Saturday, July 5, 2014

Milestone 1500

listOn October 10, 2007, I began these essays with a picture of Umbrian hills at sunrise.  I was a year into my expat life.

In the seven years that followed,  I’ve written several times each week into these pages, averaging well over 200 posts each year. It’s become an anchoring thread in my life’s fabric.

These writings are a personal reflection on my expat experience, the entrepreneurial journey, everyday happiness and challenges, and about finding purpose and meaning in an evolving life.   I‘ve  focused on travel,  literature, and art, profusely illustrated with photos, allowing for occasional digressions into philosophy, cuisine, literature, and technology.

And I’ve now arrived at my 1500th essay on this blog.

I want to pause and thank everyone who has followed these writings and shared their comments over the months and years.  Your interest and encouragement is a big part of why I do this.

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I plan to continue writing experiences and thoughts for a long time to come.

I hope that I will continue to Live Remarkably, as I believe that my peaks still lie ahead of me.  

There is so much more that I want to do, to share, to reflect upon, to discover.

Together.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Verity, Hirst, Ilfracombe

DSC07141 (1300x975)I was taking pictures of  the boats, low tide, in Ilfracombe’s harbour when the thin spike of an immense figure caught my attention.  Poised at the harbour entry, it was vaguely human, oddly curved, a sword, a buttock proportioned to reflect the sun.  ‘Just weird.

DSC07138 (1300x973)Ilfracombe is a small coastal town just west of Exmoor Park, a mix of working fishing piers and tourist marinas.  The streets are lined with sweet and gift shops, alternating with fish restaurants and boating supply businesses.  Small swirls ofDSC07144 (1300x961) elementary school students gusted past in uniform dress and unruly excitement at having an outing along the harbor.  Visitors sat on terraces nibbling crab sandwiches and sipping cider; a few skippers worked their boat bottoms, boots deep in the red mud.

DSC07145 (975x1300)It’s all pretty typical of a hundred picturesque coastal towns from DSC07157 (1300x973)Cornwall to Yorkshire.

Except for this.

There’s no signage to tell me what it is, what it means, how it came to be here, facing along the coast to greet returning sailors.  ‘just a lot of people staring u at it and taking pictures.

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From one side, it’s a very pregnant woman standing astride piles of books, sword in the air, scales tucked behind her: a figure of war and justice?DSC07148 (975x1300) - Copy

From the other, the figure is open and deconstructed, the skull, the breast, the baby, skin peeled back to reveal the muscles: life and death?

Clearly art, but unusually figurative, grotesque, and BIG for public spaces.

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A sign in the window of the aquarium finally cleared it all up.  The city fathers had contracted with Damien Hirst, a sometime resident of the town, to create a focal point and tourist draw.  He donated Verity, after a Degas dancer.   Considerable thought went into protecting the sword from lightning, the body from wind and high waves: it will stand for 20 years.

DSC07164 (977x1300)The statue is predictably controversial: locals feature Hirst art-cards in their window or ignore it completely.

The Guardian had a lovely scathing review (gigantic and arrestingly hideous). 

I am no fan of Hirst: I’ve seen his Shark and his Diamond Skull and have always thought he is overrated and uninspired, the verity leg warmerssculptural equivalent of radio’s shock jock.

Still, a community copes and, eventually, adopts it’s icons.  People knitted her huge colorful leg-warmers for April Fool’s Day earlier this year.

Oh, and here’s  the boats and harbour pictures I was working on when Verity intruded….

 

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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Out by the Dovecote

DSC06961 (974x1300)At first, I thought it was a grainery, round like a silo with a peaked roof.  It stood across from the herb gardens and fruit trees, the Priory and the Tithebarn, overgrown among brambles and bracken.

DSC06959 (975x1300)The interior was lined with hundreds of holes, small chambers, with a rotating ladder up the center providing access.  The signage identified the building as a dovecote, a breeding area for pigeons and doves used to provide eggs, meat, and guano in medieval times.  They were symbols of wealth and privilege, likely introduced by Romans but embraced by nobles and monks.

DSC06958 (1300x981)The whole arrangement was part of the afternoon spent exploring Dunster, a medieval village in the eastern portion of Exmoor Park.  The village has existed in some form for over 1000 years and maintains a lot of the original layout and thatch buildings.  A serrated castle looms over the town (balanced by a folly, a tower constructed just for decoration, on the opposite hill).

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The Saxon / Norman church has a nice wooden barrel ceiling and a long history of difficulties between the monks and the parishioners, ending with the division of the church interior into separate seating areas.  More congenial settings lie outside: tea or Somerset ciders along the old high street, a stroll across the old river crossing, a sit in the yarn merchant’s pavilion.

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It all makes for a nice couple o f hours of history and culture, perhaps with a hunger for trying a bit of dove squab before moving along.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Hiking across Exmoor

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Exmoor National Park was created the year that I was born, so birthdays are fitting occasions to visit this remote stretch of hills and cliffs straddling Devon and Somerset.  With moors to the south and 34 miles of rugged coastland bordering Bristol Bay to the north, the park is a wonderful place to hike and to take pictures.  The towns and hamlets are historic and picturesque, and the summer crowds haven’t really descended yet, allowing time to meander and to take it all in.

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The central portion of the coast protects the paired communities of Lynton and Lynmouth.  The latter was destroyed in 1952 during a flash flood that swept down the gorge above town.  Today, the river is carefully diverted and hotels are nestled well above the valley.  The restaurants are excellent as well (fish ’n chip art is fanciful, but there was excellent duck as well).

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But I thought that the best times were out in the sunshine and up on the cliffs doing some hiking along the rocks.  The areas near Valley of the Rocks and out towards Combe Martin Bay were outstanding on a nice day.

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More to see on my Flickr site