Archive for July, 2009


Yesterday I woke up with a strong conviction.  Joe and I needed to spend a “day out”, away from our towers of cartons packed and waiting to be moved. 

We realized we’ve done nearly all we can until that last minute press (5 weeks from now) when a truck arrives to move our life.  Then we’ll have the fun of loading a few clothes, cooking pots, and a handful of dishes and silverware into the van–along with our precious corgi and the African violets.  Considering what we’ve managed to pack in just 3 weeks, a time out surfaced to the top of our priority list. 

We wound through the Chequamegon National Forest, far from electric and telephone poles and houses.  The roadsides are peppered with daisies, black-eyed Susans, butter and eggs, buttercups, and one variety (I’m not sure which) of liatrus.  The forest is deeply green and fresh, thanks to plenty of rain. 

Throughout the forest maples abound, and small shoots of new maples spring up along the roads.  Almost without fail, each baby maple I saw had red and gold leaves at the top.  Autumn comes and goes quickly in the northwoods, while winter waits quietly–ever ready to move in and stay for a long time.

As we traveled the forest roads it occurred to me that we never will really leave the northwoods.  It will always be here for us.  We hope to sell one of our two northern homes–and if we do, we’ll still have one home to welcome us on frequent visits.  And even if we were to sell both homes, the wild woods will remain.  There are cabins and B&Bs tucked away on hundreds of woodsy lakes in Northern Wisconsin.

We are in the process of “going home” to Southern Wisconsin, but we can always “come home” to our beloved north!

The circuitous drive eventually took us to Park Falls and the biggest library in our county.  I found 4 newly-published books on water color painting, and 2 new-to-me Louis L’Amour novels.

Our final destination was the little town of Glidden, another 20 miles up the pike from Park Falls.  Here we enjoyed huge bacon cheeseburgers at a favorite lunch spot–The Green Lantern.  This restaurant is decorated like our home, with antiques and an eclectic blend of dishes and collectibles.  There is a funkiness about the place:  a combination Gypsy, English tea room, 50s retro, Victorian, and chipped-paint-primitive atmosphere that soothes the soul and re-charges the imagination.  In fact, eating lunch there is almost like being at home! 

But everyone needs an occasional time out!

Margaret L. Been–All Rights Reserved

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Garden of the Gods -- Manitou Springs--2

It has been said that we leave a piece of ourselves behind every time we move.  That might be true, but I prefer the forward mindset:  we take pieces of wherever we have lived, wherever we go.

Many years ago Joe and I lived in a crooked little cabin, perched 4 layers of cabins up–on a foothill in Manitou Springs, Colorado.  From our bathroom window, we looked down on the Garden of the Gods.  From our living room window we were inspired by a view of Pike’s Peak.

Since then (1955), the Garden of the Gods and Pike’s Peak have been an integral part of me.  When we return to visit in that area, I feel like I’ve come home.

For 21 years we lived on 3 acres in the Southern Kettle Moraine State Forest in Eagle, Wi.  When we left that area and moved north, I brought our back yard of prairie oak and hickory forest with me in my memory cache–along with the cornfields and apple farms abounding in Southeastern Wisconsin. 

Now we’re returning.  Once again we’ll hike our beloved Scuppernong and Emma Carlin trails in the Kettle Moraine.  Again I’ll wax euphoric over the sight and sound of tawny corn rustling in autumn, and the pungent aroma of apple farms.  I’m even mentally saucing our favorite apple, the MacIntosh.

What will we take with us of Northern Wisconsin when we move?  Myriads of sights and sounds:  a bay filled with ducks and Canadas in April; the demented call of the loon on a still, starry night, the fragrance of lake on a warm day; our river with its banks of Joe pye-weed and clusters of forget-me-nots nestled along the shore, and–never to be forgotten–the  numbing experience of a 35 degree below zero winter day.

Best of all, we’ll take the friends we’ve met here along with us in our hearts.  For me this will mean more snail mail letter writing–something I love to do.  Every place we’ve lived (14 so far), we’ve left richer than before we came–due to the people we’ve known and loved.  Many of these people are still close today, through correspondence.

So you see, we don’t lose by moving.  We gain!  Metaphorically speaking, we are rolling snowballs, collecting soul treasures and growing wherever we go.

Margaret L. Been–All Rights Reserved

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pretty Dyl

Although I still call him “Baby”, our Pembroke Welsh Corgi is going on 6 years old.  That is 42 years old, in people years.  Baby Dylan is approaching middle age–and he’s headed for a doozy of a mid-life crisis. 

Dylan was born on a farm in Iowa.  We adopted him when he was 3 months old, and he’s been Wild Woods Dog–frolicking on 14 plus acres, ever since.  Now he’s in training to be Condo Dog.  He’s learning to walk on a leash, and (hopefully) to do a bit less barking whenever he sees something move outdoors.  Dylan is learning new tricks.

The upheaval of moving from country to community, from a medium size home to a compact condo, is challenging us to learn some new tricks, plus relearn a few old ones.  We think it’s a scream!  Sometimes I almost do scream!

For any who might be contemplating a change, here are some nuggets I’ve gleaned over the years, from the (as of now) 15 moves in our 56 years of marriage. 

Keep it light.  Not just the packing boxes, but the entire day.  Here’s an example:  I love huge novels.  I love ponderous novels.  I normally enjoy plowing into an author such as Dostoyevsky.  But not now.  Not in this place, at this time.

A couple of weeks ago I launched into a Dostoyevsky novel that I’d somehow missed over the years, THE IDIOT.  After picking up THE IDIOT a few times as a “relaxing break” from packing china and crystal, I decided to shelve that book for the duration. 

Next winter when we’re (hopefully) settled in our new home and the snow is piling up outside, I’ll return to Dostoyevsky.  Now I’m luxuriating in Louis L’Amour and Zane Grey.  For some odd reason, cattle drives, mother lodes, and bar room brawls are about all I can handle at the moment–along with an Agatha Christie or Ngaio Marsh.

Most anything can be packing material.  Bubble wrap, tissue paper, and sturdy paper toweling are great–but there never seems to be enough of the conventional wrappings.  And the cost runs up fast. 

Along with all of the above, I pack in whatever I can get my hands on:  sweaters, sweatshirts, long underwear, winter skirts, wool from my spinning stash, fabric from my material stash, towels, cloth place mats, table cloths and aprons (yes, I have loads of these and I use them–June Cleever that I am), supermarket bags, the wrappings we tear off of the bubble wrap and tissue paper, hats, scarves, pillow cases, etc.

Everything but newspaper.  Yuck!  Dirty, smudgy newspaper will never touch our dishes and glassware.  And anything but those foam thingies that fly all over the room and stick to stuff!  Double yuck!

Fun and games are important.  Summer is summer, whether we are moving or standing still.  Time out for Cribbage keeps us from taking life too seriously. 

Our daughter, Martina, is visiting from Nigeria for a few days.  We are playing Scrabble and Anagrams way past my bedtime–sometimes up until 9:00 or 10:00 p.m.  A summer without games would be like a summer without sun and rain.  Incomplete!

Entertaining is vital to our health and well-being.  I’ve mentioned this before, and I’ll say it again.  Pausing when guests drop in, serving a beverage or simple snack, taking time to visit–these are the mellow aspects of life that should never be overlooked, no matter how chaotic our physical surroundings may seem.  Moving is all about things.  Living is all about people!  Balance is maintained through the pleasant visits we share with friends. 

We walk often.  Dylan’s new regimen is beneficial to Joe and me as well.  There is nothing quite like a walk for maintaining a sense of physical and mental well being.  And the 3 of us enjoy doing something together.

We purpose to enjoy the trips.  It will take several round trips of nearly 600 miles, to move our household.  This fact is nothing to bite nails or grind teeth over.  There’s beauty along the way.  There’s good food along the way.  There’s companionship along the way.  All of life is a journey.  The trick is to enjoy each mile, rather than stress out over “getting there”.

We savor the moment.  Tomorrow is always uncertain, but we have today.  And moving can be fun when you know a few tricks!

Of course the most essential ingredients of any day and any venture are not tricks.  Prayer and time spent in God’s Word are so integral to life, they are givens–like breathing and drinking water.  Yet they cannot “go without saying”.

Starting each day with Scripture reading prepares me for whatever lies ahead.  All facets of our move and life–every encouraging step as well as the disappointments, frustrations, and setbacks–are given to the Lord and left with Him, in His capable hands.

Packing time is great praying time.  Intercession for others and prayer for the issues in our own lives are “silver and gold”.  Prayer and the fruit thereof will last for eternity.

Margaret L. Been–All Rights Reserved

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“Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations.”  Psalm 90:1

We are currently living amidst towers of cartons packed with dishes and glassware waiting to be moved.  Our living room floor is a mine field of books piled around us and beneath our feet.

The books are awaiting a van load of tomato boxes–courtesy of Cousins Sub shops managed by some of our grandchildren in the Milwaukee suburban area.  Tomato boxes, compact and sturdy with handle slots and lids, are the only way to transport books.  Hundreds of books.

We’re not sure when we’ll actually move.  We were supposed to close on our condo in Southern Wisconsin on July 31st, designating August as moving month.  Now the closing may be postponed, due to complications of repairs in progress at the condo complex.  September may be our moving month, or October!  Only God knows!

Glancing around a room disrupted by towers of cartons and a floor full of books, it’s easy to lose perspective.  It seems that life is in limbo.  Being an individual who is passionate about harmony, order, and beauty in my surroundings, I’m tempted to wonder, where do I live?  Empty bookshelves, and hutches divested of china and glassware, make me think I’m living inside a skeleton–in the bare remains of our home.

Where do I live?  As I step outdoors–into the world of sky, woods, and water–my balance is restored.  God is my dwelling place.  Wherever I am at any moment is merely my temporary home on planet earth.  My mailing address will change, as it has many times in the past, but my eternal home is secure and constant in the Lord who loves me. 

Wherever I live, I’m surrounded by evidence of God’s faithfulness.  The same sky, the same sun and stars, form a roof over my head regardless of where my current dwelling place may be.  Trees grow, birds sing, and the seasons move in stately progression–all ordered and sustained by the God in whom I dwell.

Relieved of a fleeting spell of spiritual vertigo, I return to the towers of cartons and mine field of books.  It’s time to settle into a favorite chair (still free from the detritus of moving) and savor a thirst quenching glass of iced tea.  Today, this disrupted room is where I live.  Forever, I’m at home in the Lord!

Margaret L. Been–All Rights Reserved

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You may be wondering why I have not blogged since June 14th.  The reason is, life changes!

The last two plus weeks have been a whirlwind of change.  Joe and I went down to Milwaukee, where he had 2 cardiac artery procedures.  We are praising God that Joe did not need by-pass surgery, as it was thought that he might.  He had 6 by-passes in 1987.  He doesn’t want to go there again!

While in Southern Wisconsin, we bought a pleasant little condo, in NW Waukesha County near our family members who live down there.  Much as we love the wild north, we have missed our family and realize that it’s time to “go home”.

So I am packing, packing, packing.  I have tissued, bubble wrapped, and boxed at least 50 cartons worth of china and glassware–and there is more to go.  Then there are books, kitchen utensils, clothing, and the list goes on.  Joe and I each have our own office–the offices will take a day or two in themselves.

Meanwhile, the northwoods and our 14 acres have never been lovelier.  The daisies, Canada anemone, orange hawkweed, and buttercups abound everywhere we look.  The bay is dotted with water lilies, reminding me of Monet. 

My perennial gardens are thriving.  A wild rose bush has sprung up in the midst of day lilies.  The bleeding hearts keep on bleeding.  The peonies are lush this year, and the air is redolent with their quiet fragrance along with the scent of catmint. 

I walk along my gardens, knowing that this is our last summer of living here.  We hope to keep our home on the water, for future vacations.  But we will never live here again.

I am trading my wild woods and perennial gardens for something even better:  a garden of great-grandchildren.  As of this moment, there are 7 great-grandchildren in the area where we will be living–and an 8th in process. 

The children’s names are even lovelier than the names of my flowers:  Elijah, Ethan, Olivia, Brynn, James, Lyla, Cole, and a little boy whose name has not yet been revealed–he’s due to be born in late July.  In Minnesota, we have more great-grandchildren:  Isaac, Hannah, and Cai.

Southern Wisconsin has its own beauty.  There are features there which I’ve missed, and am looking forward to experiencing again:  the sight of ripe corn waving in the wind–tawny in autumn, the mustard-brown soybean fields at harvest time, trips with family members to an apple farm in October, country roads around Waukesha County–lined with blue and blowing chicory.

And CARDINALS.  There are only a few of these blatantly gorgeous birds up here in the far north.  We’ve seen a cardinal twice since we moved here in 2001.  Southern Wisconsin is home to great numbers of cardinals, year round.  In our two weeks visit down there, the “cheer cheer cheer” sound permeated the air everywhere we went–in towns as well as in the country neighborhoods.

Finally, Southern Wisconsin has at least 6 more weeks of (what we call pleasant) outdoor weather than we have here in the far north.  Spring comes at least 3 weeks earlier down there, and autumn hangs on for 3 additional weeks when winter is knocking boisterously at our northern door.  Up here, it’s mainly “all over” by the end of September. 

Our condo faces a park, where we can enjoy those extra weeks of outdoor living–walking Baby Dylan and taking our great-grandchildren to play on the playground.

At first during our recent visit, the littlest great-grandchildren stared apprehensively at us–probably wondering who in the world we were, with our wrinkles and brown spotted skin.  But after several clan gatherings, Joe and I were truly “part of the family”.  On parting we received many wonderful hugs from the little people.  We look forward to going back to Southern Wisconsin, to live!

How we have loved our time in the wild north!  Since all of Wisconsin is “northern”, and because I will always be one to reflect, I’ll continue NORTHERN REFLECTIONS. 

Wolves, bears, and loons are wonderful.  But great-grandchildren are even better!

Margaret L. Been–All Rights Reserved

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