One sees great things from the valley,

only small things from the peak.

~G.K. Chesterton


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.
~Rumi


I hope you will go out and let stories,

that is life, happen to you, and that

you will work with these stories . . .

water them with your blood &

tears & your laughter till they bloom,

till you yourself burst into bloom.

~Clarissa Pinkola Estes

Monday, 18 June 2018

More Messing About in Punts


A river seems a magic thing. 
A magic, moving, living part 
of the very earth itself. 
~ Laura Gilpin

The Cherwell, tributary of the Thames

What is summer for, if not
 for row, row, rowing your
 boat gently up the stream? 
Especially in Oxford, in
which case it would be
poling your punt 
gently up the river.


Being on a boat that's moving
 through the water, it's so clear. 
Everything falls into place in 
terms of what's important 
and what's not.
~ James Taylor


Punting is a perfectly romantic
pastime for couples, and a quiet
time-out together for families. 


I choose to listen to the river for a while, 
thinking river thoughts,
 before joining the night and the stars.
~ Edward Abbey


A punt is a long, low, flat boat and
is propelled by a pole pushed off
from the back of the boat. It takes
no small amount of skill to pole a
punt, using the pole as a rudder and
trying to stay clear of getting 
it stuck in the river mud.


The sea, the great unifier,
 is man's only hope. 
Now, as never before, 
the old phrase has a literal meaning: 
we are all in the same boat. 
~  Jacques Yves Cousteau


Punts can be rented at Magdalen Bridge,
Oxford. You can either have someone punt
you or you can go it alone, but word to the
wise, most novice punters end up spending 
a lot of time sideways and in the shrubbery
 that lines the river.


Summer is the time when one sheds one’s tensions with one’s clothes, and the right kind of day is jeweled balm for the battered spirit. A few of those days and you can become drunk with the belief that all’s right with the world.
               ~Ada Louise Huxtable




What makes a river so restful to 
people is that it doesn't have any doubt . . .
It is sure to get where it is going,
 and it doesn't want to go anywhere else.
~ Hal Boyle


Punting the Cherwell River
along Christ Church Meadow,
Oxford.


Peace I ask of thee, 
o River Peace, peace, peace 
When I learn to live serenely 
Cares will cease. 
From the hills 
I gather courage 
Visions of the days to be
 Strength to lead and faith to follow
 All are given unto me Peace
 I ask of thee,
 o River Peace, peace, peace.
~ American Camp Song


Rivers know this: 
There is no hurry,
 we shall get there some day.
~ A.A. Milne,
Winnie the Pooh


When breezes are soft and skies are fair,
 I steal an hour from study and care, 
And hide me away to the woodland scene, 
Where wanders the stream 
with waters of green . . .

. . . Where the sons of strife
are subtle and loud
I often come to this quiet place,
 To breathe the airs that ruffle thy face, 
And gaze upon thee in silent dream,
 For in thy lonely and lovely stream
 An Image of that clam life appears
 That won my heart in my greener years.
~ William Cullen Bryant,
 'Green River'
 in Poems of Nature


Summer afternoon,
summer afternoon; 
to me those have always
 been the two most beautiful
 words in the English language.
~ Henry James


Stuart and I do our punting from the
Cherwell Boathouse, just off the
Banbury Road in Oxford.


It's a perfect way to spend a quiet evening
together or a fun afternoon with friends.
We pick up our punt at the boathouse and
punt down to the Victoria Arms pub in
Old Marston,
for food & drink & more drink . . .


. . .  and then we punt
back under Stuart's capable care. By the
time we get back to the boathouse and land,
 we feel so languid and relaxed, it's almost hard
 to walk for awhile. It might have something to 
do with the ciders consumed, but who's counting.


There's nothing . . . 
absolutely nothing . . . 
half so much worth doing as
 simply messing around in boats.
~ Kenneth Grahame, 
The Wind in the Willows
(River Rat to Mole)

Messing about in boats . . .
one of the very best things
about an Oxford summer!


Tuesday, 12 June 2018

The Pause That Refreshes

I searched up and down the earth — 
and found it in my own soul.
 I implored heaven and hell —
 and the field daisies answered me.
 ~Muriel Strode (1875–1964), 
My Little Book of Prayer, 1904



After the 2106 elections and the reports of how much it had influenced both the U.S. election and the Brexit referendum, I deleted all of my Facebook accounts, both the personal and the business accounts. Then this year, after growing weary of the numbing sameness of Instagram, I deleted that account as well. It got to the point where if I saw one more latte or muffin or someone's breakfast, I felt like my head would explode. After awhile, all the scrolling through photo after random photo looked the same. Since then I've never once regretted deleting those accounts.


Over the past year I have kept active on Twitter, but even that account is going to be deactivated for at least a month. Perhaps just a quick pause to refresh my senses & soul, or after that time, it may go the way of all my other social media, and all the 1s and the 0s chronicling my life will be permanently deleted. 

If a tree falls in the woods 
and it's not
posted on social media,
did it really happen?
~ Me


In part, what's happened on social media seems as though people who don't even know you feel they're entitled to have expectations about who you are or what you believe. There's also the false sense of entitlement to information about you. Other than to our close family and friends, we owe nothing of ourselves to anyone who isn't personally invested in our everyday life. What I've found is that if you give even a small part of yourself away, boundaries can blur for people very quickly and social media interaction can become instantly ominous. People must be blocked or muted. Now where's the fun in that?

Soon silence will have passed into legend. Man has turned his back on silence. Day after day he invents machines and devices that increase noise and distract humanity from the essence of life, contemplation, meditation... tooting, howling, screeching, booming, crashing, whistling, grinding, and trilling bolster his ego. His anxiety subsides. His inhuman void spreads monstrously like a gray vegetation.    ~ Jean Arp

*And as a disclaimer: The bottom line is that this about my experience only

It does not and should not diminish anyone else's experience of what they choose to do with their time and energy. For instance, people love sharing food photos, which is fine. I do it myself when it's in the context of joy, fun, friendship, celebration. For me though, all the random sharing of the vast quantities of food we consume in the west, only reminds me of the people who have food only because they foraged it from the garbage dumps outside Nairobi, or begged for it on the streets of Calcutta or Sao Paulo. 

**Further disclamer: But that's just me. And I choose to not participate in it. 

Sharing a celebration that involves food and togetherness is one thing, I repeat--I do it myself, but the constant drone of "here's the massive plate of food I'm eating and paying more for than what a person in Zimbabwe makes in a year," I'm just not interested in. For me it only accentuates the chasm between the haves and have-nots in the world, between the over-fed and the barely-fed. And I'll add after a few reactions to this blog on Twitter last night, this isn't judgement on someone else's choices, it's only about how it feels to me, how I'm wired. And guess what several Twitter person(s)? I get to feel that way and it has nothing to do with you, which proves my point about social media in the first place.


Anyone, anywhere can look up and see a beautiful cloud, a colourful sky, a full moon; can see the smile of a small child, or a speck of hopeful beauty in the midst of their perhaps difficult life. That's the gift of creation to us. It's pure Grace, there for all, like the rays of the sun. That's the kind of grace I like to share publicly.

I do realise I live in two extraordinarily beautiful places, Oxford and Wales, but even when I lived in Yakima, Washington where trust me, no one moves for the beauty, I managed to find beauty every, single day. The deep blue of the sky, the clouds over the Cascade foothills, or the way the air smelled after a thunderstorm. Moments of grace, available to all.

A little oasis of beauty I created 
in the not-always-beautiful
Yakima, Washington.


So even though I may be moving away from social media, I'll still be experiencing moments of beauty all through the day, still photographing what I see and love. I don't write in a journal or a diary, I take pictures. At the end of the day I go through them all, think about my day, think of what I learned, where I found meaning, when I laughed, when I felt sad. Not being on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter won't change that one iota--in fact it may even make it better, deepen my days being away from the shallow chatter of the world of Twitfacetagram. I'll be less present in that world but more present in my own . . .

. . . taking a pause that refreshes.


I love to write and I love to photograph my world, and that I'll continue to do. And when the spirit moves me, continue share it here. In the meantime, it's time to batten down the hatches for awhile and move further up and further in to the real and present world around me, because in the end the Present Moment is all we really ever have.


Solitude is a silent storm that
breaks down all our dead
 branches; yet it sends our 
living roots deeper into the
 living heart of the living earth. 
~ Kahlil Gibran

Sunday, 10 June 2018

A Room Full, A World Full, of Love

 There is no more lovely, friendly
 and charming relationship, communion 
or company than a good marriage. 
~ Martin Luther

. . . And there's nothing quite like a
 beautiful bride and a lovely wedding. 

When I was growing up, like most little
girls of the 1950s & '60s, I was
besotted by brides. I was also lucky to
have a daddy who would let me tag
along to the weddings he was officiating
as a Lutheran pastor. He would find a
spot in one of the pews where I could
sit and watch, stare and dream.


Years later, Oxford is a perfect spot for
my bride watching, since Oxford students
can return to their colleges to be married
in the college chapel. Every weekend
I see radiant brides, proud grooms,
women in their bobbling fascinators & men
in their dapper morning suits, entering
the college gates or walking on the 
streets in colourful, happy groups.


An Oxford wedding is an elegant affair,
with dreamy cars and their gloved drivers.


A  1940's Armstrong Siddeley Sapphire
sits elegantly in the Radcliffe Square,
waiting to whisk the bride & groom 
off on their new life together.
(below)


When you realise you want to
spend the rest of your life with 
somebody, you want the rest of
your life to start as soon as
possible. 
~Nora Ephron, 
When Harry Met Sally


It is such a happiness when
 good people get together -- 
and they always do.
~ Jane Austen


And then there was another little wedding
that took place this May. A small affair,
every move eagerly watched by only
30 or 40 million people. With that many
people tuned into the same event that day
in Windsor, there couldn't help but be 
romance & love perfuming the air. 
Harry Wales & Ms Meghan Markle
made the whole world feel giddy, even
if for a short 24 hours.


Everything looked heady with romance
the morning of the wedding, May 18th,
our breakfast room included.


I sowed the seeds of love 
And I sowed them in the Spring. 
I gathered them up in the
 morning so soon 
While the small birds 
do sweetly sing.
~English Folk Song


The inside of the B&B was filled with
flowers and the outside joined the
celebration too, with bunting of course.
As it's Britain and a special occasion,
many metres of bunting are called for.


The happy couple joined Her Majesty &
 HRH Corgi in our front window.


Two little girls having their photo
taken with the Queen and bunting
as the background.


Child of the pure, unclouded brow 
And dreaming eyes of wonder!... 
Thy loving smile will surely hail 
The love-gift of a fairy tale. 
~ Lewis Carroll


Let all thy joys be as the month of May, 
And all thy days be as a marriage day. 
~ Francis Quarles


The morning of the wedding we
added champagne glasses to the
table setting.


And I was wearing my gen-u-ine fake
replica of Meghan's engagement rock ring.
I don't think I fooled anyone with it though.


We don't usually pop open a bottle of bubbly
at breakfast, but with the royal wedding
only about 40 minutes down the road,
the celebratory mood was infectious
and required something pink & bubbly.


Even our yogurt fit the bill
for the morning wedding
celebration. 


May you have warm words
 on a cold evening, 
A full moon on a dark night, 
And the road downhill 
all the way to your door.
~ Irish Wedding Blessing



We're all a little weird. And life is a little weird. And when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall into mutually satisfying weirdness - and call it love - true love.       ~ Robert Fulghum, True Love


Our Anglophile-Scandinavian guests
were thrilled to toast Harry & Meghan
as breakfast began. 


Come, let's be a comfortable couple
 and take care of each other! 
How glad we shall be, that we have 
somebody we are fond of always,
 to talk to and sit with. 
~ Charles Dickens

Anyone who watched the little 
Prince Harry walk solemnly
behind his mum's cortege to
Westminster Abbey 21 years
ago this August, couldn't help
but remember as he waited for
his beautiful bride. Relief mingled
with tears & we all finally began to
feel that our Harry would be OK,
joined in life by a good & strong woman.


Here's to you both, 
a beautiful pair,
On the birthday of your love affair.
Here's to the husband and 
here's to the wife, 
May yourselves be lovers 
for the rest of your life.
~ Irish Wedding Blessing


May of 2018 will always
be a happy, happy memory of
bunting, champagne for breakfast,
a bride as strong as she is beautiful,
a groom so deserving of happiness,
and the celebration of a wedding
described as being simply a
'room full of love';
a love that spilled over onto
 the entire world.


What a happy and holy fashion it
is that those who love one another
should rest on the same pillow. 
~ Nathaniel Hawthorne

... truly something  to celebrate
so the bunting stays up for awhile yet.