Wednesday, May 20, 2020

From My Book Shelf: Sharing The Journey

" Every morning just before dawn, I rise, make myself
a cup of coffee, and sit quietly in a wing chair in the living room
for about an hour. Waking early without effort is one of the genuine
pleasures of getting older. Life has fewer days in it, but nature
compensates by allowing you to greet them sooner. "
PHYLLIS THEROUX, excerpt from her essay 'On Keeping a Journal'

As you may know, I have been browsing my book shelves with you in mind—looking at titles I think you might enjoy and then sharing an excerpt or two. Pressing my books into service is my small online contribution to helping create community in isolation.

I'm happy to present this lovely volume of memoir essays Sharing the Journey, Women Reflecting on Life's Passages from the pages of Victoria Magazine. It's so nice to find many of my favourite articles from the magazine in this attractive hardcover collection. Even though I still have all my old Victoria magazines, there are times I want to read a certain essay and can't put my hand on the right issue right away; chances are it's in the book.

Originally published in 1997, it was republished in 2007. In it you will find writings by such distinguished—and probably familiar—authors as Diane Ackerman, Catherine Calvert, Madeleine L'Engle, Susan Minot, Francine Prose, Phyllis Theroux, and others. They have written about the phases of a woman's life and include themes such as childhood, motherhood, sisters, home, rituals, solitude, and remembering the past.

If you are interested in exploring further, you will find an online table of contents along with several essays HERE.

Sharing the Journey: Women Reflecting on Life's Passages
edited by Katherine Ball Ross (1997, 2007)

Victoria's former editor, Nancy Lindemeyer, wrote the Foreword, and it's her insightful words that I share as the first excerpt. I was especially drawn to her observation that memoir is about discovering the mystery of the commonplace. Thank goodness for that—my life growing up wasn't high drama, but there was life to be lived and lessons to be learned, and in the end, it can all make fodder for sharing.
"Memoirs are the distillation of life's lessons. They are experiences 'recollected in tranquility,' and they needn't be dramatic experiences. Life, after all, consists mainly in our routines, our rituals, commonplace things that everyone shares. But the memoir writer discovers the mystery in the commonplace. She bites down on a tiny seed and—open sesame!—the essential oil bursts forth, more intense than we could have ever imagined. . . .
Collected here is a celebration—a sampling of the best original writing that appeared in Victoria. Many of the writers represented are well known to you; others will be new acquaintances. So take this little book to your chosen snuggery and curl up with friends, old and new. I promise you fresh insights on familiar scenes, a candle in the dark, a friendly word to spur you on home."

* * *

The second excerpt comes from a piece written by Catherine Calvert and is entitled Porch Swings, Old Novels, and Memories of Summers Past.
"Though many a house has sheltered me in the course of summers past, one memory serves to tie them all. It's early afternoon and all is sweet peace. Just a shift of the pillows set the porch swing swaying gently—pillows covered in faded chintz with the slight musty scent that attests to their long winter's nap in the shed. The book lying tented across my chest is slightly musty too, foxed with the brown spots of age, since it was left downstairs in the bookcase thirty or forty years ago. You may be sure there's nothing in it to tax the brain: It's a romance and Cressida and Percy are settling their futures over a game of tennis. But I shall simply revel in the pleasure of the present, listening to the burr of the lawn mower down the road, watching the hornets busy themselves with their nest, biting into the slice of lemon I've fished from my iced tea.
Ah, the joys of a summer place! Unlike year-round houses filled with serious furniture and serious concerns, this is the house that transcends utility, that summons up the joys of summertime when you cross the threshold. Shuffle off your shoes and pad across the cool floors, search out the porch (there has to be a porch with the traditional blue-painted roof). Count the beds, with their white counterpanes and sagging springs—all is as it should be, as it was, and ever shall be. The proper summer house exists out of time and has a sort of parallel life to our own workaday existence." 

* * *

Lucky you, I've pulled a third excerpt today for your reading pleasure from the essay The Romance of Old Books by Patricia O'Toole. This has been a favourite of mine ever since I read it in Victoria years ago.
" A half hour of steady rain is all it takes for the mood to wrap itself around me. Why this should be, I don't know, but when the world's clatter disappears in the thrum of the rain, the tranquility that settles in pulls me toward the pleasures of browsing among old books. Not rare books, and not classics necessarily just books that have been around for awhile.  Books that used to belong to someone else.
Books that look cherished—as if they've been read more than once and passed from friend to friend.  If my longing strikes on a busy day, I settle for a visit to the used-book establishment across the street. There is no way to keep the bell on the front door from waking the cat drowsing on the window, but the cat declines to protest. He either goes back to sleep or commences a browse of his own, in the alcove given over to architecture and opera..."

Wishing you a beautiful day.

Heart Hugs,


  1. Good morning, Brenda! I have enjoyed the gentle thoughts shared here this morning. Of course, the very first quote I cannot relate to. I am a confirmed night owl, even in my autumn years. Maybe someday will find me "waking early without effort" . . .

    I especially appreciated the thoughts on the "mystery in the commonplace." Thoughts for pondering . . .

  2. “There is no way to keep the bell on the front door from waking the cat drowsing on the window ...” I was right there. Thank you for these lovely excerpts today. Such beautiful writing.

  3. I still love Victoria magazine after all these years. My mother-in-law had a summer house on Bowen Island. The first time I visited there, I fell in love. in my reading, I had imagined but the real thing with lots of beds and family treasures...was enchanting. I can appreciate the Phyllis Theroux quote these days. I have some very old books with inscriptions and pressed flowers. I wonder... Your blog always set my mind on a beautiful journey.

  4. That description of the first hour caught my attention completely...wanted to read everything you shared based on that. My first quiet hour usually extends to two even three...I've got to move! Essays are my very favorite things to read. And yours are among the best!

  5. I love Victoria magazine, Brenda. With this yucky coronavirus, yard sales, where I LOOK for magazines, will most likely be among the events that are canceled this summer. What a challenging year we are all having. Good for you, sharing loveliness in this most difficult time. Susan

  6. Good morning, Brenda. Your book sounded very familiar to me, and I have the same one, but mine is titled "The Quiet Center: Women Reflecting on Life's Passages from the pages of Victoria Magazine." It has the same essays that yours does, and was published in 1997. Whatever the name, it's a lovely collection of words that I return to frequently.

    Have a wonderful weekend. Our weather has turned rather chill and breezy, with gusts of rain, but we remain hopeful for sunshine ahead!

    1. Lorrie, that is most interesting. Thank for that clarification. There was no indication in this republication that the titles had been changed. I had always wanted to get a copy of 'The Quiet Center'; I'm happy to learn that I actually did get one, except it now has this new title 'Sharing the Journey'.

      It's been raining here too. I think the sun is scheduled to come out on Sunday. It's making everything green, green. And we love that!!

  7. Love this post, Brenda. I, too, have "The Quiet Center," and I pick it up often. Wishing you a wonderful weekend.

  8. I've never heard of these books. Now I must follow those links and make a search on Amazon. ;)


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