Saturday, May 08, 2021

"Half-Moments of Intense Joy"

" As we get older we realise that the days are more precious
and half-moments of intense joy are more valuable than jewels. "
MONTY DON, The Jewel Garden

If you have followed along here for any length of time, you know that I'm usually on the look out for the beauty in every day life—ever watching for glimpses of heaven in unexpected places. Beauty is everywhere, but sometimes it takes real looking, you know? Sometimes there's a lot of ugly trying to cover up what's lovely and graceful, true and kind. Sometimes there are things going on in the world that, as my mom used say when I was a girl, can take the joy right out of living. Which is why we have to be smart and remember the trick of not giving up or giving in to the ugly stuff. To earnestly look for the good, because in this upside down world of ours, so often treasure is hidden and only those who seek shall find.

I've been trying to find words for this post all week. Everything seemed dull, including my heart which felt chipped around the edges. Nothing seemed to come together until late Thursday, and when I read that line above from Monty Don (lead presenter of BBC's television series Gardeners' World), I was bowled over by his phrase "half-moments of intense joy". It encapsulated what I was trying to write about.

We long for a life of joy, but so often joy come in fleeting half moments, with barely time to notice before they wisp away and darkness folds back in. So brief, yet in the end they become the treasured memories that make all the rest of life worth living. We revel in something so incredibly beautiful that our hearts are pierced and we never forget it. Most often we don't know when that moment will come. And we shudder to think that we could so easily miss it. Those little joy moments that are often known to pounce like playful kittens make up for a lot of ordinary, underwhelming days. It's part of our job as beauty seekers, not to just let it come whenever it wants, but to deliberately seek them out.

As I said, my world felt so utterly ordinary this last week. I couldn't imagine what on earth I could possible share with you that would be any worth to you. Yet, today, I sit here happily with a handful of lovely moments where joy bubbled up and life grew bright again. It's my heart wish that you find yourself glad to have stopped at It's A Beautiful Life before moving to your own day of beauty chasing.

From my window perch...

Yesterday morning, immature male red-winged blackbirds—their red patches on the wings much paler than on the mature males—flew into the backyard in a fell swoop from the lake to feed at the feeders and chill out. The air was alive as they practiced their calls so recognizable in wetland areas, click here to have a listen. I felt the thrill at hearing the familiar conk-la-ree conk-la-ree. It brings back thoughts of warm summer days of childhood when we used to hear them calling from the creek on the farm. I loved that sound. 

A jewel of a book...

I just finished reading a wonderful little book by Monty and Sarah Don that nicely coincides with the new gardening season. Optimistic and autobiographical, they tell the frank story of how they built a garden around their Tudor farmhouse as they emerged from the despair of their failed jewelry design business back in the 1980s and 90s. It is a testament to the healing nature of gardens. I was especially drawn to Monty's comment of how he works all season—all year really, living in England—towards that one day or week or two when a certain flower or corner of the garden blooms into its perfection and how all the work towards that one fleeting moment was totally worth it. Any gardener will nod her head in recognition. Those half-moments of intense joy are such treasures.

Here is a video clip of their gorgeous garden as it is this very day as seen on my Twitter feed. 

Around the house...

On the dining room table a vase of tulips are singing their 'swan song'. Mauve or lavender coloured flowers in the beginning, I love how the colour has intensified to an amethyst as the petals curl and dry. 

My current favourite salad...

I love all the textures and tastes in this Combination Salad, Greek version, from the classic Joy of Cooking. With lots of ingredients, it takes a little time to put together, but it is so satisfying, even as a main dish. In the cookbook, there are no amounts given, just a list of ingredients and the dressing. I've added my own measurements to serve two.

Joy of Cooking's Greek Salad

In a bowl rubbed with garlic, place the following: 
lettuce or spinach leaves 
chopped, pitted olives (3-4)
sliced radishes (2-3)
sliced hard-cooked eggs (1-2)
shredded Swiss cheese
sautéed bacon (1-2 slices)
sliced cucumber
cubes of feta cheese
a sprinkling of oregano

French Dressing or Sauce Vinaigrette

In a jar with lid, place the following:
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup vinegar or lemon juice
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon prepared mustard

Lid and shake the jar until ingredients are blended.

Gradually add and then shake
3/4 cup olive oil

Use immediately or cover and refrigerate. Shake before using.

Garnish with peeled wedges of tomato


Joy in a bag of lavender...

It was an unexpected gift that landed in my mailbox last month for my birthday. A large sachet of dried lavender from my SIL that I nestle amongst my pillows on the bed. What a treat! How my heart lurches when I catch a whiff on the air. It makes my heart happy when I lay down. I remember buying sachets at the Exhibition as a girl. Packaged in mauve tulle and tied with ribbon, just like in the photo, I'd happily tuck them into my dresser drawers. Lavender has been a favourite scent ever since.

Quotes that pulled me up...

It was a week of sun and cloud, both outdoors and on the inside of my heart. Small things irritated me. I was tired of having to look so earnestly for the Beauty, why is there so much ugliness? But then I read some lines by lovely writers that lifted me out of the miry clay. There are so many who strive to keep beauty and kindness in their own lives, I want to be one of them, filling a most necessary role in our old world.

"...because I understand that I am filled and driven by the Holy Spirit and empowered as an follow Jesus in ordering the world, I can see my monotonous acts of cleaning (after my toddler) for the sacramental acts they are. I'm creating, ordering, claiming my own place on earth as a corner of the world where God's spirit rules and the kingdom (of heaven) comes." Sarah Clarkson, a young mom, as seen on Facebook

"Cultivating beauty, creating order, crafting a life that celebrates goodness and innocence is not frivolous. It gives a living picture, a tangible reminder in the dark, difficult world that God is present. He is with us. He brings light. Beauty heralds hope." Sally Clarkson, author and mom of Sarah Clarkson

"The world needs people who walk the path of enchantment. Who speak in songs. Who live in wonder, with eyes fixed on heaven." Author Unknown 

Let it be...

Yesterday I woke up from a dream where I had been in a shop looking at lovely books about England. A fellow working there hummed a song as he went about his tasks. The tune was familiar as I tried to place it. When I woke, I recognized it was the old Beatles classic Let It Be. I once heard Paul McCartney tell the story of how he dreamt that his mom came to him and spoke those words at a time when he was worrying about things. Mmm... now those same words come to me in a dream.

On this lovely rainy May morning that wraps up a week of soul unsettling news in the world around us, I am happy to take the message of that old classic and 'let it be'. I take joy in the good things around me. My hope is that you will too.

* * *

Wishing you beauty and heart's ease.

With love,

Book cover and tulip pics are Brenda's
Other photos are from

Friday, April 30, 2021

Friday Sightings

" A single crocus blossom ought to be enough to convince
our heart that springtime, no matter how predictable,
is somehow a gift, gratuitous, gratis, a grace. "

The last day of April, another week gone, and a little more green emerges from beneath the brown landscape. Spring feels so slow to arrive this year, but the snow has been gone for so long, it seems that earth's show of new life should be farther ahead.

I woke early and heard the robins singing in the pre-dawn. That alone made me smile in the dark.

Yesterday I had the exquisite opportunity to see a female Canada Goose nesting in front of the local pharmacy on one of the still-empty concrete planters. A perfect perch. I was within a couple of feet before I realized she was there, settled on her nest lined with dry grasses and feather down. She didn't move, although she kept a beady eye on me. Not wanting to invade her privacy, no photos were taken. These unusual sightings are more normal these days what with more of their natural wetlands disappearing. They adapt to us - they have no choice. And for them I am sad, but it was a thrill for me to see this Momma so close up. Yes, Momma takes short breaks from her nest to feed, but she ensures her eggs are hidden beneath the down and grasses. I didn't spot the male but I'm sure he was somewhere around keeping his own beady eyes on me. 

I went out for my walk and found these in the garden. What a delight to see amongst the crinkled leaves and dried grasses. That old brown really is a wonderful backdrop for spring's new colours.

" The sun is hot on my neck as I observe
The spikes of the crocus.
The smell of the earth is good. "

I'm off for a short outdoor visit with my mom and sister. It's sunny and actually warm today. We all look forward to the day when we will once again sit on each other's couches and at each other's kitchen tables. But for now, we abide the protocols and take our wee pleasures when and where we can. If I'm to make my date on time, I best be off. I hope you have a wonderful weekend.  

* * *

Wishing you beauty and heart's ease.


Saturday, April 24, 2021

A Parade of Pansies

" The little purple pansy
brings thoughts of the sweetest things. "

If you're looking for a little heart's ease on a cool spring day, there is nothing like the cheerful pansy to do the work. Pansies are one of my favourite sightings at the garden centre right now. Trays and trays all laid out in colourful waves—from the lightest lavender to icy blue and plum violet, from orange and yellow to rose and maroon, all the way to the velvety deep purple and black ones (black not being a favourite, but still they have their own elegance).

I don't remember when my love affair with pansies began—it's been decades—and I don't recall exactly what it is about pansies that first captivated my imagination as a girl. Perhaps it was their cheery faces or their ruffled petals; perhaps it was their utterly sublime colours; or maybe it was the soft yet unforgettable fragrance that requires one to bend near to catch a whiff.

Word got out and over the years I became the happy recipient of all manner of pansy-themed cards and other objects and whimsical items from family and friends. I found myself drawing them in notebooks and dipping brushes into watercolours. And when I learned that a dear pen friend was an especial painter of pansies, I commissioned her to paint a bouquet for me. It is many years old now, but it's still a favourite acquisition. I would take a picture to show you, but it decorates the wall in my Mom's home so no photos of it today. Although I eventually stopped collecting all things pans-ied, my eyes still gravitate to this little flower with its divine pop of colour. I have never stopped loving it.


"... and there is pansies, that's for thoughts."

According to my research, the name pansy is derived from the French word pensée, which means 'thought'. Somewhere in the mid-15th century, it was imported into Late Middle English as a name of Viola. The flower came to be a symbol of remembrance. Pansies derived from violas, and as someone put it, technically all pansies are violas but not all violas are pansies. Somewhere in history, it was thought that the wild pansy, also known as Johnny Jump Up, had some medicinal properties and thus came the term 'heart's ease'. For me, the heart's ease is more for the soul than a physical remedy. Who among us hasn't found comfort and pleasure in their bright faces - I dare you to try and not smile when you look at them, either here or in your garden, should you be so lucky to have them growing there already.

And so, a little parade of pansies for us today: the top and bottom pictures are from Pixabay, the ones in between are mine, all taken at a local garden centre. Hope you enjoy.

" The best way to know God
is to love many things. "

Pansy so velvety, pansy so wide,
Pansy with heart of gold,
How I wish I could stay outside
Till I saw your petals unfold!

" Heart's ease of pansy, pleasure or thought,
Which would the picture give us of these?
Surely the heart that conceived it sought Heart's ease. "

" In a gentle way you can
shake the world. "

"A smile is a light in the window
of a face that signifies the heart
is at home and waiting. "

" Nobody can keep on being angry if she looks
into the heart of a pansy for a little while. "


* * *

Do you have a favourite today?

* * *

I hope your weekend is unfolding pleasantly.
Sending wishes for days graced with beauty and heart's ease.


Photo Credits:
(Top) Deb Nyman from Pixabay
(Middle Pics 2 - 7) Brenda C Leyland
(Bottom) ValeriaLu from Pixabay