Autumn Equinox on Saturday and other ramblings…

Rain is falling, concentric splatters on the puddles in my driveway. My mind is all-a-swirl as we are finishing up our second week of home education here at Hearth Ridge Farm. Yesterday afternoon, I snuggled down and read the book The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken, and was thoroughly delighted. Just what I needed at the moment. An escape to England, mysterious wolves, big, beautiful houses with hidden passageways, and endearing children to cheer along the way. The beauty of story. It made me think about the piles of scribbles I have laying all about my house, the discarded ideas, the dusty laptop. The brilliant purple morning glories are dripping wet, a fog and wetness hanging around these last few days. I can’t resist admiring the way their beauty and green tendrils sneak in and out, through and under, a lovely vein of happiness through the outside of my deck. How story and beauty keep us moving forward, their beauty splashing against the gray of dishes, discouragement, and ugly despair of our world. The poem, The Chairs That No One Sits In, a gentle, almost silent-sort-of plea for that elusive something that we often forget, that we drown by the incessant Sirens of our day. The cooling down the past couple of days, the the red tinges peeping out, my daughter exclaiming with delight over the leaves “following” our vehicle, the tinkling, crunching noise and movement swirling up around us, so very beautiful. Autumn is our guest arriving Saturday, and I’m warming up to its cool promise of sweaters and more afternoon teas. I was delighted as I drove through the changing countryside on Tuesday, listening to two kindred-spirit creatives talk on mystery, writing, and just general lovely bookishness. I notice another flower friend, my poor geranium is still hanging on, by the way, a mystery and delight to me, because it is long overdue for a re-potting and often gets neglected. Again, that splash of something that cuts through the piles and dust and smells of life. Reality doesn’t change, but I can make one step forward, parting the waters, one more song to carry me on my way, one more beautiful image, word, and thought that brings me and those around me hope.

~

Monday Ponderings {September 17th}

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Will not the End explain

The crossed endeavor, earnest purpose foiled,

The strange bewilderment of good work spoiled,

The clinging weariness, the inward strain;

Will not the End explain?

 

Meanwhile He comforteth

Them that are losing patience; ’tis His way.

But none can write the words they hear Him say,

For men to read; only they know He saith

Kind words, and comforteth.

 

Not that He doth explain

The mystery that baffleth; but a sense

Husheth the quiet heart, that far, far hence

Lieth a field set thick with golden grain,

Wetted in seedling days by many a rain;

The End – it will explain.

 

~Amy Carmichael, Mountain Breezes, p. 298

{Whoa. I’m holding onto this beautiful thought this week. I hope it encourages you also!  Happy Monday!}

~

Late Summer Sentiments, served with-a-side-of-Lucy

 

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{Glorious sunset in our back meadow}

The beautiful dew-drenched mornings are a bit chilly now – my coffee steam rising warm, wiggling into the cool air.  The stillness in the air and the hint of wood smoke drifting from our Amish neighbors whispers autumn. However, today reached the 80’s so I’m still holding onto summer. Summer is the L.M. Montgomery part of the year for me. Do you do that? Explain and figure out life through the books you’ve read and characters your favorite, dear authors have given you? I do. The robust, deeply rich, fragrant smells and luscious greens and deep blues are frankly, JUST like Montgomery and her lovely phrases, characters, and richness. This is the stuff of summer loveliness, which I’ve grown to enjoy. Summer hasn’t always been my favorite, the knife-thick humidity, blazing sun, and the flies and endless running-around-schedule. However, I’ve come to appreciate what it gives me for later, the fortifying memories, color, and deep, earthy fragrances to carry me through our gray, frigid months. There is something about taking the calendar and dividing into into literature seasons, huh? How absolutely juicy and delicious that sounds! There is something about our dusty, gravel roads that just begs for a little girl with red braids skipping down them.  I’m enjoying these last moments, sitting still in their deepness, filling up, and spilling up and over with this warm wind, brilliant sun, and sky. What a gift for the taking!

~

 

Monday Ponderings {September 3rd}

 

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Souls are shaped in the common moments of life, the daily stuff of memories. 

~ Sally Clarkson,  The Lifegiving Table

{One more week here until we begin our new learning year. I’m taking time this week to just soak in more summer and contemplate all the beauty around me. How is your week shaping up? Happy Monday!}

~

 

 

“Keep out of the shadows and seek the sunshine”

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{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.

~

Pure Gold

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Pure Gold

She told me of your face,

smiling at the kitchen

window. Yellow rays of

sunshine, chocolate

brown center. Waving

to the dish washer, wind

tickling your stem.

Her voice was alight

and carefree when

she told me about

you. Immeasurable

treasure you are.

A split open,

slid-forth bit of seed.

You stood stalwartly,

grinning at the

dirty pane of glass.

You didn’t perform,

achieve, or win

anything.

Except joy. A touch

of something to

a girl’s innerself.

And she shared,

she passed you on.

Twice seen.

Twice smiled.

Twice waved.

Now my pen spills the

pure gold of you.

Perhaps together

we can,

thrice bring that

something to someone.

-A.M. Pine

 

~

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}

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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…

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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…

 

~

 

 

 

Right Sort of Day

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Tiny droplets of rain “trinkles” (as my 6 year old sweetie calls them) are on my greasy, shower-deprived face. I just spent a lovely hour or so sitting under our Honey Locust tree, sipping Chai, and snuggled by our black cat, and dipping into my current Gladys Taber read.  The wind was delicious today, sweeping along the humidity and mosquitoes that were tempted to settle down comfortable-like around the house. Today was an unpacking, catch-up-on-laundry-from-road-trip-sort-of-day. There is something so soothing with contemplating nothing other than the nodding heads of the huge patches of Queen’s Anne’s lace, following the flight of the Barn Swallows, and noticing the American Goldfinch nibbling from the Bull Thistles. Yes, I have a lot of weeds around my house. The laundry flapping, my last load of the day, getting a fresh, second rinse from the shower. Summer please stay, don’t go. I’m holding onto you and your warm, earthy smells, and blue, endless skies, dotted with fluffy bits. I’m reveling in your green blanket, oh, what an amazing color green is, with it’s hope and happiness all wrapped up together.

Our summer travels were filled with beauty and nature’s bountiful, gifted feast. Being gone from home, however, just makes one forget the little broken door knobs, ovens that don’t work, and to-do piles. One drives up lovingly, all the problems you drove away from just a few short days ago, long forgotten.  The tall, stalwart house opens up it’s ample arms,  window eyes bunching up with a smile, beckoning you to sink into your own comfortable, lived-in bed, resume one’s regular deck visits, and visit with your shelves of friends. You then go to bake a cake, and the oven kindly reminds you it doesn’t work, and then you think disgustedly that you may need a holiday to get away from all the fix-it projects. Ha. The cycles of life are hilariously funny if you think about them closely. I cleaned out the fridge, finding just enough ingredients to make a Cheesy Chicken Sweet Potato Skillet something or other that I found when googling ‘what to make with no oven’. It was delicious, but next time I will add a side of brown rice or triple the recipe, as my big boy’s belly wasn’t full enough. He downed a couple of peanut butter sandwiches after lunch to fill the spots in that hollow leg of his.

I’ve been thinking on the gorgeous lakes we visited and holding those pictures close in my mind as I go about the mundane. Nothing can shake that poetry I’ve read, even dipping a little into some today by Billy Collins, or those nature scenes stamped onto my heart, the fresh smell, the majestic pines reaching up into pointed spires, church-like. A place of prayer and worship are those wide open spaces, that we can draw from even while hanging up the heavy, wet camping bedding to dry.

One of my two hollyhock stalks broke in the wind while I was gone, so I stuck it into the watering can on the deck to enjoy just a wee bit longer. Day lilies and Turk’s Cap Lilies are hanging on, along with a few sunflowers, and the fields are still full of clover, Ox-Eyed Daisies, and unknown wondrous grasses that hum all day long in the wind. The neighbor’s corn across the road, in particular, has such a beautiful sound to it. Sometimes, I go to get the mail just to listen to it. Slowing my breath, standing next to the road, the sound soothingly flows from their ears to mine, dancing and delighting in the jubilant wind.

I googled Viennese Waltz music, which is mixing with the bubbly, soapy, delighted sounds coming from the bathtub. My boys are in dire need of hair cuts, but I don’t think I’ll do it tonight, just enjoying the music and slowness of today, and dreaming dreamy dreams of big three season porches, much to my husband’s chagrin. He has been amiable about the whole idea, which I have no idea if it will work, with it involving taking out three windows, huge bushes, adding a huge structural element of a roof, and working around a basement cupola thing. Ha. Poor guy. I just love the idea of being outdoors without being outdoors, if you get my drift. Just sinking down and soaking up the sunrise, the heavenly winds that came with this place, reading in the rain, and having more room for snuggles and eating outdoors.

I suppose I will try to get back to my school planning next week, writing, and regular march across the calendar of days, but I’m just taking a deep breath and turning my heart once again toward home, the people who draw breath here, and an amazing Creator who gave it all.  Beethoven’s Melody of Tears came on a minute ago, a fitting soft punctuation to the day. A late dinner of fluffy pancakes and syrup might be just the ticket for children returning from working with their father. I may just go out later and see if I can catch one last glimpse of some bit of wonder tonight, fireflies, moonlight, or another droplet on my face – it feels like the right sort of day for that. I hope you catch a bit of magic, too.

~

Handfuls of Moonbeams

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“Moonlight” by Amy Carmichael

 

Moonlight’s tranquility:

A shimm’ring ocean, like a silver band

Between the misty sky and misty land,

And dreaming mountains sweeping to the sea.

 

The forest slowly heaves

And murmurs as the low night wind awakes;

The moon rides through her filmy vapors, takes

Handfuls of moonbeams, strews them on its leaves.

 

The shining grasses light

The fells with flow’ry arrows silver tipped,

And their long spears are bright as though they dipped

In dews of silver through the silvernight.

 

Lord, when we take our part

Tomorrow in life’s duty; feel the rush

Of hurrying hours, let not their passing brush

The sense of moonlit quiet from our hearts.

 

~Mountain Breezes, p. 127

{Holding onto this today – may the sense of moonlit quiet be on my lips and still my soul!}

~