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


  1. This was another beautiful post, Brenda! Needed to read this after the week we have had here in the US! Like you, we have been finding joy in watching the birds enjoy the feeder. Beauty is all around us, and can serve to calm our uneasiness. Thank you for your reminders. Xoxo

  2. I too am a fan of Dee Nickerson's work, she's a great example of comfort food for the soul. It's often difficult to keep one's equilibrium in these trying days but art and poetry and books and beauty all do their part to help us resist despair. Love the Helen Keller quote.

  3. Thank you Brenda. My mood was very low when I began to read your post. England is really under siege with the virus multiplying daily and it is very frightening. But your words are always so soothing and I came away refreshed.

  4. Love this post, Bren. I am afraid the events of this week have left me heartbroken and not feeling too optimistic. However, I shall recover and try and move forward. Say a prayer for us that we can have quiet days up and through Jan. 20. Your lovely post helped today.

  5. I like the thought that you mention, 'watching for glimpses of heaven.' i really think we would all be happier if we took notice of those glimpses of heaven around us.

  6. A lovely post, Brenda, read when I am in need of Comfort for the soul. Thank you.

  7. Another beautiful post, dear Brenda, and a welcome reminder of the beauty to be found at home. We went into our third lockdown a couple of weeks ago and the numbers keep soaring (mostly because nobody stayed in) so we went into a severe lockdown a couple of days ago, and here we will stay for the foreseeable future. But the vaccinations are going well and we live in hope.

  8. I'm glad I came here. I have been asking questions about the way forward and I think I may have found them in The Gate of the Year, a poem I've never read before and likely never would have if not for you.

    Bless you, Brenda, for looking out for others.

  9. Oh Brenda! I have copied all of these quotes into my quote do you find such great quotes?

    We are so easily distracted & we need words like these to keep our focus in the right place. Thank you so much.

    I'll take this opportunity to let you know that my 3 yr old grandson & I are still playing the Christmas Advent games. I don't allow him on for very long...being only 3...but he can do pretty much all of the puzzles & games by himself & the songs & videos just bring lots of smiles & laughter no matter how many times he plays them. I will definitely be buying the new calendar next year.

  10. What a beautiful post! The Gate of the Year... I'm looking to see if I can find it printed in a book of poetry but I haven't found anything yet. Did you read it in a book? Beautiful poem!

  11. Estou feliz pois diante de Jesus todos os dias posso refletir sobre a comunhão com Jesus Cristo redentor venha sobre todos o arrependimento de nossos pecados k são tantos misericórdia e piedade de todos nós senhor e pai de nosso senhor Jesus Cristo redentor venha sobre a cura dos corações ��


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