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, 28 January 2019

The Land I've Been Looking For

In every walk with nature one
 receives far more than he seeks.
~ John Muir

Yesterday I took the easy
way up the hill. The wind
was blowing cold, so I
walked the steeper part with
the wind at my back. It
worked a charm and the 
20mph winds almost blew
me up the hill.

I have come home at last!
This is my real country!
I belong here.
This is the land I have
been looking for all my life,
though I never knew it till now...
Come further up, 
come further in! 
~ C.S. Lewis, 
The Last Battle

Half-way up the hill,
further up, 
further in.
This is the country
I've waited for my whole
life. I'm here. I'm home.

Climb the mountains
 and get their good tidings.
Nature's peace will flow
into you as sunshine
flows into trees.
The winds will blow their
freshness into you,
and the storms their energy,
while cares will drop 
off like falling leaves.
~ John Muir

Once we're up the hill,
over the stile and into
the oak wood we go.
Well, I go over, the
dogs sneak under.

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, 

Every walk to the woods is a religious rite, every bath in a stream a saving ordinance. Communion service is at all hours, and the bread and wine are from the heart and marrow of Mother Earth. 
There are no heretics in Nature's church; all are believers, all are communicants. The beauty of natural religion is that you have it all the time; you do not have to seek it afar off in myths and legends, in catacombs, in garbled texts, in miracles of dead saints or wine-bibbing friars. It is of today; it is now and here; it is everywhere.
                                         ~ John Burroughs

At the top of Panpwnton Hill
we reached the tree cathedral, my
Sunday morning worship place.
 The music played on the wind,
the birds my fellow congregants.

Take a course in good
 water and air; and in the 
eternal youth of Nature 
you may renew your own. 
Go quietly, alone; 
no harm will befall you. 
~ John Muir

I linger and worship and breathe.
The dogs chase one another
 and chew sticks and then, with
my soul at rest, we begin
down the hill toward home,
hours after we left.

Roads go ever ever on
Under cloud and under star,
Yet feet that wandering
have gone
Turn at last to home afar.
~ J.R.R. Tolkien,
The Hobbit

Home to warmth, my favourite chair,
 and my book.

And always a cup of warming Earl Grey.

I've come home.

The silence of landscape conceals vast presence. Place is not simply location. A place is a profound individuality. With complete attention, landscape celebrates the liturgy of the seasons, giving itself unreservedly to the passion of the goddess. 

The shape of a landscape is an ancient and silent form of consciousness. Mountains are huge contemplatives. Rivers and streams offer voice; they are the tears of the earth's joy and despair. The earth is full of soul ….. Civilisation has tamed place. Left to itself, the curvature of the landscape invites presence and the loyalty of stillness. 
                       ~ John O'Donohue, Anam Cara

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Photo Album: The Happiest Days of 2018

Happy New-year! happy New-year! It is the day of hope and a fresh beginning. Old debts shall be forgiven; old feuds forgotten; old friendships revived.
Today shall be better than yesterday. The good vows shall be kept. A blessing shall be wrung from the fleet angel Opportunity.
There shall be more patience, more courage, more faith; the dream shall become life; today shall wear the glamour of tomorrow.
Ring out the old, ring in the new! 
~George William Curtis


2018 started off with the happiest
of times for us...finally being able
to move into our cottage in the
Welsh borders. This was our little
caravan of two. Jack and I in the
Land Rover filled with the fragile
bits, and Stuart in the van loaded
 with the last of our furniture.

Moving in was so happy that it didn't
feel like work or a hardship. It was only
fun...seeing all our things in a new light,
in new places, used in different ways.

One of the first nights after moving in,
we were treated to a full moon rising
over the Shropshire hills to the east of us.
After 10 years of city living, the dark skies
and the bright moon gave a special magic
glow to our new home. It felt like a blessing.

May you always have walls for the winds,
 a roof for the rain, tea beside the fire, 
laughter to cheer you, 
those you love near you, 
and all your heart might desire.
 ~ Irish Blessing

Soon after moving in, I got to know our little
 neighbour darling. Here she is pouring over
one of my Peter Rabbit books. There were so
many magical, happy, little moments like this
 that right from the start it felt like this was
the house we were meant to have, in the place 
we were meant to be.


After we unpacked & got to know
our neighbours, it was time 
to get to know our hills & woods;
get to know up close & personal
 all the scenes that fill the windows 
of our cottage. 

Being equipped with sturdy wellies
and wax jackets goes hand in hand
with country living. Every day we 
climbed a little higher, walked a little
further, so by mid-February we 
looked the part of brisk-British-walkers,
red-cheeked, muddied boots, and
of course a dog in tow.

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

Winter came in full force in February
but it never stopped us from walking.
You just add a few more layers &
heavier socks and out you go. There
was always the promise of a cup of tea 
when we got home, and the last mile
was filled with that thought.
A cup of hot, milky tea after a chilly,
snowy walk...nothing better.

Stuart went back and forth from Oxford,
but I stayed at our cottage all winter,
just Jack & I. During that time if I wasn't
walking, napping, or making bread & butter
pudding, I was reading. It was heaven.


March brought green. Endless sweeps of green
over the hillsides. Just when I thought it 
could not get any greener, I'd wake up, look out
and sure enough, the hills were a shade greener.

March also brought daffodils and as it's 
Wales, masses and masses of them.

Through all the frozen winter 
 My nose has grown most lonely
 For lovely, lovely, coloured smells . . .
 ~ Kathryn Worth

And with the daffodils came the lambs.
Everywhere. In every field & on every
hillside there were dancing lambs. Their
bleating & the ewes calling out to them
became the musical backdrop to our spring.


April brought more colour when tulips
stood side by side with their daffodil
sisters. The air warmed, the skies cleared,
and the grass grew thick and green.

April also brought the first guests
to our cottage. Susan Branch
and husband Joe were the very first
people to break in our shiny, new guest
 room & the first to sit at our kitchen
table...which was perfect.

Of course we had to show Sue & Joe
our favourite walk, so out came
their wellies & wax coats, plus the
cameras of course. We marvelled at the
green hills, oohed & aahhed over the lambs,
and enjoyed the sun on our faces.

No self-respecting walk should be finished
without a cup of tea or a pub stop, and on
this April afternoon, which was still chilly,
a warm, home-town pub was just the ticket.
Sue is one of Jack's favourite people in the
world, so he was in heaven wedged between
the two of us while we drank our pear cider
and ate our pub lunches. It also was perfect.

🌳 MAY 🌳

More happy moments came in May,
and the best was a picnic in the Lake
District with Susan at Castle Cottage,
Beatrix Potter's home in Near Sawry.

Susan & Beatrix lovers spread their
picnics out over the lawn of Castle
Cottage & magic was made. 

Our picnic scene below.
Like Susan's first picnic at Stourhead, 
I was so engrossed in the surroundings & the
 wonderful people that I forgot to eat, again.
Stuart enjoyed every drop of our sumptuous
Lake District picnic, while I just kept
pinching myself to see if it was all real.
It was real. Real magic.

The picnic was a gathering of friends
from all over the world. Some new friends,
some old friends.

Siobhan, me, Rachel and
Susan, along with Stuart
'hiding' behind us to get Jack
in the photo.

The very end of May gave us new
cygnets in the University Parks ...

...and a royal wedding in Windsor.

I was back in Oxford for the royal
wedding and went mad with the bunting,
getting in the spirit of the happy couple
and their romance.

🌸 JUNE 🌸

June is roses and more roses,
especially in the Oxford college
gardens. Walking through
New College one afternoon,
I had to stop and smell the roses.
It wouldn't be right not to.

June skies over Oxford.

🌞 JULY 🌞

By July I was back in Wales,
and settled in for the next 6 weeks
of summer. It was a time of glorying in
our little house, all our own. Loving all
the little domestic things like hanging
 sheets out on the line.

It was also time to create our garden,
from scratch. It was all weeds and
packed dirt, but by the end of July 
I had hollyhocks in bloom, herb
beds laid out and planters full of
summer flowers.

The dog days of summer.

🌻 🌻

I had to leave our little hillside cottage
and the Welsh hills to venture out into
the world, back to Oxford...

...and then back to the U.S. for a visit
and a family wedding.
It's always comforting to see the mountains
I grew up with again, like Mt. Rainier below,
in Washington State.

Below, Nana's bed prepared by 3 excited girls,
happy to have me visit. I was every bit as
excited to see them.

And then before I knew it,
I was back in Oxford, back
in my own kitchen, back at
the B&B. It was good to be home.

And September also brought Tex
to us, a retired guide dog for the blind
and our newest family member.


Short trips to Wales during a busy time
in Oxford helped us relax and enjoy the
riot of autumn colour. It had been a year
since we had first found our cottage, so
the golden leaves brought things full
circle to when we first fell in love with our
little house on the hill in the Welsh borders.

Tex's first car journey with us to Wales.
He's a trooper and was good as gold in
the car right from the beginning.

As the autumn days passed,
Jack & Tex became the
best of friends.

Retirement gave Tex a new lease
on life and he really was like a
puppy again. Leaping and bounding
around the park like a dog half his
age. Just what we all hoped retirement
would do for him.

He also fit right into our
walking life in Wales and
usually leads the way down
the path.


More beautiful autumn days followed
October. The gold seemed to multiply
overnight and without many heavy,
autumn storms, the leaves lasted 
through the whole month. Enough
gold in our pockets to last right into

These two little car mascots arrived from a
friend in the States. Jack & Tex ride along
on every trip between Oxford & Wales.

We spent a week over Thanksgiving in Wales,
cooking a Thanksgiving dinner with all the
fixings, planting bulbs, and getting things
ready for Christmas. Every time I walk 
through the door of our cottage after being
away, I cry. It envelops us and wraps us
in cosy comfort, so we had much to be
thankful for as we ate our turkey and stuffing.

If the only prayer you said in
your whole life was,
"thank you," that would suffice. 
~ Meister Eckhart

We were bowled over by peak colour
during our Thanksgiving week in Wales.
We could hardly take it in & it didn't seem
real. But it was real. Real magic, again.


December is my happiest month of all.
The month that I feel like my feet barely
touch the ground.

This year I had not one, but two kitchens,
two houses to decorate...which is one of the
definitions of happiness for me.

Our kitchen in Wales was decorated to
the hilt too, and it made me smile to see all my
 old, favourite Christmas treasures in new places.
I spent a lot of time just standing and staring
at it all, marvelling at the twists & turns of life.

I also love how our Christmas lights
light up Holywell Street in Oxford,
guiding our guests home at night.

December means many, many
trips to the post office, but just when
I feel like I might as well live there,
my last package is posted and I can
declare that Christmas shopping is
officially over.

Once the Christmas shopping was done
and all the packages wrapped and posted
the mood was jolly & gay.

Jack perched on our Wales couch,
as we watched Christmas movies;
our tree decorated, a wreath on
the front door, and Christmas 
treasures brought with me from
the States settled into their new
Welsh home. Life was good.

Jack and Tex have settled into their
walking routine, walking side by side,
or running in circles, chasing each other's
tails. We are so happy to have 2 dogs now.

We readied our guest room for our
special Christmas guest, Jordan 
arriving at Heathrow on the 17th.

After all the waiting, he was finally
here. Christmas had really begun.

We let Jordan rest up a day and then
we were off to London to see
Harry Potter & the Cursed Child.
It was an experience of a lifetime
and started Christmas off just right
for us.

The Palace Theatre, London

We got off the bus in Oxford at 1pm after
 our day in London, and 12 hours 
later we were driving back to Wales
and Jordan's first time there. We kicked 
things off with a long walk naturally,
and he was in love with it all by the
time we reached the top of the hill.

My eyes are very light sensitive so
the pale winter light suits me to a T.
I love the slant of it, and the softness,
the colours of the sky muted & understated.
This was taken on the hill overlooking our
little town of Knighton.

Christmas morning, before we had
unwrapped even one present, eaten
any turkey or mince pie, we took
a long walk in the Shropshire hills
to an Iron Age hillfort. It was our
new Christmas tradition.

After the flurry of Christmas preparations,
it felt like a balm to walk the hills on
Christmas morning. Walking & thinking of 
shepherds, lambs, and a babe wrapped in
swaddling clothes, laid in a manger.
The quiet of nature made it a meditative
time and a perfect Christmas morning.

Caer Caradoc, an Iron Age
hillfort in the Shropshire hills.

What I know in my bones is that
 I forgot to take time to remember
 what I know. The world is holy. 
 We are holy. All life is holy.
 Daily prayers are delivered on the
 lips of breaking waves, the whisperings
 of grasses, the shimmering of leaves.
~ Terry Tempest Williams

I cooked a huge Christmas dinner
for the 3 of us (what happens when
 you grow up in a big family),
 so we had left-overs for days. And days.
When we couldn't face another plate of 
turkey, potatoes, stuffing, etc, etc,
it was time for afternoon tea.
It was delicious, it wasn't turkey, 
and it hit the spot.

More walks, more ways
to beat the holiday pounds.

Our fearless leader Stuart.

As we walk, our boots get muddier,
our cheeks get pinker, and our hearts
grow happier.

No more left-overs at home so we
had to branch out to pub food-yay!

No visit to the Welsh borders is 
complete without seeing a castle
or 2 or 3. Visiting Montgomery Castle
below with Jordan, the skies cleared and
 we could see Snowdonia off on the horizon.

Clun Castle,
Clun, Shropshire.

And then Christmas drew to a close,
and we had bittersweet thoughts,
revelling in all the sweet moments of the
days before, and looking out into the
future with all it might hold.

Then sing, young hearts that
 are full of cheer, With never a 
thought of sorrow; The old goes out,
 but the glad young year
 Comes merrily in tomorrow.
~ Emily Miller

Like any year, 2018 had ups and downs,
hard things to bear both in the wider world
and close to home. But as years draw to a
close, those things tend to fade for me
and brighter memories shine out. When they
do I can't help thinking what the next
year will bring? What will be in my thoughts
or on my heart the next time I unwrap the
Christmas decorations?

That thought never scares me but only
 gives me hope & excitement.
The year ahead is an empty page that I get to
fill in, and if it's anything like 2018, I have
nothing but goodness to look forward to.

Happy New Year from Stuart & I
in both Oxford & Wales.