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

Friday, 13 July 2018

Summer Days Unfold

I have found, 
through years of practice,
 that people garden in order to 
make something grow; 
to interact with nature; 
to share, to find sanctuary, 
to heal, to honour the earth, 
to leave a mark. 
 Through gardening, 
we feel whole as we make our 
personal work of art upon our land. 
~ Julie Moir Messervy, 
The Inward Garden, 1995


We moved into our new/olde cottage in Wales last January. It was miserable. The weather I mean, the move was brilliant--exciting, fun, full of adventure. But the weather was another story. It took turns raining and snowing, it was windy and icy, and through it all it was cold, a damp cold that moves into your bones until you feel as though spring will never come.

Our back garden in February. More often than
not, we'd wake up to some snow. Sometimes
just a skiff, other times a blanket.
I spent all winter watching out the back door & windows from our hilltop vantage point; memorising the land, watching the weather moving across the hills, learning the curves of those hills, and maybe most importantly, watching how the light falls across our garden. For weeks I watched and waited and dreamt, and then I watched some more. 

To gaze is to think.
~ Salvadore Dali

Gaze I did, all the while dreaming of the coming summer & of how my garden would grow . . . or more precisely, how would it take shape. Even more than that though, I wondered how my days in Wales would take shape. What would be cultivated in the days to come as I spend some time away from Oxford? What would each new day bring? By May I was learning what my days would look like and how my garden would grow, and it's been better than I had even imagined.

The summer light comes into our
bedroom early and lights up the
sky blue walls. As I have my first
cup of coffee and read, it's like laying
under a summer sky, and I don't even
have to get out of bed. To someone who's
spent the last 10 years getting up at the
 crack of dawn to cook breakfast for
guests, this is a very good thing.


Eventually the morning beckons though,
and I throw open the french doors that
open out onto our terrace & garden beyond
to take it all in . . . a Sunday morning
 in our garden. 

The sky is the daily 
bread of the eyes.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Blue skies & Shropshire
 hills are the backdrop for my laundry.

Blue and green are my favourite colours
 and it's easy to see why.
A green tree against a blue sky . . .
nothing lovelier.

Little things seem nothing, 
but they give peace, 
like those meadow flowers
 which individually seem odourless 
but all together perfume the air.
~ Georges Bernanos

The little views in our garden make
me happy too, not just the sweep
 of the sky & the hills. Each flower
tells a story, each blossom a poem.


In my garden there is a large
 place for sentiment.
My garden of flowers is also
 my garden of thoughts & dreams.
 The thoughts grow as freely as the
 flowers, and the dreams
 are as beautiful.
~ Abram L. Urban


The intrepid & unlikely traveller 
St. Francis, overseeing gardens
of ours from Washington state,
to Oxford, and now to Wales.


Praised be You, 
my Lord,
 through our Sister, Mother Earth, 
who sustains and governs us,
 producing varied fruits with
 coloured flowers & herbs. 
~ St.Francis of Assisi


My favourite colour palette for summer 
flowers is white, purple or deep blue,
and some pink. White for the summer
evenings, reflecting the day's sun back to
us once the sun sets, the purple or dark
blue is for the bees, and the pink just
 because I love pink flowers.


Science, or para-science, tells us that geraniums bloom better if they are spoken to. But a kind word every now and then is really quite enough. Too much attention, like too much feeding, and weeding and hoeing, inhibits and embarrasses them.
                                      ~Victoria Glendinning

Geraniums also hate having their
feet wet and when the weather is
warm, thrive just as well in the
shade as in the direct sun. They
always remind me of my grandpa,
who grew red geraniums in his
window boxes. Bright red geraniums
still say Summer! to me, and remind
me of all the happy hours spent with
him in his little Michigan garden.
I suppose he was my first garden
instructor, even though most of what
I learned was through watching him.
I was a quiet child and he was a quiet,
reflective man, so he pottered & I 
played in the best kind of quiet...
the silence of a garden.


The Language of Flowers . . .

Lavender ~ The original flower of Love,
meaning devotion & mystery.

Geranium ~ For gentility & esteem.

Lobelia ~ For distinction.


Flowers always make people better,
 happier, and more helpful; 
they are sunshine, 
food and medicine for the soul.
~ Luther Burbank.


 Our back terrace has been filled with flowers as
soon as it was warm enough for them (daffodils)
to survive. The lower garden has been a little more
problematic though, and has taken some thought about
 how best to reclaim it from the weeds. The very first
thing put in place on the 'lawn' was the Cotswold
stone birdbath from the Lower Slaughter Mill shop.
Then in April we planted the Hidcote Lavender
around it, just like I did in our Oxford garden (below).

It always seems to me as if the lavender was a little woman in a green dress, with a lavender bonnet and a white kerchief. She’s one of those strong, sweet, wholesome people, who always rest you, and her sweetness lingers long after she goes away.                                                          ~ Myrtle Reed


Forgiveness is the smell that lavender
 gives out when you tread on it.
~ Mark Twain

I've spent the last six months wondering, dreaming
and thinking about, looking at, then lately planning,
the little grassy space below our terrace. And by
'grassy', I use the word loosely. There are some
grass-like things growing there, but mostly it's
weeds and rocks and more weeds.


The green is where I'll reseed grass after laying
down lots of top soil and clearing out rocks.
The white is gravel paths or river rock to
define the patches of grass from the herbs
and roses, which is in red. It's definitely a
work in progress but more than that, it's
an ongoing labour of love.

I was for ever making plans, 
and if nothing came of them, 
what did it matter?
 The mere making had been a joy.
~ Elizabeth von Arnim,
 Elizabeth & Her German Garden

Speaking of labour, I've hand carried all the river
rock up our little hill. Every time Jack & I go 
for a walk, I bring along Sainsbury's bags &
as we pass by the river on our way back home,
I collect around 30 nice, smooth river rocks
for lining the paths. A little extra weight-lifting
(whilst walking uphill) is never a bad thing
for my 62 year old arms.


While I'm doing all the work of smoothing
top soil, laying rock, sifting soil, pulling weeds,
I have music playing on my little bluetooth
speaker. It adds to the music of the birds
overhead, the bees in the lavender, and
the soft breezes coming down the valley.


The other day I even had live music as
I worked in the bright sun. I was pulling
weeds and all of a sudden I could hear the
 most uplifting voices of a male Welsh choir
 wafting through the air. Our cottage is
 just across from the Baptist chapel and 
the black hearse parked out in front of 
it told me the choir was singing
 their goodbyes to a friend and loved one.


The Welsh male voice choir in part,
came literally out of the coal mines . . .

With every fibre of their being, they would commit to a sound that was both powerful and virile but yet moving and beautiful . . . Men who mostly did impossible physical jobs underground and who would never have expressed their emotions in words, felt no embarrassment in standing in front of hundreds of people and singing of their love, faith, joy and pain.           ~Tim Rhys-Evans

Later that day I received some heart-rending
and life-changing news of a death in our family.
Thankfully I was standing in our garden & had
 a little chair to sit down on when my knees gave
out. The flowers around me acted as scaffolding
 for my heart and they silently watched my tears.
I sat on our garden bench until long after dark,
as the full moon came up, the white of the
daisies helping to light the shadows.


Nothing retains its form;
new shapes from old. 
 Nature, the great inventor, 
ceaselessly contrives. 
 In all creation, be assured,
 there is no death – no death, 
but only change and innovation; 
what we men call birth is
 but a different new beginning; 
death is but to cease to be the same. 
 Perhaps this may have moved to that, 
and that to this, yet still the 
sum of things remains the same.
~ Ovid, Metamorphosis

There can be no better place to contemplate
death, and always with it then, Life, than in
a garden. Ancient wisdom literature often
uses the Garden as the image for beginnings
and endings. The image of the Garden of Eden,
where the relationship of creator and creature
is acted out on a verdant stage. The image of
Jesus meeting Mary in a garden, Eden being
reborn when morning has broken.


I am fully and intensely aware
 that plants are conscious of
 love and respond to it as 
they do to nothing else. 
~ Celia Thaxter

Just about a week after our family's crushing death,
Stuart and I attended a gaudy (a celebratory dinner)
at Linacre College, Oxford. We had been invited as
special guests in honour of Stuart's father who was
the college bursar for many years. The evening 
began in the college garden where we dedicated
a newly planted tree to him, and then spread some
of his ashes. Afterward, standing out in the 
garden still, there were many shared memories
that were a balm to Stuart and his brother's hearts.

We also dedicated this garden bench to their dad.
It's on our way home from our University Parks
walk, so a perfect way to stop and say hello.
(That's Stuart & I on the left.)
   Nevertheless, it means much
 to have loved, 
To have been happy, 
to have laid my hand on 
The living Garden,
 even for one day. 
~ Jorge Luis Borges,
 Adam Cast Forth

And things come full circle in a garden.
My father-in-law always had a lovely
garden and those remain my best 
memories of him. It's only fitting then
that a few of his vintage stone pots
now have a place in our Welsh garden.
I think he would have liked that very much.


There is a little plant called reverence in
the corner of my soul's garden, which
 I love to have watered once a week.
~ Oliver Wendell Holmes


And now with summer well under way, I know how my garden & my days here will take shape. Just like with any other garden or life, the days are filled with lessons of death and blossoming, with moments of peace along with moments that come like a quick thunderstorm. But through it all, and in every day, the present moment is the only one that speaks and hold sway. As Erwin Schrodinger and his cat came to know, there is only our present moment and if we want peace or beauty or joy, we have only to look to what is present. Spring has come and gone, autumn has yet to be, but right now it's the fullness of summer and in the words of Jesus, that is sufficient unto the day.

For eternally and always there is only
one now, one and the same now; the
present is the only thing that has no end.
~ Erwin Schrodinger


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