Turning Darkness Into Light



Better far than praise of men
‘Tis to sit with book and pen.

I get wisdom day and night
Turning darkness into light.
~in the century Irish monk

Our final day was spent in Dublin before we fly home tomorrow. I admit some weariness; we’ve seen and learned so much in our time here. I wasn’t sure I could take in one more thing into my overwhelmed brain but am grateful Dan gently led me to the exhibit at Trinity College of the Book of Kells and the incredible library right above it. I needed to see the amazing things of which man is capable. My weariness is paltry compared to the immense effort of these dedicated writers and artists.

The Book of Kells is an intricately illustrated copy of the Gospels from the ninth century, meticulously decorated by Irish monks with quill pens and the finest of brushes. Two original pages are on display at the library and the brief look one is allowed scarcely does justice to the painstaking detail contained in every letter and design.

Upstairs, is the “Long Room” of 200,000 antiquarian books dating back centuries, lined by busts of writers and philosophers. It is inspiring to think of the millions of hours of illuminated thought contained within those leather bindings.

The written word is a precious but so transient on earth; it takes preservationist specialists to keep these ancient books from crumbling to dust, lost forever to future generations.

The original Word is even more precious, lasting forever in the hearts and minds of men, and exists everlasting sitting at the right hand of God, never to disintegrate to dust. He is the inspiration for the intricate beauty of the illustrated Gospels we saw today. He is the source of wisdom for civilization’s greatest writers and poets.

He alone has turned darkness into light even in man’s most desperate hours.
Our weariness dissipates along with the shadows.





The Bonnie, Bonnie Banks

Loch Lomond
Loch Lomond

By yon bonnie banks and by yon bonnie braes,
Where the sun shines bright on Loch Lomon’.
where me and my true love were ever wont to gae
On the bonnie, bonnie banks o’ Loch Lomon’.

O ye’ll tak’ the high road and I’ll tak the low road,
An’ I’ll be in Scotland afore ye;
But me and me true love will never meet again
On the bonnie, bonnie banks o’ Loch Lomon’.

Loch Lomond
Loch Lomond

‘Twas there that we parted in yon shady glen,
On the steep, steep side o’ Ben Lomon’,
Where in purple hue the Hieland hills we view,
An’ the moon comin’ out in the gloamin’.

Loch Lomond
Loch Lomond

The wee birdies sing and the wild flow’rs spring,
And in sunshine the waters are sleepin’;
But the broken heart it kens nae second spring again,
Tho’ the waefu’ may cease frae their greetin’

up the banks of Loch Lomond
up the banks of Loch Lomond


Another Voice

450 year old gravestone in Glencairn Parish Cemetery in Scotland which reads: Here Lyeth The Corps Of John Mcubin in Meruhirn (Marwhin) Who Departed This Life The Year 1663 Age 100
other side of the same stone
other side of the same stone

For last year’s words belong to last year’s language and next year’s words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning.
– T.S. Eliot

I have been overwhelmed by the centuries of history that exist documented on this continent compared to home.  We see stone circles in the countryside constructed as a celestial calendar for worship over 5000 years ago, stroll through church grounds that were founded over 1000 years ago, descended underground in Edinburgh to walk streets and enter homes that existed over 600 years ago, discovered this gravestone in rural Scotland of an 100 year old man.

It is a miracle to have lived a full century so long ago.  It is a miracle to have lived at all.

It feels a miracle to be alive now, witnessing all that I have in my relatively short time on earth.

I make a beginning each day, to be more than just another voice, striving to transcend last year’s words.

St. Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh
St. Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh
Castlerigg Stone Circle in Cumbria
Castlerigg Stone Circle in Cumbria
a stone pinecone, environmental art by Andy Goldsworthy, rural Scotland
a stone pinecone, environmental art by Andy Goldsworthy, rural Scotland

Slowing Down

purple geranium is in everyone's garden in Scotland
purple geranium is in everyone’s garden in Scotland
a welcome fragrant respite in the middle of the busy city of Edinburgh --honeysuckle
a fragrant respite in the middle of the busy city of Edinburgh –honeysuckle

Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace.
~May Sarton

During the past two weeks in Great Britain, Dan and I have slowed down from our usual busy routine to simply experience a different part of the world and meet new people who have been astonishingly warm and welcoming.

We are also very aware this vacation is about to end next week.

Yesterday we spent over an hour driving lost downtown in the city of Edinburgh, thwarted by torn up closed off streets under construction and a GPS that wanted to send us through barriers to get to our destination. It was a jarring jerk back to the hubbub of the urban life after days of wandering peaceably in the countryside. It took all our patience to not get frustrated at what was beyond our control.

When we finally got settled last night, we went for a long walk on the city streets and found grace in little patches of garden along the way. The honeysuckle could be smelled before it was seen, its perfume wafting out over the sidewalk to remind busy and distracted passersby there is good reason to slow down and breathe.

Today we head out to experience this city and its history before returning to the countryside and heading home to our routine.

The garden will be the first place I’ll be, priorities adjusted and my life changed.

how the Scottish describe a torn up street in Edinburgh
how the Scottish describe a torn up street in Edinburgh
Edinburgh Castle high above the city
Edinburgh Castle high above the city


Dripping Muzzles

Belted Galloways in the Galloway region of Scotland
Belted Galloways in the Galloway region of Scotland
Scottish Watering Trough (like many American Troughs, it had a previous life)
Scottish Watering Trough (like many American Troughs, it had a previous life)


Let the end of all bathtubs
be this putting out to pasture
of four Victorian bowlegs
anchored in grasses.

Let all longnecked browsers
come drink from the shallows
while faucets grow rusty
and porcelain yellows.

Where once our nude forebears
soaped up in this vessel
come, cows, and come, horses.

Bring burdock and thistle,
come slaver the scum of
timothy and clover
on the cast-iron lip that
our grandsires climbed over

and let there be always
green water for sipping
that muzzles may enter thoughtful
and rise dripping.
~Maxine Kumin “Watering Trough”


The Empty Moors

Yorkshire Dales from Askrigg village
Yorkshire Dales from Askrigg village

“And the peace which I always found in the silence and emptiness of the moors filled me utterly”
~James Herriot (pen name for James “Alf” Wight)

We are staying at Skeldale House tonight in the Yorkshire Dales village of Askrigg.  This is the house used on the TV series “All Creatures Great and Small” as the home and surgery for James Herriot, and his partners Farnan and Tristan.  Although this is not where Alf Wight practiced veterinary medicine in the mid-20th century (that was in the village of Thirsk in Yorkshire), it is perfect as a stand-in.  The moors rise starkly just yards away from the village and the buildings are so well cared for.   The road through the dales was narrow, winding and scary at times.  The people who live in this part of the wild world, including the remarkable “James Herriot”, are filled in the emptiness of the moors.  We are getting only a small sampling of what life is like here, but we are enchanted, yet again, having read all the books and been faithful viewers of the TV series many years ago.


Skeldale House in Askrigg village, outdoor set for "All Creatures Great and Small" TV series
Skeldale House in Askrigg village, outdoor set for “All Creatures Great and Small”
TV series


Summer Silence


“Summer makes a silence after spring.”
– Vita Sackville-West

As we bid farewell to England, Scotland and Ireland today, leaving mild temperatures in the 50’s to go to atypical temperatures in the 90’s at home,  summer will be hitting us with a surreptitious sledge hammer when we disembark in Seattle.   Hay will be ready to pick up in the fields and we will return to work within hours of getting off the plane.  But even with the responsibilities we reassume, we will know the joy of a house filled with our (now adult) children and friends from all over the world.

Life is rich with memories tightly woven into the tapestry of our everyday routine.   I will look back on this special time with Dan with fond remembrance for new friends discovered, amazing places experienced,  all the while blessed by returning home together to everyone we hold so dear.   Summer may be silent after spring but it is brimming with blessings.














Hardly a Waste of Time


“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass on a summer day listening to the murmur
of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is hardly a waste of time.”
– John Lubbock



As a child I liked to go out far into our hay field and find the tallest patch of grass.  There, like a dog turning circles before a nap,  I’d trample down the tall waving stems that stretched up almost to my eyes, and create a grass nest, just cozy enough for me.  I’d sit or lie down in this green fortress, gazing up at the blue sky, and watch the clouds drift lazily by.  I’d suck on a hollow stem or two, to savor the bitter grass juice.  Scattered around my grassy cage, looking out of place attached to the broad grass stems, would be innumerable clumps of white foam.  I’d tease out the hidden green spit bugs with their little black eyes from their white frothy bubble encasement.   I hoped to watch them spit, to actually see them in action, but they would leap away.

The grassy nest was a time of retreat from the world by being buried within the world.  I felt protected, surrounded, encompassed and free –at least until I heard my mother calling for me from the house, or a rain shower started, driving me to run for cover, or my dog found me by following my green path.

It has been years since I hid in a grass fort or tried to defoam spit bugs.   I am overdue, I’m sure. It is hardly a waste to rest encased in the bubble wrap of the world.






Young Summer


“What is one to say about June, the time of perfect young summer, the fulfillment of the promise
of the earlier months, and with as yet no sign to remind one that its fresh young beauty will ever fade.”
– Gertrude Jekyll, On Gardening

Off to Scotland today, the fresh young beauty of the countryside seems never to fade.