Saturday, May 08, 2021

"Half-Moments of Intense Joy"

" As we get older we realise that the days are more precious
and half-moments of intense joy are more valuable than jewels. "
MONTY DON, The Jewel Garden

If you have followed along here for any length of time, you know that I'm usually on the look out for the beauty in every day life—ever watching for glimpses of heaven in unexpected places. Beauty is everywhere, but sometimes it takes real looking, you know? Sometimes there's a lot of ugly trying to cover up what's lovely and graceful, true and kind. Sometimes there are things going on in the world that, as my mom used say when I was a girl, can take the joy right out of living. Which is why we have to be smart and remember the trick of not giving up or giving in to the ugly stuff. To earnestly look for the good, because in this upside down world of ours, so often treasure is hidden and only those who seek shall find.

I've been trying to find words for this post all week. Everything seemed dull, including my heart which felt chipped around the edges. Nothing seemed to come together until late Thursday, and when I read that line above from Monty Don (lead presenter of BBC's television series Gardeners' World), I was bowled over by his phrase "half-moments of intense joy". It encapsulated what I was trying to write about.

We long for a life of joy, but so often joy come in fleeting half moments, with barely time to notice before they wisp away and darkness folds back in. So brief, yet in the end they become the treasured memories that make all the rest of life worth living. We revel in something so incredibly beautiful that our hearts are pierced and we never forget it. Most often we don't know when that moment will come. And we shudder to think that we could so easily miss it. Those little joy moments that are often known to pounce like playful kittens make up for a lot of ordinary, underwhelming days. It's part of our job as beauty seekers, not to just let it come whenever it wants, but to deliberately seek them out.

As I said, my world felt so utterly ordinary this last week. I couldn't imagine what on earth I could possible share with you that would be any worth to you. Yet, today, I sit here happily with a handful of lovely moments where joy bubbled up and life grew bright again. It's my heart wish that you find yourself glad to have stopped at It's A Beautiful Life before moving to your own day of beauty chasing.

From my window perch...

Yesterday morning, immature male red-winged blackbirds—their red patches on the wings much paler than on the mature males—flew into the backyard in a fell swoop from the lake to feed at the feeders and chill out. The air was alive as they practiced their calls so recognizable in wetland areas, click here to have a listen. I felt the thrill at hearing the familiar conk-la-ree conk-la-ree. It brings back thoughts of warm summer days of childhood when we used to hear them calling from the creek on the farm. I loved that sound. 

A jewel of a book...

I just finished reading a wonderful little book by Monty and Sarah Don that nicely coincides with the new gardening season. Optimistic and autobiographical, they tell the frank story of how they built a garden around their Tudor farmhouse as they emerged from the despair of their failed jewelry design business back in the 1980s and 90s. It is a testament to the healing nature of gardens. I was especially drawn to Monty's comment of how he works all season—all year really, living in England—towards that one day or week or two when a certain flower or corner of the garden blooms into its perfection and how all the work towards that one fleeting moment was totally worth it. Any gardener will nod her head in recognition. Those half-moments of intense joy are such treasures.

Here is a video clip of their gorgeous garden as it is this very day as seen on my Twitter feed. 

Around the house...

On the dining room table a vase of tulips are singing their 'swan song'. Mauve or lavender coloured flowers in the beginning, I love how the colour has intensified to an amethyst as the petals curl and dry. 

My current favourite salad...

I love all the textures and tastes in this Combination Salad, Greek version, from the classic Joy of Cooking. With lots of ingredients, it takes a little time to put together, but it is so satisfying, even as a main dish. In the cookbook, there are no amounts given, just a list of ingredients and the dressing. I've added my own measurements to serve two.

Joy of Cooking's Greek Salad

In a bowl rubbed with garlic, place the following: 
lettuce or spinach leaves 
chopped, pitted olives (3-4)
sliced radishes (2-3)
sliced hard-cooked eggs (1-2)
shredded Swiss cheese
sautéed bacon (1-2 slices)
sliced cucumber
cubes of feta cheese
a sprinkling of oregano

French Dressing or Sauce Vinaigrette

In a jar with lid, place the following:
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup vinegar or lemon juice
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon prepared mustard

Lid and shake the jar until ingredients are blended.

Gradually add and then shake
3/4 cup olive oil

Use immediately or cover and refrigerate. Shake before using.

Garnish with peeled wedges of tomato


Joy in a bag of lavender...

It was an unexpected gift that landed in my mailbox last month for my birthday. A large sachet of dried lavender from my SIL that I nestle amongst my pillows on the bed. What a treat! How my heart lurches when I catch a whiff on the air. It makes my heart happy when I lay down. I remember buying sachets at the Exhibition as a girl. Packaged in mauve tulle and tied with ribbon, just like in the photo, I'd happily tuck them into my dresser drawers. Lavender has been a favourite scent ever since.

Quotes that pulled me up...

It was a week of sun and cloud, both outdoors and on the inside of my heart. Small things irritated me. I was tired of having to look so earnestly for the Beauty, why is there so much ugliness? But then I read some lines by lovely writers that lifted me out of the miry clay. There are so many who strive to keep beauty and kindness in their own lives, I want to be one of them, filling a most necessary role in our old world.

"...because I understand that I am filled and driven by the Holy Spirit and empowered as an follow Jesus in ordering the world, I can see my monotonous acts of cleaning (after my toddler) for the sacramental acts they are. I'm creating, ordering, claiming my own place on earth as a corner of the world where God's spirit rules and the kingdom (of heaven) comes." Sarah Clarkson, a young mom, as seen on Facebook

"Cultivating beauty, creating order, crafting a life that celebrates goodness and innocence is not frivolous. It gives a living picture, a tangible reminder in the dark, difficult world that God is present. He is with us. He brings light. Beauty heralds hope." Sally Clarkson, author and mom of Sarah Clarkson

"The world needs people who walk the path of enchantment. Who speak in songs. Who live in wonder, with eyes fixed on heaven." Author Unknown 

Let it be...

Yesterday I woke up from a dream where I had been in a shop looking at lovely books about England. A fellow working there hummed a song as he went about his tasks. The tune was familiar as I tried to place it. When I woke, I recognized it was the old Beatles classic Let It Be. I once heard Paul McCartney tell the story of how he dreamt that his mom came to him and spoke those words at a time when he was worrying about things. Mmm... now those same words come to me in a dream.

On this lovely rainy May morning that wraps up a week of soul unsettling news in the world around us, I am happy to take the message of that old classic and 'let it be'. I take joy in the good things around me. My hope is that you will too.

* * *

Wishing you beauty and heart's ease.

With love,

Photo Credits:
Book cover and tulip pics are Brenda's
Other photos are from


  1. Almost impossible to comment on this beautiful post, Brenda. So much to read,so much to take in and so much truth. Thank you for your ever inspiring words.
    I so agree about Monty. Every time I watch him I can be sure that some little snippet, phrase or saying, will make me stop and think.

    1. Barbara, I was totally surprised at how long this turned out to be, especially when I felt I had absolutely nothing to say when I started. The outpouring of words have come from a heart refilled and rekindled with hope and joy. And yes to Monty being a treasure himself.

  2. wow! how much I am sure many of us can identify with feelings of mundaneness and beauty-hunt weariness! Yet here we are, blessed abundantly by every paragraph in this post! Oh! those tulips gorgeous to the last petal-drop! and I will be back to try the salad recipe. yum!! And a book to put on my hunt-for list! Thank-you for sharing the beauty!

    Blessings and wished for a treasure chest week,
    filled with half-moment-jewels of intense joy!

    1. Janet, it's lovely to be able to share the beauty with kindred spirits! Your generous comment encourages me. Thank you!

  3. you have a lovely way with words.

  4. Thank-you for this uplifting post. i have been struggling myself, to find the good and the beauty in this sin-darkened world.

    1. Thank you, Ruth. Your own posts are always filled with the good and the beautiful.

  5. Who has lived these last 13 or 14 months and kept their same old personality? Very few whom I know. We have been changed and it is a challenge to find the beauty or joy. It is possible, though. You are setting a good example for us.

    1. So true, everything has changed, Vee. None of us can have come this far untouched. 'Tis the challenge, indeed, and some days I don't want to pick it up, but other days I'm glad for the opportunity, since it's given us, to be living in these times, to be a hopeful voice in trying times.

      I'm reminded of those lines in J.R.R. Tolkien's The Fellowship of the Ring: “I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

  6. Oh, Brenda, this may be my favorite post that you have ever written. Your words and the quotes are beautiful and speak such truth. The ending quote truly grabbed my heart, "The world needs people who walk the path of enchantment. Who speak in songs. Who live in wonder, with eyes fixed on heaven." ~ Author Unknown It was immediately placed in my 'little book of special things.' I have so often thought if those who seem to live in the dark, could only learn to see a precious bit of the beauty of the world, if it couldn't bring them to a different place. I keep trying to share beauty and you certainly do. We, dear friend, would not be the same without you and your writings. Don't forget that.

    1. Oh Sandra, so often you inspire and encourage me -- thank you for those generous and kind thoughts. xo

  7. I've been experiencing the same dull mood and irritability, so this post is just what I needed to see as I head into 2 challenging weeks involving construction (my neighbour's building a new porch) and power outages (to fix an electrical transformer on my block).

    1. Margie, I totally sympathize about those power outages. How are you to make yourself pots of tea on such occasions?! As spring truly greens out around here and everywhere, may any lingering malaise dissipate at last for all of us.

  8. What a wonderful post!!! It spurred me on to a more positive, healing attitude. It also caused me to spend $$, as I ordered 'The Jewel Garden'. I have enjoyed Monty Don for a few years now. Since the scrap metal, has been cleared from property, and other debris will be hauled off in the near future, I look forward to working on making my gardens into more of a healing space for myself and for those who visit. Thanks for this very inspiring post ~ FlowerLady

    1. Lorraine, thank you for your lovely comments. I think you will enjoy The Jewel Garden. After reading it, I have such an appreciation for Monty Don's work and the beautiful garden that he and his wife share with viewers around the world. I wish you joy in your own garden this summer -- I like your idea of creating a more healing space for yourself. Lovely!

  9. Oh Brenda, this is a post full of thoughtfulness, honesty, and much beauty. I've had such days recently and it's hard to overcome them. Going out into my garden, or taking a long walk often help me as my mind can mull over things while absorbing the loveliness that exists. I love that line of Monty's and wish you a day of "half-moments of intense joy."

    1. Oh yes, there are some days when the supply of little treats don't cut through the malaise or grief or weariness. Thankfully, there aren't too many days like that, and for the most part, I can find small joy moments even if the intense joy ones are scarce.

      Thanks, Lorrie, for your lovely thoughts.

  10. Awww, what a quote! So much truth in it! What a beautiful post and I do love the perspective of Sally and Sarah Clarkson and agree!

    Let's go about our days creating pockets of peace, half-moments of intense joy, and lots of beauty to share with others!

    1. I love your thought about creating pockets of to share with others. It is such good work to be about, isn't it? Thanks, Deanna!

  11. This is such a beautiful post. I've kept it open for the past few days to go back and read again. And now you have a new post so I better say thank you for this one. I loved the quotes and the term half moments of intense joy...I wrote that in my journal! Enjoy your weekend!

    1. Diane, what a lovely comment. Thank you so much! I hope you are keeping well.


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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