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:

Winner of the
$20 Amazon Gift Card

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

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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.


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.


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


mind be filled with many
beautiful pictures..."

~ William Lyon Phelps

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


Saturday, August 25, 2018

Five Quotes From Books I'm Reading

alisa anton |

"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.

"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.

"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'. 

"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


"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!


Friday, August 17, 2018

The Simple Woman's Daybook: My Blog's 10th Anniversary


Today we're celebrating our blog's 10th anniversary!
We're having an anniversary Giveaway.
We're joining with The Simple Woman's Daybook.


Looking out my window...

From my desk, I can see into my backyard. It's the same view I had a decade ago when I sent my first blog post off into cyberspace. It's familiar, yet different. Our neighbours' trees, including our Hawthornes and Mountain Ash, are now full grown and stately, with branches giving shade to human and feathered friend alike. One sunflower, a volunteer from scattered birdseed, towers like a sentinel against the back fence, bright yellow petals framing its ripening brown center. Although the fence is looking in need of a fresh coat of paint, the roses and lilies are blooming and serve to remind me that beauty reigns.

I am thinking...

About that first post, written with trepidation and excitement, and how it all came about. For years, I'd been wanting to write, but I didn't really have a focus or a platform. I'd been writing newsletters for people in the beauty/skincare industry, and loved it, but I wanted to branch out, write more inspirational pieces. Many people were blogging by then, and I saw that a blog might be just the thing for me. Not only did I want to improve my writing skills, I also wanted to develop a strong writer's habit of writing regularly.

I asked myself, what would I write about day after day? I already knew that this blog's theme would be what has turned out to be a theme for my own life: learning how to live more beautifully, with grace and wisdom and love, and then sharing it. Here's an excerpt from my first post:
"Hello and welcome ... I've created this blog to explore and share inspirational thoughts about making our lives more beautiful in our every day living. We encounter ugly things every day and some people say, well, that's the reality. But I always remember someone once saying that roses are as real as pigpens. Beauty can be just as real in our lives as any ugly or sad thing. Why should ugly have the upper hand?
Years ago, when I first read Alexandra Stoddard's book Living a Beautiful Life, I realized that I, too, was eager to live a beautiful life. I wanted to be able to create a little 'heaven on earth' in my own corner of the world and to inspire others to find the beauty and joy that's hidden in every crevice of life -- yes, even inside our refrigerators, as Alexandra pointed out in her book."
Now I sit here ten years later and I'm about to hit 'publish' on what will be my 1112th post. I can still remember how, like a new mother, I held my breath as I sent off that first post, wondering what, if anything, would come of it. Now I look back with awe and wonder. So many words have spilled out onto these blank digital pages. So much of my heart and soul. From the first day, it's been about watching for those glimpses of heaven that show up, sometimes in the most unexpected places and ways. Always on the lookout for the beauty -- occasionally in the spectacular and extraordinary, but usually in the simple, ordinary, everyday.  Which is where we live most of the time.

I am thankful...

In ten years, my blog has been shaped and reshaped, as has my life, not to mention the world we live in. But one constant remains: Catching glimpses of heaven in unexpected places and writing about them here on my blog has been a joy ride in a blog post. Even when I start to wonder if readers really want to hear more about the squirrel and the birds and the flowers.

No matter what is going on in the world around me or in my personal life, with God's grace I still aim to carry on making my corner of the world a better, more beautiful place. That includes my corner of cyberspace, both here and on social media. Which also means, sometimes, I totally can put away my soapbox and not add my two cents' worth to the rousing world-wide conversations when we hear the latest set-to on the news. You can be assured I will never use my blog for ranting or raving on any topic. This is my oasis -- a refreshing stream in the desert -- and I wish it to be yours too. As a dear writing friend recently said, "I used to have opinions but then I stated them, and now I don’t have to." Indeed. Wise words from this friend of mine whose name is Joy.

One of my favorite things...

"There is nothing like that exquisite moment when you first
discover the beauty of connecting with others
in celebration of larger ideals and shared wisdom."
~ Gordon Gee

A glass raised to all the friends I've made here on my blog over the years. I'm so grateful. I'd love to mention you by name, but that risks leaving out someone whose name slips my mind in the moment, and that wouldn't be right. So, instead, if you are reading this post, consider yourself on the list of special and wonderful people who have added so much beauty, grace, and kindness to my life this past decade. May this tribe of kindred spirits from around the world continue to share this blogging journey with each other.

I am creating...

A new magazine to mark this anniversary and I'm so excited! The idea just came to me as I'm working on this post. What I'd like to know is why do these wonderful inspirational moments have to always come along at the last minute? I could have been working on this already and had it done for the occasion. Anyways, I'm thinking about calling it Celebration! Anniversary Edition. It will be similar to the Christmas! magazine I published last December. In this edition, I want to gather a collection of my top favourite and most popular posts of the past ten years. It won't be an exact duplication of my posts in design or wording, but they will be laid out in a format that I hope will make it feel familiar, yet new again.

That will be quite the undertaking. As you know, I have well over a thousand posts to sort through, so it might be well into the fall before I'm ready to publish.

I am hoping...

That you will lend your thoughts. If you've been reading and following this blog over the years, I would love to know if you have a personal favourite post, or even two or three. I'd love to know. This would help me decide some of the posts to include in this upcoming Celebration! Anniversary Edition.

I am wearing...

A sleeveless summer dress with swirly skirt, in blue and white floral pattern,
along with silver bracelets.

I am reading...

The Vintage Book of American Women Writers. Edited by Elaine Showalter, 2011. An anthology featuring the "best work of writers ranging from Puritan poet Anne Bradstreet to contemporary stars like Annie Proulx and Jhumpa Lahiri". I can't believe how many of these authors I've not heard of before. Must to be time to get introduced. Really enjoying what I'm reading so far.

Another book I'm reading slowly this summer is the collection of essays, written originally for the Victoria magazine, Sharing the Journey, Women Reflecting on Life's Passages. I talked about this lovely book in a previous post HERE.

A Museum of Their Own, National Museum of Women in the Arts. By Wilhelmina Cole Holladay, who is not only the author of this book, but the founder of the National Museum of Women in the Arts. Years ago I read an article in the Victoria magazine about the author and her work, and I thought what a lovely book that would be to have. You can imagine my delight when I found a discarded hardcover copy at the local library book sale last week, all for the humble price of $1.00. When I mentioned my happy find on Facebook, two friends told me they both visited the museum as a result of seeing that very same article in the Victoria magazine. In that moment, it felt like such a small, beautiful world, and I felt happy to share in their joyful memory.   

I am learning...

To roll with the punches. If we can just hold things more loosely, and not worry if we're not 'happy-happy' all the time and not worry when those we love are facing their own rough patches. I've gone around the sun a few times, and I've noticed many things that happen to us come and then they go. In between the rough spots, if we can keep our hearts in a state of peace ... for me, it's keeping my focus on Jesus who knows how to calm troubled minds ... and keep our hearts in tune with Love, then I believe we shall come out okay. How many people have we heard about on news stories who've lost limbs, health, homes, and loved ones? Yet they live to tell the story, grateful for their lives and the ability to put one foot in front of the other -- even with all that loss. I am so grateful for their testimonies. It's encouragement for us all to carry on.

Which brings me to something I've been wanting to share for a few weeks now. It's a quote that I read on my lovely friend Sandra's blog.

"In difficult times carry something beautiful in your heart."
~ Blaise Pascal

Isn't that lovely? Sandra wrote a recent post Visions of Pink as an encouragement of hope for her friend who had been struck with disaster when torrential rains and winds passed through her hometown. Sandra went in search of inspiring quotes and photos that she hoped would help her friend find something beautiful to carry in her heart during those troubled days. I found her gesture moving and gracious.

In my kitchen...

We made blueberry muffins with the loveliest fresh blueberries.
Can hardly wait to have one for breakfast.

In my garden...

Of the many splendid garden and flower pictures I've taken in the past few weeks, I'm drawn to share this one with you. It's one tiny spot in our front garden, yet the way the photo was taken, to me it feels like a vast meadow of wildflowers and bushes. It's yellow potentilla and purple liatris, and I'm awestruck.

thomas ae |

We Promised You Cake...will this do?

"Cakes are special. Every birthday, every celebration ends
with something sweet, a cake, and
people remember. It's all about the memories."
~ Buddy Valastro

Yes, it's about the memories. They are what we cherish as the years pass. And if we can create lovely memories in the little and big things, that's what makes up our history, our story. I have many wonderful memories from working on this blog and from reading so many other delightful blogs by creative and lovely people.

I'm very happy that you popped in for a visit -- I hope you'll stay for cake. I'm looking forward to blogging with you for a long time to come. Let's see what the next decade has for us.  

And Now, Two Three Giveaways...
Contest Now Closed

1. One copy of my new magazine Celebrate! as soon as it's done and published.
 (the above is a mock up -- it may not look like this)

2. One $20 Amazon gift card so you can order the next beautiful book on your own list.

To enter the giveaway contest, leave a comment.
Your name will then go into the draws.

Added Giveaway:
3. One copy of "The flower can always be changing"
by Shawna Lemay, local author/poet

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Thank you for celebrating with me! Don't forget, if you have a favourite post that you'd like to see in the upcoming anniversary magazine, I'd love to hear about it.

Here's wishing you a beautiful weekend.


Saturday, August 11, 2018

Those Were The Days: Childhood Summers on the Farm

Priscilla du Preez |

As a kid, I never thought we lived in an interesting place. To me, it was just so ordinary. Plunked on a small farm in the middle of rural Alberta, there were no lost pirate treasures to be found, no abandoned spooky cabins or fairy tale cottages to be discovered, no caves or forests to explore. The adventures the kids had in my storybooks were way more exciting and exotic than what was going on in my small regular life. How I used to long for some of those adventures.

Little did I realize, when I look back now, we had everything we needed to stoke our imaginations. Warm summer mornings would call to us as breezes blew on our faces. Our little chores done, we would be free to play the rest of the day. The entire farm was our oyster. There was nothing much that we could really get into trouble with either, which is probably why Mom had no problem with us playing anywhere. We just had to tell her where we were heading.

Half the fun was deciding where we'd explore on a given day. We could go down past the chicken barn to the woodsy area. Tall willows and poplars created a shady spot where weeds grew tall. There we'd make tracks in the nettles for games of Fox and Goose, or we'd play on an old swing left over from my dad's youth. When we tired of that, we'd move down towards the creek, always a fascinating draw for us. We would hear the warning Mom would give on our way out the door, not to get too close to the creek. We were mindful of her words and we did tread carefully, but mostly because we didn't want the water tipping into our boots as we hunted pussy willows. 

The creek ran through the southeast corner of the farm, and the only time it amounted to anything would be the few days during spring thaw. From the back meadow, the deep drifts of melted snow would rush and roar their way through the worn gully down to the creek bed, at which point the water would carry on through the culvert into the neighbour's land. I used to love that roar as it gushed past the barns. It was that sound that I imagined when I read about the wind soughing through the fir trees Heidi used to listen to as she fell asleep in Grandfather's chalet loft.

Out behind the barns there were rock piles and the family's collection of refuse -- old tin cans mostly-- that provided many happy hours of exploration. We didn't put our garbage there, so I always thought it was from my dad's time as a boy. That felt funny to think about. Sometimes we found little pieces of coloured glass or odd shaped bottles. Climbing around on the rock piles and past the low tree branches was always an exercise in agility. Who needed a playground? The rusted out body of an old car (1940's?), hauled out there long before our time, created hours of playtime, driving and braking and signaling as we turned corners on imaginary roads. 

Sometimes we'd decide to walk along the fence line where shrubs and bushes and wildflowers grew. We'd watch the butterflies and hear the bees buzz past as we'd tromp through the fields. Mom would say one sunny day that the berries were getting ripe, and we'd be sent out with pails tied to our waists--to keep the spillage to a minimum. A happy trek to the outer edges of the property line where we'd find the tall Saskatoon bushes-cum-trees. Some years they would be loaded with fat, purple berries. The best bunches always seemed to be on the top branches and we'd have to fan-dangle ways to bend them down low enough to pick from -- usually that required team effort. Other years when there had been less rain the berries were small and harder. Still tasty. It was always a sad little moment to hear the lonely plunk of that first berry as it hit the bottom of the pail. Such an echo merely echoed our own secret thoughts at how very long it would take to fill our pails. We'd sing all the songs we knew to help while away the time as we picked. 

A walk past the barn to the west would bring us to the gully where the spring waters had run. In the deep of summer it was completely dry, so it created a lovely dip and hill for our bike riding and hiking. Up and down we went, the dog always happy to have company as he explored his trek of gopher holes and smelly rotting piles.

Amelia Bartlett |
We took for granted all the wildflowers and grasses that grew on our farm and ditches along the roadside. How freely they grew: nettles, alfalfa, clover, purple vetch, wild sweet-peas, yarrow, cowslip, yellow sow thistles, fox tails, goldenrod, chamomile, to name a few. We'd go out and gather bouquets and then play wedding in the front yard. The cement steps always made for good seating for the wedding guests. There would be dress-up clothes and much planning of the big event. We usually played this when we had playmates for the afternoon. 

Some days our explorations took us to the barnyard and the big barn. Ours was not painted the usual red colour. Dad decided on silver when the new barn was built. And we always loved that it was silver. We'd slide the big door open and walk into the cool darkness. Sometimes there'd be sows and their piglets to see. We were always told to stay out of their pens as sows could be nasty. Stanchions stood ready for milking time, when fresh hay would be put down for the cows. I never learned to milk as the cattle were sold and we never kept cows after that. But I still remember what it felt like to have the calves suck milk from my finger tips. Or, watch the cats slurp milk still warm from the cow. 

The hayloft was a fun spot. Climbing the ladder on the side of the wall and then playing in the hay. Looking for kittens. I remember it being hot and steamy up there and how poky the hay felt if it got down our shirts. Sunbeams would stream in through the loft door, showing the air was alive with dust and bits of hay. Birds would flit in and out. Definitely pigeons, maybe barn swallows too.

There were other days we'd opt to stay near the house...especially if it was too hot to stump over hill and dale. So, we'd play house under blanket tents we'd become expert at pegging to the step railing. We'd don our bathing suits and use the water hose to make a tiny spray park. We'd sit with our snacks in the shade of the big poplars and read our books, or sit on the back step slurping Popsicle's and eating watermelon, the dog panting at our feet.

Some afternoons we'd tromp half a mile across the fields to meet our friends on the next farm. It never seemed far, and what a happy sight when we caught sight of them waiting for us at the property line. We'd while the afternoon away learning to whistle blades of grass, or watch cloud formations in the blue sky, or trek through their swamp to stay cool.

Funny, for such a small ordinary life lived on a small ordinary farm, we never ran out of things to do or places to explore and re-explore. Our days were full of everything and nothing. How happy these memories of summers on the farm make me feel today. I hope they stir your own happy memories. Truly, those were the days, my friends, those were the days.

Hugs and blisses,

Friday, August 03, 2018

Where You Tend A Rose

"Much more surprising things can happen to anyone who, when a disagreeable or discouraged thought comes into his mind, just has the sense to remember in time and push it out by putting in an agreeable, determinedly courageous one. ... Two things cannot be in one place. Where you tend a rose, my lad, a thistle cannot grow.” ― Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

It's been a while since I wrote my first post in my new series, How I Found My Beautiful Life.  CLICK TO READ  I'm not sure why it's taking so long for the second post to get writtenI have been giving it a lot of thought, dreaming about what to share next, but so far nothing's been gelling. As I wait, I begin work on this new post about that lovely old movie, The Secret Garden.

Turns out when you let the Muse take the lead, she'll often bring you to the spot where you wanted to be in the first place. She likes going the round-about way, which is a lot like me, as it turns out. Something started bubbling up that I never, ever thought I'd share with anyone. One doesn't usually advertise one's foibles and imperfections, especially online, but my little story seems to have found its place of belonging when I started writing this post about The Secret Garden. Here goes...

Many years ago when my really kindred bosom friend, Jean, and I were housemateslong before either of us were marriedwe used to watch the 1987 Hallmark version of The Secret Garden. We loved it and were both drawn to a line the crusty old gardener said in the movie: "Where you tend a rose, my lad, a thistle cannot grow." We loved that line and would often quote it to each other with an English accent. It fit so well with our growing desire to think good thoughts and to pull up any that were weedy and noxious in nature.

Although you can hardly imagine it (wink), I used to be a bit of a whiner-grumbler if things weren't quite to my taste or satisfaction. I'd feel a keen sense of loss and disappointment when things didn't turn out right or if I felt hard done by. I would most often whine inside my head about these things, but sometimes folks around me heard about it too. One thing I really disliked was getting up early in the mornings. I was a night owl and it was a real chore to get ready for work. It was always the hurry, hurrying to get out the door on time which made me feel owly. It was so stressing.

I shall never forget one particular morning, I was in the kitchen ready to leave for work, when I very clearly heard a Voice inside me speak, 'Would you quit your whining!'

You can be sure I stood up straight and took notice. Shocked was I to hear the Lord's voice so clearly. He was not amused that day. Not sure why he took exception that particular morning, deciding to say something that would get my attention. Although I can hardly blame him for piping up, having to listen to me muttering away every single morning. Someone might ask how I knew it was God speaking. You see, I have always believed there is God and, at that time, Jean and I had been practicing to listen for the still, small voice, so we would grow to recognize it. I wanted to be able to hear him speak when I asked for direction, when I wanted to learn something about his ways, or when I needed encouragement, that sort of thing. But, until that moment, I'd never heard the Voice so definite, so clear ... yet I knew it was him. And, I knew I deserved the reprimand.

Never shall I forget that moment. It was a life changer for me. I became very aware of my attitude and how I was processing my inward thoughts about all kinds of things. I didn't realize just how negative I was inside. I did a decent job of covering it up most of the time, but my heart was a bed of weeds and thistles. I eventually told Jean about my encounter and she very nicely created a sign which we posted on the refrigerator door. WHINING, in bold letters, inside a big circle with a diagonal line drawn through it. You get the idea. The reminder was ever present and I sorely needed it.

I was so glad. I wanted my thought life to change. I wanted to think beautiful thoughts. For, not only could I hear the wilderness of thoughts in my own head, but Someone else could hear them too. I wanted him to hear thoughts that were lovely and worthy, honourable and seemly, winsome and gracious. I wanted those kind of thoughts for myself for we've heard it said, as a woman thinks in her heart, so is she. That's who she becomes. As I worked to change this icky habit, eventually my thoughts grew less negative and, thankfully, less grumbly. The other lovely thing that happened was that my whole life brightened because my inner world had taken a turn for the better. I started to see things differently, and I began to look for the beauty in the middle of whatever was happening in my life, pleasant or unpleasant. As I say, it became a life changer.

To this day, when I catch myself starting to grumble, I remember the divine encounter I had that morning so long ago. I also remind myself of Miss Burnett's lovely thought about where we tend roses, thistles cannot grow.

And that, dear readers, became an important step in how I found my beautiful life.

“And the secret garden bloomed and bloomed
and every morning revealed new miracles.”
 ― Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

On to what I wanted to tell you about The Secret Garden. As I said, Jean and I both enjoyed watching the 1987 movie, which included a very young Colin Firth, who played the adult Colin Craven when he came to meet Mary Lennox in their secret garden as young adults. They say it's a movie for children, but really, it's for anyone young at heart. And any lessons we can glean from it are worthy at any age.

Did you know that there is a remake of The Secret Garden in the works? And, Colin Firth is to once again have a role in this story. Thirty years later, he'll be playing Mary's benevolent, yet neglectful guardian Archibald Craven (formerly played by Sir Derek Jacobi). Do you think he'll make a good Archibald Craven? I certainly think so.

From all accounts, the story, which was being filmed earlier this year, is to be tweaked from the original, with the latest film to be reset in a slightly later time period, removing it from the Edwardian era to shortly after World Word II in 1947. It will be on the eve of Partition in India and in the aftermath of the war in Britain.
"When Mary Lennox (Dixie Egerickx), a prickly and unloved 10-year-old girl, born in India to wealthy parents, is sent to England to live with her guardian Archibald Craven (Firth) on his remote country estate, she begins to uncover several family secrets, particularly when she meets her sickly cousin Colin (Edan Hayhurst). These two damaged, slightly misfit, children begin to heal each other, partly through their exposure to a wondrous secret garden, lost in the grounds of the manor. Julie Walters plays the head housekeeper" (Indian Summers on Masterpiece Theatre). excerpt from The Hollywood Reporter
I'm always a little nervous with remakes of old favourite films. We get attached to what we knew first, don't we? So, to the fans of The Secret Garden, will you be okay with the story shifting to a later time in history? I think it can still work. It will be interesting to see how it all unfolds. I could not find a release date yet, but it's something new to watch out for.

As a final wrap up, here are a few other lovely lines from this classic well-loved story:

“Sometimes since I've been in the garden I've looked up
through the trees at the sky and I have had a strange feeling of being happy
as if something was pushing and drawing in my chest
and making me breathe fast." 

“And they both began to laugh over nothing as children will
when they are happy together. And they laughed so that in the end
they were making as much noise as if they had been
two ordinary healthy natural ten-year-old creatures—
instead of a hard, little, unloving girl and a sickly boy
who believed that he was going to die.” 

“But the calm had brought a sort of courage and hope with it.
Instead of giving way to thoughts of the worst,
he actually found he was trying to believe in better things.” 

* * *

Here's wishing you a beautiful day!