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

Monday, 12 March 2018

A Few Days of Spring in Oxford

Spring is when you feel
like whistling even
with a shoe full of slush.
~ Doug Larson

Last week, as Stuart and I locked up our
cottage and drove back to Oxford, we
were leaving behind snowy scenes & more
snow in the forecast. Jack & I had weathered
The Beast from the East & Storm Emma
and we were more than ready for a little
spring, hoping signs of it waited for
us in Oxford. Sure enough there were.
Plenty of signs of spring.

The flower shop in the Covered Market
brightens up the gloomiest of gloomy
March days. Their bunches of daffodils
and tulips, all British grown, are simply
irresistible. I came home with an armload.

Springtime arrived at our front door too.

Saturday we had pelting rain, but
I'm always proud of how our 
daffodils brighten Holywell Street. 

Sunday was Mothering Sunday, always the
4th Sunday of Lent. It began centuries ago as
a time when people, who worked away from their
families & home, could go back & visit their
mothers; go a'mothering with gifts in hand.

Mothers are the gardeners
of the human race.
~ Anna Rogers, 1908

The University Parks were such a sight
for sore winter-eyes, with the all the
crocus in bloom, dotting the lawns.

One of the things I miss most about Oxford is
seeing my swans every day. It was such a good
feeling to turn the corner near the pond and
see them bright, and white, and safe.

When I call to them they immediately start
swimming toward me, even from the far
side of the pond. I like to thinks it's for me,
but I know it's for the swan treats I carry.

The seagulls immediately dive in for a
share of the treats . . .

. . . but she holds her ground very easily.

The first act of awe, when mankind
was struck with the beauty
or wonder of Nature, was
the first spiritual experience.
~ Henryk Skolimowski

Jack met up with old friends, furry and feathered.

We have two crows that always know when
we're walking in the parks, because they come
swooping in behind us, cackling and cawing,
making sure their presence is known...for treats.
My pockets need to be heavily loaded with all
the treats for our very diverse friends.

And now today, it's back to Wales for the
three of us. The B&B is whipped back into
shape, I've loaded up on supplies, packed a
few more things, and it's time to head back
to our little cottage on the hill.

Back to Wales for lots of this . . .

. . . masses of daffodils lining the roads . . .

. . . and the best yet, it's lambing season!!!

Between cream teas, daffodils, and leaping
lambs, how can spring be anything but the
most heart-brimming with happiness time.

There is religion in everything around us, a calm and holy religion in the unbreathing things in Nature. It is a meek and blessed influence, stealing in as it were unaware upon the heart. It comes quickly, and without excitement; it has no terror, no gloom. It does not rouse up the passions. It is untrammeled by creeds. It is written on the arched sky. It looks out from every star. It is on the sailing cloud and in the invisible wind. It is among the hills and valleys of the earth where the shrubless mountain-top pierces the thin atmosphere of eternal winter, or where the mighty forest fluctuates before the strong wind, with its dark waves of green foliage. It is spread out like a legible language upon the broad face of an unsleeping ocean. It is the poetry of Nature; it is that which uplifts the spirit within us and which opens to our imagination of world of spiritual beauty and holiness.  ~ John Ruskin

Monday, 5 March 2018

A Little More Winter...

The March wind roars
Like a lion in the sky, 
And makes us shiver 
As he passes by. . .

There's no guarantee how March will begin
in Britain. Lamb? Lion? Lamb for one year,
lion for 4 years? It's anyone's guess. This
year was full on Lion, actually a pride of 
lions roaring through the U.K. It's no wonder
March is named for Mars, the God of war, after
the storm we battled & endured last week.

It started out slowly, this 'Beast from the East',
what the Met Office called the storm. (Cold, dry
air swooping in over us from Siberia, because of
record high temperatures in the Arctic.) At first we
just had frosty hillsides and colder temperatures.
Nothing serious, just lovely.

Even as the storm was pounding the east of
Britain, we were still able to walk the hillsides
around us. It was chilly, but with views as
stunning as this, who could mind?

There is nothing like walking to get
 the feel of a country. A fine landscape
 is like a piece of music; it must be
taken at the right tempo. 
 Even a bicycle goes too fast.
~ Paul Scott Mowrer

And then it began. The 'Beast from the East'
transitioned into Storm Emma, and she came
with extra lions. The snow was dry powder,
like I've only seen in Wyoming & Colorado,
and the high winds blew it sideways into drifts.

Jack became very good at bounding from the
garden to the back door in three leaps. He
likes snow but he was not fond of Emma.

Superdog Jack, leaping to the back door.
Normally when I call him in, he takes a
circuitous trail that takes five minutes
and covers all corners of the garden.

Stuart left for Oxford early to beat the snow,
which left Jack and I happy to hibernate 
and watch the snowdrifts grow. No place to
be, nothing to do . . .

. . . just read, stay warm, drink lots of Earl Grey,
watch movies, take naps. All things that
I need so very much to do after the last
extremely busy ten years of running a B&B.
Every day I say a prayer of thanks that now
I can do the things I need to do for myself,
instead of for strangers.

Self compassion is simply giving
the same kindness to ourselves
that we would give to others.
~ Christopher Gerner

It is well to lie fallow for a while. 
~ Martin Tupper

I put extra birdseed out for all our bird
visitors and new friends arrived every day.
It didn't take long for the summerhouse to
be a hive of activity.

One feathered friend thought there might
be crumbs left from a garden supper, but
he's a bit early. He'll have to wait a
few more weeks, or at least until the snow
 melts, the winds calm down and the 
lamb-like spring finally arrives.

I love our birds-eye view of the garden from
the window seats in the sewing room and 
guest room. I look down on ours, and
all the neighbour gardens, first thing in the 
morning, actually second, after I have my
cup of coffee in hand. I sit and look out over
the town, watch the weather, smile at the
cats skulking around, watch for new birds. 

Connection with gardens, even 
small ones, even potted plants,
can become windows to the inner
life. The simple act of stopping
and looking at the beauty around 
us can be prayer.
~ Patricia R. Barrett, 
The Sacred Garden, 2001

I've spent the last ten years getting up every
morning, being 'at work' within a half-hour
and working until we fell into bed.
Before that, nursing, working from dawn to
dusk, and before that up with small children.
To finally have time to take time in the morning
feels luxurious. It feels wonderfully decadent to
begin each day on my own terms for the 
first time in my life.

A poor life this if, full of care, we
have no time to stand and stare.
~ William Henry Davies

Our guest room window. I wonder who
our first guest will be, to sit and watch
the cats, the weather, the hungry birds
and the quiet hills?

Seeing is a gift that 
comes with practice.
~ Stephanie Mills

After three days of waiting for the howling
winds to slow, Jack and I were finally able
to ease our cabin-fever with a long walk.
We headed down to the Offa's Dyke Path
just down the hill from us,
along the River Teme. Luckily some 
brave souls had already made a path
 through the snow for us.

The River Teme with the
Shropshire hills behind.
Just four days before we
had climbed to the top
of that hill.

Jack doesn't do well in high winds
and cold, but he loves snow.
Running in it, snuffling around,
rolling and bounding. Seeing the
snowflakes that stick to his nose
and eyelashes is one of my 
favourite things.

The walking we're able to do here is one
of the reasons we chose this area of Wales,
which borders Shropshire, an English county.
Powys (our county and part of Wales)
 and Shropshire are two of the most
beautiful counties in the U.K., full of
public footpaths through glorious countryside.

Every mile is two in Winter.
~ George Herbert, 1651

After our long walk through the snow, it was 
good to get home to the earl grey, the fire and
our cosy chair. It took a few cups of tea 
and even some hot chocolate with Bailey's to 
warm me up. We spent the rest of the evening
 by candlelight, sleepy from all the fresh air.

Before modern times there
was Walking, but not the 
perfection of Walking, 
because there was no tea.
~ George Macaulay Trevelyan, 

Tonight it's well over freezing, raining and
the snow is fading away, fast. It will only take a
week or two of warmer weather, some afternoon
sun, and daffodils will finally begin to bloom.

Daffodils from Spring 2017

Daffodils will line every roadside
and brighten even the smallest gardens.

The difficult thing for late snows and bitterly
cold weather in spring is what it means for 
all the pregnant ewes. Lambing begins now,
 and if farmers can't get to their ewes
& newborn lambs, many die. Farmers &
volunteers have worked tirelessly through
this year's storm to keep their flocks safe. 

It will be wonderful to see this sight again,
healthy ewes with their bounding new-born
lambs, dotting all the hillsides around us.

Sheep outnumber people in Wales 3 to 1.
In more rural areas where we live, it's
closer to 9 to 1. Another reason we chose to
buy our little cottage in the border country. 
This South Dakota born girl feels happiest seeing 
tractors on the road, sheep dotting the landscape,
and life revolving around the seasons.

The Welsh hills are normally green. Less green
in winter, impossibly more green in summer.
Now that this last blast of winter is nearly over,
every coming day will be a revelation of spring,
a greening of our world.

O the green things growing,
 the green things growing, 
The faint sweet smell of 
the green things growing! 
I should like to live, 
whether I smile or grieve, 
Just to watch the happy life
 of my green things growing.
~ Dinah Maria Mulock Craik,
 Green Things Growing

That is the happiest of thoughts, thinking
we'll watch spring unfold in this 
breathtaking countryside knowing it's 
home. We used to come to Wales every
March for the daffodils, the lambs and 
the bara brith, and it was heart-wrenching
to leave when our week was finished. All
the drive back to Oxford, we would talk
about some day buying a cottage in Wales
and making it our home. 

Just last March we had that conversation
and now a year later, we've done exactly that.
 Our thoughts and dreams became reality. 

I've yet to find the words that express my
gratitude for that. But I'll keep trying;
looking, writing, listening and the words
will come. For now though, a wordless prayer
 of  gratitude is enough. More than enough.

To give thanks in solitude is enough.
Thanksgiving has wings and goes
where it must go. Your prayer knows
 much more about it than you do. 
~Victor Hugo