Friday, October 19, 2018

Sunflowers And Childlike Wonder

“If you will take any flower you please,
and look it over and turn it about...

and smell it and feel it and try to find out
all its secrets, not of flower only,

but of leaf, bud and stem as well,
you will discover many wonderful things.”

~ Gertrude Jekyll

Autumn with all its bounty of colour and beauty provides the perfect opportunity to take a little time to nourish our child-like sense of wonder.

I shall never forget the first time I paid attention to the back of a sunflower and realized it was fashioned as exquisitely as its front. Maybe even more so ... because of the unexpectedness that the back truly was as beautiful as the front. Oh my -- it makes me want to paint it, and I'm not a painter.

Have you ever let the tips of your fingers run along a sunflower's thick felt-like stem? Or stopped to smell its petals? You might not think it has a fragrance, but to my surprise and wonder the flower has a faint fragrance. And you know what? The petals smell like sunflower seeds. Of course they would ... duh !

Gertrude Jekyll knew that we would discover many wonderful things if we truly stopped to notice the details -- to see, to smell, to touch. I was happy to learn that Vincent Van Gogh believed similarly:

“It is looking at things for a long time that
ripens you and gives you a deeper meaning.”

Question of the day: Have you recently made a child-like discovery of wonder, something that you never noticed until now? I'd love to hear about it.

Wishing you glimpses of heaven in unexpected places!


Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Tuesday Thoughts With A Large Cup of Tea


Can you believe it? It's been snowing and we woke to winter ... again. Not just a sprinkling, but about three to four inches. Our autumnal decorations look oddly out of place. And, the migrating juncos seem a little confused as they half-heartedly poke around in the snowfall. The chickadees aren't fazed as they dee-dee-dee from tree tops -- they know the ropes as does the cute downy woodpecker who heads straight for the suet hanger. A flock of house sparrows are having a huge choral sing in the mock orange shrubbery. What's a little snow to them.

I was going to say we are not amused -- it's far too early for snow -- even in northerly Canada. Still, my eyes that are ever on the lookout for something beautiful to light upon sees that it's all so very pretty, even if it is early October. I’ve half a mind to turn the calendar and just imagine it's November already. My brother in Ontario says it's +28C (82F) today where he lives. I don't think he was rubbing it, but I do wonder if we are living in the same country!

"Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places
where other people see nothing."

~ Camille Pissarro

* * * 

For days I've been mulling about what to share in this new post. I couldn't seem to get myself out of the way so that I could hear the voice of my heart. You see, I've been feeling the woes of the world pressing in. Most days, I can shuck it off, but there are days when the darkishness seems to settle in on the inside. I'm not sad for anything in my own life as life is good and things are fine -- I laugh, I sing, I enjoy my food and the books I'm reading. It's just some days all the 'out there' stuff blares so loud and obnoxious from every news channel and social media outlet (even though I keep those to a minimum), it's hard to look beyond and remember that everything is not going to hell in a hand basket.

I've learned over the years that it's okay to let ourselves feel that way sometimes. We don't always need to jolly ourselves out of an emotion. If that's how we feel on a day, let's feel it. Pay attention to it. Sometimes we do need to feel the woes of others, otherwise we might lose our empathy and compassion. And sometimes we need to mourn what we feel is being lost in a world gone mad (at least as we see it) or when we see something that truly is not right or decent.

But then comes a moment when we know we must leave it. We must leave the care of it, the stress of it. For me, that often comes after I say a little prayer for grace for whoever needs that extra tenderness and strength. Then, I let peace settle, as I look with hope and anticipation that all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well. I also go in search of a little beauty. And, ever since I first read this quote by Blaise Pascal on Sandra's blog, I remind myself of it often: "In difficult times carry something beautiful in your heart." Oh yes, that helps ... very much.

And, when I go to bed at night as I'm settling down, I whisper a good night prayer and try to remember this line by William Lyon Phelps: "Let the walls of your mind be filled with many beautiful pictures...".

* * *

In a recent chat with my sister, we decided that what we need is an antidote for the 'crap' that spreads. I looked up the definition in Merriam-Webster to clarify...
ANTIDOTE, noun 1. a remedy to counteract the effects of poison, as in she needed the antidote for the snake's venom. 2. something that relieves, prevents, or counteracts, as in reading can be an antidote to boredom.
My focus zoomed to that second definition, in particularly the first phrase: something that relieves. I don't know what to do about counteracting the effects of the big ugly stuff that's let loose in our world. I'm grateful there are many people are out there who are doing things that will counteract, alleviate, prevent. Yet, I feel small in my own offerings to the world, so that phrase 'something that relieves' gives me hope that there is something I can do.

I can't heal the sorrow but maybe I can give people a reprieve from the things that push them down. Maybe it's a small window in time that lets in a tiny ray of light in a dark moment. A kind gesture, a friendly smile, a helping hand, a few thoughtful words that say you're not alone. Because we hear those suggestions said so often, it's easy to dismiss them. We can feel jaded, maybe even bored by them, but in truth they still are worthy gestures, no matter how clich├ęd or small they feel. They are the signs that remind us nice ordinary goodness goes on around us every day. And we can be participate in our own way.

I took in a writers' panel at the local library a couple of weekends ago, and the discussion was on Writing Truth. A favourite author and poet Shawna Lemay, one of the panelists, said something that really stood out for me. As writers it's our responsibility to tell the truth and to tell our own truth in our own way and our own time. She referred to herself as being a white, middle-class woman, privileged in so many ways. Even so, she recognized that, like anyone else, she must own her own life and write from that place she lives in.

As she spoke those words, I realized that I had been holding my breath, for I have often felt that and have wondered what I had to share from my life as a woman who has always had more than enough of life's good gifts -- food, shelter, warmth, friends, love, good jobs, good bosses, freedom and choices, opportunities. I've never had to crawl back up from the bottom of my life or personally experience life threatening disaster or illness. Can I still write about my own life and offer it as a gift to a hurting world ... as a reprieve, a momentary relief, an antidote for someone's hardship?

Maybe my little gains in wisdom or victories over struggles are too small to share. Shawna's words settled something in my heart. Yes, I too have something to offer. She said on her blog recently, "You might think that your own truth is too small, but we need all the truths. All of our truths are connected. And there is room for all of them."

No, we might not be able to 'do' anything to make the bad stuff or the mean-spirited people go away. But we can continue to stand in our places and speak truth, beauty, kindness ... We can continue to say and do things that for a moment add cheer and push away darkness.

My sister kindly said that she sees my writing here on this blog as an antidote. When ugly tries to take over out there, she says It's A Beautiful Life stays the course and keeps reminding readers to find the beauty and think on these things. I'm grateful for her kind words -- and the kind words of others who also speak into my life -- it gives me the courage to reach out from my corner of the world. 

Peace Rose giving her summer farewell with one last blossom

"There are souls in this world which have the gift
of finding joy everywhere -- and of
leaving it behind them when they go."

~ Frederick Wm. Faber

* * *

Which brings to me to something else, which if you'll give me a moment, I'll make the connection. My sister and I had the dee-light-full opportunity to see Paul McCartney in concert when he was in Edmonton, Alberta last weekend. What a thrill it was to be in the same place, along with over 17,000 other fans, where this well-loved musician performed old familiar songs as well as new ones from his latest album. It was so much fun to join in when he invited us to sing along -- Hey Jude, we know the words, the melodies, and have hummed them many times over the years. Na,na,na,na,na,na,na What a feeling of connection and togetherness as our voices raised to the roof. In those moments, that's when I realized so many of those wonderful songs that we have sung or hummed for decades are just as relevant and hopeful today as they ever were. What a legacy!

Since the concert, Sis and I have been listening to some of his music from other concerts and sharing links to interviews on YouTube, just trying to hold onto the magic a little while longer.

There's so much about the man I don't know, as I haven't closely followed him throughout his career although I liked him, especially as one of the Beatles. It was when I watched the Carpool Karaoke YouTube that went viral during the summer that I knew I had to be at his concert.

Paul told the story of how Let It Be came about. You've probably heard it, but it was new to me. His mom had passed away when he was young and years later he had a dream where she came to him. He was kinda worrying about things and in the dream his mom said it would be okay and to just let it be. I was so touched by that. In another interview, he said that he felt it was like a miracle to experience that dream. He never forgot his mother's words to him ... "let it be, speaking words of wisdom, let it be."

For all his fame, Sir Paul seems such a humble man, a man who continues to share his love of music with people around the world. And in the end, I realize Paul, doing what he loves best, is bringing his own gift of the antidote to the uglies of the world, teaching us how to take a sad song and make it better. Thanks, Paul!

* * *

Guess what! I don't feel that heaviness anymore. Writing about it here knowing you are going to read this has relieved that pressure. And, even though it's still winter outside my window, I feel the joy bubbling up. Which means I think I've done my job today. On that sweet note ...

I wish you a beautiful, beautiful day,

With love,

Friday, September 28, 2018

Food And Happy Spouses


I came across an article I wrote some years ago as a Guest Blogger for a friend who was doing a series on "Happy Spouses". I always meant to post it here at some point, but as I found it lingering in my draft file, I assume I never did. So, rather than let it linger any longer, today's the day it gets another chance to shine. I hope you enjoy it.

Here's wishing you a wonderful weekend,

* * *


Kissing don't last! Cookery do.
~ George Meredith

Do you know what makes your partner's eyes light up when it comes to food? What causes those wonderful laugh lines around his eyes to show up because he's grinning so wide? For my husband, it's not salmon or roast beef or turkey dinner. Sure, he really enjoys those dishes, but his hands down favourite meal is pasta. Every time. Any time. I don’t think I know anyone else who loves spaghetti as much as he does, and I don't think he’s ever met a pasta dish he didn’t like.

But it took me a while after we were married to recognize that it wasn't just a favourite, but the preferred choice most often, which meant for me, I really didn't have to wrack my brain trying to dream up other kinds of menus -- online pasta recipes seemed endless. How easy it would be to make my hubby happy if we had pasta on a regular basis.

Growing up in my family, we didn't know it as pasta -- we knew it as macaroni or spaghetti. We also knew the emergency boxes of Kraft Dinner; those were a family treat, at least for us kids. But, it was more of a standby meal when the larder got low or a quick meal was needed. My dad, along with all the men I knew in our farming community, was a meat and potatoes kind of guy, so I assumed my dear hubbs was the same. 

That's why, when a discussion came up about favourite meals, I was taken aback to learn that for Rick a great pasta meal with a homemade sauce that had simmered for hours even upstaged Christmas turkey dinner, my own personal favourite. In fact, he told me not long after we were married that he used to make himself pasta several times a week – not as a cop-out for cooking something more elaborate, but because he really, really, really liked it. That was a light bulb day for me. Pasta became a more regular part of our menu planning, but it was still something I had to consciously remember to include more often. Even to this day. Yes, I like pasta. I love some of the recipes we've had over the years. But it's never been, and probably never will be, my top favourite meal.

"One of the very nicest things about life is the way
we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing
and devote our attention to eating."
~ Luciano Pavarotti

The summer I wrote this article, we had a fine crop of cherry tomatoes. Picked early in September to avoid being frozen on their stems like Popsicles, dozens of tiny red and yellow orbs had been ripening in a big paper box in the garage. One day I peered in to find not just a handful but dozens ready for eating. There was no way we could consume that many in a salad or bruschetta for two, so we Googled recipes on what to do with cherry tomatoes.

One recipe said to roast them on cookie sheets with garlic, basil, and olive oil, and use them later in pasta sauce. So, that's what we did. Imagine it. That September day, I had just pulled the pans from the oven. Rick came into the kitchen which smelled heavenly -- we both felt transported to Italy right then and there. He bent his face and breathed in the garlic-y, tomato-y fragrance and uttered a happy "YUUUU-MEE!"

Suddenly I caught a glimpse of the eager little lad he must have been a long time ago in his own mother's kitchen. Who knows, I never asked him, maybe he used to wander in when she was preparing supper and lift the lids from pots, giving an appreciative sniff, often reaching for the wooden spoon to give things a stir, just as he does today. A little hands-on anticipation. 

I saw something else that day we roasted those tomatoes. Rick's spontaneous 'yummy' really was a clue to one thing that truly makes him happy. And, if I paid closer attention to those little clues that seem to arrive so airily that they're easy to miss, I had the opportunity and privilege to show this dear man I loved him and wanted him to be happy ... and I could do it one pasta dish at a time.

"People who love to eat are always the best people."
~ Julia Child

* * *