Wednesday, June 07, 2023

Guest Blogging Elsewhere Today




"Far up in the deep blue sky,
Great white clouds are floating by;
All the world is dressed in green;
Many happy birds are seen,
Roses bright and sunshine clear
Show that lovely June is here."
F.G. SANDERS


   
Dear Beautiful Friends,

What a glorious June morning. It's calm, sunny, blue skies with birds filling our world with singing, whistles, and chirps. The air is sweet as there's no smoke—thankfully it's been clear here for a couple of weeks now, even though some fires still burn, alas, elsewhere in the province. 

Today, I am guest blogging over on InScribe. Chatting about Michelangelo the great sculptor and writing—musing about the interesting parallel between these two crafts. Click HERE to find my post Set the Writing Free. Hope you'll stop by.

I'll be back later in the month with a new blog post. In the meantime, I'm wishing you a beautiful day.


❦ Heart hugs,
Brenda


Photo credit: Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay



Sunday, May 14, 2023

A Postcard Hello...



   
Dear Beautiful Friends,

Hello from sunny Alberta.
 Popping in to say I am well and trust things are fine with you.

Spring has finally arrived - it seemed to take such a long time
for it to green out this year. It's very dry. May Day trees are now in bloom,
and I wait to catch their fragrance on the breeze—hopefully today. 

Not quite feeling the usual exuberant gleefulness of spring;
our province is experiencing unusual hot weather. It feels like
April flipped straight into mid-July. The heat
as well as the lack of moisture and lots of wind have created
conditions for wildfires. And they are springing up in many places.
Our provincial emergency alert app goes off several times a day
as a new fire starts.

Eerie...

So many communities on evacuation alert, with many families
scrambling to evacuate their homes. Some have already lost their homes.
So heartbreaking! It all creates an unease in the atmosphere
even though personally we aren't involved at this time.
Although we did bring up suitcases last week when one fire
sprung up not too far from us. Yikes! Thankfully it was contained
and hopefully it's now out. We think about what to grab
if we had to go in a hurry. To be a little prepared.

We try to keep calm and carry on.
Deep breath.

In the midst, we had the delight to watch the Royal Coronation
in the UK last weekend. An awe-spiring service with all the
historical pomp and ceremony. Rick and I had the opportunity to visit
Westminster Abbey during our trip to England in 2016. 
What fun to recognize certain spots because we'd been there in person.
Enjoyed watching guests arriving at the Abbey. Such a
lovely parade of stately regalia and elegant ensembles... and hats.
Great fun when cameras captured little Prince Louie—his older sister,
Princess Charlotte, appeared to keep an eye on him; wasn't it sweet
when they held hands as they came in!

We relish the moments we have.

Birds are nesting - yesterday I saw a female robin slip through the branches
of the neighbour's cedar tree by the garage. What a perfect spot
for a nest. Will keep our eyes on her comings and goings. 

A book I've enjoyed this week is Letter from New York
by Helene Hanff (author of 84, Charing Cross Road). It was first published
in 1992. It's a delightsome collection of what originally had been monthly
five-minute radio scripts for the BBC Radio 4 Woman's Hour Broadcasts from
1978 to 1984. Miss Hanff entertained her listeners with a lively
glimpse of history, culture, and daily life in New York City where she lived
during the mid-20th century. I found it gently distracting, and soothing,
in the midst of what is going on these days.


I miss you and think of you often.
The break away has been good. It has
allowed my mind to think about other needful things.
Spring is always a busy time, don't you find?

Don't know when I'll be back on a regular basis.  In the meantime,
I'll drop an occasional postcard to let you know I'm still here. Still well.
Still reasonably happy and staying grateful.

Sending you love and heart wishes for a beautiful day.
Happy Mother's Day!

Brenda

Photo credits:
Top: Katya-Guseva from Pixabay




Friday, April 14, 2023

Waiting for Spring: Grateful for Books and an Imagination




"The beautiful spring came; and when Nature resumes her
loveliness, the human soul is apt to revive also."
HARRIET ANN JACOBS, as seen on brainyquote.com


Spring is still in its early stages in these parts - snow is gone in our garden but there are a few icy patches here and there in the area. We spotted the green nubs of the crocuses one day this week under the oak tree. The next morning we were disappointed to find they'd been nibbled off - guess Mr. Rabbit was waiting for them as eagerly as we were. While our world is still brown and we wait for the nights to stay above freezing, I hungrily gather images of the season from sources other than nature:
- poetry books with their sections on spring themes;
- nature books such as Nature Writing for Every Day of the Year (Jane McMorland Hunter), Spring Anthology (Melissa Harrison), and Emma Mitchell's nature diary The Wild Remedy;
- magazines filled with spring imagery and bright photography such as Country Life and Victoria;
- my blogging friends who live where spring arrives earlier and share their photos.
Even my own memories are pressed into service. I remember my siblings and I looking for pussy willows in the early spring when I was a girl. And while I wait, I use my imagination, what Wordsworth refers to as 'the inward eye which is the bliss of solitude'. And imagine daffodils dancing in the breezes. 

Today I feel so grateful for the gift of being alive. For the gift of observation as I watch the clouds building in the spring blue skies. I listen to the birds singing and wait for the song of the first robins to arrive in our area - haven't heard them yet. I watch the trees, squinting as we drive along forested edges on the highway for any noticeable changes to their dormant browns. Surely I see the faintest hint of green on the bare branches, or am I just wishful thinking?

I'm not impatient, but I am so leaning forward.




I turn to lines written by Dorothy Wordsworth, sister to William, from The Grasmere Journals (1802). As I read these lines, they make me feel alive with anticipation... and joy:
"When we were in the woods beyond Gowbarrow Park we saw a few daffodils close to the water-side. We fancied that the sea had floated the seeds ashore, and that the little colony had so sprung up. But as we went along there were more and yet more; and at last, under the boughs of the trees, we saw that there was a long belt of them along the shore, about the breadth of a country turnpike road. I never saw daffodils so beautiful. They grew among the mossy stones about and above them; some rested their heads upon these stones, as upon a pillow, for weariness; and the rest tossed and reeled and danced, and seemed as if they verily laughed with the wind, that blew upon them over the lake; they looked so gay, ever glancing, ever changing ... There was here and there a little knot, and a few stragglers higher up."
 

   
I peek into Elizabeth von Arnim's delightful novel The Enchanted April (1922) and read this favourite passage. It's when Mrs. Wilkins opens the shutters on her first morning and looks out:
"All the radiance of April in Italy lay gathered together at her feet. The sun poured in on her . . . and underneath her window, at the bottom of the flower-starred grass slope from which the wall of the castle rose up, was a great cypress, cutting through the delicate blues and violets and rose-colours of the mountains and the sea like a great black sword.

She stared. Such beauty; and she there to see it. Such beauty; and she alive to feel it. Her face was bathed in light. Lovely scents came up to the window and caressed her. A tiny breeze gently lifted her hair. Far out in the bay a cluster of almost motionless fishing boats hovered like a flock of white birds on the tranquil sea. How beautiful, how beautiful. Not to have died before this . . . to have been allowed to see, breathe, feel this . . . She stared, her lips parted. Happy? Poor, ordinary, everyday word. But what could one say, how could one describe it? It was as though she could hardly stay inside herself, it was as though she were too small to hold so much of joy, it was as though she were washed through with light." 
Ahh. I feel that, as if I'm standing there by the window myself, letting the beauty wash over me. I think of that ancient line in Isaiah 6:3, 'The whole earth is full of His glory'—as I imagine that morning alongside Lottie Wilkins, I feel it to be true.

On another note, I am taking some time away from the blog to work on other writing projects. It's the middle of April, we're a quarter through the year, and I'm not anywhere near a quarter through my audacious writing project list for 2023. Plus, we are taking a short road trip to another province for my niece's college graduation next week. So I won't be around for the next while. I'll try not to be away too long. I'll think of you often. Until then... 



Happy dreaming and my best wishes for a beautiful Spring,
Brenda

Photo credits:
Top: Image by Ralph from Pixabay
Middle and bottom: Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life, 2017

 




Friday, April 07, 2023

From Last April: Cup Our Hands, Open Our Hands, Scatter Love




"Always believe something
wonderful is about to happen."
UNKNOWN


Do you believe in divine nudges?

For several days I've been wondering what to share this weekend. Nothing really settled. Leafing through my blog archives, I wondered if something I'd written earlier would resonate, maybe be worth a revisit. It was on my mind when I woke in the wee hours last night. Trying to get back to sleep, I reached for a book on my bedside table - my copy of Common Prayer, A Liturgy for Common Radicals, hoping for something to soothe and settle my mind.

I flipped it open - a pencil star in the margin caught my eye. Reading the marked passage, I was startled to see it was the same quote I'd used in the archived post I read earlier. It felt like a nudge in my heart. A whisper from the Divine? Of all the pages I could have opened to in the book, it could have been pure chance, but perhaps it wasn't. For I do believe in Divine nudges. And so, in response, I invite you to revisit the post I wrote on another sleepless night. It's titled Cup Our Hands, Open Our Hands, Scatter Love. Hope you enjoy.


* * *


A note about Spring on this Easter Weekend. Our snow is nearly melted. Although there are still a few snow piles around, today I noticed tiny green nubs of crocuses pushing up beneath the oak tree. At last! A joyful sighting, indeed! Time to jostle our senses and startle our wonderment at being alive.
 
To those who celebrate Easter this weekend, I wish you peace and joy as we remember the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. To us all, love one another, pray for each other, celebrate life together.




Wishing you a beautiful weekend,
Brenda

Photo credit:
Image by Buntysmom from Pixabay





Saturday, April 01, 2023

Six on Saturday: Spring Reads




"It was one of those March days when the sun
shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is
summer in the light, and winter in the shade."

CHARLES DICKENS, Great Expectations


At this time of year here in northerly Alberta, I often feel over-acquainted with winter. I love each season in turn, including winter, but there comes the time when I truly long for Spring's return. We yearn for the warmth of the sun, for longer and lighter days, for the quickening of new life. Right now it's too cold to sit outside even for a few minutes, unless one is a keen teenager, the wind is still too sharp. So you'll often find me sitting in the comfort of my sunny living room, reading a book or staring out the window, watching as the snow melts and rivulets trickle down the street, keeping my eye on a pair of magpies who chat quietly while collecting twigs from snow free areas in the garden.
 
In the meantime, I turn to books that herald Spring through their prose, poetry, and scenery descriptions. I take out my nature books and favourite Wordsworthian poetry, not to mention novels with scenes set in the springtime. I envision daffodils lining river banks in an Oxford novel or see Anne and Matthew in the buggy riding through the blossoming apple orchard near Green Gables. I wait for warm sunshine to coax new life out of the mounds of dead leaves. Maybe soften a winter edged heart.

I love to read books in season. And by season I mean the four seasons in nature (winter, spring, summer, autumn); the seasons of life (childhood, youth, adulthood, seniorhood); and the mental and emotional seasons in which our soul resides (those times we need encouragement, comfort, inspiration, knowledge, laughter, or even a gentle kick in the behind). Today I offer six titles from my Spring Read pile with the hope that you'll be inspired to create your own Spring pile.



πŸ™›ONEπŸ™˜

I found this novel at the thrift store—the pretty purple primula pulled me in. And when I spotted it was by Barbara Pym, a British author well known to many and recommended by others, I thought it time to properly acquaint myself with her work. In this novel A Few Green Leaves, protagonist Emma Howick is staying at her mom's cottage in a village near Oxford, where her mom lectures. Emma is an anthropologist, thirty-something, and single. She hopes to finish some research writing while living here, and makes plans "to observe the inhabitants in the time-honoured manner from behind the shadow of her curtains". She eventually meets the rector and his well-meaning sister who dreams of living in Greece, the new and old doctors, an assortment of spinsters with varied interests, and a goodly number of village busybodies.

The story ambles along, as the author chronicles these 'ordinary, quiet lives'. And soon I find myself relaxing into the rhythm of life in this village. There is no murder to solve, no terrible horror or sadness to overcome, no budding love match to fret about...well, maybe there's just a little hint of that. The novel brings to my mind that charming British television series, The Detectorists, where viewers follow two metal detecting friends, Andy and Lance, in their search for that big historical find that could change their lives. Both the Pym novel and the television show bubble with gentle humour and more than a few laugh out loud moments. If you like one, you'll probably like the other.



πŸ™›TWOπŸ™˜

"It is a time of awakening. In our ­fields, hedgerows and woodlands, our beaches, cities and parks, an almost imperceptible shift soon becomes a riot of sound and colour: winter ends, and life surges forth once more. Whether in town or country, we all share in this natural rhythm, in the joy and anticipation of the changing year." from the inside cover

I first read Spring, An anthology for the changing seasons last March. It's a lovely collection to dip in and out of. Beautifully curated with a mix of essays and poetry from authors long gone to contemporary writers—including Stephen Moss who's written the book mentioned next—the anthology draws our attention to what's going on in the natural world around us at this time of year. It stirs us to watch and wait, to open our eyes and ears.



πŸ™›THREEπŸ™˜

When the world regresses into lockdown in March 2020, nature writer Stephen Moss decides to keep a diary. It will be a diary of a spring spent close to home. Skylarks with Rosie (Rosie is his dog) will be "above all, a record of how the nation fell in love with nature at a time of existential crisis; and how nature, without ever realising it, helped us get through to the other side."

The author comes to see during the spring lockdown how we can get through it. Engaging with nature can help us feel better as we listen to the birds and notice the green shoots and buds springing up. "The cycle of nature reminds us that the world is still turning and that although everything has changed, life has not stopped." Beautiful. I'm utterly charmed and comforted by this diary.



πŸ™›FOURπŸ™˜

From the moment I saw the ‘advert’ on Instagram for author Linda Hoye's book, Living Liminal, I knew I had to get a copy. I admit not being often drawn to books and authors unknown to me unless someone recommends them. But my soul reached out for it every time it came up in my feeds.

Linda's writing draws me into her world. She has a gentle way of describing what's going on in her life at the time—letting the reader get a glimpse of what she's thinking and feeling as the pandemic explodes on our world. I feel the heartbeat of love in her thoughtful words, and she often mentions her relationship with the Divine One. I realized I'd met a kindred sister when she talked about her bunch of loud, brash tulips, well past their prime, but noticing "there's an uncommon beauty in their wizened petals. I see truth when I look at them and leave them on the table another day." How often have I left my own vases of shriveling, translucent petals for another day for their 'uncommon beauty'.

The book is written in a diary format chronicling 2020 and 2021; it includes blog posts, journal entries, and the occasional news reports to give the reader a glimpse of the author's inner world as well as her outer one. I'm only a few pages into the book and my pencil has been busy – so much resonates with me. I think we're kindred sisters as well as being fellow Canadians, and, as it turns out, both writers on the InScribe blog. All kinds of connection. This book might not be about Spring per se, but it's definitely a book in season for me.



πŸ™›FIVEπŸ™˜

"Our sense of enchantment is not triggered only by grand things; the sublime is not hiding in distant landscapes. The awe-inspiring, the numinous, is all around us, all the time. It is transformed by our deliberate attention. . . . What is rare is our will to pursue it. If we wait passively to become enchanted, we could wait a long time. But seeking is a kind of work. . . . I mean committing to a lifetime of engagement: to noticing the world around you, to actively looking for small distillations of beauty, to making time to contemplate and reflect. . . . It's all there, waiting for our attention." Katherine May

I wasn't sure if I would like this book as much as I loved Katherine May's earlier bestselling book Wintering, The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times. In this new book, Enchantment, Awakening Wonder in an Anxious Age, Katherine invites us to rediscover that awe and wonder we first knew as children. I'm all for that! "She shares stories of her own struggles with work, family, and the aftereffects of pandemic, particularly feelings of overwhelm as the world rushes to reopen." Many places in this book deeply resonated with me, and a few spots, not so much. Katherine is a beautiful, honest, and thoughtful writer. Worth a read.



πŸ™›SIXπŸ™˜

"The Mole had been working very hard all the morning, spring-cleaning his little home. First with brooms, then with dusters; then on ladders and steps and chairs, with a brush and a pail of whitewash; till he had dust in his throat and eyes, and splashes of whitewash all over his black fur, and an aching back and weary arms. Spring was moving in the air above and in the earth below and around him, penetrating even his dark and lowly little house with its spirit of divine discontent and longing. . . . Something up above was calling him . . . 'Up we go! Up we go' till at last, pop! his snout came out into the sunlight . . . this is fine! he said to himself. 'This is better than whitewashing.' "

Haha...who of us hasn't felt the same way about spring cleaning at one time or another. Mole discovers spring in the sunshine to be much more enjoyable. Wind in the Willows is a delight for the soul with its many wonderful descriptions of the English countryside as seen through the eyes of its well-loved characters Mr. Toad, Ratty, Badger, and Mole. Written by Scottish author Kenneth Graham, readers can expect many lush descriptions of nature, cozy home scenes, yummy picnics and hot buttered toast, friendship and loyalty, not to forget the many adventures these fellows get up to. The book was published in 1908, near the end of the Edwardian era, and so one gets a real sense of life in the English countryside in the early 20th century. Being an Anglophile at heart, the Englishness of this story tickles my fancy.



Wishing you a beautiful weekend,
Brenda

Photos credits:
Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life, 2023




Friday, March 24, 2023

On Organizing Paper: Do You File or Pile?




"Proper storage is about creating a home for something so
that minimal effort is required to find it and put it away."
GERALIN THOMAS
Decluttering Your Home: Tip, Techniques and Trade Secrets


I used to think I wanted a neat filing system like the one Miss Lemon created in the Hercule Poirot television mystery series. She was great fun to watch as she enthusiastically explained to Monsieur Poirot the intricacies of her efficient cross-referencing filing system. Pulled into her ardor, was he enthused with all the details or merely being polite, as was his usual kind fashion? "Her real passion in life was the perfection of a filing system beside which all other filing systems should sink into oblivion. She dreamed of such a system at night." from the Christie story, How Does Your Garden Grow 

Coming home from the stationer's store with crisp new file folders in a rainbow of colours always created a frisson of excitement in my effort to keep my piles of papers from sliding into utter chaos. But the truth is, as much as I admire Miss Lemon's precise files, I am not that person in real life. I need something far less complicated and as low maintenance as possible. Something less restrictive, too. I do have a few file folders, especially when something can definitely be labelled in one category and doesn't also happen to fit in three other possible categories. It's the cross-referencing that truly makes my eyes cross, not to mention my brain!
 
I have also come to accept that there is a part of me that doesn't mind a few piles in my study. And when I read a recent blog post Pilers and Filers by Austin Kleon, author of Steal Like An Artist, about the way people deal with their files, I realized I'm more of a Piler than a Filer. You see, the minute I put things into folders—whether paper or digital—that's when they disappear into another universe. There's the old saying, 'out of sight, out of mind'. Once information disappears inside a folder, I soon forget what's tucked in there. And it's only when I eventually go back to reorganize or clear out the out-of-date stuff that I discover all kinds of pieces I forgot existed. Pile files, on the other hand, of which I often have a stack on my desk and a couple on shelves, remain alive with possibility. I never mind sorting through a pile of paper; it's a little like Christmas, I never know what I'll discover that might be useful for something I'm working on.

Just to clarify what I mean by a piler or filer, a 'pile' file is that collection of folders or papers or books stacked vertically on top of one another. A 'file' file is usually neatly organized horizontally in file folders in a file cabinet labeled in alphabetical, date, or topical order.

Of course, it would be different if I had a lot of things that needed to be saved and stored in some organized fashion. I've decluttered, discarded, and downsized a lot over the years; my world is small these days, as are my paper piles. Rick keeps the household business files neatly labeled in a desk drawer in his office. So my paper is mostly for my own work of creating, writing, and organizing family archives, which includes my own personal papers. 

I have a wire basket (see top photo) just inside my doorway on the credenza where my printer also sits. The basket is usually piled high - it's the holding place for things I need or want to keep for now. One friend uses such a basket and throws everything in there that she doesn't have time to deal with—fliers, bills, requests—then goes through it once a week. What a good idea, but I've never translated that into any actual weekly action. So my basket just stays there, mute, until one day it's either overflowing or I'm in the mood to go through it.




Then I have a pale green wicker basket with a lid that sits on the bottom shelf in my study. It's where I pile anything that has to do with memorabilia, including those 'celebration of life' pamphlets of cherished folks who are gone. And there's one birthday card (above) which Rick created for me in the middle of lockdowns (Spring 2020) when all shopping except for true necessities were frowned upon. It has an especial value for various reasons.

I'm surprised. I usually have a growing pile on the side of my desk. But when I went to take a pic to show you, there was no pile to speak of. In a spring cleaning burst of energy the other day, things had been sorted, discarded, reshelved: slips of paper with quotes for my commonplace book, a stash of books I referenced for a blog post, shopping lists, cards for upcoming birthdays, as well as my 2023 blog writing schedule. Sometimes my Marjolein Bastin desk calendar gets covered in those little piles of paper and when I need to mark something on the calendar, I tuck those papers underneath until I do something with them. 

As for my digital files, they usually end up being, well, the same thing as my paper files. Anything inside a file folder gets forgotten, thus lost, no matter what label I give it. I think I need some sort of a 'pile' spot for my digital stuff too - loosely labeled: writing, family, household projects, personal. 

In truth, I'm a happy Piler... with some Filer on the side.

Because there is too much in the world that feels out of order, I am constantly on the lookout for ways to lessen the strain even in my daily routines and habits. Of course, we each must find our own way—sorting out who we are and how we like to work in the different seasons of life—Austin Kleon's blog post might provide a bit of inspiration if you need it. All to make our path smoother... giving us a more peaceful, less stressful life. 


Hope you enjoyed the chat... 
wishing you a beautiful weekend,
Brenda

Photos credits:
Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life, 2023


 

Friday, March 17, 2023

Spring at the Conservatory: An Outing





"The flowers of late winter and early spring occupy
places in our hearts well out of proportion to their size."
GERTRUDE S. WISTER
as seen on CountryLiving.com


Outside the day was cool, windy, and overcast. Inside the Muttart Conservatory—on the afternoon we visited—the place was bursting with Spring everywhere. There was an energetic buzz in the air as people of all ages converged to catch the city's first glimpses of Spring in the Feature Pyramid—everyone from the littlest babies out with their young moms to the elderly with their walkers and companions. 

Faces looked happy and eager. I think we all felt Spring quickening in our bones as we walked into that showy, fragrant pavilion. It caught our breath - the air was heavy with the scent of hyacinth. I heard one fellow exclaim to his wife, "Can you smell that!" Oh yes - it alone was worth the price of admission. 

Although I cannot send the fragrance, I'm hoping you'll take delight in these few photos of our visit. It was a lovely way to spend an afternoon.


Tulips and Hyacinth

"You're only here for a short visit. Don't hurry. Don't worry.
And be sure to smell the flowers along the way."
WALTER C. HAGEN
as seen on countryliving.com


Orange-centered Daffodils

"Before the swallow, before the daffodil, and not much later than
the snowdrop, the common toad salutes the coming of spring
after his own fashion. . . .

The pleasures of spring are available to everyone
and cost nothing. . . . As for spring, not even the narrow and
gloomy streets round the Bank of England are quite able to
exclude it. It comes seeping in everywhere."
GEORGE ORWELL
"Some Thoughts on the Common Toad", 1946

I read Orwell's delightful essay on Spring in my copy of the Spring Anthology
with editor Melissa Harrison. The piece can also be found online HERE.


Tulips

"Just living is not enough...one must
have sunshine, freedom and a little flower."
HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN


Double Daffodil

"To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow."
AUDREY HEPBURN


Hyacinth

"Nothing is so beautiful as Spring."
GERARD MANLEY HOPKINS


Hellebore

"Spring is when life's alive in everything."
CHRISTINA ROSETTI


Hellebore

"The first blooms of spring always make my heart sing."
S. BROWN
as seen on goodhousekeeping.com


Her name escapes me!

"A kind word is like a spring day."
RUSSIAN PROVERB
as seen on countryliving.com


Camelia

"Spring adds new life and new beauty to all that is."
JESSICA HARRELSON
as seen on countryliving.com


Amaryllis

"Despite the forecast, live like it's spring."
LILLY PULITZER
as seen on townandcountrymag.com




Wishing you a beautiful day,
Brenda

Photos credits:
Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life, 2023




Saturday, March 11, 2023

Chatting About My New Miss Marple Stash




"To me, re-reading my favorite books is like spending time
with my best friends. I'd never be satisfied to limit myself to
just one experience each with my favorite people."
C.S. LEWIS, as seen on Goodreads


I have loved Agatha Christie’s mystery novels since my teens. Many of them now live on my bookshelves and have done so for decades. During those long ago youthful days, my good friend Ruth and I haunted used bookstores, scouting for titles we didn’t have, often focusing on our favourite mystery-suspense writers—which for me included writers like Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, Georgette Heyer, and others such as Wilkie Collins, Sir Conan Doyle, and G.K. Chesterton. I eventually widened my circle of other mystery/detective writers and through the years discovered new favourites, which include authors like Josephine Tey, Julie Kaewert, Louise Penny, Donna Leon, Charles Todd, to name a few. I prefer thrillers which are written with fewer gory details. Miss Marple remains a firm favourite.

Over the years, my mystery collection grew into a motley mix of various editions both hardcover and paperback. I ended up with a few creepy covers because I couldn't find nicer copies at the time. I recall the horrid 1975 cover with the sketch of a man's head and its glaring glass eye nestled in a circle of hibiscus flowers heralding A Caribbean Mystery (as if the flowers could soften the goriness). And there was that ghastly 1978 cover for Murder at the Vicarage with its headless vicar, books and Bible still tucked under one arm, with a tennis racquet sticking out from the shoulders where the head should have been.

As time passed, I read the Christie novels less and less, especially when in the 1980s and ‘90s, I fell in love with the wonderful British films that started coming out, which included actors Joan Hickson and David Suchet, who remain my favourite portrayers of Jane Marple and Hercule Poirot, respectively. I began to prefer watching the stories play out on a screen rather than just inside my head. And where I had vague images of how certain characters and scenes should look, the films with their definite faces soon peopled my inner imaginary gallery. I loved that.

A fun little aside. When I read novels these days, there are occasions when I see certain actors in my mind's eye. And I say to myself, if I was turning this novel into a movie, I'd select So and So for that role... he fits the character, or she would portray that role to a tee.  

I'm in a new season again. During the Covid lockdowns and those two years where we stayed close to home, Rick and I watched so much on Netflix, BritBox, Acorn, etc., including all the mystery and police detective shows that came up. Until the day arrived when we realized we were done - we'd reached the point of saturation. Our eyes ached from the hours of binge-watching dozens of series—favourite and otherwise—that we didn’t want to watch one more episode of anything.

Turning off the television, we cancelled our streaming subscriptions, and turned our attention once again to the gentler pursuit of reading books. Which brings me, at last, to the reason for this post.....



"Few and far between are the books you'll cherish,
returning to them time and again, to revisit old friends,
relive old happiness, and recapture the magic of that first read."
MICHAEL A. STACKPOLE, as seen on Goodreads


Back in November or so, I caught sight of a newish Miss Marple paperback collection by American publishers William Morrow. Miranda Mills was showing us what she'd been reading on her book vlog—which happened to be the novel 4:50 From Paddington. I was immediately drawn to its bright and colourful cover with the fresh floral design.

After Christmas, with holiday gift cards in hand, I went to see what the local bookstore had in stock. They had two shelves chockful of these paperbacks. My plan was to only get my favourite titles; after all, I had copies of these novels on my shelf. I came away with At Bertram's Hotel, A Murder is Announced, Murder at the Vicarage, Nemesis, The Body in the Library, and 4:50 From Paddington. Bitten, as they say, I went back a few days later for a couple more, and then a couple more. The selection at the store quickly dwindled—other readers were obviously smitten as well. I still wanted to get the last two I was missing: A Caribbean Mystery and A Pocketful of Rye. . .  well, my birthday is coming up later this spring, so, fingers crossed I can still find them. As I understand, there are twelve Marple novels in this collection, plus the complete Marple short story edition.

So yes, the old Marple novels have been packed up to be given away or taken to the thrift store. And my shelf is sporting this delightful new set.



"A classic is a book which with each rereading offers
as much of a sense of discovery as the first reading."
ITALO CALVINO, as found on azquotes

Now, isn't this a far less creepy cover than the poor headless vicar? Snowdrops hints the season in which the story takes place—now is a perfect time to read it. And the discreetly placed handgun reminds the reader this is a mystery book. If you look closely at the cover above, you might find the silhouette of the author's face somewhere. Each cover includes such a puzzle. These books make me smile every time I look at them. Somehow the floral designs seem fitting for an English village mystery series. The books open nicely and hold well in the hand, making them a comfortable read.

I’m slowly reading the set. Taking my time and savouring the details. Trying to recapture the magic of those long ago first readings. Enough time has passed for them to be fresh again. Sure, I remember the storylines and most of the endings, but there are many other details - both domestic and societal - to discover as I reacquaint myself with Agatha's stories that are mostly set in a post world war English village.

Although not in this set, there is a little biography of Miss Jane Marple that goes nicely with the Marple books. See, she is real (wink). I wrote about that slim volume by Ann Hart HERE. You can just see the book on the right side in the top photo.  



"There is, as Miss Marple would say,
a lot of human nature in all of us."
AGATHA CHRISTIE


Miss Marple remains one of my favourite people. Even though she is a fictional character, she is so real to me. Although I never learned the comforting craft of knitting from her, I believe she helped me to become more observant of the world around me. I like her because, while kind and gentle in many ways, she also has a strong sense of what’s right and wrong, and of not letting evil get the last word.




I'll end this chatty post with these lines I love from the 1987 movie Nemesis, where Miss Temple and Miss Marple talk about Verity, the girl who died. Miss Marple's reply resonates with me:
Miss Temple: There was something in her nature.
Miss Marple: Perhaps it was goodness.
Miss Temple: Do you believe in such things?
Miss Marple: Oh yes...yes. I believe in evil, in everlasting life, and oh, yes, goodness...yes.


Here's wishing you a beautiful day,
Brenda
 




Tuesday, March 07, 2023

Guest Blogging on InScribe Today



"What better way is there to compliment someone
than to engage with what they've written by taking
the time to write a few words back to them?"
PAUL FRANKLIN
The Wrong and Right Way to Leave Blog Comments, Jan 27, 2021



Good Morning! There's sunshine in the neighbourhood this morning, and its brightness belies the cold temperature that's hovering at -18C.

I'm guest blogging over on InScribe today. Using the letter "C" as the prompt, I am writing about how to "Cultivate the Art of Leaving Comments". I hope you'll pop over and say hi. Click HERE

I'll be back on the weekend with my regular blog post - it'll be a book post. Until then....



Wishing you a beautiful day,

Brenda




Photo credit:
Image by Fabi from Pixabay 


Sunday, February 26, 2023

Weekend Musings: Why Save the Good Stuff For Later




Why save the good stuff for later?


It’s a question that’s been asked a lot in recent years. Our culture is very much aware of celebrating in the here and now, not being willing to save anything for another day. I get it, life is short and we never know what tomorrow will bring. We’ve all probably heard those sad tales of people who saved their good stuff and when loved ones came to sort their belongings, they found it stashed in closets, never worn, never used, never enjoyed, maybe still wrapped in the gift bags they came in, all tucked away for later. We feel the sadness in it. We think such a waste—a person could have been enjoying these things but now, it’s too late.

We declare that we don’t want to end up living that way.

I grew up in a time when we saved things for ‘special’. It was the way in our corner of the world. Maybe in yours too. We had clothes set aside for special: church on Sundays, weddings, holidays, graduations, concerts, visiting our aunties and uncles over Sunday Dinner. And the pretty glassware and good dishes were neatly stacked in the china cabinet, coming out only, along with the lacy tablecloths and certain recipes, when something significant was about to happen. Until those special times came along, we lived most of our lives in the 'every day' mode—wearing our everyday clothes and using the everyday dishes. Even the everyday recipes. Which were also chosen because we liked them, but the everyday stuff was more serviceable, durable. There was a definite distinction between the two.

But then there came a time when I felt a shift in our culture. I was then a young woman poring over women's magazines for tips on living a beautiful and productive life. Home/lifestyle writers began talking about not saving up our special things for just a few times a year, but to bring out the good stuff to celebrate the everyday. I remember Alexandra Stoddard in the 1980s writing about how to live our lives more beautifully every day, making our homes lovely and not just for special occasions. Mary Engelbreit’s lovely comment on Goodreads also speaks to this: "Don't ever save anything for a special occasion. Being alive is the special occasion."

I loved the idea and started bringing out the china teacups to use more regularly. I bought flowers and arranged them in pretty vases, not just on birthdays, but to lift an ordinary day into something a little out of the ordinary.

While there have been folks in history who were extra zealous at keeping the good stuff for later, who ended up never using it, there have also been many people who've found ways to celebrate their everyday life. And there are many of us who know, from chocolate-y experiences, that indulging in a special treat set on a pretty plate can help us get through a rough patch. Which reminds me of an anecdote I read about author Leo Buscaglia who spoke of the day his father came home after losing his business. Leo was shocked to find, instead of a glum sadness in the air, his mom had set out the good dishes and had prepared a wonderful meal. She said this was the time when they needed to do something special.

Now years later, I’ve started musing about it all over again, especially Mary’s quote from a couple of paragraphs earlier. Just as there are two sides to a coin, I came to see there are two sides to this beautiful idea. I agree 100 percent that being alive on this planet, and playing a part in our human history, is truly a wondrous thing. So yes, we ought to celebrate being alive every day. Being alert to the beauty, using the good stuff, and not letting it molder in the cupboard.

But then I ask the question: If we use the 'good china' every day—and I use that term in a general sense—how then do we mark those events and occasions that are truly extraordinary? If we make everything special, eventually nothing remains special. The lines get blurred between the ordinary everyday and the extra special times. What then shall we do when we want to celebrate and mark these truly special events and occasions?

I really do think we should save some things for special. There should be a happy mix of celebrating every day and saving something for the special occasions: the dress, the good dishes, the champagne.  Sometimes we come home from a hard day and drinking tea from the best china cup is what saves our sanity. But if we do that every day, the treat of it wears off. I know that from experience. Too much of a good thing turns out to be not so good.

I have come to appreciate what Canadian designer Candice Olson once said, as seen on Goodreads:

“I simply adore getting dressed up for a special occasion.
I feel incredible stepping out in luxurious fabrics and a bit of bling.
That’s also how I feel about special-occasion dining rooms. Because
these aren’t everyday spaces, they contain all sorts of drama
for that once-in-a-while ‘wow’ event.”

Oh yes, I know that feeling of coming into a room that is dressed up for a party. I love creating a room like that...with the special things set out signaling something out of the ordinary is about to begin. And when we catch a whiff of delicious smells of recipes used only for those once-in-a-while occasions, then we know we are in for a 'wow' event. Our spirits are lifted. Our hearts thrill with anticipation.

Life is short. Fleeting. So yes, celebrate by using and doing nice things every day. With family, friends, and occasionally the good dishes. And then, save a few things for the truly special moments in life. It’s what adds the sparkle to our eyes and hearts.



Wishing you, my beautiful friends, a wonderful day!
Brenda

Photo credit:
(Top) Image by Terri Cnudde from Pixabay



Friday, February 17, 2023

Five on Friday: Shopping Spree Finds




"One of the secrets of a happy life
is continuous small treats."
IRIS MURDOCH


I don't go out for days, don't buy anything for what seems like ages, and then one day, something inside says, I need to go out today. I need to see something new, chitchat with people who are out and about, look for something that surprises my creative soul, teases my senses, and makes me feel part of the human race. I don't suppose you ever feel that urge? Earlier in the week, I had some Valentine's Day shopping to do, and so for Five on Friday today, I delight in sharing a few shopping spree finds with you.

~  ~ ~

One - Small Potted Plant

A pretty potted plant to fill an empty spot on the kitchen window sill. This plant will never require water, although it will need dusting on occasion. I love the tiny purple flowers.

~ ~ ~

Two - 'Rose Lilac' Hand Soap

Can't wait for my old bottle to be done so I can start this new liquid hand soap that comes all the way from France. As you can imagine, it smells wonderful.

~ ~ ~

Three - Ceramic Wall Container 
I was drawn to this cone shaped ceramic piece. I loved the shape and the bright floral design painted on it. Made in Spain, the label was marked 'for the garden'. Our garden is still several feet under snow, and anyways, I have no intention of putting it out in the elements; I've got just the spot for it in my study. The poppies I've had for years; I still love their lush, blowsy look. When I tucked them into this beautiful holder—just to see the effect—I felt a jolt of joy. It makes me feel happy to see it when I come in here.

~ ~ ~

Four - Only A Few Books

I stopped at the book/stationery store to look for a Valentine's card for my 'sweet baboo'. It didn't take me long to scoop these book treats after a quick browse. Over the last couple of years, I've enjoyed reading off and on Donna Leon's Commissario Brunetti police novels. Set in Venice, these mysteries have a delightful literary flavour as Brunetti and his wife, Paolo, discuss the books they're reading and eat yummy Italian meals—so deliciously described as to make the reader drool—all while he's puzzling out his investigations.
Rilke's Book of Hours is Rainer Maria Rilke's book of love poems to God, written when he was a young man. I've enjoyed Rilke's more well known book Letters to a Young Poet, so I look forward to dipping into this particular work. I haven't read Julie Sutherland's Bright Poems for Dark Days, but the quick browse promises an anthology of poetry 'to lift the spirits'—it's paired with Carolyn Gavin's winsome illustrations, thus making it all the more lovely to read.

 ~ ~ ~

Five - New Notebook 

Love this sweet notebook with its 'Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady' cover. Edith Holden's wonderful illustrations never grow old. Haha—when I went to add it to my stash of waiting-to-be-used new notebooks, I found I'd already bought this notebook sometime ago. I didn't even remember. But, one can never have too many notebooks, can they? And of course, one can always share it with a kindred lover of pretty notebooks. 

~ ~ ~

Bonus - A Valentine's Watercolour

As I mentioned, it was the day before Valentine's Day, and I needed to do a little shopping for my Valentine. I thought, what about something for his office? I was pleased to find this small unframed watercolour by Canadian artist Gregg Johnson. I love the colours and the composition, and I had hoped he would as well, which he did—we share similar tastes in art.

I came home happy with my purchases. What is it about buying something new for oneself or someone else or for one's house that fills the heart up with happy?




"The smallest of things can make you feel
like something is special about today."
SUSAN BRANCH, Distilled Genius



  Wishing you a beautiful day,
Brenda

Photo credits: 
Top Image by Aleksey Kutsar from Pixabay
All other images in this post are mine