Monday Ponderings {October 15th}

_MG_9399

Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting, He who goes to and fro weeping, carrying his bag of seed, Shall indeed come again with a shout of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.

Psalm 126:5-6, NASB

 

{Happy Monday! Just keep sowing, sowing, sowing. Your labor is not in vain in the Lord. Our hard life of laboring here on earth may not seem to have a tangible harvest, but we can trust by faith, that it will sprout beauty untold.  We had the first dusting of snow last night here at Hearth Ridge Farm and it’s beautiful!}

On the Eve…

5B66BEF5-87B8-41B0-815E-6DEBF99001B3

September ~

Here we are. On the cusp of a beginning again. My footsteps rang out into the void. A void filled with the music of wind, grasshoppers humming, and silent yet spoken sunshine flickering through the trees. My glorious walk this afternoon, cool air, hot, crisp sun, the temperature dropping drastically as I went under and into the tree cover. My heartbeat matching my strides, leaves rattling and skittering across the road, a bird swooping low, scolding me a bit. I consciously willed to set aside the summer projects that are left unfinished, the unresolved arguments of the morning, upcoming autumn commitments, and close my mind’s eyes to the laundry piles. This moment, this now, is what I have to dwell upon. I think on the beauty at my finger tips and the promise of a fresh, new day and term beginning on the morn. Tomorrow we are back to the beauty feast, of books, art, and gathering together to learn anew.

I listen to the soothing tinkle, and then rushing overflow of water in the gullies and washouts, remnants from the overabundance of water during past week and a half of flooding. The sunshine hits the water, diamonds for the taking, a deep breath and one more step forward. Am I ready? Are we ready? That’s part of the beauty of it all. We don’t have to be or do anything special. Of course, I’ve made my lists, I’ve pulled my books of the shelves, and ordered fresh supplies. We’ve sharpened the proverbial pencils. The truth is this: we are all invited to this table, we show up, the parent and child, students one and all, filling our plates, humbly stepping up to the banquet laid before us. Then we feast on love and grace, we breathe in the comforting disciplines of rhythm and routine, and we snuggle down in all comfortable-like, listening to that beat. That hum, cadence, roll to our days that flows through. It’s called Love. A Love so amazing that it binds, knits, and sews up together in this tapestry of life. Yes, I still have to figure out what happens to those unfinished things, yes, I need to ask forgiveness and mend my relationship, and yep, I need to throw another load into the wash. But I come at it with a bounce in my step, a full belly of gratitude and thanksgiving, and a heart surrendered to Love’s work in our hearts this term.

Happy Beauty Feast Eve.

~

 

“Keep out of the shadows and seek the sunshine”

90A5EAE0-793E-4DE0-86FC-75DE93CCA64B

{Lake Superior, Minnesota}

The floods of life are all around us. Metaphorically, in our hearts and souls, but also quite literally here in Wisconsin. We are having unprecedented flooding and I can just see how it weighs on everyone. Hearth Ridge and my family aren’t directly affected besides roadways because we live away from the river and high on a dry hill, surrounded by glorious wind-blown meadows. I feel a heavy-heart for many of our local towns, friends, and the places we visit and love which are currently underwater.

How do we go on when weariness or discouragement hit us, or mud and muck must be hauled out of basements, the bits and pieces of our life floating around our feet? When the dishes, to-do lists, illnesses, and family demands just seem too much? As a spouse, parent, friend, or employee, how do we not sink under the depths of our responsibilities?

This may seem too idealist and yes, there are times we just have to roll-up our shirt sleeves, clean-up, working hard to solve a legitimate problem. However, much of the time, things are just regular life, or things outside of our control, and our hearts and minds need an anchor, and where idealism isn’t necessary a bad perspective on life to cultivate. An anchor, a perspective shift, and a holding onto something outside of ourselves.

That Anchor is found in the shimmer around the edges of the sunset, in the way the wind tickles the grass, in the steam rising from the freshly baked peach cobbler, and from the last glorious pages of a beautiful story. I believe we see a reflection of the gorgeous character of our God everywhere, if we would but just look closely enough. The single line of poetry or lovely Psalms that touch that spot deep in one’s heart. The small hand holding our large one, and the big pot of potato soup ready for lunch. I’ve been thinking about this idea of a focus on the good  no matter what hardship we find ourselves, as I’ve been very slowly reading a book called So Sweet to Labor: Rural Women in America, 1865-1895 by Norton Juster. This book is a collection of articles from popular housekeeping and rural magazines of the time. The importance of women and the reality of how truly unromantic their lives were a majority of the time, about how bone-jarringly hard these pioneer women worked. And yet, they found bits of that shimmer to hold onto, in their faith, in nature, and their homemaking.

In a beautiful letter from an older woman to a new mother, Alice, this advice struck me as poignant, and even though she was writing in regards to parenting, I took it for all difficult moments of life (emphasis mine):

    Do not fret; do not worry; do not be despondent. Do not seek the shadows, but, as far as may be, keep yourself in the clear sunshine of the soul…Do you say “this is an hard saying; who can bear it?” Perhaps it is, regarded in one light. But He that was born of woman, and who humbled himself to become Mary’s loving and obedient son, looks tenderly and compassionately upon all mothers now; and for the sake of her at whose breast he was nourished, and whom he remembered in his dying agony upon the cross, he longs to sustain and to comfort them. Go to him, dear child, when the burden of your responsibility grows too heavy, and lay it at his feet. We try to in poor human weakness to carry so many loads that Christ is ready and willing to carry for us, if we will only let him.

But if you look at this matter merely as regards yourself, it is for your own good now and in the coming trial, that you should look on the bright side, and give way to no useless and idle forebodings. Therefore I say again keep out of the shadows and seek the sunshine; and finally, “Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report – if there be any virtue and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Surround yourself as far as may be with beauty and with grace. Cultivate your flowers and take their loveliness to your inmost soul. Look not with eyes that see not upon the wonderful magnificence of the star-lit heaves, nor turn away from the daily miracles of sunrise and of sunset, heeding not their glory. There are hundreds about us who would go thousands of miles to to see a  veritable Titian or Leonardo da Vinci, who never opened their eyes to behold the more glorious pictures that God hangs in his temple of the heavens. 

 Breathe the atmosphere of refinement and peace, and in this time of seclusion, when the world seems afar off, and the tumult of its strivings and its noisy ambitions fall deadened upon your ear, commune with your own heart and be still. It is a holy season, Alice, a time for thought and prayer. See that you use it well.

pg. 43

Isn’t this so true and applicable for today? No matter the dark, foreboding rain clouds on the horizon or the murky floodwaters swirling, there IS hope. These trying times are holy seasons, ones where deep soul work is birthed, and joy breaks forth in the morning.  I’m holding onto these little snatches and seeking sunshine.

~

Monday Ponderings {August 20th}

Frog jar Mercer Mayer

 

Soundtracks for today: “Bring Me a Little Water, Silvy” and  “Little Sparrow”

Leisure

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

~William Henry Davies

{I said no thanks to someone this weekend over a seemly innocent thing, no big deal in my mind, and yet it really seemed to bother/intrigue them why I did so. I’ve been mulling on it ever since and I got to thinking about how much of our lives are driven by “more, more” and “it’s your right” and “take, take, take” and “you deserve it” and the idea that there are cultural norms that you MUST follow. I hope and prayerfully propose and DECLARE to myself and I pray for my children, that we DO NOT have to follow all of these winds blowing through our cultural landscape. So, here’s to a week of saying, “No thanks!” to all the things that rob us of light, love, health, and the time to just sit and stare.}

{Illustration from Where are You, Frog? by Mercer Mayer, all rights reserved.}

~

Monday Ponderings {August 13th}

CF51E142-6900-4415-BA9E-891E316776AC

In the rush and noise of life, as you have intervals, be still. Wait upon God and feel his good presence; this will carry you evenly through your day’s business.

~William Penn

{I saw this quote at the end of one of my favorite books, A Charlotte Mason Companion, by Karen Andreola. Being still is a choice, one that I need to continually purposefully cultivate. It is so refreshing. Just leaving the phone upstairs, sitting by the window with my coffee, or going on a walk by myself.  Think of how much more NOW this applies than in Mr. Penn’s lifetime…all the screeching voices we could hear today via media, if we choose to listen. We are free to turn them off.}

~

And yet…

8740106D-A8A2-4F1C-A6A2-579AECC98891

The screen door may have broken. The fruit flies may be multiplying. The garbage may be overflowing. The new oven may be ten days out. The school plan may need to be thrown out and started over from scratch. The fridge may be empty and the menu plan nonexistent. The floors may be filthy. The light-bulb in the bathroom may be flickering. The little girls may be quarreling. Throats may be sore and stomachs queasy. Weeds may be knee deep. Emails/calls may be buzzing in our must-do ears. Insomnia may be culminating in bone-deep exhaustion. Tense words may be said over and over again. Baskets of laundry may be stacked haphazardly around your dining room. An unidentified smell may be growing on your porch.  Humidity and whining may mix in a teeth-grinding combo. Carbs may have been consumed instead of vegetables.

And yet…

The sunset riots with purple and pink. The smell of fish off the grill drifts on the air. Kittens tumble joyfully. The last bit of light filters through the leaves. The day was wrapped in a unearthly fog, a swan pair floating out of it, on a nearby lake. The kind, listening ear of someone close, who enjoyed and engaged in your school ideas for the year. Heart-shaped Morning Glory leaves. Giant leaf hats and afternoon movies. Colby jack cheese and hot, jolting cups of coffee. Little, pudgy dill-smelling hands.A daughter asks to listen to “The Keys to Canterbury” together. Fluffy duvet covers. Little boy ecstatic over, “Big GREEN tractor, mom!” Comedy videos on Youtube. Sunflowers opening, chickens cackling underneath. Cool, dew-drenched moments.

I am ever so grateful for the tugs to the pulls of life. Perspective and a turning of one’s face just a LITTLE bit to the left makes all the difference. A kind of holy peripheral vision, if you will. I’m hanging on to every one of those little “and yets” in my heart tonight…

 

~

 

 

 

T.G.I.M, or Are You Glad It’s Monday?

IMG_5697

{L.Maud Montgomery’s Place of Birth, P.E.I., Canada}

I don’t know if it’s my personality or my nature of my full-time job as a stay-at-home-mother and homemaker, but I love Mondays. I find the weekends are busy and semi-chaotic. Oh, you betcha, we probably had fun on Saturday and Sunday. It’s ok, if you think I’m such a stick in the mud, because sometimes I am. I just can’t help thinking that fun equals more-work-for-mom. Come on, admit it, it’s fantastically true. For the most part, I’m able to let go and enjoy the moment, but inside there is something sitting on the edge of my seat, waiting expectantly for delicious, quiet-ish Monday. There’s something so sure about it, so solid, so steady about it – it’s a recover-the-house-from-the-weekend-sort-of-day. We slowly dig ourselves out, one shovel full at a time, from the piles of weekend picnicking, towels & swimsuits, piles of dishes from the hurried, countless meals, and pick up random soda cans, discarded shopping bags, dead, discarded bouquets. The book stacks we perused are re shelved, movies put back in their cases, and the slate wiped squeaky clean. The washer starts its thrice-weekly chugging and I bask in the quiet, windy moments, sunshine on my face, hanging laundry out. The cupboards and fridge are glanced and tumbled through for delicious dinner ideas for the coming week, usually to no avail. Six busy, but glorious days of familiarity, semi-predictability, and lovely home-life potential stretch out in front of us. Oh, the possibilities. Each night, reading aloud before bed, falling into cool sheets, usually with filthy feet. Don’t get me started on slow morning coffee rituals. None of this gulping and burning my lips, and dumping precious elixir into a cold, sterile thermos, that I end up doing on the weekend. Never-mind the wasted coffee (gasp!) that sometimes happens when we are running around like chickens with our heads chopped off. (Where did that saying originate, I wonder?) Instead, a favorite, bright, warm, cheerful mug, slow sipping and ruminating happen most weekdays. Ahh, this is the life. Watching the sunrise, steam rising over the oatmeal simmering, flicking off the gas, and covering the pot. The hard work, sweaty gardening days, who am I kidding, weed days is more like it, that fresh smell of the cut grass. Time slows way down, we stop to smell the air after the rain as we jump in the van, headed to softball with friends.  Meals are generally served around the same time, surprises are kept to a semi-minimum (one has to be realistic with 8 people here, there WILL be surprises, eek!), and I feel even more like an old lady in her old, little cottage that never leaves, sipping tea, and reading books. Oh, well. That sounds heavenly to me. Five day weekends are wonderful, my friends. Thank Goodness It’s Monday.

~

Gather Round {June 2nd}

IMG_3923

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

{I truly wish we could all ‘gather round’ and chat about life, relationships, 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.}

Want to catch up on what has been happening here at Hearth Ridge Farm?  Check out previous installments here.

Domesticity – My seedlings did so well and then one word: chickens. Yes, our chickens got most of them after I planted them in the front areas. I forgot about putting up some sort of little fence or something. My basil, oregano, and dill are the only things that are still doing alright. Bummer. I think I will have to stop by the Amish greenhouse and see if I can get some zinnia plants. I need flowers. I really was tempted to put in peonies, but alas at $20 a plant, I might have to save up for that, since I only want like 457 plants. Gardening is definitely a lesson in patience and fortitude. I will stay strong. I now have a huge area with nothing really to look forward except weeds.  Ha. Well, I guess I do have hollyhocks that I planted last year coming up (purplish black! Eeek!) and I’m hopeful about some cosmos I planted. In other news, my littlest son turned four this week and he was so precious and said,”Thank you for my birthday,” numerous times.  He loved his big floor puzzle and book. We have a large party of guests coming in the next few weeks, so we have plenty of work in the house and yard to keep us going. I need to figure out how to feed 14+ people for a week or so. Hmmm….weed salad sprinkled with dill, anyone? 

Education ~  SomeONE *cough – not mentioning any names* always picks way too many books to read each school year and so we are just trying to finish up those last few hanging around. We finished Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare today and we  generally enjoyed it, albeit it was weird, and all the disguises were nuts. Everybody’s names ended in “io” it seemed…Petruchio, Cambio, Grumio, Traino, Gremio, Lucentio, and so on so forth. Sheesh. What were you thinking Will?

Writing ~ I have some major reevaluating to do soon. I feeling stretched a bit too thin and getting bogged down by too many voices in this area. I’m praying about it and I talked to a good friend today more about it. I do know that I want to continue to write here, because I enjoy it so much and hope there is a small spark of something that inspires you, too.

Reading ~  I’m really looking forward to more free time with our formal learning set aside for a few months. I’m really enjoying getting into T.H. White’s The Once and Future King more, and I’m rereading Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising series, which I really find so wonderful and deliciously creepy. There are so many wonderful possibilities staring at me from the shelves, I’m giddy with anticipation. I was able to get a box of mainly new picture books at a book sale today and we all enjoy poking through them so much this afternoon. One of our main family read-aloud times this holiday break is the original The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and we already started it and are enjoying it.

Sillies & Sundries ~  My friend passed this TED talk along to me and wow. What do you think? I’m finding that I’m really struggling with a full brain, exhaustion, and just tension. Yes, some of that is just normal for a busy mother, but I’m wondering if this gentleman is on to something? I’m going to be considering his thoughts closely. I’m looking forward to chasing down his book, Deep Work. I think he focuses more on productivity in your job (*snore*), but I think this could be applied to creativity and just relationships. Very compelling.

Cheerio, lovelies.

~

A Tension, A Dance

 

BC88AC6E-B7A3-4057-B17C-F857DC65BBCF

I watch the crane family dip their graceful heads into the grass. The fluffy chick hurriedly catches up with the nearest parent. A slight breeze, sky reflections, and insect landings paint the surface of the water with movement. The stately sandhills move slowly on by me, their rocking, swaying gait mesmerizing. I confess that even though I see a white horse beyond the birds and the river, swishing its tail, these idyllic scenes are hard to focus on and enjoy. Too many things crowd my brain, clamoring to get out, too many late nights, one too many illnesses, and too much of an intangible something. It wells up in my throat, it slams in my chest, and I feel it behind my eyes. You know when you’ve blown up a balloon and you are stretching the spit-slimed end to tie it and cringing lest it should pop kind of feeling?  Or a harmonica is being played in the house by someone who does not play harmonica? Or you sit in your worn, used-to-be-beige arm chair and an annoying creak happens on every backward rock? Or when you see in slow motion, a full glass of milk, on the edge, tip down, down, down, splattering every where, dripping and streaming in rivulets on the floor type of moment? A far away unknown crash, please God, help it not to be that bowl I bought yesterday – you know what I’m talking about. A stretching, a tautness, a pull-back sling shot sort of feeling. Full on, morning to night, crowded, anguish and joy, all blender-on-crush-high speed. A dandelion fluff floats lazily on by now. It’s looking down at me, this fidgety person, loud, crazy, and rushed. It has an important purpose, I suppose, just as important as me, but it floats slowly, with a cocky I’ll get there sort of attitude. Someway, somehow, all the while letting the sun and wind take it away. Just a lonely bit of fluff, a bit of life parachuting, taking a risk, arms open wide. A gust takes it up and over me. Meanwhile later, I’m back to the strive and fight, push and pull, living out tension, dancing, vacillating between this fight and my choice to stop and choose. To choose to enjoy the sizzle of sausage over the bonfire, snuggling with my sleeping three year old in my lawn chair. The moon-tinged sky and flicker and woody smell dancing about me. A tension, yet a joy, these days, I’ve been given. The fire pops and a frog peeps from outside the ring of light. I guess I’m just going to sit awhile longer.

~

Monastery Moments

2A5F25C5-E8A3-407E-995F-D4801B092D56

We were all clothed in calf-length, thick robes—a hodge-podge mixture of men and women, the young and old filing slowly around in a languid manner. Distinctions disappeared in monochromatic moments of time. This was my own little monastery for the afternoon.
A perfumed scent lingered; flutes were faint in the background. Some guests had their eyes closed, others with their eyes wide open. There was a soft hush and a whisper of quiet with a faint hive-hum of conversation swirling around.
I found myself quietly contemplating the majestic pines rising outside the giant window. One’s eyes could follow them upward into the blue beyond. I rocked, back and forth, back and forth, coffee in hand, and book in my other hand. Something was missing, though, and things felt odd, off-kilter. My heart rate had slowed down; I rolled out the knots in my shoulders, relaxing into a deep breath. This is insanity I thought—all this calm and quiet.
My peripheral vision noticed drinks to mouths, fruits passed back and forth, four women, with laugh crinkles around their eyes, faces alight, turned toward one another.  Another two women, curled into rockers were near the fire, heads back against their chairs, hands gesturing, relaxed and observant. A man served a woman drinks; his steps were slow and meandering. A crossed-legged woman with a tall top knot of brown hair began to color, her art quickly taking shape.
Two young men were chatting, their feet crossed, their bodies on an incline.
I noticed a tall, slender woman, belly-swelled and ripe, being assisted down near the water by a bearded man wearing an eye-patch. Water was trickling, streaming, flowing, and steaming.  Sounds were alive, eyes open, people noticed, faces noticed, all showcased behind robe disguises. Our eyes, smiles, and voices met, beautifully on display. There was no status, no statements, no distractions.
I turned the page of my book, The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris, and was struck by the similarities between the Benedictine monks that Mrs. Norris wrote about, and my afternoon here. This alien simplistic landscape was born through conversation, nature, and water; there was no media here, no outside voices, no hurry. We were just us, just being, all here, at the same level, all at the vulnerable place of being ourselves. This gifted afternoon at a spa became so much more. It became a place of contemplation and peace, with nothing to hide behind. It was raw, stripped back, down to the bones, but it was beautiful. The juxtaposition between my book and environment, this realization of what shutting out the harried world, and reaching out to others, noticing nature, can really do. Real relationship is scary and no, it isn’t safe, but it’s real humanity, real life right in front of me.
~

On Fairy Tales and Fantasy

Wodwo or Wild Man of the Woods by Martin Schongauer 15th century engraving

Wodwo or “Wild Man of the Forest” by Martin Schongauer, 15th Century Engraving

“What am I? Nosing here, turning leaves over
Following a faint stain on the air to the river’s edge
I enter water. Who am I to split
The glassy grain of water looking upward I see the bed
Of the river above me upside down very clear
What am I doing here in mid-air?”

(beginning of the haunting poem “Wodwo” by Ted Hughes)

     What inspires and moves you? What makes you feel most alive? For me, I find inspiration in all of life, in the little details of the salad my daughter and I are tossing, or even in the way the light shines on our book shelves. I find beauty in my faith, in nature, and mostly, dear literature. My favorite fiction being fairy tales and fantasy. Something about these stories, echoes the faith I have that this world is not my real home. There is something waiting that is better and perfect. Now for clarity, I’m referring to older fairy tales, folktales, and the writings of fantasy giants like J.R.R. Tolkien and his buddy, Mr. Lewis. While fantasy, and all the sub-genres, are more readily available these days, and in some ways a bit more accepted as literature, I’m afraid I haven’t found much that I love and find value in, as I have from the classics. There seems to be a key ingredient missing in most modern fantasy, but what that is, I’m not sure I can pinpoint one main thing. I’ve been thinking about another small funny thing about my love of the fantastical. It has mainly been cultivated in my young adult and not-so-young adult years. That’s right. I’ve grown to love fairy tales and fantasy as an adult.  What may seem like a waste of time and an odd choice for an adult to be reading, has, in reality, been water to the parched soil of my imagination. Recently, I pulled off the shelf one of my most favorite books on family culture and home education, Bequest of Wings: A Family’s Pleasures With Books by Annis Duff. This book was published in 1944, but I find much of it strangely relevant for my life today. While Duff and I differ in our beliefs, I can pull out so many gems of glorious beauty.

In Chapter Fourteen, Mrs. Duff lays out a defense for fairy tales, and I found it fascinating. She is referring to the idea that many look upon the ideas in fairy tales or fantasy with what Anatole France described as, “looking upon the imagination with mistrust.”

Children do not as a rule make this mistake; they are not so rigidly habituated to the distinctions that grown-ups make between what is probable and possible and what is inconceivable and contrary to reason.  They still possess the faculty of imagination that makes room for miracles, perhaps because the marvelous novelty of the world and of living has not yet worn off. The trouble with grown-ups is that they take things too seriously. Where children read fairy tales-and they do read them-just for fun, grown-ups often tend to theorize about ethical, social and cultural values until all the juice is squeezed out.

I just love that last line. “Until all the juice is squeezed out”, indeed. As an adult, working backward through the mystery of fairy tales and fantasy, I’m finding a world in which I can make sense of life. I can untangle just a small fraction of the ugliness of reality in this world and partake of beauty not of this world. It makes sense to some inner sensibility in me as a part of the wonderful creation of God. It’s the stark, brutal, horrible world with its insane pace, unreasonable standards, and true falsity that seems strange to me.

Duff goes on to say the importance of truths about darkness seen at a slant in fairy tale:

It is not a particularly healthy thing for children to read about killing. Killing is not a healthy business. But it goes on just the same, and I think that reading about the matter-of-fact way that people have of disposing of their adversaries in fairy tales has perhaps helped to “condition” my daughter to withstand the shock of hearing and reading about the impassioned massacre that men indulge in nowadays. Children, after all, are a part of this world, and however little we and they like some aspects of it, it will not help to draw the veil over the unpleasant things. I know that with my own daughter there is no danger of developing a calloused point of view. Accepting a situation that you cannot do anything about for the moment is quite a different thing from absolving yourself of responsibility for the future, and it is possible that the knowledge that men from time immemorial have killed each other may be the basis of a practical method of discovering how to stop it. 

Fairy tales teach us about ourselves and others:

My impression is that people in fairy tales behave pretty much as people do in real life. Some live by high principles, some are given over to evil ways; some are kindly in disposition, others practice meanness and persecution. Some go adventuring, some stay at home…And in fairy tales each type, with the action that represents it, is brought to life objectively, emphatically and consistently. Fairy tales do not “condone” behavior that is contrary to ethical principle. They simple recognize the fact that it occurs.

Let’s read that again, because I love it so much.

Fairy tales do not “condone” behavior that is contrary to ethical principle. They simple recognize the fact that it occurs.

Duff goes on to talk about how the characters presented in fairy tales often give her daughter something to draw on, saying so-and-so is like a certain character, for good or for evil. This helps us to turn from that which we dislike and see as wrong and turn toward the good, beautiful, and true. Fantasy generally doesn’t tell us wrong from right, but shows us both sides, leaving us to choose, an important part of life.

Here she discusses, specifically the fairy tales of Hans Andersen, and I think it’s worth thinking about:

… the great beauty and enduring value of Hans Anderson’s Fairy Tales is that they show life as it is, birth at the beginning and death at the end, and a whimsical mixture of laughter and tears in between. I do not understand why it should be thought right or necessary to shield a child from the knowledge that death is the inevitable, the logical, the adventurous end to living…This idea must grow by slow and comfortable degrees, and I know of few things that show the way more simple and sweetly than Hans Anderson’s stories. He does not twist things away from their natural direction in order to bring about a happy ending, and I think that children feel the dignity and tranquility of his rounded episodes. Tragedy, in Andersen’s tales, is never shocking; he is gentle and patient in teaching children that life does not always have a happy face, and his sense of proportion is so delicate that he never overburdens his readers with sadness. The persuasive feeling of quiet confidence and conviction of the rightness of things as they happen flows steadily through Hans Andersen’s Fairy Tales, and I know it is helping out daughter to form her philosophy of acceptance of the naturalness and inevitability of death and sorrow. 

Not all fairy tales and fantasy are created equal, as I touched on earlier, especially, unfortunately, the modern genre. However, even in the classics, my children and I have found stories that were too grim for us. Ironically, some of these were from Grimm’s fairy tales. Some of it might find its origins in myth and folktale that is contrary to our faith. Yet, beauty can be found everywhere. I might argue that true beauty is all from the same Source, no matter the conduit that it comes through. We use discernment, but we also don’t live by fear. All of it, everything we partake of, we hold lightly, snapping up the good, and setting aside what doesn’t resonate with us. As Duff says, the ideas in literature “must grow by slow and comfortable degrees”, and I can’t agree more.

What are you inspired by? Do you enjoy fairy tales and the fantasy genres in literature?

~

Wonderment

AFC2C13E-E31E-4EF7-BC72-8E4671542E7B

{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.

~