Walking in the World

Monthly Archives: November 2015

Goodbye November!


Dear November, it doesn’t feel like you stayed around very long. We packed so much into your days that they just flew past, and now we’re already waving goodbye. From the lovely weather we enjoyed in Switzerland when you first arrived, to the broody skies we saw in Northern Ireland last week, to the long cold walks I took through our neighbourhood as your days grew ever shorter, to the Thanksgiving feast we enjoyed a few days ago, I have great memories of November 2015!

The common was empty this morning as I tramped through under threatening skies. The leaves are mostly gone, and the air feels more wintry than autumnal. Goodbye, November!

30 Nov 2015

Flexible Traditions


Thanksgiving has always been one of my favourite holidays, and I have happy memories of lovely meals shared with various combinations and permutations of family and friends over the years. I love, above all, the feeling of being in sync with other Americans, all cooking similar foods and gathering together to eat their holiday meal. Nowadays, though, Thanksgiving confuses me a bit. Not only do I live in a country that doesn’t celebrate that particular American holiday (though they seem determined to adopt the not-so-nice Black Friday frenzy), but it’s also hard to source some of the foods that fit with my traditions, and it’s equally hard to fit a turkey into my tiny kitchen.


Nevertheless, it feels important that I make the effort.Over the years I have created my own carefully curated notebook of recipes and timings, much like the one my mother used, that I still treasure even though I don’t use her exact recipes anymore. The ingredients here just aren’t quite the same, and that, along with my need to stay gluten-free, has lead me to explore and invent my own variations.


When I was growing up, my mother’s family often celebrated Thanksgiving a day ahead of time to accommodate my uncle’s work schedule, and now I use that flexibility to push our feast back to Saturday to make things easier for everyone’s schedules. There were six of us gathered around the table last night. Our evening was planned in complete collaboration with the other American in the village, and our families shared the cooking, from our foie gras appetizer to Jeff’s creative vegetable platter to our roast turkey crown with all the usual side dishes to the most wonderful pumpkin cheesecake for dessert. Traditional with a few unorthodox twists. Above all, we were grateful for all that we have and for our presence in each other’s lives.

How have your favourite traditions evolved over the years?


29 Nov 2015

Giant’s Causeway


After leaving Belfast on Saturday morning, we drove north through the frigid countryside towards the Giant’s Causeway, a natural wonder that – despite its whimsical name –  feeds the spirit as deeply as any cathedral. Each year when we go Iona, we take the boat trip out to Staffa to see Fingal’s Cave and visit the puffin colony, we marvel at the amazing geology that rises out of the sea. Tall, primarily hexagonal, prismatic columns fit together to form cliffs and formations at the water’s edge. Staffa in Scotland and the Causeway in Northern Ireland are two ends of the same geological formation, both beloved, both awe-inspiring.


The Giant’s Causeway is well managed by the National Trust; although it is located in a rather remote corner of the country, large parking lots and a modern visitor’s centre have been built to control crowds and protect the fragile ecology of the area. There is, therefore, a long walk from the main entrance down to the shoreline, but for me that enhanced the transition from modernity to timelessness.


Even on a bleak November day, with sleet showers passing overhead, there were a good few people. I would love to see the area and hike the cliffs on a sunny summer day, but I suspect I’d find the crowds quite off-putting. I loved the sense of really surrendering to Mother Nature in order to explore her sacred sites. Although there is a shuttle bus provided for those who need or choose to use it, we opted to hike both directions, and I felt grateful for my walking strength.


I also felt grateful for a cup of hot coffee at the end of the trail!

27 Nov 2015

St. Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast


Saturday’s visit to Northern Ireland was a day of two parts. After flying in from Stansted, we rented a car and drove along snowy roads, making our way into central Belfast to visit St. Anne’s Cathedral. Jeff had heard that the labyrinth in the cathedral might be worth seeing, so we made the trip with that being our prime objective — and we weren’t disappointed. St. Anne’s is a beautiful young cathedral which has some stunning features and thoughtfully curated treasures, artefacts, and exhibits as well as a lovely labyrinth.


The cathedral cross stands at the rear of the building, perfectly situated to reflect the stain glass windows behind it, weaving a relationship between the ever-changing light and the symbol of Christianity.


Near the front of the cathedral is a lovely chapel that is open to the public for prayer. Above the entrance to the Chapel of the Holy Spirit is a wonderful mosaic of St. Patrick, and the domed ceiling of the chapel features a gold mosaic showing the four seraphim, each holding its personal symbol.



As a needleworker, I was moved deeply by the attention to textile arts, from the stunning rows of tapestry kneeling cushions to a prominent display of historic handworked Irish linen. It was proudly pointed out to me that some of what was on display was far older than the cathedral itself, which dates only to the beginning of the last century.

And the labyrinth? Yes! The main labyrinth (there are actually three in alignment to underscore the symbolic placement at each of the entrances to the cathedral) is simple, unique, and perfectly situated to lead the worshiper from the outside world (with its analogy to sin) through the meandering path and directly onto the aisle leading toward the sanctuary and high altar. A bit of research into early texts about the cathedral show that this was very intentional, pre-dating much of the twentieth century labyrinth references with which most of us are already familiar.

Interestingly, there are two smaller labyrinths flanking the central one, each positioned in front of the side aisle doors, each leading the walker into the aisle, providing the same imagery as the larger one. This is something we’ve not seen before. What really excited us was the value which the Dean and his staff clearly place on the labyrinth; it is accurately described in the official guide as well as the audio tour, and the archivist was very helpful in forwarding his notes and materials to us when we inquired about it. Too often, modern staff members are not briefed about labyrinth history or the reasons for labyrinths being included in sacred buildings.

On the floor in front of the West Door, the main door into the Cathedral, is a labyrinth of black and white marble tiles Follow the white tiles, the path of virtue, and the they will lead to the Altar, But follow the black tiles, the route of sin, and go nowhere.
(Cathedral Guide, page 15)

It was healing for me to visit this oasis of calm — it would be welcome in any city, but I have old stories of chaos and violence in Belfast still circling in my mind, so even though all the old conflicts might not be fully resolved, it feels important to have new imagery and personal memories to take forward.

Saying goodbye to Belfast, we drove north to the Giant’s Causeway…. and that is a story for another day. Stay tuned!

25 Nov 2015

Praying for Rein, Deer


We couldn’t help the puns. They just kept coming as we marveled at this wild juxtaposition of seasonal imagery. In November, which some might say is way too early to start decorating for Christmas.

24 Nov 2015

The Reluctant Walker


Even after yesterday’s epiphany about the joys and benefits of walking in cold weather, I still had a hard time pushing myself out the door today. Any and every excuse seemed better than actually putting on my hat and gloves and setting out, so much so that it was already getting dark by the time I left — the street lights were on and by the time I got home it was fully dark, and really cold.

Am I the only one that battles with reluctance? Heading out is hard, but once I fall into my rhythm, I don’t want to come back. I  have to lure myself out the door with promises that I can cut my walk short if I want to, but as my body warms and my feet take over, I almost always go the whole route. And it sure does feel good when I see my pedometer tick past 10,000 steps!

23 Nov 2015

Winter’s Approach


A quick photo to show you that today’s walk was both cold and beautiful. I’ll post some Belfast stories tomorrow, but the carry-over into today was that I went out at all, into the cold. Yesterday’s hilly hike through the icy sleet reminded me that I am a strong walker and that I don’t need to be deterred by a bit of inclement weather…. and truth be told, even walking in this morning’s freezing air, I was warm and energized when I got home.

Happy Sunday, everyone!

22 Nov 2015

To Belfast and Back


We had a great day out today — to Belfast! Snow and Belfast sort of go together in our experience, and sure enough, we saw the first snowfall of the winter today. This was the view out the window as we flew across southern England.

We’ve just gotten home, and I’m cold and tired, so I’ll just leave you with this one photo and a promise of more stories and photos to come (hopefully tomorrow). I usually like to confine my posts to stories of my day, but I know it’s way too late for me to do justice to all I have to share with you, from cathedral labyrinths to mighty geology and wild seascapes. Stay tuned!

21 Nov 2015

Recycled Humour


This week has been intense from start to finish, but we’ve gotten a lot done, and I’ve managed a few good long walks despite grey skies, fierce wind, and a crazy workload. On a trip to the tip (recycling centre) yesterday, we found this little lady peering through the rain — and she made us smile.

20 Nov 2015

Storm Barney


The gusting wind is rattling the roof tiles this evening, leaving everything feeling unsettled. I could feel the storm approaching, so I went out walking in plenty of time to be back before things got too intense. I was, for once, out ahead of the dog-walking regulars. The calm before the storm – Barney is on his way.

17 Nov 2015

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