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

Sunday, 24 February 2019

Photo Album: Sweet Winter Dreams

Winter, a lingering season,
 golden moments, 
embark upon a 
sentimental journey, 
and enjoy every idle hour.
~ John Boswell

This was way back in January...
which in winter-time, feels like
months and months ago. We 
were all packed up again for
a drive back to Wales, and my
winter hibernation & rest.

The boys settled in quickly for
their three hour nap.

Jack always oversees the packing.

Thank goodness for our big
Land Rover, fitting all the
bits and bobs, dogs and us.
There are always plenty of
bits and bobs going back & 
forth between Wales & Oxford.

Driving through the Cotswold
town of Chipping Norton on
a late winter afternoon. Even
the winter light can't dull the
golden Cotswold limestone.

Chipping Norton has a lively
and bustling town centre.

More golden light,
even as the sun sets.

The sky was blue, the grass green,
and the roads clear, as we made
our way through Herefordshire,
chasing the last of the sun as we went.

Tractors increase and cars decrease
 as we put miles between us and Oxford.
Sheep outnumber people in Wales 2 to 1.
That's my kind of ratio.

And then we're home. Our little
cottage on the hill welcomes us
and we breathe a happy sigh of
relief the second we walk through
the door. First things first, bright
yellow tulips for the kitchen table.

I'm in comfy pjs and slippers in
two winks of a Welsh lambs-tail.
Between Christmas and March,
like a garden, I like to lie
fallow and recharge. Jack
likes it too.

I read almost a book a day,
 and watch for signs of spring...
like these snowdrops blooming
against an old iron fence.

And I walk.
Lots & lots of walking.
Every day, no matter the weather.

There's no such thing
 as bad weather,
 only unsuitable clothing.
~  Alfred Wainwright

Tex patiently waiting for
our first walk being back.
Our walking sticks wait
by the front door.

Jack and Tex take two steps for
every one of my steps, racing up 
the hill and back down again,
then playing tag among the trees.

The climb is arduous, but oh the views.

These beautiful days ... 
do not exist as mere pictures - 
maps hung upon the walls of 
memory to brighten at times
 when touched by association or will ... 
They saturate themselves into every
 part of the body and live always.
~  John Muir

Walking at the bright hem of God...

My 2 goofy travelling companions.

When it's time to come down
off the hill, Jack will hide. He'll
peer out at me thinking I don't
see him, hoping I don't spot him
so he'll have to go home. Even 
pretending to walk away doesn't
bring him out from hiding.
He's a cagey little character.

The rest of the time Tex & Jack
are bounding up and down the
hill. Ears flying.

They're never more than
a few steps away from
one another. Here they
are, exploring 
Offa's Dyke as it runs
through Shropshire.

 After walking, it's time for tea,
and usually cake too. Or sometimes
hot cross buns or bread & butter
pudding. Mostly the cup of tea is
at home, but sometimes it's at one
of our local tea rooms, all just
down the hill from us, only a
few steps away. Walking &
tearooms, our part of heaven.

We only had the barest skiff of snow
this year, which was perfect after
last year's week after week of heavy
snows. It was beautiful all morning
and then gone by lunchtime. My
kind of snow.

One of my weather forecasting outposts.

Looking down on our garden
from the weather chair.

And then before I knew it, snowdrops.
Millions of snowdrops began to bloom &
announce the end of winter was in sight.
Spring was close enough to smell
and almost taste.

Snowdrops bloom in the churchyard
of St. Mary's in Pilleth, Wales.

As if snowdrops weren't enough to make me sing,
I spotted the very first, wobbly spring lamb.
He or she was a little on the early side,
 but it meant cousins were close behind.

Inside spring blooms were in nearly
every jug I could find, big or small.

Blessed be the tiny things.

To celebrate snowdrops, lambs & the
promise of spring coming closer & closer,
I got out an old pair of Doc Martins that
had languished at the back of my closet
for awhile. They felt new & exciting,
and the vintage flowers definitely
put an extra spring in my step.

Even Jack has an extra spring in his
already bouncy cotton-ball self.

Then, always too soon, it's time to
return to Oxford. We'll still have our
get-aways to Wales, but the long &
extended time in winter is over for
this year. A busy spring & summer
at the B&B, and for the walking tours,
is ahead of us.

Once we're back in Oxford,
first things first, a long walk
in the University Parks. It helps
us all adjust to city life again.

Spring in Oxford is a few steps ahead of
Wales and the trifecta of February...
crocus, snowdrops, and aconites are
madly blooming. The world is in colour
again after the misty greys of winter.

Follow the path to spring!

Let me arise and open the gate,
 to breathe the wild warm air of the heath,
 And to let in Love,
 and to let out Hate,
 And anger at living and scorn of Fate, 
To let in Life, and to let out Death.
~ Violet Fane

The spring light returned to
Oxford along with me.

As I walk the streets of Oxford again,
even though I'm missing Wales,
there's nothing but gratitude in my heart.
I'm grateful for a long & healthy winter,
 for a home in the country and in the city,
and to be able to experience both...
something my country-heart dreamed
of since moving to Oxford.

Life is like an onion.
You peel it off layer by layer 
and sometimes you cry.

It is possible to live our dreams & 
I'm living proof of that. But to get here,
to live out my dreams, I had to be
patient with the nightmares of life,
and I've had more than my share.
They will come, the nightmares,
but they aren't the end of the story.
Always remember that. We are constantly
writing & rewriting our stories...
the story of our life.

Dreams are illustrations...
 from the book your soul 
is writing about you. 
 ~ Marsha Norman

The last of the evening light,
on the last walk of the day.

Life isn't about finding yourself. 
 Life is about creating yourself. 
~ George Bernard Shaw

Back in Oxford for awhile now,
I feel new dreams stirring in my 
heart. Dreams that take me away from
Oxford, beyond the B&B, as that part
of my life comes to its natural conclusion.
In the next year it's time to move on
to something else, and I can feel the
something else growing inside me, like
the first fluttering of a fetus in a womb,
as it stretches and grows.

You're going to be Happy,
said Life.
But first I'll make you strong.

The inscription on the Harris Manchester
clock tower below says,
It's later than you think,
But it's never too late.
It feels as though I'm approximately on my
tenth or eleventh life, during my lifetime, with
another one waiting in the wings, and 
that's the best thing about the gift of our
life. It's never too late for a dream.

Why stay we on the earth except to grow? 
~ Robert Browning

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Of February, Imbolc and Candlemas

February is merely as
long as is needed to pass
 the time until March.
~ JR Stockton

It's February.
 Time to make a ceremony
out of turning the calendar 
page from January and to
say Rabbit Rabbit, an olde
English custom to ensure 
good-luck for the rest of
the month. February is
also the crossroads between
winter and spring, especially
in Britain.

Winter deepened on 
January 31st,
and it was beautiful.
The fog had moved in
on little cat-feet overnight,
and softened all the edges
with crystal flakes of ice.

February 1st is the Celtic
celebration of Imbolc which
encompasses all that the 
transition from winter into
spring means in the natural world.

The word itself is the Celtic word
for the full belly of a mother,
and also for a full udder, 
full of milk loosely translated.  It's
the time when cows and ewes are
readying for the birth of calves &
 lambs. It's also the midpoint between
 the winter solstice & the spring equinox.

Was it the smile of early spring
 That made my bosom glow?
 'Twas sweet, but neither sun nor wind
Could raise my spirit so.
Was it some feeling of delight, 
All vague and undefined?
No, 'twas a rapture deep and strong, 
Expanding in the mind!
~ Anne Bronte,
In Memory of 
A Happy Day in February

February 2nd is the Feast Day
of Candlemas. Like most feast
days in the church calendar, the
ancient church tied it to Celtic
or Roman festivals, and Candlemas
is tethered to Imbolc.

It's the celebration of the presentation
of Jesus at the temple, as well as the
purification of Mary, 40 days after the
birth of Jesus. The day was also the
Roman day of purification, so the
meanings to the day run deep in history.

Candlemas was also the day when
all the candles for the coming church
year were blessed and the
Prayer of Simeon is often prayed...
the coming of the Light, the return
of the light, the purification of
winter into spring.

The roots of groundhog day
lie in the more ancient
tradition of Candlemas.

... And by the looks of today,
we're in for a few more
weeks of winter, which is
just fine. I'm not quite
finished hibernating yet.

I stood beside a hill
 Smooth with new-laid snow,
A single star looked out
From the cold evening glow. 
There was no other creature 
That saw what I could see, 
I stood and watched the evening star 
As long as it watched me.
~ Sara Teasdale, 
February Twilight

Each day grows a little longer and
my late afternoon forest walks are...
... how to describe them?
Magical? Not deep enough.
Mystical? Not concrete enough.
Perfect harmony? Yes, indeed.

The Old God sleeps down
 in the dark, moist, 
odorous underfoot, 
Waiting for us
 To put down our roots.

Cernnunos, the ancient Celtic
horned-god of the forest showed
 himself one afternoon, adorned in
moss & snow, giving a forest blessing.
This is a place where the old ways
run deep. Where you can feel what
C.S. Lewis described as the 
'deeper magic', the power that 
reaches back to the beginning of
time. It's easy to feel the spirit of 
Imbolc rising up through the
earth here; the goddess of the earth
and the god of the forest meeting
in the fullness of new life.

God of the green,
 Lord of the forest, 
I offer you my sacrifice. 
I ask you for your blessing. 
You are the man in the trees, 
the green man of the woods, 
who brings life to
 the dawning spring.

It's hard to drag the boys and I off the
hillside as the sun sets, but if there's a
bread & butter pudding with my
 name on it, fresh out of the oven,
it's much easier to turn toward home.

Hot Cross Bun Bread & Butter Pudding
is a late winter, Lenten, springtime

☩ Hot Cross Bun 
Bread & Butter Pudding

18 hot cross buns, homemade
or store's all good;
tear each half of a hot
cross bun into quarters;
and dry overnight.

Whisk together:
2 cups milk
2 eggs
pinch of salt
1 tsp on vanilla
1/3 cup caster sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
A handful of extra raisins 

Butter a deep, ceramic baking
dish and lay hot cross bun
pieces in the dish, sprinkling a
few more raisins in as you place
the pieces of bun.

Pour the egg, milk, spice
and sugar mixture over the 
hot cross buns, pressing down
very lightly on the buns so they'll
start to soak in the liquid. 
Dot with 1-2 T butter & let
it sit for at least 1 hour.

Bake at 350F/175C for the 1st 15 minutes
and then reduce the heat to 325F/160C
for at least 45 minutes. When a cake
tester pulls out clean and the centre
is firm, remove and cool on a rack.
It will firm up as it cools and tastes
even better on the 2nd day. Keep
refrigerated once it's cooled.

*A few tips:
Bread & butter pudding is nearly
impossible to ruin. If you aren't 
quite sure you have enough buns,
you can reduce the volume of milk.
The liquid should come just to the
tops of the buns, not completely cover.
If it's still too soggy after 1 hour in
the oven, turn the heat down and leave
for another 15-20 minutes. Also, it
will set as it cools.

Serve warm with cream, custard,
 ice cream, or all on it's own.
I put some icing on the one I
baked this week and was very
heavy-handed with the buttercream
... so naturally it was delicious. 😊

In seed time learn,
in harvest teach,
in winter enjoy.
~ William Blake

And enjoying winter I am.
The time of a quiet inbreath
between winter & spring.
When slush & daffodils mingle
together at the side of the roads, 
and the hills dusted with snow
show the bite of winter, 
while the valley floors hold
the green promise of spring.

There is a privacy about it which no other season gives you ..... In spring, summer and fall people sort of have an open season on each other; only in the winter, in the country, can you have longer, quiet stretches when you can savour belonging to yourself.                 ~ Ruth Stout

And that's just how I like it after a busy
summer & autumn, and a Christmas filled
to the brim with bustle and good-cheer;
I like the time to savour belonging to myself.

A time to snuggle in, light the lamps
and bake good things, while outside the
window February brings mist, snow, rain,
sun, wind, fog...and everything in between.

It's the time to feel the power of Imbolc, 
just before the earth springs back into life,
and us along with her. A pregnant pause 
filled with so much promise.

Gaily they nod their dear little heads
And smilingly welcome me,
As they spring up fresh from
 their winter beds, 
Eager for company. 

 Their round white faces fair & clean
 Are purer than frost or snow, 
And I thank the hands, 
tho' now unseen; 
 That planted them, long ago.
~  Nora McFarlane

Roadside snowdrops,
 I thank the hands, tho' now unseen; 
 That planted them, long ago ...