Saturday, November 27, 2021

Shades of Blue

Lilac Bouquet by Paul Gaugin, 1885, public domain, wikiart.org

"If you have been afraid that your love of beautiful flowers
and the flickering flame of the candle is somehow less
spiritual than living in starkness and ugliness, remember
that He who created you to be creative gave you the
things with which to make beauty and the sensitivity
to appreciate and respond to His creation."
EDITH SCHAEFFER


As you know, I rarely mention heartache topics here on my blog. From the beginning It's A Beautiful Life was meant to be a place of rest—a sanctuary where both writer and reader can escape the cares of the world, if only for a moment. Alas, my mind has been bombarded of late with things not so beautiful, not so peaceful: the devastating floods and mudslide disasters in British Columbia with their loss of life, homes, and livestock; chaos, crisis, and hatred leaving its ugly mark in so many places; health issues of people I love mixed with a few of my own health niggles.... well, you get the idea. 

I think that's why I haven't been able to write. Ideas were stuck. Words were scarce. I needed time to clear the path so light and goodness could once again bring clarity and hope. I whispered my prayers and plunked my cares into the lap of the Lord, the way a hurt child turns to her mother for comfort—asking the Good Lord to keep an eye over the things I have no control, asking Him to extend mercy to folks I don't know but their faces haunt me. Eventually an inward peace begins to settle.

I remind myself to write about the little things that bring me joy in the midst and to quit trying to be eloquent about it. Well, okay then.... I feel a freedom in that.  

Giving me great joy of late is that superb painting above by Paul Gaugin: Lilac Bouquet. I absolutely love it with that striking sprig of white against those gorgeous shades of blues. And wouldn't you look at that pretty shawl set beside the vase, as if the lady of the house has just walked in and lain it down to smell the fragrant bouquet. 

Speaking of lilacs, our lilac bush was laden with snow bouquets a week or so ago when the mild autumn turned overnight into snowy, blustery winter. I was quite happy about it—a winter wonderland that got many folks, including myself, into the coziness of the season. Kids were out making snowmen and, with evenings turning pitch dark by 4:30 in the afternoon, folks everywhere were switching on their Christmas lights. Tiny blazes of merry.

We haven't turned on our outdoor Christmas lights yet. Rick isn't the eager Christmas Elf that I am—although I do believe it's a façade 😉when he mutters bah humbug. But my feeling is that once the first snow falls, it's open season on decorating for the holidays. I start small, adding a little touch here, a few twinkle lights there, and then around December 15th or so, depending if we use live or artificial, I'll decorate the tree. I've gathered my boxes of Christmas cards—yes, Virginia, I still like to write out paper cards alongside e-cards and e-mails. The tradition began years ago when my mom invited me one December to write out the envelopes for her Christmas cards, cautioning to do it carefully and neatly in my schoolgirl script. I was about nine or ten, I felt so grown up, so proud, and I have loved writing Christmas cards ever since.

On the home front, our own life thankfully remains pleasant and gently rhythmic, filled with quiet pursuits and routine activities. One day I got busy in the kitchen to make a large pot of Moroccan Chicken Vegetable Soup and a ham and scalloped potato dish to share with our dear friends (she's recovering from surgery). There was something enlivening about the act of cooking, imagining the comfort and joy it would bring to their supper table later that evening.

Life often mingles joy and sorrow, making it bittersweet sometimes. I'm keeping my heart in wonder at the daily miracles of my life (a line borrowed from Kahlil Gibran)—it offers much consolation in these troubling times. 

* * *

Wishing you a beautiful weekend.
Heart hugs,
Brenda

Friday, November 12, 2021

Restorative Lines from Leonard Woolf


"Field with irises near Arles"
Vincent van Gogh


As we all know, the pandemic has turned the world upside down, impacting society, impacting us as families and individuals. With these and other strange and ofttimes disturbing events going on around us, it is so easy to focus on these circumstances. I came across a little story Austin Kleon mentions in his book Keep Going that shifted something for me. It was from a passage in Leonard Woolf's memoir Downhill All the Way in which he described a scene that took place just months before the start of World War II. Just so you know, Leonard was husband to Virginia Woolf, well known author of books like A Room of One's Own. He edited literary journals and wrote books on history. Together they ran a printing press.

For me, Leonard's words had such a restorative element—I could feel my chin lift and my shoulders straighten. Having just commemorated Remembrance Day, it feels appropriate to share today:
"I will end . . . with a little scene that took place in the last months of peace. They were the most terrible months of my life, for, helplessly and hopelessly, one watched the inevitable approach of war. One of the most horrible things at that time was to listen on the wireless to the speeches of Hitler—the savage and insane ravings of a vindictive underdog who suddenly saw himself to be all-powerful. We were in Rodmell during the late summer of 1939, and I used to listen to those ranting, raving speeches. One afternoon I was planting in the orchard under an apple-tree iris reticulata, those lovely violet flowers. . . . Suddenly I heard Virginia's voice calling to me from the sitting room window: "Hitler is making a speech." I shouted back, "I shan't come. I'm planting iris and they will be flowering long after he is dead." Last March, twenty-one years after Hitler committed suicide in the bunker, a few of those violet flowers still flowered under the apple-tree in the orchard." —Leonard Woolf

Woolf's defiant comment about his irises reminds me of what Martin Luther is quoted as saying: "Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree."

And, as Austin Kleon points out in his book after he read the passage above: "I don't know for sure what kinds of flowers I'm planting with my days on this planet, but I intend to find out, and so should you. // Every day is a potential seed that we can grow into something beautiful. There's no time for despair."

* * *

On this grey and blustery Friday,
here's wishing you a lighter load for your weekend.

With love and heart hugs,

Brenda


(Top)Imagine found on Pixabay 




Sunday, November 07, 2021

Start With Favourite Lines From L.M. Montgomery



 —Lines from Emily of New Moon by L.M. Montgomery
❝ It had always seemed to Emily, ever since she could remember, that she was very, very near to a world of wonderful beauty. Between it and herself hung only a thin curtain; she could never draw the curtain aside—but sometimes, just for a moment, a wind fluttered it and then it was as if she caught a glimpse of the enchanting realm beyond—only a glimpse—and heard a note of unearthly music.
This moment came rarely—went swiftly, leaving her breathless with the inexpressible delight of it. She could never recall it—never summon it—never pretend it; but the wonder of it stayed with her for days. It never came twice with the same thing. Tonight the dark boughs against that far-off sky had given it. It had come with a high, wild note of wind in the night, with a shadow wave over a ripe field, with a grey bird lighting on her windowsill in a storm, with the singing of "Holy, holy, holy" in church, with a glimpse of the kitchen fire when she had come home on a dark autumn night, with the spirit-like blue of ice palms on a twilit pane, with a felicitous new word when she was writing down a 'description' of something. And always when the flash came to her Emily felt that life was a wonderful, mysterious thing of persistent beauty. ❞ p. 7 - 8
* * *

Sigh...it's one of my favourite passages from a delightful novel I read in my youth. For me, lines like these stand out as markers—transformative, defining moments when I came to recognize and could admit to myself that Beauty was, and remains, the most inspirational and motivating force in the world. If I could find the 'beauty', however tiny, in the midst of any given situation, I knew I would be okay. Up until that point in my youthful life, I think I had the notion that life was hard, and happy moments were just that...fleeting glimpses in a sea of hard knocks, life to be endured, with a small faith and joy where it could be snatched for companionship, at the whim of moods and emotions—my own and those of others. I longed for a glimpse of the Divine in my life.

It was Lucy Maud Montgomery who gave me the courage to see something different. Her storybooks and published journals gave me something to hope for, that people could find a path that had beauty and joy sitting right in the middle of the hard or sad - much the way we see the proverbial dandelion living large as life from a fracture in a sidewalk. I don't know about you, but I always smile to see such a picture—where Beauty has found a way to peek through and to survive—oh, let me take hold when it does. 

I'll never forget that summer evening long ago when I sat on the back step entranced as twilight fell on our neighbourhood after a beautiful day. A notebook in my lap and pen in my hand, my heart dearly wishing I could emulate Lucy Maud's splendid way of writing as I yearned to describe the marvel of that evening.

How did Miss Montgomery find the right words? How did she make them float like bubbles on the breeze? How did she choose the perfect words that allowed me, her reader, to see what she saw and experienced? How can I write like that?

I started bumping into advice that became an answer. For example, C.S. Lewis sent this advice to aspiring young writers who wrote to him: 'read all the good books you can' . . . Ray Bradbury who in his early career said he used to 'live in the library' . . . Annie Proulx who wrote, 'writing comes from reading, and reading is the finest teacher of how to write' . . . and Steven King who advises, 'If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.'

It's true, I have since discovered for myself it is the greatest advice. Through reading I have opened the door to discovering not only new ideas and historical contexts, but the art of language, expanding my vocabulary and becoming familiar with the fine nuances of words as I learn the art of cherry picking the one phrase that conveys it with (kissed) perfection. 

I'm so grateful for writers like Lucy Maud Montgomery who continue to lift up my heart through their beautiful writing. Nothing invigorates me like reading someone else's well chosen words. I am inspired to get on with living life as beautifully as I can. I become energized to create work that expresses my own wonderment at all that is still lovely in a broken world. And when I get to share it here with you, I am flooded with a joy that leaves me content.


NB. In case you're interested, here is an article I enjoyed and hope you might as well, entitled Writers on Reading.

* * *

My wish for you this week....Mercies new every morning, grace that's sufficient for whatever you face, joy to strengthen in the midst, and peace that keeps your heart steady in the eye of the storm. Oh, and a generous dollop of plain old fun to make you laugh out loud.


With love and heart hugs,

Brenda


(Top)Photo by Alicja from Pixabay


PS. I have since written a Guest Post elsewhere that companions
this post; if interested, you'll find the post HERE.