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


Sunday, 19 June 2016

Father's Day Pancakes


For the past several years I've re-posted this on Father's Day, a little love-letter to my Dad. Each passing year since he died, I keep thinking that the pain of losing him might ease, might become easier to bear. But not really. It only deepens as you grow into your life, wishing he was still there. He was my North Star and my compass and there have been so many times I've felt lost without him. But then his voice is in my ear, saying what I need to hear or a memory pops into my mind, a shining North Star pointing the way.


The last photo of my dad, taken
with mom on 
And now today we've learned that my sweet Mom is preparing her way Home. The veil is thinning for her and she's spent the past week chatting happily with Dad in her little ranch-house kitchen--able to see him now, right there, where he's always been, never leaving her side. Her Mom she says, is perched on a tree branch outside her bedroom window. Even though it's difficult not to be there, she's surrounded by the two people in the world who love her most, who will take her small hands and lead her home with them, back home into pure Love.

Back when I was the 'baby' of the family.
If my dad was my North Star, then mom is my underpinning. The platform of my life made of quiet grace and strength; who is the model for my own mothering, my own homemaking. No Father's Day or Mother's Day will ever be the same without them, but I honour their memory and their meaning in the world by loving.

Loving, and loving, and then loving some more, because that's how we thin the veil between this world and the next. When I hold onto that thought, that way of being, they are as close to me as my own breath. The Love we share with one another in this world is our guide wire, our rope in a blizzard, that leads us from the love we came from, back into the pure love we return to. Our job in this life is to hold on tight.

***Original Father's Day Post***

Today in North America, Mexico, France, the Netherlands and the UK, it's Father's Day.  I couldn't help shedding a few tears this morning, as I flipped the pancakes at breakfast, since I was taught the art of pancake making by the master himself, my dad.

*Photo to the right: my dad and I, circa 1964, during his 1960's Mad Men/Author/Spy phase.  He wasn't smuggling me out of Eastern Europe, we were on a family vacation in the Great Smoky Mountains.


My Grandpa (2nd from the left) and great-uncles
at the Godin/Gordon Lumbercamp,
Ocqueoc Michigan, June 22, 1907
My grandfather, great-grandfather, and great-great grandfather were all French Canadian 'lumberjacks', which is a North American word for hard-working men's men, who cut down trees--or in fairy tales called a woodcutter.  They also ate pancakes. A lot of pancakes.

North American pancakes evolved from French crepes into a much heartier breakfast version, that sustained the men as they cut down virgin timber using just axes and saws. Lumberjack pancakes were the size of dinner plates and the men ate them in stacks, covered in maple syrup.  That's how Dad grew up eating them in northern Michigan and that's how we ate them.

Dad's pancake making skills were showcased on our epic camping trips, when mom and dad would pack five kids and enough supplies to feed a small army into a station wagon, towing a camper, for 4 to 5 weeks at a time.  Even in the middle of the woods, with only a small camp stove, Dad would flip stack after stack of pancakes until the five of us were stuffed, and in a maple syrup fog.

Lake Champlain, Vermont
One pancake flipping/eating session that stands out was while we were camped overlooking Lake Champlain, in Vermont. There was a storm and a gale blowing off the lake and we were all huddled around the picnic table, under an awning that was trying hard to become airborne. Yet even in the wind and rain, Dad still managed to keep the camp stove burning and the pancake griddle hot. We feasted on pancakes that covered our plates and were smothered in Vermont maple syrup, played 'Authors', and waited for the storm to blow itself out.

Don't flip the pancake until the top is
 covered with air bubbles--and no
peaking underneath.
The secret of dad's pancakes started with a good griddle, perfectly seasoned and well-used, both in the kitchen and the woods.  Even though it was big and heavy, it got hauled on our camping trips, along with the rest of the supplies.  He made them from scratch or he used mixes like Aunt Jemima or Hungry Jack--it didn't really matter, since he made them all taste great.  

The one thing dad always told us, as he passed along his pancake skills, was to never beat the lumps out, because pancake batter should be lumpy just like any other quick bread batter.  The griddle is hot and ready when a few droplets of water bounce and sizzle off of it, and a pancake is ready to flip when bubbles cover the top of it.  There can't be any cheating though, peaking under the pancake to see if it's brown, it needs to raise and cook undisturbed to be fluffy.

Rev. Robert Gordon, Pastor Bob,
Uncle Bob and our Dad.
Dad has been gone nine years now, and Father's Day never gets any easier--we miss him every single day.  He had such a love for life and knew how to make anything a celebration--even a simple stack of pancakes in the middle of the Michigan north woods. We felt safe and were well-fed in the middle of a fierce Lake Champlain storm and our camping trips, that resembled a troop movement, never seemed a burden to him, only a joy. So thank you Dad for always having our backs, always making us feel safe, and teaching us that something as simple as a pancake shared with those you love is a cause for celebration.

"My father gave me the greatest gift 
anyone could ever give another person: 
He believed in me."  
 ~Jim Valvano

The tradition carries on at Holywell Bed and Breakfast,
but not quite lumberjack sized.

*You might wonder how the name Gordon can be French Canadian, but thanks to Ancestry.com I discovered that my Grandpa changed his name from Godin to Gordon when he moved from the lumber camp into town.  Imagine our surprise, thinking all the while we were Scottish Gordons and making pilgrimages to Scotland, finding out we are actually French Canadian.  It was a nice surprise though and I'm very proud of my heritage, which I've been able to trace all the way back to 16th century France, to Maurice Godin, born in 1530 at Givet, Namur, Pays Bas, France.

Thanks for stopping by and I always love to hear from readers in our comments~what does your dad mean to you?

Monday, 13 June 2016

Beauty Is A Prayer

....whatever is true, whatever is noble,
whatever is right, 
whatever is pure, 
whatever is lovely, 
whatever is admirable—
if anything is excellent or
praiseworthy—think about such things.
~Philippians 4:8

A reflective angel, Holywell Cemetery, Oxford
Today is another day of sadness, another day of tears heaped upon a world already heaving with tragedy and sorrow. It's another day we've watched in horror, as over 100 families and loved ones of victims in Orlando, Florida ask, why? Another day of prayers offered, opinions given, facts related, sorrow verbalised; a day of hyperbole from some and eloquence from others. It's another day of words upon words, upon more words.

I grow silent.
Dear soul, you speak.
~Rumi

I realized as the sun rose this morning, I have no words for today. No prayers to offer, no opinions, no wisdom or grace, nothing to add to the cacophony of sound in the world. There isn't one word I could add to social media, a word I could murmur to friends, nothing to write in emails or texts, that would add one iota of light to a world darkened by sorrow. I have no prayers today other than a prayer of silence. Lying alone, healing from surgery, sleeping, dreaming, enveloped in quiet.


Other than Good Dog Jack and silence, my only other companion today has been beauty--so as it turns out, that's all I have to offer anyone today. Simple beauty. I've saved about 10,000 photographs for editing as I recover from knee surgery, so besides sleeping, I've been immersed in beauty. Today I've been editing hundreds of photographs of the Cotswolds, one of the places on the planet that I find the most beautiful. Silence and beauty make for very good cushioning against a volatile and chaotic world, especially on a day like today.

Silence is a fence around wisdom. 
 ~German Proverb

A Cotswold cottage in the
village of  Burford, Oxfordshire.
Two weeks ago, knowing that I'd be laid up for awhile after my surgery and missing some of the June roses, Stuart and I spent a day roaming through our favourite Cotswold villages. The Cotswolds are where we fell in love and where we go for quiet getaways, if only for an afternoon. It was a beautiful, late spring day, the sun shining, and even Jack got to come along.

Jack tucked safely inside his
travel crate, with mummy's arm
(numb by now) for extra comfort.

Just a few miles west of Oxford,
and the road opens up to blue
skies and Constable clouds.

Rolling hills and fields of rapeseed
start to fill our car windows.

Our first stop was, as it normally
is, the Burford Garden Company,
Nirvana.


Flowers... are a proud assertion
that a ray of beauty outvalues 
all the utilities of the world. 
~Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1844


Stuart took Jack for a walk while I
shopped for roses and herbs......
and a few other things
that made it into my cart.



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"



When my basket was full and Jack's
walk finished, we drove on through
the village of Burford and
then to the Windrush Valley beyond.

Driving down the hill,
through the village of  Burford.

Two of the very beautiful cottage
doorways of Burford, Oxfordshire.


Where flowers bloom so does hope.
~Lady Bird Johnson, 
'Public Roads: Where Flowers Bloom'

The single track lanes made
a romantic bower for us.

The lanes were lined with Queen
Anne's Lace, like an elegant church 
aisle, just waiting for a bride.



The village of Taynton greeted us
with this sign--obviously a village
with it's priorities on straight.


The cottage roses were
just beginning to bloom.





The last of the lilacs were in bloom
along the gates and dry stone walls.





Taynton, Oxfordshire

Our next stop was down this single
track lane to the village of 
Lower Slaughter
(meaning muddy or boggy
place in old English).


We parked alongside the tiny river
that runs though the middle of the
village. For a girl used to the
Columbia and the Snake rivers,
I'll never get used to this being
called a 'river'. Where I come from
 this is a creek. Creek or river,
it's beautiful and so serene--
from another time and place.


Jack immediately met a new friend.


The simple, pastoral life of a Cotswold
village has at it's heart, horses and dogs.




The river 'Eye' runs right down
the centre of Lower Slaughter.


Cottages line the lane
that runs along the river.








The village green.

These were some pretty stiff gate-penalties,
so we made sure to keep on walking,
leaving the gate untouched & unopened.




The original cottage industry,
selling home grown & made
things from your cottage door.


One of the reasons we stopped in
Lower Slaughter was to find a
 Cotswold stone trough like the ones below
 to use as a planter on our terrace.....


.....so we walked along the river
to the Old Mill and the shop.


The Old Mill, Lower Slaughter, Gloucestershire


Once the trough was purchased, we 
sat and ate ice cream, watched over
by some very relaxed mallard ducks.



We repacked the Land Rover, making
room for the new stone trough, with
just enough room for Jack in his crate.
Can you see him peeking out amidst the
foilage??


Then we wandered more single track
lanes, lilacs blooming brightly
against the Cotswold stone walls--
these were in the village of Asthall.



We rounded a bend and there were four
spring lambs, more like teenagers now than
tiny lambkins. I got out of the car to take a
picture and they barely paid me any attention.
Hoping to get them to come a little closer to 
the fence,I sang the little song I had made 
up for my own children when they were.
wee lambkins. The four of them looked up, 
seeming my singing very much, and came
over to the fence to quietly & calmly listen.





My new friends with their pink ears
and little heart-shaped, black noses.

I sang to them for about five minutes.
then wished them well for the rest
of their lamby-lives, and left them in the
field with their kinsmen.



It was a beautiful afternoon and we came home refreshed and smiling, both our car and our hearts full of happiness. I managed to find a home for all of my new plants, flowers, and herbs, staying out in the garden until 10pm the night before my surgery to get everything planted. Now it's out there growing and waiting for me to recover--and we'll have the rest of the summer to enjoy one another's company.


Our secret garden, tucked
in the middle of Oxford's
'dreaming spires'.


I think that if ever a mortal heard
the voice of God it would be in a
garden at the cool of the day.
~F. Frankfort Moore, 
'A Garden of Peace'

So that's all I have to offer the world today, the day after yet another senseless tragedy. A day when nothing much makes sense and all the voices chiming in seem like an unholy cacophony. All I offer is a small glimpse of beauty, a look at something beyond the pain, something that is steady and constant in our lives, if only we look to it, hold onto it as though our lives depended on it. Beauty is a quality from beyond this world yet of this world, that has never been, and can never be, destroyed. 

Even in their darkest hour people, like holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl, have learned this. The author of 'Man's Search for Meaning' writes,“Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.”  Beauty, like nothing else. can blaze like a beacon of light in the darkest of human hours, and that's what I choose to cling to. That is how I live my life. Like Elsie De Wolfe writes, “I am going to make everything around me beautiful - that will be my life.”


The world is violent and mercurial --
it will have its way with you. 
We are saved only by love -- 
love for each other and the love 
that we pour into the art we
feel compelled to share: 
being a parent; being a writer; 
being a painter; being a friend. 
We live in a perpetually burning 
building, and what we must save
from it, all the time, is love.
~Tennessee Williams


If you'd like a little tour and taste of the Burford Garden Company, just click here.