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!

Hugs,
Brenda
xox






Tuesday, October 09, 2018

Tuesday Thoughts With A Large Cup of Tea

photo: pixabay.com

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 clichéd 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,
Brenda
xx





Friday, September 28, 2018

Food And Happy Spouses

photo: pixabay.com

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,
Brenda
xox

* * *

FOOD AND HAPPY SPOUSES

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


* * *

Friday, September 21, 2018

Friday Offerings of This and That


The week flew by and the time I meant to spend creating a new post was used elsewhere -- now it's Friday morning and my draft sits empty of words. I'm sorry for it, but at the same time, I am happy to say that spots in the garden are tidied up after that unexpected snow we had last week, my house is clean and ready for guests arriving on the weekend, and the refrigerator is standing by with a big pot of homemade beef and barley soup for lunch when they arrive. It feels good.

An empty draft means at this moment I having nothing to offer you. Which makes me feel a little sad. But as I stop to consider that an empty space can be open to all sorts of possibilities, I feel a glimmer of excitement instead. Just a glimmer, mind you. It's a little like when unexpected company arrives at your house. As the hostess, you frantically thinks about what you might have in your nearly empty pantry or freezer that could turn a dining table into something warm and welcoming. My youngest sister confided recently that she actually enjoys those unexpected occasions, where she has learned to turn those first moments of panic into the challenge of looking around to see what she can make from the little she may have on hand. She's amazed at how creative she becomes: A tin of this and a plate of that, along with a quick recipe of biscuits or muffins, and suddenly a simple bite to eat becomes a feast.

None of us really minds what's set in front of us at times like that -- it's about being in the company of others, whether friends, family, neighbours, even complete strangers. The spur of the moment creates a sense of release from expectation -- we must take it as it is. We can probably all relate to the giddy relief of offering what we have and not fretting about what we don't have.   

So, I look around this morning to see what little things I might have at the ready that might make a satisfying repast -- a little of this and a little of that to create something nice for you to read and, hopefully, make you glad you stopped by.



Let's start with the photo above. I took it a few days ago when I rearranged the nook in the bay window. I no longer have my little fig tree with the twinkle lights to brighten a dull day, and I wondered how to make it feel cozy as the days start to grow shorter and darker. I love how it creates an ambience of peacefulness, comfort, and cheer. I love to know it's there waiting for me when I come into the room. It'll be perfect for the season ahead.



"And all at once summer collapsed into fall."
~ Oscar Wilde

It was storybook autumn yesterday. I went for my walk in the neighbourhood. It was so gorgeous. Cool crispness to the air. Leaves falling overhead. Squirrels chattering in the trees. Streets strewn with leaves that were just so much fun to crunch through. My friend said he caught the nuthatches yesterday stuffing seeds into the brick siding of his house. What fun!

I live in the middle of the city, but there is a tiny corner patch of woods just up the street. It creates a feeling of being out in nature's wilderness -- that patch of trees in the left photo was taken while I was standing on the city sidewalk. I'm so blessed to have such beauty so close at hand.  



"Winter is fighting to hang on to its first grip of the season.
Yet you can see the beauty of summer struggling to hold on.
Life in its fullness!"
~ Cindy W., Facebook friend

Then, there was this. I woke up early this morning to find a storybook winter wonderland. Except it's not winter and so it didn't really feel fairy tale. In our yard it's still very much summer. Although autumn is definitely in the air and many trees in the neighbourhood have been turning red and gold, ours are still green, full, and leafy. The weight of the heavy snows weighs on my own shoulders as I fret that tree boughs will break if it keeps this up before the leaves have a chance to drop.

The weather is acting strangely, but we remind ourselves that we've had snow in September other years, with Autumn often returning. I do remember, though, as a girl the very first time I experienced snow arriving in September. A queer oddity. My young dad hadn't even harvested the crops off the fields. It felt troublesome to my young heart. What a sight to see the unharvested swathes laying like bodies under the snow in the fields. That year winter set in with a vengeance and we missed autumn entirely.

This afternoon, we drove past a school yard just as kids were getting out of school. Such a flurry of activity. You should have seen the snow balls flying. It was perfect for snowmen and kids were having great fun on their way home. It made me smile for the joy of it.

Photo: ben white | unsplash.com
Have you heard? The long awaited Downton Abbey movie is being filmed at Highclere Castle, and now there are actual release dates: September 2019 . . . first in UK cinemas and then in USA. And, no, it won't be on television but it's coming out in the theatres. You can read more HERE. I'm sure hoping it shows in Canada.


Photo: nordwood themes | unsplash.com

My favourite quote this week

"Gratitude turns what we have into enough."
~ as seen on Sew Me Something Good

* * * * *

My Christmas book wish list is growing. Several books haven't been released yet -- they will be coming out this fall. As you are probably wondering what's on my list, here it is so far:

by Sarah McCoy (novel)
To be released October 23, 2018

"... an entertaining and moving historical novel, set in rural Prince Edward Island in the nineteenth century, that imagines the young life of spinster Marilla Cuthbert, and the choices that will open her life to the possibility of heartbreak—and unimaginable greatness."  I'm definitely interested.

by Louise Penny (novel)
To be released November 27, 2018

"When a peculiar letter arrives inviting Armand Gamache to an abandoned farmhouse, the former head of the Sûreté du Québec discovers that a complete stranger has named him one of the executors of her will. Still on suspension, and frankly curious, Gamache accepts and soon learns that the other two executors are Myrna Landers, the bookseller from Three Pines, and a young builder. ..."

by Sarah Clarkson
Was released in September 2018

"Books were always Sarah Clarkson’s delight. Raised in the company of the lively Anne of Green Gables, the brave Pevensie children of Narnia, and the wise Austen heroines, she discovered reading early on as a daily gift, a way of encountering the world in all its wonder. But what she came to realize as an adult was just how powerfully books had shaped her as a woman to live a story within that world, to be a lifelong learner, to grasp hope in struggle, and to create and act with courage."

Any true book girl is going to want to read this book. Maybe this book girl won't be able to wait till Christmas to get a copy.

by Lucy Worsley
To be released November 6, 2018

"As well as a queen, Victoria was a daughter, a wife, a mother and a widow, and at each of these steps along life's journey she was expected to conform to what society demanded of a woman. On the face of it, she was deeply conservative. But if you look at her actions rather than her words, she was in fact tearing up the rule book for how to be female. // By looking at the detail of twenty-four days of her life, through diaries, letters and more, we can see Victoria up close and personal. Examining her face-to-face, as she lived hour to hour, allows us to see, and to celebrate, the contradictions at the heart of British history's most recognisable woman."

I really enjoy Lucy Worsley as a presenter of history programs for the BBC. She's a lot of fun to listen to as she shares her wealth of knowledge. She is the Chief Curator at the charity Historic Royal Palaces. I'm looking forward to reading this new book of hers. 

by Atticus (poems)
Was released September 2018

"From the internationally bestselling author of Love Her Wild comes The Dark Between Stars, a new illustrated collection of heartfelt, whimsical, and romantic poems from Instagram poetry sensation, Atticus."

I loved his book Love Her Wild. Although he is a 20-something author and I'm someone who hasn't seen the backside of 20 for several decades now, there was something in his writing that made me vividly remember being 20 again. He put into poetry some things I haven't thought of in years. As a writer of memoir, I was amazed at how vivid they were. I look forward to his new book.


* * * * *


I hope you enjoyed your visit. Let the weekend begin.
Wishing you grace and mercy for all that you need these days.

Blowing a kiss,
Brenda
xox
    



Friday, September 14, 2018

It Would Be His 89th Birthday


My dad, about age 20


I came early to my study on this grey and wintry morning, and as I wrote the date into my journal I realized today would have been my dear dad's 89th birthday. Rather than chat about weather and how weird it feels to see my corner of the world well-covered in snow this morning, and how I'm sad about my snow-laden flowers splayed across the garden, I'm eager to share a personal essay with you.

This piece was written as a tribute to my dad shortly after he passed away. It was my way of grieving, gathering cherished memories, and bringing closure to what I couldn't see clearly when it was right in front of my nose. Closing the chapter of his life with us -- with me -- here on earth.

On that note, I'm wishing you all a beautiful weekend.

Hugs,
Brenda
xox

♥♥♥
A Tribute to My Dad
by Brenda his daughter 2004 

A father doesn’t tell you that he loves you. He shows you.
~ Demitri The Stoneheart

When we want to convey our affection and esteem to someone, gifts, flowers, and Hallmark cards have become accepted (even expected) tokens of our love. Like many, I avail myself of these most agreeable traditions, and I admit my eyes light up with pleasure at the sight of a parcel, florist bundle, or card addressed to me. But, I am the daughter of a man who did not express his love in these traditional ways. My dad was quiet and reserved, and for reasons only he knew, he kept his emotions and counsel close to himself all his life. It was not easy for him to initiate a hug or say words of love or commendation, even when he was proud of us; he wasn’t one who stood by the card counter to pick out the special occasion greetings for the family. 

Still, growing up I somehow knew my dad loved me. All my material needs and many of my wants were provided for in ample measure, and when I think about it in retrospect, his hands (in tandem with his heart) articulated a love that no store-bought gift or card could have done more eloquently than by the countless acts of service and lovingly-made offerings he presented to me and my family over his lifetime. 

Dad had strong and brawny hands, with freckles on them. Sometimes dirty with soil or machinery grease, they were always industrious and resourceful. They were the hands of a farmer, a builder, a gardener. On occasion, I would take hold of his hand for a moment. I marvelled at how small my own hand looked in his, and I could feel its strength. It was nothing for him to open a stubborn jar of pickles or haul a couple of five-gallon pails filled with grain or potatoes. 

Dad’s hands seemed to enjoy making surprises for us when we were kids: wooden tops, whistles carved from tree branches, little knitting devices created from Mom’s leftover cotton thread spools. In the days before mega-toy stores, it was nothing for my dad to fashion scraps of metal and lumber into some great play things. I don’t remember asking for a swing, sandbox, or seesaw, but there they were one day. And, oh, the countless hours of fun we had. There was also the time we came home from school to find a newly-assembled desk, just our size, sitting in our bedroom. Too small for adult legs to fit comfortably under now, it still has a place in our family, that little red-hued mahogany desk Dad lovingly built for me and my sister. 

Yes, Papa’s hands could rummage through junk piles and find the neatest treasures at an auction or garage sale. They were hands clever enough to recycle bits and pieces into a ‘brand new’ bicycle, strong enough to dig fence post holes with a hand auger, and, in later years, coordinated enough to use a small needle to hand stitch the family quilts Mom sewed. Whether he designed a go-cart with his young son or birdhouses with his grandsons; wood-worked oak shelves for Mom or doll cradles for his granddaughters; whether he refurbished and fortified work-worn wheelbarrows for kids who now had gardens of their own (painting them in his favourite jolly red or John Deere green), these deeds all represented Dad’s own brand of I love you. 

Dad’s hard-working hands also knew how to be kind, and they never struck us in anger. They were safe hands. As a young father, he cheerfully changed wet diapers and crawled on his hands and knees, so my little sister and I could play hairdresser with his reddish blonde hair. Later, as a grandpa, his hands would joyfully reach out for toddling grandbabies, settling them on his knee and planting big fat kisses on their chubby cheeks. Dad never felt nervous or shy around the little ones. Perhaps small children posed no threat; they made no demands for conversation, happy just to play with his reading glasses and sit on his quiet lap. He never grabbed out to them when they weren’t quite ready for his bear-hugs, but often you’d find a youngster tucked in the crook of Grandpa’s arm as they both snoozed in the big La-Z-Boy recliner. 

As a girl, I accepted my dad’s quiet and unassuming manner and was comfortable with it. However, as I matured into teen- and young adult-hood, my own secret desire, even need, for more affirming words and physical expressions made me long for something less restrained, maybe even more ‘traditional’ from him. Then, a few years ago, I came across a book by author Gary Chapman entitled, The Five Love Languages. Based on his own research, Chapman explained that people tend to express their love in five basic ways: words of affirmation, physical touch, quality time, gifts, and acts of service.

I suddenly saw it! Dad had always been telling me he loved me, every time he filled my pantry with sacks of potatoes and vegetables he had grown in his garden; every time he responded so willingly, almost eagerly, to my requests for something from his workshop or help with building a new fence at our new house. His gifts and acts of service took on a whole new meaning for me. This was how he said, “I love you”. 

I finally understood. Gifts of love don’t come only in the shape of flower bouquets, greeting cards, or beribboned packages from fancy department stores; they come to us in as many creative ways as there are people in this world. I began to truly appreciate and understand more fully the kind gestures, generous deeds, and quiet ways my dad chose, maybe even dared, to show his affection. Once again, as a grown woman with expectations, the eyes of my heart clearly saw that my dad loved me. I could let go of an expectation to look for something Dad could not give and to receive with joy what he could.

Maybe Dad would have echoed the sentiment of a fellow in a movie I once saw, who in response to a comment made to him that he wasn’t good with words, replied, “Sometimes words aren’t good enough”. 

Almost a year has passed since those busy and loving hands were stilled. No more carpentry in the workshop, no more picking apples for pies and applesauce, and no more inquiries about whether I need some freshly-dug potatoes.

Despite the dreadfulness of my dad’s illness, something quite wonderful happened during the last couple of years of his life, and especially the last few months of Dad’s life here on earth. Some of the barriers and reservations with which Dad had guarded his inner life began to fall away, and we began to catch glimpses of the man behind all that reserve. Oh, he still didn’t say much when we visited, but there was less restraint, a new easiness between us. He liked it when I read a favorite Bible verse aloud as I sat by his bed. His hand was content to rest in mine when I’d reach out to hold it. Hugs were eagerly received and given. It was good. 

Jesus once said that people will know we are His disciples by our love. Surely Dad’s crown will shine brightly for all the ways, seen and unseen, he loved me and my family. Those strong, beautiful hands … they spoke of a love I shall always cherish and of a man I shall never forget. 

♥♥♥


Saturday, September 08, 2018

Belated Five on Friday


ONE

We went on a road trip to visit Rick's family in British Columbia this past week. Although a short visit, we filled the hours with catch up visiting, not to mention sitting in kitchens filled with good food and laughter.

Our trip itself was a delight of varying scenery. From north to south first through urban centers, past fields of hay, grain and corn ready for harvesting, to traveling past the flat, open prairies with the long horizon just a brushstroke between sky and land. From the rolling foothills, hazy in the distance, to large mountain passes, the Crowsnest Pass to be specific. Along straight ribbons of highway to winding roads that ran beside flowing mountain streams, climbing high into the hills and cliffs where the valley was a long way down, especially on the passenger's side and you sure hoped the driver was paying attention.

Such a feast of variety and vastness and magnificence. A camera certainly could never truly capture the shifting vistas but our eyes certainly feasted. They will never quite forget those moments now pressed into memory banks.

Question: Do you feel enlivened in your soul when you are on a road trip? I sure do. My soul always come back more alive and alert and in love with life.




  TWO

"Flowers have an expression of countenance as much as men or animals.
Some seem to smile; some have a sad expression; some are pensive
and diffident; others again are plain, honest and upright,
like, the broad-faced sunflower. and the hollyhock."

~ Henry Ward Beecher


As always, my camera and I were on the lookout for something I could share with you when I got back home. These hollyhocks were a vision of loveliness in my sis-in-law's garden. She told me they have grown in the garden for many decades now and were there when they moved years ago.

Makes a person wonder about the woman (or man) who planted the first seeds, and now here we are enjoying the fruit of their labour all these many years later. I feel something on that. Maybe it's the universal human connection that helps me feel that sense of belonging in this world. And that connection between generations. I think I might have to ponder that further.
  



THREE

“We can stop waiting for life to become perfect and
start working with what we’ve got to make it as
satisfying as we can. We can accept, bless, give thanks,
and get going. Today, we can begin to call forth the riches
from our everyday life. Today we can move from lack to abundance.”

~ Sarah Ban Breathnach, Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy




FOUR

“Be joyful today with a good dose of pretty flowers.” 
~ Emilie Barnes

Such delicate petals. Like tissue paper. Notice how the tightly furled petals of the top bud are a soft peachy pink, yet when the petals open they are a pale buttery yellow. I love nature's creative streak. A glimpse of the Divine Garden-Artist at work. Hollyhocks are an old garden favourite. Yours?




FIVE

“You simply will not be the same person two months from now
after consciously giving thanks each day for the abundance that
exists in your life. And you will have set in motion an ancient spiritual law:
the more you have and are grateful for, the more will be given you.”

~ Sarah Ban Breathnach, Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy




BONUS

I feel like I've been given so much this past week. My heart is full. From spending time with Rick's open-hearted and hospitable family to wandering around gardens and art shows and just seeing the world go by through the windows of our vehicle ... it's been a little bit of paradise. Yes, people may ask about the smoke from forest fires, sure, the smoke was there, but we didn't focus on it. There was so much else to see.

On that note, I'm wishing you a beautiful weekend.

Hugs,
Brenda
xox




Friday, August 31, 2018

Summer, Flowers, and Giveaway Winners



"What a splendid exercise it would be if people would only go round
their places and look for all the ugly corners
and just think how they might be made beautiful
by the use of free-growing roses."
~ Gertrude Jekyll, Roses


There's talk of autumn in the air already. Yes, the air is cooler, and we're on the last day of August, so I guess it's getting time to switch gears. But I'll have you know that I'm trying to hold onto the bit of summer we still have coming to us. Don't get me wrong, autumn has always been my favourite season, and when September arrives I'm usually excited about autumn leaves and pumpkin spice lattes, but didn't the lilacs and tulips just bloom the other week? 

The summer has really flown, and there are still so many plants in full bloom in my garden, no wonder I'm still thinking summer thoughts around here.  At last count, the Peace Rose (photo above) had 27 buds to open. Early in the spring we bought a big new pot for her to grow into, topped it with fresh new soil and rose feed, and she's been showing her gratitude ever since. Fingers crossed, everyone, that frost stays away for a few weeks yet. The other roses bushes are still blooming too.

We're going to do some more happy talk about flowers and share a few photos, but before we go on, I want to announce the WINNERS of the Blog-a-Versary Giveaway. Thank you so much to everyone who entered and shared such lovely comments. You know how to make a girl's day! And now, here are the winners:


MERRY K.
Winner of the
$20 Amazon Gift Card


SHARON L. G.
Winner of the book of essays
The flower can always be changing by Shawna Lemay


SUSAN (Writing Straight From the Heart)
Winner of my latest magazine (still in production)
Celebrate! Anniversary Edition


* * * * *
CONGRATULATIONS!!
* * * * *

Joe Pye Weed

When people talk about 'living in the moment’ what does that mean to you? For me, it's being present with my whole attention. I'm not zoned out, but I'm aware of what's going on around me and what I'm doing at the time. For me, the key to living in the moment is to come to it with my five senses, including my sense of wonder and curiosity, fully turned on. I have come to see that even if all I have is five seconds to fully give my attention to something, those few seconds become a shard of light, as someone called it, often causing the memory to stay with me for a very long time, sometimes for always.

One such moment was the other day as I watched the bees humming around the Joe Pye Weed plant. They took no account of me being in their space. They were quite focused and obviously living in their moment -- the day was mild, a little warmer than it had been, and the blooms were just coming into full blossom. 'Twas a moment sublime.




I don't know when I first became aware of the beauty of flowers. Maybe when I found the first yellow dandelion growing in the early Spring when I was two or three. Or, maybe it was elsewhere, for I do have one memory when I was about four or five, of the day I went with my mom to visit our neighbour across the road. We were outside in the yard, and Mrs. Liske might have invited me to smell the sweet peas she had growing against the old garage by the house. Never shall I forget that moment when I caught a whiff of their sweet, heavenly fragrance. My little girl heart was smitten, and I knew that one day when I grew up I would have those same pretty scented flowers in my garden. My dream came true!

Little brother, littlest sister, and me by Grandma's pink roses, circa 1970

My grandma loved flowers. She had flower beds all around her house, with a climbing pink rose on the south east corner. I remember pastel yellow and orange poppies escaping their beds and merrily growing in the middle of the lawn -- I thought that was so funny. And, I remember the year our little family visited Lake Louise near Banff, Canada, and lo and behold, they had the same poppies growing in their gardens as Grandma had growing in her lawn.

When we visited my grandma, if it was in the summertime, we loved to play outside. My little sister  (not in photo above) and I would go around and sample all the flowers, letting our tiny noses decide which ones smelled the best. We liked roses and lilacs, petunias and peonies and pansies, but for some reason neither of us liked the too-sweet fragrance of alyssums. Although we enjoyed looking at the flowers in all their crayon box array of colours -- declaring that the pinks and purples were our favourite -- it was their fragrance that made us decide which would be our ultimate favourites. And, of all the varieties growing in Grandma's garden, it was the spicy scent of cloves borne on the blooms of the sweet williams, stocks, and dianthus that became my favourite. From the first whiff, they had their place of honour in the budding garden of my heart. Today, they still are one of my top favourites.


Peony

Now, I cannot write this post and not talk about peonies. Like a pressed flower in a scrapbook, one special girlhood memory is set in time. Where I grew up, weddings were often held in the summertime. Flowers, abundant in people's gardens, were often used to decorate the tables at bridal showers. I would have been about nine or ten when Mom said that my sister and I could come with her to one of the upcoming bridal showers. We were enthralled.

On the specially designated bride's table sat huge blowsy bouquets of pink and white peonies, their heady fragrance adding to the ambience of the summer evening party. Sitting quietly like grown ups, we watched the bride-to-be open her gifts, and I secretly hoped one day it would be me being the guest of honour at a bridal shower, and it would be complete with summer bouquets of gorgeous peonies filling the air with fragrant, hopeful dreams.


Dahlia

Dahlias are always connected to the early days of school in the fall. They were amongst the flowers in my mom's garden of snapdragons, gladioli, asters, pansies, hollyhocks, and irises. I remember waiting for the bus, with a bouquet of dahlias in my hand. Proud was I to carry them into class and present them to my teacher. Although dahlias weren't big on fragrance, that picture of my mom getting that bouquet ready for me to take to school still lives large inside me.

I never realized until I was older how needful flowers really are to the well-being of our souls. Who was it who said, "If a man finds himself with bread in both hands, he should exchange one loaf for some flowers of the narcissus, because the loaf feeds the body, but the flower feeds the soul." Yes, even the souls of dreamy little girls.


Echinacea flower


"(When) I took the time to look into the heart of a flower,
it opened up a whole new world--a world where every country walk
would be an adventure, where every garden would become an
enchanted one, where one could never be lonely, bored, or indifferent.
It was as if a window had been opened to let in the sun.
My eyes were waking up ... seeing the unbelievable beauty of nature..."

~ Princess Grace of Monaco and Gwen Robyns, My Book of Flowers


There's a post about the book HERE.

Garden Poses


"Just living is not enough," said the butterfly.
"One must have sunshine, freedom, and
a little flower."

~ Hans Christian Anderson



Enjoying the cool of the day

"There is more to life than
increasing its speed."

~ Gandhi



Cosmos

"LET THE WALLS OF YOUR
mind be filled with many
beautiful pictures..."

~ William Lyon Phelps


* * * * *


On that happy note, I'm wishing you a beautiful weekend.
To the winners, I'll be in touch with you shortly.

Hugs,
Brenda
xox



Saturday, August 25, 2018

Five Quotes From Books I'm Reading

alisa anton | unsplash.com


--ONE--
"I think of myself as an artist of the everyday, someone who looks for what is bright in our tired and at times shabby days. I want others to realize that this type of seeking is available to them as well, no matter where they are and what situation they happen to be in.
What I want in my quiet life is to be a persistent witness to splendor.
When people read what I write, I want them to feel the way they do when, looking at a photograph, they close their eyes for a few seconds and breathe the light of the image in as a blessing."
~ Shawna Lemay, The flower can always be changing 

When I read these lines from Shawna's latest book, I feel my heart connecting. The words speak to me, they echo my heart, they are me. I breathe them in like a blessing.



--TWO--
"It is strange to think how our dreams change. When I was growing up, I cut out pictures of yachts and planned to live on one of the most elegant. It took growing up to make me realize I could get seasick even at a movie which showed a boat rocking. I dreamed of being a Red Cross nurse, too, without knowing that I suffer so over a bruised paw that I would never have been worth my salt. In emergencies, I am fairly good, but as a nurse, I would have worried the patients to death. ... 
Now my dreams are more fitted to an adult life. I dream of travel, but do not wish to leave home. I would wish to get back in time to feed the dogs and look at the moon rising over the swamp. For the truth is I get homesick if I even go away overnight, so what would I do in Calcutta?"
~ Gladys Taber, Reveries at Stillmeadow, Hallmark Edition 1970

I found it interesting to read these lines, because it's true, sometimes we do hold onto dreams that would never have worked for us. At this stage, I don't believe I'm holding onto to any old dreams that should be released and made peace with. Still, it's nice to read the insightful musings of another woman to clarify one's own mind about things.



--THREE--
"A lot of the Dales farms were anonymous and it was a help to find this one so plainly identified. 'Heston Grange' it said on the gate in bold black capitals. I got out of the car and undid the latch. ... I walked around the outbuildings shouting as I always did, because some people considered it a subtle insult to go to the house and ask if the farmer was in. Good farmers are indoors only at meal times. But my shouts drew no reply, so I went over and knocked at the door.
A voice answered 'Come in', and I opened the door... A dark haired girl in a check blouse and green linen slacks was kneading dough in a bowl. She looked up and smiled. 'Sorry I couldn't let you in. I've got my hands full.'
'That's all right. My name is Herriot. I've come to see a calf. It's lame, I understand.'
'Yes, we think he's broken his leg. ... If you don't mind waiting a minute, I'll come with you. My father and the men are in the fields. I'm Helen Alderson, by the way.'
Outside, she turned to me and laughed. 'We've got a bit of a walk, I'm afraid. He's in one of the top buildings. Look, you can just see it up there.' She pointed to a squat, stone barn, high on the fell-side. I knew all about these top buildings; they were scattered all over the high country and I got a lot of healthy exercise going round them. They were used for storing hay and other things and as shelters for the animals on the hill pastures.
I looked at the girl for a few seconds. 'Oh, that's all right, I don't mind. I don't mind in the least.' "
~ James Herriot's Yorkshire Revisited, Introduction by Jim Wight, Photography by Derry Brabbs, 1999

I've been smiling to myself about this essay by James Herriot. It's the reader's first glimpse of his first meeting with Helen Alderson, and we the reader already know she'll be his wife one day. So I love how the simple story unfolds. James meets her in the kitchen. She says she'll go along and show him where the injured calf is. She says it's gonna be a long walk. And, then, there's that last line when he looks at the girl for a few seconds and replies: 'Oh, that's all right, I don't mind. I don't mind in the least.'

In that short but full sentence -- which I love -- we get a clear picture that 'of course he doesn't mind'. 



--FOUR--
"Sharon Palmer, my wife, gets the first look at everything I write, and reads it with an artist's eyes. When I asked her how she edits my stuff, she said, 'I ask three questions:  Is it worth saying? Is it said clearly? Is it said beautifully?' "
~ Parker J. Palmer, On the Brink of Everything: Grace, Gravity & Getting Old 

I don't normally get stuck on an author's acknowledgement page (and I do read them all). But I was caught with something the author wrote. Mr. Palmer mentioned how grateful he was for his wife's editorial skills, that she is his first reader and that she reads his work with an artist's eye. When he asked her how she edits his stuff, she said she asks herself three questions: Is it worth it? Is it said clearly? Is it said beautifully?

I love that -- it's my new editorial standard.

By the way, her questions must work -- for his writing is worth reading, it's clear, and it's beautiful. PS. quote added later... I really need to sneak in a proper quote of Parker Palmer's so you can see for yourself:
“The only way to become whole is to put our arms lovingly around--everything--we know ourselves to be: self-serving and generous, spiteful and compassionate, cowardly and courageous, treacherous and trustworthy. We must be able to say to ourselves and to the world at large, 'I am all of the above'. If we can't embrace the whole of who we are-- embrace it with transformative love--we'll imprison the creative energies hidden in our own shadows and be unable to engage creatively with the world's complex mix of shadow and light.” ~ ibid

  

--FIVE--
"Maybe it's because of a painting's rich palette, or the pattern of its brushstrokes, or the peace of a landscape view, but our response to art is often one of calm. Art can create a focal point for thought, inspire feelings of well-being, foster compelling conversations, and inspire us to create something ourselves. ...
When we were young, creativity came naturally to us, arising from our curiosity, our sense of discovery, and our readiness to make things without knowing or caring what the end result would be. 'Look what I made!' was always a joyful announcement. ...
Many of us lose touch with that spontaneous drive as we get older. But losing touch doesn't mean that the urge to create and feel that warm place inside us isn't still there. We just need to make time for it. ...
Let your imagination loose, and let your curiosity and sense of discovery rule."
~ Susan Evenson, Creative Healing Educator. Excerpts from Introduction in Drawing Calm: Relax, refresh, refocus with 20 drawing, painting, and collage workshops inspired by Klimt, Klee, Monet, and more

I took this book out from the library the other day, so I have not gotten too far past the introduction page, but already I'm sold. If you go to the link, you'll get to see a couple of the author's inside pages. I'm going to be putting this book on the 'get my own copy' list. One reviewer said she was not artistic but was able to do the projects. That's encouraging as I'm not wanting anything too complicated. Just something fun and when I'm finished I can wave my work with a joyful 'Look what I made!'


On that note, I'm away to my day. Here's wishing you a beautiful weekend!

Hugs,
Brenda
xox