Friday, July 20, 2018

Five on Friday: Filling the Well

“...and then, I have nature and art and poetry,
and if that is not enough, what is enough?”
~ Vincent van Gogh 

The Van Gogh Museum recently posted that, in the many letters he wrote over the years, Vincent van Gogh mentioned over 1,100 works by different artists and at least 800 books and magazine articles. To be so well-read and aware of such a variety of artists and books in his line of work, and then to pass along that knowledge to others, well, I find that truly fascinating. And, he didn't even have access to the Internet or Google. 

No wonder his art is so wonderful. Just think of the wealth of information that enriched and deepened his knowledge, understanding, and development of his artistic abilities. Talk about filling the inner well to overflowing. With such a springboard for inspiration surely he never ran out of ideas to explore or experiment with. It all would have helped him to stretch and grow both as an artist and as an individual.

"A mind that is stretched by a new experience
can never go back to its old dimensions."
~ Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

It makes me stop to consider what I'm doing to create a fresh and flowing well of inspiration for myself. I think about what I'm reading that enriches my own life, personally and as a writer. Curiosity plays such a big role in searching out new things. Thankfully, there's a great big world out there for us to be curious about. Someone recently said that Her Majesty the Queen, at age 92, has never lost her sense of curiosity and that is why she still enjoys life. Having more access to Royal photos these days, I would agree -- there are so many photos where the joy radiates from her face.

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

So, yes, I want to stay royally curious. I do have an insatiable desire to continually deepen my understanding about myself and the world around me. I want to keep the wonder fresh in me -- I admit sometimes it gets jaded -- but I do work to keep growing and learning and exploring things I never thought much about before. Our brains are wired that way, we're told they get excited when we ruffle their ridges and waves with new things. 

Even so, I am inspired by Mr. van Gogh's noteworthy example and plan to take myself in hand to read wider and deeper. To fill the inner well of my soul with good, sweet water.

"Knowing what is right is like deep water in the heart;
a wise person draws from the well within."
~ The ancient book of wisdom, Proverbs 20:5

On a slightly different note, many of us have read Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way at some point in our lives. We don't have to be writers or painters to find value in her book for we are all creative artists in one way or another. You may recall how she uses the image of the inner well as an artistic reservoir. She says,
"Art is an image-using system. In order to create, we draw from our inner well. This inner well, an artistic reservoir, is ideally like a well-stocked trout pond. We've got big fish, little fish, fat fish, skinny fish -- an abundance of artistic fish to fry. As artists, we must realize that we have to maintain this artistic ecosystem.
If we don't give some attention to upkeep, our well is apt to become depleted, stagnant, or blocked. ... As artists we must learn to be self-nourishing. We must become alert enough to consciously replenish our creative resources as we draw on them -- to restock the trout pond, so to speak. I call this process filling the well."

Today's post is all about filling the inner well. As you scroll down, you will see some of the little gifts that came to nourish me this week, to top up my own depleting well. I offer them now to you with the hope there is something here that will stir and refresh and inspire your own soul.

Photo: Danielle Dolson |
It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never all dried at once;
a shower is forever falling; vapor is ever rising.
Eternal sunrise, eternal sunset, eternal dawn and gloaming,
on sea and continents and islands,
each in its turn, as the round earth rolls.
~ John Muir

Such a lovely breeze came into my study window early one gray, drizzly morning. Disregarding the rain, birds chattered in the backyard, vying for spots at the feeders. I found it all most companionable as I sat at my desk looking out. I felt the solitude, the solace, the peacefulness. The way I like to start any day.

Photo: David Vig |
tree-ward eyes do gaze
fragrant breezes caress a face
as music from the leaves begins
shhh, be hushed!
may day's agitations now release
~ bcl ~

I went for my walk the other evening. I headed up the street towards the west, and as I came to the bend in the road, I caught a whiff of something on the breeze. In that moment, the trees along the street were releasing their lovely earthy, woody fragrance after a long, hot day. I can never quite find words for that smell -- can you? A mix of earth and green, maybe a hint of berry or herb. Whatever it is, in that brief second I felt as if I were strolling along some lush woodsy path.

Then... a truck blew by and left diesel in its wake. The moment evaporated. And, with that the city street was back. In spite of the rude interruption, I cherished my tiny bit of heaven, and now still remember it two days later. That's why I must tell you about it.


"Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful;
they are sunshine, food and medicine to the mind."
~ Luther Burbank

It was just after 5:00 am when I slipped out the front door to snip a couple of pink cosmos for the little green vase on my desk. I love their pinkness. So rich and vibrant. Sometimes when the sun is just right and the light lands on the petals, I'm reminded of that delightful treat of yesteryear and have a mind to dub them "Popsicle Pinks".


"Open afresh your rounds of starry folds,
Ye ardent Marigolds.
~ John Keats

Then I walk past the patch of marigolds to run my fingertips along their scented petals. Snipped off the spent blossoms. Their very marigold-ish scent lingers on my fingers -- pungent like tomato leaves.

The day's begun and I bring my little gifts inside where they give me joy all the day long.


Libraries change lives. They are the soul of a people.
~ Diane Ackerman

Here is what I've got on the table for my 'digging deeper' summer reading. One or two I've read before (like Austen's), others I'm in the middle of, and the rest I am looking forward to getting into. I'm quite certain more will be added as the weeks go by.

by Jane Austen

“I come here with no expectations, only to profess, now that I am at liberty to do so, that my heart is and always will be...yours.” My favourite line in the book -- and especially thrilling when Mr. Edward Ferrars (Hugh Grant) speaks it so sublimely in the movie.

compiled by George Davidson

An anthology of poems to be read, enjoyed, and learned. Poets include Blake, Burns, Dickinson, Keats, Shakespeare, Yeats, Whitman, and many others.

"We should learn a poem because we like it, because we have enjoyed reading it, because it speaks to us, because it makes us laugh or cry, because it brings us solace or reassurance, because it gives us a better understanding of ourselves or of other people, because it brings back memories of childhood, or for any of a dozen other personal reasons. We should learn a poem because...we want to have it with us as a readily available companion in all that life brings us or throws at us." ~ excerpt from the Introduction by George Davidson

by Diane Ackerman (author of The Zookeeper's Wife)

"All dawns delight me. No two people experience the same dawn, psychologically or literally. On the equator, dawn unfolds in minutes; at the poles it can stretch for hours. Only as dawn's final drama does the sun actually rise. ... Being in nature at dawn always comforts me."

Philip Zaleski, Editor

I haven't read this book yet, but I just found it at the library. I have read one or two other editions as a way to catch a glimpse of what writers of various faith traditions talk about.

by Ray Bradbury

“Read poetry every day of your life. Poetry is good because it flexes muscles you don’t use often enough. Poetry expands the senses and keeps them in prime condition. It keeps you aware of your nose, your eye, your ear, your tongue, your hand. And, above all, poetry is compacted metaphor or simile. Such metaphors, like Japanese paper flowers, may expand outward into gigantic shapes. Ideas lie everywhere through the poetry books, yet how rarely have I heard short story teachers recommending them for browsing. // What poetry? Any poetry that makes your hair stand up along your arms. Don’t force yourself too hard. Take it easy. Over the years you may catch up to, move even with, and pass T. S. Eliot on your way to other pastures. ..." ~ excerpt from the book

And, here's an off-the-wall fun quote by Ray Bradbury, which I admit to giggling over: “I have never listened to anyone who criticized my taste in space travel, sideshows or gorillas. When this occurs, I pack up my dinosaurs and leave the room.” I think he'll be fun to read.

by Molly Peacock

A biography/memoir about a woman who lived in the 1700's: Mary Granville Pendarves Delany, daughter of gentry, married at 17 to a drunk, widowed, happily remarried, then widowed again. At age 72 "she rose from her grief, picked up her scissors, and invented a new art form: mixed-media-collage. Over the next decade, she created an astonishing collection of 985 botanically precise, gorgeous flower mosaics." ~ from back cover

See? It's never too late to begin again.

edited by Katherine Ball Ross

This is a collection of essays that were written originally for Victoria magazine. The excerpt below is from one essay by Jane Smiley Jane Austen's Heroines.

"When I first read through my thick Modern Library edition of all six of Jane Austen's novels, I was younger than Elizabeth Bennet. When I reread the novels in graduate school, this time in standard editions plumped out by scholarly matter, I was nearly as old as Anne Elliot (Persuasion). Now I'm older than Mrs. Bennet, and my daughters are nearly Elizabeth and Lydia Bennet's contemporaries. (I am almost as old as Sir Walter Elliot.) I no longer read for the love story, or even, in some ways, for the comedy. I read Austen in order to contemplate her views on the proper behavior of women, and her views are complex. They evolve from novel to novel. They cover a lot of ground, too -- small things like the rudeness of not answering letters quickly fully express larger problems of selfishness ... "

This book brings together excerpts from James Herriot's writings
and photos by Derry Brabbs

"I pulled off the unfenced road on to the grass, switched off the engine and opened the windows wide. The farm back there was like an island of activity in the quiet landscape and now that I was away from the noise and the stuffiness of the buildings the silence and the emptiness enveloped me like a soothing blanket. I leaned my head against the back of the seat and looked out at the chequered greens of the little fields along the flanks of the hills; thrusting upwards between their walls till they gave way to the jutting rocks and the harsh brown of the heather which flooded the wild country above."

* * *

I think that's more than enough for one post. I really should write more often so I don't have to cram everything into one post. But that's in my ideal world -- I hope you will forebear with me until I find that world where inspiration, time, and energy arrive and meld at the same time. 

Without another word, here's wishing you a beautiful day,


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Sunday, July 08, 2018

Reading on a Summer Afternoon

Photo: Val Vesa |

“Summer afternoon—summer afternoon;
to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.”
~ Henry James

There's nothing like the warmth of a summer afternoon and the drone of bees in the flower garden to bring back equally warm memories of the books I read as a girl during summer holidaysAnne of Green Gables, Little House on the PrairieNancy Drew, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Lassie, Pippi Longstocking, Five Little Peppers and How They Grew, and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, to name but a few.

People tend to remember not only their childhood books but the places where they read them—on the front porch swing, in the attic, in the crook of a huge tree. I don't recall having a special place per se. 'Have new storybook, will read anywhere' was my motto—on my bed, laying on the living room couch, sitting on the back step with the dog nearby, stretched out on a blanket in the shade of the huge poplars. It never really mattered where, for once I cracked open the book, down the rabbit hole I'd disappear and everything else would fade into the background. I could be gone for hours with my eyes glued to the pages.

Recently, I found a copy of Tom Sawyer at our library book sale. I felt the draw of the old Golden Illustrated Classic cover, and so now here I sit in my garden, those bees buzzing in the thyme, with the book in my lap. Mark Twain, in his 1876 Preface, declared that his book was intended mainly for the entertainment of boys and girls. I can attest, this girl was duly entertained. He went on to say, "I hope it will not be shunned by men and women on that account, for part of my plan has been to try to pleasantly remind adults of what they once were themselves, and of how they felt and thought and talked, and what queer enterprises they sometimes engaged in."

How well Mr. Twain knows us. Opening the storybook to read long forgotten but strangely familiar lines, memories gushed like water from a hose on a warm day. Not only about the story itself, but about my own surroundings and who I was at that age when I first read it.

Tom Sawyer lived in a world vastly different from my own—in the Mississippi River town of St. Petersburg, Missouri. It sounded much more interesting, I thought, than growing up on a Canadian prairie farm where playmates were scarce, so I was highly intrigued by his lively escapades with his chums. I giggled at how Tom inveigled his friends to paint the "far-reaching continent of Aunt Polly's unwhitewashed fence". Clever lad. And, who could forget the delicious chill when Tom sneaked out of the house late one night to visit the grave yard with Huck Finn. I allowed myself to imagine sneaking out of our house in the dark of night with little sister in tow to the tree-lined graveyard in town where Grandpa was buried, and I just knew I couldn't do it. In daylight it was a pleasantly amiable spot, but in the dead of night, I was pretty certain I'd be as spooked as Tom and Huck had been. Happy was I to live that adventure vicariously through two braver-than-I fellows.

* * *  

Reading those lines above, I found it hard to shift gears and come back into the present. I wanted to stay there and relive a few more adventures with Tom -- I could feel the girl I once was coming out of the shadows and enjoying her old memories for a few moments.

But, I do want to tell you about three other books I'm dipping into these warm summer afternoons.

Sharing the Journey, Women Reflecting on Life's Passages
edited by Katherine Ball Ross (1997, 2007)

It's a collection of essays originally published in the Victoria magazine back in the day when Nancy Lindemeyer was editor. There's a lovely foreword by Nancy, and it features writers such as Diane Ackerman, Madeleine L'Engle, Susan Minot, Tovah Martin, Reeve Lindbergh (daughter of famous Anne Morrow Lindbergh), among others.

I wanted a copy of this book for years, but reason would win out, saying that since I still had the original magazines with these essays in them, I didn't really need the book. Yes, it's true, but you know what they say about such matters: The heart wants what the heart wants. So, when I found an Amazon birthday gift card in my hand in Spring, I splurged, and you know, it really is nice to sit down and find those favourite essays bound together in one volume.

The flower can always be changing
by Shawna Lemay (2018)

This slim volume of tiny essays caught my eye recently while browsing for something nice at the local bookstore. It was the book cover and the title that stopped me in my tracks. Doesn't it look inviting to read on a summer afternoon?

I'm now in the middle of it and am enjoying very much the author's thoughts about life and beauty and flowers. She says, "I've come to understand the soul is a flower with which to bless the world." I think we might be kindred spirits. How lovely to learn that this new-to-me author lives in a city very near me, which means she's a local girl like me. She is also a blogger at Transactions with Beauty which you can find here.

"Inspired by the words of Virginia Woolf, Ms Lemay welcomes you into her home, her art and her life as a poet and photographer of the every day."  ~ from the back cover

Martha's Vineyard, Isle of Dreams
by Susan Branch (2016)

I just finished reading this lovely memoir ... for the third time now. The first time, I really tried not to hurry through it too much but I have to tell you it's a page turner. If I did finish too quickly, I could do a happy dance, turn around, and read it all again. Which I did.

Knowing how the book ends, I was able to relax and just savour each page—enjoying Susan's lovely artwork in detail, pondering the cute and pithy sayings she included for our mirth and pleasure, letting the story wash over me with its poignant moments as well as its delightful laugh out loud ones. All the while nodding in total recognition of a kindred spiritfor even though our life stories are worlds apart, there is so much that resonates and is the same.

As a young woman Susan knew she wanted to change the worldwell, she certainly has made the world a better place with her cheerful, resolute, and generous spirit as well as her endearing books. She has delighted the lives of many 'girlfriends', including this particular one!

* * *

I couldn't close this post without showing you a couple of pictures of our mock orange. It has given us such joy again this summer. As Susan Branch so aptly said once, "I could never in a hundred summers get tired of this." A huge shrub now, it towers over our back deck. Each year it comes thick with delicate blossoms, filling the air with its sweet perfumemaking it a perfect spot to read.

Fragrance, beauty, and a good book. What more could a person ask for? I heard that, someone out there chimed that an iced glass of something cool and a nibble of something fruity and sweet could be it! You are right, that would make it practically perfect in every way.

"All in all, it was a never to be forgotten summer—one of those summers which come seldom into any life, but leave a rich heritage of beautiful memories in their going—one of those summers which, in a fortunate combination of delightful weather, delightful friends and delightful doing, come as near to perfection as anything can come in this world." ~ L.M. Montgomery, Anne's House of Dreams
* * *

"Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability."
~ Sam Keen

* * *

"Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass on a summer day
listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky,
is hardly a waste of time."
~ John Lubbock

And, so I come to the end. I hope you will have lots of those deep summer moments to idle away with a good book in a shady spot. I'd love to hear what you are reading this summer. Here's wishing you a wonderful week ahead.