"Fear not November's challenge bold. We've books and friends,
and hearths that never can grow cold. These make amends."
attributed to ALEXANDER L. FRASER
Outside my window: This morning we have overcast, moody grey skies, and snow is in the forecast. Blue jays fly in looking for breakfast, recognizable shrieks announce their arrival. Which makes me smile; it's as if they're saying, we're here, be sure the peanuts are out.
Inside my head: At the moment, I feel a similarly moody grey. Perhaps it's not quite enough sleep, or maybe I was hoping for winter sunshine to perk up the weekend.
What I'm wearing: Black jeans, patterned cotton t-shirt, grey cardigan, scent.
Two lovely books I read this week: First, Elizabeth Berg's 1996 novel The Pull of the Moon which is the story of a 50-plus woman named Nan who, going through the change of life, runs away from home and husband to take a road trip by herself. It becomes a look back as she recalls what she once dreamed when she was young and eager for life. . .before life got tangled in all the should and have-to's. Mostly Nan hopes, as she writes on-the-road letters to her husband of where she is and what she sees, that she can say on paper what she feels stifled to say face to face. She hopes he'll hear her, listen to what she's saying. But even if he doesn't, she's learning to be true to herself again. This gently written story is both poignant and humorous, with LOL moments I found delightful, especially when I recognized myself in them. A lovely read. I came away wonderfully grateful to be a part of the world's great company of women, knowing we can arrive at this season in our lives and know we're not alone in it.
The other book I finished is Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times by British author Katherine May. In it she explores those literal and metaphorical dark seasons in our lives, sharing her own journey and how she has struggled to find the way through them. The book is beautifully written and has many nourishing, encouraging lines I've underlined and starred. Here are a few that touched me:
- "Like the robin, we sometimes sing to show how strong we are, and sometimes sing in hope of better times. We sing either way."
- "I began to get a feel for my winterings: their length and breadth, their heft. I knew that they didn't last forever. I knew that I had to find the most comfortable way to live through them until spring."
- "Plants and animals don't fight the winter; they don't pretend it's not happening and attempt to carry on living the same lives that they lived in the summer. They prepare. They adapt. They perform extraordinary acts of metamorphosis to get them through."
- "He told her that they could keep tinkering with her medication, but it would never solve everything. 'This isn't about getting you fixed', he said. 'This is about you living the best life you can with the parameters that you have.' "
I participated in: A writers' retreat via Zoom last weekend. It was called Heal Create Writers Retreat led by a fellow in California named Jacob Nordby. There was a lovely lineup of speakers; I mainly signed up when I heard Julia Cameron and Anne Lamotte were speaking. Both were wonderful to catch live. Below are a handful of nuggets that stuck out for me. Perhaps they'll sparkle for you too, as you get on with your own projects, of whatever nature they might be.
- Julia Cameron. "Lower the bar" (of expectation). She said she writes two pages per day every day rather than aiming for 20 pages and only accomplishing it sometimes. "Easy" accomplishes it, she says. Probably good advice from someone who's written forty books.
- Julia Cameron. "Grab time". Don't wait for swaths of time. We all have 10 or 20 minutes here and there. Grab those few minutes to write. Grabbing time also works when I'm procrastinating for whatever reason, or I am overwhelmed by the size of the project. Deciding to focus on one small task for even 10 minutes often releases me from feeling frozen with impossibility. Flow happens from there.
- Julia Cameron on perfectionism. "If I didn't have to do it perfectly, I'd try." Doesn't that lift a load off?
- Anne Lamott: "Stop not writing". This was in response to all the excuses we use for not working on our projects, writing or otherwise.
I am looking forward to: Putting up my new 7-foot pencil evergreen tree festooned with permanent yellow-warm white lights. I loved it as soon as I saw it set up and lit at Michael's the other day. It was even on sale. I find so many of the new LED Christmas white lights are in a cool blue light, which to my view is not cozy at all. I brought the tree home eager to set it up, but.... hubby might look at me and wonder if he should call the 'Christmas police' as this is far too early for Christmas trees, even though it is snowy and dark and cold outside. This year though, I don't think I can wait until December. I'm longing to see twinkle lights now in that dark corner of the living room. So, I'll just set it up one day when he's out shovelling, or something. He'll grin and pretend he's mad and then enjoy it with me. hehe
On that note: Time has past since I started this post. I look up from my computer screen. The day outside brightened and writing today lightened my greyish frame of mind. Some friends stopped in for tea and blueberry almond muffins. We tried out a new box of Twinings Christmas Tea with cinnamon and cloves—it was delicious. As I type these final words, from my window I see the sky is now turning a pale cotton candy pink in the westerly direction. It's just 4:35 in the afternoon and already it grows dusk. I love this time of year. Time to turn on some lights, including the cozy lamp on my desk.
Wishing you a pleasant evening,
Top Image by Melanie from Pixabay
We can learn so much from other people. The internet has changed out world and who we have contact with and are influenced by. Enjoy your Sunday! I'm going for a hike later....70 degrees here today so not very wintery!ReplyDelete
It's so true, Diane. I am grateful for the Internet, for blogging, and social media where I have met some wonderful people, who are kind and creative and generous. Enjoy your 70 degrees!Delete
I almost signed up for that writer's retreat but the week was completely out of hand. It sounds wonderful. I've heard a lot about "Wintering" and each time it sounds better and better.ReplyDelete
Jeanie, It was a lovely retreat. I'm slowing going over the replays. I haven't been on any such retreats in a very long time, so it felt good, even on Zoom. I really did enjoy Katherine's Wintering book.Delete
Ohhhh...this post, all of it, was like balm to my spirit. I am so glad your tree is going up! Why do we deny ourselves pleasures that will remedy low spirits? Many blessings this week...ReplyDelete
Lovely to hear that, Vee, thank you. I agree, there is no real reason to deny ourselves those pleasures that remedy low spirits. The idea of denial must come from a stoic mindset. These kinds of pleasures can add so much joy to our every day lives.Delete
I like the sound of both of those books; adding them to my list:) I love the bits of advice from Julia Cameron--she has such a lovely knack for making hard things seem absolutely doable! Twinkle lights are the best part of winter, hehe, enjoy your new tree!ReplyDelete
So true, Julia truly has the knack of making hard things seem absolutely doable. Twinkle lights really are the cat's meow in winter cozy! Thanks, Kathy, for popping in. xoDelete
Oh Brenda, Talk about Syncronicity!☺️ I find myself in the past few days feeling some kind of “quiet cozying;” perhaps somewhat of a transition into this next season. Yes, cozy lamps, love the idea of your yellow lights. Yesterday we had our first snow . I simply sat down to work on Thanksgiving cards as I looked out at the “winter world. It was SO quiet outside, even for a Saturday morning. Today, I treated myself to the luxury of simply reading. Had an express book and just poured my coffee and read.ReplyDelete
I also treated myself to 2 long phone chats. Both of these friends were expressing that going into this season can feel lonely. I looked out and like you saw the overcast sky; the world outside looked cold. One of these women has started to journal. She even surprised herself by looking out a window while sitting at a table and 10 minutes later found that she had written a story.
I’m glad that your gray day lifted. I do love these quiet, “homey “ days but I know ,darn it for many I love, that this “wintering season” can be tough to go through.😔🎄( I think I see some yellow lights on this tree!!)
Your sitting down to work on Thanksgiving cards, watching the winter from your window; your sitting to read while enjoying a coffee; and then treating yourself to long phone chats with good friends -- such homey activities that nourish both body and soul. Thanks, Ann, for your brightening words. And yes, I saw the yellow lights on that little tree - smile.Delete
I love the amends that November makes, although actually it is my favorite month of all. I smiled at your husband thinking it a little too early for a Christmas tree to be trimmed. So like my own but he came home from our son and daughter-in-laws yesterday and said, "Court already has four Christmas trees up. It was really pretty!" So I think I have hopes this week of getting his help with mine. Your writer's retreat sounds very worth the time. I love all the quotations you shared from it, especially the "Stop not writing." And it's so odd you writing of reading The Pull of the Moon. I wrote about it years ago on my first blog illustrating one of the reasons I wanted to blog. There's a sentence from it where a man says of his mother who had just passed away that later in her life she began only doing what she wanted to do, as only cooking dinner when she wanted to--about once a week--and dressing in turquoise pedal pushers and big hoop earrings. Do you remember that, Brenda? And he said when she died they "knew who they were burying". And that was one of my reasons for blogging--so my children would know who they were burying!ReplyDelete
I bought your Wintering book suggestion and am reading it now, also listened to a couple of her podcasts. I began it with a little worry: would wanting to read it mean that there was a period of wintering ahead of me? And then the back pain of the past month turned into excruciating pain and I ended up having X-rays and a MRI. Diagnosis, compression fracture in spine, thus the pain. So one result of my new wintering is only sitting 30 minutes at a time in a chair, sitting as tall as I can. Wintering for anyone seems all about adapting and accepting so I'm trying to adapt and be gracious in accepting new circumstances. And enjoying all the November joys ahead for me!
I love the long cozy nights too, Brenda,
Oh yes, Dewena, I do remember that passage. Found and reread again (p.144) about that man's mother as she got older doing only what she wanted after her spouse died, that she was happy in her new life. I love knowing that that scene spurred you to begin blogging - so your children would know who they were burying. A very good reason to blog.Delete
I do recognize your response to the idea of wintering - what if it turns out to be a horrid down time, not a cozy one. And I am saddened to hear about your health concerns accompanied with such terrible pain. Oh my. There are several aspects to wintering, I come to see. Sometimes wintering is about retreating from the world's stress, hunkering into your quiet space, enjoying the coziness of the darker season. But it is worrying, as you mention, when the wintering becomes an enduring season where circumstances and events change things for the worse. Either way, like you, I want to adapt and be gracious in accepting new circumstances. That's why this quote stood out for me: "This isn't about getting you fixed', he said. 'This is about you living the best life you can with the parameters that you have.' "
Wishing you better days ahead... with heart hugs. xo
Books and tea certainly contribute to wintering well. I have not yet read Katherine May's book. However, I just put The Pull of the Moon on order from the library. I'm feeling the urge to start Christmas decorating, too, although since we put up a real tree we wait until December. But I'm lighting candles and enjoying the glow of the lights around the windows in the kitchen area - lights we leave up all year long for they are as pretty on a summer evening as in the dark of winter.ReplyDelete
These long nights having me craving and thus creating coziness.
I have a string of twinkle lights on the kitchen book shelf that stay up all year. I've been turning those on already, but I'm ready for more coziness. Books and tea truly are lovely wintering contributions. Thanks, Lorrie.Delete
I reread your latest comment this morning. I enjoyed the way you “set up” your blog this time.” Wonder if those were ideas from your writer’s retreat. I am going to use those “prompts” from time to time and see what happens. ( “What I see outside my window, what I feel inside my head, etc.”
Sometimes “starters” like those make the thought of sitting down to write easier and perhaps at times can serve to be a “warm up” for something else that wants to be written!☺️ Ann
Thanks, Ann, for your feedback about the prompts. They are a lovely way to create a post, I agree. But, no, they aren't ideas I picked up at the retreat. They are from one blogger I've followed over the years: Peggy @ The Simple Woman's Daybook. Occasionally I'd join her monthly meme and follow the prompts she created. Other times I use the prompt idea and create my own variation of them. Peggy is a lovely blogger, and here is her link: http://thesimplewoman.blogspot.com/Delete
We all have greyish moods don't we? It helps on those mornings to know there are so many others there too. I like to think of it as a blank slate and look for what might be wanting to reveal itself. Otherwise, I head out the door for a walk and that usually snaps me out of it. Unless it's raining.......hahaReplyDelete
Thank goodness we have so many others right here in blogland and on social media to help us remember we're not alone in our greyness. I'm coming to understand to not try to shove the grey moods away but to think of them as those blank slates you mention and listen to what it can reveal. Walking really is great for snapping one out of such a mood. Except in the rain.... well, unless it's gentle and warm and then I don't mind walking in the rain. Thanks so much for your lovely comment, Joni. Look forward to visiting your blog.Delete
Thank you for sharing your daybook notes, Brenda. I enjoy a post where I feel I have been invited into the blogger's world . . . almost as if I have enjoyed that Christmas tea and muffins with you! I have noted the pointers by Julia Cameron. Those are some great principles for writing and for many other worthwhile things that we do.ReplyDelete
Enjoy your Christmas tree! (I agree with you about the blue-toned lights. Not at all cozy.)
I love your words, Cheryl, thank you. I am so enjoying the pencil tree - the yellow warm lights delight my heart.Delete
I've already jotted down the book by Elizabeth Berg. I've read one of her books ages ago and loved it. But this one I'll buy for two: one for me and one for a friend who this will speak to perfectly.ReplyDelete
Oh and that advice by Julia Cameron for grabbing time. I learned that a long time ago and it still relates well to anything I may be wanting to accomplish (even housework for pity sakes). You've noted some real gems from that Zoom workshop.
Lovely to get your note, Diane. I hope you and your friend enjoy the Elizabeth Berg book.Delete
Such a beautiful post, Brenda. I could feel my body relax as I read your words! Since you are reading Wintering I wonder if you follow Miranda Mills on YouTube? All of her videos are lovely, but the monthly book club she does with her mum are especially good. Wintering is this month's selection, and will be discussed over tea and some home-baked treat in their cozy home in Yorkshire. The Elizabeth Berg sounds so good--I've added it to my cart.ReplyDelete
Enjoy your warmly-lit tree!
Lauren, I'm so glad you reminded me about Miranda Mills. Thank you! I was subscribed already to her channel but had kinda lost track of her in recent months. So now I'm immersing in all her seasonal vlogs, and I just listened to the book club discussion on Katherine May's Wintering. What a treat to hear. Take care, Lauren. xoDelete