had a wonderful day without the hike to Borrowdale, and I imagine that their arrival in the valley will be just as sweet.  It’s an idyllic valley that I am sure they will enjoy the peace and quiet of the scene.  Tomorrow they walk from Borrowdale to Keswick, and I will join them at Greta Hall, Coleridge’s home, for dinner.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Principia Lifelong Learning trip--Day One

Foxgloves along the trail

A couple on the trail told me these are called Yellow Flag Irises.

Some of the group enjoying packed lunches and tea treats at Rydal Hall

Chuck distributes sustenance--Kendal Mint Cakes, just like those taken by Sir Edmund Hilary to the top of Everest.

Back at home, the hills glow in the setting sun.

I don’t know if I will have time to post each day during this week, but I will if I can.  I want to share how wonderful this Principia Lifelong Learning group is and what a good time we are having together.  Today, the group hiked from the Youth Hostel in Ambleside to Grasmere where they will be staying for three nights.  Chuck Wilcoxen, Cross Country Coach extraordinaire, led them out of Ambleside and up to Rydal Hall, where I met the group.  We had lunch at the tea room, had a short lecture in the formal gardens, and then headed to Rydal Mount for a tour of the house and the gardens.  From there, we walked along the coffin trail to Grasmere. Everyone is learning about hiking in this terrain, and what an amazingly supportive group of people!  We took our time and enjoyed the sights along the way.  I left them at Potted Out, a restaurant in Grasmere, and we are all looking forward to tomorrow’s trip to Hawkshead.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A New View

The exhibit on Dorothy Wordsworth at the museum

Cases are organized by subject; this case is focused on her voracious reading.

Art of the area complements the cases.

Some cases include everyday objects that Dorothy used.

This pillar lists some of the people Dorothy met on her walks.
There are probably those who have heard of Dorothy Wordsworth and from the little they have heard, feel as if they know her, but their view of her may be simply as a famous writer’s sister.  The new exhibition at the Wordsworth Trust, “Dorothy Wordsworth, Wonders of the Everyday,” introduces visitors to Dorothy as a person in her own right.  This exhibit, the first ever focused solely on her does not present her as simply a source for another’s poetry, but as a woman who saw the world through observant and sensitive eyes and who captured what she saw with freshness and honesty.  The exhibit was created by Pamela Woof, the editor of Dorothy’s journals, and the expert on her writings and life.

The exhibit is not organized chronologically but instead is grouped thematically, so that we see her through her sewing in one case and through her love of nature in another and through her interest in passersby in another.  It includes artifacts from her life in addition to journal entries and letters, so that we begin to sense Dorothy as a full individual.  

As Pamela said to me in the library one day, “I think Dorothy is coming into her own.”  To achieve this result, the exhibit studiously avoids her literary relationships with either Wordsworth or Coleridge, despite the influence she had on both men and their writing.  While showing this connection might confirm her importance in some eyes, it would also have the effect of lessening the power of her own words.  Her journals are too often seen as simply source books for William Wordsworth’s poems.  Breaking the connection as does this collection helps one to read her writing for its own power and beauty. Reading her journals and letters has brought me some of my most pleasurable moments here at the library, and I’m glad others can have the same experience through this exhibit.  Thank you, Pamela, for this groundbreaking exhibit.