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.

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