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.

May my life be like a great

hospitable tree, and may

weary wanderers find in

me a rest.

~John Henry Jowett

Monday, 22 September 2014

Falling Leaves and Autumnal Days

~Garrison Keillor

Every year since we moved to Oxford, I've always taken a pilgrimage back home to the U.S. in the fall, but this year amongst other things, a knee injury has grounded me and I'm going to miss some of my favorite things about autumn--or more specifically, the American Fall.

Back home in the U.S. we call September, October, and November 'fall'.  In my U.K. home it's called 'autumn', and since as with most things in my life I straddle two continents, I call these months both fall and autumn--but this year since I'm not flying back home, I'm really missing fall and everything that symbolizes it.

Americans don't do fall by halves and that's what I'll miss.  Maybe it's because the U.S. has celebrated Halloween in a big way since the 1950's and we celebrate my favorite holiday of all--Thanksgiving. Fall isn't just the three months leading up to Christmas.  It's pumpkins, pumpkin pie, hot, spiced apple cider, Friday night football at the local high school, jack-o-lantern's, Thanksgiving turkeys, more pumpkin pie, trick-or-treating from door to door in vast neighborhoods, Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, giving thanks, and even Starbuck's Pumpkin Spice Lattes (which I'll admit right here and now and judge me if you will, I love!).
Nothing says fall to an American like pumpkins, which start appearing in grocery stores and front porches sometime in September, and 'Fall Decorating' tips are everywhere.  No self-respecting American front porch would be without at least one pumpkin--although there's more likely to be a veritable bounty of pumpkins in all sizes, ornamental gourds, kale, chrysanthemums, a fall door wreath, and maybe a scarecrow gracing front porches across the land.

A slice of pure Americana in the fall.
'Pumpkin helped the pilgrims during those 
first years of survival and one journal begins with, 
" we begin with pumpkin again".  
The pilgrims survived and left Americans 
with a love of all things pumpkin.'

Pumpkins aren't the big deal in the U.K. like they are in the U.S. and they certainly don't symbolize anything.  Pumpkin pie is rare and you usually don't see pumpkin-anything in Britain, other than perhaps at Christmas. Luckily our local Tesco now has an 'American Foods' section which includes the worst of the worst of food from back home like Lucky Charms and Pop Tarts, but they do have cans of Libby's pumpkin, just like I've always used to make pumpkin bread and pies.  The one thing I cannot get here though, and sorely miss, is a Starbuck's Pumpkin Spice Latte.

Last year I had the perfect arrangement.  A friend wanted me to send her a New College Christmas CD and offered to mail me something in return.  She kindly mailed off a full supply of Starbuck's Instant Pumpkin Spice coffee and so I was set for the entire autumn of 2013.  Unfortunately, for me at least, this year she's had no export requests and is busy starting up a new business, so I've had to improvise my pumpkin lattes.  I found a recipe for pumpkin spice creamer and it will have to do until Christmas, when Stuart and I both fly back to the U.S.

In the meantime between now and Christmas, I have the English autumn to enjoy.  It means autumn leaves and conkers filling Brasenose Lane and Jowett Walk, golden light reflecting off the golden stone of Oxford colleges, the Great British Bake Off and Downton Abbey back on the telly, burnished countryside and hedgerows, warm fires in friendly pubs, mince pies appearing on the shelves of Marks and Spencer, turkeys and geese hanging in the covered market, wooley jumpers (sweaters) reappearing, and everything being bathed in a soft autumnal light.  Come to think of it, I may not miss the pumpkin extravaganza back home after all.

"I am struck by the simplicity of the light in the atmosphere in the 
autumn, as if the earth absorbed none, and out of this 
profusion of dazzling light came the autumnal tints."
                                                            ~Henry David Thoreau

Brasenose Lane, Oxford, lined with chestnut trees
that drop their bounty in the Autumn.

~John Bailey

*PUMPKIN UPDATE:  Something is afoot in Britain, because Pumpkin Spice is starting to finally show up.  Pumpkin Spice Lattes just arrived in Oxford, and today I finally had one.  It was the best Pumpkin Spice Latte I've ever had--maybe because it was the first one for several years.  I even found Pumpkin Spice yogurt this week, so I guess pumpkins are catching on and Thanksgiving away from home might be a little easier to bear now.


  1. We will be there in a month. I would be happy to bring some Starbucks Pumpkin Spice latte for you. :) Just let me know how many.
    Jennifer Starrett

    1. Hi Jennifer ~ That's so kind of you and just whatever will fit in your 50lbs! Thank you so much and we look forward to seeing you in Oxford.