A Week in Books: Star gazing, poetry and Advent begins

On a Sunday evening, I like to clear the shelf next to my desk, in preparation for the week ahead. There will always be a pile of books that have accumulated beside me. These will include stories my daughter has brought over for me to read to her and those that I have quickly grabbed to find a quotation, or check an ingredient for a recipe. There might be a seasonal book or two where I have looked up a flower name or gardening wisdom.

I enjoy the moment when I scoop them up and shelve them again, the titles on the spines evoke a diary of the days just passed:  A Week in Books.

I Am The Seed That Grew: A Nature Poem for Every day of the Year by The National Trust

The Almanac: A Seasonal Guide to 2020 by Lia Leendertz

This week’s reading reflects a change in the seasons. As winter begins, our daily poetry book, I Am The Seed That Grew, encourages us to listen to the sounds of the night-time garden and watch the “silent moon.”

My Almanac also reminds us that the “Full Cold Moon is the highest and brightest of the year.”

Every evening I look skywards as November draws to a close. After days of fog and cloud cover, one crisp and clear evening, the shining moon’s reflection is caught in our tiny garden stream. A moment of perfect stillness.

Dancing by the Light of the Moon: How poetry can transform your memory and change your life by Gyles Brandreth

I have been browsing all year through this beautiful poetry collection curated by Gyles Brandreth. Now though, I am going to spend the colder months reading it from start to finish and learning the poetry off-by-heart as I go. I wonder; can I learn over 250 poems by this time next year? Brandreth starts us off with a quick and fun Tom Stoppard poem.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Autumn seems to me the perfect month to be wandering the moors with Catherine and Heathcliff. My copy of the book is from my childhood and was later covered in notes during my college and university years.

As I read through this much-loved book for close on the 40th time, I have been sketching my favourite scenes. Here is my draft of Catherine’s wooden bed and the snowy tree beyond the window that scratches at the glass one stormy night.

Shadow and Light: A Journey into Advent by Tsh Oxenreider

A rare new book purchase for me was “Shadow and Light”. Each day of Advent brings a reading, a reflective question, a suggested piece of seasonal music to listen to and an artwork to contemplate. I was drawn to the gentle, contemplative lead-in to Christmas Day and beyond, especially after such a difficult year of uncertainty. Rather than reading this at night, because we are very early risers, we have been lighting a candle and listening to the recommended music as day breaks.

It is now Sunday evening and time to gather up all of the books and replace them on the shelves, whilst wondering what the next week will bring.

I hope that you have a calm and peaceful Advent time wherever you are in the world.

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National Trust: I Am the Seed That Grew the Tree: A Nature Poem for Every Day of the Year (Poetry Collections)

The Almanac: A Seasonal Guide to 2020

The Almanac: A Seasonal Guide to 2021

Wuthering Heights

Dancing By The Light of The Moon: Over 250 poems to read, relish and recite

Shadow and Light: A Journey into Advent

A Week in Books: Bonfires, bee bread and poetry with petals

On a Sunday evening, I like to clear the shelf next to my desk, in preparation for the week ahead. There will always be a pile of books that have accumulated beside me. I enjoy the moment when I scoop them up and shelve them again, the titles on the spines evoke a diary of the days just passed:  

A Week in Books.

Copyright: Tiny Potager

The Art of Fire: The Joy of Tinder, Spark and Ember by Daniel Hume

The first of the maple leaves fell this week and their orange-yellow colours brought to mind flickers of flame and evenings by the fire. Every year, at around this time, I bring The Art of Fire down from the shelf.

Copyright: Tiny Potager

I long for a fire when it is too cold to be out at night without one and the breeze whisks the smoke upwards in spiral. A hot drink in a mug, just a little too hot to hold with bare hands, can be clasped between woolly mittens, whilst we watch the flames dance. In the chillier months fire brings light to the darkness.

For now, I am content to browse The Art of Fire, reminding myself of all the different ways to build up a small campfire and of why “over loving” a fire never comes to any good … although I know I shall still enjoy poking the embers back into life all the same.

“The fire in the woodland glade with paper lanterns in the canopy above”
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No matter what page I turn to in my book, I am left feeling like the fading summer will not be so hard to part with after all.

Soon … the kettle was dancing over the flames; at last we could relax in the knowledge that everyone was safe and dinner wasn’t long away…

The Art of Fire: The Joy of Tinder, Spark and Ember by Daniel Hume

Wildlife of Britain by Dorling Kindersley Pocket Nature

This year, amongst the familiar white flowers that dot the hedgerows (as below), we noticed a new variety, with pink candy-striped flowers.

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A quick check in the nature guide told us that it was not a mutation, as I had supposed, but a different variety of the same plant, known as field bindweed.

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England’s Heritage Food and Cooking by Annette Yates

The recipe we chose for this week was a “Kentish Cherry Batter Pudding”. My sons enjoyed it straight out of the oven, eaten with dessert spoons whilst still in the cake tin. We are going to try creating our own version, with Autumn’s seasonal apples and blackberries.

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Dancing with Bees by Bridget Strawbridge-Howard

Throughout the summer, hundreds of bees have visited our little garden and some have even made a home here. Chapter one of Dancing With Bees takes a look at what happens beyond the bees’ visits to the flowers.

I had always assumed that the pollen brought back by worker honeybees was fed directly to the larvae, but I could not have been more wrong.

Dancing with Bees by Bridget Strawbridge-Howard

Strawbridge-Howard goes on to explain that pollen is actually indigestible by bees and has to be fermented into bee bread. There is, therefore, a great risk to bees from the human use of fungicides, which destroys the wild yeast required for this process, depriving the bees of the food they need to nourish both themselves and next year’s generation of pollinators.

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Breathe and Be: A Book of Mindfulness Poems by Kate Coombs

Storms swept across Britain towards the end of the week, sending delicate summer flowers swirling up into the air like confetti. Gardeners throughout the country watched nervously as sunflowers and hollyhocks, runner beans and dahlias swayed precariously on their thin stems and cane supports.

My little daughter helped me to gather up all of our fallen flowers; those which were too small for a vase, we laid out on the table.

We fetched our poetry book, turned to the storm page and I let my daughter decorate the words with her windfall.

The poems have a metre to them that brings such a sense of calmness, even as the storm rages on outside.

Is there a book that you like to read as autumn approaches?

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