Seize the day!

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Today was not one of those days, but One of Those Days.  Yesterday, as I watched the tiny, greenery- yallery birds we call silver- eyes in the trees, hunting for insects and the like, I thought how I hadn’t seen the cock pheasant for months. He must have found another home, I thought.

When I awoke this morning I jumped out of bed and looked out of the open window to the sea as usual. There, right below my window, was the pheasant, in the garden bed with the bromeliads. He slowly pecked and ambled his way down through the vegetable beds to the petanque court, and then sauntereded off down the path into the wild patch. A moment earlier or later, and I would have missed him. Do I believe in coincidences, or did the pheasant pick up my wave-length?

It was one of those glorious late summer days. The colours bright, the air sparkling.  In the morning I rendezvoused with two old friends at an art gallery in the next village, to see an exhibition in a barn in the orchard. The gnarled branches of the old fruit trees were blanketed in fluffy celadon-green lichen, and hung with knobbly green quinces and pink and yellow apples. The barn was full of pottery, paintings, sculpture and furniture.

Robin knew one of the painters, who told us a dealer had wanted to see her work, so the painter had suggested that the dealer come to the exhibition. The artist led the dealer into the barn, and before she could show off her vividly coloured abstract flower paintings, the poor painter told us with some chagrin, that the dealer had instead pounced on a set of black and brown geometrical abstracts, and said she’d buy the lot. These black and brown works of art were composed of cow dung, clay and other mixtures, and smelt richly of a farm yard!

After a cup of coffee by the river, and a whip round the gallery there, we drove on to Tawharanui National Park, and the “Exhibition in a Woolshed”. Never has the sea looked so blue, the islands so green and purple, and the sands so white. The rolling hills were burnt gold in the flaming sun, and the gum trees which lined the last stretches of the dusty, winding gravel road gave us grateful dappled shade.

At the National Park we enjoyed the pungent smell of a real woolshed, and savoured the integrity of the wooden slats and fences, smoothed and polished by the hands of generations of sheep shearers – hands – no doubt, impregnated with oil from the fleeces. Another collection of absorbing paintings, pottery and sculpture, and then a walk around the sculpture park edging the turquoise sea.

The day flowed from one treat to another. Late in the afternoon we arrived at another cafe for lunch, exhausted with art and walking in the midday sun. We sat outside in the shade of the trees, where we could see the waterfall. We go back through twenty nine years of gruelling growth courses, endless lunches, regular birthday parties, shared experiences and watching our children grow up, marry, have their children, break-up, divorce and struggle on, in sickness and in health…

Two of the paintings in the woolshed were accompanied by poems by Fernando Pessoa. They were numbered and called “The Keeper of the Sheep”…. my favourite lines from number 11 were:                                                                                                                                                      “The world wasn’t made for us to think about it…                                                                                                                                                                          But to look at it and to be in agreement”.

And then, number XXX1X:                                                                                                                                                                                                                        “… the only hidden meanings of things                                                                                                                                                                                                   Is that they have no hidden meaning.                                                                                                                                                                                                        … things are really what they seem to be                                                                                                                                                                                          And there’s nothing to understand.”

Words which were a wonderful antidote to artistic pretension and cow dung! As we left the woolshed, outside in the sheep pen there was a battered old farm noticeboard which read:

‘Cows: bulls, steers, heifers, calves.’

Sheep:  rams, wethers, ewes, hoggets lambs.’                                                                                                                                                                                 The names were as evocative as a poem, a hymn to a rural past that few people now remember or experience.

Sheep seem to be in my consciousness at the moment. Last night, I’d been reading an artist’s account of her decision to find a lamb to photograph while she was painting Jesus, so she’d get it right. She went to a local market, but saw only a sorry collection of scraggly mixed breeds – no lambs. She was about to turn away when a sparkling white ewe emerged from the flock and approached her. She was pregnant.

The artist decided to buy her, and the dealer told her the sheep’s breed was a ‘mouflon’. On the way home, she was suddenly struck by the fear that the sheep might be some sort of new hybrid which had not existed when Jesus had been on earth, since she had never seen a sheep like her, in spite of growing up on a ranch.

After establishing the sheep in her new home, the artist set off for the library, where she found that the mouflon was the oldest domesticated breed of sheep in Europe, and had  been herded in the Middle East two thousand years ago. Since they were living in the US, it was an amazing synchronicity to find the exact type of sheep she needed, especially since she hadn’t known that she did need it!

The perfection of the interlocking factors in this story reflect a little of how I feel today. It’s as though I know in my heart, and not just in my mind, that all is well, and that if we let go trying to make the right thing happen, the perfect thing happens. And it may not be what we planned or thought we wanted. This means a sense of peace, a calm, and a certainty. There is no need to keep striving, because when we surrender, life falls into place anyway.

And I’m learning to let go the distinction between the earthly and the spiritual. There is no distinction. Everything is sacred. So the laughter of today has the same value as this morning’s early meditation. As I hummed the pop song:  “Take my heart to higher ground’, a la Streisand, I felt it was as sacred as a Bach cantata. Feeling that every moment has a hidden significance, means the days are lived at a particular level of commitment

Making the most of each day, and knowing that the sum of these days add up to life well lived, is its own reward, and so in the words of that old Jewish saying, we can go on our way stringing pearls for heaven. And maybe try for heaven on earth… and carpe diem.

Food for Threadbare Gourmets

Browsing through Sally’s latest blog at mybeautifulthings@wordpress.com , I saw her picture of lunch at Falmouth – salmon fishcakes, spinach, poached egg and Hollandaise sauce. My taste buds sizzled, and I thought this is what we’re going to have for supper. I actually had some salmon, plenty of Agria potatoes – best for mashing, and all the trimmings – fresh eggs, spinach in the deep freeze, and a recipe for a quick hollandaise sauce.

Here’s my recipe for the quick hollandaise sauce. Blend the juice and zest of two lemons, four egg yolks and two teasps of mild mustard.  Melt the butter, and keeping the motor running, pour the butter into the eggs in a slow stream. Process until just thickened and no more. Season to taste, and keep at room temperature until using it. This makes two cups. Extravagant and delicious!

I used fresh smoked salmon and dill in the fish cakes and rolled them in flour before frying them in a mix of butter and oil. I think if I was feeling threadbare, a tin of red salmon, or even pink salmon jazzed up with plenty of herbs would work.

Food for Thought

I am done with great things and big plans, great institutions and big success. I am for those tiny, invisible loving human forces that work from individual to individual, creeping through the crannies of the world like so many rootlets…

William James 1842 -1910   Sometimes called the father of American psychology, and also best known for his book ‘The Varieties of Religious Experience.’

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55 Comments

Filed under animals/pets, birds, cookery/recipes, culture, great days, happiness, life/style, philosophy, poetry, spiritual, The Sound of Water, Thoughts on writing and life, Uncategorized

55 responses to “Seize the day!

  1. Beautiful imagery. It was as if I was with you throughout the entire visit. I especially loved hearing about the birds at the beginning.

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  2. I was laughing at the artist and the sheep. Poor dear ! I cannot possibly relate to that, even being an artist. I guess I was meant to fly by the seat of my pants as is pretty well the case, pretty well all of the time. Totally roped into your story as always Valerie – Have a wonderful peaceful evening. I envy you the window to the sea. xx

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    • Hello Lesley, glad you had a good laugh… hope you did too about the paintings that smelled like the farm yard!
      So glad you enjoyed it, I love your comments, peace to you too XXX

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  3. Thank you for introducing me to the mouflon – Google took me to photos which look very like a wild sheep we met in the Canadian Rockies a couple of years ago.

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  4. LE

    Dear Valerie

    I’m newish to your blogs but have read two of your books on my Kindle and didn’t want them to end. I just wanted to say a heartfelt thank you for sharing your day-to-day life in this way. I love the mix of philosophy, history, personal anecdote, nostalgic reflection and domestic observation … as well as the cooking ideas and tantalising glimpses of your garden and view. It all feels so reassuringly like a slice of somebody’s “real life” and that is refreshing. I always look forward to your blog appearing in my email Inbox… thank you again.

    keep writing! Linda (Angledale, NSW, Australia)

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    • Dear Linda,
      What a gift your comment is … your beautiful words were so validating..Like any writer I often have my doubts about the worth or value of what I’m writing. From now on, whenever I do, I shall read your your lovely thoughts and generous words. Thank you, Thank you. It is such a gift to know that you enjoyed my books, and read my blogs with enjoyment.
      warm wishes to you, Valerie.

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  5. There is no distinction. We are eternal creatures temporarily expressing in a finite…place? time? medium? Everything is sacred. Nice wavelength to share, Valerie. Thank you! xoxoM

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  6. I truly enjoy and admire your writing, and I am thrilled to learn just now that you have books available for Kindle! I must search them out! Thank you! Dee

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  7. I do agree – we need to live as if everything in our existence belongs to the sacred.

    “A man is ethical only when life, as such, is sacred to him, that of plants and animals as that of his fellow men, and when he devotes himself helpfully to all life that is in need of help.”Albert Schweitzer

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  8. What a wonderful day, starting with the pheasant and then all the other pearls along the way. Thank you for introducing me to ‘stringing pearls for heaven” and the concept of being rootlets.

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  9. Sounds like you had a very pheasant day!

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  10. You hit the bird on the head Bruce !!!

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  11. A joy to read from start to finish. I’ve so missed being connected to my blogging family. 🙂

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  12. Exhausted with art is on of my favourite feelings!

    That was a truly beautiful day to savour and I’m delighted that our Gylly Beach cafe lunch inspired you. Thank you for the easy Hollandaise recipe – now I too can replicate that dish. (Thanks for the mention too!) 🙂

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    • Hello Sally,
      I think you’re supposed to do something called pingback when you mention a blog, aren’t you? I’m sorry I just don’t know how to do all these rituals…I’m sure lots of other people must have been inspired by your beautiful blog…if not to cook, to paint, knit, garden, sing…!!!

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      • It took me a while how to figure out a pingback – and then only with help from a fellow blogger! First you need to copy the address of the blog and then go to your posting page where you will find a small icon like a link in a chain. Until you have your copied address it will be greyed out. Then you type the words you want like maybe Sally’s blog, highlight those words and go to the chainlink which will go yellow,click and you will get the page that allows you to add the link. The words Sally’s blog will turn red and will then be clickable for your readers.
        Golly! That sounds complicated – it isn’t really! I hope you manage it.
        Thank you for your lovely comments about my blog!
        All the best to you 🙂

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  13. Valerie, thank you for these beautiful words that are so worth repeating: “It’s as though I know in my heart, and not just in my mind, that all is well, and that if we let go trying to make the right thing happen, the perfect thing happens. And it may not be what we planned or thought we wanted. This means a sense of peace, a calm, and a certainty. There is no need to keep striving, because when we surrender, life falls into place anyway.”

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    • Shirley, thank you so much for your appreciation. I’m so glad that those words spoke to you… as you would know, it’s wonderful when someone really ‘Gets’ what you’re saying… warm wishes…

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  14. Amy

    That was such a beautiful day! Because you let go trying to make the right thing happen, then the perfect day happens. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and wisdom, Valerie! Wonderful quote.
    Love the photo. Your photo is getting better and better everytime… 🙂

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    • Hello Amy, lovely to hear from you… so glad you enjoyed the post.
      And I’m really thrilled you notice my pictures – from an expert like you, that is something !!!Thank you …

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  15. Valerie, the words and imagery are so beautiful you transport us to a different place (or time 🙂 ) and I enjoy them so much, thank you

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  16. I so enjoy my blogging family also!

    The Adventures of Fuzzy and Boomer on Friday — Setting Up Pipe

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  17. Pingback: Rural round-up | Homepaddock

  18. I try to picture myself in your surroundings as you discover and comment on the daily miracles you notice each day. You have a peaceful, gentle writing style that I find refreshing and calming. When I read your blogs I want to relax, slow down and savor your words.

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  19. You have such a beautiful way of expressing your surroundings. Like morristownmemos said, I also want to relax, slow down and savor your words. The birds are always a wonderful way for me to greet the day too. Here in early spring we are enjoying the return of many different varieties of song birds.

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    • Thank you Patty… what a lovely comment, so good to know that you enjoy the blog… spring after your hard winter must be such a joy, we are now sliding into autumn!

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      • I always think of you guys in Australia when we are summer and envy your cold weather! 😉

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      • Actually Patti, I’m in New Zealand, which is a separate country, a thousand miles away from Australia across the Tasman Sea – we even have a different accent – and a very different climate !!! I live in the North Island which is warm, while the South Island gets the snow and bitter Antarctic weather… and Australia bakes in the dry heat or tropical heat… they have crocodiles and snakes and kangaroos, and koala bears and we don’t have any of them!!! Best wishes, Valerie

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      • I thought you were in Australia, thanks for the interesting tidbit of the difference. That is very interesting about New Zealand.

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  20. I am so happy I am behind in my reading! This was the perfect read for this morning, exactly what I needed to remind me to settle a peaceful heart despite sometimes less than peaceful surroundings. Thank you for that.

    Your quotes, oh Valerie your quotes always sit perfectly.

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    • Val, thank you so much for what you say. It gives me such a buzz to know that something I’ve written does make a difference. I love the words you use to describe how you feel ” settle a peaceful heart” I need to remember those too !!!
      And I can’t tell you how delighted I am that you enjoy the quotes… I do put a lot of thought into them – it’s great that they do connect…

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  21. LizzieJoy

    Wonderful, Valerie. Something stirs within me when I read your articles. It’s as if I’m in tune with you. I knew you were going to talk about surrender before you even mentioned it. I feel the underlying theme running through your posts. They are so profound.
    I have found it to be true that when we let go of the need to control our life along with everything and everyone in it, then life takes on a flow of its own. We settle back and relax and breathe a sigh of relief when we realise that there is a much wiser and greater intelligence running this show. Thank you, dear friend.

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    • Oh LizzieJoy,
      What a heart warming message from you…I always feel such awe when I look at the world through your eyes… the glory of Paris and the silent bliss of the snow, the leaves and the lake… maybe I do in words what you do in pictures…I love the sensitivity in your images
      I really value your understanding and appreciation of my writing… it is wonderful to be in touch and to know that we do see the world in the same way, and from the same place

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  22. The most wonderful thing about our imagination is that we can find hidden but still very creative and positive details shadowed by the stricto sensu, details that may have elude the very author. Sometimes the very reflection of a image, may be more relevant to the human eye that the image itself.
    I always enjoy exploring the relative meaning and the possible analogies.
    One of the “Misty Lake” scenes exemplify the context of reflection as an image more accurate than the subject itself, blurred by low, thick fog.
    Thank for the sharing this Valerie!

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  23. What intriguing reflections George – thank you, I loved your analogy of the Misty Lake scenes… they were mysterious, magic and astonishing,Thank you so much for your thoughts ,good friend…

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  24. I will be looking for tips on the best way to boost the quantity of responses on my own blog site, just how do you reach your goals in achieving this?

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  25. Hey there! I realize this is kind of off-topic however I needed to ask. Does operating a well-established blog such as yours require a large amount of work? I’m brand new to blogging however I do write in my diary everyday. I’d like to start a blog so I can easily share my own experience and feelings online. Please let me know if you have any kind of ideas or tips for brand new aspiring bloggers. Appreciate it!

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    • Hello,
      I had to ask someone to set up my blog for me, as I have no computer nous at all. And then you just write as well as you can – goof grammar, no cliches, short sentences, short words… just the classic writing rules…

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