Monday, January 14, 2019

Easing With Joy Into The New Year

"The shortest day has passed, and whatever nastiness of weather we may look forward to in January and February, at least we notice that the days are getting longer. Minute by minute they lengthen out. It takes some weeks before we become aware of the change. It is imperceptible even as the growth of a child, as you watch it day by day, until the moment comes when with a start of delighted surprise we realize that we can stay out of doors in a twilight lasting for another quarter of a precious hour." ~ Vita Sackville-West

I woke up the other day and knew something had shifted -- I felt at last ready to begin my New Year in earnest. I know other folks have had their decorations down for ages and have been busy making plans and setting their goals for 2019. As for me, since the holidays, I only wanted to hide, hibernate, and be quiet. And that's what I've been doing. I took time to read my new books, puzzle out some jigsaws, write in my journal, finish off the rest of the potato chips and juicy clementines -- well, that last one was a joint effort by the pair of us living in this house.

I admit these days in bleak midwinter are some of my favourite days in life. I love winter and, no, I'm not yet bored or tired of cold, crisp days. I am happily settled into these weeks of early twilight winter, using this time to move slower, to putter, to make the kitchen a happy place as we savour freshly baked biscuits, homemade turkey soup, and hearty stews. Still, as Vita Sackville West points out in her quote above, there is something wonderfully sweet when we see daylight filling the backyard a wee bit earlier. For, no, I do not wish to live in a Narnia where it's always Winter and where Spring never comes, but I'm quite happy to enjoy the season we are in now.

In my previous post, I mentioned planning to see Mary Poppins Returns with a friend over the holidays. We went and we enjoyed ourselves. It was fun but I felt something was missing from this spectacularly produced movie—they didn't have a single song in it that I found hummable. I truly think the producers missed the most important thing: in the old movie, we all remember the tunes and sing along with Mary Poppins or Burt or the chimney sweeps. To me, that's why the movie stayed with us all these years—we remembered the songs and they've become part of us.

As the credits rolled, I found myself longing to have a go at one of them -- I wanted to skip out of the theatre singing Let's Go Fly A Kite. I didn't skip but I hummed.

To ease our way into blogging again after being away a few weeks, I thought a post of 'this and that' would fit the bill. Wishing you joy....

'joy in shapes and shadows' 

"The dry grasses are not dead for me.
A beautiful form has as much life at one season as another."

I happened to glance out the front window one afternoon and had to run to get the camera. For the light and shadows were dancing on snow laden plants, bunny and kitty footprints adding to the shadow play. I loved how the dry grasses rise up like shots of sunshine from iron grey shadows.

That's me out for a walk in my heavy parka and new Fair Isle knitted hat. Don't you love the bobble at the top? After eating my more-than-fair-share of treats over the holidays, it feels so good to get myself out into the sunshine and freezing air, and to get my lazy limbs moving again. From the shrubberies, finches and sparrows sing their little hearts out. Chickadees add to the chatter. All are busy at the feeders. I marvel at their courage to whistle so cheerily -- perhaps it helps keep them warm. Or maybe they too appreciate life's good gifts, even on the coldest days.

I get a real kick from seeing how snow-topped sidewalks can turn into mosaic works of art. A trail mix of tracks from the bottoms of people's shoes, animal paw prints, and wagon treads (which look to me like long knitted scarves). Oh, the little pleasures in winter walks.

'joy in window sill offerings'

It's two in the morning and I'm wide awake. Sitting at my desk, I notice the old dried flowers on the window sill. I don't go out of my way to dry flowers, but here in Alberta where the air is quite dry, along with my oft neglect to add fresh water to vases as days whisk by -- before I know it, blossoms dry into something strangely beautiful. I can't bear to toss them out so they gather in tiny vases, on bookshelves, and along my window sill. They can sit there for months -- dusting is out of the question, for in trying to lift them up the blossoms disintegrate into myriad petals.

I hardly dare to point out the other little thing I notice as I sit here at this odd hour. But, if you peer closely, you will surely wonder why on earth I didn't wipe the ledge before taking photos, what with all those darn fly specks messing up the view. Refer to previous paragraph and you'll know why. Funny what a person notices in the middle of the night.

'joy in winter reading'

"In winter we lead a more inward life.
Our hearts are warm and cheery, like cottages under drifts."

I started my holiday with book Becoming Mrs. Lewis, the story about Joy Davidman, C.S. Lewis's wife. I read her story years ago, so the amazing story of her life was not new to me. Still, it was a lovely read, the story of Joy's bumpy journey towards her becoming Mrs. Lewis. And it all started with a letter she wrote to Mr. Lewis about some work he had written. "In a most improbable friendship, she found love. In a world where women were silenced, she found her voice."

After I finished it, I felt moved to dig out my old copy of Lenten Lands, the memoir written by Joy's son, Douglas Gresham. Written in 1988, the account is similar but it's shared from the memories of a little boy traveling to England with his mother across the Atlantic to meet C.S. Lewis. He tells of his disappointment the first time he met his hero, the author who dreamed up Narnia.
"He was wearing the oddest clothes, too! Baggy grey flannel trousers, dusty with cigarette ash and sagging at the turn-ups (equally full of ash), an old tweed jacket with the elbows worn away. ... I think I hid my face in Mother's skirt, for I was keenly disappointed. Here was a man who was on speaking terms with King Peter, with the Great Lion, Aslan himself. Here was the man who had been to Narnia; surely he should at least wear silver chain mail and be girt about with a jewel-encrusted sword-belt. This was the heroic figure of whom Mother had so often spoken? Well, so much for imagery." 

'take courage with joy...and tea'


For the most part, I tend to ignore the trend of selecting a focus word or phrase for a new year. I've tried different times, but any word I choose inspires me for a few weeks, and then it's old. My attention span is short these days. But there came a moment, during one of those deep and sleepless nights I've had recently, this time laying wide awake under the covers, when I did play with the idea of choosing a word I could use as a focal point.

I was slightly surprised when the word "courage" bubbled up. I didn't even need to muse a lot to wonder why I should need courage. I don't know about you, but some mornings, it's hard getting up to face a world that is so filled with sorrow, ugliness, and bad news. And even when it's not in my own backyard, there are so many people to care about, the burdens seems overwhelming. Dismaying. I just want to hide in my own little world some days. But we can't, can we? I mean, we can hide away for a season, but we must enter the fray again and reach out to help share some of the burden with others. That's what being human is about, wouldn't you agree?

Remembering words I've turned to many times over the years, I opened the Book to those lines spoken to Joshua in the Old Testament, "Be strong, vigorous, and very courageous. Be not afraid, neither be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." I feel buoyed already.

Opening Sarah Clarkson's recently published work Book GirlI found somethinge that speaks so perfectly to this I had to pass it along. By the way, if you are a book girl at heart, then I recommend this lovely volume -- part book list, part memoir journey of this beautiful author who lives with her little family in Oxford, UK.
"... I encountered the reality that a girl who reads is a girl who understands that she has a part to play in the drama of the world. A woman who reads is a woman who knows she must act: in courage, in creativity, in kindness, and often in defiance of the darkness around her. She understands that life itself is a story and that she has the power to shape her corner of the drama. She has learned with Frodo (character in Tolkien's The Fellowship of the Ring), that reluctant but faithful hero, that the heroes in the best stories are simply the ones who "had lots of chances . . . of turning back" but didn't. To know yourself as an agent in the story of the world, one able to bring light and goodness in the midst of suffering, is a profoundly empowering knowledge, one that I believe comes to every woman who reads." excerpt from p. 92 
Such beautiful words on which to sail forth into the new year. How can we not be heartened and strengthened by them?

'joy in gentle plans'

Gentle Plans 

To create days filled with variety of activities, experiences, and people. I chat about it in a previous post here
To renew my commitment to live healthier. To be ever mindful of what I eat, walk daily for exercise, and connect to nature's beauty while I'm out there.
To put my house in order. To physically, mentally, spiritually clear out the clobber; put things back in their place; get paper, encroaching bad habits and negative thoughts back under control. Give away the excess collection of notebooks stored in the desk drawer -- yes, I am ever beguiled by beautiful notebooks, but really I don't need all of them, do I?
To pick up once again the work of writing out my life stories, to tell them in such a way that might be useful to someone else. These words by author Shawna Lemay motivate me in this: "What is it you want to write with the time remaining? Believe in the one person who will someday pick up your book...".
To spend more time reading, less time scrolling on social media.
To keep my heart close to Jesus.
To walk in the spirit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness ... ever mindful of the shoes other folks might be walking in.
To light a candle rather than curse the darkness.

'joy in something fun, funny'

Alexis Carrington Colby (Joan Collins) on Dynasty

The other evening hubby and I turned on the television to find PBS running their documentary series Pioneers of Television, Prime-time Soaps. Oh my goodness, what fun. If you are of a certain age, who of us can forget Dallas or Dynasty from the late 1970s to 1980s?

I especially loved Dynasty, that show with the 'gloriously over-the-top trials and tribulations of the fabulously wealthy and none-to-nice Carrington and Colby clans'. I loved seeing all the stars with their big hairdos, big earrings, and ginormous hats. Not to mention the shoulder pads. It was so much fun to see snippets of the old actors talking about the great fun they used to have making those shows. I didn't realize they got the nickname “soap operas” because the early adopters of television advertising were soap companies. There you go.

I went and dug out my old big earrings (oh yes, I still have them), poofed-up my hair that old way, and staring back at me in the mirror was that thirty-something woman I used to be. For a brief moment, I was transported back in mind and spirit to that era where I had the time of my life. If you don't peer too closely, you might not even notice baggy eyelids or the wrinkly neck and d├ęcolletage. I put the earrings away, got out the face cream, and returned myself to 2019.

* * *

Now that we're primed, here's wishing you a beautiful day and much grace for the journey ahead in 2019. Here's to good days ahead.




  1. Bidding you a good winter morning from Ontario Bren. I love how the changing days with a bit of sunshine thrown in can invigorate one to feel more alive and productive.
    A great read while sipping a mug of hot tea in front of the fireplace.
    Cheers to this new year of opportunities.

  2. fun to read your comments and find new ideas to explore-thanks!

  3. That photo of treads and paw prints in the snow is amazing. I'm enjoying a bit of tea by the fire these days, too - such a treat!

  4. Thanks for the visit to your thoughts., I enjoy reading how others cope with the day to day things of life.Now on to the rest of January and before we know it warmer days will come.

  5. I read this post first thing this morning and it really inspired me all day long. I volunteer at a Hospice house on Mondays and thought this quote was perfect for me today...."To know yourself as an agent in the story of the world, one able to bring light and goodness in the midst of suffering, is a profoundly empowering knowledge, one that I believe comes to every woman who reads." Thanks for sharing these quotes! Hugs, Diane

  6. Lovely lovely post dear Brenda. I'm reading this after a hard visit to hospital to see my husband, and I needed your cheering words.

  7. The quotes on courage from the Old Testament and Book Girl are just what I needed to read today!

    As a child of the '80s, I remember the shoulder pads and big hairdos. I even celebrated my 30th birthday with an '80s-themed party.

  8. A wonderful post, Brenda, full of lovely things to think about. Thank you for your thoughtfulness in putting your posts out there!

  9. Fun simile clowns from a Volkswagen...made me grin. It may because we hail from the same era, but I smiled throughout this post. I have read or will soon read many of your choices. And I loved the Thoreau quotes. He deeply appreciated my corner so therefore he is thought of highly. Enjoy your winter days...

  10. It was lovely to visit with you and to get a peek at your thoughts coming in to the new year. "Courage" is a wonderful and noble thing. We all need it. And when we read these words you quoted, "Be strong, vigorous, and very courageous. Be not afraid, neither be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go," we can take heart and feel that courage that is God-given! Thanks for your en-courage-ing post!

  11. Delightful, Brenda! Thanks. I also veered over to Clearing Out the Clobber, which is something I need to do again/still.

  12. Oh, Brenda, I so loved this post. It was full of encouragement and inspiration. There are many days, I want to hide with my books or in our garden. The world can be so unkind and civility seems lost forever. However, "Courage," can and does inspire us to keep on - keeping on. You, my dear friend, help us to see we must. As did the excerpt from Sarah Clarkson's book. Thank you for all the work you do and what you share with so many. Wishing you a Happy, Heaalthy, New Year with Many Blessings.

  13. I love it when the words just fall off your fingers, onto the screen. We are blessed to be able to go deep into thought (like 1980 or rereading your Bible verse, looking at your snow mosaic.)
    Welcome back. Looking forward to reading your thoughts this year.

  14. Lovely post! Makes me want to curl up and read with an iced coffee at hand(I can't get enough of this stuff, even if it is the season of warm drinks!). I notice that you now are the proud owner of 'that tidying book'. I have to tell that on Netflix there is a new series of the author going to people's houses and helping then find that 'spark of joy' in their homes. Kondo doesn't speak much English, so there's a translator with her.

  15. Oh, I was going to comment more specifically but got lost trying to scroll backaand forth...

    I did so love this post...the second Thoreau one especially...and if the excerpt from Book Girl in any indication, I'm going to have to add it to my growing list.

    Noting my productivity and joy during recent days when my hubby and father were gone, I determinated this morning to make a list and tackle it with enthusiasm today!

    Glad I added visiting you to my intentions.

    Courage, friend.❤️

  16. Dear Brenda such a delightful post to begin the new year. I always enjoy reading your blessed and encouraging words. Hopped over and read about layering as well. Such great food for your word Courage. May you have a lovely day friend. Hugs!

  17. We are glad too for days getting longer, as the darkness does get wearisome. But have to admit that winter daytime does create some beautiful artwork. I like your gentle plans for 2019. Do really like the last line,"Light a candle rather than curse the darkness." Courage will be a good word for this year. Can relate, who can resist a beautiful notebook. There are so many pretty ones these days.

  18. Well, from the looks of your many comments, folks didn't mind your longish post. I tend to do the same. I always start out to write a shorter post and it usually always ends up being longish. It must be the writer in us! I did enjoy your post immensely and you had lots to catch us up on. I'm very happy to see the days getting longer. I check the weather station every day to see what time the sun sets. At the moment, we're waiting for the evening when we can eat our dinner without the lights on. I normally don't choose a word for the year. Like you, I'm good for a couple of months and then I'm wanting to change it because something has happened that gives me a different perspective on my life. I too, love that last line, "Light a candle rather than curse the darkness." We are children of the Light so we want to walk in the Light. Hugs and blessings...Sandi

  19. A lovely start to the new year - reading your thoughts and insights, Brenda! I love your musings and the wonderful quotes. The little boy who met his hero author was rather bittersweet. Heroes come in many forms, but I think the humble and homey ones are the best. I like your word for 2019. Courage is so perfect for this year. Sometimes it is hard to face the day when so much turmoil swirls around and around us. I sometimes need to hide away, too. I hope your 2019 is filled with wonder, peace, good health, and joy. Sending hugs xo Karen

  20. "To keep my heart close to Jesus."

    That says it all!

  21. I love the scenic beautiful of winter but not the cold-BR-r-r-r-r... but am content with the seasons...They make life interesting...You certainly have a huge arsenal of fabulous books to keep you entertained and cozy during these wintry days and it’s nice to read such a positive outlook on our beautiful world... My word for this year is ‘ Breathe” ..just breathe... Thank You for sharing.

  22. That was a most lovely post, Brenda. I enjoyed reading it. Jotted down "Book Girl" as a must-read sometime soon. Like you, I love winter and it's chilly temps. I love nesting and retreating, if only momentarily, from the world. Your words are so calming, peaceful, and heartfelt. Here's to 2019! I look forward to all of your inspiring posts. Susan

  23. A wonderful post to begin a new year, Brenda. I have gone off new year resolutions as well, especially as I never keep them. I'm hoping that 2019 will be The Year of the Sewing Machine and I can improve my skills. Just finished my first project, a lacy curtain for the bedroom, and I am quite pleased with it and with myself, so your lovely post finds me in a very good mood :-)


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 xo