Flower Seeds for Jane Austen

At last evening’s JASNA-NY’s event, after a wonderful presentation by Linda A. Chisholm, Ph.D., Columbia University who teaches the history of landscape design at the New York Botanical Garden, I put together little parting gifts.

Flower seeds.

Some of Jane Austen’s favorite flowers include Sweet William, Columbine, and Cottage Pinks.  The seeds of these flowers can be found at any local nursery.

Wouldn’t it be nice if — in commemoration of the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death and as a gesture of love and appreciation for her works, as well as a symbol of rebirth — we all planted some of her favorite flowers?

Just as flowers bring beauty to the world so do the works of Austen.  I am grateful for both.

Random Acts of Kindness

Sometimes, all it takes is a phone call.

That’s all it took for me to actually change someone’s life.

Chicken Soup for the Soul:  Random Acts of Kindness is in bookstores today.  My story, Taking Action, is about the day I helped someone get a job by simply making a phone call.  It cost me nothing…but changed a life.  Sometimes, that’s all it takes….a little action.  So get inspired, be hopeful, help that friend (or stranger!) in need.  Imagine, just imagine, if we all did one random act of kindness each day.  Oh, what a different world it would be!

Ann Radcliffe and being brave

It’s hard to be brave.

But knowing that you’re doing the right thing, knowing that you’re acting out of love, infuses one with a strength that transcends all understanding.

I’ve been reading The Italian by one of my favorite authors, Ann Radcliffe.

Her words are lyrical and of course…sublime.  She is the same author who wrote The Mysteries of Udolpho (one of Jane Austen’s favorite novels).

The Italian is a gothic tale, a romance in which the power of darkness attempts to keep two lovers apart.  Within the religious walls of a remote convent, over rocky mountains, steep cliffs and palaces, the natural and supernatural collide.

At one point, our hero, Vivaldi begs the help of an Abate.  Helping Vivaldi would go against the Abate’s wicked superior, so — out of weakness — he declines.  It’s disappointing and sad.  He fails to find his courage.  I see this characteristic in many people today and am sometimes guilty of being weak myself.

Being brave is hard, but we must always be brave enough to show compassion, do what is right, and help someone in need.

In this Abate, a mildness of temper, and a gentleness of manner were qualities of less value than is usually and deservedly imputed to them; for, being connected with feebleness of mind, they were but the pleasing merits of easy times, which in an hour of difficulty never assumed the character of virtues, by inducing him to serve those for whom he might feel.  And thus, with a temper and disposition directly opposite to those of the severe and violent abbess, he was equally selfish, and almost equally culpable, since by permitting evil, he was nearly as injurious in his conduct as those who planned it.  Indolence and timidity, a timidity the consequence of want of clear perception, deprived him of all energy of character; he was prudent rather than wise, and so fearful of being thought to do wrong that he seldom did right.  

– Ann Radcliffe, The Italian

The Spirit of the Season

Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.

He had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards; and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God Bless Us, Every One!

  •  – Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Charlotte Brontë Exhibition

Last week, I visited The Morgan Library and Museum to view Charlotte Brontë:  An Independent Willan exhibit celebrating the two-hundredth anniversary of Brontë’s birth in 1816.

I thought I’d share a few photos…


To the right are tiny handmade books made by Anne Brontë; executed in perfect microscopic penmanship.  The little book on the left is all of an inch or so in length.  Very, very sweet.  One would think it had been written by a fairy.


Below is Branwell Brontë’s well-known painting of his sisters.

Bramwell died tragically before Emily, Anne, and Charlotte.bronte

The painting has faded but has also revealed…

If you look closely (within what looks like a white column), you can faintly see Branwell.  He painted over his self portrait (between Anne and Emily).

This makes the painting all the more heartbreaking…and a bit eerie.


And below is a darling mini-portrait by Charlotte of her teenage sister, Anne.  My photo doesn’t do it justice as the colors are so rich and the tone of her skin so pretty.


This is just a tiny taste of what you’ll encounter at the exhibit as there is so much more (such as a handwritten copy of Jane Eyre and The Professor).

So, if you’re in New York…go.

Charlotte Brontë: An Independent Will runs through January 2, 2017.


I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.

– Charlotte Brontë





National Poetry Day – Edna St. Vincent Millay

Thou canst not move across the grass
But my quick eyes will see Thee pass,
Nor speak, however silently,
But my hushed voice will answer Thee.
I know the path that tells Thy way
Through the cool eve of every day;
God, I can push the grass apart
And lay my finger on Thy heart!

The world stands out on either side
No wider than the heart is wide;
Above the world is stretched the sky,—
No higher than the soul is high.
The heart can push the sea and land
Farther away on either hand;
The soul can split the sky in two,
And let the face of God shine through.

—  Excerpt from Renascence by Edna St. Vincent Millay (1917)