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


May my life be like a great

hospitable tree, and may

weary wanderers find in

me a rest.

~John Henry Jowett


Friday, 27 March 2015

An Afternoon With Jane

Something Stuart and I get asked all the time is, "Do you ever take time off?", to which we answer a heartfelt and resounding, "Yes!" We work seven days a week, sometimes 16-18 hours a day, so time off is imperative and our very survival as a couple depends on it.   But when you run two businesses, taking time off isn't always easy, so the minute we get new diaries for the coming year, the permanent marker comes out, and we start slashing weeks with reckless abandon.  A month at Christmas, a week in March, a week in September, time off for our birthdays in July, along with some random days here and there--and presto our holidays for the coming year are sorted.

This past week was our March holiday and we've been dreaming about it and looking forward to it since we returned from our Christmas holiday.  We decided not to go too far afield this time, and kept our plans simple--it was about having 'lie-ins' and afternoon tea, and catching up on sleep and reading.  The one thing I had my heart set on though, was re-visiting the Jane Austen Museum in Chawton, Hampshire.



They've added quite a bit to the museum since we were last there ten years ago, and it felt like we were going to visit an old friend, so I was very excited to spend an afternoon with Jane again.



Our 'Jane Day' was a typical English spring day--about three climates in one day or, "if you don't like the weather now, just wait five minutes."  We drove into Chawton in meagre sunshine, but it was enough to dance off the daffodils blooming in front of the house and sitting on the windowsills inside.  The showers that had been with us since Oxford held off for a bit, so we were able to wander through the garden, bright with spring flowers and showing the promise of summer.

Inside the house there were all the familiar scenes, and the quiet beauty that reflects Jane so well.  Posies of flowers here and there, her little writing table, so poignant in front of the window, and my favourite thing about the house--the windows.  I always look out the windows and wonder what Jane saw, wonder what she was thinking, as she sat and looked out.  Her writings are such a unique window onto the world, and a window into her wise soul; that she saw so much from such a quiet and simple place is a mark of her genius.


The colours of the house are also simple and show how Jane, her mother, and sister, lived a quietly elegant life in Chawton.  A pale primrose or a tiny bird pattern on wallpaper stand out in a pure and unadorned beauty.




"Know your own happiness"
  ~Pride and Prejudice



We lingered in each room, reading all there was to read.  I tried to imprint each image on my mind, like a permanent tattoo that would last long after our visit. Then, after saying goodbye to Jane's little writing table, it was time for a pub lunch across the street. There's also a tearoom next door, Cassandra's Cup, but the rains had returned, our stomachs were grumbling, and we were ready for a hearty pub meal, next to a warm fire.  

Sustained by an enormous plate of sausage and mash, and with the rains in remission, it was time to make our way down the little lane to Chawton House.  We were met immediately by a greeting party of hens, who obligingly pointed the way up to the house.




Chawton House was inherited by Jane's brother Edward, after the Knight family made him their heir, so Jane spent many hours in the house and her mother and sister are buried in the little church near the house. It's now the Chawton House and Library, devoted to the research, keeping, and chronicling of women writers from 1600 to 1830. It's a house devoted to reading, and everywhere I looked, I saw perfect nooks to settle into, with a good and very long book.

A window seat for reading and dreaming.



After seeing the house, we roamed through the gardens before making our way back to the car, passing by the church, the spring lambs, and the chickens on our way.




Our 'Day With Jane' was over, but I felt like I had caught up with an old friend.  Once again she encouraged and reminded me to face life honestly, look at the world directly, never lose sight of what I value in life, and always, always be true to myself.  Thank you Jane, as always, and we'll visit again one day very soon.

"We have all a better guide in ourselves,
if we would attend to it,
than any other person can be."
~Jane Austen


Sunday, 22 March 2015

At Long Last Spring

"I love spring anywhere, but if I could
choose, I would always greet it in a garden."
~Ruth Stout


As much as I love our life in Britain, after living here permanently for seven years, I still struggle with the long and very dark winters.  In the deepest part of winter, when it's dark even before four o'clock, by the time I'm done with my chores and can get out, it's already dusky and I've missed any hope of sun or light--and I'd just settle for a little light.  So when spring comes along, I'm almost giddy and drunk with all the light.


"In spring, at the end of the day,
you should smell like dirt."
~Margaret Atwood

I much prefer the outdoors and gardening to any indoor pursuits, so I'm a happy person when spring arrives and my nails are dirtier than a South Dakota farmer.  Once the days start to lengthen, I'm either digging and planting, planning my digging and planting, or thinking about digging and planting.




The first place spring makes an appearance for us is on our little, brick, back terrace, just outside our kitchen door.  It catches the morning light for an after-breakfast cup of coffee, and then catches the late afternoon sun, perfect for an afternoon tea or an evening glass of Pimm's.  It's where I first greet spring--and I'm so very glad it's here.

"Every spring is the only spring--
a perpetual astonishment."
~Ellis Peters




Saturday, 7 March 2015

"There Is a Blessing In the Air"

The very first Holywell daffodil.


Jowett Walk Blooms


"It is the first mild day of March
Each minute sweeter than before
The redbreast sings from 
the tall larch
That stands beside our door.

There is a blessing in the air,
Which seems a sense of joy to yield
To the bare trees, 
and mountains bare,
And grass in the green field."
~Wordsworth



There was definitely "blessing in the air" today, especially being able to work in our garden.  As I banished spiders from the summerhouse, winter cobwebs were banished from my muscles and mind too.  A fresh spring breeze blew through everything. As Margaret Atwood said, "In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt" ~ and I definitely do, joy of joys.


"Hope is the thing with feathers,
That perches in the soul, 
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops, at all."
~Emily Dickinson

My reading chair in the summerhouse has a new
slipcover and all spiders have been sent packing.

"The best place to seek God is in a garden.
You can dig for him there."
~George Bernard Shaw


New curtains in the windows of the summerhouse, and
the tower of New College keeps watch over it all.....until tomorrow.

"Our England is a garden, 
And such gardens 
Are not made by singing--
"Oh, how beautiful!" 
And sitting in the shade........"
~Rudyard Kipling, The Glory of the Garden


Friday, 6 March 2015

Oxford Without Bicyles Just Wouldn't Be Oxford

 THE BICYCLE, THE BICYCLE SURELY,
SHOULD ALWAYS BE THE VEHICLE 
OF NOVELISTS POETS.
~Christopher Morley







EVERY TIME I SEE AN ADULT ON
A BICYCLE, I NO LONGER DESPAIR 
FOR THE FUTURE OF THE HUMAN RACE.
~H.G. Wells













 I THOUGHT OF THAT WHILE
RIDING MY BICYCLE.
~Albert Einstein on the Theory of Relativity





NOTHING COMPARES TO THE SIMPLE
PLEASURES OF A BIKE RIDE.
~John F. Kennedy






LIFE IS LIKE A BICYCLE.
TO KEEP YOUR BALANCE
YOU MUST KEEP MOVING.
~Albert Einstein