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

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Real Fairy Tale Swans Pt. Two

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


As the formerly known as Fawlty Spires languished in suspended animation all late spring and throughout the summer, the rest of the story of the Fairy Tale Swans remained untold. But I can't leave fellow swan-lovers in suspense any longer, so it's time for the rest of the fairy tale . . .

One cannot but be in awe when
one contemplates the mysteries 
of eternity, of life, of the marvellous
structure of reality. 
 It is enough if one tries merely to 
comprehend a little of this mystery 
each day. Never lose a holy curiosity.
~Albert Einstein

After week upon week patiently sitting on their nest, the swan parents finally hatched their brood at the very end of May. The day they hatched was also gift to Stuart and I.

The night before the cygnets hatched, we had spent the day and long into the night with Stuart's father who was dying. He had a gentle passing just after midnight and hours later we went home feeling un-tethered, tired, and sad. We tried to sleep a bit but Jack woke us, right on schedule at 7am, ready to get up and anxious for his walk. Getting out of bed and going for a walk was about the last thing we wanted to do after several sleepless nights. But, walking is how I ground myself, and I knew we needed to re-tether ourselves to earth, to beauty, to all the meaning that lives on after death.

After all the weeks of waiting and watching the nest, every day fervently hoping to see healthy cygnets, our patience was rewarded that very morning. Little did we know that, as we sat with Stuart's father, the cygnets were hatching.


Once in a while, right in the middle of 
an ordinary life, love gives us a fairy tale.

We walked down the familiar path that circles
around the pond at the University Parks,
craning our necks as usual, and there they were!!
Seven little miracles!!
Triple "!!!" .
In an instant our sadness was lifted and
we could smile, our hearts gladdened.


The seven perfect cygnets were swimming near
their nest, flanked by a watchful mum and dad
on either side. Even at a few hours old they
were graceful in their movements and their
soft, downy feathers shimmered in the sunlight.
They were bonded and attached to one another,
a cohesive little family for life.


Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul, 
And sings the tune without the words, 
and never stops at all.
~Emily Dickenson


Stuart kept Jack away from the edge of the pond
but I stood quietly at the water's edge . . . hoping.
Hoping that the two swans felt safe enough with
me to bring their cygnets close; they did
and it felt like a blessing.


We stood and marvelled & wondered, oohed & ahhhed,
counted & recounted the seven cygnets, praying &
hoping that all seven would see their way through 
the summer and mature into graceful swans.


Once mum decided her cygnets had had enough
excitement on their birthday morning, she
began to gather them in close and lead them
to the nest. Their instincts were immediate,
they just knew exactly how to fall into
a fluffy, soft-grey queue.


She swam them past me one last time.
They blessed me with their sheer beauty
and wonder, and I gave them a blessing
of thanks and a prayer for safe passage
throughout the months to come.


As they swam toward the nest, one cygnet,
the smallest of the seven, climbed up on his
mum's back for a piggy-back ride back home.
All so natural, all without words, all through
deep instinct; God's code embedded in their DNA.


Mum and the little peanut of a cygnet led
 the way the nest, everyone fell in line and made
their way back into the safety of the rushes.

I looked long and hard at them, trying to memorise
each one, trying to embed the memory in the 
forever part of my brain, knowing it was probably
the last we would see of them for awhile. And I
was right. The next morning they were gone, 
the nest was empty, and the pond seemed
lifeless without them. I knew we wouldn't see them
for a good while, and the chances of seeing all
seven of the brave soldiers was pretty slim . . .
but then . . . hope is the thing with feathers . . .


The swan,
Like the soul of a poet,
By the dull world
Is ill understood.
~Heinrich Heine

That morning in early June was the last we saw the cygnets for several months, but wait, there is Part 3 of the Real Fairy Tale Swans, a happy ending . . . stay tuned.




Saturday, 9 September 2017

A Change of Seasons

It's been awhile since I've sat down to write, not just a blog post, but write anything more than a grocery list. It shocked me when I realised I hadn't updated anything since May or written a full post since April.

That's time for you; a strange experience. It speeds up, slows down, seems to stop, then races ahead. It's even worse now that I'm not a nurse on a tight military schedule. Now I can barely keep track of the day, much less the time of day.

Today I decided it's past time to dust off Fawlty Spires, time to breathe some life into it, especially since it's September. Autumn brings a change in seasons and changes in the wind, and it always feels like starting over for me ever since I sent my first five-year old to school. A new school year always feels like a start to a new year.

What then is time?
 If no one asks me, 
I know what it is. 
 If I wish to explain it to 
him who asks, 
I do not know.
~Saint Augustine

Walking through the park yesterday I thought, there's no other time of year where the changes are so drastic as they are between August and September. Just over a week ago, it looked and felt like summer and now, just ten days later, there is autumn swirling all around the streets and sidewalks.

The last week of August
in the University Parks.
Nothing says summer, 
like a swing over a river,
swaying in the breeze.


Deep summer is when 
laziness finds respectability.
~Sam Keen


When summer opens, 
I see how fast it matures, 
and fear it will be short; 
but after the heats of
 July and August, 
I am reconciled, like one
who has had his swing, 
to the cool of autumn.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

And then almost overnight,
Autumn colour appeared.


October's poplars are flaming 
torches lighting the way to winter.
~Nova Bair


So much has happened since I wrote last spring--happy things, followed by hard things. One sad world event followed by another and another. The list is too long to write here, and we all know what they are. We also had personal grief when my mom passed away in April, followed only weeks later by the passing of Stuart's dad. We were hit hard, just as the world is being hit hard right now.

My mom on the left; photo taken last winter.
With her sister on the right (she's the one on the left.)


Stuart's dad with Jack.
The photo was taken exactly
a year ago on his birthday.


If nothing ever changed,
there'd be no butterflies.

The world is changing before our eyes, and we must change with it. Changes are on the wind for me personally too. I can smell it and feel it, like smelling far-off rain on a hot and dusty day. But I have a feeling the changes will unfold slowly, mostly because I have to live into them, step by step. This kind of change doesn't happen overnight. As Sam Cooke wrote. . .

It's been a long, a long time coming 
But I know a change gonna come, 
oh yes it will...

There is one change that is immediate, and that's the name of this blog. It's been Fawlty Spires since we first opened Holywell B&B almost ten years ago. But lately I hear a far-off call, very faint but persistent, a call to something new, something different, and away from running a bed and breakfast. So now this blog is Carrie in Oxford until it evolves into Carrie in 'Someplace Else'.

Don't be satisfied with stories,
how things have gone with others.
Unfold your own myth.
~Rumi

In the months ahead, Stuart and I will be creating a different kind of life, and for the first time in my 61 years, it will be a life of my own design. It will be another challenge for our marriage, but the past ten years has proven that Stu and I can do hard things. Any couple who can cook and serve breakfast together morning after morning, and not have killed one another, can definitely survive change and growth.


I've given my entire life over to husbands and their careers, children, patients and now guests. All the wonderful years of raising children and taking care of people are precious memories and I wouldn't change a thing, but along the way little bits of me were put in a shoe box in the back of the closet, up on the highest shelf. It's time to get the shoe box down, dust it off, open the lid, and see what magic lies inside. I don't know what exactly is in the shoe box, but I know it's going to be good. Better than good. It's going to be great; an adventure.

I hope you will go out and let stories
happen to you, and that you will
work them, water them with your
blood and tears and your laughter 
till they bloom, till you yourself
 burst into bloom. 
~Clarissa Pinkola Estes

In the midst of all the changes in the world,
Oxford is moving into its golden days,
 and is as beautiful and glimmering
 as it ever is. It's one of those places on earth
 that, in the midst of great upheavals,
the deeper magic of it remains untouched.


The University Parks looking as
 though it's lit from within.


The War Memorial Garden,
Christ Church College


Be sure to bookmark the new web address for the old Fawlty Spires: