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, 26 February 2016

St. Mary's Passage


"This is the land of Narnia, where we are now; 
all that lies between the lamp-post and the great 
castle of Cair Paravel on the eastern sea."
~Mr. Tumnus, 'The Lion, The Witch
and The Wardrobe'

"In about ten minutes she reached
it and found it was a lamp-post."
~
'The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe'
Chapter One
If you happen to walk by almost any Oxford tour guide as you walk down St. Mary's Passage, just off the High Street, chances are you'll hear them repeat the Oxford mythology of the faun, the lamp-post and the door. Many people claim that the lamp-post, the fauns which flank a doorway leading into Brasenose College, as well as the door itself, were C.S. Lewis' visual inspiration for Mr. Tumnus, the Narnia lamp-post, and Aslan.

"Allow me to introduce myself.
My name is Tumnus."

"And so Lucy found herself walking
through the wood arm in arm with
this strange creature as if they had
known one another all their lives."

St. Mary's Passage links the
High Street to Radcliffe Square.

Lewis lived in St. Mary's Passage for a time and preached "The Weight of Glory" at St. Mary's church next to the passage--so the myth could be true.....in part.....perhaps.....but I'm not fully convinced.

This is the door that Oxford mythology claims is the inspiration for Aslan.  The carving seems to more closely resemble the mythological Green Man, a symbol of rebirth commonly found as carvings in ecclesiastical buildings.



If there's any door that inspired Aslan, it's more likely this door handle from the rectory at St. Mark's Church, Belfast, where C.S. Lewis' grandfather was a minister.

The ornate door handle at the rectory
of St. Mark's Church, Belfast.

As far as the lamp-post in St. Mary's Passage, it's just one of hundreds of Narnian lights scattered throughout the streets of Oxford and an everyday sight for Lewis. An Oxford lamp-post would have been part of his daily landscape and any one of them could have been an influence for the metaphor of the light that guided Lucy, her brothers, and her sister in and out of Narnia.

Another Narnian lamp-post, Merton Street.



"I am a product of long corridors, empty
sunlit rooms, upstair indoor silences, attics
explored in solitude, distant noises of gurgling
cisterns and pipes and the noise of wind
under the tiles. Also of endless books."
~C.S. Lewis

As a child, C.S. Lewis and his brother Warnie created an entire world made up of animals called Boxen, so I believe Tumnus and the White Witch, Cair Paravel and the lamp-post, as well as Narnia itself, sprang out of a profoundly imaginative mind. From someone who had read, studied and devoured myths, stories, and tales from early childhood--long before Lewis even arrived in Oxford. Symbols of mythology are everywhere in this ancient city but even so, whether or not St. Mary's Passage was inspiration for Lewis is a myth or fact, it remains a little corner of Narnia right in the heart of Oxford. 


"Most of us, I suppose, have a secret country
but for most of us it is only an imaginary
country. Edmund and Lucy were luckier
than other people in that respect.” 
~C.S. Lewis, 
'The Voyage of the Dawn Treader'

St. Mary's Passage leads from the High Street
into the Radcliffe Square and the Camera.

Monday, 22 February 2016

Winter Walks and A Heart Full of Happiness



Even though it's very cold in the winter, we still go for walks every day--sometimes three times a day.


This is me, Jack, lying on Mummy's coat, patiently waiting for our morning walk. The breakfast clean-up takes forever! Sometimes I have trouble waiting, so I nip at Mummy's ankles to hurry her up. She does not like that (but it does make her go faster).
Max and I FINALLY have our leads on
and start our walk down Mansfield Road.
 As we pass by, the clock tower chimes and sings,
"One, two, three, four, out the door....
Five, six seven, eight, past the gate....

Nine, ten, and eleven, the parks will be heaven!".... 
So Max and I go a little bit faster....

Once we're in the park I love to
run and run, and we play tug of
war and chase the ring.

When I run and play on the rugby pitch, I
get nice and muddy. I like to show Mummy
how muddy I am so I jump up on her,
that way she can be muddy too! The muddier
the merrier--and we're very merry.

Mummy always has to stop and look
at pretty flowers. She says funny
words like 'oooooooh' and 'aaaaaaah',
and that I'm only to look at the flowers
and not to ever play in them. I try to
listen but sometimes it's hard--flowers
make such nice playmates.
The daffodils have sunny, happy little
faces so I smile back and say, 'hello!'.

Sometimes we walk in Holywell Cemetery
where I love to dig in the Yew Tree Forest.
The big trees are very gentle and soft, a
nd
are happy to keep the rain off of my fur.

There are so many paths to run down
and I like how my ears blow in the wind.
This was on a sunny day before I had my haircut.
Back then I would get very muddy and be very
merry. I'm glad that my fur is growing back.

I was very brave and looked over the stone wall
where the deer jump through to their house
in the thicket of trees. So many lovely animals
 share Holywell Cemetery--deer and
badgers and foxes. I wish they would stay
and play with me one day. What fun we'd have.

Mummy always carries lots of treats in her
pockets for when we're especially good.

A little robin red-breast stopped to tweet
hello. The song he sang told us that he's
a tiny bird with a big heart full of happiness

I decided to carry this stick home with
me. It will look very nice in our kitchen.

Sometimes it's almost dark at the end of our
walk, so we hurry home for tea. Mummy has
Earl Grey and I have my biscuits and sardines.

Then I curl up and go to sleep. I dream about the
Yew Tree Forest, sunny daffodils that smile and
say hello, and a tiny bird with a heart full
of happiness.



Wednesday, 17 February 2016

A Rainy Day

The best thing one can do when
it’s raining is to let it rain.
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

This is what I call a wall of rain. Incessant,
unstoppable, unrelenting rain--today, 

all day. There's nothing for it but to carry
on in spite of it, it's Britain after all. 

Luckily if you're a tourist in Oxford, there's
still plenty to do when it rains. College
chapels are warm and dry--and beautiful.

This is Exeter College chapel.


The dining halls are resplendent in the soft lamplight and it's hard not to imagine Harry, Hermione, and Ron huddled together, urgently discussing their latest scheme to foil Malfoy.


Take a walk inside Oxford's Covered Market
(and out of the rain), and stop to admire the
tiny Mother's Day cakes in the Cake Shop
window. Mother's Day is March 6th 
in
Britain--it always falls 3 weeks before Easter.

Closer to home, a very bored puppy (and laundry
thief) is in desperate need of a walk. I put if off
as long as I could to avoid the wall of rain
outside, but when he starts grabbing laundry it's
time to put the wellies on and grab my umbrella.


A rainy day is the perfect time
for a walk in the woods. 
~Rachel Carson

Holywell Cemetery was every bit as
soggy as I thought it would be, but I
came fully armed with a big umbrella
and indestructible wellies. Jack was
protected by not one, but two coats. 


Wee Jack was very good 
at avoiding the puddles.
It may have been bucketing rain but
the birds were singing up a storm
and Jack had a wonderful romp.

Yesterday we passed by these daffodils
and hopefully they're still upright
and surviving today's torrent.


We returned from our walk
in time to feed a pair of disgruntled,
and very wet, hens. Apparently
they blamed me for the weather, but
once they had their blueberries all
was well in the poultry world.


And then it was time for tea.....

......and a good book.
"To me, February is like standing in the
middle of a bridge. December and January 
are behind, but it is a long journey to the
other side where daffodils scatter gold..."
~Gladys Taber

So even though it's been raining for nine
hours, and there's still nine left to go,
there are no complaints here. This
is what we have to look forward to,
once the clouds part and the rains stop.


Magdalen College in the April sunshine.




Gentle Spring's around the corner, 
 Waiting just to show her face 
 And to bring us flowers and sunshine; 
 Winter's almost run his race! 
Be not, then, my friends, discouraged 
 That there's cold and ice and sleet; 
 For Springtime soon will be with us, 
 And the flowers we will greet: 
Daffodils, so bright and yellow, 
 Hyacinths of varied hues, 
 As they nod their heads, in gladness, 
 Telling us they bring good news... 
~Gertrude Tooley Buckingham, 
"Springtime" (1940s)

February 18th Update ~ And then the sun came out..........

The Lewis Tree against a sky washed
clean with 18 hours of rain.


The rain, and then the sun,
are bringing the daffodils to life.


Saturday, 13 February 2016

Hold Fast To Dreams

Hold fast to dreams 
For if dreams die 
Life is a broken-winged bird 
That cannot fly. 

Hold fast to dreams 
For when dreams go 
Life is a barren field 
Frozen with snow.
~Langston Hughs



A bed and breakfast uses a lot of dishes. A lot. We need big plates, little plates, side plates, toast plates, butter plates, cups, saucers, milk jugs, pitchers, juice glasses, water glasses--and then there are cereal bowls, fruit bowls, porridge bowls and sugar bowls, finishing with teapots and cafetières. Like I said, a lot of dishes.

I found the dishes we use for the B&B ten years ago, long before we even had an inkling we'd be running a bed and breakfast. I was rummaging through an antique shop and found a dusty cardboard box of Mason's Denmark pattern dishes--enough for a full service for twelve. The best part was it was only $25. I told Stuart at the time that I had no idea what I was going to do with them, I only knew I would need them one day. A few year's later they made the Atlantic crossing to England and we've been using them since our very first breakfast in 2008.


Have nothing in your house that you do not
know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.
~William Morris

Masons & Crabtree and Evelyn blue and white
transfer ware~ treasures since it's no longer made
.
Since 2008, I've filled out the first set of Denmark dishes--and then some. This is England after all,
the home of Spode, Burleigh, Wedgewood, Emma Bridgewater and all the rest. So I've spent the last 8 years collecting teapots, jugs and odds and ends--some for the B&B and some just because I love it.

Spode, Masons & Crabtree and Evelyn,
and Burleigh fill a dresser in the breakfast room.

It's all wonderful but then comes the problem of just where to put it. We live in a 500 year old house, with a Victorian kitchen and storage is at a premium. There were no such things as closets when our house was built, and built-in kitchens were not even dreamed of, even in Victorian times. We did put in a new kitchen ourselves, but I still needed more cupboard space. I inherited this old dresser from the previous tenent, which I painted, added a little curtain underneath and made do with--but my kitchen cupboards were still crammed full and not very convenient, especially in the middle of a busy breakfast.

Our kitchen cupboard disarray grew and grew until this month when I'd had enough, simply enough, and I started looking for a Welsh or kitchen dresser. Before kitchens were built in, most kitchens had a dresser for dishes and crockery. They're still often called 'Welsh dressers'--and I was on the hunt for one.

I could just about afford the doll-sized
pieces in this tiny kitchen.
The trouble was I needed a big one, but didn't have a big budget for it. I wanted a dresser that would fill an entire wall, unfortunately I also had at most, a post-Christmas-early-February-pre-taxes budget for a doll-sized dresser. But those kinds of minor inconveniences usually don't stop me. I had a good picture in my mind of the dresser I knew I'd find, plus the financial scheme in my head of how to pay for it. It only took a couple of days and there it was on Ebay--and best of all, it was a third of the price of most dressers the same size.

The dresser as it was shown on Ebay.
It's six feet long and six and a half
feet tall--and just what I had in mind.


When you can dream then you can start 
A dream is a wish you make with your heart 
~Al Hoffman, Jerry Livingston and
Mack David
'A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes' 
~Cinderella

I had finally found the dresser I wanted, mulled it over with Stuart and then slept on it overnight. The next morning it was still there, so I knew it was ours--knew it belonged in our kitchen. Within a half an hour it was purchased and arrangements made for it to be delivered in two days. I could hardly wait--but we had a bit of work to do in the meantime.

First we had to pack up the old dresser.

The well-travelled storage containers from
 our move across the ocean came back out. 
When we moved over to England from the
U.S. in 2008, we had a 40 foot container
full of these, plus furniture.

It's a good thing we had the day off and
weren't serving breakfast the next
morning, because about all we
could have given people was cold cereal.

Stuart doing his bit for the cause and
cleaning where the old dresser stood.

Jack was not happy with the upheaval
in his kitchen, so he hid out in the
breakfast room the entire time.

The wall where the new dresser would
live, all cleaned and ready. The ugly
shelves would go back into hiding.

Once the big job of clearing the way for the new dresser was done, I was on to my next thought--getting it into the house. I still have nightmares about the week we moved in almost eight years ago; trying to carry things up three flights of stairs, around tight corners and through small doors.  We had to saw the legs off of our love seat and chairs just to get them through the front door, so any time we move furniture in and out the looming questions is, "Will it fit?!?!?!" Luckily I knew the dresser was in two pieces so I was fairly confident.......but still.........


And it did fit! Brilliantly. The courier was a star and helped Stuart move it in and set it into place. And there it was, the newest addition to our very hard-working kitchen. The best part was that as soon as it was delivered, Stuart had to go off and conduct a tour which meant I was left alone to do what I love doing best--putter about and play house. It still feels just as fun as when I played Barbie Dream House. I could rearrange my entire kitchen and the new dresser with no one but Jack and lovely music for company.

The finished product, which a week
ago was only a thought in my head.

Brushed pewter knobs replaced pine.

There's room for all the things we use
at breakfast, like milk jugs, teapots
and egg cups, plus space for treasures.
Beloved books and cookbooks
have a special place.

Which came first, the
chickens or the eggs?
Stuart and I in Beatrix Potter form~
he reading his paper, and me

with my tea and my thoughts.

I learned early on as a fledgling antique
collector that if you buy what you love,
somehow it all just works together.

Inside is all the extra space our
kitchen sorely needed. I added a
little battery powered light,
since the faster we can reach for
things during breakfast, the better.

“I suppose I am a sparrow, 
a stay-at-home bird.”
~Gladys Taber

The calm and order has been restored to Jack's kitchen and on this cold, rainy February day, with lamps on and music playing, there's no nicer place for us to be. Which is to say that I've come a long way in the past decade. Nine years ago from this very moment I was bed-ridden with Epstein Barr & Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, as well as chronic pain. I couldn't work, I could barely move. So even with all of that, nine years ago the dream of this English kitchen was somewhere in my heart. It must have been, because here it is today, the heart of our home in Oxford.

The Lewis Tree outside our kitchen
window--we're always under the care
of it's wide branches and steadfast roots.

(It's a very dark, dreary day today--
you can't see the pelting rain.)
Lamps light the corners of the kitchen
and my little bluetooth radio is always on.

The kettle stands at the ready, so "bread
and water can so easily become tea and toast."

The future belongs to those who
believe in the beauty of their dreams.
~Eleanor Roosevelt

************

For more insight in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), also known as Systemic Exertion Intolerance Disease (SEID), or in Britain, Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), I've found the book, Medical Medium by Anthony William extremely helpful.

I've lived with ME for over 20 years, and chronic pain even longer from degenerative disc disease from the age of 19, and here's what has helped me most over the years:
1) Sleep! And more sleep.
2) Naps! As often as possible.
3) Clean, healthy eating--I eat as much sticky toffee pudding and scones as the next person, but steer clear of fast food.
4) Yoga--since 1985, even if it's ten minutes a day.
5) Meditation and prayer.
6) Find one thing a day to be grateful for, no matter how small, no matter how inconsequential it may seem.
7) Happiness. Even in pain, even in fatigue. Every thought we have releases a corresponding neuro-chemical in our brain which directly affects our well-being.
8) Never, ever identifying as a sick person, but only as a person on the path to perfect wellness, perfect health.


Happiness is a form of courage. 
~Holbrook Jackson