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.
~

Gather Round {May 19th}

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.}

I skipped the May 5th Gather Round, but it couldn’t be helped.  Check out previous editions if you are interested in catching up round here.

Domesticity ~ Yesterday was my husband’s birthday and I had a lot of fun cooking meat and potatoes in different forms! Ha. It’s true. He loves plain, farm fare. The children helped me set the table nicely and we got a lot of farm/yard work done, as it was a gorgeous day. My seedlings are actually doing well. Just need to weed a bit more and transplant them out doors. I probably need some wood chips to help me keep the weeds down. I’m hoping to go to a nearby Amish greenhouse for a few flowers for my deck and maybe a couple perennials to plant, crossing fingers that one day Hearth Ridge will have a bower of flowers. I’m especially keen to plant peonies and lilacs. They might take a few years to really show up or bloom, but that’s alright. The anticipation will be worth it.

Education ~  We are continuing on for a few more weeks, working on finishing up our Civil War studies. We’ve been reading a few wonderful, thoughtful books together about Prudence Crandall, Abe Lincoln, and others.  My oldest has read Gone With the Wind and is finishing up Uncle Tom’s Cabin.  She also has read about Ulysses Grant and Robert E. Lee. It’s been a fascinating term, history wise. We will be getting into the World Wars in the autumn.  We have quite a few loose ends to tie up before we break for the summer.

Writing ~ I’m working on a poem about time and another essay piece I plan on submitting soon to a online journal. I’m hoping another poem I wrote will be included in a collection of local stories and poetry. I’m slowly moving forward on my fiction piece. I am basically character building and world building, muddling through the first draft with no clue what I’m doing. BUT I’m having fun, even though it’s extremely hard to craft. I was digging around online and found a lovely writer’s blog that I am inspired by deeply. I especially have been enjoying her essays on the Creative Process. Her photographs and collections of illustrations are beautiful. One thing that I find, is that I don’t write as much for here currently because all my brain power is turned to my other projects. I still LOVE writing here, my little home, so there’s that tension. However, all of life is a tension and a dance, right?

Reading ~ I’ve been mainly enjoying The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris and Cherry Cake and Ginger Beer by Jane Brocket. I have a huge stack of books that are essays about writing, writing fantasy, and writing for children, as well as nature lore and travelogue memoir types. I’m always way too ambitious with my reading piles. As long as I just determine not to let it me stress out, and weed it occasionally, that’s fine.

Sillies & Sundries ~  I found a fantastic lecture by author Susan Cooper that I very much enjoyed and wanted to pass it along to all of you. Brew a cup of tea and be prepared to be inspired, it’s about an hour long. Is anyone tuning into the Royal wedding today? I might peek onto social media, but for the most part, hope to read, grab a coffee with a friend, and garden with my daughter.

Cheerio, lovelies.

~

Monday Ponderings {May 14th}

IMG_5815

 

” ‘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?)

 

~

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

FBCEC299-3007-45EF-A94F-3F415B98AEBF

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

~

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.

~

Monday Ponderings {Born for Another World}

A5EFA6AF-ACA1-4AD8-B8B9-ED6C97535360

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.

93B530E8-D41D-48DF-A02C-27D05BBBC194

~

To Begin Again

50B84FD8-A4A7-41E7-8C46-F27B4A425A35

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.

~

 

 

Slow

24F515FE-B59E-4E34-873F-0CD6B522423E

{illustration from the charming Brambly Hedge by Jill Barklem}

Here are a few pieces from around online for weekend perusing. I’ve been thinking on how quickly I get caught up in culture’s god of the Frantic if I’m not careful. These speak against that in a few key areas of my life. I want to hang onto these and consider them quietly this weekend.

Life and Home Education  – “…no prizes for getting there first…”

Wonder and Life – am I truly seeing?

Writing – “… be humble…”

Walking – get out and walk, Amy!

Weekend Slow Soundtrack

Happy Friday!

~

Gather Round {April 21}

IMG_3923

{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.}

 I can’t believe it’s been two weeks already since my first Gather Round post.  Here are a few biweekly bits for you!

Domesticity ~ The smell of brownies is permeating the air here. My two littlest children and I just whipped up a batch. I have exactly 4 loads of laundry waiting to dry as my washer is much quicker than my gas dryer. Note to the Northern Midwest: Please stop snowing. It’s April. I could then use the clothesline and get caught up on laundry. Thank you.  I got a delightful order of seeds in from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. Honestly, I love their ‘organic’ seeds mainly because of the pretty vintage packages. I can’t wait to start some soon on their way to a probable slow death.

Education ~ Besides a week of coughing and fevers, we’ve enjoyed our lessons. My oldest had her piano recital after rescheduling due to aforementioned snow. Our 18th century costuming class/dance lessons are winding down, the ball is in two weeks! I have so many little bits of things to do on my costume, but we are enjoying the dances. Here is one of the ones we’ve been learning, “Knole Park”. Next month, our weekly gym night switches to baseball in the park (sleds on standby), and everyone is looking forward to getting outside. On the topic of costuming and reenactments, we’ve enjoyed this place.

Writing ~ Have you noticed the “chirp, chirp” sound around here at the blog? Egads! I have, too.  After a busy first couple weeks of writing in April (I submitted another poem, an essay, and worked on my fiction), I just felt DRAINED mentally and then family things hit, and did I forget to mention we had 12 inches of snow in a few days, which made EVERYTHING slow as molasses? (I really loathe when people constantly complain about the weather.) Anyway, I was able to attend a lovely two hour library talk on poetry this morning and it was so refreshing and got my juices flowing. I also hoping to get back outside, because nothing is more refueling than sunshine and stars. It’s so much easier to talk about writing than actually doing it, although, I guess I’m writing about writing right now. Gah. What recharges your writing/mental juices? I’m really curious.

Reading ~ What are you currently reading that you love? Maybe I’ve actually been reading more and that’s why I haven’t written as much. Neither good nor bad, I guess, as far as the writing goes. I finished Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, Hourglass: Time, Memory, and Marriage by Dani Shapiro, The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert, and Crosstalk by Connie Willis. I’ll review them at the end of the month.

Sillies & Sundries ~ Here is a silly for the rest of your weekend. 

Cheerio, lovelies.

~