Archive for March, 2010

Joe, Dylan, and I just returned from an early morning hike around our park.  Mourning doves “wooo–oooo-ed”, robins chortled, and cardinels “cheer-cheer-cheered” us along the path.  A huge flock of snow geese (flying in a wavy line as opposed to the Canadas’ V formation) rejoiced overhead—focused northwest, in the direction of our northern home.  He is risen!

The world darkens around us.  Our nation has fallen from Grace due to a departure from God’s truth, as manifested in legalized baby murder and rampant immorality.  But God’s creation testifies to His unchanging truth.  Great is His faithfulness!  Christ will return, perhaps very soon, bringing righteousness, peace, and justice to earth!  He is risen!

I have a personal Easter story to share, from the pages of my 2009 journal.  A year ago, we were living in our Northern Wisconsin home—settled there, loving life, and believing we’d be there “forever”.  Yet there was an underlying sadness, as many of our family members—including a number of our great-grandchildren, all of whom had been born since we’d moved north—were 285 miles away in Southern Wisconsin.

At Easter last year, our daughter Debbie phoned and told us how she’d bought colorful little plastic wheelbarrows for each of the children and they were planning an Easter egg hunt in her yard.  Something in me ached over hearing about this event which we were missing.  Joe and I went south 3 times a year or so, but simply couldn’t be there for every occasion.  Now it was Easter, and we were missing a special gathering of a whole new generation—our great-grandchildren.

In my April 14, 2009 journal page I wrote this prayer:  “Easter was good, but I missed being with family.  Lord, you know my desire to return home to the family.  I love this place here, the woods and water.  Joe and I have grown infinitely closer to each other from living in this quiet, remote spot.  But since coming here, great blessings have occurred around our former home in Southern Wisconsin—great-grandchildren!  Lord, I want to go home with my Joe—to Waukesha County!”

Weeks passed, and spring came to our northern land.  Life was pleasant and good, and I enjoyed each day—having spelled out my Easter petition to the Lord.  There is perfect peace in knowing He is in control.

God really does work in mysterious ways!  On June 13, 2009 it became apparent that Joe would need to go to St. Luke’s in Milwaukee, for a heart procedure.  In the next 2 weeks, he was hospitalized twice at St. Luke’s.  Stents were inserted into clogged arteries.  His cardiologist said, “If only you people lived around here, it would be good!”

The days around the 2009 summer solstice melted into a blur.  Our daughter Debbie found a sweet condo on a Monday; the next day Joe and I looked at the condo and bought it.  We returned to Northern Wisconsin at the end of June, geared to packing and moving.  All of that history is recorded on the summer and fall entries, in this blog as well as on “Grace with Salt”. 

Here we are, looking forward to Resurrection Day 2010.  Debbie has planned another Easter egg hunt.  Since the life-changing events of last June, 2 more little people have joined our roll call of great-grandchildren—2 baby boys who are crawling all over the place, grabbing on to each other, grinning, and giggling.

Christ is risen!

Margaret L. Been—All Rights Reserved

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Our trip north was refreshing and fun.  The ice was melted on our bay and the Canadas, swans, common mergansers, and bufflehead ducks have moved in.  Northerns are spawning, and we watched the bald eagles zooming down to the water in quest of dinner.  

The guest house, which had recently experienced ice and water damage, has been fixed—and once more it’s ready for visitors.  Joe and I did some cleaning and disinfecting there.  The window sills were full of dead flies.  I recalled a little town I once visited in the Cascades—Concrete, Washington—where an annual event was a weeked of festivities centered around a “Dead Fly Contest”.  Evidently the merchant with the most dead flies in his windowsills won.  (Laura and Cindy, does that still happen in Concrete?)

People who know we are hoping to sell our guest house have been asking us, “Have you had any nibbles on your house?”  My answer is YES—loads of nibbles.  But the “nibblers” are not able to meet the financial requirements, because they are tiny 4-footed critters with long tails. 

There are 4 sinks in the guest house, each with a cabinet below containing the plumbing pipes surrounded by a gaping hole from the basement.  Guess what came up through the holes over the winter, in battalions?

You’ve got it.  There were loads of mouse doo doos under all the sinks.  Then Joe found some dead mice in a plastic waste basket with a dome shaped swinging door type opening.  The hapless mice got in and couldn’t get out.  Pretty gross.  

Granddaughter Alicia and friend Patty B., are you online today?  If so, you’ll be very happy to hear that I am finally becoming disenchanted with mice.  I’m sure there are other readers who will be relieved to get this news as well.  I think I’d be thrilled to never see or smell another mouse again—dead or alive.  For a lifelong aficionado of Beatrix Potter stories, that is an amazing statement! 

And I’ve definitely matured beyond the point of deliberately setting cheese out for the mice, unless it would be in a trap.  (Yes, years ago I actually put cheese in a kitchen drawer every night—just as a treat for my nocturnal “pet” mouse.)

Meamwhile, spring is moving in.  The snow patches are gone, and our little condo gardens are sprouting with crocus, tulip, and daffodil leaves.  My chives are up, the rosebush is green at the base, and I’m having a blast sticking fun and funky garden ornaments into the ground.  A few weeks and spring rains from now, I’ll fill the garden spaces with favorite perennials and herbs.  What a joy.

I’m scheduled for sinus surgery on April 20th, and I welcome comments from any and all who have had this bit of fun and games.  But only success stories, please.  Horror stories need not apply.  In the past I’ve never pursued the possibility of a sinus ream job, simply because of some stories I’ve heard.

But great advancements have been made in this surgery—as well as in many other areas of medicine.  Current surgical technology is amazing.  For a CT Scan last week, I was fitted with a kind of a grid thingy over the forehead, into the ears, and pinching my nose.  The scan info went into the head thingy, and was then downloaded onto CDs.  Finally the headgear and CDs were sealed up into a lunchbox type container and sent home with me.  I am to bring my “lunchbox” to the surgery—and from the info therein, the surgeon will know where to go with her reamer.  (It’s really an endoscope, but somehow the word “reamer” is more within my down home frame of reference.)

The surgeon has great confidence that the 4/20 procedure will be tremendously helpful.  And she left me with an encouraging note by saying, “I like to be careful around the brain and eyes”.  🙂

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Robins chortling in the treetops.  Cardinels spreading cheer in the woods across the park.  Canadas jetting across the sky.  Redwings oka-reeee-ing as they assert their territorial claims.  Soon the peepers will trill in the swamps, and we’ll be swathed and saturated in that glow which is springtime in Wisconsin.  Now we’re inhaling the wet fragrance of woods and soon-to-be plowed soybean and cornfields.  Spring!

Joe and I take frequent “wanders” in the nearby nature preserve.  We discovered the trail which leads down a little moraine to Lake Nagawicka—the quiet, natural end of the lake.  This will be a spot for sitting and sketching, when I can’t be at home up north over the next few months.

Like Edwin Way Teale, we are soon going “North with the Spring.”  Not from U.S. border to border as Teale traveled, but rather we’ll be driving much of the length of our state—back to the bears (who are snoring away like Snow White), wolves (whom we can see any time), badgers, bobcats, and porcupines (whom I hope Baby Dylan never sees).  Back to visit our sweet church in Phillips, our favorite cafe, and my friends in God’s country.  (Are you online, Linda?  I hope to see you on Monday!)

And Baby Dylan will revert from a (fairly) dignified condo dog to the guardian of 14 plus acres of wild sights and sounds.  He has a “girl friend” up the hill, across the road from our land.  Her name is Lady, and she’s no more of a lady than Dylan is a gentlemen.  They hate each other, and make furious reciprocal music even when they can’t see each other for the acres of woods that lie betweeen them!

Meanwhile, I shut my eyes, and envision myself carried heavenward on the wings of the Canada geese—while rejoicing in their ecstatic chorus.  The sound of goose music reverberates through our very walls.  Spring!  The season of music! 

Margaret L. Been—All Rights Reserved

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Exactly a year ago, Joe and I were totally contented in our up north home—believing we might be there forever, and thinking no place on earth could ever be so special.  On a below zero March day in 2009, I went outdoors and heard the distant shrieking of a train—a rare sound, as we were 9 miles from the railroad track which ran north and south through that part of Wisconsin.  In the eight years we’d lived there, we’d only heard a train 3 or 4 times from our home—on days where there was virtually no wind or when the wind came from the exact direction of the moving train.

On that day in 2009, as I savored the faint, far-away music of the rails, I said:  “If we ever have to leave this beautiful home I want to live near a railroad track—one that is in active use!

Well a year later, here we are—living 280 miles from our northern home, and 280 yards from the busiest railroad in the area.  Many freight trains lumber through each day, and the Amtrak runs from Milwaukee to points west and back again to Milwaukee. 

The shrieking, rumbling, and clacking of trains send me into paroxyms of euphoria grounded in my childhood.  During World War II gas was rationed, and we traveled by train rather than by car.  Our family lived 80 miles north of Milwaukee in Chilton, Wisconsin.  Since the Milwaukee area had been my parents’ home for decades, we kept going back there.  My mother and I made the 80 mile train trip to downtown Milwaukee frequently—staying at the Schroeder Hotel, shopping at the Boston Store and Gimbels, and taking in a matinee film nearly every day of our city adventure. 

The sidewalks of Milwaukee were a sea of sailors from Great Lakes Naval Base.  I recall the spiffy white uniforms with flowing bell bottom trousers, and the cheerful courtesy of young military men in an era when manners and consideration were the norm.

Trains!  I felt like I was entering Heaven’s gate when I stepped into one.  Back then trains belched out black steam, and deposited soot and grime as they rumbled along.  But never mind!  The ride was worth it all!

Perhaps some folks get a thrill when they hear planes overhead.  I enjoyed air travel for 5 decades, but now I find airports to be exhausting and hectic.  Obviously the security is necessary, but the pleasure of soaring above the clouds has been dampened for me—especially since we no longer get a meal on our flights.  I guess I’m a down-to-earth person in essence!

The Amtrak is expensive unless one rides in a coach, so Joe and I undoubtedly will continue to fly when we travel any distance.  Sitting up all night in a train coach was fun in the early 1950s, when I rumbled west to my college in Colorado.  But at this point of maturity, I need a bed for sleeping.

Meanwhile, every day I experience nostalgia trips with the shrieking, rumbling, and clacking through our walls—just 280 yards from our door!  🙂

Margaret L. Been—All Rights Reserved

NOTE:  The above copyright free illustration is courtesy of http://karenswhimseys.com/

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“Lovely!  Lovely!  See the cloud, the cloud appear!  Lovely!  Lovely!  See the rain, the rain appear!”  Anonymous Native American

Years ago, I visited our daughter Laura and her family in January.  I left Wisconsin’s below zero readings and snow covered fields, for the farthest northwest outreach of the USA (barring Alaska)—just a few miles below the Canada border, in Washington State.  The Pacific Rainforest was warm-ish, wet, and even green

Can you imagine the euphoria of this person who is passionate about green and growing things, and a lover of RAIN (as well as SUNSHINE—I love it all!)?  On the first night of my visit there, rain rejoiced on the metal roof of Laura’s home and I wandered around in a dither.

“Rain, rain, rain!  What a heavenly sound,” I raptured.

After listening to my blithering for a few minutes our logically minded granddaughter, Nancy, (nine years old at the time) questioned me:  “Grandma, doesn’t it ever rain in Wisconsin?”

“Oh yes,” I answered.  “But not often in January!”

Now it is March in Wisconsin, and the long-awaited has come.  Rain!  Followed by it’s heavenly brother, Sunshine, rain is THE GREAT HEALER of winters that threaten to hang on forever!  Rain makes me dancey and prancey, squirrelly and swirly, rushy and gushy, silly and dilly, ducky and plucky, happy and sappy, bouncey and flouncey, jivey and divey!  Rain lubricates my creaky joints, and brings soft waves to my winter-electified hair.  Winter refreshes me from the follicles on my dome, down to the claws on my toes!

Winter makes me defy that lackluster rule of writing:  “Never use too many exclamation points.” 

Bother the rules of writing!!!  I’m a living exclamation point!!!  It’s raining!!!

”To sing with the silver hosannas of rain . . . .”  Roy Campbell, The Palm

Margaret L. Been—All Rights Reserved

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Quagmired in stagnant bogs,

Eons old

And motionless, the cattails stand

Where no wind blows . . .

When, meadow-born, a redwing lights

On solitary reed

Proclaiming joyously the news,



Margaret Longenecker Been—All Rights Reserved

The Evangelist” was published in POETRY OUT OF WISCONSIN V, Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets Publishers, and in MORNING IN MY EYES by Margaret Longenecker Been.

The painting was featured on the cover of a recent issue of WestWard Quarterly.

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“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”  3rd John 4

As a mother of six adult children, I rejoice without ceasing.  All six of our children are walking in the truth, saved by the shed blood of Jesus Christ, and trusting His Resurrection Life.  What blessing!  What Grace!

The spiritual blessing of children walking in the truth works out in tangible, earth terms.  Today one of our daughters said something to me that has made me weep for joy.  She said, “I realize that my roots are in you and Dad.”

Such a simple statement, yet so profound.  To know our roots is to understand who we are.  Knowing ourselves frees us to be the individuals God created us to be.  No wonder families are so vital to God’s economy.  Where we came from is significant.  Genealogies matter.  When people know and find comfort in their common roots, nothing can separate them in essence—although geographically they may live continents and oceans apart.

When we know our roots we can say “This is our land; this is our place,” even when our feet may of necessity trod on foreign parts far from the land we love.  Because I have roots, Wisconsin is my place and always will be—even during those times when I must travel.

Because of my family history, other places are also “my land, my place”:  locales such as the Pennsylvania Hills, the American West, and the Scottish Highlands.  Each of us is a separate self; yet each of us is a composite of those who have gone before—the soil thy worked and the seas they sailed. 

Whether pleasant or otherwise, history matters.  The past sheds light on the present, and only a fool will try to escape or block out that light.  Like God’s Word, the past is a lamp for our feet—illuminating the present and lending a glow of perspective to the future.  I have children who walk in the truth and acknowledge their roots!  Truly there is no greater joy on earth! 

Tonight I will drift to sleep with our daughter’s melodious voice singing in my ears, “I know that my roots are in you and Dad.”

Margaret L. Been—All Rights Reserved

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When I was in grade school, teachers frequently gave the assignment to write on the subject of “My Pet Peeve”.  That’s about as much “getting in touch with our feelings” as we were supposed to do, back in those sensible days before introspective self-focus was the norm. 

I often think of that assignment, because I do have a Pet Peeve—and I like to write about it, in order to let off some proverbial steam.  My Pet Peeve is anyone who gets all hoity-toity about “getting rid of clutter”.  It’s fine to get rid of clutter if that’s what you really want to do.  I respect that!  But please don’t pontificate—as if divesting oneself of collections were a kind of saintly thing to do.  I’ve aired this issue via my blog before, and I’ll do it again!  🙂

PAH!  What does getting rid of clutter have to do with a gracious, mellow, slow-lane quality of life?  Nothing! Clutter is the grist of a life fully experienced:  the tangible evidence of people cherished, occasions recalled, creativity nurtured, and imagination unleashed. 

Clutter equals fun.  Although we certainly are not to put our faith in stuff that moths can eat and rust can destroy, or worship things as if they were eternally valuable, we have been put on planet earth to make life lovely and interesting for those around us.  We owe it to our fellow man (and woman and child) to create an environment that is fun, funky, and pleasant.  God has given us life!  It’s fitting and proper to respond with gratitude, by wholeheartedly expressing la joie de vivre.  Therefore, let us celebrate clutter!

Obviously, the happy detritus of life needs to be organized.  Organization is a DUH, and one of life’s great joys!  I love organizing clutter nearly as much as I love accumulating the clutter to begin with!  And my husband has always built the most wonderful shelves for me, in nooks and crannies of wherever we’ve lived.  Pictured above, is the storeroom in our condo—all mine!  Joe completed the shelves this week, and I’ve had a time of euphoria, settling in.

Everything is conveniently “to hand” in my storeroom:  boxes of photos, scrapbooking paraphernalia, writing files not currently in use in my studio, gifts and gift wrap, soapmaking supplies, our electric pancake griddle, my canes for those rough “ortho days” when I grope around like Quasimodo, my broom and woolly dusters, dog food, dog meds, and a whole lot more.  My storeroom thrills me so much, that sometimes I just step inside and GAZE!

Even in compact surroundings, like a condo or small apartment, there is always room for stuff we enjoy—along with creative options for display.  One of my favorite contemporary authors is writer/photographer Mary Randolph Carter whose home in a Manhattan high rise apartment is filled with family mementoes and “junk” culled from rummages, resale shops, etc. 

In her recent book, FOR THE LOVE OF OLD, Carter has a chapter titled “The Secret Cupboard”—with charming photos of a pine cabinet in her home where she has arranged childhood treasures, books, some of her sons’ baby garments, etc.  Her cabinet is kind of a mini-attic.

I love this concept of a memory display cupboard, and I’ve created exactly that in an Edwardian era side-by-side in our dining area.  The side-by-side is packed with little things which our children and grandchildren have made for me, or given to me, over the years—and toys which they loved when they were younger.  When the great-grandchildren visit I encourage them to handle the treasures, and I share the stories.  Here are some glimpses of what I’ve named “Grammy’s Museum”: 

I believe we all need an “attic” of some sort, at least a few memory-packed shelves where we can experience REALITY!  The sterile, fast-lane, “get rid of clutter” mentality is not real—and certainly not conducive to a relaxed quality of life!

Wherever Joe and I live, our entire home is our “attic”—filled to overflowing with evidence of life well lived!  And as long as we are still here on earth, there’s room for more! 

Margaret L. Been—All Rights Reserved

P. S.  Nostalgia!  As I grew up we had a summer cottage, with no running water for drinking. One of my chores* was to pump buckets of water from an outside well, and store the water in a milk can in our kitchen. 

A dipper hung by the milk can, supposedly to be used only for transferring water from the can to our drinking glasses.  We were not “allowed” to drink from the dipper.  But guess what?  We always did, when we thought no one was looking!

Because of childhood memories, dippers are precious to me.  Hence my collection of dippers, pictured below, hangs over our kitchen sink.  Sometimes I grab a dipper and drink from it, whether anyone’s looking or not! 

*My other chores at the summer cottage were emptying the slop buckets (our night-time “toilets”) into the outhouse and cleaning the outhouse.  My folks knew how to be parents!  🙂

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Earth dragon waking . . .

stretching, yawning, jaws cracking,

breathing winds of March.


Margaret Longenecker Been—All rights Reserved

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A beloved treasure is our Big Elk River, just around the bend from the bay at our northern Wisconsin home.  Soon the ice will go out, and we’ll be heading north to savor the sights and sounds upriver. 

In canoeing weather we like to go up-river at least once a week, to see the changes in flora and fauna.  We watch families of ducks and geese grow from new-in-the-water to teen-ager.  We see new fawns in season, and on a few occasions we’ve surprised otters sunning on branches over the water.  I delight in the progression of wild flowers, from angelica to Joe pye-weed to tickseed sunflower and purple aster with many beauties in between—including sky blue forget-me-nots which bloom for weeks on sunny banks and mossy logs.

Ahhhh, River!  When we first moved up north I often took my paddle boat, a thermos of iced tea, and a book—and hung out on a sand bar up-river for a few hours all by myself.  Then my love, Joe, got spooked about all the bears running around, and put the kaboosh on that.

This illustration of our river is not a painting, but rather a photo—computer enhanced.  I have also achieved a similar effect with watercolor applied to Japanese masa paper, with its beautiful fractured sizing.   

A Poet’s Place

A poet’s place

where every aspen branch

drips metaphors like Dali’s clocks,

alliteration echoes angelica

artemisia anemone . . .

with stillness-saturated solitude

against the onomatopoeic thrum

of frogs.

A poet’s place

of imagery in river-clad

forget-me-nots, where figures of speech

slide otterwise from scruffy banks

of sandy streams on drowsy days,

and symbols pierce the lunar-nugget nights

in cadence with a Milky Way

of dreams.

Margaret Longenecker Been—All Rights Reserved

Published in A TIME UNDER HEAVEN—seasonal reflections and poems, by Margaret Longenecker Been

NOTE:  Below, is a watercolor which I did on masa paper.  FUN!!!!!!!!!!

A PARTING NOTE:  Please check out my friend Patti Wolf’s new blog:  http://wolfsrosebud.wordpress.com/

You’ll like it!  🙂

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