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

Saturday, 27 October 2018

There and Back Again

No one realises how beautiful
 it is to travel until he comes
 home & rests his head on his
 old, familiar pillow.
~Lin Yutang


After ten years of being a full-on B&B queen, this year it was time for a little break . . . which would hopefully stretch into a long break and semi-retirement. I 'wintered-over' in Wales, a place you normally wouldn't think of purposefully spending the winter. It's not exactly Florida. It's probably as far removed from Florida as you can get, but it's a perfect place to rest after ten years of full-on hospitality-making.

Don't underestimate the value
of Doing Nothing, 
of just going along,
listening to all the things you
can't hear, and not bothering. 
Pooh's Little Instruction Book, 
-inspired by A. A. Milne

Winter stretched into spring and summer, and I did make a few appearances in Oxford, but mostly I puttered at our cottage in the Welsh borders. Created a garden, walked, read and read and read, and napped.

The back garden of our cottage
in Wales as it looked exactly a
year ago when we saw it. Even 
then we loved it. 


Below was getting to work,
cleaning up, defining beds,
planting grass, creating something
out of nothing. One of my most
favourite things to do.


This (below) was in August just before
I left for America. I love looking
down at our garden from the window
seats in the guest room and sewing
room. I check the progress,
get a different perspective on it,
take it all in, and dream about
all the things I still want to
do out there. A garden isn't a
static thing, it changes and blooms
over time along with the person
who's creating it.


I finished up the summer with a wonderful family-fun-filled trip back to the states, but the summer also brought a tragic death to our family, with deep, deep bruising sadness. It seemed like a good time to continue the long break from social media that I began early in the summer, and I withdrew from all the noise.

Not merely an absence of noise,
Real Silence begins when a
reasonable being withdraws
from the noise in order to
find peace and order in his
inner sanctuary. 
~ Peter Minard

Then my eight month sabbatical was over and it was time to get back to Oxford, and No. 14 Holywell Street (although mostly back to Stuart and Jack.) We had hoped I could semi-retire from the B&B but that wasn't to be. Our long-time housekeeper proved unreliable (and more unfortunately, larcenous), so my apron was back on almost before my bags were unpacked, and I'm back to the life of a B&B queen (although most days I feel more like Cinderella.)

Actually it felt good to be
back in our kitchen, my
apron on, making poached
eggs and porridge. 


I have a back-log of projects
to catch up on and first on the
list is repainting the kitchen
a soft sage green.


One day there was an explosion of 
orange & bronze to celebrate beautiful
October & Thanksgiving. It
will stay until the red & green
shows up at the end of November.


I have been younger in
October than in all the
months of spring . . .
~ W. S. Merwin, 
 The Love of October


Most of my favourite blue & white pottery
went to the cottage in Wales but the 
Jr. Varsity team stepped in and filled
in all the bare spots very nicely.
Which also means we have far too
much stuff!! But we use lots of it
for the B&B, so I comfort myself
with that excuse thought.


Oh how we love pumpkin season.
You did know this gourd-ish
squash has its own season, right?
Winter, Spring, Summer,
Pumpkin....We anxiously
anticipate it every year. 
~Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer, 
October 2010


Autumn arrived in the
front of the house too,
when deeper fall colours
replaced the brighter
colours of summertime.


There is no season when such pleasant and sunny spots may be lighted on, and produce so pleasant an effect on the feelings, as now in October.
~ Nathaniel Hawthorne


One of the best parts of being back in
Oxford in October is being able to
absolutely glory in the gold that is
Oxford in the autumn.

From the leaves to the berries . . .


. . . to Holywell Cemetery . . .


. . . the lanes of Oxford . . .


. . . to the University Parks. It all
takes my breath away. Always has
and probably always will.

The JRR Tolkien memorial bench
in the University Parks, Oxford

There is some good in this world,
and it's worth fighting for.
~ J.R.R. Tolkien, 
The Two Towers


The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.  
~J.R.R. Tolkien, 
The Fellowship of the Ring


I have come to terms with the future. From this day onward I will walk easy on the earth. Plant trees. Kill no living things. Live in harmony with all creatures. I will restore the earth where I am. Use no more of its resources than I need. And listen, listen to what it is telling me.       
~ M. J. Slim Hooey


I've lived many places in my
life and no place has given me 
more daily delight than Oxford,
especially with scenes like this.
Two priests walking together in
deep friendship,
chanting in Latin. There are just
no words to describe the delight
of this. Jack on the other hand is
far more delighted by the scent of
a squirrel, as any self-respecting
dog would be.


What a pity flowers can utter
 no sound! A singing rose,
 a whispering violet,
a murmuring honeysuckle ... 
oh, what a rare and exquisite
miracle would these be!
~ Henry Ward Beecher

Michaelmas daisies grow along the
River Cherwell in the University Parks.
They're an autumn blooming aster,
coming into full bloom about the time
of the feast of Michaelmas,
September 29th.
I'm back in the routine of breakfast-
making, bed-making and 
laundry-doing, but we have 
something new happening too.
Or I should say, someone new.


This is Tex and the latest member
of our family. He's been a service
dog for a friend of ours but has
developed arthritis in his paws
and needs to retire. His pain is
very well controlled now, but
they allow guide dogs to retire so
they can live out their years
carefree and non-working.


He's impeccably trained of course
and is sweetness incarnate.


There is no faith which has
never yet been broken,
except that of a truly faithful dog.
~ Konrad Lorenz


We took the transition slowly so
Jack & Tex could get used to one
another and become friends and
mates first. Which they have.
Jack loves to be the
chaser and luckily Tex wants to
be chased. Round and round in
circles they go.


They both have new, cosy beds for chilly
winter mornings. They quietly keep watch
as we prepare breakfast, waiting,
ever waiting for that errant piece
of bacon to fall.


Tex is great in the car and thank goodness
for our huge Land Rover. On our trips to
Wales it has to fit everything from plants to
dogs to groceries. Today we're headed back
for a week and it will be loaded with spring
bulbs, a Christmas tree (I'm allergic to
real ones), dogs, dog beds, boots and coats.


Both boys are perfect gentlemen on
our pub stops on our way home to Wales.
This is at The Plough in Ford,
in the Cotswolds. Great food and a
 perfect atmosphere. By the time 
we reach it, we feel miles and miles
away from Oxford.



Sitting in the window seat
at The Plough, with the dogs
under the table, sharing a meal
with Stuart. My idea of heaven.


Tex made himself right at
home in Wales. A comfy bed
and me in sight is all he needs.

We long for an affection
altogether ignorant of our
faults. Heaven has accorded
this to us in the uncritical
canine attachment. 
George Eliot


Once Tex had a taste of the non-working
life, that was it. He was ready to be a 
kid again. He absolutely loves our walks
in Wales with all the brand new smells
(mostly sheep), a river to paddle in
and wide-open spaces. This is his very
first walk along Offa's Dyke, which he
recommends highly.


The most affectionate creature
 in the world is a wet dog. 
Ambrose Bierce


The Hunter's Moon was here this week,
the colours are deepening, the squirrels
are even busier hiding chestnuts and
acorns, and October is (very sadly!!)
 drawing to a close. Below, Jack on
the scent of a squirrel, although a year
ago he very nearly caught one to the
shock of both dog and squirrel.
Since then all his posturing and hunting
is just for show and to save face.


The light in October makes everything
look lit from within, even doggies.
Below--I've tried to caption this photo
but there are too many choices . . .
Which way to Narnia?
You went first last time!
I'll hide you seek.
Good friends can communicate
just through their eyes (and tails.)


AND they're off!!!



There's no more beautiful time in
Oxford than October. The sunlight
makes the stone of the buildings
even more impossibly golden.
Below, walking home down 
Ship Street, with Jesus College to
the right and the spire of Exeter
College chapel in the background.


The clocks change tonight and we'll
be back to standard Greenwich
Mean Time, which means on Sunday
it will be dark by 5:30pm.
I love when the nights start drawing in,
when I can legally be in pjs by about 7pm,
and reading is my favourite evening
activity--especially after the final of the
Great British Bake Off airs next week.

A few of the things I'm reading right now . . .


I found the little gem below at a street
market in Ludlow, Shropshire for
a pound. As someone remarked on
Twitter, it's one of those times you
can absolutely judge a book by
its cover.


And as always, any new C.S. Lewis,
 Lord of The Rings, or Tolkien book is
immediately added to our library.

The consolation of fairy-
stories, the joy of the happy
ending; or more correctly
of the good catastrophe,
the sudden joyous "turn" . . .
is one of the things which
fairy-stories can produce
supremely well.
~ J.R.R. Tolkien
On Fairy Stories 


You would not have called
to me unless I had been 
calling to you.
AslanThe Silver Chair,
C.S. Lewis

Friend Sue told me about 
'Becoming Mrs. Lewis'
 and I ordered it immediately.
It's about Joy Davidman & Jack Lewis,
how their relationship developed, their
marriage and both the pain and the
triumph they faced together.
It's written in first-person narrative, in
Joy's voice, so for me even better than a
biography. If you follow Susan Branch on
Twitter, she may even tweet about it
on their train ride home to Martha's
Vineyard, since she's saving her copy
for their trip east .

But the ‘consolation’ of fairy-stories has another aspect than the imaginative satisfaction of ancient desires. Far more important is the Consolation of the Happy Ending. Almost I would venture to assert that all complete fairy-stories must have it…. I will call it Eucatastrophe. That eucatastrophic tale is the true form of fairy-tale, and its highest function.
~ JRR Tolkien

I had never read or heard of the word
Tolkien uses, 'eucatastrophic' but it
describes both the tales of Middle Earth
and Jack Lewis and Joy. A sudden 
catastrophe that takes on the mystery
and transformation of the Eucharist
and transmutes what could be wholly 
soul destroying into something creative
and holy. People are transformed and
 because of this, the story becomes a
fairy story with a happy ending.
Frodo survives his trip into Mordor,
Bilbo makes it there and back again,
Joy and Jack fall in love and are 
married in the midst of a death
sentence from cancer. Joy is found
at the end of the tale, which is a
thought I hold close in these days of
turmoil and constant worry from
the state of the world.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
 A light from the shadows shall spring; 
Renewed shall be blade that was broken, 
The crownless again shall be king.
~ J.R.R. Tolkien,
The Fellowship of the Ring


The Weston Library has had an exhibition
since June 1st called
'JRR Tolkien, Maker of Middle Earth'.
And this week, just days before it ends,
Stuart and I finally were finally able to see it.
We're so busy helping other people enjoy
Oxford we often miss things ourselves.
This time though, we were determined not
to miss this glimpse into Middle Earth
and Tolkien's world.


We were struck by two things, and the
first was Tolkien's own artwork. He was
trained in drawing and painting from a very
early age and his artwork for his stories
tells almost as much as his written word.

The second was how he managed to make
up alphabets, entire languages, write tomes,
with accompanying artwork, all while still 
being a family-man with four children,
a full-time scholar and fellow, and even
an air-raid warden during the war. But
there was entire world inside him and the
story of it would be told, no matter what.

'The Forest of Lothlorien in Spring'
(below)
was my favourite painting up close.
His forms are so striking and bold,
but his colours take on an
otherworldly glow when you see
them in person.



They also had (below) the original
printer's copy of the cover for 
'The Hobbit' with all the side
notes still intact.




Tolkien wanted the sun, the surrounding sky 
and part of Smaug to be red but the editor
made a note on the left side to
"ignore red". And he was right.
The deep blues and greens are 
etched in anyone's mind who's read
'The Hobbit'. It's the first gate we pass
through leading into another world.



One morning long ago
in the quiet of the world,
when there was less noise
and more green . . .
~ JRR Tolkien


And now my October story is drawing to a close, especially before it becomes as long as The Lord of The Rings trilogy. I feel like Bilbo this year, that we made it 'there are back again'. A year ago we were as happy as two clams with our dream of a house in Wales coming true.


It was followed by piercing grief and loss of a loved one and the betrayal of someone we wholly trusted. But then the journey shifted again. We regrouped, recommitted and now we're happily straddling both Oxford and Wales, plus we have the newest love of our life, Tex.


Like any good fairy story, the journey twists and turns and just when you think all hope is lost, the joy shows up. As C.S. Lewis says, we're surprised by joy. Even more though, the whole point really is to see the joy when it arrives, embrace it, give thanks for it and then continue on the journey. And like Frodo and Sam, always trusting in the road ahead.

All we have to decide is what
 to do with the time that is given us.
~ JRR Tolkien


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