Sunday, May 5, 2013

Silent Sundays

Several months ago I started what I'd like to call Silent Sundays.

Ritual and tradition don't hold a big place in my life, but Silent Sundays are (often) a welcome and needed part of my week. Some would describe this time as antisocial; I would lean more toward a reboot. Five days a week I talk (or sing) virtually non-stop for at least 8 hours straight... most of the year closer to 10 hours. I am a one-woman show of instruction, stand-up, and melodrama, all centered around making music. My 5 seconds (oh wait... those are minutes?) in between shows are filled with building relationships, primarily with students (but sometimes even adults!), through encouraging, reminding, teasing, correcting. Much of the year my Monday-Friday gig extends into Saturday. Before and after, I'm flooded with information on the radio, TV, and my all too precious laptop and iPhone. Every second of the day my brain is on and active.

And so I started Silent Sundays. Not a clever name (but a fabulous display of alliteration), I gift myself the opportunity to reset my mind, my ears, my throat, and just be. 

Some Sundays that looks like catching up on my Oprah magazines that have a tendency to stack up. Sometimes it means tending to my gardens and yard. Sometimes it's yarn. Sometimes it's literally just an alternation between sitting and napping. My Sundays are each their own incarnation of my personal holiday, but they all share that special ingredient: silence. Today I started with coffee on the porch, then moved to a warm spot in the sun. I sat in my blue adirondack listening to the soft ring of my wind chimes, the bird in my neighbor's tree calling to another, a faint hum of bees on my salvia, somewhere in the distance a car. A curl from my ponytail tickled my neck in the breeze. Scarlet nuzzled in my lap. While the air was cool, the morning sun was warm on my face. I closed my eyes, allowed my neck to relax as my head rested on the back of the chair. The sounds of my .18 acre of the world washed over me but didn't linger as my mind cleared and became still. I was so still, my thoughts quieted, for what length of time I don't know. And then a moment of clarity...

Holy cow! I think I'm meditating! 

While not my intention, I think perhaps that is what Silent Sunday has become - undefined meditation: a chance for me to recenter, regroup, and reinvigorate for another week of shows; a chance to clear my mind of thoughts and worries; a chance to focus on sanity; a chance to focus on what I need at that moment, and often it is silence.

Happy Silent Sunday!

Monday, March 18, 2013

London, a Pictorial 2: Tower, Tate, Toilets, & St. Paul's


 First thing Tuesday, we visited the Tower of London 
to see the Crown Jewels (awesome) and hear a Beefeater storyteller.

The Royal Seal above the Entrance.

Then we found a collection of Royal armor in the White Tower.
Henry VIII's "skinny" armor with a very... optimistic... cod piece.

The world's smallest & largest sets of armor.

These are carvings that prisoners made while held captive at the Tower.

London Bridge!


 Then we visited the Tate Modern on the south side of the Thames. 

And after we perused the art work, we had tea on the top floor. No joke, this was the view from our table. I took the picture below through the wall of windows.  

A walk back across Millennium Bridge and we were ready to take some St. Paul's Cathedral pictures.

Architecture is always better in black & white.

A quick run through of Fortnum & Mason (more tomorrow), and we ended the day with take-away pasties (PASS-tees) for dinner... think empanadas with delicious fillings like tomato, basil, and cheese.



 Windsor Wednesday! Home of the royal family for 900 years!

The castle really isn't that picturesque on the outside, but from the inside (again, no pictures allowed) it reminded me much of Versailles. In this picture, you can see where an old moat was turned into a rose garden. That crafty queen... :) 

After ooh-ing and ah-ing over the state rooms iced in gold leaf, we headed out to find the toilets... A moment that lives in infamy. My dear, sweet, reliable, lifeline of a phone jumped from my back pocket into the icy depths of a British John... I know it was icy because I plunged my hand in after it. Just seconds later, my phone flickered it's last wavy screen shots. 

Within 20 minutes, we had found a supermarket called Waitrose hidden within the maze of Windsor township, and my phone was buried in a £1.99 bag of rice that I emptied into a ziplock bag well before I even reached the checkout counter. My American debit card crashed the system, and an additional 10 minutes later we were back at Windsor Castle to see St. George's Chapel and the tomb of Henry VIII laying in the middle of the chapel's quire.

A leisurely lunch at a pub (finally found me a tasty vegetarian dish) followed by Evensong at St. Paul's Cathedral rounded out the afternoon and early evening. The highlight of the mass was when the priest read, "...and Jesus said, 'WOMAN!...' " which is funny only if you know how I talk. I joked that the next time I was going to use the word "woman" as an exclamatory, I would precede it with "and Jesus said." ;) 

Back to Fortnum & Mason for their Take Tea in the Parlour service with a steaming pot of Jubilee Tea, scones with clotted cream and jam, and special little ice cream cakes. Finally, we headed back to the hotel to (let's be honest) play on Facebook. :) Not many pictures that day... Partially because my phone was dead. :( 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

London, A Pictorial: Night Pictures, British Museum, & the British Library

(You can click the pictures for their original size versions.)

By 8:00pm (Saturday), we were finally on the plane headed from DFW to London Heathrow! We were so crazy lucky that we had the middle 3 seats of the 5-seat center, and the two aisle seats were empty!!! :) 

We got to London via the Heathrow Express train at Paddington Station. The first thing we did on arrival was dump our stuff at our hotel just a block from Victoria Station. Off to a hop-on bus tour!

Yes, we were the only ones brave enough (read 'dumb enough') to sit on the top deck. :) 

At some point we realized this bus was stopping too frequently for us to make it to the organ concert at Westminster Abbey that evening, so we hopped off the bus and figured out which Tube lines would get us to the Westminster stop. As we climbed the steps from the Underground, our eyes were met with this:


We walked from Parliament across the street to Westminster. This is the side entrance near the high altar. Freezing, we joined the crowd gathering at the south entrance (main) for the organ recital. No pictures were allowed inside the abbey, but I was emotionally moved.

For dinner our first night, we found a pub called the Jugged Hare and indulged in their specialty - pies. Mine was the closest and was filled with duck, port, and cranberries. SO delicious! 

Off for some night pictures!

I call this one "Leaning Tower of Elizabeth". I'm not sure how I took this so crooked... While the clock might be called Big Ben, the tower is actually the Elizabeth Tower, renamed in honor of her Diamond Jubilee.

My new lens had some serious zoom power.

Some of the stained glass.
Look super close at the 4th martyr from the left.

By this point, my fingers were too cold to function any more, 
so we took the Tube back to our hotel and slept hard.



 Monday we started the day with a trip to the British Museum. From the moment I fell in love with mummies 20 years ago, I have wanted to visit the British Museum, but getting to do so in the snow was even better! We seemed to be the minority excited about the weather.

Dude! That's the real Rosetta Stone! 

 The ceiling of the British Museum

 side trip to King's Cross Station!!!

 A trip to the British Library (no pictures inside...) showed us Handel's Messiah, a Gutenberg Bible, and one of the only 4 remaining copies of the Magna Carta with King John's actual seal! 

And we ended our first full day with a tea service at Harrod's, 
quite possibly the coolest department store ever!