Friday, March 29, 2024

Spring at the Conservatory

"And the Spring arose on the garden fair,
Like the Spirit of Love felt everywhere;
And each flower and herb on Earth's dark breast
Rose from the dreams of its wintry rest."
PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY, from The Complete Poems

While winter continues to play the bully outdoors, we took ourselves to the Muttart Conservatory to catch their Spring Display. Despite the blustering winds, the day was glorious with bright sunshine streaming through the pyramid glass walls. The place was alive with fellow seekers of Spring. As the double doors to the feature pavilion swung open—like doors at a wedding that open for the beautiful bride to walk through—it was like stepping into another world. We stared. We breathed in the scent of hyacinth and jonquils drifting on the air. Every corner was brimming with sunshine and the bright hues of tulip, daffodil, and primrose—an artist's palette for winter tired eyes.

One woman exclaimed as our eyes met, "It's like having dessert!" Oh my, yes! Elizabeth von Arnim said it best when she described Lottie Wilkins in Enchanted April as Lottie opened the shutters and gazed over the 'flower-starred' grass her first morning in Italy:
"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 . . . and caressed her . . . How beautiful, how beautiful. Not to have died before this . . . to have been allowed to see, breathe, feel this . . . 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."
Photographs never do it justice, but I'm hoping this tiny glimpse of our visit will lift your hearts if, in your corner of the world, you still await for the fullness of Spring.

"I must have flowers, always and always."

If you take a flower in your hand and really look at it,
it's your world for a moment.”

"Despite the forecast, live like it's spring."

The beautiful spring came; and
when Nature resumes her loveliness,
the human soul is apt to revive also.

To all who celebrate, Happy Easter!
Wishing you a beautiful weekend,

Photo credits:
Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life

Friday, March 22, 2024

Things I Like

Often it's the little things we
like that get us through the day.

Inspired by Linda's list on her blog who was inspired by Joyce Carol Oates's list, I borrowed the idea to create one for myself. I tried not to be too fussy or perfectionist about it... wanting to just let the random thoughts flow up. It's by no means a comprehensive list, and if I were to write it next week, you'd probably see one that's altogether different.

Here's today's version of Things I Like:
Making lists. Robins in spring. Canada Geese in vees. Handel: Messiah "I Know That My Redeemer Liveth" / Water Music. JS Bach. Agatha Christie / Louise Penny / Donna Leon. Phases of the moon. All four seasons. Emily Dickinson: "I am out with lanterns, looking for myself." Lattes / Latte art. Rainy days / Snowy mornings. Books on Nature writing / Memoir / Historical fiction. Blogging / Writing. Solitude. Sitting in the garden. "Go. Be. Love." Pussy willows / Tulips / Peonies. Bringing order from chaos. Juxtaposition of light against dark skies in a rainstorm. Deep prairie skies. Harvest moon. Waves lapping. Helping out. Writing letters. Lamps in a window. Happy childhood memories. Ice cream cones. Debussy: Claire de Lune. Pretty notebooks. Chariots of Fire: "And when I run I feel his pleasure." Sandwiches / Dark chocolate / Birthday Cake. Presents. Blue / Sea-green. Singing. Laughing. Pencils.
Kindred spirits. Van Gogh / Monet. Beauty. Honesty. Gift From the Sea. "Who said the world was fair?" Cheezies. Libraries / Old Bookshops. Purring kitty cats. BeeGee's Too Much Heaven / Staying Alive (the beat gets me doing my walking workout 😊). Skirts that twirl. Sparkling windows. Flowers and taking closeup pics of them. Henri Nouwen / C.S. Lewis / L.M. Montgomery. Mozart's Requiem as sung in Oxford one spring evening on my 60th. Lavender scented anything / Spritzing on Joy by Dior. Curtains wafting on a breeze. Giving gifts. Pottering. Good conversations over coffee. Enchanted April / 84 Charing Cross Road / You've Got Mail / Out of Africa / Pride and Prejudice (1995). Bees in the garden / Leaves in the wind. Kindness. Compassion. Comments from blog friends. Dog barking in the far distance / Lawn mower droning on a summer evening. Amor Towles: A Gentleman in Moscow. Pretty postage stamps. Cozy: Sweaters, blankets, nooks. Children laughing. Reading in bed. Twilight. Coffee brewing / Bacon sizzling / Crunchy toast. Learning new things. Oxford / Victoria / Edinburgh. Aretha Franklin singing I Say A Little Prayer for You.

Even as I close this list, there are dozens more I could add, but enough is as good as a feast. Are your thoughts running? Have you been inspired to create your own list?

Wishing you a beautiful day,
Photo credit:
Top Image by Oldiefan from Pixabay

Friday, March 15, 2024

Friday Pleasantries

"I know the world is filled with troubles
and many injustices, but reality is as beautiful
as it is ugly. I think it is just as important to sing
about beautiful mornings as it is to talk about the slums.
I just couldn't write anything without hope in it."

While spring shakes off the vestiges of winter in the great outdoors, I'm still inside sorting my current material possessions, deciding what to keep, what to give away, what needs to be tossed. Time has slipped away, and here it's time for a new blog post. Yesterday I set up my draft, searched for a suitable photo (above), and whispered a prayer for a spark of inspiration to get me started. I hoped it might arrive in the night hours while I slept.

I follow Austin Kleon, artist/author from Texas, and this morning his weekly newsletter popped in my inbox. On reading his heading "Basic Pleasantries", I felt the spark of interest and began working on my own simple and hopefully pleasant Friday post. 

ONE. Spring is in the air

The snow is melting fast. The house finches are singing to beat the band. And Rick spotted the first Canada Geese flying overhead towards the storm pond. It's still frozen but these early birds are eager to find the best spots for raising this season's batch of goslings. If that's not a cheering sight, I don't know what is.

TWO. So is love

My sister sent a charming news article of a young woman who met her future husband at the Honolulu airport. Awww, it was a lovely read. If you're interested, you'll find the article HERE. Pssst. We think there's a love story unfolding nearer to home in the family. It's an exciting time of year for young love.

THREE. Tea samples

A lovely friend who'd been vacationing in Victoria, BC, sent me a small package in the mail. It included samples of the teas she purchased at the well known Murchie's Fine Tea & Coffee shop: Publisher's Blend ("a chocolatey, nutty and malty blend of black teas, best accompanied by stacks of manuscripts that need reviewing.")—I'll be sipping that with my latest book; and Russian Caravan ("a blend of black teas and smoky Lapsang Souchong (to) recreate the campfires and brisk, starry nights experienced by the caravans carrying tea to the Russian Czar.")—maybe I'll pull out some Tolstoy to read with that tea. Also included was a fragrant bag of Lavender Cream ("A beautifully balanced lavender black tea with creamy vanilla.")—I love lavender tea. Looking forward to trying them.

FOUR. Basic pleasantries

We were ordering cups of tea and coffees from the clerk at the order counter - for four. The polite middle-aged woman was patient as we decided what beverage, the size we wanted, and whether we needed milk, cream, or sugar. Was that everything? Yes, said Rick, getting out his card to tap. But then she spotted me still eyeing the muffins in the showcase so she waited a nanosecond until I decided on a Bran Muffin. For some reason, I felt this woman noticed the little things, she paid attention to her customers, and I felt that slight connect of the heart. I smiled and thanked her warmly for serving us. It's a day later and the warmth of the tiny exchange still resonates. I appreciated her awareness of me as a customer. I felt seen. I hope she felt the same in our brief exchange of pleasantries. 

FIVE. A quote that caught my eye

 "Grace is like a blanket of hope
that covers you at night when you
don't think you have what it takes to
get up in the morning."

Thank God for that grace every morning!

Wishing you a beautiful weekend,

Photo Credit:
Image by vinsky2002 from Pixabay

Friday, March 08, 2024

Emily Dickinson: A Literary Hero (Part 3)

"I dwell in possibility..."

Emily Dickinson and her poetry left its mark on my heart, and I didn't realize how much until I began working on this post. I don't exactly recall how I came to know Emily or her poems. I don't remember learning about her in school. Perhaps I first saw her poems quoted in women's magazines my mom used to read. Or, maybe an aunty or school teacher penned a well-intentioned few lines in a girlhood autograph book: "If I can stop one heart from breaking . . . If I can ease one life the aching / Or cool one pain / Or help one fainting robin / Unto his nest again / I shall not live in vain".

I do know my imagination felt a buoyancy when I first read: " 'Hope' is the thing with feathers / That perches in the soul...". And then there were these lines: 

"I'll tell you how the Sun rose –
A Ribbon at a time –"

Who can forget such a phrase! I don't understand some of Emily's poetry, but some pieces, some lines truly are unforgettable... and gorgeous. Emily wrote nearly 1,800 poems; only a handful were published in her lifetime. People knew she wrote poems, for she often included them in letters when writing to friends and correspondents. And she created small handmade books of them. But no one knew until after her death how prolific—or brilliant—she was.

What fascinated me about Emily was her decision to live as a recluse. For reasons unknown to anyone, from an early age she chose to restrict her social involvement and activities, preferring to live in the heart of her family home. I never desired to be a recluse the way she was—yes, I'm an introvert but I also have a bit of social butterfly in me—but I think I get it. For I can be quite content with my own thoughts, happy with my own company and books, at my desk by the window writing... being in the heart of my home, happily pottering about.

I imagine Emily sitting at her desk near a window probably overlooking the garden or her neighbourhood, and from that place, writing her 'letter to the world'. Even as a recluse she left her mark on the literary world. Though her world was small, she had a keen poet's eye for description. I often wondered how she was so insightful. Surely a curious mind and a sense of wonderment sharpened her ability to pay attention to what went on around her. In retrospect, I also wanted to sharpen my own sense of curiosity and wonderment - I wanted to be able to express what I saw and felt so others could see and feel it too.

According to letters and documents from her family estate, Emily also enjoyed gardening and was an accomplished cook, taking pride in making cakes, cookies, and candies, both for her family and as gifts for friends. I especially loved the story of Emily carrying a basket filled with freshly baked cookies or gingerbread to an upstairs window in the rear of the house and lowering it to the neighborhood children who'd been playing 'pirates' or 'circus performers' in the Dickinson orchards. The kids must have loved her kind generosity, and she obviously took delight in handing out yummy treats to them. Years ago, I contacted the Emily Dickinson Museum in Amhurst, Massachusetts, asking if I could obtain a copy of Emily's gingerbread recipe. Unfortunately the recipe wasn't available for public distribution at the time. I was disappointed. Perhaps I envisioned myself imitating Emily handing out gingerbread to kids in my own neighbourhood (although maybe not using baskets from an upper window).

I was happy to discover, while searching out some information for this post, that the recipe is online in an article written by Burleigh Mutén, a children's author and tour guide at the Emily Dickinson Museum (they do have a lovely online store). The recipe looks delicious—I'm going to try it and, if it turns out, share some with my neighbours. You'll find the recipe HERE.

Like Emily, I sit at my desk, look out into the snow-clad garden, and gaze past my neighbour's roof top into the blue skies. I muse and watch and write my own letter to the world. And so today, I honour Miss Emily Dickinson. In her small world, she found her life and lived it beautifully. I'm inspired by that. As with my other literary heroes, I fervently hope I will one day meet her in the next life to say thank you for her gentle, poetic influence in my life. We just never know, do we, who or what our lives are touching! 

On that note, I close with a few other favourite quotes of Emily's which I hope you will enjoy.

A few quotes by Emily Dickinson

"One step at a time is all
it takes to get you there."

"Tell all the truth but tell it slant..."
(That's a good line for when we're trying to
remember our stories but the details are vague)

"The Heart wants what it wants – 
or else it does not care"
(There's no use telling it to smarten
up, for the heart will yearn.)

"If you take care of the small things, 
the big things take care of themselves. You
can gain more control over your life by paying
closer attention to the little things."

"Saying nothing...
sometimes says the most."

"If I feel physically as if the top of my head
were taken off, I know that is poetry."
(For me, it's as if my skin wants to burst
like an overripe tomato.)

"They might not need me; but they might.
I'll let my head be just in sight; a smile as small
as mine might be precisely their necessity."

Links to My Earlier Literary Heroes Posts

On that note, I'm wishing you a beautiful weekend—and don't
forget, it could be your smile that fits precisely someone's necessity today.

Heart hugs,
Photo credit:
Images by Brenda @ It's A Beautiful Life

Friday, March 01, 2024

Five on Friday: Tulips, Thrift Store Finds, and Other Thoughts

"There is so much peace that comes with
learning to live comfortably with what we have,
with feeling a sense of enoughness..."
@the lukhouse on Instagram

Happy Friday... and the First Day of March! Even with the extra day in February, the month has flown by in a hurry. We've had a quiet week, hunkering indoors during a snowstorm. Have been sorting through my materials possessions, of which I seem to have quite a few. I sure am a lucky/blessed girl!

Of late, Rick and I have been pondering our future plans for the next few years—my 70th and his 80th are approaching although they are a ways off but the days are ticking—as we begin thinking about downsizing and eventually moving to a smaller place. Although plans are in the embryonic stage, afar off, yet still I feel equipped to consider what I should do with my things, and especially what I can at last let go of because I have a foreseeable, tangible path ahead. I truly want to be the caretaker of fewer items. To have more time for loved ones instead of things. More time for my writing and self-care as health issues start to creep in. To keep only what still makes my heart happy and continues to make daily life for us comfortable and cheering. Already it gets easier in my mind to start letting go. And I begin to feel at peace, as the quote above says, to live comfortably with what we have, with that very real sense of 'enoughness'. I love that word. To recognize our own sense of enoughness in this stage of life. We start small... clearing out one small pile, one drawer, a single cupboard... revisiting the equipment and tools we no longer use or need, realizing our memorabilia doesn't need to be held so tightly, that maybe we don't need all the touchstones we once thought we couldn't live without.

Enough pondering on that for now... here is this week's edition of Five on Friday. I hope you enjoy.

One. Outside My Window

I peer out my study window into sunless skies awash in pearl grey. Tree branches stand in stark contrast while shrubs bounce with the flurry of birds eager for nourishment. Blustering north winds shape small snowdrifts on the neighbour's roof. And there's talk of more snow this afternoon. Although I think they jest, for isn't that a wee glimmer over there that feels like maybe the sun could peek out? (Note added later... forget the sunshine, it's getting grimmer and greyer and blusterier as we type.)

Two. Inside My House

Rick and I just had a mid-morning break. He's been painting the closet in his den, and I'm working on today's post. We enjoyed a small cup of coffee (my first of the day) with a toasted hot cross bun and a bit of Havarti cheese. It was yum; I feel sated. My inner world feels brighter.

And I'm admiring the wee picture (above) I found at the thrift store for three dollars. I fell in love and my fingers reached for it without a second thought. Methinks Madam Bunny is pleased too.

Three. Thrift Store Book Haul

First, I dropped off a bag of items for donation at the thrift shop. Then I went round into their shop to check out the book section. In less than 15 minutes, my arms were loaded with these finds (I should have stopped for a shopping basket):
- Mrs. McGinty's Dead by Agatha Christie (Poirot mystery)
- Dead Man's Folly by Agatha Christie (I read all the Miss Marple novels last year, now I thought I'd read through some of the Poirot mysteries.)
- Agent in Place by Helen MacInnes (espionage novel set in the 1970s. I read something of hers last autumn 'While We Still Live' which I found beautifully written, thrilling, and thoughtful. Look forward to reading this one.)
- Gaudy Night and Busman's Honeymoon by Dorothy L. Sayers (These were on my 'to find' list. I've been reading about the author's life lately and so I want to reread her Wimsey novels); 
- Romancing Miss Brontë by Juliet Gael (historical fiction novel about Charlotte Brontë); 
- A Long Shadow by Charles Todd (Inspector Rutledge mystery set in post-World War I);
- The Best of James Herriot (a lovely collection of excerpts from his books that he 'almost never wrote' along with other material about him and some lovely photographs of the Yorkshire Dales).
Undoubtedly you will recognize, as I have done, the thrilling sensation Kate Morton describes so aptly in her novel Homecoming: "As Jess stepped out of the shop and onto the pavement, she was filled with the lightness of spirit and free-floating sense of possibility that always claimed her when she had a brown paper bag containing new books under her arm." E.x.a.c.t.l.y !

Four. Tulips on the Dining Table 

A breath of spring on this dullish day. How these tulips cheer the place up and make me smile every time I walk past them. Tulips bulbs are still worth their weight in gold; thankfully they are within easy reach of my much slimmer purse. 😉

Five. Wise Thought from Susan Branch

"Try and fall in love with as many things as possible, every day things like the dawn, the moon, the way your flannel shirt feels, clothes warm from the dryer, singing in the car, the first words to a delicious new book, hot brownies and cold milk . . . take nothing for granted; that way all your days will feel like miracles." 

On that sparkling note, I'm wishing you a beautiful weekend,
Photo credit:
Today's photos are mine