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."

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,

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."

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,

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.


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.


"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.


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.


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.


"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.


"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,

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