ROMANTIC LADY OF SHALOTT . . . A DAVID AUSTIN ROSE

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I have a Camelot garden.  In it grows a  gorgeous rose of such fragrance and beauty the  very stars  look down in envy.    Its beckoning orange-red buds open to form  a magnificent chalice-shaped bloom.  A rose that perhaps long ago would have graced King Arthur’s table.  My Lady of  Shalott rose, an important rose because it was a Mother’s Day Gift and the rose that adorned a family wedding.

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There she weaves by night and day a magic web with colours gay.”  Each perfect rose petal blushes salmon pink  then quietly reveals a secret  that unfolds to golden yellow.    This Lady of Shalott rose has an old-fashioned  fragrance that conjurers up  thoughts of  exotic tea  spiced with cloves and apples.

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The Lady of Shalott is a fairy tale  rose.  Early morning I visit my Camelot garden and gather a  bouquet of roses.   And every morning  the rose bush is covered once again with more sweet roses.  If your soul yearns for romance  whisper the words LADY OF SHALOTT ROSES by David Austin  and the glorious days of Camelot will enter your garden.

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The very, very best part of this unique rose is –  it is simple-to-grow.    It is highly resistant to disease and blooms with unusual continuity.  It is low maintenance  and will bloom from early spring until frost. It’s highly recommended for rose beds and border.  It would be spectacular in a flower bed with deep blue flowers.  It can be trained against a wall or trellis  or  planted in large pots and containers.  It loves full sun or a little shade.  If you are an inexperienced  gardener you will adore this  Lady of Shalott David Austin rose.

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The Lady of Shalott was a popular l9th century  ballad inspired by Arthurian legend.  It was written by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.    Reading this poem one discovers the  words and phrases that inspired the naming of this old-fashioned rose .

THE LADY OF SHALLOT  …  Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

On either side the river lie
Long fields of barley and of rye,
That clothe the wold and meet the sky;
And thro’ the field the road runs by
To many-tower’d Camelot;
And up and down the people go,
Gazing where the lilies blow
Round an island there below,
The island of Shalott

Willows whiten, aspens quiver,
Little breezes dusk and shiver
Thro’ the wave that runs for ever
By the island in the river
Flowing down to Camelot.
Four grey walls, and four grey towers,
Overlook a space of flowers,
And the silent isle imbowers
The Lady of Shalott.

By the margin, willow veil’d
Slide the heavy barges trail’d
By slow horses; and unhail’d
The shallop flitteth silken-sail’d
Skimming down to Camelot:
But who hath seen her wave her hand?
Or at the casement seen her stand?
Or is she known in all the land,
The Lady of Shalott?

Only reapers, reaping early
In among the bearded barley,
Hear a song that echoes cheerly
From the river winding clearly,
Down to tower’d Camelot:
And by the moon the reaper weary,
Piling sheaves in uplands airy,
Listening, whispers “‘Tis the fairy
Lady of Shalott.”

Part II

There she weaves by night and day
A magic web with colours gay.
She has heard a whisper say,
A curse is on her if she stay
To look down to Camelot.
She knows not what the curse may be,
And so she weaveth steadily,
And little other care hath she,
The Lady of Shalott.

And moving thro’ a mirror clear
That hangs before her all the year,
Shadows of the world appear.
There she sees the highway near
Winding down to Camelot:
There the river eddy whirls,
And there the surly village-churls,
And the red cloaks of market girls,
Pass onward from Shalott.

Sometimes a troop of damsels glad,
An abbot on an ambling pad,
Sometimes a curly shepherd-lad,
Or long-hair’d page in crimson clad,
Goes by to tower’d Camelot;
And sometimes thro’ the mirror blue
The knights come riding two and two:
She hath no loyal knight and true,
The Lady of Shalott.

But in her web she still delights
To weave the mirror’s magic sights,
For often thro’ the silent nights
A funeral, with plumes and lights,
And music, went to Camelot:
Or when the moon was overhead,
Came two young lovers lately wed;
“I am half sick of shadows,” said
The Lady of Shalott.

Part III

A bow-shot from her bower-eaves,
He rode between the barley-sheaves,
The sun came dazzling thro’ the leaves,
And flamed upon the brazen greaves
Of bold Sir Lancelot.
A red-cross knight for ever kneel’d
To a lady in his shield,
That sparkled on the yellow field,
Beside remote Shalott.

The gemmy bridle glitter’d free,
Like to some branch of stars we see
Hung in the golden Galaxy.
The bridle bells rang merrily
As he rode down to Camelot:
And from his blazon’d baldric slung
A mighty silver bugle hung,
And as he rode his armour rung,
Beside remote Shalott.

All in the blue unclouded weather
Thick-jewell’d shone the saddle-leather,
The helmet and the helmet-feather
Burn’d like one burning flame together,
As he rode down to Camelot.
As often thro’ the purple night,
Below the starry clusters bright,
Some bearded meteor, trailing light,
Moves over still Shalott.

His broad clear brow in sunlight glow’d;
On burnish’d hooves his war-horse trode;
From underneath his helmet flow’d
His coal-black curls as on he rode,
As he rode down to Camelot.
From the bank and from the river
He flash’d into the crystal mirror,
“Tirra lirra,” by the river
Sang Sir Lancelot.

She left the web, she left the loom,
She made three paces thro’ the room,
She saw the water-lily bloom,
She saw the helmet and the plume,
She look’d down to Camelot.
Out flew the web and floated wide;
The mirror crack’d from side to side;
“The curse is come upon me,” cried
The Lady of Shalott.

Part IV

In the stormy east-wind straining,
The pale yellow woods were waning,
The broad stream in his banks complaining,
Heavily the low sky raining
Over tower’d Camelot;
Down she came and found a boat
Beneath a willow left afloat,
And round about the prow she wrote
The Lady of Shalott.

And down the river’s dim expanse –
Like some bold seer in a trance,
Seeing all his own mischance –
With a glassy countenance
Did she look to Camelot.
And at the closing of the day
She loosed the chain, and down she lay;
The broad stream bore her far away,
The Lady of Shalott.

Lying, robed in snowy white
That loosely flew to left and right –
The leaves upon her falling light –
Thro’ the noises of the night
She floated down to Camelot:
And as the boat-head wound along
The willowy hills and fields among,
They heard her singing her last song.
The Lady of Shalott.

Heard a carol, mournful, holy,
Chanted loudly, chanted lowly,
Till her blood was frozen slowly,
And her eyes were darken’d wholly,
Turn’d to tower’d Camelot.
For ere she reach’d upon the tide
The first house by the water-side,
Singing in her song she died
The Lady of Shalott.

Under tower and balcony,
By garden-wall and gallery,
A gleaming shape she floated by,
Dead-pale between the houses high,
Silent into Camelot.
Out upon the wharfs they came,
Knight and burgher, lord and dame.
And round the prow they read her name,
The Lady of Shalott.

Who is this? and what is here?
And in the lighted palace near
Died the sound of royal cheer;
And they cross’d themselves for fear,
All the knights at Camelot:
But Lancelot mused a little space;
He said, “She has a lovely face;
God in his mercy lend her grace.
The Lady of Shalott.”

 

 
 

 

 

 

MY ANGEL READS CHARLES DICKENS AND LISTENS TO LEONARD COHEN

There is a private place where I can slip away into another world.  It restores my soul and brings me joy.   It allows me to collect my thoughts, write, dream  and face each day with strength and resilience.    Virginia Woolf called it  A ROOM OF ONE’S OWN.

I’ve been thinking about angels.  A flicker of movement in the corner of my eye.  I turn quickly.  Nothing.  But I know it is an angel.  My angel.

I think about the music my angel would listen to.    Beethoven’s Moon Light Sonata,   a love song without words.   Cohen’s Hallelujah,  over and over again.   The final chorus of angels from Gounod’s Faust.

My angel likes her wine decanted .  Wine from a bottle dusted with age and filled with grace.  She was there when the grapes were planted.  The vineyard at  least a hundred years old.    But my darlings this angel like most angels  is much, much older .

There are over 129,000,000 books in the world.   My angel has read all of them.  She is re- reading  Dickens’s   A TALE OF TWO CITIES.  She likes Dickens.   I know a Christmas Carol would be more appropriate in keeping with the season but this angel considers   Dickens important for our present time.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredibility, it was the season of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

Oh dear! Of all the books in this wide world why is my angel reading this book.   I certainly didn’t intend to take my angel back to 1859.   A TALE OF TWO CITIES  ends badly for many BUT  there is a sense of optimism in Dickens’s last words.

“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done;  it is a far, far, better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”

There is a strong sense of optimism in Dickens’s final words in TALE OF TWO CITIES.  We must take heart and take care – of ourselves and our fellow man.

The idea of my  wine sipping, music loving  angel makes me smile with delight.    At night when the skies are black and the stars are sharp as ice I catch a flash of white and the strains of  music . . Hallelujah  Hallelujah  Hallelujah.  Thank you, Angel.

 

 

 

AN ELEGANT CHRISTMAS WREATH GATHERED FROM THE GARDEN

Early morning and wisps of river fog creep across the fields. The brilliant summer sky pales into autumn. In the garden the hydrangeas change colour.  Vintage verdigris.   Bruised blues and purples. Faded lavenders and pinks. It is now when the hydrangea   blossoms take on the rich colours of a renaissance painting I gather them by the armful. They dry beautifully.   Tucked away from the light they wait to play the part in the familiar  rituals of Christmas decorating.

 This Christmas will be unlike any other.   This year I  planned something completely different from my  traditional  decorative wreath.  I wanted to take the beautiful days of summer and hang them on our front door.  This year these summer memories will adorn our home far into the new year.

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These wreaths are wondrously  easy to make.   You need a vine wreath.  A vine wreath is important as the tangle of vines allows you to easily poke the hydrangea stems into place.   The stems of  the flowers cut around 6 inches.  A generous armful of flower  and a few  sprigs of cedar or fir boughs and ribbon  is all you require.  No glue or wire required to fasten the flowers.

For a lush, generous wreath tuck the blooms into the sides of the wreath and then on the top.  Intersperse them with the green cedar boughs.  It doesn’t have to be perfect.  There is no right or wrong way to arrange your flowers.

You can hang the wreath plain and unadorned.  But the colours of the wire ribbon are an elegant touch.  It takes  about an hour to make a wreath.  I always make two wreaths at Christmas.  One for our door and one for my friend and neighbour.   

Stay safe dear friends – wherever you are.

Love Virginia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LILIES AND LICORICE . . fills the heart and calms the soul.

Early  morning.  I’ve gathered armfuls of  magnificent Casa Blanca Lilies,   Star-gazer Lilies,  and whispery, licorice scented fennel.

Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem fills the room with inspiring sound.        Introit et Kyrie  . . .  Offertoire . . . glorious music that fills one heart and calms the soul.  I plunge the lilies into glittering crystal vases.  They deserve nothing less.

Gorgeous, glamours lilies.

Agnus Dei

Exultation of  lilies.

Libera me

Joyous lilies.

Sanctus

The sweet perfume of fennel.

The intoxicating fragrance of garden fresh flowers.

Pie Jesu … Libera me … In paradisi.

In this moment I put aside these troubled time and journey to a place of peace and quiet.

 

MOCHA THE DOG WITH THE MAGIC EARS

 MOCHA AND HER MAGIC EARS

About ten years ago the most wonderful of dogs came into our life.    I wrote a story about Mocha for one of our grand children.  It is a magic story and it is a true story.  Mocha was loved deeply by all who had the  honour to know her.    A few days ago she passed quietly away surrounded by those she loved .  The farm is an empty place with out her.

Max is our four year old great grand-son.  He asked me “Do you have any rabbits on the farm?”  And so I told him the tale of Oswald Gentleman Rabbit and his magic red velvet coat.

“One more question”, said Max. Max always has one more wonderful question. ” Do you have any OTHER magic animals on the farm?”

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Max, my darling boy.  Let me tell you a story about our farm dog.  Her name is Mocha.  She is an enormous dog.  So big and so strong you could easily ride her – that is if you had a mind to Max.   She has the courage of a lion, a heart filled with love,  a soul overflowing with happiness, big brown eyes that sparkle with  mischief and most important Mocha has magic ears.  She hears everything.

 

 

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Mocha can hear the chatter of bugs.  She  rests her head on her paws and watches carefully as they natter and nibble their way through the grass.

 

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Mocha can hear the whisper of butterfly wings .  She bounds joyfully into the air following them through the garden while they entertain her with stories of their long journey  – flying thousands of miles to spend summer on the farm

 

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The big barn on the farm is filled with dairy cows and calves.  The cows are mooing  and Mocha listens carefully.   The cows are telling her about a coyote that has been skulking at the edge of the field.  Mocha paces back and forth – looking and listening until she spots the coyote.  Then she barks.  Loud,  loud scary barking that rolls across the field.   Angry barking that says to the coyote stay away or you will be in big trouble.

 

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Mocha’s magic ears hear everything.   She listens to Max learning to skate with his Grandfather.  She listens to brave Max deep underground caving with his Dad.   She hears Max splashing in the ocean.  Mocha listens and watches and bravely stands guard.

 

(Mocha really exists.  She is half Great Pyrenees and half Labrador.  When she is not guarding the farm she accompanies me to the garden and stands watch while I work.  There is big mound of dirt close to the garden. Mocha climbs to the top and barks letting is be known she is standing guard.

Mocha invents games to entertain herself.  Her favourite toy is a large orange pylon.  The big kind you see around construction sites.   She is so strong she easily carries it around.  Tossing  it in the air.  Catching it.  And then just because she can she puts her head inside  the pylon and plays a kind of blind man’s bluff.  She has a strange collection of toys – a few sticks to play fetch, a deflated soccer ball, a garden light.  She will gather all her toys in a pile then curl up next to them and sleep in the sun.

Mocha knows the sounds of the different vehicles that regularly travel our country road.  These she ignores.   She ignores the mailman, the person who comes to read the power and gas meter.  She pays no attention to the runners and cyclists that exercise daily on our road.    But let her hear a strange footstep or a car that she feels doesn’t belong and her barking is loud and important.   Brave and noble Mocha is doing her job.   Looking after the farm and her people.

 

 

 

 

 

CHRISTMAS GIFT WRAPPING . . . in the style of Coco Chanel

Logs in the ancient fireplace crackled .  Heavy faded velvet curtains shut out the cold and dark night.  On the old Victrola  Piaf warbled   Le Noël de la rue.  It was the top of the hour.  She opened the curtains.   The lights of the Eiffel tower filled the room.  Here in the magic of her little house in Paris she would wrap her gifts .

Plain brown paper unrolled.  Silver scissors cut.  A scattering of pearls.  An elegance of black ribbon.  A Coco Chanel wrapped Christmas gift.

Champagne chilled.   Cassoulet simmered on the ancient  La Cornue stove.   The room fragrant  with its rich welcoming aroma.  Footsteps whispered on the ancient stone stairs.  Her guests had arrived.  It was Christmas in une petite maison.   My little house in Paris is with me always.  To journey to it I have but to close my eyes and turn the key on the welcoming door.

(Dear Friends, This post of pearls and presents is a favourite.    I love the economy of wrapping with recyclable, inexpensive plain brown paper. Coloured tissue paper and metallic paper is not recyclable.  The pearls are easy stick-ons and the black ribbon is wireless.  Everything purchased in a quick trip to my favorite dollar store.  )

ALWAYS WELCOME STRANGERS FOR THEY MAY BE ANGELS

A very, very long time ago, in a place far, far away I bought a cabin.  It was built of huge logs harvested on the property.   The road a faint path grown over with years of neglect.  It stood alone quietly  facing  a small lake in Northern Saskatchewan.     The windows obscured with the dust of many years.  Velvety moss covered the stone doorstep.    Over the  door a sign ALWAYS WELCOME STRANGERS THEY MAY BE ANGELS.  I bought my cabin never stepping inside.

Later when I picked up the key I learned the history of my cabin.  It had been built in the early Twenties.  When  World War Two was declared in September l939 the son  of the owners enlisted.  He never came home.  His parents never returned to their cabin.   Twenty-Two years later I walked into a time capsule.    It was as if they had simple closed the door and gone for a stroll.   I kept the iron beds.  The “crazy ” patchwork quilts.    The  kettle for heating water.    The Union Jack to hang on the flag pole.  The tiny child’s wooden boat.   I kept the sign over the door.

Thus began my fascination with angels.    I was fascinated with the concept of entertaining angels unaware.    Their wings.  What do angels do with their wings?  Tuck them under their coats?  Hang them at the door?   The Christmas issues of my French magazines always featured angel wings in their decor.  Hanging over mirrors.  On the backs of chairs.    Now I was obsessed with finding  angel wings.  Not flimsy cartoon versions of wings, but big, white wings with feathers.

It was in July of the past summer when I walked into our Ladner Thrift Shop and discovered my angel wings.  They were hanging with children’s costumes.     Teary eyed I stroked the feathers.  They were perfect .  They were my long sought after angel wings.

They hang surrounded  by all things French .    The setting is perfect.  My angel wings catch the early morning sun and in the evening tiny fairy lights light up the night.   I remember the sign from long ago.   I live in hope remembering the cabin sign.   Welcome strangers for some have entertained angels unawares.

 

 

THE FORGOTTEN DOLL HOUSE . . . a Christmas tale of rejuvenation and delight.

The doll house had been lovingly built.  It was made of wood.  It had doors that would open and shut.  Fancy trim on the shingle roof.  Even a bow window and a front porch.  But it had fallen on hard times. And  as it is in the adult world the house was deemed “not good enough”.   The house had been replaced by a larger more spectacular mansion.  It was made of plastic, but it had a hot tub and a stair case and a chandelier in the front hall.  After all even in the doll world one must keep up appearances.

The contents were thought to be shabby.  The wall paper dated.  The pictures on the wall old-fashioned. No one wanted a hand-made wooden doll house.    The house was stored in the darkest, dreariest, farthermost corner of the garage and forgotten.  Over the years it gathered neglect and dreary dust.

The forgotten doll house sat quietly in the dark corner and remembered.   It thought of the many dolls who it made it their home.  They had tea parties and sleep-overs.    Entertainment for visiting doll friends.  The house  filled with giggles and joyful delight.  Happy memories of by gone days.  Then one day the house was taken from its  dark hiding place and put on a display in a shop that welcomed cast off toys. Time passed.   No one was interested in the shabby doll house.   The lonely house thought of its broken shutter.  The peeling wallpaper.  The scratches, dents and missing pieces.    “No one will want me.  No one will buy me. No one will love me.”

There are those who see hidden beauty in imperfection.   Who search for the unusual, the unexpected.  Who see potential where others pass by.   When she saw the doll house she thought “how absolutely wonderful”.    It just needed a little loving care; some carpentry work, lots of snow white paint and a exotic group of inhabitants.  It would be the perfect Christmas house.

The roof was repaired.  The shutters replaced.  Every inch of the house was painted the dazzling white of freshly fallen snow.  Tiny diamond bright lights adorned the house, inside and out.    The windows were cleaned.    And the house even had a chandelier.

The invited guests gathered for a Christmas party.  The dolls house was filled with excited guests.

The conversation was brilliant.

The Christmas party continued far into the night.

It was adults who lingered long.  Peering into the rooms.  Recognizing nostalgic and familiar toys from the past.  They  were swept up in the magic of this little house.    The house gave a sigh of contentment  for it was not to be forgotten.  Not to be boxed and put away for another Christmas.  It would have its place in this new home.  To be enjoyed everyday by the very young and the young at heart.  The doll house would live happily ever after.

 

Writer’s Notes:  I found the sadly neglected doll house in the Thrift Shop in  Ladner Village.  It is an amazing experience –  this shopping at the Delta Hospital Auxiliary Thrift Shop.  Everyone is a volunteer and all moneys raised support the Delta Hospital.    I am proud to be a  member of this amazing organization.

 

 

UNDERSTANDING THE RED POPPIES OF REMEMBRANCE DAY

My husband and I  lived in Amsterdam for a brief while.    This is a city and a people where the second world war is still very close and very personal. We lived on Gerrit van der Veenstraat .  Following  the war the street was renamed after the resistance fighter Gerrit van der Veen .   He was executed by the Gestapo.   On this street there is a monument honouring him.  I walked past it every day and always, always there were fresh flowers in the niche of the building.

At noon on the first Monday of every month the defence air raid siren would sound.  Pedestrians would pause.   Cyclists would dismount.  Men would take off their hats.  All were honouring those who gave their lives during the war.

To be a Canadian in Amsterdam is to be frequently thanked by strangers.  The  Dutch have not forgotten it was  the Canadians who liberated Holland.

I discovered the red poppies.  The poppies that grew in Flanders Field.  The poppies    despite the war ravaged land bravely showed their colours.    I found them in vacant lots and bits of forgotten land.  Anywhere these  glorious flower could take root.  It is understandable why these  symbolic flowers are so important.  We wear them over our hearts to show we remember.

I returned home with packages of Dutch red poppy seeds and year after year the poppies bloom in my garden.  Of all the flowers in my garden it is the red   poppy dearest to my heart.

 

NEVER SET SAIL IN A PEA-GREEN BOAT … A ROMANCE WITH AN UNHAPPY ENDING.

The silver scissors cut her hair so she could fly away.

The owl had found his own true love.

He said good bye to the pussy-cat

And gave her a ten pound note.

Invest it wisely, but not in bonds.

She left the pea-green boat in tears.

The Golden Maiden and the Two-Timing owl

Sailed away for year and a day.

The romance couldn’t last.

He never cut his nails.

(Greeting card on card-stock with images gleaned from old masters and other  secret sources.)