OK, that’s it. The universe is calling me back to Yorkshire.

Where’s Yorkshire? Take a wild guess.

Yes, England.

The county of Yorkshire is where my lifelong obsession with England began.

Having been afflicted with a chronic case of travel bug at the tender age of 17, I knew I’d have to study abroad for a semester in college. Being of slightly cautious temperament and of slight introversion, I decided to study in an English-speaking country.

England it was. London seemed too overwhelming, so I picked the University of Leeds as my study abroad destination. I had never heard of Leeds, but read that it was an industrial city in North Yorkshire. Sounded just fine to me.

I haven’t been back to Yorkshire since I studied there, even though I’ve been to England five or six times since. I’d like to go back someday…and I think someone’s telling me to go during my next trip.

A few weeks ago, I went on a monastic retreat. One of the brothers had an English accent, and I was dying to ask him where he was from. During our only talking meal at the end of the retreat, I heard another guest say during a conversation, “Brother Brian’s from Yorkshire.”

My heart somersaulted. Yorkshire! What was this Yorkshire lad doing at a monastery in Massachusetts?? Unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to ask him that exact question. But we did briefly talk about Yorkshire as well as London.

Fast forward two weeks. My coworker asked me if I wanted to join her to watch a free concert during lunchtime. Sure, I replied. The Dunwells were playing as part of a free arts festival. We stood under a tree and watched the group of young men play their instruments. I detected a bit of an accent when the lead singer spoke. Maybe they’re British, I thought. A few minutes later, after a song had ended, the lead singer said, “Blah blah, we’re from Leeds, England, blah blah.” What!? What were these Yorkshire lads doing at an inaugural arts festival in Boston??

Fast forward to today. I’ve been looking through mountains of papers lately, trying to simplify my life. I had come across a bunch of pages from O, the Oprah Magazine that I had ripped out over the years. They all have lovely inspirational quotes on them. I put them on my desk in my unwieldy “to do/to read” pile.

I finally read them today. On one page, from the October 2004 issue, was an excerpt of this poem. I started to tear up as I read the final stanza:


“Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet confinement of your aloneness

to learn anything or anyone that does not bring you alive is too small for you.”


Wow. I headed to Google and searched for the poet’s name, David Whyte. I found a link to his website, to a page with another breathtaking poem. I found his bio. He grew up in Yorkshire. What was this Yorkshire lad’s poetry doing in my files of inspirational thoughts for the past nine years??

So, what do you think? Should I be planning a visit to Yorkshire?

Plymouth Rock


I finally made it to Plymouth Rock! Checked #29 off the birthday list.

This is the rock.











This is the monument built over the rock.












My tour guide was Deb, who lives in Plymouth. After checking out the rock, we saw lots of statues…Governor William Bradford; a Pilgrim maiden; Massasoit, leader of the Wampanoag. I love historical statues.

We also saw the National Monument to the Forefathers, which is in a large, random open space a few minutes from downtown.















We had a relaxing lunch on a restaurant deck overlooking Plymouth Harbor. I tried a local brew, Mayflower IPA. After lunch, we walked to the oldest church in continuous operation in the United States and rambled around its graveyard.

Deb, I’ll be back to visit Plimoth Plantation and the Mayflower II. And the Mayflower brewery. And the grist mill. And the Pilgrim Hall Museum! If you’re a history buff, there’s a lot going on in Plymouth…


Royal Genealogy MindF**k


I know I’ll be a decent genealogist when I can get the “cousins” thing figured out. I’ve had moments of clarity when I actually understood the difference between a second cousin and a first cousin once removed. But they were fleeting moments.

So let me share with you the shock I felt when I received my weekly email newsletter from NEHGS the other day.

A section of the newsletter was dedicated to Baby George’s ancestry. I learned that William and Kate are 14th cousins once removed?? And that Baby George and President Obama are 22nd cousins?? How. Can. This. Be. Dustbin Cambridge is also related to Boston’s prodigal sons Matt and Ben. AND KEVIN BACON.

Share in my shock.


Courtesy of people.com
Courtesy of people.com

Just Being

I recently spent a weekend in a monastic community. In early spring, I read an article about a monastery in Cambridge. I was intrigued because my mother has stayed at a monastery in western NY a few times over the years. The idea of escaping the concrete jungle for some quiet, reflective time appealed to me. As I was searching around the monastery’s website, the word “volunteers” caught my eye. The brothers offer free room and board to people who volunteer to garden. I contacted the monastery right away to schedule a visit.

The brothers have 144 acres of beautiful property with a main house dating from the 1720s, “hermitages” (nice cabins), walking trails, multiple gardens, and farm animals. To me, it sounded like an oasis.

And it was.

During my time there, I didn’t think about the past or the future, which I am prone to doing. It’s always been difficult for me to stay in the moment. But in this atmosphere of silence in a serene natural setting, I found it easy to “just be.”

Snapshots of favorite moments:

I weeded in a huge asparagus bed under a blazing hot sun and felt more triumphant the dirtier and sweatier I got. I was literally “in the weeds.”

The asparagus bed
The asparagus bed












During a gardening break, time stood still as I found myself watching a monarch butterfly flit from one blade of grass to the next for 10 minutes.

I met pigs that were so happy and friendly that I now understand the idiom “happy as a pig in mud.”

Friendly piggies
Friendly piggies












I ate wonderful meals with the brothers and other guests—the only sounds being the clinking of forks and classical music wafting from a stereo.

Every day, I attended one of a few daily services in a small chapel connected to the house. We sang hymns unaccompanied and participated in a call and response with the brother leading the service. During the last service I attended, I was overcome with emotion for an unknown reason and started to cry.

The last night of my stay, I sat on a rock wall in front of a huge open field, reading a book as the sun set through a tall bank of trees.












All of the brothers and other guests were so welcoming and hospitable. Being in their presence made me wish for a simpler, more meditative existence. I am a city girl at heart, but this visit has shown me that I need to find more of a balance in my life. To consciously make time to “just be.”