Thursday, January 21, 2016

In which I gather up some random thoughts - and say goodbyes

Just two more sleeps until we fly home. I've just tucked my heartbroken youngest daughter into bed. "I have so many friends here," she wept, "and the teachers are all amazing." It says so much about the schools here that both my girls feel nurtured and loved, and that they have learnt so much. It is so hard to leave this place. 
 Everyone else is tucked up in bed as I sit here, waiting for the pavlovas Lizzy is taking to school tomorrow to cook. And I am thinking back over the richness of the last three months , thinking how much I have to be grateful for. Where do I start? Perhaps with the recent visit of my oldest friend.

I first met Julian when I was 10, but my most vivid memories of him date back to our high school days at Ecclesbourne Grammar, in Duffield. I was the girl with two neat plaits in the front row with my hand up, Hermione Granger style,  to answer the teacher's questions, while he was the boy with the red curls in the back row, inscribing rude messages/pictures about the teachers in the condensation on the classroom windows. The teachers couldn't quite fathom how we were friends. But we were, and our friendship stuck, even when both our families emigrated to different parts of the world.What we hold for each other - which no-one else shares - are the memories of two teenagers trying to find a footing in a new life and writing out the struggle for one another.

We have written to one another for almost 42 years - first airmail letters that took 6 weeks to arrive, and then emails that arrive in a matter of seconds. We have met only four times since 1974, the year our families both left England: once in the UK, once in Ottawa, when I flew from Michigan to meet his family, and last time we were in Vermont. A week ago he travelled here again for the weekend - a cold, wet weekend, when everyone was tired - but we started up the conversation just where we'd left off. We always will.

When I think about Julian, I marvel at the nature of friendship - the fact that two such different children could form a bond so strong that it lasts over 40 years, that it lasts over half a world of distance. It gives me hope for the bonds my children have formed here, so far from home. And for the friendships we have forged here in the beautiful Green Mountain State.

I'm so grateful for the many vivid memories I will take home with me. Memories of beautiful places - but, more importantly, of remarkable people.

"Writing Day Mondays" with Sharon at Coyote Ridge, eating soup and scones and watching the view.

Walking by the lake with Susanmarie as night fell, with Pearl on her lead, house lights sparkling on the icy ground, and snow falling all around us.

Ellen and Sofia laughing as the girls constructed a gingerbread whare.

Drinking maple lattes with Kathy at Henderson's cafe, and fun with Kathy's family.

Lunch at a Japanese restaurant with Peggy and Jim when we were exhausted with packing and endless lists and they restored us to some semblance of equanimity with hot sake, good food, and great company.
Wonderful Jim and Peggy, our friends from Trinity 

 A Hanukkah meal at Sue and Jeff's, where we learnt about this ancient tradition and were introduced to apple cider and rum.

The twins racing around the church, light reflected from the Tiffany windows, as Rick handed out communion.

a rare image of our miracle girls standing still!
Enriching conversations with Dee and Bill, our warm and generous landlords.

Cynthia or Rolf walking the spinones, Broli standing at our window waiting for a treat.


The girls roasting 'smores over a log fire....

 ....and hoola hooping  and playing in the snow.

Karen's "breakfast casserole" (delicious!!).

Squirrels and turtle doves in the garden - the flashing red of our occasional visiting cardinal.

The soft, light body of a tiny chickadee resting momentarily in my hand.

The ever changing light on the Adirondack Mountains and the shining lake. The setting sun lighting the lake houses on fire.

But I'm also hugely grateful for the valuable work we've done here.  The effortless way Susanmarie and I have worked together, building on one another's strengths. Great energy in the workshops with senior scientists striving to train the juniors in their labs to be writers in their discipline, and with emerging scientists trying to find a way forward. Rae's sudden vision for new possibilities: Sharon's energy and determination to see change through. So many good conversations, so many new ideas arising for us all.

Susanmarie, Sharon and Rae- three extraordinary women

Above all, I'm deeply grateful to the amazing women who made this possible. I feel the work here has been a true collaboration, that it has been motivated by values we've shared and that are very important to me.

So, we head home. To summer. To beloved family and friends - my whole family together for the first time in four years. Rose is home - oh, Rose is home!! Picnics at the farm, the dogs running through the long grass, and the project of bringing our tiny house to life. A new puppy. Fresh cherries. Our church communities. And to work: a new office, a book in press, another to write in collaboration with my dream team, my band of superb tutors, two new research proposals to write, a new course to teach (gulp!).

And I'm taking home a new sense of the value of the work I do. That has been one of the true gifts of being here: seeing the results of my research come to life. I'm so grateful. Thank you to those who brought us here to a place we love - and to those who have enriched our family's lives in so many ways. Thank you to the communities of Long Point, and Trinity, and WID, thank you for the friends who have welcomed us in. Thank you to everyone who has been part of this ongoing story. E noho rā. Ka kite ano. Thank you.


  1. Have loved your posts, Lisa - your descriptions of your life in Vermont, your gatherings of thoughts and your reflections on them, your beautiful photos...
    I've been wondering if your travel will be affected by the big snow storm. I hope not. Have a safe journey home.

  2. Yes, everything Megan said. I'll miss reading your posts and seeing those great photographs, but I'm looking forward to hearing more when you get home (even if 'home' has become a more nebulous concept).
    Travel safe, and travel well.

  3. Thanks, Megan and Pete - on our way now. We have managed to avoid the big storm and are waiting for the flight to Auckland. See you soon!