“In the Garden” (Celia Thaxter in her Garden), by Childe Hassam, 1892
Good morning, friends! I am reading Celia Thaxter’s classic gardening book, An Island Garden, and am loving it, taking notes as I go because there’s so much to learn from her! She was a beautiful writer of both poetry and prose, and her other passion was gardening. I’ll be sharing more about her soon, but for this morning, here’s a passage that I particularly loved from this joyful book:
When in these fresh mornings I go into my garden before any one is awake, I go for the time being into perfect happiness. In this hour divinely fresh and still, the fair face of every flower salutes me with a silent joy that fills me with infinite content; each gives me its color, its grace, its perfume, and enriches me with the consummation of its beauty. All the cares, perplexities, and griefs of existence, all the burdens of life slip from my shoulders and leave me with the heart of a little child that asks nothing beyond its present moment of innocent bliss. These myriad beaming faces turned to mine seem to look at me with blessing eyes. I feel the personality of each flower, and I find myself greeting them as if they were human. “Good-morning, beloved friends! Are all things well with you? And are you tranquil and bright? And are you happy and beautiful?” They stand in their peace and purity and lift themselves to my adoring gaze as if they knew my worship–so calm, so sweet, so delicately radiant, I lose myself in the tranquillity of their happiness.
~ Celia Thaxter (1835–1894), from An Island Garden
Tasha Tudor is one of my favorite artists. She was the author and illustrator of many children’s books, including my favorite edition of The Secret Garden, and she is beloved worldwide. She was born 100 years ago today, and so to celebrate her centenary, I bought a copy of a lovely book about her: Tasha Tudor’s Garden, by Tovah Martin, with beautiful, beautiful photographs by Richard W. Brown.
There is so much beauty and inspiration in this book! I look forward to reading it and learning more about Tasha Tudor, about her elegantly “simple” lifestyle, and about her gorgeous gardens. I will read it slowly, absorbing as much as I can of the natural beauty she created and surrounded herself with during her long life.
Please visit her family website to learn more about her life and her work.
photo by Richard W. Brown
Happy birthday to one of my favorite artists! Marc Chagall would be 128 years old today. I dearly love the colors in his ethereal paintings and stained glass, especially the blue. His dreamlike paintings are colorful, happy, and full of love. Chagall was a man of deep passion for life and for art. He was a happy man, if you can judge by the many photos of him with family and at work.
A few years ago, I read a wonderful biography of him, Marc Chagall: Painter of Dreams, by one of my favorite authors, Natalie Bober. If you love art, or are just interested in the life of a gifted artist, I highly recommend this little book. You can read my post about it here.
Alan Cumming’s memoir, Not My Father’s Son, is an important book. Mr. Cumming grew up with a cruel and abusive father, certainly a difficult subject to write about, and one that is often difficult to read. But he wrote it with honesty, courage, compassion, and fairness. And as I listened to the audiobook, which he narrated himself, I found myself admiring Alan Cumming more and more for the way he has dealt with such a dark childhood. He is a good, caring, and sensitive human being, (as well as a gifted actor!) and I appreciate him for sharing his difficult story with the world.
I’m not feeling very well this week… so what do you read when you are under-the-weather? My quiet reading/recovery time is spent with a little book that I downloaded onto my Kindle, but I’m going to order a hardback copy because it’s a little treasure with illustrations by a favorite artist: Childe Hassam. The book is An Island Garden, by Celia Thaxter, who wrote it in 1894 at the urging of friends who loved her flower garden. She was a wonderful gardener, so I am loving reading about it and learning from her. But she was also a poet and writer of stories. I’d never heard of her before, so she’s a wonderful find for me. And this is a very nice book for someone “under the weather” in the middle of January…someone who is dreaming and planning her own garden, and longing for Spring to come!
Often I hear people say, “How do you make your plants flourish like this?” as they admire the little flower patch I cultivate in summer, or the window gardens that bloom for me in the winter; “I can never make my plants blossom like this! What is your secret?” And I answer with one word, “Love.” For that includes all,–the patience that endures continual trial, the constancy that makes perseverance possible, the power of foregoing ease of mind and body to minister to the necessities of the thing beloved, and the subtle bond of sympathy which is as important, if not more so, than all the rest.
Oh…I and DO wish I could somehow work it out to go to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, before March 8th to see an exhibit called “Flowers in Winter: Celia Thaxter’s Island Garden.”
Vincent’s Gardens, by Ralph Skea, is a lovely little book that I read over this very dark and rainy January weekend. I love the art of Vincent Van Gogh! I’m also reading as much as I can about gardens and gardening since we moved into our new home in the Grove. So the combination was perfect, and looking at his beautiful paintings of gardens was simply a delightful way to spend the weekend!
We’ve had a month of dark foggy days, and this week our gray rainy days will return. It’s early-January winter! I am reminded of a favorite book, read aloud many times in my classroom[s] over the years, and it brightened this gray winter morning to pull it off my shelf and re-read it.
Frederick, by Leo Lionni, is about a group of mice gathering food for the winter. All are busy except for Frederick, who seems to be sitting on a rock in the sunshine doing nothing. But he IS doing something…he is collecting sun rays and colors and words. Later, in the middle of the dark, cold winter, when the food is scarce and the spirits are low, Frederick begins to tell the mice his stories. He weaves his memories of sunshine and colors into beautiful words which warm the hearts and lifts the spirits of his fellow mice. He is a storyteller and a poet!
A Cup of Light is the third book I’ve read by Nicole Mones, and I do love her work! She’s such a good storyteller, and I find her topics fascinating! Her books are set in China, and there’s so much to learn about the culture and about the arts in each of them. Recently I read her book, The Last Chinese Chef, which was a delicious story about Chinese cuisine. This one was about the world surrounding priceless Imperial porcelain, and Ms. Mones really did her research. I enjoy how much I learn about Chinese culture from her books, but I particularly enjoy the characters she creates.
From the publisher:
As an American appraiser of fine Chinese porcelain, Lia Frank holds fragile beauty in her hands, examines priceless treasure with a magnifying lens. But when Lia looks in the mirror, she sees the flaws in herself, a woman wary of love, cut off from the world around her. Still, when she is sent to Beijing to authenticate a collection of rare pieces, Lia will find herself changing in surprising ways…coming alive in the shadow of an astounding mystery.
As Lia evaluates each fragile pot, she must answer questions that will reverberate through dozens of lives: Where did these works of art come from? Are they truly authentic? Or are they impossibly beautiful forgeries–part of the perilous underworld of Chinese art? As Lia examines her treasure, a breathtaking mystery unravels around her. And with political intrigue intruding on her world of provenance and beauty, Lia is drawn into another, more personal drama–a love affair that could alter the course of her life.
An excerpt from the book:
Tilted on its side, surrounded by white silk, it seemed to be one of the Chenghua chicken cups. But that would be impossible. Those delicate little Ming masterworks, made in the late 1400s for the Chenghua emperor, were some of porcelain’s highest stars. Whole careers were devoted to them…
…She unrolled the felt and lifted the cup out again. She held it to eye level. Fantastic. The proportion, the shape and balance were just what they ought to be. It was a feeling more than anything else, but it was sure and deep and it ran like a stream of light all through her: The cup was right. The porcelain had that vanilla-toned, off-white warmth that came from the clay used during the Chenghua reign, never dead white, always soft, alive. It was an effect almost impossible to reproduce, and this cup had it right.
This was a very enjoyable and enlightening book, and I’m counting it for both my Art History Challenge and my Global Reading Challenge.
I’m wrapping up Sarah’s Art History Reading Challenge for this year, and am going to go right ahead and sign up for it again. This turned out to be one of my favorite challenges of the year. I really enjoyed the books I found, and I loved reading about art and the lives of artists. Here’s my list of books completed this year:
- The Forest Lover, by Susan Vreeland
- The Madonnas of Leningrad, by Donna Dean
- The Lost Painting: The Quest for a Caravaggio Masterpiece, by Jonathan Harr
- Still Life, by Louise Penny
- “Monet Refuses the Operation“, a poem by Lisel Mueller
- The Matisse Stories, by A.S. Byatt
- Marc Chagall, Painter of Dreams, by Natalie S. Bober
- Breaking Tradition: The Story of Louise Nevelson, by Natalie S. Bober
Nomadreader has kindly volunteered to host this challenge for 2010, and she has set up some new choices.
This year there will be four levels of participation:
- Curious – Read at least 3 books about art, either fiction or non-fiction.
- Fascinated – Read at least 6 books about art, either fiction or non-fiction.
- Enamored– Read at least 9 books about art, either fiction or non-fiction.
- Utterly enchanted – Read at least 12 books about art, either fiction or non-fiction.
There will also be at least four extra credit assignments throughout the year to challenge you to take your curiosity, fascination, adoration and enchantment even higher. These will be completely optional, and you don’t have to be signed up for the challenge itself to complete them. Either way, subscribe to this blog so you won’t miss out!
I’m going to sign up at the FASCINATED level, and plan on reading 6 books…but I may end up at the ENAMORED level, or even the UTTERLY ENCHANTED level since I enjoy this genre so much. I have a number of books already on my shelf waiting for this challenge, but I also want to leave room for those wonderful discoveries I find in the library when I wander through the art and biography sections, so I will post my choices as I go along.
Thanks, Nomadreader, for hosting this fun challenge for us this year!