The Magic is in the Light

Listen to any two Brits talk for any length of time and you’ll hear them complaining about the weather.

It’s too grey. It rains too much. It’s not warm enough.

All these things are true – it is grey, it does rain a lot and it’s not hot here.

But if it didn’t rain, if there were blue skies every day, if the temperatures got up into the 90s, then nothing would be the same.

I think this is what the complainers don’t fully comprehend.

The greenness here is so intense that it’s like a spiritual presence. There are no scorched brown lawns, or scrubby fields – there are just different shades of green as far as the eye can see.

Guess what – that’s because it rains a lot and isn’t hot.

Have no rain and intense heat and you can say goodbye to the green.

As for the clouds – yes, there are a lot of grey skies and a lot of clouds. But if it wasn’t for the clouds, we wouldn’t get these shafts of light that break through, ricocheting off the green fields, creating dazzling patterns and ever-shifting colour combinations.

I went for a walk this evening. The day had been grey and dark but towards evening, the clouds began to part and the sun began to sneak through, creating amazing effects – like a painting only better. The photos I took can’t begin to capture how it actually looked but they’re a start.

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To the moaners I say, if you want to exchange all that for parched earth and dull green/browns and light that is the same no matter which direction you look, you should emigrate to one of the more extreme climates. Me, I’m staying here, watching the play of light across the fields and admiring the way the clouds shift and change, constantly creating new versions of what was there before, what has has existed for millennia. Me, I’m just appreciating what we have.

The View from Our Skylight

lothersdale-england-954amOur house has 4 bedrooms on 2 floors. The top floor is built into the eaves, so the only windows are skylights. When we first thought about buying the house I worried about this (“it doesn’t even have real windows in some of the rooms and I’ll have to stand on tip toes to see out”). I don’t worry about it anymore.

Because the view from one of the skylights is my salvation. You can see it in the photo above, snapped a few weeks ago before the trees had come out, but after the grass had started to turn green. I took this photo in the morning, and the view is lovely then. I look out first thing every morning and take deep breaths and let the sounds of the breeze and the sheep and the curlews wash over me.

But that’s not the magical time. That comes much later when, at the end of a stressful day, mind teeming with work and personal responsibilities, thoughts dancing and flitting, wondering how on earth I am going to cram everything into tomorrow, I go upstairs and open the skylight again.

It’s much quieter at night. The surrounding hills have become dark, barely discernible shapes broken up by the occasional light from a distant house. The sheep have stopped their incessant chatter and laid down to sleep. The birds are silent.

And every night I stand there looking out into that vast darkness, feeling the breeze on my face – or sometimes the wind whipping rain against my skin – and I know that whatever beefs I have with the day, whatever lingering stressors are waiting for me tomorrow, and no matter that it has rained for 3 days solid, that wind against my skin is my wind. Those dark shapes in the distance are my fields. That village down the hill is my village. I am finally home.

I don’t know how long I will have in this house, but however long it is, I don’t think a single night will go by when I don’t stand at that window and count my blessings.

Littondale

We’ve been busy lately with our business and with getting the house sorted out, but we’ve also been taking opportunities to get out into the Dales as often as we can (I really would love to be retired so I had time for all I want to do!)

We’re now about 10 minutes drive from the south end of the Yorkshire Dales national park, which is just amazing to me.

If you’ve never been here, I hope that the photos I share will persuade you that it’s a good idea to change all that.

First Littondale, which was a complete surprise to us. We drove from Settle to Arncliffe on a road we had read was beautiful, and boy was that the truth! Here are some of my photos. (If it looks this good in foul weather, imagine how nice it will look if we ever get a sunny day.)

The first two photos were taken in Settle.

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The next two were on the road from Settle to Arncliffe.

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And here is Arncliffe, original home of Emmerdale Farm.

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Next time, I’ll share my favorite dale with you as we just spent a very happy Sunday there.

Let’s Talk About the Rain

It has to be said.

It rains a lot here.

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It probably rains more than it does wherever you live. Which means that if you’re thinking about moving back to England, you need to factor in the rain.

I’m a little bit weird. I don’t mind the rain and I don’t mind cold weather. I look better in winter clothes. I feel more comfortable in big jumpers and coats and wellies than I do in summer blouses or frocks. And I like going out for a walk and being buffeted by the wind and then coming home to a cosy warm house and dry clothes. Something about that makes me feel very safe and contented.

But I freely admit that this is not normal.

I understand that some people love to sit out in hot weather, roasting their skin and cracking open another cold beer. I may not understand you people, but I know you exist.

And here’s the thing. If that’s you, you’re going to have a really hard time here. We get very few days where you can sit outside in such heat that your skin changes colour. In fact most of our days out are more of an adjustment than anything. (“Yes, I know we planned to go for a long walk but it’s raining really heavily so let’s do X instead.”)

Phil and I have spent several weekends like that recently and I admit it: last weekend, the weather even started to get me down a little bit. We had gone to Littondale, which is just an incredibly beautiful place. We should have been out of the car walking through the hills, but the rain was torrential and we just didn’t have the clothing. So we were trapped inside the car, only able to look out without participating.

And yet now that I look back on that day trip, I don’t remember that feeling of annoyance. I only remember the stark beauty of the scenery, and the lamb who wandered into the middle of the road, and the lane so remote that I had to get out and open a gate so we could pass, and the sweeping vista that suddenly opened up before us through the mist.

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It was a fantastic day and I don’t know why I let the weather get to me. But I did and that’s my point. I am a person who doesn’t even like warm sunny weather and even I got a bit cheesed off with the rain.

Now tonight we went out for a 3 mile walk and one mile in, the heavens opened up. We walked the other 2 miles with rain lashing against our faces and slowly drenching our clothes, so that by the time we got home, we had to peel our jeans off and our supposedly waterproof coats were wet on the inside. This time I didn’t get cheesed off because we had plans for the evening. After a quick change, we headed off to a local pub to sit in front of a roaring fire and have a few drinks and some food. The contrast between the bracing walk and the cosy pub was heaven.

As I write this, I’m sitting at my kitchen table and the rain is gently tapping on the windows and I have a glass of wine and honestly I don’t think I could be any more content.

But I’ll say again. This evening was heaven to me, a person who hates warm temperatures and who locks herself indoors the minute the thermostat goes above 75 degrees F. Would it really be heaven to you?

Only you can say.

I thought you were keeping your fingers crossed!

In my last post I asked you to keep your fingers crossed for good weather for us on our trip into the Dales, but I guess you were all busy or something because, well, last Sunday was the wettest day in the history of wet English days. This photo just about sums it up.

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But we were not deterred! We had a brilliant day. We drove up through the spectacular Wensleysdale countryside and every now and then the mist and clouds lifted enough so we could even see a bit of it.

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And we visited the Wensleydale cheese factory, where we learned about how the cheese is made (word to the wise, don’t ask. You’ll enjoy your cheese much more if you haven’t seen it as rancid milk swimming round in huge vats).

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Unfortunately it was just too wet for the walk across the fields that I had planned, so we drove back home and I took this video for you. You have to agree, it’s beautiful even on a cold, wet day.

Day Trip to The Lakes

Last weekend we took a day trip up to Lake Windermere and then on to Kendal, the town we originally intended to be our new home. Funny how things turn out.

We actually went up there for a shopping trip to the Lakeland store, which if you’re in America is like Bed Bath & Beyond if it was taken over by a combination of Sharper Image and Pottery Barn – a massive store filled with ingenious inventions for the home that also look beautiful. It’s easy to spend a fortune and I’m sure we did. I saw I’m sure because I let Phil pay and walked away without finding out how much it all cost. It’s better for my stress levels that way.

Anyway, once the shopping was done, we headed off to Langdale Chase, a lakeside hotel that was featured on the TV show ‘The Lakes.’ We discovered it on one of our trips home back when we lived in the States and found that you can just wander the grounds, which overlook Lake Windermere, without anyone bothering you and without spending a penny. It was breathtakingly beautiful that day. Here are some of the photos I took.

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On our way back, we stopped in to visit Kendal, which was the place we stayed on our first “lets-go-back-to-England-and-just-see-what-it’s-like” trip 3 years ago. We liked it so much that here we are!

These photos were taken in the market square.

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As you can see, we picked the perfect day for our trip. Tomorrow, we are planning a drive up into the Yorkshire Dales, so please keep your fingers crossed for equally good weather.

Sometimes the Sun Comes Out

Today has been dull and rainy and quite typically British and then this evening suddenly the clouds passed and the sun came out. Phil has gone into Manchester to visit an observatory so I’m on my own. As soon as I finished work, I pulled on my wellies and headed over the fields and here’s one of the things I saw.

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Isn’t that so beautiful? And here’s the best thing. If it hadn’t rained most of the day, it wouldn’t have felt anywhere near as wonderful.