Friday, June 14, 2024

Scent of Lilacs in the Air



Now that lilacs are in bloom
She has a bowl of lilacs in her room
And twists one in her fingers while she talks.
T.S. ELIOT


Alas, we have no bowls of lilacs in our house today. We have no lilacs blooming in our garden this year. Our lovely Korean Lilac, which struggled last spring, showed no signs of life when winter was done; we finally cut it down this week. It was a little sad, but we're grateful for all the lilacs in bloom around town. Rick and I went out for a coffee yesterday afternoon (after gardening all morning), and when we stepped outside the café, I caught the scent of lilacs on the breezes. Oh, what a delight.

Lilacs scenting the air reminds me of something I read years ago by Helen Keller. I think it was in her autobiography about a time she and her parents traveled by train from her home in the more southerly region of the US, to see a specialist about her eyes up in Boston. What caught my attention was Helen's description of how the air was so heavy with fragrance where she lived and she noticed how the scent grew less intense the further north they traveled. I was intrigued; it's true, I'd never noticed the air where I lived to be even remotely scented with the fragrance of flowers - be it lilacs, flowering apple trees, or whatever. In my experience, one always had to bend nose to petals to catch a whiff. 

Perhaps that's why the anecdote stayed with me. I tried to imagine what that must have been like for Helen. Not being able to see or hear, she could smell. How sharp her sense of smell would have been. To think of her noticing the shift in the air, enough to mention it in her writings. And for me, what a wonder to imagine places in this world where the fragrance of flowers is so intense the air is drenched with it. It's an experience foreign to me. Here in northerly Alberta where I live, we get only a few days in a year where we might catch a hint of fragrance when all the trees are blooming. I never take it for granted if I happen to catch May Days or lilacs wafting in the air on a perfect summery day.

Now I wonder what it would be like to live where the fragrance of wisteria drifts wildly on the air, or the lavender in Provence, or roses in Grasse, France. Would it be like walking into a flower shop, but on a grander scale—the air filled with the scent of roses, carnations, heliotrope, lavender, peonies, lily of the valley. Perhaps it gets overpowering. Do people get tired of all that fragrance? Maybe they do, but I hope not.

I was working in the garden yesterday, and my little four-year-old neighbour came over and asked me to pull down a branch on the large lilac tree in her family's front yard. She wanted to smell the lilacs. She then tore off a few sprigs—her mom must have shown her how to twist and pull, for she was quite the expert. She was delighted with her fistful of flowers. I mentioned that she might want to choose sprigs in full bloom rather than the ones still closed up. She took note of that, for she proceeded to identify which ones were in full bloom and described how the shape was different. Smart as whip... and cute as button!

I loved the moment. She probably won't remember it, but I think I'll carry it in my heart's eye for a long while.

Wherever you are today, I hope you'll take time to stop and smell what's scenting your corner of the world, whether lilacs, peonies, roses. Or wildflowers. And whether you catch the scent in the air or you must bend near to get a whiff. Here's to our wonderful sense of smell and all the good things our noses can enjoy on a summery day.


Wishing you a beautiful weekend,
Brenda
Photo Credit:
Image by Pixel2013 from Pixabay


Current Blog Schedule: Weekly on Fridays
(occasionally on Saturdays, if really pressed for time)


Friday, June 07, 2024

Friday Five: Unexpected Gifts




"I love how the unexpected things come to us,
such 'insignificant' things in the grand
scheme, yet such a pure-in-spirit gift."
KATHY HILLACRE


Happy Friday! We're well into June and summer is burgeoning around us. The winds are still strong and sharp, where a person isn't sure if she should leave her jacket in the closet. But we've had delightful rains, and as Kermit the Frog might say, we're feeling the green. It's so beautiful.

For today's post, I've gathered a few things that were unexpected gifts in my life, including the quote above that I just found written in my journal, and I'm pleased to say it belongs to my sister. No gift feels insignificant today even in the grand scheme of things, for they each have been pure-in-spirit gifts this week.



One. Outside my window

A single tulip blooming in our front garden this spring. Rick planted these bulbs a couple of years ago (I'd totally forgotten they were there), and this spring it came into full bloom. It stands like a queen in the garden, and I go out and gaze at it with a flutter of joy. It's like looking at brush strokes of paint with all the waves of colour from the deepest to the palest shades. There is no way my photo has done it any justice.

And to think, it has such an ordinary name on the package: "Blue Parrot". If that's blue, I'll eat my hat. Okay, if you peer closely, maybe, there's a hint of blue right in the heart of it.



Two. Reading pile from the library

I'm often late to the party when it comes to reading books that come hot off the presses. So too with Carol Shields's novel The Stone Diaries, which received awards and nominations more than thirty years ago. I finally reserved a copy at the library, after I found Penelope Lively discussing it in her wonderful book Life in the Garden. I found other books that caught my eye, and this past week I've been working my way through the pile. I've now read Carol's novel and enjoyed it, a good story with good things to ponder, which I always love when the characters have things to work out and think about - makes me ponder them too.

The Radcliffe Ladies' Reading Club by Julia Bryan Thomas is a kind of coming of age historical novel set in 1955 as young ladies come together to attend Radcliffe College, while one older woman, Alice Campbell, turns a derelict building into a bookshop of her dreams, "knowing firsthand the power of books to comfort the brokenhearted." A book club is formed and students from the college join in. I enjoyed reading this - it's not too complex a story; there are a couple of troublesome heartrending spots, but there's a hopeful ending which helps keep it in the 'comfort' reading zone.

Still waiting to be read is Dylan Thomas: portrait of the artist as a young dog  which is a volume of autobiographical stories by the modern poet, who died at age 39. Also on the not read pile is The Postman's Fiancée by award-winning author Denis Theriault sounds lovely from the description: "Twenty-two year old Tania has moved to Montreal to study, fine-tune her French and fall in love...she meets Bilodo, a shy postman who spends his days perfecting his calligraphy and writing haiku." 

Neither have I read Colm Tóibín's slim fictional volume The Testament of Mary. Mary, the mother of Jesus, is living in exile, years after her son's crucifixion. I look forward to seeing how the author writes his story about Mary.
   
  

Three. A companionable encounter at the greenhouse

I decided to visit the greenhouse today. It's high time to get the annuals in, despite the sharp winds blowing. I was looking especially for sweet pea plants. Up and down the plant-bulging aisles, I finally found them. Another woman was already hunting through the 6-paks looking for specimens that didn't look past their prime. She showed me one poor plant and seemed discouraged at its peakedness. One could see these poor things were longing to be in the ground. I found one that look promising, with fresh sprouts, and handed it to her. We then found another one for me. It was such a sweet moment, two women who both love sweet peas, heads bent, chatting even though we've never met.

We ended up being in the line up so she showed me some other beauties she found. And then on my way out of the greenhouse, I noticed a plant laying on its side in the parking lot. It was the beautiful two-tone geranium my new friend had been showing me. I caught sight of her and hurried to catch up - she hadn't noticed it falling off her cart. I said, well, this is the third time we have chatted now, I told her my name, she was Denise. Goodbyes were said, I wish I'd also asked if we could have exchanged texts.



Four. A peek at flowers I bought

I don't know if you recall the sweet old song called English Country Garden: "How many kinds of sweet flowers grow / In an English country garden." It opens by listing the many flowers that one might find in a garden. You'll find a lovely rendition of the song HERE.

Here is my list of flowers that you will soon see growing in my Canadian city garden: Sweet peas and Euphorbia, Gazanias and Zinnias, Alyssum and Beeblossom, Stocks and Evening scented stocks, Lemon Marigolds, Purple salvia and Osteospermum, Verbena - pink and purple, Bacopa - pink and white. The colour scheme was not especially forethought but it turns out it's in purples, pinks, whites, with a splash of oranges and yellow.


Image by Catceeq from Pixabay

Five. Time for lunch and flowers won't cut the mustard

I saw someone online describing a delicious sounding Irish-style sandwich. Which sounds perfect for lunch. Especially if I've been out in the garden all morning. Made with chopped hard-boiled eggs, it includes shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, thinly sliced green onions (scallions), salad cream (or mayo), salt and pepper. Mix it together and serve on your favourite sandwich bread. Cut into halves, thirds or squares.

Not having made them yet, I have no photos, but I found the above on Pixabay and I think it's close to the description. If you Google it, I'm sure recipes will float up, along with photos from every angle and greatly detailed instructions on how to make a sandwich. 😉




Before I sign off, I want to invite you over to InScribe Writers Online where I am Guest Blogging today. Our prompt was the letter "R", and I chose to write about the word 'restoration' exploring how restoration is a beautiful, hopeful thing and matters on so many levels. You'll find the post HERE.


Wishing you a wonderful weekend,
Brenda

Photo Credits for this post:
Brenda Leyland @ It's A Beautiful Life
(except for the sandwich photo above)





Friday, May 31, 2024

Friday Favourites: In The Pink at the Botanic Park



"Where flowers bloom
so does hope."
ATTRIBUTED TO LADY BIRD JOHNSON


Spring generally comes later to this part of the world here in northerly Alberta, but it truly felt as if the season dragged her heels this year. Perhaps it was because our souls were so ready for our world to be transformed with light and warmth and colour. The last couple of weeks, however, have more than made up for the lag time—we are in the throes of seasonal wonderment, for wherever we look, front yards and tree-lined boulevards are bursting with colour and beauty.

Our visit on Tuesday to the St Albert Botanic Park was pleasant, even though the skies only hinted at sunshine peeking through the high cloud cover. We enjoyed a leisurely stroll with friends through the tree park. For the most part, the perennial beds are just getting started. Spring bulbs will soon wane and summer perennials begin filling in. Flowering for many is still several weeks away.

The joy of this trip was walking beneath trees laden with blooms—and the tree in the photo above was the pièce de résistance. Below are a few more photos to give you a glimpse of pink bliss. 




"Can words describe the fragrance
of the very breath of spring?"
NELTJE BLANCHAN




"Never yet was a springtime,
when the buds forgot to bloom."
MARGARET ELIZABETH SANGSTER




"Such a wondrous thing to be
alive beneath apple blossoms."
BL




"The day the Lord created hope was probably
the same day he created spring."
BERNARD WILLIAMS


Spring blooming Bergenia, aka as Elephant's Ears

"A flower blossoms for its own joy."
 OSCAR WILDE




"Spring won't let me stay in this house any longer!
I must get out and breathe the air deeply again."
GUSTAV MAHLER



Wishing you a wonderful weekend,
Brenda

Photo credits:
Brenda Leyland @ It's A Beautiful Life
Taken at the St Albert Botanic Park, May 2024



Friday, May 24, 2024

"Make Something You Can Give Away"




"Make something you can give away."
SUSAN BRANCH


There is something delightsome about making something you can give away. Do you find it so? Whether it's baking muffins, writing a little note and decorating the envelope, crocheting a little ornament to hang on a door knob, designing handmade cards, sketching a quick scene, creating haiku poems, making tiny posies from spring flowers in the garden, we do whatever strikes our fancy, because the child inside still loves making things with her hands. 

I first saw that little quote of Susan Branch's early in the new year. It was included in a short hand-painted list which described little things a person could do to make life sweet. I don't recall what else was on the list, but I do remember the suggestion to make something you can give away. I liked the creative element of it. I wrote it down in my journal, underlining it several times. It was something I wanted to focus on in 2024. I used to do this a lot but kind of lost the habit... and here it's nearly June and I haven't done much to change it.

Before I go further, I must tell you that over the years, I have come to recognize little nudges—like taps on a shoulder—that come when something or Someone is trying to get my attention. For me, so often these nudges will come in threes. I think it takes me that long to realize something is up. Thankfully the One who is nudging extends much grace in giving me many hints. On the first go around, something catches my attention but it often flits by like a feather thought; it scarcely registers sometimes, it's like seeing it from the corner of your eye. Then the same thought or idea will show up elsewhere and I think, oh, I just saw that. When it crosses my path a third or fourth time, that's when the penny drops, as the saying goes, and I realize I should pay attention to this idea. Maybe I'm supposed to do something with it.

Often at the start of a new year, many of us look for something new for our lives. A new affirmation, a new project, a new word. So when I ran into Susan's quote in January, I wasn't surprised to see the same idea showing up in other places. I think this was going to be my new thing for the new year.

Let me share how it came to me:
 
1. Little Women was the first book I read in January. I found myself especially drawn to young Beth March. You will recall she got gravely ill, recovered somewhat, but languished until there was nothing more to be done to make her well. In the midst of this suffering time, Beth continued to be sweet as was her nature and, as much as she could, she continued to make little things for others. Instead of turning her eyes inward to her own suffering, she turned her eyes outward to others—I came to love and appreciate that gift in her: 
". . . even while preparing to leave life, she tried to make it happier for those who should remain behind. The feeble fingers were never idle, and one of her pleasures was to make little things for the school children daily passing to and fro. To drop a pair of mittens from her window for a pair of purple hands, a needle-book for some small mother of many dolls, pen-wipers for young penmen, toiling through forests of pot-hooks, scrap-books for picture-loving eyes, and all manner of pleasant devices, till the reluctant climbers up the ladder of learning found their way strewn with flowers, as it were, and came to regard the gentle giver as a sort of fairy god-mother, who set above there, and showered down gifts miraculously suited to their tastes and needs." Chapter 40, The Valley of the Shadow, p. 391
2. I found the second example in the Winter 2023 issue of Where Women Create. One article was by Carmen Daumer, an amazing creator from Colorado, who spends nearly every waking moment creating new things in her workshop. Her mind is always dreaming up new ideas, so much so that she began to feel she needed to share these 'overflow' ideas with others. I was fascinated by this and by this woman's generosity of spirit. She wrote, "Four years ago, I was praying, and I felt strongly that I wanted to give back for all the blessings, ideas, inspiration and energy to accomplish the projects I dream up. God has given me a mind that can look at something and see 20 things I could do with it. If I didn't share it with others, why would he give me more ideas?" (p. 92). As I see it, Carmen took to heart words that Jesus once spoke, as recorded in Matthew, "Freely you have received, freely give."

3. In March I wrote about Emily Dickinson, a literary hero (post link HERE). She was certainly someone who made something and gave it away. I thought of how Emily often baked cookies and sent down basketsful from the upper window to the neighbourhood children below. She also made little handmade books in which she wrote her poems out for her friends. 


I haven't done a lot of creating with my hands lately; other needful things pressed in. But I keep remembering how young Beth and these creative women have demonstrated such a generous way to live life more beautifully. I'm glad for their examples crossing my path at the start of the new year reminding me to 'make something to give away'. In writing this post, I intend to pick this up and bring it with me into the next half of the year.
 
 

Wishing you a wonderful weekend,
Brenda


Photo credit:
Top Image by eniast from pixabay






Friday, May 17, 2024

Five on Friday: Exploring 5 Random Questions




"Fill your life with experiences.
Not things. Have stories to tell,
not stuff to show."
UNKNOWN


In my travels through social media, sometimes I come across interesting questions people ask their readers. I have taken the liberty of gathering a handful of such questions for today's Five on Friday post. It's been a lot of fun turning my answers into tiny stories to tell you. Hope you enjoy.


One. If someone offered you a box containing everything you ever lost, what would you look for first? An old coin—with a hole in the middle—that I think once belonged to my grandpa. It was a Chinese coin. My little sister and I both got one, and we'd look at them often. One day I brought my little treasure to school, probably for Show and Tell. I was in Grade 4. And at recess I took it outside with me. To my utter dismay, it slipped through my fingers and went straight down the skinny space between the school wall and concrete steps. My heart lurched as I tried to grab it. Too late. I mourned that coin. After all these years, if it was possible, I would like that coin back. And, after all these years, I still wonder what possessed my nine-year-old self to take it from the safety of her desk to the great outdoors. I never told a soul. 

Two. What do you still remember of the first day of your first job? I don't remember much of the actual day anymore. I was around age 14 or 15. It was the early 1970s, and I remember the flutter of excitement of working at the same small town grocery store where my mom once enjoyed working before she married my dad. I never had to apply for the job. Eddy, the store proprietor, approached Mom and asked if she thought I'd be interested. Oh yes. I worked Saturdays, the busiest day of the week, from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm (or until the last customer was served), with two coffee breaks and an hour for lunch. That first day I think I began learning the art of packing groceries—tomatoes are never placed on the bottom of the bag with heavy stuff on top and loaves of bread are handled carefully like a baby—and maybe learning to reface shelves, i.e., pulling the cans from the back to the front to fill empty spaces.

What I do vividly recall was how tired my feet were at the end of the long day standing on a concrete floor. And I certainly remember when Dorothy, Eddy's wife, opened the cash box and handed me my wages for the day. A single ten-dollar bill ($1.25/hr). I was thrilled. I'm pretty sure I spent some of it right away on treats to enjoy with my family watching TV that evening. To give you a comparison, one 16 oz. bag of potato chips at that time cost around 89 cents.

 Three. What's your biggest pet peeve? Without going into a tirade, it's people who don't obey the rules of the road and who show no courtesy in letting others merge into line. Makes me owl-y.

 4. What was your worst date? I never had a 'worst' date. Some were duds but never awful. To answer the question, perhaps it was with the fellow who invited me to go for dinner (it was nice) and then took me to the Canadian Finals Rodeo. He seemed a lovely fellow and shared the same name as my dad. But going to an event where people wore cowboy boots (eww), rode wild bulls, and roped poor calves to the ground... well, I knew at the end of that evening, I didn't want to pursue this any further and told him so. In truth, my dream date was to be invited to a nice dinner and a movie or concert, something I considered more 'cultured'. As it turns out, twenty years later I married a man who enjoys concerts as much as I do. Neither of us have ever been super sports enthusiasts, although we'll cheer for the home town for sure. I always hoped that the other fellow found his soulmate who loved what he loved. 

 Five. What is your favourite movie, and why? This is a hard choice - I have so many forever favourites. But, inching to the top for today's discussion, I choose Chariots of Fire, a British historical drama filmWhen it first came out in the theatres in 1981, my friend and I went to see it about five times. We couldn't get enough of the movie (both loving the movie itself and both being crazy for all things British). I haven't seen it in recent years, but I still remember some scenes vividly; some lines are forever etched on my mind. (Oh oh, oh...we must interrupt, because can you believe it, as I'm typing the movie title above, the theme music for the movie started playing on Classic FM radio. Synchronicity at play!)

So, why is this a favourite?
1. From the first moment, I loved the theme music by Vangelis. It gives me goosebumps to this day. (You can listen to the composer play HERE.)

2. Chariots of Fire is a period film giving viewers a glimpse of life in Great Britain in the 1920s, post WW I. I loved the feel of this movie, set in a place I hoped to visit one day.

3. I've enjoyed watching the Olympics, so this movie was up my alley. It's based on the true story of two British athletes who ran for England in Paris during the 1924 Olympics. They were both strong characters—I loved their depth as well as the splendid acting by the key actors. I also loved the character, Sybil Gordon, played by actress Alice Krige. She had some fine lines that I loved; her costumes were gorgeous. Though Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams ran for different reasons, they both had drive and determination to spur them on. "Eric Liddell (Ian Charleson), a devout Scottish Christian who runs for the glory of God, and Harold Abrahams (Ben Cross), an English Jew who runs to overcome prejudice." Wikepedia.com  
4. In one scene Eric Liddell speaks to his sister, Jenny, who is fretting because she thinks Eric is spending too much time training and is ignoring his calling from God. He replies, "Jenny, Jenny, I believe God made me for a purpose, for China. He also made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure."
The words burst on my heart like a shooting star as I sat in that dark movie theatre. I determined to go back to see this movie again just for that line. I think it was my first real glimpse into recognizing that God takes pleasure in us when we're pursuing what we're good at - making use of the gift he's given to us. I'd picked up that sacrificing my life (doing what I might not want or like) for him was what pleased him. It broadened my understanding. Years later, I would take those words for myself when I first began to write. I'd say, I believe God made me for a purpose. He gave me this writing ability. And when I write I feel his pleasure. And I do feel his pleasure. Right here when I write on this blog for you. (That one-minute scene with Eric and Jenny is HERE.)

5. After the film came out (receiving numerous awards), the producers released a commentary on the movie. So many talented, skilled people came together to make this film—people who really cared about creative inspiration, getting the right story, doing their best work, working as a team, and not worrying about whether it would become a blockbuster. They poured their hearts and souls into creating something beautiful and meaningful.
And that's why this movie stars as 'best loved' in my heart.


I'd be most interested to hear how you'd answer these questions.
Care to share in the comments? Or write your own post?


Wishing you a beautiful day,
Brenda
Photo credit:
Top Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay