Friday, December 31, 2021

In the Deep Winter Quiet

'Winter landscape view from a window, 1919'
Harald Moltke (1871-1960, Danish)

" She opened her curtains, and looked out
towards the bit of road that lay in view, with fields
beyond outside the entrance-gates. "
GEORGE ELIOT, Middlemarch

Someone on Twitter recently posted this painting by Danish artist Harald Moltke. I love it! I was so drawn into its gentle winter scene, for it matches the soft mood of our own winter wrapped home. How often these quiet days I am perched on the couch in the front window, ready to glance from my book out into my snowy world. I am comforted to see its beauty even as I'm nestled within my warm walls.

With our Christmas quieter than usual, there was no real holiday hustle and bustle to get over—the contrast in our days was barely noticeable. Still, I have appreciated soaking in the quietude of these past few days between the holidays. I am entertained by the birds busy at the feeders, who sing in spite of the bitter cold. I immerse myself in books, listen to music, play Scrabble with Rick in the afternoons, and dream up tiny treats to enjoy with tea or decaf coffee.  

While we've been hibernating, I feel as if it's been a gathering time for my soul. Everywhere I read, I find lines that draw me in, succor me. I write them down so as not to forget. Today I share a few of these words that ring true in my heart, hoping there will be something that resonates for you as well.

* * *

" For me the silent winter landscape of this wild place holds
a special magic, echoing powerfully with feelings deep
inside me. Like strong winds and storms Hickling's winter silence
puts me in touch with an inner wildness... It's funny how
silence is sometimes so much louder, or deeper, than words. "
DAVID NORTH, Winter Anthology

* * *

" We were made to enjoy music, to enjoy beautiful sunsets,
to enjoy looking at the billows of the sea
and to be thrilled with a rose that is bedecked with dew...
Human beings are actually created for the transcendent,
for the sublime, for the beautiful, for the truthful...
and all of us are given the task of trying to make this world
a little more hospitable to these beautiful things. "
DESMOND TUTU (1931 - 2021)

* * *

" I’m not telling you to make the world better, because
I don’t think that progress is necessarily part of the package,
I’m just telling you to live in it. Not just to endure it,
not just to suffer it, not just to pass through it, but to live in it.
To look at it. To try to get the picture. To live recklessly.
To take chances. To make your own work and take pride in it.
To seize the moment… "
JOAN DIDION (1934 - 2021)
(from a 1975 Commencement Speech at University of California Riverside) 

As seen on Literary Ladies Guide in a tribute
to American author Joan Didion by Nancy Snyder.

* * *

" I would rather sit in silence
for days than let my hurtful words echo
on in someone's heart forever. "
BODMIN HERMIT, @TheCarceri on Twitter

* * *

" If you think you're burned out, you're burned out, 
and if you don't think you're burned out you're burned out.
Everyone sits under the shade of that juniper tree,
weeping, and whispering, 'Enough.' "
JILL LEPORE, American Historian

* * *

" Have patience
with everything that
remains unsolved in your heart. "

* * *

" Lord, grant me peace above all else
no matter the circumstances
I may face this year. "

* * *

We stand ready to knock at the front door of 2022, and I am most grateful for your company as we share this new year together. I remind myself and you, should you need it, to keep watch for those glimpses of heaven with hope that 'beyond the pain, life continues to be sweet' (ROSAMUNDE PILCHER). Facing another New Year with still so much uncertainty and upheaval, we remind ourselves to take 'courage, dear hearts' (C.S. LEWIS).

"Go. Be. Love. The world needs you" (SUSAN BRANCH). Happy New Year!

Heart hugs,

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

'Christmas On'

"I get up very early in the morning.
I enjoy the quietness, the stillness,
the rawness in the winter . . . It's a special time."

Well here it is, the first official day of winter, and it's just four more sleeps until Christmas. I woke early to find moonbeams streaming into our bedroom. The ghostly globe hung high in the western sky. Ohhh, it's too splendid for words. Peering out, it looked cold and crisp and clear. I love when the moon is full around Christmastime. That's a magical moment all by itself. I mean, it's so much easier to spot a sleigh, don't you think? Or the glimmer of a Christmas Star that hung in a certain place so very long ago.

The generous snowfall we got the other day has made our neighbourhood picture postcard ready for the holidays. I love these last few days leading up to Christmas, when preparations for the main part are done. The whisper of wonderment seems to float from the air straight into our souls. And one doesn't have to be a child to feel it either. I never quite know what will trigger the wonderful, cozy feeling but I know the moment it arrives - from the tingles in my fingertips or along the back of my neck; a warmth spreads over me like a comforting blanket. It could come on the breathy high note of a favourite carol; it could be the peacefulness that settles as I watch tree lights reflecting in the window.

"Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful." Yes, Norman Vincent Peale, you capture that feeling perfectly.

I used to try and create the Christmas feeling by following certain routines and traditions, and although it helped, sometimes it didn't work at all. The harder I tried, the more it hid. I eventually learned not to mess with trying to invoke the 'Christmas spirit'—it comes and goes at will, and who am I to mess with it. But, in all my years, I've never not known it to show up, even during a year that was 'horribilus' for my family when illness and death filled our December. Yes, even that year in the midst of pain and loss, the wonder and awe of Christmas and the Christ Child came to comfort. For it's bigger than we are.

I think of something I saw on Facebook—I don't know who created the graphic or the lovely artwork but the words are attributed to Auschwitz survivor Corrie ten Boom: "I promise you that joy runs deeper than despair." Thank heavens her testimonial remains to this day—she of all people would know!

* * *

At our house everything is now done—the decorating, the shopping, the wrapping. Just a few final preparations, such as drying the bread for stuffing, and maybe attempting one last recipe I found online a few days ago. It's a version of cinnamon buns Cranberry Orange Poinsettia Coffee Cake. Don't these look lovely for Christmas Morning? Note: the photo is from ChinDeep and you'll find the recipe there as well.

Our Christmas will be small this year. Well laid plans to have Mom stay with us a few days and have a larger family gathering were put paid to when I started coughing a few days ago. In normal years, we'd say it's 'just a cold', but as sore throat and coughing are symptoms on 'The List' we have taken precautions and are doing the 10-day required isolation. Which means Christmas will be over by the time I'm free to mingle in public again or invite guests to visit. It's okay. Really. Our house is festive and cozy, the music is playing all day now, and baking is tucked in the freezer for afternoon tea. We'll anticipate celebrating with family and friends another time. Oh, and yes, I am recovering, feeling better every day. I didn't really think it was you-know-what but fingers crossed and all that...

* * *

And, now for a small parade of festive pictures from our house....

1. Tree Top Glistens

"...freshly cut Christmas trees smelling of stars and snow and pine resin - 
inhale deeply and fill your soul with wintry night..."
JOHN GEDDES, A Familiar Rain

And even when my tree isn't freshly cut but sprung from a box, I still feel the joy of our Christmas tree sparkling with lights and pretty ornaments and mysterious presents laid beneath its branches. Guess what, after everything was done, I found another set of lights hidden behind something else. I was wondering why it seemed less glimmery this year... oh well, next year.

* * *

2. The Kitchen Smells of Treats

Almond Cherry Balls

Mincemeat Tarts

Cranberry Shortbread Stars

* * *

3. Snow and Shadows

Using the blue 'Arctic' filter

Same scene in the waning afternoon sunlight

* * *

4. Hope in Winter

Freeze-dried geranium blossom in the garden

I think for those of us who celebrate Christmas, we tend to have a longing for the season, the actual day, to be a time filled with the good things in life and nothing of what causes pain or sorrow. I don't know about you, but I know I do feel sadder when I hear something sad or disastrous has happened to someone somewhere at this time of year. And we lament, And at Christmas too! as if Christmas should be the one day of the year free from sadness and only filled with mirth and merriment. If only!

In our upside-down world life doesn't unfold like that right now. I am grateful and never want to take for granted that things are sweetly quiet around here in our cozy nest - family is well and many friends are well, and daily cares can be set aside for the moment. I came across these words from John Blase, a fellow I follow on Twitter. They rang true for me, and so I offer them to you as my closing thought today. I especially love his last line.

* * *

In the face of seasoned waves of evil
That we would sing that old noel
That we would hang lights on branches
That we would give gifts to others
Even if that gift is ourselves -
This, this is a defiance seemingly impotent
Against the principalities and powers who
Daily conspire to convince us that
We are alone and love is a lie.
But do not be deceived for the demons themselves
Tremble at such quaintness.
Sisters and brothers, Christmas on.

* * *

From my heart to yours,
here's wishing you a beautiful Merry Christmas.


All photos except the following belong to Brenda:
(1)Top Image (candle) by stefannyffenegger from Pixabay
(2)Graphic with Corrie ten Boom Quote: Artist Unknown
(3)Image(cranberry buns)from 

Friday, December 10, 2021

In Midwinter Silence

Only when the clamor of the outside world is silenced
will you be able to hear the deeper vibration.
Listen carefully.

A longing to escape the city the other day had us heading out to Elk Island National Park—a lovely wilderness area not far from where we live. Traveling along the busy highway, with vehicles often roaring past us in the (wink) over the speed limit lane, there isn't a proper chance to really take in the snow covered fields and farmyards. But the moment we turn off into the parkway, the contrast is sudden: the speed limit drops to a turtle's pace and the traffic roar is left behind as silence falls around us. No other vehicles—it's just us for the moment—the lone officer at the park gate waves us through. 

My mind takes its cue from the lower speed limit and my usual brain chatter hushes. I breathe in the silence and soak in the wintry scene before me. The radio is turned off, and even our quiet chitchat drops as we roll past snow covered ditches and lanky leafless aspens, standing like soldiers on parade. Dogwood thickets cast a reddish hint against the white. The pale sky is empty except for an occasional ink black crow flapping past. We spot a small herd of bison resting on a hillside in the paddock—it's a rare treat as we hadn't spotted them the last few times we visited.

God speaks in the silence of the heart.

In the stillness and silence, I feel my soul tuning in.... and my thoughts turn Godward. I am aware of Him as I feel the expanse of the natural world around me. The heavens declare the glory of God, so says the Psalmist. And in the centuries old Christmas carol Joy to the World, I am reminded that "heaven and nature sing" and "rocks hills and plains repeat the sounding joy."

Rachel Carson in her book Silent Spring says, "There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature...". I would agree. In these moments, my heart is at peace. I breathe deeply as the cares on my mind melt away like snow on a sunny branch.

My iPhone stays in my pocket—I do not take pictures on this trip. I just need to let the silence fill my space without any fuss. So the snowy image you see above, I have borrowed from Pixabay—happily it almost mirrors what we see this lovely day.

I hope you are keeping well. Wishing you a beautiful weekend.

Heart hugs,

Image by Nowaja from Pixabay