Archive for May, 2009

Stove and view of deck from retreat centerRetreat Center with Grandma's Quilt

I have retreat spots all around our 14 plus acres:  up in the woods, on the deck at the guest house, out on the pier, in our yard swing by the water, over at the east bay on a settee, and behind the house at an old table built of scrap wood and salvaged at our local dump. 

I also can and do retreat indoors when necessary, but there is nothing like a “retreat center” in tune with water, wind, sun, and the sounds of nature.  Of all the retreats listed, my favorite is the one pictured above:  our screen porch right off the kitchen, next to the deck where we feed birds and squirrels–overlooking our bay and lake.

We enjoy this bit of Heaven from mid-April well into October.  Some of the time we bundle in sweaters and hats.  But in summer, glorious summer, we sit out there in light, hot weather attire–welcoming every south breeze off the water.

There is nothing quite like a hot summer day spent quaffing iced tea, reading, and listening to birds and frogs.  This year 3 pairs of orioles are nesting close by, and their jazz tunes delight my heart.  The redwings oka-ree, the mourning doves ooo-ooo-ooo, and robins trill at dusk and dawn.  Some of the Canadas have hatched their families, and we see the assembly line of goslings skimming along, flanked at each end by a parent goose.

In 4 weeks I’m scheduled to get a new knee.  I’m excited about this, and the resulting probability of once again being able to hike and stand comfortably on my legs.  I know there will be very painful bumps and grinds in the process, but what a great goal–a leg that works!

The porch retreat will be a great setting for my three-fold summer agenda of rehab, reading, and rest.  Newly purchased books are ready and waiting:  several accounts of missionaries and the spread of the Gospel in Communist China, a journal of spiritual insights and paintings by a 19th century missionary to Muslims–Lilias Trotter (recently recommended to me by a friend), and miscellaneous volumes on water coloring and painting with pastels.

To that stash, I’ll be adding novels by Zane Grey and Louis L’Amour, either borrowed from our library or purchased at www.abebooks.com

Why a person who is passionate about the novels of Jane Austin, Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, and John Galsworthy would love stories dealing with hidden canyons and spooky mesas as well as cowboys, gunslingers, cattlemen, claim jumpers, and bar room brawls, is beyond comprehension.  I haven’t figured it out, and probably never will.  But I love Western sagas–especially those by Louis L’Amour. 

I’m thankful for the knee surgery and a great reason to slow down even more than I normally do in summer.  And I’m thankful for my porch retreat where I can enjoy 2 beloved worlds:  lush green Northern Wisconsin and the sage-scented “old West”. 

Margaret L. Been–All Rights Reserved

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50th Family Picture

This family picture was taken on our 50th wedding anniversary nearly 6 years ago, on the weekend of June 20th, 2003.  Soon Joe and I will be celebrating 56 years of marriage with decades of memories.  Joe and I love each other more and more as the years pass.  We are inextricably joined, and our souls are rich with living.

Our 50th anniversary weekend was a moment in time, precious forever.  Our family members met for several days, some staying at our home and some at cabins in the area.  An unforgettable highlight was the Sunday morning worship service led by our grandson, Joshua.  He gave a message of touching personal memories and encouragement from God’s Word. 

At the service, our children and grandchildren took turns sharing what God has done in their lives, and in the corporate life of our family–from some extremely sad times to the amazing healing and blessings we all share today.  The Kleenex box was much in demand that morning.

Since the 50th wedding anniversary, marriages and births have increased our numbers–creating an ongoing procession of treasured moments.

Moments in time!  How precious they are!  Never to be relived, yet ours forever in memory.

Margaret L. Been–All Rights Reserved

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Marsh Marigolds--3

Our home sits on an incline, overlooking the bay and lake.  Along the shore is a marsh which skirts our front (lake side) yard, and covers most of the eastern side yard–under the driveway and out to the road. 

Now, as every year in May, our marshland is covered with butter–that glorious butter of blooming marsh marigolds, sometimes called cowslips. 

Marsh marigolds, along with spring beauties which simultaneously adorn the upland into our woods, are the first of our flower friends to return.  Like those friends at our bird feeders, how I love the wild friends that make up “God’s Garden.”

Dandelions are among my favorites; they’re starting to spread their own butter in the grassy areas.  How sad to mow the dandelions before they even have a chance to seed.  I recall the butter we smeared on our noses as children, and the feathery seedlings we blew to the wind when the blooming had finished.  (Child at heart that I am, I still smear and blow!)

The progression of wild flowers goes quickly in the far north, and we don’t want to miss a minute of it.  Soon daisies and orange hawkweed will appear, and those precious little bunchberries down by the sunny shore. 

On a shady, well-drained hill I’ll find bloodroot–appropriately named for the red stain in its stem.  Canada anemone, violets, hepatica, pussy toes, and wild columbine will grace our woods–while wild strawberry flowers, prairie roses, raspberry blossoms, butter and eggs, yarrow, thistles, Queen Anne’s lace, milkweed, black-eyed Susans, and tansy will thrive in sunny spots. 

As we canoe up the Big Elk River, we’ll feast our eyes on towering banks of angelica, tickseed sunflowers, and Joe-pye-weed.  Then, upriver we’ll find exquisite treasure:  masses of forget-me-nots. 

The forget-me-nots sometimes begin in late June, and I’ve found isolated pockets of them way into September.  Not only do they grow along sunny and shady shores, but they pop out of grassy logs midstream–little floating gardens of forget-me-nots.  I think these tiny gems radiate the most heavenly blue outside of heaven itself!

By mid-July we realize that life on earth is a poignant, fleeting thing and time is moving too fast.  Suddenly goldenrod springs up, seemingly out of nowhere.  And then the asters–purple and white–foretelling autumn and the demise of another year.

Flower friends!  Welcomed every spring and summer, and mourned when they leave!  We’ll enjoy them while they last!

Margaret L. Been–All Rights Reserved

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When I was very young, she showed me how to feed day-old orphaned kittens from a medicine dropper.  She taught me to walk quietly, watching for wildflowers and listening for birds.

Mother valued integrity over comfort, and never betrayed the confidences of her family members or friends.  She ignored pettiness, and refused to react to crass people skilled in the “art” of dispensing insults.

Her chin was high but not arrogant, chiseled but not cold.  Her pleasantly mild outward appearance caused unthinking observers to believe she was pliable and soft. 

But anyone with discernment realized that her keen, penetrating mind commanded a backbone of unflinching steel.  She despised gushy sentimentality, and reserved her displays of affection for people she loved.

Of Celtic descent, Mother loved most things Scottish:  the diligence, thrift, reserved attitude, and bagpipes–but not the whiskey.  She had no use for that. 

She was a classical musician.  Her piano refrains are emblazoned in my soul, where the magnificence of Mozart and poignancy of Chopin will endure forever.  I cherish my legacy of Mother’s antique poetry books.  I think of her as I gather armloads of lilacs and let their heady fragrance brush my face.

Although some of the people she loved didn’t know a finger bowl from a flower pot, Mother valued social graces and lovely deportment as marks of consideration for others.  She schooled me in walking with a book on my head (to improve my posture), chewing with my mouth closed, and setting dinner plates one inch from the edge of the table with the designs facing the person dining.  She taught me to use my forks from the outside in–salad, main course, dessert.  She tried to teach me not to talk too much, too often, or too fast.

Despite my love for running barefoot in summer, despite my scruffy knees scabbed over from numerous roller skating spills, despite the fact that I spent much of my girlhood climbing trees, Mother managed to infuse me with her passion for elegant frocks, dressy hats, and gloves.

Alzheimer’s notwithstanding, Mother’s last years reflected the poise of her lifetime.  Not given to ranting and shrieking as some older people do, she sat smiling serenely beside the nurses station day after day.  She was dearly loved at the nursing home where she was known as “Ruthie”.  It was my privilege to do her laundry, hold her hand, and sing for her as she had done for me for so many years.

As her time of dying approached, our youngest daughter and I spent her last two days at her bedside singing spirituals that she loved:  “Where, Oh Where Are the Hebrew Children?”, “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”, and “I’m Going Home on a Cloud”.

At the age of 93, Mother went to live with a King.  Someday I’ll join them for supper!

Margaret L. Been–All Rights Reserved

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