Hit by a Squirrel

How we wished for instant replay! John and I were walking under trees near home when there was a commotion above us. I felt something graze my head, and John said something brushed his leg. CAT was walking with us, and she jumped back. A squirrel hit the road right at John’s feet, instantly scrambling to run in the woods. I wondered if a branch had broken with the squirrel on it, but there was nothing on the road to support that. Both of us are glad the squirrel didn’t land squarely on us and scratch us trying to escape. Speaking from experience, I say this was better than being hit on the head by bird poop.

CAT and John after the squirrel landed among us

Photographs from England 40 Years Ago – May 16, 1982

Both John and I think I wrote a letter to him every week when he started his new job in New York, but neither of us has a clear memory of it. For two years I had regularly written a letter a week, which he copied to send to our mothers and kept the original. There is a very slim possibility that he kept the last ones, but we haven’t found them.

The words have disappeared, but we still have a few photos from this time. One of my favorites was John $pencer taking things out of the cabinet. He got there on his own, perhaps by climbing on a toy. I wrote on the slide, “TROUBLE at work”.

In the back garden I took a shot of the children who played together the most – Kate, Philippa, and Lisa. This photo was on our Aura frame for a month, and I saw it at least ten times before I realized John $ was in it, too, standing in front of Philippa.

One day $ examined gravel, so Pippa and Kate flopped down to join him. One girl posed for the camera, and the other began to really look at the stones.

John was probably still with us when we went to Leith Hill. I don’t remember anything other than the huge rhododendrons in the garden.

This looks like an ad. What could the boy have been selling? Shoes? Children’s play clothes?

My Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day had pleasant surprises, beginning with my discovering Danish daughter Lise had joined my Aura frame and posted several photos. Once she accepted an invitation to the frame, she could post photos from anywhere in the world to display almost instantly on our kitchen counter. Kate, David, Nathaniel, John, and I could see her pictures on our phones, as well.

Lise in Kosovo on our counter

As we pulled into the church parking lot, son John $pencer called to wish me a happy day. It was 7:00 am 2,000 miles away. Rose joined him, and we had a lovely chat. A day or so later $ sent me a photo taken that Sunday when they were hiking.

After church, Kate went up to the choir loft to see David shutting down the sound board he runs for that service.

No one complained about my wanting photos of us.

I particularly like the one with Kate and David, because they bought the balloon for me. It had been a lovely day from start to finish.

A Satisfying Day

You’d think walking to the creek would be a humdrum event. I found it exceptionally pleasant with daughter Kate for company.

This day Kate spotted an abandoned Easter basket bobbing in the water. Of course, we wondered who lost it and why, knowing it would remain a mystery. A few days later, when John and I went to a meeting at the firehouse, I walked across the parking lot and found the blue basket on the creek bank, a foot or so above the water.

The rain clouds bearing down on us caused a pause for a photo and much faster footsteps to get home.

We took pictures from the overlook on the way to Cataloochee and the six elk we found grazing in the valley.

Grandson David and daughter Kate
Grazing elk in Cataloochee

Kate and David posed in a big barn and sat at desks in the old schoolhouse.

Mother and son requested a picture of them on the bridge in Cataloochee. We all enjoy mountain streams, and I took home five video clips when one should have been enough. I took the one below while standing where Kate and David had been sitting.

We found it very satisfying to wander through the day, enjoying each other’s company.

Six Together – Nathaniel’s Celebration Concluded

When it was late, the older generations toddled off to bed as the younger set got out the Checkers board. After lunch the next day, they resumed the Checkers tournament. The game talk was vicious, but they “played nice”.

I wanted a photo of everyone, and they kindly humored me.

It was Sarah’s first time to participate in the mirror ritual. Nathaniel’s putting the mirror up when he comes and down when he leaves will continue as long as we live in this house.

Spell-check Amusement

I was extolling the pleasures of grandparenthood when the spell checker flagged the word “grandparenting”. It suggested I add a hyphen to make it grand-parenting.

The second choice made me laugh. It was “grandpa-renting”.

John has 49 cumulative years of grandpa experience. How much do you think I could get to rent John out as an experienced grandpa???

Celebrating Nathaniel’s Graduation

Nathaniel and friend Sarah came for almost 24 hours so that we could celebrate his university graduation. This was my favorite photo of the two of them.

Nathaniel and Sarah
Kate, John, Nathaniel, Sarah, and David

We had the celebratory meal at the Blue Rooster where we could hear and see each other.

Nathaniel sat right under one of the blue roosters in the dining room.

A Nathaniel creation was planned from the beginning, and he made a strawberry shortcake with the berries he, Sarah, and friend Dakota picked the day before. Sarah did a beautiful job of preparing the berries.

When the cake was half way finished, I asked them to pose with it.

Everyone waited patiently for the official photo and a close-up of students and cake.

What you can’t see or hear was all the cheerful chatter. It was wonderful to have these hours with them, and I think we made the most of it. Congratulations on your graduation, Nathaniel!! We are very, very proud of you.

Kate is Here!

Want to walk with us to the creek? Daughter Kate is with us for a week, and we are loving every minute. I won’t take photos of our sitting and talking, but we have recorded things we’ve seen outside.

The first amusing thing we passed was a neighbor’s vegetable garden. I always wave to the scarecrow the first time I see him in the Spring, not realizing that it isn’t a real person. This year Warren added two pink flamingos, which made us laugh. In the middle is a sprinkler he has hooked up to a pump in the little stream that runs beside his property. I’ve never seen it operating, but his plants are never thirsty.

CAT greeted John and Kate, then walked with us for a while.

Kate found just the right spot to scratch her neck.

At the firehouse we found the first rosebud of the year.

We took the obligatory selfie at the creek.

I was pleased to find a cluster of blooms of the horse chestnut tree on the way home.

Kate posed with Park Branch that flows through our area. It is so small that it is called a branch rather than a stream.

At home, we found the lilac bush blooming and scenting the air all around it.

England 40 Years Ago — May 2, 1982

While Pastor and Louise toured Hampton Court, John $ and I saw the lock on the River Thames and walked along the tow path. We found a park; $ tried out every piece of equipment and had a wonderful time. That day John was in London and the girls relaxing at home, seeing to Mr. Clewes’ (the gardener) lunch.

John insisted he could hold the fort with all three children while the Koepchens and I went to London. I had a good time and came home to find them happier than usual; must have done them good to be away from me! In town we saw the Tower of London, the Crown Jewels, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, and Westminster Cathedral. I was so glad to see the beat-up coronation chair with the Stone of Scone underneath it and the tombs of Mary, Elizabeth, Mary Queen of Scots, several Edwards and several Henrys.

Tower Bridge
Water Gate
White Tower

Besides the above, we happened by the race track just in time to see a race at Epsom Downs, went through Canterbury Cathedral, saw the white cliffs of Dover, and rode the little trains in New Romney. The photos show our looking at the engine, boarding the train, and watching the midget who was the train driver. I’m not sure the man was technically a midget, but he was about as tall as the engine. In the last picture he is ready to move the train.

The Koepchens hired a car and kept first one and then the other of our girls on the way to the Lake District in the northwest corner of England. Stopping for church on the way, we landed in a founder’s day dry sermon in Magdalene College, Oxford. I didn’t feel guilty at being bored when Pastor began looking for something more interesting by leafing through the prayer book! After lunch from a pub, eaten outside by a nice stream, we drove hard to put the miles behind us. We stayed that night in a pleasant, expensive little hotel in the resort of Bowness on Windermere.

Lake Windermere
Lisa and Kate

Part of the joy of being in this area is to admire God’s creation of soft mountains, muted colours, blue waters of small lakes, and rushing streams. The other is surely the pleasure of seeing this beauty with dear friends, as did Wordsworth, his sister Dorothy, and Coleridge. In reflection, I want to burst forth in poetry myself. If only I could transmit to you the smell of the air, damp with mist, from a waterfall!

Or paint a grey slate house settled into its hill with smoke showing signs of life within! When the light was gone, dinner eaten, and children tucked in bed, we adults could laugh and talk freely over leisurely pots of coffee as only friends can do.

Home of Beatrix Potter

Seeing the house where Beatrix Potter wrote Peter Rabbit makes it come alive. Her original drawings exhibited there are so lively and fresh.

We reached out to touch Wordsworth, seeing the lakes he saw and the homes he lived in at Ambleside and Grasmere. Keswick was lovely beside her lake, and red sandstone Carlisle Castle seemed to brood over the memory of Mary, Queen of Scots.

Dove Cottage, Wordsworth’s home
Roman fort on Hadrian’s Wall

We walked on Hadrian’s Wall late in the day when the light was fading, the wind rising, and thoughts of busy Romans hurrying about their business came unbidden to mind.

One last dinner and cozy evening together passed quickly; breakfast brought shouts of laughter amid somber Englishmen when Lisa relayed a funny dream and Pastor said, “With John, it’s England on $3,000 a day!”

The girls waved goodbye for five miles, and we turned toward the grand topiary garden of Levens Hall designed in the 1600’s. Walking among those fantastically shaped hedges made me feel like Alice in Wonderland. Meanwhile, the Koepchens continued north to Scotland.

Sitting in the car seven hours can cramp the feet and curl the mind, but we made it home safely. The next day I said I wouldn’t plan to go further than 10 miles in any one direction for a whole month!

You know when someone gets out a ruler to measure a bloom, they’ve been bitten by the growing bug. My prize pansy measures three inches! Most things I try to grow just keel over and die, but these plants I started from seed last summer, transplanted outside last autumn (Fall doesn’t exist here) and have to pick daily. Each one has a personality of its own, but I don’t have time to get to know them before they get pitched to make room for more. I could wish there is a pansy heaven.

Surely you all know that the split-up of our family at the present time was not our first choice. It’s a bit late for John to go running back to his parents! However, I do wonder what the effect will be. John might come to prefer the paper me – the one whose disasters can re-emerge as jokes after a week – to the real me who shrieks at spiders and wants people ready to sit for a meal before they’re called. Sweet comfort; it’s “for better, for worse” instead of “for better THEN worse!”

A big hit with English adults and children was a taste of jelly beans sent by the Mehrlings via the Koepchens. Lisa talked about the treat next door, and the grown-ups knew it from Reagan Presidential fame but had never tasted one. The closest things here are jelly babies – a softer and more Jello-like.

I even surprised myself today when I got the children and breakfast organized in time to get to Guildford Cathedral for the sung Eucharist. Philippa had spent the night with us and went with us to church. The three girls sat forward while I supervised John $’s playing with the hymn books and prayer books three rows from the get-away door. He seems to have learned from all the Sundays John has had him that he is not to talk aloud, so we made it through the whole service. I thought he was going to act up when Lisa took advantage of the general exodus just before communion, to move to the back of the church where I made the three of them sit. The people were just going to fetch their children from Sunday School to go forward for a blessing. Soon I joined the queue with $, and he was very patient waiting for our turn. He stood very quietly while I had communion; wonder what went through his head when the minister put his hand on him and blessed him??

At times I feel like an explorer charting unknown seas when I drive. Yesterday I made one wrong turn after leaving John at Heathrow, made a large circle through the countryside, and came back to the airport to have another go. I tried a different exit on the roundabout and discovered the sign that should have been before the circle was after it. Phew! You’d think I’d have learned my lesson and taken a map to Guildford the day before. I got to the cathedral with just one u-turn and scared Lisa by striking out in the general direction I thought we should go after church. We were able to figure that one out without making a turn. It keeps life exciting!

Just a Silly Second

Most folks know I am challenged by numbers in many ways. Carrying a number in my mind across a room is almost impossible. Remembering a six-digit number from one screen to another is not easy, particularly if they should be in the same order. Today I hit a new low. I was hurrying to go out to walk, looked at the digital clock at 7:11 and said in my head, “Seven eleven-teen.”