Wednesday, April 10, 2019

I Love Oxford in the Springtime

I love spring anywhere,
but if I could choose I would always greet it in a garden.

Do you remember that old song they used to sing, I love Paris in the Springtime? Now I haven't been to Paris in the Springtime, but ever since we visited Oxford two years ago in April, I feel that way about Oxford. The last few days I've been feeling a little homesick. Spring in Oxford (well, in England generally) is something to behold -- such aliveness to the countryside, to life and love, beauty and poetry. It didn't take me long to realize that that place of 'dreaming spires' really was my soul's home, and I felt as if I'd come home when I arrived.

I'm indulging myself today by browsing through some of the garden photos we took while there. Each of the colleges in Oxford boasts lovely grounds and gardens, and they can be viewed by the public when classes are not in session. How lucky then were we to visit when term was over.

And, the Botanic Garden, that spot of quiet beauty and elegance, was such a joy to wander through on that warm Spring morning. The birds were in full chorus and the sun squeezed its warmth past barely leafed out trees onto our faces. It was like a little heaven on earth. And, I'm in this moment reminded of those lines from that poem "God's Garden" penned by Dorothy Frances Gurney (London: Country Life, 1913) . . .

"The kiss of the sun for pardon,
The song of the birds for mirth,
One is nearer God's Heart in a garden
Than anywhere else on Earth."

It's true, that's how I felt that day. So, I've gathered a few garden photos from our visit to Oxford in the Springtime -- I hope you enjoy.

Spring has returned.
The Earth is like a child that knows poems.

Holywell Cemetery

"The first blooms of spring always
make my heart sing."

April hath put a spirit of youth
in everything.

Spring comes:
the flowers learn their colored shapes.

"Spring's greatest joy beyond a doubt
is when it brings the children out."

The Botanic Garden and Harcourt Arboretum, Oxford

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

"Some old-fashioned things like fresh air and
sunshine are hard to beat."

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

Magdalen College Tower as viewed from the Botanic Garden

"To plant a garden is to
believe in tomorrow."

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

"No matter how chaotic it is,
wildflowers will still spring up in the middle of nowhere."

"Let us dance in the sun,
wearing wild flowers in our hair."

"Don't wait for someone to bring you flowers.
Plant your own garden and decorate your own soul."

* * *

There -- I feel much better. I've love to know if you have a favourite photo or if one of those lovely quotes popped out as you went along.

Don't forget to carry something beautiful in your heart today. It really does help keep the uglies at bay. And so now, beautiful friends, here's wishing you a wonderful day. Sending love and


Monday, March 25, 2019

Simple Woman's Daybook: March

"Spring: the music of open windows."

It's Monday morning and we have no new blog post for you. What with going to an art show with friends and getting on with our Spring ritual of cleaning, which includes rearranging furniture, dΓ©cor and dust bunnies, the weekend flew by. Oh yes, and in between all that, I have been working away at my digital-to-print photo albums of our 2016 holiday to England -- oh the memories that flutter up as I sort through the photos. It's such a fun project. 

Today I shall rely on the ready-made prompts from Simple Woman's Daybook and see where that takes me. If I don't linger too long on each point, I might have this ready by late morning.


Outside my window... it's still dark and the neighbourhood is shrouded in deep shadow. It's only six in the morning and no self-respecting sun rises that early at this time of year. Although I can't see it, I know the snow is nearly gone from our yard. Yah! As the ground begins to thaw, soon there will be signs of life. The appearance of those first shoots of greenery always comes as a surprise to me. The earth's been frozen for so long, it feels as if it will take forever for them to poke through, but it only needs a touch of warmth from the sun to encourage them to rise up to new life.

I am thinking... about something I read in a book of essays Calm Things by Shawna Lemay. She talks about the bounty of gifts we receive in our lifetime … smiles, compliments, the joy of watching a robin make a nest in the front tree … offerings of all kinds. She mentions the reproductions of Vincent Van Gogh's bird nest paintings. She says, "Van Gogh took the gift of these nests that he received from nature and later stacked in his cupboard, thirty or so of them, and sent them back into the world in the form of paint -- earthy, muddy, mossy colours, dark and whirling, fragrant and sublime."

That phrase 'sent them back into the world in the form of paint' has been playing on my mind ever since I first read it. It really speaks to me. In what form could the many gifts I have received be sent back into the world? Like Shawna, I think about the thousands of gifts I have been given over my lifetime -- handmade cards, bouquets of flowers, sunsets and rainy days, kind words from readers, compliments on a new top and earrings, proffered plates of muffins and homemade buns, presents in paper and ribbon -- it overwhelms me as I think about the generosity of God and people and nature. And I ask the same question that Shawna asks: "What to do with our riches, but to attempt to send them out again in the form of our work? Words and paint." What form shall I, Brenda, send these gifts back out into the world to bless others ? What form shall your gifts take?

I am thankful... for the arrival of Spring. Truly thankful. And, I'm grateful to have survived the winter. I'm glad for the arrival of the Canada Geese -- they are often one of the first to appear from the south, eager to find their summer homes beside ponds and lakes.

In the kitchen... I made Irish Pub Salad with Creamy Tarragon Dressing for supper the other evening. It was yummy. I found the recipe in the March/April issue of Victoria magazine. As you can see from my photo, the ingredients include Irish cheddar cheese, hard cooked eggs, and a medley of vegetables: bibb lettuce (as the base) and layered over top with shredded red cabbage, pickled beets, sliced cucumbers, sliced tomatoes, and pickled beans.

The creamy tarragon dressing is 1/2 cup of mayo, 1/3 cup malt vinegar, 2 tablespoons fresh chopped tarragon, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, 1/2 cup olive oil. In a bowl, whisk everything except the olive oil. Keep whisking and gradually add the olive oil in a slow, steady stream until the mixture is smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use. Drizzle over the salad and serve.

I am wearing... a black tank top and capri bottoms, silver bracelets, pink lipstick, and a spritz of British Rose Body Shoppe fragrance.

I am creating... new arrangements in my house this week. My study is upside down today. First, I took the vintage dropleaf desk out to be placed in our bedroom. Because I took out the bookshelf that reminds me of a mantlepiece from the bedroom and now resides in the living room. The new arrangement of one item suddenly opened the door to new possibilities and vignettes. The short shelf that had been mooshed into the corner of the study behind the credenza where the printer sits was now hauled out and set where the dropleaf desk used to be. Oh my, it feels lighter in here already. I think that little shelf is feeling freer too.

I am going... for a walk. It has been so wonderful to step out into the days and feel the warmth of the sun instead of the excruciating bite of the north winds. Ice and snow are mostly gone, so limbs are less at risk of falling.

"In every walk with nature one
receives far more than he seeks."

I am reading... through the collection of souvenir garden guidebooks I bought when we were in England. For such lovely places as Churchill's Chartwell, Ann Boleyn's Hever Castle, Vita Sackville-West's Sissinghurst Castle, and Penshurst Place (one of the filming sites for PBS's mini-series Wolf Hall). Some memories begin to blur together and the guidebooks help sort out forgotten details. We say, oh yes, now I remember.

I am hoping... to lose three to five pounds before my birthday. It might be easier if I were considering losing five pounds of books. But with getting back into the swing of daily walks now that it's warmer, that will certainly help. I've already cut down (but not out) the cookies -- that helps too.

I am looking forward to... a family celebration that is already being planned for my nephew's university convocation coming up in June. My sister's family lives in a very beautiful part of this province, out in the countryside, near enough to see the Rocky Mountains in the distance while sitting on the deck. We always have a wonderful time together when we visit.

I am learning... not much new these days. No new crafts or skills at the moment. I am interested to better my photography skills and work away at it.

Around the house... we've got laundry on the go, the radio is playing classical music, the table is set for lunch when hubby comes home from the gym.

I am pondering... why I have curtains at the windows of my house. For me it's not so much to close out the world. I would not 'need' curtains for that. But I have come to see that I need curtains because they 'so faithfully translate the language of wind.' Yes, yes, that's why! Not sure who to attribute that phrase to -- I saw it online and it leaped out at me.

A favourite quote for today... "Make progress every day on one thing that matters to you." ~ Unknown.

One of my (new) favourite things... is Dvorak's Symphony No 9, Op 95 "New World". I've heard it played numerous times over the years, but this past week, Rick and I listened to one concert we found on YouTube that blew us away at its perfection. I sat almost motionless as we listened, I was so taken by the music, feeling like I was inside the very notes themselves. It was magical to watch the conductor, Sergiu Celibidache, work with the orchestra and bring this beautiful piece of music to life. The concert was recorded in 1991. It's 55 minutes in length, so if you plan to listen, I recommend making it an event for yourself "a concert in a sitting room". And, if you like it, you might become so enraptured that you won't even think you need tea -- we didn't. You can find the link HERE.

A peek into my journal... My journal is usually a stream of consciousness of this and that. And I'm always adding passages from books I'm reading that I want to remember. Most of my journaling happens in the wee hours (either late at night or early in the morning, depending). So it's kinda messy, but I try to add bits of something pretty between the scribblings. For me, sketching is too much effort and I'm not deft at painting, so I include something easier like adding clippings that catch my eye from old magazines. I always feel a jolt of joy when I open my journal to find something lovely to 'fill my well' and colour my world in that moment.

* * *

That's it for prompts for today. I think we've got ourselves a post. Will do an edit and an out-loud proofread and hit Publish. Hope there's something in it worth your visit. 

Here's wishing you a beautiful day
and a week ahead filled with things that are splendid and good.

Sending hugs,

Friday, March 15, 2019

Five on Friday: Spring At The Conservatory

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

At last, we feel a breath of Spring in our corner of the world. For so long it was cold and wintery, but then it all changed. And now the world begins to feel alive with possibility. The other day I came back from doing some errands to hear Spring herself babbling from the down spouts as water, water, water trickled splish!splash! on the rocks beneath. Such a sound -- I wanted to do a little jig. 

Rick came home from the gym one morning earlier in the week, and as we sat down to lunch, said why don't we go to the Conservatory today. To which I replied, Oh, yes, let's! And so we spent a lovely afternoon meandering through the pavilions taking in the various displays: Orchids in the tropical pyramid, tulips and hyacinths in the feature pyramid, and Camillas and a cherry tree blossoming in the temperate zone area, to name a few seasonal sightings.

I won't chat much as I prefer to let the flowers do their magic on your minds today. I was certainly thinking of you when I took these photos. I truly hope they convey a little of the wondrous beauty we celebrated . . . and that today, because of them, your 'heart with pleasure fills, and dances with the daffodils'. 

"The spring came suddenly bursting upon the world
as a child bursts into a room, with a laugh
and a shout and hands full of flowers."

"And 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."

Spring is nature's way of saying,
"Let's party!"

"Love is a climate
small things find safe
to grow in …"
from The Smaller Orchid

The winter is past;
the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth;
the time of the singing of birds has come.


Wishing you a beautiful day!
With love and hugs,

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