Goodbye, Long Island

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Two weeks ago today I was in New York. I had a super stressful day that Wednesday – massive last-minute clearing out and packing up and a house closing to get to for noon. After that, Nicholas and I got in our respective vehicles and drove upstate in a snowstorm. It wasn’t pretty. Boy, was I relieved when we arrived at our destination.

We made a point of having a champagne toast (thank you to Rodney of Wines by Morrel – he was deeply fond of my mother and gifted us this bottle of La Veuve). We toasted my mother, toasted each room of the house, and all those we could think of who were integral somehow to its history. It felt good, part of saying goodbye.

I can’t believe it, truly, that it’s real, that we no longer are in possession of that house. Part of me thought it would always be in the family, like an ancestral holding that would house the family treasures and memories for several more generations. I’m not sure where I got that idea, for my mother only purchased it when I was in my mid-20’s. Perhaps because the home contents of both my grandmother and my great-aunt were moved there, it felt like it had been in the family for a few generations already. That and the fact that I HAD grown up in the house right next door, so it was quite familiar to me for nearly all my life. I suppose I had transferred my affections and allegiances to that house when my childhood home right next door was knocked down.

Two things that I will miss deeply: the European fern-leaf beech trees in the front yard. Just look at them:

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They are more than magnificent. Seventy (eighty? more?) feet tall, with gracefully outstretched branches and trunks like elephant legs. They are quite unusual, the fern-leaf bit, and stunning. My mother bought the house partially because of them, and I kind of wanted to hang on to the house because of them. For a long while, anyway. I hope the new owner appreciates them.

I will miss the beach as well, the beautiful sandy ocean beach just a few minutes’ drive away. Sigh… So much history there.

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Thank you, East Hampton, for all your gifts. Thank you, Mère, for giving us a childhood in that place of natural beauty. May this not be good-bye forevermore.

 

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Visa Details

Visa Application

Okay, since I promised, I shall try to recount at least some of the many details of the terribly long and extended process I lived through this Fall to obtain a visa to be allowed to stay in England.

Please consider yourselves forewarned: there shall be some complaining here. I do apologize, but I was pretty amazed at the goings-on that took place. And I count myself lucky, very lucky, that my situation is as incredibly fortunate as it is. So many others waiting for visas are not nearly as blessed as I.

Here we go: We arrived as a family in the UK on March 1st of 2017, and I honestly didn’t research a thing. Going to England was “Nicholas’s idea” and I kind of let him figure out the hows and wheres – I had plenty of other things to occupy my time and thoughts anyway, packing up house. He felt it would be best to just get there and figure out the rest later. Perhaps he was right. If I had known all that we would have needed to do, I may never have ever agreed to start this whole grand adventure.

Anyway, once we were there we visited a lawyer and found that I was allowed to stay in England on a tourist visa for only six months. Because we went to France for a week and came back in to London the second week in April, we had the erroneous notion that I had until the second week in October to leave the UK (six months after my last entry in to England). Very silly notion, but it would have been so much more convenient to have the month of September to get our kids settled in to the new school year. Wishful thinking. We discovered on the first Monday of September during a visit to the solicitor’s office (I really should use the British word, no?) that I, in fact, had to skedaddle by the ninth or risk the displeasure of the Powers that Be. We booked me a ticket for September 8th.

The solicitor’s assistant said that a “normal” visa application would take upwards of four weeks, but if we prioritized the application, it would be two or three. We paid an extra almost-seven hundred pounds to prioritize it. Being away from my family for even 2-3 weeks seemed nearly impossible. Ha! It turned out to be eleven. Nearly three months, egads.

We got all the necessary info to the lawyer (I can only use the British word so often before it feels odd in my mind) before I left, and she said she would get the application filed the Friday I flew, or by latest the following Monday. Okay, I figured – three weeks from that Monday, I should be back in Beverley, right? Well, there were all sorts of problems getting the UK Visa application site working properly, she said, and they needed more information than previously thought, and it took much longer than that to get the application submitted. I finally got an appointment to have my “biometrics” taken, for October 5th. Sheesh, that was nearly a whole month after my arrival.

I was chomping at the bit well before this point. My elder daughter was starting “6th form” which is the equivalent of 11th and 12th grades, and we were Face Timing and messaging nearly every day, trying to determine which classes she could take. It was SO stressful, helping her from overseas and not being there to diffuse the tensions that were running high. She had very few choices and wasn’t able to take any of the subjects she thought she’d like to learn more of (Biology, History, Earth Science/Geology/Geography) because she didn’t have the GCSE exams (from the end of the equivalent of 9th and 10th grades) and didn’t have the confidence to take English Literature or Language (again, b/c she didn’t have the background all the other kids had from their GSCE level English classes). I was practically foaming at the mouth with the fact that she had to select only THREE courses to study for two whole years, and that her choices were so very narrow. Somehow, the school allowed her to try out classes for a good while longer than they allowed other students to do so. That was kind of them. And it prolonged the agony. Finally, she chose – Psychology, Art, Photography. On verra.

While this was going on, I also had to focus on my NY surroundings and get to work. I was blessed to have incredible help from my English niece who came over for two weeks in September. We organized several yard sales and ebay listings and more, to translate some of the many treasures from the basement and attic of my mom’s house into cash. I couldn’t have done it without her. Thank you, thank you, thank you for YOLO! (She quit her job to come and help, wow.)

Finally, October 5th came and I went to NYC to have my fingerprints taken and to hand in my passport to them. SURELY, I would be back in England 2 or so weeks after THEN, no?

No. The solicitor said it would be another six weeks. I so did not understand why. Did not the fact that I had an English husband and English children (they have dual citizenship) make ANY difference? No. How could they keep families separate for so long? The lawyer said some families are kept apart for many, many months and even years. Many weeks later we found out that she actually had no clue whatsoever of the timing, for me. No lawyers are able to be in direct communication with the visa office, so she had no knowledge of my particular case. Why had she never told us this? How could she even give any time estimates, then? We didn’t know this then, though, and just kept patiently (and not-so-patiently) waiting.

I’m going in to all the details here, now (gosh, on a roll I suppose – you may all be bored, however!), but Nicholas was also in the US for a couple of weeks in September and for much of October, needing to do work Upstate. Our children were being looked after by amazingly kind and helpful relatives (to whom I am forever grateful), but a school holiday was coming up for the last week of October and Nicholas’ warehouse project wasn’t finished. The relatives had to work. The kids missed me. The kids missed their US friends. The cost to have them fly here, we figured (after prodding from younger child), was not much more than for Nicholas to fly there and back again. And so, we booked them tickets. That story would take up another several paragraphs – it was stressful beyond belief and was like something out of an Ionesco play. Everything that could go wrong seemed to, including discovering only the night before they flew that their US passports had expired. Ack!! They couldn’t fly with UK ones unless they had visas. It got so complicated. But they made it here. Greatly due to more kindness from family members.

We had a whirlwind week, including Halloween, with our old community in Columbia County. it was pretty fabulous, and also so strange, since we weren’t living in our own house. We stayed in our friends’ house for several nights and got to look out on the Hudson River:

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That same scene would be full of ice now, I think, so sorry for the anachronistic image. We also stayed at the mansion of another friend and had a good deal of fun “playing house” there. This picture hardly conveys the depth of decadence this room carries. I loved this room full of Birds-Eye Maple details – just delicious, the color and richness of the wood.

Philmont Mansion

We were so very lucky to have so many friends to stay with, and that I had a house on Long Island to live in for as long as I needed to. I kept thinking of the poor people who had no such base to rely on who had to wait longer than I for visa approval.

I started to enjoy myself, too. I figured that I should take advantage of the fact that I was in charge of my own time, that I had no parental or spousal responsibilities, that I was my own free agent for a few more weeks. And so, I had lunch with my very first acupuncture colleagues, I went to NYC to visit a Wellesley friend I hadn’t seen in fourteen years (ack), went to Boston to take an acupuncture seminar. I even had the very good fortune to have a Face Reading event planned for me – a close friend organized seven women in her workplace to have mini-readings with me. It did feel good to work again.

But finally we thought, “enough is really enough!” and Nicholas, who was back in England by this time (he and our girls probably thought I was never coming “home” at that point), contacted the local M.P. (who is like a local congressman, maybe?) to inquire as to the progress of my case. Their office was incredibly swift in assisting us and within a day or so determined that my application was NOT being considered a Priority one. Huh? We’d paid a very tidy sum for it to be expedited and asked the lawyer to send proof of that fact. That was when we discovered she was not allowed to communicate directly with the UK Visa office. We had to send the proof to the M.P.’s office and THEY sent it on to the visa office.

Within 24 hours of that exchange, I had notice that my visa decision had been reached. Originally, the lawyer had told me that I would have to go back to the NYC office where I’d given my fingerprints and that they would hand me my decision in person there. Thank goodness I didn’t have to do that. They mailed them to me and luckily the decision was in the affirmative – phew. I could book a ticket! I did so for the next week. I ended up staying in Long Island for Thanksgiving, which was interesting. A bit sad to not have my usual family members to bond with, and also actually quite liberating not to have to cook a thing. I was the glad guest of a cousin out here (from my father’s side) who was incredibly kind to invite me to join in their family gathering. I flew on November 28th and arrived in England on my birthday. I was back.

Christmas Holidays 2017

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I returned to England just in time for the holidays – a full description of my delayed visa process still hasn’t been written, but hopefully shall soon. I was very happy to be reunited with family members, and it has been a busy month. English folk seem to celebrate much more than in America. Everyone gets together with different groups of workmates and friends and family members seemingly on a regular basis, for weeks. Perhaps I grew up differently from other Americans, but I think of Christmas parties as happening maybe once at work and then one family gathering is organized, maybe two. A couple of events would seem normal or average? My sister-in-law has had at least three or four work get-togethers, a few more with friends, and then at least five with family members. That’s a lot of celebrating, and seems to be the norm here. Tonight, the four of us in our little family shall have our sixth event, though we are on to New Year’s Eve of course.

The above photo was taken at Beverley Minster, the stunning cathedral-sized church a short walk away from us. My younger daughter was performing a “Nine Lessons and Carols” with her school the week before Christmas. The children did such a lovely job singing and playing instruments and doing readings, and the setting can not be beat for atmosphere and grandeur. That was the first real Christmas event we attended. If we hadn’t been to that performance, we would have gotten tickets to a “real” Nine Lessons service as part of the Christmas season celebrations.

Walking in town is incredibly delightful – it gets dark before or by 4pm, so any late afternoon walk is made quite pretty by the holiday lights. This isn’t a terribly good picture, but it gives a hint of the feeling of coziness imparted. The church lit up in the background is St. Mary’s.

Night SatMarket

Despite all these fabulous events and settings, the days before Christmas and Christmas morning itself were a bit blue for us. It’s funny – just about a week earlier, I had picked up a book at Tesco’s, my favorite supermarket. There is a set of shelves near the entrance where the general public can exchange volumes, while leaving a few coins for a charity. I’ve found there a number of novels and other tomes of interest. The week before Christmas I picked up a Penguin-published paperback entitled “Wife in the North”. I wasn’t sure I liked it at first and didn’t read that much of it. But Christmas week I started reading a bit more and found myself appreciating the author’s language and rhythm quite a bit. She is from the North of England, a county next to “ours”, but had lived in London for her adult life. Because of her husband’s love for Yorkshire (sound familiar?) she agreed to leave her favored metropolis and all her dear friends to try out the countryside with said husband and their three children. The day before Christmas, I read these words of the author describing her own Christmas blues: “I am without my rituals. I hate it all. I am in mourning for my life.” On my own, perhaps I wouldn’t have identified with this so very strongly at this point, but I did recognize the sentiment and felt the author was writing “for” me a bit. And, my two children were very much feeling in mourning pre-holiday. They were missing everything they are used to and feeling so sad to not be “home”. Lovely as it is here, Christmas just didn’t feel like Christmas without the normal rituals and environments they associate with the holiday.

This was the general timbre of a couple of our days:

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I’m bringing in perhaps too many details, but the morning of Christmas Eve we were getting ready to have a dinner at our house for nine people. I was all geared up for the work of cooking and organizing and was actually in quite good spirits. Then, someone dear to me made a comment that felt quite critical and continued to hit the point home to the extent that I became upset. A cascade of emotions (ah, the joys of perimenopausal hormonal fluctuations) just wouldn’t let up all that day. I was fine for the evening, but woke on Christmas Day still feeling challenged, perhaps even more so. I realized that the stress of “holding things together” was affecting me more than I had thought. I would like to better understand the close link between the adrenal/stress hormones and female reproductive ones, but I was sure experiencing the depth of their relationship on Christmas Day. Thank goodness for understanding relatives – being overly emotional is not at all usually my mode.

The excitement and enjoyment of Boxing Day socializing, more dinners and game nights with extended family (this is a very energetic and fun-loving crowd we have been welcomed in to, hurrah), as well as tickets to a play production of “It’s a Wonderful Life” at our local East Riding Theatre seemed to bring out good spirits in all of us, thank goodness. And tonight was another gathering with dear friends – dinner and yet more games. People do seem to have social time as a primary priority here, and we have greatly benefited from that.

Here it is the new year. Happy 2018 to you all – may you all feel the community of friends and family around you. May there be many blessings and joys in the coming weeks and months of this new cycle of time.

Threading Coincidences

I’m clearing out the basement of my mother’s house. Ma très chère mère died six years ago, but we’ve rented the house out as much as possible since then and haven’t ever had the time or inclination to do the job fully. Since I’m (forcibly) in the US for many weeks (please pardon my complaining about the UKVI process!), this seems an excellent time to get done a good portion of this important project.

I needed to sew something and pulled out this cute little sewing box from a trunk that belonged to my paternal grandmother. Some very vintage items in here. IMG_2286

It’s funny – just a month or so before I left Beverley, I bought one of those wooden sock darning forms at a “yard sale” for 10p. Now, here are two of them. I constantly have the strong and deep impression that everything I need is here at my mother’s house, that she continues to provide for me. I do hate getting rid of some of these items. Will they be appreciated by someone else? If I knew that for sure, it would be so much easier. I have to simply say a prayer that they shall be.

In the sewing box was this little vintage card of tapestry needles:

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I particularly like this for two reasons. One is that I’m often using tapestry needles and seem to need to buy them a couple of times a year if I’m not careful with keeping track of them (I usually have too many knitting projects going at once and tend to leave my finishing needle with the unfinished project, in a careful but not permanent place). Second is that it made me smile because of the company name. “Boyes” is a store in Beverley we often shop at and where I likely WOULD have gone to get more tapestry needles should I need them! I love these little cosmic jokes.

I had another one just yesterday. I might as well include it here now. I posted a picture of this framed poster on my instagram account:

MacHaydn poster

What in the world was this doing in my mother’s basement? Besides the fact that it is full of mildew (oh dear…), the shock factor for me was that it comes from a theatre I live very close to in Columbia County. My mother’s house is on the eastern tip of Long Island and I was living here in 1979. The MacHaydn is in a beautiful but pretty sleepy town five or six hours away. My mother has never been to the MacHaydn and was only ever in Chatham after I moved to that area sixteen years ago. It was a very, very odd colliding of the worlds to find that yesterday.

Of course, I then figured that the poster was a find at a thrift shop or yard sale (sources of all good things, before TJ Maxx came to town) for its frame some years ago, but still – what are the odds that a thrift shop out here would have a poster from up there? I wonder how many years it’s been down there? I’m quite certain it was acquired long before I moved to Columbia County, before I was even aware of its existence. My mother would often buy frames for her NYC aunt’s art projects – this was in the 90’s. That aunt was no longer living by the time we were house hunting in 2000. I still can’t shake the feeling of how odd is this coincidence.

What little messages does the universe constantly send us that we may or may not be aware of?

Tasty Fall Cauliflower

Is cauliflower the hot new vegetable? When I was in Trader Joe’s a week or two ago, near Albany, I saw a whole open freezer display cabinet filled with cauliflower products – packaged diced frozen pieces of it, cauliflower-based pizza crust, fully constructed pizza made with a choux-fleur base, and who knows what else. I was intrigued.

Later that week I bought a GORGEOUS specimen of organic yellow cauliflower at the farm store of the Farm at Miller’s Crossing in Claverack, NY. What a beautiful building they have, and what vegetable riches filled the old barn. We didn’t eat it right away, but a few days later when I was in New Jersey, we roasted and enjoyed it.

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Yesterday Nicholas drove over to Watermill on Long Island (I know, we are still really getting around) and bought two bags of organic veggies at The Green Thumb market, including both a yellow and a white cauliflower. Both were beautiful, and the white one became dinner.

I heated a heavy enamel pan with a tablespoon each of olive and coconut oils and one of butter. Into this I added about a tablespoon of powdered cumin, half a teaspoon of powdered turmeric and a quarter teaspoon of cayenne and slowly cooked them for a couple of minutes. I added the head of of cauliflower, cut into florets, and stirred everything to coat with the spices plus about a half teaspoon of sea salt. The leaves and stalk were also included, since they were all organic!

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I then put the pan in the oven, preheated to 375-degrees F and the convection fan on. This roasted for about half an hour.

What deliciousness emerged – the cauliflower was tender inside but the edges had a crispness to them. The leaves were like kale chips. The spice and salt level was mild, but noticeable. I might want a tad more spice flavor next time. This is definitely a recipe to repeat.

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Eurythmy Revisited

As we were leaving Hawthorne Valley on Halloween Eve, I met the eyes of a woman I used to do eurythmy with. We both attended two of the same classes over a period of a few years. She came over and we spoke for quite a while, about European vs. American lifestyles (she used to live in Germany and elsewhere) and then she announced, “Oh, Nina, tomorrow is Wednesday Eurythmy with Karen, come!”.

I can’t tell you how excited I was at that prospect. Every time I’ve been away from eurythmy for a period of time (usually due to home schooling) and then been able to start up again, I’ve felt an intense “rightness” and even an urgency about moving the forms with the class. I had looked and looked and made phone calls and wrote emails with the goal of finding a group in England, but I wasn’t successful other than eventually speaking with a fellow in York who used to have an adult class but nothing current. Sigh.

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What is eurythmy? The official definition, as I remember it, is a form of movement developed by Rudolf Steiner meant to embody “visible speech”.  I find it to be very reminiscent of qi cong, an ancient form of Chinese martial arts comprised of movements that circulate energy in the meridians of the body to cultivate health and personal power. Since I’m an acupuncturist, that’s rather up my alley. I love the meeting of the intangible with the tangible, of feeling the energy move so strongly that there are physical sensations in the body. It’s a reminder of the magic of being in a body, of the unseen dimensions of the energy beings we actually are.

Anyway, I went to class on Wednesday morning, was graciously welcomed in to the group, and I thought again to myself how much I’d MISSED THIS. I am super lucky to have found a qi cong class in Beverley, but I’d love to do eurythmy as well.

I don’t have any photos of people moving eurythmy. I do have a picture of the amazing new bathrooms in the downstairs level of the building where we had class. I’ll just have to pop that in here:

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This is a very “Waldorf esthetic” to use natural wood with simple forms and to bring in rough tree trunks is all the better. The whole space is gorgeous at Mettabee Farm.

Thank you to the teacher and class for giving me another experience of moving and sensing eurythmy. It feeds me so!

 

Back in “My Community”

On the day of Halloween Nicholas and I drove over to Hawthorne Valley, which is a unique place. It is a collection of Steiner school buildings and playing fields (where our children attended Waldorf school for most of the elder’s schooling and a few years of the younger’s), biodynamic farm fields and buildings, homes of people somehow related to the school or farm, a crafts and school supply store, and a fabulous farm store eco-building that sells raw milk, organic and biodynamic veggies and meats and cheeses as well as thousands of packaged “health foods” and non-toxic cosmetics and cleaning supplies. I used to shop there often, and it was a treat to have a visit.

Nicholas and I went mostly just to have a cup of tea and sit and chat about a big subject related to our “spending more time in England” theme. What happened is that I felt wonderfully enveloped in the feeling of belonging to a place I used to know well.

Just looking at the bulletin board with all their notices of exciting happenings made me nostalgic – this is only a slice of offerings advertised:

HVFS BulletinBoard

Lots and lots of classes and talks and events – though, to be honest, many of them had always felt too far away for me to get all the years we lived there. Our house is a half-hour from Hawthorne Valley and evening activities were always tough, being away from kids at meal and bedtimes. But our visit last week made me nostalgic all the same!

What occupied most of our time there was speaking with people. We saw a string of wonderful souls we engaged with – from our elder’s main Waldorf class teacher, who we saw riding his bicycle and stopped to chat with in the parking lot, to a previous classmate who always impressed us a little boy and is now looking all grown-up and very poised and able to converse so well, to many friends we hadn’t previously had a chance to connect with and it was such a joy to see them all. We were at the Farm Store for hours!

I felt so welcomed by and into the community that I had invested fifteen years in, and I suppose that experiencing that warmth and connection made me grieve the notion of leaving it. I know that I can create more community in England, but that takes time. And is there a place anything like Hawthorne Valley anywhere in East Yorkshire?

 

Runswick Bay last August

Here is an entry I never posted! A taste of summer now that Fall is here.

…After our NY friends left us at our camping grounds, the sun was also absent. Overcast and rainy days were the norm for the remainder of our trip. But we made the most of it! One drizzly morning (the day after it rained torrentially) we headed out for a drive. Runswick Bay was our destination.

Actually, we thought we were supposed to be camping in Runswick Bay the whole week – there is a caravan site there owned by the same company we used, but ours was in the Dales instead. The fact that they both had the same name had confused us. Runswick Bay is a tiny town on the coast, about half an hour from where we were camping. It’s magnificent in the summer and must be both lonely and treacherous in the winter months. Perched on a hill, the walkways are made of slippery stone steps. Cars don’t go through the little collection of house streets, it’s that small. Parking is mostly to one side of the village.

We walked down to the sea and then started back up again to explore the town. We were transfixed by the colors of the cottages – this one was particularly beautiful:

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Each one has a gloriously perfect view of the sea. The tide was low and far out. If we’d have brought wellies with us, we’d have been exploring the rocks more, but as it was we kept to higher ground.

Runswick SeaView

We felt like we kept discovering secret treasures ’round each corner we walked. A house just slightly further up the hill had a garden jam-packed with trees, bushes and flowers, the largest of which was a glorious fig-tree, huge-leaved and with pendulously ripe figs. I was transfixed.

Runswick FigTree

Perhaps I am easily impressed by figs, but these delighted me. Also amazing was the fact that the birds hadn’t eaten them all! While I was standing, marveling at this riddle, a woman walked by, the owner of the house. We chatted. She told us that she lives in her house only for the summer and that there are but TWELVE year-round residents. I asked her about her tree and she said she didn’t eat the figs and we could pick them if we wanted. Incredulous, I asked if she was sure, and she immediately went and got us a bag from inside her house. Overwhelmed by both her generosity and that of the tree, we picked these beauties:

RunswickBay FigsWhole

I’m trying to determine WHY figs excite me so. When I was younger, living on the eastern tip of Long Island, NY, I don’t think we ever had any fresh figs, but we did eat the dried ones that came in a circular “ring” of string, from Greece I think. The few times that I brought some in my lunch to school, it seemed my classmates found them too exotic and unfamiliar. No one else ate them. My family felt different from most families in terms of many of our food choices, especially regarding fruits, probably. Pomegranates were another – a girl briefly moved to my school from California in seventh or eighth grade, and she was the only person I’d ever seen eat a pomegranate in school. I felt bonded to her on that basis alone! I still remember her given name: Megan Morgan, even though I never again saw her after that year. Sorry for that tangent…

I don’t remember the first fresh fig I ate, but it must have been in Staten Island or Manhattan, where many more “non-Northeast” foods were available. My mother probably presented them the way she always served food: simply yet beautifully, somehow understatedly communicating appreciation and love.  I paid attention to my mother’s recommendations and recognized them as always being of superior quality and generally adopted her preferences for my own. As for the fresh figs, I loved both the taste and texture  – small green ones and small black ones are what I remember. And when I was thirteen, I went to France for the first time and my aunt’s house on L’Île d’Yeu had a fig tree. We got one fig off of it because it was too early to expect many. That one fruit was spectacular, and several of us shared tiny slices of it. How I wished we could stay ’til September and enjoy a bountiful supply, sigh…

And so, here we were standing in front of a prolifically productive tree. I’d NEVER seen figs this large. Nearly as long as my hand, and very darkly purple. Picking them was like winning the jackpot for me. We ate one right away, eyes widening in excitement, finished off a few more in the parking lot on our way out of the village, and the rest we savored more slowly back at the campsite over the next two days.

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Delicious, truly. Fully and perfectly ripe. We devoured half of them far too quickly, yet also consciously relishing their flavor. They were so large that eating just one of them was nearly like a meal. Thank you, fig-tree owner! I shall forever-more hold magical memories of Runswick Bay.

Where have I been?

It is Fall is the US, and I have been here for almost nine weeks. I have only written one blog post since my time here, my goodness! My time felt very much occupied with communicating with my British lawyer about my visa and making sure all the necessary information was submitted, then trying to pack in all the tasks I needed to do in the first three weeks because I thought my visa would be ready for me soon, then worrying about how LONG my visa was taking and what my children were doing without me (because they were in school in England), then realizing how relaxed I was starting to feel not needing to focus on anyone’s needs but my own, then finally starting to do some things for FUN for myself. I had several days with my aunt in NJ and we did a cleanse together and spent time in her gardens and went to a wild and wonderful new Network chiropractor she’d discovered. Almost two weeks ago I drove to Boston to take a training in acupuncture with Kiiko Matsumoto, Japanese teacher and practitioner extraordinaire. Last week found me in Manhattan to visit a Wellesley friend I hadn’t seen in fifteen years and with whom the years simply fell away while we talked for hours. It was all lovely and I felt like an “individual” rather than a mother, Halleluliah! Currently I am reunited with my children while they’re on school break for half-term (sounds SO English, and it comes so naturally to us now :).

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We were welcomed in to the home of our Stuyvesant neighbors – their table felt like Fall, so I snapped a picture last night. The dahlias are from their garden, as are the two smallest gourds; the tea cosy I’d knitted for them last year but they need a larger teapot! This was the home of the friends who visited us in Beverley in August. We’d been in their home so many times over the course of fifteen years, but never to stay, since we lived right next door! It was odd and yet perfect, to be with them. Having the comforts of home was excellent, as I don’t enjoy eating out three meals a day for any length of time. It was funny that they have an Aga, oven of England, and we don’t have one in our UK home. I loved using it, and we got to spend good time with friends.

My girls have been so very busy with their friends that I haven’t spent many hours with them, actually. I am very glad they have the time to revisit the home and community they knew for their whole lives. Nearly every day and night they have been deep in conversation and play with these bosom buddies. They are saying they don’t want to leave, but Friday shall find them flying back to England. I hope it goes alright.

I hope to write more while I am here. Happy November to you all!

They made me leave

Well, my six month tourist visa has expired, and I am back in the U.S. temporarily. I hate not being with the rest of my family who have stayed in the UK. It is SO strange to be back “home”. Two of the first things I noticed right away, that really struck me: everything truly does look much larger here than in England, and related to that, there is so much space on the roads both for the cars and between towns. Everything is big in the Big Old U.S.A. I’d gotten quite used to the English scale which is really and truly much smaller.

My first day in New York, we went to a Whole Foods shop. There was another moment of reverse culture shock. Now this is a funny one for me – previously on every trip I’ve made to England, the prices have felt quite high, but for this half a year I’ve been extremely pleasantly surprised to find that prices of most things seem actually a good deal better than in New York. Take, for example, organic produce. At Tesco’s in Beverley I can buy a head of organic celery for only one pound (just over a dollar). At Whole Foods, it was $3.49. Huge difference. Many other organic foods have a similar price gap.

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One thing that made me gasp with delight was to see the section of probiotic foods. Ah, now that is something that there is very little of in the part of England I’ve been in. I don’t think I’ve seen ANY “true” sauerkraut for sale in any shops, though I’m sure some must be somewhere. Look at this grand variety of choices at the same Whole Foods market:

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I bought a nice little box of miso and have been having a cup of miso soup every day since. Yum, yum, yum. I would have bought some sauerkraut, too, but it was ridiculously expensive! I usually make my own anyway, unless I go to the Hawthorne Valley Farm Store where they make it and so sell it for slightly better. I didn’t get to the Farm Store yet but might in the coming weeks. They make excellent products.

That’s all I’ll manage for the moment about my UK/US impressions. I’m waiting for a new visa to come through to allow me to return to England, and while I’m “home”, I’m working hard on several projects. Hopefully I’ll get to see some dear friends, as well.