Monday Ponderings {June 18th, Happy Birthday to me!}

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Our love is like a little pool; Thy love is like the sea…

~ beautiful line from an Amy Carmichael poem “Surprising Love”, p. 18, Mountain Breezes

Love is at the heart of every right way, and essential forgiveness at the heart of every true treatment of the sinner. 

~ George MacDonald, p. 307, Discovering the Character of God

Face to Face

O Love Divine, if we can see

In our beloved so dear a grace,

When Love unveils, what will it be

To see Thee face to face?

~Amy Carmichael

{The photo is from a lovely B&B my husband and I stayed at last weekend. We snuck away for a short break and it was so nice. Meditating on these today…how is your week shaping up? I’m a grand 38 today. I feel like I’m straddling the young and old fence. Ha. Three cheers for birthdays! Happy Monday from all of us here at Hearth Ridge Farm.}

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June Loveliness

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{Can you spy the baby White-Tailed Deer?}

The smell of June has been in the forefront of my mind lately.  A deep, earth-y, humid, moist smell, with just a hint of floral influence tinging it. It is just heavenly. Barn Swallows swooping, Red-Wing Blackbirds trilling away, and the whispering rustle of the leaves and grasses. The glorious blueness of the sky and amazing green of the fields and woods. I’ve been listening to this song over and over again, the marriage between nature, faith, and a favorite author of mine, Elizabeth Goudge. I invite you to listen with me, closing your eyes, and letting the breeze wash over you. I’m so thankful for this gorgeous month.

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Monday Ponderings {June 4th}

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The Holy Midnight

Ah, holy midnight of the soul,

When stars alone are high;

When winds are resting at their goal,

And sea-waves only sigh!

 

Ambition faints from out the will;

Asleep sad longing lies;

All hope of good, all fear of ill,

All need of action dies;

 

Because God is, and claims the life

He kindled in thy brain;

And thou in him, rapt far from strife,

Diest and liv’st again.

 

~ George MacDonald

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May Reads

The Wonderful Wizard of OZ

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz – L. Frank Baumillustrated by W. W. Denslow and originally published by George M. Hill Company, Chicago (1900)

“I have always thought myself very big and terrible; yet such small things as flowers came near to killing me, and such small animals as mice have saved my life.” ~Cowardly Lion

 

 

 

How was your reading month? I got some good ones finished and I’ve started many titles that promise to be lovely. My stack is heavy on non-fiction right now for June, which is very unusual for me. I’m trying to find more fiction in the fantasy genre that is based more in myth, legends, and folklore. Please share if you have any good titles that fall in the description. Here’s what I read in May:

The Story of the Trapp Family Singers by Maria Augusta von Trapp (****) I read this for my Back to Classics by a Woman Author category. I found it heart-warming and pretty funny at times. I especially loved Mrs. Trapp’s hilarious explanation on their attempts at learning English and also the lengths she would go to hide her pregnancies.  I was amazed at the Trapp family’s resourcefulness and determination. It dragged just a bit for me, but overall, a good story. By the way, the movie is only slightly inspired by the real Trapp family’s life, very little of it is true.

The Alliance by Jolina Petershiem (****) Amish/Mennonite dystopian, anyone? Ha. I’ve read my fair share of Amish inspirational novels in life, so I was bit skeptical about this one, but I was pleasantly surprised. The characters were interesting and multi-faceted and it had intriguing premise.  If something big happened to our power grid or our society’s basic structure (that heavily relies on technology and electricity), who would be more adapted to handle that type of world? This title didn’t shy away from the dark side to people when faced with desperate situations and it didn’t have pat answers or solutions for tough things. This is a page turner with well-drawn relationships, fast paced action, and hard questions.  Older teens and up as it has violence and other disturbing images.

Moonheart by Charles de Lint (***) – I really enjoyed this story, well-written, good characters, and beautiful settings, urban Canada into an Otherworld. I love Mr. de Lint’s ability to create intriguing, mysterious settings, memorable characters, and amazing creatures. He did extremely well with creep. I want to give this five stars as it was close to perfection in what I love about the fantasy genre. My only hesitation has to do with my Christian faith as this is heavy on occultism in a way that really is hard to reconcile. I also really disliked heavy swearing. I can usually read something that isn’t to my taste and just throw out anything I don’t agree with, but I can’t recommend this book without reservation.

Fictitious Dishes: An Album of Literature’s Most Memorable Meals
by Dinah Fried (****) – This was a lot of fun. A combination of photo art and sentiments by Fried about memories of food in fiction she has read. I really enjoyed this and also found some new books and authors to check out. This was short and sweet, a nice break from all my long books and huge stacks. I heard about this book on a lovely podcast called Tea & Tattle.

The Wood Wife by Terri Windling (***) – This was a beautifully written book about Maggie Black, a writer, who inherits her mentor’s home in Arizona. She finds herself drawn to and inspired by the harsh, yet beautiful landscape around her. A mystery surrounds the death of the poet who’s home she now calls her own. Heavy on spirit-ism, Native Peoples religious beliefs, and occultism, so I recommend with reservation.

Touch Magic: Fantasy, Faerie, & Folklore in the Literature of Childhood by Jane Yolen (****) – I enjoyed this short, inspiring book on writing and exploring the fantasy genre. There was one chapter I warmly disagreed with, but it wasn’t anything horrible, it was just a preference of mine. Over all, I really enjoyed this.

The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro (****) – This is one I’ve wanted to read for a long time and a few online friends read it in the month of May and discussed it here. I found it sad and multi-layered. After reading his The Buried Giant, I feel like I walked away from both of these, with more questions then answers. Stevens is a faithful butler who is out on a long-over due holiday, thinking back over his long career and who he is as a person. Thought-provoking. I’m sure I will get more out of this on subsequent readings.

The Art of Drowning and Picnic, Lightening by Billy Collins (****) – I immensely enjoyed these two books of poetry. They are written in engaging, yet simple style, but meaningful and hugely layered. I was astonished at the beauty of some of his close, minute observations of daily life. He renders the littlest bits of our lives in a grand universal way, yet he was so approachable. I can’t wait to read more from him! Here is a TED talk by Mr. Collins that I enjoyed. 

The Holy Bible (*****) – Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Hebrews, 1-3 John, Jude, and Revelation.

A Tension, A Dance

 

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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

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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.
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Monday Ponderings {May 14th}

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” ‘True to life’ may not always be true enough, ” he said. “The difficulty is perhaps in confusing truth with objectivity. By its very nature, art can never be objective. Try as we might, we can’t ‘tell it like it is.’ We can only tell it the way it seems to us. And this, of course, is what we must do — in realism or in fantasy — if we hope to create anything of durable value. We have always needed good art to sustain us, to strengthen us, even to console us for being born human. Where better can we learn to see through the eyes of others, to gain compassion, to try to make sense of the world outside ourselves and the world within ourselves?

~ Lloyd Alexander

(I’ve been thinking about this quote this weekend, especially in relation to writing. I do believe my faith is objective truth, but I think I understand what Alexander is saying here, in that life can be seen so differently through the lens of art, because of the creators behind it. It gives a more complete picture of life, because it’s not just one viewpoint. I believe even subjective art can convey objective truths, but seen at a slant and with flavor, that doesn’t make their message any less true. I saw this bit online and I believe it comes from the book Innocence & Experience: Essays & Conversation on Children’s Literature, which I very much want to read. What do you think about this? Have you read this book?)

 

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Mother’s Day Weekend: Do Something that Won’t Compute

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Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers and to the beautiful women who serve day in and day out, even if they are not physical mothers. May you feel loads of love this weekend! I invite you all to listen to this inspiring and beautiful podcast:

Do Something That Won’t Compute

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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

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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.

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Monday Ponderings {Born for Another World}

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All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on this earth. For those who say such things make it clear, that they are seeking a country of their own. And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.

Hebrews 11: 13-16, NASB, bold emphasis mine.

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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.

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