Farewell to Downton Abbey

Downton-Abbey edith and marigold

Many of us are preparing to say farewell to Downton Abbey characters we’ve loved and loathed, sometimes wanted to seal into a hat box and send it bobbing on the North Atlantic, wept with, groaned and giggled at over the past six years.

March 6 marks the finale of finales for Downton Abbey for us in the United States. I compare this occasion to attending the Captain’s dinner on the final night of a voyage. My RSVP is sent. The main requirement is to find a comfy seat in front of the telly and ensure we are the person in charge of the remote. Everyone ready with pots of tea (or coffee or liquors) and appetizing nibbles at hand. Firmly telling all family members to either watch – or go seek non life-threatening, legal entertainment elsewhere. Quietly.

Formal dress not required, but how fun to don those lovely frocks and suits for a few hours. While waiting, we can ponder on the characters with whom we have shared the voyage.

The uppity, occasionally loving, and oh so forthright Lady Mary Crawley and her grandmama, the Dowager Countess. Ah those Dowager quips. Yes, I realize how dreadfully middle class of me to be remarking on those pointed remarks. Sigh. But what else is a weekend for if not to dwell on things of interest?

And there’s “Poor Edith” who finds it difficult to speak up for herself when we viewers are silently demanding “just say it!” She loves well but not always wisely, is coming into her own as a modern woman, and adores her daughter.

Sometimes mouthy, working so hard to better herself, naive Daisy who wants more fairness – and just more choices – in her life.

Thomas who finds himself sealed in a hat box of his own devising and desperately wants out, and Tom who now realizes the place and system he once loathed is home and for himself and his daughter, little Sibbey.

Mrs. Hughes (Carson) and Carson who after a turtle-paced courtship, discover that sailing the choppy waters of new marriage calls for patience and ingenuity.

Mr. Moseley who possesses kindness and intelligence even as he stumbles over a road filled with potholes that need filling.

The Bates, who share the unappetizing experience of both having occupied jail cells and are presently hoping for a little one of their own.

And so many others.

What can we say as we raise our glasses in toast (no clinking glasses please – remember that is NOT done) – knowing that the voyage is almost over. The resolutions about to be unveiled. We are not promised happy endings for all our favorite characters. That point has already been made quite clear.

But Lord Julian Fellows, we are counting on you to be a good fellow! Especially for Edith. I am adding my plea to that fervent fan who begged you, “Please, please just let Edith be happy!” Lady Mary already has her (hopefully) happy ending in place, possibly armed with knowing there are moments to keep that stiff upper lip and lower lip pressed together! And now it is (in my not so humble opinion) time for the middle daughter to emerge into her own.

Enough said. To the actors who took Julian Fellows’ dialogue and shaped those characters into life, I raise my cup of Darjeeling tea. Thank you – and I will cherish my memories of this show that touched my heart. Such good luck to you all!

© 2016 by Mary Louise Van Dyke. All Rights Reserved.


Returning to salty roots

There’s nothing like returning home.


Home to the place where I attended high school, and to where I flitted during the years of raising my children and getting established in a career.

Now positioned in my middle years, here I am, replanting my roots in the familiar rain-soaked soils of NW Washington state. Wondering why out of all the places I’ve lived — Iowa, Texas, Massachusetts —  this is my choice. Beyond the familial ties that remain.

What does this small city with heavy dashes of nature have to offer me? The woman I have transitioned into during 22 years of life by the limestone bluffs and Mississippi River in eastern Iowa?

Caffeine availability? If I were a coffee drinker this would be paradise with opportunities for re-java-nation abounding. I imagine at some time in the past . . . city officials unanimously passed an ordinance that stipulates construction of a coffee shop every six blocks. No more than six blocks lest residents have to either make their latte grandees at home or rely upon the kindness of a stranger at the local convenience store.

Coffee houses abound. From the woodsy flavor of one growing network, to peaked red roofs of another chain, and of course the giants of the industry – Starbucks and Seattle’s Best. There are a few tea specialty shops for pariahs such as myself who prefer the drink that fueled Great Britain to span the globe during the 1800’s, and fortunately, coffee shops do offer tea bags to dunk in hot water.

So, no, I am not returned here because of coffee opps!

Is it because I adore the color of gray? AKA silver if one is searching for a positive lining in their lives. Mornings around here are coated in silver, mixed with blue, as the sun attempts to make a daring entrance. Clouds seem to snap “Hey bub, move on, this ain’t California!” Few people could mistake these gray-scudded skies for being anywhere else. Although it isn’t unusual to see license plates of possibly lost individuals who claim allegiance to the great golden state.

Green, heavily forested hills surround the city where I live, many now dotted with domiciles as construction keeps searching for new places to plant houses. Now, thanks to taking a geology class, I know these sandstone and shale structures as the Chuckanut Mountains, and the ones to the north as the Canadian Rockies. Mt. Baker, a snow-capped volcano, and the Twin Sisters, formed from dark basalt, dominate views to the east. Local Native American legends name these peaks as the mighty Kulshan and his two wives. I treasure these familiar sights but no, they are not the driving force that lured me back here.

What draws me most of all here isn’t visible to the east, but to the west. To what is commonly called the Puget Sound, also known as the Salish Sea.

Here at the edge of town is the park to which I often trekked during my turbulent middle school years. When I needed quiet in a circle of familial events that I couldn’t control or understand.

That park, and its sister greenway to the north, are still the place for me to restore myself. The waves roll in, dash at rocks, splash madly in all directions and I watch and find peace. The seagulls with their aerodynamic wings, mewl and soar overhead, and dive for bread tossed by tourists. The air is tangy with salt when the tide recedes out, leaving rocks, tangled bands of sea grass, and purple sea stars temporarily exposed. Here is a place to sit on the worn tops of sandstone boulders and gaze out to the islands and imagine myself in a sailing craft or kayak.

Here what makes home merges together. A long boardwalk perched over the water takes me to that favorite cafe for tea and a place to duck out of the rain. Reveals of islands covered by forest and human habitations. Sunlight dancing on the water when the sun emerges. Here I pause, drink my tea, draw in deep breaths of  my native environment. Home.

© 2016 by Mary Louise Van Dyke      All Rights Reserved.