Saturday, December 30, 2023

'A Quilt Made of Days'

"Each day is like a panel in a quilt. Some days are
ugly and some days are raw and some days are chaotic
and some days are colorful and some days are orderly
but if you keep adding them up they turn into something."
AUSTIN KLEON, "A Quilt Made of Days" online article

'A quilt made of days.' That phrase—borrowed from Austin Kleon who wrote about his idea HERE—captivates my imagination. Although I am not a quilter, I am an ardent admirer of talented seamstresses, including my mom, who skillfully piece swatches of fabric into gorgeous patterns that become something beautiful and useful in one's home. Their creativity inspires me.

Perhaps that's why I gravitate towards creator/author Austin Kleon's words. His comment above seems particularly fitting as we stand on the cusp of a brand new year. The days yet to come in 2024 are unknown to us but we guess that some will arrive bright and colourful; others will show up muted and dull, some will be raw with pain and filled with chaos. And still other days will arrive, thankfully, with calm and peace as the order of the day. To create an actual physical quilt, crafters start with a plan. They know the pattern they want to create; they have chosen their colour scheme. They carefully pick out the fabrics, cut them into the appropriate shapes, and sew them together into the design they dream about. When it comes to creating the more ethereal quilts made of days, in life we aren't given the materials ahead of time; we can't plan the pattern, we must make use of what appears. Still, if we pay attention we can make use of what shows up and gather the pieces—memories, experiences, events—that are our life story. We can watch as patterns emerge. We can learn to recognize the value each block brings to the developing design.

When I took a water colour painting course years ago, I came to see how paintings need contrasts: they need dark to show light, shadows to give depth and perception, darker backgrounds to set off brighter foregrounds. For me, I found the most important contrast was the juxtaposition of using something plain or dull, maybe even ugly, in order to set off a thing of beauty. It was a life lesson to learn that maybe we need ugly and pain to truly realize the immense value of beauty, order, peacefulness, and joy. I'd rather not experience the pain, but would I know the great joy without it to compare?

It's the same in the world of quilting with fabric... or the days of our lives.

I have always been drawn to Victorian crazy quilts (see the photo above for an example). Rather than blocks that march squarely into place, there's a kind of creative higgledy-piggledy that makes use of the tiniest bits of fabric alongside the larger pieces, all in various shapes, colours, textures, and patterns. Victorians would use scraps of fabric, often from worn out clothing and linens. They'd include swatches that had been handed down from one generation to the next—maybe from a great grandmother's wedding dress or a baby's christening gown—creating these lasting works of art that burst with texture and colour, embroidery and ribbonry. Fashioned from the days given to them.

As I said earlier, I'm not a quilter, but I'm mulling what a quilt made of days would look like for me. I'd probably fashion a 'quilt' from the bits and pieces of how my life unfolds in 2024, and rather than sew or craft with fabric or paint, I'd probably create a 'quilt' using words, watching for the patterns, hoping for more red letter days than chaotic ones. And when something ugly turns up, dear Lord, I'd want His help as I waited for the beauty when it isn't yet fully evident. Taking days as they come, all the while learning to walk with confidence and hopefulness, being comforted during trying moments embroidered with prayers, when laughter and cheer have flown off. There is something comforting about recognizing there's a bigger picture, one I cannot yet fathom, of One who is making all things work together for good, One who is creating something bigger than our individual lives. For in God's created world, we believe there is a greater plan and purpose, trusting that He is taking all things and fashioning them into something truly exquisite and out of this world.

I wonder what kind of a quilt it will become. With the craziness of life in our upside down world, I'm pretty certain my quilt of days will have its own slant on crazy quilt. While things happen to me and around me, it's also up to me to do something with what's given, whether I think a piece will fit or not. It's my job to creatively work my attitudes, gratitudes, prayers, and dreams, staying hopeful through the storm darkened days, enjoying the small joys 'that tip the balance towards hope' (a phrase borrowed from Sarah Clarkson). All the while imagining something beautiful... my own quilt made of days.

Happy New Year to you, dear beautiful friends!
With love and heart hugs,

Photo credit:
Top Image by chenspec from Pixabay

Friday, December 22, 2023

Almost Christmas

"Christmas always rustled. It rustled every time, mysteriously,
with silver and gold paper, tissue paper and a rich abundance
of shiny paper, decorating and hiding everything and giving
a feeling of reckless extravagance."

It's almost Christmas. The presents are all wrapped and most have been handed out already. We celebrated our family Christmas last weekend. The big rush is over, and now we gently feel the growing anticipation for the awe of Christmas Eve, which for me is still my favourite day of the year.

In our house, we have one cozy spot that feels Christmas-y with the pencil tree, glittering lights, and a big white poinsettia in the corner. Otherwise our house has been topsy-turvy as we had new flooring installed earlier this week. The timing for it wasn't perfect, but since we weren't having guests here this year, it was fine. And now, while we wait for Christmas, we're slowly putting our possessions back in place, culling as we go. I am truly enjoying the spaciousness of my study without all my 'stuff'. I feel the expanse of this empty room which seems to echo an expansiveness in my soul. I usually like lots of my things near to hand, but this feeling of openness with little around me is quite lovely. I think it requires some pondering and further mulling, especially as we see the new year peering 'round the corner.

For Five on Friday, I'm sharing a tiny 'Something' list.

One. Something lovely outside my window. Watching the moon these past few nights has been a joy. In its waxing (getting fuller) phase, it's been so bright against the deep midnight blue skies.

Two. Something yummy. We stopped at our French-style Duchess Bakery to pick up their to-be-baked Quebecois Tourtière (meat pie dish) for Christmas Eve. Standing in the line that snaked along the display case, I caught sight of a delectable looking croissant sandwich—a large crisp buttery poppy seed croissant filled with slices of chicken salami, cheese, and mayonnaise. For the life of me, there was something else tucked in, but I cannot recall it now. All I know, it was satisfyingly yummy.

Three. Something new to drink. Found a new-to-me tea called Winter Spiced Pear that was specially blended by the Duchess Bakery for the holiday season. The name alone draws me in. It's a special blend of Assam tea that features dried pear, clove, anise, ginger, cinnamon, and vanilla. It's delicious and it pairs perfectly with a Christmas treat or two. 

Four. Something Christmassy and cozy to read. Chronicles of Christmas (memoir, recipes, nature) by Nigel Slater; Winter Solstice (novel) by Rosamunde Pilcher; Home for Christmas (childhood memories) by Susan Branch; A Mind of Winter, Poems for a Snowy Season selected by Robert Atwan; the newly published novel Hercule Poirot's Silent Night by Sophie Hannah—I'm looking forward to reading this over the holidays.

Five. Something that delights my heart. I love when I'm inspired with gift ideas I think will delight someone's heart. This season I felt that inspiration a few times, and it came with a certain glee as I imaged someone's face when the wrapping fell away and all was revealed. This is one of my favourite things about Christmas—the joy of giving gifts to loved ones.

With every fiber of my being, I'm wishing you a Happy Christmas. May you find gifts under the tree that delight your heart. And, among them, I hope you also find good health, heart contentment, and sweet peace of mind. All wrapped with ribbons of sparkling joy for good measure. As I close, I think of that dear old Christmas song Away in a Manger I loved as a little girl. Especially the lines that I sometimes still whisper, "Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay close by me forever and love me, I pray. Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care, and fit us for heaven to live with Thee there."

Wishing you moments that delight in the days ahead.

With love,

Photo credit:
Top Image by StoryTaler from Pixabay

Sunday, December 17, 2023

Waiting, Listening

"Let us have music for Christmas
Sound the trumpet of joy..."

Advent is an expectant season. We wait poised for what Frederick Buechner names "the extraordinary moment." In the excerpt below, Buechner utilizes the image of an orchestra conductor waiting... until he has the full attention of his orchestra, the full attention of his audience. It's that moment just before the music begins. I've been in an audience where the maestro knew how to build that moment of exquisite anticipation. We almost hold our breath as we wait for that first note to be played. 
"The house lights go off and the footlights come on. Even the chattiest stop chattering as they wait in darkness for the curtain to rise. In the orchestra pit, the violin bows are poised. The conductor has raised his baton. In the silence of a midwinter dusk, there is far off in the deeps of it somewhere a sound so faint that for all you can tell it may be only the sound of the silence itself. You hold your breath to listen. You walk up the steps to the front door. The empty windows at either side of it tell you nothing, or almost nothing. For a second you catch a whiff of some fragrance that reminds you of a place you’ve never been and a time you have no words for. You are aware of the beating of your heart . . . The extraordinary thing that is about to happen is matched only by the extraordinary moment just before it happens. Advent is the name of that moment." - from "Whistling in the Dark"
These days before Christmas, I am listening to the music of the season. There are definitely pieces that create longing in me as I wait for the first sweet note to begin. Especially when it's a favourite carol such as the beautiful and centuries-old Wexford Carol as it's performed by soloist Alison Krauss and cellist Yo-Yo Ma. Some historians believe this Irish song originated in the 15th or 16th century.

Here in the 21st century, it remains a firm favourite in my Christmas carol repertoire. It touches a chord of poignant delight within. Two other carols that do it similarly for me include O Holy Night, Once in Royal David's City. Do you have a favourite carol that has you waiting with baited breath for its first notes to begin?

Wishing you sweet moments in the week ahead,

Photo credit:
Image by neelam279 from Pixabay

Saturday, December 09, 2023

What Are You Dreaming Of This Christmas?

"Christmas enters, streaming lights of joy,
ringing bells of hope and singing carols of
forgiveness high up in the bright air."
MAYA ANGELOU,  "Amazing Peace"

I love that cookie tin filled with those yummy looking spice cookies all gussied up in icing art. And that cup of coffee creamed to just the right shade for my taste. I want to hop into the picture, the way I used to long I could live inside the fairy tales I read as a girl. In this dreamy picture, I wouldn't have to worry about how many grams of sugar are in one cookie. And I could enjoy one or two with impunity, savouring their spicy sweetness in every bite, crunching on the little sugar balls. The moment gently cheers. It seems filled with a quietude and maybe relief. Perhaps it's Christmas Eve—where one relishes the moment when the last gift's been wrapped and beribboned. In that bubble of time and space, a holy hush creeps in on the frosty air and whoever that cup of coffee belongs to sits with baited breath. It's the moment she's been waiting for.

As I sit here thinking about what to write today, as I think about all that needs doing, the words I recently read HERE by my lovely blogging friend, Caitlynne, settles on my heart. She mentions how she's been feeling the weight of lists of things to be done, problems to solve, people to take care of. And in the midst of all of that, how these cheering words came to lift her up, "Do not postpone joy." She says there is a call to joy and it's easy to miss, especially when the days—as she puts it—are filled with many brambles to tear through. But then this gentle reminder comes along that no matter what is going on, we must not postpone joy.

I am tickled by that thought and am reminded of that verse in the Old Testament about the joy of the Lord being my strength. How often I repeat the sounding joy of those words when I feel weak or burdened. They are words that somehow energize me to carry on with a lighter heart. So no, I must not postpone the joy that, almost like something miraculous, transforms into strength. I let the joy seep into my heart and mind. My chin lifts and my lips curve upward at the corners. I come away feeling lighter... ready to carry on.

"And that, of course, is the message of Christmas.
We are never alone. Not when the night is darkest,
the wind coldest, the world seemingly most indifferent..."

This morning I came to this post empty worded. I had no agenda, but my heart knew of what it dreamed. A big thank you to Caitlynne for giving me the words I could not find. I wish you all a merry week ahead. May your burdens be lighter and your cares less weighty. And may Joy be your strength.

On a closing note, it snowed earlier in the week, and we've been delighting in a winter wonderland. I'm starting to finally feel more myself in my body - the dizziness is fading. Thank you for your care and concern. I've been wrapping presents and writing out Christmas cards, letting the lights of the tree twinkle at me, even through the day when the sun is shining. We're dreaming of a beautiful week ahead, and I'm wishing you the same.     

Heart hugs,

Photo credit:
(Top) Image by Hansuan Fabregas from Pixabay

Friday, December 01, 2023

Hello December: Full Steam Ahead to Christmas

"May you treasure wisely this jeweled, gilded time
And cherish each day as an extra grace."

Hello December! We've been waiting for you. On this first day of my favourite month of the year, it's full steam ahead to Christmas. My seasonal books are at the ready, cards are waiting to be written, and the decorating is slowly happening.

There's no snow around here yet. Without it, there is nothing to trigger that wintry feeling—it still feels like late autumn. Unseasonably warm, I'm still wearing a light jacket and no gloves. It's lovely getting around, but for sparking the Christmas mood, snow really is a must to make us feel the tingles and excitement. Of course chocolate peppermint tea helps too.

On a different note, I mentioned a couple of posts ago that I have been feeling unwell. November was not a great month. I'm still under doctor's care and starting to find my way out of the dizzy malaise. I think, fingers crossed and prayers whispered along with the start of a new medication, there are definite hints for better days ahead. I'm so glad. Who wants to feel unwell when Christmas is upon us. This weekend I want to put up my pencil tree with its cozy twinkle lights. Little decorations are showing up around the place; candles and fairy lights help make the evenings cozy.

It's been a busy week, so for today I'm posting three for the usual Five on Friday. 

One - Books for the Season

I've already been dipping into a few of my seasonal books. I wasn't going to start my actual Christmas reads until December 1st but they were so tempting sitting there on the shelf. They are perfect, like chocolate truffles, for nibbling on while cozied up with a favourite beverage. I like anthologies and small collections for that reason.
Christmas in the Heart compiled by Joe Wheeler is a small collection of short seasonal stories sure to warm the heart. It's great for dipping in and reading whatever catches your eye.

Rumpole at Christmas by John Mortimer. Seven amusing tales of how Horace and Hilda Rumpole celebrate the holiday season.

An Irish Country Yuletide novella by Patrick Taylor. If you enjoy the Irish Country Doctor series, you will enjoy this new seasonal glimpse of Irish country life in Ballybuckleboo and how the good Doctor Fingal Flahertie O'Reilly, now married to Kitty, celebrates the holidays. 

Christmas Classics from The Modern Library, an old library sale purchase, includes excerpts from novels like Little Women and A Christmas Carol, a few short stories like The Blue Carbuncle, and poetry by well-known poets like Clement Clarke Moore. A lovely selection of songs and carols, along with the old familiar story from the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, round out the book.
Star Over Bethlehem, Poems and Holiday Stories
by Agatha Christie
The Christmas Journey (novella set in mid-1800s at Christmas)
by Anne Perry
Murder Most Royal (the Queen solves another mystery)
by SJ Bennett

Also lined up on the book shelf waiting their turn include these books:
A Christmas Memory
by Truman Capote

Christmas Poems
by Wendy Cope

A Mind of Winter, Poems for a Snowy Season
selected by Robert Atwan

Haphazard by Starlight, A poem a day from Advent to Epiphany
by Janet Morley

Winter Solstice (an annual favourite)
by Rosamunde Pilcher

Little Women
by Louise May Alcott

Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good (the story is a lovely run up to Christmas)
by Jan Karon
Shepherds Abiding
by Jan Karon
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
by C.S. Lewis

Once Upon A Wardrobe (a novel related to C.S. Lewis's beloved classic)
by Patti Callahan

The Christmas Chronicles, Notes, stories & 100 essential recipes for midwinter
by Nigel Slater

Christmas from the Heart of the Home (recipes and other seasonal tips and ideas)
by Susan Branch

Home for Christmas (her tiny memoir)
by Susan Branch

Christmas Treasury (a treasure trove of children's stories and wonderful illustrations)
by Jan Brett

One book I ordered for Christmas that I'm waiting to get is the illustrated poem by Robert Frost Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. Shhh, this is for my brother-in-law. As long as I've known him he has enjoyed quoting this old poem, one he memorized as a boy in school. The book, a beautiful keepsake edition, is illustrated by the award-winning P.J. Lynch and celebrates the poem's centennial. It looks gorgeous - you can take a peek HERE.

Two - Christmas Cards

One of my favourite things is writing out Christmas cards and notes at this time of year. I love to go in search for the cards I'll use each year, including the tiny tuck-ins to pop inside the envelopes. I'll be starting those this week.

Three - Christmas Tree Pillow

Nothing ever seems too bad, too hard, or too sad when
you've got a Christmas tree in the living room."

I came around the corner and there sat this cute pillow in a shop I was visiting. I knew I had to get one, no-no, I had to get two. In my mind, I knew my mom, who said she didn't want to decorate a tree this year, would love this. It's already decked out with sweet red cardinals - no assembling required.

Bonus - A Seasonal Quote

"So quiet and subtle is the beauty of December that escapes the
notice of many people their whole lives through. Colour gives
way to form: every branch distinct, in a delicate tracery against
the sky. New vistas, obscured all Summer by leafage, now open up."

Wishing you a merry and beautiful week ahead,

Photo credits:
(Top)Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay
(Middle - books, cards, pillow) Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life
(Bottom) Image by Peggy Choucair from Pixabay