It's always good to be back home, as well as to be back here in blog-space trying to untangle my thoughts and impressions of a week in North England where I participated in the EarlyArts International UnConference on November 9, both as a work shop leader and panelist, as well as a delegate.
I suspect I have a bunch of posts in front of me about the conference, the schools I visited, the people I met, and the things I learned, but sitting here in the comfort of my home in drizzly Seattle, all I can think of are my hosts Ruth, Pat, Evan and Chaia, who shared not just their home with me for a week, but also the warmth and love of their family.
Six-year-old Chaia greeted me at the Liverpool John Lennon Airport with a portrait . . .
. . . and a message that was balm to a frazzled traveler.
It was a declaration of intent from the heart of the most gracious hosts on earth. And when we pulled over on the way home to drop her off at a birthday party, her 9-year-old brother Evan pulled himself away from his fun, including fireworks, to meet this tired, old stranger with those hard American R's and flat A's. And when we arrived home where he had vacated his room for me, I found another greeting pinned to the bulletin board above the bed.
No traveler has ever been made to feel more at home.
When Ruth (who, not incidentally, while in the midst of hosting me, was also in charge of the UnConference) left to retrieve the children at their party, I, in the spirit of trying to stay awake until a decent bed time, set out for a quick tour of this village set in the midst of the moody moors I'd only known from the novels of Thomas Hardy. It was hard to take a photo of the countryside that didn't look like a painting.
And I've struggled and failed to come up with a less cliched word than "charming" to describe their home and the village around it.
I really would love to have a crack at building one of these characteristic
stacked stone walls.
After a great night's sleep in Evan's comfortable bed, I met Pat and the kids down the hill in Holmfirth, where even the English use the word "charming," being as it is the setting for the long-running BBC program The Last of the Summer Wine, a show that oozes charm from its digital pores.
There at the twice annual art market, we ran across this crazy construction.
Made from bamboo garden canes, cable ties, cloths pins and fabric, artist Chris Harman had built this "den" ("cubby" in Australain; "fort" in American) using, by his estimate, 1000 canes. (Click here to see a picture of a den from one of his museum installations incorporating 10,000 canes.)
Children, including Evan and Chaia, raced wildly though it, shrieking and giggling. Naturally, I had to buy the proffered The Den Experiment starter kit. After all, it was clear that children enjoyed the end result. Now we would take some home and experiment to see if real world children could manage the construction technique.
Before I'd even thought to break out the camera, we'd used up the materials in the tube. Fortunately, Pat found more canes, ties, and pins in the garage, and Evan and Chaia took it from there.
The children, clearly practiced den builders, knew where the extra fabric was kept.
In the coming days and weeks as I write about UnConferences, work shops, schools and education, the presumed reasons for my trip, be aware that it was all secondary to this home within a home away from home, and how at home Ruth, Pat, Evan, and Chaia made to feel there.
And it's good to be back.