Saturday, January 30, 2021

In My Small World, It's Still A Beautiful Life

"You may not control all the events that happen to you,
but you can decide not to be reduced by them."

No matter how small my own world shrinks in the midst of this global pandemic, I am always on the lookout for something to open my eyes to wonder and gratitude. Now more than ever, it remains up to me to discover my beautiful life as I determine, in Maya Angelou's words, not to be reduced by the events happening around me. Saturday morning and it is another day in the middle of winter, in the middle of Covid-19, and here in our household where life is normally quieter and simpler than many households, our days have now been reduced to one day pretty much looking like another. Weeks melt into months and lines blur between weekdays and weekends. And I am glad there's no one to question my mental abilities, because some days I really do have to ask myself, so what day is it today, Wednesday, Saturday? Is it still January? 

Like many around the globe, the pair of us have been in semi-isolation for months because of government mandates and recommendations. As our personal world has shrunk, so too have our daily activities, outings, and in-person social connections. Rather than outside pursuits and social events filling our days, we have found ourselves needing to search for what gives us meaning closer to home, within our own four walls, from within our own minds. And, from our social media platforms, of course (wink).

Thankfully, I am reminded of those wonderful lines Rainer Maria Rilke wrote in his book Letters to a Young Poet. They once caused me to sit up and take notice when I read them as a young woman, and now they challenge me again:

"If your daily life seems poor, do not blame it; blame yourself,
tell yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its riches; for
to the creator there is no poverty and no poor indifferent place."

As humans, we have a need for variety in our spaces, projects, foods we eat, people we see, places we visit. We get bored easily, and maybe now more so than ever. Without this variety, our memories easily melt into waxy globs at the bottom of our candlesticks. But for many of us, our usual former ways are not available at present. Rilke challenges the poet in all of us to search for new and different ways to enrich our own daily lives with substance and meaning.

Many of us, I believe, share a kindred similarity in how we fill in those quiet spaces: nature, sacred texts, beautiful poetry and comforting books, going for walks, taking photos, baking, writing, reveling in gorgeous pieces of music—for me often it's Mozart or Bach or Debussy, along with those rhythmic new-old sea shanties going round these days.

The following reminders help me to face mostly uneventful days with anticipation and cheer:
✧ Meet each new day as it comes—and as much as possible with humour and gratitude.

✧ Be silent—let silence make space to listen, and to hear.

✧ Listen to music with intention, not just as background to mask the silence.

✧ Watch for tiny gifts in nature that make you feel alive. Keep a list, write a haiku poem.

✧ Select one or two from the dozens of lovely images, stories, and quotes you mindlessly flip through on social media. Dozens become a blur—savour the one or two. 

✧ Keep some semblance of routine, e.g., if waffles and bacon have been your usual weekend treat, sure jog it up and have it as a surprise on a Wednesday on occasion, but mostly keep it as the treat that signals it's the weekend. 

✧ Go for a drive or a bus ride 'just because'. Watch the clouds, watch the people, enjoy the sparkling snow on evergreen branches and rooftops and fields. 

I mused to Rick the other morning that I now appreciate how dogs must feel when they hear the welcome words, Let's go for a car ride. When he tells me he's off to run an errand and do I want to come along for the ride, I almost feel my plumy tail wagging as a grin spreads across my face. Of course, I want to come with you, I say. It's the big event in our small world these days. And it's okay, even in the minutiae, life is still full of the good and the beautiful.

"...look carefully; record what you see.
Find a way to make beauty necessary.
Find a way to make necessity beautiful."

* * *

I hope you have a wonderful weekend. Keep safe.
Here's wishing you beauty and heart's ease.


Top Photo:
"At the Breakfast Table with the Morning Newspaper"
Danish Artist Laurits Andersen Ring (1854-1933)
Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Grateful for Words That Refresh

She read books as one would
breathe air, to fill up and live.

Words have changed my world. The peace, tranquility, and joy I experience has so often come through the books I have read. I am in awe of writers and poets who—through their unique creative expression, discipline, and sacrifice—have enhanced my own life. Such a debt of gratitude I owe to them for finding ways to continually offer me light, hope, peace, insight, aha moments, and kindred connections. I ask you, what would we do without our books?

When I read something that grabs my heart, I'll jot it down in my journal. And if it turns out that there's too much I want to copy down, I'll try to purchase rather than borrow the book. Underlined and 'starred', these favourite passages become guideposts—tiny lights filled with inspiration and focus. I turn to them time and again when I need my imagination refueled.

Today, I offer a few lines I've gleaned from my reading since the start of the new year. These words ground me even as they add a sparkle to my current Covid-quiet life. I hope you will find a shimmer of inspiration for yourself, making today's visit worth your while.

Note: Below, I bolded the particular phrases that speak to me in this season. Do you have any particular words or phrases haunting your thoughts (in a good way, I hope) these days?

May you find sacred space and make room
for Holy Presence, and there find exactly
what your soul needs.

Respond to the call of your gift
and the courage to follow its path.

In truth, we don't know which of our acts in the
present will shape our future. But we have to behave
as if everything we do matters. Because it might.

Everything we do ripples out through creation,
i.e., we are embodied in all creation and therefore
part of what we are goes back through all creation.

What doth God require of thee but
to do justice and to love mercy, and
to walk humbly with thy God?

as shared by Anne Lamott in her book
Hallelujah Anyway, Rediscovering Mercy

I want to be famous to shuffling men
who smile while crossing streets,
sticky children in grocery lines,
famous as the one who smiled back.

I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,
or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,
but because it never forgot what it could do.

lines from her poem "Famous"

Home is a symbol of the self.
Caring for home is caring for one's self.

It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just pay attention, then patch
a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway
into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.
MARY OLIVER, "Praying"

 Maybe this is why we read,
and why in moments of darkness
we return to books: to find words
for what we already know.


Reading gives us someplace to go
when we have to stay where we are.

* * *

Wishing you a beautiful day.

Heart Hugs,

Photos: All Images from Pixabay

Saturday, January 16, 2021

What Does Your Saturday Look Like?

" What can be better than to get out a book on Saturday afternoon
and thrust all mundane considerations away till next week. "

Good Morning, Saturday! Oh yes, what could be better than delving into a good book to while away a Saturday afternoon in the middle of January. Especially when our activities are still curtailed with Covid restrictions these days. As soon as this post goes up, I shall plant myself in our sun-filled living room with John Grisham's new novel A Time for Mercy. I like the title of this book, and my friend tells me it's a page turner. Looking forward to it. 

With just a few lines today, I'm sharing a peek into what my Saturday looks like—by simply using the letters that make up the word 'Saturday' as my prompt. Hope you enjoy. 

Skies are cloudless and blue this morning as the sun creeps over the horizon. Temperatures have been mild, but they are forecasting colder days ahead, so we have taken joy in this one. As I took my walk, the sun was already well over the hill by the community garden and the finches were singing their little hearts out. Passed one fellow walking with his sweet, friendly poodle. It all made me feel so glad to be alive!  

Appreciating my hubby for making us coffee and toast first thing. It's how we start our mornings—he brings the tray with our steaming cups back to bed, and we ease into our day. We are rarely in a rush to anywhere during these please-stay-at-home-as-much-as-possible Covid days. I certainly don't mind.  

Trying to start on my desired goal to detail clean my house before spring. It’s off to a slow start, I must admit. I finally got the Christmas decorations down. Now there's a pile of items to sort in the spare room and a pile of other 'this and that' on the table downstairs. Turning off the light, I come back upstairs. Haha. Maybe next week it will feel less overwhelming and I'll know just where to begin.

Undertaking a reading challenge for the new year based on a partial list by a local bookstore. I plan to do a post soon with that reading list. One of my long term reading goals is to read some works by or biographies of Nobel Prize winners. So many interesting people who have changed the world and influenced it for good. I really need to learn more about these amazing people.   

Reading Gloria Steinem's memoir My Life on the Road. I found these words on page 177 and am inspired to hold them close during 2021: "...In truth, we don't know which of our acts in the present will shape the future. But we have to behave as if everything we do matters. Because it might."

Delicious! This breakfast sandwich whets my appetite. I found the photo on Pixabay. Let's see: A crusty bun filled with crispy bacon, thinly sliced cheddar cheese and tomato, scrabbled eggs, and avocado slices. Do you see anything else? It really is too bad that I have neither buns nor avocados in the house; otherwise I'd be making these for brunch today. The ingredients are going on the shopping list for we must try this soon.  

Admiring and so grateful for Mozart's gift to the world. His music never fails to cheer my heart. I woke the other morning hearing something hum-ably Mozart in my mind—a familiar phrase from a piano concerto, I think. It made me smile. 
Yardsticks, yesterday, yearbook. Yachting, yearning, youthful. What good words to tuck away for our daily Scrabble games for two. We're pretty evenly matched, so one day I win, the next time he does. Since neither of us are by nature competitive, we might end up helping each other when our tiles really suck, casually dropping hints of possibilities we see on the board without actually knowing what the other holds for letters, although from the groans we assume they can't be good.

* * *

That's our Saturday—I hope you're having a pleasant one.
Stay well and safe.

Heart hugs,

(Top) Image by Terri Cnudde from Pixabay
(Bunwich) Image by Aline Ponce from Pixabay

Friday, January 08, 2021

The New Year: Comfort Food for the Soul

" If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy,
don't hesitate. Give in to it . . .
whatever it is, don't be afraid of its plenty.
Joy is not made to be a crumb. "
MARY OLIVER, Devotions, "Don't Hesitate"

I woke from a cozy sleep the other morning to find complete sentences for a new blog post forming in my head. Knowing how skittish these first thoughts can be, I flew to my desk—it was still pitch black outside, sunrise still an hour away—to catch the drift before it disappeared. They were thoughts about what's been giving me joy these past weeks, and the phrase 'comfort food for the soul' came to mind—those little things that fill my heart with joy.....watching the birds at the feeders, hearing their lusty songs on a winter's afternoon, feeling the comfort of wise words as they drop into my heart, disappearing into books with gentle stories or riveting tales. Not to forget my walks in the neighbourhood, tea and treats with Rick in the afternoon, Mozart on the radio, scrabble games, candles and twinkle lights at dusk, the smell of yummy things wafting from the oven, being amused by creative folks on social media, to name a few more.

Today I share four small graces that have soothed my days...with the hope they will add a moment of rest for you too as we wind up this first tumultuous week of 2021.

Dee Nickerson, British Artist
'Seed Catalogue'

Someone I follow on Twitter—@HWarlow—searches out beautiful art photos to share with her followers. Over the past months, I've been introduced to many delightful new-to-me artists and their works. When she posted this particular painting by British artist Dee Nickerson, I had such a longing to share it with you. According to a short bio I found, Ms Nickerson "explores themes of living in the countryside and activities she enjoys such as sewing, hanging out the washing . . . pondering life." I love that, while the garden outside is under snow, the woman inside dreams about her garden over seed catalogues. She sounds like a kindred spirit, don't you think?

" I said to the chickadee,
singing his heart out in the
green pine tree:
little dazzler,
little song,
little mouthful. "
MARY OLIVER, "October"

The chickadees are often at the feeders in our garden. I love to hear their cheeky whistles drift in the air. They always make me smile. Recently, Rick attached a feeder to our kitchen window. So far, only one fellow has braved his way over to snatch sunflower seeds. He pays no mind to eyes prying on the other side of the glass.

On Walking...
" If persisted in a remarkable change will result – a notable
clearness of mental power, keenness of appetite
and a zest for life's work. "
CLAUDE POWELL FORDYCE, Touring Afoot, 1916

Daily walks are an entrenched part of my life now. I usually go first thing and at this time of year, I'll often catch the sun skimming over the hill to the east. Nuthatches and finches sing, magpies chortle in the treetops as I pass beneath. I've learned to keep my eyes open on my now familiar route—watching for glimpses of heaven in unexpected places—one never knows what'll catch my eye, something I never noticed 'quite that way before': watching where the sun is situated in the sky each morning, how the shadows and light play together in tree tops, and of course, seeing dogs happy to be out for their walks too, with everyone keeping their social distance, although doggies aren't too particular about that protocol.

I find myself musing about a phrase I am wont to use. I tell Rick I'm off for my 'constitutional'. Apparently the old-fashioned phrase 'constitutional walk' was used in the early 1900s when referring to a person's constitution or physical makeup, so when a person went out especially to get fresh air and exercise, people termed it 'taking a constitutional walk'. Who knows where I picked up the phrase—probably some book I read—I like the old-fashioned sound of it.

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year: "Give me a
light that I may tread safely into the unknown."
And he replied:
"Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way."
So I went forth,
and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night.
And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day . . . "
MINNIE L. HASKINS, The Gate of the Year, God Knows

I came across these lines from the poem The Gate of the Year years ago and often refer to them at the start of a new year—they help me to square my shoulders, reach out my hand for His, feel braced knowing I don't face any of it alone. 

Written by British poet Minnie L. Haskins (1875-1957) more than a century ago, the poem was originally titled God Knows. In 1939, King George VI included these lines in his Christmas speech to the British Empire. I can well imagine how their hopeful words caught the public's attention as they faced another world war. Today the poem is more widely known as The Gate of the Year.  I am grateful for it as we stare into the dark unknown of 2021.

Resolve to keep happy, and your joy and you
shall form an invincible host against difficulties.

* * *

Wishing you gentle moments. Stay safe.

Heart Hugs,

(Top) Image by congerdesign from Pixabay
(Dickerson Painting) Image found on Twitter
(Chickadee) Image by JL G from Pixabay
(Couple Walking) Image by Tookapic from Pixabay
(Walking Bridge) Image by Tante Tati from Pixabay