Be like a train; go in the rain,

go in the sun, go in the storm,

go in the dark tunnels!

Be like a train;

concentrate on your road

and go with no hesitation!
~Mehmet Murat ildan

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.***

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

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Gonzalo's Party

We've had to batten down the hatches today as Hurricane Gonzalo blows through the UK.  I've already lost two heavy pots of geraniums when they became airborne, leaves blow through the house every time we open a door, and the trees are starting to empty of their color.

This was the old and ancient walnut tree just a week ago, still full of leaves and busy squirrels

This is the walnut tree this afternoon.
Some of the leaves are on my kitchen floor,
but most are in our back garden.

Eventually we'll get out there and rake them up and put the garden to sleep for winter, but for now they stay put, since Gonzalo is giving a great October garden party today.

"October gave a party, the leaves by hundreds came.
The ashes, oaks, and maples, and leaves of every name.
The sunshine spread a carpet, and everything was grand;
Miss Weather led the dancing, Professor Wind the band......
The sight was like a rainbow, new-fallen from the sky."
~G. Cooper

It's sad to see the walnut tree lose it's leaves, but now that they're gone, 
it makes way for our beautiful view of the Harris Manchester clock tower.

Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away;
Lengthen night and shorten day!
Every leaf speaks bliss to me, 
Fluttering from the Autumn tree.
~Emily Bronte

Even dogs enjoy the Party

Monday, 20 October 2014

BBC 'Holiday of My Lifetime' Comes to Oxford

If you live in the UK,  catch a glimpse of Stuart and Oxford Walking Tours on the new BBC1 show, Holiday of My Lifetime.  Len Goodman relives a holiday in Oxford from 1988.  The Oxford episode airs this Wednesday, the 22nd, at 3:45 to 4:40PM.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Autumn's Last Smile & An October in Oxford Photo Album

The Oxford Canal

"It was one of those perfect English autumn days which occur 
more frequently in memory than in life.  The rich colours of 
the grass and earth were intensified by the mellow light 
of the sun almost warm enough for spring."
~PD James

(Apologies-the video is not compatible with iPhones/Tablets.
Please click the link below to view the slideshow on an iOS)

Ship Street and Exeter College Chapel

"Bittersweet October.  The mellow, messy, leaf-kicking, perfect
pause between the opposing miseries of summer and winter."
~Carol Bishop Hipps, "October", In a Southern Garden


"Autumn, the year's last, 
loveliest smile." 
                           ~ William Cullen Bryant

"Summer's loss seems little, dear,
On days like these."
~E. Dowson

"Autumn is a second spring
When every leaf is a flower."  
~Albert Camus

October in Oxford is much like the month of March, but not because of the weather.  Like March, October can begin like a lion when the city seems to lift a few feet off the ground as the students return for the beginning of Michaelmas Term. The 8,000 or so second and third year students have been gone since June and the first year students descend upon the city during Freshers Week.  We're surrounded by several thousand 18-19 year olds, away from home for the first time.  You can also add to those numbers the 12,000 undergraduates of Oxford Brookes University.  Add it all up and you have around 24,000 exuberant, young adults converging on Oxford all at the same time.

The air is rising and the air is wild with leaves, 
We have had our summer evenings.
Now for October eves!"
~Humbert Wolfe

As October begins, students seem to move together in groups as large as 30 or 40--buzzing like a huge swarm of bees, even at 2AM. Spirits are high, voices are loud, faces are bright, and bicycles fly past our breakfast room window, almost as if they're going to take off and fly with ET in their bike basket.  But as the month progresses and reality set in, the smiles start to fall like the leaves from the trees.

"Life starts all over again
When it gets crisp in the fall."
~F. Scott Fitzgerld

By the end of October, Oxford's "roar of the young lions" as Oscar Wilde called it, has been reduced to the bleat of a lamb--a frightened lamb. Tutorials and their exacting tutors sweep over the students like 'The Pit and the Pendulum', coming ever closer as Michaelmas term wears on. Worried looks on young faces can be seen everywhere, as reading lists, papers, and lab reports loom on the horizon, rising up and blocking the path between themselves and the Christmas break.  It may have started out with the roar of Oscar Wilde's young lions, but October in Oxford ends quiet and subdued.

Christ Church Meadow &
The River Cherwell
"I'm so glad I live in a world where
there are Octobers."
~ L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

For us mere mortals, with our university days long behind us, the progression of October days gets quieter and lovelier as the bright golds slowly turn tawny.  The afternoon sun fades away with each passing day until by the end of October, the sun sets by four thirty and the long nights settle in to stay awhile

The last of
Merton College roses.

As the short days and long nights approach, Stuart and I make sure we walk in the late afternoon as many days as we can, trying to store enough golden light to last us through the winter.  We catch the last roses blooming along Merton College and Max has his fill of chasing the extremely busy squirrels, that dart everywhere along the path surrounding Christ Church meadow.  As Jane Austin wrote, we take in "the last smiles of the year upon the tawny leaves and withered hedges."

"Her pleasure in the walk must arise from the exercise of the day, from the view of the last smiles of the year upon the tawny leaves and withered hedges, and from repeating to herself some few of the thousand poetical descriptions extant of autumn.  That season of peculiar and inexhaustible influence on the mind of taste and tenderness.  That season which has drawn from every poet worthy of being read some attempt at description, or some lines of feeling.                                                                        ~Jane Austin, Persuasion

"Delicious autumn!  My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns."  
~George Eliot

Merton College Tower

"No spring nor summer beauty has such grace
As I have seen in one autumnal face."  
~ John Donne

The River Cherwell.

Petunias and geraniums will make way
for these autumn flowers
waiting for their spot out on Holywell Street.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Rainy Evening

The British autumn may bring tossing leaves, winds, and rain.......
but there's always the perfect antidote ~ a 
crackling fire in a warm, country pub.

"Clouds gather, treetops toss and sway;
But pour us wine, an old one!
That we may turn this dreary day 
To golden, yes, golden!"

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Freshers Week

The bicycle population has doubled in
the past three days and Trinity College
gates are wide open as the students start
unloading and the parents begin their goodbyes.

Every year at this time Oxford, or at least the city centre, seems to lift off the ground a few feet.  This is the start of Michaelmas Term and it's the week all the fresh-faced first year students arrive in full force.  The excitement in the air is palpable and it's very contagious--it's hard not to feel exuberant and full of hope when you're surrounded by thousands of eighteen year olds, their life stretching out ahead of them.  It's all very heady stuff and it's the stuff of Fresher's Week in Oxford.

Cars line up to deposit students as they begin their studies at Trinity.

A lone policeman directing cars and bicycles on Broad Street,
as thousands of new students converge on the city centre.
The flip side of all this excitement are all the parents of this mass of teen-aged exuberance. They have more of a deer-in-the-headlights look about them and even though it's the rarefied air of Oxford, it's the same scene and same emotions being repeated at colleges and universities throughout Britain and North America.  The dutiful parents, after getting their kids through their A Levels, are now doing lots of last minute shopping, scurrying down the street with bags of duvets, kettles, pillows, and laundry baskets, all with the thought at the back of their mind of that moment they'll say goodbye and drive away.

Cars, parents, and freshers line Holywell Street today, in front of New College.

It's such a tender moment, watching this every year, and I just want to go hug each and every parent and tell them it will get better and the separation does get easier to bear.  But they're British and I'm American and one just doesn't do such things here.  So I silently say a little prayer for them all.  For the parents who will do the same thing in reverse in December, and for the students, and I wonder which of them will be the next Hugh Grant or Kate Beckinsale (New College grads), David Cameron or Boris Johnson (Brasenose and Balliol), Tim Berners-Lee (Queen's College and the inventor of the world wide web), T.S. Eliot ( poet and Merton College), Stephen Hawking (University College), or Rachel Maddow from MSNBC (Lincoln College).  All that brain power within a couple of square miles and you can see why Oxford feels airborne this morning.

Future Hugh Grants and Kate Beckinsales
arriving for their first year at New College.

Monday, 6 October 2014

"Hope is like the sun, which as we 
journey toward it, casts the 
shadow of our burden behind us."

Holywell Cemetery, Oxford, October 2014 

Some Thoughts on Rain

"Rain is Grace;
rain is the sky 
descending to the earth;
without rain there 
would be no life."
~John Updike

Autumn rain in the morning.

After weeks of a glorious Indian summer we're back to rainy skies this morning, but I don't mind at all.  Living most of my adult life in the rain shadow of the Cascade mountains of Washington state,  I had my fill of wall to wall sunshine month after month, until I was desperate for a dreary, cozy, fall day.  I know most British people don't share that sentiment and sun is all they wish for, but I still love a rainy day.

"The best thing one can do when 
it's raining is to let it rain."
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Rain washed Merton College

Trust me, by March I'll be hungering for the sun and our endless summer evenings, but for now this transition into autumn and moving toward winter feels very good and is a welcome relief from a very busy summer.   We'll be putting our garden to sleep for the winter, getting out heavier blankets and quilts, the scarves will come out from the back of the closet, and the leeks and potatoes on our kitchen counter will turn into the soup that replaces our summer salads. Stuart and I need long evenings with our feet up, a fire going in the breakfast room, and guests snug and warm in their rooms.

This is a time for baking and reading and sleeping, reflection, regrouping and of rest.  Seasons are like the tide and fall is the ebbing of the tide, the autumn rains washing things out to sea, making way for what's to come in the fullness of a summer day.  So let the rains come.

"Let the rain kiss you.
Let the rain beat upon your
head with silver liquid drops.
Let the rain sing you a lullaby."
~Langston Hughs

Shoppers and students on a rainy Cornmarket Street.

O sacred season of autumn, be my teacher,
for I wish to learn the virtue of contentment.
As I gaze upon your full-colored beauty,
I sense all about you
an at-homeness with your amber riches.

You are the season of retirement,
of full barns and harvested fields.
The cycle of growth has ceased,
and the busy work of giving life
is now completed.
I sense in you no regrets:
you've lived a full life.

I live in a society that is ever-restless,
always eager for more mountains to climb,
seeking happiness through more and more possessions.
As a child of my culture,
I am seldom truly at peace with what I have.
Teach me to take stock of what I have given and received,
may I know that it's enough,
that my striving can cease in the abundance of God's grace.
May I know the contentment
that allows the totality of my energies to come to full flower.
May I know that like you
I am rich beyond measure.

As you, O Autumn, take pleasure in your great bounty,
let me also take delight
in the abundance of the simple things
in life which are the true source of joy.
With the golden glow of peaceful contentment
may I truly appreciate this autumn day.
~Edward Hays

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Signs of October

"I'm so glad I live in a world
where there are Octobers."
~L.M. Montgomery

Two sure signs of October in Oxford~
street lamps on by 6:30pm and 
students arriving back for Michaelmas Term.

An autumn palette replaces summer flowers. 


........Christmas pudding has appeared
at M&S.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

October Days

~Thomas Hood

~Jim Bishop

"Listen! The wind is rising,
and the air is full of leaves.
We have had our summer evenings,
Now for October eves."
~Humbert Wolfe

Max along the River Cherwell, Christ Church Meadow
(He's the little black, furry creature on the path.)

~George Cooper

Autumn morning, outside my kitchen window.
The leaves of our ages-old walnut tree
prepare for October's party.

Early morning sun, Holywell Cemetery
Autumn, 2014

"Summer's loss seems little dear,
on days like these."
~E. Dowson

Rose Hips adorn St. Cross Church
Autumn, 2014
My favorite color
is October.

Harris Manchester College from Jowett Walk
Autumn, 2014
"October's poplars are flaming
 torches lighting their way 
to winter."  ~N. Blair

Leaves dance around the bicycles that line the street.
Autumn 2014

The last of the summer's roses in the churchyard.

"Every leaf speaks bliss to me,
fluttering from the autumn tree."
~Emily Bronte

Brilliant Jowett Walk.