Saturday, December 31, 2016

Holiday Greetings 2016

Holiday Greetings 2016

Cathedral de Santiago de Compostela

I’m sitting in a little patch of light and warmth, brilliant New Mexico winter sun outside the window, yet I’m haunted by darkness in the world and in my soul.  The future looks uncertain.  My life is good, and that is part of what is troubling when there is so much suffering in our world.   Advent offers hope, but I’m not sure I’m ready to grasp that golden ring without some time for mourning and reassessment.

         We have had an amazing and tumultuous year.  I have been on four continents since January, and Kent on three.   Antarctica was a land of dreams, incredibly beautiful, wild, and remote.  I feel so blessed to have been there on a small ship.  On Valentine’s Day Kent met me in Ushuaia, Argentina, the town at the tip of South American that bills itself as “The end of the world and the beginning of everything.”  From there we took the Australis to Cape Horn and on to Punta Arenas, Chile.  We hiked in Los Glaciars National Park in Argentina and did the “W” Trek in Torres del Paine, Chile, where I think we were the oldest people on the trail.  We had to cancel a much-anticipated 4-day ferry trip when storms disrupted the schedule, and instead flew to vibrant Santiago, Chile.  Crumbling Valparaiso charmed us, and we had a spectacular bus ride over the Andes to the wine country of Mendoza, Argentina, before finishing up in Buenos Aires on the day the Obamas were visiting.  Traffic was restricted in the center of the city, which made for great walking.  We caught sight of Air Force One at the airport when we departed.



Shetland Puffin
    We spent the last of May and first week of June in Scotland and the Shetland Islands.  We explored places where Kent’s ancestors had lived, and made some fascinating finds in the genealogy libraries, and by following in the footsteps of a third great-uncle David Taylor who wrote a verse account of his Visit to Scotland in 1839.  The Shetland Islands were wild, remote, and lovely, and we had an excellent guide in our friend Elwyn SouttWender and great company all around.  Before heading home we enjoyed a stay with Trish and Colin Rodgers in the Carlisle area, including a whirlwind tour of Hadrian’s Wall, Beatrix Potter’s house (a longtime dream of mine), and some spectacular back roads in the Lake District.

         It was a hot summer at home in Albuquerque, but I enjoyed early morning ditchwalks with Jennifer Wieczorak, who was in town for a couple of months.  Her mother and I had been new young mothers together some 30 years ago, and it was fun to reconnect.  We also fit in one overnight backpacking trip, which wore us out, in the Pecos Wilderness in the Sangre de Cristo mountains.

Linnea and Kent as hospitaleros, with Albuquerque pilgrim friend Martin Haagmans

In October Kent and I had the great adventure of serving as hospitaleros for 17 days in the little village of El Burgo Ranero along the Camino Frances in the region of Castilla y Leon in Spain.  It was rewarding work, but with very long days and very little free time as we had 25-30 pilgrims with us most nights.  We walked from just outside of Leon, going backwards on the Camino to our post, and we left, also traveling against the flow, walking the 20 kilometers to Sahagun, where we gratefully collapsed at the first hostal we came to, slept for over 12 hours, and stayed two nights to recuperate.  We took the train to fabulous Burgos, and after a couple of days of sightseeing enjoyed a long day’s train ride through beautiful, golden autumn countryside, the rolling meseta gradually giving way to mountains, to Ourense in Galicia, from where we walked with our packs for seven days along the remote and lovely Camino Sanabres, something over 100 kilometers to Santiago de Compostela, which we reached in time for the celebration of the end of Pope Francis’s “Year of Mercy,” and the closing of the cathedral’s Door of Forgiveness until 2021.  At the end of our time in Spain, we made a quick trip to Rome where we rendezvoused with Saad, Psyche, and Saad’s sisters Aliya and Humera.

Linnea and Kent at the Vatican in November
         When we weren’t traveling, Kent worked on the kitchen, which is finally pretty much finished.  We are enjoying it very much.  He’s now re-making the built-in china cabinet in the dining room, which we hope to have back in use this week, in time to reclaim our dining room, move the stored things out of the living room and Kent’s study, and have room for holiday guests.

         Coyotes have taken over our neighborhood, so we can no longer let our chickens roam freely, despite new and improved fencing.  We had a bumper crop of apples that we hurried to harvest before we left; however, I see the trees still have many dried and frozen apples on their branches.

         We look forward to having Jesse, Psyche, and Saad here for Christmas, and our dear friends the Nystroms, with whom we shared most holidays when our children were growing up, visiting from Colorado.

         Kent and I are grateful for each other, for our friends and families and for our health and our life together.  We have lost some good friends this year, an occurrence that will become more and more frequent as we move through our seventies. 

         We are living in unsettled times, and I’m not sure what to do.  Here is my wish list for our new president who has promised to “Make America great again.”  1.  Keep our Medicare (and add coverage for hearing aids!), but get rid of the endless paperwork, 2. Ban junk phone calls, 3. Raise the price of fossil fuels and promote alternative energy, 4. Create jobs that people can live on, 5. Create great schools (preschool through college) that families can afford, and promote libraries and other ways of learning, 6. Protect our oceans, air, rivers, lakes and wild spaces, 7. Work to reverse global warming which threatens to annihilate life on earth 8. Eliminate prejudice, racism, and sexism, inequality and xenophobia 9. Stop war, 10. Encourage love and respect among all people – follow the Golden Rule.

Love to all this holy season.  Happy New Year!

Linnea and Kent

Home sweet home -- new/old kitchen


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Dunblane to Aberdeen

The best intentions...

Here it is, over a week since I promised to do better with my blog on this trip, and I've written nothing.  We are now at the end of our third day in Shetland, which should have been our 4th day, but more about that later.

We thoroughly enjoyed our week at Windyhill Cottage in Dunblane, and We were sorry to leave that lovely spot and charming cottage.  On the Saturday after our arrival, we left the car parked at the cottage, and walked along the River Allan from Dunblane to the town Bridge of Allan.  It was a warm,sunny day, with many families out walking.  The most amazing sights were the carpets of bluebells that spread beneath the trees, the rushing river itself, and the cave believed to have inspired R.L. Stevenson's Ben Gunn's cave in Treasure Island. I seem to always be following in the steps of Stevenson in journeys ranging from Edinburgh to the South of France to Tahiti and California.

On Sunday morning I attended Pentecost service at the lovely and ancient Dunblane Cathedral, and that afternoon we explored Doune Castle, where Monty Python and Outlander scenes were filmed, then returned home by way of Callander and Loch Earn,   through some rugged Highland scenery.  On Monday we visited Stirling Castle, then drove to Kinross where we took a boat across Loch Leven to the ruined castle from which Mary Queen of Scots had once escaped.  We also returned to the area where some of Kent's ancestors had lived, and explored the Fossoway church and graveyard, finding one relevant tombstone.

Dunblane Cathedral

On Tuesday we took the train to Edinburgh where we met Colin Rodgers, who helped us with research at Scotland's People in the National Archives.  We did make a few discoveries with Colin's help, tracing some of Kent's family back another two generations and finally finding a record for his second great grandfather in Scotland -- although we couldn't get beyond that one record.  We really needed another day to work, as the first one was partly spent learning how best to use the system.  We had a lovely pub lunch with Colin, and then when we were kicked out of the archives at 4 p.m., we bid Colin goodbye and raced up the Royal Mile to Edinburgh Castle, where we quickly visited the major sights in the hour and a half before closing. We followed a Lonely Planet suggested walking tour down into Grassmarket before returning home to Dunblane where we were greeted by a downpour that would continue all the next day, which we spent mostly at the cottage, preparing for our departure on Thursday.

With Colin at the National Archives


On Thursday morning we made our circuitous way along many small roads to the historic library of Innerpeffray, where we were the only visitors, greeted by an enthusiastic staff and shown treasures of the collection that not only contained many old books, and historic Scottish books, but the complete handwritten borrowers' records dating from the early 1700s to 1968, enabling one to study the reading habits of individuals and the community over many years.  We searched the database for Kent's Taylor family, and found a Lilias Taylor who had borrowed books in the 1880s, a time long after Kent's ancestor had left for New York, but it is possible that this Lilias Taylor was .connected with Kent's family.  We walked in a light drizzle to view the church, the Roman road, an overlook of the ruined Drummond castle along the River Earn, and sheep with lambs in an adjacent pasture.

Our next stop (aside from eating sandwiches at a roadside pullover) was at the Edradour Distillery near Pitlochry, Scotland's smallest whisky distillery, where we had an excellent tour with a kilted guide.  Then it was up over a fog-shrouded pass at Glenshee and down through Braemar to Tomidhu Steading, a comfortable lodging where we were warmly greeted by our host, Alistair Skakles who had pictures of himself guiding Prince Charles through the local distillery.  

On Friday morning we walked from the Steading on a track to the Crathie church, where the royal family worships while at Balmoral, then crossed the bridge over the sparking River Dee to Balmoral Castle, where we spent an enjoyable two hours wandering the grounds and gardens and looking at exhibits about the history of the estate from the time that Queen Victoria and Prince Albert had purchased it in 1848 up to the present.

Having had our fill of an occupied castle, we headed to the spectacular ruin of Dunnottar on the coast south of Aberdeen, and then to Aberdeen, where despite my inept handling, the gps took us practically to the door of our B and B, where we eventually connected with Dwight and Carol Eggers, with whom we were to share the next segment of our Scottish adventures -- a week on the Shetland Islands.

Friday, May 13, 2016

A Good Night's Sleep Does Wonders

Friday, May 13, 2016
A good night's sleep does wonders

I was still sleeping soundly this morning when Kent returned from the local grocery store with a turnover he heated in the oven.  A good cup of coffee, a little map study, and off we went.  Yesterday's balmy sunshine had turned to chill and gloom, but I enjoyed the green hills dotted with new lambs, yellow broom, and occasional bluebells when I wasn't "helping" Kent drive and figuring out how to use the GPS.

Had we remembered this morning that the date was Friday the thirteenth, we might have been even more jittery when we set off in our fancy rental car, up our narrow twisting street, past parked cars jutting out at odd angles, easing onto the motorway through confusing roundabouts, remembering always to keep to the left and searching for the right slot in the six-speed shift.  Kent did a good job, with a little help from the driver seated to his left, and we managed to get to Perth and back again with only a few wrong turns and scary moments.

We spent 3 hours in the genealogy and historical Iibrary in Perth, but even with the help of a very kind librarian, found no new information about Kent's ancestors, and only a little about the area from which they came.  About 4:30 we headed out, punching "Fossoway," the birthplace of Kent's 3rd great-grandmother, Lilias Taylor, into the GPS.  "You have arrived" the voice announced on a country road without a house in sight.  So, we continued on.  We never did find Fossoway, although I'm sure it is there somewhere, but we did arrive at Rumbling Bridge, where we went for a walk.  Lilias's brother David Taylor had traveled from Andes, New York to visit his birthplace in the 1830s, and in a poem about his journey mentioned Rumbling Bridge -- a scenic spot the librarian had told us -- where the River Devon rushing through the rocks below makes the bridge rumble.

Rumbling BridgeWikipedia 

We also stopped in the town of Dollar, a pretty place with a castle on a hill behind the town.  While trying to get a better view of the castle, we encountered the Dollar Academy, founded in 1818, a time when Kent's Burns and Taylor ancestors would have been living in the area.  When we got home we discovered that Craiglaw Farm, where Lilias was born in 1797 is still in existence and very near the end of our walk along the Devon.

A Marks & Spencer Food Hall near the entrance to Dunblane provided easy makings for dinner, and we enjoyed a peaceful evening in our little cottage after the challenges of the day.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Scotland: Jessie the Flower of Dunblane

Thursday, 12 May
Windyhill Cottage, Dunblane, Scotland

Tonight we sleep in the cosy cottage of Windyhill in the charming historic village of Dunblane near Stirling, Scotland, where we will stay for one week.  After an overnight on Jet Blue from Albuquerque to New York yesterday, we had enough time and energy to go to into Manhattan. While purchasing our subway tickets we were surprised to encounter Milena Milenkovic from San Francisco on her way to her Smith College Reunion.  We hugged, took pictures, and went our separate ways.  

Our Manhattan visit included  spying a woodpecker in Washington Square, eating breakfast at the Gray Dog (disappointingly weak coffee), walking the entire Highline trail (marveling at all the new construction), lunching at the South Porch in Bryant Park, viewing exhibits in the Public Library and strolling up Fifth Avenue, with quick looks at Rockefeller Center and St. Patrick's Cathedral before grabbing the E train back to JFK.  I stretched out on the floor near the Icelandair gate, only mildly concerned about what others might think (while Kent pretended not to know me).  I must have dozed a bit before boarding the flight to Reykjavik.  

I was disappointed to have only one hour in Iceland.  I loved the small airport where we were not required to go through immigration or security before boarding the flight to Glasgow, and where people got on the plane in any order.  Because Iceland was covered in fog, my most memorable sight was the faucets in the restrooms that both washed and dried one's hands. No complaints about Icelandair, and next time I will do a stopover.

Wedged into a middle seat again, with a generously sized woman on one side, and Kent on the other, I did manage to sleep a bit before our arrival in Glasgow.  Kent did a great job getting us here in our rental car, a rather nerve-wracking drive mostly along motorways punctuated by signs uncannily reminding us, "Do not drive when tired."  

Cottage owner Alastair McDonald welcomed us and showed us the ropes.  Scottish bluebells are blooming in the garden of the historic cottage on a site that was the home of  "Jessie, The Flower of Dunblane." 

A brief nap, dinner down the street at the Churches House Hotel, a walk about town and on the riverside footpath, a wee dram of whisky, and we call it a day (or two).