A Tension, A Dance

 

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I watch the crane family dip their graceful heads into the grass. The fluffy chick hurriedly catches up with the nearest parent. A slight breeze, sky reflections, and insect landings paint the surface of the water with movement. The stately sandhills move slowly on by me, their rocking, swaying gait mesmerizing. I confess that even though I see a white horse beyond the birds and the river, swishing its tail, these idyllic scenes are hard to focus on and enjoy. Too many things crowd my brain, clamoring to get out, too many late nights, one too many illnesses, and too much of an intangible something. It wells up in my throat, it slams in my chest, and I feel it behind my eyes. You know when you’ve blown up a balloon and you are stretching the spit-slimed end to tie it and cringing lest it should pop kind of feeling?  Or a harmonica is being played in the house by someone who does not play harmonica? Or you sit in your worn, used-to-be-beige arm chair and an annoying creak happens on every backward rock? Or when you see in slow motion, a full glass of milk, on the edge, tip down, down, down, splattering every where, dripping and streaming in rivulets on the floor type of moment? A far away unknown crash, please God, help it not to be that bowl I bought yesterday – you know what I’m talking about. A stretching, a tautness, a pull-back sling shot sort of feeling. Full on, morning to night, crowded, anguish and joy, all blender-on-crush-high speed. A dandelion fluff floats lazily on by now. It’s looking down at me, this fidgety person, loud, crazy, and rushed. It has an important purpose, I suppose, just as important as me, but it floats slowly, with a cocky I’ll get there sort of attitude. Someway, somehow, all the while letting the sun and wind take it away. Just a lonely bit of fluff, a bit of life parachuting, taking a risk, arms open wide. A gust takes it up and over me. Meanwhile later, I’m back to the strive and fight, push and pull, living out tension, dancing, vacillating between this fight and my choice to stop and choose. To choose to enjoy the sizzle of sausage over the bonfire, snuggling with my sleeping three year old in my lawn chair. The moon-tinged sky and flicker and woody smell dancing about me. A tension, yet a joy, these days, I’ve been given. The fire pops and a frog peeps from outside the ring of light. I guess I’m just going to sit awhile longer.

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Monastery Moments

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We were all clothed in calf-length, thick robes—a hodge-podge mixture of men and women, the young and old filing slowly around in a languid manner. Distinctions disappeared in monochromatic moments of time. This was my own little monastery for the afternoon.
A perfumed scent lingered; flutes were faint in the background. Some guests had their eyes closed, others with their eyes wide open. There was a soft hush and a whisper of quiet with a faint hive-hum of conversation swirling around.
I found myself quietly contemplating the majestic pines rising outside the giant window. One’s eyes could follow them upward into the blue beyond. I rocked, back and forth, back and forth, coffee in hand, and book in my other hand. Something was missing, though, and things felt odd, off-kilter. My heart rate had slowed down; I rolled out the knots in my shoulders, relaxing into a deep breath. This is insanity I thought—all this calm and quiet.
My peripheral vision noticed drinks to mouths, fruits passed back and forth, four women, with laugh crinkles around their eyes, faces alight, turned toward one another.  Another two women, curled into rockers were near the fire, heads back against their chairs, hands gesturing, relaxed and observant. A man served a woman drinks; his steps were slow and meandering. A crossed-legged woman with a tall top knot of brown hair began to color, her art quickly taking shape.
Two young men were chatting, their feet crossed, their bodies on an incline.
I noticed a tall, slender woman, belly-swelled and ripe, being assisted down near the water by a bearded man wearing an eye-patch. Water was trickling, streaming, flowing, and steaming.  Sounds were alive, eyes open, people noticed, faces noticed, all showcased behind robe disguises. Our eyes, smiles, and voices met, beautifully on display. There was no status, no statements, no distractions.
I turned the page of my book, The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris, and was struck by the similarities between the Benedictine monks that Mrs. Norris wrote about, and my afternoon here. This alien simplistic landscape was born through conversation, nature, and water; there was no media here, no outside voices, no hurry. We were just us, just being, all here, at the same level, all at the vulnerable place of being ourselves. This gifted afternoon at a spa became so much more. It became a place of contemplation and peace, with nothing to hide behind. It was raw, stripped back, down to the bones, but it was beautiful. The juxtaposition between my book and environment, this realization of what shutting out the harried world, and reaching out to others, noticing nature, can really do. Real relationship is scary and no, it isn’t safe, but it’s real humanity, real life right in front of me.
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Monday Ponderings {May 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

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Gather Round {May 19th}

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{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.

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Monday Ponderings {May 14th}

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

~ Lloyd Alexander

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

 

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

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

Do Something That Won’t Compute

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Wonderment

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{Trina Schart Hyman – one of our favorite illustrators ~}

Is wonder tangible? I often think of it as having a soft, secretive way about it that steals deeply into my soul, ducking just around corners. It takes a close noticing and reverence to catch it unawares. A small copse of birch trees, the certain way the light filters through the window, embroidery of the edge of a skirt, the cedar smell of newly sharpened pencils, and the sound of waves lapping the sandy shore. There are so many moments of wonder and fodder for the imagination all around, sometimes it feels like my senses will overload, or feel frantic for the missing of anything. Birdsong, the trickle music of water in a brook, the way that trees move in the wind, shadows from clouds, the musty, romantic smell of an old story rising, swirling from the pages of a vintage book, and colorful Shakespeare paper dolls that I’m slowly cutting out for my daughter. Can you feel it? Don’t you want to catch that wonder, chase it through a green field into the wide, blue yonder?  I do, I find I must.  Perfect pine cones in a dish, on display, a golden dandelion bouquet from daughter, and the fresh, born-again smell after the rain. These little things swell inside my heart as small reflections, teeny gifts, combating the darkness of this world, and reminding me of my true home, the piece of the puzzle that is missing.  Scripture and poetry come alive, with deep meaning and bloody love pricks to the heart, when one tucks them away, and takes them outdoors on a walk. Delicious tea, table set, candle flame slant, voices chattering around the table, seed cake shared, and spills mopped up by mustard, floral printed towel. Wandering through wonder, I’m able to rise above life’s daily struggles, because I see the light, or underside of them. We see the rich colors in the pile of laundry, we smell the soap suds from the sink full of dishes, we dance along the relationship intricacies, seeing them in the light of our own holes, and knowing we all are flawed, yet beautiful in our originality. The essence of glorious tulips coming up through black dirt. The ugly births beautiful. Wonder prisms the darkness with light and color. My eyes see it all through a sunrise edged with fog.

Wonderment. I’m following it.

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Monday Ponderings {Born for Another World}

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

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

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To Begin Again

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What helps us start over? My daughter and I, feet dew-damp, chased a bit of fluffy fog this morning. Heads back, breathing in the heavenly fresh-after-rain scent of the air, the glint of diamonds off a nearby bush, catching us unaware. A light breeze tickles the ends of our hair, shafts of sunlight piercing through our worn, lone tree.

What does it mean to begin again? The swirl of brush in murky water, dabbing watercolors onto our papers together, I glance up at the blue Bell jar, the pussy willow stems beckoning to me, asking me to remember them on paper. Simple meals shared, tuna patties, lettuce, on wheat. Lanterns lit, orange juice pored from a tall, porcelain pitcher, catches the light just right.

How do we move forward from life’s bogs? I shake out a giant, geometric cloth, my hand smoothing, running the length of it, as I lay it on our table. A little orange gingham fabric piece in the middle, my lilac candle, lanterns, two pine cones, and bouquet. A quiet restart, reflection and hope for things to come, conversation, and relationship. Pausing over seasonal, springy, Tookish poetry, chuckling at Moomins, and dirty hands dropping their homemade bow and arrows on top, mussing it a bit.

What helps us breathe again, from the busy, harried, breath-sucking seasons? The steam rising from the pot of oatmeal, walnuts and raisins, sprinkling down over the top, a splash of milk added to the lot, pepper plants on the sill, a bit of spilled dirt, the curtain above, whipping in the wind from the window, fresh from bath, soap-smelling little boy, and soul-deep discussions over a chapter in Tanglewood Secrets.

What makes the ink of life, flow again? The pulse of our heart, beat again? A cool breeze, gray, slate-colored skies, epic soundtracks flowing along side the tide of feeling, bringing the outside in, the reality of knowing, seeing, drinking in the fact, that we are not really made for this world, and its darkness. The little dandelion, the moss, the way the birds sing, bringing in the dawn.  The first, hot cup of coffee, warming my hands, hip against the wood counter top, sipping in the morning.

What helps us start over? I’m not sure, but these small moments are essential ingredients. Humble gratitude for every little gift, no matter how small. Each moment is a new beginning.

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April Reads

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“Vilma Reading on a sofa” by Frantisek Tavik Simon (Czech 1877-1942)

I was able to read some lighter fiction this month and finish some of the ones I’ve been dipping into for awhile now. The weather is turning glorious, so one must push oneself off of one’s backside and out of doors. 😉 I’m still plugging away at my selections for the Back to Classics reading community, but haven’t finished any more of them. I’ve been dipping into more Children’s and YA literature and I always fall back in love with it. Recently, I finally read a Moomin tale and found in charming. Do you enjoy Children’s or YA for yourself? WARNING: YOU ARE ABOUT TO BE SUBJECTED TO A VERY TALL PILE OF BOOKS. PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK. 

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde (***) – I tend to rate books immediately upon completion very emotionally. I initially rated this a bit higher, but bumped it down a bit after I thought on it awhile. I’m not sure why I do this. This was silly and eye-rolling fun. I enjoyed the creativity of this story very much! It had a predictable plot, swearing, wonderfully wonky puns, and some ridiculous cliches, but the truth is, I just want to escape through a Prose Portal and visit with Jane and Mr. Rochester. The End.

Wodwo by Ted Hughes (****) – This is a collection of poems, short stories, and one play. It was weirdly wonderful. Hughes use of words is beautiful and he paints beautiful word pictures. I didn’t always understand the themes or subject of the pieces, but overall, I was enchanted by his word wizardry. My favorite poem of all, and one I’m super inspired by, is the title poem, “Wodwo”. I actually heard of this mythical creature from Robert MacFarlane’s Instagram account and googled the term. I was intrigued and chased it down, finding this book by Hughes.

Upstream: Selected Essays by Mary Oliver (***) – There were parts of this that just made my soul sing. I especially loved the opening essay, “Upstream”, and there were words and thoughts and phrases that were just so beautiful. The rest was just ok and a bit strange and rambly. I really should reread and jot down words and phrases for future contemplation.

Oath of Honor by Lynette Eason (***) – This was an inspirational thriller with a side of mystery and romance. This title was intriguing and fast paced. I suspect that there are many others in this series or previous books that introduced the family of law enforcement officials, because I felt a little confused about details about the main characters, like it was assumed I knew about them a bit already. Over all, very well done, the villain/mystery was well-hidden and the romance not too bad on the cheese-o-meter.

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (****) – This has taken me months to get through because it was heart-wrenching in many ways. Wow. I hated this book so much I loved it. This is an achingly beautiful account of The Belgian Congo and a family torn up by Pharisaical religiosity, racism, sexism, and as many other “isms” that Kingsolver could think of and fit into this book. This is the first book that made me cry in a long time and I will never forget it. Even though I strongly believe the author made sweeping, prejudiced (ironically, the very thing she eloquently rails about in this book) blanket judgments of things she abhors (or at least seems to based on this novel), there is SO much to appreciate about this and pull away from it. Highly recommend if you can read it with a grain of salt and a willingness to look at yourself, shaking off deeply ingrained things that aren’t right.

Hourglass: Time, Memory, and Marriage by Dani Shapiro (*****) – If you remember last month, I finished another of this author’s titles, Still Life: Pleasures and Perils of a Creative Life, and thought to try another soon. This was a short and easy stroll. Just subtle and lovely look at how fast time flies and longevity in marriage (ironically, this is the author’s third marriage, BUT I want to believe the best about people, right?! Marriage is hard, but that’s what can make it good). It was poignant and it made me think.

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert (**) – This was another Instagram FAIL. I was so disappointed after a promising beginning. Longer review here if you are interested, but slight spoiler alerts.

Crosstalk by Connie Willis (*****) – SLIGHT SPOILER! The daily workings of a telecommunications company may not sound fascinating, but oh wow, they are when you have Willis writing about them. The new craze is a medical implant supposedly to increase your emotional connection to your partner. Briddley, a young employee, is thrilled and astonished by the attention lavished on her by one of her bosses Trent, and now he wants to get this implant with her! The weird tech department guy won’t stop warning her about the dangers of this procedure, and her big crazy Irish family won’t leave her alone.  Continued review here!

Island Beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende (***) – (GRAPHIC CONTENT IN THIS BOOK – READ COMPLETE REVIEW BEFORE READING!) I have a bit of a book “hangover” from this title. Brutal and honest look at life during the colonization of Saint-Domingue (Haiti) and the Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic) by the French and Spanish. This follows the life of a young slave Tete and her masters and the people she encounters in her life from her mother’s origins in Africa, enslaved to Haiti, ending up in Louisiana. It touches on Toussaint Louverture and his impact on the Haitian Revolution.  Continued review here! 

The Lost Castle by Kristy Cambron (****) – A strong 3.5 stars! This was a beautifully written inspirational historic romance. Three different women’s stories carefully woven through the generations of the countryside of France. It takes you through the French Revolution, WWII, and modern day with ease and fluidity. The romance was SO well done, tasteful and slow, I’m so happy to find an Christian author like this. I can’t wait to read more from Cambron. This title reminded me a bit of Kate Morton’s style. The ONE thing I didn’t like was there were a few “neat” bows-tied up, but I’ll forgive it, because I really enjoyed it.

Plot & Structure: Techniques and Exercises from Crafting a Plot That Grips Readers from Start to Finish by James Scott Bell (*****) – I think that title says it all. No need for a review. Ha. This was simple, straightforward, and I loved learning about what it takes to craft fiction. Wowsers. Go shake an author’s hand, will you, please? This is a great resource, wonderful for revisiting parts over and over again, and I’m sure I will, as I continue to learn and grow.

Moomins and the Great Flood by Tove Jansson (*****) – This was absolutely charming story of a little family of critters searching for their loved ones and forever home. They meet a whole bunch of fascinating friends on their journey. Gorgeous, whimsical illustrations with just the right amount of creep.  I want to move into Moominvalley with them!

Yonder by Margaret Bell Houston (*****) – My dear friend gave me a copy of this book this past weekend and I gobbled it up. Written BEAUTIFULLY and with such a wonderful blend of mystery, romance, and creepiness. A young woman Olive lives through a horrible tragedy and needs to begin again. She ends up as a companion to a young woman suffering from acute mental illness brought on by a sudden horrific event in her life. She lives in a castle on an island in the Florida keys filled with old, hidden memories, creepy handicap sister, and old, withered father. A mysterious servant Ezra is always in the shadows, as Olive tries to help the beautiful Zoé, the atmosphere and place creeps into her being. Olive finds herself healing and growing through the most unlikely friendships. This is full of lovely atmospheric bits, delicious haunts, and old pirate ghosts floating through the halls. I could feel the salt spray on my face and taste it all. I dug around a bit I found out the author is the granddaughter of Sam Houston, of Houston, Texas fame. Interesting!

The Holy Bible (*****) – working slowly through Proverbs, Hebrews, James, 1 & 2 Peter, 1 John.

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Slow

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{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!

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