Monday, January 31, 2022

About Blankets on a Blizzardy Day

Holly Farrell, 2019
as seen on CanadaPaintings page on Twitter

"Happiness is a warm blanket."

How charming! A pile of blankets. Neatly folded.
I never would have thought to create Art
from such a common household item.
Yet something of the wondrous steals into my soul
when I see this lovely painting by Holly Farrell.
The Canadian artist says nostalgia drives her subject matter,
and still life is her main focus.

Yes, her pile of blankets makes me feel it too—that nostalgia,
that sudden awareness of something unremarkable made remarkable.
Something commonplace and yet so necessary... so very comforting.

Almost I feel a kinship with these blankets:
Who isn't reminded of Hudson Bay's iconic pattern by the one at the top?
I think I once slept beneath velvet plush, maybe even in yellow.
And who hasn't dreamily rubbed satin ribbon bindings between your fingers?
Or felt blue and white flannel cozied against cheeks rosy from coughs and sniffles?
The purple and white check? Oh, now that one is for wrapping 'round
your shoulders on a snowy afternoon, with tea and a good book.
The sturdy cocoa brown one near the bottom surely suits
the building of blanket forts, don't you think?

* * *

I never saw so clearly how this ordinary object really is a gift—
of grace and beauty and comfort. I’ll never say it's just a blanket again.

* * *

For more about the artist,
click HERE.

* * *

On that note,
I'm wishing you a cozy, beautiful day.

Top Painting: Holly Farrell
Bottom Graphic: Artist unknown

Monday, January 17, 2022

A Pint Size Diary and a Few Good Lines

" For many of us,
inspiration is triggered by the
quips and quotations of others. "
EMILEE DAY, The Complete Book of Inspirational Quotations

In his recent newsletter Austin Kleon, author of Steal Like An Artist and other books, shared that starting a five year commonplace diary was one of the best things he did in 2021. His goal? Not to use it as an actual diary but to write down one good line he heard or read every day.  I think he's even included favourites lines from his five year old. By the time I finished reading his samples, I was primed to order the diary and do a similar thing in this new year.

I did wonder how Austin could stick to just one line a day from the dozens of possibilities that must come across his path—I ask myself the same question. We all know social media teems with interesting quips and quotes. Perhaps that's why he chose a tiny diary rather than a sprawling notebook. I begin to see how it forces a person to be alert, to recognize the one line that breaks though all the chatter and makes your mind focus and your heart sing, laugh, shout Eureka

I ordered the diary, and when it arrived a few days later, I thought I'd made a mistake. I was more than a little dismayed to find it so very tiny in size—I forgot to check the dimensions before buying (about 6.5 x 3.5 inches). I expected something just a little bit bigger. In the photo above, there's a greeting card tucked behind the diary, so you get the idea. It sat on my desk a few days. I'd pick it up, flip it open, and imagine trying to pen a line in such a teeny space - I usually like lots of white space around my quotes.

" The quotations when engraved upon the memory,
give you good ideas. They also make you anxious to
read the authors and look for more. "

It was such a pleasing little book. I liked the feel of it in my hands. Beautifully bound with a cloth hard cover, boasting a satin ribbon to mark the spot. The endpapers on the inside cover popped in pretty tangerine orange, enlivening my eyes at first joyful glance. With the choice made to keep and use it, I added the floral sticker to the front cover, christening it and making it mine.

The 5 Year Diary is elegant and compact. Designed by Tamara Shopsin, it comes in three colours: blue, black, and red (I picked the red). Oh, and the diary can be started any day of the year, so no one has to wait until next January.

" Those blank lines serve as a gentle encouragement
to live all the days of my life with intention. "
SARAH K. BUTTERFIELD, from an article read on 

So, I keep my eye open for glimpses of good lines that burst upon my imagination like New Year's fireworks - startling me, inspiring me, tickling my fancy, cheering me on. Of all the possibilities, my job is to choose just one line. I thought it would be difficult, but I'm learning to watch and listen... and wait for what really speaks to me. 

Doing the math, at the end of five years, I will have collected 1,826 quotes (includes one Leap Year). A worthy collections, I'd say. To Austin Kleon, 'I can no other answer make but thanks, and thanks, and ever thanks' for this wonderful and almost cheeky pint size venture. You can find the diary HERE.

Here is a peek at a few entries I've made so far in 2022.

January 1st
Every great poem fulfills a longing
and puts life back together.

January 2nd
I would rather sit in silence for days than let my
hurtful words echo on in someone's heart forever.

January 3rd
Don't try to fix an existing
sentence with minimum effort.

January 5th
The eternal God is your refuge,
and beneath are the everlasting arms.

January 6th
i carry your heart with me
(i carry it in my heart)

January 7th
Be on the look out and respond to the need of someone.
Radiate grace. Stay in a field of grace all the time.

January 8th
It is quite possible to leave your home for a walk
in the early morning air, and return a different
person—beguiled, enchanted.

January 14th
I urge you to please notice when you are happy,
and exclaim or murmur or think at some point,
'If this isn't nice, I don't know what is.'

January 15th
I pray you know joy in the odd moments,
beauty growing up in the muddy corners . . .
experience God making his 'kindness known
in the midst of a besieged city'.

January 17th
I dwell in possibility.

  * * *

On that note,
I'm wishing you a beautiful day.

Photos are mine

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

January: Let's Start With Books

" In the winter she curls up around
a good book and dreams away the cold. "

Book lovers delight in learning what other people are reading. We create book lists to share and take pictures of the book covers we're reading. We snap photos of the stacks sitting on our night table or by our reading chair. When I was a girl, I loved getting books for Christmas. After the festivities were over, the holidays were spent playing with our new toys, starting a new craft project, and whiling away frosty winter afternoons with our noses stuck in a book, just the way Jo March had done in Little Women.

Some things never change. I still love receiving books as Christmas presents and spending quiet hours immersed in a good novel. And this year, thanks to loved ones who gave treasured gift cards, I've got a blissful stack at the ready. Here is my stash with a bit of description for each. So far, I've read Several short sentences about writing and Towers in the Mist. Can't wait to get into the rest.

🟈Everything Affects Everyone by Shawna Lemay (novel) 2021
Shawna Lemay is a local author, essayist, poet, and someone I've had the pleasure to meet in person a couple of times. I so enjoyed her other books including The Flower Can Always Be Changing (which I love) that I anticipate being heart wowed by her latest. It's about "angels, an elusive photographer, art theft, libraries, a movie star, and thoughts on belief, and the power of the question."

🟈Several short sentences about writing by Verlyn Klinkenborg (reference) 2012
This book came recommended by several people I read online. I'd been looking for something to inspire me in 2022. It's a gem. I wrote a short review about the book HERE.

🟈The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion (memoir) 2005
Until recently, I'd only encountered the occasional quote by this author. But after hearing she passed away this past December, I felt it time to search out her writing, to learn for myself why she is such a celebrated author. Her memoir is an account of the year following her husband's death. I also purchased her book Slouching Towards Bethlehem, and was pleasantly surprised to learn Verlyn Klinkenborg recommended it in his book above.

🟈These Precious Days by Ann Patchett (essays) 2021
I like Ann's writing. She wrote this book during the pandemic. She explores topics that interest me—including family, marriage, friendship, not having children, failure, success, writing. I have only browsed so far but I'm eager to read further.
🟈A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles (novel) 2016
When I saw Susan Branch had read the book and recommended it, I added it to my wish list. I understand it's the 'elegant story' of Count Alexander Rostov who, in 1922 after a Bolshevik tribunal, is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel situated across the street from the Kremlin.
🟈Towers in the Mist by Elizabeth Goudge (historical novel) 1938
I read this book over the holidays. Its story follows a widower and his young family who live in the rectory of Christ Church Oxford (a home where I understand the author once lived with her family). Set amid the Oxford colleges during the Elizabethan era, this gentle and slow moving story is interlaced with sketches of Oxford history and historical figures of the era. Although I enjoyed the book, I felt a little impatient sometimes when the story with its interesting cast of characters, was interrupted to give descriptions of these historical aspects. During this first reading I just wanted to get on with the story. Still, I enjoyed being immersed in this place of 'dreaming spires' - the home of my heart.

🟈A Calendar of Wisdom (quotebook) 1908
If you like quote books, then you will love this one written by Leo Tolsoy. Set out with quotes for every day of the year, the quotations are by Leo Tolstoy himself along with his own favourite selections of wisdom from authors through the ages. His work has been translated from Russian and was published in 1997. In the intro Tolstoy says, "I hope the readers of this book may experience the same benevolent and elevating feeling which I . . . experienced when . . . working on its creation, and which I experience again and again, when I reread it every day."
🟈Call Us What We Carry by Amanda Gorman (poetry) 2021
If anyone saw and heard Amanda Gorman speak at the US Presidential Inauguration ceremony last January, they will never forget the startling impact she made that day. Her poem The Hill We Climb is included in this collection. I still hear her clear voice in my head when I read it. Her poetry is vibrant and beautiful.

🟈A Fatal Lie by Charles Todd (novel) 2021
Charles Todd, a duo mom/son writing team, writes mystery crime novels set in Britain around the First World War. Since finding the author last year, I've been reading my way through their collection which includes a series with a clever but battle-traumatized Inspector Ian Rutledge of Scotland Yard and a second series with Miss Bess Crawford, a WWI nurse good at solving mysteries while healing the sick. Every novel has many twists to keep the reader turning the pages, and the author, having done considerable research of that time period, makes the novels historically rich as well. Look forward to reading this next installment. 

As I wrap up, I find myself connecting to these words from Henry David Thoreau: "In winter we lead a more inward life. Our hearts are warm and cheery, like cottages under drifts."

* * * 

Wishing you good books to read and
hearts that are warm and cheery,