Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Pack A Few Books For A Sunny Afternoon

" Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air;
drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself
to the influences of each. "

Individuals across social media are doing all sorts of creative things these days to help people cope during the pandemic: reading poetry aloud; singing and playing music; creating amusing videos; even posting on their blogs more often. Sharing excerpts from my own book collection is my small online contribution to help create community in isolation. Should you arrive at this series mid-stream, you can find earlier posts HERE or click on the Tab above.

I'm off to find a sunny, warm spot in the garden, and I've brought a few books for browsing. Books that harmonize with the songs of newly arriving birds and the increasing warmth of the sun. A few of you have mentioned you find yourself unable to read anything too deep or heavy these days. I feel the same and have been reaching for books that I can wrap around me like a comfy old sweater through these—as one blogging friend named it—tilting times.

Today I'm sharing three books with a tiny bit of detail. I've also made a list of other titles which sing the theme, a few of which you've seen in earlier posts. 

But first, a glimpse from the emerging garden....a bit of glory amidst winter-worn leaves and rabbit droppings.

   Dawn is peach stained.
Air is birdsong drenched.
Spring bulbs bloom in purple patches.

A Year of Secrets, Recipes, & Pleasures
by Mireille Guiliano (author of French Women Don't Get Fat)

A lovely book to read, especially if your soul home is France. The book is divided into four sections to follow the seasons—Spring into Life, Summertime Smiles, Fall Ahead, Winter Pleasures. Mireille Guiliano inspires readers by sharing her advice and seasonal stories, recipes, and other aspects of living life with pleasure.

" Eating with pleasure is about pacing yourself during the meal.
Losing weight is a matter of finding your equilibrium of intake
and exertion week by week. But the plan for life involves us in
the perpetual cycle of adjustment that is the seasons of the year.
The art of living is pacing yourself in the long run. "

by Sarah Gristwood

Published in 2016 the year we visited England, this beautifully illustrated book is a celebration of the much-loved children's story writer and artist, Beatrix Potter. It covers the extraordinary journey of her life, from her constricted Victorian childhood to the successful publication of her books, to her later life as a farmer and a pioneering conservationist in England's Lake District.

"Beatrix once expressed her puzzlement that
more people did not love and value the simple ordinary
old things of everyday life."

The Natural World of Winnie-The-Pooh
A walk through the forest that inspired the Hundred Acre Wood
by Kathryn Aalto

" To the walkers of the world who know
the beauty is in the journey "

Did you know that the fictional world of Christopher Robin and Winnie-The-Pooh is based on a real place that still exists in England? The author, enchanted with the Pooh stories since she was a girl, went on a journey herself to find those places where A.A. Milne lived and wrote his enduring stories. The book—part biography, part nature book—is expertly researched and charmingly written so as to fascinate readers who love nature and the Pooh stories.

* * *


Enchanted April
Elizabeth von Arnim

A Fine Romance
Falling in love with the English Countryside
by Susan Branch

she walks in beauty
A Woman's Journey Through Poems
by Caroline Kennedy

The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady
by Edith Holden

An Island Garden (see earlier post)
by Celia Thaxter

Elizabeth and her German Garden (see earlier post)
Elizabeth von Arnim

Foxgloves & Hedgehog Days (see earlier post)
Secrets in a Country Garden
by Daniel Blajan

Our Hearts Are In England  (see earlier post)
Editors, Victoria Magazine

* * *

" To read a book is, at least for a time, to try on a
different way of thinking, a way of seeing, and in this case,
a way of eating, moving, and living. "

* * *

Wishing you a sunny, book-filled day.

Heart Hugs,

Monday, April 27, 2020

Some 'Me' Facts

Image by Cally Lawson from Pixabay

" Getting to know someone else
involves curiosity about where they have
come from, who they are. "

Getting to know someone is a little like painting a picture. Every brushstroke on a canvas adds a detail to the subject the artist wishes to portray. So too, it's the details of our lives that eventually paints the picture of who we are becoming. No one knows all the details -- we don't even know everything about ourselves, at least not when we first start out. Sometimes the particulars seem insignificant by themselves so we might brush them off, even forget them. But over time, the details put together begin to reveal quite a story, one that often surprises us. Even when we think we know someone well, a new detail can have us exclaiming, "Oh, I didn't know that about you". 

I've been blogging and sharing details of my life since the summer of 2008. So there's a good bit you probably know if you've been following along. Still, there's much that hasn't been revealed—a little mystery is good. I'm hoping the following list of 'Me' facts will have a surprise or two as you read along with your morning coffee or afternoon tea.

In the spirit of connecting as we shelter in place, I'd love a detail or two from you—something we might not know that you don't mind sharing here.

Now, I'm humming that old tune Getting To Know You from the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The King & I.

𝅘𝅥𝅯𝅘𝅥𝅯 ...Getting to know you,
Getting to feel free and easy
When I am with you,
Getting to know what to say

Haven't you noticed
Suddenly I'm bright and breezy?
Because of all the beautiful and new
Things I'm learning about you
Day by day. 𝅘𝅥𝅰𝅘𝅥𝅰

" The shortest distance between two people is a story. "
Four-Word Self-Help: Simple Wisdom for Complex Lives

I was born on a Wednesday in early Spring in the
peak of the Baby Boomer years

I grew up on a farm on the Canadian prairies

I am a second generation Canadian on my dad's side
and a third generation on my mom's side

I'm the eldest of four

I speak English; I know a smattering of
French, German, Spanish

Favourite forever movies—
Chariots of Fire
Brideshead Revisited
Enchanted April
Pride and Prejudice (1995)
You've Got Mail 

I can't watch any film or read any book where children
or animals are abused in any way

I sometimes have the urge to laugh in the middle of tense moments
e.g. in the middle of a funeral service,
when two of us are hauling heavy furniture down the stairs

I like popcorn with real butter, lots of it

Books I've loved since forever—
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
Bertram's Hotel by Agatha Christie
Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Living A Beautiful Life by Alexandra Stoddard

* * *

I can express myself better in writing
than in real person

I can’t swim—years ago I took the Absolutely Terrified class
and eventually graduated to Terrified

I married for the first time when it was mostly
too late to have kids, so we didn't (yes, I was sad
about that, but no regrets either)

I don't like things sprung on me in surprise,
except for presents and flowers

I prefer to know ahead when someone is coming over.
Otherwise, I feel cheated of the opportunity to prepare my home,
as well as my mind and heart, to welcome that person with open arms

I love sandwiches, egg salad in particular, on white bread,
cut into squares or triangles

I wear lipstick even if I'm not going out

I like Facebook and Twitter (I know, I know,
that's for people of a certain age, that's me)

I am a lover of Jesus Christ, who once said the greatest command of all
is to love God and our neighbours as ourselves— that's my heart desire.

I don't have any tattoos, not planning on getting any either,
I do have two my earlobes

* * *

As a girl, I thought it so romantic to fall in love at first sight, 
but at 40, I deliberately chose to fall in love with
someone I already knew and liked

I love writing blog posts

A garden is a happy place for me

I loved to skip rope as a girl and
chant the merry songs that went with them

I like coffee, cream, no sugar

I adore Lays ripple potato chips
and Cheetos crunchy cheesies

Kitty cats and puppy dogs delight me

History fascinates me, I like learning when certain events
started and the chain of events as things changed over time

Favourite flowers include
pansies, peonies, roses, sweetpeas....

Public speaking doesn't terrify me, 
but I have to be prepared ahead

* * *

Don't ask me to speak off the cuff—I'll freeze

I love Thai food, taco salads, grilled burgers with all the fixings,
turkey dinner especially the stuffing

A favourite author is Louise Penny

I'm not an artist, but I love art

I lived in Venezuela for four months after college

I don't drink pop

I worked in a grocery store on weekends during high school

England is my soul home

I like crispy french fries with
gravy and ketchup

* * *

I took a Victorian lampshade making class in the 1990s

I used to sew my own clothes but I haven't
sewn anything in years

I had a horror of bats as a child,
they don't scare me now

My sister and I went to see Paul McCartney when he
came to Alberta a couple of years ago. We loved it!

I had a doll named Joanne (after a girl I met in the hospital,
we were both getting our tonsils out)

My greatest fear in school was flunking math;
I never did but I think my teachers took pity on me

I like ironing pillowcases, but not shirts;
thankfully hubby does his own

One of the first songs I ever loved (I was about six)
As I Live and Breathe as sung by Frank Verna
Decca Records, 1955
Just found a recording of that old song online! My goodness, Google has everything. Listening to it and I'm six years old again. I used to listen to it over and over—I could never get enough of it. Grooved into my brain, I still remember all the words. This piece of music was originally composed by Ernest De Curtis in 1902; its Neapolitan title was 'Torna a Surriento' which translates 'Come Back to Sorrento'.

* * *

Enough about me. Here's wishing
you a beautiful week ahead. Stay safe.

Heart Hugs,

Friday, April 24, 2020

Friday Chat: Spring, Keeping Hopeful, Colour

Image from Pixabay

Two women met for tea. They talked about life.
Things they were working through and things they were learning.
They showed each other grace and gave each other courage;
even though neither of them had all the answers,
they knew that God sure did. 

So they laughed and they cried and shared their lives.
And in the end, when the cups were empty…
Their hearts were full.

I'm sitting here at my desk at the tale end of another week. It's been quiet and pleasant for us. Not involved in any of the front-line work during this crisis but home in isolation, we carry on with our little chores and projects. We write blog posts, visit online with family and friends, write notes and decorate the envelopes with colour to make the postman smile. We order face masks from a local seamstress. We make simple meals and muffins and blueberry cobbler. We stop for tea in the afternoons. And as the days warm, we begin clean up in the garden. Gently carrying on with our days, we also weep at news we hear and pray for hearts broken and lives lost—how is all this grief to be endured?

We turn our thoughts spring-ward. For Spring beckons and we eagerly throw open the windows and bid her welcome. Come in, O Gift of Creation, come in and assuage our hearts. With snow finally gone and spring arriving in earnest, our thoughts are wild with laughter. Where shall we turn first as new life emerges from our corner of the earth. Sure, snow squalls are possible probable before it's all said and done, but for today, we savour sunshine and warmth mixed with faintest hints of green.

American poet Mary Oliver wrote something that fits my heart today. I'm especially drawn to the last three stanzas, but you need to read the whole thing for them to make sense, so I take the liberty of sharing it all....


It was spring
and I finally hear him
among the first leaves—
then I saw him clutching the limb

in an island of shade
with his red-brown feathers
all trim and neat for the new year.
First, I stood still

and thought of nothing.
Then I began to listen.
Then I was filled with gladness—
and that's when it happened,

when I seemed to float,
to be, myself, a wing or a tree—
and I began to understand
what the bird was saying,

and the sands in the glass
for a pure white moment
while gravity sprinkled upward

like rain, rising,
and in fact
it became difficult to tell what it was that was singing—
it was the thrush for sure, but it seemed

not a single thrush, but himself, and all his brothers,
and also the trees around them,
as well as the gliding, long-tailed clouds
in the perfect blue sky—all of them

were singing
And, of course, so it seemed,
so was I.
Such soft and solemn and perfect music doesn't last

For more than a few moments.
It's one of those magical places wise people
like to talk about.
One of the things they say about it, that is true,

is that, once you've been there,
you're there forever.
Listen, everyone has a chance.
Is it spring, is it morning?

Are there trees near you,
and does your own soul need comforting?
Quick, then—open the door and fly on your heavy feet; the
may already be drifting away.

Image by Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life

A crocus here and there, tender new shoots from an eager perennial, and after giving the patch of lawn a rake, the grass is a glimmer of green.

Image by Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life

I'm still feasting my eyes on these 'Abba' Double Early yellow, red, orange tulips. They really make my heart forget the nonsense. This is the real business of life, how it should be. Ralph Waldo Emerson in a poem he wrote said the earth laughs in flowers. We should laugh along. Joy gives strength.

Image by Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life

What lush colour have we here with this pot of purple-pink tulip on the brink of opening? I can't wait to see the whole pot burst open. The petals curl like a woman's soft lip—wouldn't the colour make a lovely shade of lipstick? And, if local Alberta artist Robert Lemay were to recreate this beauty with his paintbrush, I wonder which of his tubes of paint he'd mix to bring about that particular shade.

* * *

I just spotted the neighbourhood hare in my backyard; he's sporting his brown summer coat. He often came to our backyard during the winter months. He foraged under the bird feeders, and to our chagrin, grazed and left barren the bottom branches of our small evergreens. Yet still, I was tickled that he felt safe enough in our yard to often snooze in a sunny spot. Any quick movement from me watching at the window, however, and he'd be gone. The fellow must be glad for the warmer weather and easier access to better things to eat. I shouldn't think those prickly evergreen branches and leafless twigs made any kind of satisfying meal. But in the deep of winter, needs must, as they say.

Ooooo, the house finches are singing their sweet songs this early morning. Yesterday I saw the male chickadees in hot pursuit of a mate. This morning Rick saw one carrying nest materials. Such a flurry of activity. Haven't heard any robins yet but it should be any day now. My senses are on high alert, for that first robin song on the breeze of a spring evening never fails to make my heart flutter.

* * *

Image by Prawny from Pixabay

Someone asked her readers about what had given them the courage this week to get up and press on with things. I stopped to ponder that a moment. My personal space is quiet and reasonably safe, I am happy in my home. And I think to myself, but I'm barely affected by all this, but, no, that's not true. It's not normal to be this quiet. It's there, the eerie weirdness that permeates our every day when we remember we can't zoom off with Jean and Vern for coffee, or make a lunch date with Ruth or Leila. And, only go out for essentials and social distance by following the arrows in the grocery store and try to hear what the clerk is mumbling behind the Plexiglass barrier. No, that isn't normal, but I'm grateful for it—people are doing their darnedest to keep us safe and fed.

What has given me courage this week? For one thing, I remind myself often of Blaise Pascal's advice, 'In difficult times carry something beautiful in your heart'. I think, also, about those words from the New Testament: whatever is lovely and of a good report, think on these things. So, I focus on filling my thoughts with good words, lovely images, recalling stories of people being kind to people, laughing to watch Bertie Lakeland (terrier on Twitter) zoom and bimble on his daily video walks, sighting Jack and Tex (also on Twitter) wander the Welsh countryside with their beautiful humans, taking in green hills and fields filled with sheep safely grazing. It's things like this that give me courage in these strange days.

The other morning I woke in the wee hours. I came to my desk to read and write. I found the following lines from the Common Prayer, A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals. They settled in my heart. I wrote them in my journal and then sent them off in notes to friends. I offer them to you....

" We stoop to lift up our souls, O God :
rain down heaven in our hearts and in your world. "

" Lord, we cup our hands to gather the pieces of heaven
you shower upon us. Help us to open our hands with generous
spirits and scatter your divine love in the darkest places. Amen "

"Even in the darkness, we will trust :
that our lives are still in your hands. "

" Guide us, Lord, through the dark places of our day
that we might trust you when shadows overcome the light.
Remind us that darkness is as light to you. Amen. "

* * *

Mom and I were chatting yesterday. She warned me that, as these days carry on, I'll need to let her chatter more when I call so she can clear her throat and get all her words out. We chuckled but we recognized the truth of it; we do need to talk, we all do especially now.

With our lives so narrow in scope these days, I've been racking my brain to look for things the two of us can talk about, even here with Rick and myself, doing some Google searches about what we can explore and then share. It reminds me of when my brother was a boy. He used to sit on the stairs reading the dictionary for entertainment, and then he'd pepper his mom as she made supper, "Did you know....?" Only now, Mom and I will be able to pepper each other with our newfound knowledge. Or maybe, we should pepper my brother; I'm sure he'd appreciate our efforts.

Reading through this post, I realize I've needed to let my own head chatter. I hope you don't mind that I've used your ear for it. Enough for one day....I pray you have a wonderful weekend. Keep safe and healthy. See you Monday. And don't forget to laugh with your flowers.

Heart hugs,

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

My Tulips And Daffodils Want to Meet You

Image by Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life

" I love tulips better than any other spring flower; they are
the embodiment of alert cheerfulness and tidy grace. . . "

Image by Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life

" But I have always thought that these tulips must have had names.
They are red, and orange and red, and red and orange and yellow,
like the ember in a nursery fire of a winter's evening. I remember them. "

Image by Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life

"When at last 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. "

Image by Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life

" We come from the earth.
We return to the earth. And in
between we garden. "

Image by Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life

" The kiss of the sun for pardon,
The song of the birds for mirth,
One is nearer God's heart in a garden
Than anywhere else on earth. "

Image by Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life

" It's a spring fever. That is what the name of it is.
And when you've got it, you want to — oh, you don't
quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes
your heart ache, you want it so! "

Image by Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life

If you've read earlier posts, you'll recall that we planted spring bulbs in pots last fall and housed them in the garage over winter. When a few pots of early bloomers started opening in March—long before it was safe to put them outdoors—Rick brought them in and set them by our front window for us to enjoy. Our weather has at last swung into spring mode, and the later blooming pots are now sitting outside in the sunshine. I keep popping out to take another grateful you can imagine, I'm over the moon....jubilant....happy.

To wrap up, I'm sharing a quotation that isn't about flowers, but about keeping the bloom in friendships. If you've got a quirky mind like me, I think you will see that it fits just fine here today. Although my family might laugh to hear me say I don't really enjoy conversations by telephone, it's true, my mind is much more at ease finding things to say when I can write them. In these quiet days of isolation, I've taken up my pen to hand write more notes than I have in a long while (I connect more online in this day and age). My heart giggles as I drop the envelopes in the post, knowing someone is going to hopefully get a lift in spirits when they look in their letter box. 

" A friendship can weather most things and thrive in thin soil;
but it needs a little mulch of letters and phone calls and small, silly
presents every so often—just to save it from drying out completely. "

* * *

On that note, I'm wishing you a beautiful day, dear friends.

Heart Hugs,

Monday, April 20, 2020

Book Browsing: Our Hearts Are In England

Image by Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life

There are no faster or firmer friendships
than those formed between people
who love the same books.
Clarence Darrow for the Defense

Individuals across social media are doing all sorts of neat things these days to help people cope during the pandemic: reading poetry aloud; singing and playing music; creating amusing videos; even posting on their blogs more often. Sharing excerpts from my own book collection is my small online contribution to help create community in isolation. Should you arrive at this series mid-stream, you can find earlier posts HERE or click on the Tab above.

If you came over to my house—I really wish you could—and I was busy in the kitchen preparing a tray of refreshments for us, would you use that quiet moment to cast your eye over the bookshelves you see in the room? I know I would be sneaking a peek if I was at your house. There's a certain little thrill to spot a familiar title or author....ah, you like that one too! And, if I saw a book I haven't read that looks interesting, I would make a mental note to ask you about it.

Really, that's what these book posts have been about these last couple of weeks. Since you can't come to my house in person, especially now we're in isolation, I've taken to browsing a few from my book collection....all with you in mind.

I'm so excited about today's selection. This lovely coffee table book was given to me as a birthday present from my sweet husband. Ever since I saw the editors of Victoria magazine talking about it, I knew I wanted a copy of Our Hearts Are in England. It arrived in the mail a couple of weeks ago, and Rick let me open the parcel right away (I was so glad he didn't spirit it away until my actual birthday, he knew I couldn't wait).

Image by Terri Cnudde from Pixabay

This really is a gorgeous book that's filled with 'romantic charm', prose and stunning photography. "This exquisitely bound 232-page hardcover book is one to savor as we voyage together in search of England’s very essence."

I'm so pleased the editors of Victoria created the ability for readers to preview pages of the book. You can find the link on their website HERE. Do go and see it. If you love England, and if you have loved the Victoria magazine, you'll be smitten, I guarantee.

So, let me put the tea on . . .

April 20th

Our Hearts are in England

Victoria Magazine, Hoffman Media

Jordan Marxer, Editor

Excerpt from the chapter 'An English Woman's Retreat'. . . p 14. You'll see a page from this chapter in the preview, a beautiful sitting room in blue that I just love.
" Sheep graze on the hillside as clouds drift overhead, giving a gentle cadence to the afternoon at the farmhouse and studio of Louise Townsend. Open to welcome breezes, windows frame vistas of Devon, an area of southwest England known for its pastoral beauty and temperate climate. The property's idyllic setting, which includes verdant fields, orchards, and herbaceous borders abloom with roses, delphinium, and lupines, serves as the muse for her eponymous line of screen-printed fabrics, pillows, and totes.
Home and career intertwine for this textile designer. The daughter of a naval officer, Louise grew up in various English ports. Despite the transient nature of military life, she can trace the weaving of two important threads, family and self-expression, as far back as she can remember.
Several of her ancestors were artists, but it was Louise's maternal grandmother who most profoundly influenced her development. "Moving house so much," she says, "it was Granny's house I was most inspired by." The young girl hoped one day to settle somewhere permanently, following in the beloved matriarch's footsteps by cultivating gracious interiors while exploring the pleasures of needlework and gardening.
. . .When (Louise) was ten, an inspirational teacher taught Louise to read dressmaking patterns, and she began stitching doll clothes by hand. At the next post, weekends were spent learning to use a sewing machine. And in boarding school, she mastered the intricacies of smocking, along with other domestic arts.  . . . " 

 * * *

Don't forget to check out the preview for a proper glimpse of this lovely book.

* * *

Wishing you a beautiful week ahead.
Keep well and safe. Whispering prayers for those who
are experiencing firsthand the trauma of this horrid Covid-19.

See you Wednesday.


Heart Hugs,

PS. I've been having issues the last couple of days with some of my photos disappearing from my blog posts. Haven't isolated the problem, don't know if it's a Blogger issue or something at my end. If you find any posts where photos are missing (there's a funny looking blank box that shows up), would you mind letting me know (either in a comment here or emailing me—link's in the sidebar). Thanks! Hope to sort that quickly. 

Friday, April 17, 2020

Five on Friday: Pretty In Pink

Image by Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life


" it is a serious thing
just to be alive
on this fresh morning
in this broken world "

It's Friday and it's my birthday today. I am filled with a sense of gratefulness....and anticipation. Celebrations will be very quiet this year, but cards and greetings have been arriving all week in the mail, via email, and through social media. Even though we're in isolation—or maybe because of it—I've been hearing from all manner of dear people. It makes me a little giddy even though I am turning sixty-three; that feeling of knowing you're loved never gets old, does it? I'm tickled pink.

To keep to the theme, I searched out a few favourite photos in pink. Hope you'll feel the delight of them.

Image by Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life


" Flowers are like friends;
they bring color to your world. "

Image by Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life

"One April Morning at Dawn"


" If you have time to open the back door in the morning while
you're drinking your coffee and look at the sky or hear
the chorus the birds offer, you have time for the marvelous.
You may only have a moment before the polite chaos of the day
starts, but that moment can stretch to the horizon. "

Image by Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life


" One's destination is never a place,
but a new way of seeing things. "

Image by gefrorene_wand from Pixabay


"The mere chink of cups and saucers
tunes the mind to happy repose."

* * *

Will you stay for tea and cake?
Wishing you a beautiful weekend!

Heart Hugs,

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

An Island Garden (Celia Thaxter)

Image by Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life

"Ever since I could remember anything,
flowers have been like dear friends to me,
comforters, inspirers, powers to uplift and to cheer.

Individuals across social media are doing all sorts of neat things these days to help people cope during the pandemic: they read poetry and Shakespeare aloud, they sing and play music, they create amusing videos and post them. The 'pressing My Books Into Service' series is my small contribution in blog-land to help create community in isolation. Each week I'm taking books from my shelves and randomly selecting excerpts to share with you. If you are arriving in this series mid-stream, you will find earlier posts by clicking HERE or on the Tab above.
We are finally thawing out. Snow is melting and temperatures are, at last, breaking zero in the daytime. Perhaps that's the reason why I find myself gravitating towards those books on my shelf that speak of gardens and flowers and warm sunshine. I know many of you are experiencing spring in your corner of the world, and I want you to know that your posts and photos have been buoying my soul these past few weeks when it seemed that winter would never end here.

Today I'm so happy to share a book I first heard of when it was highlighted in a summer issue of Victoria magazine years ago. It's a delightful chronicle of a year in the life of Celia Thaxter and her garden on the island her father purchased in 1848 and renamed Appledore IslandOriginally published in 1894, An Island Garden was re-issued in 1988, nearly a century later. With its lovely gold stamped cover and wonderful watercolour paintings by American Impressionist artist Childe Hassam (1859 - 1935), it's a treasure in your hands. If you like flowers and gardens and reading about gardening in another era, you'll never regret searching out a copy for your own library. I am happy to tell you that this book is also available as a free digital book—you can find it HERE.

"Poppy Bank in the Early Morning"

"A Shady Seat"

"Hollyhocks in Late Summer"

"The Bride"

Although this is a wonderful book to read any time of year, I have found it especially delightful on an afternoon that finally starts to feel like spring here in northerly Alberta. 

April 15th
An Island Garden
by Celia Thaxter (1894)

Excerpt from opening pages . . .
". . .At the Isles of Shoals, among the ledges of the largest island, Appledore, lies the small garden which in the following pages I have endeavored to describe. Ever since I could remember anything, flowers have been like dear friends to me, comforters, inspirers, powers to uplift and to cheer. A lonely child, living on the lighthouse island ten miles away from the mainland, every blade of grass that sprang out of the ground, every humblest weed, was precious in my sight, and I began a little garden when not more than five years old.  . . . The first small bed at the lighthouse island contained only Marigolds, pot Marigolds, fire-colored blossoms which were the joy of my heart and the delight of my eyes.  . . . 
Year after year the island garden has grown in beauty and charm, so that in response to the many entreaties of strangers as well as friends who have said to me, summer after summer, 'Tell us how you do it! Write a book about it and tell us how it is done, that we may go also and do likewise,' I have written this book at last. Truly it contains the fruit of much sweet and bitter experience. Of what I speak I know, and of what I know I have freely given.  . . .
Of all the wonderful things in the wonderful universe of God, nothing seems to me more surprising than the planting of a seed in the blank earth and the result thereof. Take a Poppy seed, for instance: it lies in your palm, the merest atom of matter, hardly visible, a speck, a pin's point in bulk, but within it is imprisoned a spirit of beauty ineffable, which will break its bonds and emerge from the dark ground and blossom in a splendor so dazzling as to baffle all powers of description. "

" Last week, when I went early into my garden, a rose-breasted
grosbeak was sitting on the fence. Oh, he was beautiful as a flower.
I hardly dared to breathe, I did not stir, and we gazed at each other
fully five minutes before he concluded to move. "

* * *

Wishing you a beautiful day. See you Friday!

Heart Hugs,

Monday, April 13, 2020

From My Book Shelf, Foxgloves & Hedgehog Days

Image by Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life

"It's funny how, when things seem the darkest, moments
of beauty present themselves in the most unexpected places."

Individuals across social media are doing all sorts of neat things these days to help people cope during the pandemic: they read  poetry and Shakespeare aloud, they sing and play music, they create amusing videos and post them. The 'Pressing My Books Into Service' series is my small contribution in blog-land to help create community in isolation. Each week I'm taking books from my shelves and randomly selecting excerpts to share with you. I might add my own comments, or just let the author do the talking. If you are arriving in this series mid-stream, you will find earlier posts by clicking HERE or on the Tab above.

Today I'm drawn to one lovely book I've had for years. I purchased Foxgloves & Hedgehog Days the year Rick and I went on our first date and were married three months later. I used to read aloud sometimes as my then housemate and I relaxed with friends around a dinner table. Rick, just a friend at large at the time, would often be part of the gatherings that early summer. So you might imagine then that the memories of those special months would forever be mingled within the pages of this volume of amusing essays.

Not having read the book in a long while, I find it just as lovely as ever I remember it. Any gardener or backyard naturalist will enjoy it, but as the cover says, it's really for anyone who has ever 'dreamed of giving up the rat race for the simple life'. The author Daniel Blajan, giving up his own rat race, moved from his urban condominium to a cottage in the countryside, and from that rural setting regales his readers with anecdotes of his new life as a new gardener.

So, dear friends, an excerpt to whet your appetite and maybe even make you go online to find a copy. It's perfect gentle reading for this time of year and, especially, for the season we all find ourselves in.     

April 13th
Foxgloves & Hedgehog Days (1997)
Secrets in a Country Garden

by Daniel Blajan

Excerpt from pages 13 and 14 of the chapter 'A Ballet in the Border'. . .
". . .Over and over again I have marveled at the ability of plants, flowers, and seeds to produce sounds and motions that, however subtle, are audible and visible, if only we open our ears and eyes to them. I know beyond any doubt that some flowers do whisper and dance, preferably when there is no wind at all. Let me reveal this little miracle, for it is worth sharing.
In my kindergarten years I used to spend the summer holidays with my grandmother, who at the time lived in a small village in the heart of the Dutch tulip fields. How well I remember those happy sun- and fun-filled days of frog catching, tree climbing, and cat chasing (though more often than not the enormous and vicious tomcat chased me). The days seemed endless, but bedtime never failed to sneak up on me, even though I did all within my power to delay it. When my bags of tricks to postpone the dreaded moment for even one more minute was finally empty, a bedtime story would somewhat soften my annoyance at having to abandon my favorite pursuits. My grandmother had a very vivid imagination, and her nightly stories were always brimming with miracles and magic. As soon as humans had retired, tables and teapots allegedly came to life, chairs chattered, and yes, flowers chanted and danced. Of course I believed every word of her tales, but however hard I tried, I never succeeded in fooling pottery and furniture into believing that I was asleep and that therefore they were free to move about as they pleased. One night, however, I magnificently succeeded in cheating the flowers.  . . .
I crept out of bed and sneaked unobserved through the back door into the garden. It was not yet dark, but the sun had already set and it was one of those rare, serene nights when you felt you could almost catch the light and hold it in your hand like a shimmering violet treasure. A perfect night for the flowers to dance. I looked around surreptitiously, but obviously all the flowers had already noticed my arrival, and they remained as stiff as pokers. I tiptoed to the shed and stealthily peeped around the wall. It was then that I beheld a great and breathtaking miracle: in the still of the night, the flowers of the evening primroses were coming to life. The pale yellow petals were unfolding one by one, flower after flower, like the wings of butterflies. They were unfolding at such speed that they caused the stems—yes, the whole plants—to tremble and quiver like a troupe of nervous ballerinas ready to jump on stage.  My keen ears picked up their voices too: a soft, mysterious sighing, like whispers from elfin lips. Soon the night moths joined the party and began to feast on the nectar. In great numbers they flitted from flower to flower, adding even more grace to this floral ballet. I didn't move a finger; I just stood there, mesmerized by this magical tableau vivant, hardly daring to breathe lest I should break the magic of this performance, in which the flowers were the chorus girls dancing to the faint rapid beat of trembling insects' wings.
I don't know how long I stood there, but I remember that all of a sudden the last glimmer of daylight faded away and it became too dark to see anything at all. In a state of utter bliss I slipped back into bed. That night, I knew, I had witnessed my very first miracle: the flowers had danced especially for me.  . . . "   

Isn't that sublime? The whole book is a gorgeous read.
Wishing you a beautiful day. See you on Wednesday.

Heart Hugs,