Monday, January 14, 2019

Easing With Joy Into The New Year

photo: pixabay.com
"The shortest day has passed, and whatever nastiness of weather we may look forward to in January and February, at least we notice that the days are getting longer. Minute by minute they lengthen out. It takes some weeks before we become aware of the change. It is imperceptible even as the growth of a child, as you watch it day by day, until the moment comes when with a start of delighted surprise we realize that we can stay out of doors in a twilight lasting for another quarter of a precious hour." ~ Vita Sackville-West

I woke up the other day and knew something had shifted -- I felt at last ready to begin my New Year in earnest. I know other folks have had their decorations down for ages and have been busy making plans and setting their goals for 2019. As for me, since the holidays, I only wanted to hide, hibernate, and be quiet. And that's what I've been doing. I took time to read my new books, puzzle out some jigsaws, write in my journal, finish off the rest of the potato chips and juicy clementines -- well, that last one was a joint effort by the pair of us living in this house.

I admit these days in bleak midwinter are some of my favourite days in life. I love winter and, no, I'm not yet bored or tired of cold, crisp days. I'm still happily settled into these weeks of early twilight winter, using this time to move slower, to putter, to make the kitchen a happy place as we savour freshly baked biscuits, homemade turkey soup, and hearty stews.

Still, as Vita Sackville West points out in her quote above, there is something wonderfully sweet when we see daylight filling the backyard a wee bit longer. For, no, I do not wish to live in a Narnia where it's always Winter and where Spring never comes. But I'm quite happy to enjoy the season we're in now.

To ease our way into blogging again after being away a few weeks, I thought a newsy post of 'this and that' would fit the bill. Wishing you joy......


ONE
"joy in shapes and shadows"


"The dry grasses are not dead for me.
A beautiful form has as much life at one season as another."

~ Henry David Thoreau, 1850

I happened to glance out the front window one afternoon and had to run to get the camera. For the light and shadows were dancing on snow laden plants, bunny and kitty footprints adding to the shadow play. I loved how the dry grasses rise up like shots of sunshine from iron grey shadows.



That's me out for a walk in my heavy parka and new Fair Isle knitted hat. Don't you love the bobble at the top? After eating my more-than-fair-share of treats over the holidays, it feels so good to get myself out into the sunshine and freezing air, and to get my lazy limbs moving again.

From the shrubberies, finches and sparrows sing their little hearts out. Chickadees add to the chatter. All are busy at the feeders. I marvel at their courage to whistle so cheerily -- perhaps it helps keep them warm. Or maybe they too appreciate life's good gifts, even on the coldest days.



I get a real kick from seeing how snow-topped sidewalks can turn into mosaic works of art. A trail mix of tracks from the bottoms of people's shoes, animal paw prints, and wagon treads (which look to me like long knitted scarves). Oh, the little pleasures in winter walks.


TWO
'joy in window sill offerings'


It's two in the morning and I'm wide awake. Sitting at my desk, I notice the old dried flowers on the window sill. I don't go out of my way to dry flowers, but here in Alberta where the air is quite dry, along with my oft neglect to add fresh water to vases as days whisk by -- before I know it, blossoms dry into something strangely beautiful. I can't bear to toss them out so they gather in tiny vases, on bookshelves, and along my window sill. They can sit there for months -- dusting is out of the question, for in trying to lift them up the blossoms disintegrate into myriad petals.

I hardly dare to point out the other little thing I notice as I sit here at this odd hour. But, if you peer closely, you will surely see and wonder why on earth I didn't wipe the ledge before taking the photo, what with all those darn fly specks messing up the view. Ha ha. Refer to last sentence in previous paragraph and you'll know why.

Funny what a person notices in the middle of the night.


THREE
'joy in winter reading'


"In winter we lead a more inward life.
Our hearts are warm and cheery, like cottages under drifts."

~ Henry David Thoreau


I started my holiday reading the book Becoming Mrs. Lewis, the story about Joy Davidman, C.S. Lewis's wife. I read her story years ago, so the amazing story of her life was not new to me. Still, it was a lovely read, the story of Joy's bumpy journey towards her becoming Mrs. Lewis. And it all started with a letter she wrote to Mr. Lewis about some work he had written. "In a most improbable friendship, she found love. In a world where women were silenced, she found her voice."

After I finished it, I felt moved to dig out my old copy of Lenten Lands, the memoir written by Joy's son, Douglas Gresham. Written in 1988, the account is similar but it's shared from the memories of a little boy traveling to England with his mother across the Atlantic to meet C.S. Lewis. He tells of his disappointment the first time he met his hero, the author who dreamed up Narnia.
"He was wearing the oddest clothes, too! Baggy grey flannel trousers, dusty with cigarette ash and sagging at the turn-ups (equally full of ash), an old tweed jacket with the elbows worn away. ... I think I hid my face in Mother's skirt, for I was keenly disappointed. Here was a man who was on speaking terms with King Peter, with the Great Lion, Aslan himself. Here was the man who had been to Narnia; surely he should at least wear silver chain mail and be girt about with a jewel-encrusted sword-belt. This was the heroic figure of whom Mother had so often spoken? Well, so much for imagery." 


FOUR
'take courage with joy...and tea'

photo: pixabay.com

For the most part, I tend to ignore the trend of selecting a focus word or phrase for a new year. I've tried different times, but any word I choose inspires me for a few weeks, and then it's old. My attention span is short these days. But there came a moment, during one of those deep and sleepless nights I've had recently, this time laying wide awake under the covers, when I did play with the idea of choosing a word I could use as a focal point.

I was slightly surprised when the word "courage" bubbled up. I didn't even need to muse a lot to wonder why I should need courage. I don't know about you, but some mornings, it's hard getting up to face a world that is so filled with sorrow, ugliness, and bad news. And even when it's not in my own backyard, there are so many people to care about, the burdens seems overwhelming. Dismaying. I just want to hide in my own little world some days. But we can't, can we? I mean, we can hide away for a season, but we must enter the fray again and reach out to help share some of the burden with others. That's what being human is about, wouldn't you agree?

Remembering words I've turned to many times over the years, I opened the Book to those lines spoken to Joshua in the Old Testament, "Be strong, vigorous, and very courageous. Be not afraid, neither be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."

I feel buoyed already.

Then I opened up Sarah Clarkson's recently published work Book Girl and found this passage that speaks so perfectly to this that I had to share a bit of it with you. By the way, if you are a book girl at heart, then I recommend this lovely volume -- part book list, part memoir journey of this beautiful author who lives with her little family in Oxford, UK.
"... I encountered the reality that a girl who reads is a girl who understands that she has a part to play in the drama of the world. A woman who reads is a woman who knows she must act: in courage, in creativity, in kindness, and often in defiance of the darkness around her. She understands that life itself is a story and that she has the power to shape her corner of the drama. She has learned with Frodo (character in Tolkien's The Fellowship of the Ring), that reluctant but faithful hero, that the heroes in the best stories are simply the ones who "had lots of chances . . . of turning back" but didn't. To know yourself as an agent in the story of the world, one able to bring light and goodness in the midst of suffering, is a profoundly empowering knowledge, one that I believe comes to every woman who reads." excerpt from p. 92 
Such beautiful words on which to sail forth into the new year. How can we not be heartened and strengthened by them?


FIVE
'joy in gentle plans'



To create days filled with variety of activities, experiences, and people. I chat about it in a previous post here
To renew my commitment to live healthier. To be ever mindful of what I eat, walk daily for exercise, and connect to nature's beauty while I'm out there.
To put my house in order. To physically, mentally, spiritually clear out the clobber; put things back in their place; get paper, encroaching bad habits and negative thoughts back under control. Give away the excess collection of notebooks stored in the desk drawer -- yes, I am ever beguiled by beautiful notebooks, but really I don't need all of them, do I?
To pick up once again the work of writing out my life stories, to tell them in such a way that might be useful to someone else. These words by author Shawna Lemay motivate me in this: "What is it you want to write with the time remaining? Believe in the one person who will someday pick up your book...".
To spend more time reading, less time scrolling on social media.
To keep my heart close to Jesus.
To walk in the spirit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness ... ever mindful of the shoes other folks might be walking in.
To light a candle rather than curse the darkness.


SIX
'something fun, funny'

Alexis Carrington Colby (Joan Collins) on Dynasty

The other evening hubby and I turned on the television, and PBS was running their documentary series Pioneers of Television, Prime-time Soaps. Oh my goodness, what fun. Who can forget Dallas or Dynasty from the 1970s - 1980s?

I especially loved Dynasty, that show with the 'gloriously over-the-top trials and tribulations of the fabulously wealthy and none-to-nice Carrington and Colby clans'. I loved seeing all the stars with their big hairdos, big earrings, and ginormous hats. Not to mention the shoulder pads. It was so much fun to see snippets of the old actors talking about the great fun they used to have making those shows. I didn't realize they got the nickname “soap operas” because the early adopters of television advertising were soap companies. There you go.

I went and dug out my old big earrings (oh yes, I still have them), poofed up my hair that old way, and staring back at me in the mirror was that thirty-something woman I used to be. For a brief moment, I was transported back in mind and spirit to the '80s where I had the time of my life. If you don't peer too closely, you might not even notice the baggy eyelids or the wrinkly neck and decolletage. I put the earrings away, got out the face cream, and returned to 2019.


* * *

I told you in my previous post that I was going to see Mary Poppins Returns with a friend over the holidays. We went and we enjoyed ourselves. It was a lot of fun. But the one thing that I thought was missing from this spectacularly produced movie was that there wasn't one song in it that I found hummable or sing-a-longable. I truly think the producers missed the most important thing ... with the old songs, we wanted to sing along with Mary or Burt, Mr. Banks or Uncle Albert. That's why the movie stays with us -- we remember the songs forever.

As the credits rolled, I found myself longing to have a go at one of them -- I wanted to skip out of the theatre singing Let's Go Fly A Kite. I didn't skip but I hummed.


* * * 

I have to tell you, this post started out as a simple few paragraphs, but get me in front of a keyboard or put a pen in my hands, and the words tumble out like clowns from a Volkswagen. Haha, so much for 'easing' into blogging after my hiatus. I hope you had enough tea to sustain you during this longish read.

Now, here's wishing you a beautiful day and much grace for the journey ahead in 2019. May we each have eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts to notice -- and receive -- the good gifts that are in store for us as each day unfolds.

Hugs,
Brenda
xox


*





If you are receiving this post by email, I'd love to hear from you. You can click on Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life here or on the link below, and it will take you directly to my blog. You are welcome to leave a comment there, or if the comment box is being unfriendly, you are very welcome to get in touch by email.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Easy Like Holidays

photo: pixabay.com

“In the case of good books, the point is not to see how
many of them you can get through,
but rather how many can get through to you.”
~ Mortimer J. Adler


Once the presents are handed out and the turkey dinner has been prepared and eaten, for me that's when the real holidays--the relaxing--can begin. I love Christmas and all the hubbub of getting ready. But I admit loving these days between Christmas and New Year's. Just as the days before Christmas were busy, the days following are now quiet and easy as we relax, spending time reading, playing games, putting puzzles together, going for walks on snowy afternoons. 

When I was a girl, I loved getting books for Christmas. When the holiday festivities were over, my siblings and I looked forward to all those wonderful school holidays when we could play with our new toys, start our new craft projects, and spend hours whiling away winter afternoons with our noses in new books.

Decades later not much has changed in that department. I still get excited about receiving books for Christmas, and I still love to curl up on a winter's evening with something nice to read. I've been flipping through the books I received, facing the hard but gleeful decision about which book from my little pile to read first. I tend to read the front and back covers, flip through the introduction, and dip into a page or two. I do the same with each book, until I realize which one is drawing me in.

Here's what Santa brought me this Christmas:

Becoming Mrs. Lewis 
by Patti Callahan (novel, 2018)

"The Improbable Love Story of Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis"

* * *

Prairie Fires
The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder
by Caroline Fraser (2017)

This biography draws on unpublished manuscripts, letters, diaries,
land and financial records, filling in the gaps in Ms Wilder's life story.

* * *

Becoming Madeleine
by Charlotte Jones Voiklis and Lena Roy (2018)

A biography of the author of A Wrinkle in Time written by her granddaughters.

* * *

No Time to Spare
Thinking About What Matters
by Ursula K. Le Guin (2017)  

"...I am going to be eighty-one next week. I have no time to spare."

***


While I consider that, I'm also working my way through An Irish Country Christmas (2008) by Patrick Taylor. It's the heartwarming tale of two doctors living in the cozy village of Ballybucklebo, and all the adventures they get up to as they work hard to keep their patients healthy and happy as the Christmas season approaches. It's a delightful read.


 “Reading one book is like eating one potato chip.”
~ Diane Duane


Today we're eating a few turkey leftovers, nibbling on sweet treats, drinking tea, working on a short book review due January first. There are plans in the wind to go see the new Mary Poppins movie with a girlfriend -- I'm hearing good reviews. Plus, we off to visit family later in the week.

Nice and easy ... grateful for these good gifts.

I'll be away from my blog for a wee while.

Here's wishing you beautiful days ahead.

Hugs,
Brenda
xox





If you are receiving this post by email, I'd love to hear from you. You can click on Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life here or on the link below, and it will take you directly to my blog. You are welcome to leave a comment there, or if the comment box is being unfriendly, you can get in touch by email.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Day 25. Merry Christmas!

fancycrave |  unsplash.com


"I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play
And mild and sweet their songs repeat
Of peace on earth good will to men"



* * *



We've arrived. Christmas has arrived.
I hope your Santa stocking is full. I hope your heart is overflowing
with joy and gratitude.

Thanks so much for keeping company with me
as we counted down to Christmas. It's been a lot of fun!

I didn't have a chance to see everyone's Christmas posts, but I'll be
doing catch up visits over the next few days.

I'll be back to my regularly scheduled posting but first
I'm taking a few days off over the holidays.

I'm off to celebrate, to eat turkey and stuffing, mince tarts, and chocolates.
Open presents. Kiss loved ones. Hug them.
All the while being glad for today's good gifts.

Here's wishing you a very Happy Christmas!

Love and hugs,
Brenda
xox