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

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Settling Into Winter

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...
.....can you have longer, 
quiet stretches when you
can savor belonging to yourself. 
~Ruth Stout

Yesterday most of the British newspapers reported that January 18th was the most depressing day of the year for us, and the 'bleak midwinter' that we heralded in December, seems to turn against us. Even the BBC commented on the depression of the day. If the BBC says it's so then it must be true, so I quickly took my emotional pulse just to make sure, and low and behold.....nope, not depressed. Not even close. I have battled my share of winter demons and depression before though, and I know first hand the pain and darkness it can bring, especially in the darkest days of the year. But I've also learned how to make peace with winter. Not every space needs to be filled, not every moment needs to be busy, not every silence is empty.

Don't underestimate the value of
 Doing Nothing, 
of just going along, listening to all the 
things you can't hear, and not bothering.
~A.A. Milne

I love the quote above by Ruth Stout, that winter gives you "quiet stretches when you can savor belonging to yourself". This is exactly what Stuart and I savour when winter rolls into to town and Oxford is at it's most quiet. We spend so much of the year working all hours God sends that when winter comes, it's finally a blessed time to ourselves. By mid January we start to settle into winter with a quiet contentment, knowing that March and the Easter crowds will be here soon enough.

I love to mark the seasons in our garden 
and our winter garden makes me almost
 as happy as our summer one, sometimes 
I just have to look a little deeper.

Oxford becomes even more beautiful with 
blanket of snow, like icing on a cake.

There's nothing like a cup of tea and a
 slice of cake or a scone on a winter 
afternoon. Sometimes it's in our 
kitchen and sometimes in a tearoom--
but it's always Earl Grey.

 And we walk......and walk some more.
The wellies live at the back door--
which is winterized for maximum coziness.
A curtain to close against the night and
 a draught excluder to keep out the cold.

Snowdrops mark the passage of winter
and I watch to see how the daffodils grow.

How many lessons of faith and
 beauty we should lose, if there were
 no winter in our year.
~Thomas Wentworth Higginson, 
"April Days," 1861

By February, bright daffodils
 and narcissus are the
 first spring flowers to 
arrive in our bike basket.

Winter afternoon field trips into the Cotswolds,
watching for lambs and stopping in pubs.

In the evenings, Oxford's streets are quiet 
and lamplit, always otherworldly.

Never are voices so beautiful as on a winter’s 
evening, when dusk almost hides the body,
 and they seem to issue from nothingness
 with a note of intimacy seldom heard by day.
 ~Virginia Woolf, 'Night and Day'

A wintry scene on Holywell Street, Oxford.

The winter evening settles in to find us
 in our cozy sitting room, watching telly,
 or reading, or both, or neither. The night
 is quiet and the evening is ours -- 
and this is where we gather and regenerate
 for those bright spring mornings
 and the busy Oxford summer days. 
Thank you winter for your many gifts
and we're so glad you're here.

I watch the springs, the summers, the autumns;
 And when comes the winter snow monotonous,
 I shut all the doors and shutters
 To build in the night my fairy palace. 
~Charles Baudelaire, "Paysage,"

Late winter afternoon light over Harris Manchester College, Oxford.


  1. I know I keep saying this, Carrie, but what an absolutely gorgeous post! I know you must be savoring every moment after your somewhat stressful trip beck here to the States! I absolutely love winter for all the reasons you and your literary friends state above. I am sorely looking forward to settling in and settling down to some deep study and writing during the rest of the winter. We have had one crisis after the other. Thankfully not personal or health, but maintenance issues with the property and my computer. I'll spare you the details, but I think we are finally reaching the end of that, and I am VERY happy. We had our first dusting of snow and snow/sleet is forecast for tonight. I will certainly look forward to the "longer quiet stretches when I can savor belonging to myself." Thank you again for the inspiration! I hope you don't mind me "hijacking" some of your quotes and that lovely lamb photo! They are just wonderful. I do a monthly newsletter to long time friends, and they will love this. Jane xo

    1. Jane I'm so glad winter peace has come for you as well, and that things have sorted themselves out for you so you can settle in for a winter's rest and reset. Please DO share and share all you like for your newsletters and your friends. Thanks for being here and sharing your thoughts. xxCarrieoo