It is almost two years since my beloved cat Stripe passed away. We had him for almost 17 years...since he was a tiny kitten and I was only 6! He was the family cat but the two of us had a very special bond. I've missed him every single day.
For a long time I wasn't sure I wanted another cat, but lately I've been missing having a feline friend around, although no cat could ever take his place. So, when my father told me that some friends were looking for a home for their kittens, I decided to take them in! These little ones have stolen my heart already. They are so sweet and playful and love to explore. They've just been getting used to all the new sights and sounds today (we brought them home last night) but now they are settling in very well and I do believe they have adopted me as their mommy! They have been following me all over the house and getting in my lap every time I sit down...and showing considerable jealousy when I try to read!! 😃 We think they may be part Bengal as their markings are a bit different from a typical tabby.
Meet Nastya and Olga...
I love them so much! ❤
"Behold glad nature's triumph! Lo, the sun
"The scene is steeped in beauty; and my soul,
Come, view the winter’s beauteous scene,
The hoary frost upon the trees,
And snowy garlands, here and there,
And back of all this wintry gleam,
And when he spreads his dazzling light,
We’re glad there is such beauty left,
"Who would believe, that a most interesting and edifying book, and that, too, a romance, could be written, the scene of which should be laid in a dungeon-yard, and the main character should be a simple flower, that finds its way up between the flagstones?"
Yes, it may sound too wonderful to be true, but there really is such a book! I just read it and was so touched by it that I had to share my new-found treasure with you!
Picciola: The Prisoner of Fenestrella, or Captivity Captive, was written by the French novelist and playwright, Joseph Xavier Boniface-Saintine solely for his own enjoyment, but a friend happened upon the manuscript, read it through entirely in one sitting, and persuaded him to have it printed. Published in 1836, it was translated into English two years later and immediately became wildly popular in America. The Richmond Review called it "The most charming work we have read for many a day", and the New York Review wished "that those who rely on works of fiction for their intellectual food, may always find those as pure in language and beautiful in moral as Picciola."
It was beloved by several famous American authors, including Emily Dickinson, who received the book from her cousin and thanked him thus: "I'm a 'Fenestrellan captive,' if this world be 'Fenestrella,' and within my dungeon yard, up from the silent pavement stones, has come a plant, so frail, & yet so beautiful, I tremble lest it die. This is the first living thing that has beguiled my solitude, & sometimes I fancy that it whispers pleasant things to me - of freedom - and the future. Cans't guess its name? T'is 'Picciola'; & to you Cousin William, I'm indebted for my wondrous, new, companion."
Perhaps what makes this story so beautiful is the sweet simplicity with which it is told. As the author himself says in the preface, "Here are no stirring incidents, no thrilling love tale. And yet there is love in what I am about to relate; but it is only the love of a man for...Shall I tell you? No, read and you will learn".
By now you must be dying to know what the story is about, so I will tell you! The hero of the story is a young French nobleman, Count Charles Veramont de Charney, who by the age of twenty-five is already a master of seven languages. He has "a vast facility for learning" and devotes himself to the study of philosophy and metaphysics. At last, overwhelmed by contradicting truths, he loses his faith in both God and man, and comes to the conclusion that chance alone is the father of creation.
"Chance became his God, nothingness his hope!"
He seeks happiness in society. He gives concerts, balls, and hunting parties, yet he cannot find pleasure in them. His own great learning causes him to pity and despise the ignorance of his fellow men. At last, he throws himself into politics and joins in a conspiracy against Napoleon Bonaparte, for which he is arrested and imprisoned in an old fortress on the Italian border - Fenestrella. Here he is deprived of all communication with the outside world. He is allowed neither books nor pen and paper. He is alone with his own thoughts, which have oppressed him for so long and now become unbearable. Yet here, in the courtyard of his prison, where he is allowed to exercise for an allotted time each day, he is surprised by "a feeble growth", a tiny seedling, who, by its wondrous marks of design, rebukes his denial of an intelligent Creator.
"How had that tender, delicate plantlet, so fragile that a touch would destroy it, managed to lift up, divide and cast aside that soil baked and hardened by the sun, trodden down by himself, and almost cemented to the two fragments of stone between which it was confined?"
Daily he watches its progress, still trying to believe that it is the result of Chance, albeit a happy chance, but always the plant refutes his arguments. As he observes it closely, he is amazed to find that this tiny plant is provided with everything it needs to grow and survive even in adverse conditions.
"These things you would have known long since, Sir Count, if, stooping from the abstract regions of human knowledge, you had ever deigned to lower your gaze to the simple, humble works of God".
He soon comes to love his little plant tenderly, passionately. He fears for it in storms and even shelters it from hail with his own body. He watches eagerly for its first bud, its first flower. When he falls ill, Ludovic, his jailer, makes a tea of some of the leaves and he recovers. He owes his renewed faith and reason, yes, his very life to that plant, which he calls his Picciola (little one). He studies it constantly. He can tell the time of day by the strength of the flowers' fragrance. With the help of a microscope, a gift from his fellow prisoner and future father-in-law, he makes more discoveries, which he begins to record on cloth with a makeshift pen and ink.
But now Picciola is outgrowing her small crack in the flagstones. The sharp edges begin to cut into the sides of her stem and she is dying. Charney wants to remove a few of the stones to save her, but his jailer, a rough but kind man, who also feels an affection for the plant (he calls her his "goddaughter") nevertheless observes his own orders strictly and tells him that he must appeal to the commander of the fortress. At first, in his pride, Charney refuses, but he remembers all he owes to the plant and finally submits. But the commander refers the request to the governor, and the plant will die while he waits!
Ahh, I could go on and on, but I am telling you the whole story! So I will not give away too much more, except to say that the request is finally granted for Picciola through the intercessions of the Empress Josephine, herself (as is well known) a lover of flowers.
In the end, the Count is pardoned by Napoleon, who, having read the observations written on the handkerchiefs, which had earlier been confiscated (I didn't give away that part, anyway!), comes to the conclusion that "Count Charney is a fool, but a very harmless fool".
"A man who thus subjects his thoughts to a blade of grass", said he, "may make a very good botanist, but no conspirator".
I am so delighted with this book! It is no exaggeration when I say that it is the sweetest, most beautiful story I ever read - and I have so many favorites! I read the whole book in 24 hours, quite a record for me! But this story was something so near and dear to my heart, and in many ways I could relate to it from my own experiences. My love for plants has changed my life too, though perhaps not quite as dramatically!
A few more notes... You know how I enjoy finding familiar plants mentioned in stories. I was hoping to learn the identity of Picciola, and paid close attention to every description of the flowers, leaves, and fragrance, but to no avail. Her flowers are described as white, purple, and pink, with "tiny, silvery rays". Her fragrance became stronger towards evening. From the rapidity of her growth and flowering, one would think she was an annual, yet it seems that she is expected to return with the next season. The jailer refers to her as a 'gillyflower', but then he admits that "to my eyes all plants are more or less gillyflowers". My hopes were up near the end of the story, when the Count, still imprisoned but now enjoying certain special favors, is given some books on botany and begins to try to discover Picciola's true name. But then he begins to fear...what if her name turns out to be something like Hydrocharis morsus? Or in English, what if she bear a name like fly-trap, dog's-tooth, mouse-ear, or goat's beard? At last, casting aside the books, he exclaims, "Why should I consult you? Her name is 'Picciola'! Nothing but 'Picciola'! the prisoner's plant, his comforter, his friend! Why should she need another name, and why should I care to know?". Well, perhaps the author had no particular flower in mind when he wrote this, or at any rate he didn't care to reveal it!
I will close with yet another of my favorite passages from this enchanting book. I do hope you will be inspired to read it for yourself! 😊
"Of what use to the flowers are their sweet odors? Do they themselves enjoy them?
P.S. You'll be happy to learn that our great internet dilemma is over! We were only disconnected for a day! 😊
Just a quick post to let you know I'm still online! For the moment anyway. The phone company still hasn't shown up. They rescheduled for today but it'll be dark in an hour so once again I have my doubts. It worked out well though because I had some pictures to share! My father and I were in New Brunswick again. We left yesterday, spent the night in Miramichi and came home this morning. It wasn't all that eventful of a trip but I love the 100 mile stretch of wilderness on the Renous Highway. Oh how I would love to explore those woods!! We did see a very impressive bull moose this morning but there was no time for a picture. On the way through yesterday we saw about 12 deer and a coyote!
Click on the pictures to enlarge... 😊
This is going to be a very random post, so please bear with me! 😊 Yes, I'm still here! We missed the technician when he came out to change over the phone yesterday, so that is now rescheduled for Friday and we still have internet in the meantime. That gives me a chance to upload more pictures and research a few more things, so I'm grateful!
We just had a week or so of relatively mild weather but now it seems that winter is back. It is in the single digits right now and I keep interrupting my typing to blow on my hands because it's not all that warm in the house either! We had an interesting visitor this morning. This little fox was scampering around in the field. I think he must have been chasing mice under the snow, but it almost looked like he was just playing. He certainly was frisky!
I think I have only gone to the woods without the camera twice this year, both times because I had just been out a day or two before and didn't think there would be anything new to photograph. The first time, a coyote ran right out in front me - a perfect photo opportunity! But I guess I didn't learn my lesson because I went out without it again a few weeks ago. No animals this time, but there was a very interesting "story" written in the fresh snow. I noticed some large tracks going across a little clearing and went to investigate. They turned out to be lynx tracks, and the smaller tracks near them were most likely those of a snowshoe hare - the lynx's favorite food! Following the tracks backwards, it was interesting to see that the lynx's tracks came from deeper in the woods while the snowshoe hare had come from the field. They apparently met in the middle and the chase was on! I would have liked to follow and see how it ended, but it was getting dark. That night it snowed again and then we had a couple of windy days, so the tracks were mostly filled in, but you can still see traces of the lynx's trail in this picture from a few days later.
One of my hopes for this winter is to see a lynx again. We had two of them visit our property about 5 years ago and what a thrill it was! I had just gone out to the field where I run with my dogs. My two oldest goldies were just puppies (although big puppies!) at the time. Thankfully I didn't have them with me at the moment! I kept hearing a very strange "meow" coming from behind me, turned to look and couldn't believe my eyes as two lynx nonchalantly crossed the road and came right towards me! Once again, I had no camera with me as this time I was only out to get some exercise, but I ran back to the house to get it. When I returned, the lynx had found the open gate and walked right into the fenced area! I left it open but it took them a while to find their way out so I was able to get the pictures, although now that I look at them I wish I had gotten closer and that the fence wasn't in the background! Honestly I was so excited I wasn't thinking too clearly! 😁 The lynx didn't really show much concern about my presence which surprised me, but I've talked to others since who have had similar experiences, so apparently it wasn't that unusual. I'm really hoping to see them again and get some better pictures of them!
The long evenings are made pleasant by reading and studying everything I can possibly lay hands on about plants. I'm living in a state of breathless anticipation right now because I recently ordered Gray's School and Field Botany and Gray's Manual of Botany, both original copies. I am terribly ignorant of even the most basic botanical terms (someone recently commented on the variegated "cotyledons" of my baby morning glories and I didn't even know what that meant!). Only a year ago I wouldn't have cared, but now I'm just scratching the surface of all there is to learn about plants and realizing what complex and wonderful creations they are. Everything I learn only increases my love and reverence for the Creator!
So that's my winter day's ramble...hope you got something at least out of it. 😊 Stay warm and enjoy the beauty and joy the season has to offer...before we know it, the days will be getting longer!
"We would have flowers in every home, for their sunny light, for their cheerful teachings, for their insensibly ennobling influence."
It's finally December so the two feet of white stuff on the ground is almost normal now! It already seems like it has been winter a long time, which I guess it has! Yet, as much as I am looking forward to spring, this winter is already teaching me a lot about finding beauty in even the smallest things and cherishing what I do have all the more. A few flowers to "fuss" over and tend go a long way in charming away the winter dreariness! What would we do without plants, and especially flowers?
Since the first African Violet has been doing well, I recently "adopted" another one! They are so delightful! I have a feeling there are going to be more additions before the winter is over! 😁
Only one of the Paperwhites has bloomed so far and the other three are at various stages from "almost-ready-to-bloom" to "just-emerging". But I guess that just extends the joy and anticipation a little longer! Their fragrance is heavenly!
The Sweet Marjoram continues to flower and all I need to do is brush against the leaves whenever I need some aromatherapy!
And of course, I must have some Heartsease! 😊
My Japanese Imperial Morning Glories (Ipomoea nil 'Chocolate') are thriving, despite having been nearly frozen three times already! I've learned to move them away from the window at night and not put them back too early in the morning! If you haven't tried growing these indoors I highly recommend it! I am told that they should bloom quickly too, because they are sensitive to day-length. They seem perfectly content indoors and their roots don't take up a lot of space so they don't need huge pots. I just need to figure out what they're going to climb once they start sending out their little tendrils!
We are expecting our internet to be cut off in a couple of days. Hopefully it will just be temporary, and in the meantime I should be able to check in and do some posts from the library. So you will still hear from me, just not as frequently! The hardest thing will be that I won't be able to share new pictures. I have saved lots of pictures in my drafts to use for the flower histories I plan to write over the winter, but hopefully this will be resolved before Spring so I can share new pictures of my flowers! 😊
I am a passionate gardener and seed-saver, who also enjoys playing the violin and accordion, running, spending time with my 4 golden retrievers, keeping chickens, photography, and reading.