Thursday, December 14, 2017

O Christmas Tree

Lionello Delpiccolo | unsplash

"...freshly cut Christmas trees smelling
of stars and snow and pine resin - inhale deeply
and fill your soul with wintry night...”
~ John Geddes, A Familiar Rain 


Do you ever get a little thrill up your back when you happen to hear the date of your birthday mentioned in a conversation or on the radio? For example, I just have to hear the words April 17th and I feel a zip of joy -- for that date is well sprinkled with happy memories which flood into my consciousness with no prior thought.

I tell you this for that is the same kind of happy thrill I feel when I hear the date December 20th mentioned. Those warm tingly feelings come from childhood for it was often the date Mom gave the okay to bring in the Christmas Tree. I still recall coming home from school just days before December 25th and we'd find a newly cut spruce tree from some woodsy nook propped near the back step. Waiting, like we were, for the big day. And, if we weren't already antsy with excitement, it just made it soar at least twenty notches. We could hardly stand it for excitement. Sometimes I thought the top of my head would blow off; I felt as if I wanted to jump right out of my skin, I could hardly contain the joy.


"Never worry about the size of your Christmas tree.
In the eyes of children, they are all 30 feet tall.
~ Larry Wilde, The Merry Book of Christmas


It's true, when you are five or six or seven, every tree seems thirty feet tall, but in truth, looking at some old family photos, our trees weren't those towering specimens at all. All green and prickly, smelling of pungent spruce resin--I didn't like how it made my fingers stick together when it got on my hands--sometimes it was a little scraggly or sparse on branches, even a little crooked, but in our eyes it was practically perfect.

Around December 20th, Dad would drag the frozen tree into the porch where it would thaw and the snow on its branches could melt. Which meant that probably the next day when we got home from school, it might be sitting in its wooden stand in the corner of the living room where Dad had secured it with clear fishing line to the door jam. Cats and kids were prone to examining tree branches rather closely.

Aaron Burden | unsplash

"You can tell a lot about a person by the way they handle three things:
a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights. ~ Maya Angelou


Once it was safely up, we started begging to go find the decoration boxes that were in the upstairs crawl space. There was always the untangling of tree lights -- not a job for the kids, thankfully -- and taking off the box tops with the little cellophane windows. As we got older, we were allowed to put on the delicate glass ornaments, hanging them next to the proud display of the current year's Christmas artwork from school. One by one, we'd pick an ornament and carefully hang it from a bare branch. Selecting was so much fun, and pondering which branch on which to hang it was a very studied business. Garlands of coloured circles made from construction paper and brightly coloured tinsel garlands were added. We'd be firmly instructed not to throw bunches of tinsel on the tree, but to take each strand and drape it one by one -- even I had the patience to do that. Then came the moment when we'd turn out all the overhead lights, put on our Christmas record, and gaze in wonder at our bee-u-ti-ful tree all bedecked and sparkling.

With the tree decorated, we were ready for Christmas. Life couldn't feel any more perfect than in that moment. With so much to look forward to and so few cares of the world intruding on our little family, at least for a few days, we felt safe as we nestled against the storms of winter and life. We were happy.

Circa 1964, Little Sis and Me


Here's wishing you a beautiful day, dear friends!

Hugs,
Brenda
xx



Wednesday, December 13, 2017

And The Winner Is...



*** LINDA REGISTER ***


Congratulations, Linda! I'm so happy to send you a copy of the Christmas magazine, and I will be in touch to get your mailing address. I'll have it in the mail by Friday and hopefully it arrives in time for Christmas.

Thank you so much to everyone who entered the draw -- I appreciate your support and enthusiasm for this little project of mine. If you have an interest to purchase a copy, they are available at Blurb in print or PDF versions. 

Below are a few more sneak previews... 

And, now we're off. Wishing you all a beautiful day.

Hugs,
Brenda
x x












Monday, December 11, 2017

An Element of Surprise

Photo: Pixabay
When it comes to surprises at Christmas time, there is a very fine line between that deep longing to know what you're getting for Christmas and not really wanting to know ahead of time. My youngest sister as a little girl caught a glimpse of her 'main' present one year when shopping bags were being brought in from the car. She knew it was her gift and remembers, to this day, that was the worst Christmas ever because the surprise was ruined.

We've probably heard those stories of children who have opened up their presents ahead of time and then realized their impulsive, impatient action spoiled the rest of Christmas for them. Maybe you were one of them; as for me, I was not, but it wasn't for yearning to know too. I was a snoopy kid and was known growing up as the child who invariably had her head under the tree, sizing up the presents that began slowly appearing days before Christmas. And, oh yes, my little sister and I remember searching the house over some years for hidden presents. But, there was something different from finding the hiding place to actually opening the parcels and bags to peek in. We would stop just short of finding out.

My aunt from Vancouver used to send parcels for us in December. Of course, when they arrived Mom would not let us see the presents, no matter how we contrived to sneak peeks over her shoulder. Thankfully, she recognized the value of the surprise and they'd be whisked out of sight before you could blink, wink or nod. And, even though we groaned, secretly, we knew deep down inside we didn't really want to know. But there was something exquisite about the anticipating as we pondered the thrilling possibilities of what arrived all the way from Vancouver.

Then there was the time when little sis and I were up to no good one day shortly before Christmas. I wonder, did we plan ahead or just take advantage of the situation? With Mom gone into town, probably for last minute grocery shopping, and Dad perhaps outside working in the barn, we had free range in the empty house, and, yes, we took advantage of it.

We decided where we should start first, upstairs in the cold rooms where no one slept, in the stairwell where chocolates and fudge candies were 'secretly' nestled in paper bags. We were always told not to go in there, that was for Christmas, but with no one to know any different, we opened paper bags, sniffed the sweetness that drifted out, and then closed them as carefully as we opened them. We never ate one ahead of time (that just seemed too disobedient for that time of year ... or maybe our memory fudges on us). Remembering what we were scouting for, we'd carry on looking for presents that might be squirreled high up in closets or under beds, behind doors, maybe even down in the basement.

Ah, that year we found the stash in Mom's bedroom closet. Behind the winter coats, and up on the shelf above the rack. Oh rats, we'd need to haul in a chair now. Carefully, carefully, we didn't want to get caught in case Dad came in, we examined the already-wrapped presents hoping for a clue of which one belonged to who. We shook and gently squeezed, longing so much to know the contents but in the end holding back, because deep down we didn't want the surprise ruined. That would have been awful. So we put the packages back where we found them. Closed the closet door. Put the chair back and tried to look all innocent and calm when Mom came home, all the while wishing Christmas could hurry up already.

* * *

What is it about the surprises at Christmas that makes a person remember those trembling moments with joy and delight? I believe the 'thing' that makes Christmas so special is that we are actually wired to like surprises. Yes, according to research of the brain, we now know that our brains are created to enjoy new things to learn, discover, experience. It's good for us.

Someone tells us, Close your eyes, I have a surprise for you, and we obediently close our eyes, smiling, maybe even feeling a little giddy at what it could be. And, when someone unexpectedly sends us flowers or gives us a box of our favourite chocolate, we do love the surprise of it, don't we? It's not the same buying it for ourselves, for the element of surprise makes our brains happy. According to one article on Splinter, a news and opinion site, "being surprised activates the pleasure centers in our brain and gives us a nice shot of dopamine, which makes experiences more enjoyable." In the article, Science explains why surprise brings us pleasure, author Taryn Hillin goes on to say, "Studies have shown that surprise is your brain's way of alerting you to pay attention, which in turn activates curiosity, excitement, and wonder."

We don't have to wonder anymore why people like surprises -- we've been designed that way and Christmas is such a perfect time of year to take advantage of it. There is something wonderful about packages under the Christmas tree. I think most of us love to prepare these surprises, taking great care to hide them away, whispering and whisking packages out of sight. Waiting for the moment when the surprise is opened and eyes light up. We all wait for that moment, both as givers and as receivers. We tend to do all we can to ensure all remains a secret until that last moment when ribbons and tissue fall away and the item is beheld in all its splendour.


Photo: Pixabay

"There is no surprise more magical
than the surprise of being loved:
It is God's finger on man's shoulder."

~ Charles Morgan, 1894 - 1958,
English playwright and novelist


And that, my beautiful friends, is what what every gift we give and receive is about. Every time we receive a gift of any kind it comes with the surprise that we are loved. For, even when we know we are loved, at some level it still ministers to some deep longing or need to hear it again: You I notice, You I cherish.


Here's wishing you surprises in unexpected places this holiday season,

Hugs,
Brenda
xox

πŸŽ„πŸŽ„πŸŽ„


PS. Don't forget to enter my very own Holiday Magazine Giveaway
Draw is now CLOSED


Thursday, December 07, 2017

It Feels Like Christmas: Let's Have A Giveaway!

Photo: Pixabay

This morning I feel like a kid at Christmas. You see, I've been tracking the journey of my Christmas magazine from Blurb to my house (see previous post for background). Today is delivery day. I hopped out of bed, put on my clothes and a dab of lipstick. I'm humming: Ring, doorbell, ring! Canada Post has your parcel and it's coming today.

To celebrate, let's have a Giveaway: one hot-off-the-press old-fashioned paper copy of Christmas: A Collection of Favourite Seasonal Blog Posts. 



 Christmas Magazine
A Collection of Favourite Seasonal Blog Posts
and other nice things to read
BRENDA @ IT'S A BEAUTIFUL LIFE
Childhood Memories | Recipes | Holiday Musings

"This 88-page collection of seasonal posts originally written for the author's blog. Beautiful photos and thoughtful conversational-style pieces about cherished childhood memories, recipes, special family traditions, and other nice things are woven together in this special keepsake magazine. Perfect for reading by the fireplace as you wait for Christmas."

“I love the Christmas-tide, and yet,
I notice this, each year I live;
I always like the gifts I get,
But how I love the gifts I give!”
~ Carolyn Wells


GIVEAWAY GUIDELINES

1. Leave a comment.
Maybe something about what makes 
you feel happy or eager for Christmas.

2. Share the giveaway on your blog or Facebook page,
let me know, and your name goes in the draw a second time.

3. Draw will be Wednesday, December 13th at 9:00 am MST
(hopefully this allows enough time to arrive for the holidays)

* * * 

Fingers crossed and here's hoping!

Hugs,
Brenda
xox


PostScript


It just arrived!! As soon as I can, I will be making my keepsake magazine available on the Blurb online web store, should anyone wish to purchase a copy. Was waiting for a paper copy in hand to review before I sent it out into the world.


PostScript Two
It's up on the Blurb web bookstore here. You can see a preview of the magazine -- it is available for purchase in print or PDF.  There is still time before Christmas if you don't delay.



Thursday, November 30, 2017

November's Sweet Goodbye And A Nice Surprise

Met this festive fellow at the local conservatory the other day


Put my toe in the door quick before November closes behind me and it's a new month. Well, it sure went from Autumn to Winter overnight in my corner of the world. Just days after my last wind-up summer/autumn post went up, winter arrived with a flurry. It snowed for several days making the neighbourhood a winter wonderland. And, it did not melt either, it's still here with more on top. I went from my cute summer shoes to big boots in a day!

Although I love winter it arrived much too early, my head was still enjoying the last of the garden. The leaves on one of my rosebushes stayed green for a week or more after the snow came. I think it felt like me, hey, wait a minute, I'm not quite done with the last season, what's your hurry?

It feels an age since I last posted. And, in truth more than a month has passed. I've thought of you often but have had my head down, working many days and long hours on a Christmas project I should have started weeks earlier. But with other needful matters wanting my attention first, well, there it is, I'm a little behind. But happy to report it's now completed and ready for unveiling.



Christmas Magazine
A Collection of Favourite Seasonal Blog Posts
and other nice things to read
BRENDA @ IT'S A BEAUTIFUL LIFE
Childhood Memories | Recipes | Holiday Musings


It's a old-fashioned paper holiday magazine called Christmas! In which I house my favourite seasonal Christmas posts from my blog archives. I wanted something where I could be more creative and in control of how the finished product looked and felt. I wasn't keen on the blog-to-print versions out there.

I have known about Blurb.ca for a while; it's a self-publishing company that allows a person to create books, photo books or magazines. A person can buy one, a few, or set up it to sell to the vast public. It was my sister who got all excited with her vision of seeing my articles and essays in a magazine format. She was ready to purchase copies and give as gifts to family and friends. I only had to think about it for a second, and I knew this was the way I wanted to go.

Not having done anything on Blurb before, I had a learning curve to overcome, but it wasn't too steep, although at two in the morning sometimes it sure felt steep. I had SO much fun working on this writerly creative project. I didn't want to sleep or go to bed at night, and I'd wake up early in the morning and be at it again. Poor hubby, he was sorta fending for himself some days.

The final product, which will be available online in the next week or so, is an 88-page...
"collection of seasonal posts originally written on the author's blog. Beautiful photos and thoughtful conversational-style pieces about cherished childhood memories, recipes, special family traditions, and other nice things are woven together in this special keepsake magazine. Perfect for reading by the fireplace as you wait for Christmas. Makes a great gift for the gentle readers on your list."
The magazine is not an exact duplication of my posts in design or wording. It's evolved a lot, but if you follow my blog, you will recognize the themes and stories, all laid out in a format that, I hope, will make it feel familiar yet new again.

It will be available on the Blurb web bookstore in about a week's time should you be interested in purchasing a copy. Once it's up, you'll be able to preview. There will be a Giveaway around December 10th, so I hope you stay posted.



Blessed is the season which engages
the whole world in a conspiracy of love.
~ Hamilton Wright Mabie



Since I'm now fully in the Christmas spirit, I want to share my Advent blog series Restoring the Joy of Christmas should anyone be interested in it again this year. Perhaps you are new and have never seen it. There are 25 short cheering thoughts to help look for the joy as we count down the days to Christmas. A blogging friend emailed me this morning and said she'd been to see it already. How exciting. Seems like we're all ready for the season to begin.

Source: Pixabay

A jolly tip for those greyish days in mid-winter bleakness:

"When you go out shopping, try to be a decoration,
wear something red, put on a cute hat, a sprig of holly ...
and be an elf." ~ Susan Branch

* * *

For me, December 1st kicks off the Christmas season in earnest (anything before that date is just preamble). I plan on being a decoration when I go out: spreading smiles, kindness, and cheerful words! I'll be posting more regularly in December. I hope that makes you feel happy!


Wishing you a beautiful day, dear friends.

With love and hugs,
Brenda
x x



Saturday, October 21, 2017

Saturday Six: A Medley of Sorts



I started working on this post one Saturday morning a couple of weeks ago. With nothing on the must-do list until much later in the afternoon, I felt completely free to sit at my desk and write. I love mornings like this, where there's naught on the agenda except time to muse and dawdle, or as the British might say, to potter about. 

Aside: when you read your favourite books, do you ever find yourself picking up the lingo from it? I do, especially when it's one written in an earlier era where the writing might be more formal, or from another country or region where word choices are different to our usual ones. For instance, I do like using the word 'naught' instead of 'nothing'.

If you've been following this blog awhile, you'll probably recognize I like to create lists. So here is my Saturday Six ... a little medley of thoughts I hope you will enjoy reading today. 


ONE
Movies I Watch Over and Over


Someone on social media asked if people have any movies they watch five times or more and still enjoy them. Without thinking, my own list started forming: 
           ~  Chariots of Fire
           ~  Enchanted April
           ~  You've Got Mail
           ~  84 Charing Cross Road
           ~  Pride and Prejudice, the Colin Firth version
           ~  Sense and Sensibility with Emma Thompson
           ~  Agatha Christie Miss Marple films with Joan Hickson
           ~  Poirot with David Suchet
           ~  A Year in Provence
            ~ Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Oh, and The Empire Strikes Back. When that movie first came out in the 1980's, my best friend and I stood in the long line one summer evening, only to get to the front and find out the first show was full. It wasn't a problem to wait for the second show; it was summertime, the evenings were long, and there was a decided excitement in the air. We went back to see it several times that summer, and now, after all these years, I only have to hear those first few notes of John William's theme music to feel the thrill all over again.

With these old classics, I never seem to tire of the music, scenery, costumes, or story lines, not to mention the characters who have interesting things to say. In many cases, I know lines off by heart. There's a great satisfaction to watch something that feels as familiar as one's own skin; it's comforting too -- like cozy slippers.


TWO
Don't Do Much Needlework Anymore and
Why I Might Take My Needle Out of Retirement




Conversation on Facebook Messenger:

My Friend: Just a thought, do you do cross stitch? I have one that I will not use.

Me: I haven’t done any cross-stitch projects for a long time. I keep thinking I might take it up again; yet, the truth of it, I never do. Perhaps because I prefer to play with ribbons of words than spend time trying to thread cotton strands through the eye of a needle. (Pause) Is your writing the reason why you have something you know you won’t do anymore? BTW, what is the pattern/picture of your cross stitch?

My Friend: It was something I thought I might like, bought the kit years ago. Then found writing and we all know how that turned out! Totally obsessed.

A picture of the kit (above) was sent to me; it's called Quaint Country Retreat. I'm smitten. My friend and I are meeting later so she can give it to me. So, I guess that means I'm taking my needle out of retirement. I'm actually looking forward to it.


THREE
Airing An Old Post
"Where Does The Time Go?"



Sometimes I go snooping around in my blog archives to update information or delete a seriously outdated post. There are times when I get caught up in an old forgotten piece and quite enjoy what I'm reading (even if it is my own stuff). I think to myself, Girl, that's not half bad!

I recently found a short post written in 2009 that made me smile. I must have been feeling a little silly that day. In case you're now intrigued, you are welcome to find the post HERE.


FOUR
A Bit of Autumn Poetry


I penned a poem the other day and it debuted on my Facebook page. I don't consider myself a poet; it's not often I think about writing something poetic, but once in a while I get an itch inside and the words start to sort themselves into lines that may or may not rhyme, and before I know it they've created a rhythm and lilt that makes it sound quite fine.

Autumn Leaf

The world a-swirl with fallen leaves
That dance and prance on autumn breeze
In patterned piles of pigmentation
Colours adrift in mild flirtation

A single pinnate leaf I find
(each leaflet forms its whole)
Home I take it for a prize
This feathery leaf to rhapsodize




FIVE
A Quote To Remember


"Getting things accomplished isn't nearly
as important as taking time for love."
 ~ Janette Oke, Author

When your kitty cat climbs on your lap for a pet, when your 5-year-old granddaughter asks for a tea party, when your grandma needs a chatty visit on the phone ... sometimes that is more important in the moment than checking off the to-do list.

Perhaps Janette Oke's sage advice should head our task lists to gently remind us that life is more than just lists to get done.



SIX
It Depends On When and Where You Look


"Sometimes the parts of it
are more lovely than the whole of it." 

Recently, a friend commented on my FB page saying that my garden must be fabulous because the pictures I post of my flowers are always wonderful. Not that I meant to deceive in any way, but I had to tell her I've been very selective in showcasing my garden this past summer. Most of it was/is under construction -- old trees had been removed leaving unsightly empty spots until vigorous new specimens arrived. Dug up perennials sat around in pots waiting to be replanted. And, large scrappy old lawns were taken out, fresh soil added, and then reseeded in smaller staked out plots.




Not every corner in our garden looks like paradise at this stage, I told my friend, "Sometimes the parts of it are more lovely than the whole of it." I admit, it took much cropping and zooming in with my camera to capture just the heart of a splendid rose or to catch the astilbe and liatris in full bloom without having bits of construction zone lurking off to one side.



There's a lesson in there, I'm sure, trying to wiggle out from under the dirt piles; at the very least, it may be an interesting thought. I can look at the yard overall and say it's a big mess. A sweeping view around and you would agree. But when we bend closer -- nearer and more intimately -- there is something quite lovely budding out in a corner over here. Or there. In the few as-yet untouched areas, in and amongst the construction zones, we notice the charm of individual plantings. No, the overall view is not gorgeous, but there are patches that feel sublime.

And, that's what my camera and I focus on... 

Our lives can certainly look that way at times. Things can be out of order. Maybe health issues, job losses, or the never ending news of global devastation. So often our lives aren't perfect in every realm and corner of it. The big picture might look gloomy, but zoom in and we can appreciate something quite different. Over here, the roses keep blushing out with new buds sending out their sweet fragrance. I've shown you photos of the Peace Rose pouring her heart out this past summer, right in the middle of the rubble piles. Surely something is budding out in our own lives right now, whatever state it's in.

We can be selective in what we focus on, what we choose to identify with. For me, it's about watching for those glimpses of heaven ... so often found in unexpected places.




With love and all good wishes, dear friends, 
for a beautiful day...

Hugs,
Brenda
xox




Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Yes, Your Blog Comments Matter!

Photo by William Iven on Unsplash


"The sharing of posts and comments can truly be
a conversation amongst friends."
~ bl


As bloggers, we publish our latest ‘masterpiece’ post, and then we eagerly wait for comments to roll in. We want readers to share their own thoughts, maybe a remark or two about themselves which connects us at some level, and secretly, we hope for a little praise about what a 'sublime' (wink) post we just created. 

Before I say anything else, I first want to give a shout out to every person who leaves comments on my posts. I have learned so much from you on how to leave warm, thoughtful, and meaningful comments. SO many times you've inspired me, affirmed me, and given me joy with your gift of words in response to something I've shared in a post.

We may not often be lost for words, but there are times when composing a short, meaningful comment seems harder than it ought to be. So, we might well click away without leaving a comment or make a remark so general as to be disappointing:  "Great read.”  “Nice photos.”  “Interesting topic.” 

Although positive, they tend to leave an empty feeling or no feeling at all. There is no indication that the post was even read, and one gets no sense of any relationship being forged; the reader leaves nothing of herself in those general words. We certainly understand time constraints and lack of creative moments. We don't want to create pressure. At the same time, we do long for a little something in return (and I don't think I speak just for myself here).

I never forget something Mark Twain is attributed as writing once to someone: he apologized for writing such a long letter, as he didn't have time to write a short one. Although we smile at his wit, we also recognize that, yes, sometimes the short ones take the longest to compose as we carefully choose our words. Still, one thoughtful sentence is all it takes.

* * * * *  

Here are four tips that help me when it comes to sharing my own comments on blogs I visit without having to spend so much time or effort every time:
1. Instead of trying to make a general comment about the overall post, focus on one or two details that catch your attention – a single thought, a turn of phrase, or a line of prose so artfully written its beauty gives you goosebumps. Let the author know.
2. Look for common ground: the similar family traditions, the same books you read, where you go for holidays, a favourite song or line of verse. Perhaps you realize you share similar ‘soapbox’ topics…or completely different ones. Mention what it is about her post that makes you feel connected. 
3. Instead of just saying the photos were nice or great, why not zoom in on one of them and describe what makes it come alive for you? Is it the composition? The colours? Perhaps it's the contrasts or similarities, or maybe you are drawn to particular subjects, like sweet kids in rubber boots or cute dogs out for a walk. 
4. When you realize somebody else has already said what you wanted to say, don't think your similar comment doesn't matter. Of course it does. Great minds think alike and all that. A little trick is to do a synonym search of some of the words already used in other comments. The list Google coughs up often gives other great descriptive words that can help form lovely new sentences. 

Comments are gifts – ones you offer in return for the posts you just read. Go ahead, leave your 'footprint' in the comment box, and make a heart connection today.

* * * * *

This post today is based on an article I submitted to a recent writers' contest. It was a little summer contest within our writing group, and I am delighted to say I placed first. The feedback I received from my peers (who were the judges) was meaningful to me, and helpful, too, for future writings.

I hope you are enjoying your September.
I'm wishing you glimpses of heaven in unexpected places,

With hugs,
Brenda
xox


You might also like an earlier post I wrote about how
leaving a comment could be the answer to someone's prayer. 




Wednesday, August 30, 2017

August Edition: The Simple Woman's Daybook

Photo by Scott Leyland


As I look at my calendar, I see that my last Daybook Edition was written in April. Oh my! I ask you, how did Spring's April slip into May and then into June, pass like lightening through July and almost sweep August off its feet as we merrily waltz toward September. It doesn't seem to matter whether we do much or little in a day or a month, it all seems to fly by at warp speed.

Rick and I just returned from a road trip to the West Coast for a family visit. A dear sis-in-law celebrated a special birthday this month, and we gathered on Vancouver Island at a gorgeous place called Point No Point. Our view of the ocean from Bridge House, our home away from home, was truly s-p-e-c-t-a-c-u-l-a-r. I think all our mouths were agape in awe when we first arrived -- to find the ocean right outside our verandah door. Above, you see the two of us watching the waves from our perch further up, photo courtesy of my brother-in-law. This is a spot on God's green earth where one can find rest for the mind and healing for one's soul. And, at night, there it was, the rhythm of the waves soothing most of us sound asleep.




The sea, once it casts its spell,
holds one in its net of wonder forever.
~ Jacques Yves Cousteau




"The sea does not reward those who are too anxious,
too greedy, or too impatient.
One should lie empty, open, choiceless as a beach --
waiting for a gift from the sea."
~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh





Isn't this the cutest rock painting of one fine fellow? Not sure who the artist is, but I'm happy to have found this little treasure and others like it in the Point No Point gift shop; they had a whole basket of rocks painted with tiny creatures.


* * *

Now, while summer is still summer around here,
I'm happy to offer the August edition of The Simple Woman's Daybook.


* * *


Sending hugs with a gentle kiss atop thy head,

Especially to the dear people in Houston and area,
we whisper a prayer for safety and grace through this time.
We're so sorry for your turmoil and your loss.
Brenda
xx




FOR TODAY...


Looking out my window... Well, it wasn't so much about looking out my window this early morning when I started work on my new post; it was more about hearing the sounds in the neighbourhood. Well before eight o'clock, children were outside playing. Highly unusual for this time of day, but we delighted in the cheery sounds. Maybe cousins or far away friends came to visit overnight; it seemed anyone under ten was up and ready to take on the new day -- perhaps as a last hurrah of summer holidays.


I am thinking... about our human need to remember. Thankfully, we have the wondrous ability to recall fragments of past memories through our senses: sounds, sights, or smells. I take great pleasure in reading books and memoirs by authors who have the flair, as former Victoria editor Nancy Lindemeyer once said, "to capture the gestures, the furniture, and the fabric of bygone times, and help us all go home again."


I am thankful... for the days and stretches in time that come my way when life's rhythm is easier and less complicated than others. I am in a place like that right now. No doubt we've all had seasons to cope when we've been rushed off our feet, trying to take in another round of bad news ... all to the moment where we think the top of our head's going to blow off. Like the ocean waves that ebb and flow, we somehow learn to ebb and flow with the seasons in our own lives. But I am so glad for the quieter, more sane times.


One of my favourite things... is to sit out on the deck and watch the birds as they vie for spots at the feeders, and especially when they decide to take a dip in the birdbath. How they enjoy the moment, wings fluttering and splashing, as water drops catch the sunlight. The young ones are especially fun to watch, shy and eager at the same time, in their debut of this experience. Some will jump in; others flutter nervously on the edge and return to a safe perch, foregoing the pleasure. Just like people -- maybe we share more with our feathered friends than we realize.


I am wearing... a cool summer dress, ballet-like slippers, and glass bead earrings. No bracelets to jangle at this time of the morning.   


I am creating... something new in this space today. You see, I'm not much of a craftswoman at this stage of life (although I once was and I might become again). So I decided to google the question "What are you creating today?" to see what other people are up to -- perhaps someone else's creativity will inspire me with an idea for this prompt.

And, true to form, Google gave me a list of possibilities in response to my question. A blog post to a piece entitled What Kind of Future Are You Creating Today written by Dr. Judith Rich in 2010 and updated in 2011 caught my eye. Yes, a different kind of creating, so we went to see what she had to say. Her message was similar to something I discovered for myself a few years ago, that is, we create our future through the words, actions, attitudes, choices we make in the present "today". Even though this post was written in 2010, the author's message still resonates, what with all that's going on in our world these days. The post feels a tiny little wordy (I'm one to talk) but I do invite you to take a peek, you might find something that gives you courage to create a future about which you're dreaming.


I have read... several nice books this past summer. Here are three I really enjoyed:

1. Daybook by renowned American artist Anne Truitt is based on a journal she kept over a seven-year period. Written in journal style, I found many of her entries inspiring, soul-nourishing, and a slow pleasure to read. Published in 1982, the author...
"recalls her childhood on the eastern shore of Maryland, her career change from psychology to art, and her path to a sculptural practice that would “set color free in three dimensions.” She reflects on the generous advice of other artists, watches her own daughters’ journey into motherhood, meditates on criticism and solitude, and struggles to find the way to express her vision." excerpt from description on amazon.ca   
2. Martha's Vineyard: Isle of Dreams by Susan Branch. A perfect summer read, I am re-reading this delightful book in which Susan shows how her drastic move across the country to Martha's Vineyard was the godsend she needed to recover from her broken heart and lost dreams.

As she starts over, with new kittens to keep her company, she slowly builds a new life and dreams new dreams. Like any good memoirist, Susan shares her own story so that her readers connect as they remember similar emotions and their own places of brokenness and lost dreams. She makes us laugh with her (oh, I love how she makes me laugh) and nod our heads in understanding, and she gives her readers the hope that good things can come to anyone no matter who they are or what they've gone through.

3. Finishing School: The Happy Ending to That Writing Project You Can't Seem to Get Done by Cary Tennis and Danelle Morton. I share a short review of this encouraging and helpful new book here. This book showed up in my world at a perfect time -- I love how that happens.


I am watching... summer turn into pre-autumn. Yesterday I saw hints of it along the boulevard where trees already had yellow leaves. We still have lovely warm days, but the nights are cooler. 


I overheard... a little conversation with one teen and her mom standing behind me while waiting in the long line-up at Staples. She wanted to get 'this', 'this', and 'this', plus she really wanted a fourth 'that'. Her mom says, you can have 'this' and 'this' and the 'that', but not 'this', 'this', 'this', and 'that' too. You have to choose, there's a budget. Or, you can buy it yourself. // Daughter says that her wallet is in the car, then adds in a softly spoken, yet incredulous, "You're making me pay for my school supplies?" Not trying to listen to every word, I'm not quite sure how it sorted out, except I saw the teen leave the store, I assume to get her wallet. // Ah, the joys of growing up and learning about budgets.


I am hoping... to get this post completed and up for Wednesday. As I write in this moment, the kids next door are back outside and having the time of their lives. I think they must have a little pool in their backyard along with the trampoline. We know for sure there's a trampoline -- we oft see the tops of heads bouncing past the six-foot fence between our yards. For all the screams, there seems to be water involved. I hope that summer stays a while longer for all our enjoyment.



Photo by Angelina Litvin on Unsplash

I have been learning... some new words of late. Thinking I should smarten myself up with a few new definitions, I participated in a couple of online literary terms quizzes to see just how much I knew (or didn't). It was fun -- I felt like I was back in the school room. Fortunately, there is no knuckle-wrapping, scolding, or marking work with a red pencil. In fact, they encourage a person to do the quizzes over so you can ace it. I like that! And, no, it's not cheating; testing yourself several times to see if you know something makes use of a technique which helps the brain learn more solidly.

My brain was happy to review these definitions, not to mention clarify some fussy words I never quite remembered in school. So, I wrote them up on the proverbial blackboard to review once in a while. And, when I've got it all right, I'll give myself gold stars as rewards. ★ ★ ★ 

Here are three new-to-me terms I came across on a quiz from vocabulary.com:
INDITE: "The verb indite, rarely used today, means "compose" or "put down in writing," like when you find a quiet place to sit down with your notebook and pen and indite a journal entry or a first draft of a short story. // To indite is to write something creative — you indite a letter and jot a grocery list. Don't confuse indite with indict, which means "to charge with a crime." Both come from the Latin word dictare, meaning “to declare.” Even if you indite a really bad poem, critics won't indict you."
EPIGONE: "Someone who copies a well-known poet, closely imitating her style, is an epigone. You are also an epigone if you admire and imitate another kind of writer, a visual artist, or a musician. You can also use the word to describe the follower of a particular philosopher, or an admirer of a famous chef, especially if you imitate her cooking style." Any Julia Child epigones out there?
LITOTES: Derived from a Greek word meaning "simple", it is a figure of speech which employs an understatement by using double negatives or, in other words, positive statement is expressed by negating its opposite expressions. e.g. it's not bad at all, she's not a bad singer, not unhappy, she's no spring chicken, it wasn't a terrible trip.


In the kitchen... For supper, we're having burgers, fried onions, corn on the cob, and fresh plums for dessert. Simple, yummy, and satisfying.


In my garden... the Peace Rose finally takes a rest. She certainly outdid herself all summer long; at one point, she had almost two dozen blossoms and buds. What a winner. That's a record for roses in my part of the world, or at least, in my not so big Alberta garden. And I think I just used litotes in saying 'not so big' Alberta garden.


A favourite blog... Today I want to share a link to a blog I have been following for years now. Some of you already know her: Brenda from Coffee, Tea, Books and Me. In her most recent post, she tells her readers she's starting her 12th year as a blogger, a long time in the world of blogging. She shares a lovely look back at her journey as a blogger, a reader of fine books, and a woman of faith who has learned how to stock a great pantry.




A last peek of our visit to the ocean...We sat around in comfy verandah chairs and visited; we climbed over big rocks to get a better view and perched on a bright red bench overlooking the water. We trailed through woodsy areas with tall, tall evergreens and masses of ferns giving off a spicy scent. We watched sailboats go by and one cruise ship lit up with fairy lights one evening after it grew dark. It was all enchanting.  


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Something I'm mulling... Not quite letting go of summer, but thinking how to get ready for autumn's dramatic changes. I'm also thinking about how we can use the seasons as a source of inspiration for ourselves and our work, whatever form it takes. The truth of it is that many of us already do this maybe without even realizing it. As the seasons change from warmer to cooler and visa versa, we change our wardrobes, the recipes we make, and our home dΓ©cor. If you notice, it's mainly to accommodate or adapt to the weather, temperatures, and equinoxes. I never saw that before. Maybe it doesn't matter, but it's an interesting bit of info.  

Claire Murray confirms this in one of her now out-of-print magazines, La Vie Claire, "Seasonal transitions...involve re-outfitting ourselves and our homes. Come fall, we pack away our summer cottons and linens and unpack our woolens and knits. We take the light floral comforter off the bed and exchange it for one made of goose down."

Claire goes on to say, "Nature serves as the inspiration for so much of my work and the work of others. ... Nature dazzles us in the fall with abundance, variety, and color. It is a season of dramatic change, and as we tune into its rhythms, we find ourselves desiring changes -- big and small -- in our own lives."

I started to mull what other changes we make as the seasons shift. And I wondered if I could be more intentional in watching for inspiration ... and to watch what other people do to create beauty and wonder in their lives from season to season.


Collage created by Brenda, but the photos come from unsplash.com

"Winter is an etching, spring a watercolor;
summer an oil painting, and autumn a mosaic of them all."
~ Stanley Horowitz


I found this line penned by Stanley Horowitz, and decided to see if I could create a simple collage that portrayed what he was getting at. Had to do a little research to sort out how an etching, a watercolour, and an oil painting could symbolize the seasons, and why he thought they could. And, then consider how autumn could be a mosaic of them all, what that might look like.

Here are my little musings so far...

Etching allows dramatic contrasts between delicate and heavy lines, and has the spontaneity of sketching, according to an article from finerareprints.com. I can see why Horowitz calls winter an etching, can't you? Barren trees 'etched' against a grey sky, the form is there but not the details.

The glowing transparency and spontaneity of watercolour makes it an ideal medium for exploring the effects of sunlight, shadows, mist, stormy skies, including nature's bounty in flora and fauna. Often watercolours are used in gentler, softer ways ... maybe representing the hopefulness and the 'not quite there' of the new season.

When it comes to oil paintings, I tend to think of something brighter, deeper, bolder, opaque. So, is Horowitz right as he describes summer that way? Poppies are summer flowers and that photo I found on unsplash.com seemed to convey that feeling.

Autumn is a mosiac of them all ... well, what does he mean by that? My sister and I chatted about it yesterday; autumn to us does have a sense of new beginnings -- a little like Spring -- not so much in the plant world, but it's the start of a new school year and we start new projects after a summer hiatus. The bold exuberance of summer certainly shows itself in the autumn colours of trees turning orange and yellow and russet, not to forget the bright berries and rose hips. And once the trees drop all their leaves, we have the etching that we will see all winter against those grey skies.

Have I come to any conclusions? Not yet, but it's been fun to think about as the new season approaches. I'd love to hear your thoughts about it.


Closing note... I have mused and typed my way towards lunch ... egg salad sammies with pickles and tea. Hubby is back from exercise at the gym. So I shall call it a wrap for today.

I wish you all a beautiful day. And may you ebb and flow like the waves, riding whatever you are facing or enjoying this week. If you feel in need of something to help you through your day, here's a lovely thought I just read in Susan Branch's book:
"And you know what helps loneliness (and a whole lot of other things)? Beauty. Your heart can be sad, but it will leap at the sight of the moon on the water, or when light flickers through the leaves and flutters like butterfly wings on the wall. You might fall back into sadness, but then, thank goodness, you see something else, even the smallest of things, a pink rose in a vase, an amazing line of inspiration in a book, kitty paws the way they fold over each other, and it leaps again."
Oh yes, Susan, it's true, I have felt those exact things so often. Thank you for those words. And, now wishing you all grace for your journey today.
   
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Sunday, August 13, 2017

Late Summer Blooms and A Teeny Bit of Musing

A posy on my desk represents the feast by my front door.


Have you have ever seriously wondered if you are a late bloomer in life? Everyone else, after high school or college, seemed to sally forth confidently racking up accomplishments, yet for others of us, life unfolded more slowly, less surely. To some people it might have looked like we were late to our callings and careers, but in truth, our seed packets -- unbeknownst to all but One -- were labeled: "Plant early in Spring. Will bloom mid- to late-summer or early fall. Tall and widespread once mature. Plant to the rear of the garden or in a spot of its own. Blossoms are profuse; stake if necessary."




Perhaps that's one reason why I love these late-in-summer charmers. The early spring and summer plants have peaked weeks earlier and many are all but bloomed off by now, but then come the yellow black-eyed Susan (we call them rudbeckia) and the purple cone-flowers, just coming into full bloom. For the last two months, these perennials have been quietly growing tall willowy stems, thick and strong, and developing tiny buds, the promise of dozens of bright petaled cheer-mongers to come.

And, now here they are ... ready for the grand display. How often I look forward to slipping out my front door and going back far enough away so as to get a more sweeping view. Two plants flank both sides of the bay window. When I bought those two perennials a few years ago, I never dreamed they'd get that tall or bushy. And, I certainly never dreamed that I'd find myself completely smitten by their bold beauty; I love to see them peeking in through the lace curtain of our living room window, swaying on a breeze or catching raindrops after the rain.




No fussing, no rushing, no thinking because the lilacs were out so much earlier, they too should be setting blossoms already. No, the pressure to begin blooming earlier does not exist -- smart flowers -- yet inch by inch with patience and forbearance they are eventually ready to take their place in the garden's parade of blooming cheerfulness. Not late, on time ... making a garden beautiful in their own way and season.



“Bloom as if you want to make the whole world beautiful.” 
~ Debasish Mridha




Just think, if everything in the garden came into bloom at the same time and then died back, how forlorn and empty would be our gardens the rest of the growing season. There are similar timings for our own gifts to come into their full blossom ... in the fullness of time ... in due season.

I remind myself, too, some plants seem to die back after blooming early, but if you pinch back the dead blossoms, the plants put everything into sending out a beautiful second flush of blossoms.




"Every flower blooms at a different pace.” 
Rise Up and Salute the Sun: The Writings of Suzy Kassem



"Lean towards the Light"


“You don’t have to remind a flower when its time to bloom is near;
it has been preparing for it all of its life.” 
~ Matshona Dhliwayo


I completely identify with the quote above, for I have finally realized that I have indeed been preparing all of my life for this season. Sure hope I am like a wise flower and know when it's time to burst into full bloom.

Back in February, I wrote in my journal something I felt God was saying me (I had been thinking about turning 60 and how I felt it 'officially' signalled a new season for me). I went in search of those words because I wanted to share them with you today:

"This is your season. Flourish. Bloom.
Do the work you've been preparing for all your life.
An oak tree at 60 is still young, but it's no longer a sapling, green and immature.

You always felt you were a late-bloomer.
Yes, you were; your gifts needed to mature. Develop. Deepen. Emerge.

Daffodils are already spent in the autumn, so are the roses,
but the beautiful colourful leaves, the berries and rose hips are ripening,
including those Michaelmas daisies (not here but England).

This, My Child, is your season.
You've always loved Fall.
Gather the grapes.
Enjoy the dahlias.
Harvest the garden and the fields.

Take care of your body --
It will take you through this
season with ease and grace.

You don't need the strength you had at twenty.
You're not doing that work out there.
It is time to focus on your own life work.

You're an Autumn girl.
Autumn brings Colourful Beauty.
Harvest. Bounty. Food.

You've got a storehouse full.
You also have the grace, skill, stamina,
and ability to set it out to share with others.

Lean towards the Light."

  
This wasn't the post I planned when I first sat down to work on something this month, but it's what bubbled up as I started uploading the photos I wanted to use. I see more clearly than ever that I first had to live my life with all its experiences and life lessons before I could sit down and write from it.

You may ask, how is it going? Slowly ... one page at a time. Grace flows. Thankfully.   


To My Beautiful Friends,

Here's wishing you glimpses of heaven in unexpected places,

With love and hugs till next time,
Brenda
x x