There is an emanation from the heart

which cannot be described,

but is immediately felt and puts

the stranger at his ease.

~Washington Irving


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

Monday, 30 July 2012

I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief.... For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.  ~Wendell Berry, 
"The Peace of Wild Things"



Monday.......

It's 4pm and my kitchen still looks like this.  Usually I have breakfast cleared and the entire kitchen spic and span by about 10am, but not today.  I still have breakfast dishes stacked on the counter, groceries waiting to be put away, and flowers that need water and vases.

It all may look a  little artfully arranged, but this is
exactly how things have been
since 9:30 this morning, when we cleared the breakfast room.



It's not a case of the Monday Blues really--for some reason I've just spent the day doing anything but the big kitchen clean-up.  I keep finding better and far more enjoyable things to do.  Right after breakfast I was out in our back garden, doing a clean-up of my **summerhouse sanctuary.  It was so much more fun than cleaning the kitchen.

Then it was off for a walk in Holywell Cemetery with Max and Stuart, enjoying the summer roses and the **'Constable Clouds'.



After our walk, the Sainsbury's grocery order arrived at 11am sharp.  It's still scattered around the kitchen because it was time for my Monday afternoon walk to the bank and **Marks and Spencer for this week's flowers and tonight's dinner........and speaking of dinner, I better get started on it now.  I'm expecting a very hungry tour guide to come walking through the door at any minute.  




I'm sure he'll wonder (out loud) why the kitchen looks exactly the same as when he left this morning but, Stuart being  Stuart, he won't complain.  He'll roll up his sleeves and chip in.  As long as dinner's in the oven and the Olympics are on in the background, he's a happy man--and will be glad that I've had a happy day avoiding the Monday morning dishes.

7PM Update...............
Yes, the dishes are done, the groceries put away, fresh flowers on the breakfast tables, laundry moving along, and Stuart is well-fed--and of course watching the Olympics.  Dirty dishes sat all day long but the world kept spinning and the sun kept shining.  I don't often let things go all day like I did today, but sometimes you have to go with the flow of the day.......For a time I rested in the grace of the world, and was free.


Glossary ~ for my friends back in the United States and across the globe.

**Constable Clouds ~ John Constable was an English Romantic painter during the late 18th century & early 19th century.  He was from Suffolk and painted landscapes mostly of that area, feeling "I should paint my own places best."  He was one of Britain's best cloud painters, using the sky as the landscape as much as the land, believing that the sky was "the keynote......the chief organ of sentiment."


**Summerhouse ~ In Britain a summerhouse is any little shelter or small building for relaxing in warm weather or on rainy summer days.  It's usually prefabricated and simple, no electricity or plumbing--just a place to relax on a summer evening--or in my case reading in, Spring through the Autumn.


*Marks and Spencer (or M&S or Marks & Sparks) ~ One of Britain's oldest retailers and up until 2002 made a policy of selling only British goods.  At the moment they're fighting to remain relevant on the **High Street.  Their clothing lines were always dependable and good quality but recently have become a bit **naff (see below).  Their food however has become their strong point.  Much of it is pre-prepared meals that are fresh and excellent quality or desserts that are to die for.


Naff--M&S style
**Naff ~ It's origin is an acronym that is a bit crude so I won't repeat it but it's come to mean bad taste, lacking in style, or worthless.

**The High Street ~ Comparable to Main Street in the United States.  In Britain it's the generic name for the business or shopping street--Boots, M&S, Smith's, and Next are all typical High Street shops.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Summer Evening--Christ Church Meadow

Christ Church Meadow ~ July 29, 2012
It's hard to imagine that the cheering crowds of the Olympics are only an hour away--it seems like a world away tonight.

Friday, 27 July 2012

St. Crispin's Day for Team GB

Team GB
'ALL THINGS ARE READY, IF OUR MINDS BE SO.'
                                                                 Henry V, Act 4, Scene III

When I saw this picture of Team Great Britain, for some reason, I thought of the rousing speech King Hal gives in Shakespeare's Henry V, the night before the battle that came to be known as The Battle of Agincourt.  Henry calls his men to action, urging them on as we few, we happy few, we band of brothers.  The battle will be fought on the feast of St. Crispian, and Henry proclaims that this St. Crispin's day will be remembered throughout time because of their bravery and spirit.

All of the Olympic teams gathered now, are a band of brothers, and sisters, and thankfully swimming pools and athletic fields and football pitches have taken the place of battlegrounds.  The ideal is that it is all about participating in the Olympics, not just winning a medal.  Even so, I can't fathom the pressure that Team GB must be feeling to perform and to bring home gold.  The reality is that it is about the medals' podium and who is standing there at the end of each competition--but perhaps one day we'll reach the ideal and rise above that.

The whole world will be watching, not only Team GB but the entire UK, and how well we are able to put on the 2012 Summer Olympics.  We need the spirit of Henry V or Churchill to cheer us on as we help bring the world together on a sports field rather than a battle field.  It is a St. Crispin's Day of a different sort, but as all the bells of London and throughout the country rang out this morning at 8:12, the UK welcomed the world in camaraderie rather than as enemies, and in games of peace, instead of war.  Our minds and our country are ready........(ahem, Mitt Romney).   


(Oh, and by the way, Ryan Giggs when you showed the poor sportsmanship of not bothering to sing the National Anthem, you proved why David Beckham should have had your spot.)

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Summer at Last

  Holywell Cemetery July 24th, 2012
Perfect blue skies, like you find in the western United States,
are a rare thing in Britain.  I'm loving it, but it's making me a
little homesick too.

After struggling through record rains, my flowers are finally starting to flourish. For  awhile the moss was threatening to take over our back terrace for good and I had visions of harvesting our own peat moss to burn in the fireplace over the winter.  I've also been battling legions of slugs and snails and thought they were going to win the war, but I believe they're now vanquished, and peace has come to the garden at last.



The Merton Room, at the back of the house, looks down onto our
back terrace and these flowers.





Monday, 23 July 2012

ALL SUMMER IN A DAY

"No one in class could remember a time when there wasn't rain."
                                                        ~Ray Bradbury, All Summer in A Day


St. Swithun's Day if thou dost rain
For forty days it will remain
St Swithun's Day if thou be fair
For forty days 'twill rain nae mare.
Last Sunday was St. Swithin's Day, and as it dawned clear and bright, the entire nation was praying that this legend was going to come true.


Our entire summer up until now, in fact spring and summer, has been the wettest on record.  It's reminded me of a the short story by Ray Bradbury called All Summer in a Day. 

The story takes place in a colony on Venus, in a schoolroom.  The children are waiting for the rain to stop and the sun to come out--which only happens for an hour every seven years. Some of them have never even seen the sun.  Sadly, there is a small, vulnerable girl that the children gang up on and they lock her in the closet for the entire hour that the sun shines.  I've thought of this story since May, as summer seemed to come to Britain only an hour at a time--and if I was inside cleaning up after breakfast or making beds, I would miss it, just like the little girl locked in the closet.




This is a picture I took of the Olympic Torch coming through Oxford on the 9th of July at 6pm.  It wasn't exactly a bright and glorious summer evening as you can see.








As the Olympic Torch crowds dispersed, Magdalen Tower and dark clouds loomed overhead.








And here is the proof of sunny
summer days to come--just look 
atit!  Not a cloud to be seen.




But now, St. Swithin be praised, all that has changed.  Apparently the jet stream was stubbornly too low and wouldn't budge, causing great swathes of wind and rain to descend upon Britain.  I'm happy to report the jet stream has decided to cooperate and has shifted northward, where it's supposed to be this time of year.  This means that all the wind and rain will descend over Scotland, (sorry Scotland), where it should be and has since time immemorial.  This leaves southern England to bask in the sun at long last--and just in time for the Olympics.  Truly a St. Swithin's Day miracle!

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Sunday Morning






It's Sunday morning which means an empty house.......and no less than 13 loads of laundry waiting to be done.








It wouldn't be so bad if my laundry room looked like this...................








...........or like this, but that would only be in my dreams.





Sadly my laundry room more resembles this.....  






............or this ~ well, at least that's how it feels.  My actual laundry room measures exactly 33 inches wide, so 13 loads of bedding and towels will pour out of the door like a colorful mudslide.



It's so narrow that in order to load the machine with a floor full of laundry in the way, I have to rely on past ballet training and yoga flexibility.  I've managed to perfect a laundry arabesque to load the machine and then a pivet turn with a plie' and a releve' to load the dryer.


My reading corner in
our summerhouse.

The good news is that we have no guests for the next two days--which gives us and the house a breather, as well as a chance to plow through the 13 loads of washing and drying.  It will be a quiet day and it will follow the quiet rhythm of the washer twirling and the dryer tumbling along.  In the midst of the13 load mound, I have lovely flowers to water and tidy, birds and hedgehogs to feed, and a garden sanctuary for reading in until the next load needs to be arabesqued into place.  Even 13 loads of laundry can be quieted down to the gentle pace of a summer afternoon.

"By letting go it all gets done."  
"Do your work, then step back.  The only path to serenity."
                                            ~Lao Tzu


My other favorite reading spot--under the apple tree.
It's also where I'll do my grocery shopping for the
coming week.  With the help of my iPad & wireless internet,
all the groceries we need will be delivered to our front door
on Tuesday morning.  Grocery shopping has never been so relaxing.


What am I reading this afternoon? It's called "A Discovery of Witches" and it's a great read. The story is set in Oxford and it follows an academic and historian who also happens to be a witch--and she lives in New College, right across the street from us.  It's fun to read a book whose character walks where I walk every single day.  It also has me on the look-out for witches, daemons, and vampires, which apparently Oxford is riddled with!

Sunday, 1 July 2012

The English Summer--still waiting for it to appear.

The Cotswold Show--June 30, 2012






At the British Open in Scotland a few years ago, a Japanese fan asked why it was not held in the summer..........it was July.