Archive for October, 2009

Grandma Rose

The petite beauty is my Grandma Rose, as a very young lady.  She lived on earth from 1865 t0 1952.  I was 18 years old when she died.  Someday I’ll be reunited with Grandma Rose and her husband–my Grandpa George featured in my blog entry “A Man for All Seasons” (Autumn, 2008).

Because of Grandma Rose and other women in my family, I was shocked when I first heard of a “woman’s liberation” movement.  I grew up thinking most American women were movers and shakers, like the feminine role models I knew.

Grandma Rose lived much of her adult life as a pastor’s wife in a small Wisconsin town.  These grandparents had four children, one of them being my dad who left me a precious legacy of Grandma Rose’s diaries.  I love to sip tea and read the diaries.  They take me back to a world which was in many ways more real than the world we live in today–a world where no one locked their doors (at least in our neighborhoods) and guests were always welcomed and fed, even when uninvited.

Grandma Rose’s journal entries are filled with homemade bread, garden produce, and kittens–all of which she shared with people in her town.  In reading decades of her diaries, I have never spotted a word of navel gazing–that nauseating, entropic meandering and self-centered processing that characterizes so much journaling and conversation today.  Rose never wasted time “finding herself”, because she always knew who she was!

Neither have I found a word of complaint in the journals–although Rose’s life was hard at times.  From the tragic loss of her first baby (in a primitive logging camp town in Northern Wisconsin in 1893) through years of hard work and sacrificial ministry, Rose never dumped woes into her diaries.  She simply stated facts as they happened, in a minimum of words–sparing her readers the emotional theatrics.  And numerous family members and friends have attested that she never dumped her troubles on other people in conversation. 

Although a servant to many, Grandma Rose understood the wisdom of Psalm 90; she numbered her days and applied her heart to wisdom.  A community leader active in many causes, cultural as well as charitable, Rose occasionally wrote things in her journal like:  “Stayed home from ‘Friends of the Library’ today and listened to the opera on radio” or “Missed the Sunday School teachers’ meeting so I could stay home and bake.”

An interesting and charming facet of the diaries is the frequent use of the term “Mrs.”.  In a town where her husband served as a pastor for decades, Rose called most married women “Mrs.” rather than mentioning their first names.  Only family members and the occasional long-standing friend were called by their first names.

Like my own mother, Rose was a woman who never raised her voice–yet we grandchildren stood in perpetual awe of her formidable (58 inch) stature.  She fed us bountifully, played Chinese Checkers with us frequently, and invited no nonsense.  She assumed we’d behave respectably and respecfully, and we did.  Rose was a well of quiet contentment, expressing her love and approval of her family members without excessive words.

Yet well-chosen words were huge in Grandma Rose’s life; she typed volumes of memoirs describing her girlhood in an Alsatian community in Michigan, her husband’s work as a minister, her faith, and her love for family.  She also wrote plays for her Sunday School–plus articles, and essays.

Rose passed the word gene and example onto me.  I recall watching her type, and I always knew she was doing something terribly important.  By the time I was 9 years old I was compelled to record my own words on paper as well.

I’m thankful for a legacy of diaries and memories of Rose Longenecker–a no nonsense woman!

Margaret L. Been–All Rights Reserved

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If this seems like an overload of photos, bear with me.  Today is rainy and blustery, and I’m experiencing an overload of joy in hearth and home. 

The fireplace consists of 4 light bulbs hidden in a nice wood surround with a mantel.  The fake flames flicker and flit when we throw the switch on, and our fireplace delights our hearts.  We’ve had many good years of burning real logs.  And now our 4 light bulbs please our eyes and warm our hearts with surrogate flames.  (The electric fireplace has a heating option, as well.)

Our condo homestead is comprised of 4 rooms, 2 baths, and some hall spaces.  Joe and I are filling every nook and cranny with that whole hearted joie de vie we’ve experienced wherever we’ve lived over the past 56 plus years.

The approaching winter augments the joys of hearth and home.  Now we’re close to family, and the holidays promise mellow times with loved ones.  It will be fun to decorate our 4 rooms (and bathrooms, too) for Christmas, knowing that company will be on hand to savor the atmosphere and decor. 

Small children will enjoy our favorite ornaments–clock, train engine, puppy, etc,– and play with the collection of toys waiting for them in the antique trunk pictured below.  I ding out with delight, just to think of the children visiting.

And when those January winds howl, and the outside temperature drops to zero and below, we’ll just “light” a fire in our fireplace and sip tea beside our hearth.

Margaret L. Been–All Rights Reserved


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Again the View--4

Today we strolled in the forest preserve which is less than 1/2 of a mile from our front door.  I’m overwhelmed by the plethora of trees and shrubs abounding in the southeast corner of our state.  I identified many old friends on our walk:  shagbark hickory, bur oak, eastern cottonwood, staghorn sumac, alternate leaved dogwood, American elm, bigtooth aspen, and white baneberry–sometimes called “doll’s eyes” because of the white berries with a dot resembling the pupil of an eye.

But so many beauties went uncategorized.  I will walk often (God willing and back permitting) to study the bark of these trees and shrubs–along with their configuration in the winter when the leaves are all down, and their catkins and flower spikes in spring. 

It excites me more than I can express, to have a whole new playground of wild woods to explore.  When we first settled here, a neighbor told me that she will “never go in the woods because coyotes and bob-cats live there.” 

The idea of coyotes and bob-cats made me want to rush right into the woods and sit there motionless for hours.  The chance of seeing coyotes and bob-cats when we are hiking with our dog is nil, but how wonderful to know that the wild critters may be peering at us from a den or tree. 

Deer and foxes live in the woods also, and the wild turkeys that we frequently see on the road.  Today I brought home a turkey feather, and an interesting collection of leaves gleaned from the ground where they’d fallen.

I found a large palmate leaf, not in the wild woods but blowing around on the grass at the park which separates the nature trails from our home.  I puzzled over this beauty, and tried to find it in my limited reference book on local trees.

Finally I found the leaf–not in my book, but online.  My treasure is unmistakeably the leaf of a horse chestnut–no longer found much in the wild since the demise of this tree due to a blight a few decades ago. 

According to one website, the horse chestnut is being cautiously restored in controlled settings such as parks and botannical gardens.  Thus, some planner of our lovely community park decided to plant at least one horse chestnut.  As the spring tree signatures emerge, I’ll walk around the park and find the chestnut tree (or trees).

As always, nostalgia springs from the simplest revelations.  I’m remembering the horse chestnut tree I hid in as a kid, and the glossy brown nuts which I extracted from their prickly pods each autumn.  No wonder the huge, palmate leaf appeals to me.  It’s a part of my history!

Now the treasures from today’s hike are piled on our dining room table:  the assorted leaves from the woods, a few “doll’s eyes”, a fallen hickory nut and it’s shell, a turkey feather, and the horse chestnut leaf–nature’s treasures which I value even more than the Minton and Wedgwood dishes lining our shelves.

Joe and I will find a constant source of refreshment and restoration in the wild side of our new neighborhood!

Margaret L. Been–All Rights Reserved

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Here is our patio and part of our garden area, growing more settled each week.  We live in a condo community of gardens, yard ornaments, and fun and funky outdoor decor–expressing the individual tastes of each condo owner.

I’m thankful for creative freedom.  I won’t say my soul would have died in a restricted setting, but I would not have experienced the abject joy of realizing I can be “me” outside of our new home. 

Of course we can always do what we like indoors, wherever we live–but outdoor freedom is a special gift.  Come spring I’ll haunt the garden centers, as I hope to create a cozy English cottage garden of perennials and herbs.  The cement patio will host houseplants in the summer, as they’ll face a semi-sheltered eastern exposure while being protected from the afternoon sun.

The trellis, now decorated for autumn, will support some of my favorite vines:  bittersweet, woodbine, and possibly morning glories.  We found the trellis at a rummage sale, and hope to find another for more vines–thereby adding panache and pizzazz to the generic aluminum siding of our home.

But one member of our family has adjusted to significantly less freedom than he ever had before.  He doesn’t give a hoot about decor and plantings; he’s contented just being with his people.  I’m speaking of our Pembroke Welsh corgi, Dylan.  Having run freely on 14 acres in the northwoods for nearly 6 years, Dylan is now a model condo dog–well, almost model.  

As happy as Dylan appears to be, walking on a leash in the park, he still regards freedom in his racial memory.  Yesterday I made the mistake of forgetting to close the sliding patio door behind me when going outside–and Dylan shot out, barking and whooping in circles like a wild Apache in a 1940s western movie.  Wondering if I’d ever see him again, I came back in the house for a leash and then raced back out–praying. 

We’ve discovered that a commanding voice never works with Dylan.  The only solution is to get down at his level and talk baby talk to him:  “Come on sweetie, come Baby Dylan–come to Mommy.”  (Those words may be disgusting to any of you who are not dog lovers, but there it is.  I can’t help you–and I confess I don’t really want to!)

Anyway, the above routine brought Dylan to me immediately–and I put his leash on him as he wagged his stump of a tail.*  Whew!  One more adventure, at our new little bit of “heaven on earth”.

Margaret L. Been–All Rights Reserved

*Traditionally tails have been docked on corgi puppies, possibly because they were bred and raised as drivers–running on their short little legs amongst the hooves of large cows in Wales.  One can imagine what a mess it would be if those naturally long and fluffy tails were dragged in the muck and manure of a cattle yard–plus the tails would have gotten stepped on by the cows.  (Now tail docking has been outlawed in some countries–Norway and Japan, and perhaps others.)

The corgi’s function was not to herd his own cattle, but to drive away invasive neighbor cows.  Aggressive behavior toward most other animals still exists in many corgis today, including our Dylan.  (However, we’ve just learned something very funny.  Dylan likes, of all things, cats!)

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Epilogue of a County

Go gently, Autumn,

spilling sunlight out across stone walls,

soothing ancient land

where glaciers scooped our hollows,

piled moraines, and thawed a legacy of lakes.

Gently! Life has been the thrust of this dark soil,

of oak and hickory woods, abundant springs,

and prairie interludes where cornfields called

to Angus clustered hills.

Yesterday, our forest echoed Cymric rhyme

(and still of restless year-end nights

the melody is heard—wind singing old Welsh tunes

in dying oak).

Go gently, Autumn,

gathering the poignance of October haze,

Savoring the texture of these days.

Margaret Longenecker Been–All Rights Reserved

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gluttonous gulls

Joe and I have been watching gulls, soaring and dipping over our park.  We see them at shopping center parking lots as well–and wherever else someone might have dropped a bit of food.

During the heyday of Great Lakes shipping, the gulls hung out mainly alongside and over the big water.  I recall childhood excursions on Lake Michigan, and watching huge flocks of gulls as they followed trails of garbage dumped out from the big boats into the lake.

Now, with limited shipping in the big waters and the demise of random garbage dumping, the gulls come inland to satisfy their appetites.  We are 26 miles from Lake Michigan, a comparatively easy flight for a hungry gull.

As comically ungainly as the gulls are walking about on land, they’re transformed in flight.  Their graceful patterns and plaintive mewing stir something profound within me–perhaps a racial memory of Celtic roots and my ancestors who lived surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea.

But I’m especially aware of a more recent memory–that of being a child and watching the gulls zoom in on garbage expelled from a Lake Michigan ferry.

Margaret L. Been–All Rights Reserved

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Flowers with Cobalt and Vaseline Glass Gone Weird

How I love to go to sleep to the voices of wind.  Last night I could have envisioned myself on the Yorkshire moors, with an apparition of Heathcliff floating behind the banging of shutters on an ancient grey stone mansion.

Actually last night’s wind climbed inside the slats of (not wood shutters but) the aluminum siding on our home, and rattled therein like castanets.  But the moaning had the tone of a Gothic tale, transplanted from the north of England to the north of the USA.  How soothing!

Wind up to a certain velocity is soothing; beyond that, it can be as terrifying as anything in the world.  While drifting off last night, I thought of the power of God–sometimes benevolent and other times earth shaking.  

The voices of wind that set our sails in motion can grow to decibels sufficient to destroy a city.  Orchestrated with fire or water–well, you know!

Most mind boggling of all to me, is how anyone can consider the voices of wind yet deny the sovereign power of our Creator!

Margaret L. Been–All Rights Reserved

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bog painting

This oil painting by artist Jan Roberts hangs over our bed.  It depicts the bay at our northern home, and serves to remind us that the wild woods and water are always with us. 

The picture appears to be hanging in a crooked fashion, but not so.  It was the photographer who was lopsided.  The person in the painting, with the coffee mug on the pier, is me in my Irish sweater on a stormy March day. 

I’m thankful that we’re still surrounded by nature in Southern Wisconsin.  In a suburban community people can sometimes be so  preoccupied with their agendas that they fail to notice the wildness around them–whereas in the northwoods wildness dominates.  But having lived in a wild place for 8 years, I know that an awarenss of our natural world will always be foremost in my heart and soul. 

Everywhere we go, there’s beauty.  Joe and I have breakfast at a bistro in Delafield on Saturdays, and then we explore local side roads for rummage sales.  The byways in this area have a kind of mystical quality, as they’re lined with ancient, gnarled trees (many prairie oaks) which twist and bend over the road, creating arches simulating an entrance to a Gothic cathedral.

Our condo home looks out to a nature preserve on the far side of the park which we call “our front yard”.  Due to current orthopedic issues, I have’t been able to explore the preserve–but I will as soon as I can.   Neighbors have told us that deer, coyotes, and bobcats live in there, as well as smaller critters.  That report delights my heart.

Last night while dozing off, a great horned owl began to “whooo . . . .” right outside our bedroom window.  He (or she) kept up the welcome refrain for at least 10 minutes, lulling me off to dreamland and assuring me that I am forever wild.

Margaret L. Been–All Rights Reserved

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You are looking at one of our bathrooms, decorated in a style Louis L’Amour would have liked–and so would have my dad who loved the west.  I have Dad’s spurs hanging on the outside of the cabinet behind the person taking the picture (me).  The framed horseman on the left, behind an Arizona Tea bottle, is Dad.  The horselady on the right (scarcely visible behind the drinking glass on the sink) is our granddaughter, Leah.  The colorful Native American is a sample of my “original art”.  🙂

After looking at this photo of our fun and funky bathroom, I began to wonder:  how do the photographers who shoot photos for home decorating magazines manage to capture mirrors without including the person taking the picture?  Are they vampires, generally reputed to have no reflection?  (Of course I’m not serious about the vampires, but isn’t it fun to be silly?!)

I love the way one word can trigger countless rabbit trails of thought.  Mirror!  Perhaps the first thing that might come to anyone’s mind on hearing the word “mirror” is not a thing, but a fictional person:  the evil queen/witch who said, “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is fairest of them all?” 

I first viewed the film, SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS in 1938, at the mature age of five, and that one-liner has stuck in my head through all these years.  Of course I’ve read the real version, the classic by The Brothers Grimm, many times–and I never fail to visualize that blood thirsty, jealous queen.

Quite a few years back I read a quote by a famous movie actress who testified that she got out of her bathtub one morning, looked in her bathroom mirror, and said “I’m no longer the most beautiful woman in the world.” 

(This woman was a fine actress as well as a beauty, with huge, dark eyelashes which may have helped her to accumulate an astounding number of husbands.  Like most of us she enjoyed eating, which tended to show.)

I’m glad I never was the world’s most beautiful woman!  What a burden that would be.  Hence I take my avoirdupois for granted, and my husband likes me “as is”.  It’s never a shock when I glance into the mirror.  It’s simply business as usual.  What some might consider preening in the mirror is most apt to be just looking for basal cells. 

Margaret L. Been–All Rights Reserved

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