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.

Saturday, 4 March 2017

A Few Bits & Bobs

March is the month of expectation....
~Emily Dickinsin

Wednesday was the first day of March, and in Oxford
it started out very promising. Barely a breath of
wind, almost-but-not-quite blue skies (which is a
great improvement on the grey), and just a touch
of sun. On our morning walk we were full of the 
joys of spring, or something to that effect, thinking
that winter is maybe, probably, sort of over?

Daffy-down-dilly came up in the cold,
Through the brown mould
Although the March breeze
         blew keen on her face,
Although the white snow
      lay in many a place.
~Anna Warner, Daffy-Down-Dilly

We've been having to settle for spring in the
form of kitchen daffodils, sometimes the only
bright spot in the day.

If the skies are grey outside, bringing in as many
daffodils as possible will brighten a kitchen
immediately. And so will a few lamps.  

I'm a lamp-hound. Overhead lighting can be
harsh, so I've always had little lamps tucked
into every possible corner of my kitchens.
They bring instant cosiness to any room,
especially a kitchen and we have no less
than eight in ours. The joke is that we have
to start an hour ahead of bedtime to get all
of the lamps switched off.
(ha-ha Stuart-very funny)

More springtime in the kitchen, with tulips in
a cornish blue jug and one of my many bowls
 (I'm also a bowl-hound) filled with fresh herbs
for cooking. They make me feel like there's
life and vitality around, even in the middle of
winter or on a dreary March day.

back to the first day of March. We were feeling
optimistic after our morning walk, since we
barely needed wooley scarves and I actually left
my jacket unbuttoned.😯I decided it was a perfect
time to start some spring planting, and so tucked
some tête-à-tête narcissus, a pale yellow primrose
and a hyacinth in the basket that hangs on our front
door. With supreme confidence, I was going to
move on to my next big task of replanting all of
the window-boxes for the front of our house.
They're still full of winter heather and pansies,
and look like they've been through Storm Doris,
barely living to tell the tale.

I had hoped that in our part of England at least,
March would come in like a lamb, and so
broke out a new pair of garden gloves in honour
of the day. But my hopes were dashed, since it
looked more and more lionish as the day wore
on. And then sheets of rain began pelting down.
All thoughts of planting daffodils, pansies
and primroses came to a soggy end.

My new garden gloves were
set aside for another day.

Last week I did manage to replant the basket of
flowers in the old butcher's bike out in front of
the house. There was a brief respite from the
rain and wind right after Storm Doris hit town,
so I took the golden opportunity. Daffodils are
extremely hardy in this sometimes rough English
climate; even on the wettest and windiest of days,
they persist and persist. It's good to be more like
a daffodil. To just keep going and going, no
matter what occurs. To be buffeted by winds,
yet standing tall, knowing that eventually the
sun will warm your face again.

Flowers greet our guests all through the year
and they're photographed a hundred
times a day by tourists. 

Frodo was now safe in the Last Homely
House east of the Sea. That house was,
as Bilbo had long ago reported, ‘a perfect
house', whether you like food or sleep, or
story-telling or singing, or just sitting and
thinking best, or a pleasant mixture of
them all. Merely to be there was a cure
for weariness, fear and sadness.
~J.R.R. Tolkien, 
The Fellowship of the Ring

We're doing our part to keep Holywell Street
bright and cheery on the rainiest of days.

So in the end, there was no more planting this first
week of March, as rain fell and lionish winds blew.
It was a week more suited to warm tea and a good
book, read by no less than eight kitchen lamps. 

Speaking of tea, this winter Emma Bridgewater
debuted a new series of mugs--'Lovely' London,
Paris, Venice, and best of all, Oxford mugs.
Not only is this mug beautiful and captures
Oxford's golden hues, it's one of the most
perfectly sized and balanced mugs we've ever
used. I noticed the Oxford mug is sold out,
but I'm sure there will be more.

Bring me a cup of tea
and the 'Times.' 
~Queen Victoria
 (on her accession to the British throne)

Good for a hot cup of Earl Grey
..... and they're just right for my
after-walk, mid-day mocha.

Coffee is a hug in a mug,
especially good if it's a mocha hug.

The book I've been reading, trapped indoors with
rain pelting against the windows, is called
A Secret WomanIt's written by an American
writer who lives and works in Oxford,
Rose Solari.

I had popped into Blackwell's bookstore last
week, always a very dangerous thing to do.
dare anyone to walk through the miles and
miles of books in Blackwell's and not come
out with at least one book.

I stumbled upon 
A Secret Woman almost immediately.
Once I saw that the inner sleeve was a photo
of the dreaming spires, it was mine. It was an
added bonus that it was a signed copy;
the beauty of an Oxford bookstore is that
often Blackwell's and Waterstones
have signed copies of many of the books.

A Secret Woman is about a young woman who
goes in search of her mother's past after
her mum passes away. She's bequethed an
enigmatic painted chest, full of papers and
books. In reading through them, she discovers
her mother had an entire secret life. She
begins a search to unlock her mother's secrets,
which leads her to England and to Oxford--
which is why the book had to come home with me.

In search of my
               mother's garden,
I found my own.
~Alice Walker

That every mother has a life of her own running like
an underground river through her life, is something
every adult child comes to face to face with at some
point, especially daughters. A Secret Woman is just
that, and as the daughter in the story gleans more
from her mother's life, she then discovers herself. 

Reading a mother & daughter story this month
is fitting, since in Britain, Mother's Day is in
March. It's traditionally known as 
Mothering Sunday and falls on the 4th Sunday
of Lent. It was originally a day to honour
and remember the Virgin Mary,
or Mother Mary. 

It was also the one day a year when children,
especially daughters working as domestic
servants, could go home and visit their mothers.
So in Britain at least, Mothering Sunday
began as a holy day and is still celebrated
during the season of Lent.

Mothering Sunday cakes in Oxford's 
Covered Market at the Cake Shop.
Little & delicate fancies for special mums.

Mothers are the gardeners
of the human race.
 ~Anna A. Rogers

It's always so hard to choose--which one?

Oxford's Covered Market always seems to be
harbinger of things to come. It's where
Christmas first appears and where Spring
makes it's first stand during a gloomy winter.
Even if I don't need anything in the market,
I always walk through it on my way to the
shops or the post office. The colours and the
smells combine to make a beautiful tapestry
 for the senses.

The object of our lives is to look at,
listen to, touch, taste things.
Without them, these
sticks, stones, feathers, shells,
there is no Deity.
~ R. H. Blyth

When I started writing this, it was Wednesday,
March 1st, and now it's Saturday, March 4th.
And there's something else; it's sunny today!
Truly sunny. None of this watered down business--
just sun, high in the sky, with a few puffy clouds.
In other words, a very good day for planting,
so out come the garden gloves again and the
pansies will finally have a home.

Even I never dreamed
of Magic like this!
~ C. S. Lewis
The Chronicles of Narnia

It's the small things like garden gloves and changing
seasons that make a happy life these days. In a world
that's seemingly moving at the speed of light, it's the
little things that tickle our senses, or our fancy, that
give happiness. It's a complicated, messy world out
there, so it's important to stretch our hearts as wide as
the world, but it's equally important to keep our eyes on
the little things, the hidden things, the glimmers of
beauty, the moments of serendipity. To look for
the magic that's there.

The invariable mark of
wisdom is to see the
miraculous in the common.
 ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

You just never know where you'll find it,
sudden magic. Sometimes it's in the most
mundane of places. Even in a post office.

This W.H. Auden (Christ Church, Oxford)
poem was clipped next to the self-checkout
at the central post office yesterday. In
Oxford, you get poetry with your stamps,
which delighted me the entire day.
Simple, sweet serendipity just needs eyes
for the seeing.

And now it's time to put on my garden gloves, join the
singing birds outside, and finish what I started on
Wednesday. I have a date with some pansies.
And as Vita Sackville-West wrote,
Flowers really do intoxicate me......
and birdsong, budding trees, wispy clouds, chapel bells,
a good book, a cup of tea, the back door open to the
breeze, warm, little lamps, bright tulips on the kitchen
counter, and daffodils waving against a blue sky.

♬Who could ask for anything more?!♫

The beauty of the trees,
the softness of the air, 
the fragrance of the grass,
speaks to me.........
~ Chief Dan George
A chief of a coastal Salish
band in the Pacific Northwest

Daffodils wave in the breeze on our
back terrace, with New College as a backdrop.

Update & meanwhile, a day later.......

.......the windowboxes are planted and in place
up over the front window. Bright pink primroses,
lavender & buttery yellow pansies, and tiny narcissus;
another step toward spring on Holywell Street.

The 'Amen!' of Nature
is always a flower.
~ Oliver Wendell Holmes

Springtime is the land awakening.
The March winds are the
                      morning yawn.
~ Lewis Grizzard

All photos ©CarrieGordonHolloway


  1. Thank you, Carrie, for this lovely, cheerful post this morning. I woke up to 14 degrees F today and this was like a balm to me. We had temperatures in the 70 degrees F in February which brought all our daffodils up and out of the soil. Fortunately, only a few have bloomed so the rest should survive if they wait to bloom until after these crazy temperature changes. Your Mothering Sunday sounds much more of what we need in the U.S. I worry that "mothering" is not given the honor it is due any more since more and more women seek other careers outside the home. I love lamp light, too. You've inspired me to see where I can add more to my rooms.

    1. You're very welcome Cathy, especially waking up to 14F. Just doesn't seem right somehow, in March. But then that's weather for you. ;-)
      Your daffodils should be just fine--they can take quite a beating and still come out shining. Have fun creating cosy corners with your lamps. xxxooo

    2. Even with the storm interrupting the day that began with blue skies, your views of the emerging springtime in Oxford has brightened my grey weekend here. Daffodils blowing in rainy park fields and on your back terrace have their own magic, just as the bunch in your creamy jug that lights up your kitchen does, and the delicate miniture ones growing up amid the ivy in your bicycle basket. You've been planting flowers in Oxford that are going to bloom wherever this is read. I always buy hyacinths because I love their first-of-spring fragrence, and now you've reminded me how much I enjoy seeing primroses in basket planters (my mother made them, too). I love how you find so many places to plant flowers around No.14, front and back, and how you use flowers as well as lamps to light every corner inside your home. Thank you for inviting us along, I enjoy these visits more than I can express. xoxoxo

    3. Yes, Christie--I remember so well the beautiful Pacific Northwest primroses every spring. They were so huge and bright. And thank you as always for joining in the journey of finding the beauty in our world. xxxooo

  2. Hello Dear Carrie, I was just thinking of you and sending a hug across the miles. Thank you for this Spring cheering post. Lovely thoughts shine through it all. Sending you sunshine and puffy white clouds and the cheeping of birds in the trees. Love to Stuart and Jack too and Rick sends his good wishes along as well. xoxoxoxo

    1. Gabi you must have caught my vibes yesterday. :-) I was thinking about you and Rick when I was scrambling eggs with the beautiful wooden spatula he made. We hope you're both well and that spring is coming to you soon. Love to you and Rick and your lovely bees. xxxooo