Wonderment

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{Trina Schart Hyman – one of our favorite illustrators ~}

Is wonder tangible? I often think of it as having a soft, secretive way about it that steals deeply into my soul, ducking just around corners. It takes a close noticing and reverence to catch it unawares. A small copse of birch trees, the certain way the light filters through the window, embroidery of the edge of a skirt, the cedar smell of newly sharpened pencils, and the sound of waves lapping the sandy shore. There are so many moments of wonder and fodder for the imagination all around, sometimes it feels like my senses will overload, or feel frantic for the missing of anything. Birdsong, the trickle music of water in a brook, the way that trees move in the wind, shadows from clouds, the musty, romantic smell of an old story rising, swirling from the pages of a vintage book, and colorful Shakespeare paper dolls that I’m slowly cutting out for my daughter. Can you feel it? Don’t you want to catch that wonder, chase it through a green field into the wide, blue yonder?  I do, I find I must.  Perfect pine cones in a dish, on display, a golden dandelion bouquet from daughter, and the fresh, born-again smell after the rain. These little things swell inside my heart as small reflections, teeny gifts, combating the darkness of this world, and reminding me of my true home, the piece of the puzzle that is missing.  Scripture and poetry come alive, with deep meaning and bloody love pricks to the heart, when one tucks them away, and takes them outdoors on a walk. Delicious tea, table set, candle flame slant, voices chattering around the table, seed cake shared, and spills mopped up by mustard, floral printed towel. Wandering through wonder, I’m able to rise above life’s daily struggles, because I see the light, or underside of them. We see the rich colors in the pile of laundry, we smell the soap suds from the sink full of dishes, we dance along the relationship intricacies, seeing them in the light of our own holes, and knowing we all are flawed, yet beautiful in our originality. The essence of glorious tulips coming up through black dirt. The ugly births beautiful. Wonder prisms the darkness with light and color. My eyes see it all through a sunrise edged with fog.

Wonderment. I’m following it.

~

To Begin Again

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What helps us start over? My daughter and I, feet dew-damp, chased a bit of fluffy fog this morning. Heads back, breathing in the heavenly fresh-after-rain scent of the air, the glint of diamonds off a nearby bush, catching us unaware. A light breeze tickles the ends of our hair, shafts of sunlight piercing through our worn, lone tree.

What does it mean to begin again? The swirl of brush in murky water, dabbing watercolors onto our papers together, I glance up at the blue Bell jar, the pussy willow stems beckoning to me, asking me to remember them on paper. Simple meals shared, tuna patties, lettuce, on wheat. Lanterns lit, orange juice pored from a tall, porcelain pitcher, catches the light just right.

How do we move forward from life’s bogs? I shake out a giant, geometric cloth, my hand smoothing, running the length of it, as I lay it on our table. A little orange gingham fabric piece in the middle, my lilac candle, lanterns, two pine cones, and bouquet. A quiet restart, reflection and hope for things to come, conversation, and relationship. Pausing over seasonal, springy, Tookish poetry, chuckling at Moomins, and dirty hands dropping their homemade bow and arrows on top, mussing it a bit.

What helps us breathe again, from the busy, harried, breath-sucking seasons? The steam rising from the pot of oatmeal, walnuts and raisins, sprinkling down over the top, a splash of milk added to the lot, pepper plants on the sill, a bit of spilled dirt, the curtain above, whipping in the wind from the window, fresh from bath, soap-smelling little boy, and soul-deep discussions over a chapter in Tanglewood Secrets.

What makes the ink of life, flow again? The pulse of our heart, beat again? A cool breeze, gray, slate-colored skies, epic soundtracks flowing along side the tide of feeling, bringing the outside in, the reality of knowing, seeing, drinking in the fact, that we are not really made for this world, and its darkness. The little dandelion, the moss, the way the birds sing, bringing in the dawn.  The first, hot cup of coffee, warming my hands, hip against the wood counter top, sipping in the morning.

What helps us start over? I’m not sure, but these small moments are essential ingredients. Humble gratitude for every little gift, no matter how small. Each moment is a new beginning.

~

 

 

Bookmarked Bits

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An old Milwaukee Brewer’s ticket, a receipt for Goldfish crackers, and a yellowed photograph. Torn-edged Emily Dickinson poems, exotic postcards with black squiggly postmarks from long ago, and fluorescent hued post-it notes. Advertisements, crumpled bits of paper with phone numbers, and love letters. Thank you cards, a gallant knight hand drawn by my son. Bits of string, tags from a favorite store, shirt bought two sizes ago, and an old Valentine. Origami, playbills, and church bulletins folded accordion style. Bits of napkin, strips of paper bag, and special chocolate wrappers. Empty tea bag wrappers, coffee drink labels, and business cards. Strips of washi tape stuck together, ribbon, lace, and old empty envelopes. A friend’s obituary, a wedding invite, and pressed flowers. Metal book darts, watercolor flowers on card stock, and coffee stained cardboard. Fabric squares, old conference name tags, and retreat brochures. Cell phone case instructions, empty seed packets, and piano recital flyers.

Tangible memories of life in between the pages of my books.

~

Gather Round {April 7th}

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{I truly wish we could all ‘gather round’ and chat about life, relationships, parenting, education, books, and our passions. Please grab a mug of steaming coffee or pour yourself a cup of tea, and get comfortable. I enjoy being a ‘fly on the wall’ so to speak, reading about people’s lives, plans, or just what’s generally happening. I’d like to share that occasionally (every, fortnight, or so) here under this title. I’m not sure how it will play out, but I’d like to give it a go. I will post headings so that if you only have a few moments, you can scroll right to what interests you. I love conversations, don’t be shy, please chime in.}

Domesticity ~ We home educate our children and so that means our home is pretty much a mess most of the time, because we are always here.  You should have seen the look on the electric guy’s face today when he saw all the shoes tossed about on our porch. Poor soul was confused about the sheer number, I’m sure. We are in our last and third term of the learning year, and the winter/early spring is particularly a trying time. We have pretty good systems in place, but whew, The Piles (insert scary music). My husband kindly purchased me a red Kitchen Aid mixer (squee!) and it’s been an extremely bad thing. We are baking entirely TOO much. Ha. I have a seed catalog here that I’d love to make a small order from, but my brain is trying to reconcile with the snow outside our window. I’ve been wading through clothing and trying to sort it all out, why does a eight year-old girl need seven jumpers in her drawer?

Education ~ I’m barely hanging on through this last term. It has nothing to do with what we are reading or doing. I love all of that, truly. It’s just the mental weariness of me “on” all the time. All parents, regardless of whether you’re home educating or not, understand this, I think. My INFP-self is rearing its ugly head. Dear Lord, can it be summer, please? Doctor Who, will you please bring the Tardis and who, whoo, eee who me away? Can I decamp and head to a remote cabin alone for an extended holiday? Anyone? However, having done home educating for numerous years, I know that I always feel this way at this time of year, and I always live through it. A couple things we’ve been especially keen on have been, Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, Abraham Lincoln by Enid LaMonte Meadowcroft, and D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths.  I’ve been thrilled by Amy Carmichael’s poetry, Edward R. Sill’s “Opportunity”, and John Masefield’s “Sea Fever”. Poetry is my jam. I’ve been excitedly looking at resources for The Odyssey and drooling over all the beautiful books on my shelves to choose from for our autumn term.

Writing ~ I found a few lovely looking online places that I’m thinking through ideas for submitting essays or poems. I’m very disorganized and am brainstorming to keep moving forward and growing. I love the creative nonfiction/memoir genre and want to grow as a poet as well. I know next to nothing about structure and the formal bits of poetry and need to just sit down, really study and practice. I’m a nervous and S-L-O-W as molasses fiction writer, but I’d love to have a rough draft done on my current idea by the end of this year. Oh my goodness. That freaks me out. Fiction has meant so much to me over the course of my relatively short life (I’m not THAT old yet, at least I tell myself that, as I pull out gray hairs), so I have a high respect for it and don’t know if I can ever really do it justice. However, I want to try. I write things that bless, encourage, and inspire ME and share them only in the hope that they just might do the same for even one other person.

Reading ~ What are you currently reading that you love? I have so many on my TBR stack, as usual, it’s toppling over. I’m never going to change, though, so I just embrace it, as long as I don’t let it stress me out. The truth is, I don’t have to read any of them, except The Holy Bible and poetry, because those things help me to breathe and not hurt people. At the moment, I’m quite fond of Betty Crocker’s Kitchen Garden with charming illustrations by Tasha Tudor. It is just so peaceful and lovely. As long as I don’t think about weeds, watering, sweaty, back-breaking labor, and my black-ish thumb.

Sillies & Sundries ~ I joined Twitter and am blindly fumbling my away around there like an idiot. I’m not even quite sure how to properly post a blog link on there. It’s been fun and whoa, there is a lot of nasty, mean-spirited rubbish on there. Yikes. I started walking in the middle of March which with all the reading, writing, and Kitchen Aid moments, is a good thing. Then a family wedding hit and the weather turned for the worst. I’m just waiting for the new snow to melt and things to warm up again. Excuses. I love doing the washing up while listening to podcasts. I’ve been listening to a lot of English shows and one Scottish show on writing. They are very fascinating and I wonder if you noticed my cheesy American attempt at using their lovely lilting turns of phrase and speech in this post. I’m such an unabashed Anglophile.

Cheerio, lovelies.

~

A Minute of Life

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I just finished chopping green peppers. Thunk, thunk on my cutting board’s surface and juicyish-feel as I cut stands out in loveliness. I focus closely on this process. Chop, chop, and throw in crock-pot. The black-bean corn salsa lid comes off, salsa following peppers into pot.  A little bit of taco seasoning, frozen chicken breasts, knob flicked to low. Dinner is on. Do you ever do this? Follow minutely with what is at hand? I find myself trying to make this a habit. The beauty found in the curve and color of the peppers, the grain of the wood on my cutting board, the spicy, pungent aroma from the salsa and spices, and the satisfaction of knowing dinner is being prepared ahead of time. The reality is my schedule is a bit chaotic and my home is a mess.  Laundry is spilling over, clothing organizational project gone awry, Plutarch waiting to be read, Sunday school lessons to prep, sewing projects discarded in lumps, and greasy hair on my forehead. By zeroing down into what my hands are doing, my eyes are seeing, and opening up my senses to THIS second, I’m able to keep moving forward with grace.

~

Truly and Deeply

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Perspective changes things. I often gaze up into the brilliant sky, eyes squinting against the brightness, a Red-Tail Hawk circling above. What does she see? How does it view my small van driving along? Hand over hand, rough trail scraping my legs, how would the world look from atop one of the many rock cliffs around me? How about at ground level? My farm cats perspective, slinking around wood posts all whiskery, and under muddy vehicles. I get so stuck in my own perceptions and it really is an effort to rise up out of myself, floating over, hovering ghost-like into completely different points of view, different lives, and seeing through someone else’s eyes.

This is one of the things I love about this literature lifestyle my children and I are stumbling along through, trying, grasping, reaching for understanding others in a meaningful way. Entering into the suffering of others. Rejoicing with those who rejoice. The truth is this life is not about you or me. It’s about all of us together. Others. Relationships. The relationships between our faith, the world, its tangible earth sifting between my fingers, and its intangible wisp of ideologies, and those other souls all around us. Stories, books, maps, and languages, music, poetry and so much more give us a teeny slice of someone else’s take on it all. A challenge to just listen to what all these voices are saying and not need to respond except with a simple nod and, “Thank you for sharing.” Basically, the antithesis of our society and social media platforms. I’m learning that listening is very powerful indeed. It’s humbling, it’s hard, and no, we don’t get our opinions out there. But, we gain the invaluable gift of perspective. The sound of a bubbling creek, the deep heart of a friend in need, and the biggest gift of a break from self.

Praying for a heart willing to listen truly and deeply.

~

The Well We Draw From

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I’ve been drowning myself in epic soundtracks this week. The Celtic strains haunt and delight me. They are like the marriage of prayer and song. They are familiar to me, matching a wandering spirit that is always hovering in the background. A slight dissatisfaction deep within. I’m not referring to ingratitude, on the contrary, a thankfulness and truth in the bottom of my soul. I feel born for another world, just here on borrowed time, really. These notes crescendo and filter through our days.  They meld and fit puzzle-piece like into the slowly aching and awakening earth all around me. Not long ago, the senses led our days, a seasonal movement, natural alarm clocks. The rooster, smells of from-scratch-made meals, the animals needing tending, the sounds of farm life awakening. The birds returning, ground slowly thawing, and longer days. Spring is one of rebirth. The following of the agricultural rhythms to life are pretty much a thing of the past. The natural world has it’s own music, one I’m privileged to have close relationship with, by opening my door and stepping out into it. The grand expanse, a small reflection of the life to come.

The poetry we soak in together, books savored, music enjoyed, the sunshine, and blue skies, it is all a five-sense feast of wonder. What of those who live without it, at no fault of their own, especially children? What of those trapped in steel, concrete, and those who never see, hear, or experience one little sip of beauty, nature, or wonder? What of the times I refuse these gifts by “the tyranny of the urgent”, or non-living things of little true importance? The false feeling of doing something important when on Instagram or Twitter.  All we drink from this deep, rich river of living-giving beauty becomes the well we draw from when reality bears down brutally on us. Without these moist depths, our insides shrivel up and die. We also, more importantly, gain an overflow, one that can spill over to those in need with their dry, cracked hearts.

My daughter and I are in a class learning to make 18th century women’s clothing. The learning curve has been steep to stay the least, but again the same strain of music is floating through these moments. A returning to our roots, learning of the American Colonial women, immigrants to this land, what their lives were like. Each stitch, each piece of clothing we make, feels foreign, alien, even. In reality, each piece was important, whether for a small slice of beauty in the woman’s life, or more likely for her heavy work-load. It’s like putting on the skin of someone else, shedding modernism, and becoming part of the land and people who have helped shaped this place in which we live. The hands-on aspect of it also is something of bringing us home, the value in making with one’s own hands. The contemplative posture, the slowness of progress, the appreciation of quality, one of a kind creations, found in this process.

The massive amounts of undergarments, the lovely slate blue floral kerchief tucked into stays, green linen gown and brown petticoat, white cap, and apron all are romanticized in my mind, of course.  There is something about appreciating others, different cultures, and time periods, though. Again, the flutes play, the aching hums along, this beauty quenches that nagging thirst. The ability of this well not to leave us in a static place, in a place dictated by the current stream’s of thought, but one that draws from the whole river of life and time. 

Oh, how I want to stay in this tune of life, waltzing and dancing through it with those around me. Yes, the reality of relationships and life is hard, but if I listen close and keep my toes tapping to this quiet song, this still small Voice, the well will never run dry.

~

 

 

 

 

Monocles, Maps, and Minutia

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Slant snowflakes and slate gray sky, just outside the window. Today was a day of catch-up. I say that everyday around here. Lassoing laundry and slinging sud-soaked dishes was the first order of the day. George Gershwin’s cheery Concerto in F propelled us along. The pellet stove was extra hungry, the smell lingering in the air, not unpleasantly mixing with coffee. The children laugh at me and my Magic Elixir, mmmm, I’m brewing more now.  I must admit, I feel old and worn out with all the questions, hullabaloos, and to-dos. Yet, these beautiful people keep me from rusting, well-oiled am I with six of them. Wonder, amazement, and simplicity are alive and well here, and I have them to thank for that. The last page of a wonderful story was turned today, and how extra bittersweet it was to share it with other kindred spirits. All the dust and crumbs of this life, swirl, crescendo, into a lovely soup-y mix. The snowy boots and little mittens. Sweeping up the spilled sunflower seed, a tromp out to the feeders, a welcome respite. A new poetry book to crack open, the tang of the Emerald Isle air hitting me full salty-spray in the face, Yeats wooing me from afar. Arguing about a sewing project, a daughter recording her dreams on my iPhone, admiring two kerosene lamps from Valentine’s Day past, and not to mention a dirty football on the table, crumpled bits of everything, everywhere. Whispering the fortifying words of Apostle Paul, over and over again, whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus. Over and over again, I’m astonished that I get to live this life. It’s not romantic at all, in reality. It’s hard work, the same mind-numbing work, over and over again. But looking at it slant, looking at it through a monocle of love, what I see is an amazing journey in miraculous minutia. My back may ache, my right foot has been bothering me, I need a shower, and extra weight hangs around, but here I am. Discussing the American Civil War and Abe Lincoln with a group of interesting and intelligent people. They remind me of differences in the Union and Confederate flag, bring in the battle of Fort Sumter, and chuckle about Davy Crockett. I just sit and soak it all in. I laughed with them as we listen to the Taming of the Shrew, so much to learn through Will, that’s for sure. Good and bad. Heads get bonked, angry tears happen over messes to be cleaned up, and garbage knocked over. Snow ice cream, taco dinner plans, and endless noise. The sibling riots settle and we pour over maps of Africa, searching the web for information on Cameroon’s violence. Our hearts and souls fly upwards and outwards, beyond the walls of our little home, our state, flitting past our U.S. borders, over the ocean, and enter into the wounds and dusty tears of others. Snow is still falling as the evening envelopes us. My green mug is running on empty, my geranium is blooming, and I’m going to light my lamps for dinner.

Another gift unwrapped here and enjoyed. Good night.

~

 

 

Stitching February Farewell

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Februa, the Roman goddess of health

Hot showers, ice, soup, stirfrys, stircrazys, wealth

Sewing stays, crocheting hearts, piano practice

Jotted jumbles in journals, bleak blackness

Juncos, woodpeckers, sparrows at windblown feeders

Jane Brocket’s Lemon Cake eaters

Carafes of coffee, book packages, thick socks

St. Valentine’s letters, pencils, chalk

Laundry piles, fix-it piles, snow piles, lore

LEGOS, bits of paper, four stitches more

Up, down, down and up, bloody finger prick

Running, hemming, gray-day stitches, quick

Pen pal letters, loose threads, taxes due

Red quilt of a second month, darn pipes blew

The needle set down, the thread wound away

Glad this year, the 28th, be its very last day.

~

Dishes and Dreams

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The rainbow swirl of greasy film glimmers up at me. A spot of soap makes it shrink away in concentric circles. The bright, scorching light of sun off snow hits my eyes from the little window above the sink. The brightness is a gift this time of year, as is the flicker of candle flame sitting on the sill. Any sort of light offsets the February gray. The smell of the candle intermingles with dish soap, the sudsy, drips hitting the water with a pleasing, soothing sound. Water is so meditative, running through little streams, out of faucets, down crashing falls, dribbling off eves, and bubbling over rocks. A dangerous, beautiful thing. I wash away the vestiges of spaghetti, oatmeal, and frustrations. Meditating on music, movies, and a glance through the window, a Downy Woodpecker at the suet. The rough towel, that’s seen better days, dry in my damp hands, swiping, stacking, closing cupboard door. Shutting out the bitterness, harsh words, washing it all clean, and stacking it away in the forgetting cupboard. Our days are stories, stories that we are putting down in living ink, blood, sweat, and yes, fat drops of salty tears. Silverware jumbles, clanging, the clink, clink of stacked glasses and mugs, building, working through each step of these relationships. Each day of clanks, clinks, and new blocks for the foundation.  I scrub stubborn spots of crusty peanut butter and Nutella, it fading and swirling down into the depths. Just like my children, their childhood, messy, beautiful, and slipping away all too fast, the slurp of the drain licking up the last drop. Dishes that held hot delicious memories of these moments, this twenty-four hours around the sun. Sustenance, conversation, and fruits of one’s hard labor. There’s something so satisfying about dishes and dreams.

~

Good Morning, February.

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The sun is shining. The fire is hot. The door opens with ease. The blue sky spills down into the dankness. The cellar door clanks back and forth, back and forth, my friend wind waving well wishes.  But it cannot block out the fluffy bits of fullness floating through the firmament. I turned the calendar page. A new month, a brilliant blue moon to love. A clean slate, chalk-dust free, full of promise.  The books are opened, tattered bookmarks and all, candle wicks blackened from light and heat, mugs with rings around them, grounds in the bottom. The ice is still here, the ice is still everywhere, but the sun glints off of it, a jewel shining in my heart. February, welcome.

Meditating on grace and truth:

For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. John 1:17

~

 

Get Lost

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I follow the wet, dirty footsteps down into the basement. My own previous steps upwards and out. My winter boots thunk, thunk. A dank, warmer air greets me as I step inside. The door creaks. Despite its chipped paint, cobwebby appearance, the door betrays finer days. Perhaps the farmer’s wife, I daresay, chose it for a bit ‘o beauty to grace her humble cellar space. Or perhaps, and more likely, added later, a cast off, used where needed. This underground cavern I’m in is lit by a few naked bulbs, a draft of air, as I pull in the green garden snake of a hose, tinkles the string against the light. The hose, muddy, leaky, wet in my hands. A splatter of it all on my black leggings, my well-worn, brilliant blue t shirt clashing, garishly with my mauve cardigan. No need for fashion here. Function definitely over form. Function with its kind of beauty, for the taking, for the absorption. I brush my hand, broken finger nails, rub the hose slime from them, and clump, clump up the inner stairs. Left behind are the wet tracks, tinkling light cords, slosh, and mud. Mingling. What does it all mean? I don’t know. Nothing. Everything. But its a clear moment. Senses engaged. A noticing. And for that I’m grateful.

Thinking on this quote:

“I have to get lost so I can invent some way out.” – David Salle

~