Monday, 17 July 2017

Sorting out my yin and yang.


I'd been telling Sal about this place ever since I last visited and we finally got the opportunity to visit in July. She is a good, thoughtful and caring person, plus she likes her bit of peace so I knew she would love the place. There is also loads and loads of things to photograph as well so off we set with our camera bags loaded.

The building that now houses Samyé Ling was originally a hunting lodge called Johnstone House. In 1965 the Johnstone House Trust was formed with the objectives of making the lodge's facilities available to the general public for study and meditation based on Buddhist and other religious teaching. It was founded by two spiritual masters, Dr. Akong Tulku Rinpoche and Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. Samye Ling was the first Tibetan Buddhist Centre to be established in the West and was named after Samye, the very first monastery to be established in Tibet.

The grounds are full of shrines, places for prayer and Stupas. The eight stupas line both sides of the entrance to Samye Ling next to the Butterlamp House (where1008 lamps are lit as a prayerful gesture of hope at 16:00 each day). When the Buddha died and passed into parinirvana (final liberation), his disciples cremated his body and interred his ashes in eight stupas, which were erected in different auspicious locations. Each stupa represent an important event in the life of the Buddha. The form and contents of the Stupa express the balance and purification of earth, water, fire, air and space.

 As you enter the peace garden there is a Cloutie tree with colourful cloths tied to its branches. It is seemingly both a Scottish and Tibetan custom to make a wish and then tie a coloured ribbon to the tree and as the cloth fades the wish is carried off by the elements and hopefully one day comes true. There are also many small shrines and one in particular where visitors can leave a little memento or keepsakes. The last time I visited I left a loom band bracelet but this had broken down with the weather so there was no sign of it. Sal made and left one of her peace cranes but I fear that will suffer the same fate in time.

Another interesting section was the Prayer Wheel House. The prayer wheels apparently contain millions of mantras (short prayers) for peace and compassion which have been inscribed on paper soaked in saffron water and blessed in a special way. As you turn the prayer wheel clockwise it supposedly activates the blessing of the mantras, transmitting the energy of peace and compassion in all directions.

The last time I visited there were prayers going on at in The Inner Temple but not today, so I had a few quiet moments inside. It is absolutely stunning and so colourful and also has such an aura of serenity and goodness about it. I did sneak a quick photo of it on my phone but did feel a bit guilty about doing it for some reason.

I don't know how me and Sal manage it but, yet again, the eating gods weren't on our side. The person who ran the tearooms was off sick so they had to close it for the day. We were both starving as well so we had a few quiet moments sat beside the River Esk plus another quick look around and headed off in search of food.

We finally found it in the pretty little town of Langholm where we both tucked in to a panini and salad at the Truly Scrumptious café and boy did we need it. It was the first time Sal had visited the Buddhist Centre and like me she found it a most relaxing place to be. It is nice to share your special places with someone who is special to you.

Statue of the Buddhist God Nagarjuna

Peace Garden Water Lily

Prayer flag

Prayer Wheel

Peace Garden

Peace Garden

Peace Crane

Peace Garden

Peace Garden

Prayer Fllag

Statue of Guru Rinpoche

Statue of Guru Rinpoche

The Cloutie Tree

The Peace Garden

The eight stupas

Stupa

Wall carving

To the tearooms

The Temple

The Inner Temple


The River Esk

The River Esk

The Tara Healing garden

The Tara Healing garden

Statue of Guru Rinpoche

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Brantwood, the Home of John Ruskin


John Ruskin (8 February 1819 – 20 January 1900) was the leading English art critic of the Victorian era, as well as an art patron, draughtsman, watercolourist, a prominent social thinker and philanthropist. He wrote on subjects as varied as geology, architecture, myth, ornithology, literature, education, botany and political economy. His writing styles and literary forms were equally varied. Ruskin also penned essays and treatises, poetry and lectures, travel guides and manuals, letters and even a fairy tale. The elaborate style that characterised his earliest writing on art was later superseded by a preference for plainer language designed to communicate his ideas more effectively. In all of his writing, he emphasised the connections between nature, art and society. He also made detailed sketches and paintings of rocks, plants, birds, landscapes, and architectural structures and ornamentation.
He was hugely influential in the latter half of the 19th century, and up to the First World War. After a period of relative decline, his reputation has steadily improved since the 1960s with the publication of numerous academic studies of his work. Today, his ideas and concerns are widely recognised as having anticipated interest in environmentalism, sustainability and craft.
Ruskin first came to widespread attention with the first volume of Modern Painters (1843), an extended essay in defence of the work of J. M. W. Turner in which he argued that the principal role of the artist is "truth to nature". From the 1850s he championed the Pre-Raphaelites who were influenced by his ideas. His work increasingly focused on social and political issues. Unto This Last (1860, 1862) marked the shift in emphasis. In 1869, Ruskin became the first Slade Professor of Fine Art at the University of Oxford, where he established the Ruskin School of Drawing. In 1871, he began his monthly "letters to the workmen and labourers of Great Britain", published under the title Fors Clavigera (1871–1884). In the course of this complex and deeply personal work, he developed the principles underlying his ideal society. As a result, he founded the Guild of St George, an organisation that endures today.

In August 1871, Ruskin purchased from W. J. Linton the then somewhat dilapidated Brantwood, on the shores of Coniston Water, in the English Lake District, paying £1500. It was Ruskin's main home from 1872 until his death. His estate provided a site for more of his practical schemes and experiments: an ice house was built, the gardens were comprehensively rearranged, he oversaw the construction of a larger harbour (from where he rowed his boat, the Jumping Jenny), and altered the house (adding a dining room, turret to his bedroom to give a panoramic view of the lake, and later expanding further to accommodate his relatives). He built a reservoir, and redirected the waterfall down the hills, adding a slate seat that faced the tumbling stream rather than the lake, so that he could closely observe the fauna and flora of the hillside. He died at Brantwood from influenza on 20 January 1900 at the age of 80. He was buried five days later in the churchyard at Coniston, according to his wishes. - Wikipedia

I came over to Brantwood last year but didn't go around the house, deciding to leave that until Sal was with me as I knew she had a great affinity with Ruskin. We finally made it in July when we came up to the Lakes for our summer holiday. 

Our first major decision was whether to visit the cafe before or after our walk around the house and grounds; we decided on the latter.

I never knew who John Ruskin really was. Was he a painter, an art critic, a writer or a poet? From the above extract from Wikipedia, it showed he was a bit of them all but what he stood out for mostly, was being a great social thinker, reformer and philanthropist. This was all documented in a very informative short film that was shown before we were given the freedom to tour the parts of the house open to the public. The rooms and displays were all interesting but it was the views over Coniston Water from various windows which stayed with me although I suppose the weather helped. I should imagine it wouldn't be as appealling with the cloud covering the fell tops and being accompanied by a howling gale and horizontal rain!

The gardens, which Ruskin had painstakingly landscaped over the years, were in full bloom and looked stunning in the summer sunshine. The wooded gardens which extended much higher up the fell side and which had a myriad of paths running through them were given a miss that day as coffee and a piece of cake was calling the pair of us. The cafe has been modernised and extended since my last visit but it was still pretty full and we were lucky to get a seat out on the veranda which overlooked the lake. I had a ridiculously unhealthy piece of flapjack with my coffee whilst Sal had an equally unhealthy piece of chocolate and beetroot cake with hers.

Suitably refreshed we walked down through the lower gardens to the shore of the lake before setting off back to the North Lakes. On the way we stopped off at Monk Coniston which is one of Sal's favourite places and where she has some very happy memories from previous holidays. Also, from the back of the walled garden you get a super view down Coniston Water and across to the Coniston Fells, so it's worth a visit just for that.

We'd both had an immensely informative yet enjoyable day out together.

8 Sep 2017 - I have just been informed by Sal (who kept a detailed diary of the holiday) that we didn't go to Monk Coniston that day, we actually called there after our trip to Laurel and Hardy Land, i.e. Ulverston. However we did go to The Sun Hotel above Coniston village to enjoy the view from their beer garden, which to me sounds like a better plan!


Coniston Water

Coniston Water

Brantwood

Brantwood

Coniston Water

Sal

Brantwood

John Ruskin's Seat

Woodland Garden

Woodland Garden

Coniston Fells from Brantwood Gardens

Brantwood Gardens

Lily, Brantwood Gardens

Lilies, Brantwood Gardens

Coniston Water

Coniston Water

Sal taking yet another photo of her shoes!

Brantwood Gardens

Brantwood from the Lake shore

Cartmel

It must have been over twenty years since I was last in Cartmel and as you'd expect from this sleepy corner of Cumbria, the place hadn&#...