Tuesday, June 30, 2020

What's Blooming Today




" Almost any garden, if you see it at just
the right moment, can be confused with paradise. "
HENRY MITCHELL



The morning is fresh and drenched in bird chatter, and the single hansa rose on my desk fills my study with that deep satisfying rose scent. Sure wish I could share it with you. I went to sleep last night when the deep northwest sky along the horizon boasted wide ribbons of apricot and peach. I wake up and it is still there. Has it been all night while I slumbered? I do love how these long summer days wrap themselves around the night sky. Visiting the North in summer is on my bucket list. Not this summer but one day.  

We take our moments in the sun when we can these days. Thankfully there are a few of them. I deadheaded pansies, geraniums, dahlias and roses when everything was still dripping from the last downpour. The promise of sunshine for today has been revoked, and we are in for more showers. I might hum that old English nursery rhyme....

Rain rain go away
Come again another day   
   


Peace Rose Perfection


" What's in a name? That which we call a rose
by any other name would smell as sweet. "
WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE



Darling Buds of Mock Orange


" Everything that slows us down and forces patience,
everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature,
is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace. "
MAY SARTON



Ivory Silk Lilac in Bridal Bloom


"Every garden-maker should be an artist along (her) own lines.
That is the only possible way to create a garden."
VITA SACKVILLE-WEST 



Mock Orange Against Summer Sky

"Gardening is the art that uses flowers and plants as paint,
and the soil and sky as canvas.
ELIZABETH MURRAY



Delphinium Blue


" Perhaps, after all, our best thoughts come when we are alone.
It is good to listen, not to voices but to the wind blowing,
to the brook running cool over polished stones, to bees drowsy
with the weight of pollen. If we attend to the music
of the earth, we reach serenity. And then, in some
unexplained way, we share it with others.
GLADYS TABER


* * *

Wishing you a beautiful day.

Heart Hugs,
Brenda
xox


© Images by Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life




Friday, June 26, 2020

Refreshment In A Patch of Nature

Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay


" Nature is the art of God. "
DANTE ALIGHIERI


English author Jane Austen once said that 'to sit in the shade on a fine day and look upon the verdant green hills is the most perfect refreshment.' Oh yes, I totally agree and understand her sentiment, for we saw fields just like the ones above when we visited England a few summers ago. A person is drawn to its tranquility. When I sit in our backyard surrounded by all the green of grass and tree and plant, I feel the same quietude; something settles deep on the inside and breathes out a great sigh of contentment - now this is life as it ought to be. For in that moment everything is right in the world, and the soul is at rest.



Image by Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life


"How beautiful peonies are. That long border
of them—so proud and yet so beautifully fragile."
MISS JANE MARPLE, Nemesis


Yesterday afternoon I had a chance to sit in my own little bit of nature in the front garden. I took along my mystery novel Nemesis by Agatha Christie, but with the sun warm on my arms and the wind little more than a gentle zephyr in the trees, I believe I nodded off, just like dear Miss Marple, as she rested in some lovely old garden during her Famous House and Garden tour. 

Gentle noises in the neighbourhood made my head pop up. Young fellows were heading out for a bike ride, some folks were out in their yard, and one willowy teen, who appeared to be conscripted to edge the lawn, was halfhearted in her attempt. In no great hurry, every once in a while she'd drop her edging tool and whip out her smartphone for a quick scroll. Deeply relaxed in my rattan chair, I smiled; I could certainly relate to her lack of deep interest for any great effort on such a languid afternoon. I notice the peonies are opening—a snap of colour amongst the green. And my, how graceful and elegant are those tall grasses as they sway in the breeze, bending forwards and backwards. I cannot decide if they are ballerinas or aerobic instructors; either way they are mesmerizing to watch.


Image by Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life


" In all things of nature there is
something of the marvelous. "
ARISTOTLE 


In recent weeks, I have experienced a whole new appreciation for nature as I watched winter fade into spring into summer. And, with our lives lived so close to home, I seem to be much more in tune with what is going on in my own yard and garden. Paying closer attention to the unfolding of new blossoms on the Ivory silk lilac or buds forming on the delphiniums. And what a jolt of joy to catch a small bumblebee buzzing early in the morning in something purple. It has been good for my soul. A real godsend in these upside down times.


Image by Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life

Lately, I have also been thinking about those words found in Psalm 23: 'The Lord is my shepherd I shall not want; He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside still waters; He restores my soul...'. When my soul needs tending, these refreshing words are one of my go-to places. To me, it gives such a wonderful picture - the Shepherd leading a weary soul to a place of peace and beauty. For he knows just how restorative a patch of earth and a bit of water can be to our well being. We instinctively gravitate to the restfulness of green grass, a meadow or pasture where wildflowers grow. Who hasn't laid on the grass as a child, either face down staring at a blade where maybe an ant crawls up, or gazing up at a summer sky, searching for horses and poodles in the puffy clouds.



Image by Janyka Mitchell from Pixabay



"When life overwhelms us with all its demands
and problems, we can find moments of tranquility
and happiness by looking at nature. A beautiful landscape can
invigorate our souls and restore our energies, making us
realize that happiness lies in simple pleasures."
FROM SPIRITBUTTON.COM



Not everyone is able to sit in a garden or beside a quiet stream, or lay down in a field of wild flowers, but it is possible to create a sense of it in some small way. Finding our own bit of nature—even a pot of herbs on a balcony or a single blossom in a vase, a landscape painting on our wall—can give us a space where our eyes can alight, where our thoughts can rest a moment. Nature surely goes a long way in this restoring process, and for those of us who follow Him, we know it is the Shepherd of our souls who adds the touch of the divine that ultimately restores our souls to wholeness. 


* * *

Wishing you a beautiful weekend.
May your days be verdant and restful.

Heart Hugs,
Brenda
xox





Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Summer At Last



" All gardening is landscape painting. "
ALEXANDER POPE



It's a beautiful morning and I should work in the garden today.  Two days not in the garden and things need tending again. But first a post. And laundry. And lunch on the deck. And someone mentioned a pear cider in the afternoon. Okay, maybe we'll garden in earnest tomorrow.

Yesterday morning was so beautiful when we woke that we decided to take a Monday holiday. Instead of working in the yard (which is what many of us are busy with this time of year), we spent it sitting on our back deck, looking at the trees and plants, watching the birds, reading, sipping mojitos, eating our meals al fresco. The skies were blue, blue, with wispy clouds way up. It seemed, as we listened to the bees in the lavender, that we'd been waiting all year for this day. Well, not yesterday in particular, although my brother would disagree as it was his birthday, but this first perfect day of summer, when all the forces of nature are in sweet harmony. Summer arrived right on time, and we are sitting in the midst of it, letting its warm silkiness wash over our body and soul. Perfection of a day!




I finished my library book, Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. I loved it. The book is "...at once an exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of possible murder."

Because Delia Owens is also a wildlife scientist and an award winning author of the John Burroughs Award for Nature Writing, she mixes her wealth of knowledge of the natural world with her imaginative first novel and creates a beautifully written story. When I was about two thirds in, I came across a sentence I had such longing to underline that I almost did, even though it was a library book. So rather than do that, I'm reciting it here: 

"Look at this one."

Before him was an astonishingly colorful oil of two children squatting in swirls of green grass and wildflowers. The girl was only a toddler, perhaps three years old, her straight black hair falling over her shoulders. The boy, a bit older, with golden curls, pointed to a monarch butterfly, its black-and-yellow wings spread across a daisy. His hand was on the girl's arm.

"I think that's Tate Walker," Jodie said. "And you."

"I think you're right. It looks like him. Why would Ma paint Tate?"

"He used to come around quite a bit, fish with me. He was always showing you insects and stuff."

"Why don't I remember that?"

"You were very young. One afternoon Tate boated into our lagoon, where Pa was pulling on his poke, really drunk. You were wading and Pa was supposed to be watching you. Suddenly, for no reason at all, Pa grabbed you by your arms and shook you so hard...dropped you in the mud and started laughing. Tate jumped out of the boat and ran up to you. He was only seven or eight years old, but he shouted at Pa...By this time we'd all run down to see what was happening. Even with Pa ranting and raving, Tate picked you up and handed you to Ma. He made sure you were all right before he left...

She looked at the painting—so pastel, so peaceful. Somehow Ma's mind had pulled beauty from lunacy. Anyone looking at these portraits would think they portrayed the happiest of families, living on a seashore, playing in the sunshine."

"Somehow Ma's mind had pulled beauty from lunacy." Right there, for me, was the line for which I had been drawn to read the book. And that's the question many of us have, even if we don't know we are asking it. We want to know how, and we all must find our own way, to pull beauty from the lunacy of whatever horrid thing goes on in our lives, or the world at large. It's food for thought.




I love cucumber salads, especially in summer. Sometimes we make it with a sour cream dressing with lots of dill. And sometimes we like a vinaigrette. I don't have cucumbers in the garden, but we have fresh dill and cilantro growing in pots on the deck, so I made this simple salad the other evening. I used white balsamic in the vinaigrette - it was yum!

Cucumber and Onion Salad 

1-2 cucumbers, peeled, thinly sliced
1 small sweet onion, thinly sliced
1 small tomato, chopped (or use grape tomatoes)
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1 stick of celery, sliced
sprigs of fresh dill, chopped
sprigs of fresh cilantro, chopped 

Vinaigrette

1/3 cup vinegar (white, white balsamic, rice, or cider)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons water
2 teaspoons sugar
salt & pepper

Mix ingredients until sugar dissolves.
Pour over cut vegetables.
Leave at room temperature or refrigerate 1 - 2 hours.




This early morning I found a big bumblebee humming and having a wonderful roll around in this newly opened rose from the Hansa bush. Alas, I didn't have my camera with me, and by the time I came back with it, the fellow had moved on to another spot.


" The hum of bees is the voice of the garden. "
ELIZABETH LAWRENCE


* * *

Wishing you a beautiful day.
Heart Hugs,
Brenda
xox



© Photo credits: Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life




Sunday, June 21, 2020

A Father's Day Moment




" My father didn't tell me how to live. He lived,
and let me watch him do it. "
CLARENCE BUDINGTON KELLAND


I'm missing my dad today, especially looking at these photos of the two of us. I don't recall this particular occasion anymore—I was three years old at the time—but I love how they make me feel when I look at them. In the above picture, I get a sense of camaraderie and intimacy. My dad crouches to be on his little girl's level; he holds her hand, and they are both smiling for the camera, obviously happy in the moment.

In the picture below, against that vast mountainous background, I still get a sense of intimacy, but with it more a sense of protection. Sitting on the edge of that timber fence against what looks like a long drop down, there she is tucked in, secure, her daddy's arm closely wrapped around her.





" I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong
as the need for a father's protection. "
SIGMUND FREUD

 
My dad was a quiet, reserved man and a man of few words. He rarely chatted about anything, never mind shared his feelings with us. And so sometimes I didn't feel what I can so clearly see today in these photos. Any little child that came to him, first me, then my younger siblings, and then any little ones who would visit often ended up on his lap, playing or snoozing on his chest, always welcome, always protected and cared for. As I grew, that place near him on his lap was overtaken by younger siblings, and I don't know for sure, but I wonder if I must have missed those times with my dad. For as I got older I felt he grew more reserved with me; it seemed he was his freest self with babies and toddlers; I saw that especially when his darling grandchildren came.

It has been a balm today for my own soul to take out these old black and white pictures and to catch hold of something I did not see until I was a lot older. I see afresh what the camera had captured sixty years earlier—a young father loving his little girl, who happened to be ME! And I hold that close to my heart, for today I am missing him.

I'll close with a spiritual musing. For these pictures have also shown me something about my heavenly father. That he will come down to my level—Jesus did that when he came to earth to be 'God with us'. He takes my hand and lets me know he is near. He also holds me close to himself when things look a little dicey and scary. I am glad to remember such a thing about Him in these upside down times.



* * *

" A father's tears and fears are unseen,
his love is unexpressed (in words), but his care and protection
remain as a pillar of strength throughout our lives. "
AMA H. VANNIARACHCHY



* * *

Happy Father's Day, dearest Dad. I love you!

Heart Hugs,
Brenda
xox




Friday, June 19, 2020

Floral Five on Friday: Morning Glimpses

"Siberian Irises enjoying their wet spot in the garden"



"Gardens and flowers have a way of bringing
people together, drawing them from their homes. "
CLARE ANSBERRY



It is Friday and I have no post ready for you! I've been working on a couple of them all week but neither are finished. So, I popped out to the garden and took a few photos. Here are five (plus a few more for good measure) of what is giving me joy on this sunny Friday morning. And now there is a post just for you....I hope you enjoy.



"Such details to admire"




"Shadow and light playing in the garden"



"The bees love the pots of lavender"
Lavandula stoechas 'Anouk'



"Diascia, also known as twinspur, in pink formation"



"The chive patch in flower"



"Allium in otherworldly phase"



"In the 'starry' stage"



"I love apricot and lavender together"



" 'At Last' apricot rose"


" Flowers don't tell; they show. "
STEPHANIE SKEEM


* * *

Have a wonderful weekend.
I hope to be back Sunday or Monday.

Heart Hugs,
Brenda
xox



Monday, June 15, 2020

Summer Sense-sations

Image by KiKieh from Pixabay


" Summer afternoon—summer afternoon;
to me those have always been the two most beautiful
words in the English language. "
HENRY JAMES



The warmth and loveliness of summer is at last upon us in these parts. It has come rather slowly this year. And with all the turmoil going on around us, it seems the gradual warming of our days and especially our nights has made me appreciate their arrival more than usual. Perhaps you yourself have felt even more eager than usual. For what is that old line John Steinbeck once said, "What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness." Indeed! The biting winds of weather and our world's suffering turmoil has had me longing for the warmth of June's summer days!

Long ago pen pal Joy and I used to play a word association game when we'd exchange letters. We found it a great way for getting to know each other. I'd decide on a word, often related to the current season, include my associations, and then wait for Joy's reply to see what interesting things appeared on her list. She'd do the same. I tried to be as evocative as I could, although too much thinking can spoil the spontaneity.

Will you play with me today? Quickly and without too much thought, what springs to mind when you think of the word 'summer'? To get the ball rolling, I've included a few of my own childhood summer memories directly below and then broadened it out further. Hope you enjoy thinking about your own summer associations.


Thunder storms
Freshly cut hay fields
Eating raspberries (for me raspberries IS summer)
Slurping watermelon and Popsicles on the back step
Listening to the Beatles on our cousin's transistor radio
Plucking peas in the garden
Curtains wafting in the breeze

Savouring the freedom of summer holidays
Bouquets of peonies & irises (and ants) on the kitchen table
Hum of the lawn mower
Fragrance after the rain
Mom's picnic chicken and newly dug potatoes
Swimming in the river with Dad
Long summer evenings

Hilling potatoes with siblings & making up little games to make it fun
Romping on the grass in the evening waiting for the dew to fall
Hoping for the thermometer to break 80°F (that would be a real hot day for us)
Playing wedding and picking bouquets of wildflowers in the ditch
Taking lunch to Dad in the field & sharing a sandwich in the shade of the tractor
  



Image by Kirsten Riemer from Pixabay

Smells of Summer

" If summer had one defining scent, it'd
definitely be the smell of barbecue. "
KATIE LEE

*

Camp fire
Woody, earthy smell of summer evenings
Rain on a hot sidewalk
Burnt sugary smell of marshmallows
Wild clover on the wind
Scent of the trees early in the morning
Sunscreen & bug spray
Fragrance of the mock orange

* * *


Image by DanceERC from Pixabay


Sounds of Summer

" Some of the best memories
are made in flip flops. "
KELLIE ELMORE

*

Flip flops
Lawn mowers
Sizzle of the grill
Splashing
Robins and songbirds
Ice clinking in a frosty glass
Bees humming in the flowers
Screen door slamming
The fffrrump of the sprinkler
Fireworks
Beach Boys
Whirring fans
Seagulls


* * *


Image by silviarita from Pixabay 


Tastes of Summer

" Happiness is cold watermelon."
UNKNOWN

*

Ice cream cones
Raspberries & cream
Orange Popsicles
Potato salad
Strawberries
Lemonade
A&W root beer
Hotdogs, relish & onions
Garden tomato sandwiches
Fresh dill from the garden
Corn on the cob
Juicy peaches
S'mores 

* * *


Image by Pezibear from Pixabay


Sights of Summer
" If it includes wearing a summer dress,
my answer is yes. "
UNKNOWN

*

Straw hats
People relaxing at a picnic
Kids squealing at the water park
Sunglasses
T-shirt & shorts
Sandals
Swing
Patio umbrellas
Beach towels
Folding lawn chairs
Fishing poles
Storm clouds in a darkening sky
Rainbows
Badminton on the lawn

* * *


Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay


Sensations of Summer

" Summertime and the livin' is easy. "
PORGY AND BESS

*

Summer holiday freedom
Books and snacks out on the grass
Sand between your toes
Grass under your feet
Sun on your bare arms
Feet paddling in the water
Floating in an inner tube
Shade under a tree
Iced cappuccino sliding down your throat
Dipping in the pool to cool down
Feeling the fan on your sweltering face
Itchy insect bites
Sunburn

* * *


Wishing you summer days on your skin, in your tummy, in your heart.
No mosquito bites or sunburns.

Cheerio,
Brenda
xox



Friday, June 12, 2020

What Inspires Me To Write?

Image by Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life


" Don't forget—no one else sees the world the way you do,
so no one else can tell the stories you have to tell. "
CHARLES DE LINT



What inspires you to write? This was one of the questions a writing colleague posed to me in a short interview a couple of years ago. She required short responses for the article she was writing, but I found her questions opened a floodgate of musing that I wanted to explore further. I recently came across my notes with her questions and my responses and thought I should do something with them. How about a nice Friday post? So, today it is something a little out of the usual; I do hope you will enjoy.


" Poetry (writing) comes to me like breathing. I inhale and breathe
in the fragrances, flavors, emotions, sentiments, and feelings
of people and places and breathe out poetry (writing). "
AVIJEET DAS 



Image by Brenda @ It's A Beautiful World


1. What is your main source of inspiration for your writing?


In a word, it is Beauty, in all its many forms: beauty in the natural created world, beauty in the creative handiwork of people, and beauty in the simple pleasures and details of every day life. I am always on the look out for what I term glimpses of heaven in unexpected places. These gifts make me feel alive. They make me sing. And they fuel my desire to write.

The beauty of the natural world - I often think of Vincent Van Gogh and how he once sat looking out his window at a 'watery twilight, a thin lamp post, a star', and how he suddenly longed to share it with his brother, so he sketched it in a letter he was writing at the time. I look at the natural world around me and marvel at all that is beautiful in it. Like the artist, I have a longing to share what I see and experience. I want to show you so we can delight and marvel together at what is around us.

The creative handiwork of other people - Whether it's poetry, beautiful prose, music (playing, singing or composing), art, crafts and needlework, architecture, photography, landscape and garden design, I get more creative in my own work when I soak in the artistic beauty of others. Certain turns of phrases, unusual words, fresh ideas, photos set in ways I had not considered before – these set my imagination on fire. My beauty loving friend, Sandra, said yesterday on her Facebook, 'You never know whose heart you might be inspiring'. How true.

The beauty in the details of our ordinary lives - I am always on the lookout for what makes life beautiful for me in the smallest details of everyday life. Even something as small as watching the lace curtain catch the summer breeze at an open window—this billowing beauty catches my breath and sends my fingers scurrying to the keyboard.


Image by Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life

2. What is your key to inspiration?


Definitely quiet time and solitude to be alone with my own thoughts. I need that quiet space to let my thoughts drift and wander. To think about what I really want to say about a certain subject. It takes time alone to get to the nub of things.

I spend time being quiet to read my Bible and other inspirational books, to meditate and listen for the still small voice of Jesus speaking in my heart. Many years ago, I used to always ask the Lord what He wanted me to say. And then one day He started turning the question back to me: What's in your heart, what do you want to say? At first I was upset about this, because I'd always been taught in the tradition that we lay down our lives and let him live through us. But he began to show me that He wanted me to grow and develop and the way to do that was through being allowed to think and create and dream what my heart desired. So He and I work in tandem now. Sometimes there are things He wants me to say, and I'll feel those times gently or strongly as the need may be. Other times, I just run with what's beating inside my own heart and mind. And, sometimes I don't know what to say, and He's there to help me with that too.


Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

3. What places do you turn to for inspiration that always works?


٭My favourite coffee shop that's alive with conversations, clattering cups, the fragrance of coffee hanging in the air, people reading books and writing in their notebooks or keyboards. There is a cheerfulness to the place that lifts me up. Hopefully one day soon we can return to that environment.

٭Spending a couple of hours at the library with a notebook and pen or my iPad (depending if I want to hand write or type). Surrounded by books and patrons (in the pre-Covid days), I feel excited to sink my teeth into getting something written. 

٭Taking a morning or evening walk that leads to the pond where I can sit a moment and let the peacefulness wash over me.

٭Sitting at my desk in my study. I love being surrounded by my pens, paper, and inspiring books, looking out the windows that overlooks my back garden filled with trees and flowers. This is probably my favourite spot in our house any season of the year. My desk is here, my books are here, my window to the world is here, my computer is here—I am in my happy place.

٭Browsing through my collection of beautiful and creative magazines that are filled with wonderful photography, artwork, catchy titles, and fascinating quotes in the sidebars. Magazines like Victoria, The English Home, Fine Gardening, Romantic Homes, Country Home, and La Vie Claire. Although I'm not a quilter or a painter or woodworker, I will browse magazines from other genres, because inspiration crosses over.

٭Going to a museum or art gallery. I marvel at how creative people really are, and my own inspiration levels rise exponentially. I want to go and do likewise.



Image by Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life

4. Have you ever paired random words or other ‘odd’ methods for inspiration?


I guess one thing that might be a little odd is that I will often imagine my favourite authors in their studios working on a project. I do like learning about how writers work and what their creative spaces are like.* I feel a creative kinship in that, and I also feel a certain delight. For, even if time, distance and not knowing each other personally separates us, there is still a sense of being in this together, creating something we hope readers will enjoy. 

Years ago, when I first started thinking about writing, L.M. Montgomery was my mentor. I used to imagine her sitting and working away on the Anne stories. Of course, I think I used to mix up the description of LMM's room with Anne's imaginary one. Regardless, I was pumped to write.

I once downloaded a photo for my desktop of Jan Karon (the Mitford series) sitting in her writing studio. Every time I opened my computer, there she was smiling at me from her desk. I found that inspired me to keep faith in my own writing space.

Then, there was the time I found a photo of Alexander McCall Smith's comfy-looking writing studio in his Scottish home, his writing desk next to a large window overlooking the water. I could have moved into that room. I met this author, well known for his No 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, when he visited Edmonton a few years ago. It was easy to imagine this gentle writer working on his next novel in that lovely room.

Let me wrap up this question with one more favourite. I don't know how many times I have imagined Susan Branch getting up early every morning to work in her lovely art studio. Once in a very rare while, we both end up having a tiny chat on Twitter because we're both up at the same time (for her it's early, for me it's really early). She tells her girlfriends that she makes tea and pets Jack the kitty before she gets down to business. I do neither, as I prefer coffee in the mornings when Rick gets up, and we no longer have kitties (sad). But I imagine two creative women living on opposite ends of the continent, in different countries, each working in her own studio, each trying to make the world a more beautiful place with her creative work. It makes me feel connected and alive with possibilities.

*You might want to take a look at this interesting book Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey. It was my creative sister Kathy who told me about it. 



Image by Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life


" We write for the same reason that we walk, talk, climb
mountains or swim the oceans - because we can. We have
some impulse within us that makes us want to
explain ourselves to other human beings. "
MAYA ANGELOU


* * *


Wishing you a beautiful day and a safe weekend.

Heart Hugs,
Brenda
xox




 Other posts where I share more about my writing:




Tuesday, June 09, 2020

Gardens In My Favourite Books

Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay


" Flowers lead to books, which lead to thinking and not thinking
and then more flowers and music, music. Then many more
flowers and many more books..."
MAIRA KALMAN



Alongside the heart wrenching world events happening at this time, closer to home I am immersed in gardening—flowers mainly, with a few veg and herbs in pots as well. It's mostly happening between winds and rain, mind you. I had to rescue a sun loving vine the other day; her roots were about to drown in the riverlet pooling beside it. Rearrangement of a few rocks to form a tiny ditch and the water was happily diverted. I do hope the vine is drying out in the sun now. It's true what they say....working in a garden and creating beauty, taking care of something certainly helps to keep the mind and heart quiet these days.

Since gardening is on my mind and I have not done a book post in a while, I'm merging both subjects in today's post: I am gathering eight favourite books in which gardens are part of the story. I sometimes find myself pining to wander through some of these storybook gardens—some are so delightfully described that they take a life of their own in my imagination. Many English novels seem to know how gardens can be what Penelope Lively calls 'an atmospheric ingredient' in the tale. Especially with their descriptions of heroines walking in the garden on a warm summer evening or experiencing the scent of lilacs wafting through an open window or arranging irises for the dining room table. I don't know about you, but sometimes these fictional gardens seem so real so as to create living memories of a place I have only ever visited in my imagination. I think of it as a joyful mingling of life and art.

And so I mingle gardens and books today. Not to get too complicated, I'll share the book titles with suitable excerpts from each. I had great fun putting this together—I do hope you enjoy! 



Image by dtaylor77 from Pixabay


Pride and Prejudice

by Jane Austen



"Will you tell me how long you have loved him?"

"It has been coming on so gradually, that I hardly know
when it began. But I believe I must date it from my first
seeing his beautiful grounds at Pemberley."


A very good reason to fall in love with the man, don't you think? After all, a man who appreciates such beauty around him must have beauty in his soul as well. No wonder Mr. Darcy lingers long in our imaginations.


* * *


Image by Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life, 2016
Wakehurst, West Sussex, England



The Secret Garden

by Frances Hodgson Burnett



"Where you tend a rose a thistle cannot grow."

"It was the sweetest, most mysterious-looking place any one could imagine. The high walls which shut it in were covered with the leafless stems of climbing roses which were so thick that they were matted together. . ."

"All the ground was covered with grass of a wintry brown and out of it grew clumps of bushes which were surely rose-bushes if they were alive. There were numbers of standard roses which had so spread their branches that they were like little trees. There were other trees in the garden, and one of the things which made the place look strangest and loveliest was that climbing roses had run all over them and swung down long tendrils which made light swaying curtains, and here and there they had caught at each other."


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Image by Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life, 2016
A garden in England



The Scent of Water

by Elizabeth Goudge



"Mary waved to her and went back to the garden. She walked slowly along the moss-grown path beside the jungle that had once been a herbaceous border, her thoughts busy with Michaelmas daisies, golden rod and peonies. In the shrubbery on the other side, when she crossed over to it, she found among the weeds, japonica, guelder rose, escallonia and actually a couple of laurels, all of them grown into trees."

"She went down to the end of the lawn and sat on the edge of the empty pond, close to the pink and white blossoms of the crab apple trees, and looked up at the boy with the bow and arrow, remembering the glimpse she had had as a child. He had waited for her a long time. She sat by him lulled almost to sleep by the birdsong and the bee hum and the warmth and scents of spring. Then twelve o'clock struck from the church tower."

"They crossed the road to the orchard and leaned on the gate, the scent of apple blossom coming to them on the light wind. From the crimson of the unopened buds to the white of the fully opened petals, every gradation of rose color was present in flights and drifts on the lichened branches. The apple trees were old and it seemed a miracle that such misshapen age could support this airy lightness."


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Image by Nick Stafford from Pixabay


Rebecca

by Daphne du Maurier



"Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. . ."

"I wondered why it was that places are so much lovelier when one is alone. How commonplace and stupid it would be if I had a friend now, sitting beside me, someone I had known at school, who would say: 'By-the-way, I saw old Hilda the other day. You remember her, the one who was so good at tennis. She’s married, with two children.' And the bluebells beside us unnoticed, and the pigeons overhead unheard. I did not want anyone with me. Not even Maxim. If Maxim had been there I should not be lying as I was now, chewing a piece of grass, my eyes shut. I should have been watching him, watching his eyes, his expression. Wondering if he liked it, if he was bored. Wondering what he was thinking. Now I could relax, none of these things mattered. Maxim was in London. How lovely it was to be alone again."


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Image by Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life, 2016
Scotney Castle and Garden, Tunbridge Wells, England


The Blue Castle

by L.M. Montgomery



The Blue Castle doesn't have a garden exactly, but when Valancy moved with her new husband to the woodsy island where he lived, she found paradise. And so I had to include it in this collection. I have loved this story since forever.


"Barney knew the woods as a book and he taught their lore and craft to Valancy. He could always find trail and haunt of the shy wood people. Valancy learned the different fairy-likenesses of the mosses—the charm and exquisiteness of woodland blossoms. She learned to know every bird at sight and mimic its call—though never so perfectly as Barney. She made friends with every kind of tree."

"‘The woods are so human,' wrote John Foster, 'that to know them one must live with them. An occasional saunter through them, keeping to the well-trodden paths, will never admit us to their intimacy. If we wish to be friends we must seek them out and win them by frequent, reverent visits at all hours; by morning, by noon, and by night; and at all seasons, in spring, in summer, in autumn, in winter.’"


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Image by Kerstin Riemer from Pixabay


The Shell Seekers

by Rosamunde Pilcher



"A long rope was strung between three of these trees, and here Penelope pegged out her washing. Doing this, on a bright fresh morning, was one of her deepest delights. A thrush was singing, and at her feet, thrusting through the tufty damp grass, bulbs were already beginning to shoot. She had planted these herself, thousands of them; daffodils and crocus and scilla and snowdrops. When these faded and the summer grass grew deep and green, other wildflowers raised their heads. Cowslips and cornflowers and scarlet poppies, all grown from seed that she had scattered herself . . . (she'd) pause by her little tree of Viburnum Fragrans, its twiggy stems smothered in deep pink blossom that smelled, miraculously, of summer. She would fetch her secateurs and clip a spring or two, to scent the sitting room. . ."

"The garden, when (Penelope) came here, was a wilderness, but that had been part of the fun. She was a manic gardener and spent every spare moment of her days out of doors, clearing weeds, digging beds, barrowing great loads of manure, cutting out dead wood, planting, taking cuttings, raising seeds. Now, after five years, she was able to stand there and gloat over the fruits of her labour."


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Image by Lara Hughes from Pixabay


The Enchanted April

by Elizabeth von Arnim


Four women, a castle in Italy, wisteria, and solitude

"All down the stone steps on either side were periwinkles in full flower, and she could now see what it was that had caught at her the night before and brushed, wet and scented, across her face. It was wisteria. Wisteria and sunshine . . . she remembered the advertisement.

Here indeed were both in profusion. The wisteria was tumbling over itself in its excess of life, its prodigality of flowering; and where the pergola ended the sun blazed on scarlet geraniums, bushes of them, and nasturtiums in great heaps, and marigolds so brilliant that they seemed to be burning, and red and pink snapdragons, all outdoing each other in bright, fierce colour. The ground behind these flaming things dropped away in terraces to the sea, each terrace a little orchard, where among the olives grew vines on trellises, and fig-trees, and peach-trees, and cherry-trees. The cherry-trees and peach-trees were in blossom—lovely showers of white and deep rose-colour among the trembling delicacy of the olives; the fig-leaves were just big enough to smell of figs, the vine-buds were only beginning to show. And beneath these trees were groups of blue and purple irises, and bushes of lavender, and grey, sharp cactuses, and the grass was thick with dandelions and daisies, and right down at the bottom was the sea. Colour seemed flung down anyhow, anywhere; every sort of colour piled up in heaps, pouring along in rivers. . ."



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Image by Beverly Buckley from Pixabay
Heliotrope smells of cherries and vanilla, hence also known as cherry pie plant 


Nemesis

by Agatha Christie



Anyone who knows Miss Marple of St Mary Mead also knows, when not busy solving murder mysteries, she's in the garden tending her roses and doing battle royal with bindweed. In Nemesis, however, she is advised to leave her garden to go on a Famous Houses and Gardens tour to see scenery and visit gardens in a part of England she's not visited before; it's all part of a master plan to catch a murderer.


" 'Miss Marple said, looking at the flowers near her, 'How beautiful peonies are. That long border of them—so proud and yet so beautifully fragile.' . . .

After luncheon she was taken on a tour of the garden. It was Anthea who was deputed to accompany her. . .They had come along a grass path and were pausing in front of a kind of hillock that rested against the wall at one end of it.

'Our greenhouse,' said Miss Anthea mournfully.

'Oh, yes, where you had such a delightful grapevine.'

'Three vines,' said Anthea. 'A black Hamburg and one of those small white grapes, very sweet, you know. And a third one of beautiful muscats.'

'And a heliotrope, you said.'

'Cherry pie,' said Anthea.

'Ah, yes, cherry pie. Such a lovely smell...' "


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Image by Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life, 2016
Sweet Peas seen in an English Country Garden


" There are few pleasures like really
burrowing one's nose into sweet peas. "
ANGELA THIRKELL


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Any favourites that you would add to this list?

Here's wishing you a beautiful day.

Heart Hugs,
Brenda
xox