A Week at the Airport



The airport and the DMV are the two best places in the world for the sport of people-watching. For diversity, there is no better place in the world than London’s Heathrow airport.

Alain de Botton was hired by British Airways to spend a week at Heathrow’s Terminal 5 and write a book about his experience. It is an engaging read, easy enough to complete in one sitting, but worthy of a slower pace. It examines why we fly, the intersection between art and commerce, the choreography of an ediface that took 20 years to build. You might think of it as “light plus” reading. There are photos on every page (that’s the light). With the book classified as Travel/Philosophy, there is more commentary on life than on luggage (that’s the plus!).

The book reminded me of reading The Geography of Nowhere. Of course it did! There’s a full-circle connection: LaurieLH remarked that Geography of Nowhere was similar to a book she was reading by Alain de Botton, <a href="http://www.xanga.com/private/“>The Architecture of Happiness. It was in looking for The Architecture of Happiness at my public library, that I found A Week at the Airport!


From the management required to keep airline employees congenial
 to the elegance of the steel columns supporting the 18,000 ton roof
 to the devastation of parting lovers
 to the way a domestic squabble so quickly erodes the joy of a vacation
 to the expectations of travelers arriving at the reception zone,
I found it delightful. Not earth-shattering, nor life-changing, but a mixture of trivia and truth.

Some quotes:

Despite its seeming mundanity, the ritual of flying remains indelibly linked, even in secular times, to the momentous themes of existence—and their refractions in the stores of the world’s religions. We have heard about too many ascensions, too many voices from heaven, too many airborne angels and saints to ever be able to regard the business of flight from an entirely pedestrian perspective, as we might, say, the act of traveling by train. 62

Considered collectively, as a cohesive industry, civil aviation had never in its history shown a profit. Just as significantly, neither had book publishing. 79

The notion of the journey as a harbinger of resolution was once an essential element of the religious pilgrimage, defined as an excursion through the outer world undertaken in an effort to promote and reinforce an inner revolution. Christian theorists were not in the least troubled by the dangers, discomforts or expense posed by pilgrimages, for they regarded these and other apparent disadvantages as mechanisms whereby the underlying spiritual intent of the trip could be rendered more vivid. 104

I appreciated de Botton’s thoughts about setting up a desk smack dab in the middle of the terminal:

Objectively good places to work rarely end up being so; in their faultlessness, quiet and well-equipped studies have a habit of rendering the fear of failure overwhelming. Original thoughts are like shy animals. We sometimes have to look the other way—towards a busy street or terminal—before they run out of their burrows. 42


Flora Grubb

Flora Grubb  is an urban nursery,
a pocket of delight in the midst of an industrial neighborhood.
Dan and Val were eager to show us
their favorite Saturday morning hangout.

Cactus Art? 
A small section of the wall of cactus.


These canvas planting bags are an essential component of vertical gardening.

When one orders a latte, one gets Latte Art.

The Anatomy of a Lovely Week

~  Every morning begins with a cuppa, made by my brother.

~  A great solution for a small bathroom, isn’t it?

~  A new friend of ours–we met him Sunday–
has opened up a thriving cafe in Oakland called Remedy Coffee.
It has wifi, but if you are on a laptop,
you must sit at the communal table.
Small tables are reserved for
traditional cafe activities, e.g. talking and drinking coffee.
He installed an old phone.
If you want to talk on your cell phone,
you must go into the phone booth.

~  How could I have made it through a lifespan
without Bach’s B Minor Mass?
Katie asked Dan to explain the fugue.
After a short music lesson, he put it on.
Beauty beyond words.
Beyond words.

~ I recently decided that I want to devote a wall
in my kitchen to my brother’s photography.
I swear I had the idea before I saw his living room!


~  An absolutely delicious outing to Penzey’s Spices. 
What a fun store!
*This* much fun!

~  One of Curt’s college roommates came over. 
We ate.  We talked.  We listened to this.
In the old days the discussion afterwards would’ve
gone on past midnight.
But, alas, we have aged.

~  Here is the best side dish in the world:

Coyote Corn
2 T butter
2-3 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels
3-4 sun-dried tomatoes, soaked, drained, chopped
3 T finely chopped fresh basil
1/3 cup chopped green onions, including tops
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat butter in skillet, add corn and tomatoes until warmed through.
Place in serving bowl; add basil and onions.
Salt and pepper to taste.

Today more visits.
Tomorrow: Wendell Berry.

One Fine Day

Waking up in Maine….
How could one day hold so much good?

Kathie’s (my SIL) old VW Bug from her college days

A walk on Mackworth Island

A pause to talk…

a stop at the local Farmer’s Market

A clam chowder lunch at:

~     ~     ~

friends had me up to their place for
a lobstah bake (that’s seaweed with it)

on top of the lobster pile up picked-that-day corn,
potatoes, onions, eggs,

clams on top!

delightful family from my church who are also visiting their family in Maine

Ending the day with the “chimney” fire – a rotten log placed upright on the fire

Going, Going


I’m headed to Portland, OR & the famous Powell’s Books.
It’s the largest independent used and new bookstore in the world.
One entire city block.
Here is a picture of just one aisle.

I am going to my first (real) book reading: Kathleen Norris!

I will see a lovely friend…

and have a heart to heart with my cousin
about her journey converting to Judaism…

Then I’m zipping up to visit my Seattle kids and perhaps
read a book to my yet-to-be-born grandson, Noah.
I hope he kicks a little…

After which, I pray Hurricane Kyle goes away
so I can enjoy this tranquil garden in Maine
at the beautiful home my sister-in-law and brother have made.

And when one visits Maine, you know what one eats, don’t you?

My friend who happens to be married to my brother
has promised lots of walks.
I plan to take copious photographs.

New England in the fall!

I used to stay home when my guys went hunting, heh heh heh…

Rick Steves in Europe

Postcards from Europe was a fun, light read.  It weaves stories from Rick’s early life of travel with a current (1999) solo blitz around Europe.  Rick’s signature phrase Europe through the back door promotes travel which spends less money, connects with locals, is more informal, and gets off the beaten path.  In this narrative (although he can never completely shed his role as teacher) Rick reveals stories behind the scenes.  He is a looser, less buttoned-up guide.  He doesn’t purge the book of potentially offensive subjects such as the fact that in Denmark the word journey is spelled fart, or that Amsterdam offers every available vice.       

Face it, Rick Steves has an enviable job: annual trips to Europe which are tax-deductible, friends around the globe, breathing history, the satisfaction of helping tens of thousands of people.  It’s not all beer and skittles though.  His success has proven that a good word from him in a guidebook translates into big money for the folks in the travel industry.  People hound, manipulate, beg, berate and banter for a recommendation from him.  A trip to Europe is always work with its niggling details.  Here are some of my favorite quotes:

From the start, I had a passion for journal writing.
I followed one strict rule: Never finish a day without writing it up.

I learned to write by giving talks…I read one book – On Writing Well by William Zinsser.  When I feel like I should read another book to fine-tune my writing, I read Zinsser again. 

Italians are a moveable party. 
They can make a traffic jam fun.

Good travel is more than counting blessings.  It’s understanding them. You appreciate the vintner and the land in the bouquet of a fine wine. You let a favorite artist share new beauties in times and places you’ve never been. You eat better ice cream than you thought possible. And you warm your spirit in the glow of a European who’s found his niche in life. Good travel makes God obvious to me.

It Is Too Wonderful

I knew that the little town of Aberfeldy, our home base in Scotland, had a bookshop in a converted watermill. 

Today.  I found this website.  Books. Over 5000 books. Coffee. Art Gallery. Music.

Browsing Encouraged. Woodstove.

Winner Scottish Independent Bookshop of the Year.

Within walking distance of our temporary home.


For Me.

Go to the Link and click on the Virtual Tour.

The kindness of our God is overwhelming.

Walking Distance!

Let It Rain.

All Day Long.

My lips are numb.