Saturday, August 27, 2022

Sun-Kissed Summer Days

"Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass
under trees on a summer's day, listening to the murmur
of the water, or watching the clouds float across
the sky, is by no means a waste of time."

I do love the quotation above for it really describes the kind of summer we've enjoyed this year. We have indeed watched countless clouds float across the skies from our comfy perch in the garden. And we have felt like Mr. Lubbock it's not a waste of time. Rather, observation skills have been honed as I paid closer attention to the detailed wonders around me. My mind boggles to imagine how much I’ve missed in my lifetime from rushing around, life in earlier seasons just being that way. But I now have the time to develop the art of relaxing, allowing myself to come into that tranquil place and not let the itching need to always jump at the least provocation to get on with things.

Recently I came across an article from The New Yorker written when Canadian author Alice Munro won the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature. One line stood out for me; it was from the prize committee's commentary on why Ms. Munro had won. It was for her ability as a writer to show "how much of the extraordinary can fit into that jam-packed emptiness called The Ordinary”.

Oh my, I had to sit with those words for a while. And truly, that's how I've been aiming to live these sun-kissed summer days—in awe of how much of the extraordinary can enrich my simple and ordinary life.

We've had such pleasant weather... did you ever notice that we need nice weather to enjoy summer properly? Too hot and we seek the air-conditioned coolness of indoors. Too windy and who wants to sit on the deck to read when one must hang onto one's hat and book and water glass, all the while fretting the patio umbrella will whip into the trees. And we won't even mention hail and thunderstorms and possible tornadoes.

Between the usual chores and errands, and despite a few small dramas—our vehicle out of the blue started to make loud strange rattles; and my own body began, also out of the blue, experiencing a strange lightheadedness that wouldn't go away and required a visit to my physician—despite such disturbances, it’s still been a wonderful summer. I haven’t wasted a moment feeling panicky or sad when the signs indicated the season was heading rather quickly towards September and autumn. Autumn is my favourite season, but this year I'm in no hurry for it. And rather than lament at how quickly the darkness is creeping back—every day the sun sets a little earlier—I’m choosing to soak in each day, letting the gentle pleasures feed my soul. As the days slowly turn into late summer, I watch the tall yellow Rudbeckia come into her own now. In the scheme of things, although she is a late blooming plant, she’s not late but right on time according to her own time clock and DNA coding. That’s something to muse about, especially if you ever wonder, like I have, if you’re one of life’s late bloomers, feeling like maybe it's too late. What if you're Rudbeckia just now coming into full bloom in her right season.

I'm outside a lot enjoying the bird chatter and the crows flying in flocks over our house in the evenings, watching the bees messing about in the blossoms, and taking joy in the one female hummingbird who has visited several days in a row. We think it's the same bird as she follows a similar pattern when she visits in the late afternoon, first zooming through the spiky pink liatris and then flits to a couple of very late still fresh blossoms on the lilac. She buzzes around our heads a moment and then zips over to the honeysuckle growing round the waterspout from the eavestroughs. Maybe she meets Itsy Bitsy Spider while there.

I bring out my tall glass of ice-water and my latest book, settle into my comfy wicker-styled chair and let the afternoon drift around me. I drift in and out, storybook tale and the real world mingling in my mind. Sometimes I'm startled to find myself in my own garden, I've been so immersed in my far away story. Right now, I’m reading a mystery novel by Donna Leon. She writes the Commissario Brunetti series. I recently bumped into her books at the library when I read a note on the shelf saying if you’re a Louise Penny fan (and I am!) then you will likely enjoy these police detective novels set in Venice, Italy. With more than 30 books in the series, I’ve a lot of catching up to do.

Never one to be satisfied with just one book on the go, I am slow reading a slim novel a fellow travel friend recommended to me (we met in 2016 on a Garden Tour during our visit to England). The title is The Summer Book by Finnish author Tove Jansson. Published in 1972, this classic is the tale of an elderly artist and her six-year-old motherless granddaughter who spend their summers on a tiny island near Finland. I love the reviewer Melissa Harrison's comment about the book: "It's about how people can live close together for months with tact and grace, and about how rich and rewarding even a small world can be."

We interrupt our afternoons of reading with refreshments. Hot tea is rarely on offer these days. Rick indulges in a pear cider or Irish ale, and I sip an iced San Pellegrino sparkling water, the Dark Morello Cherry & Pomegranate flavour being a current favourite.

Our evenings have been so mild and calm, so after supper we come out, watching the world go by as we wait to catch the scent of the evening scented stock on the cooling breezes. I write about it HERE. One evening I opened the front door, and the fragrance was right there filling the air. I stood breathing in trying to capture this moment—which in my mind’s eye becomes the essence of an idyllic summer evening. Too dark to read and the bugs now too pesky, I reluctantly head indoors. I still smell the stocks—perhaps in some magical way the scent has woven into my hair and clothing, the fragrance is so fresh in my nostrils.

By the way, the vehicle was an easy and reasonable repair. And the doctor thinks my body no longer requires the medications I've been taking for several years. My lifestyle changes have made a difference: weight loss of 30-plus pounds, both BP and sugars now in normal ranges. So, I’m off the meds with instruction to report back in September, hopefully things have normalized by then.

Meanwhile, summer continues to hand out days of rich sunshine and pleasant temperatures with time for gentle pursuits. My heart is filled with gratitude.

"In summer, the song sings itself."

Wishing you a beautiful weekend, you dear people!

Heart hugs,

Top Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

NOTE. Blogger has made changes to the Comments Box so some commenters now appear as Anonymous. Which means I have no idea who's left a comment.😒
Two ways that can help:
1. Include your name right in the comment itself.
2. Or, if you're having trouble using your Google account, select Name/URL option in Comments drop down menu. Type in your name as you want it to appear. Hit Publish. It should work. (Thanks, Margie, for the tip.)  
Now I'll know who's left that lovely note for me. Thanks!


Sunday, August 21, 2022

Musings - Hold Expectations Loosely

"It's not about what you have or even the season
of life that you are in, but it's about your mindset."

As a girl, I remember having a kind of impression that life should line up with my expectations. I brought that viewpoint into my young adulthood. I wanted something to look a certain way and be certain way. And when things didn't turn out as I expected, I was not best pleased. In fact, sometimes I was just plain peevish about it. As if life owed me. As if people owed me. Perhaps we're born with that expectation. We've probably all wailed at one time or another, 'But it's not fair!' It's the universal response to someone expecting a different outcome. Of course, it didn’t help when I didn’t voice what I wanted. As a timid young person I was good at not saying what I wanted, but that’s a different story for another day.

I realized that I had expectations of other people, and I certainly felt people expecting something from me. Sometimes I was okay with that, sometimes I felt put upon, especially when I was expected to be involved in something I had no interest in. Still I saw it as the give and take in life. I eventually came to see that everyone has to live their own life, and it wasn't my place to put my expectations on others, as if they owed me happiness. It goes both ways.

Of course we can and should have expectations and standards. But when it doesn't measure up, when the coffee at the bistro isn't absolutely delicious one day, when someone has let me down—when it doesn't happen, how can I keep that disappointment from ruining my day and robbing me of my inner sense of tranquility?

The game changer for me was when I learned to hold my own expectations loosely. And learning to hold loosely the expectations other folks had for me. So what does holding one's expectations loosely mean exactly? One article I read put it this way: holding expectations loosely doesn't mean giving them up altogether, but rather it's "letting go of urgency, rigidity, and the need for things to be 'just so' ". Oh my, now I get it - I recognize that impulse to want things to be ‘just so’. It doesn't matter how amiable and easygoing we are, we still have certain expectations. We go out for a special meal, of course we want the ambiance to be just right, for the meal to be extraordinaire, and for our dining partners to be in fine form conversationally. We want that something special on our vacations, our anniversaries, birthdays, and special celebrations like Christmas. Not to mention that we want it in the daily goings on in between.

I finally saw that basing my happiness on imperfect circumstances and shifting moods of other people is a guarantee for disappointment. When I loosened my tight grip on my expectations of how things should be or look or feel, I became more tranquil within. I began searching for the good 'in the midst'. I began focusing on the beauty, not the ugly stuff. I asked for the grace to wake in the mornings with vitality and good humour. This quote from Anne Lamott seems to be a good way to sum up:

"Faith includes noticing the mess, the emptiness and discomfort,
and letting it be there until some light returns."

Just letting it be there until some light returns. Another clue of how to live our lives more beautifully.

Wishing you grace for the day,

Photo Credit: Image by Tama66 from Pixabay


Friday, August 12, 2022

Breath and Lightness Moments This Week

"A good day is when, despite the problem,
you can give breath and lightness to your life."

It's been a wonderful week. Idyllic summer weather with plenty of pleasures and little moments that have stamped themselves on my heart. We breathe in these moments and let them settle.... let them take the edge off what isn't perfect in our own world, or the world at large.

A few moments that filled my joy reservoir this week included watching Miss Peace Rose (top) blooming her heart out; visiting the University of Alberta Botanic Gardens with dear friends; having lunch with my mom and sisters at the Italian Centre where we enjoyed conversation and delicious Affogatos (more below); smiling in happiness as our yard filled with a cacophonic chorus of adolescent birds practicing their whistles and calls—chickadees and blue jays and crows all trying to imitate their parents but not quite getting the whistles in the right key. So sweet.

What a thrill to be present to it all.

For this Five on Friday post, I've cobbled together a few thoughts about what else has filled my tank this week.... all with the hope there is something here that will now give lightness and breath to your own day.

πŸ™š one πŸ™˜

Should you be longing to visit a wonderful garden this summer but cannot for whatever reason, here is a gorgeous one I enjoyed vicariously on YouTube. I was inspired by tour guide Alexandra as she shared her enthusiasm for her favourite garden at Gravetye Manor Hotel in Sussex, England. Alexandra tells her viewers that she first visited the gardens during her December honeymoon and vowed one day to return when all the flowers were in bloom. Thirty years later, she and her husband came to celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary. The gardens were originally created in 1885 by William Robinson, an Irish gardener who popularized the English garden style. Video is about 7 minutes.


πŸ™š two πŸ™˜

A serendipitous discovery of this video on William Morris: Useful Beauty in the Home gave me a lovely glimpse into William Morris's life and dream to bring back traditional craft techniques during the 19th century industrial age. It includes a little of how the Arts and Craft movement came to be. And if that has you thirsty for more, check out this 5-minute piece about Kelmscott House, home to William and his wife, Jane Morris. A nice peek at his own creative work and his love of the beautiful.

"Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful." From the first moment I bumped into these words by William Morris years ago, I embraced them. His advice dovetailed with my own heart's desire to live my life more beautifully. They became a kind of guideline on how I could more selectively choose what I wanted to surround myself with in my home and life.   

The image above is from Amazon where they advertise a lovely notebook with the William Morris design 'Strawberry Thief' on its covers. I'm happy to report that a couple of these notebooks are now tucked into my shopping cart.

πŸ™š three πŸ™˜

I felt that delicious, familiar thrill this week when I opened the covers of this new to me novel Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. I came across the title in a social media list where people had been invited to recommend their top favourite book. From the enthusiastic responses by readers, I felt drawn to find it. According to the blurb on Amazon, it's considered one of the most important books of the twentieth century. A Southern love story with a strong black female protagonist who knows what she desires in life.

Here is one excerpt that had me saying I must get this book for myself - I've currently got the library copy at home:
"In the circular narration of Their Eyes Were Watching God, at the end of the book, a whole new life lies ahead, uncharted for a still relatively young Janie Crawford. She has told her story and has satisfied 'that oldest human longing—self revelation'. And now she must go on."
That oldest human longing of self revelation. Oh yes, I recognize that! Isn't that why we blog and write letters and share our little (and big) stories with one another, revealing our personal histories through words? Don't we all long for someone to know who we are, what we think and believe, what matters to us, what gives us joy and pain? And to have the thrill one day come when someone out there responds with a resounding, 'Yes, I hear you. Me too!'

πŸ™š four πŸ™˜

J.S. Bach is one of my favourite composers. I can never decide who is my top favourite—Bach or Mozart—so they both sit first place in my heart. Chopin also nudges in there with some of his pieces that capture my heart. Listening to Bach's Air is pure bliss. Not only am I smitten by Bach's creative beauty in music, but I admit that fine looking musician, David Garrett, is pretty easy on the eyes too. Hope these three minutes gives you a lift of the soul.

πŸ™š five πŸ™˜

My absolute favourite summer treat this season is the Italian Affogato (pronounced AH-FOH-GAH-TOE). Simple yet so delicious, it's a scoop of vanilla gelato or ice cream with a hot spritz of espresso poured over top, served in a small glass cup or mug. It can be sipped as a drink or savoured as a dessert with a spoon. Our local Italian shop serves it with the tiniest coffee spoon - I think to make the experience last longer. Alas, I didn't take pictures—I was too busy oohing and aahing and savouring—so here is one from Pixabay to give you an idea. 

The word gelato is Italian for ice cream. Italian gelato is a little different to our ice cream in North America. The Italian version uses less cream and is whipped slower, it's denser with a creamier texture. Heaven in a mug.

πŸ™š bonus πŸ™˜

View in the Japanese Garden
I couldn't not show you a few photos from our visit to the University of Alberta Botanic Gardens near Devon, Alberta. It was a lovely outing. Above is a view in the Japanese Garden, one of my favourite spots to come and contemplate life or even fall in love (there's a story in there from many years ago).

And below is the neatest plant. It's called Euphorbia obesa and we found it in the desert pavilion. It's charming and amazing to think that it's a plant. Doesn't it look like a fancy pin cushion or a Scottish Christmas ball in soft Tartan plaid?

Me in the Butterfly Pavilion

Hope you enjoyed your visit.
On that note, I'm wishing you a beautiful weekend,

Top-Miss Peace Rose, August 2022
One-Photo from Gravetye Manor website
Two-Photo from Amazon website
Three-My photo of book cover
Four-Video from YouTube
Five-Affogato photo by Sharon Ang from Pixabay
Bonus: My photos from Botanic Garden

Friday, August 05, 2022

Rainy Day Pursuits

"Nana always said the rain was nature's
way of adding sparkle to the outdoors."

It's rainy and cool as I write. It's a day suited for indoor pursuits like working on this blog post, baking blueberry lemon oat muffins, even imagining a supper meal to roast in the oven rather than grilling on the BBQ. I've got just the thing: turkey thighs from the freezer, along with cabbage rolls, and a turnip puff (a favourite dish we often serve at with turkey dinner).

On my agenda, I'm nudging myself to find a new way for readers here to subscribe to my blog posts if they desire. Since Blogger phased out the gadget for email subscriptions many months ago, I have never had the mental energy to chase down a new platform. On this rainy day, with a few leads in mind, I hope to find a suitable replacement. If any of you have suggestions, my mind is an open book to hear them.

Oh, and the photo collection sitting at well over 2000 images on my iPhone has nearly reached the limit of my free iCloud 5 GB storage. Of course, my notice from iCloud suggests I could purchase 50 GB of storage for a mere $1.29 a month. I think I'll skip that, even if it's a bargain; to me this is a very good time to cull, sort, and then download what I want to keep. I prefer to store my photos on my own external hard-drives. Young folks would probably roll their eyes at the idea, but it works for old-fashioned me.

Also on my to-do list, there's the self-care item—my daily reminder to be good to myself too. Today it has three parts: read something good, walk-exercise for 30 minutes (indoor), and laugh out loud.

"I think rain is as necessary to
the mind as to vegetation. My very thoughts
become thirsty and crave moisture."

From the library I'm currently reading the insightful memoir by Eliza Reid, Canadian born and now First Lady of Iceland, Secrets of the Sprakkar, Iceland's Extraordinary Women and How They Are Changing the World. If you are interested in gender issues and equality, you might enjoy this book. Eliza Reid interviews women, young and old, from across the spectrum, and shares their many stories in a way that's warm and inspiring.

Yesterday I also watched the delightful Miss Potter for the zillionth time on Prime. The film is based on the true story about Beatrix Potter. I love RenΓ©e Zellweger in the role of this world-renowned children's artist and storyteller. And I also love Emily Watson playing Beatrix's dear friend, Millie Warne.

All good stuff for a rainy day on which I woke refreshed from a good sleep, making me feel on top of the world. I don't always feel that way first thing. More often than not there is some ache or pain scratching for attention but not today. So I revel in my feeling well while refreshing rain streams down the window pane as I watch from my perch in the study.

That's me and my life on a wet August morning. We're heading out later to meet friends for coffee at one of our favourite cafes. Can't wait.

 "I like people who smile
when it's raining."

Wishing you a beautiful weekend,

Top Image by Anrita1705 from Pixabay