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, 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

Friday, 17 February 2017

Footsteps to Spring

The first day of spring is
one thing, and the first
spring day is another.
The difference between
them is sometimes
as great as a month.
~Henry Van Dyke, 
'Fisherman's Luck'

April daffodils in
Christ Church meadow.

When I first moved to Britain permanently nine years ago, the only month I hadn't ever experienced in England was February. During my first, full winter in Oxford I would get so excited when a day dawned bright and warm. Then, when daffodils started growing from the end of January, I was beside myself and would think, "this is it! Spring is just around the corner." As that first February wore on (and on, and on), it didn't take long to realise just how fickle spring is in Britain, how much it teases--and how long it takes to finally arrive. It begins with fits and starts in February and then often drags on lasts until early June, when you're more than ready for summer and cute sundresses. 

I almost used to jump and down when pink
blossoms appeared in January, thinking
spring would arrive any minute. I quickly
learned it wasn't even around the corner. It's
still a marvel to see pink in January, but I know
that buckets of rain, chilly mistand many
bad hair days lie between January and May.

When the February winds blow cold, it seems
to take forever for scenes like this to arrive. Lilac
season is never, ever long enough. Every time we
walk by these lilacs on our walks, I automatically
bury my face in them. It never gets old.

Lilacs bloom along
Mansfield Road in May.
The force of Spring - 
mysterious, fecund, 
 powerful beyond measure.
~Michael Garofalo, Cuttings

Spring starts with tiny footsteps
of snowdrops in early February......

....leaving white and green
footprints in the muddy earth.

Sometimes the snowdrops share the
space with bright, yellow aconites.

It doesn't take long before the
snowdrops become a carpet of white.

More than any other season, spring has to
fight a battle just to be born, so every step
of it is a marvel. Everything green and growing
in spring has to push its way up through not only
ice, mud, puddles, and frost, but also has to push
past its dead ancestors. That's perseverance.

If a healthy soil is full of death,
it is also full of life: worms,
fungi, microorganisms of all kinds ...
Given only the health of the soil,
Nothing that dies is dead very long.
~Wendell Berry, 
 The Unsettling of America, 1977

Right after the snowdrops bloom, the
crocus are right behind. They're scattered
here and there-- first the braver yellows,
followed by purple & white.

Nature likes nothing better
than variety and diversity.

Crocus are a marvel--
delicate yet stalwart.
Brave soldiers in a 
sometimes cruel wind.

The desert shall rejoice and blossom;
like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly,
and rejoice with joy and singing.
~ Isaiah 35: 1-2

By early February, daffodil shoots
and buds have already begun to
break through the frosty turf in
the University Parks. It puts an
extra spring in our step as we walk,
bundled up from head to toe
against the cold and wind. 

We check their progress
daily, and cheer them on.

The most hearty of the daffodils begin
to open their yellow faces one by one,
one small step for February and one
giant leap for springtime.

With every little moment of sun,
more of the yellow trumpets open--
the brightest thing on the landscape.

The lesser spotted and rare 'Jack of Oxford'.
We catch glimpses of him as daffodils bloom.
(He can be hard to spot since he's known for
his speed and ability to elude capture.)

February brings many misty mornings in
shades of grey and blue. The mist hangs low
over the river and the mornings are quiet.
It's a pregnant pause before the chorus of
of birds begins in earnest in late February
& early March, as they get busy building
nests and laying eggs.

Spring would not be
spring without bird songs.
~Francis M. Chapman

The Cherwell River, University Parks, Oxford
We can get little surprise snowfalls,
even as late as April. The snow doesn't
stick around for very long--usually
just long enough for a quick photo.

Through the mist, snow, sun, warm and
chilly winds, the birds charm the air
with their songs, while their attention is
on feathering their spring nests.

It doesn't take much sunshine
to get people out in the park
with picnics or their guitar.

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread,
places to play in and pray in, where
Nature may heal and cheer and give
strength to body and soul alike.
~John Muir

Soon the ponds and rivers
reflect a deep blue sky.

You can't help but smile with
a sky this blue overhead.

Blue skies smilin' at me,
Nothin' but blue skies do I see,
Blue days all of them gone,
Nothin' but blue skies
from now on..........

Bunches of bright daffodils and tulips from the
south of England fill the shops. They're quickly
scooped up and brought home for spring cheer.

Even if we can't be happy,
we must always be cheerful.
~Irving Cristol

Oxford's Covered Market,
between the High and Market Street.

The colour green--calming yet
invigorating. The colour of life.

Oh the green things growing,
The green things growing,
The faint sweet smell of
The green things growing.
~Dinah MM Craik

With the shops overflowing with spring blooms
it's easy to bring a bundle of spring home,
starting with our front door.

Then into the kitchen.

A posy gathered from our own garden.

Perfect daffodils greet guests
as they come down to breakfast.

Adopt the pace of nature:
her secret is patience.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

All through February and then March,
it takes patience to get from this.....(mudville) this,
daffodils bloom in the warm sun,
Magdalen College, Oxford.

Spring flowers blooming along
Addison's Walk, Magdalen College; one
of C.S. Lewis' favourite walks in Oxford.

Sometimes we have to wear our warm coats
and wellies, right up until late May or early June.

But just about when we're ready to give
up and live in eternal chilliness, we get to what can only be called verdant.

I love to think of nature as an
unlimited broadcasting station,
through which God speaks to
us every hour, if we will only tune in.
~George Washington Carver

If you have a mind at peace,
A heart that cannot harden;
Go find a door that opens wide
Upon a lovely garden.

Soon the cold March winds and April
downpours become a distant memory,
and spring melds into a warm and
daisy-filled summer day.

'Jack of Oxford' in his natural
habitat of daisies, sunshine and joy.
Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything that
is beautiful, for beauty is God's handwriting--a
wayside sacrament. Welcome it in every fair face,
in every fair sky, in every flower, and thank
God for it as a cup of blessing.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

All photos ©CarrieGordonHolloway, Oxford