“Autumn, the year’s last, loveliest smile”


I haven’t had the chance to write a blog post this month. Grad school reading and academic papers have filled my time, but I wanted to share some more poems. I shared springtime poems earlier this year, and I can’t neglect these beautiful descriptions of autumn–the season that William Cullen Bryant perfectly described as “the year’s last, loveliest smile.” Enjoy!

By Edna St. Vincent Millay

O world, I cannot hold thee close enough!
Thy winds, thy wide grey skies!
Thy mists, that roll and rise!
Thy woods, this autumn day, that ache and sag
And all but cry with colour! That gaunt crag
To crush!   To lift the lean of that black bluff!
World, World, I cannot get thee close enough!

Long have I known a glory in it all,
But never knew I this;
Here such a passion is
As stretcheth me apart,—Lord, I do fear
Thou’st made the world too beautiful this year;
My soul is all but out of me,—let fall
No burning leaf; prithee, let no bird call.


By William Cullen Bryant

           Ere, in the northern gale,
The summer tresses of the trees are gone,
The woods of Autumn, all around our vale,
Have put their glory on.

The mountains that infold,
In their wide sweep, the coloured landscape round,
Seem groups of giant kings, in purple and gold,
That guard the enchanted ground.

I roam the woods that crown
The upland, where the mingled splendours glow,
Where the gay company of trees look down
On the green fields below.

My steps are not alone
In these bright walks; the sweet south-west, at play,
Flies, rustling, where the painted leaves are strown
Along the winding way.

And far in heaven, the while,
The sun, that sends that gale to wander here,
Pours out on the fair earth his quiet smile,—
The sweetest of the year.

Where now the solemn shade,
Verdure and gloom where many branches meet;
So grateful, when the noon of summer made
The valleys sick with heat?

Let in through all the trees[Page 72]
Come the strange rays; the forest depths are bright?
Their sunny-coloured foliage, in the breeze,
Twinkles, like beams of light.

The rivulet, late unseen,
Where bickering through the shrubs its waters run,
Shines with the image of its golden screen,
And glimmerings of the sun.

But ‘neath yon crimson tree,
Lover to listening maid might breathe his flame,
Nor mark, within its roseate canopy,
Her blush of maiden shame.

Oh, Autumn! why so soon
Depart the hues that make thy forests glad;
Thy gentle wind and thy fair sunny noon,
And leave thee wild and sad!

Ah! ’twere a lot too blessed
For ever in thy coloured shades to stray;
Amid the kisses of the soft south-west
To rove and dream for aye;

And leave the vain low strife
That makes men mad—the tug for wealth and power,
The passions and the cares that wither life,
And waste its little hour.


When the Frost is on the Punkin
By James Whitcomb Riley

When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock,
And you hear the kyouck and gobble of the struttin’ turkey-cock,
And the clackin’ of the guineys, and the cluckin’ of the hens,
And the rooster’s hallylooyer as he tiptoes on the fence;
O, it’s then’s the times a feller is a-feelin’ at his best,
With the risin’ sun to greet him from a night of peaceful rest,
As he leaves the house, bareheaded, and goes out to feed the stock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.

They’s something kindo’ harty-like about the atmusfere
When the heat of summer’s over and the coolin’ fall is here—
Of course we miss the flowers, and the blossums on the trees,
And the mumble of the hummin’-birds and buzzin’ of the bees;
But the air’s so appetizin’; and the landscape through the haze
Of a crisp and sunny morning of the airly autumn days
Is a pictur’ that no painter has the colorin’ to mock—
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.

The husky, rusty russel of the tossels of the corn,
And the raspin’ of the tangled leaves, as golden as the morn;
The stubble in the furries—kindo’ lonesome-like, but still
A-preachin’ sermuns to us of the barns they growed to fill;
The strawstack in the medder, and the reaper in the shed;
The hosses in theyr stalls below—the clover over-head!—
O, it sets my hart a-clickin’ like the tickin’ of a clock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock!

Then your apples all is gethered, and the ones a feller keeps
Is poured around the celler-floor in red and yeller heaps;
And your cider-makin’ ’s over, and your wimmern-folks is through
With their mince and apple-butter, and theyr souse and saussage, too! …
I don’t know how to tell it—but ef sich a thing could be
As the Angels wantin’ boardin’, and they’d call around on me
I’d want to ’commodate ’em—all the whole-indurin’ flock—
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock!

Poems taken from:


Advice from my 12-year-old self

Today I was wondering what advice I would give myself now if I was a kid again. This letter is what I ended up with. It’s a good reminder.

Dear “Grown Up” Me,

Do you like being a grown up? Is it as fun as you always thought it would be?

If you feel overwhelmed and tired, just remember that you can eat dessert before dinner now and you don’t have to ask permission from anyone!

I hope you haven’t forgotten how fun it is to be a kid. Just because you’re a grown up now doesn’t mean you can’t build a kingdom in a willow tree or go to a park and pilot your very own airplane on the swings. You can still find animal shapes in the clouds and trace the shapes of the constellations.  

I know you can’t really be a kid again even if you wanted to. But try to remember the joy, the freedom, and the wonder.

Race your shadow across sunny fields. Bury your feet in warm sand. Laugh until you can’t breathe. Use your imagination. Love people wholeheartedly. Try new things. Embrace challenges. Be thankful for the sunshine and the rain.

Do you remember?

I hope you do.

Until later,


When God says “Pay Attention”: Times In Between

Last fall when I began this blog, I lamented the fact that I wasn’t buying school supplies. Fast forward 12 months, and I’ve just returned from the school supply aisles of Walmart with a blue Five Star 3-subject notebook and new pens—the minimal school supplies I’ve realized are necessary. In nine days, I will begin yet another first day of school to earn my M.A. in American and English literature. 17th grade? Freshman year of grad school? I don’t know if there is a correct term, but I do know it’s another new beginning. And with every new beginning in my life so far, I’ve ended up thinking back to what I’ve learned from the “in between”—a place that is anything but dull.

This last “in between” year has been one of constant challenges and personal growth. I feel like I have been tested, and I definitely don’t feel like I passed with flying colors—quite the opposite actually. Have you ever read the passage in Romans 7 when Paul seems to be talking in circles?

“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do….For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

It’s crazy confusing right? At least I always thought so until I found myself in the exact same situation. I was alternately overwhelmed with guilt and a profound rebelliousness that I had never before experienced. There is no possible way to bring these two opposite reactions into an equilibrium. Then I read Paul’s words again. And it hit me—finally.

Life isn’t simply black and white with a little gray area. It’s full of an array of colors and decisions waiting to be made that can be combined into gorgeous hues—green emerging from blue and yellow, purple from red and blue. Or, something drastically different can happen. Remember in elementary school when you mixed every paint color together and ended up with a strange color similar to brown, purple, and mud? With so many options mixed together, a strange, dark, indescribable color is created. I think this was the direction I was headed.

But as Paul says, now I am working to delight in God’s law even when it feels like sin is waging a war within me. Because of Jesus, I will not be overwhelmed or defeated—but only if I continually choose Him from among the barrage of options in this world. I want my life to be a work of art created by God and not a mud-colored, goo-covered finger painting that I try to take control of and create on my own.

So, another new beginning. Another reminder that life is made up of changes, struggles, and choices. But I know that God is the same always and forever, and I love His promises in Isaiah 43:19: “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” My “in between” times always feel like wastelands, and in some ways, maybe all our lives are lived in these spaces in between. I don’t know about you, but this promise gives me hope for new beginnings, and a challenge to pay attention next time God asks “Do you not perceive it?”

new thing

“What are you going to do with that degree?”

Do you believe that each person has one specific purpose in life?

I used to obsess about it—thinking that something must be wrong with me if I had no idea what my “purpose in life” was. Shouldn’t I at least have an idea? I still remember the agonizing hours I spent trying to choose a major in college. It seemed like a life or death decision, and when I finally settled on an English language and literature degree, many people made certain I realized that it was the “easy” option and a useless degree in today’s economy.

But four years later, when I walked across the stage at graduation to receive my diploma, it didn’t feel like it had been easy. I had accomplished something. I will never be a rocket scientist, and I’m OK with that fact. I won’t bring about world peace, but I’m not sure that is even possible. This fall, I am beginning a graduate degree in American and English literature, and I am prepared to listen to the differing opinions and the never-ending question of “What are you going to do with that degree?” Because I don’t need to have an answer right now.

In the two years since college graduation, it has often felt as though each decision I make will directly impact either my future success or my massive failure. I have struggled to plan everything down to the minutest detail while simultaneously learning that life happens whether you plan for it or not. Six months after starting my first “grown up job,” I was laid-off due to budget cuts. That’s not something I could plan for, but it happened anyway.

It is incredibly easy to become overwhelmed, frustrated, and depressed. I look around and compare myself to other people my age, and they seem to be doing so well—flourishing in careers, getting married, starting families. I wonder if I’m messing up, doing something wrong, missing my purpose.

There is a quote I’ve heard many times that goes something like: “The only constant in life is change.”  I am learning this the hard way—which is really the only way to learn it—by living it. Most days I don’t know if I have the patience or endurance to get to the next milestone, but this is simply life. And when I step back and look away from myself, I am reminded of how beautiful life can be.

As far as there being one great overarching purpose in life, I’m not so sure it exists. When I was younger and people asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up, I would always answer, “I don’t know. All I know is that I want to love God and love people.” And as simple as it sounds, I really do believe that loving God and loving others are the only purposes that everyone is called to fulfill. In Matthew 26:37-38, when Jesus is asked what the greatest commandment is, He answers: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Micah 6:8 says: “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” It seems to me that this is my purpose in life. No matter where I live, where I work, what I do, or whether or not I get married and have a family, I can always do these things. Yes, they are challenging, but in so many ways, it is a freeing realization to know that I am capable of fulfilling this purpose. I don’t have an unrealistically high bar set before me that measures whether I succeed or fail. I have a compassionate Creator God who wants me to love Him first and then share it with the world.

The Relationship Between Trust and Contentment


I’ve been spending a lot of time in thought lately—probably too much time since I have a tendency to overthink everything. But sometimes all the time spent thinking can actually result in good ideas and conclusions instead of making me frustrated and obsessed. This morning I stumbled upon a relationship between trust and contentment. Actually, I think I’ve always known of this connection, but recently it was made all too clear.

If I’m honest, I don’t find it at all easy to trust God. Maybe I could blame it on the level of importance placed on independence in our modern culture, but it’s more than likely because of my own stubbornness—and ultimately because of fear. Probably too many of my blog posts have mentioned singleness, but it seems to be the central theme of my life currently. And my failure to give up control of my relationships vs. the lack thereof is definitely impacting my ability to trust God fully. Several months ago I decided to “take things into my own hands,” which was obviously not the best decision—especially when I knew God was calling me to trust Him. My reasoning was that if God wasn’t going to “do” anything, then I would just help the process along. I tried online dating and went on a few extremely awkward dates. If you know me, you know that meeting random strangers in new places is not comfortable for me at all. I know that dating sites work for many people, but they are definitely not for me.

My initial frustration at my failed attempt to “fix” my singleness quickly turned to anger. I kept asking God why everyone else seemed to have someone when I had been alone for so long. And of course I know I’m not really alone. I’m surrounded by really amazing friends and family. Maybe I have simply fallen into the trap of wanting what I don’t have instead of being thankful for what I do. And I think that is the most accurate description of discontentment. When I am not trusting God, I sink into feelings of discontent; but when I’m actively trying to trust Him more, I feel much more at peace.

Learning to trust God is a long, slow, and painful process for me. My longing for a romantic relationship has far too often been stronger than my longing for God. The best part is that He has always forgiven me for wandering away and welcomed me back. I feel sometimes that God must be tired of continually teaching me the same lessons only to have me make the same mistakes. But I think that’s what a Father does. Maybe I will never feel completely content on earth because earthly contentment will always be lacking, but I am consciously choosing to trust that God knows what is best for me.

This is not easy, but I know it is right.

Poetry and Peace

Since I work at a bookstore, I find it difficult to pass up beautifully bound volumes of poetry when I run across them—which is why I am now the proud owner of both Willa Cather’s and Emily Dickinson’s poetry collections!

I’ve been reading the poems during my lunch hour at work over the past few weeks, and it has been incredibly relaxing and peaceful. There is something almost magical in the way poets are able to describe the world with the perfect combinations of words. I’ve always thought that the best poets write about universal or common ideas but explain them in completely new ways.


One of Willa Cather’s poems stood out to me most. I’m sharing it here:

All the Peace of Evening Stars

All the peace of evening stars,
All the joy of morning dew,
Be the journey through and through
And of Beauty what is true
And only that—with flowers
that grew
Tradeless since the heart first knew.
All faith believes, all knowledge bars,
And the peace of evening stars.

Reading more poetry gave me the inspiration to try writing my own again. I have absolutely no intentions of being compared to fantastic poets such as Dickinson and Cather, but I wanted to share the latest poem I’ve written. I’m very thankful for the gifts of words and language. Here is my poem:


Why do the shadows hide when menacing clouds block the sun?
Where do summer breezes go when October’s winds blow fierce and cold?
What magical words are spoken to awaken dawn and dew?
Who sends the rain and sunshine and sprinkles the sky with stars?

When I stop and question all that I can’t understand,
My mind begins this spinning and whirling beyond my control
There are no answers—only puzzles—
Links to mysteries beyond my small world.

Why does evil seem to always win?
Where have heroes and angels gone?
What is there possibly that I could do?
Who knows the outcome of it all?

In the midst of my mental mess
I hear a faint voice soft and kind.
If I choose, I can ignore it. Him.
But somehow He calms my mind and lightens my heart.

“Rest, my child, I’ll guide you when darkness blocks out the light.
I’ll hold you when the wind bites deep and cold.
Someday I’ll answer all your questions
And show you my view of the stars.

“Evil will not win, and my heart breaks with yours now.
Heroes and angels are all around you—just open your eyes to see
There is much I have for you to do.
I know you wonder and worry, but I know how this ends.”

He wraps me in his warmth and presence and whispers
“Peace. Be still.”
I don’t need all the answers. For now it’s enough to stay
Here with Him and learn. To love as He loves me.

This is Not Advice for “Surviving Singleness”

This is not a “once you stop looking for someone, God will bring that person into your life” blog. This is not another “I’ve finally found peace and now I’m celebrating my singleness!” post. This is definitely not a “how to survive singleness” blog.


I don’t know about you, but I’ve read enough of those to have them memorized. And while I usually don’t disagree with them, they annoy me. They annoy me because I already know all these things. Given the opportunity, I could list off any number of reasons to rejoice in this “season of singleness” and many ways to focus more on God and others while investing your time and energy in healthy activities. It’s all good advice. So why do I feel worse after reading them?

Recently, I read a blog post entitled “You Don’t Have to Like Being Single” (http://truelovedates.com/how-do-i-get-over-my-discontent-with-singleness/). The True Love Dates website has been encouraging me, and this post in particular relieved some guilt I had been feeling. For some reason, I felt that I was failing—that by not learning contentment and thankfulness in singleness, I was somehow failing as a Christian. I think that many other single people can probably attest to similar feelings. I was caught in a mental and emotional cycle of forced “contentment,” frustration, and the feeling of failure. Obviously, my relationship with God suffered, and I was in no place to actually begin a relationship. Having my feelings of guilt and shame lifted gave me the opportunity to view singleness in a new and different light.

I’m not sure whether it’s a cultural or maybe even a religious expectation, but I struggle with feeling left out and isolated without a boyfriend. And yes, I know it is not true. No person can complete me, but all the perfect couples’ photos on Facebook definitely remind me that I’m “missing” something. It felt so good to realize that it’s completely acceptable to not like my singleness. But until I’m in a relationship (and even if that takes a very long time), I’m going to stop feeling inferior simply because I can’t check the “plus one” box on all my friends’ wedding invitations.


I’m not saying that this is easy or that I’m succeeding at it. On the contrary, it’s very difficult, and most days I forget my resolution and end up feeling sorry for myself again. So, I’ve decided to simply remind myself that I am not alone. Singleness does not define me. I’m surrounded by friends and family. I have a new job that I enjoy. And I have a God who loves me enough to care even when I’m constantly whining about one thing instead of thanking Him for so much. If you’re also struggling with these feelings, be encouraged that you’re not the only one. And know that it’s completely OK to tell God that you don’t like being single, because he already knows the truth. Don’t fake contentment—but purposely focus on all the other aspects of life besides relationships. Because honestly, life is good. And there is so much more to life than a relationship status.

“A Light exists in Spring”: Poems to Celebrate the First Day of Spring

Today is the first day of spring! After a long winter, I’m always filled with wonder when the earth turns green again. The first bright purple crocuses push up from the ground, and the daffodils dance in the warm breeze. Birds sing again louder than ever, and the frogs scream in the ponds. Sunshine melts the frozen world and life is renewed.

easter crocus daffodils

Maybe it’s the fact that I’m a hopeless literature-obsessed romantic, but every spring I try once again to capture feelings into words in poetry. Of course, I’m not the only one to “wax poetic” in the springtime. Here are some spring-inspired poems from my favorite poets. And if you have the patience to stick with me, I’ve added one of my own at the end. Happy first day of spring!

“812” by Emily Dickinson

A Light exists in Spring
Not present on the Year
At any other period —
When March is scarcely here

A Color stands abroad
On Solitary Fields
That Science cannot overtake
But Human Nature feels.

It waits upon the Lawn,
It shows the furthest Tree
Upon the furthest Slope you know
It almost speaks to you.

Then as Horizons step
Or Noons report away
Without the Formula of sound
It passes and we stay —

A quality of loss
Affecting our Content
As Trade had suddenly encroached
Upon a Sacrament.

“A Prayer in Spring” by Robert Frost

Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers to-day;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.

Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.

And make us happy in the darting bird
That suddenly above the bees is heard,
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill,
And off a blossom in mid air stands still.

For this is love and nothing else is love,
The which it is reserved for God above
To sanctify to what far ends He will,
But which it only needs that we fulfill.


“Three Spring Notations on Bipeds” by Carl Sandburg


The down drop of the blackbird,
The wing catch of arrested flight,
The stop midway and then off: off for triangles, circles, loops of new hieroglyphs—
This is April’s way: a woman:
“O yes, I’m here again and your heart
knows I was coming.”


White pigeons rush at the sun,
A marathon of wing feats is on:
“Who most loves danger? Who most loves wings? Who somersaults for God’s sake in the name of wing power in the sun and blue on an April Thursday.”
So ten winged heads, ten winged feet, race their white forms over Elmhurst.
They go fast: once the ten together were a feather of foam bubble, a chrysanthemum whirl speaking to silver and azure.


The child is on my shoulders.
In the prairie moonlight the child’s legs hang over my shoulders.
She sits on my neck and I hear her calling me a good horse.
She slides down—and into the moon silver of a prairie stream
She throws a stone and laughs at the clug-clug.

“The Enkindled Spring” by D.H. Lawrence

This spring as it comes bursts up in bonfires green,
Wild puffing of emerald trees, and flame-filled bushes,
Thorn-blossom lifting in wreaths of smoke between
Where the wood fumes up and the watery, flickering rushes.

I am amazed at this spring, this conflagration
Of green fires lit on the soil of the earth, this blaze
Of growing, and sparks that puff in wild gyration,
Faces of people streaming across my gaze.

And I, what fountain of fire am I among
This leaping combustion of spring? My spirit is tossed
About like a shadow buffeted in the throng
Of flames, a shadow that’s gone astray, and is lost.


“Lines Written in Early Spring” by William Wordsworth

I heard a thousand blended notes,
While in a grove I sate reclined,
In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts
Bring sad thoughts to the mind.

To her fair works did Nature link
The human soul that through me ran;
And much it grieved my heart to think
What man has made of man.

Through primrose tufts, in that green bower,
The periwinkle trailed its wreaths;
And ’tis my faith that every flower
Enjoys the air it breathes.

The birds around me hopped and played,
Their thoughts I cannot measure:—
But the least motion which they made
It seemed a thrill of pleasure.

The budding twigs spread out their fan,
To catch the breezy air;
And I must think, do all I can,
That there was pleasure there.

If this belief from heaven be sent,
If such be Nature’s holy plan,
Have I not reason to lament
What man has made of man?


“Storm Silencer” by Meagan Gunn

Nerves are buzzing and zinging from the sudden awakening.
Rumbling is the echo left over from thunder’s explosion.
My eyes blink rapidly in the darkest blackness that comes
after lightning.
Rain is pounding holes in the ground outside my window. If I focus
I can smell the sopping wet mud. It wrinkles my nose.
Noises roar louder and the rain tries to outdo the thunder, but I
hear one small voice.
Alone but unafraid.
Three high notes ring out from a tree and put the chaos to shame because
those three notes are pure and true and will always
be heard above darkness and fear.

Do you have any favorite springtime poems?

Poems were taken from http://poetry.about.com/ and http://www.poetryfoundation.org/article/241410.

“In our end is our beginning”


I went to my first ever Ash Wednesday service last night, and it was one of the most moving experiences I’ve ever had. Since I grew up in non-denominational churches, Ash Wednesday was something I knew about but didn’t understand at all. It honestly seemed really odd to me that people would walk around all day with an ashen cross on their foreheads.

After the service, I was convicted about how wrong I was to judge something that I didn’t fully understand. The cross of ashes is a powerful symbol of remembrance—as Ecclesiastes 3:20 reminds us, “All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return.” I don’t have any deep insights that came from the service, but it forced me to be still and to realize the weight of the truth that God became human and died for me. Death is one thing that we can never escape, but God gives us the gift of life with Him even after our earthly bodies return to ashes. During the season of Lent this year, I am going to try much harder to remember what a powerful gift that is. I want to remember the sacrifice Jesus made and repent of all the times I forget to stop and say thank you.

My pastor shared the “Hymn of Promise” at the service, and I wanted to post it here. I also found a video of a choral performance of the hymn, and the music is beautiful too. The link is at the end of this post. These words are filled with the hope and promise that we have in Christ. My hope for all of us is that we don’t take this season of Lent for granted or ignore it—but that we take the time to focus our hearts and minds on the greatest Sacrifice and Love ever given.

“Hymn of Promise”

In the bulb there is a flower; in the seed, an apple tree;
In cocoons, a hidden promise: butterflies will soon be free!
In the cold and snow of winter there’s a spring that waits to be,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.
There’s a song in every silence, seeking word and melody;
There’s a dawn in every darkness, bringing hope to you and me.
From the past will come the future; what it holds, a mystery,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.
In our end is our beginning; in our time, infinity;
In our doubt there is believing; in our life, eternity,
In our death, a resurrection; at the last, a victory,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.

All the Single Ladies: 10 Jane Austen-Approved Ways to Survive Valentine’s Day Without a Date

It is February once again. If you’re anything like me and dreading being single for yet another Valentine’s Day, I can guess that you sometimes wish you could find something to keep your mind off that fact. Today I was thinking about Jane Austen’s novels and how they have been portrayed and romanticized over the two centuries since they were published. Many people hear the words Pride and Prejudice and think “cheesy rom com.” We tend to focus on the dreamy men in the novels–Mr. Darcy, Mr. Knightley, or Mr. Tilney. But we forget that the women in the novels are fascinating apart from their male counterparts. I’ve compiled a list of activities that I’m sure would be Jane Austen-approved for those days when you really need to stop reminding yourself of just how single you are—or maybe when you want to find a new way to impress a certain eligible gentleman.

1. Take a long walk. In Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennett once walked several miles—in the mud! Walking is healthy, and it can be relaxing. Also, Mr. Darcy noticed that Lizzy’s eyes “were brightened by the exercise.”


2. Read The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe. It may have been published in 1794, but this Gothic novel was scandalous and amusing enough for Austen to have her young heroine Catherine Morland’s imagination run away with her in Northanger Abbey. Catherine praised it highly to Mr. Tilney: “Do not you think Udolpho the nicest book in the world?”


3. Try painting. Why not? Sign up for a class. Go to your favorite spot in nature, set up an easel, and try your hand at painting—or better yet, try painting a friend’s portrait. After all, in Emma, Mr. Elton was so struck by Emma’s painting that he exclaimed: “Oh, it is most admirable! I cannot keep my eyes from it. I never saw such a likeness.”


4. Learn needlework. Yes, it can be time consuming and detail-oriented but also rewarding. Ask your mother, grandmother, or a friend if she will teach you to knit, crochet, quilt, or cross-stitch. Not only will you learn a new skill, but you’ll get to spend quality time with a person you love. Oh, and you could always knit a scarf or hat and impress a potential suitor. It’s also a great way to be inconspicuous, as Elizabeth showed us: “Elizabeth took up some needlework, and was sufficiently amused in attending to what passed between Darcy and his companion.”

images (1)

5. Learn to play an instrument. It doesn’t have to be the pianoforte of course, but you’re never too old to appreciate music and learn to play a musical instrument. In Pride and Prejudice, “Colonel Fitzwilliam reminded Elizabeth of having promised to play to him; and she sat down directly to the instrument.” Gentlemen can be impressed when a woman excels at something, especially playing an instrument.


6. Plant a garden. Even if you don’t have outdoor space for an actual garden, try planting some flowers in pots to brighten your home—or even plant some herbs or vegetables. The heroines of Austen’s novels always enjoy strolls through their gardens.


7. Try floral arranging. You know all those flowers you’ve planted and grown now? Try your hand at arranging them in vases around your house! Arranging flowers takes skill and makes a home even more welcoming.


8. Learn to cook. I know most of us can follow a recipe or make delicious macaroni and cheese, but have you ever tried cooking a three-course dinner? Why not challenge yourself? After all, the best way to a man’s heart is through his stomach! So, create a menu and invite some friends over to share it with you! Jane Austen herself had a “Household Book” with over 100 family recipes. Do you need some inspiration? Buy yourself a copy of Dinner with Mr. Darcy by Pen Vogler. My friend gave it to me as a gift, and it is full of fantastic recipes!


9. Try your hand at writing a short story or novel. I’m sure Jane Austen would encourage anyone to use their imagination and try writing. In Northanger Abbey, the wonderful Mr. Tilney does say that “the person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.” I think that goes for reading and for writing novels.


10. And lastly, write a letter. We have lost the art of letter writing today, but there’s nothing quite like getting a handwritten letter in the mail. Pick up a pen and paper and write a long letter to a friend, family member, or even to a potential beau! Don’t just write a few short words. This isn’t an e-mail or a text message. Take the time to make it interesting! Letters were one of the only forms of communication in Jane Austen’s world. Reading any of her novels will give you plenty of examples of beautiful letter writing. Of course, my personal favorite is Mr. Darcy’s letter to Elizabeth in which he explains himself articulately and elegantly. And just for fun, there is a wonderful website called “Write Like Austen” that will give you the perfect Regency British-style word to make your letter even better— http://www.writelikeausten.com.


So there you have it. Ten ways to survive Valentine’s Day without a date! And of course, reading one of Jane Austen’s novels is obviously another option. I hope this list gave you some ideas, made you laugh, or at least helped you stop focusing on being single for a few minutes. I know that writing it helped me. Can you think of any other Jane Austen-approved activities that I didn’t include in this list?

All quotations were taken from the wonderful website: http://www.pemberley.com.