Midsummer is a time when I seem to drift in the doldrums. August seems an endless string of blue-beaded days: blue skies, blue water, blue mountains, blue berries, and just a little blue in my soul. I know very well that I have absolutely no real reason whatsoever to feel blue, but for some reason I do, just a little tiny bit. Usually there comes in late July or August a respite from these doldrums. The refreshing winds of change, in the form of a holiday away, fill my little sails with renewed energy and hope and I am carried along to some other shore where blue is still the colour of the day, but not in me. I am suddenly filled with sunshine yellow and the spongy, mossy green of life.
This summer there is no wind of change to fill my sails and carry me off to those far distant shores, so I have to make my own little daily breezes. I have to find joy and beauty, colour and refreshment in what I see before me. Every morning I get the chores done: the majority of the cooking, the laundry, the watering of the garden, phone calls, the important emails, the cleaning all happen early in the day when I seem to have the most energy. Sometimes a walk with my youngest daughter into the town to do some errands must also be accomplished before the heat of the day sets in. Then, it is time for lunch and a bit of a break in the day when I sit with a book or a magazine - or my PC - and a cup of tea. When the caffeine from the tea takes effect, I get up once more and get back to work. There is always more food preparation to be done; I think I spend half my time thinking about and preparing meals. This year, we are part of a veggie garden co-op and I am always looking for new and exciting things to do with Swiss chard, beets, kale and zucchini. Carrots, peas, cucumbers and potatoes are easy, not to mention the bounty of berries, peaches and nectarines available from the markets at present. After supper is the time to visit with the family, go for a walk, and later, watch a movie or TV show to wind down. In all this activity and routine I try to find ways to make the days better. Often I pack a picnic, pick up whomever is off work at the end of the day and go off in search of a good spot to sit by the water. The water is warm by this time of year and swimming is a glorious way to wash off the cares and the grime of the day; two of my kids work in a busy cafe and my husband is flat out busy, working up a sweat at the hotel where he is employed. On my husband's days off we try to take a little road trip, often to a favourite swimming place or hiking trail, sometimes to a town or city not too far away from here where we can find some unique places to have a coffee and a treat or search for books or collectibles.
A couple of Sundays ago, we went for a short road trip to a town west of here called Mission. Our teenagers had to be at work by 3:30 p.m. so we had a few hours to enjoy together. Mission is the home of the beautiful Westminster Abbey , which some of us have also visited recently, and also the western-most station for the West Coast Express train which many commuters use to come and go to work in Vancouver. Most of the shops in the downtown core were closed, it being Sunday, but we found a fantastic antiques/collectibles shop to spend an hour in. The place was packed with everything from old pulleys and wagon wheels to vintage milk glass bowls and complete sets of fine china displayed in gorgeous antique sideboards, thousands of records, hundreds of old books, and seemingly millions of light fixtures hanging from the ceiling beams. We had a great time hunting through the maze of treasures. I had my eyes open for transferware, which I collect, and books, which I also collect. I cannot afford to spend much on either, but I seem to do alright. That day I found some transferware, but it was not the sort I wanted. Still, I hunted on, looking for some little thing I could take home, and found it in a small, hardbound copy of a book from 1889 called Dick's Common Sense Letter Writer. Inside, were examples of acceptable correspondence covering everything from Letters of Introduction, Recommendations of Character and Ability, Letters of Love and Courtship, to Letters of Invitation and Acceptance. My favourite letter that I have found so far is under the heading, '218. Invitation to a Friend in the County to Visit the City':
A family conclave decided this morning that you had been permitted to vegetate in the country quite long enough. We therefore propose to capture you next week and compel you to come to the city, to dance, to visit opera, theatre, concert picture galleries, stores, and indulge in every other kind of delightful dissipation which we can think of. We warn you beforehand that we have made all preparations for your coming, and that we will not quietly submit to any refusal. Don't dare to disappoint us. Name your day and train, and a deputation from the family will meet you at the depot.
Your loving friend,
If I were Lizzie, I could easily imagine my response to such a letter and would send the following reply post-haste:
Yes, please! I will catch the West Coast Express from Mission this coming Friday at 7:30 a.m. and will arrive at the station in Vancouver by 9:30 a.m. I very much look forward to a culturally rich and happy time with you all in the city. Thank you so very much for your kind invitation, which is timely to say the least.
Your equally loving friend,
The letters in Dick's Common Sense Letter Writer are enough to transport me to another time and place when correspondence was the way people separated by any distance was conducted. Before telephones, before email and texting with emoticons and abbreviations for everything, there was the letter, and how such letters were written was of great importance. The book cost me all of two dollars, but in addition to providing me with amusement it will serve as a souvenir of our visit to the shop where I found it and remind me to go again some day.
Even though I found no transferware that day, I decided to take out some of my collection this morning and photograph it. I love these dishes and while some have been gifts from friends and family, I have found most of them in thrift shops and yard sales for a few dollars each. I have done a little research and found out that transferware dishes were the first 'pretty crockery' available to the average person. They really are just monochromatic images transferred onto plain ironstone pottery before the glazing process and final firing, but I enjoy their history, and relate to that little lift it would have given those hardworking women of old to sip their afternoon tea from a cup decorated with some romantic pastoral image...just a little breeze in their sails to carry them through the day.
For more summer blues, head on over to Stella`s Virtual Cafe where she has a couple of delicious blueberry themed recipes.
And, if you would like to check out UK artist Paul Scott`s blog to see what he does with the transferware he collects, visit his site: http://www.natureofmending.co.uk/artist/paul-scott/. Wonderful!