Friday, April 19, 2024

Progress Report From the "The Reading List"

"She didn't remember the story, she was terrible with details,
but she remembered the way it made her feel."
SARA NISHA ADAMS, The Reading List

As you may recall from an earlier post (HERE), I mentioned that I'd been reading the novel The Reading List by Sara Nisha Adams. A heartwarming story of a troubled young woman, Aleisha, who works in a library and an older, lonely widower, Mukesh, who visits the library looking for something to help him through his grief. Somewhere in there, a reading list with eight titles mysteriously shows up in different places. Aleisha sees it one day and decides to try the first title - to see how it goes - and thus the tale really begins. Soon she's suggesting to Mukesh that he should try reading the first one; she enjoyed it, maybe he would too.

Ever eager for a new reading list with new titles someone has recommended, I gathered the books and started with the first one on the list. If you need a reminder, below are the titles linked to the GoodReads book blurbs, if you want to know a little more about each one:

by Harper Lee, 1960
(Read this one for the first time and loved it)

by Daphne du Maurier, 1938
(Longtime favourite - loved reading it again)

by Khaled Hosseini, 2003
(Haunting, heartbreaking, good story)

by Yann Martel, 2001
 (Have never read this one)

by Jane Austen, 1813
(Longtime favourite - haven't read it in a while)

by Louise May Alcott, 2 vols. 1868, 1869
 (Longtime favourite - haven't reread for this list) 

by Toni Morrison, 1987
(Have never read this one)

by Vikram Seth, 1993
(Have never read this one. It's 1474 pages - even
longer than War and Peace at 1352 pages;
definitely not an undertaking for the faint of heart. 
I've seen this one on various suggested reading lists.)

I have now finished the third book, The Kite Runner. This is one of those books where I won't remember all the details, but I will not forget how it haunts me, even days after I finished it. In my view, this is not a book for the fragile of soul. It's too heart-rending in many places. However, if you feel courageous, and you feel able to bear the pain of others - even for those in a story - then carry on. I found it an enlarging story. It made my heart squeeze in compassion for the plight and pain of others, many in situations I'll never encounter in real life but now have a glimpse of what some do face in this world. The book is one I probably won't read again, but I'm glad I did once.

With this story fresh in my thoughts, I read CaitlynneGrace's new post on her blog that felt so timely. She mentions a quote from St. Teresa of Avila, "He who truly loves his neighbor and cannot efficaciously assist him, should strive at least to relieve and help him by his prayers." I was pricked by these words. Although I do often whisper a little prayer for people as I'm going about my days—maybe it's someone being driven off in an ambulance or the teen looking so despondent at the crosswalk or the young mom looking harried as she runs errands with toddlers in tow. I want to be even more aware of others around me and not be so absorbed in my own things. Of course, there are many times we cannot help someone in a tangible way, but as Teresa of Avila noted, at least we could say a pray for them as we each go our own way. Who knows, it might be enough grace in that little space of time, when empathy beats in our heart, that helps a person live through another day, maybe a little more hopefully. CaitlynneGrace says it more eloquently, so I hope you'll pop over and read her post yourself, link HERE.

I'll wait a few days before I pick up the next book in the list. In the meanwhile, I'll find something softer and easier on the heart. I look up from my screen and glance out the window, my goodness, the sun is shining and the skies are spring blue. Earlier I heard my first robin of the season - I'm ecstatic. So, on that note, I'll be off to feast on this new day. I'm wishing you a beautiful day...

Heart hugs,

Photo credit:
Top Image by Catkin from Pixabay

Friday, April 12, 2024

Memories: My Wedding Dress

"This is more than just a wedding dress.
It is the embodiment of a dream come true."

No great clouds of tulle, no long train, crinoline, or trailing veil. Marrying at age 41, I no longer desired the kind of dress I dreamed about as a girl. I wanted something simple with just a hint of twirl and flounce. Trying on several gowns, I knew when I saw it in the mirror. This was the one, it felt just right. A dress in off-white cream, an ankle-length full skirt, the bodice and sleeves in lace—a silhouette of soft romance.

Somewhere I read that classic wedding dresses are designed to stand the test of time, meaning you'll never cringe when looking back at your wedding portraits. I'm glad to say that I still love the simplicity of my wedding dress, and I smile when I see the photos.

Months before there was a thought of a wedding, I saw a photo in the February 1998 issue of Victoria magazine (see below). If I was ever going to be a bride, this was the bouquet I wanted to carry. At that time, there was not even a hint in the air of a wedding—I wasn't even going out with the fellow. But nevertheless at the mature age of 41, a girl will have her dreams, and I dreamed of carrying this bouquet down the aisle to my waiting heart mate, whoever he might be (we had our fingers crossed).

"Love is the flower
you've got to let grow."

"Once in a while, in the middle of an ordinary life,
love gives us a fairy tale."

Since that day more than 25 years ago, the dress has been hanging in the closet. And every so often when I'll be looking for something else, I'll see it and take it out. A rush of emotion-filled memories flood in.

There has been the long tradition of keeping one's wedding dress with the idea of handing it down to someone in the next generation. Hopefully a daughter or even a granddaughter. For me, there is no one to pass it down to—my nieces have their own moms' things, if anything is to be passed down. So I wonder why I keep it tucked up in the cupboard when perhaps someone else out there could wear it on her special day and enjoy its loveliness.

That day when I was in the clearing out mood, I slipped the shoulder ribbons from the fabric hanger with the intention to fold the dress into a nice box and take it to a second hand shop. I couldn't. I could fold away some of my old formal dresses I once wore as I knew I'd never wear them again. But this gown? I'll never wear it again either. Neither Rick or I are the truly 'romantic' types where we'd renew our vows or dress up in our wedding clothes for a milestone anniversary photo. I think he might gently roll his eyes if I suggested it. But then again he might not.

There is one little memory of my dress on our wedding day that still sparkles like diamonds in a ring. It was the end of the day. The party was over, the guests were gone. Rick and I were getting into the car to drive to our hotel. He opened the door for me, and as I got in, he took my swirly skirt and gently tucked it around my feet, making sure the hem was safely in. The glint of his new wedding band against the creamy skirt made my heart skip a beat. I was the bride, he was my bridegroom. And I was about to go away into my new life with this man I loved. It's a moment I have never forgotten.

Back in the closet I hung my wedding dress. It doesn't take up much room. Maybe I'll be ready to pass it along another time. But not today.

Wishing you a beautiful Spring weekend,

Friday, March 29, 2024

Spring at the Conservatory

"And the Spring arose on the garden fair,
Like the Spirit of Love felt everywhere;
And each flower and herb on Earth's dark breast
Rose from the dreams of its wintry rest."
PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY, from The Complete Poems

While winter continues to play the bully outdoors, we took ourselves to the Muttart Conservatory to catch their Spring Display. Despite the blustering winds, the day was glorious with bright sunshine streaming through the pyramid glass walls. The place was alive with fellow seekers of Spring. As the double doors to the feature pavilion swung open—like doors at a wedding that open for the beautiful bride to walk through—it was like stepping into another world. We stared. We breathed in the scent of hyacinth and jonquils drifting on the air. Every corner was brimming with sunshine and the bright hues of tulip, daffodil, and primrose—an artist's palette for winter tired eyes.

One woman exclaimed as our eyes met, "It's like having dessert!" Oh my, yes! Elizabeth von Arnim said it best when she described Lottie Wilkins in Enchanted April as Lottie opened the shutters and gazed over the 'flower-starred' grass her first morning in Italy:
"She stared. Such beauty; and she there to see it. Such beauty; and she alive to feel it. Her face was bathed in light. Lovely scents came up . . . and caressed her . . . How beautiful, how beautiful. Not to have died before this . . . to have been allowed to see, breathe, feel this . . . how could one describe it? It was as though she could hardly stay inside herself, it was as though she were too small to hold so much of joy, it was as though she were washed through with light."
Photographs never do it justice, but I'm hoping this tiny glimpse of our visit will lift your hearts if, in your corner of the world, you still await for the fullness of Spring.

"I must have flowers, always and always."

If you take a flower in your hand and really look at it,
it's your world for a moment.”

"Despite the forecast, live like it's spring."

The beautiful spring came; and
when Nature resumes her loveliness,
the human soul is apt to revive also.

To all who celebrate, Happy Easter!
Wishing you a beautiful weekend,

Photo credits:
Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life

Friday, March 22, 2024

Things I Like

Often it's the little things we
like that get us through the day.

Inspired by Linda's list on her blog who was inspired by Joyce Carol Oates's list, I borrowed the idea to create one for myself. I tried not to be too fussy or perfectionist about it... wanting to just let the random thoughts flow up. It's by no means a comprehensive list, and if I were to write it next week, you'd probably see one that's altogether different.

Here's today's version of Things I Like:
Making lists. Robins in spring. Canada Geese in vees. Handel: Messiah "I Know That My Redeemer Liveth" / Water Music. JS Bach. Agatha Christie / Louise Penny / Donna Leon. Phases of the moon. All four seasons. Emily Dickinson: "I am out with lanterns, looking for myself." Lattes / Latte art. Rainy days / Snowy mornings. Books on Nature writing / Memoir / Historical fiction. Blogging / Writing. Solitude. Sitting in the garden. "Go. Be. Love." Pussy willows / Tulips / Peonies. Bringing order from chaos. Juxtaposition of light against dark skies in a rainstorm. Deep prairie skies. Harvest moon. Waves lapping. Helping out. Writing letters. Lamps in a window. Happy childhood memories. Ice cream cones. Debussy: Claire de Lune. Pretty notebooks. Chariots of Fire: "And when I run I feel his pleasure." Sandwiches / Dark chocolate / Birthday Cake. Presents. Blue / Sea-green. Singing. Laughing. Pencils.
Kindred spirits. Van Gogh / Monet. Beauty. Honesty. Gift From the Sea. "Who said the world was fair?" Cheezies. Libraries / Old Bookshops. Purring kitty cats. BeeGee's Too Much Heaven / Staying Alive (the beat gets me doing my walking workout 😊). Skirts that twirl. Sparkling windows. Flowers and taking closeup pics of them. Henri Nouwen / C.S. Lewis / L.M. Montgomery. Mozart's Requiem as sung in Oxford one spring evening on my 60th. Lavender scented anything / Spritzing on Joy by Dior. Curtains wafting on a breeze. Giving gifts. Pottering. Good conversations over coffee. Enchanted April / 84 Charing Cross Road / You've Got Mail / Out of Africa / Pride and Prejudice (1995). Bees in the garden / Leaves in the wind. Kindness. Compassion. Comments from blog friends. Dog barking in the far distance / Lawn mower droning on a summer evening. Amor Towles: A Gentleman in Moscow. Pretty postage stamps. Cozy: Sweaters, blankets, nooks. Children laughing. Reading in bed. Twilight. Coffee brewing / Bacon sizzling / Crunchy toast. Learning new things. Oxford / Victoria / Edinburgh. Aretha Franklin singing I Say A Little Prayer for You.

Even as I close this list, there are dozens more I could add, but enough is as good as a feast. Are your thoughts running? Have you been inspired to create your own list?

Wishing you a beautiful day,
Photo credit:
Top Image by Oldiefan from Pixabay

Friday, March 15, 2024

Friday Pleasantries

"I know the world is filled with troubles
and many injustices, but reality is as beautiful
as it is ugly. I think it is just as important to sing
about beautiful mornings as it is to talk about the slums.
I just couldn't write anything without hope in it."

While spring shakes off the vestiges of winter in the great outdoors, I'm still inside sorting my current material possessions, deciding what to keep, what to give away, what needs to be tossed. Time has slipped away, and here it's time for a new blog post. Yesterday I set up my draft, searched for a suitable photo (above), and whispered a prayer for a spark of inspiration to get me started. I hoped it might arrive in the night hours while I slept.

I follow Austin Kleon, artist/author from Texas, and this morning his weekly newsletter popped in my inbox. On reading his heading "Basic Pleasantries", I felt the spark of interest and began working on my own simple and hopefully pleasant Friday post. 

ONE. Spring is in the air

The snow is melting fast. The house finches are singing to beat the band. And Rick spotted the first Canada Geese flying overhead towards the storm pond. It's still frozen but these early birds are eager to find the best spots for raising this season's batch of goslings. If that's not a cheering sight, I don't know what is.

TWO. So is love

My sister sent a charming news article of a young woman who met her future husband at the Honolulu airport. Awww, it was a lovely read. If you're interested, you'll find the article HERE. Pssst. We think there's a love story unfolding nearer to home in the family. It's an exciting time of year for young love.

THREE. Tea samples

A lovely friend who'd been vacationing in Victoria, BC, sent me a small package in the mail. It included samples of the teas she purchased at the well known Murchie's Fine Tea & Coffee shop: Publisher's Blend ("a chocolatey, nutty and malty blend of black teas, best accompanied by stacks of manuscripts that need reviewing.")—I'll be sipping that with my latest book; and Russian Caravan ("a blend of black teas and smoky Lapsang Souchong (to) recreate the campfires and brisk, starry nights experienced by the caravans carrying tea to the Russian Czar.")—maybe I'll pull out some Tolstoy to read with that tea. Also included was a fragrant bag of Lavender Cream ("A beautifully balanced lavender black tea with creamy vanilla.")—I love lavender tea. Looking forward to trying them.

FOUR. Basic pleasantries

We were ordering cups of tea and coffees from the clerk at the order counter - for four. The polite middle-aged woman was patient as we decided what beverage, the size we wanted, and whether we needed milk, cream, or sugar. Was that everything? Yes, said Rick, getting out his card to tap. But then she spotted me still eyeing the muffins in the showcase so she waited a nanosecond until I decided on a Bran Muffin. For some reason, I felt this woman noticed the little things, she paid attention to her customers, and I felt that slight connect of the heart. I smiled and thanked her warmly for serving us. It's a day later and the warmth of the tiny exchange still resonates. I appreciated her awareness of me as a customer. I felt seen. I hope she felt the same in our brief exchange of pleasantries. 

FIVE. A quote that caught my eye

 "Grace is like a blanket of hope
that covers you at night when you
don't think you have what it takes to
get up in the morning."

Thank God for that grace every morning!

Wishing you a beautiful weekend,

Photo Credit:
Image by vinsky2002 from Pixabay