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 February 2017

The Road Less Travelled

Half the fun of the travel
is the esthetic of lostness. 
 ~Ray Bradbury

My dad and I on a rickety bridege in
the Great Smoky Mountains--that we
then drove over.
My dad was a great back-road adventurer when we were growing up. He never met a shortcut or a dirt road he didn't like; maybe because he grew up in the north woods of Michigan, when most of the roads were back roads. He also loved a good, old 'Sunday drive', something I don't think anyone younger than a baby-boomer would know the meaning of. After church, and our Sunday roast chicken and mashed potatoes, we'd all pile in the station wagon and head for the winding roads of Wisconsin or Michigan. The hillier, the bumpier, the windier, the better.

With an adventurous dad, we've been lost on a short-cut to Ten-Sleep, Wyoming, driven over rickety bridges in the Great Smoky Mountains, and wound our way up a Quebec mountainside while a violent thunderstorm shook around us. And every, single second of it was fun and felt like an adventure; I don't ever remember feeling afraid. Life lesson learned? Fearlessness. And the ability to turn down the road less traveled and just keep going, knowing that you'll get to Ten-Sleep or the mountaintop eventually.

Courage is the power to
let go of the familiar.
~Raymond Lindquist

Lo and behold, and no big surprise, I married someone very much like my dad in some ways. There's nothing Stuart likes better than back roads and short-cuts, even if the short-cut is a dirt road, chock full of pot-holes, with a few cows standing in the middle.......and takes three times longer, it's still a short-cut. One of Stuart's favourite short-cuts is near Hidcote Gardens NT, in Gloucester. I'm sure it's given me kidney damage from all of the pot-holes. Every time we're nearly to Hidcote, Stuart swerves to the left onto a pock-marked dirt track saying, "this cuts the whole corner off!!" And we get to Hidcote just about 5 minutes later than we would have, with my teeth still rattling.

But then.............
it's hard to get views like
this by taking the motorway
or the direct route. These are
back-road views in Wales.

Not until we are lost do we
begin to understand ourselves.
~Henry David Thoreau

'You don't even know
where I'm going.'
'I don't care.
I'd like to go anywhere.'
~John Steinbeck,
Travels with Charley
{a long-time favourite book}

Stuart's prowess at back-road driving and finding shortcuts was put to good use during his 'Spires & Shires' days. After becoming an Oxford tour guide in his early 20s, Stuart branched out into doing tours of the Cotswolds and the shires surrounding Oxford--Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire.  He combined the Oxford spires with the surrounding rolling hills of the Cotswolds and formed a tour company he called Spires & Shires.

Stuart and his
Spires & Shires vans.
{he's the young chap on the left.}

People saw the real Cotswolds from Stuart's vans, driving down tiny single-track roads, cutting across hilltops, and stopping in tiny villages only accessible by narrow tracks that are barely on a map, much less have a name or a number.

The other thing Stuart loves is a good 'ford', where a road through a village crosses over a stream--without the benefit of a bridge. If there are two routes through a village and one of them is through a ford, the road we travel is always through the ford.

Sometimes the ford is shallow enough
for even a puppy to paddle in. This is
5 month old Jack, wading in the ford
in the village of Upper Slaughter.

Most small villages in Britain were built around some kind of water source--a spring, a well, a small stream or a river, so it isn't unusual for a stream to still run through the middle of a village, or a river through a town like in Bath, Worcester, London and even Oxford. In fact Oxford's name derives from the Saxons and means an 'oxen' 'ford'. Ox-ford. Born and bred here, no wonder Stuart loves a good ford.
A perfectly clear stream
runs through the middle of
Swinbrook (swine-brook),

The river Eye meanders through
the middle of the Cotswold village
of Lower Slaughter. Not just
cars ford the river, horses do too.

Mills were placed along streams and
rivers and often villages grew up 
around them, like the one in
Lower Slaughter. ('Slaughter' is an old
English word for marshy, or wet place.)

Who so comth first to mille (mill), 
first grynt (grant).  
~Chaucer-Canterbury Tales
The origin of 'first come, first serve'.

'Oh, it's the same old grind.'
'Back to the old grind' .......
as in 'mill grind.'

'Keep your nose to the grindstone.'

'As still as a mill pond.'

Swinbrook, near Burford, Oxfordshire
has a wonderful ford that we never {ever}
miss. It makes Stuart very happy when I get
out to take a photo of him fording the ford.
{It's the little things, right?}

The world is full of magic things,
{and places} patiently waiting for
our senses to grow sharper.
~William Butler Yeats

Which brings us to the granddaddy of all fords, the ford in the village of Shilton, between Lechlade and Burford, west of Oxford. It's a small village, very quiet and picturesque with its stone cottages, and it circles around a large, peaceful pond. There are thinking-benches scattered around the pond, ducks for feeding, trees for shade, and it's perfect for swimming on the elusive warm summer days. It also has a ford--which is why we drove through it last week on our way back to Oxford from the Burford Garden Centre.

The pond at Shilton last week,
looking very wintry but no less lovely.

The ford in Shilton is a paved road and is
actually on a map. There's a fairy-tale
Cotswold stone bridge for walkers and dogs,
and it's crystal clear water with a solid
surface for driving on. But, if I hadn't grown
up with brothers whose first response to a
snowstorm was, "let's go drive donuts in the
snow!", as well as a father who was a fearless
driver of the roads less travelled, I probably
would be a bit hesitant about this ford.
It's a ford on steroids.

Here we go!

I ended up getting out of the car so I could
photograph the intrepid ford-master in action.

Alas! it is not the child but the boy
that generally survives in the man. 
~Arthur Helps, 
Thoughts in the Cloister & the Crowd, 1835

Luckily a Land Rover is made for
the sometimes rugged British countryside.
Slip it into four wheel drive and off you go.
{And then test your brakes!!!}

Two other cars crossed the ford right after
we did. It's a daily/hourly occurrence in
Shilton--people calmly driving headlong
into the water without batting an eye.

To live with fear and not be
afraid is the final test of maturity.
~Edward Weeks 

Stuart and I have been driving back roads and fording fords together for 19 years. We've driven from Land's End in Cornwall to John O'Groats and Orkney in Scotland; from Lindisfarne, Northumberland to St. David's in Wales; from the coastline of Kent up to the northwest tip of Scotland; from Ballycastle, Northern Ireland down to the Dingle Peninsula in Ireland; and all points in between. You might say we travel well together, both in the car, but also in life. We may fight in the car sometimes, which reminds me, if you're ever around us both, don't mention Salisbury where Stuart we get lost nearly every time we drive through it. But even with the occasional fights and map disagreements, we get to wherever it is we're going eventually, every disagreement long forgotten.

Courage is being scared to death....
and saddling up anyway.
~John Wayne

When we chose to move to Oxford nine years ago, for me it felt like a hard right turn, up over a mountain top, back down into a steeply sloping valley, and then through the deepest ford. It's most surely a road less travelled to divest of a life and a career, sell a house, ship all of our worldly goods over an ocean, and give away our cat. Kissing loved ones goodbye felt like turning onto a road that led into a deep, dark forest. But as I learned from my dad, you just keep going and eventually you'll get to Ten-Sleep, Wyoming--or wherever it is you're headed. And luckily I have a great partner who isn't afraid of the deep fords, the winding curves or the dirt paths either. No matter what, we just keep going and enjoy the view along the way.

A deep, green valley in Wales where
Llewellyn the Great lies buried. It's not
easy to find, but so worth the journey.

The courage of life is often a less
dramatic spectacle than the courage
of a final moment; but it is no less
a magnificent mixture of triumph
and tragedy.
~John F. Kennedy

My sister and I travel well together too,
and we stumbled upon this ancient church

 in the Welsh marches founded in 520AD.
To this day we don't know how we found it,
taking random turns on tiny Welsh roads.
It was a thrill to come upon something so
ancient, from a time between the Romans
and the Saxons that's cloaked in mystery.

I love British and Irish road signs
and have 22 years worth of them
in photographs.

When you're travelling the back-roads, 
the roads less travelled, watching road
signs is a must. But, you have to be
going slowly enough to notice them.

Life is one big road with lots of signs.
So when you riding through the ruts,
don't complicate your mind.
Flee from hate, mischief and jealousy.
Don't bury your thoughts, put your
vision to reality. Wake Up and Live!
~Bob Marley

Every one of us has in him a
continent of undiscovered character.
Blessed are they who act as the
Columbus to their own soul. 
~Author Unknown

I may not be there yet,
but I'm closer than I was yesterday.

......Two roads diverged in a wood,
and I— 
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
~Robert Frost


  1. Carrie, this a beautiful post! I love all the gorgeous photos and lovely thoughts. How wonderful you have followed your heart to take you to your happy place. ♥

    1. Thank you Martha Ellen. Following your heart isn't always easy--but always worth it. Have a beautiful day and thank you for stopping by. Carrie

  2. Hi Carrie, I do remember Sunday drives after church, tho ours were before dinner (the aroma of pot roast still takes me right back to Sunday afternoon at home in West Seattle). My Dad wasn't quite as adventurous as yours, but the memories of the family traveling together in the old 49 Chevy are wonderful - singing I've Been Working on the Railroad & K-K-K Katie. And that's the main thing, the treasured memories of adventuring together. One of my most treasured memories is the walk thru the Cotswolds my son took me on in 2000. How delightful it was to come upon the mill on the tiny River Eye in Lower Slaughter ~ a watercolor artist was actually sitting next to the river painting the mill (Kodak moment) ~ and to see my first actual rose-covered cottage! I agree with Martha Ellen, this is such a beautiful and encouraging post, a very lovely reminder to take every opportunity to travel that magical road less traveled! Thank you again, dear Carrie, for taking us along with you and Stuart and Jack.

    1. Always a pleasure Christie and how wonderful you have your own Cotswold memories, and those magical backroads that lead to places like Lower Slaughter. Hugs from Oxford. Carrie