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Archive for February, 2011

Now the sun has moved north enough to rise through our patio door.  Growing daylight is a spring cleaning signal for me.  What a joy to tear into one’s home and freshen up every nook and cranny.  Actually I love to do this throughout the year.  But I always embark on a home cleaning spree before the advent of warmish spring weather, because when warm weather comes I’ll want to be outdoors! 

Dusting (furniture, books, and the contents of china and glassware cabinets) is one the most enjoyable, relaxing, and theraputic things I do!  Dusting is also very easy physically, the way I do it.  I advance on piles of books, duster in hand—ready to rediscover treasures that I want to re-read.  Yesterday I took out Aldo Leopold’s A SAND COUNTY ALMANAC to savor for the umpteenth time. 

(Aldo Leopold was at the University of Wisconsin in the 1930s when my uncle, William Longenecker, was a horticulture professor there.  They were co-workers—visionary men who realized that the future physical and soul health of Wisconsin and our nation would be greatly enhanced by conservation measures.  In Leopold’s writing, I experience my uncle’s exuberant spirit and the love for nature—which has been so significant in my family heritage as well as in my own personal life.)

From the bookshelves and piles, I move to shelves and cabinets of china and glassware.  I periodically change items in and out of cabinets, displaying various colors and textures at different times of the year.  Here again, treasure are rediscovered.  Sometimes I find a vase or pitcher I’d forgotten about, and out it comes—to take its place of honor as a receptacle for flowers, live or dried, or to just sit there and look lovely.

Teacups and saucers get a good washing and polishing, so that when guests come I don’t have to exorcise dust specs from the cups before pouring the tea.  Pictures get wiped and freshened up, as well.  What a delight!

Vacuuming is hard for me at present, with my degenerative spinal disc issues.  In a few weeks a friend will be joining me for a morning of vacuuming—as well as dusting the high places that I can’t reach without a step ladder.  My friend is tall.  I am not!  And her back is young.  We’ll visit, and work together.  By that time I should be able to throw some windows and doors wide open, and let the outdoors in!

Even the earliest whispers of spring stir something in our souls, and we instinctively want to spruce up our surroundings.  Dusting and cleaning are not odious chores to be avoided or done mechanically in a perfunctory spirit.  Dusting and cleaning are supreme play—in celebration of home, creativity, and la joie de vie!

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

Ready for tea!  ↑  (The beautiful polished wooden ducks and hippos are from Nigeria where our daughter, Martina, lived and taught for 4 years.  We have an awesome pair of Nigerian lions on another shelf.)

Even the dolly house gets a spring cleaning! ↓

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Recently I read an article in a home decor magazine, which brought my blood to that proverbial boil.  The author of the article, an “interior decorator” wrote:  “I can always tell when I enter a home which has not been decorated by a professional . . . .”  Then she went on and on, describing everything that was “wrong” with non-professional, do-it-yourself home decor.

(To that I might retort, “I can (not always but usually) tell when I enter a home which has been decorated by a professional—no verve, no panache, no individuality, no artful clutter, no plethora of memories, no evidence of personal penchants.  No soul, no spirit, no stacks of books on the floor and under tables, no dog hair*, no cats’ furballs, no funky collectibles, NO ANYTHING, simply a very tasteful and abysmally vacuous cookie cutter look!”)

The author of the above mentioned article cited a list of her self imposed “rules” which actually sent me into paroxyms of giggles, despite my boiling blood.  The funniest rule was:  All pictures must be at eye level.”

Isn’t that a hoot?!  Anyone with half a brain will question, “Whose eyes?”  The eye level “rule” is as silly as mandating that all humans must be the same height—or that they all must be 130 pounds of brown eyed brunette for women, and 185 pounds with shaved heads for men.  (Obviously children don’t even begin to factor in this “professional decorator’s” dictum.)

Here are some of my happy violations of the eye level rule:

Ooops!  ↑  My great-grandfather, Benjamin Luckey, is nearly touching our ceiling.  What is he doing up there?  Not many eyes in our family can level with him! 

But at least our 6′ 3″ tall grandson, Adam, can read his Irish ancestor’s face.  (Please note the aesthetic cobweb to the right of Benjamin Luckey.  The cobweb may not be “decoratively correct” either—but hey, I LOVE spiders.  No arachnophobia here.)

Another delightfully happy and gorgeous faux pas!  ↑

Now this funky collage ↑ goes to the other creative extreme; it’s almost on the floor.  Never mind.  Our 2 year old great-granddaughter, Lyla and our 19 month old great-grandsons, Cole and Lucas, can enjoy art at their level. 

Plus we have a 3 month old baby, Ella, in our family—and 2 more little boys about to be born.  They’ll be cruising our digs on their knees, and then on their feet, in no time at all.  Why do “interior decorators” have to forget about the little people?

Still one more hilariously stupid “decorating” rule is:  Limit groupings to 3 (or at the most 5) items.  Ha-ha!  Get a load of this!  ↓

Tea anyone?  We can celebrate the only decorating rule worth mentioning, namely:  THERE ARE NO RULES!

*And speaking of tea reminds me that the above diatribe does not apply to many British home decorators or home decor publications.  

America’s history of taxation without representation (and the Boston Tea Party!) notwithstanding, I applaud the English for their concept of home as evidenced in their magazines and books.  Tattered upholstery, chipped and crazed china, hairy dogs on crumpled beds, shelves and hutches crammed with diverse funky collectibles, muddy Wellies strewn around muddy back halls, and many other marks of beauty and ambience abound in British home decor periodicals. 

But don’t despair, all of you fellow Americans who love to collect and display junk and antiques.  We have a counter culture, in defiance of the boring “Everyone Look Alike and Get Rid of Clutter” crowd. 

We have a powerful, well-known advocate—that gracious Manhattan maven beautifully skilled in the arts of collecting and displaying junk, Mary Randolph Carter.   

Mary Randolph Carter has a brand new book, just released in October of 2010: 

Need I say more?  My copy is en route from Barnes & Noble, as I type.  What a treat!

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

P. S. Here is a motivational bit of verse which I wrote for a fellow junker a few years back.  I posted this before, and think it’s worth repeating in view of new readers and the glorious rummage season just ahead!  🙂

To a Fellow Forager
 
For countless days of questing,
tracking county roads and off-beat trails,
seeking “gold” in worn enameled pots,
dented copper bowls and rusted pails . . .
For afternoons of sheer delight
in treasure flaked and faded over time . . .
clouded bottles, china chipped and crazed,
to cherish for a quarter or a dime . . .
For serendipity of junk acquired,
and troves of memories the years unfold,
I lift my coffee mug of battered tin
and toast the ecstasy of all things old!
Margaret Longenecker Been, ©2007

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“For God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”

“For we who are alive are always given over to death for Jesus sake, so that His life may be revealed in our mortal body.”

II Corinthians 4:6-7, 11 (NIV)

I once heard a Christian woman say that she had “Died to Self”.  This was proclaimed as a once-and-for-all-time accomplished feat.  Evidently the woman believed that God’s Holy Spirit had completed His work in conforming her to the image of Christ—way short of taking her home to glory.

My Christian experience, based on the truth of God’s Word, is one of daily dying.  The T-shirt slogan, “God isn’t finished with me yet” is true; the words of the woman quoted above are not

I know that God is not finished with me, and I’m thankful that He never simply tears up the blueprint and quits—the way I occasionally tear up a messy painting which, after much tweeking and tampering, seems utterly hopeless beyond reclamation! 

No, I have not “died to self”, and I won’t until that glorious moment when I am face to face with the Lord Jesus.  Yet, as Paul’s letter to the Corinthians affirms, we believers are constantly dying. 

Dying is a moment by moment thing.  I have not had the strength in myself, to soldier on through the events of past months.  Each day God has allowed me to see my utter weakness, and dependence on Him for every step I take. 

Ralph Waldo Emerson notwithstanding, “Self Reliance” must go and “God Reliance” must take its place.  Through His Word, God does build strong people, but the all-surpassing power is from Him and not from us.

Dying to sin is an ongoing process, from the moment of salvation until our physical bodies die.  We are forever forgiven, yet we are responsible throughout our earthly life for the decisions we make concerning our thoughts, attitudes, words, and actions. 

Every moment we have a choice.  When we immerse ourselves in His Word, God continually nudges us and gets our attention.  When we are prayerfully receptive, we see the reality of our pride and its insidious flip-side—that obnoxious Uriah Heep variety of mock “humility”.  When we fail to heed His Word, God allows us to experience the barrenness of rebellion and “self reliance”!

At a recent medical appointment, my neuro-surgeon made a wise comment.  He said, “We are very fragile creatures.  But sometimes we don’t know it.'”

God has given His Word, and engineered our circumstances so we can know that we are very fragile creatures.  The life of the Lord Jesus Christ springs from our daily dying, and we are spiritually renewed in the process!

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

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Above you will see the front view of a tunic, hot off my knitting needles.  I simply have to have color!  

A few browns, greys, and blacks reside in my closet and dresser drawers.  These are quiet, restful colors— lovely in nature, and elegant on some individuals.  I wear the muted tones on occasion in the fall—but always with an accent (a scarf, shawl, hat, etc.) of red, maroon, gold, bittersweet, rust, aqua blue, teal blue, cobalt blue, lavender, purple, lime green, lemon yellow, or rosy pink in any shade or tint.

By this time of the year brown, grey, and black have lost their appeal for me.  I probably will not wear them again until next autumn.

Color is far more than a simple cosmetic or decorative element.  It reaches deep into one’s soul, and makes a difference in a person’s outlook on life.  Color is a tangible expression of God’s over-the-top creative beauty, excitement, and wonder.  Color is one of God’s most loving and generous gifts.

If you deny that statement then quite possibly you have never visited the Grand Canyon, walked in an autumn woods in New England or the Midwest, thrilled to autumn’s aspen gold in the Colorado Mountains, exclaimed over precious green shoots emerging from a spring thaw, or experienced the euphoria of wandering in a flowering garden. 

One needn’t even exit one’s home, to realize the impact of color:  a window view of a sunrise or sunset is testimony to the Master Artist who paints the skies and all the world, for His glory—and our pleasure! 

Thus we lovers of beauty tend to deck our bodies, in celebration of the gift of color.  With our hands, we fashion colorful items.  Just “useful” is never good enough.  Our creations must please the eyes, as well.

For the past four months which some might have deemed “bleak”, I knitted away hours and days as a visitor in Joe’s hospital room.  I spilled my yarns out over the futon, my “home away from home” couch bed in his room—where I read, sketched, and knitted by day, and slept by night while Joe was a patient there.

Time and again nurses and aides (and even doctors!) who came in Joe’s room, would pause and look at the yarns and the piece of work on my needles.  They invariably smiled at the colors.  Just a few balls of yarn can change the atmosphere of most any setting, including a critically ill patient’s room in a hospital!

Last week, on a overcast grey day, I wore the above tunic to a clinic appointment.  One of the check-in desk secretaries kept staring at me.  Every time I glanced in her direction, I was aware of her gaze.  Finally, the woman broke out in a huge grin.  She said, “You are making me so happy with your colors!”

Below, you will find the backside of the above tunic, and another front view of it—with my funky knitted and crocheted scarf—followed by photos of our bay at our Northern Wisconsin home, in God’s magnificent artistry.  Color!  What a GIFT!

 

Our up north bay in autumn ↑

the bay in winter twilight ↑

and at sunset.  ↑

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

P. S.  Don’t forget the birds!  Since September I have been saving hair which I comb out of my brushes and store in a plastic bag.  I do this every year.  In late April I will scatter the hair on tree branches near our windows, so the birds can use it in their nests.

My friend, Elaine, has a beauty salon in her home.  She lives on a beautiful parklike acre, and saves all her customers’ hair cuttings to place in tree branches.  Needless to say, Elaine’s birds have nests of many colors!  🙂 

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The snow that mounded our neighborhood and covered a little dog’s play yard is all but gone.  Today I inspected our gardens, and discovered that the new garden area*, facing south and southeast, is completely snow free and exudes a bouquet—not only of fresh earth, but of lemon thyme.

My thyme never froze out, and fresh green is spreading everywhere from woody runners.  I rubbed one of the runners a couple of hours ago, and am still rejoicing in the aroma of thyme on my hands.

*For the story of how I acquired yet another garden plot around our condo, you can check out http://northernview.wordpress.com/  .  I smile every time I think of it.  The story might make you smile!  🙂

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

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Hunkering on the mantel of our electric fireplace, beneath my Dad’s collection of arrowheads found around Aztalan, Wisconsin in the 1930s, you will see an assortment of clocks.  Every one registers a different time, and every one is correct two times a day.

In our fast pace culture, people are said to “live by the clock” (although today I think many live by their cell phones).  But Joe and I are not fast lane people.  Even during those decades when we had to frequently glance at a clock (an accurate one!), we were slow lane people.

For me, the clock that matters is not that attractive little timepiece on my wrist or bedside table.  The clock that matters is God’s clock—His sun which He moves faithfully across the sky century after century, eon after eon, to delineate the seasons.

Science has shown how migrating birds respond to the increase and decrease of daylight around God’s seasonal clock.*  Spring migrations move as the days grow longer.  A migration may be halted temporarily by wintery weather, but the impetus to move is solar generated. 

The birds do not dream of balmy breezes and lilac blooms; rather, they instinctively know when to move north and stake their mating territories in sync with accelerated daylight.  Thus, spring theoretically begins for migrating birds when the sun says “GO”.  This is in February around the Gulf of Mexico, Central America, or South America where our summer birds spend their winters. 

I’m like the birds, in some ways.  By mid January, more sunlight poured into our windows.  Now, by mid February, I sit outdoors in a sheltered sunny spot.  The sun grows higher and stronger every day, and in my heart it’s spring. 

Much as I totally love those intoxicating balmy breezes and lilac blooms which come in May, I don’t need them to experience the turn of a season.  Despite the probability of more snow storms, our February sunlight—rising ever higher as it moves north—is SPRING!  I can always bundle my body against the cold, yet feel that searing warmth and strength of God’s sun on my face. 

The entire progression of spring, beginning with increased daylight following the winter solstice, is exciting. Now we are having a thaw.  More snow may come, and we can savor its fleeting beauty because we know that the sun will continue to move northward according to God’s law! 

Soon we will hear the mourning dove’s “Whoo-whooo-whoo”, and the “cardinal’s “Cheer-cheer-cheer”, followed by the “Oka-reeeee!” of that evangelist, the redwing blackbird as he proclaims, “I am FREEEEE!”

Maple syrup days will come.  Thawing days and freezing nights raise the sap in us as well as in a sugarbush!  Then we’ll have a period, perhaps weeks, of cold rain—dreary to some, but tremendously exciting to me as the rain releases that fresh green fragrance from the earth. 

It’s all about spring!  “Cold and wet” are a huge part of spring in our land, and it’s wonderful!  Balmy breezes and lilacs are a long way off, but never mind.  I don’t need them at the moment, because I have the ever lengthening daylight.  God’s clock never fails.  God’s clock says “SPRING!”

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

*A fantastic resource of scientic info on bird migrations is found in THE SNOW GEESE, A Story of Home, by William Fiennes.  I read this recently published book (2002) two or three times every year.  The author weaves his touching personal story into a wealth of well-researched material on migrating birds.

NOTE:  Now you see him, now you don’t.  In the event that you visited this page recently and found Humphrey Bogart, and now are wondering where in the world he went, Humphrey has been moved to http://richesinglory.wordpress.com/  . 

I decided “Riches” was a more appropriate place for that entry.  🙂  MLB

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Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perserveres.  

And now these three remain:  faith, hope, and love.  But the greatest of these is love.

I Corinthians 13:4-7, 13

Happy Valentine’s Day

from Margaret

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