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One nice thing I did when I was in England last month was to meet up with a fellow blogger I had previously only met virtually. Sonia found my blog through our common work of painting harpsichords. I paint sound boards and she decorates the cases- two entirely different specialities. Sonia’s skills involve hard physical work sanding and finishing large areas, as well as gold-leafing and faux finishes. Mine entails designing and painting flowers.

Anyway, we became online friends and have followed each other’s projects for awhile. I was really impressed when Sonia conceived of, wrote, and self-published her travel, photo, and cookbook, ‘Androula’s Kitchen, Cyprus on a plate’.   And when we met in Brighton, she told me of the doors this has opened for her to new opportunities such as lecturing and cooking demonstrations.
Neither of us are out for the fast bucks, and subsequently are discovering the hidden treasures that come from doing something well because you love it. Then gifts come pouring in-  experiences that lead to making new friends, developing new abilities, and building community. It is inspiring to share stories.

Below are a few more general shots from the London part of the trip.

nose

nose

Above a detail from one of my most heart-lifting sights in London, the meters high horse head sculpture at Marble Arch. The first time I saw him while passing by on a bus, he took my breath away. And this time I made a point of getting up close.

Horse head

Horse head

One of the snazzy new double deckers:

new double decker

Another horse’s head sculpture I stumbled across near Oxford St.

Bronze head

Bronze head

One of the other things that made me smile every time I saw it was the placing of public pianos in various locations inside St Pancras International railway station. They were there for anyone to play, and there was always someone noodling away- sometimes shyly, sometimes performing, sometimes good , often haltingly searching out the notes. I loved the idea. There is always live music now when you walk along the busy indoor shopping boulevard, it makes it warm and homey instead of impersonal like an airport lounge.

playing piano at St Pancras

playing piano at St Pancras

And finally, here is the outside of St Pancras on my last day in the UK, the sun finally came out! I adore this building, it is the old Euston station, and part is now a posh hotel. I always like looking out on the warm red bricks from the hostel, which is the  building on the right hand side of the photo. Across the street, not shown is the British Library.  Despite the heavy traffic on Euston Road, I love this area, it is busy and vibrant and a great mix of architecture and things to see.

St Pancras station and Hotel

St Pancras station and Hotel
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Emily Young’s angels

December 7, 2008

angel-emily-young

Angel by Emily Young

London was in the middle of a heat wave.  The familiar streets of Kensington where I’d spent childhood vacations were strangely Mediterranean in feel, Holland Park was tropical.
It would have been a beautiful time except my mother was dying in a hospice in St. John’s Wood.

I was staying with my aunt and uncle and would travel by tube every day from the High Street to St. John and Elizabeth’s to visit mom. She felt she was there for respite care and would soon be returning to her flat and beloved piano. During my visits, we would chat and read together and reminisce a bit. The room was warm but cozy and light. I’d leave in the early evening and return the next afternoon.

In the mornings while she was receiving care, I would be free to wander my old haunts in the neighborhood. One day when I looked down from my aunt and uncle’s fifth floor flat, I saw that there was a sculpture garden in the back of Leighton house.  That morning, I met for the first time, Emily Young’s angels. And I recognized them from deep in my soul.

For me, angels have never been those sappy fat little girls and and naked baby boys. They were always vast, fiery and dangerous in their huge intensity. My angels don’t fit on a head of a pin, they spread over galaxies. And dance.

Walking among Emily’s giant winged angel heads I felt that deep kinship and returning to oneself that great art always catalyzes.  The gardens were deserted, sheltered, holy with presence. I felt enfolded and comforted and strengthened for the impossible task of letting my beloved mother go. No, letting her go was easy compared to seeing her in the hospice and knowing she would never come home again.

Every day during my mother’s last week on earth, I visited those angels and rested in  their large presence. Looking closely at the Purbeck marble used for some of the heads, I found endless little worlds of fossilized creatures, like filigree on those great winged heads.

I don’t remember now, which came first, the call that my mother had died, or looking down from my aunt’s apartment to see bare grass dotted with yellow postage stamp squares where the angel garden had once been.  But these two losses will be forever linked in my memory. As well as gratitude for being carried on those stone wings during that  hot summer in London.