Friday, January 31, 2020

Five On Friday: Snow, Flowers, Poetry, Tea and Other Blisses


"Stillness is the flower of winter,
all hope waits beneath a blanket of white"

It hardly seems possible January has come and gone in a snap of the fingers. Christmas seems light years away, even though it was only two weeks ago I finally got everything put away. It feels like a lot has happened and nothing has happened.

There were many cold, grey, often snowy days. And during those deepest, darkest weeks we hibernated like bears, or perhaps it was more like our neighbourhood squirrels who, smart fellows, were nowhere to be seen on those frigid days. While they nestled in their hidey-holes, we hunkered down by the fireplace, snuggled under blankets, sleeping away colds and flu, reading books, watching movies, and preparing the simplest of meals. We barely ventured out except to shovel the walks and feed the 'livestock', also known as filling the bird feeders and topping up the heated birdbath. Life at its most basic and we were glad for it.


“Sometimes a girl
just needs to buy herself some flowers.”

When the weather turned much milder last week, I ventured out to do a bit of shopping. Getting a bunch of cut flowers was at the top of the list. I didn't dare risk it during those really cold days but I was in need of something to fill spaces left empty when Christmas was packed away. And so a bouquet sits in the centre of my dining table, delighting my aesthetic senses every time I come into the room.

Out in the garage the other day, Rick noticed a tulip bulb starting to sprout in one of the many pots we planted last fall. Surely not we said, but going to see for myself, yes, there it was, a lone sliver of green poking out from the potting mix. We do hope Peace Rose, also in the garage hibernating, gets no ideas to follow suit. After all, it's only January in Alberta, Spring is still a l-o-n-g way off.


“To read a poem in January is as
lovely as to go for a walk in June.”

Lately I've been hungry for poetry and, as a result, my poetry collection is gradually growing. I used a Christmas gift card to order my latest addition and it arrived the other day: The Singing Bowl (don't you just love that title) by Malcolm Guite, poet-priest and Chaplain of Girton College Cambridge (UK). This collection, first published in 2013,  includes poems "that seek beauty and transfiguration in the everyday...the poet seeks to celebrate the world of which he is made, find heaven in the ordinary and echo a little of its music."

I was smitten with the first poem I read, and I think I'll stay with it for a while before reading more. Titled Singing Bowl, my writer's soul resonated with its beautiful lines, and so I want to share it with you. For a real treat you can listen to Malcolm Guite recite it HERE. It jumps off the page as you listen.

Singing Bowl
Begin the song exactly where you are,
Remain within the world of which you're made.
Call nothing common in the earth or air.

Accept it all and let it be for good.
Start with the very breath you breathe in now,
This moment's pulse, this rhythm in your blood.

And listen to it, ringing soft and low,
Stay with the music, words will come in time,
Slow down your breathing. Keep it deep and slow.

Become an open singing bowl, whose chime
Is richness rising out of emptiness,
And timelessness resounding into time.

And when the heart is full of quietness
Begin the song exactly where you are.


"Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast,
Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,
And while the bubbling and loud-hissing urn
Throws up a steamy column, and the cups
That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each,
So let us welcome peaceful evening in."

According to my little online research, the custom of drinking tea dates back to the third millennium BC in China. It was first popularised in England during the 1660s by King Charles II and his wife, the Portuguese Infanta Catherine de Braganza, and it wasn't until the mid-19th century that the concept of 'afternoon tea' first appeared.

I have always been drawn to these lovely lines (above) from William Cowper's The Task: Book Four 'The Winter Evening'. They evoke a simple life pleasure that so many of us can and do relate to. On these cold winter days, it's nice to imagine sharing tea with family or friends in a cottage with a stone hearth where warmth and contentment keep the outside world at bay. Although I neither have a stone hearth or shutters at my windows, I do know the anticipation that builds when cups clatter in saucers and loud-hissing kettles throw up their steamy column. Make no mistake, 'tis bliss.


Commonplace books (or commonplaces) are a way to compile
knowledge, usually by writing information into books. ... Such books are
essentially scrapbooks filled with items of every kind: recipes, quotes, letters,
poems, tables of weights and measures, proverbs, prayers, legal formulas.

Along with drinking pots of tea and reading stacks of books these past weeks, I've also started going through some of my earliest commonplace notebooks. These house my decades-old collection of quotations and excerpts from things I'd read: phrases I loved the sound of, things I wanted to remember, advice I didn't want to ignore.... These bits and pieces jotted in an old spiral notebook have given me glimpses of the woman I was becoming, echoing what I did and thought about at the time.

I'm interested to see that many sayings still resonate even after all these years, perhaps because the subject matter is still important, it still matters to me. Because many of us love quotations, I'm sharing a sampling with you. Sorry, some have attributions, others do not -- I'm better nowadays at keeping track of where I find things or who said them.

  • Life is too short to be the caretaker of the wrong details. ~ Alexandra Stoddard
  • Eat small portions but taste everything.
  • Fill friends' lives with sweetness.
  • Make an 'open-hearted' home.
  • No one is wise enough by himself. ~ Titus Maccius Plautur, c. 200 BC
  • Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after another. ~ Walter Elliott
  • Some pursue happiness -- others create it.
  • Strengthen yourself with contentment, for it is an impregnable fortress. ~ Epictetus, 1st century AD
  • Much unhappiness results from our inability to remember the nice things that happen to us. ~ W.N. Rieger
  • What do we live for if it is not to make life less difficult for each other? ~ George Eliot
  • A (wo)man's harvest in life depends entirely on what (s)he sows. ~ from Book of Galatians
  • Arranging a bowl of flowers in the morning can give a sense of quiet in a crowded day -- like writing a poem or saying a prayer. ~ Anne Morrow Lindbergh

To end the list, I want to share a paragraph from a 19th century book My Dream of Heaven by Rebecca Ruter Springer. It leapt from the page when I read the book many years ago. It is something I want to think about these days when it seems so easy to spout off, and sometimes not all that kindly, about any and everything going on in our world. I want to mind my words and actions and consider the possibility that they may have farther reaching consequences than I can ever imagine. 

"... If only we could realize while we are yet mortals, that day by day
we are building for eternity, how different our lives in many ways
would be! Every gentle word, every generous thought, every unselfish
deed, will become a pillar of eternal beauty in the life to come..."

Dear Lord, give us strength and grace to carry our mantle of compassion and goodness and kindness every single day. Let us walk in the beauty of Your grace ...  and remind us one day at time, sweet Jesus, that living graciously matters.

 * * *

On that long note, I'm wishing you a beautiful weekend.
Thank you, beautiful friends, for visiting today. 



  1. Can we dare to hope that the coldest part of winter is past? We have been enjoying mild temperatures and I love that.

  2. So very lovely my friend. Thank you

  3. I need to return with a cup of tea and read this again...oh, what a beautiful way/5 ways to end a week/month. And. that. poem! A poet whose book will go on my wish-list! His take on life one I totally agree with! Gonna put the kettle on and return. I was trying to get a feel for what I feel like doing tonight. you helped me decide. Poetry. Oh! I so love the William Cowper one as well! Poets and poetry is something I am always discovering through the help of others! My 8 years in a 2 room country school did not include much poetry ed ;-)
    I wish you a winder-filled February!

    1. winder should be wonder, oops. unless you prefer Winter!lol!!

  4. A perfect wind-up to this month--weather, poetry, tea! January seems to be a good time of the year for contemplation about such things:) The wiki definition of commonplace books reminds me of our grandmother's recipe books, with her jottings certainly about recipes, but about all manner of things that were important to her--more recipes, gardening, pest control, laundry tips, to name a few, with envelopes full of carefully folded newspaper clippings neatly tucked in the pages.

  5. another ahhhh post. I appreciated your closing words as regards kinder thoughts and gentle words. There are days when, if I were in charge, heads would be clunked. ☺️ Some days all I can pray is that a good friend with good sense will enter his or her life. That sounds like The Lord, doesn’t it? Hope that all sickness has vanished and that February is a lovely winter month.

  6. Dear Brenda, an absolutely beautiful post. I dearly love the "Singing Bowl" and the words of Rebecca Springer. Both so beautiful. And, as I have become a little older, the words of Alexandra Stoddard about details have become something I try to keep in the front of my mind ~ daily. Thank you for this moving and thought provoking post.

    Happy weekend, my friend.❤

  7. Indeed, those kindnesses that are offered in Christ's name have eternal significance! I love your gentle January (although sorry that you were sick), and am a tad envious. Somehow, our January did not include much hibernation (as much as I love hibernation!), but some seasons of life are different and so we offer it all up to God for His glory!

    I love Cowper's description of afternoon tea. I hope to take a few minutes this afternoon to indulge in some quiet . . . and tea!

  8. Lovely post, Brenda! I'm glad to see I'm not the only one with a commonplace book. Mine mainly consists of lists and simple word and dice games I've invented. My most current entry is a list of all the cats I've known, and there are so many "human names", my favorites being Curtis, Franklin, and Chuck.

    Also, your Friday Five posts seem to be my favorite kind by you. :) Reading about your week just tickles me.


  9. Lovely post! We have hyacinths poking through the soil here! I will have to go check them out after this snow melts that we got yesterday.

  10. Of course, January's inclement weather (heavy rains and snowstorm) fell on my birthday weekend celebrations. Bring on the Valentine celebrations!

  11. Long post!!!! -smile-

    I do love those quotes, which show the warmth of home, in past times. It seems we could do well, to emulate them.

    February is still long, in my area. So I am not popping my head up, out of hibernation mode, just yet. The light did look a bit different yesterday. But I'm still quite happy, to stay in enjoying the warmth of home mode, for a while more.

    To each their own, of course.

    💖 💖 💖

  12. This is such a lovely post, Brenda. The poem is going into my commonplace book, for certain! Thank you for that! I read Malcolm Guite's Advent poems during that recent season - a collection that includes some of his own and some from a variety of other poets, with his thoughts on them. Thoroughly enjoyable.

  13. Deep sighs of contentment. I'm new to your writing and blog and must say that I feel I have landed in a place that suits me. Thank you for sharing. It is a respite, though why I need a respite in a season of rest is beyond me.

  14. Such a beautiful, thoughtful post, Brenda! Oh, how I do enjoy the "hunkering down" season - I count the season as a blessing and full of riches - time for cups of tea and favourite reads (old or new ones!). Thank you for sharing glimpses of your world and the abundance of beauty and kindness your add to ours! xo

  15. I always have to return a second time to read your lovely posts Brenda, and as usual this is a warm and happy one. Winter is drawing slowly to an end, we hope, yet there are still days when a good book and a cup of tea, and even a furry blanket, are so necessary

  16. So many lovely things to comment on in this wonderful post, dear Brenda. I will begin by saying that I hope that if I were a flower I would be that brave one the blossoms first after a long winter (and I hear that yours is especially long this year) and invites all the other flowers to follow. And add that I just received a whole pile of Miss Read novels. I know you'll understand.

  17. That Guite poem holds a book's worth of spiritual direction. Thank you for sharing it!


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