abundance

Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life
is the foundation for all abundance.

~Eckhart Tolle

A cup of everlasting beauty

I spent a quiet, thoughtful day yesterday as the first snow of the season sifted down — wet, white flakes gorgeous against boughs of oak and maple, the backyard a patchwork of fallen leaves, our gardens dozing. Daylight dozed, too, wrapped in thick blankets of low-lying cloud…

Days like this used to evoke a certain wistfulness in me. Something inside felt lonesome when November skies darkened and days grew short and chilly. But my perspective shifted…. Once upon a November night, (thirty-one years ago last night, to be exact), a miracle happened: In a hush of snow while frozen gardens drowsed all through our town, a tiny new rose unfurled — a rose perfect for my husband and me, a tender rose in the form of our first child, our precious newborn daughter. We were smitten. And because of our sweet Margaret, Novembers always blossom for us now. They will never feel lonesome again…

To celebrate the arrival of her first grandchild, my sweet mother gave me a wonderful gift. She selected one of her mother’s bone china teacups, a pale pink one embellished with roses, and filled it to overflowing with fresh flowers. There were delicate sprays of pink mini-roses, and baby’s breath, and stems of English ivy. The result was decidedly Victorian, the most charming teacup bouquet ever to brighten a hospital maternity ward. I was enchanted. When the fresh flowers faded, Momma said she’d like me to keep her mother’s teacup and saucer. So the lovely china cup and saucer once owned by my grandmother became the first, and by far the most treasured, piece in my vintage teacup collection.

What’s not to love about vintage teacups? To me, each one is a work of art, a dainty reminder of times long past, when daily life was slower, simpler, and certainly more genteel… When I look at a teacup, I think of hand-embroidered linen tablecloths and lace-edged napkins, of afternoon teas and delectable cakes. Teacups serve as a transport for me. Each one I see whisks me away to a place of my imagining, a place filled with warmth and beauty and laughter and delight….

I’d like to share with you a few of the teacups in my collection. This one is painstakingly hand-painted and dates back to the 1850’s. I found this treasure in an antique shop two years ago, and it’s a particular favorite of mine.

 

Here’s another of my special favorites. It’s an Italian demitasse cup, complete with mermaids on one side and muses on the other. It’s perfect!

I found this hand-painted Jacobean beauty in a shop in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada. Its soft colors and design are enormously appealing to me.

Here is another cup from the same antique shop in Niagara-on-the-Lake. This one dazzled me with its rich cranberry color and gold embellishment.

As my mother so artfully demonstrated thirty-one years ago today, vintage teacups aren’t just for tea. They also can serve as containers for fresh flowers. Below are two of my favorite teacups, in which I arranged cut flowers from our gardens. I’m passionate about English transferware. This little transferware demitasse cup holds the last blossoms from our November garden.

I acquired this little beauty of a teacup last summer. The butterflies in this design turn me inside out. I filled this cup with cuttings from our late-spring gardens. The cup rests on hand-tatted lace my mother made. (Momma was Victorian to her very core.) Everything about this photo makes me smile…

Although my vintage teacups impart joy to me strictly as a collection, they clamor to be used on special occasions. One such opportunity arose last spring, when my far-flung, grown daughters, Margaret and Clare, happened to be home on the same weekend. To celebrate both girls’ belated birthdays, Margaret’s best friend, Addie, offered to bake a special cake, if I would kindly make arrangements for the tea. Happily, I agreed. But oh my! When the day of our party arrived, I was unprepared for the gorgeousness of the cake our dear Addie had made! She lovingly created a stunning cake in the shape of a teapot, from whose spout poured the loveliest sugar flowers imaginable.

The flowers cascaded into a teacup belonging to Addie’s maternal grandmother. And! …the cup actually held a mini-cake, just the right size for Addie’s young daughter to enjoy. (Because what tea party could be complete without a child to share it with? It’s a special joy to pass down a tradition as lovely as this to a member of our future generation.)

Addie’s cake was so flawless, so perfect, we hated to cut it. But oh, we were glad we did! The cake was as succulent and delicious as it was beautiful — a true feast for the senses, and certainly an elegant companion to my teacup collection.

For those of you who live locally, Addie is starting her own cake-baking business. Her artistic talent, marvelous creativity and attention to detail are already thrilling her lucky customers. If you’d like Addie to create a special masterpiece just for you, she can be reached at this email address: adriannacorby@gmail.com

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It’s another overcast, chilly November morning here. As leaves of russet and gold whirl past my window, I recall the birth-day of our beautiful Margaret, and I bask in that glow…. The heirloom teacup Momma gave me thirty-one years ago today links four generations of our family, uniting past and present. It is a cup of blessings, a cup of sweetest memories, a cup of everlasting beauty.

I can plant a seed

The fact that I can plant a seed
and it becomes a flower,
share a bit of knowledge
and it becomes another’s,
smile at someone
and receive a smile in return,
are to me continual spiritual exercises.

~Leo Buscaglia, (1924 – 1998)

Everything

Everything is made out of Magic,
leaves and trees, flowers and birds,
badgers and foxes and squirrels and people.
So it must be all around us. In this garden–in all the places.

~Frances Hodgson Burnett, (1849 – 1924)

Hurt no living thing

Hurt no living thing:

Ladybird, nor butterfly,

Nor moth with dusty wing,

Nor cricket chirping cheerily,

Nor grasshopper so light of leap,

Nor dancing gnat, nor beetle fat,

Nor harmless worms that creep.

~Christina Rossetti, (1830 – 1894)

like pearls slipping off a string

I believe the nicest and sweetest days are not those on which anything very splendid
or wonderful or exciting happens. But just those that bring simple little pleasures,
following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string.

~L. M. Montgomery, (1874 – 1942)

A return to my roots

Prairie Lights, my favorite independent bookstore in Iowa City, recently informed me that this week, May 1 – 7, is Children’s Book Week.

The words, “children’s books” contain the exact number of syllables as the words, “treasure trove”, and to me, these word pairs are synonymous and interchangeable. What marvelous magic a children’s book wields! I keep a running tally of many favorite things, but I’m quite certain children’s books rank among my topmost five.

I can’t let Children’s Book Week slip by without mentioning a book I adored as a child, a book whose wisdom set me on a path that shaped me into the person I am today. When I was small, not only was I certain the book I mention was written just for me, I felt I was its main character – a lonely little girl who lived by a pond and wandered through nature in search of someone, anyone, to play with. I was that child, right down to the light cotton dress and white anklets. Allow me to introduce to you this beloved book: Play with Me, by Marie Hall Ets, The Viking Press, 1955.

Reading about Marie Hall Ets in Wikipedia, I learned that she won the Caldecott Medal in 1960 for her book, Nine Days to Christmas. I also learned that between 1945 and 1966, she was a runner-up five times for the Caldecott, an impressive feat exceeded only by Maurice Sendak, who had seven titles which nearly won the prize. (Books that almost were awarded the Caldecott are today heralded as Caldecott Honor Books.)

In Play with Me, text and illustration weave a beguiling tale. A little girl goes off to the meadow in search of a friend. One after another, she asks the creatures she meets, “Will you play with me?” But each one leaps or flies or bounds or slithers away, and she’s left alone to console herself by sitting quietly on a stone to watch bugs making trails in the pond. She is too preoccupied to notice the tender presence of a benevolent sun.

As she sits without moving, her sadness turns to joy as one by one, the meadow creatures quietly return. She realizes that now, all of them are “playing” with her. By becoming observant and unobtrusive, she accumulates a rich circle of friends.

How many thousands of times did I turn the pages of Play with Me, poring over every detail? Young sapling that I was, I absorbed the book’s simple wisdom and carried it with me to the woods surrounding my home. I learned to sit noiselessly among the trees to better observe squirrels and birds. If I didn’t move a muscle, I was rewarded with chances to watch frogs and turtles and ducks by the pond. Sitting quietly, waiting to catch a glimpse of woodland creatures, I spent entire mornings and afternoons studying spring ephemerals while learning to distinguish the songs of many birds. I discovered that a lonely heart is curiously not lonely in the woods: feathery ferns reached out to caress me, violets and spring beauties smiled up at me, oaks and maples waved with glad hands, birds welcomed me with song. I was rich in friendships, there on my wooded hill… (Years later, not surprisingly, another book that captivated me was Henry David Thoreau’s Walden. I, too, was a dreamer who lived in the woods by a quiet pond.)

It’s really no wonder I grew up to be an introvert. My mother was a poet, and I was raised in her airy home; I spent most of my waking hours in nature, and when inclement weather kept me indoors, I’d page through books or draw flowers or listen to my favorite records. (When I was small, the soundtrack of Bambi was my special favorite.)

For quite a few years now, I’ve described myself as a Hobbit. I vastly prefer nature and the comforts of home and hearth to adventures. I almost always choose solitude over society. Given my inclination to prefer quiet, the terrible accident in October of 2015 that hobbled me for a year and a half was not perhaps as punitive for me, the introvert, as it might have been for an extrovert. Nevertheless, being confined day and night to a chair with a painful, shattered ankle was a trial for me. Once again I was that lonesome child who wished someone, anyone, would come and keep me company…

When one is badly hurt, one can tend to grow quiet, shrink inward. My inner survival mode caused me to withdraw deep into my own roots to wait, to hope, to dream. Just after Christmas of 2015, I decided that since I had to sit day after day in a chair to elevate a throbbing ankle, I might as well put my time to good use. I decided to study my mother’s embroidery books. And that’s just what I did. I spent the early months of 2016 reading about and practicing every single stitch in those books. And in the process, I discovered that all those tiny stitches had become for me a new lexicon, a language I could use to express myself.

At that time, I couldn’t go to the meadow or wander by the river. I couldn’t even get out of the house without a wheelchair. But with needle and thread for a magic carpet, I was no longer chair-bound. I was free to lose myself in a world of my own imagining, a comforting place filled with beauty and peace.

I’m able to get around on my own again, thanks to a pair of custom orthotics, a pair of sturdy, if unfashionable, shoes, and the great good help of my wonderful physical therapists, Laura and Shari. I’m able to walk by the river or visit the woods. I can spend time in the garden. But I continue to spend hours filling hoops and fabric with the things I knew and loved best as a child: flowers and trees and meadows, birds and butterflies. Having grown accustomed to the deep solitude and isolation of an overwhelming injury, I’m less inclined to talk. I’d much rather speak with needle and thread. Whereas writing is often laborious for me, I find that embroidery is light and pleasant and marvelously meditative. When I take up my needle, I’m not only deep in my roots, I’m growing. I’m creating. I’m happy!

These musings bring me back to Children’s Book Week and the charming book that set my feet on a path which led to the quiet joy of making friends with nature. To celebrate Children’s Book Week 2017, I’m going to order a copy of Play with Me and donate it to my local library. There are lonely children everywhere who long for a companion. What better companion than a wonderful book?

(All embroideries shown here are my original designs, © My Path with Stars Bestrewn.)