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,

If you are receiving this post by email, I'd love to hear from you. You can click on Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life here or on the link below, and it will take you directly to my blog. You can leave a comment there, or if the comment box is being unfriendly, you are most welcome to get in touch by email.

Friday, March 08, 2019

Not What I Planned, March Has Arrived, The Beauty of Less


I've been having some problems with my blog or Google or something. I had a blog post all planned and photos lined up to share with you, but for whatever reason, I haven't been able to access my photos when I'm inside my blog draft.

I ask you, what's a blog post without pictures? In my mind, it's the same as when Julia Child once declared that a party without cake is just a meeting. Exactly. Blog posts without a pretty picture or two are too plain-Jane, if you ask me. Fortunately, the basket of yellow tulips was loaded earlier in the week, or I might have had to resort to drawing stick figure tulips by using the special characters button in the toolbar. 

Just rechecked and now Google says it's a temporary error. Using the word 'temporary' sounds hopeful. In the meantime, I'll be glad of your company as I chat about a subject that's been recently occupying my days and my mind.


Dear March - Come in-
How glad I am -
I hoped for you before -
Put down your Hat -
You must have walked -
How out of Breath you are -
Dear March, how are you, and the Rest -
Did you leave Nature well -
Oh March, Come right upstairs with me -
I have so much to tell -

In these parts (northerly Alberta), we're still frozen in and snowbanks are as deep as they were in February. But, thankfully, thankfully, with the daylight glimmering a little longer each day, we have the faintest hints of Spring. The sun is definitely warmer on our faces. And, though tulip bulbs in the garden are hidden under mounds of snow, we take delight in bringing home pots of blooming bulbs and bouquets from the grocery store to set around the house for cheer. I truly enjoy the season of deep winter, but I admit to feeling a certain restlessness of soul these days. I'm so with Miss Dickinson when she says, "March, come in, how glad I am … Come right upstairs with me."

* * *

"Make progress every day on one thing that matters to you."

That quote speaks to me these days. And, as the world outside my window begins to thaw, you find me making progress, little by little, on two related projects that matter to me: dealing with my ginormous file of digital photos and creating photo books from treasured selections.

What used to be hundreds has morphed over the years into thousands of digital pics hanging around on the iCloud, and it's all become unwieldy. I'm feeling snowed under, as it were. So I've undertaken the monumental task of sorting -- deciding what stays and culling what's no longer desired or required. At least the files were sorted by years, but when I started blogging a decade ago that's when it all got silly: personal family photos mixed together with pictures taken specifically for the blog. And, there were always the photos that were both personal history and bloggable subjects, like garden pictures, food, holiday scenery, Christmas, books, etc. Where would I file those: under personal family history or under blogging material? If I made copies of some pics to store in both categories, which I did for several years, well, you begin to see why iCloud thinks I need to start paying for extra storage. I was horrified to find that my photos were now taking up well over the five free Gigabytes of room available to me. Oh, the joys and woes of having digital cameras and click-easy fingers.

Digitally speaking, it appeared I'd filled the attic, the basement, and the garage. Now I was paying rent for storage on a cloud somewhere, paying for space to 'hold' all this extraneous stuff. Therefore it was high time to wrestle these digital files into some kind of order, culling photos, especially the 'bazillions' of copies snapped in every imaginable angle, pose, and cropped version. Do I still need them after all this time? Find the best ones, let go of the rest.

First we find ourselves as a society generally inundated with material stuffs; now it's starting to pile up digitally. Oh my! I'm reminded of something I recently read and underlined in my copy of Beauty, The Invisible Embrace by John O'Donohue, a current book I'm keeping near to hand for inspiration:

"Most of us move now in such a thicket of excess
that we can no longer make out the
real contours of things." 

Oh yes, I feel the entrapment and suffocation of that excess, like a ram caught in a thicket who cannot kick himself to freedom no matter how he tries. I have come face to face with wondering what on earth I want or need with all these thousands of photos. I don't have children to pass down any amount that a future generation might want. And who will ever look at thousands anyway? It needs to become more selective and manageable, more enjoyable for personal perusals. I also need to rethink what I actually plan to use for blogging or on social media. Perhaps I don't need to add so much to the digital clutter of the universe, but to be more selective here too.

That now reminds me of Anne Morrow Lindbergh in her timeless Gift From The Sea. You will recall how she has come away from her busy, complicated family life to a little cottage on an island by the sea. Where she must learn the art of shedding and finding out 'how little one can get along with, not how much.' When she's packing to return home at the end of her stay, she recalls in her first days there, how 'greedily' she collected the sea shells.
"My pockets bulged with wet shells, the damp sand clinging to their crevices. The beach was covered with beautiful shells and I could not let one go by unnoticed. … The collector walks with blinders on; he sees nothing but the prize. In fact, the acquisitive instinct is incompatible with true appreciation of beauty. But after all the pockets were stretched and damp, and the bookcase shelves filled and the window ledges covered, I began to drop my acquisitiveness. I began to discard from my possessions, to select.
One cannot collect all the beautiful shells on the beach. One can collect only a few, and they are more beautiful if they are few. One moon shell is more impressive than three. … One double-sunrise is an event; six are a succession, like a week of school-days. Gradually one discards and keeps just the perfect specimen; not necessarily a rare shell, but a perfect one of its kind. One sets it apart by itself, ringed around by space -- like the island.
For it is only framed in space that beauty blooms. … A tree has significance if one sees it against the empty face of sky. A note in music gains significance from the silences on either side. … Too many activities, and people, and things. Too many worthy activities, valuable things, and interesting people. For it is not merely the trivial which clutters our lives but the important as well. We can have a surfeit of treasures--an excess of shells, where one or two would be significant."

That last line really speaks to me. For we, I, can have a surfeit of treasures--an excess of photos, where one or two would be significant. We really don't need that many, do we? 

And so I come to the second project, creating a select few digital-to-print photo-essay albums that will commemorate my life and that of my family. I come to see that I do not need every picture to help me remember. I only need a selection -- the few dozen rather than the few thousand that are the most meaningful and evocative of those days. Once I understand which photos will do that for me, it becomes easier to release the extras that build clutter.

* * *

According to Susan Sontag, everything these days exists to end in a photograph. Oh my, she nailed that, don't you think? How often I snap photos not for my own personal photo collection, but so that I can load another muffin or flower or sunset picture online. Absolutely nothing the matter with doing that -- lots of us do it -- but I do sometimes feel overwhelmed by all that's available. And so maybe, for me, I'm about ready for 'less is more' … to make room for openness and quietude. To take time for the beauty of one seashell, one photo instead of scarcely noticing the twentieth. To take complete delight in the one sublime specimen and quit holding onto what doesn't do a thing for us.

Case in point, there's a photo I found yesterday of my mom on her 80th birthday some years earlier. She was about to blow out the candles on her cake. Someone must have made a comment that completely tickled her fancy for laughter and delight lit up her face. Captured on the camera, it became a complete joy for me to see. And I knew in that split second if I had to choose any number of photos of my mom as a treasured keepsake, that photo would certainly be chosen and cherished. I wanted to show you that photo, but it will have to be another time.

* * *

Having this Google photo glitch today has taken this post in a direction I didn't plan. Perhaps it has made me see more clearly what I've been yearning at a deeper level to do with the culling and sorting of my digital photos. To bring them back down to a significant, select fewer. So that they can truly be treasured and enjoyed. An aside, I do think the measurement of what's enough and what's excess will differ for each of us.

Enough said for one day. On that note, I'm wishing you the beautiful day I'm planning to have in spite of my technical glulumphs and gliiitches … 

Big hugs,

If you are receiving this post by email, I'd love to hear from you. You can click on Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life on the link below, and it will take you directly to my blog. You may leave a comment there if you wish, or if the comment box is being unfriendly, you are welcome to get in touch by email.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

It's Been A While: Sunday Evening Chat


The day I started this new post a couple of weeks ago, it was a day reminiscent of childhood winters: bitterly cold, treacherous roads, and 'no school today' broadcasts on the radio. I remember the thrill of those long ago days, when for a day or two (or even more), we'd nestle inside the four walls of our little farmhouse. Sheltered from the elements it became our whole world. Books and games and crafts called our names. The coal furnace would burp out hot air, and we'd jostle for a chance to stand by the kitchen register to feel the warmth blowing on our cold toes. Window panes frozen with layers of ice barely allowed a glimpse outside. Unless of course you breathed a patch so small you could only peer out with one eye, like a sea captain looking through a telescope. Oh yes, it was a sea out there ... waves of snowdrifts and snowflakes tossing wildly in a blizzard.

Between our recent snow days, there were days that burst from the gloom into bright, sunny ones. With skies all cloudless and blue and snow glistening and gleaming like diamonds. And if you look with an artist's eye, you notice the sky fading into smoky blue-grey along the horizon. The bright sunshine belied the fact that it was frigid out there. We woke several mornings to -30 C with a windchill of nearly -40 C (the temperature at this point reads the same in Celsius and Fahrenheit).  

Surely they were days for staying indoors where, cozy and warm, one could enjoy winter's beauty peering through a frost-free window. All the while taking time to sip cups of hot tea with nibbles at the ready to comfort, cheer, and make one glad to be alive.

* * *

As I say, I started this new post a couple of weeks ago, but I got sidetracked by a sudden wave of inspiration to seriously delve into cupboards, closets and shelves to root out the excess and clutter that had once again accumulated over the last few years without my knowledge ... or permission (wink). When such an inspiration shows up out of the blue like that, I have lived long enough to know the error of ignoring such a gift. For I also know from experience that it may well be months before the Housecleaning Muse shows up again. And, I have learned that it's far better to undertake this kind of deep cleaning when one feels graced and inspired than to drag through when one is not in the mood for it.

So, now I can happily report that we have been through the house, we have given away several car loads of books, glassware, and other material possessions that we no longer need or desire -- and we still have plenty of nice and useful items to enjoy. Not being caretaker of all this stuff gives me room to breathe, to think new thoughts and imagine new possibilities. Without the clutter, I feel lighter. And freer ... freer to write ... I've got a memoir to finish and stories about how I found my beautiful life.

* * *

Since we last chatted, I finally started the big project of sorting through a couple thousand photos from our 2016 trip to Britain. Believe me, it's no small task trying to select a few hundred from that great pile, but it seems enough time has passed to give me the distance I need to choose those photos that will become a permanent record (album) of the wonderful days we spent traveling through the English countryside and taking in some of the beautiful country homes and gardens in England.

I often wish I could return and take the same trip and do it in slow motion -- because those days just flew and it all seemed to go by in a blur. Makes me so grateful for photos. And memories.

Here's a tiny glimpse of what we enjoyed...

"How many kinds of sweet flowers grow
In an English country garden?
I'll tell you now of some that I know
And those I miss you'll surely pardon
Daffodils, heart's ease and phlox
Meadowsweet and lady smocks
Gentian, lupine and tall hollyhocks
Roses, foxgloves, snowdrops, forget-me-nots
In an English country garden
In an English country garden"

Songwriters: Phillip Guyler / Johnny Griggs
English Country Garden lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

* * *

"Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful;
they are sunshine, food and medicine for the soul."


* * *

Here's wishing you a beautiful week ahead.


If you are receiving this post by email, I'd love to hear from you. You can click on Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life here or on the link below, and it will take you directly to my blog. You are welcome to comment there, or if the comment box is acting unfriendly for whatever reason, you can get in touch by email.