Wednesday, January 23, 2008

My Trip Across the Pond

Lynn & Paul 1982Paul Simpson met Lynn at Camp America where they were both counselors back in 1975. It was love at first sight.That's something you need when your love spans an ocean.

Paul died suddenly on January 11th, in the middle of playing his Friday night football (soccer) game. I want to die doing what I love. When I heard the news, there was no question in my mind that I had to go. Lynn and Paul's parents are both gone, neither she nor Paul had any sisters, and no English friends can know you and love you the way an American friend of 41 years can. I stayed with Lynn and her two children, Stephanie (21) and Christopher (17) for almost a week, helping with the grief and funeral preparations that were still so fresh and raw in my own heart. It has been a month of loss, of cold and rain and emptiness.

To take her mind off of it all, and to be the kind of gracious hostess that is ingrained in women, Lynn planned a day trip for us on Thursday to Haworth, home to the famous Bronte sisters, authors of Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre. I just saw Jane Eyre on Masterpiece Theater and I think I'll rent the latest Wuthering Heights from Netflix. Will it stand up to the 1939 version with Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon? Even in B&W the images and passion in that one had a lasting impression. I see it's going to be released in DVD soon.

But now I've seen the moors in living color, shrouded in the mist and rain England is so famous for. Driving through Yorkshire, the moors and the miles and miles of stone walls that create the patchwork of England, we arrived atop Haworth, described as being, "situated above the Worth Valley amid the bleak Pennine moors." It wasn't bleak to me. It was love at first sight, in spite of the damp, cold rain. We warmed ourselves and filled our stomachs at the Black Bull, - where Branwell Bronte's demise into alcoholism and opium addiction allegedly began. It was lunchtime, but I had a half-pint of ale. I had to, I was in an English pub!

Next we stepped into another world. I know it's a tourist town but I could pretend it was still 1800. And it was made much easier by the fact that only a few tourists braved the weather that day. It was such a welcome relief from the gray skies to enter the Rose Apothecary and see the rows and rows of soap. Yes, soap, in the shape of pies and cupcakes, candy and ice cream.

Next stop, the cemetery behind St Michael's and All Angels' Church. Lynn thought I might find some angels there, but alas, no angels. Only rows and rows of very tall gravestones, many covered in moss, alternating with large flat ones. It was so crowded some had to stand while others could lie in eternity. Standing amongst the gravestones, I felt as if I were in a crowd of ancient bodies standing on the hillside overlooking the moors and waiting to pass into heaven. It was both appropriate and comforting to find myself in this old cemetery 3500 miles from home. I would have liked to linger, even in the cold and damp, but just as the rest of my life has been lately, time here was hurried. We were to meet up back at the pub to warm ourselves and wait for our ride back home, back to the reality of our own lives and losses.

Back in the pub I warmed myself with another 1/2 pint until Steph called to say they were caught in traffic (yes, rush-hour is everywhere) and would be another hour. So this time I ordered a pint. It was comforting to sit and watch the other townsfolk (and yes! their dogs) stop in for a bite or a pint. While I love seeing the famous and the quintessential sites when I travel, I loathe tourists (yes, I know I am one). Sitting in that pub, just the 2 of us and the locals, I was really, really experiencing my idea of England. The suburbs where Lynn lives could be any suburb, anywhere. The cars are smaller there, the houses too, but all made of brick. The traffic the is same as home, and the people look just as tired and downtrodden as the working stiffs back home do in the dead of winter. I know day after day of rain and cold can get you down.

Another highlight was the day we stopped at a local Primary school where's Paul's good friend Eamon was the head teacher (principal). Her had offered to do the program for the funeral service. After we were done, I snuck down the hallway where I heard the sound of children. It was lunch time and they were bursting down the hallways at a full gallop until they saw me, or another adult. Red-haired and freckle-faced. Beaming eyes and rosy cheeks on fair complexions. Oh if only I had the nerve to whip out my camera and capture them. It just seemed inappropriate and those are images I will have to hold in my heart.

I am back now. I have packed up all the artwork and samples for my book and will mail those off today, a huge relief. The manuscript is due next Friday and I expect to be on target for that in spite of everything that has transpired in the last few months. I must get it done even sooner because the next-big-thing in my life is about to transpire. We are counting down the days until little Riley Crawford arrives. The full moon last night did not draw her out. Will the alignment of Jupiter and Venus on Friday, February 1st provide any magic? I am here, camera at the ready.


Sequana said...

From where I sit (in Chicago), it seems to me you needed that trip, no matter the sad reason.

More cleansing, don't you think?

Your pics are just beautiful - thx so much for thinking of us out here.

ludwiglk said...

I've been to Yorkshire and fell in love. The low stone walls crossing and crisscrossing the low hills, the greens of the ground and the hedgerows, the sheep, the wellies, the stone houses...the pubs with the fireplaces...

perhaps it was time for a change a break away before the push fro the book...

thinking of you


love.boxes said...

beautifully written. I'm sorry that you lost a friend.

Ariane Cagle said...

I love your photos. I visited Haworth in '97. I loved the moors too. I remember taking photos in the cemetary behind the Bronte house. Don't know if this was the same cemetary or not, but it was lovely and peaceful. Sounds like you had a nice trip.