Tag Archives: beauty

The Valley of the Flowers – Part One



Dear Readers,

You may describe the “picture postcard” memories of your childhood — but just try to compete with mine:

I spent my idyllic childhood [1958-1962] in  “The Valley of the Flowers,”   Lompoc [LAHM-poke], California.  This small town and valley boasted the title of “The Flower Seed Capital of the World.”


The air was pure and fresh because of the ocean wind, the small population, and the absence of industrial commerce:  At that time, the region was mostly agricultural.

In addition to flowers, the region now boasts of  vineyards, which flourish in this lush, fertile, golden valley.


After the Spanish conquered California for God and King, the Spanish Friars established 21 missions, along the coast of California.  Lompoc was the site of Mission La Purisima Concepcion, providing the source of the name of the region:  “Point Conception.”


Mission La Purisima Concepcion

“Point Conception”  jutted out into the Pacific Ocean.  [See the red star, below].  Strong winds from the ocean were invigorating and bracing.  A protective blanket of dense fog rolled in every night and dissipated every morning.


The cool, Mediterranean climate of the region did not offer regular seasons and the weather was unvarying.   The annual average temperature range was between 50 degrees and 70 degrees and the average rainfall was 16.11 inches.  Of course,  there was never frozen precipitation.

I remember frequently wearing a “car coat”  but that was the warmest piece of over-clothing that I owned.   Our homes did not have air conditioning because the temperature rarely rose above 70 degrees.   There was one hot spell per year, however, when the “Santa Ana Winds” rolled in from the desert.  This was our one chance to wear shorts and sleeveless tops and retrieve our window fans from storage.



I live in North West Florida now.  Every summer, I grow homesick for the climate of my childhood:  I yearn, once more, to wear a car-coat in July;  to walk on the crunchy, brown sand of the beach;  to hear the crashing, booming waves of the ocean and the plaintive cry of the sea gulls;  to wade in the cold ocean water [where no one would dare to swim without a wet-suit];  to smell the scent of sea air, sea weed and kelp;  to feel the wind and sea mist on my face and in my hair; and to look up and see the protective dome of the overcast sky, which protected us from the sun.


Surf Beach, Point Conception, CA

I long to play all day at the beach, with no sunscreen, and to return home without even the barest hint of a sunburn.


The sweet fragrance and vibrant color of those flowers represented my ideal childhood.  I lived in a landscape filled with softly undulating hills of beauty, in orderly rows of contrasting color, as far as the eye could see.


The tranquil beauty of the valley’s contours  provided the memories and dreams of my childhood.

The intrusive nature and shape of the events which invaded my ideal childhood is what this series of blog entries must tell.

Coram Deo,


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Portals Into Places of Enchantment: Two

Dear Readers,

Now I come to the second of the  beloved books that will never leave my library:

In a previous entry, I said that some books were Portals Into Places of Enchantment.  Click the link to read the first installment in this series.  To read more about Places of Enchantment, click this link.

The first “portal” I described is an early edition of Cross Creek, a gift from my son.  The second one is a hardback edition of The Yearling, with illustrations by Wyeth.

In her book of memoirs, Cross Creek, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings describes herself as an excellent and discriminating — yet vain — cook.  She declares that she would squander her very last dollar to buy Jersey cream and butter.

For my part, I would invest my last dollar to rescue her Pulitzer-Prize winning book, The Yearling, from the dusty recesses of the Young Reader Section of book stores and libraries.

It is true that the protagonist of the book is a boy of twelve but it does not follow that the primary audience of the book should be of the same age.

To fully appreciate the novel, you must first experience a great deal of life:  an impossible feat for a Young Reader.  Only an adult is seasoned enough by life to appreciate the depth and richness of the wisdom which flows through the narrative.

I first read The Yearling as a young mother and I have read it now, as  a [young] grandmother:  Every time I read the book, its lessons becomes more essential to me.

In fact, this novel is the best book on parenting and grandparenting that you will ever read.  Yes, a woman who bore no children wrote the best parenting book.  Yet, sadly, you will never find this book on a list entitled, “How to Parent.”  [But I intend to remedy that oversight, also.]

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings at her home and farm in Cross Creek, Florida

Thirty-five years ago, I visited the hamlet, Cross Creek, near Micanopy, Florida, where Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings wrote the book, The Yearling.  I confess that I did not read her book until almost five years later.

I thought it odd that, when I finished the novel, I wept.  I am not a sentimental person [and neither was Rawlings].  Yet, I am astounded by genuine beauty, goodness, and truth:  themes that Rawlings,  a master story-teller and wordsmith, brings to life with brilliance.

Evidently, the weeping is not a rare response to the reading of this book.  To the other readers who wept upon finishing this enchanting book, I assure you:  I am a kindred spirit.

I wept not because I was sad.  Please understand, however, that the novel, mirroring life, contains tragic events.  No, I wept because the novel was so beautifully written.  It was painful to awake from and leave the enchanting world that Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings had created.

And yet something else made me weep:  Although Rawlings had been dead for decades before I read the book, I recognized in her a kinship and I deeply regretted not knowing her in real life.

The enchanting world she creates is not a romantic, escapist world.  Rawlings casts a non-sentimental view at the hard lives which her characters lead.  She was part of that world and her own life, invested in that rural hamlet of Cross Creek,  echoed the lives of her characters.

It is difficult to describe the novel as fiction:  The characters she draws are intimately familiar to her.  They are composites of “real life” children and adults that she knew in her 25 years of community living in Cross Creek.

She was never an impartial observer:  She was absorbed into the agrarian life, struggling, with her neighbors,  to wrest a living from the land and water surrounding Cross Creek.   And she was not always a famous author:  For decades, she depended upon the successes of her orange orchard and upon the produce of her farm.  A failed crop spelled disaster to each of those in the community.

If you are curious enough to enter the world of The Yearling, you must conform to its rhythm and cadence.  The book will absorb you and demand that you quiet your mind.   As you enter the portal, time will slow down.  The themes and metaphors will ebb and flow like the spring-fed rivers of North Florida.  The images evoked by the words and phrases are as crystal-clear as the springs.  It is an enchanting and quiet world and, for a time, the only sound you will hear will be those of the water birds, winging above those springs.

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Home and Museum:  Cross Creek, FL

I fully intend, someday soon,  to return to Cross Creek,  Florida, to pay homage to the woman who wrote this masterpiece.

By the way, the illustrious Max Perkins was Rawlings’ editor and you may want to read a delightful book, based upon the volume of correspondence between the editor and the writer:  “Max and Marjorie.”  It is out of print but I ordered a used hardback. Sorry;  I cannot let you borrow it.  You will have to order your own.

Coram Deo,


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How My Garden Grows: One

My Front-Porch Garden:

From front to back and from short to tall:

foliage of “Lamb’s Ear,” yellow blooms of Rudbeckia “Herbstonne,” “Indigo Spires Sage” — all under a bower of Crape Myrtles [Natchez].

Dear Readers,

[Note: After you read this entry, click How My Garden Grows: Part Two.]

I have previously written about Places of Enchantment.  Creating a garden, small or large, is like creating a place of enchantment.

At first, I began gardening for my enjoyment and exercise.  Over the years, however, I turned to the garden — for solace, beauty, and quiet — during various difficult stages of my life:  the empty nest, the topsy-turvy chaos of restoring a 65-year old home, the death of my parents, and my bout with breast cancer.

Immersing myself in the pursuit of gardening is, in itself, a healing process:  I receive, from the bounty of Creation, the warmth of the sun, the cool refreshment of the nourishing water, the touch and smell of the earth, the fragrance and color of the blooms, the various shades of the foliage, and the sound of birdsong.  I choose to think of nothing, except the task at hand, while I suspend worries and anxieties for a few hours of welcome respite.

However, I am a very practical gardener:  I have developed “Margot’s Get-Real Gardening Tips” that I will share with you so that you may spend more time delighting in — and less time toiling in — your garden.

In the near future, I will share these tips.  Here are some photos from my gardens, to inspire you.

Proviso:  My “Garden Tips” are for the Southern gardener:  specifically, North West Florida!  Over the years, I have battled the heat and humidity and have, finally, submitted to it — and I know the best plants to withstand our Southern climate.  

My Front Porch Containers:  mostly annuals.

My two sisters, Susan and Amy, designed these lovely combinations.

Container Pot of either Portulaca or Purslane:  A truly “bullet-proof” bloom for the summer.

My Kitchen Porch:  A shady respite.

Front Porch Container

Another View of My Front Porch Garden:  from left to right:

blooms and buds of “Purple Coneflower,” “Indigo Sage,” “Lily of the Nile” — all under the shade of Crape Myrtle [Natchez]

Amaryllis [from bulb]

Coram Deo,



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Where Beauty and Grace Reside

One of the things I appreciate most about having adult children is the opportunity to learn from them, especially about thoughtful books and films.  A few years ago, our son, Garrett, introduced us to the sleeper film, The Painted Veil.  Ironically, only a few days later, our daughter, Haley, telephoned me from Texas and said, “You and Dad have to see this film!”  

During September, our wedding anniversary month, I think about weighty quotes, on the nature of love and marriage, that are substantial enough to ponder and to share with you, my Faithful Readers.  While re-watching The Painted Veil, I found them.

The Painted Veil film is based upon the same-titled novel, by W. Somerset Maugham [pronounced, “Mom”], English dramatist & novelist (1874 – 1965).  The title, in turn, is based upon the Sonnet, Lift Not the Painted Veil, by Percy Bysshe Shelley, 1792-1822.

Here is the sonnet, since it is very short:

Lift Not the Painted Veil

by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Lift not the painted veil which those who live
Call Life: though unreal shapes be pictured there,
And it but mimic all we would believe
With colours idly spread,—behind, lurk Fear
And Hope, twin Destinies; who ever weave
Their shadows, o’er the chasm, sightless and drear.
I knew one who had lifted it—he sought,
For his lost heart was tender, things to love,
But found them not, alas! nor was there aught
The world contains, the which he could approve.
Through the unheeding many he did move,
A splendour among shadows, a bright blot
Upon this gloomy scene, a Spirit that strove
For truth, and like the Preacher found it not.

Here is a very brief summary of the book:  The Painted Veil, W. Somerset Maugham, 1925:

“A quiet, uncluttered, straightforward book in its rendition of the pitfalls of adultery. When Walter Fane discovers his wife Kitty’s involvement with another man, Charles, he takes her to Mei-tan-fu, a far off place in China during a cholera epidemic. Kitty, brought up never wanting, raised to marry well, shallow and ignorant of sacrifice and devotion discovers what and how it is to be compassionate as she faces unimaginable poverty, hardship and death in this ‘painted veil called life.’ ” [From A Thousand Books and Quotes, a blog]

I hope the following quotes [from the book] will encourage you to read the book and watch the film, in whichever order you prefer.  As for me, I watched the film first and  I read the book later and, as I recall, the two were slightly different.  Watch the film because it is visually  stunning.  Read the book because the language is masterful.

Proviso:  The film is achingly beautiful but it is intense.

The Painted Veil may challenge your assumptions about the nature of love and marriage.  It will certainly provide “food and drink” for hours of rich conversation with one, two, three, or more persons.

I would love to read your thoughts on the book and/or film.  Submit a Reply to me and we can converse!

Quotes from the book:

‘One cannot find peace in work or in pleasure, in the world or in a convent, but only in one’s soul.’

‘Remember that it is nothing to do your duty, that is demanded of you and is no more meritorious than to wash your hands when they are dirty; the only thing that counts is the love of duty; when love and duty are one, then grace is in you and you will enjoy a happiness which passes all understanding.’

‘Beauty is also a gift of God, one of the most rare and precious, and we should be thankful if we are happy enough to possess it and thankful if we are not, that others possess it for our pleasure.’

‘I have an idea that the only thing which makes it possible to regard this world we live in without disgust is the beauty which now and then men create out of the chaos. The pictures they paint, the music they compose, the books they write, and the lives they lead. Of all these the richest in beauty is the beautiful life. That is the perfect work of art.’

‘Each member of the orchestra plays his own little instrument, and what do you think he knows of the complicated harmonies which unroll themselves on the indifferent air? He is concerned only with his small share. But he knows that the symphony is lovely, and though there’s none to hear it, it is lovely still, and he is content to play his part.’

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