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

Thursday, 9 April 2015

A Garden Hymn

The view from our garden
 last night, as the sun set.
One of the very best things about spring in England is that, after months of dark afternoons and evenings, the light finally stretches longer and longer into the day and evenings can be spent outside.  Last night the evening seemed to stretch on forever, and we finally had our gentle, long evenings back.  It was also our lawn mower's Summer of 2015 maiden voyage around our garden, so at long last our garden smelled of fresh grass

Max and I had spent a lot of time last autumn cleaning up the garden and tucking it in for the winter, so there wasn't a lot to do last night, other than the maiden-mowing and picking up winter debris.  It wasn't a marathon garden clean-up--it was a pleasant spring evening, doing some tidying up. Stuart and I worked side-by-side, Max snuffling around in the hedge surrounding the garden, all watched over by the songbirds circling over us.

The lavender is clipped back and starting to bud,
 the daffodils are nodding a final farewell,
and the come-back kid, our grass, is greener every day.
Since all of the students are on their Easter break, about the only sound that filled the air as we worked were the songbirds.  Then as so often happens in Oxford, the magic happened.  Out of the blue, chapel bells started pealing and joined in with the bird chorus. Stuart and I were suddenly listening to the most beautiful garden hymn of birds and bells, and it's the kind of Oxford magic that a person could never possibly tire of--in 21 years I never have.

Magdalen College tower.

The bells that joined the birdsong were coming from our neighbour just down the street, Magdalen College. We weren't quite sure why Magdalen's bells were pealing a chorus, but we suspected they were practicing for May Morning, the celebration taking place in Oxford in about three weeks.  Whatever the reason they were ringing, the bells and the birds made a perfect hymn for our spring evening, and a very special Oxford soundtrack.

"This is my father's world,
And to my listening ears,
All nature sings, 
And music rings,
The music of the spheres."
~Rev. R. Babcock

May Morning in Oxford

May Morning on Magdalen College Tower, by William Holman Hunt
Oxford's May Morning celebration goes back over 500 years and still is marked and celebrated every year on May 1st.  Students and townspeople and tourists all gather on the High Street below Magdalen Tower at sunrise.  As the sun rises over Oxford, the choir of Magdalen sings from the top of the tower, and then the bells peal a celebratory hymn to the coming of the May morning.

After the choir and the bell chorus, people disperse for a day of revelry, Morris Dancing, special events, and pubs are open at 6am for a traditional May Morning breakfast and a pint (or several, or many). I've gotten up for three or four May Mornings since meeting Stuart, and can say without a shadow of a doubt, that the 5am alarm is well worth hearing a choir of angelic voices sing from the top of Magdalen tower, as the sun rises. It's something so unique and so very Oxford.

Richard Attenborough captured the magic of 
May Morning so well in the movie Shadowlands.

Morris dancers entertaining May Morning revellers.


  1. So beautifully written, too. Birdsong off my deck right now is more appreciated. Crows excepting.

  2. How absolutely enchanting! I loved that scene in Shadowlands. IN fact, we have the movie and we'll have to watch it again on May 1st!! Spring in England always makes me so nostalgic! We love spring here, but it just isn't the quiet, slow, lovely, ancient evolving event that it is over there. We are busy digging and planting, and I purchased my annuals yesterday, before they are gone! Yes, if we don't get what we need before the end of April they are GONE!! But I can enjoy the lovely soft springtime in England when I read your blog! Thank you for such a lovely post!! Jane xo

    1. So glad you could enjoy our gentle spring at least vicariously. I lived so long in heat and glaring sun that the gentle English climate still feels wonderful (although in mid-January I may waver from that just a bit!) Have a beautiful and enchanting April. xxxooo