My Mysterious Bird

All it takes for something to be a mystery is for it to be unknown to the one seeking it. Would you agree? So, though the bird who spent an hour perched on a dead pine limb outside my home may be very familiar to many, if he’s unknown to me, he’s a mysterious bird.

That’s all I know to call him right now. For bird enthusiasts, here’s a rough description. He appeared to be somewhat larger than a mourning dove with a larger head but a smooth, rounded one with no crest. He was white breasted with darker wings, dark grayish blue. His tail was long and in a straight line with his body. I had heard his call several times that day not knowing what he looked like but knowing I’d never consciously heard him before. It was a whistle starting somewhat shrill and high, then coming down in a long smooth swing. It was a little like a boy’s wolf whistle but more musical, almost like a circus balloon with a whistle in it.

I was trying to describe its whistle to Charles when I heard him again. But Charles really didn’t hear him. He’d cock his head and mumble a “maybe” but I knew if he really heard him, he’d be more interested than he was. It was not, as he implied, like any other bird. No mockingbird, cardinal, mourning dove, sparrow, wren or titmouse ever sounded like that mysterious bird.

“Wish I could just see what he looks like,” I said. And right that minute that bird came flying across from a neighboring pine and lit on that dead limb. I knew it was the same bird because he continued to whistle right there in plain view.

I quickly tried to absorb what he looked like knowing he wouldn’t be there long. Charles kindly went after the binoculars. We both studied him. He sat there whistling for, yes, close to an hour. There was another one answering from a distance. That bird was so beautiful sitting there in the sunlight silhouetted against a blue sky.

I’ve heard him several times a day since then but haven’t seen him again. I’ve studied my Audubon bird book but have found no match. I thought maybe he was a predator, some kind of falcon, but his bill was straight, not hooked as theirs are.

Now. A couple of ideas have come to me as I considered this bird. One is downright funny and not really related to him other than that he is a bird.

My mother loved a good joke and could laugh until she had to pull her dainty handkerchief from her bosom. But she couldn’t tell one. She always, as I do, got mixed up on the punch line. But in her eighties she learned a joke she could tell very effectively and she used it over and over. A young man, she said, was taking a class in ornithology. He arrived in class one day to realize the professor was giving a test in which the student had to identify various birds by their legs only. The poor young man was quite horrified, not having studied the bird legs for spending time studying more shapely ones instead. The whole test was on birds’ legs, and he’d be making a zero. He walked up to the professor to complain. The professor adjusted his glasses and asked coolly, “What is your name?” The young man, gifted with quick wit, raised his trouser legs and said, “Identify these legs.”

Another idea I’ve had is that this could be a comfort bird.

On Saturday morning, August 18, 2012, our phone rang with the wrenching news that our daughter, Julie, aged 42, had died in her sleep. It was six years ago but we still miss her. The initial shock was so bad but now we know that the missing part goes on and on. She’s still not here, when we set the table for family gatherings, when we fill our Christmas shopping list. Her little grandson whom she never saw has asked, “Why didn’t I get to see her?” She’s not here for birthdays, outings, or plain old days. We know where she is and that she’s happy and enjoying Heaven’s beauty which we can only imagine. But we can’t call her or text her and the children can’t give her “grandmother pictures.” We can’t hug her, sip coffee with her, or give her a candle, one of her favorite things. We can’t pray with her or sing with her.

Near the anniversary of the date she left us, we naturally think a lot about our Julie. And we miss her poignantly.

No, I don’t think that bird was Julie sitting up there on a dead pine limb. (She’d have chosen a brighter place, maybe a branch of the pink crape myrtle.) But maybe he was a comfort bird, come to remind me God remembers our sorrow and cares. It wouldn’t be the first comfort bird God has sent me. A number of times, in answer to a prayer, God has sent me a bird at a particular moment–at a window, on a branch, in the path, flying in front of the car. But it’s always been birds with which I was familiar–a cardinal, a dove, a sparrow–never a mysterious bird like this one.

Even today, August 18, I’ve heard that bird whistling high in the trees. I’d love to see him again. I’d love to know his name.

But having a mysterious bird in the neighborhood is pretty special. Especially if God sent him!

I was not close enough to the bird to take his picture. But I do have one of Julie.

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Julie holding her first grandchild, Charli Singletary

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Fish’n’Chips in Moffatt

We had been home for several weeks from our trip to Europe when I received a text from our Georgia traveling companions. “We’ll pick you up in twenty minutes for fish’n’chips in Moffatt.” Moffatt, Scotland, it was, a place we had all enjoyed so much along with Scottish driver friend John Lewis. I smiled as I typed in my answer: “Sounds intriguing but a bit too far.”

Moffatt was a place I’d never heard of before this trip. It was a former burgh in Dumfries and Galloway, its population 2,500. It’s on the Annan river, one of three rivers that originate within a few meters of each other, then flow three different directions. We found the little town so friendly and inviting. John showed us the statue of a bronze ram and told us its story. The sculptor, he said, unveiled his creation to a nice gathering of villagers. There was a respectful silence and then a young boy called out, “Why did ye leave the ears off?” John said the sculptor was so humiliated to have left the ears off that he committed suicide. But the village erected the ram, a fine symbol of a wool producing area.

Now, truth be told, that sculptor did not commit suicide, not then at least, because there are several pieces of his work created in later years. And as to the missing ears? The ram has curly horns, big showy horns. Who could be sure whether or not he had ears, save God alone? We liked the old ram and had our picture made with him.

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Now, to back up a mile or one hundred, we had a big day before we arrived in Moffatt. Our road trip took us from Lockerbie all the way to Edinburgh viewing breathtaking sights along the way. I’m sure John Lewis must have wondered if we’d ever seen sheep before since we exclaimed so much over them. Actually, we’ve even raised a tiny flock of woolies and hair sheep in South Georgia. But there were so many in Scotland, thousands, white against those beautiful green Scottish hills, pastures divided by stone walls or hedgerows, even some regular fences. We enjoyed also winding roads, villages, and farms, glistening streams, and then the dignity and character of old Edinburgh. John was an excellent guide who told us so much as he skillfully twisted and turned in city lanes to give us all good views of Sir Walter Scott’s memorial, government buildings, kirks, and the Castle so majestic, and maybe forbidding, high on its craggy hill.

On the way back toward Lockerbie, north of Moffatt, John pulled over at a high overlook and invited us to see the Devil’s Beef Tub, one of South Scotland’s geographic oddities. We looked way, way down into the dark depths of a valley formed by four hills. John said it was named Devil’s Beef Tub because a Scottish clan named Johnstones, also referred to by their enemies as devils, used to cross the English border centuries ago, steal cattle, and bring them to this valley to hide them. I later read more interesting tid-bits about this unusual valley, some true, some probably not.

For instance, a Covenanter in 1685 is said to have tried to outrun enemy dragoons by climbing a side of the Beef Tub. He didn’t make it, according to the story. Much more recently, a woman lost control of her vehicle and plunged 500 feet to the bottom of Devil’s Beef Tub but was not seriously injured. No word about how she got out. Supposedly, her vehicle is still there. Sir Walter Scott included a description of the valley in his novel “Red Gauntlet”: “It looks as if four hills were laying their heads together, to shut out daylight from the dark hollow space between them. A damned deep, black, blackguard-looking abyss of a hole it is.”

Scott’s description gives me a chill. Certainly, I wouldn’t want to find myself in that valley for I’m sure I could never climb out. But it was beautiful that afternoon, from the top. The dark purplish shadows didn’t seem forbidding with bright sunshine around us.

Then we arrived in Moffatt and met the bronze ram statue. That’s when someone spotted the fish’n’chips shop and we realized how hungry we were. Harley was always hungry for fish’n’chips having enjoyed them so much when he and Debi lived in England years ago.

When we walked in the shop we found it busy with locals as well as tourists, with a friendly proprietor and a staff eager to make us happy. Just the warm tasty smells made us happy.

Now you have to know a little bit about fish’n’chips to appreciate our feast that night. Of course, anyone who’s been in Britain for any length of time would have at least heard about this iconic meal. Fish’n’chips is to England what a hamburger is to USA. Before our trip, my friend Sue Nell told me “Eat some fish’n’chips for me.” So–what you get is one or two very generous portions of golden batter-fried fish (a white sweet fish) along with a pile of what we call French fries, called in Britain chips and in France frits. A bottle of vinegar will be handy so one may sprinkle however much they want over fish and chips. The fish was perfectly golden and so crusty, not greasy at all, and the chips were really wonderful. We had enjoyed fish’n’chips in Portsmouth, Deal, and West Wickham and would have one more chance near Bromley. But the Moffatt fish’n’chips were the freshest, the crispiest, the most delicious.

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After supper we wandered along the street, window shopping, and back over to see the bronze ram again before we started back to Somerton House in Lockerbie.

A lovely day with friends, not to be easily repeated, but always warmly remembered.

So, yes, I would buckle into that British car with the rest, if I could, and happily set out for fish’n’chips in Moffatt.

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Udderly Divine

Was it a pie shop, an ice cream shop, or a sandwich shop? We enjoyed some of all those, including chili and corn chowder. I guess it is a deli, a very charming one at that.

We’d never before heard of Udderly Divine. Finding it was one of those happenstances that became a special feature of our vacation conversations.

We had just left the Montezuma Castle, getting acquainted with history of cave dwellers. Not far from there was this small Arizona town called Camp Verde, in the Verde Valley. We had been enthralled by the awesome cliff homes (some of us older ones more than the very young ones!) but now we were hot and tired and thirsty, not to mention hungry. We had stopped at one restaurant already where my son Will, the scouter, had rejected it as not a friendly menu for all involved: my daughter-in-law, Christi, their three children, William Jr., Thomas, and Mattie, as well as Charles and me. He came back from checking out “Udderly Divine” with a thumbs-up but an edge of doubt in his voice. “I think everyone will like this place. But there’s only one lady running it and doing everything.”

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A hardworking restauranteur with a big smile

There was no one else there as we chose seats at two tall fifties-style chrome and black tables. The one lady greeted us with friendly confidence, explained her simple, yet complete deli menu and then retreated to let us make decisions. About then, more customers took their seats. How was she going to handle all of us? Why didn’t she have more help? Maybe someone “showed up missing,” as my brother John used to say.

By then we had discovered a spread of small, wrapped homemade pies on the counter and I knew my will power against desserts was not working. Whatever else, I would have a strawberry/rhubarb pie.

As instructed, we went to the counter to order. The seven of us requested various sandwiches–chicken salad, egg salad, grilled cheese, turkey and cheese on breads of our choice–or soups–corn chowder or chili. She then directed us to a drink box to make beverage choices.

I was struck by how clean and fresh everything looked. The black and white chessboard floor fairly sparkled. Counters and tables were chrome and black formica, some tables standard height, some taller like ours with stools to match. A back door opened to a kind of mini mall where Christi and Mattie went for a short browsing.

Other customers had given orders but in a very timely fashion we were served with graciousness by our lady whose name we now knew was Teresa. She made sure we were all happy and then went about serving others. Some of them, we could tell, were regular customers, very loyal customers. Teresa took time for a friendly conversation with each. I could imagine she has some customers in that small town who eat with her every day.

Those sandwiches were so delicious! Charles and Christi scraped the bottoms of their corn chowder dishes too. When we questioned Teresa she said she starts work about 3:30, makes pies and sandwich fillings and chowder as well as chili fresh every day. She told us in a very humble manner that even on hot summer days, like this one, her soups are always consumed. “Oh, and the pies, too,” she said. “Lots of people come in just for my pies..” As to having help, she doesn’t. She likes it that way. She’s not trying to grow a big business and she’s happy with things as they are.

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Who doesn’t like ice cream?

Several of us wanted ice cream which Teresa dipped. Others chose pies. I did share my strawberry/rhubarb pie but, oh my goodness, it was good. Tasted like Mamma’s she used to make from rhubarb grown in the corner of her garden. Teresa had baked other pies that day: blueberry, apple, peach, and pecan.

We felt like old friends by the time we left. Teresa’s happy smile was contagious and made us all have good memories of the small town of Camp Verde. In fact, as we happily babbled about how good everything was, we agreed it would have to be one of our top favorite eating places of the whole week-long trip.

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Mattie joins us for a Satisfied Customer picture!

On the “Coffee Gram,” paper placemat advertisers given to each of us, are “tons” of little sayings, interesting ads for Watkins naturals, Skyliners Hiking Club, a backhoe service, hay sales, Saturday night dances and low-cost pet vaccines. Reading it gave me a snap view of that community.

In the middle of each green placemat is a quotation from the Bible: For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus my Lord. Romans 8:38,39

 

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An English Country Garden

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One small feature of the Armstrongs’ English country garden

When I played “In An English Country Garden” as a young piano student, I didn’t imagine that I would be in such a garden some day. But recently Charles and I visited not just one English garden, but several. I’m still under the spell of roses blooming on a brick wall, of the scent of lavender, and of the graciousness of the owners of one particular English country garden.

In Georgia, USA, we’ve been blessed with acres we can landscape and maintain with large trees, shrubs, lilies and many, many flowers. In England, often, a resident has only a few feet to work with. Visiting that country this summer was such a pleasure. The gardens were vivid with green velvety grass; roses of red, peach, yellow and pink; and everywhere bright flower beds and window boxes.

We had the privilege of being invited to a garden party. Friends we were traveling with actually were honorees at this party so we were there in a special status. I was free to wander about the trim, neat garden with my iPad before the guests arrived.

I discovered a tiny trail, sort of Peter Rabbit size, which led tightly between shrubbery to a work shed. On another side of the garden was a sculpture of David and on the garden’s brick wall carefully trained roses and ivy grew. An inviting curved bench waited under a small tree for someone to alight. Tables were thoughtfully and strategically set where guests would be free to sit and enjoy the delightful little sandwiches, tea, and cake. One or two tables were set on the tiled patio where also potted roses and ferns offered joy. Everywhere there were signs our host and hostess had been busy with a grass edger, pruning shears, and much tender loving care.

Dave and Mathilda Armstrong had invited friends of Harley and Debi to come from London, Oxford, and other locations, friends with whom they had formerly worked as a team for Jesus. The afternoon was perfect for the gathering–blue skies, a hint of coolness, the scents of lavender and basil mingling with the roses, and warm inviting scents from the kitchen. Birds sang and took quick flights from tree to tree.

Of special significance at this party was a strong Christian connection between all those present. Charles and I knew only a few of the folks but we became instant friends, sharing ways God has been busy in our lives and those around us. It was amazing to hear the stories these missionaries could tell from Switzerland to Afghanistan, from Australia to Honduras. The thought occurred to me several times that this little English garden party was a foretaste of the beauty and joy we can expect in heaven.

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Vera lost not an inch in growing a beautiful path to her door.

There were other gardens as well. We spent a couple of nights in a sweet flat in West Wickham where our hostess, Vera, gave us a refuge for recovering from our trans-Atlantic flight. Approaching her red door were bright flowers along the walkway.

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The Cotswolds area of south central England was such a delight!

 

We visited the Cotswolds one day. Their little gardens are squeezed between their small stone houses and narrow village streets, absolutely charming.

In Bromley, where we were temporary residents in the home for transient missionaries called Manna House, we walked several times to the center of town a mile away. There was one garden we passed that particularly intrigued me. Flowers of red, yellow, blue and white flourished just inside a gate that was always open. A walkway curved slightly toward the door. Birds were especially vocal there and I think there must have been a feeder out back. I was tempted to tap on the door and tell the owner how much I liked their colorful garden!

One last note. Dave and Mathilda, on our last outing, took us to the lavender fields not far from their home. Not only was the blue almost hypnotizing, but we were wrapped in the scent of it. It was an unforgettable excursion made perfect with steak and mushroom pies under an umbrella at a stream-side inn.

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Can’t you just smell the lavender?!!!

The tune of “An English Country Garden” is spinning gently through my mind. Gardens and music–they go together!

 

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The Oak that came to Breakfast

It isn’t often (thank God!) that a tree breaks in for breakfast. Well, he didn’t eat any eggs and bacon or a bite of cereal. And he didn’t quite sit down at our table. But he did try his best to join us for our second cup of coffee Monday morning.

It was a quiet sunny July morning. We were making plans for our day which included some normal kind of yard work for Charles and his gardener, Ulysses, and a lot of laundry for me since we’d enjoyed having five great grands sleeping over for the weekend. Just as Charles reached for the Bible to read our daily devotion a terrible cracking, swishing thunderous sound jerked us both to our feet and away from the window.

With a shower and shudder of falling leaves and limbs the giant oak in front of our house settled on our carport roof, one big elbow on the main roof of the house, branches brushing dining room, breakfast room, and carport windows. We ran out to look and there he was, our largest tree, our giant red oak, roots still flipping wet earth into the ivy.

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Yes, that’s our house–under the tree.

The smell of fresh oak pervaded the yard. Birds flew in and out of the new forest come down. Stray branches slid off the roof. My heart thudded in surprise and amazement. We looked at each other and could hardly make words come out.

We started taking pictures and sending messages to family and friends. Charles called Joe Porter of Nationwide who very soon came to look and set our claim in motion. After a call, Danny Thomas from Thomas Tree Service also came. He shook his head and said, “Doc, it’s going to take the big crane. Get ready for those big ruts you hate so much. And I don’t know when I can come. We’re trying to get Reno and Whigham out from under the rubble right now. One family has a tree in their living room.”

We are almost giddy we are so thankful the tree didn’t cause worse damage, didn’t hurt anyone, and fell while we are here to see about it. A very large limb landed neatly beside the air conditioner, maybe a foot away. The tree largely hit the carport, not the main roof, and, because of the solidity of our house, the tree didn’t fall through and crush our car. Ulysses, moments before the fall, was picking up debris in the path of the tree but had moved on before it fell. Our great grands had all gone home and weren’t playing around the concrete seat at the base of the tree or filling the bird bath that sat directly in the tree’s path. In fact, the bench and bird bath weren’t even cracked nor any windows broken.

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The giant red oak–up close and personal–for breakfast.

It remains to be seen how much damage our house did sustain. The roof has been compromised, of course, gutters and down spouts ripped off, tiles torn and dislodged, and much more we can’t yet see. In one place a limb has jabbed a hole in the carport ceiling which then cracked like an egg. There’s a large hole in the edge of the overhang and more will show when the tree comes off. But it could be so much worse.

We’ve stood around the fallen giant and speculated about its untimely–or timely–fall. We thought this was a healthy oak. Sure, it leaned some but probably had for 75 years. It appeared healthy and strong otherwise. But now we can see signs of deterioration inside.

Why did the oak fall when it did? We had a bad storm Saturday night. Why didn’t it fall then? Danny says that while he was driving that morning towards Reno to work on fallen trees he said to an employee, “We’ll have more tree calls. Some get unsettled in a storm and don’t fall for a day or two.” His phone rang just then and it was Charles calling about our oak. If we’d been listening to the oak Sunday afternoon we might have heard occasional mysterious creaks and groans as it slowly got ready for the big downfall.

I just say–that oak wanted to join us for breakfast! Maybe he wanted drive-through service.

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Volunteer at Montezuma Castle

He is 94 years old and still enjoying his job as a guide at Montezuma Castle, home of ancient cave dwellers in Arizona. We came upon him as we explored the cave dwellers’ park and were so fascinated by his stories we hung around his post way past our turn.

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Charles and Will talking to our 94 year old guide

He readily took time to explain to us what we’d see if we could climb far up the limestone cliff and enter one of the caves occupied six centuries ago by people seeking safety from marauding neighbors. Yes, we would see hieroglyphics and handprints of the women and children who plastered the walls periodically. We would see various rooms and added ledges. We would see storage areas where the folks placed their dried meats and vegetables.

This tough yet amazingly smooth-faced gentleman explained how the cave dwellers lived. The women worked the crops and kept the home caves while the men went hunting. The hunt was not over in a few days. During the weeks or months they were gone, the women had to pull the ladders up the cliffs each night to keep enemies away. The cliffs are high and sheer.

Our guide waxed very enthusiastic describing the mens’ hunt. First, they had to secure a supply of salt mined from a deposit a few miles away. Then, armed with sharp knives and some jerky from the last hunt, they would strike out to find game. They might have to walk many miles before they found anything. When they made a kill of antelope, lion, or bison, rabbit, bear, or muskrat, they had to butcher, salt and dry the meat into portions that would keep. This took weeks, even months.

He went on to tell us there were inner storage chambers which could only be entered through a hole in a cave. This is where they kept some of their supplies. Our guide himself some years ago, heard about a hieroglyphic sample in one of those underground storage rooms and proposed to fellow workers that they put him down through the hole so he could take a picture. He isn’t a very large man but even so his going down became quite difficult. His helpers were lowering him by his hands until the opening narrowed so much he had to release one hand and wiggle himself on down. He took the picture, he said, and then faced the challenge of climbing back out.

Before we could hear the end of his climbing-out story, our guide was surrounded by a new group of interested inquirers and we had to move on. We only heard a chuckle as it was implied he might have had to strip and grease himself from head to toe.

In the midst of his very in-depth explanation of early Indians’ life, this gentleman told us a little about himself. He had retired because his wife had begun falling and he felt he needed to stay close to her. Then he grinned as he pulled a small electronic device from his pocket. “I found this miracle solution to our problem. She can buzz me on this and I’ll go straight home. I think she was as pleased as I was to get me out of the house again.” He went on to tell us how he drives himself to the park and walks a good distance every day, maybe only a couple of miles as compared to five before his retirement. “These young people in their seventies,” he said, “don’t exercise enough and they get old way too young.”

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Here are some of us at the Cliffs: Charles,  Nana, Mattie, William Jr., and Thomas in hat

Our time at Montezuma Castle National Monument, part of our wonderful National Park Service, was fun for adults and children. The trees and plants were well marked so we learned names of several, or verified our speculations. Shady big sycamores made walking in the Arizona heat more pleasant. Mexican Bird of Paradise was the most colorful in bright orange, but thick growths of pink and cream, yellow and orange lantana invited butterflies to blink amongst them. There were nice sturdy benches where we could sit and gaze up at the lofty Montezuma Castle caves.

The gift shop was, of course, a must before we left. I purchased a jar of prickly pear jelly and some blue corn pancake mix with prickly pear syrup. It was fun trying them out for breakfast this morning while we remembered the cliffs–and the 94 year old man who made it all so interesting.

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Scenes in Europe

I could hardly believe it when, back in February, Harley and Debi Rollins invited us to travel to England with them. We are just back now from three weeks in England, Scotland, and France, an incredible journey for anyone, especially for us at our mature 75 years!

My mind is full of strange and lovely, grim and dark, soothing and stimulating images. Of course, Charles and I both took pictures, lots and lots of beautiful pictures. But the best ones are in my head where I can bring them up for chuckles, exclamations and reviews whenever I please, without batteries, without buttons, swipes or cyber skill.

In this short blog today I’m only going to pull out a few of those images that I see in my head. There are many more! And first of all, my biggest point of gratitude is that God was with us all the way. I’ve been on lengthy journeys before but am most definitely not a seasoned traveler. I had a few fears leading up to this trip: becoming lost from my group, losing my passport, falling on one of those mile-high airport or train depot escalators, getting locked in a bathroom, or being arrested for shoplifting because I started out the door with a postcard in my hand. None of those things happened (though a few scary moments did occur!) and I’m so thankful.

As I flip through the images in my head, I’m thrilled again at seeing English country gardens so perfectly trimmed, redolent with roses, peonies, red hot pokers, sweet Williams, hollyhocks and green, green grass. I’m smiling in the rapture of viewing 75 Claude Monet paintings in the National Gallery off Trafalgar Square. I’m laughing in eagerness as Charles and I board a boat for the Thames River cruise. We’re all four–Charles, our friends Harley and Debi Rollins with whom we travelled, and I–stunned and amazed as our driver friend Dave Armstrong unexpectedly treats us to an adventurous ride through hectic downtown London late one evening. He even drove us down the wide avenue straight towards Buckingham Palace. When he saw a helicopter about to lift from the palace grounds, he whipped into a parking space so we could watch for a minute.

Visions of Portsmouth come to view: the stony shoreline, the carefully preserved ship Victory where Lord Nelson, though winning the battle, lost his life in the battle of Trafalgar, our laughter and Christian fellowship as we enjoyed that day with Gerry and Jean Davy and their family.

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Left to right: Harley Rollins, Gerry Davy, Debi Rollins, Jean Davy, Dave Armstrong, and Charles Graham. In the background beyond the rooftops is the English Channel.

 

The coast at Deal was so exciting I almost went rolling into the sea walking on the deep layers of water-smooth rocks. And the flowers! Imagine bright wildflowers so thick a little child walking through them was almost hidden, and beyond the flowers the shore, and then waves rolling in.  Dave and Pam White, dear wonderful missionaries, welcomed us there into their sweet bungalow.

We rode to France via the Chunnel. I’d been apprehensive about going so far under tons of water for the crossing. But it was quite fun, like riding an underground car ferry, and I didn’t even have time to worry. We spent two nights in a lovely little French village called Honfleur, a day visiting memorials on Normandy Beach and enjoying the French countryside. Then Paris for one day! What can you see of Paris in one day? You can ride a double decker bus and see the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, the river Seine, the Louvre, bridges, busy streets, shop windows, and then even enjoy dinner afterward at a lively corner café.

Our trip to Scotland by train was a joyful experience even if I did almost get train-left. The Scottish countryside is full of surprises: high smooth green hills dotted with a thousand sheep, craggy cliffs, curves that dip down to streams, high overlooks, clusters of farm buildings ready for a cold hard winter, little cozy villages with busy markets. It was a thrill to drive into the city of Edinburgh, to see the majestic dark castle atop its “unscalable” cliff, to see the old kirks, the cobbled streets and round-abouts. John Lewis was a great driver that day and seemed to take pleasure in showing us things that had meant a lot to him, like the “three bridges” at the Firth on Forth, an estuary of several Scottish rivers, or the Devil’s Beef Tub, an amazing very deep valley where legend has it that centuries ago Scottish men stole English cattle from across the line and brought them to that valley until they could make a profit on them.

Aside from the beautiful scenery, the cathedrals, the city sights, I see the faces of wonderful new and renewed friends: Jeff and Janet Rushton (?), Robert and Ann Smith, John Lewis, all the folks at Langham Publishers, Dave and Mathilda Armstrong in Keston, Kent, and Andrew and Rachel , our hosts at Manna House in Bromley (the OM Mission House). These are all disciples of Jesus, involved in some way or another in sending Christian literature to third world countries as are the folks I mentioned in Portsmouth and Deal. It was inspiring to catch even a glimpse of their networking endeavors. It was a joy to hear Harley and Debi connecting with so many they have worked with their whole career as missionaries with Operation Mobilisation, Send the Light, and more. Many of their friendships go back to serving together on the Ship Logos in the 1970’s.

Yes, I bought postcards (and didn’t get arrested!) and souvenirs, and took tons of pictures. But when I close my eyes I can see fields of lavender, craggy cliffs, and narrow curvy cobbled village streets.

Soon, I hope to write more on what we saw and experienced, perhaps “An English Country Garden,” “Winchester Cathedral,” “Walking the White Cliffs,” “A Village Named Honfleur,” and details about  “A Cold Day on Normandy Beach.”

 

 

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