50-41 – Salisbury Tea

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​Some memories are clearer than others. When I think of Salisbury, I remember several bits rather than a cohesive narrative. I have vague images of people and places and really strong feelings evoked by the smell of rain on stone. Simply the mention of the Cotswolds region and I think lovingly of the hostel warden who let us in early because of the freezing air. He showed us his books on the area and we talked with him for what seemed like hours although it was probably closer to minutes. I can picture Kathy and I poring over the books in what I remember being a study with overstuffed chairs and shelves of books. It was probably less of a study and more of a nook but it is in my mind’s eyes as from an Austen novel.

I have no memory of coming off the train and walking on a regular sidewalk. Our bags were heavy. We’d just left London and I already had an extra bag. In some ways, twenty odd years later would be much easier with my own car.

The street was narrow, going hurriedly but clumsily over the cobblestones and through the slate colored grey stone archway that matched the sky. Salisbury held everything from prehistoric and Druidic to medieval and Christian to modern with that extra touch of living in a British comedy. All there for tourist and native alike, slight eye roll and wondering if this was real or if it was done as pantomime for our benefit.

I take pictures of everything so it boggles my mind that I do not have a photos of the actual medieval clock in the CAthedral. It is possible that photographs weren’t allowed. It’s possible that the picture was blurry and lost to the annals of a box of college things that will never be seen again. I do remember amazement, thought, and I recall sitting on a wall near the Cathedral – I have a photo of a flowering tree in January from there so it must be true – and we eating peanut butter spread on crackers, although I think it was either Melba toast or mini bread squares the size of crackers – non-perishable, easy to carry and thrifty. Let’s be hone now, frugal or cheap is a more appropriate designation.

What stands out most vividly, besides scaring another hosteler that evening while watching Poltergeist, was the wacky tea shoppe that Kathy and I wandered into. There were so many things on the wall, it was hard to miss the tiny flowery wallpaper. There were small round table with two or three chairs. I think they were metal, like patio furniture rather than wood, and they were all white. I feel as though a doily factory exploded in this shoppe. People were there, chatting quietly, sipping tea, adding milk, dabbing creme onto scones, the click of the spoon hitting the tea cup unmistakable and nearly constant.

At the back of the shop was a counter where you got your order and behind the counter were three old women. Ancient would be more apt. They were all quite deaf or extraordinarily hard of hearing. Although they didn’t have one, it would not have surprised me one whit if they had one of those ear trumpets that you would put into your ear and had someone scream into.

They were shouting orders back and forth and repeating as necessary because of the hearing. It was very much like the Where’s the Beef commercials.

As Americans, we were already loud, but not quite loud enough for this place.

I’d like a tea with milk please.

What?

Tea. With milk, said a little louder.

What?

One more time.

She turned to the lady behind her, in the more kitcheny area and repeated my order.

What? came the reply from the back.

The first woman repeated it.

What?

A third woman back there repeated it even louder and was met with a silent nod as tea kettles were poured and prepared and given to us on a tray. We must have paid but I don’t actually remember paying. I also don’t recall if we got anything to eat with our tea.

We sat and sipped and listened in astonishment as our conversation was repeated with the customers who came after us. We grinned occasionally at the absurdity of it all.

It was so perfectly, stereotypically British that I would not have been surprised had Mrs. Slocum come out of the back complaining about her day.

I don’t remember what was upstairs – there was a little shop, but I do remember going up the narrow stairs and then coming back down relatively quickly. We slid past other customers coming in, back onto the narrow cobbled walkway, under the stone arch that had been there since before America was a nascent thought and back to the hostel; or more likely to the hostel for the first time after our very British sustenance. Tea cures all ills, and with its special powers we were able to walk the rest of the way to the hostel where we would stay the night and then continue west by train through the lush green countryside bordered by grey sky.

January in England. We made our own sunshine.

50-40 – Collections

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I have always been a collector. I’m not quite at the hoarding stage yet, but it’s not that far off, so I need to be ever vigilant and aware so I don’t end up on the nighttime news when they come with a shovel.

Our whole family collects something or other. My oldest son collects fire department memorabilia and history, books and pictures. My husband and middle son collect comic books and action figures. My middle son also collects Lego. He loves to build them and display them. He also continues to play with them. My daughter collects clothes. She wants to be a fashion designer and she loves putting new outfits together and seeing how she can make something old new again.

In my basement, I have videotapes and newspaper articles, magazines that I wanted to keep forever. I have the newspaper when NY Yankee Thurman Munson died. I have magazines when Princess Diana was married and I saved the newspapers somewhere for President Obama’s inauguration.

I have a collection of pewter pieces, primarily on the medieval theme, but also groupings of griffins, my favorite animal. Yes, of course, it’s a real animal.

I collect some stamp sets and sheets, usually the ones that my kids would want to have when they’re older. I’ve showcased some of them on here recently.

I collect coins. Not anything really worth much, but just a remembrance of where I’ve been or gifts that I’ve been given. I’m not sure where they all are, but I have German marks and French francs. A shekel and a Scottish paper pound. My friend sent me New Zealand money from his home and my husband brought me coins from the Philippines when he was there for his work. I almost always have Canadian money on me somewhere. We just went over the border this past summer for a couple of days vacation.

I also collect Hufflepuffs. They are a rare find, so I’m pretty sure I’ve got everything sold in our local stores, including Hot Topic.

My biggest collection is my pins. I love pins. I buy them wherever I am, and I am sent them by frineds, although I usually have to ask. I have San Francisco and Las Vegas from a friend. I have a Hello Kitty from Japan and my son brought me an Eiffel Tower pin from Paris. He recently went to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum and he brought me my newest pin from there commemorating the fire department. Another new pin is my 50th anniversary Star Trek pin that a friend got for me at a convention. I have loved Star Trek since I was a little girl, and I thought that since I was also turning 50 this year, I’d really like the pin. The picture below is what my jacket looks like currently, but I display my pins on corkboard and need to get a few more squares of it to get the rest of them on.

My collections remind me of things, whether they’re what’s depicted on the pins or they remind me of the person who gave it to me, or the adventure I had when I got the pin. That’s especially true of my Gettysburg Bike Week pin.

All of my collections remind me of who I am and the important things I’ve done and want to remember.

The pins currently on my jacket: from the top, clockwise: my RCIA cross, trio of crosses from the Shrine of the North American Martyrs, rainbow Pride, Gishwhes, safety pin, Niagara Falls, 9/11 Memorial, 50th anniversary Star Trek, Hufflepuff, Supernatural anti-possession symbol, Star Labs, Michonne and Daryl from The Walking Dead, Wales, Niagara Falls/Hard Rock Cafe, 9/11 Memorial larger version. (c)2016


Pewter, Top, clockwise: Griffin hatching out of an egg, Griffin, Ceirdwen, griffin, medieval table, Ladron, griffin. (c)2016


Hufflepuff, Coins, Stamps. Left, then top to bottom: Hufflepuff pin, Hufflepuff key chain, coins from Canada, UK, and US Bicentennial, Repeal of the Stamp Act stamp sheet. (c)2016

Reflection at St. Kateri’s Shrine

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[Note: This reflection ended up encompassing many things: travel, spirituality, prayer, politics, and again part of my year of mercy. I hope you enjoy all that it is, and that you see the National Shrine in Fonda, NY one day yourselves. It is a very peaceful place to visit, to sit, and to pray.]



In the early part of November, just because I was in the neighborhood, I decided to visit the Shrine of St. Kateri Tekakwitha. I had a lot on my mind and in watching what was continually unfolding at Standing Rock in North Dakota, I felt helpless towards a people that had captured my imagination and inspiration since I was a child.

I remember playing cowboys & Indians. That was a thing in the 1970s. I always wanted to be an Indian. In college I chose a class titled North American Indians as my anthropology elective. As a preschool teacher, I changed the curriculum for Thanksgiving to avoid making headdresses. I added Native foods to our school’s Thanksgiving feast. Instead of the headdresses, we made more Native American crafts and listened to the drum beats and chanting of Native American music. I can still hear the cassette in my mind as I write this.

On the hill above the Shrine, I went up to the spring, but when I followed the signs to the spring, and walked through the crunchy leaves carpeting the path, I saw the way down and the supporting handrails. I could hear the water.

But I was alone and the rest of the way was steep and I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to climb back up, so I missed the spring. I chose not to go down on the slippery leaves. I still felt okay, though, because the spring was the cherry.

At the Shrine, I stood by St. Kateri’s plaque which included the dates of her veneration and canonization. I looked out passed the sign of the cross to the rustic looking buildings to the close knit trees, their narrow trunks rising into the sun. The sun was bright that day, coming down in rays through the pines. The green grass was beginning to be covered in their shedding pine needles.

The buildings themselves were closed for the season, but you can’t close the sky or the air or the land.

I stood there and I prayed. I asked St. Kateri for her intercession for North Dakota and the Sioux and their companions and their supporters. Water protectors. An end to DAPL. An end to the violence against them by more people trying to take their land. Again.

There were water protectors in Bismarck – the citizens and politicians. Dogs weren’t sicced on them. They changed the route to the pipeline. Maybe if there were water protectors in Flint, Michigan they wouldn’t have allowed lead to be in the water.

I guess you could call this a kind of pilgrimage; with purpose and spirit. It was spontaneous and it felt right and it fit in with everything I was trying to do in this past Year of Mercy. I was guided to action, something I could actually do and my heart swelled.

I prayed for peace and I prayed for resistance and strength and the outcome that protects the land and the spirit of the land for everyone who comes after us.

At the Shrine, at the Native American Peace Grove, is the following prayer:

Speak evil of no one, if you can say no

Good of a person, then be silent.

Let not your tongues betray you into

evil. For these are words of our Creator.

Let all strive to cultivate friendship

with those who surround them.

-Handsome Lake – Iroquois Prophet