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

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Give Us This Day Our Daily Walk

Oh, give me land, lots of land 
under starry skies above 
Don't fence me in 
Let me ride through the wide
 open country that I love 
Don't fence me in Let me be 
by myself in the evenin' breeze 
And listen to the murmur of the 
cottonwood trees 
Send me off forever but
 I ask you please 
Don't fence me in . . .
~ Cole Porter


Stuart and I have spent the last ten years living on Holywell Street in Oxford, where the buildings rise up on either side of the street, especially the towers of New College, and Oxford's spires are our ever-present horizon. The beauty in Oxford is vertical, the spires of Oxford's colleges are a dreamy backdrop along the sky. 

I fell in love with all the dreaming spires in 1994, the second I got off the bus on the High Street, and walked down toward Turl Street & Lincoln College. The High Street colleges line the sky with their spires, and it's awe inspiring the first time you experience them. Twenty-four years later I still love them. But there's a but

For a girl born in mostly flat South Dakota, who lived most of her life in the wide open spaces of the west coast of the United States, I'm used to sky. Lots and lots of wide open sky and sweeping horizons. But, it doesn't seem that you can have both dreaming spires and open skies out your window, so at times the looming colleges can make me feel a bit claustrophobic and I definitely feel fenced in sometimes. Whenever it feels like the walls are closing in on me, we've always headed west; sometimes just as far as the Cotswolds, and several times a year to Wales. That's where I've always gotten my sky fix and the feeling of wide open spaces that I craved.

Every time we visited Wales especially, we walked and dreamed and walked some more, saying one day, one day, we'll have a little cottage in Wales.

Go hence to Wales,
There live a while . . .
~ William Rowley,
The Birth of Merlin

. . . And so after awhile we did,
And I finally had a home
with wide open skies and
sweeping horizons again.


All of the windows at the back of
our cottage look out onto hills
and sky. Trees and weather.
Birds and wind.


Last winter I sat in our 
windowseats first thing
every morning to see what the
Welsh winter had in store.
Usually there was rain lashing
across the hills, which made me
feel all the cosier, tucked safely
inside.

It's the prayer of the wandering,
 storm-tossed soul . . .
 When we go home again!
 ~ Esther M. Clark Hill,  
Home,
Kansas City Star, 1920

One of my weather watching
stations on a clear summer morning.

But I don't just sit and watch the
weather, I get out in it too,
 as much as possible, in any weather,
and walk. If Wales is anything at
all, it's a haven for walkers.

We're lucky to live right up the 
street from the Offa's Dyke Centre
and I've given you the link to click 
to learn about Offa, our beloved
9th century Mercian King, who
was fond of building dykes to
keep out the wild Welsh.
Dykes that are now perfect
for walking along.


When I'm on my own, just Jack & I, 
we have a favourite walk we do 
every day. Out the door we go, and
down the hill past the Offa's Dyke
Centre where we're immediately


Only about 100 yards and we're headed 
down to the River Teme, and its lovely
cooling trees, especially this summer
when even Wales had temps into the 90sF.


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


I was worried that being away
from Oxford I would miss my
tree friends in the University 
Parks, especially my mighty
beech, but I needn't have worried. 
These two power-house beech
trees greet me every day


Their root systems enfold & entwine 
one another, working in unison
and hugging the hillside for age
upon age. Their power gives me
fortitude and I hear volumes of
wisdom in their silent strength.

Believe one who knows:
You will find something
greater in woods than in
 books. Trees and stones 
will teach you that which 
you can never learn 
from masters.
~ St. Bernard of Clairvaux, 
Epistles


On we walk, to the first of many gates.
If you walk public footpaths in Britain,
then you're familiar with gates, gaps,
kissing gates, and stiles. This is a
regular old gate, but we come across
every variety of gate on our daily walk,
and Jack knows just how each one works.


In the country, especially,
 there are such a lot of 
entertaining things. 
I can walk over everybody's
 land, and look at everybody's
 view, and dabble in
 everybody's brook; 
and enjoy it just as 
much as though I owned 
the land--
and with no taxes to pay!
~ Jean Webster

The point of most countryside gates
is to keep livestock either in
or out, so sheep immediately greet
us as we pass through the first gate.
They pay us no mind, but I can't say
the same for Jack. He's very naughty
and still thinks sheep are for chasing,
so footpath etiquette requires him to
be on his lead as long as there are
sheep or cows around.


The real world, in my opinion,
exists in the countryside, 
where Nature goes about her 
quiet business and brings 
us greatest pleasure.
~ Fennel Hudson,
A Meaningful Life 

Sheep getting sheep-treats . . .
salt and minerals on a hot
summer day.


And then we're at the river,
rushing and wild in the winter,
cool & calming in the summer.
I look up to the top of the hill
and tell Jack, "that's where
we're headed, right to the top",
and off we go.


The song of the river ends not at 
her banks but in the hearts of
 those who have loved her.
~ Buffalo Joe


If you grew up in the country, 
chances are you have fond 
memories of lazy days down
 by a river, creek or pond.
~ Darlene Donaldson, 
The River in 'Country Magazine'


Then through another gate to
the railroad tracks and trestle
over the river. Fireweed, as I 
know it in Washington state,
grows along the tracks just as
it does in Washington and reminds
me of summer wanderings, best
friends, languid afternoons.
In Britain it's known as 
Rosebay Willowherb, which
if I ever were to be a Hobbit,
that would be my name.
Rosebay Willowherb.
Makes me wish I was a Hobbit.


Our hillside grows closer
as we cross the river into
Shropshire.


The train tracks stretch to the
west, through the valleys over
to Llandrindod Wells where it
cuts south and ends up on the
south coast in Swansea.


All I'll say about the train sign
below is that it's easier to pronounce
than it looks, since the W acts
as a vowel.

Welsh mutates initial consonants.
Actually all languages do,
but most of them take centuries,
while Welsh does it while your
mouth is still open.
~ Jo Walton, 
Among Others


If you're an American reading about
our train, you're probably thinking long
strings of train cars, with an engine and
a caboose, or the even longer strings of
freight cars.

Our trains in the British, and especially
the Welsh countryside, couldn't be
more different.

Instead, think Percy, the faithful friend
of Thomas the Tank Engine. It's one
little car, trundling down the tracks,
with a bright & merry whistle as it
leaves the train station.

It always tickles me.
It's small & sweet and
very, very British.


We cross the train tracks, carefully
looking both ways for little Percy,
and always hoping there actually
is a train car coming. Then up
past Panpwnton Farm.
Don't panic--the W is a U, so just say
Panpunton Farm, which sits in the
crook of Panpwnton Hill.


Go through another gate and then
left up a hill, along a single-track
road, where fox, rabbit and farm
vehicles roam. I'm usually lucky
and pick up a good walking stick
along the road because this is 
where things begin to get steep.


And then even steeper,
up this farm access road.


Sheep graze at the top of it and
this ewe watched my every move,
nervous for her lambs. Jack was
safely on his lead though and we
 passed through her territory without
incident, thanking her as we went.


With steepness comes the elevated
heart rate, but so worth it for the
views alone. The wide, sweeping
landscape that my heart craves.

Well, I am going back into
 the open air, to see what
 the wind and sky are doing!
~ J.R.R. Tolkien,
The Lord of the Rings


Smart sheep seeking shade.
(Now repeat that 10 times.)


May the countryside & the gliding valley
 streams content me. Lost to fame,
let me love river and woodland.
~ Virgil,
Eclogues


When we walk, more often
than not, we have a silent
protector aloft. At times it
feels as though she follows the
updraughts of my thoughts, and
we glide over the valley together.


Then, at other times it's Artemis
who watches our progress, pulling
my Cancer-born heart
upward and upward.


The air, the water and the ground are
free gifts to man and no one has
the power to portion them out in
parcels. Man must drink and breathe
and walk and therefore each man
has a right to his share of each.
~ James Fennimore Cooper,
The Prairie


It is in man's heart that the life
of nature's spectacle exists;
to see it, one must feel it.
~ Jean-Jacques Rousseau,
Emile


I really believe that there are things
that nobody would see,
if I didn't photograph them.
~Kingsley Amis,
Lucky Jim


We reluctantly turn away from the
wide views of the valley and head
for the trees and the oak wood,
Jack of course leading the way.


Ancient hawthorns line the path
and this pair reminds me
of elderly sisters, side by side,
one reaching out to the other
adjusting a branch or brushing
an errant twig away . . .
'there, that's better my dear.'


A little perch for me to rest
on, drink some water and
take in the quiet.
Also an excellent Hobbit
hide-away.


He told them tales of bees and flowers,
 the ways of trees, and the strange 
creatures of the Forest, about the evil 
things and the good things, 
things friendly and things unfriendly, 
cruel things and kind things, 
and secrets hidden under brambles.
~ J.R.R. Tolkien,
The Lord of the Rings


Two path trimmers making
the way clear for us as
we walk toward the woods.


We come to a stile & I scamper
(yes, still scampering at 62)
while Jack tucks under
the fence and waits on
the other side.



This summer the cool greens
and blues of the oak wood
have been a balm & a blessing.


On the hottest days we
always walk in the evenings,
as the sun set and the 
shadows fell.


I sang of leaves, of leaves of gold,
 and leaves of gold there grew: 
Of wind I sang, a wind there
came and in the branches blew.
~ J.R.R. Tolkien,
The Lord of the Rings


Every step of the road was just 
as she'd dreamt it all the time 
she'd been away.
 Every step took her further away
from the smoke & the noise and
 the loneliness & fear of the city
 she'd left behind.
 Every step drew her deeper into
the hollows of the landscape,
the green hills and shining
rivers and mist-tangled treetops.
~ Jon McGregor,
So Many Ways to Begin


With beauty before me,
may I walk.
With beauty behind me,
may I walk.
With beauty above me, may I walk.
With beauty below me,
may I walk.
With beauty all around me,
may I walk.
Wandering on the trail of beauty,
may I walk.
~ Navajo
Walking Meditation


Trees are the best monuments
that a mankind can erect to
his own memory.
They speak his praises
without flattery, and they are
blessings to children yet unborn.
~ Lord Orrery, 1749


The path winds its way down
through the quiet oaks
to another stile, and back
toward the valley floor,
the river and home.


I was struck again by the deep quiet of the countryside, the absence of any human sounds; my mind still expected the clamor of cars, voices, all the clatter of nonstop human movement. Here was only the hushed patter of the drizzle, the call of birds in faraway trees. The air was impossibly sweet, like wine. A crow called from somewhere, its voice dark and throaty.  ~Simone St. James, The Haunting of Maddy Clare


There's always a good game
of hide & seek to be had in
the woods, Jack vs squirrel.


One last look up the hill
with a prayer of thanks 
for the quiet grace of the
oaks and an
'I'll be back...'


We head downhill and see
that even the sheep have
sought out the cool shade
on a summer evening.


Sometimes I meet up with
other walkers, but most 
often not, since I like to
walk in the evening.
This group made my heart
sing though, made me happy.
None were a day under 75,
all were briskly walking 
straight up a hill.
In America I see more mobility
carts & obesity and feel sad.
On the foot paths of Britian I
see more of this and feel hope.


You see?
No excuses.
Just get out and walk.


The river cools both Jack
and I off, as he has a long,
long drink and gets his
paws wet.


Peace I ask of thee,
O River Peace, peace, peace
When I learn to live serenely
Cares will cease.
From the hills I gather courage
Visions of the days to be
Strength to lead and faith to follow
All are given unto me
Peace I ask of thee,
O River Peace, peace, peace.
~ Camp song (Author Unknown)


Campers gather in a farmer's
field at the base of Panpwnton Hill.
I have to admit that, as I pass,
I'm so grateful I'm walking
toward our little home and not
a tent in the grass. But then
I'm also glad for them,
their cities left behind as they
enjoy the peace of our valley.


Jack and I retrace our steps
along the river toward home.
Over the railroad tracks,
along the river and back
up to our cottage on the hill.


Home is the loveliest of 
thoughts as we puff up the hill,
that and the cup of tea waiting
to be made.


Jack's first order of business
is to stretch out for a nap
under the watchful eye
of St. Francis, the bees
in the lobelia singing
him a lullaby.


After a long, long walk
coming home to a
comfy chair . . .


. . . and a good book is
the best feeling in the world.


. . . a perfect house, whether you like
food or sleep or story-telling or singing,
or just sitting and thinking best,
or a pleasant mixture of them all.
Merely to be there was a cure
for weariness, fear, and sadness.
~J.R.R. Tolkien
The Lord of the Rings


And from the windowseats
Jack and I look up to
where we were just winding
our way through the trees
and think about tomorrow's
walk. . .


. . . but in the meantime we watch
the rain that starts to fall . . .


. . . and put the little posy we
picked along the way in it's
tiny jug. Content unto the day,
with grace sufficient unto the day.


Something as simple as walking
can bring so many gifts. Health.
A gladdened heart. A quiet mind.
Ideas that bubble to the surface,
along with toned muscles.
All good things.
All it takes is walking out the door
and putting one foot in front of the
other. Our bodies are designed for
walking and the daily gifts it 
brings are immeasurable. But don't
just take my word for it . . . 

The sovereign invigorator of the
body is exercise, and of all the
exercises walking is the best.
~ Thomas Jefferson


One foot in front of the other.
That, and walking out the
front door, is all it takes.


Above all do not lose your desire to walk. Everyday I walk myself into a state of well being and walk away from every illness. I have walked myself into my best thoughts and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it. But by sitting still, and the more one sits still, the closer one comes to feeling ill ... if one keeps on walking everything will be alright.   ~ Soren Kierkegaard.


Walking would teach people
the quality that youngsters
find so hard to learn - patience.
~ Edward P. Weston



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