Gratitude & Glories: Mid~year Reading Favorites, Bookishness, and Other Ramblings

“One can pour something divine into every situation.”

Frank C. Laubach

Hello Dear Hearts,

Happy Saturday to you! I decided to do a little different post this month for my Gratitude & Glories post – combining a multitude of lovely things, The Simple Woman’s Daybook, with the things I’ve read so far this year that are sticking with me like molasses. I may touch on what I’m currently reading and other little rambling tidbits, but I want to stay close to the wonderful words that have been gifted to me through these past few months.

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The Simple Woman’s Daybook

Looking out my window ~ I’ve been basking in the glorious wind-waving landscape and warmth on my face. Part of my enjoyment is the words that whisper right alongside as I contemplate the expansiveness that warm weather brings. It’s truly a seasonal addition to one’s homeplace. My friend Heather lent me the lovely book The Lay of the Land by Dallas Lore Sharp and I’ve been just diving into it in small dips because I don’t want it to end. This is my first by him and it won’t be my last! Do you enjoy naturalist type memoirs? One of my favorite genres. Another book that I’ve had to really focus on, but finding rewarding if I’m patient is Lost in Wonder: Rediscovering the Spiritual Art of Attentiveness by Esther de Waal.

I am Thinking and I am Thankful ~ I’m in love with Hollyhocks and am constantly staring at them and so thankful for them. A little watering and extra TLC in the beginning and the second year they come all friendly-like in their glory. I’ve been thinking a lot about many things, but mostly about stillness and faithfulness and love. I recently finished Kohila: The Shaping of an Indian Nurse by Amy Carmichael. One of the most beautiful, convicting reads for my faith and my mission as a wife, mother, homeschooler, writer, woman, and friend. It’s a bit ramble-ly, but richly rewarding if you put a little fortitude and focus into it. I took pages of quotes into my Commonplace. Along the same vein, I finished Letters by a Modern Mystic by Frank C. Laubach and it was wonderful and unique and so thought-provoking. Living moment by moment, habitually turning one’s thoughts and heart to the Lord. June is my birthday month and I received This Beautiful Truth: How God’s Goodness Break into our Darkness by Sarah Clarkson and I’m only a few chapters in and I am LOVING it. I may purchase a few copies as Christmas gifts for dear women that I love.

One of my Favorite things, what I’m Wearing, and Creating ~ I reread Wendell Berry’s The Mad Farmer Poems this month and man, I love them SO much. I highly recommend them! I’m looking for a copy to purchase soon. They are a favorite. I’ve been loving skirts and dresses and I can’t tell you the satisfaction I get from the wind whipping them about my ankles as I walk barefoot or with my lovely, new sandals to get the post. I inked some words last week on my fiction and I finally organized a whole mess of notes and things for the fiction projects I’m working on. I know deeply that I just need to write and I’ve been reading James Scott Bell’s book Just Write: Creating Unforgettable Fiction and a Rewarding Writing Life and it’s telling me the same thing. I still slowly working on here and there my prereading and nature journal and that is bringing me lots of joy.

I am Watching, Reading, and Listening ~ I watched my two birthday gifts with some of my children, my favorite version of Little Women (I did not care for the new one 😦 ) and Whispers of the Heart, about creativity. I’m slowly reading Jordan B. Peterson’s book Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life and I like it more than the first, if that’s possible. So thought-provoking! I may not see eye-to-eye on him with everything, but I love how he makes me think. I’m almost half way through Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens and slowly moving forward with my oldest two on Great Expectations. Next up will be David Copperfield. I was so happy to find thrifting a book I’ve been wanting to read called Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford and it opened out so well and interesting. I’ve been loving receiving handwritten magazine from a lovely friend in Tennessee about mothering and life and bookishness. It’s a highlight to my month. I’ve been listening mainly to Japanese Instrumental Music and Native Flutes and they have been so peaceful and lovely, paring so well with the weather and languid days of summer.

I’m Hoping, In the Garden, and I’m Learning ~ I’m hoping to find a delightfully deep and detailed fiction read yet this summer. Any suggestions? I like a bit of romance, domesticity, details, spiritual themes, family, mystery, and nature, and I prefer clean, which takes out a lot of modern titles. I’ve tried quite a few and haven’t found any that I REALLY love yet this year. And I’ve read a lot! Surprisingly, this has been, so far, the year of good non-fiction for me. The garden is producing little surprises here and there and I’m especially excited for the sunflowers and other small things. Days of small things are big, indeed. I was excited to see a Raven recently when my husband and I traveled to a funeral (yes, sort of deliciously creepy, I know) because I haven’t ever identified one near our home. We have American Crows, but not Ravens regularly. I’m still learning to continually reorder my affections back into the proper order of Truth & Love. Habits and rhythms that keep me sane and focused help my scatterbrained self. It’s hard, but so worth it. I’m rereading Bright Line Eating: The Science of Living Happy, Thin, and Free by Susan Pierce Thompson with friends and it’s so interesting and helpful. I’m loving Zechariah and Romans right now in The Holy Bible.

For the eternal substance of a thing never lies in the thing itself, but in the quality of our reaction towards it.

Amy Carmichael

Gratitude & Glories: {January 2021}

The Simple Woman’s Daybook

For January 2021

Looking out my window… January was extremely cold, grey, yet with brilliant piercing sunshine-y moments. We had beautiful rime ice at the beginning of the month and lots of snow towards the end.

I am thinking… about teaching older children how to cook more! Teaching soup making, bread making, and various treats and sides.

I am thankful… that our extended family was safe from a horrific semi related car crash.

One of my favorite things… hearing my littlest son’s cute voice “meowing”. 🙂

I am wearing… I’ve been swinging between huge extremes of comfy pants & sweatshirts to nice jeans, shirts, & cardigans. Fluffy socks and my old, trusty slippers

I am creating… my children’s story, which I like to call Silverleaf & Wodwo. I’ve been typing all my handwritten mess into my labtop. I’m trying to get it all in one spot to more easily type and edit. I read a fabulous book about community with creativity and I contacted a couple of friends to share our work together. I need deadlines, so very excited how that is going!

I am watching… for a moment to stop at a quilt store to pick out fabrics for my oldest’ quilt that I promised as part of her Christmas gift. We’ve been perusing Jane Brocket’s The Gentle Art of Quilting and are loving the simplicity of designs, but visual punch from bright fabrics. Really looking forward to making this with her!

I am reading… so many things, but I’m trying to finish The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins. If you are looking for a clean, adventurous YA read, I recommend The Seventh City by Emily Hayse, an Alaskan setting and perfect for winter reading. I highly recommend Bandersnatch: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Creative Collaboration of the Inklings by Diana Pavlac Glyer, so very inspiring. I also have been enjoying some of Brandon Sanderson’s high fantasy, specifically the Mistborn Series, which was clean for the most part and very creative.

I am listening toTim Janis instrumental, Montana Cello, and “Little Things with Great Love”. Oh, and we all love this!

I am hoping… to continue getting my morning writing habits down, revamp homeschool a bit, we need a fresh breeze this time of year!

In the garden… my oldest son and I have been making plans, but nothing solid yet. Last year, it didn’t warm up enough for what we wanted to do until end of May!

I am learning… that I need to tread gently with myself and my family during this dark, cold time.

In the kitchen… been loving roasted zucchini (yes, from grocery store) with basil, garlic salt, sprinkle of parmesan. Also zoodles made with it!

In the homeschool room… it took us a bit to get back to the smoother days after Christmas, but now it’s better. However, I’m changing things up a bit now to blow in a freshness. We are loving reading through The Magician’s Nephew again together.

Shared Quote

“In front the sun climbs slowly, how slowly, But westward, look the land is bright.”

Arthur Hugh Clough

Some moments from my day{month}…

November Reads

This is what I finished reading last month! I had a good month of writing on my Middle Grade story and a Christmas flash fiction piece for my local writing group, so didn’t read as much. How ’bout you? Anything great you read in November? 🙂

The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud (*****) – A fast-paced Middle Grade/YA story of a young magician, Nathaniel, and the crazy adventures that happen in London and a parallel universe when he summons an ancient djinn, Bartimaeus. Bartimaeus is an AMAZING character, so real and so interesting. I love that Stroud made the weak side of magic evident. Magic always has a cost. This was such a fun read. There are more to the series, but I’ll see if I get to them, maybe in deep winter.

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury (*****+++)- So, so creepy, but an amazing look at growing older, living in the present, life and death, not fearing death, laughing in the face of fear and evil, enjoying life now, not giving place to fear, acknowledging that fear is real, but choosing joy and finding a way to keep laughing through the horrors of life. I absolutely love the boys Jim and Will and their relationship with Will’s dad, Charles Halloway. I love how Charles has an epiphany and how they work together to beat evil. The lessons in humility at the end are sobering. How temptations and lusts can take us over and how WE can become the next form evil if we let them win. Wowsers. This is a beautiful book if you can stomach the strangeness. Possibly my favorite of the year.

The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry (****) – cute satire about a family of four children, ripping on the tropes of orphans, families etc that appear in children’s classic literature. I loved the Nanny in it and felt super bad for the little sister Jane. Very clever!

Hope in the Age of Addition by Chip Dodd (***) – I read this book with my health accountability group and it was sobering and encouraging. Our world is FULL of suffering people, addicts in one form or another, including me. I’ve found so much hope and freedom this year with my sugar/food addiction through Bright Line Eating. This was a supplemental read and I loved discussing it with my friends.

Morningstar by Joan Aiken (***) – I love Joan Aiken’s books for children, so I was intrigued by this adult title that I found while thrifting. I loved the first part of this book about a mysterious, wealthy family that all is not as it seems under the surface. The characters were well-drawn and the narrator Pandora (!) was deep and interesting. It got a bit sordid and depressing for my tastes, but was a sobering look at absent parents.

Journey by Patricia MacLachlan (****) – Another wonderful children’s author that I found on a thrift shelf. This was a lovely, touching story on grief, family, and abandonment using photography as the lens 😉 to see under the outer layer of anger and bitterness of families dealing with loss. It was beautiful written, short, and amazing use of metaphor.

The Holy Bible (*****) – 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, and Hebrews

Why write?

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“Let your white page be ground, my print be seed, 

Growing to golden ears, that faith and hope shall feed.”

~ George MacDonald

 

Why write? Or pursue any other creative endeavor? I’ve been thinking about this as I’ve been reading a lovely book called Writing Motherhood: Tapping into Your Creativity as a Mother and a Writer by Lisa Garrigues. The author really is making my brain whirl with ways we can write from our everyday lives. While she specifically is focusing on mothers, I have found so many tidbits, quotes, and little ideas for general writing, especially as I get deeper into the book. As I thought of this question above, at first, I panicked. I felt a huge need to write beautifully about this and automatically felt this need to justify creativity. However, once I calmed down a bit, I realized, in my heart of hearts I knew why I write. So, here’s a small list that I’m thinking on and refining in my heart:

  1. I’m an Image Bearer of my Creator God, who loves me – my creativity is a small glimmer of His beauty and character. Of course, it’s not perfect like Him, but if it can reflect even a minuscule piece of Him, it’s worth it. I offer it back to Him as an act of worship, as something I love-to, have-to, and want-to do.
  2. I write to force myself to slow down and humbly notice the small beauty of life. Ultimately, this helps me cultivate gratitude. I mainly write with paper and ink, initially when working on a project. You have to go slow at that inky speed. It’s been a wonderful practice for me.
  3. I write to prayerfully encourage and inspire others in the same upward, outward direction. I want to bring our physical realities a little higher up till they touch the spiritual realm. Yes, we live here in this fallen world, but we are sojourners on a land not our own. I want to be deeply aware of this, but also realizing if we look closely enough we can find glimpses of our real life beyond piercing through here…

Have you thought through why you write or pursue your creative bent? I’m sure my reasons will shift a bit in different seasons, but this is a start.

~

 

 

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 {May 21st}

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“Folklore is a lively fossil that refuses to die.”

~ Charles Potter

 

“A child conversant with the old tales accepts them with an ease born of familiarity, fitting them into his own scheme of things, endowing them with new meaning. That old fossil, those old bones, walk again, and sing and dance and speak with a new tongue. The old stories bridge the centuries.”

~Jane Yolen

Touch Magic: Fantasy, Faerie & Folklore in the Literature of Childhood

~

 

Your Star, The Sun.

Cabin in the Woods by John Zaccheo

“Cabin In The Woods” by John Zaccheo (no copyright infringement intended)

In through the cabin window, out through the open door, mingled with fireplace smoke, and dust motes. I catch on the side of the table, glint off the lantern, and bounce off of the man’s reading glasses, blinding the woman in tangled sheets. I’m out, flying, free, waking, catching up bird song, swirling along. I hear a loon’s cry, see an eagle’s silent circle, as I rush down, whispering around jackets, skin, oars, and the braids of the occupants of the canoe. One lifts her head, bandanna brilliant blue; I kiss her soft cheek, I think she notices. I puff up, rising higher, laughing, flaming, growing, pulsing, racing to the pines. Their straight, regal selves pointed Heavenward, I swish through, rustling, a pungent, spicy, familiar, friendly smell greats me. Shafts shimmer through, resting next to my blaze of a brother, Fire. Voices a few steps away, backpacks, tin coffee cups, and grease clings to the air. I plunge on through it all, giddy and galloping. A new day is here. Good morning, it’s me. Your Star, the Sun.

 

{Our writer’s group assignment was to write something using Zaccheo’s painting as inspiration and to be aware of our five senses. This above is my piece. Others in the group had poetry and stories. It was such a delightful exercise.}

Patchwork

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I jump in feet first. Sort of like Mary and Bert into those chalk pictures. It’s deliciously colored, looks soft, smells of clean earth and sky. I’m falling, down, down, down. Just as I thought. It’s an old patchwork quilt, stitched lovingly by hand. A mother, a sister, a daughter like myself carefully hoarded and saved precious pieces of fabric. Bits of cloth for this masterpiece, useful and beautiful. In the lamplight, or maybe with hot wax dripping off a taper, she cuts slowly, choosing the pattern, tongue out in concentration, piecing the intricate memories together. Her husband’s flannel shirt, a flour sack, bit of an old rag, piece of her baby girl’s first dress, bit of blue the color of the sky, green like the meadow. I slowly circle her work, fascinated and enthralled. The patience, attention, and fortitude to her craft astonishes me. Me in my 21st century three second glances at a web page, drive thru coffees, and buy it now, one click shopping. I sit cross-legged at the edge of the table. She looms above me, the colors of her art, life, work, swirling, stunning me. I hear a hum from her lips, a sigh of satisfaction as she places another small piece in the perfect place. Scissors down. Resting, sipping coffee, gazing a moment out the cabin door. A breeze flows in because it’s open a bit. She returns purposefully to her work. A graveness steals over her as she carefully handles some white muslin. What does it mean to her? A lost mother, a child? I feel my eyes well up. I stand up, brushing free of a stray thread, and take a last glance at this woman’s history laid out on the table in front of us. One life represented. So brief, yet complicated, messy brevity. A span caught in a single item can never truly reveal all. But it can try. I jump up and I’m out, out and now how do I live my own quilt rightly? I don’t know. But I will try.

~

Kingdom of Opposite Tale: Part 2

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Part 1

Soul crouches, cowers in the crevice. It covers its ears. It doesn’t want to take on the path right now. The swirling opposite stream’s Siren call is loud today. Tendrils of a whisper float to Soul, “Just give this foolishness, this outmoded path up. Ease, tranquility, softness, and beauty are yours, Soul.  Just calmly step over.” Soul traces the tentacle scars on its arms. The edges ooze, pus and pain mingle in its mind.  A beautiful face is now in the crevice, swirling and hovering near, slender finger beckoning. Soul is tempted. Why face the mundane road of thou-shalts and whosoever wills? Why feel the bruise and pain of this Kingdom of Opposite? Soul decides to just hide from it all. There is no danger in this crevice. After all, it’s still on the path. Soul leans nearer and stares harder. Siren’s lustful song is longer, mournfully louder. Cringing, Soul remembers. Eyes of its mind shut tight, forgetting again, fighting to remember. Its eye strays toward the path. That blood, a watering of red, on the dusty trail beyond its resting place. Startled, Soul stretches forth one leg, creeping back, faith seeping into its doubting heart. It can’t be. What is that small piece of greening hope in the barrenness? It shuffles closer and peers down. A curling, swirling vine is growing from the red stream.  Something sprouts in Soul’s heart.  Hearty, simple, brave, little vine.  Beauty among dry bones, Soul muses. It pulls itself up, brushes itself off, straining eyes ahead, following the swirls and twists of green.  “One must look hard for beauty in this Kingdom, but isn’t that the very essence of True Beauty? It comes up through the hard places, the lost places, the gruesome places of our path.” Soul speaks these truths out loud, telling itself, drowning her voice, watering the little seed of its heart. Soul starts forward, following the Vine wherever it may go, a spark of beauty leading it onward. It begins again with one step.

~

 

 

 

Five Months In – Kingdom of Opposite Tale

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Welcome to the Kingdom of Opposite –

Soul is on a path, rocky and barren, dry, desert wind blowing.  This part of the path has been five months and a little more, it reckons. Sweat- laden, Soul turns its head and glances around the landscape, plodding, plodding. Step at a time, day at a time, one tear at a time. A side way glance, grasping, grabbing arms, tentacle-like flail from a stream going the opposite direction. Soul sees flashes behind, flashes of fascinating things, muddied and unclear. It stops, staring and mesmerized. Shaking its head, it turns, glancing at the path that it’s been on…almost half of this new year. The same old, same sharp stones, same small way.  Soul’s head turns once more to the brilliant flow on either side of him. It thinks to itself, “I have none of those accomplishments, what is that newness, I need that, I’m different, I’m wasting, withering in obscurity, I’m desperate for easy, restful things.” Something sticky and hard is on its arm. Soul looks down. A black, stinking, ugly tentacle is grasping its arm. The stream gleams, it glitters, it accomplishes great, measurable things. There are accolades and praise in the sweet-smelling stream. Soul trembles. What has Soul done compared to the this alluring flash surrounding it? How can Soul measure up? Another tentacle joins its companion. Soul thinks, “I have nothing, I am nothing, all I have is this journey of rocks, painful and jarring.” Closing eyes, deep breath, Soul hears something. It can’t compete with the glamorous beauty flowing all around it. It is so faint, so gentle, yet has a musical, lyrical bell-like quality to it. Soul bends. Soul rests in the wind of it. Reaching and stretching its ear to it, Soul finally yields to its draw. Listen. Can you hear it with Soul? “Be still and know.” Soul realizes that its cheeks are wet like the dew of the morning and its parched, patched heart is refreshed. The tentacles are gone, bloody traces of their grip slashed across Soul’s wrists. Soul turns once again to the path winding in the opposite direction of the teeming stream. Something brilliant on the path jumps out at Soul. It stoops to touch it, warm on its finger. It’s gruesome, it’s dark red, it’s sticky, it’s messy, it’s a blood trail. Soul never noticed this before. Soul’s blood drip, drips, down mingling with the blood on the ground. Soul crests the next rocky ridge, plod, plod, step, step, and upon looking down into the valley below, through a heavy, dank, fog, it catches a glimpse of Something. Soul can’t name it. Yet, it takes a step down and toward, into the unknown, refusing a glimpse to the side and the beautiful, teeming, mass flowing beside it, instead filled with an unexplained, incredible Love that fills the lonely, confused, and weary crevices of Soul. Soul scrambles, tripping, stumbling over the rocks, relationships rocks, Soul-wrenching rocks, just to catch one glimpse. It never does, but it follows the brilliant Light that surrounds the Something, sending out a pulsing promise of “You are loved.” Soul catches its breath, places its scarred feet one step lower into the Kingdom of Opposite. Soul falls, but looks up, faintly seeing this Beauty ahead, on the same path, together with Soul. The Light beckoning with love and acceptance, Soul seeing the path of blood flowing from the One, that blood mixing with its own on this journey, and nothing, no ease, no prize can complete with the brilliance of this dusty, love-soaked path. Step, step, plod, plod. One moment at a time.

~