Souvenir of the West Country

I never dreamed a month could pass so quickly.

20090925_153226.JPGThe very fleetness, of course, as I have had occasion to learn over and over again, is the levy time imposes on our happiest hours. There’s always a stern little claw-like hand grasping for a toll at the passage to fairyland, and we pay it with alacrity, straining for a glimpse at the enchantments that lay beyond, assuring ourselves that the price really isn’t all that steep, and that the rate of exchange is doubtless more in our favor than the last time we traded in such currency.

But no matter how the individual days of our sojourn may seem to stretch forth into eternity itself, no matter how many timeless moments they may contain that suspend us between this world and the next, they are still bounded by the laws of the world in which we live. One of which is the disagreeable fact that a month of holiday is simply going to fly in contrast with a month of trouble or worry or over-commitment or grief. I’ve known both sides of the coin, and can see the value in both—but that doesn’t make it the least bit easier to leave England behind.

It only gets harder.

I’ve been home now as long as I was gone. September is a lovely dream which I’m still waking up from most mornings and which occasional dips into my journal and wistful perusals of my husband’s wonderful photographs have often to substantiate in the stern light of day. Was the water really that blue in Cornwall? Could you really feel the wild restlessness of Devon’s stormy past up there on the moors and down in the perpetual twilight of the wooded combes? Is Oxford as golden as I remember it? And were the Cotswolds really that glad to see me again—as happy as I was to see them?

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The Roseland, Cornwall, near Towan Beach

But the words I scribbled down in such joyful haste and the images that Philip preserved back me up. They testify that it was more beautiful than I could dare to let myself remember; that though I often despaired at my inability to do it justice and capped my pen with a sigh, that though Philip often turned his camera off and laid it aside just to sit and stare with me in silence, that it’s all there and that it’s real. Even the little Devon violet I pressed and glued into my journal has a voice, and the translucent red and green seaweed I lifted from a rock pool on Towan Beach and dried on stiff paper. The snail shells and pebbles on my kitchen windowsill and the tiny collection of Caribbean shells and sea glass we gathered near Woolacombe (and which I wet down to show my mother what the entire beach looked like)—these all remind me, with trustworthy persistence, that the verities they represent actually exist.

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The Parterre, Lanhydrock, Cornwall

My very soul has been steeped with the intoxicating freshness of English air. I’m haunted by the songs of robins in the hedgerows and the wild, eerie shrieks of pheasants in the darkening woods and by the music of the sea coming in an open window at night. My imagination has been quickened by crumbling ruins and seaside castles and walled gardens and ancestral estates.

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Exmoor, North Devon

And I am more in love with England than ever…

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The Gribben Head, Cornwall

20 Responses to “Souvenir of the West Country”

  1. Claudia Adams says:

    What a beautiful post…photos and all! Can almost smell the earth with your descriptions of “our blessed plot”..enjoy this perfect fall day. love you, Mama

  2. Stacy says:

    A beautiful post….What could be lovelier than a month in England? I can think of nothing 🙂

  3. Josie Ray says:

    Lanier, thank you for sharing your lovely memories. May the photos and words always take you to England, when surrounding life has pushed the feeling away…though it’s easy to see from photos of your “farm in the city” that there’s at least one charming patch of English soil this side of the Atlantic.

    Your new blog design is lovely, too, and I’m so glad to have the opportunity to comment. Though…I *do* miss Ophelia! 🙂 What treasures of books you have. I see a number of old friends on your shelves, some even the same editions.

    You have a lovely spirit.

  4. LOVELY!!! I am so happy to see a glimpse of your wonderful journey to England. Can’t wait to see more pictures. 🙂 Love the new bookshelf background, too!

  5. Deb says:

    Lanier,
    Once again, you have deftly transported me to another time and place. Reading your post reminds me of Jane Eyre, Jane Austen, Middlemarch, and all my other friends who have lived on pages of beloved books and walked the windswept lanes and meadows of England.
    I love the new look, but most of all, I love that you’re writing again!!!!!
    Deb

  6. Judith says:

    I was born and bred in “this England” and the beauty of “my” homeland still takes my breath away sometimes. This afternoon is equisite – the sun is shining on the bare golden-brown countryside, the sky is clear and the air is crisp, tinged with rain and woodsmoke. It’s easy to think of the romance of days gone by in history. I’m so blessed to live here – and blessed, also, to know that you’ve been here and loved it … and love it STILL. Hopefully you’ll get to come back someday …

    By the way, I’m a long-time reader of YLCF … and Lanier’s Books, although I’ve never been able to comment before. The new look is beautiful!

  7. Josie Ray says:

    p.s. You cut your hair! Do you like it short? Or are you planning to grow it right back? It looks charming either way.

  8. Josie Ray says:

    Last comment, I promise, or you’ll cut off commenting…smile. Having just visiting the sites of a few other commenters, I realize that the greatest gift of being able to comment here is going to be finding truly beautiful blogs of kindred spirits. Thank you, Lanier, for this gift also.

  9. Gorgeous pictures and beautiful words, as usual….And the new blog look is *wonderful*!

  10. Wendy says:

    Oh sigh…it’s all so lovely… I can feel that ‘Pat’ mood coming on just reading your post… Thank you Lanier – can’t wait to see all the pictures! (I love your bookshelf background – good job Philip!)

  11. Martina says:

    Congratulations to your new beautiful design! I love looking at old books and wonder what stories are behind them, who touchend them, where they were maybe hidden…
    I also love your wonderful site, Lanier! I found you through YLCF and spent many pleasant and delightful hours here. Your writing is a true inspiration to enjoy everything beautiful in our lives, and it makes me see so many little things for which I want to be thankful.
    Sometime this summer I listened to your “Figaro”-duet here – I always wanted to come back to it, because I liked your pure, natural voices so much. Did it disappear or did I just look in the wrong place? By the way: the singing with your friends is beautiful also, like angels! Did you ever try this in empty churches? I did, with likeminded friends, when we were in France with school visiting old cathedrals or little churches. It was long ago, but I will never forget it!
    Thank you for everything, and keep singing and writing!

  12. Lanier Ivester says:

    Thank you all for the lovely words–they went straight to my heart, and I will definitely pass along the compliments to my husband on what he’s done with the site! It’s good to ‘see’ so many of you again. 🙂

    And, Josie, yes, I did cut my hair. 😉 And I’m loving it–I’ll probably grow it back out again someday, but it’s been really fun…

    Martina, getting the ‘songs’ posted again are on the punch list. It was sweet of you to notice that they hadn’t made it over yet. 🙂 And, yes, I have some of the most beautiful memories of singing with a dear friend in the empty church at Iona, Scotland…thank you for bringing it back.

  13. Jodi says:

    Dear Lanier,

    I love your site and have been reading it for quite a while. You truly have the gift of writing. I have enjoyed your posts here and at YLCF, and have definitely experienced the “what – you, too?” C.S. Lewis moments. We are also collectors of old books. And the Innocence Mission can frequently be heard playing in our home. Looking forward to reading more.

    Jodi

    P.S. In our family my husband is Badger, and I am Mole. We also have a Ratty, Toad, a jailer’s daughter, and an elf who escaped from another book.

  14. Ashley says:

    Lanier,

    I love the new look of your blog. Thank you for sharing the pictures of your trip to England. I especially liked the picture of Exmoor since I am currently reading “Lorna Doone” by R. D. Blackmore which is set in 17th century Exmoor. Your picture really helped me to understand the setting.

  15. Katy says:

    Was The Parterre in Cornwall featured in the production of ‘Twelfth Night’ with Imogen Stubbs and Helena Bonham Carter by any chance? It’s very lovely!

    I’m so glad you enjoyed England so much.

    With regard to the new layout – are those your bookshelves? They’re gorgeous. Something I aspire to!

  16. Lanier Ivester says:

    Katy, to answer your questions, yes, Lanhydrock in Cornwall was one of the filming locations for 12th Night, as as St. Michael’s Mount down the coast. 🙂

    And, yes, those are my shelves–some of my ‘book-children’. 😉

  17. Agnes says:

    Lanier, thank you for writing these lovely words about England! I have been living in London for many years and it’s easy to forget the beauty and magic of this country amidst the hustle and bustle. Thank you for renewing my vision! And I see you have also been to Iona, truly one of the most magical and spiritual places on earth.. thank you for allowing us to glimpse the beautiful garden of your soul through your words.

  18. Katie says:

    Lovely pictures!

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