Friday, March 25, 2022

What Delights Me This Week

" Nothing in the world is permanent,
and we're foolish when we ask anything to last,
but surely we're still more foolish not to take
delight in it while we have it. "

Life really is that paradox of light and dark, good and evil, joy and sorrow, bitter and sweet. In our upside down world, it's how life often comes to us, a mix of beautiful good and ugly bad. I found it interesting to read how Susan Branch lives with these opposites by creating 'compartments' in her mind—having spaces for the joys of life and other spaces where the sad things dwell. And if I remember aright, what she's found helpful is learning to keep each in its own compartment. So when she's in her happy place, that's what she focuses on. I don't think of it as compartments per se, but in my almost 65 years, I've come to the place where I can live and be okay with having both bad and good, hard and easy, pain and sorrow all living in my heart and mind at the same time. No, it's not perfect, but it's okay on those days when it's a muddle. Often I remind myself of that wonderful line from the Old Testament: "The joy of the Lord is my strength". I've learned that carrying joy in my heart really does help me get through the rough or terrible spots. While feeling dreadfully sad about the woes in the world—mine or someone else's—I have taught myself not to forget to delight in, say, the smell of freshly brewed coffee on a chilly morning, the full moon sailing across the sky on a clear night, or giggling over a silly dog's playful antics. For these are what keeps life worth it.

So...on such a gorgeous Friday morning coming to the end of March (if you can believe that already), I'm sharing my simple list of delights that, in spite of sad things going on, gave my spirits a boost and tickled my fancy this past week. First, a quick nod of thanks to Ross Gay's The Book of Delights, a great little volume of essays in which he reminds me to pay attention to what my soul delights in.  

☙ First of all, that gorgeous bouquet of white tulips from Pixabay at the top of this post. There's something innocent, so delicate in those white petals.

☙ For the bright bunch of tulips sitting on my desk in the study (no photo today). I left all the leaves on when I trimmed the stems, so it's a torrent of red blooms in a tumult of wild, bushy green.

☙ The merry bands of Canada geese slowly arriving, honking at they fly overhead towards the pond a street over from us. Oh, the joy as we watch their return.  

☙ Sitting down to lunch in the dining room where sunshine fills the corners with light and warmth. It almost feels like being on holidays when we sit there on a weekday.

☙ Waiting in our vehicle in a very long lineup that didn't move an inch for ages... all because people across our community were moved, as we were, to come and drop off items to fill a plane heading to Poland for the relief of Ukrainians on the run. What a delight, and an honour, to wait in this moment with people of like mind for such a cause. As I finish writing this morning, we have now heard not only has the cargo plane been filled to the brim with donations, there is an excess. What a good problem to find solutions for.   

☙ Feeling the delight of my muscles stretching as I exercise with the lovely online daughter-senior mom team, April and Aiko, who work out from home and share their videos at yes2next. I believe they started doing this through the pandemic. I love their gentle instruction as well as the sighting of pretty orange kitty Mochi, who does not join the exercises but entertains us nonetheless.

☙ Noticing the latest Cooking Illustrated magazine at the grocery store and thinking how my twenty-something nephew, who likes to cook, would enjoy finding this magazine in his mailbox.

☙ Making a fragrant and delicious chicken tagine with apricots for dinner the other evening. Using the American Test Kitchen's diabetic version of a North African dish, which includes chickpeas, carrots and onions along with spices like cinnamon, ginger, cumin, cayenne pepper, and paprika. The use of apricots in the dish is pure delight.

☙ Experiencing the pleasant satisfaction of sipping a cup of tea when it's not too hot, it's not too cold, but it's just right. A perfect Goldilocks moment.

☙ Reading J.R.R. Tolkien's wonderful tale The Hobbit and bumping into a passage that feels blissful: "They stayed long in that good house...and found it hard to leave. Bilbo would gladly have stopped there for ever and ever... (For Elrond's) house was perfect, whether you liked food, or sleep, or work, or story-telling, or singing, or just sitting and thinking best, or a pleasant mixture of them all. Evil things did not come into that valley."

☙ Waking in the morning and finding it's no longer pitch black first thing.

☙ Sitting on the couch in the afternoon with sunshine streaming in, reading a book or listening blissfully to flute snippets of classical music on the radio.

☙ Remembering an old story told years ago by a fellow coworker. Our office howled at her tale about a funny experience her aunty once had in her own youth. Here's how I remember it:
It Happened One Morning on the Trolley

Years ago when women still donned hats and wore white gloves while going out in public, Rhonda's aunt was riding the trolley one morning on her way to work. No seats were available, so she held onto the strap above, swaying in the aisle as it lurched and bumped along. She must have taken her glove off to hang onto the strap, because it suddenly fell from her hand and landed neatly on the lap of a seated, slightly derelict old fellow, who had dozed off. Horrified to see her glove sitting primly on this old guy's lap—how would she retrieve it? Plucking it up was not an option, what with the trolley swaying back and forth.

While she pondered, the old fellow woke, reached for the bell pull, glanced down, and with nary a thought, or a chance for the aunty to mention the glove was hers, he grabbed and tucked it safely into his trousers; probably thought it was his shirt tail sticking out.

We wondered what the fellow must have thought when he got home that night and pulled off his trousers. What on earth! We wondered, too, what his wife thought when that glove fell out!


* * *

"Blossom by blossom the spring begins."

So fingers crossed and heart prayers whispered for safe passage through these soul traumatizing times—for you, for me, for others, as we go forth today. Take gentle care with yourself.

* * *

Here's wishing you beauty and delight this weekend.
Warm hugs,


Top Photo by Olenka Sergienko from Pexels

Friday, March 18, 2022

How to Keep Up with the News and Not Lose Your Mind

" A bomb makes more noise than a caress,
but for each bomb that destroys
there are millions of caresses that nourish life. "
FACUNDO CABRAL (1937 - 2011), Argentine Singer-Songwriter

With our world fraught with alarming events, it's especially important for us not to lose sight of all that continues to make life beautiful and worthwhile for us. I'm talking to myself here. As bad news bombards our minds, it takes a concerted effort to find the balance of staying informed and not getting bogged down in grim despair. We want to be careful not to miss the flowers in the garden because we're focused on the noxious weeds. No matter what is going on, if we are not directly involved in these conflicts, we have lives that need to be lived. We have blog posts to create. People to hug. Sunsets to watch. Laundry to fold. Meals to prepare. "Because even with the dark parts and the light parts and the good parts and the bad parts, dinner must still be served." from Once Upon A Wardrobe, Patti Callahan

Today I shamelessly borrow a few thoughts from British author Matt Haig. I've been reading his book of short essays Notes on a Nervous Planet. In it, he shares things that help him cope with the modern world we live in, including social media feeds that are constantly 'on'. He shares six ways that he finds helpful to keep up with the news and not lose his mind. Both #3 and #6 stand out for me at this time.
1. "Remember that how you react to the news isn't just about what the news is, but how you get it. The internet and breaking news channels report news in ways that make us feel disorientated. It is easy to believe things are getting worse, when they might just make us feel worse. The medium isn't just the message, it's the emotional intensity of that message." 

2. "Limit the amount of times you look at the news. As my Facebook friend Debra Morse recently commented: "Remember that in 1975 we typically got our news twice a day: morning paper and evening TV broadcast..." MY NOTE: Unless we are the ones directly involved, there's probably not much we can do, no matter how much we watch. And even as our hearts pray, we needs must carry on with life.

3. "Realize the world is not as violent as it feels. Many writers on this subject—such as the famed cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker—have pointed out that, despite all its horrors, society is less violent than it used to be. "There is definitely still violence," says the historian Yuval Noah Harari. "I live in the Middle East so I know this perfectly well. But, comparatively, there is less violence than ever before in history. Today more people die from eating too much than from human violence, which is really an amazing achievement."

4. "Be near animals. Nonhuman animals are therapeutic for all kinds of reasons. One reason is that they don't have news. (They) don't care. The things that are important to us—politics and economics and all of those fluctuating things—are not important to them. And their lives, like ours, still go on. . . . 

5. "Don't worry about things you can't control. The news is full of things you can't do anything about. Do the things you can do stuff about—raise awareness of issues that concern you, give whatever you can to whichever cause you feel passionate about, and also accept the things you can't do."

6. "Remember, looking at bad news doesn't mean good news isn't happening. It's happening everywhere. It's happening right now. Around the world. In hospitals, at weddings, in schools and offices and maternity wards, at airport arrival gates, in bedrooms, in inboxes, out in the street, in the kind smile of a stranger. A billion unseen wonders of everyday life."      

* * *

" Learn not to be shocked by the shock.
Not to be in a state of panic about the panic.
To change what you can change and
not get frustrated by what you can't.

There is no panacea, or utopia, there is just love
and kindness and trying, amid the chaos,
to make things better where we can."

Notes on a Nervous Planet, "In Praise of Positivity", p126

In closing, I share these words by Susan Branch. A reminder how not to go mad in a mad world, "And when the world seems to be falling apart around you, create something, put a flower in a vase, bake a pie, draw a picture, knit socks."

* * *

On that note,
I'm wishing you beauty and heart's ease this weekend.

Warm hugs,


Kitty pic above is from Pixabay

Friday, March 11, 2022

Looking Back: Tulip Poses From Spring 2020

" Tulips were a tray of jewels. "
E.M. FORSTER, Howards End

I'm waiting for Spring and dreaming of tulips. The calendar says it's March, and the light lengthening our days gives us a sense that, yes, it's coming. Snow removal crews were in our neighbourhood last night hauling away last week's huge snow dump from the streets. It's windy and cold, and there's no sparkling sunshine today. Still, something in the air buoys my spirits.

I love tulips. They are the harbinger of warmer days. They arrive in the grocery stores and flower shops in late February, early March and remind me that, no, we are not living in a Narnia winter that lasts forever. Tulips make me smile. I find them winsome. No wonder the Dutch folk fell in love with them centuries ago. With so many varieties and colours to beguile us, there is something for every taste. Someone online recently noted, 'the flower amuses us in all of its form and beauty'. It's true.

Usually Rick and I don't go all out planting masses of tulip bulbs in the fall, but in September 2019, we felt a longing to plant pots and pots of tulips and have them ready to set out early the following spring. Little did we realize how much we’d need these charming cup-shaped flowers when March 2020 began to unfold. Their bright petals—cheerful against winter's snowy backdrop and the darkening knowledge that our planet was being engulfed in a worldwide pandemic—became a balm amidst the shocking news.

We didn't plant pots of tulips last fall to enjoy early this season—the inner push wasn't there this time. Once the snow is gone, it won't take long for bulbs in the garden to push out their tiny green shoots. In the meantime, I'm sharing a handful of photos from Spring 2020, pairing these Five on Friday with a selection of the latest quotes I've added to my 5-year quote diary. The bad news never stops, but the good news is, beauty arising on a Spring morning cannot be stopped either. 'Courage, dear hearts.'

" Enjoy the world within our boundaries . . .
focus on the few things we can do,
rather than the millions of things we can't. "
MATT HAIG, Notes on a Nervous Planet

" A flower a day can bring
a prayer to mind. "
As seen on Carrie's Twitter Page

" But in the end, it's only a passing thing, this shadow.
Even darkness must pass. A new day will come.
And when the sun shines, it'll shine out the clearer. "

" We pull weeds to make
room for flowers. "
Quoted by Connie Schultz's father, as seen on Twitter 

" Confidence is knowing you're not everyone's
cup of tea and being okay with it. "

" It was one bright, beautiful moment
in the middle of a hideous world . . . "
KATE QUINN,  Francis Gray in The Rose Code novel about WWII

* * *

Wishing you a beautiful weekend.

Heart hugs,


Photos on this post are mine

Friday, March 04, 2022

Something Beautiful in a Broken World

" I pray you know joy in the odd moments,
beauty growing up in the muddy corners of the ordinary.
I pray you experience God making his 'kindness
known in the midst of a besieged city'. "
SARAH CLARKSON,  from her January 15th Facebook post

A while ago, I jotted the above words by Sarah Clarkson into my journal. She always knows how to describe the ordinary stuff of life with such gentle grace, reminding us that our lives have a touch of the sacred. This week her words, especially the last line, fit so well in light of R*ussia's recent invasion of Uk*raine. All week I have been asking myself: how do we who watch, and pray, from afar carry on with our ordinary lives, how do we keep making something beautiful when the world is so broken?

Then I came across something from Andrew Peterson, author of Adorning the Dark. He says, "Making something beautiful in a broken world can be harrowing work, and it can't be done alone." No, it's not easy and, no, we cannot do it alone. We need each other, each one doing our part to keep things sane and kind in our corner of the world. Together, we strengthen each other. Together, we ensure that beauty and goodness prevails in dark and troubling times.

When I started the draft for this post I meant to write about the books that I'm 'butterfly reading'. So even though things feel sidetracked, I'll just carry on in that vein. Butterfly reading is when I give myself freedom to slip in and out of various books, dipping into a page here, a paragraph there. Allowing lines to nourish my heart, jostle my thinking, and bolster my courage. All without delving too deeply.

I certainly don't do this with every book or even all the time, but there are seasons when I can't seem to settle on a single volume. That's when I appreciate lightly flitting from book to book, much the way butterflies flutter from blossom to blossom, gathering inspiration from hither and yon. I never know what will fire my imagination in the moment. What will comfort or encourage. It can be old memories that jostle into consciousness. It can be ideas I never thought of before. It can be a description that perfectly says what I had no words for until that moment. Sometimes it's a line that makes me laugh out loud, and suddenly doldrums drop from drooping shoulders.

What I have discovered over the years is that one book will so often trigger something else I've read. The lines from each place builds on the other, all adding to my feast of good words. In my butterfly reading, I like volumes that are physically small in size and length—short chapters that don't bog down, but still with interesting things to discover. 

Here are three books I've been flitting in and out of this week....

Notes on a Nervous Planet
by Matt Haig

" The problem is not that the world is a mess,
but that we expect it to be otherwise. "

A small volume about how modern life feeds our anxiety and how we can aim to live a better life. British author Matt Haig has experienced being ill with anxiety, depression, and panic disorder. He asks the question, "How can we live in a mad world and not ourselves go mad?" How often I've asked myself that question. He's learned a thing or two and happily shares his hard-earned wisdom with readers.

The Book of Delights
by Ross Gay

" I came up with a handful of rules:
write a delight every day for a year;
begin and end on my birthday, August 1;
draft them quickly; and write them by hand.
The rules made it a discipline for me. A practice.
Spend time thinking and writing about delight every day. "

I felt drawn to pull this book of short essays from the shelf recently. Author Austin Kleon mentioned it on his blog or in his newsletter, and my friend, Lorrie, said someone else inspired her to read it. Must be something in the air. Written by award-winning poet Ross Gay, this book is the result of him recording the small joys he used to overlook in his busy life. Noted on the inside cover, he doesn't dismiss 'the complexities, even the terrors' of living in America as a black man. But his life changed when he spent time thinking about delight every day. He enjoys his garden and the natural world around him.

Spring, An anthology for the changing seasons
Edited by Melissa Harrison

" The seasons roll through our literature, too, budding, blossoming, fruiting and dying back. Think of it: the lazy summer days and golden harvests, the misty autumn walks and frozen fields of winter, and all the hopeful romance of spring. Sometimes, as with Chaucer's 'Aprill shoures', the seasons are a way to set the scene; sometimes they are the subject-matter itself—but there's magic in the way a three hundred-year-old account of birdsong, say, can collapse time utterly, granting us a moment of real communication with the past. " from the introduction, Spring, 2016

This book, ordered online, took several weeks to arrive. It had traveled all the way from Kennys Bookshop & Art Galleries Ltd in Galway, Ireland. Imagine that! It's the Spring edition of the British four-season series I've been enjoying by editor Melissa Harrison. This collection of essays and poetry, taken from both classic and modern writing, is a delightful way to celebrate the arrival of a new season. It's also a pleasant way to vicariously enjoy a bit of nature when you can't get out yourself, or the weather is inclement.

" He thought of the grammar of Gaelic, in which
you did not say you were in love with someone,
but that you "had love toward" her, as if it were
a physical thing you could present and hold—
a bundle of tulips, a golden ring, a parcel of tenderness. "

I am enjoying these three books. They have made great butterfly reading in a week that has been fraught with larger world events. They keep me grounded. Just as the tulips have done on my dining table. Reminding me to delight in the little joys. To keep loving and being kind in times of turmoil. To let the beauty in God's natural world still wow! me in my tracks. 

* * *

On that note, I'm wishing
you a safe and pleasant weekend. Delight!

Heart hugs,


Photos on this post are mine