Initially, we gave our young parakeets, Nikki & Hansi, flying lessons in our upstairs bathroom – holding separate perches and gradually increasing the distance between them until they were flying on their own in circles around the room.
Eventually, Nikki & Hansi were such capable avian aviators, that we frequently let them out of their cage in the dining room to fly at will around the room – which we kept spotlessly clean.
Nikki & Hansi’s cage sat beside our dining room’s northwest facing window, which never received direct or intense sunlight – allowing them to watch the wild birds in our backyard all day long while the curtains were open.
Our clematis vine began opening its first pink flowers of the year, as I guided it along a series of lead wires, suspended away from the exterior house walls in order to train it in the directions I wanted this beautiful vine to grow along our roofline.
Spring was in full bloom at our home we named Meadow View Cottage in Bridge Street Hamlet – enjoying the Mediterranean, ‘micro climate’ the bricks in our courtyard created as they warmed up in the sun – just beyond are the remnants of the, ‘old road’ layby and the historic little, thatched roof Blacksmith’s Cottage, just across the A134 Highway.
Ickworth House has acres of formal Italianat gardens, parkland and woodland belonging to the estate, and I took this photo of a peaceful, pastoral landscape scene of sheep grazing in an idyllic meadow while visiting the grounds of Ickworth House.
The historic village of Lavenham was only a mile or so down a country lane from our house, and this is the view across a field of rapeseed towards the Lavenham church of St. Peter and St. Paul: http://en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/Rapeseed ~ http://en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/Lavenham
I’ve cropped the previous photo to focus on Lavenham’s church of St. Peter and St. Paul – at one point in Medieval history Lavenham was one of the wealthiest villages in England.
I love Old World architecture, and this is a cropped photo of a portion of the historic Guildhall in Lavenham, which boasts some of the best preserved half-timbered buildings in England: @LavenhamNT http://www.nationaltrust .org.uk/lavenham/
The Guildhall in Lavenham dates from the 16th Century and is one of many half-timbered buildings in Lavenham – a virtual ‘open air museum’ of medieval buildings still in use today.
This is the Swan Hotel in Lavenham, a historic hotel with ties to the Eighth Air Force crews stationed at RAF Lavenham during WWII: http://www. theswanatlavenham.co.uk/ ~ http://en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/487th_Air_ Expeditionary_Wing
Here’s a cropped picture showing The Swan Hotel’s sign amid the cookie cutter features and unique architectural details of half-timbered, medieval buildings – the hotel’s bar was a popular place for Eighth Air Force aircrews stationed at RAF Lavenham to unwind during WWII: http://en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/RAF_Lavenham
This is a cropped view of the previous photos of The Swan Hotel, showing a few of the architectural details that go into constructing a half-timbered building – which later evolved into today’s modern timber frame style of home building.
Another view of medieval half-timbered construction techniques of joining wooden beams and timbers, mostly with pegs and notches like an interconnecting jigsaw puzzle without nails, which allows the structure to move and settle organically as it ages through the centuries.
I like cropping these pictures to only display a single, focused aspect of these medieval buildings, and imagine what it was like to live in and around this same doorway throughout the centuries!
One of the quaint features of medieval half-timbered buildings, is there are no square corners or parallel lines within them, and as they age over the centuries they take on a character and personality all their own – much the same as we do!
This cropped image was taken in April 1998, but for all intents and purposes it could be a picture from 1938 or earlier – which was the beauty of living in Suffolk, where time often stood still!
This is a cropped photo of The Crooked House Gallery in Lavenham, another fine example of a half-timbered building that twisted and leaned as it aged through the years: http://www.iknow-eastanglia .co.uk/attractions/100590- the_crooked_house_ gallery_-_lavenham.htm
It was now Easter 1998 at our house in Meadow View Cottage, and our family’s tradition has always been to enjoy a nice breakfast before Mass – here’s our dining room table set for breakfast with my wife’s many decorating touches.
A vase of daises decorates our kitchen table along with a few small Easter touches – our holiday traditions have always been very important to our family – the open doorway leads into the dining room next door.
We were enjoying our life in Bridge Street Hamlet, and this would be our third spring in rural Suffolk, immersed in the countryside and flavors of a time and place that acknowledged the present…and celebrated the past.
I’ve always enjoyed seeing decorated Easter eggs, symbols of the new life that is promised us at Easter – and here my wife has hung a number of Easter eggs from a wreath in our foyer under our staircase.
In these quiet moments of reflection, the stress and strains of modern life and external events just fades away, replaced with the calmer waters of tradition, commitment, shared values and memories.
Family traditions arise over time from shared experiences and memories, created season by season throughout the years, by keeping that which strengthens and reinforces, and letting go of the things that don’t.
Our kitchen window decorated for Easter, with small touches that are welcome reminders of the season in unexpected moments – my wife made the blue and white curtains and the bow, but these lace curtains were purchased and weren’t handmade.
David’s ready to enjoy my wife’s homemade Easter cake while I take this picture – coffee & cake in the late afternoon is one of our favorite family traditions ever since I first moved to Germany in 1983!
Our two, young parakeets were welcome additions to our family in 1998, and a source of joy for us with their individual antics, mannerisms and personalities – I gave them flying lessons when we first purchased them, using hand held perches in our upstairs bathroom.
The largest Easter egg hanging under my wife’s hand-crocheted lampshade, is a goose egg that David colored for Kindergarten during the time we lived in Monzelfeld, Germany, between 1989 and 1991.
It’s nice for me to pause and reflect on these photos of the time we lived in England, prior to retiring and moving to Keene, NH, in 2001 – our time spent in both Germany and England were very special years for our family.
Posting my pictures over the past few years has been a nice stroll down memory lane for me, from my childhood years up to this time in 1998 – I have one more photo post following this one, and then I’ll switch gears and begin posting my writings that tell the story behind my pictures!
Our family visited Hadrian’s Wall during a visit to Carlisle, Cumbria, in April 1998 – and here David stands beside the Hadrian’s Wall tourist information sign.
Hadrian’s Wall was built as a Roman fortification beginning in the year 122 – spanning the width of Great Britain, from west of Carlisle across to Solway Firth on the eastern coast at the North Sea.
David and I stand on Hadrian’s Wall, which today is a ruin and only a shadow of its former glory, built by the Romans to keep out the northern ‘barbarians’ – the site today is an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
I cropped the previous photo of David and I standing on Hadrian’s Wall, in order to show that I was giving David a set of ‘rabbit ears’ behind him – one of the little games we always played on each other in front of the camera!
David gives me a set of ‘rabbit ears’ which was a little difficult for him to do without my noticing – yet today he towers over me and I would be the one with the challenge!
Again, I’ve cropped the previous photo to show how much we both enjoyed our game of ‘rabbit ears’ – one aspect of our best buddies relationship in which he’s called me ‘Mark’ from the very beginning.
David stands on another portion of Hadrian’s Wall – and to read more about this famous UNESCO World Heritage Site, visit Wikipedia at: http://en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/Hadrian%27s_Wall
This is Carlisle Cathedral, dating from the year 1122, with a field of yellow daffodils blooming in the lawn in front of it – I’ve provided the Wikipedia link in the following picture’s caption.
This is the eastern side and stained glass window of Carlisle Cathedral, and if you visit Wikipedia you can see how beautiful the East window is from the inside: http://en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/Carlisle_Cathedral
A nice field of yellow and white daffodils bloom in the lawn in front of Carlisle Cathedral, on an overcast but otherwise fine day in Cumbria County, northern England – just south of the Scottish border.
Another view of Carlisle Cathedral with its blooms of yellow and white daffodils in Cumbria County – the home of the world-famous Lake District National Park: http://en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/Lake_District_ National_Park
I took this picture of David standing in front of a monument in Carlisle – in the background is ‘The Crown and Mitre Hotel’ – http://www.peelhotels.co.uk/ hotels/crown-and-mitre-hotel- carlisle-cumbria-england/
Even though we lived in England, the sight of red double decker buses, post boxes and phone booths always brought out the tourist smiles in us, and here David stands in front of the Carlisle ‘Visitor Centre’ with its red post box!
A view of Carlisle Castle with its perfectly manicured, green English lawn and one of the castle’s fortified entrance gates – an impressive fortress that has been involved in many battles throughout the years: http://en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/Carlisle_Castle
Another view of Carlisle Castle which dates from the year 1093, situated within the city of Carlisle, and managed by English Heritage as a significant historical site and tourist destination.
This is the hotel we stayed at during our visit to the Carlisle area and Hadrian’s Wall – I don’t recall its name or location in the general area, but it was in a rural area outside of Carlisle and offered us a very pleasant stay.
The best feature of our hotel was the lakeside view and location it had – with a sloping lawn down to the lake where we enjoyed strolls along the shoreline.
Another day and another section of Hadrian’s Wall – here David stands high above a portion of the wall pretending to be a Roman soldier giving my wife and I directions to halt.
Hadrian’s Wall was an impressive architectural accomplishment in its day by the Romans – one of two fortified lines of defense built by the Romans – the other being the Antonine Wall further to the north.
The remaining photographs mainly highlight the beautiful, natural and pristine landscape in the area of Hadrian’s Wall – in the distance behind David is a peaceful scene of sheep grazing in a lush green pasture.
In this picture the natural landscape falls away into a deep gorge with a twisting river, winding its way through pristine fields and forests in Cumbria, northern England.
David stands high above the gorge in front of a pristine landscape of lush, green fields and patches of woodland, on a typical overcast day in northern England.
This rural farm appears to be surrounded by Hadrian’s Wall not far from its front door, and I can easily imagine Dr. James Harriot of the book and TV series, ‘All Creatures Great and Small’ pulling up the pea-gravel drive to treat the young lambs during lambing season.
Another beautiful and pristine Cumbrian landscape with a clearing sky, high above a portion of Hadrian’s Wall, with a forest in the distance that stretches from horizon to horizon.
David had a great time exploring the sections of Hadrian’s Wall we visited, at various designated tourist access locations along its length in beautiful Cumbria during our trip.
In its day, I’m sure that Hadrian’s Wall was quite an imposing structure, especially when manned by Roman soldiers with garrison forts dotted along its length, but as with all empires, it took a lot of the Roman Empire’s resources to man, equip and defend it against the northern tribes.
One final picture of David on Hadrian’s Wall, and hopefully this blog post will help other families plan their own excursions to beautiful and scenic Carlisle and Cumbria in northern England!
Over the years, we’ve introduced David to many different extracurricular activities, and while living in the English countryside he began taking English riding lessons at a nearby riding stable a few miles away from our home in Bridge Street Hamlet.
Rural Suffolk was a beautiful place to live and the road we drove to get to the stables was like a page out of the past – a very narrow, winding way, bordered by tall hedgerows and farmer’s fields with quaint, little, stone arched ‘humpback’ bridges.
David continued his riding lessons here in Suffolk for a few years, along with the karate lessons he previously began in Germany, up until his commitment to the Sudbury Storms competitive swim team began taking up more and more of his time.
We’ve always tried to let David have as many opportunities to try new activities as we could, without pressuring him to continue on once he began losing interest.
English riding lessons were something new for David, although he had taken a lesson a few years prior in Germany, but it was only an opportunity for exposure to the sport.
It was quite common to see classic English hunts taking place when we previously lived in Oxfordshire, as well as here in Suffolk, and we’d frequently see riders passing by in front of our home in Bridge Street Hamlet as well.
I took these pictures during one of David’s early riding lessons, and while his pony challenged him at every opportunity it could, all-in-all, David took pretty well to the sport.
Here David’s pony had a mind of its own and ran around the jump instead of going over it – just one of many dynamic aspects of learning to control a large, strong, stubborn, opportunistic pony!
This time David succeeded in convincing his pony to jump the barrier, which is one of life’s lessons that needs to be learned – a sense of determination to keep trying if at first something doesn’t work out right in the beginning.
After the lesson, David rides his pony back to its stall where he would proceed to groom the pony before finishing the lesson – afterwards we’d make our way back home down the idyllic, narrow, country lane…between hedgerows and over stone arched ‘humpback’ bridges!
It was now spring of 1998, and just like clockwork, the fields of beautiful, yellow daffodils sprang up in the lawn of The Rose & Crown Pub across the street from us in Bridge Street Hamlet.
It’s so lovely in England to see spring flowers brightening gardens almost everywhere you look, bulbs that remained dormant for most of the year under flower beds and properly maintained lawns, suddenly appear to color the landscape!
We named our house, ‘Meadow View Cottage,’ because it overlooked our meadow and the stream running in the treeline, which flooded the lower meadow areas every spring – the bus stop to the right is where David caught the red, double decker bus that took him to school in Bury St. Edmunds.
Spring was beginning to wake up our plantings and flowerbeds around the house, as our front, south-facing courtyard acted like a Mediterranean micro-climate, capturing and storing the sun’s energy in the extensive brickwork.
You can see the green, water meadow extending behind our house along the treeline where the stream ran – the lush, green meadow was home to any number of rabbits as well as visiting ducks, moorhens and the occasional blue heron wading in the stream and neighboring ponds!
The roses and bulbs in our front flower border were just waking up, while the ivy behind them was already thriving in the warmth of the springtime sunshine – the bricks all captured and stored the sun’s energy for release throughout the day.
Our clematis vine was slower to begin its new growing season, but would soon have Meadow View Cottage covered in soft, pink flowers all along the roof line and up to the chimney!
My wife and I have always enjoyed working in the yard and gardening together – I tend to do the larger tasks like planting and landscaping, while she does the finer and more delicate work of deadheading the flowers and overall pruning.
These colorful and tender crocuses were nicely highlighted by the rich, dark planting soil of the flower beds – the prelude to a revolving mix of seasonal annuals that would brighten our front yard.
Meadow View Cottage was the most special and idyllic home our family has ever lived in, and although we were just renting it, we treated it as our own – as we’ve done with every rental property we’ve lived in while stationed overseas.
This is a view of our backyard and the water meadow beyond, with the cottage’s shadow casting a perfect square – the upper field in the distance would eventually green up as well, after mowing exposed the fresh, new growth to the sunshine.
Here, David stands in front of our Christmas tree on Christmas Eve, and with this post I’m nearing the completion of some 41 years of photos I’ve been posting on my blog over the past couple of years.
I postponed, posting my early writings a few years ago, in order to first tell my story through photos, and now as I draw a close to this chapter of posting my photos, I’ll soon return to posting my writings once again.
These photos serve to tell anyone at a glance, so many small details about our family and of how and where we’ve lived along the way, which provide both background and authenticity to the story I tell through in my writings.
My story really isn’t that different than anyone else’s, except for the fact, I lived my life very deliberately and purposefully in the pursuit of my hopes and dreams – and succeeded in documenting it all along the way.
The ‘success’ of one’s life, isn’t measured by appearances, positions, fortune or fame…but in the journey, meaning and purpose you’ve committed to through your life along the way.
Each of us has a different calling and purpose for our lives, and much of our early years, are often focused with struggling to determine what that calling and purpose is for our lives, and how to find and live it.
I tell the story of my ‘interior life’ from a very young age, of a world around me that didn’t match up to my expectations or beliefs, and about how I couldn’t reconcile how things should be, with the reality of my experience.
So my ‘internal life’ was one of questions, doubts, anguish and turmoil that I experienced as I determined to go my own way from a very young age, and the frustrations of attempting to live the life I’ve always imagined it could be.
In so many ways, my ‘internal life’ remains discontented to this day as I continue this internal dialogue of mismatched perceptions, imagination and reality…of how things are…and of how things should be in the world around us.
As an idealist, I look at our lives and at Earth from a ‘distance,’ pondering this oasis we all live on as it orbits the sun – and simply can’t understand why we haven’t built a kinder, gentler and more peaceful world…in the limited time we all have together in this world.
I grew up watching the events of the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement and the ’60s displayed on the evening news every day after school…and couldn’t reconcile why the world was the way it was…and couldn’t understand why it wasn’t evolving into something much better than this…and still can’t.
We’re all born into a world that we have no control of or authorship for, and weighing all I saw and felt around me, I couldn’t and wouldn’t accept the ‘status-quo’ as an acceptable reality…and was determined to search for the life I always imagined I’d have.
I wanted a ‘new reality’ on almost every level, as I interacted with or observed the world around me, always discontented with the options I was presented with or that were made available to me at the time.
It is this disenchantment and frustration that I write about, about options and choices I didn’t want to pick from or to call my own…the ‘shoe’ simply didn’t fit my imagination…and I wasn’t about to take ownership of them either.
So I went my own way looking for adventure and authenticity, giving up the comforts of a middle-class life for the unknown – often without a safety net to catch me if I fell.
Adventures are times of discovery and serendipity, because adventures rarely take you where you think you need to go, and like Bilbo Baggins, become ‘unexpected journeys’ on so many different levels.
I originally wanted a life of adventure and travel and found it in spades, but I really found everything else I never even knew I was looking for in my life or ever hoped to find.
There’s always a thread running through our lives that describes us and tells our stories – a byline, tagline, theme, brand or a message – that summarizes the life we’ve lived from start to finish.
It’s best to know your own message and live it purposefully along the way, instead of letting someone else write and inscribe it on a tombstone once it’s all said and done – Carpe Diem, seize the day – while you still can!
I often wished while growing up, that there was someone or something that I could identify with and reference my life to, there was no internet back then, so I had to resolve my life myself…on my own terms…which I did through my writing.
In telling my story, I’m giving others of any age, the support and encouragement of knowing that they’re not alone in their struggles…because other people have been there too, and succeeded against all odds, when the world around them didn’t make any sense and they longed for something better!
Enjoying an Advent coffee & cake with Christmas music playing in the background in the days leading up to Christmas, is one of our very, favorite pastimes – allowing us to savor the entirety of Advent and the Christmas season.
Although the camera seemed to be moving in this picture, for some reason I remained still…sometimes life is like that…when we somehow find that we’re out of sync with the rest of the world.
We often get caught up in thinking that life has to be about ‘big things’ – prestige, accolades, fortune and fame – when really it’s about doing all the little things in life…to the very best ability you are capable of.
Creating special moments in life is what really matters and defines you, that you’ll cherish and remember forever – not the ones that filled-in all the time in-between with ‘stuff’ that you’ll never remember again.
Life is often about creating special moments when your heart is at rest…quiet and very still…while watching the setting sun or discovering that a rainbow fills the sky…when all is well with your soul, and you can hear yourself ponder and think.
Looking back at these photos, our family has always lived very quietly and simply; and while others may think it’s a bit boring, I’ve loved the peacefulness we’ve enjoyed through our 26 years of marriage.
David had his own Christmas tree in his room in those days, with the original ornaments my wife and I acquired during the early days of our marriage – traditional German wooden and straw ornaments painted mostly in reds and whites.
Peacefulness is one of life’s most valuable blessings, and while some seem to seek out and fill their lives with hectic drama and confusion…I prefer music, calm, quiet, contemplation, projects and peace.
That explains why Christmas is my favorite time of the year, not for attending high profile parties, but for enjoying the ambiance and nature of what Christmas and the holidays really mean to our family.
Christmas teaches us to savor all the special moments that really matter in our lives…for the True meaning of Christmas, friends and family, the thoughtfulness of a beautifully wrapped gift, the thankfulness for our many blessings and the care we extend to other hearts throughout the year.
I’ve never believed that the world must accept the endless status quo and circle of violence and chaos that has consumed it throughout history…so if I can somehow help bring a little peace to our world, of course, I’ll try.
A few years ago, I researched creating a non-profit organization dedicated to creating World Peace, but quickly learned I don’t have the financial resources to run one…but one day, when God’s willing and my heart’s fully ready and prepared…it just may happen.
It’s peace that enables all other human activities and endeavors to flourish and prosper, including for our family and yours, and perhaps the greatest ingredients to peace are to know you’re appreciated, understood, respected, cared for and loved.
So instead of having a singular, ‘Department of State’…nations should become, ‘Departments of Peace and Love’ – towards their own citizens, as well as, to all the people of our beautiful planet.
The world’s entire paradigm needs to change, from looking at singular issues like the economy, education or defense…to approaching the future in a holistic way, through the lens of peace and love…after which, the rest of the details won’t really seem to matter very much at all.
The years seem to fly by at this point, looking back through my photo albums – here it is Christmas again! As you know, I love Christmas!
If I can’t invite everyone over for coffee & cake at Christmastime, I can at least offer you a tour of our home!
As 1997 began to draw to a close, and with David quickly growing up, like many parents, our picture taking was beginning to taper off as the years went by.
In the years to follow, our family began to look ahead towards retirement and moving back to the States…and our trips around the UK and Europe would begin to taper off.
Soon, I’ll begin to transition from posting photos on my blog, to instead posting my autobiography and all the writings I’ve compiled over the years.
My guess is that I have about 10 more posts of photos to go before beginning to post my writings, which tell the story behind all the photos I’ve been posting over the past few years!
In most every phase of my life, I wrote something that captures the thoughts and events of my life at that time, and once compiled together, they all dovetail to tell my story.
My story is one of following my dreams from an early age, with all the twists and turns and adventures along the way – not for fame or fortune – but to show you that your dreams can also come true!
We all have a dream that has been placed in our hearts by God, and our job is one of discovery and fulfillment – because His dream was given to us for a much greater purpose!
For you see, if I hadn’t had a dream of adventure and travel, I would never have met my wife in a small village in Germany…and my son would never have been born!
Behind the scenes I’ll continue scanning photos to keep our family organized…and I’ll still occasionally post special photos for your enjoyment!
I look forward to sharing my photos, thoughts and writings with all of you for many years to come…because I’ll never run out of content or thoughts on this journey of ours I call, “Life, Love & the Human Condition!”