Sunday, July 20, 2014

45 Days in London: Day 27

Day of Rest

The place where we attended church today was another international experience. We met people from Ghana, Turkey, Finland, and Albania. It was a small, humble little ward with an enormous heart. We immediately felt we belonged.

All of the leadership on the stand were of African descent. I don't think I've ever seen that before. It was refreshing and exciting to see the growth of the church internationally.

At the end of the Relief Society meeting, several women had brought things to share with each other: fresh herbs from their gardens, fruit from their trees, and a favorite Italian cake from a nearby shop. It felt like a beautiful symbol of the kind of friendship, nurturing and support we enjoy as sisters.

At night we held a family home evening in one of the flats. We talked about our Lake District experience, and loved hearing from the students about the spiritual and artistic impact it had on them.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

45 Days in London: Day 26

Orrest Head, Windermere

This morning, despite advance booking, we were unable to get into HillTop (Beatrix Potter's Farm) as planned, so we shifted gears, and walked to one of the best viewpoints in the Lake District, called Orrest Head. For some reason we chose the steeper, rockier of the two trails (I'm sure there's a metaphor there), but it was pleasant, regardless. Light intermittent rain, perfect temperature. And the views were incredible.
Partway up we saw the classic Lake District walled pastures with sheep. But the real payoff was at the top—a 360-degree vista over lakes, fields, and farmhouses. Our gift from the heavens was this beautiful cloudy mist sheeting out of the sky, only visible at the top, creating a perfect watercolor backdrop for our journey.

After our hike, we spent an hour in the town of Windermere, eating, shopping and just enjoying the quaint village. Then we boarded our bus and headed south.

Coventry Cathedral

When I heard we were going to Coventry, I fully expected to be wowed by another big gothic cathedral. Instead we were greeted by quite a different site. Coventry Cathedral was bombed by Hitler during World War II—not for any strategic purpose, but in sheer retaliation after the church in Dresden was destroyed by the allies.  that remains of Coventry Cathedral is the outer shell.  Rather than rebuild it after the war, the Coventry community chose to leave it that way as a reminder of the ravages of war. They later built a brand new cathedral next door.

 But the interesting and most inspiring part of the whole story is this: The people in Coventry who lost their place of worship chose to take Jesus's commandment "love thine enemies" literally. Once the war had ended, villagers found huge medieval nails in the rubble, and with three of them formed a large cross and sent it to their former enemies in Dresden as an act of friendship and forgiveness. They made a similar cross of nails that is now mounted in the altar of the apse at Coventry. Inscribed there it says "Father, Forgive." Later they have sent similar crosses to other places who had their churches and cathedrals destroyed, and formed a small society called The Community of the Cross.

There is a plaque near the entrance unveiled by Queen Elizabeth in 1990 that says, "For nation shall not lift sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more." (Isaiah 2:4) So what could potentially be a disturbing sight has now become a place of peace, forgiveness, and hope. 

Our Home away from Home

When we pulled into South Kensington that evening and unloaded our bags in our flat, it was amazing to realize how much this little apartment has come to feel like home. As sad as we were to leave the Lake District, it also felt good to be in our own familiar space.

Friday, July 18, 2014

45 Days in London: Day 25

Dove Cottage, Grasmere

Dove Cottage is the place which I remember most from my student travels, 30 years ago. Visiting Wordsworth's home had such an impact on me, envisioning him sitting and writing—or just thinking—at specific spots in the garden. It inspired me to seek out similar places for myself, in harmony with Tolstoy's formula: Toil, Solitude, Prayer. 

Our tour guide was fantastic—gave us lots of great information, great stories. The house itself is quite small. Especially the bedrooms. Yet the Wordsworths often had rooms full of guests, fellow thinkers and writers, visiting and sleeping on the floors. It reminded me of my Grandma and Grandpa Winters, who lived in a little duplex on Capitol Hill, yet always seemed to have plenty of room to entertain. 

They had sheets of poetry in the garden you could sit and read:

And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils. 

Wordsworth later moved to Rydal Mount, but always thought of Dove Cottage as "home" and some of his best work was written there. He and his family were buried in the little churchyard right around the corner.
Wordsworth and his family worshipped there, but it seems to me that he had his own conduit to the heavens as well:

Not in entire forgetfulness
and not in utter nakedness
but trailing clouds of glory 
do we come, from God
who is our Home.

We stopped and ate lunch across from the church, on a patio overlooking the river.

Right next to the churchyard is a 19th-century gingerbread shop, which still makes the original recipe. We each tried a piece—you could taste the fresh ginger. Such goodness!


John Ruskin's house was almost impossible to get to. Imagine our giant bus driving down narrow country lanes where there's only room enough for one car--sometimes the mirrors were literally touching the hedges on both sides. Several times another car would come along and have to back up until there was a place to pull over to let us pass. It was a little dicey. I was glad I wasn't driving!

I knew of Ruskin as an art critic, but I wasn't aware of his other cultural and societal contributions. He was truly a renaissance man. He made contributions in art, architecture, music, science, botany and philosophy. His ideas were responsible for the beginnings of the welfare system in England, the creation of separate smoking and non-smoking areas, and many other forward-thinking programs that changed the face of society.

And, like Wordsworth, he found solace and inspiration in his wonderful gardens.

We wrapped up our day on a refreshing boat ride across Lake Windermere just before sunset, with the wind blowing across the water spraying a faint mist.
Life doesn't get much better than this.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

45 Days in London: Day 24

The Preston Temple

This morning all 39 of us boarded a private coach and headed off on a 3-day journey to the Lake District. Our first stop, about halfway there, was to the Preston Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Because of traffic conditions on the M6 we were delayed by about 90 minutes. (Turns out that doesn't just happen in Los Angeles!)

Although we missed our scheduled session, the students were able to do baptisms and I did initiatory work. The people there were lovely and kind and very accommodating.

The grounds have large, peaceful lily ponds. This felt like the most wonderful oasis—especially after 5.5 hours on a bus, stuck in traffic!

The Lake District (Ambleside)

As soon as we arrived in Cumbria we saw vast expanses of green pastures, dotted with white sheep and lined in hand-built stone walls. We were surrounded by so much pastoral beauty, I couldn't drink it in fast enough. 

We arrived at our final destination—Ambleside—a picturesque town I remember well from my travels as a student. We stayed in a B&B near the center of town, Kent House. 

We barely had time to check in and get settled, then we ventured down to Lake Windermere, where we met the students for dinner and let the peacefulness of the place wash over us.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

We interrupt this broadcast for a very important message...

The Listen To Your Mother videos are up! YouTube is a place I thought I'd never appear, but suddenly there I am.

The title is "I Collect Bodies In My Basement". Find out why, where and how I do it. I added a few more bodies just last week!

The truth is I can't bring myself to watch it yet. I'm too nervous about it. So will you watch it for me first?  Tell me if it's safe to peek? Here's a link:


P.S. an earlier version of this essay I presented was recently published in an anthology on women and body image called, Why I Don't Hide My Freckles Any More. You can find it on Amazon and at Deseret Book.

45 Days in London: Day 23

Today we visited the Tate Britain, which has an entire wing dedicated to JMW Turner, one of my all-time favorite painters.

Turner's most famous pieces are in the National Gallery, but I loved the sheer quantity at the Tate (37,000 works, which they rotate). I especially enjoyed seeing his sketchbooks and color studies, and the unfinished works recovered posthumously from his studio. Such a fantastic look at his process. I would love to bring my students here.

One of the students rightly observed that while Turner's subject matter is not religious, the fact that  his light-infused skies typically dominate the composition gives his work a spiritual quality, placing the emphasis heavenward. I agree!

The Tate also has a Henry Moore gallery (I have always loved his sculptures), and galleries of modern art arranged by decade from the 19th century through 2000.

Everybody was getting a little grumpy, so we stopped for lunch across the street at the little cafeteria at the London University of Art. We grabbed a quick sandwich and a drink to revive us. And admired the robust hollyhocks.

Then it was back to the Tate for William Blake, John Singer Sargent and more.

In the evening we walked over to the Cinema Lumiere at the Institut Francais and saw The Young and Prodigious T. S. Spivet. It is a charming story about a 10-year-old scientist who leaves his home on a Montana ranch to meet with the director of the Smithsonian. The cinematography was beautiful. Almost too beautiful, if that's even possible. It was so gorgeous that it almost got in the way of the story. But I loved every minute.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

45 Days in London: Day 22

Life in London: The Particulars

Did I mention our flat comes with a cleaning lady? Oh my word, I feel so spoiled! We keep our apartment clean anyway—beds made, dishes washed—but yesterday it was so lovely to come home after a long day to the lingering fragrance of cleaning products, and every surface glistening. Bliss.

This morning was big-time laundry day. (Alas, no wash-woman comes with the flat. Haha.) We put it off as long as is humanly possible because the washers and dryers downstairs are so expensive. So while the students were in class and all the washers vacant, I cleverly did three loads at once. But get this: It costs 3 pounds twenty to wash, and 1 pound fifty to dry. Four pounds seventy per load, times three is 14 pounds to do a week-and-a-half's worth of laundry. That's $24.00! Imagine my lack of joy when Mr. Cool arrived with another load of darks to wash, right after I'd finished the other three. There goes another $8.00, bringing the total to a whopping $32.00. I will never take my washer and dryer for granted again, EVER.

And now a word about food. We have had NO bad food here in London. In fact, all the food we've had here has been great--from the ready-made meals we pick up at Waitrose (Britain's version of my beloved Trader Joe's), to the corner Pret-A-Manger, to the lovely restaurants with the linen tablecloths. There is great international cuisine here, but in addition, the local populace has jumped on the fresh, sustainable, organic bandwagon. Everything offered is healthy, natural, tastefully presented, and delicious. Gone are the days of Britain's reputation for terrible food. Bring on the new cuisine!

Best treat we've eaten so far (besides the Brioche from Aux Maravilleux) is Thornton's Mini Caramel Shortcakes. The packaging reads: "Scrumptius shortcake squares covered with a delicious caramel layer and topped with smooth milk chocolate." This decadent snack produced audible moans from each of us!


I have felt very close to my family while I'm here, even though we're thousands of miles apart. I think first of my dad, architect and stellar art educator, every single time I see a great monument, a quaint cottage, an ancient stone wall, or an important work of art. I especially think of him when I spot a great place to paint!

I also remember my mom, who was his faithful traveling companion for thirty years. Many times I've felt like she's right here, pointing out a marketplace where she bought my favorite shirt, a church where she loved the choir and the organ, or a site Grandpa Bennett used to sing about in the Christopher Robin songs.

Almost daily I think about Jeff's wonderful parents, too, who served over the London South Mission for three years, and the memories—large and small—of visiting them here when our children were little. I feel such fondness for this place and for them.

I love writing to our missionary daughter about our travels, and reading her enthusiastic responses. Last week we sent her a scratch-and-sniff map of Hampton Court, complete with water closet. She told me she laughed so hard when her companion sniffed it. And I'm so excited for our oldest son to join us so we can share it all with him first-hand.

I guess it makes sense that this land steeped in history, this melting-pot of cultures, this city with the famous underground network, this bustling travel hub drawing people from around the globe would also be a place that fosters familial connections of the sweetest kind.

Science Museum

So many great ideas, so little time. This afternoon we spent a couple of hours at the Science Museum, and were completely drawn in by the new exhibit on James Lovelock...leaving ourselves barely any time left to explore the rest of the museum. We'll definitely be coming back here.

Greek tragedy in a modern setting: Medea

Call me a cretin, but as soon as I hear the words "greek drama" I pretty much have to stifle a yawn. However, this production at the National Theater was outstanding. Completely hopeless story, yet still relevant considering worldwide current events, and ongoing women's issues and race issues. The way they made use of the chorus was amazing. This show held me spellbound the entire 90 minutes. Here was a tragic, violent story handled beautifully, tastefully--in stark contrast to the production of Titus Andronicus we saw last weekend.