Being laid out like a mist (Ireland)

This past weekend, we took a long-awaited tiny pilgrimage to Southwest Ireland, traveling mainly to visit Guion’s old friends, farming mentors, and beloved haunts. As you can see, it was an enchanting weekend in one of the most beautiful parts of the known world.

County ClareWe started in County Clare and stayed at the most charming B&B ever, and then journeyed from there to the spectacular Cliffs of Moher.

County ClareCounty ClareCliffs of MoherCliffs of MoherCliffs of MoherThe next day and a half were spent on Mizen Head, which is the southernmost point in all of Ireland, and it feels like the gorgeous end of the world out there. We stayed with Guion’s dear friends Tim and Laurence, who generously hosted and fed us for two days. Look at their amazing garden!

Mizen HeadThey also have this delightful one-eyed cat named Peewee (she was badly injured while sleeping in the engine of a friend’s car). She’s like a dog, and so I loved her. She would sleep in my lap for hours while we ate dinner and talked.

Mizen HeadMagic all around:

Three Castle HeadThree Castle HeadWe strolled along the beach at Barley Cove (where kelp abounds):

Barley CoveBarley Cove

And enjoyed the charming seaside village of Crookhaven:

CrookhavenCrookhavenCrookhavenPerhaps my favorite afternoon was taking a short, secluded, foggy hike to see the 13th-century ruins at Three Castle Head. It was especially enchanting because we were almost entirely alone there. If more people knew about it, it’d be swamped with tourists like ourselves, but it’s so far off the beaten path that we had it in almost perfect, eerie solitude.

Three Castle HeadThree Castle HeadThree Castle HeadThree Castle HeadWe also ventured off the grid to visit Guion’s other farm mentors, Dan and Pika, at their truly wild spot on the north side of Mizen Head.

Mizen HeadPika is a sculptor and potter, and her kiln room is Tolkien inspired. They call this shed “Middle Earth,” appropriately:

Mizen HeadMizen HeadMizen HeadMizen HeadMizen HeadMizen HeadDon’t forget us, Ireland. We’ll be back.

Mizen Head

Black in America: Essential reading list

We read to broaden our minds, and nowhere does this seem more vital right now than for white America to read black America. Following is a list of books that have challenged, enlightened, and inspired me.

Have read and heartily recommend

James Baldwin. Creative Commons license.
James Baldwin. Creative Commons license.

Nonfiction

  • The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, Michelle Alexander
  • White Girls, Hilton Als
  • Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?”, Beverly Daniel Tatum
Toni Morrison. Creative Commons license.
Toni Morrison. Creative Commons license.

Fiction

  • Go Tell It on a Mountain, James Baldwin
  • Another Country, James Baldwin
  • The Sellout, Paul Beatty
  • The Chaneysville Incident, David Bradley
  • Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston
  • Passing, Nella Larsen
  • Beloved, Toni Morrison
  • The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison
  • A Mercy, Toni Morrison
  • Song of Solomon, Toni Morrison
  • Sula, Toni Morrison
  • Cane, Jean Toomer
  • The Color Purple, Alice Walker
  • Native Son, Richard Wright
Malcolm X. Creative Commons license.
Malcolm X. Creative Commons license.

Memoir/Autobiography

  • Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, Frederick Douglass
  • Up from Slavery, Booker T. Washington
  • The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Malcolm X and Alex Haley
Rita Dove. Creative Commons license.
Rita Dove. Creative Commons license.

Poetry

  • Voyage of the Sable Venus and Other Poems, Robin Coste Lewis
  • Selected Poems, Rita Dove
  • Thomas and Beulah, Rita Dove
  • Head Off & Split, Nikky Finney
  • Against Which, Ross Gay
  • Totem, Gregory Pardlo
  • Life on Mars, Tracy K. Smith
  • Native Guard, Natasha Trethewey

And I still have a good many books that I want to read, including the following.

Audre Lorde. Creative Commons license.
Audre Lorde. Creative Commons license.

On my reading list

  • Collected Essays, James Baldwin
  • The Fire Next Time, James Baldwin
  • Giovanni’s Room, James Baldwin
  • Going to Meet the Man, James Baldwin
  • Notes of a Native Son, James Baldwin
  • Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone, James Baldwin
  • Slaves in the Family, Edward Ball
  • Blacks, Gwendolyn Brooks
  • The Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. du Bois
  • The Hemingses of Monticello, Annette Gordon-Reed
  • Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism, bell hooks
  • Dark Days, Bright Nights: From Black Power to Barack Obama, Peniel E. Joseph
  • Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches, Audre Lorde
  • Zami: A New Spelling of My Name, Audre Lorde
  • Carry Me Home: Birmingham, Alabama, Diane McWhorter
  • Freshwater Road, Denise Nicholas
  • The Street, Ann Petry
  • Citizen, Claudia Rankine
  • The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration, Isabel Wilkerson
  • Black Boy, Richard Wright

What would you add to either of these lists?

That leaf-encumbered forest

We feel the darkness of America from afar, but we are still enjoying our last month in London.

This past weekend, we were able to visit two green spaces I have long wanted to see—Richmond Park and Kew Gardens—and see Buckingham Palace for a hot second, Trafalgar Square, and the National Gallery. Photos ensue.

Richmond Park

Richmond ParkRichmond ParkRichmond ParkRichmond ParkRichmond ParkRichmond ParkRichmond ParkRichmond ParkRichmond Park

Kew Gardens

Kew GardensKew GardensKew GardensKew GardensKew GardensBuckingham Palace/Trafalgar Square/National Gallery

A Sunday in LondonGuion is so over Buckingham PalaceA Sunday in LondonA Sunday in LondonTrafalgar SquareA Sunday in LondonA Sunday in London

Husband poses with his favorite painting, “Les Grandes Baigneuses” (Cézanne).

On whiteness, silence, and complicity

I don’t know what to do about cops who keep murdering black people.

But I do know that I live in a bubble of white ignorance. I am ensconced in privilege because of centuries of racism, building up like a geological shelf in this country. We add a thin layer of progress and then cover it up with more hatred, more fear, more terror.

I have the freedom, in America, to live in this awful blindness. I am not afraid to pass a police officer when I walk down the street. I am not afraid to drive, anywhere; I do not have to wonder, when I drive to the grocery store or to my office, if today is my last day. I am not afraid that my brother will be mistaken for a criminal and murdered in the street on a sunny afternoon. I am not afraid that my sisters will be arrested for an imaginary traffic violation and then be found dead in a jail cell. My life is not under constant threat from my fellow citizens. I have the undeserved freedom to not fear these things.

I do know that I am afraid to talk about race. I am afraid of saying the wrong thing. I am afraid of being misinterpreted. This fear seems to characterize most white people. And so we stay silent.

Our silence is what helps keep racism alive and well in the United States.

White people, we have to talk to each other about race. We have to stop pretending that we’re not racist, that we don’t know anyone who is racist, that we have X number of black friends. Stop.

We have to eliminate racism in our communities by starting these conversations with each other. We have to rebuild bridges that we have been aloof and indifferent enough to watch burn. We have to help each other overcome our collective lifetimes of bigotry, brought on by comfortable ignorance and comparative freedom.

The quieter we are, the more complicit we become in this evil.

With light from the sunken day

It’s hard to believe that it’s July, that we’re already in the final month of our sweet summer sojourn in London. This month, we have particularly enjoyed a bit less international travel and a bit more local travel: getting to see more London museums, parks, and neighborhoods. Despite my true nature as a small-town-loving woman, I have developed quite a fondness for this sprawling city. Some recent photos follow.

British Museum and nearby
Window boxes for the win.
British Museum and nearby
Decapitated beauties at the British Museum.
British Museum and nearby
The Molossian Hound at the British Museum.
9-mo.-old GSD in the neighborhood
A 9-month-old German shepherd in our neighborhood. Be still my heart.
High tea
Aunt Jane treated us (and Windy) to high tea at Brown’s Hotel.
Hammersmith
The Thames, in Hammersmith.
Hammersmith
Hammersmith.

Pratts do London

We were delighted to host Win and Tracy for the weekend in London. We had a full (and fortunately quite sunny) weekend with them, including a marvelous dinner at Dishoom (thanks, Granddad! We love you!), an afternoon at the Tate Modern (including the newly added wing), and a day exploring the gorgeous Hampstead area. Photos ensue.

Out with W and TOut with W and TOut with W and TOut with W and TDishoomHampsteadHampsteadSwain's Cottage near Highgate CemeteryHampsteadHampsteadHampsteadHampsteadKenwood House

A magical wedding in Cape Cod

Despite somewhat harrowing travel misadventures (barfing in air, bag losing, etc.), we were thrilled to be in Cape Cod this past weekend for the wedding of our dearest Charlottesville friends. I only took a tiny handful of photos, so you’ll have to excuse the quality/quantity, but I exhibit them here as proof of the magical weekend.

Grace and Lu Say I DoThe brides with L’s nephew, at the rehearsal dinner

Grace and Lu Say I DoThe glowing brides at the rehearsal dinner

OfficiatingAnd a shot of me officiating (barefoot! Forgot my shoes, whoops) the ceremony, taken by Guion (who provided the sweet ceremony music with our good friend Julie)

We are so ineffably happy for these two and feel so honored to have joined in the celebration. They are some of our favorite people on Earth, and we are full of joy that they are finally married. Pure delight.

And now we are happy to be back in London, back “home,” where the roses in Regent’s Park are winding down but the days are steadily getting warmer.

Regent's Park strollRegent's Park strollRegent's Park strollRegent's Park strollRegent's Park stroll

An emptiness about the heart of life

I will share a few photos from our weekend in London with Grace and Jack, but I feel like I can’t post anything without saying a few words about Sunday’s massacre in Orlando.

I am so heartbroken and grieved for our country. We are such a disaster right now. I grieve for the LGBTQ community in Orlando and in the United States at large. I have ignorantly and naively believed that homophobia is passé, that we have progressed beyond such hatred and bigotry, and that gay people can finally exist, on the whole, in freedom and safety. Sunday was a horrific reminder that they cannot and do not.

And our country cannot and does not dwell in safety — but rather wallows in paranoia — because we are ignorant. Because the NRA lines the pockets of our legislators. Because we have chosen to believe that more assault rifles, legally, in the hands of civilians is a virtue. Because our elected officials would rather give people on terrorist watch lists access to guns than curtail the expression of the sacred (and I declare, fraudulently interpreted) Second Amendment. Because we would rather prop up a military state controlled by a reality TV star-cum-tyrant than live in freedom. We seem prefer this world of terror to the humanist and democratic ideals that the United States of America was supposedly inspired by.

Racism, fear, and ignorance will never make America great again. Trump and the Republican party seem to believe that they will.

But I can only hope — with no small degree of desperation these days — that the majority of Americans will look to Orlando, will look to the monthly mass shootings, will look to the faces of refugees and imprisoned black men and transgender people in North Carolina, and say: We reject fear. We choose freedom.

HoodGrace in a windowYoung loversGrace and AmirahRainy Sunday"Ecce Ancilla Domini," Dante Gabriel RossettiOver the ThamesRainy SundayDirty BurgerRainy Sunday

The most charming pub in the world, probably

On our drive back to London from the Lake District, we decided to take the tiniest tour of the Cotswolds, which was well worth it, even if we were only there for a few hours. Guion found a 17th-century pub called the Ebrington Arms and it, and its general village, did not fail to enchant.

The Ebrington ArmsThe Ebrington ArmsThe CotswoldsWe ate out here, in the gardens:

The Ebrington ArmsThe Ebrington ArmsAfter dinner, we strolled around the village for a bit.

The CotswoldsThe CotswoldsThe CotswoldsThe CotswoldsThe Cotswolds

I left with a very powerful urge to get back to my garden (and to acquire some of those climbing English roses) and with the thought of how much my mom would love this place (Mom, let’s go!). The CotswoldsSam, looking forward to getting back into our (temporary) Mercedes:

The CotswoldsThe perfect ending to a perfect holiday with the Bushes.

The Ebrington ArmsThe Cotswolds

Catch the heart off guard and blow it open

Dear Maddy and Sam came to London for the week, and then we took off for the Lake District for an absolutely stunning weekend. Turns out the northern part of the UK is not kidding around when it comes to outrageous beauty. We were tremendously lucky with the weather, too, because everyone had warned us that it would rain the entire time. Instead, we got this all weekend:

Catbells summit(We met several locals who told us, “This is the first sunshine we’ve seen in nine months.”)

We stayed in this charming (if mildewy) cottage in Kirkby-in-Furness, in a quiet and secluded hamlet at the southern edge of the Lake District:

Kirkby-in-Furness

Kirkby-in-FurnessOn our first night, Sam (very expertly, considering that this was his first time driving in the UK) drove us all up the gorgeous/treacherous little roads to Kirkstone Pass, where we had a hearty supper at the Kirkstone Pass Inn, which is the second-highest pub (in terms of elevation) in the United Kingdom.

Kirkstone PassKirkstone Pass(Sparking so many geographical flashbacks to Iceland…)

First night in the Lake DistrictWindermereAs we descended, we stopped in Windermere to enjoy the sunset.

WindermereWindermereWindermereOn Saturday, bright and hot, we took on the Catbells hike, which did not disappoint, with its 360-degree views of the mountains, lake, and surrounding loveliness.

Catbells summitCatbells summitLake District day twoCatbells summitCatbells summitCatbells summitCatbells summitCatbells summitAfter hiking down, we timed the ferry around the lake poorly and spent £8 on a five-minute ride, but then we got to walk around the lake, so it was not entirely a loss.

Lake District day twoKeswickOn the drive home, we hit the golden hour in this stunning valley and felt so delighted to be there, together. We rolled around in the grass, Maddy (mildly) terrorized some sheep, and we marveled at our good fortune.

Lake District golden hourLake District golden hourLake District golden hourLake District golden hourMaddy terrorizes some sheepQuite possibly my favorite photo from the entire weekend:

Favorite pic from the Lake District

We said goodbye to Kirkby-in-Furness on Sunday morning by walking to the coast. Guion and Sam were nearly washed out to sea when the tide came in (and covered all of that strange, spongy grass you see below).

Kirkby-in-FurnessKirkby-in-FurnessKirkby-in-FurnessGuion read us this Heaney poem on the first night of our stay and it served as the perfect sketch of our general feeling about being in the Lake District (even if it is about Ireland).

Postscript
Seamus Heaney

And some time make the time to drive out west
Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore,
In September or October, when the wind
And the light are working off each other
So that the ocean on one side is wild
With foam and glitter, and inland among stones
The surface of a slate-grey lake is lit
By the earthed lightning of a flock of swans,
Their feathers roughed and ruffling, white on white,
Their fully grown headstrong-looking heads
Tucked or cresting or busy underwater.
Useless to think you’ll park and capture it
More thoroughly. You are neither here nor there,
A hurry through which known and strange things pass
As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways
And catch the heart off guard and blow it open.

Lake District day two