Archives For Wide World

An artistic pilgrimage.

Sennelier, ParisAcross the same bridge over the River Seine to the same, small green shopfront near the Louvre.

I stood in front of Sennelier for the second time.

Last time I was there, there was no art career. There was a lifetime of interest and dabbling, but no career. I bought my first pastels there, after hearing about Sennelier on NPR. That same year, I embarked on a career change, determined to make art a way of life.

And here I stood, years later, in front of the store that feeds my art and brings my pastels into being. We went inside and I touched the worn, wooden drawers containing every color pastel. We maneuvered around the cramped, aged art store, past the old wooden ladder and over to the notebooks. I made my choices and with a timid “Merci” purchased some notebooks, future home of new doodles. Something I can keep.

Like standing in the English field among the sheep that I’d drawn so often, standing in Sennelier was another step in coming full circle. But it was not the last.

Mont Martre.

With our umbrellas and soggy shoes, we left our lunch at the Eiffel Tower with our sights set on Mont Martre, the gathering place for artists past and present. Last time our visit to Paris was so brief, we only had time to touch this section of the city. Rain or no rain, we would soak it in and look over all of Paris from the hill of Sacre Cour.

Laughing and out of breath, we slipped and climbed up the steep sidewalks to the top of Mont Martre. Navigating through umbrellas, we wove our way past cafes and windmills, artists shielding their work from the wet weather. With easy smiles and free spirits, we leaned on the fence in front of Sacre Cour, the carousel below us and Paris spreading its arms as far as we could see.

Sacre Cour, marker & ink doodle

Sacre Cour, marker & ink doodle

We moved down the steps like children and stood in front of the carousel, watching it spin and entertain. I knew every piece, a former pastel now shared in a home somewhere in Alabama. A piece of Paris.

Carousel, marker & ink doodle

Carousel, marker & ink doodle

My art career has grown and my life has deepened over the years. The beginning, the inspiration, the moments have come full circle with this trip of pilgrimage. I have said my thanks and recognized those things, those places and those people that have moved me and brought me thus far.

Like the turning carousel, I made it around and stood again in the same place, I very much changed.

And now I have a renewed heart and new adventures to explore and draw and share…

moving forward with much warmth and these memories in my pocket.

Traveling from St. Pancras Station, London: marker, colored pencil & ink doodle

Traveling from St. Pancras Station, London: marker, colored pencil & ink doodle

A dark, early morning cab ride to St. Pancras. Heavy bags, heavy eyelids, heavy steps. Slumping into our seats, we barrel under the English Channel towards France. Riding backwards, the zooming landscape alternates with dark tunnels, only my reflection for a view. Our friends have scattered to more destinations, or have arrived safely back home. Now I, with my husband and his aunt and uncle, journey on.

Farewell London, Bonjour Paris.

June 27, 2014 

“France began with a little chaos. We popped out of the metro by the Arc de Triomphe, with its constant swirl of speeding, honking cars, surprisingly without a clue how to find our hotel. When in doubt and lost, hail a cab. So we did.”

We unloaded our baggage burdens at last and made our way into the city, aiming at a “do-over” of the Arc de Triomphe. A lunch of croque madames at an outdoor cafe (where, it must be noted, a bird pooped on my head…what a nice welcome), we strolled down the Champs Elysees to the Tuileries Garden.

Notre Dame, colored pencil & ink doodle

Notre Dame, colored pencil & ink doodle

The gardens were full of color, children with ice cream, people in green metal chairs around the circular ponds, pigeons pecking for crumbs. The sun was warm and smiles bright. We headed to the Louvre and split up to see the city.

Returning from the Musee de Orsay to our rendezvous by the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, a wind whipped up and enveloped everyone in huge, swirling dust clouds. With my scarf on my face, we laughed in surprise until the dust returned to the ground. We watched the men selling cheap souvenirs, the pigeons trying to impress their mates, the people enjoying a Paris summer, until it came time for dinner.

The next morning, rain fell lightly on Paris, adding umbrellas to the beauty of the romantic streets. With a croissant and cafe creme at a cafe near majestic Notre Dame, life felt still. The close sounds of french conversation, busy pigeons and clinking mugs on plates was interrupted by the pealing of bells. People and umbrellas moved quickly towards the cathedral, where an unknown church service spilled far into the courtyard in front, projected with speakers and screens.

Tuileries Garden, ink & marker doodles

Tuileries Garden, ink & marker doodles

La Tour Eiffel

From Notre Dame, we moved on towards the gorgeous Saint Chapelle, then finally “La Tour Eiffel”…the inspiring Eiffel Tower. For our 12th wedding anniversary, Stephen long ago made reservations for us to eat lunch high on the Eiffel Tower. Nervous and excited, we were taken up in a small elevator to the second platform and to our window seat, a view towards the Arc de Triomphe.

June 28, 2014

“So began our 5 course meal that took 3 hours. 3 hours in the clouds above Paris. The food was incredible, the view breathtaking, the company the best. We watched the rain over Paris, people under shiny umbrellas reflecting off the wet pavement below. No rush, no hurry, no stress. 

When we came down from the clouds and walked out from under the tower, we wound our way down a path by a pond full of ducks. We came upon a rainy street lined with pointed white tents selling piles of food, bowls of candy, clothes, scarves, hats, bags and the coveted umbrella.”

Eiffel Tower, ink doodle

Eiffel Tower, ink doodle



Canterbury, EnglandWinding our way through the streets, lined with crookedly stacked white buildings crossed with dark beams, with signs and flowers hanging off the fronts, swaying in the wind…people looking out their doors, or crossing the well-worn cobblestone roads, we hurried towards our destination, trying to keep up.

It was our last day together as a group and we left the bustling city of London, plunging into the medieval city of Canterbury. Still wrapped in  Norman walls, Canterbury sucked us back in time, whispering its tales as we walked.  After a big plate of fish and chips with plenty of vinegar, we made our way through the maze of streets to the soaring Canterbury Cathedral.

Hard to take in or fit in a photo, this huge, reaching, ornate structure holds too many stories to explore in an afternoon.

Canterbury CathedralWe entered the mother church of the Anglican Communion and met our guide, a sweet lady in a cardigan and pearls who looks like she’d be best friends with Julia Child. She took us to the site of the 1170 murder of Thomas Becket by King Henry II’s knights, explained the incredible story-telling stained glass, and led us up the pilgrim’s staircase, worn smooth with the steady, ancient traffic of respect.

We spent some quiet moments wandering the awe-inducing silent crypt beneath the cathedral, with medieval graffiti etched into the stone by watchful, waiting monks. There was an old man with a headlamp standing in the dim light, sketching where photographs are forbidden. I wish I’d had time to join him.

We participated in Evensong, sitting upright in the choir stalls beneath the vaulted ceiling containing so much history, the witness of so much life and struggle and hope.

Later in my journal, I reflected upon the parades of people who had passed in and out of those walls:

June 25, 2014

“So many years of devotion, worship, effort towards faith. The long struggle towards understanding God and following Christ is real and riddled with mistakes, but filled with honest effort, dedication and passion.”

We enjoyed a closing meal in an upstairs room where the wine and conversation flowed, celebrating our new friendships and shared experiences.

A late night, we returned to London, very grateful.

Canterbury Cathedral, ink doodle

Canterbury Cathedral, ink doodle

Big Ben at night: marker, colored pencil & ink doodle

Big Ben at night: marker, colored pencil & ink doodle

I adore London, especially at night.

We toured London by day, and a group of us went out at night:

June 25, 2014

“We took the tube to Westminster, saw Big Ben lit up at night, crossed the bridge to the London Eye in the cool night air. We walked down the Thames with lots of others, sharing our high of experiencing such a beautiful, rich city – a truly global city. We crossed the bridge and headed to Trafalgar Square, where we climbed the lions and laughed at the blue cockerel. We walked through Piccadilly Circus, then through Green Park, laughing and talking in the misty night. We saw Buckingham Palace, unlit at 10:30, and pulled our weary feet towards Victoria Station to the underground and back to bed.”

British Museum, ink doodles

British Museum, ink doodles

The next day we moved through history at the British Museum, beginning with ancient Assyrian statues, Egyptian faces, mummies and scarabs, and the Rosetta Stone.We moved through the Greeks and Romans to the Celts, to the Medieval church, pieces from ancient ships and the oldest surviving statue of a human figure – dating around 7200 bc! It looked like modern art… amazing.

Skipping over a day, to which I will return tomorrow, we spent another day in London as most of the group returned home. Westminster Abbey, the treasures at the British Library, the Tower of London, St. James Park, and losing our way somewhere in Brompton or Kensington, rounded out London with mist and flowers. So much iconic beauty. London is a fantastic city.

St. James Park, London, marker & ink doodle

St. James Park, London, marker & ink doodle


Wide World: Epiphany

Mary Liz Ingram —  July 16, 2014 — 1 Comment

My apathetic, weary fog was lifted at one of our strangest stops: the Charterhouse in London.

photobombNot completely sure why we were there, we sat in the carved wooden choir stalls and began listening to this elderly man who bent a bit and closed his eyes while he spoke. With his sidekick Bob, these dudes became hilarious and one of my favorite parts of the trip. Maybe it was  delirium from so many days of travel, maybe it just is what it is. I LOVED him. I even photobombed with him just so I could have a picture. I was about to explode with silliness. Once again on this trip, I couldn’t contain myself.

These two gents live at the Charterhouse and gave us a tour dotted with pretty comical moments. My favorite was when our main man asked “Are you all on a schedule? I’m not. I’m here till I die…”

We saw the rooms, the old Carthusian monastic area, and listened to them talk about who knows what, with a renewed pep in my step.

Later making our way to St. Paul’s Cathedral, I sat on the steps with a flapjack and coffee, Mary Poppins’ “Feed the Birds” playing in my head (I may have sang it once or twice…maybe).

Prepped with a renewed outlook, this is where I had my unexpected epiphany.

After attending seminary, working in church, choosing not to work in church, coming through so many different phases of religion, my attitude towards church has been a little rocky, a little conflicted. Sometimes when you change, it’s hard to know how to replace, rework or renew old understandings. It’s a muffled area that causes me sometimes to cringe, sometimes to hide, sometimes to ignore, occasionally to explore.

Sitting in the beauty and grandeur of the great cathedrals of Europe, I alternately marvel at the historic significance and immense perfection of the sanctuaries, and squint at the funding and imperiousness of the buildings. A little skepticism, a lot of admiration.

This time, we sat in the center of St. Paul’s cathedral ready to participate in the Eucharist service. My loaded feelings reared their ugly heads and I tried to wash the slate clean and just experience. A mental tug of war ensued.

And then came the epiphany.

June 25, 2014

“We worshipped at St. Paul’s, up front, smelling the incense, watching the light shine on the gold and mosaic tiles. The music filled the space and echoed in my heart. The boys sang like angels and the kindness in the faces of the priests warmed the room and softened my cynicism. The sermon came and took me by surprise. I even cried a little, which is rare. 

The huge sanctuary became like a warm home.  What I expected to be impersonal was very much personal. 

The priest spoke of John the Baptist, saying that God isn’t found in our structures, but in the wild places. I saw my mountaintop in the hills of Northern England, and my busy home and messy yard. The priest spoke of change, and called us to stop just slithering through life and instead to shed our old skin. A tear rolled down my right cheek as he spoke, and I felt my eyes open. The disjointed puzzle pieces of my life and experiences moved into place and connected for one glorious moment. As my stomach burned with the shared Eucharist, I recognized a turning in my life. I am excited to follow its mystery, as my eyes followed the clouds of incense moving into the light.”

That may sound silly; it may sound fluffy or verbose. But it means something to me, and I have a small, clear step to take. I’m planting a kitchen garden in my front yard. There are numerous small reasons and numerous small expectations. It all fits together in my head, even if it is largely unexplained. I’m prone to “whims,” so you could consider it a directed whim. It is what it is, and we’ll see what it becomes.

“Today more than ever, we need to recapture a sense of ‘place’…. As Wendell Berry put it in his Hannah Coulter, ‘Love in this world doesn’t come out of thin air. It is not something thought up. Like ourselves, it grows out of the ground. It has a body and a place.'” -excerpt from our trip sourcebook

Charterhouse & St. Paul's, London, ink doodles

Charterhouse & St. Paul’s, London, ink doodles


At this point in my journey, the name of John Wesley very nearly caused eye rolling. (Okay, maybe I let one slip)

John Wesley’s story, check, I got it, I could tell it in my sleep. Cynical? Obnoxious? Maybe…..

Enter the port city of Bristol.

Bristol? Why are we here again?

Humongous seagulls dropped poo bombs around us, the streets were busy and a bit rough, definitely in contrast to our peaceful walks down quiet English streets or the intelligent culture and neat stones of Oxford.

The New Room, BristolWe found a small building in the middle of the city: John Wesley’s New Room. This was the place where he and his cohorts pretty much began the Methodist Church. Not exactly ready to hear more about John Wesley, our little posse moved upstairs to the balcony, looking down on the pew boxes below. Somewhere in the presentation, my impatience waned. I mean, you gotta respect this guy, who built a room without ground floor windows because people threw bricks at them.

June 23, 2014

“The New Room was very much the same as when the Wesley’s met there, lots of old wood and white wash, pew boxes and benches, a high pulpit above a lectern above the table on the floor, candles on the walls and columns, a big ticking clock in the quiet room. As much as I’m full of this story, he did something with his ideas. It wasn’t just a passing feeling of needing reform, he acted on it. He worked and caused change.”

With so much filling our heads, so many experiences stacked one upon the other, we retreated to our hotel by the River Avon. It was a good place to rest and regroup, to find some comfort amidst the thoughts piling up in my mind.

BristolJune 24, 2014

“After dinner last night a group of us walked up and down the river for awhile. The night gets dark more quickly down here, but it was still around 10:00. We had the nicest room and most comfortable bed yet – puffy and white with a deep red velvety comforter. I had a cup of cappuccino while I got ready to go down for another English breakfast. 

Leaving Bristol behind, I keep a memory of lights on the water, modern buildings with the towers of stone cathedrals rising behind, a backdrop of slowing dimming dusk, seagulls still busy in the night air. Boats small and large, old and new – deep green canal boats, large wooden ships, tug boats with tires attached.”

Like a boat heavy laden, I floated down the road toward London. The scenery was coated in fog as our green bus took us from Bristol, the landscape sleepy and foggy like me.

Bristol, ink doodle

Bristol, ink doodle

Poppies in Oxford: marker, colored pencil & ink doodle

Poppies in Oxford: marker, colored pencil & ink doodle

A wave of jealousy swept me up and down the streets of Oxford.

Who are these young people, dressed in their exam robes, carrying backpacks and riding bicycles in and out of these historic colleges with their strange traditions like throwing hot pennies at children?

Who are these kids who get to walk up and down the stairs I saw in Harry Potter, and sit outside in vine-covered courtyards to study their books?

Who are these young adults eating lunch and ice cream next to us in a room from 1360?

Like a small child I whine, “it’s not fair!!!!”

Walking down streets paved with stones and rounded rocks (must be a bumpy bike ride – serves them right!), past fountains filled with waterlilies, and into historic Christ Church College, we met the witty and crazy smart verger who took us right into the cathedral for our own mini lecture. Not the best auditory learner, this time I soaked up every word, determined to take this snippet of an opportunity to feel like a student at Oxford.

Christ Church, Oxford, ink doodle

Christ Church, Oxford, ink doodle

At Lincoln College, the steward told us strange (and well, mean) stories of college traditions, cue the hot pennies and ivy-poisoned free beer. The “town vs gown” feuds of students and townspeople, rotten egg and tomato throwing, mobs and gates and murder…bizarre and real! And these young whipper snappers get to go to school here, a part of this history and learning and place!

Oh the jealousy! Oh the beauty and history of the place! I had one moment of fiendish pride when a girl asked me for directions. But, alas, I was only a fellow visitor, not a student. My student days have passed, and Oxford is no option.

But I saw it and soaked it right up.

Wide World: Age

Mary Liz Ingram —  July 13, 2014 — Leave a comment

As twilight fell, the hour was late.

By a river we walked, a thin path columned by tall grass and soft Queen Anee’s Lace. My hands fell gently upon the white flowers, as they bent in the direction of my steps. Searching for a bridge we never found, our stomachs full on roast and yorkshire pudding, we wandered past mossy tombstones, a sleeping country church, steep cliffs and quiet trees. Across the stream, we could see the glowing facade of Willersley Castle, the manor house in which we slept for the night, windows open to the cool night air.

We’d been to York and Epworth earlier in the day. We stretched our heads back to take in the tall magnificence of Yorkminster Cathedral. We felt the echoing organ fill every corner of the beautifully cavernous sanctuary. We climbed high and walked the ring atop Clifford’s Tower, looking down upon York with it’s ancient streets and yellow bicycles, banners and window displays preparing for the upcoming Tour de France…a city full of color and life, people walking, laughing and eating ice cream.

Epworth, EnglandIn Epworth we walked through the peacefully frozen house of John Wesley, preserved and restored like a snap in time. I touched the leaves of the garden plants and smelled the lavender on my hand. The quiet street was only interrupted by the call of a raven and the bleating of sheep. Near a church, we found a green field and a short path between trees. Exploring it’s ending, we found a spreading field of barley.

Such history preserved.

Again I lost sense of space and time and felt sucked backwards to earlier days, an immersion in ages past. When people gardened and read and walked and lived without such haste and stress. When life took more effort, but probably saw more of reality.

Maybe. Maybe not.

But it encouraged me to slow my pace, to open my eyes and to work with my hands.

The next morning, with mist still rising, we walked down a quiet street to St. Mary’s Church in Lutterworth. Inside, young children rode on bright plastic push cars, drank juice from sippy cups, played and laughed and cried, filling up the old stone space with the sounds and activity of today, of new life. Outside next to a blooming hydrangea and 15th century tombstones, I met a mother from Vermont and her baby girl. Now living in England, she shared my appreciation for the rich history and beauty of the place. Like I was trapped in a bubble, our easy, American conversation was a reminder of the present. The present living in and among the ancient. It’s something we are not used to, living in our young country across the sea.

St. Mary's Church in Lutterworth, England, marker & ink doodle

St. Mary’s Church in Lutterworth, England, marker & ink doodle


It was an out of body experience, like walking on clouds.

I almost couldn’t contain myself, and much of my internal excitement did spill out in bouncing waves. I felt the huge urge to frolic and spin, but I held back just enough. It was a spiritual experience, one of the highest points in my life.

Driving down into northern England from Scotland, we took a detour to a remote location to see a well-preserved section of Hadrian’s Wall…the far stretching stone wall built by the Romans to keep the empire’s borders in check.

Northern England, marker & ink doodle

Northern England, marker & ink doodle

June 22, 2014

“In the middle of the gorgeous – amazing – quiet, rolling hills of northern England, in the breeze and sunshine of an early summer morning, the only sounds being singing birds and bleating sheep, we hiked up a steep, craggy hill among the green grass, yellow flowers and purple thistle. It was like a dream.

I felt like crying, dancing, standing still and never leaving. I was ready to sell my belongings and send for the kids, moving to that fantastic countryside. One of the happiest, highest moments of my life.”

My entire sense of self was overwhelmed, the landscape had such a pull upon my soul. I wanted to stay there forever, letting the hills become my waterlilies, an artistic obsession like the garden for Monet. I imagined the scene through all its changes, in its snowbound winters and russet fall, the light rising, the sun setting, the moon glowing.

Clover Crown, marker, colored pencil & ink doodle

Clover Crown, marker, colored pencil & ink doodle

On the walk back to the bus, a sweet friend and I picked clover.

As I dawdled slowly behind, soaking every second before we drove away, I tied the flowers into a crown. Being the responsible, adult, 32-year-old working mother of three that I am, I of course popped the crown on my head and skipped around like a small child. Why not?

It was glorious. I am surprised I did not physically explode.

One day, I will be back.


Party time in Edinburgh“Friday night we walked to dinner. Up the stairs we entered a vaulted room – like a church – lit dimly with candles and pink and purple lights in the high, arched ceiling. We had champagne or whisky, then beer and food. Afterwards they cleared the floor and music began on the colorfully lit stage, fast Scottish music complete with an accordion. We danced and laughed and had so much fun. We danced in a circle and I shed my introverted nerves, threw my head back in laughter and danced with all sorts of people as we traded partners going round and round…my husband, our friends, Scottish girls I didn’t know, Scottish boys I didn’t know, and an old man who kept saying “oh! oh!” like he thought he was going to fall over! I haven’t felt like that in, well, ever…”

In Costume, ink doodles

In Costume, ink doodles

This glowing, swirling plunge into Edinburgh led to a carefree journey full of child-like exploration.

We got up early and poked around gardens and churchyards. I scampered up and down the skinny Closes (alleys) between stores. We sat on stone walls listening to bagpipers and we took a late night tour of the spooky underground homes and rooms of the buried Mary King’s Close.

We stuck our heads in the huge cannon Mons Meg on top of Edinburgh Castle, feebly attempted to use some new Scottish phrases with our poor accents, made new friends and shed the skins of our “grown up” responsibilities, at least for a little while.

My Stephen took the opportunities to get in costume, dressing like John Knox in the oldest house in Edinburgh and posing for pictures, and later having a fake sword fight in chain mail with an actor playing Robert the Bruce. He lost this “wee skirmish,” and we couldn’t stop laughing.

I left Edinburgh with full memories of light-hearted fun and games, with lessons and practice in letting go and living life in joy and laughter.

Edinburgh, colored pencil & ink doodle

Edinburgh, colored pencil & ink doodle