Touching Heaven

With this being Thanksgiving week, I have decided to very mindfully celebrate a week of expressing gratitude.

Gratitude is the quality of being thankful, of showing appreciation for gifts, large and small, especially those freely given. I have a choice. I can feel and express gratitude or I can choose to be ungrateful. Living a life of gratitude means I notice the gifts I’ve been given, from flowers and sunsets, to real estate closings and a grandchild’s hug. Nothing is taken for granted and life itself is a gift. I can feel gratitude even for the challenges during the journey, seeing them as opportunities to grow and shift.

Johannes A. Gaertner said “To speak gratitude is courteous and pleasant, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live gratitude is to touch Heaven.”

Day 1 I felt gratitude for my family, all of my family. I am blessed to have mother, stepdad, stepmom, sisters, brother, daughters and daughter-in-law, son and sons-in-laws, grandchildren, nieces and nephews all living within an hour and a half of Joplin. I get to spend time with them and be a witness to their lives.

Today I considered what I wanted to express gratitude for. There are so many things that I am grateful for. Without overthinking it I opened my heart and went with the first image that popped up.

For Day 2 I am grateful for the opportunities to travel this year.

The travels this year were so much more than planning a trip and then hopping on a plane. I have wanted to explore the world for a long time. Nine years ago, on Mike Dooley’s TUT website, I wrote out my desire and expressed it this way:

Rome, Italy

I gave my heart’s desire to the Divine…and let go of the outcome. It’s not that I sat back and did nothing. I dreamed. I looked through travel brochures. Five years ago, when my grandson expressed a desire to go to Italy after graduation, we dreamed together and released that shared goal to the Divine. Last January we met with a travel agent and the dream began to become a reality. Amazingly, the funds poured in as needed, to meet the expenses for the trip.

What a beautiful lesson for me in dreaming, trusting, letting go and receiving.

Taxis to Venice

Orvieto, Italy

A year ago, my sister Debbie asked me about going on a trip to Scotland and England. We decided to include Ireland as well, and our group grew to include our mom, sister Linda and Ashley, Debbie’s daughter. If I had wanted to play it safe, I would not have agreed to two major trips, three months apart. I am so grateful I said yes. And there they were, the three countries I wrote about visiting, with Ireland thrown in, all in one glorious summer.

Dublin, Ireland

Eilean Donan Castle, Highlands, Scotland

London, England

Again, the funds arrived for the UK trip, exactly on time. And for the second time this year I boarded a plane and followed my heart. There were other elements that came together, to express gratitude about, connected to these travels. Six family members were able to journey with me. My health improved dramatically, by way of Anthony William and a plant based diet, so that I could walk freely and enjoy these trips. My mother experienced improved health as well. Little and not so little details fell into place. Protection was given for all travelers.

And my wanderlust was truly born, set free. I have other places I hope to visit. More corners of the world to explore. The Divine knows the desires of my heart. I am grateful for that as well.

I recognize that this year of travels, these adventures, are representations of my life journey. The dreaming, the playing, the letting go and trusting, and the birthing of dreams into reality…my life is shaped by these components as well. And I am full of gratitude that traveling deepens my awareness of these connections between my wanderings around the globe and my journey through life.

Perhaps most of all, I don’t want regrets. I don’t want to be sorry that I balked at an opportunity to travel or hesitated when I could have grown. I am grateful that traveling enlarges my soul and exposes me to other people and other cultures and teaches me important truths about who I am.

Dr. Steve Maraboli sums it up well.

“Your ability to see beauty and opportunity is proportionate to the level at which you embrace gratitude.”

I am embracing gratitude.

Memories on the Wall

I’m sharing a pictorial blog post tonight, as a follow up to creating travel art a few days ago. Using postcards and miniature watercolor prints from the countries I have visited this year, I captured memories within frames.

This evening, those memories went onto the walls.

If you can’t live longer, live deeper. Italian proverb

Italy…the first country I visited this year, accompanied by my daughter Elissa and my grandson Dayan. Or rather, Elissa and I accompanied Dayan, for this was his dream trip and his chosen destination. Italy was my graduation gift to Dayan, and how wonderful it was for his mom and I to experience it with him.

I love the vintage-look postcards from four of the cities we visited. What memories we collected in each place. The colorful square postcard is from Cinque Terre and reminds of the day the three of us stood with bare feet in the Mediterranean Sea. I made the framed print with a favorite Italian expression that we embraced…cogli l’attimo…pick up the moment…hold the moment. And the little ceramic bowl from San Gimignano was a gift from our fun and cheerful tour guide, Fabiola. I will always remember her graciousness and the joy she expressed as she lives her life.

Your feet will bring you where your heart is. Irish proverb

I failed, big time, in not bringing home postcards or art from Ireland. My kids and grandkids got souvenirs from the Emerald Isle. I returned with a silver Celtic knot ring, a scarf, a scarf pin…and a heart full of memories. My traveling companions for countries two, three and four were my mom, two sisters and niece. Rather than continue to beat myself up for my postcard oversight, I have instead remained open to creative ideas to remedy the situation.

I am excited to report that I’ve had a brilliant idea, a clever way to create art from something I did bring back from Ireland…photos. My idea involves a non traditional way to display them. Stay tuned for that creative project.

Listen to the silence. Be still and let your soul catch up. Scottish proverb

I’m quite pleased with my Scottish display. The vintage looking postcards hang above a teal table holding my wee collection of Scottish treasures. I picked up the Thirlestane Castle postcard on this trip. The Lauder tartan was a gift from my mom years ago. I purchased the silver heart-shaped votive holder on my first trip to Scotland, in 2014. And the small Scottish dirk, called a sgian dubh, was bought at a Renaissance Fair I attended.

The lion represents the one on the Clan Maitland crest with the Latin phrase Consilio Et Animis – by wisdom and courage. It reminds me that I have a “tribe”, a clan, that I am a card carrying member of. My clan, with its Scottish roots, is scattered around the globe. I just today connected with a woman via Facebook, who has Lauderdales in her family tree. She visited Thirlestane Castle in Lauder three weeks before I did. How wonderful to find each other and compare genealogies.

A joy that’s shared is a joy made double. English proverb

The watercolor miniatures from London, England found a place in the living room, near shadow boxes containing mementos from musicals I have attended. These iconic images remind me of the amazing energy and diversity we encountered in London. I hope to return someday, and experience this grand city’s artistic and theatrical side.

Looking at the watercolors transports me back to those days of wandering the city and hopping on and off the Tube, sharing in the adventure of it all with my mom, sisters and niece.

The last framed art piece that went up on the wall tonight did not travel back with me from abroad. It arrived this weekend, as a gift from my sister Debbie and niece Ashley. They had sent me a pic of the artwork and I was excited to receive their generous gift. What I didn’t realize was how big the art piece was!

It was difficult to tell from the photo they sent, however I was estimating something about 12″x14″, or even a bit smaller. It is huge…and gorgeous…this framed painting of Venice. I love it. That’s how Venice is…larger than life. And that’s what travel does for me, it enlarges my life, it makes me grow, it opens my heart so that I can receive more.

I am grateful for this reminder, this travel art, that triggers memories as surely as my photos and mementos do. I don’t know who said it, but I read a quote that captures my heart.

We take photos as a return ticket to a moment otherwise gone.

That’s what my travel art is. Return tickets…time portals…to beautiful memories of beautiful experiences. I want to collect memories from all over the world. I don’t want my home to look like a museum. I want it to look like the home of a woman with an expansive soul and a wanderer’s heart.

I have a good start.

Postcard Art

I’m back in creative mode today, and just in time. Fall is here, and with the changing of the seasons, my house and front porch get a reset. The summer items will be packed away and fall decor unboxed.

Tonight’s artistic project was not seasonal, however. During my travels this year, I picked up postcards, not with the intention of mailing them, but for the purpose of creating art to hang in my home.

Thanks to a great sale at Michael’s and a couple of discount coupons that I had, it was the perfect time to purchase a variety of frames and get creative.

The postcards from Italy and Scotland have a vintage look. From Italy, those mementos have the names of four of the cities that we visited, printed in their Italian equivalent. The Scottish cards are adorable, with illustrations of things that are considered representative of that bonnie country. I also bought a postcard at Thirlestane Castle that features that gorgeous fortress.

And in England I purchased three small watercolor prints of iconic landmarks. I took all of the cards/prints with me to Michael’s, an arts and crafts type store that never fails to inspire my creativity. I spent a pleasant hour sorting through frames and shadow boxes, considering how best to display my miniature works of art.

Although the styles are different, the unifying theme among my purchases is the use of black frames. Here is how the collection turned out:

The Italian postcards.

The Scottish postcards. I really like this display, with the cards mounted between panes of glass.

The Thirlestane Castle postcard, with a lot of reflection caught in the glass. This one is a stand alone tabletop frame that will become part of a larger display.

The London watercolors.

In the next few days, I’ll figure out where to hang these works of art. I like using the postcards. They are typically sent to friends and family from far off lands, with a Wish you were here type message scrawled on the backs.

My postcards are reminders that I was there, and that my wishes, my desires, to visit those countries were fulfilled. I will enjoy pausing to study these works of art, these travel reminders, as I walk by. And, they will fuel my future dreams.

You may have noticed that one of the countries that I visited this year is not represented. I didn’t realize, until after I got home, that I never purchased postcards in Ireland. I meant to! I planned to. I was looking for vintage postcards or some other artistic style to grab my attention. Somehow we moved on to Scotland without me finding the right cards.

I can probably find Irish postcards to purchase online. But I have a better idea. I simply must go back. I must return to that emerald island to complete my mission of finding the perfect set of postcards.

What a great excuse for another grand adventure!

London Town

I am concluding my travel blogging with additional pics from our three days in London…and some personal thoughts on traveling.

London was a surprise to me. Or perhaps, more accurately stated, my response to being in London was a surprise. The energy of this big, busy, ever shifting city was amazing to me. I loved the historical elements, and seeing well known landmarks like Big Ben and the London Tower. Our guided tours were fun and informative.

However, it was the people…the many, many people gathered here from countries around the world…that captivated me. The combined energy of so many souls, with their stories and their unfolding lives, surrounded me and impacted me deeply. I enjoy people watching anyway. Here, in a city of 8.8 million plus, the throngs of people were fascinating rather than overwhelming.

And yet, sadly, I tend to crop people out of my photos. I wish now that I had taken more pics of people walking and playing and laughing and sharing. I’ve come home with a determination to get more candid photos, on my next trip!

Here are additional shots around London:

Although our London hotel was housed in an older building, it was quite nice inside. This pic of our hotel captures my traveling companions in the foreground. I am grateful that my mom, sisters and niece traveled with me. It was a wonderful, shared adventure that I will never forget! And trust me, there were a few things I might want to forget…such as the escalator incident, in which my mom and I both fell down and tangled with each other and the luggage…and the day I forgot to lock the bathroom door during my shower and had not one but four interruptions…however, overall, this was a dream come true trip with my family.

My favorite shot of Big Ben.

This pic, at least, has some people in it! Taken in front of Buckingham Palace.

Statues in front of Buckingham.

Queen Victoria.

Inside London Tower.

The White Tower inside the Tower complex.

Tower Bridge.

Harry Potter fans will recognize this site, located inside the King’s Cross Station. There is a Harry Potter shop located next to this photo op place. Long lines kept us from having our photos taken.

I’ve had several people tell me this past week that I was so lucky that I got to travel to Italy, Ireland, Scotland and England this year. I understand what they are really saying. What they are expressing is their own desire to travel. And I get that! I have wanted to visit Scotland since I was a wee girl.

Luck had nothing to do with my travels this year though. They were intentional desires, released to the Divine. I dreamed. I planned. I saved. I read and researched and included my intended destinations on my vision boards. And then I opened my heart and lived life, with excitement, anticipation and curiosity.

And the Divine met me in those desires to travel, and explore, and see the world. Opportunities came. The funding arrived, exactly on time. I traveled. Family members got to travel with me. This is how life works for me. It’s a dance, and an interaction…it’s creative play, and going with the flow, and it’s accepting Divine invitations.

Travel is something I want to continue doing. So the intentions are still flowing. The desire to explore is out there, resting with the Divine, and my heart remains open to delicious possibilities.

“To move, to breathe, to fly, to float, to gain all while you give, to roam the roads of lands remote, to travel is to live.” Hans Christian Andersen

I am looking forward to my next adventure, which will be next summer, most likely. However, I am open to everything, attached to nothing. When the invitation to travel comes, I’ll pack my carry on and go!

Several of my photos inadvertently caught an airplane flying overhead. I didn’t consider that a mistake. It is very symbolic of my desire to travel and experience new places. My favorite photo, posted below, captured a jet high in the sky, with a double rainbow nearby. The rainbow…a symbol of hope and promise.

Yes. I’ll accept that as my own personal message, my invitation…do you want to explore, do you want to play, do you want to travel? I do! My carry on became a casualty to the escalator incident. I am ordering a new one, a sturdier one. And I will be ready to go!

Passing Through Glasgow

Our time in Glasgow was very brief. Most of our last full day in Scotland was spent traveling by car, from the Isle of Skye to Glasgow. We had hoped to catch a hop on/hop off bus and tour the city, but by the time we arrived and dropped off our luggage at the hotel, the day was quickly slipping away.

We barely had time to make it to the one place we all wanted to visit…the Glasgow Cathedral with the huge, Victorian cemetery behind it, known as the Necropolis. And yet, riding in taxis instead of on the bus allowed us to have fun conversations with several different colorful residents of Scotland’s biggest city. And the rain that continually fell didn’t deter us but rather made us appreciate the cozy atmosphere of the restaurant we chose for dinner. It was the right spot. Our young waiter was attentive and we enjoyed chatting with him about Scotland and the US.

Here are additional photos from our brief, but pleasant sojourn in Glasgow.

The glistening square outside the Glasgow Cathedral. In Scotland, you just accept that it is going to rain. We dressed accordingly, in warm layers, with hoodies to cover our heads when the rain fell steadily. When the sky lightened or that rare object, the sun, broke through the clouds, we would push the hoods off our heads and shed a wrap or two.

The sacred beauty of the cathedral.

Far from morbid, the Necropolis, perched high atop a hill, has a unique beauty of its own. The lateness of the day coupled with the rain allowed us to walk among the massive monuments mostly alone. The thing that struck me about this City of the Dead is that the tombstones and memorials list the names of the deceased, and their occupations. This is a burial place of the wealthy and well known in old Glasgow. What the person did in life seemed to be as important as who they were. Even so, in the end, all their empty shells returned to the dust, death being the great equalizer among men.

We wondered if we should be concerned about this sight!

Such a variety of monuments and memorials.

What a gorgeous monument, with its black weathered door.

Outside the gates of the Necropolis is one of the few remaining blue police boxes in the UK. Fans of the long running British show, Doctor Who, will understand why a pic with the blue box was a must!

And that was all we had time for in Glasgow. Another short taxi ride to Buchanan Street, to people watch and find a place to eat, gave us another opportunity for a lively conversation. The next morning, we boarded a train, London bound.

British actor Darren Boyd says about this friendly city:

“For me, Glasgow is all about the people and the spirit of the place.”

I agree. I love Edinburgh. And if it feels like home to me, then Glasgow feels like the fun city I visit on holiday. The people are friendly here. They laugh heartily and share their stories easily. There is a lively energy in Glasgow that courses through the city, encouraging me to return, to explore and see what else I can discover.

I accept that invitation. Glasgow, I will return.

Land of Unicorns

You know that any country who claims the unicorn as its national animal is going to be magical. As we left the Borders behind, heading north into the Highlands, it was easy to set logic aside and firmly believe there were unicorns, hidden in the deep shadows pooled beneath stately forests.

Because of the courage and skill of my sister, Debbie, we journeyed by car. The further north we went, the more wild the countryside became.

These additional photos capture some of the rugged beauty of the Highlands.

The Highland Coo (cow).

Mysterious Loch Ness

The ruins of Castle Urquhart overlooking Loch Ness.

Heart piercing beauty outside the car windows.

There are numerous waterfalls cascading down the Highland slopes.

Sitting pretty, Eilean Donan Castle, near the Isle of Skye.

From the hotel room window, Isle of Skye.

Near the Fairy Pools on Skye.

Since my return, I have been watching episodes of Outlander, a story of survival, challenges and romance, set in the Scottish Highlands in the 1700s. The breathtaking scenery captured on film is familiar and brings me joy, while it simultaneously stirs the desire to return to Scotland.

The female star of Outlander, Caitriona Balfe, who portrays the heroine Claire, said, “The Scottish Highlands are incredible. There seems to be magic and poetry everywhere.”

I so agree. I have experienced the magic of the Highlands and the poetry found there roots around my heart, waiting to be born through expression.

I’ll keep my heart open.

In the Borders

On one of our most magical days in Scotland, full of delightful surprises off the beaten path, we visited the ancestral home of Clan Maitland. Located in the region south of Edinburgh known as the Borders, Thirlestane Castle sits just outside the village of Lauder.

My maiden name is Lauderdale. The surname originates from this area, as the long line of Maitlands, earls and one duke, used the name as part of their title. The current Maitland Clan chieftain, Ian, who resides in London, is the 18th Earl of Lauderdale. Edward Maitland-Carew and his family are the current owners, and occupants, of Thirlestane Castle. During the summer months, the castle is open to visitors.

I am so glad that it is. This was my second visit to Thirlestane, and my niece’s second as well, while my sisters and mom saw it for the first time. Photographs were not allowed the first time I toured this 16th century castle. However, to my amazement, the signs now say no flash photography permitted. After asking permission, to be sure, my family and I started over in the first room open to the public, and happily snapped pics with our phones.

Welcome to Thirlestane Castle.

A parlor, with dark wood paneling.

An old wheelchair

Old photographs and awards from an early amateur photographer.

The recessed window alcoves show how thick the walls are. Castles are more than residences, they are fortresses, places of protection.

The billiard room.

The small library

The Duke of Lauderdale’s bedroom

The Duke of Lauderdale, a powerful man in Scotland and England.

A guest bedroom that was specifically reserved for Bonnie Prince Charles of England.

Formal sitting rooms, with ornate plaster ceilings.

The grand dining room.

The nurseries, with an impressive collection of vintage toys.

One of many staircases in the castle.

We so enjoyed our visit to Thirlestane Castle. There are 150 rooms in the castle, and although only a fraction of those are open to the public, it is easy to gain an appreciation for this gorgeous historic home and soak up the atmosphere. The energy within these thick walls is interesting to me, as I can imagine being accompanied by a host of past inhabitants as I wander room to room.

Are they as curious about me, as I am about them? Do they feel the connection of kinship that I feel?

The Borders is an apt name for this region in Scotland, as it lies between Edinburgh and Glasgow and England. A borderland is defined as an overlapping area between two things.

It is an apt description for me as well. I live my life in the borders, embracing reality and imagination, the natural world and the spirit world, and my Scottish/Irish/English heritage while also being American.

My borders are not sharply defined, the edges blurring together, shifting and enlarging, as I grow and flow through life and landscapes and regions. No wonder I feel like I belong in Scotland.

My heart has found its way home.

High Atop Castle Rock

Edinburgh Castle dominates the skyline of this historic city. Located atop an extinct volcano, in the heart of Old Town, the fortress stands as a stark reminder Scotland’s more turbulent times, when wars were fought between countries and even between clans.

Touted as Scotland’s most visited landmark, Edinburgh Castle draws in more than a million visitors a year. We made our way to the top of the Royal Mile to explore this ancient castle and learn about its place in Scottish history.

Here are additional photos from our time

within the castle compound.

Looking toward the Firth of Forth, east of Edinburgh.

There has been a royal castle on this rock since the reign of King David I, in the 12th century. Most of the castle’s original structures were destroyed in the 16th century during the Lang Siege, due to artillery bombardment, with the exception of Saint Margaret’s Chapel, the Royal Palace and the Great Hall.

Stained glass window and huge painting in the Great Hall.

We spent time wandering in the castle prisons, where the somber energy was heightened by dark shadows and the interesting play of light in stone passageways and long, dormitory style rooms. There was a sacredness present there, that told of survival rather than captivity, and life rather than death. Some of my favorite photos of the castle were taken in the prison.

Hammocks strung above narrow cots.

I love the light finding its way through these shuttered windows. It symbolizes hope to me.

Although the prisons could be considered depressing, I found a resilient beauty in them. The stone chambers would have provided unyielding barriers to the men within, however, their souls were not contained. We viewed etchings and carvings the prisoners made on wooden doors and upon the stone walls themselves. The creative pictures were vital reminders of home and life and hope.

The One O’Clock Gun is fired every day, except Sunday, at precisely 1:00. It is a time signal, fired for the ships in the harbor, since 1861.

There is a castle tea house in the compound, where I enjoyed a cup of hot lemon grass and ginger tea.

We enjoyed our time on Castle Rock. The views of the city are amazing. I stood peering over the battlements, and imagined what Edinburgh looked like in the centuries past. Remove the cars and buses, and much of it probably looked the same as it currently does. I felt the solidness and permanence of this stronghold and my Scottish blood rejoiced.

The statues of Robert the Bruce and William Wallace were added to the gatehouse entrance in 1929. They stand as silent sentinels, defenders of Scotland’s freedoms. I feel the castle itself is a sentinel, watching over the city from atop its stony perch, a grounding force for Edinburgh’s residents and visitors. Long may it stand.

The Edinburgh Way of Life

On the fourth day of our three country adventure, my traveling companions and I took a short flight from Ireland to Scotland. Edinburgh Airport was our destination. Because the flight was so brief, we didn’t climb high above the earth. Instead, the countryside, rivers, buildings and houses were easily discernible from my window seat vantage point.

This was perfect for me. I watched intently as we flew low across the Borders and approached Scotland’s capital city. Although I enjoyed visiting Ireland and England, Scotland calls strongly to me. My soul answers that siren call, energetically stretching out ahead of my body to connect with my ancestral home.

I am not typically a big city girl. Joplin, with a population of 55,000, is just about the right size for me. How then to explain why this sprawling metropolis of almost half a million people has captivated me so, earning the title of My Favorite City in the World.

I love the energy of Edinburgh, home of national festivals and endless activities, museums and universities, cathedrals, historical sites and a castle. Together Edinburgh’s Old Town and New Town form a UNESCO World Heritage Site that draws more than a million visitors a year.

I was grateful to be one of those visitors this year. Here are additional highlights of our first day in Auld Reekie:

First glimpse of Edinburgh Castle. Our apartment was in the neighborhood behind the ancient fortress. From almost anywhere in the city, you can look up and orient yourself by locating the castle.

Wellington Statue

The Scott Monument near the Princes Street Gardens.

The Scottish Saltire, white cross on a sky blue background, and the red, white and blue Union Jack.

Because my son is a police sergeant, I like to take pics of police cars in other countries. Edinburgh’s police car.

I wrote about Greyfriars Bobby, the faithful little dog who refused to leave his owner’s grave after the man died. Bobby is buried just inside the cemetery gates, near his owner. I wondered about the sticks. My niece and sister pointed out that dogs like to play fetch, chasing after a thrown stick. Ahhhh, yes, I got it.

The grave of Bobby’s owner, John Gray. Bobby remained near this site for 14 years, until he too died. The city adopted him and made sure he had food, water and shelter. More sticks as a memorial at this gravesite.

Greyfriars Kirk Cemetery.

The leaves were beginning to turn in Edinburgh and the weather was much cooler than in Missouri, necessitating long sleeves and jackets.

Everywhere I look in Old Town, it’s like a scene from a Charles Dickens novel come to life.

We concluded our first day in Edinburgh with dinner at Deacon Brodie’s Tavern. William Brodie, 1741-1788, was more commonly known as Deacon Brodie. He was a respectable cabinet maker by day, and a city councilor, who maintained a secret life as a burglar, partly for the thrill of stealing and partly to fund his gambling habit.

Part of his job as a cabinetmaker was to install and repair locks in prestigious homes. Brodie used his day job as a way to get info about his clients and to make wax impressions of the locks’ keys, allowing him to easily enter the houses later and steal. Brodie was eventually caught, found guilty of his crimes and hanged before a crowd of 40,000.

Robert Louis Stevenson, whose father owned furniture made by Brodie, was fascinated by the dichotomy between Brodie’s respectable life and his true nature, and was inspired to write The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as a result.

In fact, Stevenson found Edinburgh itself to be leading a double existence.

I love the history and colorful stories associated with Edinburgh. I feel like I have only just begun to learn these stories. The city has so much more to reveal to me.

My earnest desire is to live in Edinburgh part time. My grandchildren are still young and I could not be away from them or my adult children for long. My family is here in the States. They are dear to me. I envision myself living a month in Edinburgh and then three months in Joplin, going back and forth throughout the year.

I have released that desire, that dream, to the Dream Maker. I don’t need to figure out the hows or the whens…I will just hold to the whys. Edinburgh feels like home to me. It feels right. A mixture of contentment and excitement fills me there, in a way that it does not elsewhere. I am open to all possibilities, and attached to nothing. If I am meant to be in Edinburgh part time, the way will be revealed to me, and I will simply take each step as it is shown to me.

Writer Ian Rankin said, “Edinburgh isn’t so much a city, more a way of life. I doubt I’ll ever tire of exploring Edinburgh, on foot or in print.”

My sentiments, exactly.

Irish Memories

When I set off on adventures, my daily blog becomes a travel blog, capturing the highlights of each day. Because the days are full and long, these posts are necessarily brief so that I can get to bed and catch a few hours of sleep before the start of the next exciting day. It has become my custom to share additional thoughts, stories and photos in the days after the conclusion of the trip.

Today’s post focuses on memories from the first two days of our girls’ trip, in Dublin, Ireland.

Ireland was the only country, out of the three we visited during this trip, that none of us had seen before. My mom, sisters, niece and I all have Irish, Scottish and English heritage. We were excited about the opportunity to visit Dublin, Ireland and connect more deeply with our Irish roots.

Additional photos and thoughts from our Dublin stay:

Gorgeous architecture…

We walked around the streets of Dublin, gawking and gazing upward at the beautiful old buildings. Our primary mode of transportation in this city was the hop on/hop off bus, which we made excellent use of.

Green parks and soothing rivers and lakes…

I loved St Stephens Green, a large park in central Dublin. However, there were other parks, some surrounding monuments and memorials, and there was a zoo. We rode past the zoo many times but did not stop. I appreciated the dedicated green spaces in Dublin where people could walk or stretch out on the grass. And like other European cities, many residents create their own miniature gardens in hanging baskets, window boxes and on roof tops.

Friendly people…

As much as we enjoyed touring the city and admiring the buildings and sampling the food, it was the people of Dublin that we fell in love with. The first thing we adored was their charming Irish accent. I’ve heard Irish actors speak on talk shows and in movies. However, this was my first time to be immersed in the culture and hear many people speaking in the same lilting cadence.

We looked forward to the tour bus drivers’ narratives, especially when they said, “The next stop will be stop number thirty-three…” The Irish don’t pronounce the “th” sound like Americans do. So thirty-three sounds to our ears like “turty tree”. And “with you” sounds like “wit choo”. We smiled every time. My sister Linda pointed out that our sister Debbie, who is my mom’s third daughter, was the “turd daughter”, which became a little family joke!

While in Dublin, we picked up the slang word feckin’. Let me just say it’s a colorful word, similar to an American word that begins with the same letter. The Irish version sounds more playful and less crude and found its way into our vocabulary over the next 11 days.

The Irish people we met were happy, light hearted, fun and gracious. Of the three countries we visited, Ireland’s citizens were the most humorous and by a slight margin, the friendliest.

I enjoyed this first glimpse of Ireland. Our stay there was short and unfortunately we didn’t have time to venture out into the countryside, which for me warrants another visit in the near future. The five of us embraced our Irish roots to become Celtic women while we were there. Ireland called to my Irish blood and awakened my poetic soul, kindling the desire to learn more about this part of my heritage.

I’ve been told I have Irish feet. It was explained to me that Irish feet is a way of saying I have an inborn desire to travel and move about. I understand that better now.

Ireland, I will be back. You are a part of me, and I of you.