Friday, May 20, 2016

Pour Tea First: It's A Long Letter




Here it is past the middle of May and I haven't even jotted a tittle of a post for you. It's not meant as a lament but I keep being surprised at how the weeks and months are slipping by ... the days skittering like glass beads from a broken silk thread. Just a few days ago it was January, now it's May.  Is it just me, or do you find it that way too?

Sometimes I create pressure for myself about writing a post because I want something that will be some wonderful piece of writing, as if maybe I need to impress someone. So I mull and dream and pencil chew, hoping for words that inspire, create hope, and share a little fun.

I don't need to impress anyone. I don't need to impress you, do I? I mean, you and I share similar pleasures for so many of the ordinary, simple things of life, that it makes me wonder where this strange feeling comes from and why I let it keep me from writing however 'ordinary and simple' it turns out to be.



And, then there are the times when there is the added pressure when pangs of woe close in  -- whether these are my own personal little anxieties or those of people I care about or it comes from those sad and hurting faces I catch sight of in the media.

These are times when I feel the weight of too many words and too much information. Some people turn to their writing as a way to discover and work their way through hard times. I get quiet. I crave silence. And beauty. Petting a kitty. And connecting with creation's healing properties. Praying.  Writing is not my first go-to place for dealing with deep anxieties or sorrows. If a person ever caught sight of the inside pages of my journals, they would see the evidence: words regarding troubling situations are sparse -- details are sketchy.

So then, perhaps my lack of posts is part of feeling ...

... the weight of the world that stops me from sitting down to write these days. For right here in our own beautiful province of Alberta, eighty thousand people became displaced from their homes and community as we watched their city of Fort McMurray and surrounding areas burn with fierce and uncontrollable wildfires.

Even though I or my family are not personally involved in this devastation -- I'm hundreds of miles from that region -- yet the impact is very real to my own heart and mind. We do grieve for the sorrows and losses untold, and for lives turned upside down for so many people.


 ~ ~ Thank God For Bright Spots ~ ~



Yes, there are bright spots. Thankfully. I'm so glad for Helen Keller's thought. For, in the middle of it all, we have been proud to witness the strength, generosity, and compassion of thousands, including our amazing governments, towards the families and businesses personally impacted. 'Alberta Strong' resounds as the anthem for everyone in our province, not just the Fort McMurray evacuees. Together we share the sorrow, together we experience the overcoming of it. We are strengthened and encouraged. 


    And now for some...
JOY-FILLED MOMENTS

source


Lest you think we let sorrow and suffering be the victors around here, I want to share a few things that are filling my heart with joy these days -- my 'grace note' moments that remind me we're not alone, we're in this together, and I can continually cast my cares on the Lord Jesus.

C.S. Lewis once said, 'Joy is the serious business of heaven'. Always longing for glimpses of heaven in unexpected places, I take seriously the business of filling my days with joy splashers. Susan Branch refers to these gifts as life softeners. Yes. That fits. Aren't we all grateful for such gifts to help lighten loads?


~ ~ THE FRAGRANT JOY OF LILACS ~ ~


"If you've never been thrilled to the
very edges of your soul by a flower in spring bloom,
maybe your soul has never been in bloom."
~ Audra Foveo
 
Spring unfolds with not the same zip and eager freshness that is usual. Every bud and leaf must overcome a several season drought. One feels the labour of Spring's unfolding this year.

Yet... lilacs and Mayday and Plum trees blossom out and fill our neighbourhoods with fragrance of the most heady kind. The fragrance one can never quite breathe in deeply enough to get its full essence. What joy to catch a whiff on the wind or to bury our nose in the perfume drenched branches.



~ ~ THE JOY OF FEATHERED FRIENDS ~ ~



What with such a strangely mild, snow-less winter and warm Spring arriving much earlier than is usual, it now feels much later in the season. More like June.

Which is why I started wondering where all the summer birds were ... were we this Spring to be without moisture and our usual share of migrating birds coming to nest and sing their lovely songs? Now that would be something to lament. I would feel bereft and lost without by my little bird friends.

Especially the little Tree Swallows with their iridescent black tuxedos. Not to hear them chortle and chuckle as they 'discussed' plans and performed mating rituals? Then one day this week, a pair swooped in and laid claim to a nest box (photo from a previous year). Click to listen to their calls.

Almost on their tail feathers arrived the White-Throated Sparrows with their pretty melodies, not to mention the jolly red-winged blackbirds who will fly up to our feeders from the lake down the road. I always think it's cute the males announce their arrival when they visit, while the females slip in and out without fanfare.

Oh joy, oh bliss! Hands up with glee and me saying, Thank you, God! The world around me is coming right-side up. It's comfort as light as a feather.



~ ~ THE JOY IN CELEBRATING OTHERS ~ ~

 Photo from Twitter @FarmGirlGeorgie


I've been trekking with Susan Branch via Twitter as she and her Joe wend their way across the USA on her current book tour. My goodness, so many exciting things happening for this beautiful lady. After all the many months of hard work, Susan is certainly experiencing the sweet harvest of all her labour and faithfulness to sitting on the chair at her art table every morning.

First, there is the excitement of going on tour to share her newest book Martha's Vineyard: Isle of Dreams with fans. Then she tells us that the Movie-TV Rights for the book have been sold (so there's a possibility of a movie or TV series coming down the road -- how cool is that!). And if that isn't enough for the 'Fairy Tale Girl', she finds out Isle of Dreams is on the NYT bestseller list under Travel (a first for her books), and she's been invited for interviews on television in Kansas City.

I'm as excited for Susan as if these would be mine own 'dreams come true'. How much beauty and hope she has given her world ... and to us, her fans and Girlfriends. I'm celebrating these red letter days with you, Susan! Click HERE for her latest interview.



~ ~ JOY AND CONSOLATION FROM YOUR COMMENTS ~ ~



Before another word gets said, I want to take this moment to thank each of you for your beautiful comments on my recent posts. Although I haven't been posting or visiting much lately, I am grateful for your presence here, and I cherish the time you've taken to write such lovely things for me and our beautiful readers. Grace notes most elegant! You make my heart sing. I appreciate you so much.



~ ~ THE JOY OF PACKAGES IN THE MAIL ~ ~
 


We were some excited when the book The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh by Kathryn Aalto arrived in the post the other day.

I first saw it being talked about on Twitter, and when I came across a review that said it was a perfect antidote for stressed living, I knew I wanted to read it. Besides, for someone who still loves Pooh and Piglet, Tigger and Christopher Robin, this book is a lovely reminder that the Hundred Acre Wood is real and still very much alive as it gives its readers a magical behind-the-scenes visit to A.A. Milne's world.

How perfect a book indeed to stir English imaginings as we begin the serious countdown to our trip to England. We'll actually be in the area on one of our garden tours, so I'm really hoping to catch a glimpse of Pooh's stomping grounds.

Have you ever read Christopher Milne's memoir about his childhood and his father, A.A. Milne, called The Enchanted Places? It's a lovely book and I have a soft spot for it still even though I read it years ago. There was something Christopher said about his dad gave me an insight into my own dad and it helped me to understand him better. Now it's on my look-for list when I'm in England -- I hope I find a copy to add to my library.


Sometimes the smallest things
take up the most room
in your HEART.
~ A.A. Milne


***
It is more fun to talk with someone
who doesn’t use long, difficult words
but rather short, easy words like ‘What about lunch?’
~ A.A. Milne

***

Piglet noticed that even though he had a very small heart,
it could hold a rather large  amount of GRATITUDE.
~ A.A. Milne







~~ SPRING FLOWERS FOR THE SHOWER ~~



So often it's the little things that add a lot of happy to our world, isn't it? And when I found this wonderful easy-on-the pocketbook shower curtain, I knew I had to bring it home with me.

Not only does it fit perfectly with the bathroom's soft aqua walls, I love it because it reminds me of a summer meadow ... and a pretty vintage dress with a soft twirly skirt. Maybe even something that Sidney's heart love, Amanda, might wear walking on a summer's eve, after Sidney and Geordie finished solving the latest mystery in Grantchester, UK.
 




In a meadow full of flowers,
you cannot walk through and breathe those smells and remain angry.
We have to support the BEAUTY, the poetry, of life.
~ Jonas Mekas

***

Little things seem nothing, but they give peace,
like those meadow flowers which individually
seem odorless but altogether PERFUME the air.
~ Georges Bernanos

***

Cross the meadow and the stream
and listen as the peaceful water
brings PEACE upon your soul.
~ Maximillian Dejenerez 

***

My ideal is to wake up in the morning
and run around the meadow naked.
~ Darryl Hannah

(haha -- it wouldn't be me doing this; don't let me stop you,
you go ahead if you want to!)





When I started working on this post a few days ago, it was so dry in our province. Tinder dry. But today, I'm so grateful to report it's raining. Nice rains ... gentle, yet frequent. My window, where I'm oft sitting to peer out into my world, is drenched in rain drops and rivulets. Lovely.

An aside ... I just learned something new today. That word above 'rivulets' -- all my life I've been thinking it was 'riverlets'. Haha! Rivulets = a very small stream. Did you know that? I hope I'm not the only one.

Well, m'dears, I best be calling this a wrap before another day goes by. Please know I'm wishing you glimpses of heaven in unexpected places and a wonderful weekend ahead.

Sending love and hugs,
Brenda
♥ ♥ ♥








Wednesday, April 27, 2016

April. The Simple Woman's Daybook



In my corner of the world, April has been gently unfolding her days. Some days offered lovely warm ones; others brought hints of snow, and now this week we've had a few soft rainy, misty ones. Spring as it should be. And after that nice rain, talk about the green popping out everywhere.

Temperatures still hover near freezing most nights, so we are not quite out of the woods. However, here in northerly Alberta, Canada, we do spot some eager Albertans out and about in their shorts and flipflops. When I was younger I might have been one of them; although still as eager to celebrate Spring, I am much less eager to feel the cold, still waspish north breeze on my bare toes and eyelashes.

Today we finally post April's edition of The Simple Woman's Daybook -- it has been slow in the making. Usually I post it the first Monday of the month; now I've missed all of April's Mondays so it's going up today, done or not. Good thing I can make up the rules as I go along -- ha ha!

Without further ado...




For Today...



Outside my window... Clear blue, sunny skies. The other day the resident squirrel was hanging on for dear life as he nibbled nuts from the swinging suet bag -- today it's only a gentle breeze blowing budding branches. Pairs of chickadees and purple finches begin their mating rituals. Robins sing their early morning welcomes, and in spite of landscaping underway in our yard, we've had the pleasure to see the season's early offerings of crocuses, tulips, and pockets of daffodils.


I am thinking... About the book The Enchanted April  by Elizabeth von Arnim. Also a movie, I love to watch it when April rolls around. The story opens on a rainy day in London, England. "Escaping dreary London for the sunshine of Italy, four very different women take up an offer advertised in the Times for a 'small medieval Italian Castle on the shores of the Mediterranean to be let furnished for the month of April.' As each blossoms in the warmth of the Italian spring, quite unexpected changes occur. An immediate bestseller upon its first publication, in 1922, The Enchanted April set off a craze for tourism to the Italian Riviera that continues today." excerpt from amazon.ca

A favourite scene from the movie: Two of the women arrive in Italy after a harrowing and tiring journey from London. It's dark and pouring rain. They are surprised -- where's the sunshine? Rose mutters something about how is this different from rainy London, and optimistic Lottie says, "It's Italian rain." I love that line.

And, then there is the lovely oboe music from Elgar's "Chanson de Matin" that runs as a theme throughout. This music is partly what makes this film so charming for me, not to the mention the gorgeous scenery of sunshiny Italy in the springtime.    




I am thankful today... For my dear mom whose love for me all of my life has been a sure foundation. She may not have always known what a little girl needed, or secretly desired, but despite those imperfect times, I see more clearly than ever before in my life that there wasn't a minute that went by when she wasn't loving me with as much as she ever loved anyone or anything. And, that went for all her family. I see so clearly that those old places where sharp words once spoken in impatience or weariness were never from a place of deliberate meanness or unkindness. Goodness, how easy it suddenly becomes to let go of any funny old hurts or little resentments that might remain. Yes, I am so grateful for Mom's mother bear love all these years. She was and still is a good mom. 


I am wearing... Comfortable lounge-wear in black. No earrings, no lipstick even. For I am quite determined to get this post up today before I get distracted with any other business.


I am creating... Lists for our upcoming trip to England and preparing some notes for a few blog posts to share some glimpses of our trip with you. Lots of English country gardens, including Downton's Highclere Castle, Sissinghurst Gardens, Hever Castle, to name a few.


I am going...
To immerse myself in the English countryside by reading three delightful books: Susan Branch's A Fine Romance and Helene Hanff's two memoirs, 84 Charing Cross Road and Duchess of  Bloomsbury Street. All three are delightful reads to get me 'feeling and tasting and breathing English air'  -- the sleeps are counting down in earnest now.


I am wondering... what to make for supper tonight. Fingers tapping the table top. I know! Pasta with honey and wild garlic sausages. We had those before and they are wonderful with buttered noodles, maybe an Alfredo sauce too.  


I am hoping... To get the deck cleaned off from winter, and our round teak table and garden chairs with umbrella set up today. For the weatherman promises a warmer afternoon and it might be perfect sitting down for a nice cup of tea.

 
In my garden... It's disheveled right now. We had to take down some old trees last fall from our backyard, including our beautiful lilac bush which was falling over. It was a sad moment when the arborist came. It was so barren afterwards.




But all through winter we've had such an open and lovely view of the sky again from our kitchen and my office windows, that we're taking joy in this new temporary look, for the landscape makeovers include some new trees this Spring. And, just a couple of days ago, in the middle of upside-down, there pokes up from the still cool earth tiny green noses of tulips and daffodils. Tiny crocuses add glimpses of heaven in brown.




In my kitchen... I've tended to hungry tummies by making homemade chicken vegetable soup with buttered noodles, baking powder biscuits to go with the soup, and fragrant and crunchy apple crisp.


A favorite quote for today...
In fact, I'm sharing a few that make me chuckle. These represent the figure of speech called araprosdokians -- I dare you to say that one out loud three times in a row -- where the latter part of a sentence creates a turn of phrase quite unexpected. Apparently Sir Winston Churchill loved them, and I know Oscar Wilde, Mark Twain, and Groucho Marx were also known to make good use of them. Here are a few samples:
1. Where there's a will, I want to be in it.

2. Since light travels faster than sound, some people appear bright until you hear them speak.

3. If I agreed with you, we'd both be wrong.

4. I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train. Oscar Wilde

5. Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read. Groucho Marx

7. I'm sorry I wrote you such a long letter; I didn't have time to write a short one. Mark Twain


A peek into one of my days... I was at the local bookstore the other day shopping for a new journal. As I browsed all the other lovely Spring things they now carry besides books in the shop, a young fellow store clerk hurrying by, stopped and said, "Wow, I love the colours you're wearing today." And with that, he breezed off. It sure brought a bright grin to my face, it did! 

The same day as I'm now driving home from shopping, I passed a woman out walking her gorgeous German Shepherd. They were waiting at the corner for the traffic light to change. The Shepherd, sitting on his haunches maybe a little impatient to get going, dropped his ball which he's carrying in his mouth. It did a bounce-bounce. The woman bent to pick it up and gave it back. He looked thrilled. Makes me wonder if he dropped it on purpose. You could tell he was so happy to be out with his mom and his ball.

I love sightings like that -- they make me happy. I felt this little rush of joy -- and thankfulness there are still people who know how to love their four-legged friends, and for dogs who can be happy with so small a treat.


One of my favorite things... Catching glimpses of beauty and love in unexpected places.


From Pinterest board room... Isn't this tea set lovely? It would be perfect for a Mother's Day Tea or a May Day Strawberry Tea Party.




Postscript Thought...
"How beautiful a day can be when kindness touches it. ~ G. Elliston


It's done. I can go put my lipstick on now.  On that note, I'm wishing you a beautiful day and may the last few days of April have some essence of  'enchantment' for you. I hope you are keeping an eye out for those glimpses of heaven in unexpected places -- for they are everywhere.

Hugs,
Brenda
xox







Friday, April 22, 2016

It's Friday Already And Martha's Vineyard Isle of Dreams


Oh my, didn't this week fly by! Thankfully it's been all good. Birthday celebrations have spread well into the month now. These pink tulips, a gift from a dear friend, sat on my dining room table all week.

Aren't they striking against the blue painting? And I love how the light seems captured inside the vase. I posted my photo on Facebook the other day, and someone commented that "it looks like the tulips came off the painting and onto your table". It almost looks that way ... art and life mixing.



We're working out in the yard and watching for signs of an awakening garden. With all the bird calls in the air and finding sweet blossoms of crocus nestled against the tree trunk in the front yard, we know it's Spring, it's Spring, it's Spring!




And, then we're having the very great pleasure of reading something oh so wonderful. I am in the middle of Susan Branch's newest book Martha's Vineyard: Isle of Dreams. It's the last in her trilogy (The Fairy Tale Girl and A Fine Romance) and I am L-O-V-I-N-G it! It arrived in my mailbox in time to join in the birthday festivities. The best kind of birthday present. Below is a peek to whet your appetite, in case you haven't got it yet.



I am really trying to read it without hurrying too much but it's a page turner. My consolation is if the book ends far too quickly, I can do a happy dance, turn around, and read it all again.
 
Once I know how the book ends, I can relax into the actual story and begin to savour; in this case, to savour Susan's lovely artwork in detail, ponder the cute and pithy sayings she's included for our mirth and pleasure, share the journey with some tears, great laugh out loud moments; not to mention, nodding in total recognition of a kindred spirit -- for even though our life stories are completely different, there is so much that resonates and is the same. As a young woman Susan knew she wanted to change the world -- well, she certainly has made the world a better place with her cheerful, resolute, and generous spirit. And her endearing books and artwork. She sure has delighted the lives of many 'girlfriends', including this particular one!

Susan is hosting a giveaway of some real treasures right now. To enter, leave a comment on her post by popping over here




Today, as I'm joining Five on Friday, I'm sharing five of my photos, plus the following five quotes Susan shares in her new book. They are now jotted in my own journal for safe keeping. I hope they whet your appetite to get the book, if you haven't already done so. For, of course, you will then learn why these are so meaningful when you read them within the context of her delightful story.


~~~~~~
ONE

"As long as I have a window, life is exciting."
 ~ Gladys Taber


~~~~~~
TWO

"Glory be to God for dappled things."
~ Gerald Manly Hopkins


~~~~~~
THREE

"Although the world is full of suffering,
it is also full of the overcoming of it."
~ Helen Keller


~~~~~
FOUR

"Every artist was first an amateur."
Ralph Waldo Emerson


~~~~~
FIVE

"But listen to me. For one moment quit being sad.
Hear blessings dropping their blossoms around you."
~ Rumi



Another view of my pretty tulips. Today their pink petals are so translucent and shimmery. Even as they are drying and dying, they offer a different glimpse of beauty. Goodness to the last petal.


On that note, I'm wishing you a wonderful weekend!

Sending hugs with love,
Brenda
xox


Linking with Five on Friday



~~~~~

FROM TWITTER FEED



SUSAN BRANCH (@dearsusanbranch)
@WordFromHome Thank you dear Bren, that was so NICE . . . I loved it! 💞 Was it YOUR birthday I should be sending best wishes for? 🎂