March Reads

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{a nature journal entry from January- the children and I enjoy doing these together!}

Hello Book Friends! What did you end up reading in March? This is what I finished in March, busy month, I’m slowing down physically, as I’m due with another child soon. I started many fantastic books and hopefully, I’ll be able to finish some of those.

Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver by Mary Oliver (****) – This was a 450+ page anthology of Oliver’s poetry. I checked it out from the library following her death earlier this year. Oliver is one of my favorite modern poets, A Thousand Mornings, being my favorite collection of hers. Overall, I loved this and really enjoyed revisiting poems I’ve read before over the years as this is a collection from most of her poetry books. Poetry seems to really be feeding my soul during the last bits of winter and into early spring.

The Invisible Child: On Reading and Writing Books for Children by Katherine Paterson (****) – I love digging into the minds of authors and this book was wonderful for that. This is a collection of essays on life, reading, and writing by the author of the delightful Bridge to Terabithia, among many other things. I had to read it slowly, but it was fantastic and I jotted down many quotes in my commonplace.

The Holy Bible (*****) – Matthew, Mark, a little bit of the Psalms. So lovely to just keep rereading over Jesus’ life. I’m really blessed by this practice!

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Monday Ponderings {April 1st}

 

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{Brambly Hedge ~ Jill Barklem}

A TIME TO GATHER

A time to gather, a time to reap

the fruits we’ve planted, hoping to bear peace.

The seeds have fallen so many months ago:

the harvest of our life will come.

 

In tenderness is life’s beauty known;

and as we listen the morning star will shine.

The days go by; why not let them be filled

with new and surprising joys?

 

A time for kneading love’s leaven well,

to open up and go beyond ourselves;

And as we reach for this moment, we know

that love is a gift born in care.

 

A time for hoping and being still,

to go on turning away from brittle fear.

A time to come back with all of one’s heart

and bending to another’s call.

 

This is our journey through forests tall;

our paths may differ and yet among them all

life’s dreams and visions sustain us on our way

as loving gives birth to joy, gives birth to joy.

 

Gregory Norbert, Weston Priory

Celtic Daily Prayer, p. 644-645

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Monday Ponderings {March 11th}

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{Summer beauty found in weeds}

Happy work is best done by the man who takes his long-term plans somewhat lightly and works from moment to moment “as to the Lord”. It is only our daily bread that we are encouraged to ask for. The present is the only time in which any duty can be done or any grace received.

~C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

p. 61

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Monday Ponderings {March 4th}

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Divots

the road divots, the bowed concrete

the remnants and ruin of the blood-freezing

season – the cracks, crevices, craters

my tires and heart hit hard

teeth-rattling, rims crunch,

heart shards.

 

oh God, when will the gray-blue white

blankness break – when will the

ice crack away, the grating

chunks of it in my wheel wells

finger-nails on chalkboard,

scraping along my spine.

 

underneath all these sharp icy teeth

is a sleepy promise, a waiting song

green and gold to eventually come along

for now, the icy blanket holds me frozen

my soul drains, slurping down, down,

black and white.

 

yet nothing is stagnant, it’s secretly swirling,

something underneath it all is whirling, twirling

I faintly remember the buzz, the hum

of a fleshly heart starting to rumble-pump,

a breaking out, up, free, wheels all a spin.

 

my chapped cheeks, cold face begin to thaw

again the scraping, chopping, heating, shoveling

reveal layers – deep, driftings that must eventually

melt aside, virgin-muck, green-speckled

sprouts scrubbed afresh.

 

the darkness births the light – green newness

from deep-dark white – when deep under it, I struggle

to the top – but You, oh Love, melt it right down

drop by drop – drip, drip, drop, liquid love

flows in my veins~ softening divoted-heart

stone cold, now new-red,  and squishy-soft.

~A.M. Pine

 

 

Greetings, March…

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{old photo of summer travels – following the light. I’m working hard to enjoy these last moments of the white, brilliant, winter-y beauty, but highly anticipating spring. We’ve had an intense winter season here in Wisconsin, but spring is just around the corner!}

“Before they knew it, spring had arrived. Aunt Green took them into the wood to pick pussy willow and flowers.” – Elsa Beskow, Peter and Lotta’s Christmas

“After that hard winter, one could not get enough of the nimble air. Every morning I wakened with a fresh consciousness that winter was over. There were none of the signs of spring for which I used to watch in Virginia, no budding woods or blooming gardens. There was only—spring itself; the throb of it, the light restlessness, the vital essence of it everywhere: in the sky, in the swift clouds, in the pale sunshine, and in the warm, high wind—rising suddenly, sinking suddenly, impulsive and playful like a big puppy that pawed you and then lay down to be petted. If I had been tossed down blindfold on that red prairie, I should have known that it was spring.”
― Willa Cather, My Ántonia

I must have flowers, always, always. – Monet

The earth has music for those who listen. – Unknown

“Listen to the trees talking in their sleep,’ she whispered, as he lifted her to the ground. ‘What nice dreams they must have!” 
― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

To sit in the shade on a fine day, and look upon verdure is the most perfect refreshment.

-JANE AUSTEN, Mansfield Park

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Treasure Trove

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The little bell clangs against the dirty door as we enter in. The smell is strong, old, memories, and mildew, all tinged with coffee. A cheery modern tune contrasts with the feeling of years that hits me as I enter this thrift shop. I step up to the shelves, pulling off a piece of someone’s life, digging through their forgotten favorite flannels, tea cups that lips touched, and fingering old castoff letters from loved ones. Light filters through the dust as I move a box to take a closer look at an old, wooden highchair, the same light reaches through the multi-colored beads, shining broaches, and giant pendants swaying from their hook, perhaps lightly with the music. There is a bit of magic in these places.

The friendly chatter of other seekers and the workers reaches my ears through the little cramped, jam packed isles of boots, porcelain figurines, and utensils. The light is hauntingly dark in some corners full of obsolete appliances and old cutting boards and glaringly fluorescent in others, illuminating garish orange pans and faded paintings with broken frames. To the eyes willing to see this place is full of buried treasure. I carefully sift through the piles of lacy, hand-embroidered linens and marvel at the loving care of their creators. The kaleidoscope of color and dusty beauty, the air of sharing of lives through time cocoons me.

This is reminiscent of what I am privileged to do each day, entering one of these treasure troves with my children. We spread out the past by shaking out our English geography book, map, and digging into Shakepeare’s Henry V,  peering at stone castles online. Bright eyes search, dig down through the piles of stories, and beauty, no one knowing what treasure each person is mining, thrifting forever. The lives of others turned and pages savored that tie us to others long ago. Not unlike that old pitcher with a little crack that I admire on a crooked shelf. The music, meals, and art share permeate, send a shard into our hearts, flow in and out of our conversation, touching a cord. It reminds me of the knitted or crocheted items piled in second hand shops. Why are they called second-hand anyway? Truly these well-loved objects are often of higher quality and their beauty is in the knowledge of the love and care that went into creating them. Yes, we do have the grime and filth to scrub away in life and on our treasures, but that’s half the excitement of the hunt, being able to see through grit to the shine and heart of something.

Having such an eclectic selection, such a surprising, joyful array to pick from – why would anyone choose the cookie-cutter and sterile? If they are able, why wouldn’t anyone choose the richness and thick, juicy bits of dreams to choose from? All of our senses engaged, our minds swirling with color, traditions, handmade, and slow made. These are mellowed through time. The rainbow afghan, vintage books inscribed by a loving grandmother to grandchild, the in-depth biography, interesting math pattern, and sweet, soft poem. All of this digging, dropping the wooden bucket into the well of robust life, looms large – we are gifted many interests, thoughts, ideas, and bits that spill up and over. They carry us through life and become a gift we can give.

We feel inspired with this special something tucked under our arm and carried out into the world. Our thrifting and learning together collide in an awareness of others past, present, and gives us hope and light in the dark future. It births in us a humility and greatness of soul touching the past, being here and now, and our fragrance flowing into the future to come. We identify with those who used the kerosene lantern with it’s brilliant light lit, we create music to be shared because we know how much the music lifted us, we curl up in a blanket and commiserate with those pioneers who built this life one back-breaking freezing moment at a time. These dusty places and this piled shelves are really museums of life and beauty for the taking. Taste and see. Eat and be filled. Treasure awaiting, dormant and expectant. All we have to do is reach out and partake. A gift to fill and to be spilled.

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Monday Ponderings {January 28th}

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“All this building and talking and flying made me homesick. It wasn’t logical, since I was home, but that’s what I came to perceive – a fulminant ache high in the rib cage, a sense of time’s shortening fuse. After the first accident, it had felt as though my apartment belonged to someone else; after the second, I began to feel as though there was a home I belonged to, and this one, though pleasant and likable, wasn’t it. The previous tenant would’ve rejected such nonsense, but then the previous tenant never had an eccentric foreign houseguest, sewing up artworks to hang in the sky, talking to ravens, spinning twilit Arctic stories. My weary old ground was broken and watered, and what sprang up was a generalized longing. I began to feel like a character myself, well-meaning but secondary, a man introduced late in the picture. I wished to spool back and watch earlier scenes, to scout for hints and shadows, clues as to what might be required of a secondary actor when the closing real began.”

~Leif Enger, Virgil Wander

{emphasis mine}

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Monday Ponderings {January 7th}

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…A story is told of a king who went into his garden one morning, and found everything withered and dying. He asked the oak that stood near the gate what the trouble was. He found it was sick of life and determined to die because it was not tall and beautiful like the pine. The pine was all out of heart because it could not bear grapes, like the vine. The vine was going to throw its life away because it could not stand erect and have as fine fruit as the peach tree. The geranium was fretting because it was not tall and fragrant like the lilac; and so on all through the garden. Coming to a heart’s-ease, he found its bright face lifted as cheery as ever. “Well, heart’s-ease, I’m glad, amidst all this discouragement, to find one brave little flower. You do not seem to be the least disheartened.” “No, I am not of much account, but I thought that if you wanted an oak, or a pine, or a peach tree, or a lilac, you would have planted one; but as I knew you wanted a heart’s-ease, I am determined to be the best little heart’s-ease that I can.”

Streams in the Desert

complied by Mrs. Cowman

p. 8

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Reflecting

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I have so much to do today but little energy with which to do it. I’ve been struggling with a bit of insomnia and it hangs heavy on my back like buckets of water swinging from a yoke. Our last holiday gathering of the year is tomorrow, so you know that fudge I’m to bring and the other dessert, as well as gifts to wrap and odds and ends of traveling? They are all sort of heaped in a mental pile by the door, beckoning. My husband is off to work early, with promises of getting a new cellphone for me. I’m leaving Apple behind, one lonely bite in its forlorn side. I’m the only lone Apple customer in my family and for ease, I’m switching. I’m hoping I just get a simple layout with a good camera.

We’ve already visited with an uncle who happened by, swiped clean the breakfast table of its bagel remnants and granola bits, and I enjoyed a strange, but entertaining story, wearily sinking into the quilts and comfort of my bed. Our school holiday ends on Monday, and I think all of us had a wonderful, for-the-most-part, restful time this year, for which I’m truly thankful. I think fondly of the stories, Advent readings, and poem we enjoyed. We had a little advent calendar from the grocery store, the children taking turns, finding darling chocolate shapes within. We also shared Tasha Tudor’s Advent calendar in her A Book of Christmas and were thoroughly charmed by the darling pictures she painted. The children enjoyed frosting and decorating cookies for various parties and it worked well to do it slowly and in a couple of days. I loved keeping the rush as low as possible, so we could hear the seasonal hush. We enjoyed feasting together as a family, red candles lit, and just more games, movies, and laughter. Oh and the Christmas music. James Galloway and Bing Crosby being favorites. Even chores weren’t the same, with a pine scent lingering in the air, and cinnamon rolls after coming in after feeding animals.

The beauty of the season is definitely still hanging about and it’s really only the 11th day of Christmas. I held out for as long as I could on getting a Christmas tree and I’m so glad I did! We found an off-the-beaten track Christmas tree farm and they had some left just for us to choose from. It was a lovely time, excitement high because it was so close to Christmas and the sparkle of it all hadn’t worn off yet. We were given fresh-popped popcorn and hot chocolate, and my husband and oldest son ratchet-strapped the tree tightly to the top of the mini-van. We may have seemed behind or late, but truly getting the tree later in December has made it all the more special now. It’s standing tall and beautiful right now…most of it’s needles soft and scent fresh.

I think the most special thing has been the few meaningful conversations I have had with a few children or over an Advent reading. We didn’t do all that I wanted, but what we did read and talk about really was special. The children really stepped into their own spirit of gift-giving this year, making or using their own money to buy others things. I didn’t do or make them do that at all, but it was its own special gift to me. The sun is glaring against the piles of snow, and I’m so grateful for its blinding brightness. Carries one through the immense, long gray days of this time of year, does it not? Even our New Year’s Eve ended in a special way, all of us home, singing and sipping sparkling Apple Cider at midnight! We’ve never done that before and it was special. Sigh and back to the present, I hope to make some turkey and veggie soup later, Thanksgiving Tom still giving a month later, and some of the children may go to a homeschool gym night with my father-in-law. Oh, but wait, it’s actually lunch time and I haven’t yet put anything on the table! Time to stop typing and heat up some leftovers for lunch, maybe with a side of piping hot grilled cheese.

I’m so thankful for another year of celebrating the Savior’s birth and for the small moments that make His love truly tangible. Off to fix lunch!

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December Reads {and my Back to Classics Challenge 2018 Wrap-Up}

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Happy New Year’s Eve, friends! Here’s what I finished up in December (I tried to get titles done that I’d been reading awhile, since I had a bit more time over our holiday) and about my Back to Classics 2018 Challenge!

Golden Apples of the Sun by Ray Bradbury (****) – I finished up this book for the category of  A Classic with a Color in the Title for my Back to Classics Challenge. This book was so very weird, beautiful, unmatched,  with a magical use of words, sentences, almost a prose poetry! A slow read for me, because I had to process each story or wade through the themes. Time, age, technology, natural resources, space, family, and so much more. I got bogged down a bit in his school-boy fascination with the space race and rockets which came through strongly in many of the stories. I’m too young? or something to appreciate that particular fascination maybe. The stories on the surface seem so far fetched, yet underneath there are beautiful layers to peel back and think on. I really love Bradbury!

The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux (****) – 3.5 stars -I barely finished this as my 7th title of the 12 for my Back to Classics Challenge. It fulfilled the category of A Classic in Translation. I have mixed feelings on this one. I really liked it for it’s creepy, psychological feel, the atmosphere of it, but I feel a bit confused on some of the “supernatural” seeming elements of the story after finding out more about who the Opera Ghost was at the end. I’d love to see this on stage someday, though. My older daughter and I have been talking about it a lot as I slowly read it and then she gobbled it up and really liked it. Maybe it was me? Maybe it was how slowly I read it?

Poems, 1965-1975 by Seamus Heaney (***) – This is a collection of four of his poetry books and the first three were enjoyable, but I was so bogged down and confused in the last book, North. The language, metaphors, etc, were all “Greek” to me, for some reason. Ha. Not sure what happened, but I like to be able to take SOMETHING away, even if I don’t understand completely and I was having a hard time doing that.

Night Birds on Nantucket by Joan Aiken (****) – The third book in The Wolves Chronicles and it was so strange and enchanting. Dido Twite, a brave little girl, who we are introduced to in the earlier two books, finds herself stranded on a whaling ship and falls into some crazy adventures, including stopping a plot to shoot a cannon ball from Nantucket to London! Ha. Very humorous, imaginative, and fun!

Humility: An Unlikely Biography of America’s Greatest Virtue by David J. Bobb (***) – I started this as a read for a home educating retreat this past fall and found it interesting. I especially loved the chapters on Abigail Adams and Frederick Douglas. This was a little slow moving for me, but I’m glad I finished it.

Jane of Lantern Hill by L.M. Montgomery (*****) -This was a reread for me and I loved it more than the first time. Jane lives with her mother and wealthy grandmother in a colorless and harsh environment. She doesn’t know what happened to her father, being led to believe he died. One day,  a letter arrives from him, asking for her to spend the summer with him on Prince Edward Island. Little do they know how much this will change all of their lives. This possibly has a too-sweet ending, but I adore the hope and beauty that this story holds, it’s one of my absolute favorites from Maud. I love how happiness is found in the simple act of loving and serving.  This is in fact why I call myself “Amy of Hearth Ridge”. 😉

Peace Like A River by Leif Enger (*****) – another reread for me, as I plan on reading Enger’s other two titles next year. I loved this so much and was just drawn in by the rich characters, story, and beautiful spiritual vein throughout. Highly recommend!

The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food, and Love by Kristin Kimball (****) – This memoir I saw recommended somewhere and I gobbled it up in ONE day on our Christmas holidays. Kristin travels to the country to interview a farmer and basically ends up never leaving. Very gorgeous writing, inspiring, and truly shows the amount of work farmers do. The nitty-gritty, bloody, filthy details of truly growing your own food and living off the land isn’t sugar-coated. I suspect the author and I differ on our views of love and marriage, but I found this very real and somehow touching. It definitely was inspiring.

Home Education by Charlotte Mason (*****) – I’ve been through this first volume a few times over the past years home educating my children. I so enjoyed going through it with my book group and gleaned again so many beautiful things.

A Time for Remembering: The Story of Ruth Bell Graham by Patricia Cornwell (****) – I really enjoy Mrs. Graham’s poetry and found that I had this biography of her life on my shelf. It was so interesting to read about her life as a child in China, where her parents served as medical missionaries and growing up to marry Billy Graham. I mostly, though, appreciate her as a mother, homemaker, writer, and appreciator of the small details of life. So interesting!

Journey Into Christmas and Other Stories by Bess Streeter Aldrich (****) – I love Aldrich’s richly layered stories, A White Bird Flying, Lantern in Her Hand, etc. and so I was thrilled to see this selection of Christmas stories by her. Some are taken from her novels, some are just stand alone short stories and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Full of precious nostalgia, beautiful sentiments, and her word-smith beauty is just lovely. The stories may be a bit extra sweet, but it was a perfect read for December. I even read a bit to my children and they loved it.

Pilgrim’s Inn by Elizabeth Goudge (*****) – This took me all year to reread for maybe the 5th time? Yes, I love this book so much. I walk away with new lines and thoughts of beauty every time. This is the second book in a trilogy, but I’ve only read one and three once, this one is so lovely, and has the power to stand alone. I talk a bit more about it here and chat about Goudge, also, who is one of my top favorite authors.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling (****) – This tome I actually finished in November, but forgot to mention it! I think this book starts making the HP series better…the first few books are good, but the last few shine. They become darker and more complex, but so do the interesting things they address. This was an entertaining read for my days of illness in November.

{Whew! So that wraps up a wonderful year of reading! I have one more bookish post I’m working on related to my 2018 reading and that’s my favorites from the year.  I can’t wait to share it with you soon. I also have made my own personal challenge for next years reading and my daughter is joining me. Can’t wait to talk about it more! How was your year? Do you have a favorite list? Please share you list or a link to yours! I’d love to read it!}

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Monday Ponderings {Christmas Eve}

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O Thou,

Whose stillness drowns

earth’s total noise –

its grating sounds:

progress,

traffic,

voice;

flutterings

of my frustration,

mutterings,

agitation;

the screaming silences

without,

within;

the din

of questions clamoring

for their “why?”

and “how?”

now!

the rumblings

of man’s discontent,

erupting hate,

violence;

war’s distant thunder

rolling near,

and everywhere

the cries

of fear

that paralyzes

as it grips….

and near at hand

a faucet drips.

O Thou,

Whose stillness drowns

earth’s total noise,

only in Thee

is stillness found

And I

rejoice.

 

~Ruth Bell Graham

Sitting by my Laughing Fire , p. 66

 

Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn 1606 – 1669, Simeon’s Song of Praise

 

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