Apple Things

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I don’t know about other parts of the country, but fall is filled with fall foliage, back to school, sweater weather, and of course, applepicking.

A few scenes from the apple orchard. (c)2017


Clockwise: Sampling different varieties of apples, from under my umbrella (it was raining off and on the whole time, but our time in Ireland made it tolerable), flowers in the bench planter, bright flowers on a dreary day, Bear with apple statue that greeted us when we arrived at the orchard’s store, hanging planter. (c)2017


L-R: 1. Apple Blossom, 2. Apple Crisp Cookie, 3. Cider Donut, R: 1. Snapdragon apple*, 2. Apple Cider.(c)2017

*I first discovered snapdragons when one of my writing group members brought one to try. It was perfect. Bright red, creamy white inside, crisp. It snapped when you bit into it. I’m not sure if that’s where its name came from, but it fit.

I always try to get a few snapdragons. They are good for pies or just to grab one for a snack.

By the time we went picking this year, combined with the summer weather not cooperating, there were very few of them in the field. We walked about halfway down the aisle, and I was about to give up when a young boy, about twelve on the other side of the fencing heard me, and offered that there were snapdragons further down, and pointed out where we should go.We thanked him.

And then, he turned back and offered me the apple that was in his hand.

Really? I asked.

He nodded, and I took the apple.

I thanked him profusely, and added that snapdragons were my favorite. All the rest of the day, I thought about his generosity, and I enjoyed that apple more than any other that I’ve had in the past few years.

That is the apple in the bottom picture.

It’s perfect.

41/52 – The Centennial of Our Lady of Fatima

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Today is the 100th anniversary of the Holy Mother’s final Visitation to the children at Fatima, Portugal. In the photo is a book I recently read, and a rosary given to me by a member of the RCIA team when they taught the lesson on Mary. It is from the Shrine at Fatima, and I will use it today, and on Tuesday when I participate in the LIving Rosary. (c)2017

Resources for Tea

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Adagio
Barry’s
Celestial Seasonings
English Tea Store
Glengettie
Murroughs Welsh Brew Tea
PG Tips
Republic of Tea
Stash
Starbuck’s
Tazo
Teavanna
Twining’s

Tea

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​I love tea.

Not only do I love tea, I love the idea of tea.

It cures all ailments.

All ills made better.

Whether it’s taken like coffee – a caffeine pick me up – or a cup alongside a candle – for either prayer or writing time – or High Tea with finger sandwiches and mini pastries, it doesn’t matter to me.

I do draw the line at most herbal teas preferring my infusions to have actual tea leaves in them, and my preference is black tea rather than green, white or others.

I visited a group of friends a few years ago, and one was an immigrant from Wales. He brought me proper tea to wait on my bedside before I even got up for breakfast. While I was visiting, after my Welsh friend and his wife went to sleep, another friend put on the kettle to make us two cups of tea or hot chocolate or something that needed warm water. When the kettle whistled, we were a moment too slow, as my friend, while more or less still asleep or very groggy, came out of his bedroom, went straight to the kitchen without saying a word, turned off the kettle, and fixed the tea for us. Then he went back to bed. If there was ever any doubt if the British have tea in their veins, this settled it for me.

I am the kind of person who brings tea with me when I travel even to retreat weekends. I have loose leaf tins and an infuser that goes with me as well as investing in a travel tumbler with infusion attachment. It keeps my tea hot for a ridiculous amount of hours.

As I made my packing list for my last holiday to Ireland and Wales, I began to write “tea” under the space I left for food until I very quickly realized that to bring my own tea to Britain would not only be insulting, but redundant.

While my son needed ot buy an extra carry-on for his candy (truly, I am not exaggerating), I saved what little space I had for two large boxes of Welsh tea and two boxes of biscuits to go with them. I like candy as much as the next guy, but I do have my priorities.

39/52 – Three Days in Wales

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I didn’t do the spiral journaling while I was overseas, but I thought it might be a nice idea to go back and just do the three days I spent in Wales. Some of it is the basics of where we were and the towns we visited, but there were also some reflective moments that came through despite the small writing space. It was also amusing to find that I wrote more as the days went on despite not really having done more. I think I got more comfortable in describing my thoughts and feelings, and on the last one, I really ran out of space. Continue reading

38/52 – Pen-y-Pass, Thirty Years

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​Thirty years ago, 7 January to be precise, I arrived for the first time in Wales. This was a momentous event for several reasons, even if I didn’t realize all of them until years later. It was one of the most spontaneous things I’ve ever done, and had life given me different circumstances, I may have missed all that this gave me. Our trip could be divided into three parts – England, Wales, and Scotland. We had lots of time, and that still wasn’t enough. If I recall correctly, after London and about a week in England, we took the train from Wolverhampton to Llanddudno Junction, and then on to Betws-y-Coed, where we would need to walk or hitchhike about twelve miles to the hostel in Snowdonia. The hostel was in Pen-y-Pass, which is about the middle of the Pass of Llanberis. I know all of this now more than then. Then was thirty years ago, and I was following my college roommate wherever she was taking me with little complaint. It was not an easy trek, and although I am much more out of shape now, this most recent time (and the time before this one) I had a car to get around.

Since it was January on that first excursion, Pen-y-Pass was not very crowded. This really isn’t the season for hikers up and around the mountains of the Snowdon National Park. There were only a few of us at the hostel, but we made friends quickly, and ended up traveling together to Bangor and then eventually split up, the boys, Neil and Hugh, fifteen or so to our twenty were heading home to London, Gunnar, 20-something to West Germany, and Liz, 18 was traveling with us to Kendal in the Lake District, where she lived, and where we would be spending the night (at another hostel) before we traveled to the Scottish Highlands the day after. Gunnar was kind enough to add to my collection of money, remembering to stop me in the morning to hand me two German coins.

Youth Hostel at Pen-y-Pass, Snowdon National Park, North Wales. (c)1987-2017

In order to write this, I am re-reading my journal from those days, and I must admit – it is atrocious. It is very much “we did a, b, and c, and then this happened, etc.” I read my journal from 2009 as well, and it is not much better. At least I’m conscious of it as i try to journal from my summer visit a few weeks ago and I pray that my writing has improved.

“7pm

We are at Pen-y-Pass. We got here at around 4:30. We got two rides from Betws-y-Coed, and we walked a bit less than a mile (although it seemed like forever.) This is a beautiful region filled with mountains. Not like the Oneonta [where I went to college] mountains, though. There are less trees. These are huge stone slabs against the sky. We walked towards the sunset, so it looked really great. There are lots of sheep. The view up here is absolutely wonderful. There aren’t enough adjectives to describe it. I’m sitting next to a nice, warm fire. This is really a nice hostel. We’ve changed some plans: tomorrow, we go to Bangor; then Kendal, then Pitlochry for two days and finally Edinburgh.”

“8:50pm

[I drew a little diagram of the constellations I could see.]

Just got back from a night hike up the mountain. The moon was out, and the stars as well, of course. It wasn’t too cold. We saw some sheep and heard some streams.

Kathy [my college roommate] & I are going to go up again tomorrow morning.”

I believe this was a trail called the Miner’s Track.

Snowdon National Park at Pen-y-Pass, near the Miner’s Track, North Wales. (c)1987-2017

One of the amazing things my husband noticed on our trip simply confirmed what I had learned so long ago. Ireland has a lot of sheep. A lot. They don’t have nearly as many sheep as Wales. The Welsh sheep also have this knack for defying gravity. The can stand perfectly in any clump of grass, rocks, dirt, no matter how steep. They also seem to be like the Harry Potter Knight Bus, at least the ones we encountered on the roadways, in that they were there suddenly, but miraculously made themselves small enough to not get run over, or push your vehicle over a cliff. We were very grateful for that.

Our visit this time to Wales was for one simple reason: my pilgrimage to my saint’s holy well. Everything else was like icing on the cake, actually it was like the ice cream next to the cake since for me the icing is the best part. So the well would be the icing, and the rest of the visit was the ice cream.

I have always found many of the well loved places in Wales through other people’s suggestions for me. This time was no different. I had driven past my friend’s family home near Bangor on our way to the hotel in Dolwyddelan, and he suggested we go for ice cream in Beddgelert, so we did. Well worth the trip (and worthy of its own post).

In our driving around Wales, we discovered many things, and rediscovered several things from my second visit that I could share with my family. It’s funny because when I returned home in 2009 from my solo adventure, I did not want to share any of this with my family, but after bringing them this past August, I was really excited to share with them the very things that at first frightened me.

While we were there for just over forty-eight hours, we did quite a lot of driving. 

We ended up taking a quick break where ther were a lot of cars parked, both in the car park and on the roadway, and a phenomenal amount of walkers and hikers, all sporting various hiking equipment and gear. My family decided to stop here to take a couple of pictures and grab a couple of drinks for the rest of the drive to wherever we were going at that moment. By this point in our trip, I was exhausted, so I waited in the car.

I looked around from my vantage point, and thought things seemed familiar, but of course I told myself that I must be imagining it. I mean to someone who is not a hiker/mountain climber, one mountain is pretty much the same as any other. It was a grey sky, and slightly overcast; chilly and the sky was darkening into evening, but still, there was something about this place.

The road between Pen-y-Pass and Llanberis, North Wales. (c)1987-2017

I looked around some more, and as I stretched my neck and turned my head, a woman sitting on a picnic bench moved ever so slightly, and I could read the sign that had been directly behind her head: Pen-y-Pass.

PEN-Y-PASS.

I got very excited, but couldn’t leave the car – I hadn’t known where my family went, and I didn’t have keys to the car, but I was frantically trying to see more of my discovery.

When my son came back, I excitedly asked him if there was a youth hostel there, and when he said yes. I handed him my phone and asked him to take some pictures. He asked no questions and did as he was asked, and it was in looking at them on his return that I realized that it had literally been thirty years, and I was back.

Pen-y-Pass with 30 years of changes. North Wales. (c)2017


I was astonished. I had no plans to come back here or to bring my family despite this spot being so integral to my attachment to Wales so long ago. This was where on a cold, sunny hilltop in the Snowdon Mountains did I encounter that feeling that isn’t deja vu as much as it’s deja vu times a lifetime. It has been mysterious and has led me back twice more, and it can’t be explained to anyone who’s never experienced it themselves.

On that day thirty years ago, we set out on our hike. It was January in the UK, and I expected Wales to be the same as England. Gray, overcast, damp, misty, cloudy, etc. and so on.

It was not.

Oh, it was cold. Not as cold as the Cotswolds, but damn it was cold.

No clouds, though. Just a brilliant blue sky with the snow-capped mountains set as a backdrop against the sky. There were sheep – I still can’t figure out how they managed to stand at a 45 degree angle and not roll down the hills. We walked, we stopped, we walked. And I was home.

It really was unexplainable. I felt this incredible sense of awareness of every blade of grass, the sunlight reflecting on the water, the cold snowy smell, and just the feeling that I’d been there before. This is where I was meant to be. I was supposed to be there because I had been there before. It was overwhelming and unforgettable.

It remains so.

It’sf spiritual.

And holy.

And it drew me in, and has kept me searching, even when I wasn’t looking.

It was only two months ago (and thirty years ago), and still, I can feel what I felt both times.

In that most recent time, I had this incredible feeling come upon me. This was another time that seemingly unrelated moments connect as they have between 1987 and 2017, and I wonder how destiny works, but know that it does.