Friday, May 22, 2020

Anne's Bower of Apple Blossoms

Image by TheFunky.pixel from Pixabay

It's Friday afternoon and I'm whiling away the rainy day by revisting my blog archives. I enjoyed finding this excerpt in a post I'd written in 2010. For you ardent fans of L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables, I'm sure you remember when Anne caught her first glimpse of the lane of apple trees in full bloom that day Matthew Cuthbert picked her up from the train station and then drove home to Green Gables.

"They had simply rounded a curve in the road and found themselves in the 'Avenue'. The Avenue, so called by the Newbridge people, was a stretch of road four or five hundred yards long, completely arched over with huge, wide-spreading apple-trees, planted years ago by an eccentric old farmer. Overhead was one long canopy of snowy fragrant bloom. Below the boughs the air was full of a purple twilight and far ahead a glimpse of painted sunset sky shone like a great rose window at the end of a cathedral aisle.

Its beauty seemed to strike the child dumb. She leaned back in the buggy, her thin hands clasped before her, her face lifted rapturously to the white splendour above.

. . .It's the first thing I ever saw that couldn't be improved upon by imagination. It just satisfies me here—she put one hand on her breast—it made a queer funny ache and yet it was a pleasant ache."
L.M. MONTGOMERY, Anne of Green Gables

I've never had the personal pleasure of passing under such a vast bower of beauty, but that lovely photo above certainly gives, as Anne herself would say, scope for the imagination. Aren't you glad for the gift of your imagination? Maybe a larger question should be....have you ever witnessed something that so satisfied you in your breast with that queer funny ache, and it was so breathtaking it could not be improved upon by imagination?

I sure hope you have a lovely weekend.
Wishing you glimpses of heaven in unexpected places,

Heart hugs,

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

From My Book Shelf: Sharing The Journey

" Every morning just before dawn, I rise, make myself
a cup of coffee, and sit quietly in a wing chair in the living room
for about an hour. Waking early without effort is one of the genuine
pleasures of getting older. Life has fewer days in it, but nature
compensates by allowing you to greet them sooner. "
PHYLLIS THEROUX, excerpt from her essay 'On Keeping a Journal'

As you may know, I have been browsing my book shelves with you in mind—looking at titles I think you might enjoy and then sharing an excerpt or two. Pressing my books into service is my small online contribution to helping create community in isolation.

I'm happy to present this lovely volume of memoir essays Sharing the Journey, Women Reflecting on Life's Passages from the pages of Victoria Magazine. It's so nice to find many of my favourite articles from the magazine in this attractive hardcover collection. Even though I still have all my old Victoria magazines, there are times I want to read a certain essay and can't put my hand on the right issue right away; chances are it's in the book.

Originally published in 1997, it was republished in 2007. In it you will find writings by such distinguished—and probably familiar—authors as Diane Ackerman, Catherine Calvert, Madeleine L'Engle, Susan Minot, Francine Prose, Phyllis Theroux, and others. They have written about the phases of a woman's life and include themes such as childhood, motherhood, sisters, home, rituals, solitude, and remembering the past.

If you are interested in exploring further, you will find an online table of contents along with several essays HERE.

Sharing the Journey: Women Reflecting on Life's Passages
edited by Katherine Ball Ross (1997, 2007)

Victoria's former editor, Nancy Lindemeyer, wrote the Foreword, and it's her insightful words that I share as the first excerpt. I was especially drawn to her observation that memoir is about discovering the mystery of the commonplace. Thank goodness for that—my life growing up wasn't high drama, but there was life to be lived and lessons to be learned, and in the end, it can all make fodder for sharing.
"Memoirs are the distillation of life's lessons. They are experiences 'recollected in tranquility,' and they needn't be dramatic experiences. Life, after all, consists mainly in our routines, our rituals, commonplace things that everyone shares. But the memoir writer discovers the mystery in the commonplace. She bites down on a tiny seed and—open sesame!—the essential oil bursts forth, more intense than we could have ever imagined. . . .
Collected here is a celebration—a sampling of the best original writing that appeared in Victoria. Many of the writers represented are well known to you; others will be new acquaintances. So take this little book to your chosen snuggery and curl up with friends, old and new. I promise you fresh insights on familiar scenes, a candle in the dark, a friendly word to spur you on home."

* * *

The second excerpt comes from a piece written by Catherine Calvert and is entitled Porch Swings, Old Novels, and Memories of Summers Past.
"Though many a house has sheltered me in the course of summers past, one memory serves to tie them all. It's early afternoon and all is sweet peace. Just a shift of the pillows set the porch swing swaying gently—pillows covered in faded chintz with the slight musty scent that attests to their long winter's nap in the shed. The book lying tented across my chest is slightly musty too, foxed with the brown spots of age, since it was left downstairs in the bookcase thirty or forty years ago. You may be sure there's nothing in it to tax the brain: It's a romance and Cressida and Percy are settling their futures over a game of tennis. But I shall simply revel in the pleasure of the present, listening to the burr of the lawn mower down the road, watching the hornets busy themselves with their nest, biting into the slice of lemon I've fished from my iced tea.
Ah, the joys of a summer place! Unlike year-round houses filled with serious furniture and serious concerns, this is the house that transcends utility, that summons up the joys of summertime when you cross the threshold. Shuffle off your shoes and pad across the cool floors, search out the porch (there has to be a porch with the traditional blue-painted roof). Count the beds, with their white counterpanes and sagging springs—all is as it should be, as it was, and ever shall be. The proper summer house exists out of time and has a sort of parallel life to our own workaday existence." 

* * *

Lucky you, I've pulled a third excerpt today for your reading pleasure from the essay The Romance of Old Books by Patricia O'Toole. This has been a favourite of mine ever since I read it in Victoria years ago.
" A half hour of steady rain is all it takes for the mood to wrap itself around me. Why this should be, I don't know, but when the world's clatter disappears in the thrum of the rain, the tranquility that settles in pulls me toward the pleasures of browsing among old books. Not rare books, and not classics necessarily just books that have been around for awhile.  Books that used to belong to someone else.
Books that look cherished—as if they've been read more than once and passed from friend to friend.  If my longing strikes on a busy day, I settle for a visit to the used-book establishment across the street. There is no way to keep the bell on the front door from waking the cat drowsing on the window, but the cat declines to protest. He either goes back to sleep or commences a browse of his own, in the alcove given over to architecture and opera..."

Wishing you a beautiful day.

Heart Hugs,

Monday, May 18, 2020

Weekend Doings

Image by Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life

" The earth laughs in flowers. "

It's Monday morning, the start of a new week. It's a holiday here in Canada. I always call this the Victoria Day weekend, but many call it the May Long Weekend. Victoria Day was established as a holiday in the Province of Canada in 1845 and as a national holiday in 1901 to honour Queen Victoria's birthday. It is now informally considered the beginning of summer, also known as  'let's go camping' for many families. Plus, it is high season for garden centers and anyone eager to finally get plants in the ground. I popped over to one of our favourite greenhouses just moments after opening hours, and the parking lot was already full to the brim, with lineups. I decided not to wait but I'll try again soon. I am looking for shrubs and trees, and they don't have online shopping for them.

We had a lovely weekend—great weather and a chance to parking lot and front yard visit with family and friends. It was so sweet to see faces in person. The weather was perfect. We sat outside and felt the warmth of the sun on our cheeks and the breeze in our hair. We each brought our own drinks and snacks. The no hugging policy made it feel more than a little odd, especially when we waved each other off without so much as a nod, only air kisses. Still, it was wonderful.

" Don't cry because it's over,
smile because it happened. "

" Life's a pudding full of plums."

After a recent dig through the freezer, I discovered a bag of frozen plums that needed using up. I made a Plum Cake for tea yesterday afternoon. Needless to say, we consumed our piece with great delight. It seems I bake a lot more these days. Maybe that's why flour and yeast are hard to come by in the stores—everyone else seems to be doing that as well. Here's the recipe:

Quick Plum Cake

8 x 8 inch greased pan
Preheat oven to 350 F

1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 Tbsp butter
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup boiling water
2 cups pitted fresh plums, or if frozen, thawed

Beat sugar and eggs.
Add dry ingredients.
Add butter, vanilla, water.
Mix thoroughly.

Pour batter into prepared pan.
Layer plums over top.

 Crumb Topping:
1 Tbsp flour
6 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbsp butter
1 cup finely chopped nuts (opt)

Blend flour, sugar, cinnamon in small bowl.
Cut in butter with fork until crumbly.
Add nuts.
Sprinkle over batter and fruit.
Bake 30 minutes or until done.  

Note: The recipe is easily doubled
for a 9 x 12" pan, baking for 45 to 60 minutes.

* * *

We had a sad moment in our garden this morning as Rick had to chop down one of our small spruces. One always waits as long as possible in the springtime to ensure something is truly dead before doing the chop-chop. In this particular case, the sad little tree was yellow-brown and getting browner by the day, with piles of needles at her feet in mourning. Thankfully, the two spruces next to her seem healthy and are busy setting their new buds.

Another truly sad moment came yesterday afternoon when the news broke that one of the Canadian Snowbird jets crashed shortly after takeoff in BC. They were on the #OperationInspiration mission to do flypasts over communities across the country. What was meant to cheer people up turned into tragedy. One pilot, Captain Jennifer Casey, died as a result. I felt sick at heart. Condolences to all involved.

As often happens in life, there's a mix of bitter and sweet—life and death—going on. Sometimes we find ourselves having to live with happy-sad in our hearts at the same time. I've learned to do that over the years, celebrating good things even as sad things are being mourned. If we let it, joy seems able to mingle with comfort.

" When life is sweet, say thank you and celebrate.
And when life is bitter, say thank you and grow. "

Image by Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life

Good news following sad, our orchid burst into bloom this weekend. We were so thrilled. We had repotted her about a year ago, and there had been no sign of growth over the months. It took this long to re-establish herself. Then, one day buds began to form, and now this. ↑

* * *

As I'm wrapping this up, I heard one of the song sparrows, they must be just arriving. Not sure which one, but it sounded as if he was out of practice—he was a bit wobbly in the warble. Made me chuckle. He'll have to do better if he wants to attract a nice female.

On that note, I'll be here on Wednesday with a book post. Wishing you a beautiful week ahead. Keep safe especially now as things open up more.

Heart Hugs,