23 September 2011

Top Five Friday: Rainy Day Reads

A book is the only place in which you can examine a fragile thought without breaking it, or explore an explosive idea without fear it will go off in your face.  It is one of the few havens remaining where a man's mind can get both provocation and privacy. 
~ Edward P. Morgan

It is raining in Washington.  A day made for staying in bed ~ alternately napping, cuddling, and reading. If it’s raining where you are and you’re lucky enough to have the day off, here are my recommended top five books to read on a rainy first day of autumn.

Young Woman Reading by a Window, Delphin Enjolras

Autumn: A Spiritual Biography of the Season – One of my pen friends recommended this book, along with the companion books of the other three seasons and I absolutely love them!  They are all collections of essays about the particular season; some authors penning odes of adoration and others complaining about the things they hate about Autumn [I didn’t think that was possible!]

Sherlock Holmes – It’s always raining in Victorian London.  What better way to while away the hours than curled up on a velvet sofa in front of the fireplace at 221B Baker Street? If pushed to choose just one story ~ a challenge indeed! ~ I would have to say my favorite is “The Hound of the Baskervilles.”  But I generally save that for the end of October.  So today, read “The Speckled Band.”  And stay away from vents!

Oliver Twist – Another literary favorite set in rainy London.  Of all of Dickens’ works, this is my favorite [a close second is Tale of Two Cities] and not just because I played Nancy in a college production of the musical. And not just because I had a crush on Mark Lester when I was 12 years old.  However, now that I mention it, it is a great movie adaptation.  If I’m reading the book, I’ll put the soundtrack on in the background.

Christmas with Southern Living – No, I am not one of those people who begin decorating for Christmas in September!  However, entertainer and planner extraordinaire that I am, I do like to get a head start on planning for the annual Christmas bash ~ which this year will indeed be an even bigger deal than in years past.  The link above will take you to the 2011 edition, but if you can get a hold of any of the other editions, from about 1998 and on, the decorating tips and pictures are generally classy and timeless.  And the recipes ~ always winners!

A Thousand Days in Venice – I’ve mentioned this wonderful book before, and it is still a great read for a rainy day.  When it’s raining here, I can escape to the seaside, smell the fresh baked bread and pastries from Pasticceria Marchini, feel the Venetian warm breeze, and sit in Piazza San Marco watching the colourful city unfold.

What about you?  What are the books you reach for when the skies turn grey and cloudy? 

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

20 September 2011

Going Home: 53rd Abbey of the Arts Poetry Party

Poetry is a packsack of invisible keepsakes. 
~ Carl Sandburg

Christine Valters Painter over at Abbey of the Arts is hosting her 53rd Poetry Party!  Here’s how it works:

Christine picks an image, suggests a theme and title and you write a poem or poetic reflection in response.  If you have a blog, post it on your blog and then post the link at the Poetry Party.  On September 25, Christine will pick a random name and that lucky poet will win a space for her online retreat: Honoring Saints & Ancestors: Peering through the Veil

The theme for this party is Going Home.  I wrote the poem below back in May, when my father was in the hospital and we thought we were going to lose him. What poetry or poetic thoughts come to mind when you hear the phrase “going home?”

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

The Old Maple
© Mikaela D’Eigh 2011

The tree stands tall
And old –
had already sunk its roots deep into the heart
when we arrived thirty odd years ago.

Who knows
how long
it stood watch over lilac, pine, barn and cow,
its trunk full of secrets and memories.

How it comforted
            brothers –
one blue, one gray, lying beneath its shade,
leaving only bullets and bones behind.

And the rain
            silent, sad
that mingled with mother’s tears
when Flanders’ fields kept back her sons.

Then, ah peace!
A child, small
there found Austen and Bilbo
among the wide and changing leaves.

And solved mysteries
            with Nancy
and the Twins and the Boxcar Children
while cradled in its strong and loving arms.

I stand now before it
            a woman grown –
my life thick with experience and history
my heart full of secrets and memories.

This tree, this land
            strong, solid --
brings the comfort as of old friends,
and keeps me grounded and alive.

16 September 2011

Top Five Friday: These Are a Few of My Favorite Autumnal Things

Delicious autumn!  My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns. 
~ George Eliot

Delicious quote!  I know it’s not officially autumn for another six days, but the past two days have been gloriously chilly and blue-grey!  The seasonal change bug has been biting me for two weeks, but it was too warm to think about getting out the winter clothes and unpacking the blankets.

But a lover is impatient for any sign of the beloved and any change to be with him.  And I love Autumn ~ absolutely everything about this season thrills me from the folds of my perky cranberry scarf to the tips of my chocolate toned boots.  So today’s Top Five Friday is all about Autumn!

The Colours – I don’t care what the fashion mags say, the fall colours that are always in for me are the rich, velvety hues that nature puts on:  cranberry red, chocolate brown, squash yellow, pumpkin orange, midnight blue, pine green, and plum.  Dressed in those colours, you’ll look good enough to eat!

The Tastes – Speaking of eating, the orchard is simply bursting with plump, beautiful apples and luscious pears [minus any chemicals, pesticides or anything else unnatural of course!] that just ache to be baked!  Hot apple cider, fried apple fritters, fresh made cinnamon doughnuts.  But the star of the autumnal table is the pumpkin.  I think I’ve tried that lovely squash in every manner possible: custard, bread, pudding, chili [oh yes!], soup, fried, rolled, and of course, the ever traditional pie.

The Scents – With all that baking, frying and cooking going on, it’s easy to see why no scent says home and hearth and love like the scent of apples, cinnamon, vanilla, and ginger.  A close second [or fifth as the case may be!] is the smell of brandy and spiced rum.  Perhaps it has something to do with childhood memories of fun times spent baking in the kitchen with Mom, but just inhaling these earthy scents infuse me with calm and joy and a sense that no matter how strong the wind may blow, all is safe and cozy inside. 

The Textures – Interestingly enough, another scent that I love in autumn is soot.  Once you’ve eaten all that pie and imbibed all that apple cider, you need to take a nap!  Preferably by a happily blazing fire and wrapped up in a soft and nubbly[1] blanket ~ cranberry-coloured of course.  Or perhaps a brisk walk would be better after all those calories.  The chilly evening air is crisp and invigorating, and easier to appreciate when you’re dressed in a soft cashmere sweater and a scratchy wool coat.  This isn’t exercise ~ this is bliss!

The Music – The best place for an evening walk in the Fall is in the country.  Nature puts on quite a symphony as daylight shrinks: the crunch of fallen leaves under your feet; the farewell songs of the summer birds as they head south; the honking of the Canada geese as they fly in from the north; the gentle thud of apples falling in the orchard; the crackling of a bonfire; the wind rustling through a corn maze.

Are the nights slightly colder where you are?  What are your favorite things about autumn?

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

[1] Yes, that is actually a word!

12 September 2011

Almost Back to Normal

How hard it is to escape from places.  However carefully one goes they hold you - you leave little bits of yourself fluttering on the fences - like rags and shreds of your very life. 
~ Katherine Mansfield
Some major changes have taken place in my life in the past month and a half.  I jumped head first into planning the Eighth Annual Saint Cecilia Arts Festival; witnessed my best friend, Sullivan, get married [to a friend of mine that he asked out after the Arts Festival in 2009!]; was furloughed for two weeks; did a ten day raw food juice detox; and moved back to the country to live with my parents so I could help my mom out with my dad, who will be eighty-eight this year.

Both the detox and the move were game changers on many levels.  For one thing, I discovered first hand that you never really know how much "stuff" you  have until you try to pack it!  Freecycle became my friend ~ I gave away so much stuff, and it became so cathartic, I started looking around the house for more things to just give away!  I even donated my car!

But I don't think I could have considered decluttering my house [and subsequently my life] and make the decision to move, if I had not first gone through the physical detox.  So I'll be posting a few articles on my experience and some recipes in the coming weeks.  And since I've moved back to the country, I'll also be sharing with you my re-connection with the land, and what it is like to come home ~ literally! ~ after an eleven year absence.

I look forward to reconnecting with you!

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela