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

Friday, 17 February 2017

Footsteps to Spring

The first day of spring is
one thing, and the first
spring day is another.
The difference between
them is sometimes
as great as a month.
~Henry Van Dyke, 
'Fisherman's Luck'

April daffodils in
Christ Church meadow.

When I first moved to Britain permanently nine years ago, the only month I hadn't ever experienced in England was February. During my first, full winter in Oxford I would get so excited when a day dawned bright and warm. Then, when daffodils started growing from the end of January, I was beside myself and would think, "this is it! Spring is just around the corner." As that first February wore on (and on, and on), it didn't take long to realise just how fickle spring is in Britain, how much it teases--and how long it takes to finally arrive. It begins with fits and starts in February and then often drags on lasts until early June, when you're more than ready for summer and cute sundresses. 

I almost used to jump and down when pink
blossoms appeared in January, thinking
spring would arrive any minute. I quickly
learned it wasn't even around the corner. It's
still a marvel to see pink in January, but I know
that buckets of rain, chilly mistand many
bad hair days lie between January and May.

When the February winds blow cold, it seems
to take forever for scenes like this to arrive. Lilac
season is never, ever long enough. Every time we
walk by these lilacs on our walks, I automatically
bury my face in them. It never gets old.

Lilacs bloom along
Mansfield Road in May.
The force of Spring - 
mysterious, fecund, 
 powerful beyond measure.
~Michael Garofalo, Cuttings

Spring starts with tiny footsteps
of snowdrops in early February......

....leaving white and green
footprints in the muddy earth.

Sometimes the snowdrops share the
space with bright, yellow aconites.

It doesn't take long before the
snowdrops become a carpet of white.

More than any other season, spring has to
fight a battle just to be born, so every step
of it is a marvel. Everything green and growing
in spring has to push its way up through not only
ice, mud, puddles, and frost, but also has to push
past its dead ancestors. That's perseverance.

If a healthy soil is full of death,
it is also full of life: worms,
fungi, microorganisms of all kinds ...
Given only the health of the soil,
Nothing that dies is dead very long.
~Wendell Berry, 
 The Unsettling of America, 1977

Right after the snowdrops bloom, the
crocus are right behind. They're scattered
here and there-- first the braver yellows,
followed by purple & white.

Nature likes nothing better
than variety and diversity.

Crocus are a marvel--
delicate yet stalwart.
Brave soldiers in a 
sometimes cruel wind.

The desert shall rejoice and blossom;
like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly,
and rejoice with joy and singing.
~ Isaiah 35: 1-2

By early February, daffodil shoots
and buds have already begun to
break through the frosty turf in
the University Parks. It puts an
extra spring in our step as we walk,
bundled up from head to toe
against the cold and wind. 

We check their progress
daily, and cheer them on.

The most hearty of the daffodils begin
to open their yellow faces one by one,
one small step for February and one
giant leap for springtime.

With every little moment of sun,
more of the yellow trumpets open--
the brightest thing on the landscape.

The lesser spotted and rare 'Jack of Oxford'.
We catch glimpses of him as daffodils bloom.
(He can be hard to spot since he's known for
his speed and ability to elude capture.)

February brings many misty mornings in
shades of grey and blue. The mist hangs low
over the river and the mornings are quiet.
It's a pregnant pause before the chorus of
of birds begins in earnest in late February
& early March, as they get busy building
nests and laying eggs.

Spring would not be
spring without bird songs.
~Francis M. Chapman

The Cherwell River, University Parks, Oxford
We can get little surprise snowfalls,
even as late as April. The snow doesn't
stick around for very long--usually
just long enough for a quick photo.

Through the mist, snow, sun, warm and
chilly winds, the birds charm the air
with their songs, while their attention is
on feathering their spring nests.

It doesn't take much sunshine
to get people out in the park
with picnics or their guitar.

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread,
places to play in and pray in, where
Nature may heal and cheer and give
strength to body and soul alike.
~John Muir

Soon the ponds and rivers
reflect a deep blue sky.

You can't help but smile with
a sky this blue overhead.

Blue skies smilin' at me,
Nothin' but blue skies do I see,
Blue days all of them gone,
Nothin' but blue skies
from now on..........

Bunches of bright daffodils and tulips from the
south of England fill the shops. They're quickly
scooped up and brought home for spring cheer.

Even if we can't be happy,
we must always be cheerful.
~Irving Cristol

Oxford's Covered Market,
between the High and Market Street.

The colour green--calming yet
invigorating. The colour of life.

Oh the green things growing,
The green things growing,
The faint sweet smell of
The green things growing.
~Dinah MM Craik

With the shops overflowing with spring blooms
it's easy to bring a bundle of spring home,
starting with our front door.

Then into the kitchen.

A posy gathered from our own garden.

Perfect daffodils greet guests
as they come down to breakfast.

Adopt the pace of nature:
her secret is patience.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

All through February and then March,
it takes patience to get from this.....(mudville) this,
daffodils bloom in the warm sun,
Magdalen College, Oxford.

Spring flowers blooming along
Addison's Walk, Magdalen College; one
of C.S. Lewis' favourite walks in Oxford.

Sometimes we have to wear our warm coats
and wellies, right up until late May or early June.

But just about when we're ready to give
up and live in eternal chilliness, we get to what can only be called verdant.

I love to think of nature as an
unlimited broadcasting station,
through which God speaks to
us every hour, if we will only tune in.
~George Washington Carver

If you have a mind at peace,
A heart that cannot harden;
Go find a door that opens wide
Upon a lovely garden.

Soon the cold March winds and April
downpours become a distant memory,
and spring melds into a warm and
daisy-filled summer day.

'Jack of Oxford' in his natural
habitat of daisies, sunshine and joy.
Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything that
is beautiful, for beauty is God's handwriting--a
wayside sacrament. Welcome it in every fair face,
in every fair sky, in every flower, and thank
God for it as a cup of blessing.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

All photos ©CarrieGordonHolloway, Oxford


  1. Ah! How I needed this beauty today!! For several blessed minutes I was transported to some of the best of Oxford! Lovely, lovely flowers! Thank you so much for sharing all this glory! xo Nellie

    1. So happy to hear that Nellie. Nature can be the very best refreshment--and there it is, all around us! Love from Oxford. xxxooo Carrie

  2. Dear Carrie, Your delightful blog, which I found through Susan Branch, has been a comfort and a blessings during these dark days for our country. Creating and appreciating beauty, in home and garden, in nature, in history and art, becomes all the more important when the world has become a frightening place. I've been an Anglophile all my life, and have been fortunate enough to travel through much of GB, and even spent a year in Oxford as a teenager. All of which makes your life resonate with mine! Also adore Jack, of course. I do think he might be a Bichon-Shih-Tzu cross (though I may be prejudiced because we have had a long succession of Shih-Tzus) - both happy and joy-making breeds. Blessings on you and your family, from your friend in Connecticut, Ellen.

    1. Hi Ellen! I'm so happy you've found us here in Oxford--and what a small world that you've spent time here as well. And you're right, the world can seem dark right now but there is so much light and goodness embedded right into our world, and it can't ever be taken away. Ever. And yes--Mr. Sunshine, Jack. We thought for awhile he might be a Shih-tzus cross, until we came upon 2 Jack Russell/Bichon crosses and they were his twin in every way. They have a grand time playing together in the park, with their Jack Russell stroppiness and their Bichon sweetness, somehow all coming together. Thank you so much for saying hello and introducing yourself and keep in touch! Many blessing to you as well. All will be well. Love from Oxford. xxxoooCarrie

  3. I love this blog post and I love Spring more than any other season! We were thinking of coming to visit in Dec. but now we may have to wait for next Spring.... :)
    Lisa Hay

    1. I know how you feel! Totally spoiled for choice when visiting England because it's ALL good. Any time you come, spring or Christmas, it will be special. xxxooo