Hello darling Girlfriends, Happy May! How have you been? I have MUSICA for you . . . and lots of story-time, about spring time and our Patriot’s Day, Concord and Lexington adventure, so grab some tea and . . . Here we go!
Some of our trees are just beginning to leaf out ~ I wish you could see them in person! They are the tenderest softest color, fresh and vibrant. It’s glorious being OUT of the house in the spring! Everything is so new! Spring fever is everywhere.
Some old-fashioned things like fresh air and sunshine are hard to beat. 🌷 Laura Ingalls WilderI’ve probably been doing the same thing you have!! Looking for the rainbow connection and finding it everywhere!
It started here with snow drops . . . like a little white meadow in the lawn. I realize now, spring comes from the bottom up. First the baby wildflowers, then the bigger bulbs, then the grass turns green. After all that, flowering bushes and trees compete for first place…
. . . yup, the slow lane where checking the garden and staring at the new growth is just part of what we do in the spring! The tiny blue Siberian Squill comes popping up everywhere . . . we now hove a little carpet of it out behind the barn, takes a while to pick them, they are so little, but they’re REAL FLOWERS! They didn’t come from the grocery store!!! Been a long time since we had that!
And then, in a world of still-leafless, colorless trees, suddenly, because of the fairies running ahead around here, fixing things for us, there are flashes of color in front of every picket fence, along side roads and rock walls.
All the while the perennials make a futile attempt to compete. . . only chives really come through. Actual FOOD in the garden!
But on the dew-drop mornings, perennials don’t stand a chance against the bulbs. We’re so proud we got them all in last fall, our reward feels like magic! Joe parks the car further up in the driveway so we can see more of the garden from the kitchen window!
And then the trees join in the rejoicing, first the flowering pear, then our Magnolia . . .
Then the dogwood . . .
And now it’s May, and that’s lilac time! If you have ever smelled lilacs, mix that smell with a bit of cold salt air and you know what it smells like in our yard! It’s still chilly most days … in 50ºs or low 60ºs. Exhilarating, leaf-unfurling weather!
Spring is so Inspiring!!!
Something else from the kitchen window just yesterday … I have NEVER in all my years on this island seen an Eastern Bluebird … never. I saw western bluebirds, but not these! I heard they are here, and I was even whining about it to Joe just recently, and then . . . voila, yesterday!!!
I didn’t scream, I gasped, stood stock-still looking around the room for my camera, then I snuck up on him from across the kitchen… taking pictures through the window constantly, moving very slowly, and he stayed! I got him! A blue letter day! (Oops, I stand wildly corrected! Girlfriends to the rescue…THIS is an Indigo Bunting, NOT an Eastern Bluebird! Even better!😁)
I can’t let May go by (it’s already going too fast!) without mentioning that May 1st was the one-year anniversary of THIS … our trip across the ocean aboard the Queen Mary 2 with our Girlfriends. Exactly last year at this time, this is where we were. Hard to believe and want to go again! Want to go NOW!
Here is our first moment of seeing everyone as we arrived one by one (actually it isn’t everyone, we ended up having 102 come along, and some of the boys were shy), but lots of us. We met on the back of the ship before it even started moving! Brave intrepid Girlfriends! It was SUCH an exciting moment! Seeing everyone for the first time! Putting faces to names we knew so well! We handed out these little pins we made so we’d all be sure to recognize each other if we met in an elevator. The mark of the Corgi!
Some of us had met before at book signings, and some of us had only met here in the comment section of the blog. But one thing’s for sure, we were kindred spirits. Connected by the things we have in common, home, nature, art, books, curiosity, tenacity, humor, empathy, and I would add, sweetness of heart. We had the most wonderful time!
Our English friends, Paul and Rachel flew over and met us in New York … their first time on the Queen Mary 2, and the first time we got to spend 7 whole days together right in a row! We trapped them! Ever since, we just Zoom, and then cry from homesickness for each other more than ever before.💞
And this was our first destination. The amazing gardens at Stourhead. Everyone got off the ship and toured around England for a week, making memories of their own ~ but we had plans to all meet back in this amazing place, Stourhead in Wiltshire UK, to reconnect, celebrate the fact that we DID this ~ and have a picnic before we said goodbye.
And here we are, back after our adventures . . . It rained, so there was no sitting on the lawn after all, but a wet lawn and dripping trees did not stop us . . . there was this lovely space next to the pub in Stourhead where we could sit, have tea, eat lunch, share stories, and visit, so all was well . . . All those smiles were real!🌸🌸🌸
We were the picture-takingest bunch of Girlfriends you ever met!
Darling Girlfriends, I can’t believe it was only a year ago, seems like forever, and at the same time, I’m amazed, it was only a YEAR AGO! To all of you who were able to join us, Happy Anniversary!
Me with Siobhan and Ray . . . I never get to see these girls enough! Actually I’m not sure I ever get to see ANYBODY enough!
That’s what happens when you fall in love with people in another country! But I wouldn’t change a thing.💞
The UK probably looks like this in every village and town right now. Bedecked with bunting! Prince Charles is going to be crowned King on May 6th at Westminster Abbey, the same place they’ve been crowning their monarchs since 1066! History! I’ll be watching!
In case any of you are having a Tea Party ~ 👏👏👏 . . . here’s a poster I saw in a tea shop in England with ideas to make your party more traditional.🇬🇧 Rachel sent me bunting!!
And by the way . . . I need to thank all of you for your luv-lee birthday wishes! What a nice birthday I had! You can tell from this picture of me at Lowely’s house! I heard from so many of my beloveds ~ always my favorite part of a birthday. I went to lunch at Lowely’s house with my darling girlfriends . . . sat in a circle and talked and talked and drank champagne and ate Margot’s Tres Leche Cake, and this:
Everyone contributed ~ we had bowls of leafy greens with every kind of salad topper to choose from, Jaime made Green Goddess dressing, and Lowely made the salmon!
Late that sparkly afternoon, Joe and I took a walk to our most favorite place. We always feel gratitude when we are out there … that in this whole wide world of possibilities, we both accidentally ended up here on this island in the Atlantic, together! What luck!💞 (Those fairies again!)
There are very long shadows out there at the end of a day. We look quite lanky.🤣 But, for the record, I just want to ask whose idea these pants ⬆️ are? Short, flared, supposedly fashionable, but for some reason, they look consistently stupid on me. Good on others, adorable on my mom ➡️ ~ I’ve tried them with short tops, long tops (don’t do this), narrow, wide leg, with socks, without socks, with every kind of shoe, and I can’t get a decent balance. I just look like I’m expecting a flood. I keep trying, but so far, I don’t get it. I’m saving mine for walking, gardening, and maybe painting the house. Anyway, so yes, that walk with Joe was the frosting on the cake of a perfect birthday, and then … off to Lexington and Concord for our get-away Patriot’s weekend. It was even better than I imagined it would be!👏
⬆️ One local girl’s opinion! We don’t think it’s dull! Mostly because of the history she spoke of, and some she helped make! Driving through MA, especially this part ~ Lexington and Concord, about 10 miles northwest of Boston, is always fun because of the gorgeous old colonial homes and the HISTORY. BTW, that house above?
One of my Twitter friends said they grew up calling this style of house “five over four and a door” (talking about windows). Cute huh?
This was one of my favorite houses . . . with the cream colored trim and picket fence.
Catching a decent photo of it while driving by became my daily quest.
We stopped in to say hello at Orchard House . . . Just as charming as ever . . . the story of Louisa May Alcott and her family right there in Concord . . .
The festivities that surround events leading up to, and including the start of the Revolutionary War go on daily for almost the whole month of April. Costumed battle reenactments, tours of famous homes and taverns, parades, and demonstrations, ~ the whole area gets ready for it. Flags lined the street of Concord.
Of course everyone who comes to Concord tries to visit the restaurant in the famous old Colonial Inn built in 1716. One of the Inn’s original buildings was used as a storehouse for arms, gun powder, and provisions during the war. Here, history comes alive.
Such good advice from beloved Winnie. It’s perfectly normal, this time of the year, to see folks from yesteryear dining downstairs in the pubby part of the Inn.
If you go on a cool day, when it’s rainy or snowing, hold out for a spot downstairs in the cozy old part of the Inn … you can feel the past in this room…ghosts of EVERYONE in here . . .
The Main Event for Patriot’s Day is the reenactment of the first shots heard round the world at Battle Green in Lexington. You have to Be there at 5:30 am. Because everyone, by then, knows the Red Coats are coming (they call them “Regulars”), and this war waits for no man. There was something otherworldly and wonderful being out there so early in the morning with all these other happy people! It was exciting!
. . . our guys, the Minutemen, were waiting for the Regulars on the Green, which is still surrounded by houses that were there that day in 1775, where some of these Minutemen lived. Yes, that white house right there belonged to a Minuteman. Inside the houses, wives and children were watching and not expecting what happened, nobody was. John Hancock was up the street, about to escape to Philadelphia with his friend Sam Adams, because they are one of the reasons the British were coming, they had orders to arrest them and take them, and then capture and destroy Colonial military supplies stored at Concord. In real life, the first battle began with 87 Minutemen and 300 Regulars. But thanks to Paul Revere and his ilk, the alarm was out. By the end of this first skirmish, there were hundreds of Minutemen on their way from “every Middlesex” (the county) “village and town” … and more British reinforcements were coming from Boston. The British were caught flat-footed at the way things had turned. But nerves were on a knife-edge. This was April 1775 . . . things had been going downhill since before the tea was dumped in Boston Harbor two years before. Colonists were still outraged by the Boston Massacre of 1770. That February the British Parliament had declared the colony of Massachusetts was “in a state of rebellion.” This day was a long time coming. Mostly, as we learned, there was a lot of stupidity and of course greed that led to this war, but a lot of inevitability too, with sparks of idealism and hope, and a whole lot of bravery and determination. Fate had a hand in it too. Plus the stupidity, don’t forget.
So up the road comes the British military in overwhelming numbers . . . the world’s superpower ~ fife and drums, prancing horses, well turned-out in matching uniforms, thinking they are taking the town by surprise. They had never heard of “one if by land, two if by sea” and had no idea.
Our guys were waiting for them with their muskets ~ I worried about that one Minuteman dressed in red ~ thought it was a dangerous choice for that day. As you can see, there was a large crowd of people from 2023 watching, but except for horse whinnies, squeaky leather, and a lot of yelling from the soldiers, you could hear a pin drop.
The Regulars lined up . . . looking like they meant business . . . my heart jumped, the British Colonel in charge warned his troops DO NOT SHOOT. NOBODY BETTER SHOOT. JUST MOVE FORWARD BUT DO NOT SHOOT. YOU WILL BE IN BIG TROUBLE IF YOU SHOOT. He didn’t whisper, he shouted, everyone heard him. Then he told them to put their bayonets on their muskets.😳 So nobody really knows who fired that first shot . . . here’s how it went.
Bayonets! Eeeek. I think I’d rather get shot! Not sure I would stand there and let them stab me.
Muskets and cannons were firing, everyone was running and yelling in the smoke. It was LOUD, probably confusing there in the center of it. Shooting was definitely happening.
And suddenly in less than 5 minutes of guys talking to guys, there were DEAD people . . . eight dead and ten wounded, 18 bodies scattered on the Green, and the Revolutionary War had definitely begun. No putting that back into the bottle. The drums started up, calling the Regulars to stop immediately and move back ~ the British Colonel lined them up and yelled at them kind of like an angry dad, “I TOLD YOU NOT TO SHOOT, DAMN YOU! IT’S A DISGRACE!” He was so mad. Too late now. Then the fife and drum started playing Yankee Doodle Dandy (a British song and hard to hear at the moment, too jaunty with so many playing dead on the lawn) and the King’s troops marched around the bodies, off to North Bridge in Concord where (spoiler alert) they meet hundreds of Minutemen (there’s another reenactment of what happens there). The British lost the North Bridge battle . . . which inspired their difficult retreat, a running battle all the way back to Boston, wearing giant bright red coats, not blending into the countryside at all, sitting ducks, constantly attacked by Minutemen Militia from all sides. Our 2023 crowd stood there watching them march away, a little bit stunned and silent, while women and children from 1775 came running out of the surrounding houses in their caps and aprons and long skirts screaming and crying, throwing themselves on the bodies of their loved ones. It was really very sad. Thirty-year old Jonathon Harrington, fatally wounded by a British musket ball, managed to crawl back to his home and died in his wife’s arms on his own doorstep. By the time the British got back to Boston they had lost 273 men, the Militia had lost 93. The soldiers had plenty of time to think about what they were doing, it took forever to reload a musket. There was not one corny bone in this reenactment’s body. It was solemn and real. Left us torn between sad and proud. But to be honest, mostly sad.
“The thunderbolt falls on an inch of ground but the light of it fills the horizon,” said Ralph Waldo Emerson, when he attended the 100-year memorial of the Battle in 1875.
From Battle Green we walked over behind that beautiful church to visit the graveyard, called Ye Old Burying Ground 1690.
Beautiful and real and old and us, all of us … belonging to everyone who loves what this country SAYS it stands for and works within an imperfect (after all, it’s man-made) system to make us live up to it. System could use a little adjustment . . . it’s time, and it’s our time.
William Morris said that before the Industrial Revolution, every man was an artist. It’s true, you see it everywhere, in these gravestones, in the houses . . .
in the history . . .
And how it’s cared for and honored.
There was SO MUCH to see . . . we only had four days and it wasn’t enough! We’d been once before, and saw quite a lot, including North Bridge and Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, but didn’t realize until this visit, how much there was. Here we are, in Buckman Tavern . . .
. . . Just across the street from Battle Green, the meeting place for locals and travelers, and where the Minutemen waited for the British to arrive …
We walked a block or two up the street for a visit to the house where John Hancock had been waiting that fateful day, having his porridge and sherry . . .
And where the Lexington Historical Society has taken great pains to keep it as it was, with many of the original items still in the house.
I wouldn’t mind having this kitchen right now! It’s perfect! My stove would look darling in here. We got to hear something about almost every piece in here . . . the table is original, and so are the chairs, the bowl, and the lantern on the table. . . the docents were costumed and happy to answer all our questions!👏👏👏
In one of the bedrooms I think I saw a Ghost . . .
And out front, I looked down, and there was California! I’m sorry, I’m getting loopy, there is SO MUCH to tell, I’m leaving things out so I can finish and you can GO! I hope you come here someday and see it for yourself…
As you can see, it’s a great event for families (little ones should bring ear plugs)… I’m sure this running battle through the woods (that we walked alongside all the way up the street ~ about the length of 3 football fields) is something kids won’t forget. One of my favorite things is the 5-mile walking path (just like those between villages in England) tying Lexington and Concord together, with historical sites along the way. We didn’t have time to walk it, but we will make time on our next visit. The woods in the area are so evocative, you feel like you are seeing history when you’re walking through them. If you do bring kids, be sure to take them to Helen’s diner in Concord, and don’t miss The Barrow Bookstore around the corner.
Something else I don’t want you to miss is The Concord Museum. Besides the Revolutionary War, Concord is famous for something else ~ in the middle of the 19th Century, it became a hotbed for original thinkers and do-ers, writers, educators, artists, searchers, and experimenters ~ from Henry David Thoreau, to Louisa May Alcott, Daniel Chester French, John Brown, Horace Mann, John Muir, the Alcott family, the Peabody sisters, Nathanial Hawthorne, Margaret Fuller, and many more, people famous in their own time whose names we might not recognize ~ and it all centered around the genius of Ralph Waldo Emerson. That’s him above, and his home above that, the white one across the street from the museum, a hop, skip, and jump from Orchard house ~ ground that was crossed regularly by the young Louisa May Alcott whom Emerson had given full use of his amazing library of books.🧡
Besides the Concord Museum, there are several houses and other places connected to these people where you can go to learn more ~ many of these luminaries are buried in nearby Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. I’ve always been fascinated by this group, which is sometimes referred to as our “American Bloomsbury.” I’ve read a few of the hundreds of books written by and about them and the times they lived, always collecting quotes, taking the opportunity to learn something about the personal lives of such wonderful teachers, who are so willing to share ~ I ALWAYS learn something new about how I want to live my life, and about our history from these people . . . which I definitely did here at this small jam-packed museum with everything from muskets to Paul Revere silver, Emerson’s entire study, Louisa May Alcott’s copper tea kettle, and Thoreau’s desk.
What lies behind you and what lies in from of you pales in comparison to what lies inside you. 💖 Ralph Waldo Emerson
I enjoyed reading about the local women and their place in the society . . . definitely ahead of their time. Perhaps a little bit uppity even.❤️
At the 100 year anniversary of the Shot Heard Round the World in 1875, Daniel Chester French unveiled his very first sculpture (above) called The Minuteman. French was only 21! How’s that for talent!?! After that, he went on to design many beautiful statues, including the Lincoln Memorial in 1914. We loved visiting his inspiring studio in Stockbridge, MA. And PS. According to what Louisa May Alcott wrote below, the photo above must have been taken the day AFTER the formal unveiling.💞
Don’t mess with Louisa! Imagine what she’d be like today!
Before I go I want thank Peter and Beverly Kelley for the wonderful time they showed us in Lexington and Concord! Bev and I have been email pals for about 3 years, so when she invited us to share Patriot’s Day with them, we couldn’t even imagine saying no! Yes, please! They were both born and raised in Lexington . . . Everywhere we went, people were stopping them to say hello! The first couple of Lexington!
Bev and Peter met in high school, and live right around the corner from Battle Green! They know all the back roads (which is a really good thing on Patriot’s Day weekend), and history of their hometown in every detail. We probably would have seen only half of what we did without their help!
Walking around neighborhoods together, they shared memories of the old houses, and their history growing up . . . just wonderful. They were so good to us.💞
After Battle Green we came back to the Kelley house to have the delicious breakfast Bev made, visit, drink tea, and warm up . . . generosity personified. Busy busy people! I hope we get to meet again soon! I know they know what a good time we had, I just wanted to thank them one more time!❤️
So we’re home, and I’m back to work, inspired, and spending hours investigating historical things. I have SO MANY questions… and love that it’s all so accessible these days. If you think it you can get it!
And we’re back ~ and out walking our walk . . . look at this photo! Every once in a while my cell phone takes a picture that looks more like a painting! Right now Joe is outside in the garden planting the rose my “studio elves” gave me for my Birthday! It’s a David Austin shrub rose called Elizabeth! Pink! Fragrant!
OK, last thing…
We’re sold out of our Queen Elizabeth cup. I hope you all have yours ordered! . . . but we still have our new Birthday cup and … planning ahead, just in cases, we still have Christmas! I think they are leaving the UK today! Unless they decided to take the day off! Now all they have to do is get here, get through customs, then onto a truck and to us in California! And then, drum roll (but no fife), voila. . . to you! We all deserve an award for patience! 💖
Off I go! The sun is coming out and I want to go see what Joe hath wrought in the garden! And my hiney needs a walk! Jack is asleep next to me in his desk drawer. He gets better and better, more loving and cozier every day. Young cats are hilarious, but old kitties are love. He’s not old, he’s only 13 (I think) but he’s oldER, and has become much less me, me, me. 🤣
I couldn’t love him more.🌸🌸🌸🌸
Okay Girlfriends! Hope you are having a wonderful MAY! Sending all my love . . .🌷🌷🌷🌷🌷