Monday Ponderings {August 6th}

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{High Falls of Pigeon River – Grand Portage State Park, Minnesota}

Among the many things for which I remain profoundly grateful is the fact that so much of life defies human explanation. The unimaginative and the dull may insist that they have an explanation for everything, and level at every wonder and mystery of life their popgun theories, but God be praised, their wooden guns have not yet dislodged the smallest star. It is well that this be so, for the human spirit can die of explanations, even if, like many modern formulae, they are but explanations which do not explain. 

     A world without wonder, and a way of mind without wonder, becomes a world without imagination, and without imagination man is a poor and stunted creature. Religion, poetry, and all the arts have their sources in this upwelling of wonder and surprise. Let us thank God that so much will forever remain out of reach, safe from our inquiry, inviolate forever from our touch.

~Henry Beston, Northern Farm, p. 128-129 (emphasis mine)

{Thinking on this beautiful thought this morning, rainy, delicious smelling morning outdoors, and I’m slowly catching up on things after our holiday. What are you thinking on today? Happy Monday!}

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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.

~

British Educator, Miss Charlotte Mason {English Memories}

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{St. Mary’s, Ambleside, Cumbria, England and my sister}

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Charlotte Mason, a British educational reformer. As I’m in the throes of planning our new learning year, and just reading and researching, I got to thinking how very grateful I am to have found her philosophy. The impact her teachings has profoundly changed me and my life in all areas. It’s been two YEARS now, since I made my wonderful trip to see where she lived and worked, and I’ve yet to share how much it touched me. She has complimented and enhanced my faith in so many small ways and I was trying to put my finger on the why. I think that it has to do with the emphasis on people and relationship. Children are born persons, after all. Mothers and fathers are persons, too. I’m just barely grasping a small fraction of the importance of this and how Jesus really loved and cared for people.

{inside of St. Mary’s – and my dear mother}

I’ve been rereading favorite posts on Nancy and Karen’s blogs, as well as dipping into Karen’s book A Charlotte Mason Companion (a yearly summer reread!)and Charlotte’s own books, specifically Home Education, as I’m in a book group reading this together. What richness! This gift of a feast of ideas, which culminates in a love of God and others. Sigh. It’s not easy though, its not quick, there are no formulas, it really is a gentle sowing of the seed and trusting by faith, that richness is going to spring forth.

I so enjoyed strolling through some of the places Miss Mason lived and worked, visiting her grave. It was easy to see why the Lake District made such an impression on her, just the beauty and freedom of spirit, must have dove-tailed into her thoughts on the realness of this life and education. Life found in the little corners of the every day moments. Life found in the hard moments and good moments of family and friendships, and the lives we touch through beautiful books, art, and music.

{Archives of student work at the Armitt Museum and other items- a treasure trove of inspiration!}

Life is a balance between duty and pleasure, why not blend them both, with the cultivation of habits and careful attention, yet an openness and beauty of being unique people with unique gifts and bents, dipping our toes into many interesting pools of life?

{Ambleside Bridge House}

I guess I’ve been just trying to refresh my heart again about the deep emphasis on relationship. All of life really is a careful, thoughtful stitching pieces of our human relationships, our relationship with God, and all of the world around us. A delightful building of the quilt of life. Its hard, but it’s beautiful. It’s not hurried, it’s a slow flowing and filtering through each day, moment by moment. It really is revolutionary and counter-cultural. Charlotte Mason’s thoughts continue to help me in a small way with understanding the essence of relationship. When things are out of sync here, after reflection and prayer, it is usually that I have a rift in one of my many relationships.  I’m prayerfully considering again, a time of refreshing and reordering of my affections. On God and on people. Truly, the things that matter.

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{Scale Howe – Miss Mason’s teacher training school – now part of the University of Cumbria}

My sister and I were so touched by this quote in one of the students notebooks at the Armitt Museum. I still think about it often ~

 

The Heavens are calling you and whirl around you,

Displaying to you their eternal beauties;

Yet still your eye is looking at the ground.

~ Dante

Why indeed am I still ‘looking at the ground’ when there is so much more? A beautiful quote to meditate on and consider as I realign myself and refocus on what it means to have this privilege and a responsibility to be alive. I am so grateful.

~

Anne of Green Gables: Chapter 19 & 20 {and other related book chat}

 

One June evening, when the orchards were pink-blossomed again, when the frogs were singing silverly sweet in the marshes about the head of the Lake of Shining Waters, and the air was full of the savor of clover fields and balsamic fir woods, Anne was sitting by her gable window. She had been studying her lessons, but it had grown too dark to see the book, so she had fallen into wide-eyed reverie, looking out past the boughs of the Snow Queen, once more bestarred with it’s tufts of blossom. In all essential respects the little gable chamber was unchanged. The walls were as white, the pincushion as hard, the chairs as stiffly and yellowly upright as ever. Yet the whole character of the room was altered. It was full of a new vital, pulsing personality that seemed to pervade it and to be quite independent of schoolgirl books and dresses and ribbons, and even of the cracked blue jug full of apple blossoms on the table. It was as if all the dreams, sleeping and waking, of its vivid occupant had taken a visible although immaterial form and had tapestried the bare room with splendid filmy tissues of rainbow and moonshine.

p. 161-162, Anne of Green Gables

 

{Short note to Maud -excuse me for a moment!} Oh, Lucy Maud. You just have such a way with words. And make up beautiful words, too, like silverly, yellowly…sigh. I so wish I could be your friend in real life. I know you said that your characters resemble no one in real life, but as I learn more and more about you, oh my, so much of your wonderful thoughts, love of nature, and turning from pain and choosing to focus on beauty comes through in your writing. I’m reading the first volume of your journals, gifted to me kindly by my sister, for my birthday. You know that, young Maud is very much like young Anne in many ways, right? Such a beautiful composite and interweaving of real life experiences, feelings and fiction’s glorious imaginative flights of fancy. The photos of P.E.I. in a lovely book I borrowed from the library remind me so deeply of my own trip and introduction to your beloved island. Just glorious! Thank you from the bottom of my heart for putting your pen to the paper and sharing pure beauty in ink. }

Chapters 19 & 20

{continuing our readings}

These two chapters were just lovely with Anne and Diana’s infamous jumping on top of Aunt Josephine in the very Sparest of Bedrooms. Of course, Anne ends up gaining a Bosom Friend from the whole ordeal. Matthew stood up to Marilla, with always humorous conversations occuring when he does.

Anne’s place names are just sooo wonderful. Dryad’s Bubble, Idlewild, The Haunted Wood, and Victoria Island, in honor of the Queen, of course.

Anne’s inattention and imagination are large factors in Matthew’s handkerchiefs being starched and a pie being burnt to a crisp. Surprise, surprise. She is moodily reflecting on the fact that she has been at Green Gables for a year.

Marilla makes Anne take a dreaded trip at TWILIGHT through the Haunted Wood to get an apron pattern from Mrs. Barry, which is just about the same as death. How could you, Marilla? 😉

Such hilarious, beautiful chapters and made all the more wonderful by simultaneously dipping into Volume 1 of L.M. Montgomery’s journals and Catherine Reed’s The Landscapes of Anne of Green Gables. I highly recommend them.

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Happy Birthday, Lucy Maud Montgomery!

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{First editions of L.M.Montgomery books at her Uncle John and Aunt Annie’s home which she dubbed “Silverbush” and was her inspiration for the Pat of Silverbush books}

I was so excited to visit P.E.I, Canada with my husband this year and it was a dream. All because of this lady, Maud Montgomery. It’s funny how you idolize authors that you love as a child and when you dig deep into their lives, they often aren’t all gumdrops and rose petals. That is definitely the case for Maud. She had a rough life, but it some ways, that endears her to me even more. I see how she lived and survived through her trees, island, books, characters, and writing. She wrote into her characters the darkness of true life, yet she managed to spin a bit of magic around it all, giving light and hope.

I haven’t yet read all her books, but I’ve read a fair amount and almost always, I walk away enchanted, encouraged, and ready to look at life in a new way. My recent favorite is Jane of Lantern Hill. Thank you, Mrs. Montgomery for penning beauty and light for the world to share.

I wrote here more about her! And here a poem about the enchanting P.E.I. !

~

Fells {English Memories}

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{Lake District, Cumbria, England, June 2016}

What is it about the English fells that captured my heart and built my faith so much? Perhaps it’s the barrenness of them, or the romantic sentiments attached to them from so many stories I’ve read by English authors? I’m not sure, but something about these hills meant so much to me and I will never forget them. At the risk of sounding overly sentimental (what, not me!?), they burned an indelible mark into my soul. There is something about lifting up my eyes to such hills, those airy, lonely, wilderness retreats that refreshes me, makes me dream, and lifts my heart out of heaviness. I’m so thankful my newer home area has many hills and valleys, making my heart sing, as I dream they are my very own fells.

“Mountains seem to answer an increasing imaginative need in the West. More and more people are discovering a desire for them, and a powerful solace in them. At bottom, mountains, like all wildernesses, challenge our complacent conviction – so easy to lapse into – that the world has been made for humans by humans. Most of us exist for most of the time in worlds which are humanly arranged, themed and controlled. One forgets that there are environments which do not respond to the flick of a switch or the twist of a dial, and which have their own rhythms and orders of existence. Mountains correct this amnesia. By speaking of greater forces than we can possibly invoke, and by confronting us with greater spans of time than we can possibly envisage, mountains refute our excessive trust in the man-made. They pose profound questions about our durability and the importance of our schemes. They induce, I suppose, a modesty in us.”
― Robert Macfarlane (emphasis mine)

Here, here, and here – If you are interested, more about my 2016 England trip.

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Prince Edward Island to Hearth Ridge Farm: A Tension

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Here home again, bittersweet world of words.

Red-stained, Isle of blue-green,

Sail waiting to be unfurled.

Glints of gold on glass, mind’s-eye scene,

path of sunlight to horizon, quiet ease.

The din of loved ones, drowning

sea’s strong murmur. But I’ve a new lease, a fervor.

Responsibilities crashing loudly, crowning,

but a secret seeps from my

lapping lips, whispering of far-flung beauty sounding.

Out comes dunes, out comes brilliant sky,

Out comes red earth, surf, and seagull cry.

The thick worlds collide, my heart’s

isle and soul’s farm become intertwined.

Fingers stroke cheeks, sand grains left behind.

My breath is salty, pungent as I kiss

their darling, dirty faces, fists. The fields of corn,

waves of the sea, something missing and found in me.

Beacons, buoys, blueness, quintessential coastal horns,

sea in my lungs, earth in my throat,

compost of being, soul sea-soaked.

Farm’s beauty full width and breadth, feasting on, seeing

It’s flesh alive because of Island wind,

that died a death sown deep in me.

This old dirt-made woman, new from sweet saltiness of sea.

~

Monday Ponderings {August 28th}

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Much of the beauty of the Island is due to the vivid colour contrasts – the rich red of the winding roads, the brilliant emerald of the uplands and meadows, the glowing sapphire of the encircling sea. It is the sea which makes Prince Edward Island in more senses than the geographical. You cannot get away from the sea down there. Save for a few places in the interior, it is ever visible somewhere, if only in a tiny blue gap between distant hills, or a turquoise gleam through the dark boughs of spruce fringing an estuary. Great is our love for it; its tang gets into our blood: its siren call rings ever in our ears; and no matter where we wander in lands afar, the murmur of its waves ever summons us back in our dreams to the homeland.

The Alpine Path

L.M. Montgomery

p. 11

(my husband and I just returned from a dream trip to P.E.I. in celebration of our upcoming 15th wedding anniversary. It was so soul-enriching. I can’t tell you how much I loved this trip and the time with my husband on this gorgeous island.)

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St. Martin’s Church, Bowness-On-Windermere {English Memories}

Once Upon an England Trip

A favorite memory of our trip was visiting the beautiful, vast churches. I’ve been reading a bit more about them and I wrongly assumed that the bigger they are, that they are then called cathedrals.  This is another article I found fascinating about the construction of ancient churches and meaning behind some of the symbols. My children and I really enjoyed reading this book about cathedral construction, fascinating and quite astounding. I’d love to dig deeper into this study, anyone have any favorite books on the topic? I’d like to research old churches that are in America as well, although 241 years will never compare to Europe’s ancient structures.

St. Martin’s was the very first we visited and holds a special in my heart because of its simple beauty. I wrote something on my old blog home about what these grand churches meant to me and I’m trying to wrap my mind around the loveliness of the history, tradition, and memories that these spaces evoke. Entering, I was immediately struck by a cool, damp, earthy smell. I was engulfed by a hush and reverence, the vastness was so inspiring, lifting my heart toward God. My footsteps echoed as I walked through these places, reading plaques, meditating and praying, thinking through the history of the people the built, lived, worked, and died surrounding these central places of village life. I thought on the unfortunate horrors done in the name of religion, the beliefs and doctrine that shaped countries and kingdoms, all of it swirling and building awe in my mind. I found the lives of the people buried in the crypts fascinating, one could spend hours reading and absorbing.

St. Martin’s was a beautiful beginning and I will share more of the historic churches we visited later on in my trip.

~

 

 

Flowers, Lanes, Gates, and all around Charm {English Memories}

 

Once Upon an England Trip

One of my favorite things about England was the irresistible, old-world, natural charm. Something about all the old stone, the gates, stiles, narrow lanes, the cool, rainy temperatures, flowers, ivy, and the landscape saturated by green, just thrilled and delighted me. Through all my years of reading about England and dreaming, this was one area, in which, I was not disappointed. Foxglove was naturally growing all over in the wild areas and it was a shocking surprise to come around the corner into its regal and intricate beauty. We started our adventures in North England, flying into Manchester Airport, landing in a little bed & breakfast near Bowness-on-Windermere. I will NEVER forget North England, it is the stuff that dreams are made of and I could imagine the inspiration and delight that flowed through many authors and poets who lived and worked in this area. Have you experienced this beautiful feeling of being transported to another time? Where were you? I’d love to hear of other areas that are naturally gifted with this sense of history and beauty.

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Drystone Walls {English Memories}

 

Once Upon a Trip to England –

I can’t remember when my love of England really took root in my heart. Unable to pinpoint it, I know that it’s grown and been watered by the amazing literature and many of my favorite authors being from Great Britain. Elizabeth Goudge, Jane Austen, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Charlotte Mason, Miss Read, to name just a precious few. The descriptions of the beauty, the history, and charm of the people continue to soak into my heart. As an American, we have a large connection to England, really much of Europe, from the foundation and birth of our country.

Needless to say, to visit, was a wild idea, one that I still can’t believe came true. My husband was so supportive, and I will never forget the amount of work he took on for me to be able to go. Being able to go in June of 2016 with my mother and sister was unforgettable.

One of my first memories, oddly enough, is of the drystone walls and buildings. I had read so much of hedgerows and am fascinated by them, but delightedly, the stone took me by surprise. Hedgerows tend to be more in the south of England and unfortunately, I didn’t get as close look at these, however, in the north we were surrounded by the drystone walls.  The ancient history represented in each stacked stone made me feel a connection with the people who toiled over them. As I’ve been reading about them, I have found myself learning about decline of feudalism, sheep farming, the “sheep-creep” holes in the bottoms of the walls, and the barren, wild landscape unscathed by human touch, except these stone enclosures. Once again, so many relationships, connections, and beauty all in one little feature of the land.

I was curious if this technique of wall building followed immigrants to America, and it does seem like there miles of drystone walls in New England, especially, and I’d like to dig further. I think there is something about using part of ones natural landscape that really speaks to me and why I find these walls so beautiful. There is nothing like fog lying heavily over the vale and fells, miles of these stones stacked silently throughout.

For further reading, I found these two articles especially interesting: Drystone in England and The Walls of New England. I’d love to hear anything you may know on these walls and their history. Books of interest or personal stories, feel free to share!

~