The Backhanded but Exhilarating Power of Mortality

Life is short. Whatever you’re going to do, either get on with it or be ready to accept that perhaps you never will.

The backhanded power of mortality is the focus it gives you. When you’ve only got so many breaths to take, it becomes far more important how you spend them.  For most of my life, I’ve felt the presence of a rocking chair somewhere in my future–waiting for me. When I get to the point where the best I can do is collapse into it and enjoy the company of those I’ve shared my time with, I don’t want to look back and wish I’d been bolder about how I’ve lived my life. 

Although its been months since I’ve published an article, it definitely wasn’t because I ran out of material! In fact, there are several articles that have been sitting nearly complete for months. What’s occupied my time is making an important “gut check” about my commitment to a personal matra that’s been growing in importance in my thoughts:

Life is short. Whatever you’re going to do, either get on with it or be ready to accept that perhaps you never will.

So, I’ve decided its time to get on with it. 

For the last three months, I’ve been busy rewriting the trajectory of my life. My houseful of possessions has been cut down by much more than half. And the house?  Someone new owns it and lives there now. I’ve subsequently paid off all my bills. I’ve changed to a new job.  And the woman I’ve ridden across the state of Iowa with, and ridden through the 5 boroughs of New York City with, and climbed two of Colorado’s 14,000+ foot high mountains with this year? Last weekend, I asked her to marry me (and, for a surprisingly small bribe, she even agreed!).

Mary and I atop Torrey’s Peak, one of Colorado’s 14,000+ foot high mountains.

But that’s only where it starts. I am saving all I can now, because I have decided to find a way to retire in the not-too-distant future, and do some things I yearn to do while I’m still physically able.

In short, we are trading our housefuls of stuff (and the houses) for the chance to see the world from the seat of a bicycle and from the working end of trekking poles. Although we are still about two years from actually boarding the plane, we are preparing to largely uproot ourselves and live overseas for as much as five years.  It takes my breath away to think of it.

This conversation began with how we might be able live in England long enough to finish the research necessary to complete my book on the “Lost Lord Keeper”. Although my last trip to the UK was wonderful, I was jet lagged half the time, and there was a surprisingly long list of things that simply couldn’t be packed into a two week visit.  To get this done is really going to require living there.

It was a chilly day of drizzle when we visited the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul in Courteenhall, England (Sir Richard Lane’s boyhood home, and home to the tomb of his parents)

So we sorted out what it would take, and the changes we’d have to make to pull it off. It required some sobering sacrifices…but it was doable. Once we got our heads around that much, we realized there was no reason to stop there.  Once we could accept being uprooted for awhile, why not live for a season or two in all the interesting places we’ve longed to see? If we are able to find affordable but well connected places in which to make a temporary home, we could make day trips to all the nearby places we’d love to spend time in. What would it be like if we were able to live in each place long enough to really explore, to make friends, to learn some local cooking, to find some great local pubs, and to learn some basic fluency in the language? While there, we could bike and hike our way to countless quiet places we could only rush past any other way.

Map of key sites of interest in the Richard Lane story in southern England, Jersey and France.

Our initial plans for a post-England “world tour” will likely include successive months-long stays in Czechoslovakia, France, Spain, Italy, Thailand, Australia, Paraguay and Panama. While in each of these places, we hope to make many short trips to visit all around each region. All the while, I can write from wherever I am, and especially if we are still in Western Europe, it would be easy enough to “pop over” to the UK should I need to follow up on research (or visit friends). Who knows, I might even find my next research project somewhere along the way…

The hard part about this plan is being away from places we know as home, and those we love. Thankfully, we live in a time in which technology has made it easier than ever to remain in meaningful touch with those you care about while you are away from them.  But we also plan to fly home for a couple of months at least once a year so we can spend real time with the friends and family we have been blessed with.

And this is where a really intriguing possibility occurred to us: while we are overseas, why not invite our friends and family to come spend time with us? All we have to do is rent a flat with an extra bedroom and (with a little coordination) we can host them and share the magic of wherever we are with them too—with their housing, meals and transportation taken care of.

And at the end of it all, when we finally return home?  We will absolutely invite our new overseas friends to come stay with us in America. How fun would it be to repay hospitality by sharing the magic of Colorado with friends who might never see it any other way?

Basic means aside, all of this only requires that we be willing to live more simply, and to travel light.

No doubt, there will be challenges. But I have a great partner and cohort to solve them with. And, if we are somehow able to do (and share) all this, we might just giggle ourselves to sleep in those rocking chairs!

So, with apologies about being “offline” for so long, please stay tuned! I’m settled into my new job. The heavy lifting of selling my house and moving is over. All of my research materials have finally been found and unpacked.  Shortly, I will be back into my writing rhythm again!

So what’s next? 

Up next is an entirely new topic—an interesting set of articles looking into Richard Lane’s experiences as one of the King’s Commissioners in the 1645 Peace Treaty Negotiations at the “Crown and Treaty” in Uxbridge. If you google “Crown and Treaty Uxbridge” you will find Wikipedia has a good overview article about this beautiful venue and the peace negotiations that were held there nearly 400 years ago.

The 500-year-old Crown and Treaty, Uxbridge. Photo credit Wikipedia.

I’m looking forward to local reactions in Uxbridge regarding the novel reconstruction I’ve done of this historic site. Drawing on various bits of historical evidence and the timeless practicalities of civil design, I’ve managed a reconstruction includes not only the structure of the original building and its long vanished grounds, but also a significant portion of its original interior. Included in this reconstruction is the very room that was once packed with the “commissioners” as they tried desperately to find a way to stop the Civil War (spoiler alert: Unfortunately, I’ve determined this room no longer exists).  This was a challenge…although I’ve visited the Crown and Treaty, it was between owners and locked up at the time. I’ve never been inside…

Note: I just noticed that the Crown and Treaty has recently been re-opened (and looks wonderful–can’t wait to have dinner there someday!). There are now lots of interior pictures which were not available when I did my reconstruction. It will be fun to match them up with my model to see how I did working in the blind!

London… Once a Breath Away from Extinction

This article regards the surprising trajectory of London–one of the world’s great cities, and an international treasure that once suffered a calamitous decline, and spent many decades as an abandoned ruin.

With apologies for being offline for so long, this is the first of four articles that all grew out of what I expected to be a single, quick article about our visit to the “Crown and Treaty” in the outer London town of Uxbridge. Built in the 1500’s as an elaborate private home, this fascinating building still stands, and was the home of the 1645 Uxbridge Treaty Negotiations. In what has become the usual fashion for me, more thoughtful reading of accounts about the negotiations and Sir Richard Lane’s role brought me to details that struck me as unexpected and intriguing–off-topic “threads” hanging from the edges of the story. Such are the entrances of “rabbit holes” from which I have dragged more surprising insights than I’d ever have thought possible. This particular one is about the surprising trajectory of London–one of the world’s great cities, and an international treasure that once suffered a calamitous decline, and spent many decades as an abandoned ruin.

Continue reading “London… Once a Breath Away from Extinction”

A Man of Spotless Integrity: The Life and Legacy of the Lost Lord Keeper of the King’s Great Seal (Part I of III)

Foreword: This is the full article submitted for publication in the 2018 Annual Bulletin of the Société Jersisiase. This version includes significant additional content which could not appear in that publication, and benefits from the excellent editorial refinements of the editors at the Société Jersisiase. In this format, footnotes appear the end of the sections in which their references occur. 

Continue reading “A Man of Spotless Integrity: The Life and Legacy of the Lost Lord Keeper of the King’s Great Seal (Part I of III)”

A Man of Spotless Integrity: The Life and Legacy of the Lost Lord Keeper of the King’s Great Seal (Part II of III)

In this second part of the article submitted for publication in the 2018 Annual Bulletin of the Société Jersiaise, Richard Lane rises quickly in the king’s service amid dire circumstances in the wartime capitol of Oxford.

Continue reading “A Man of Spotless Integrity: The Life and Legacy of the Lost Lord Keeper of the King’s Great Seal (Part II of III)”

A Man of Spotless Integrity: The Life and Legacy of the Lost Lord Keeper of the King’s Great Seal (Part III of III)

This conclusion of the article submitted for publication in the 2018 Annual Bulletin of the Société Jersisiase chronicles the last few weeks of Richard Lane’s life in the Elizabeth Castle, and his dramatic 1650 burial in St Helier, Jersey.

Continue reading “A Man of Spotless Integrity: The Life and Legacy of the Lost Lord Keeper of the King’s Great Seal (Part III of III)”

Westminster Palace: Analysis of the 1844 Trial of Strafford Painting (Conclusion)

Welcome to the final (and best) chapter of the “Trial of Strafford” analysis!  We have reached the core of this historic drama–the Parliament’s 1641 prosecution team versus Lord Strafford’s muzzled and thinly tolerated counsel for the defense. We have come to the reason I became involved in the story of this painting in the first place: the possibility that Thomas Woolnoth (the artist who created this historic 1844 painting):  1) knew about Richard Lane’s role in the trial, 2) had access to Richard Lane’s (now lost) 1645 portrait, and 3) deliberately included him in the cast of historical portraitures depicted within this dramatic painting.

Continue reading “Westminster Palace: Analysis of the 1844 Trial of Strafford Painting (Conclusion)”

Westminster Palace: Analysis of the 1844 Trial of Strafford Painting (Part 1)

My apologies if I seemed to have gone “offline” for a few weeks. It’s taken quite a bit of sorting to be sure nothing got lost from the trip to the UK. I also took time for a badly needed camping and mountain biking trip to Moab (which in turn cost me a bit more time to heal from a crash I had on one of those truly fabulous trails)!

I’ve been keen to share the presentation I gave at Westminster, but struggled mightily to get it into a single article. Having failed that, this will be the first of three in which I will take you through the analysis I shared with the Office of the Curator of the Parliamentary Art Collection last month. This analysis regards the “Trial of Strafford” painting that hangs in the House of Lords side of the parliamentary complex at Westminster, London. Continue reading “Westminster Palace: Analysis of the 1844 Trial of Strafford Painting (Part 1)”