Bright wings

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I saw this little terracotta dove and these beautiful words came to mind:

Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

– From “God’s Grandeur” by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Praying with the senses, January edition

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SIGHT

There’s something about primroses. Their color is so beautifully vivid,  a pop of color in the brown yard of January.  This is the second year in a row that I’ve made a point of planting them shortly after New Year’s, and that little bit of effort pays off big-time.  My mood is lighter when I can savor this little splash of color outside my bedroom window.  (Bonus: when you get really close to primroses, you realize they smell like jelly.)

Speaking of beautiful sights, on our little getaway last weekend Scott and I went to Point Reyes National Seashore for a hike. To get to the coast, you  hike through beautiful, Lord of the Rings-style forests with ferns and little creeks and redwoods, and it’s all so bucolic and lovely.

And these plants, whatever they are, caught my eye. Look closely, and you’ll see a raindrop in the center of each cluster of leaves.  Each drop was just resting there in the middle, looking like a diamond solitaire in an engagement ring.  Just one of those lovely little miracles I so often miss.

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 SMELL

There was such a glorious smell at Point Reyes, that mix of vegetation and damp earth and a hint of the ocean.  I must have mentioned it at least eight times to Scott during our hike.  I don’t realize how much I miss the smell of nature until I’m back in the middle of it.

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TOUCH

My boys have very short hair, but I love tousling it with my fingers.    My cousin once remarked that Matthew’s hair feels like feathers, and it’s really true.  I know there will come a day when there will be an invisible protective bubble of adolescent space around my boys, and they won’t let me ruffle their hair as I pass by their chairs.  But for now, I absolutely love doing it.

Where are YOU finding God these days?

 

One of the only things that I’ll miss “Downton Abbey” for

 

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I had to wait a night to watch “Downton Abbey” this week, but it was for a good cause.  Scott and I were living our own little English historical drama, all without leaving the Bay Area.

We left the boys with my parents (I love you guys!) and stayed here, at the Pelican Inn in Muir Beach.

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We’ve been here before, and we love it.  If you want a rustic little inn that makes you feel like you’re in a Daphne DuMaurier novel, this is your place.  Everywhere you look, there is something quaint and intriguing to catch your eye.

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There is an English pub downstairs, and a dining room with a massive fireplace and wood paneling and delicious food.

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Best of all, it’s a five-minute walk to the beach.

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And you can hike up the hills for a great view.

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There is nothing like getting out of your normal routine to get refreshed, to get a new perspective.  And looking at the ocean does that, too.

Best of all, I got to spend quality time with my guy.  We not only started conversations, we finished them.  When you are a parent, that is huge.

Of course, we talked about the kids a lot.  And it was so great to see them again tonight, to hug them and hear about their adventures with Grandma and Grandpa.  We all had a terrific weekend (though I’d say my folks could use another one after watching the guys for thirty hours straight).

And when we got home, we caught up on “Downton.” What a season!  I’m loving it.  Love how Mary may be reconsidering Tony (I like the other guy sooo much  better), and how Lady Violet has had a romantic intrigue in her past, and how Edith may be edging closer to telling the truth to her family (just let it all out, girl!).  Good stuff.

What is making you happy this week?  (And if it’s “Downton,” what did you think of this last episode?).

What a little rain can do

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We’re almost two weeks into 2015, and somehow, I still have that January 1 attitude.  I can’t help but feel that new things are waiting in the wings, that life is somehow full of promise.

What are those things?  How and when will I find them?  I don’t know.  I figure that everything will become clear as I continue down the path of 2015.

About a year ago,  I spent some time at the labyrinth at a nearby retreat center.  Last January,  I wrote about it as a metaphor for life, for following the path and enjoying the journey.

A few weeks ago, I stole some time to go to the labyrinth again. It looked markedly different from the last time I’d been there.  Green grass and moss grew around the edges of the path, the result of the rains we finally had last fall after a seemingly endless stretch of drought.

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It all looked so different with the green contouring the edges.  A labyrinth is always a hopeful place, but this evidence of new life made it even moreso.

I also noticed green spears already breaking through the ground, bulbs getting ready to bloom.  What kind of flowers will they turn out to be?  I have no idea.   I guess that means I’ll have to go back in a few weeks and find out.

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I loved this new,  green version of the labyrinth.   It was visual evidence of both the journey and the fruits of the journey.  It was a reminder that if we walk in mindful faith into this new year, we’ll find surprises along the way, and subtle beauty, and life.

And that makes me happy.

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Great books for “Downton Abbey” fans (or fanatics)

At long last, “Downton Abbey”  is back.  If you’re like me, the advent of the new season was met with great rejoicing and a celebratory cup of tea.

I know this show appeals to a wide range of people, but I suspect that moms have a particular affinity for it.  I’d venture to guess that most modern moms fantasize about living like Lady Grantham, with her beautiful clothes and every-present lady’s maid and a stunning home that she doesn’t have to clean herself.  In reality, our lives are closer to that of the cook, frantically trying to keep multiple pots from burning while snapping at anyone who gets in our way (or is that just me?).

Anyhow,  if you can’t get enough of big English homes with elaborate social hierarchies, here are a few books that you might enjoy.   Save them for those rare moments of Lady Grantham-like relaxation, and see if you can convince someone to bring you breakfast in bed to make the fantasy complete!

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One Pair of Hands by Monica Dickens

This memoir, first published in  1939 , is a gem.  The twenty-something Dickens, unsatisfied with her life as a debutante, decided to try a new existence as a cook for the upper classes.  She hid her privileged background  and embarked on a series of jobs for various employers, both in London and the country.  The book is consistently interesting and, at moments, side-splittingly hilarious.  Dickens describes her struggles both with the cooking and with the eccentricities of her employers and fellow workers.  She has a fabulous turn of phrase (of a bad-tempered milkman, she writes, “he looked capable of watering the milk with the tears of little children”). The chapters where she works as cook for a Downton-style estate are  my favorite; her descriptions of the malevolent butler, the dim-witted scullery maid, and the handsome chauffeur (” whose name, appropriately enough, was Jim Driver”),  are brilliant.

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The Priory by Dorothy Whipple

I have a mad love for Persephone Books, the English publishing house dedicated to reviving “neglected” books.   Most of their books are by women; many of them center on home and family relationships, which is surely the reason why so many haven’t gotten the attention they deserve (insert rant about why war is taken seriously as a fictional subject and human relationships are not).

One of their most high-profile authors is Dorothy Whipple, who was a phenomenal novelist.  Her book The Priory is the story of an old country home in England, inhabited by a retired Major and his adult daughters, and the changes that ensue when he marries a much younger wife.  Whipple makes the servants into fairly major characters in their own right; there is a well-drawn and painful subplot about a bit of a “love triangle,” for lack of a better term, and she brings the character of Nanny to terrifyingly competent life.  Whipple was a sharp, sensitive novelist who excelled at describing relationships; the prose carries you along, and 530 pages feel like nothing.

Persephone’s books can be hard to find in the US, but you can order from their website and they arrive quickly.  One other cool thing: Each of their books has the same dove-gray cover, but the colorful endpapers inside are different for each book, and each is a reproduction of a textile from the year the book was published.  I love that.

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The House at Tyneford by Natasha Solomons

I blogged a few years ago about The House at Tyneford, which I couldn’t put down.  I won’t repeat the review here, but suffice to say that it’s a most unusual love story.  It takes place a few decades after DA — World War II, to be precise — and it’s about social class,  the experiences of refugees, and the reinvention of self once everything familiar is gone.   And yes, it all happens in a big, beautiful country house.

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The Royal Spyness mysteries by Rhys Bowen

The Royal Spyness mysteires, set in the 1930s,  are fun and a half.  There are eight  in the series, and they tell the story of minor royal Lady Georgiana Rannoch, thirty-fourth in line to the throne of England.   Georgie is an impoverished royal with a drafty Scottish castle but little cash; luckily, she is rich in adventure as she ends up being drawn into murder mysteries wherever she goes,  from English country houses to a royal castle in Transylvania.  The books are a great blend of whodunit, humor, and social commentary, with tinges of P.G. Wodehouse.  For sheer escapist fun, these can’t be beat.