"Holy Spirit, think through me till your ideas are my ideas." ~Amy Carmichael

" Holy Spirit, think through me till your ideas are my ideas.”

~ Amy Carmichael

Saturday, November 22, 2014

A Quick London Adventure... Our European Finale

We took a train to London. It was a quick trip. What to do?  We stayed near the London Eye, across the river from Big Ben and Parliament buildings. You can feel the power of London. We felt small.

It helped to stay near a central location, close to the tube. We took it everywhere we went, or walked.

I especially wanted to see the Westminster Abbey. We got there just in time for the last tour. So much history. I especially wanted to see the memorial to Wilberforce. 

After we left, we walked around the city a bit. In the park along the Thames River there is the Buxton Memorial, commemorating the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833. It was donated by Charles Buxton MP in memory of his father Sir Thomas F. Buxton, Wilberforce, Clarkson, MaCauley, Brougham, Dr. Lushington, and others.

Our grand adventure coincided with the 100 year anniversary of the start of World War I. It was both moving and sobering to visit some of the war memorials in Scotland and England. The Tower, Castle in London, was especially moving. On one hand the ceramic poppies spilling out of windows of the castle walls onto the grassy moat was so beautiful. On the realization that each individual poppy represents a British military death during the first world war is astonishing. There are so many, and then it looked like blood.

These memorials, and others like it, remind me that some things must be fought for. The sacrifice is so great! It makes me so thankful for those who have fought for freedom, love and justice. What each person chooses and does is important. 

At the end of our adventure we leave for home, changed, blessed, wanting to make a difference, and looking forward to being at home, in our community with people we love and care about. 

My favorite place in London that we visited is the British Library, the permanent exhibit, The Art of the Book. I couldn't take photos, so what I took with me, I took inside, and it is already influencing my perspective and art. My experience there, along with the book-art exhibits at the Dublin Castle and Trinity Library have caused me to value personal journals more than I ever have. That encourages me to value my own journals more and see the value in chronicling the life journey. Each person's story is important.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Meeting Online Friends in England

We flew from Dublin to Birmingham, UK. Roger and Bernice picked us up from the airport. So kind! What a gift they gave us! Amazing really. Bernice and Roger took us to places we would've never even known about without them. Bernice and I met online. I got involved in Bernice's art journaling group challenges: The Gratitude Journal, The A to Z of Me, and the Identity Journal. Roger and Bernice are walkers, and they walk along the canals. I had no idea Britain has more canals than Venice and they were the major source of transportation at one time. Keith loved the long boats, made to just fit through the canal locks. So beautiful!

Our first full day in Solihull-Birmingham, Roger and Bernice took us to the Black Country Museum. It covers 26 acres of former industrial land, including a mine. Historical buildings were found and moved to make a village that tells the story of the area, where the industrial age began. Here we are on the bridge.

Below is a photo I took of the rooftops of the village. The story is rather sad really. The living conditions, so awful, people weren't expected to live past their thirties, and less than half of the children lived. We saw demonstrations of chain making, heard stories of home life, toured the mine. Clearly not the "good ol' days." I saw why Charles Dickens needed to write the books he did. Many of them  started as articles. He would see the public reaction to his writing and then continue writing. Also, Tolkien was inspired by some of the area we visited. I was impressed by the power of story, and the link between location, happenings, and the writing of fiction. There are still stories that need to be told....

We walked around the Gas Street Basin near Birmingham City Centre. It reminded Keith and I of the renovated Pearl District in Portland, Oregon, except it had canals! Bridges, Buildings, water and long boats. Wonderful!

Then we went to Stratford, the home town of Shakespeare. Once again, reminded of the power of story, and the influence of place. After that we stopped by the lovely Baddsley Clinton house. Just the kind of English cozy manor I had hoped we'd see.

building in Stratford
One highlight for me was visiting Jubilee Church in Solihull. I had done an Art Journaling study based on a sermon series Pastor Rob Davey did on Identity. Soooo good! He was starting another series on the day we were there, the Kingdom of God. We were so blessed to be there to worship with the people, and felt totally at home. We got the added blessing of spending time with the Davey family too! Wow! What an adventure with Bernice and Roger. Surprises until the very end.... I didn't know Tikka Masala was the national food of England.  It was our final meal there. Yum!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Art Mapping & Exploring Ireland's Southeast Coast

We had done the tourist thing, and now we wanted to see beyond. So with Sean at the wheel, we set out with just an idea of where we wanted to go for a couple of days along the southeast coast of Ireland. In the car, I noted where we went and what we did. Then after our outings, when I had time, I made a little map of the highlights.

Our first stop, thanks to the tip from Francesca, was Cobh (pronounced Cove). On the way there, Keith and Sean got to explore a very un-tourist Belvelly Castle. There is a huge and beautiful cathedral in the town of Cobh, St. Colman's Cathedral. It sits up high in the Coastal town overlooking the water. 
View of just one part of St. Colman's Cathedral in Cobh
Inside center isle at St. Colman's Cathedral

Cobh is full of history, and tragedy. It was the last place the Titanic stopped before it's infamous voyage. It is also where the sinking of the Lustania took place on May 7, 1915. This statue is in honor of those who worked to rescue people and bury the dead.

We didn't want to rush, so we went at a comfortable pace, enjoying the journey. 

Taking a break in lovely Kinsale
Driving, not knowing what's next... a surprise not mentioned on any map. In Timoleague there is an old Friary founded in the 13-14th century that had been burned by the British in 1642. It is now, and has been for a very long time, a cemetery. Graves are on the outside of the walls, but also on the inside. We were quite fascinated by it. I would've thought it would feel creepy, but it didn't. We had just come from Charles Fort near Kinsale, and that felt much worse, even though it was very clean. It made me wonder about places and the history of the people.  

Sean was determined to find an authentic Irish pub, not focusing on Tourists. It was worth the pursuit. Annie May's Bar in Skibbereen had wonderful fish and chips and of course Guinness. It was family run and the people were so friendly! 

A few other places we visited while in Cork County were Midleton, getting there just in time for the last tour of the Jamison Whiskey factory. The tour guide was incredible! The whiskey good too :)

Dungarvan harbour
We ended our Irish adventure together in Dungarvan, eating dinner at a pub with old castle walls, and the ambience to match, with a good meal and drinks to celebrate.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Art Journaling and a lot of Blarney

As we planned our trip, it was important each person got to do and see their top two things. Keith's top one was castles. As you can imagine, the rest of us Americans were pretty happy about that. We did see a number of castles, and even stayed in a place with a view of one in Cork County - Blarney.

Before we arrived at Blarney, we took the train from Dublin to Cork. I love the train! From there we were to rent a car. Yikes! Driving on the other side of the road. Not me. Sean and Keith signed up as drivers, and Sean loved it. I admit, I usually sat behind the driver, not watching. I figured it was probably better for everyone that way. It is amazing how adaptable we are though. Each day it seemed more natural than the last. 

On our train ride, Merri and I did some art journaling. Here is photo of her working in her travel journal.  To see more of Merri's travel journal, visit her blog at http://atravelingtwo.blogspot.com/

Arriving in Cork, we were on foot, looking for lunch and the car rental dealer. After walking a few blocks we came across a lovely cafe - such a blessing for travelers. Francesca's Cafe Culture. It was like an oasis. Wonderful food, coffee, and service!

Merri at Francesca's Cafe Culture
The car was rented, we found our way to our rental, and then drove around the little town of Blarney to the castle. I've heard it is a "tourist trap." Well, I guess it kind of is BUT we were tourists, so we looked at the time and figured we had just enough time to go through the castle and grounds before it closed. Actually, it was the perfect time: not very many people, tour buses had gone, the light was perfect for photographing and the weather couldn't be better. We were blessed. We took tons of photos. Here are a few:

view of a tower from the upper part of the Blarney Castle
View from main floor of Blarney Castle, showing 3 floors (without the ceilings)
One thing we noticed that is quite different in Ireland, than in the US, is the sections of the castle are all open. A sign is posted that you enter at your own risk etc. It was nice for us to be able to roam around a bit.

At the top floor of the Blarney Castle
The place where people kiss the Blarney stone is to the right of this photo. Merri and Sean kissed the stone. There is no way I'm kissing a rock with all those potential germs. I took their photos instead. Honestly, you can't believe anything they say about Blarney. It has a reputation of the gift of gab that is as old as Ol' Blarney himself. So we read the signs with a smile and know that a sense of humor is required. Here is a photo of an Art installation, by artist Sandra McCowen (www.ssandram.biz), at the foot of the castle:

The grounds and pathways are beautiful and well worth a visit:

More Art Journaling in my little watercolor journal:

Happy & Blessed at Blarney!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Travel Journaling - Oh the Places We Would Go...

It's been over a month since we've come home from our trip to the UK and Ireland. Time flies when life is happening fast! It is good to stop for a moment, remember, and be grateful. So as I think of going from Iona, to Edinburgh, and on to Dublin, I smile, thankful for the memories.

We rode the train from Iona to Edinburgh, small island town to Scottish city, 
with amazing Architecture and dinner with our high school friend. 

We flew to Dublin. Took a taxi to our rented apartment. Sean and Merri arrived in the wee hours the next morning. We had a blast! Oh my, what a bustle. When we planned the Ireland part of the vacation, we each listed our top two things we wanted to do/see. Then we made sure everyone did those things together. It was soooo fun!!! Part of what made the experiences even more enjoyable was sharing in the joy of someone else's wonder at doing something they've always dreamed about. One thing at the top of Sean's list was the Guinness factory tour. We had the best time. I might not have even gone if it weren't on his list, and I would've missed out. We learned a lot, such as why many Irish would end what they were telling us with, "It's okay, we have Guinness." Arthur Guinness certainly had vision. At the beginning of the tour, in the floor, is the 9,000 year lease he signed for the factory:

He, and his family, did one thing well, and focused on that one thing: making stout beer. We also learned from another tour at St. Patricks Cathedral, and another tour, that Guinness brought better pay and working conditions to their workers, along with a lot of philanthropy. I loved the tour of St. Patrick's Cathedral. I felt a connection there, maybe because I see the power of redemption, compassion, and I am familiar with his story and ministry.  

A typical photo, Keith or Merri taking a photo of Sean and I taking photos....

Seeing the Book of Kells and the Trinity College Library was at the top of my list. 

I think my expectations were pretty high for seeing the Book of Kells and the Trinity Library. I am so glad we did, but the experience wasn't quite all I had hoped for. It was crowded, and the Book was very dimly lit as we were walked through fairly quickly. There was a very nice presentation area of the Book of Kells before we went in to see the actual book. It was much smaller than I had imagined, which made the illumination even more amazing. I noted that people get much more out of something if they can experience it, not just see it. I am not finished studying the Book of Kells. There is just something about illumination and Celtic knots...

When Merri was in high school, we'd see photos of the Trinity Library and say, "Someday we're going to go there." And we did. Joy!

Some dreams do come true!