Sunday, July 08, 2018

Reading on a Summer Afternoon


Photo: Val Vesa | unsplash.com

“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.

Hugs,
Brenda
xox



44 comments:

  1. Thanks for a great post! I also enjoy essays and short stories so I'm going to look up your recommendations on Amazon, my fave place to browse books.

    I really love the books Susan Branch has written, Isle of Dreams was my favorite--I love to read about women taking a leap of faith and spreading their wings on their own. She's a true inspiration.

    Again thanks. I'm new to your blog and so enjoy it!

    Jane

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, Amazon is a fave place to browse here too! I do agree SB is a true inspiration and Isle of Dreams is a favourite for me as well. So glad you stopped by, Jane. All the best. Brenda

      Delete
  2. Lovely, Brenda! I've been thinking of you as pictures from our garden tour are coming up on Facebook every morning. I love a good book any time of year but there is something about summer reading that feels different (in a very good way!). I just read a bio of Bunny Mellon, and am now immersed in Faith Fox by Jane Gardam. It was a serendipitous find at my local indie bookstore--a new-to-me British author. Next up will be I Always Loved You by Robin Oliveira, my book group choice before we head to the Clark for an exhibit on women artists in Paris.
    Keep sharing what you're reading--love your blog. xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh yes, I've been getting those same FB memories popping up. What a great experience. I loved those gardens and meeting up with you and your aunt Ruth. Thanks for the wonderful list of books you shared here. I'm going to be looking for them. Do enjoy that art exhibit. I was lamenting to hubby that I wish we had such lovely galleries to just pop in and see the next great exhibit. We do have some lovely galleries, just not as many as you have your way. Enjoy and thanks so much for dropping a note. Brenda xox

      Delete
    2. Oh, how wonderful your books sound. They are on my to read list. I hope you share more titles as yours are ones that have not crossed my path as yet. Have you read Goodnight June by Sarah Jio? It's the story behind the book Good Night Moon. It was a delight.

      Delete
    3. Kathryn, here are two books I just shared on Facebook (are you there?) that I really loved:

      1. Twenty Wishes by Debbie Macomber. It's part of her Blossom Street series (which I have loved reading). "On Valentine's Day, Anne Marie and several other widows get together to celebrate…a sense of hope. They each begin a list of twenty wishes—including things they'd always wanted to do but never did." // This is not just for women who have lost loved ones but anyone wanting to take a closer look at their heart desires.

      2. A Hundred Pieces of Me by Lucy Dillon. The main character, Gina Bellamy, suddenly finds herself divorced and trying to figure out how to live on her own. Determined to make a fresh start, she decides to start throwing away all her possessions except for the one hundred things that mean the most to her. I found the story captivating and thought-provoking.

      I hope your search for these are more successful.I have not read Sarah Jio's book.I'll go look for it. Thanks!

      Delete
  3. My summers as a girl were filled with trips to the library and books read under a shade tree in the yard, on an old quilt. I still love to read and keep 2 or more books going all the time. You've mentioned some I would like to read and of course I love Susan B.! Thanks for a beautiful post!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We never had a town library until I was in my mid-teens. But I did make use of the school library right up until the last day of school. Mom and Dad were good about buying books for us whenever we went into the big city. They were the treasures of the day. I'd get a book and my little sister would get one, and then we had the double joy of trading. But we each made sure our names were in the top inside cover. To make sure (wink). It was bliss. // Thanks for stopping by! Brenda xox

      Delete
  4. Seems like we read and enjoyed many of the same books as children. I always make sure to read one now and again to keep from becoming a stodgy old lady. :-) Lovely post, Brenda.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I do like your thought, Marigold, to read children's books to keep from becoming a stodgy old lady. I'm keeping that in mind! Thanks for stopping by. Brenda xox

      Delete
  5. Brenda, here in England it is too hot to do anything but sit and read a good book! I like your choices, though have to confess that I never read Tom Sawyer. I'm going to look for a copy of Shawna Lemay's book. Your orange blossom took me back to France where we had a beautiful bush in the garden.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am sorry to hear about your heat wave, but the upside means a proper reason for stopping to read a good book. And on this side of the pond, I never met Wind in the Willows until I was older. Maybe Tom Sawyer wasn't on the children's lists of books to read in England at the time of your childhood. You had so many other lovely children's books. // I can well imagine how lovely your bush in France must have been. Good thing for memories and photos. Brenda xox

      Delete
  6. I am even more of a mind to find a mock orange and add it to my garden! By our deck would be wonderful! Thank you for the reminder about Susan's books. I own the first one, but just requested the other two from our library. Perfect summer reading.

    When I was a girl, I did read Nancy Drew, but my parents weren't big readers (though I was), but I wasn't introduced to many classics, until Junior High. I've really enjoyed reading many of the classics, even those meant for children since I'be been an adult! A good book is always a joy!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's a good thing that it doesn't really matter when we are introduced to our books. As you say, a good book is always a joy. I still like to read books meant for children too. That's why I love browsing through the juvenile sections at the library book sales. One never knows what treasures are found. // And if mock oranges will work in your region, I do recommend them. They are little work for such great pleasure. Bren xox

      Delete
  7. I used to devour books to the point that my Mom would tell me to put the book down and do some work.I still read-only not as much and usually not novels.Love the Mock Orange pictures.A simple, yet beautiful flower.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ruth, You're not the only one whose mom would discuss putting down the book to get work done. For me, she never lets me forget that I tried to practice my piano lesson and read at the same time. She did wonder at the time why I kept playing the same three bars over and over. Haha, but those books were so engaging, it really was hard to put them down, wasn't it? Bren xox

      Delete
  8. Yes! Summer, mock orange, reading with the warm afternoon breeze riffling the pages of my book.... Well, IF I'm lucky, the breeze will be warm, and not chilling! I only with my new garden have mock orange. The two plants on either end of my patio just finished their blooming. They are so dear. So far, not big enough to make much of an impression with their scent, which was the reason for planting them there.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. GretchenJoanna, Our mock orange is about 16 years old now. So it's a large bush. I do hope that yours will be happy where you planted them and will give you great pleasure in the years to come. Oh yes, I forgot about that thought of afternoon breezes riffling the pages of one's book. That's a lovely memory. Bren xox

      Delete
  9. I was also a fan of Anne Shirley, Laura Ingalls and Nancy Drew. These days, I've been reading some writing books so that I can hopefully write more interesting posts for my work social media accounts.

    Have you read the book, "Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life" by Anne Lamott? It's a great read for writers and non-writers (like me).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'll come for a visit soon, Margie, and see what you've been reading. Oh yes, I have Bird by Bird and love it. I agree it's a wonderful read whether someone is a writer or not. Glad to hear you are enjoying it too. Brenda xox

      Delete
  10. When I was a girl, I read a lot of books that had belonged to my mother as a child. I enjoyed all of the L.M. Montgomery books including the non-Anne ones like The Story Girl and Chronicles of Avonlea? Did you read The Heidi books as well? I would enjoy Sharing the Journey as Victoria is the only magazine that I buy. I can always find beauty in its pages. Did you read Madeleine L'Engle's
    Crosswick Journal series? There are so many books to read ! I love your selections!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I have enjoyed all of L.M. Montgomery's book, including all the non-Anne stories too. At one point in my life I collected everything I could find of LMM's work, including her journals. I loved the Heidi stories. I didn't include her in this post as I think of her mostly in my mind as a book to read on Christmas holidays -- maybe I got the book for Christmas when I was a girl. I also love Madeleine L'Engle's books too. As you say, just so many good books to read. // Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving your lovely comment. Best... Brenda

      Delete
  11. Your post title says it ALL,
    Reading On A Summer Afternoon !!
    Thank you for reviewing your picks.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Just thinking about it gives me a little shiver of delight! xox

      Delete
  12. Oh friend your memories of reading when you were young so remind me of mine. Summer afternoons always were such wonderful times when I loved to read. I still do. To me it is the perfect way to vacation. Thanks for sharing your summer reads...they just might become mine too. Hugs!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Debbie, I have had a fantasy of packing my suitcase full of books and parking myself somewhere near water's edge -- the ocean, a nice swimming pool at a beautiful hotel -- for a summer holidays. I agree about it being a perfect way to vacation. xox

      Delete
  13. What a lovely post. I, too have a mock orange, but it is a young plant and needs to branch out a bit as the seasons go by. I love plants with a fragrance. I was an avid reader as a child and loved riding my bike to the library and filling my basket with books. I read everywhere around the house and under the big maple tree in the backyard. Wouldn't it be wonderful to see our library card when we were children to see all of the titles we read? I think that would be such a joy. I've requested all three of your books from my library. I love the book Every Day Spirit by Mary Davis. She and I truly are kindred spirits. Her thoughts make my heart sing. Enjoy this magnificent day!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What a lovely thought ... to be able to see our library card from when we were children to see all the titles we once read. I agree, that would be a joy-filled moment. // I shall look for that book by Mary Davis. It's so special to 'meet' kindred spirits in the books we read. Wishing you a beautiful day!

      Delete
  14. Thank you for your visit to my blog today, Brenda. It's always a joy to know you have stopped by. Loved your post, too. And it goes without saying that I love anything by our beloved Susan Branch! She is a bright, warm light in the world. Susan

    ReplyDelete
  15. Hi Brenda, it is nice to meet you! I found your blog through Dewena's. I took a quick look through yours and it looks delightful, so I added your blog to my blog roll on the side of my blog. Martha's Vineyard is one of my favorite books - in fact, I just recently finished reading it! Have you read the other two in the series? I'm on the 3rd one now - A Fine Romance. Have a beautiful week!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Melanie, Thanks so much for your lovely comment about my blog! I'll be popping by to visit you soon.

      Yes, I have read all three of Susan's memoirs. Loved all three. I saw on Twitter today that she's beginning the long and joyful job of working on her next book. She'll have a long line-up of fans waiting with bated breath.

      Wishing you a beautiful day...
      Brenda

      Delete
  16. I remember reading most of those books you mentioned as a child. I also read Trixie Belden, Cherry Ames and a few others. What a lovely post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I loved Trixie Belden and Cherry Ames too. And what about Donna Parker? There are just so many fun books to remember.

      Delete
  17. Good morning Brenda! What a fascinating post you've written. We have much in common, you and I, when it comes to books. I too devoured books when I was a girl but then I had nothing much more to do in those days having moved around so much and not making many friends because of it. So, for the most part, my books were my friends. They moulded me into a bit of a bookworm, to be honest, because I could never find another who enjoyed reading like I did.
    Today, I leave my reading until night time because if I happen to pick up a book during the day, I can lose track of time and nothing whatsoever will get done. I read all of the Anne books about every two or thee years so I'm well acquainted with the characters. I spent a lot of time in the library too growing up. In one neighbourhood I was within walking distance so I spent many a day there lost in Grimms Fairy Tales and the like. Nancy Drew and Trixie Beldon along with many others awaited me at home in my room. Those were the days!

    Your Mock Orange is lovely and I can just imagine its fragrance. I have roses and they grow outside my windows so my world is filled with their beautiful scent most of the summer. It's bliss!

    Thank you for your visit and your lovely comment. Have a fabulous day, dear friend. Blessings...Sandi

    ReplyDelete
  18. Yes, I was a book worm too -- seems there were many of us out there. You mention Grimms Fairy Tales , oh yes, I loved all the fairy tale books. Devoured them too.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Love, love, love this post Bren - simply wonderful! I have read many of the books you have mentioned and made a list of the ones I have not. You seem to always point me to wonderful reads.

    Love your Mock Orange and I can smell them, I had one at our home in Va. and I do miss how lovely and sweet it was.

    Bren, I feel as though we are truly kindred spirits and hopefully one day our paths may cross. Thank you for another lovely post!

    ReplyDelete
  20. Brenda, I felt such a feeling of deja vu while reading this, thought surely I had commented on it earlier. And then I remembered that I was reading it last thing before getting ready for bed when my dachshunds let me know they wanted to go out. I left it open on my screen thinking it would remind me the next morning but then with family coming in must have closed it out.

    But of course it is super lovely to be given not only permission to read on these summer days and evenings but encouragement to do that very thing! And all of your childhood books mentioned were my favorites too, except for Tom Sawyer although I remember being made to read it in school. All the the other books you mention sound wonderful and I've added some to my library list. I have had so many blog friends tell me I would love the Susan Branch books because I love Gladys Taber that I must get them.

    Have you watched the new Anne with an E series? I've just begun recently and think the acting is superb but they are far too intense for young people.

    The Victoria magazine essays sound wonderful too. I'm sure I read them back then but finally did pass my magazine along in a fit of decluttering one year. Then regretted it!

    ReplyDelete
  21. Oh I have been idle all right. Usually not with a good book as you have been doing. I love mock orange bushes...the scent so heady. Beautiful post!

    ReplyDelete
  22. What a great post, Brenda. Lots of substance there. Loved your photos, too. You gave me lots to think about. Thanks for all your visits to my posts, too. Love them. Susan

    ReplyDelete

To My Beautiful Readers,

Some people come into our lives, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never the same. ~ Franz Peter Schubert

Thank you so much for leaving your 'footprint' here in my comment box. I do appreciate you taking a moment to share your thoughts today.

Brenda xox

PS. I do not always comment here, but I do look forward to coming and visiting you....