Monday, March 30, 2020

Packing For A Woman's Journey

Image by Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life

"You don`t study here;
you graze on words and images.

We're into our second week of the 'pressing my books into service' series. This is my little contribution here in blog-land as a way to help create community in isolation. If you are arriving in this series mid-stream, you can find the earlier posts by clicking HERE or on the Tab above: Press My Books Into Service.

In this book you will find a lovely collection of essays that were first published in Victoria magazine—Nancy Lindemeyer was Editor-in-Chief at the time. Fans will remember the delightful Jenny Walton stories that appeared from time to time in the Chimes column on the last page of the magazine. What a pleasant surprise to learn some years later that Nancy was the author; Jenny Walton had been a carefully chosen pen name. I was glad when the essays were assembled into a book. So much easier to pick up a single volume and bring it to your armchair with tea than to leaf through an unwieldy armload of issues in hopes of finding the Jenny stories in them.

In the intro, Nancy says that she used this series as a way, not to write her life's story exactly, but to write from what she termed as 'reflected memory', to share the best she had to remember and pass it along. She wanted Jenny's articles to inspire women "to live with pride in a woman's journey, and to take with (them) all that is good, kind, graceful, generous, and beautiful, despite the vagaries of time and place."

During this season of isolation, I've been sorting through a box of old scrapbooks see earlier post which is why today's excerpt resonates so particularly. It's very easy to say one must deal with this old stuff; it's quite another to actually toss away the touchstones that remind us of another life time.

Hope you'll enjoy it.

An aside: if you don't have the book, or the old magazine issues anymore, take heart: the book is available in various used book places, including Amazon's used bookseller page. I saw one copy advertised for as low as $2.89 Cdn. Even with shipping, it'd still be a bargain.

March 30th

from Jenny Walton's Packing for a Woman's Journey
by Nancy Lindemeyer

" We have a room that is an archive, a treasure trove of objects we cannot seem to part with. Once this room was a garage, but someone with an automobile too big for its slender proportions made it part of the house, and for the nearly twenty years since, we have filled it to capacity . . . Every now and then I venture into this annex, thinking that at last the moment has arrived to make use of our reserve possessions. Recently, I decided to open a cedar chest I hadn't looked in for years, since getting near it requires an adventurer's temperament. My husband, legendary for his car-packing ability, also has a talent for ingeniously stacking mountains of things on top of idle surfaces.

This is the chest that holds forgotten mementos, long buried at the bottom—the fabric bunny with ribbons given to me the night I was voted best student in my high-school class. As I pick it up, I ask myself why in the world I would keep such a thing; but then I tell myself it doesn't take up much room, so why should this be the day I part with it?

Further down, I discover a cotton dress with a full skirt in a very soft shade of green. I used to starch this dress so stiffly it almost danced by itself when I wore it to the Pleasure Beach Ballroom so many years ago.  . . . I see my seventeen-year-old feet moving along the wooden floor, as close to the open doors as possible. Images of sea and sky and moon and cool night air are what come to mind with this simple dress in my hands. And while I don't think there were Chinese lanterns in that long-ago darkness, I make them part of my thoughts now, turning the ballroom into a brilliant memory.  . . .

I danced those last dances of adolescence on a stage that was nearly perfect in a dress with a full skirt and tiny puff sleeves and a slip of a peplum, which I still have stored in this chest.

I am glad my husband keeps this vault so cumbersomely guarded. It is meant for infrequent musings, for a hot afternoon like this, when at summer's end I am comfortable with this reverie. I do not think I will take the green dress (out) from the cedar chest after all—it really doesn't take up much space, and I cannot imagine what I would ever do without it. "  ~ excerpt from p 90-91, originally in August 1991 issue

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Wishing you a beautiful day, dear friends.


Heart Hugs,

Friday, March 27, 2020

Five On Friday + Two: Oxford in the Springtime

Image by Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life

“The snow has not yet left the earth, but spring is already
asking to enter your heart. If you have ever recovered from
a serious illness, you will be familiar with the blessed state
when you are in a delicious state of anticipation, and are liable
to smile without any obvious reason. Evidently that is what
nature is experiencing just now. The ground is cold, mud and
snow squelches under foot, but how cheerful, gentle and inviting
everything is! ...The trees are bare, but they are already living and breathing.”
ANTON CHEKHOV, The Exclamation Mark

The snow has not yet left the earth around here, but spring is definitely tapping on our heart's door. We woke to snow the other morning. It's not abnormal to get the stuff in late March or even in early April, but I am w-a-i-t-i-n-g for that welcome sound of trickling water as snow piles melt. Hubby's been acclimatizing the Peace Rose by bringing her out into the sunshine on warmer days. It's a hopeful sign.

Have been looking through our photos from our 2017 spring visit to Oxford, England. Can't believe it's been three years already. I so loved our visit then, and I hope you don't mind a revisit of these favourites.


Image by Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life
Oxford Botanic Garden


Image by Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life
Oxford Botanic Garden


Image by Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life
Oxford Botanic Garden


Image by Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life
In New College Garden


Image by Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life
Along Addison's Walk  in Magdalen College grounds

How fortuitous is this! A fellow just posted a 20-minute video taking a morning stroll along Addison's Walk. It's the very same walk we took the day we visited. And, I think I see the spot where I took the photo above! How cool is that. Now I feel more than a little homesick catching sight of this familiar view, especially when I hear all the birds singing and the crunch of gravel underfoot. I want to be there.

As I say, it's about 20 minutes long, but if you feel housebound and you've got time to relax, let's go for a virtual walk -- we can enjoy the sights and sounds together.

+ one

Image by Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life
The Fellows' Garden in one of the colleges

"To sit in the shade (sun) on a fine day and look upon
verdure is the most perfect refreshment."

+ two

Image by Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life
Holywell B & B

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Wishing you a beautiful day. See you Monday.

Heart Hugs,

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Elizabeth and Her German Garden

Image by Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life

"Oh, I could dance and sing for joy that the spring
is here! What a resurrection of beauty there is in my
garden, and of brightest hope in my heart."

I was so happy to find this little gem written by Elizabeth Von Arnim on one of our visits to a National Trust garden gift shop during our trip to England a few years ago. You think I would taken it and read it right away -- I knew I'd love it -- but I have a peculiar habit of holding onto books until it feels the right time to read it, something about reading in sync with the soul season I am in. So it's been sitting on the shelf these four years, like a gift in waiting.

And now, for whatever reason, this is the Spring I'm ready for it. Today I offer this excerpt from Elizabeth's garden with gratefulness and a heart filled with little prayers that you and all those you hold dear will be lifted up and kept safe during this season.

March 26th
Elizabeth and Her German Garden, p 9-10
by Elizabeth Von Arnim

"May 7th.--I love my garden. I am writing in it now in the late afternoon loveliness, much interrupted by the mosquitoes and the temptation to look at the glories of the new green leaves washed half an hour ago in a cold shower. Two owls are perched near me, and are carrying a long conversation that I enjoy as much as any warbling of nightingales. The gentleman owl says #C-C-E, and she answers from her tree a little way off, #E-#F, beautifully assenting to and completing her lord's remark, as becomes a properly constructed German she-owl. They say the same thing over and over again so emphatically that I think it must be something nasty about me; but I shall not let myself be frightened away by the sarcasm of owls.
This is less a garden than a wilderness. No one has lived in the house, much less in the garden, for twenty-five years, and it is such a pretty old place that the people who might have lived here and did not, deliberately preferring the horrors of a flat in a town, must have belonged to that vast number of eyeless and earless persons of whom the world seems chiefly composed. Noseless too, though it does not sound pretty; but the greater part of my spring happiness is due to the scent of the wet earth and young leaves." ~ Opening chapter, pages 1-2 
* * *
"... but I love the dandelions and daisies even more passionately now than then, and never would endure to see them all mown away if I were not certain that in a day or two they would be pushing up their little faces again as jauntily as ever. During these six weeks I lived in a world of dandelions and delight. The dandelions carpeted the three lawns -- they used to be lawns, but have long since blossomed out into meadows filled with every sort of pretty weed -- and under and among the groups of leafless oaks and beeches were blue hepaticas, white anemones, violets, and celandines in sheets. The celandines in particular delighted me with their clean, happy brightness...
And then, before I had a little got used to the joy of their flowers against the sky, came the lilacs -- masses and masses of them, in clumps on the grass, with other shrubs and trees by the side of walks, and one great continuous bank of them half a mile long right past the west front of the house...I have felt so absolutely happy, and blest, and thankful, and grateful, that I really cannot describe it. My days seemed to melt away in a dream of pink and purple peace." ~ page 9-10 

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I feel alive having read these lines. Indeed, 'tis the season for me and this wee volume. And now, dear friends, I wish you a beautiful day with glimpses of heaven in unexpected places.

Heart Hugs,

PS. You'll find the tab for this series 'Pressing My Books Into Service' 
directly under the header at the top