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!

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)”

Westminster Palace: Analysis of the 1844 Trial of Strafford Painting (Part 2)

In the Part I article of the “Trial of Strafford” analysis I presented at Westminster this Spring, I provided an overview introducing the historical analysis I did and the groups depicted in that historic painting.  In this and the next article, we’re going to explore the depth of the stories painter Thomas Woolnoth laid onto that sprawling canvas in the early 1840’s.

In our time, Woolnoth would have been the videographer behind a BBC historical docu-drama of this pivotal event in English history. But in the early 1840’s even the earliest deguerrotype camera was a technical oddity, leaving Woolnoth only the brush and palette to carry his audience back to the floor of Westminster Hall in the spring of 1641.
Continue reading “Westminster Palace: Analysis of the 1844 Trial of Strafford Painting (Part 2)”

Heading Back to the UK! – April 2018

One year ago, it seemed high time to get serious about this quest. And I did.

Publishing my research seemed the best way to provide the accountability to ensure I got the history right. And, since some things can only be done (or understood) in person, I decided I had to make a trip to London and Jersey a priority.  That trip (last May) was not only fascinating and rewarding, it threw gasoline on the fire of this project. And in the year since?  Somehow it seems in the nature of research that answering one question raises several new ones, so a year later my list of “in person” tasks is now even longer and more pressing than last year’s.

My bucket list of other travel destinations will have to wait for some other year.  The UK is calling, and I must go!

Continue reading “Heading Back to the UK! – April 2018”

Breaking News! I Have Proven the True Identity of King Charles II’s Groom Named “Richard Lane”!

In the first article on the career of Richard Lane’s son, we led up to King Charles II’s invasion of England to restore his throne, and how his new Groom, Richard Lane (the younger), likely joined him in Scotland around the time of his coronation there in January 1651.  Of course, the throne the young king really had his eye on was that of England.  And the Scottish army now under his command was his means to that end…

Continue reading “Breaking News! I Have Proven the True Identity of King Charles II’s Groom Named “Richard Lane”!”