nothing like a lamb lark

Who could have imagined the joy that we would have just because I gave my friend a sheep adoption? And then we went to visit Daphne.

Daphne’s twins

During our conversations with Tammy, the sheep farm shepherd, we sat in our chairs and shared sheep experiences my friend and I have had in other countries. Ireland, Iona, Iceland, and the Faroe Islands.

In Ireland the sheep have a unique color painted on their backs to designate whose flock they belong to. On a visit to Ireland, we encountered a situation that we felt needed our intervention. We became shepherds of one sheep whom we felt was in danger. In hindsight we thought we knew more than the shepherd. We persuaded the shepherd to return with us, and when we arrived on the scene, all was well.

In Iceland, shepherds on horseback ride across the country in early September to round up the sheep who have scattered great distances across the country since spring.

In the Faroe Islands, winter is not typically harsh. This lets the sheep remain out and about almost year-round. Years ago, in an effort to encourage Google to map the country, a local shepherd attached a specially built harness fitted with a Go-pro camera to five sheep to provide 360 degree views. It worked!

On Sunday, the day after our afternoon sheep sit, while enjoying coffee and maple sugar-covered breakfast items,

we decided to set our Sabbath worship as an “anything can happen” worship.

We began by choosing the Gospel for the day to be from John’s Gospel story of the Good Shepherd. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep…I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me.”

The day before we had passed the entrance to a scenic drive as we drove into Manchester. So after coffee and shopping (yes shopping) we decided to circle back and drive the scenic road to the summit of Mt. Equinox, the highest point in Bennington County.

We drove Sky Line Drive up to the summit, altitude 3,855’.

We stopped at every scenic overlook. We said Psalm 121 as we stood and gazed at God’s wondrous creation.

“I lift up my eyes to the hills—from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”

We continued saying the psalm together, part King James, part contemporary.

“He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.”

“The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.”

“I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made heaven and earth.”

Along one side of the Saint Bruno viewing center at the summit, were a series of large marble blocks for sitting. We chose one, sat down and read John’s Gospel,

“I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own sheep and my own sheep know me…. You need to know that I have other sheep in addition to those in this pen. I need to gather and bring them, too. They’ll also recognize my voice. Then it will be one flock, one Shepherd.”

What a great trip wrapped up in shepherding!”

Homeward bound. Traveling mercies.

meeting daphne

Yesterday we drove from Hartford, CT through Massachusetts to Shaftsbury, VT. We didn’t stay on the interstate for long. Instead, we chose “the roads less traveled”.

Grilled cheese sandwiches and potato chips for lunch at the Blue Benn Diner. When was the last time you dined at a diner?

Or topped off lunch with a stop at Tasty Freeze.

An hour later we arrived at A Wing and a Prayer Farm

We had a wonderful greeting from the owner, Tammy, and the long hoped for greeting by the sheep.

We first wandered around the barn, meeting rescue sheep who were in quarantine as they had some health issues to overcome before joining the flock.

Tammy also dyes the wool from the sheep, the colors of which come from flowers, onion skins and various plants. She explained it all as we walked by the dyeing vats on our way to the pasture.

Tammy tossed several metal chairs in a wheelbarrow and we set off to visit the sheep.

The way it works with sheep is that you sit in your chairs and wait for the sheep to come to you.

Gradually the sheep strolled over. Tammy called all 60-70 by name as they began to move about.

Daphne

For well over two hours we sat with the sheep. It was a delight!! For us and the sheep I am sure. Tammy sat with us and told us all about being a sheep farmer – the joys and sorrows and the extraordinary amount of work it is. She’s an amazing woman.

We drove off smiling as we criss-crossed passed fields and through small villages to our destination for the night.

We mused about Tammy’s calling to shepherd her flock. Of course our conversation then turned to that of The Good Shepherd. More about that tomorrow.

lamb lark

I’m going on a travel lark – a lamb lark!

Wing and a Prayer Farm

A year ago, when I was thinking about what to give my best friend for Christmas, I happened upon a wonderful idea. My friend is a knitter and loves yarn.

I was browsing an Etsy yarn store. While I was looking at the various yarn offerings, I noticed an additional gift offering. I could adopt a sheep for a year for my friend. Now that was a perfect gift to give.

Included in the gift were adoption papers, a small and plush stuffed sheep, and… an invitation to visit the sheep anytime during the year.

My friend was charmed by the gift. It wasn’t long before she said she wanted to visit her adopted sheep, Daphne.

Daphne with her first newborn earlier this year.

And so we shall. We are going to Vermont!

Tonight we each fly to Hartford, Connecticut. It seems this is the only airport within a couple of hours of the farm, where each of us can fly nonstop from our home airports and on our preferred airlines. The flights arrive late between 10 and 11pm. Thankfully we’re staying at the Sheraton Hotel just a few yards from baggage claim. With a runway view!

I’m hoping for this kind of greeting tomorrow.

Or maybe this.

Traveling mercies.

it’s a wrap, as iceland travel concludes.

Have you ever had to leave your best friend behind? In Iceland? I had to do just that. Some of this story I have told, but it deserves re-telling.

At that time, the United States required a negative COVID test to enter. My friend had tested positive; I had tested negative. That meant I would leave Iceland. My friend would remain behind.

I had a twenty-four hour window before I had to leave. So I stayed in Iceland an extra day to try to figure things out. For her and for myself. Too soon it was time for me to depart before the window closed on me.

It was a time of tears. Many tears. Before she dropped me off at the airport, we promised to meet as soon as possible so the end of the Iceland trip could end “properly”.

Today I’m on my way to Houston for that proper ending. It’s been two months to the day. It’s time.

Looking around as I enter the Delta Sky Club prior to my flight (yes, privilege), I see signs of reunion joy.

Traveling mercies.

family joy

A week ago I was part of a gathering of parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncle, and cousins. All had traveled to Seattle to honor and celebrate a beautiful, smart, talented and loving young woman.

She is my granddaughter.

Including the graduate, we numbered thirteen. We were a joy-filled presence as we crisscrossed the Seattle area.

We gathered for the Baccalaureate Mass.

Following the baccalaureate, we celebrated Nathan’s birthday.

The next morning we gathered for the graduation. It was held at the Seattle Mariners Baseball Stadium.

New to me was the tradition of purchasing leis for the graduates. Lei craftspeople had small stands outside the stadium from which they offered leis for sale. I was quick to purchase one!

Our group was determined to make certain Valerie heard our cheers when her name was called. We practiced when her friends’ names were called. When Valerie received her diploma, I am certain she could hear her family cheering. We were loud and proud!

After the graduation ceremony we piled into several cars for a short drive to Serious Pizza. Nathan had turned sixteen the day before, so he was enlisted as a driver.

The dozen pizzas – and more – were seriously delicious!

The following day a variety of activities were offered. Sailing. Backyard games. Delightful conversations. AND a grill fest.

Our last full day was filled, of course. I rode along to the marina for a quick adjustment to the sailboat, followed by a quick stop for bagels extraordinaire.

In the afternoon all thirteen of us attended a Seattle Storm game. The Storm are one of the best teams in the WNBA. Few in our group had enjoyed a WNBA game.

It was so much fun!

After the game ended, we were off to a party celebrating Valerie and her two best friends.

And just like that, by noon the next day all travelers were on their way home. It was an extraordinary gathering to celebrate an extraordinary young woman. She is well on her way. Next stop, Rice University.

and now you know…

…the rest of the story.

I can now blog the final chapter of my recent Iceland travel. The last blog I had posted was a summary of my travels in Iceland during the previous ten days. The trip was filled with delight, glee, quiet moments and, of course, vast vistas.

On the day we were to fly out, we drove back roads to Keflavik, a town near the airport. It was a lovely drive.

Since a negative COVID test was required to enter the United States, we had made reservations in Keflavik for our tests.

After the tests were administered, we were asked to take a seat and wait 15 minutes for the email with the results.

I passed. My best friend and traveling companion did not.

My negative COVID test was good for two days, making it possible for me to leave this day or the next. So I changed my flights and stayed the night, in a separate room from my friend, at a nearby hotel. We began to make all the necessary arrangements for her to be on her own in Iceland. With no idea for how long.

I left the next evening for home. It was agony.

For the next five days my friend navigated the COVID testing system seeking a “fit-to-fly” document which when issued by a physician, can allow someone to fly to the United States. It’s for folks who continue to test positive, but have few or no symptoms. It’s kind of a “get-out-of-Iceland” card.

On the fifth day of isolation, my friend received clearance to fly! She chose to change airlines so she could fly to Frankfurt and from there, non-stop to Houston. The next day she set down in Houston. Home at last.

I didn’t feel I could write the last Iceland trip blog until we both had made it home. I’m so glad that saga is over.

We are already planning our next trip to Iceland. We think it’s important to write a different ending to our Icelandic travel story. Stay tuned.

Traveling mercies.

rhythm of the days

This is our last full day in Iceland. As I blogged about a few days ago, Iceland is vast. I’ve frequently used this word when describing Iceland to others.

Iceland is also small moments and quiet corners.

Small, welcoming lodging.

Lovely breakfast settings.

Charming kaffi shops.

Shared meals.

Delightful conversations with delightful people

Small churches in which to sit for a few quiet minutes.

Moments of exuberant joy.

Companionship.

And of course, ice cream.

“As soon as I saw you, I knew a grand adventure was about to happen.” Winnie The Pooh.

day of ease

Today was a day of intention. Intention to hang around “home” for awhile – without dashing off anywhere.

It felt great to be leisurely, without rush. To sit a spell in this particular, locale.

Time for me to take photographs around our place of lodging.

Time to walk through the front door of the gorgeous town church. To sit and pray, spend time with God.

Time to sit outside and enjoy eating pizza that was cooked by using thermal heat.

Time to take a short drive to visit a potter and glass maker we have known for a number of years.

Then time to drive a little further to a sheep farm where the owner dyes the sheared fur by using local plants for color. She then spins it all into yarn. She was a real delight.

Then time to mosey on down the road, finding horse and sheep posing, a beautiful small church, and more Icelandic vistas.

Of course finding time for ice cream!

Lastly, time to sit a spell on the deck as day slowwwly draws to a close – sometime in the next couple of hours. 11:10pm to be exact.

“Each day, and the living of it, has to be a conscious creation in which discipline and order are relieved with some play and pure foolishness.” May Sarton

more travel down roads mostly less traveled

Our drive to church yesterday was on generally empty roads. Few cars. Lots of wide-open spaces.

After church it was more of the same, with the addition of impressive mountains in the distance.

We drove on to Gullfoss, (“Golden Falls”). This waterfall is located in the canyon of the Hvítá river. The average amount of water running down the waterfall is 5,000 cu ft per second in the summer. The spray reaches the parking lot long before you see the falls.

During my first visit to Iceland I was one of those standing close to the falls. No need to repeat.

The afternoon drive back to the hotel was more of the same. Extraordinary beauty on a very large scale.

A late afternoon return to our favorite kaffi and bookshop for cuppas.

Such a glorious day of worship, wondrous moments, and kaffi surrounded by wisdom.

ascension day

Today is Ascension Day in the church. It commemorates Jesus Christ’s ascension into heaven.

In past years, churches celebrated this day with services on the Thursday upon which Ascension Day fell. This seems to have fallen out of favor, and currently most churches prefer to transfer the observance to the Sunday after Ascension Day.

Happily there was no transferring at Skálholt Cathedral in Skálholt, Iceland. As soon as my traveling friend learned about the service, we planned to attend.

After about a forty minute drive this morning, we arrived for church. It was especially poignant for me to attend because I had been confirmed on Ascension Day in 1953. Sixty-nine years ago today.

As I sat in my chair preparing myself for worship, I thought about the extraordinary foundation my parents provided me as I grew up in their care and in the faith they made certain I was offered. Taught. Promised. Imparted. I did not realize until this morning the gratitude I have for this gift.

The church of Iceland is Lutheran. We were certain we would easily fit into the worship service.

It did not matter that we did not understand each spoken or sung word because we were familiar enough with the service.

A choir sang while we hummed along with the familiar tunes.

Communion was offered and we participated.

Following the service we joined the congregation, the choir, and the priest for coffee and pastries.

Gathered with these children of God this morning in this place was a reminder for me that we all are one body in Christ. Thanks be to God.