There is an emanation from the heart

which cannot be described,

but is immediately felt and puts

the stranger at his ease.

~Washington Irving

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.
It turns what we have into enough...

.........and more.

It turns denial into acceptance,
chaos to order, confusion to clarity.

It can turn a meal into a feast,

a house into a home,

a stranger into a friend.

~Melody Beattie

Don't be satisfied with stories,

how things have gone with others.

Unfold your own myth.

Friday, 17 March 2017

This is the day the Lord has made; 
We will rejoice and be glad in it.
~Psalm 118:24

Give us this day our daily walk......

And give thanks for cameras....

.....and muddy wellies.

For wax jackets that protect
against the spring winds....

....and the colour green.

For punters & reading vicars.....

.....and for hearty flowers.

For a little dog to share it with......

...and for a place to call home.

How true it is that, if we are cheerful and
contented, all nature smiles, the air seems
more balmy, the sky clearer, the earth has
a brighter green....the flowers are more
fragrant... and the sun, moon, and stars all
appear more beautiful, and seem to rejoice
with us.
~Orison Swett Marden

Saturday, 4 March 2017

A Few Bits & Bobs

March is the month of expectation....
~Emily Dickinsin

Wednesday was the first day of March, and in Oxford
it started out very promising. Barely a breath of
wind, almost-but-not-quite blue skies (which is a
great improvement on the grey), and just a touch
of sun. On our morning walk we were full of the 
joys of spring, or something to that effect, thinking
that winter is maybe, probably, sort of over?

Daffy-down-dilly came up in the cold,
Through the brown mould
Although the March breeze
         blew keen on her face,
Although the white snow
      lay in many a place.
~Anna Warner, Daffy-Down-Dilly

We've been having to settle for spring in the
form of kitchen daffodils, sometimes the only
bright spot in the day.

If the skies are grey outside, bringing in as many
daffodils as possible will brighten a kitchen
immediately. And so will a few lamps.  

I'm a lamp-hound. Overhead lighting can be
harsh, so I've always had little lamps tucked
into every possible corner of my kitchens.
They bring instant cosiness to any room,
especially a kitchen and we have no less
than eight in ours. The joke is that we have
to start an hour ahead of bedtime to get all
of the lamps switched off.
(ha-ha Stuart-very funny)

More springtime in the kitchen, with tulips in
a cornish blue jug and one of my many bowls
 (I'm also a bowl-hound) filled with fresh herbs
for cooking. They make me feel like there's
life and vitality around, even in the middle of
winter or on a dreary March day.

back to the first day of March. We were feeling
optimistic after our morning walk, since we
barely needed wooley scarves and I actually left
my jacket unbuttoned.😯I decided it was a perfect
time to start some spring planting, and so tucked
some tête-à-tête narcissus, a pale yellow primrose
and a hyacinth in the basket that hangs on our front
door. With supreme confidence, I was going to
move on to my next big task of replanting all of
the window-boxes for the front of our house.
They're still full of winter heather and pansies,
and look like they've been through Storm Doris,
barely living to tell the tale.

I had hoped that in our part of England at least,
March would come in like a lamb, and so
broke out a new pair of garden gloves in honour
of the day. But my hopes were dashed, since it
looked more and more lionish as the day wore
on. And then sheets of rain began pelting down.
All thoughts of planting daffodils, pansies
and primroses came to a soggy end.

My new garden gloves were
set aside for another day.

Last week I did manage to replant the basket of
flowers in the old butcher's bike out in front of
the house. There was a brief respite from the
rain and wind right after Storm Doris hit town,
so I took the golden opportunity. Daffodils are
extremely hardy in this sometimes rough English
climate; even on the wettest and windiest of days,
they persist and persist. It's good to be more like
a daffodil. To just keep going and going, no
matter what occurs. To be buffeted by winds,
yet standing tall, knowing that eventually the
sun will warm your face again.

Flowers greet our guests all through the year
and they're photographed a hundred
times a day by tourists. 

Frodo was now safe in the Last Homely
House east of the Sea. That house was,
as Bilbo had long ago reported, ‘a perfect
house', whether you like food or sleep, or
story-telling or singing, or just sitting and
thinking best, or a pleasant mixture of
them all. Merely to be there was a cure
for weariness, fear and sadness.
~J.R.R. Tolkien, 
The Fellowship of the Ring

We're doing our part to keep Holywell Street
bright and cheery on the rainiest of days.

So in the end, there was no more planting this first
week of March, as rain fell and lionish winds blew.
It was a week more suited to warm tea and a good
book, read by no less than eight kitchen lamps. 

Speaking of tea, this winter Emma Bridgewater
debuted a new series of mugs--'Lovely' London,
Paris, Venice, and best of all, Oxford mugs.
Not only is this mug beautiful and captures
Oxford's golden hues, it's one of the most
perfectly sized and balanced mugs we've ever
used. I noticed the Oxford mug is sold out,
but I'm sure there will be more.

Bring me a cup of tea
and the 'Times.' 
~Queen Victoria
 (on her accession to the British throne)

Good for a hot cup of Earl Grey
..... and they're just right for my
after-walk, mid-day mocha.

Coffee is a hug in a mug,
especially good if it's a mocha hug.

The book I've been reading, trapped indoors with
rain pelting against the windows, is called
A Secret WomanIt's written by an American
writer who lives and works in Oxford,
Rose Solari.

I had popped into Blackwell's bookstore last
week, always a very dangerous thing to do.
dare anyone to walk through the miles and
miles of books in Blackwell's and not come
out with at least one book.

I stumbled upon 
A Secret Woman almost immediately.
Once I saw that the inner sleeve was a photo
of the dreaming spires, it was mine. It was an
added bonus that it was a signed copy;
the beauty of an Oxford bookstore is that
often Blackwell's and Waterstones
have signed copies of many of the books.

A Secret Woman is about a young woman who
goes in search of her mother's past after
her mum passes away. She's bequethed an
enigmatic painted chest, full of papers and
books. In reading through them, she discovers
her mother had an entire secret life. She
begins a search to unlock her mother's secrets,
which leads her to England and to Oxford--
which is why the book had to come home with me.

In search of my
               mother's garden,
I found my own.
~Alice Walker

That every mother has a life of her own running like
an underground river through her life, is something
every adult child comes to face to face with at some
point, especially daughters. A Secret Woman is just
that, and as the daughter in the story gleans more
from her mother's life, she then discovers herself. 

Reading a mother & daughter story this month
is fitting, since in Britain, Mother's Day is in
March. It's traditionally known as 
Mothering Sunday and falls on the 4th Sunday
of Lent. It was originally a day to honour
and remember the Virgin Mary,
or Mother Mary. 

It was also the one day a year when children,
especially daughters working as domestic
servants, could go home and visit their mothers.
So in Britain at least, Mothering Sunday
began as a holy day and is still celebrated
during the season of Lent.

Mothering Sunday cakes in Oxford's 
Covered Market at the Cake Shop.
Little & delicate fancies for special mums.

Mothers are the gardeners
of the human race.
 ~Anna A. Rogers

It's always so hard to choose--which one?

Oxford's Covered Market always seems to be
harbinger of things to come. It's where
Christmas first appears and where Spring
makes it's first stand during a gloomy winter.
Even if I don't need anything in the market,
I always walk through it on my way to the
shops or the post office. The colours and the
smells combine to make a beautiful tapestry
 for the senses.

The object of our lives is to look at,
listen to, touch, taste things.
Without them, these
sticks, stones, feathers, shells,
there is no Deity.
~ R. H. Blyth

When I started writing this, it was Wednesday,
March 1st, and now it's Saturday, March 4th.
And there's something else; it's sunny today!
Truly sunny. None of this watered down business--
just sun, high in the sky, with a few puffy clouds.
In other words, a very good day for planting,
so out come the garden gloves again and the
pansies will finally have a home.

Even I never dreamed
of Magic like this!
~ C. S. Lewis
The Chronicles of Narnia

It's the small things like garden gloves and changing
seasons that make a happy life these days. In a world
that's seemingly moving at the speed of light, it's the
little things that tickle our senses, or our fancy, that
give happiness. It's a complicated, messy world out
there, so it's important to stretch our hearts as wide as
the world, but it's equally important to keep our eyes on
the little things, the hidden things, the glimmers of
beauty, the moments of serendipity. To look for
the magic that's there.

The invariable mark of
wisdom is to see the
miraculous in the common.
 ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

You just never know where you'll find it,
sudden magic. Sometimes it's in the most
mundane of places. Even in a post office.

This W.H. Auden (Christ Church, Oxford)
poem was clipped next to the self-checkout
at the central post office yesterday. In
Oxford, you get poetry with your stamps,
which delighted me the entire day.
Simple, sweet serendipity just needs eyes
for the seeing.

And now it's time to put on my garden gloves, join the
singing birds outside, and finish what I started on
Wednesday. I have a date with some pansies.
And as Vita Sackville-West wrote,
Flowers really do intoxicate me......
and birdsong, budding trees, wispy clouds, chapel bells,
a good book, a cup of tea, the back door open to the
breeze, warm, little lamps, bright tulips on the kitchen
counter, and daffodils waving against a blue sky.

♬Who could ask for anything more?!♫

The beauty of the trees,
the softness of the air, 
the fragrance of the grass,
speaks to me.........
~ Chief Dan George
A chief of a coastal Salish
band in the Pacific Northwest

Daffodils wave in the breeze on our
back terrace, with New College as a backdrop.

Update & meanwhile, a day later.......

.......the windowboxes are planted and in place
up over the front window. Bright pink primroses,
lavender & buttery yellow pansies, and tiny narcissus;
another step toward spring on Holywell Street.

The 'Amen!' of Nature
is always a flower.
~ Oliver Wendell Holmes

Springtime is the land awakening.
The March winds are the
                      morning yawn.
~ Lewis Grizzard

All photos ©CarrieGordonHolloway

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Jack, A Mirror of Love

An animal's eyes have the
power to speak a great language.
~Martin Buber

Jack, our little Jack Russell/Bichon mix, will turn two
at the end of March. We can't call him 'Wee Jack'
any longer since he's fully grown, so he's just Jack,
or 'Jack of Oxford'. He loves to run in the park, make
new friends, chase squirrels, his favourite food is
turkey, and he is as always, a happy little character.

Jack had a rough end to 2016. Somehow he developed a
severe infection in his neck and ended up suffering
through two surgeries in the space of three days. He
was a very sick boy, but with wonderful veterinary
care and time, he fully recovered and is back
to his happy, bouncy and smiling self.

It was Halloween just after Jack's surgery, and
since he had sutures running from under his chin
and down his chest, we called him 'Frankenpuppy'.
He also had to have a large part of his beautiful
fluff shaved. He was a sick boy for about two
weeks--a scary time, but the part of him that
 makes him a stroppy little character (the
Jack Russell), also made him a good little
fighter. All 6kgs. of him fought, and won.

Poor Frankenpuppy, not a very happy boy.
One of the most difficult things when Jack was sick,
was that just before the surgery he didn't want to walk,
and after the surgeries we had to limit his walking. He
could only walk for five minutes, three times a day.
We're all used to two mile walks, two or three times a
day, so all three of us went through walking
withdrawals. But, by November his incision had healed,
he had gained some weight, and nearly all his strength
had returned. It was a smashingly beautiful autumn,
that lasted all the way through November, so our walks
seemed all the more precious in the autumnal beauty.

This was one of his first long walks after Jack's
surgery, and he still had to be on a lead.
He wanted to make up for it by being extra
daring and be king of the castle, walking
along the top of the wall at Holywell Cemetery.

By Christmas, Jack was feeling much better, his
incision healed up and fluff growing back, but
best of all, he was back to his normal, happy
self--flying through the air with the
greatest of ease.

Our little flying Wallenda pup.

♬ If you're happy and you know it, ♪
♩ then your tongue is going to show it......♫

As you can see by the little pink tongue, and the muddy
paws, all walkies are back to normal; two miles of
running, prancing, chasing, and sniffing, two or three
times a day. One of the best things about having a dog?
They get you out and moving, in any kind of weather.
A good brisk walk is about the best thing there is for
lightening a mood, living a happy life. You can't beat
dogs (and their people), grassy fields,
a river, and trees for happiness.

A little fresh air would be good for
you just now. The weather is lovely;
and a little stroll in the park will
bring the colour back to your cheeks.
~J. Palgrave Simpson,
For Ever and Never, 1884

Favourite toys always come along on walks, or
in a pinch, there's usually a stick to be found.

It is a happy talent to know how to play.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

If you're wondering why Jack often wears a little coat,
it's because his fluffy coat is thanks to his Bichon Frise
mummy, and Bichons have no undercoat. He just has
fluff, so he gets very cold, very fast, His little jackets
also keep him much cleaner, as he rolls in the mud with
other dogs, or his personal favourite, rolling in fox
musk. Fox is not as bad as skunk, but it's still bad,
very bad.

Mud and mud-puddles are there to be played
with too, especially the day after a trip
to the beauty parlour.

The world is mud-luscious,
and puddle-wonderful.
~ee. cummings

The Cherwell River, which runs along the eastern edge
of the parks, is a constant flow of birds--ducks, geese,
swans, herons and all manner of water fowl. 

Jack thought he might say hello to the swan,
but then very wisely thought better of it.

He turned his attentions to a squirrel instead.

But then squirrels can usually run faster
than dogs, and up a tree it ran,
leaving a disappointed Jack below.

It's not all run, run, run for Jack though.
Sometimes you just need to stop and
breathe, take it all in, listen to the river,
listen to the wind.

Forget not that the earth delights
to feel your bare feet and the
winds long to play with your hair.
~Khalil Gibran

Stopping to smell all the goodness in the air.

Friends are the sunshine of life.
~John Hay

Jack's (and our) favourite place to walk run is in
Oxford's University Parks. It's just over a two mile
walk from Holywell Street, through the parks, and
then home again; and it has it all. Playing fields for
throwing balls and frisbees, a river flowing alongside
the pathways, a pond full of ducks and geese, safe
paths, and best of all, lots of very nice people walking
their friendly dogs. Jack makes a new friend nearly
every day.

This is Pippa. She and Jack love to run in
big, wide circles on the cricket pitch, taking
turns between being the chasee and the chaser.

This (below) is the perfect running partner
for Jack--little Jonah of Wadham College,
and of the wonderful ears. He's still a pup,
and is a cock-a-poo, with mostly cocker and
very little poodle. When Jonah and Jack play,
 it's all ears, tails, fur flying; leaping over and
under one another, rolling on the ground and
chasing each other's tails.

Noah belongs to the chaplain of
Wadham College just around the corner from us,
but he's considered the college dog, so the lucky
students have a rota for taking turns walking
him. He's with a different student every time we
see him, but he's impressively well behaved,
considering he's walking with different people
every day. He is one very good dog indeed,
is Jonah.

Jonah of the wonder ears.

All animals but men know that
the principle business of life is
to enjoy it - and they do enjoy it
as much as man and other
circumstances will allow it.
~Samuel Butler

Everyone smiles in the same language.

They collide and crash into each other, ears
flying, muddy paws getting even muddier.
Dog ears are meant to fly in the wind, so
they never hold back. It's happy, reckless
abandon...... something humans
could use a lot more of.  

This is Nash, playing with Jack along the
riverbank. Jack and Nash get along splendidly
because Nash is also half Jack Russell like
Jack. They're the same size and probably weigh
about the same, so watching them run is like
watching a positive and a negative version of
the same animal. They're Ebony & Ivory♫,
only in doggie form.

Nash, one of Jack's best buddies.

This little ball of white fluff is a Maltese
that loves to muddy her paws with Jack.
They tear across the pitch, paws ever
muddier, fur flying in the breeze.

And then there's Elvis, a dachs-hounddog and
another of Jack's favourite park buddies.
There's nothing Elvis loves more than to
chase Jack and try to grab his tail.

Sometimes it's just a simple hello, and then
each go their separate way. Especially if the
dog is bigger than Jack. He's not quite sure
about the big ones yet.

The little dogs are another story and Jack
is always up for a wrestle and a tustle. This
is Tashi, who's also half Jack Russell and is
one of Jack's BFFs. They tear around in
circles, running between our legs, putting
on a show for us.

We're all a bit like parents of toddlers,
small-dog walkers. We want them good
and tired so we can have some peace and
quiet at home, or watch telly without
being interrupted by a squeaky toy dropped
into our lap by an expectant looking dog.

Sometimes Jack's new friends are fur-less and
human, like when we came upon our neighbour
children out for a walk with their mum and dad.
They've been begging their parents for a dog, so
they were excited to be able to play with Jack, 
throw his toy, and watch him run teasing circles
around them. A very dark and dreary day was
made so much brighter by all this adorableness.

The dog was created
specially for children.
He is the god of frolic.
~Henry Ward Beecher

Jack was lucky enough to meet artist and writer
Susan Branchwhen she came to sit in his chair
with him (or so he thought). She and Joe were
actually here to spend a day with us in Oxford,
but Jack was immediately smitten with Susan
and wanted nothing more than to sit in her lap.
He showed her around his park too, which she
and Joe loved, in all it's autumn splendour.
Jack even made a little appearance in Susan's
wonderful blog post about
Dogs of the English Countryside.

Jack is always on his best behaviour when
we're out walking, or out and about town
and countryside. Here he is, patiently waiting
his turn to go through the gate in Christ Church
meadow. Notice the Santa coat--which brought a
happy smile to most everyone he passed.

Jack is a proper English walker and knows
just how to navigate a stile-- a special
gate to cross from field to field on a 
countryside walk.

He even humoured me at Christmas and
wore his Santa hat for a while. A short
while, but there was turkey from Christmas
dinner involved, so he didn't mind (too much).

Jack is very well-behaved in pubs having
been trained from an early age to
be an English gentleman.

After his walk, there's nothing Jack likes
more than settling into his chair in the kitchen,
warming up, and dreaming about playing with
his friends in the park. It surely is a dogs life.

If you have a dog, get out and get walking.
There's nothing like walking to add life to
your years. If you don't have a dog, most local
 animal shelters have dog-walking programs--
good medicine for dogs and the walkers.

Come on along and get walking!

Jack's very first walk in Holywell Cemetery.
The start of a good thing.
And now March is upon us, springtime just around
the corner, and we have so many walks to look
forward to......daffodil walks, Cotswold countryside
walks, English village walks, evening walks as 
the days get longer, and walks with all our friends,
 as spring comes to Oxford.

After a day's walk everything
has twice its usual value. 
~George Macauley Trevelyan

If your heart is straight with God, then
every creature will be to you a mirror
of life and a book of holy doctrine.
~ Thomas à Kempis

All photos ©CarrieGordonHolloway