Next Time by Jo…

Next Time by Joyce Sutphen
from After Words
Red Dragon Fly Press

Next Time

I’ll know the names of all of the birds

and flowers, and not only that, I’ll

tell you the name of the piano player

I’m hearing right now on the kitchen

radio, but I won’t be in the kitchen,

I’ll be walking a street in

New York or London, about

to enter a coffee shop where people

are reading or working on their laptops.  They’ll look up and smile.

Next time, I’ll rush up to people I love

look into their eyes, and kiss them, quick.

I’ll give everyone a poem I didn’t write,

one specially chosen for that person.

They’ll hold it up and see a new

world.  We’ll sing the morning in,

and I will keep in touch with friends,

writing long letters when I wake from a dream where they appear on the

Orient Express.  “Meet me in Istanbul,”

I’ll say, and they will.

Lincoln’s Inn Fields, Sir John Soane, and the Royal Academy

What do these places have in common? Synchronicity.  We went to the Royal Academy to see the annual Summer Exhibition featuring contemporary artists’ work in paint, collage, ceramics, sculpture, print, photography and mixed media.  The vast space, high ceilings and enormous rooms of Burlington House were chock-o-block with new work hung and organized by contemporary artists who are themselves masters of their field.  It was an enormous show.  The pieces are for sale–at reasonable prices for the most part–and selling.  All the red dots testified to the British buying public’s taste for fresh work by upcoming artists.

One smaller room was hung with woven pieces by Grayson Perry.  I took a photo of one and then was politely admonished by a “warder” that photos are not allowed.  Mr. Perry’s work is amazing.  Huge tapestry-like pieces, colorful and amusing with a bite.  This series comments on British society and the gentry’s need to pay more taxes. Sound familiar!

Sir John Soane, an eminent architect of the 19th C, was a member of the Royal Academy, only one of his many titles, and was himself a brilliant collector and architect and painter.  Yesterday we went to his home(s) in Holborn an area just north of Covent Garden in London central.  He and his wife owned three adjacent row houses in which they and their two sons lived amongst Sir John’s collections.  Happily these homes are essentially as the Soane family lived in them; the collections as Sir John arranged them.  This is a rare case as most of the homes of famous people bear little or no resemblance to their original owner’s taste or possessions.

Sir John collected many things which is a great understatement. But you can read more about it all if you’re interested. I was bowled over when I entered a small room “The Paintings Room” and saw before me a large Canaletto so close I could have touched it if I dared. Above were two smaller ones. “Yes,” the warder assured me, “these are originals. There are no copies in this collection.” He then went on to display the complete set of Hogarth’s “The Rake’s Progress” guiding us through foolish Mr. Rake’s awful decline and death.

Finally, a triumph of ingenuity and proximity. Sir John purchased Seti I’s limestone sarcophagus when the British Museum in the 1880’s declined to do so. He paid 2000 pounds for this mammoth item, had it carted home and installed in a lower level portion of his home. (To put that purchase in a context: the home where the piece sits cost Soane 1400 pounds.) There it sits covered in hieroglyphs which were once highlighted with cobalt blue paste that was rubbed into the images which has long since faded. This is a masterpiece rarely seen outside museums. The warder said the British Museum couldn’t afford it because they had just purchased the Elgin Marbles! Poor Egypt! Poor Greece!

After viewing hundreds of marble fragments from Greece, Italy and who knows where, one marble cornucopia about 18″ long and 6″ high caught my eye. I was delighted to read that it came from Villa Adriana (Hadrian’s villa) outside Rome. I seem to have a psychic link to Hadrian!

Starving, we walked across the street and into Lincoln’s Inn Fields park and on to Fields for lunch. We sat outside overlooking the public tennis courts. No action–too hot, I think. Relaxing, I heard a young man encouraging his friends to sit outside as it was prettier than being inside. I watched the friendly banter and he turned to me and said “What are you drinking?” “Agua, pura agua,” I responded in Spanish–don’t ask me why–and then he proceeded to engage me in a charming discussion about where I was from and where he was from (France) and all in fluent Spanish which thankfully I was able to manage. Eventually he joined us and we had a fabulous long talk about Europe, France, and the U.S. Tomas is going to Detroit later this year. Detroit! Yikes! He’s employed in the automotive industry and his employer is sending him to Detroit–probably to uncover what not to do! Perhaps a visit to Seattle can be arranged??

And so, three venues somehow all linking themselves in my brain–synchronicity leading to unimagined connections and future adventures.

Ode to the Tube

Mind the Gap

“Mind the Gap!”

I love the tube.

It’s clean and fast.

Nary a cig butt or candy wrapper can be seen.

The walls and floors, stairs and escalators are tidy.

How do they do that?

tube, 2013-08-06 003

“Mind the Gap.”

The Oyster Card is terrific, saves 50% off the fare

and the rides are not cheap

but then what else is there?

Big red double decker buses are fun but

caught in heavy London traffic they slow and start and stop

while below thousands zip from here to there in minutes.

“Mind the Gap!”

tube, 2013-08-06 006

You can ride from Cockfosters to Shephards Bush

from Mudchute to Canary Wharf to Elephant and Castle

and don’t forget Waterloo and Bakerloo.

“Mind the Gap!”

tube, 2013-08-06 002

The maps are numerous and easy to read,

the attendants kind and plentiful. They escort the

disabled to the platform they need,

and answer silly questions with equanimity.

No panhandlers, or hawkers, or spitters, no one shouting

their sad story walking from car to car asking for money.

So, hat’s off to this small land so clever and bright and

easy to understand and

“Mind the Gap!”

British Museum

It poured yesterday so we decided to take cover in the British Museum. Bad idea. We and 10,000 desperate parents many pushing strollers had the same idea. There are only three restrooms and as far as I could see one “lift” suitable for transporting strollers from ground level to level 3. Need I say more. Fortunately, we can still walk stairs.

Bust of Hadrian
Later in our trip we will be staying at Hadrian’s Wall in a little town named Twice Brewed. I wanted to view the Romano-British collection so we headed to room 39 where it is housed. This bust of Hadrian was plucked from the Thames near London Bridge in 1834.  He visited Britain in 122 CE.
This is a mask of a Roman Centurion from the same time period.  The image of the young soldier is very beautiful.

Mesopotamian artifacts are in the adjacent room.  This spectacular tile with the image of Ashtarte/Ishtar intrigued me.  I love her owlish companions and her bird feet. My Hebrew name is Esther which derives from the same root as Ashtarte and Ishtar. Ish means woman in Hebrew. All interesting.

I found one other piece very interesting. It’s titled “Ram Caught in Thicket.” I immediately thought of the ram caught in the burning bush from the Bible and wondered if there was a connection. I wonder who made this statue.



Westminster and the Tate Britain

Big Ben

Here’s the view as you exit the Westminster tube stop.  Almost hard to believe. One does gasp upon seeing an icon in your path. Crossing the road–carefully– the Parliament buildings spread before you.

soverign's Entrance

I found the notice of the Sovereign’s Gate interesting. Every monarch since 1066 has been crowned across the street I suppose they rate a door of their own when the members of government meet!

We crossed the road walking toward the cathedral. It was Sunday and services were being held so we did not go inside. We did wander through the Abbey behind the cathedral and read the very interesting plaques on the walls and embedded in the stone floors naming those buried nearby. This is the oldest portion of the complex. One of the plaques was of particular interest. It memorializes Frances Louisa Parnell who lived six short years: 28 October 1806 – 1812. This child lies among many who accomplished much. Who was this girl and why is she here?

It was threatening to rain so we took a quick cab ride down the road to the Tate Britain as they call it to differentiate from the Tate Modern located elsewhere. This museum houses a rotating collection of the work of British painters only from the 1500’s to current time. I cannot say that these are my favorite painters or paintings but I enjoyed several pieces and the progress of history through the collection.

The King and Queen by Henry Moore is just wonderful.  I shot the shadow.

King and Queen by Moore shadow

I also liked the sculpture “Large Leaping Hare” by Barry Flanagan who captured the exuberant physicality and rangy build of the hare with brilliance.

Hare by B. Flanagan


After a light lunch we walked to the Pimlico tube station where I photographed this delightful man dressed for a punt down the River Cam. He told me he dresses every day in a similar manner!

Man wearing boater hat on subway


portobello 2013-07-27 007202 for lunchportobello cafe societyken searching

Awakened at 4 a.m. by one pesky mosquito and the gull clan discussing their day’s coming activities, I get up and walk into the moonlight-flooded kitchen. The glow of the now waning super moon flooded our small garden with its light. I thought of my crystal amulet charged by moon power and the pervasive use of moon imagery in our language. Moon rise, moon light, moon scape, moon shine, lunatic. Menses, menopause, menstrual, menstruate. Lunar rover, lunar scape, tidal ebb and flow, wax and wane, and so on. Our language recognizes the real and poetical power the moon has over us. Its beauty is softer and more enchanting than the sun’s. We must seek the moon in the dark, and wait for her as she passes through her cycle and slowly turns to show us her full face–fleetingly. What has this to do with Portobello, you ask. Nothing really, just what arises (ha!) when you’re up at 4 a.m.

A few hours later we were on our way to Notting Gate stop on the tube. We got to Notting Hill about 9:15 and trailed along with the already substantial numbers of folks who like we hoped to find a treasure or two on old Portobello Road. People have been gathering here probably for hundreds of years buying and selling. We too will pay our due to the merchant dealers and do the dance of trade and exchange.

There are two rows of dealers which line the road. About half are selling food and non-antique items. On either side of the street there are permanent shops, cafes, grocers and so on which operate daily. The street vendors are there only on the weekend.

It was warm and going to get really hot. No rain predicted. By the time we left around noon, the road and sidewalks were nearly impassible. Do come early! And by the way, there is one (1) portapotty in the entire area.

Ken spied some wonderful old documents–1800’s–handwritten on vellum. Several are last wills and testaments. One being the Probate of the Will and Codicil of Henry Raymond Arundell Esq deceased Dated 18th June 1886. The handwriting is absolutely beautiful, clear and perfect. They are in very good condition with lots of stamps and signatures. He bought several similar documents. Later he spied a nice tintype of a couple–the gentleman’s watch chain and fob are highlighted in gold paint– and two other pretty handwritten pieces with lovely decoupaged decoration at the top.

I had reached my physical and tolerance limit by noon. I did buy two spinach boreks and a tomato pie to take home for dinner. We headed down one of the pretty side streets eventually coming to a wonderful, very trendy and spendy area with gourmet food shops and restaurants as well as numerous fashion forward boutiques for folks with lots of money. We decided to treat ourselves to lunch at 202 where there were toilets and chairs–items highest on my list at the moment! I ordered a Greek salad with grilled haloumi cheese and iced tea. Both items turned out to be the best things I have ever tasted. Ken ordered a lamb burger which was also very good and a hand squeezed lemonade. The lunch cost about $50 which included a 12% tip built into the charge. All things considered well worth the price of admission! We tubed home and collapsed coming to around 7 just in time for dinner and bed! So far I’m still waiting for the vacation part of this trip!

A quick post note: The next morning Ken discovered in his side bag a handful of paper clips some being of English origin none belonging to Ken. We speculate that a pick pocket left a benign calling card. Ken keeps his wallet elsewhere. Could this be a message like those chalked on fences by hobos indicating a “good home to ask for food” or “run like hell.” Who knows?

Chelsea, London

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Took the Heathrow Express (20 L) to Paddington Station and a cab to Redburn Street No. 11 where we have rented a flat.  The cab driver who hauled our suitcases down a short flight was mighty impressed.  Well, it’s no small thing to live a few blocks away from Cheyne Street the former location of Henry VIII’s manor home with it’s sweeping lawn down to the banks of the Thames.  Cheyne Street is lovely with rows of homes where lumanaries lived and died over centuries.  Henry’s home was torn down long ago, but here long ago means two hundred years and the replacements are 300 or more years old!

We took a walk across the Albert Bridge built in 1874.  Painted in white, pink, yellow and green it looks like a Victorian ice cream parlor posed against the beautiful blue sky.  The Thames is muddy and broad.  The picture is shot from the bridge looking up the river toward Big Ben and Parliament.

We walked around Chelsea, had a salad at a pub where I ordered a pint of “It’s A Boy” ale.  It was just the ticket for an exhausted and dazed traveler.  Chelsea sports a Starbucks and the European headquarters of Anthropologie.  I believe my dear friend Molly Jasper helped to design and inaugurate this branch. 

Sea gulls abound here–their chatter and calls at dawn and at dusk are amusing.  They remind me to revel in my unrestrained emotion.  I’m feeling very good and happy about my life today!

Curtain Rising

I’m sitting here in my comfortable chair before my large screen monitor listening to music and thinking this is all gonna change real soon.  I’ll be setting my MacBook up in small rooms on rickety tables with low skirts that my knees brush against at heights either too short or too tall with unreliable internet connections. 

We leave Wednesday.  All the prep and planning, errands, arrangements for papers, bills and mail will finally cease.  The airplane will take off and the curtain will rise on the new play.

My husband has just wrapped up a 38-year gig.  And now a new play is about to begin.  We don’t know the words or even the theme of this next performance.  All new lines, but some familiar “business.”  Both of us hope for fun, entertainment and new stuff.  It’s really time for new stuff. 

Almost two years ago I took a solo 7,000 mile cross-country driving trip.  During that trip I met a lot of new people and connected with family and friends.  I learned a lot about myself.  I learned a lot I’d forgotten and even more things I never knew.  All this has percolated over the past months and led me to try new work and new ways of being in the world.  Most recently I have written a book which I hope will be published. I have another in draft. I plan to write about interesting places and people on this trip, in addition to the blog. 

I have learned how much my mind and body thrive when I exercise hard and often.  I  have a wonderful community of friends who share this interest.  I enjoy being with them.  They are interesting and alive.  I have found that the combination of yoga, writing and meditation is very beneficial.  Finding a way to continue this on the trip will be both challenging and exciting. 

Reflecting on my recent life, I’ve come to some truths that I think are worth sharing: 

You cannot tell someone you care about “I love you” too many times.

Compliments are always appreciated.

Secrets and lies are poison.

Always say “thank you” upon receiving a gift.

Never give up your dream to enable someone else’s.

Find what you love and do it as often as you can.

Stay clear.  Keep your heart open.  Watch for synchronicity.  Ask for assistance.  Pay attention.

Everything you need and want is waiting for you.

Bare Bones Itinerary

Time is rushing by as I attempt to wrap up the myriad details associated with a three-month absence from home. Trying to sandwich coffee dates, dinners and walks with close friends into the rapidly diminishing time before departure July 24 is a challenge. I have been blessed with a personal schedule that permits time for long talks with friends, lot’s of yoga, regular lifting and conditioning at the gym, and now I feel that precious time slipping away.

We’re flying from Seattle to London. The new airline protocols are troubling: a ticket on coach essentially buys you a seat. A seat where you’d like to sit and beside someone you’ve chosen to sit beside (at least on one side) all cost extra. If you want to book your seat well before take-off that will cost you $75; if you want more leg room pony up some more bucks. Don’t even imagine you’ll have good food, a blanket or a pillow. Wow! I remember the days when a trip on a plane was luxurious? When you got blankets and pillows; and the deli spread from NYC to the West Coast was ample and delicious. That service is only a distant memory and only to those born in the 50’s.

We arrive in London and head to Chelsea where a rented apartment with a small outdoor patio will be home for 2.5 weeks. Hopefully, daytrips to Oxford, Cambridge and a castle or two will unfold. London alone could take a year, but we’ve got 2.5 weeks.

Then we head to The Cotswold, York, and Hadrian’s Wall before crossing into Scotland and settling into Edinburgh. We plan to travel by train. We’re going to be in Edinburgh during the Fringe Festival where we’ll see our grandson, David “on the boards.”

We leave Edinburgh and fly to Toulouse landing in the Dordogne in southwest France. We’ll stay in Sarlat which is a beautiful medieval town not far from the famous cave of Lascaux. Lascaux is no longer open to the public but other caves are. Next stop Paris for two weeks living in an apartment near the Sorbonne.

Then Italy: Cinque Terre, Ravenna, Arezzo, and Rome. The trip is a mix of familiar places and ones not seen before. A full itinerary, but one measured by longer spells in some places and shorter ones in others. Hopefully, the trains run and the planes take off and land safely. What more could anyone want!

Get Ready

This is just a tease.  An alert that I’ll be beginning another travel blog in late July.  We’ll be gone for three months: Great Britain, France and Italy.  Home again on November 1.  This will be an adventure–living together 24/7 with my freshly retired spouse, revisiting places we’ve seen before and lots of places we have not.  I’m really excited.  Hope you’ll follow along.