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Archive for the ‘Spring!’ Category

Always Time for Tea

“Always Time for Tea” is the title of the above rendering.  Tea Time in March is charged with anticipation, excited about change, and zesty with the invigoration of fiercely raging wind and ever-stretching sunlit hours.

Today’s wind is not kind; it’s raw and bitter to the taste, like afternoon Earl Grey Tea when it’s been allowed to over-steep.  Today’s sun is glorious—redolent of fragrant places where ripe and mellow leaves were harvested for an “Irish Breakfast” most anywhere in the world.

Along with the joy of anticipation, my St. Patrick’s Day Irish Breakfast musings (in Nashotah, Wisconsin, USA) are shadowed by things that are lost:  a Malaysian jet carrying over 200 passengers, and perhaps millions of people in our culture who haven’t even the faintest comprehension of the importance of solitude—or whose once-valued serenity has gone missing.

How many of us are there left in this crazy culture, who still understand (and prioritize!) the serenity of spending time alone/alone/alone.  I don’t mean always being physically alone/alone/alone.  I speak of mentally/spiritually/emotionally investing time alone and nurturing that soul solitude and serenity which can only come from a depth of completion—the integral completion which we can receive from God’s Grace through the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ in one’s life as revealed in Scripture.

How many individuals still treasure time alone:  perhaps really alone for a few hours or minutes—strolling in a sheltered woods, basking in a sunny window, lounging on the patio in the summer—with the ubiquitous iced tea (Earl Grey or Irish Breakfast) in hand?  Alone in one’s mind, unfettered by the worries and potential issues that surround anyone who is breathing and thinking?

Alone.  Apart. Soothed by the realization that the heartbreaking issues of the day are a bleep in Eternity.  Solitude, serenity, ALONENESS!  Busy schedules have been common to much of mankind since the beginning of time.  But today life can become even more complex, if we so allow.  In an age of electronic communications and the proliferation of Facebook friends, how many remember the concept of being alone?  And how many even care, or have the foggiest idea of what they are missing?

I love my laptop for shopping, acquiring information, and blogging.  These are refreshing pastimes.  How wonderful to shop without driving to a store where you may or may not find exactly what you want—be it a special garment (most of my clothing is purchased online), a sable paint brush, a new-to-you line of watercolors or gouche in exciting colors, or the base and fragrance oils for your soap-making avocation.  How rewarding to be able to access an endless library of answers in your ongoing quest for learning.  And how fulfilling to communicate via a blog with people from literally every corner of the earth.

But certain other aspects of the electronic world would quickly threaten to undermine my serenity, if I would fail to preserve a balance—and those specific aspects are email and Facebook.  Email has become a kind of necessity in the minds of many, and for business purposes and the sharing of prayer requests it is indeed valuable.  Facebook serves one and only one purpose for me:  that of viewing and sometimes downloading charming photos of the people in my life.  But balance and frequent avoidance of both of these computer areas are necessary to my discipline of preserving serenity and an atmosphere of solitude in the midst of an overflowing life filled with precious people and their needs.  Thus I will often go for at least a week without checking either Facebook or my email.  Anyone who really needs me will find me via telephone or snail mail—or best of all, with a knock on my door.

Today I pray that someone among the 26 participating rescue nations will discover the missing jet.  Every day I pray that I’ll remember to savor as many serenity-inspiring sights and sounds as I can find, with which to greet each day:  and certainly always before accessing email or Facebook.

A pot of tea helps, whether celebrated alone or shared with a kindred soul.  There’s always time for tea!

Margaret L. Been, March 2014

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BB - Precious Bridget and Grandpa

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words!  Here is Grandpa Joe holding our 14th grandchild, Adetokunbo Bridget Josephine Adesokun.  Our wee one was 5 hours old when we first met her on 6/4, and she was sleeping off her jet lag while visitors played Pass the Baby.  But since yesterday at 24 plus hours old, Adetokunbo Bridget has been eating almost non-stop—or as her mom, our daughter Martina, says:  “using me for a pacifier”. 

What a treasure!  For Joe and me, and undoubtedly all who have met our treasure, it has been love at first sight!

Names are tremendously significant in our son-in-law Sanmi’s Ebira Tribe Nigerian culture.  The names are chosen primarily for their meaning, and every person will call a child by which ever of the names he or she prefers.  The child grows up knowing that the different names are an important part of her; they signify facets of her personhood.  Beautiful!

In a couple of weeks, we’ll share in a Naming Ceremony at our condo community clubhouse where family members and friends will gather to add to the list of our baby’s names, and pray over her.  After the ceremony, we’ll gather beside the pool at our daughter Debbie’s home.   

Sanmi’s brothers will join us in celebration, from Toronto and Cleveland.  How I wish their mom could be with us.  She is in Nigeria, and her sons hope to bring her to North America soon.  (Bridget, are you reading?  WE LOVE YOU!!!)

So now I have added words.  But the essence is in the photos:  New Life in Spring!!!  Precious new life!

BB - Bridget is 5 hours old

BB - Mother and Babe

Margaret L. Been, ©2013

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nz6

Thanks to the countless friends who have prayed for Rosemary.  She is coming along, better each day—praise God!  MB

In celebration of our Risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, here is one of my all time favorite poems—also preempting April which is National Poetry Month!  :)

Pied Beauty 
 
Glory be to God for dappled things –
   For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
      For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
   Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
      And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
   Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
      With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
                                Praise him.
 
Gerard Manley Hopkins, 1844–1889
 
___________________________________________________________________
 
Have a blessed RESURRECTION DAY!!!
 
Margaret L. Been, 2013
 

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Boreal Twilight

I love “North”.  In fact, I titled the above recent painting “Boreal Twilight”.  But I know that “boreal” really refers to much further North—like areas where they have perhaps 5 hours of daylight in the Winter and a “midnight sun” in Summer.  I’ll settle for Wisconsin’s extremes, thank you! 

Meanwhile, those who have not always lived in Wisconsin, might not be able to track with me these days when I say (exuberantly!) “It’s Spring!”  That’s because they are apt to misconstrue the word “Spring” to mean flowers and rapidly rising temperatures.  They don’t realize that Spring is not a matter of weather, but rather it has to do with lengthening daylight. 

In our latitude, every January we pin our hearts to the rising and setting of the sun.  By the vernal equinox (which was March 20th this year) our hearts are fairly leaping because it’s finally Spring.  The sun knows, and so do we! 

Those who think Spring means “warm” can’t seem to equate a murky, cold wet day in March with the same euphoria I experience on such occasions.  These are the days when there’s an ever-so-slight warming—although one cannot feel it due to that damp Lake Michigan chill which, in our area, penetrates to our very bones.  But we natives know about the slight warming, and so do the returning bird migrations.  The migratory birds look for open water to access near their nesting sights.  Thus the March murk will undoubtedly result in some degree of melting in rivers and at the edges of our inland lakes.

We are surrounded by water in our neighborhood, and the return of birds—including waterfowl—is signature to our Spring rejoicing.  Canada Geese (the large ones which migrate; smaller varieties now stick around all winter, in melted industrial park ponds) may be the first we see in the sky.  Their welcoming chant is absolutely intoxicating.  Many “Vs” in the sky fly with an agenda—that of going further North, to nest in wild places such as we called “home” for years.  Others pause, to party in local ponds along the way.  The Geese feed in fields en route, so their lives do not necessarily depend on open water.

The Sandhill Cranes return early, with their muted, rolling “Halloo, Halloo, Halloo” high in the sky.  This week we spotted a Crane in a near-by cornfield.  Cranes can feed on corn gleaned from last autumn’s harvest, and thus they can also afford to return early.

Later the Great Blue Herons will return.  We have many which fly over our park constantly, all Summer.  They must have fish on which to feed, so their rookeries are always located near rivers and lakes.  They are the noisy, squawky aviators—along with many varieties of ducks which return to open water.  Ducks either feed on fish or aquatic plants, depending on what kind of Ducks they are, so we’ll need to wait awhile to see them overhead.

Finally (now my “up-North” memories are kicking in) the Swans return.  We had Tundra Swans in our Northern bay every Spring—11 of them one memorable year.  Smaller swans have traditionally nested in a couple of our Southern Wisconsin county’s lakes.  But I recently heard that the DNR (Department of Natural Resources) put their formidable kabash on swans in one of our small lakes, because some of the songbirds were gone missing.  I appreciate the DNR when they try to recover wildlife from man’s damage—but will they ever learn to leave well enough alone when it comes to natural balance?  They always seem to have to get their sticky little paws into things.  Is this a power issue, or what?

So Spring has to do with the return of the birds, as well as the sun—something that Wisconsin natives understand.  And we know that premature warmth is seldom a good thing!  Last year we had a tragic Spring.  Temperatures warmed up too quickly.  March had nights above freezing, which meant that our maple syrup crop was almost nil.  The rising sap depends on days above 32° F, and nights well below.  Warm nights just won’t do.  So while some were rejoicing over a warm March, we natives knew that conditions did not bode well for maple syrup. 

Likewise, April of 2012 was almost like Summer.  We natives could not get overly excited, because we knew that the unseasonable warmth would spell trouble.  Accordingly, fruit and nut bearing trees blossomed way too soon, and inevitably a frost came along to zap the blossoms.  Result?  A dirth of fruit and nuts. 

I sorrowed over the fact that our park chestnut tree looked wimply all Summer (which was horrendously hot and dry) and did not yield any of those beautiful mahogany nuts which I love to find on the ground in Autumn.  Park authorities tended to sick trees with bags of moisture and tree food, so there is hope for my favorite park tree.  Time alone will tell.

Having said all of the above, I do have a concession to make.  I really am looking forward to warmer sun.  I have a penchant for dark skin, and last Summer with all the dry heat, I (or rather the sun) accomplished the best tan I’ve ever had in 79 years.  Now I admit that an older person who has spent a lifetime indulging in sun on skin will look quite wood grainy, and yes I do

Also an individual—if naturally a paled, Northern European skin type—may be subject to cancers from an overdose of sunbathing, and yes I am.  I’ve had several basil cells plus one malignant melanoma.  But to me, sunbathing is not a negotiable activity.  I will indulge in sunshine until I check out.  What the sun does for my soul far outweighs any damage it can do to my skin.  :)

So there it is.  Happy Spring—whatever that may mean to you!

P. S.  My “stats” page shows that today I’m getting a lot of visitors on this blog, from Australia!  Today there have been nearly 3 times more visits from Australia than from the USA!  And you are getting ready for winter!

Normally, the visitors add up in this order:  A lot from USA, Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand, India, and Nigeria (partly due to the English language bond no doubt)—and less, but a substantial amount from nearly every country in the world.  It delights my heart to see Israel, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, South Africa, Estonia, Romania, Czech Republic, Ireland, Germany, France, Italy (Italian readers seem to love the knitting entries), various Caribbean Islands, and many other locales. 

All my life I’ve loved reading about far away places, but I never dreamed I’d someday be communicating with people from other lands.  This thrills me to pieces.  I consider myself a “citizen of the world”!

Back to Down Under.  If there is any place in the world that I’d love to visit before I check out, it would be Australia—plus New Zealand.  I LOVE SHEEP, and raised my own spinner’s flock for nearly 20 years.  I spin a lot of wool, and your Merino is the best!   But also, your history fascinates me.   And two of my favorite films are MAN FROM SNOWY RIVER AND RETURN TO SNOWY RIVER.  The scenery and the horses cause me to view these classics again and again. 

Greetings to my Down Under Mates, and Happy Winter to you!  :)  MLB

Margaret L. Been, ©2013

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March Sun

It wouldn’t be very nice to say “Good Riddance” to the month that brings Groudhog Day and Valentine’s Day, and lots of cozy indoor days for reading, knitting, and painting—but at age 79 we tend to say exactly what we think.  And that’s what I think.  I’ve enjoyed February, but I’m not sobbing over her demise!  And I’m glad it’s not Leap Year or we’d have an extra day of February.

A few nights ago, when the full moon rose in the east over our front yard park it occurred to me that the next full moon would coincide approximately with the vernal equinox.  I don’t have to express what this means to us Northerners, and none of my prose renderings could even begin to do the job.  But perhaps a little poem might work.

March Sun . . .

. . . knows a tricky way of turning corners

slipping into curtained rooms through cracks,

crawling under eaves and glinting dust

on wintered dreams.

© Margaret Longenecker Been

:) :) :) :) :)  Hello MARCH!

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I’m in agreement with Maria in listing “raindrops on roses” as one of her “fav — or — ite things“!  We’ve been parched around here for a couple of weeks, with sunlight and high winds.  Late last night the thunder and rain rolled in.  What a joy to go to sleep and wake to the sound of raindrops on roses and everything else.

I went out early this morning with my little red SONY®, to capture those raindrops.  They don’t really show up on the photo, but the rose bushes do—along with mertensia (Virginia bluebells), hostas, bleeding hearts, some columbine greenery, and other treasures around my beloved derelict red chair.  (The barrel cactus is fake; it stays out all year.)

I can often spot whether people around here are on my page, by observing their response to rain.  People who just don’t get it are apt to say, “It’s a nice day so far, but later it’s supposed to rain.  (Followed by a grimace.)  But!  But!  In Wisconsin we grow crops.  Barring floods, we need rain.  I lived in the Wisconsin Northwoods for years, and learned that a dry spring is the most fire-dangerous time of the year—as the rising sap in the trees is incendiary.  My gardens need rain.  My soul needs rain.  Rain in moderation and balance, that is.

There is an exception to the “soul need” for rain.  Anyone who lives where it rains for weeks and months on end, with no sight of the sun, is justified in saying “But it’s supposed to rain”—followed by a grimace.  I might do the same thing, if I lived in beautiful, green Northwest Washington State.  We have family members who live there.  Laura, are you reading this? 

Our daughter, Laura, works for a bank in Bellingham, Washington.  She tells a humorous story about when people came to her bank recently on business, from Arizona.  They walked around outdoors in a kind of euphoria, exclaiming, “Isn’t this WONDERFUL?!!!”  After awhile, Laura got tired of hearing the exclamations, and she answered very firmly, “No, it’s NOT!”

Years ago, I visited Laura and her family in January—and experienced the same euphoria registered by the Arizona bunch.  Wisconsin is often below zero in Wisconsin in January.  Our nose hair is apt to freeze up when we go from the house to the car.  So the smell of rain and the moist green Washington earth was heady indeed. 

After I’d exclaimed “Isn’t this Wonderful?!!!!!!!!!” ad nauseum, Laura’s daughter Nancy (then 9 years old) said, “Grandma, doesn’t it ever rain in Wisconsin?”  I think they’d all decided I was nuts! 

This afternoon, more thunder and almost hail sized raindrops are landing on the roses and everything else out there.  It’s wonderful!  But we’ll see how wonderful it is if we have a couple weeks of it! :)

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With apologies to readers who are not knitters, and couldn’t care less, here is another pattern that is fast turning me into a dyed in the wool (or in the above-pictured case, cotton) “knit-wit” because I simply can’t stop knitting.  I knit in the car, I knit in bed at night, and I even knit in restaurants if Joe decides to read USA TODAY.  Since my potato chip scarf is still getting lots of hits, I decided to post more on the wonderful obsession of knitting.

Weeks ago my daughter-in-law, Cheri, made me a shawl like the one featured above—but in a winter weight.  When recovering from major surgery, Cheri knitted amazing items for many family members and other people she knows.  She knits like “a house afire”.  (One of my mother’s famous colloquialisms.)  For all I know, Cheri knitted something for our president—but considering her household’s prevailing political sentiments, I doubt that very much!

Anyway, I loved the shawl so much and wore it a lot—and then, guess what?  Spring/summer arrived way ahead of schedule.  The beautiful wool (my favorite fabric) shawl make me feel like Salvador Dali’s clocks, just dripping and draping all over the place.  So the answer was to get ahold of the pattern and make myself a summer weight shawl.

The above-pictured item represents the end of a decades-long war for me, a war with (and aversion to) the circular needle—which has become so trendy that it’s nearly impossible to find a standard old-fashioned set of straight needles in the upscale shops.   (Don’t panic.  Wal-Mart still has the traditional aluminum straight needles.)

So much did I want to make this shawl (and hope to knit many more!) that I grabbed ahold of a circular needle and began.  The shawl starts with 3 stitches.  Working 3 stitches on a 40″ flippy floppy piece of wire is indeed a “stitch”!  You add 4 stitches every other row in this pattern, so the garment grows.  Once it begins to shape up, you are very glad to have 40 flippy floppy inches of wire on which to work.  And I discovered one reason why the circular needle may be so popular:  it’s much easier on the hands and wrists than the straight needles!

Very much fun!  You can use any size needle and weight of yarn for this pattern.  It would be gorgeous with a fine, thready fingering yarn knitted with a large needle for anyone who might have the patience for such a challenging enterprise!  The garment is finished when it reaches whatever length you desire.  It can be a scarf or an actual body shawl, Civil War era style.  At the bottom, I doubled the amount of stitches by knitting in the front and back of each one—thereby creating the cute ruffle.  But a knitted border in a pattern stitch would be nice as well.  Maybe I’ll try that next.

Margaret L. Been—March, 2012

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