Posts Tagged ‘nature’

Our luggage engineered by Ruth (I don’t know how she does it but she is an Olympic-level packer), and stored at Paddington Station, we had one last day in London before our flight back to Sonoma County. We had a lovely afternoon in Chelsea at the Physic Botanical Garden, founded in 1687, the oldest such garden in London, a city noted for its gardens. This one is walled, next to the Thames, and didn’t disappoint. First of all, we went to its cafe which served food and drink that could have been Michelin rated. We got in line and chose the salmon, perfectly grilled and surrounded by a delicious pastry crust, with a side salad and a glass of Italian pinot grigio. Never have we seen such a meal served at a botanical garden in the States. We ate at tables surrounded by plants in the garden with yet more friendly people, this time David and his wife Maryann from London, progressives who were boycotting Harrods because of the fellow who owns it, and bemoaning the fascists in the government who were intent on regulating everything.    

David grew up near Stonehenge, which we didn’t get to see, explaining that the huge prehistoric blue stones actually came from many miles away in south Wales, transported via water and overland. He had no idea how they were brought overland but, in fact, they were. How they were put upright is still a mystery. They left for a tour and we shook hands as I joined Ruth to review these gardens with plants from all over the world, including ones for edible and medicinal purposes, which was of particular interest to Ruth who uses flower essences in her practice.
We left and ambled down the Thames for a bit, finally catching a two tiered bus on our way to the Victoria and Albert Museum, for more Arts and Crafts wonders of the late 19th century. Caught by London gridlock we talked our way off the bus (the driver was none too happy about breaking the rules) and walked until Ruth went off to the Museum and I took a break at the magnificent Michelin Building, had an apple elderberry drink and surveyed the rush hour scene, sitting near a flower vendor who took whatever time was necessary to make sure her customers got the right bouquet for their needs. Lovely to watch her serve with care and expertise.

Vacation last days have a bit of sadness in them, but also a bit of anticipation for the return home and thought of settling into your own bed again. Funny that the bed is the place most anticipated. Those vacation beds are not of our choosing, and can often be just not quite right. Hobbits spend a lot of time picking out their beds and they are quite right. Quite right, indeed. But vacation is over and planes return where they started and we think back to the fine times we had and the people we met and the things we did that we never did before and the adventures we encountered, like the sprained ankle I suffered climbing the hill to the beeches and bluebells above Princes Risborough, and the time I left my sling bag in a London pub and ran back from Covent Gardens in a panic to retrieve it, finding it on the floor just where I left it, and the time Pam, our great host in St. Andrews had me try haggis with a bit of whiskey poured over it which I actually liked very much, to the time, I, a golfer of 50 years played in the rain, hail, wind, and sleet on the oldest golfing linksland in the world.

Ah yes, ’tis a mixture of nostalgia and joy on the last day of a vacation, a day that comes to us without any effort or volition on our part. It is, like every other day, to be experienced, felt, and lived, fully, gratefully.


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I used to live in Inverness CA, a sleepy, out of the way village near Point Reyes National Seashore in the almost separate state of Northern California. It was named after Inverness in the almost separate country of Scotland. But believe me, they are very different places.  Though we found charming places in the countryside, the Scottish city is somewhat rundown, with a rising crime rate and a lowering standard of maintenance to its buildings. I was expecting no more than a village, but apparently it took more than a village. Inverness CA will always remain in my heart and soul. Inverness UK, even as I sit watching the River Ness flowing by, is fading from memory. Now the outskirts are another matter. We took a tour with a local friend yesterday of Loch Ness, (right, the one with the 1500 year old monster) and charmed by its beauty. No Tahoe, still there is practically no development around it, as that which spoils the California beauty. And it’s not even a protected area. Surprising, since it’s only 30 minutes from the city, indicating Invernessians are not all that connected with nature, or that builders are a bit behind the curve. Anyway, we took a bus and boat trip to Urquhart Castle, at least its ruins. Europeans value their ancient ruins. Wars made them ruins, and Europeans certainly are good at making war. But then once razed and ruined, castles, churches, even ancient rocks and stones of mysterious origins are preserved and honored. In America, we preserve cemetaries, and a few houses here and there, if fought for. New England is the one exception for good wabi sabi subjects.

Inverness UK was also both a baptism and wake to English driving practices. Driving is on the left side. The driver sits on the right side, leaving drivers from continents to the west and east misjudging the curb to the left. This was extremely nerve wracking, and after getting lost twice, I finally decided to give up the car rental and abandon driving in the UK forever forward. We retreated to train, bus, and taxi, and stress levels returned to normal where they should be on vacation.

Our last day in the Highlands of Scotland, which still tries to achieve independence from England to this day, was spent driving through the rain, thanks to local friends who insisted on showing us around. A married couple, he was Scottish and she Brazilian, an odd combination but no less so than me and my own Brazilian wife. He was from Glasgow to the south and possessed an accent that was close to being indecernible. I never did fully get the hang of it, and spent most of the trip nodding my head in benign confusion.

Fortunately our destination was a tour at a malt whiskey distillery and I took the opportunity to defensively muddle my head even more. With whiskey, teenage is best behaved, unlike with people, and 15 years was most agreeable. A castle on the grounds ended the tour and by the time we reached it, I was completely razed but not ruined.

On the rainy ride home–thanks to the angels for getting me out of driving–we drove through Findhorn Community, a place I remember from the 60s when they grew miracle giant vegetables from apparently in-arable sandy soil, but then switched to growing people, with workshops on relationships and sustainable living practices. We missed the tour, but it was obvious that the community still thrives with unique private houses connected within common purpose and simple values. I don’t know if the people have grown that much, but Findhorn is celebrating its 50th year, and judging from all the solar panels and signs favoring people and bicycles over cars, I’d say they’re making progress. Findhorn is 29 miles from Inverness, along the Moray Firth (or bay) which funnels out to the North Sea.

Now back in town, where the rain has deepened the already deep grays of Inverness. Color is hard to find in this capital of the Highlands. Requires a bit of Scotch whiskey and water.

On the train to London, just finishing my breakfast, gazing out at snow on the high plains of Cairngorms National Park. It is May 10. Aye, I did say snow!

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Faced with a new, demanding, full time job, my anxiety level is high these days. I’m grateful for the job, mind you, but I miss having the time to keep myself in balance in this off-balance world. Due to my circumstances, I’m spending less time in nature, but I’ve increased my awareness of the nature around me and beseech that nature–trees, grasses, leaves, bushes, rocks–to absorb my excess anxieties, relieving me of at least some of it. I ask this of nature knowing it has the capacity, and the willingness, to handle negative mental energies and absorb them without harm to its own processes. This is yet another reason we must protect the environment, at all cost. Nature heals itself and all living things that enter into intimate relationship with it. The key is awareness: Nature just needs to be seen and acknowledged and appreciated. That means when we walk through a forest (more…)

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