Friday, June 27, 2014

A Summer Wood

A smooth chanterelle, I think.

A bolete or some sort, trying to work it out.

Another bolete, they are so sturdy.

Woodland Moss & Ferns are flourishing from the summer rains.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Under Midsummer Stars

Saturday was the summer solstice. Everything was in peak bloom, the forest awash in a green heat. Summer solstice is the longest day of the year and beginning of summer here. On ancient calendars, such as the Celtic calendar, the day marked the middle of summer and is often still called Midsummer. Later, it became the feast day of St. John for Christians. Here in the Midwest, it always feels much more like Midsummer to me, rather than just the beginning.
The longer I make my home in these woods, I yearn to follow the rhythms of the earth, celebrate them, and become attuned to them. So, like many across the lands, we lit a bonfire and enjoyed the light in the darkness, a crackling wood percussion accompanied by a symphony of birds, night bugs, and frogs under an exceptionally starry night.

Friday, June 20, 2014

British Isles #9: Boot Tramping

The trip before this one, I took several photos of my hands on things. This trip I took several of my feet in some of my favorite spots. I leave a trace, a track, a path, with my hands and feet as I travel and capturing this imprint in photos is just a reminder to myself where my boots have trodden, where I've scuffed my toes, across which stones I've ran my fingers across, into what moss I've plunged my fingers. And as you can see, I am a light packer and take only the shoes on my feet. These did the trick, waterproof, heel-less, & comfy. Also, they zipped up the back which allowed me to skip lacing them up again and again but also let me loosen them if my feet swelled or I doubled up on socks.
So here are some of my tramping grounds.
Craigmillar Castle near Edinburgh, Scotland

The beach of pebbles and boulders at the base of Dunnottar Castle, Stonehaven, Scotland.

Traipsing through the tide on the beach at the base of Dunnottar Castle.

Walking upon Hadrian's Wall, Walltown Crags, near Haydon Bridge, England.

The stone floor of Hailes Castle, Scotland.

Hiking up the stream at Burn O'Vat, Scotland

Monday, June 16, 2014

British Isles #8: Staithes

View of Village from Cowbar Nab, a windy, seaside cliff head.

Staithes is a sleepy seaside village in North Yorkshire, England on the Jurassic Coast, so named because of  its wealth of fossils millions of years old. Staithes' most famous resident was explorer, Captain James Cook who may have picked up his penchant for wild uncharted seas here. Old town Staithes is built entirely on a steep cliff, the way you might see an Italian of Greek town on the Mediterranean. And if the sky had been blue and the sun blazing it would have resembled such a village. In the summer, this is probably a happenin' place but Staithes, under a curtain of cold, steady rain, was all but deserted.
Visitors must park up at the top of the hill in pay and park lot (I found you must pay to park almost anywhere in Britain) and then walk down the hill to the old village. The town is small, walkable (if you're up for some hills), has a few restaurants and art galleries, but we were there for the incredible views. We walked around the deserted streets for a bit then crossed to the other side of the harbor and made our way up to Cowbar Nab, a National Trust property open to the public. It is steep hill walk to get there and muddy, rough, and windy once you're up there. Do be careful - you are on a cliff. The view in one direction is of the wide ocean and cliffs along the coast. The view to the other direction is the colorful collection of cottages that make up the village of Staithes. It looks storybook, unreal, like tiny model houses of someone's dream out of some other time. With all of the daily trappings of the modern age, I relish moments that offer me a glimpse of another time, a simpler time. Staithes delivered this to me briefly; I had to snatch it from the sideways, cliff top rain.
Staithes storied buildings and tiny alleys through which you can sometimes spy the ocean.

The quiet, cobbled streets of Staithes.
A lovely letter box on a door in town, wished I had something to slip into it.

Waymarker to Cowbar Nab near the entrance gate.

View opposite the village from Cowbar Nab cliff head.

View of village and harbor from Cowbar Nar cliff head.

View of Staithes Harbor at the base of the hill.


British Isles #7:
More York Rambles

Church of the Holy Trinity, Goodramgate - a lovely quiet, green space surrounds this lovely little church open to visitors. No longer an active church.  

Some fantastic wrought iron work down a York snickelway.
York Minster Cathedral - begun in 1220 and finished in 1427. We didn't make it into the cathedral but it kept revealing itself to us.
This way or that near York Minster.

Dean's Park, York

Ruins of St. Mary's Abbey - 11th century Benedictine Abbey in Dean's Park next to the Yorkshire Museum.

Friday, June 13, 2014

British Isles #6:
The Shambles, York

The Shambles is a very old lane. Some argue it is the best preserved Medieval street in Europe, though some sources note that none of the storefronts are original. The street is mentioned in the Domesday Book in 1086 though many of the buildings date later around the 14th and 15th centuries. The cobbled lane is lined by old buildings with overhanging upper stories, lurching overhead as if they are growing up and over the lane. The overhangs cover the lane in shade. I wondered, have I stumbled into Diagon Alley?
Historically, The Shambles was called Fleshammels, meaning street of the butchers. Indeed, it was a street of butchers and the meat would hang on hooks in the shady recess below the overhanging second stories. Some of these hooks can still be found.

"The Shambles" is often used to describe collectively all the small lanes in the area and the snickelways snaking between them but The Shambles is actually just one street, a few blocks long, with Little Shambles street jutting off to the side (which lead to a nice little outdoor market). It was much smaller than I had imagined and lined with shops that were less intriguing than I wished (but I did kind of expect Ollivander's Wands and Flourish & Blotts). It was quite busy on a rainy March day. I hate to imagine a summer weekend in the Shambles full of sweaty tourists. That said, the area is definitely worth exploring, crowded or not.
At night, however, The Shambles is all but deserted. We explored The Shambles at night after a rain (and a few pints) and it felt as ancient as it actually is. The commercialism had gone to bed with the sun. Only lovers and lurkers and history remained.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

British Isles #5:
The House of Trembling Madness

While I do note places I'd like to eat or drink on trip, I do not plan around it. I'm not a gourmand and there are places I'd rather see than the inside of restaurants and things I'd rather do than wait all evening for a table. We usually play it all by ear. That said, sometimes a place demands to be visited. The House of Trembling Madness is such a place. The name alone intrigued me as I researched travel in York. A visit to their website sealed the deal. We must make it to the House of Trembling Madness, I thought. And so we did.

The House of Trembling Madness is a medieval drinking hall tucked into the first Norman house to be built in York at 48 Stonegate. The back of the structure dates to 1180 and the exposed beams of the House once sailed the salty seas as ship beams before it was built. Now, it continues its historic legacy by providing us with one of our oldest pastimes: drinking.

Worn wooden furniture fills the hall (which, I admit, is smaller than I imagined a hall to be). Exposed stone walls feature an ancient fireplace. Aged animal heads are mounted on the timber framed walls: boar, badger, duck, dog, pig. Deer, goat, fox, rabbit. Kangaroo? The bust of a Victorian lion roars silently above the bar. Even a human skull sulks in a corner and dares you to turn down a pint here.

Trembling Madness is named for delirium tremens - the shakiness one might encounter during alcohol withdrawals. You surely won't encounter that here, though, as there are ales and spirits a plenty. We tried Aspall Cider, Westmalle Tripel, Hofbrau, and some local, fruity ale that I cannot recall. The House offers a small menu of bar snacks as well as heartier plates. We had a chorizo stew and a Mad Burger, which both hit the spot on a cold, rainy York day.
Although we were quite obviously tourists (taking photos will blow your cover), most of the folks that were enjoying a pint were locals. No one minded us Midwesterners. In fact, we had great conversations with a few locals. We chatted nearly an hour about war and history, the victors and the vanquished, Guy Fawkes, America, Native Americans, and beer. The food and ales were great but I think the conversations might be the best thing served in the House of Trembling Madness.