May 9, 2023

And the Start of a New Reign


It has been nearly eight months since I've posted here. I will simply say that life has gone on and taken me into other directions that have taken too much of my time to allow for posting here. Blogs, which I enjoy reading from others, has not been my priority in the past few years versus when I first began here. I wish it was not so, but we do what we need, and often want, to do. 

That said, my last post was about the passing of the longest reigning monarch in Britain, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, so it is only fitting that the coronation of her son and successor, Charles, at age 74 (he will be 75 in November), is an important event to recognize and celebrate. 

I am a bit younger than Charles, so, like many of us "of a certain age",  I've known of him most of my life. I was never eager for him to become king, primarily because I appreciated his mother as queen, and particularly her lifelong passion for horses, riding and particularly her long involvement in horse racing. She made racing in the UK fun to watch, particularly the Royal Ascot race meeting held for nearly a week in mid-June. She was a keen owner and breeder of race horses and had long relationships with top horsemen and women in that industry in the UK and in the US in Kentucky.

I also appreciated the fact that Prince Philip, the late Duke of Edinburgh, was a passionate polo player who later took up carriage driving and competing in combined driving events for many years after stepping down from the saddle. He also served in an administrative capacity as the head of the Federation Equestre Internationale (International Equestrian Federation, or FEI), the governing body for all of international equestrian sport. He also was the brains behind the creation of popular international competitions, including the World Cup in show jumping, among other forward-thinking initiatives. 

Certainly, Charles is no stranger to the saddle, having foxhunted and played polo in his younger years, nor is his wife, Camilla, the Queen Consort, who loved riding to hounds and attending the races. (It is said that she is now overseeing the new king's and her ownership of the late queen's race horses and breeding stock, continuing that tradition that has been maintained by the royal family for more than a century.) Even more so, Charles's sister, Anne, and her daughter Zara Phillips, his niece, are the most accomplished equestrians in the family, having both ridden for the British equestrian team in the Olympics in the sport of eventing. Anne rode one of her mother's home-bred Thoroughbreds, Doublet, in the Montreal Games in 1976, while Zara is a former European champion and team silver medalist in the 2012 London Games, on the Irish Sport Horse, Toytown, where her grandmother presented the medals. Zara continues to compete and recently rode in the Land Rover Kentucky 5-Star Three-Day Event (top international level) at the Kentucky Horse Park on another Irish-bred horse, Class Affair,   finishing 15th of 24 to complete the event of 38 to participate.

Needless to say, my interest in watching the coverage of the coronation was mainly to see the pomp of the parades - the procession from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey and the recession back again - with the complement of horses both being ridden by cavalry members and drawing the gorgeous gilded carriages used to transport the king and queen consort. I also enjoy the lovely music and choral singing that were selected to celebrate the occasion. No one does these kinds of royal occasions as elegantly and beautifully like the British. Indeed, the Canadians have been long suppliers of some of the horses used by the British army for parades, etc., including horses the late queen rode in the ceremonial "Trooping of the Color". Even Charles and Anne both rode in the event last year when the Queen was no longer able to participate due to the stability issues that plagued her in her final year. 

While it's a given that Charles will not have as long of a reign as his mother, here's hoping that it is as long and healthy a one as possible and he discharges his duties and role with great success. 

God save the King! Long may he reign - and may the royal horses continue to remain in evidence in parades and ceremonies, and in competitions, on race courses and in hunting fields throughout the land!


September 23, 2022

End of a Glorious Reign


After my previous post honoring Her Majesty, Queen Elisabeth II, Great Britain and the commonwealth's longest reigning monarch, we saw several of her horses' riders sporting the queen's royal purple and scarlet racing silks with lovely gold braid closures on the jacket and atop the black cap in a few races held during that iconic Royal Ascot race meeting in mid-June. Sadly, she wasn't able to attend the annual 5-day meeting during the week at age 96 (!) during the celebration of her Platinum Jubilee celebrating 70 years on the British throne due to persistent "mobility issues" that been limiting her ability to move about comfortably in public which she had done for so many decades.

Fortunately, for those of us who love horses and have followed her involvement with them as a serious student of the animal and the sport of racing as a breeder and owner of Thoroughbred race horses, her interest in them remained keen and served at one of the few amusements to which she was dedicated privately for much of her life. More details of that can be found online, so it's worth exploring online her interest in horses, racing and a country lifestyle more broadly.

As the end of summer season drew closer, one couldn't avoid the news report on September 8 of the serious concerns for her health was announced Buckingham Palace, followed several hours later by the posting of the official notice of her death at her beloved, private country home, Balmoral, in Scotland. 

She had lived a very long and full life dedicated, as she had promised, to serve the people of her beloved country and commonwealth. She was all about duty and embodied an impressively unwavering commitment to that noble task. No one before her did it as well or for as long. 

Very few alive today knew a time when Queen Elizabeth II wasn't on the throne and it will be a very different world without her going forward. I will miss seeing her from afar and knowing that she was always there, whether performing her royal duties or enjoying a day at the races or at Windsor Castle where she spent weekends as often as she could, riding the countryside on her favorite Fell pony, Emma, well into her 90s, or Sandringham, northeast of London, where the royal stud is located, or not far at Newmarket, where some of her horses trained for racing. She even sent one over to run in the US on occasion, including her home-bred young horse, Call To Mind, won the Belmont Invitational Derby, a stakes race at Belmont Park on Long Island, in 2018.

Whether or not you favor the monarchy, hers was a constitutional reign, not a political or executive one, but it was a long and glorious one whose longevity won't soon be repeated.

Rest easy now, ma'am, and thank you for your long service and all you did.





June 5, 2022

Long May She Wave...


 Souvenir Staffordshire pottery cup commemorating the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II on June 2, 1953.

Whether or not one is British, it's hard not to admire the long life and dedication of H.M. Queen Elizabeth II, who ascended the throne of the British Empire upon the death of her father, King George VI, on February 6, 1952. 

This is a role that neither she, nor he, expected to assume, but the abdication of his elder brother, King Edward VIII, in 1936 prompted the coronation of George, who was next in the line of succession. Edward abdicated rather than formally be crowned because, at the time, he was not permitted to marry a twice-divorced American woman and also serve as the sovereign.

George and his wife, Elizabeth (later the Queen Mother), had two daughters, Elizabeth and her younger sister, Margaret, so it fell to their elder daughter, who was 11 when her father became king, to prepare to become queen upon his demise. 

Sadly, it was only 15 years later that Elizabeth had to step irrevocably into that supreme role at the young age of 25. Even earlier, on her 21st birthday, she resolutely declared "before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong." 

Seventy years later, on June 2, 2022, the anniversary of her formal coronation on June 2, 1953, Queen Elizabeth II, at 96, has proven to be as enduring and dedicated as she vowed she would be when she was 21. 

How many of us can attest to such commitment to a job, to a task or to a mere notion that the pursuit of an effort for the benefit of the "greater good" is a challenge worth undertaking for a lifetime? Precious few, I'd say.

Congratulations, Your Majesty.


(The souvenir coronation cup from my personal collection was purchased at a thrift store in upstate New York in 2018 for $2.)

May 31, 2022

Each New Day...

 It has been a long time - long winter, finally Spring, and soon - hard to believe - summer. I've been disinclined to post here since December. There have been many reasons for that, but it was time to resume and move forward. 

The world has been a perilous place with many troubling events in lands far and all too near. We can't necessarily solve all of the world's problems, but we can focus our attention on them, do what one can in a small way and perhaps, collectively, move ourselves and others toward a better place.

A new day, a new week and a new month begin again. One foot in front of the other, one day at at time. I'll be focusing on doing what I can to make this world a better place for myself, those around me and those far beyond. 

December 13, 2021

Another Holiday Season...

 Winter Farm Scene, original painting by D. Knapp, American, 1961


It seems like we were just celebrating the arrival of autumn, Halloween and Thanksgiving, and, indeed, we were, but the first snows have flown (and melted, fortunately) more than once. They'll return in due course, but in the meantime, the frantic pace of the winter season is firmly upon us.As I've lamented here in the past, I staunchly resist the premature promotion of the December holiday season. To see autumn arrive in the stores in late July and Christmas nipping firmly at the former's heels by mid-September, if not August, is just more than I can bear. I love autumn and want to enjoy every single moment of it until it leaves us in another few days in late December. 

Still, there's no escaping the holiday season kicking in in earnest by Thanksgiving, when the "Christmas shopping season" goes into full swing. I'm fine with that, but I refuse to decorate for the holidays until December 1, that way I can enjoy the last vestiges of Thanksgiving before turning my attention to the inevitably overwhelming holiday decorating impulse.

I've become a proponent of enjoying all of the senses during the holiday season, particularly the visual, aural, smell and taste elements of holiday celebrations. I also prefer more "natural" decor - simple evergreens and berries, a few keepsake ornaments in a bowl if not on a tree (my larger faux tree will remain in storage this year, but my hearth is flanked with my two smaller pencil trees that are nicely lit with classic white mini-lights). It's enough.     

I actually have moderated my hoIiday decor in recent years. More is not more, it's usually way too much. I've seen some holiday decorating videos from some very creative folks who I otherwise enjoy seeing on YouTube, but I saw one home tour the other day that was beyond over-the-top. It was just way, way too much. Every surface or wall space and thing does not need to be embellished with some bit of holly, glitter or snowy fluff. Please, give it a rest. Take a step back, look at the volume and then just stop and take a break. Some are into minimal, and that's fine, and others can't have enough cluttering up their domestic worlds. There is a happy medium in there somewhere. Mine leans toward the former. I would rather have a few really lovely things to enjoy in my home than so much that I can't really "see" any of what I have. It's just gets to be too much. Eye candy it is not.

I'm nearly done with my holiday decorating, as it's fairly modest again this year. I have plenty of stuff I could trot out, but I opted for just my two slim, illuminated faux pencil trees (sans ornaments) to flank my hearth and give enough of a celebratory glow to the season, along with some whole cloves and cinnamon sticks bubbling in a copper pot on the stove. I'll put a few keepsake ornaments in a simple clear glass bowl rather than put up and hang them on my nice, 4-foot faux tree. I like it, but it's just more than I want to deal with this year. Perhaps it's the lingering effects of COVID pervading our lives. (A mask mandate has just been implemented in NYS for any space that does not already have a vaccination policy in effect, in an effort to try to keep the virus and its variants in check. I'm fine with that, but I won't be entertaining in my home again this year, so I'm just decorating for myself.) It's not about lots of stuff again this year (or any year, really) as much as it's about being safe and just having a few very simple enjoyments for the senses this holiday season. 

It's a good reminder that the holiday season should never be about "things," or who has the most or the latest hot items, but rather the intangibles that really matter. We should celebrate every day and not take for granted family and friends, counting our blessings and staying as healthy as we can for ourselves and those around us. 

Just keep it that simple and this holiday season should provide everything you really need in your life and around you.

(For those wondering, my current header image, which I do change periodically so I've also added it to the message here, is an original oil painting of a farm scene that I purchased many years ago at an antiques auction in New York's Hudson Valley. It is signed D. Knapp '61, but I have no idea where the scene was painted or anything more about the artist, but I have always liked it and particularly enjoy seeing it hanging in my home during the holiday and winter season.)


November 9, 2021

Mid-Autumn Reflection

 As if my last post already wasn't long-delayed, unfortunately, this one is even longer delayed. Life has been busy - that's really it. It's worth noting that autumn's arrival, or at least the changing leaves, have been long-delayed here in eastern New York, as well. We normally would see the hints of changing colors of the maples and oaks start to appear by mid-September, but there literally was no sign of that at all this year. If one can believe the local meteorologists, the heavy rainfall in summer (much more than average in July) and the warmer than usual temperatures (global warming, one would guess) tricked the trees into thinking summer was going strong in September and into early October. We would have had frost in October for sure, but we barely had any whisper of that all month. It was just this week - November! - before we had evidence of actual frost on the ground, but we hit 60F yesterday and we'll be up there, and maybe even a bit warmer, again today. I'll take it.

Don't get me wrong. I love autumn. It is my favorite season. It's not hot, it's not freezing (until later in November), and the snow, if we're lucky will remain at bay until December. That isn't always the case, but more often than not it is. The changing, now mostly changed, colors are simply spectacular here even when they're not as brilliant as other years. Some have characterized this year's colors as "meh"...and maybe that's so, but I simply look for the screaming, flaming brilliant reds and oranges that make their host trees to be all aflame. That's what I crave most from the fall colors and I found enough evidence of those burning bright colors to declare this autumn's colors as more than respectable. To be honest, we're lucky to have them. So many other areas of the country don't have our glorious hardwoods that put on such a colorful show every year. I could never live anywhere else in autumn. Not ever. 

The image above is a watercolorized version of the view outside my front window. No complaints for me about autumn this year. No, indeed.




March 1, 2021

March: In Like a Lion...

Yet another new header image with the impending change of season
, based on a spring landscape that I came across that makes me happy with its pinks, greens and flowering trees.

With the usual apologies for no posts in February, it was a short but busy month, so it was better if I focused on the immediate priorities and came back when things calmed down a bit. The turn of the new month is a good time to catch up here after a somewhat wild couple of months. 

One of the unusual events in February was the jam-packed stacking of Valentine's Day, followed by President's Day, followed by Mardi Gras - all within a three-day span. I don't recall ever seeing that happen since Washington's and Lincoln's birthdays were combined into an official President's Day. I grew up with those two birthdays being separate holidays, but this year (2021) is the 50th anniversary of that change, which occurred in 1971 via the federal Uniform Monday Holiday Act. As a result, Memorial Day, Columbus Day and Veterans Day all were changed to specific Mondays on the calendar. Memorial Day was fixed on the last Monday of May and Columbus Day, traditionally October 12, was fixed on the second Monday in October. Veterans Day however, which was celebrated for nine years as the second Monday in October, later was restored to its original November 11 date in 1980, regardless of when the holiday fell (though governmental offices observed the holiday on a Friday if the holiday fell on Saturday, or on a Monday if the 11th fell on Sunday). That celebration remains on November 11.

Although it's still a few weeks away, I'm starting to get ready for the arrival of Spring. I've had enough of winter, bitter cold and snow, so, while we'll likely see a bit more snow, the winds of March are literally blowing in full force to herald the arrival of this new, long-awaited season. It's trite, I know, but it truly is a time of re-awakening that always makes me very happy. We've survived the bitter frosts and snows of winter and things are gradually beginning to show the tell-take signs of rebirth. Not before time, for sure. 

I've been feeding the birds and squirrels all winter. The ones that have been stopping by each morning to get their provisions for another day probably are living nearby in the wooded area behind my house. I'm happy to see them, though I don't spend hours watching them. I'll be winding the feeding down soon, as the temperatures are starting slowly to creep higher. The snows are melting gradually, so I'm hoping they all will be gone by the time the first day of spring arrives. I've noticed that the critters are not consuming quite as much of the seeds and nuts I've been providing as they did in the past few months. While we will are still well snow-covered, things are beginning to re-emerge, so I expect they're likely starting to find enough to meet their needs and won't be needing my contributions to augment their larders. Fine with me. I've done my duty for the neighborhood wildlife once again. They'll be on their own again soon and I'll be off the hook.

As for my health and well being, I'll be glad to see warmer temperatures and milder weather. We have been experiencing weather in Spring in recent years that has leaned toward short on the mild and long on the intensely cold, snowy, and rainy, then suddenly, warmer-than-usual weather arrives in May and feels like July rather than mid-Spring. I'm hoping we have a long, mild season this Spring so we can defrost gradually and enjoy the arrival of crocus and forsythia, apple blossoms and gentle breezes. I'm not a fan of the "light switch" change in the season's weather. Slow and steady is my preference. I'm eager to get outside and moving without the challenges of ice and snow impeding my progress. The end of cabin fever is in sight! Here's hoping that's what we'll enjoy...