Archive for March, 2011


Last night I had a dream which nearly woke me up crying.  I dreamed that our entire nation was spanned in all directions by high speed railways with overpasses—and that all the old fashioned tracks with freight trains, crossing barricades, flashing lights, and shrieking whistles had been done away with:  forever banished from the American scene. 

I never have been a nightmare person (praise God for that!) but last night’s dream was scary!  Trains have always been a great joy to me.  I love to see trains, and will purposely sit by a trackside window at a favorite restaurant so that I can count the freight cars as they rumble by.  As a child, I was as much at home on a train as anywhere else on earth.  I loved the shake, rattle, and roll.  I loved walking from car to car in that airy interim space where you lurched and lunged in transit. 

Now we live about 280 yards from the busiest railroad in our part of Wisconsin.  On most days the whistles (normally in sets of four at the crossing 2 miles away) come right through our walls, into our rooms.  When I’m outdoors I’m all there, and the train sounds shake my soul. 

The Amtrak speeds by several times per week, carrying my imagination to points west.  Freight trains lumber through many times day and night, evoking an image of America for me.  Trains are a part of our nation’s heritage, and a part of me.  Trains are thrilling!

When I woke up from my “nightmare”, I asked my knowledgeable Joe if that dream could ever really happen.  He assured me that the high speed trains would be on different tracks, and there would always be freight trains chugging along to make my day.

In keeping with the topic of this ramble, and National Poetry Month which begins tomorrow, here is my rambling/rumbling/racketing/rolling ode to trains:


Day and night they rumble through . . .

often hourly, sometimes less.

When a morning passes bereft of rumbling,

I worry that progress may have removed them;

but then they resume their racketing, lurching,

rumbling through–roaring four times

at the east crossing or when westbound

roaring first, then rumbling through. 

Day and night they rumble through . . .

and when they do I close my eyes–comforted

to know some things are still unchanged.

Day and night they rumble through.

Margaret Longenecker Been ©2011

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I have loved this author ever since I can remember.  As a child, I loved (and still do!) Robert Louis Stevenson’s A CHILD’S GARDEN OF VERSES.  Who wasn’t raised on TREASURE ISLAND, KIDNAPPED, AND THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE?  I certainly hope most of us were!

According to Wikipedia, Stevenson ranks in the 30 most extensively translated authors in the entire world—just below Charles Dickens.  Stevenson’s adventure stories and robust poetry are full of life.  One would never guess from reading this author that he was extremely “sickly” as a child and adult.  He was frequently bedridden with severe respiratory ailments (common in the industrial areas of England and Stevenson’s native Scotland). 

Stevenson’s last years were spent on a Samoan island, where he was loved by the natives for his sociable personality and gift of storytelling.  He died there, in 1894.  The inscription on his tomb bears Stevenson’s lines: 

“Home is the sailor, home from the sea,

And the hunter home from the hill.”

Of all of Stevenson’s works, I love his poem The Vagabond best.  The exuberance of this poem expresses the author’s outgoing, life-affirming spirit.  Paired with a Schubert melody by Vaughan Williams in the early 1900s, The Vagabond is a popular art solo selection at vocal recitals.  Many a time over the years, I attended regional and state music competitions where I enjoyed hearing The Vagabond sung by young high school men.  It’s a classic!  

 The Vagabond
Give to me the life I love,
Let the lave go by me,
Give the jolly heaven above
And the road below me.  
Bed in the bush with stars to see,
Bread I dip in the river —
There’s the life for a man like me,
There’s the life for ever.  
Let the blow fall soon or late,
Let what will be o’er me;
Give the face of earth around
And the road before me.  
Wealth I seek not, hope nor love,
Nor a friend to know me;
All I seek, the heaven above
And the road below me.  
Or let autumn fall on me
Where afield I linger,
Silencing the bird on tree,
Biting the blue finger;  
White as meal the frosty field —
Warm the fireside haven —
Not to autumn will I yield,
Not to winter even!  
Let the blow fall soon or late,
Let what will be o’er me;
Give the face of earth around,
And the road before me.  
Wealth I ask not, hope, nor love,
Nor a friend to know me.
All I ask, the heaven above
And the road below me.  
Robert Louis Stevenson, 1850-1894 

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It’s one of those Greek-owned restaurants with large platters of good food at a reasonable price.  We had not been back there since October 23, 2010 when Joe stepped in front of our empty van which he thought he’d left in “Park”—and the van moved forward pinning Joe to the ground, advancing over his left leg and shoulder, and changing our lives. 

When the subject of going back to the restaurant came up a few weeks ago, Joe shook his head.  Never again.  But yesterday Joe and I shared a desire to return to the SUNSET FAMILY RESTAURANT, for the breakfast we’d never had 5 months and 3 days ago. 

This time we parked in the handicap zone, as Joe has a temporary sticker.  He walks slowly, with a cane.  We crossed the area where he’d left the car to open the restaurant door for me—as in October I was recovering from spinal fusion surgery and I was weak as a baby rabbit.  I noted the exact spot where the ambulance driver had held me in his large, comforting arms. 

Inside, the owner’s wife—who tends the cash register—gasped and broke out in tears when she saw Joe.  She gave him a huge hug and said, “I never heard anything after that day and thought it must have been bad news.”  (Someone had intended to go back to the restaurant after the accident, and report Joe’s progress.  But with all the challenges of these past months, that never happened.)

After we were seated, the owner came to our table and expressed his relief and joy to see us again.  The waitress cried when she came to take our order.  “I couldn’t focus on my job that day,” she said.  “I just kept praying and praying.”

It wasn’t long before Joe and I were crying tears of gratitude and appreciation.  I was overwhelmed, just as I was that day last October, over the amazing kindness of people!  There are plenty of tender hearts out there.

The rest of the day was special for both of us.  We’d experienced the sweetness of closure!

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

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April is National Poetry Month.  I’m kicking off an early celebration here at Northern Reflections.  I may feature some of my own poetry as April progresses—but most of all, I want to share lines from some of my most beloved great poets.  Let’s begin!

He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,

Enwrought with gold and silver light,

The blue and the dim and the dark cloths

Of night and light and the half light,

I would spread the cloths under your feet;

But I, being poor, have only my dreams;

I have spread my dreams under your feet;

Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

William Butler Yeats—1865-1939

(William Butler Yeats was born in Dublin, and grew up in County Sligo.  His family was Protestant Ascendency, but Yeats’ sympathies and energies were focused on freedom for Ireland.  While his contemporaries fought the bloody battles of those early 20th century years, Yeats was a major player in the Irish literary revival.  He did much to unearth and preserve Irish legendry and lore–most of which had been buried in centuries of British oppression. 

A few summers ago I had the unforgettable experience of hearing an Irish actor, Batt Burns, recite the above poem at Milwaukee’s Irish Fest.  I believe there is no accent on earth more arresting than the Celtic voice—be it Irish, Scottish, or Welsh.) 

Margaret L. Been

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Words can’t say enough.  Only a photo will do.  These treasures (yes, those are real infants, not dolls) are 10 of our 15 great-grandchildren.  They are the grandchildren of our daughter, Debbie. 

They are, from left to right:  James holding Deacon, Lyla, Olivia holding Carter, Brynn, Ethan holding Ella, Cole, and Lucas.  The cousins live within minutes of each other—and from Joe and me, and their grandparents.  The young ones keep life shiny and bright for all of us!

One friend, when viewing a group photo of our family, said, “That’s not a family.  That’s a tribe!”  I thank God for our “tribe”—45 family members at last count. 

Margaret L. Been

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 “To be as ‘mad as a March hare’ is an English idiomatic phrase derived from the observed antics, said to occur (some say incorrectly) only in the March breeding season of the hare.  The phrase is an allusion that can be used to refer to any other animal or human who behaves in the excitable and unpredictable manner of a March hare.

“A long-held view is that the hare will behave strangely and excitedly throughout its breeding season, which in Europe is the month of March (but which in fact extends over several months beyond March).  This odd behaviour includes:  boxing at other hares, jumping vertically for seemingly no reason, and generally displaying abnormal behaviour.

“Although the phrase in general has been in continuous use since the 16th century, it was popularised in more recent times by Lewis Carroll in his book ALICE’S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND which has the March Hare as one of its main characters.”  Wikipedia

Old sayings hang on forever because they are so appropriate!  Never before have I felt more like a March hare than today!  I’m not boxing at other hares and jumping vertically for seemingly no reason.  But if I could safely jump vertically, I would.

The vernal equinox, longer days, demise of mountains of snow, and recent full moon have joined forces in making this blogger feel as though she has been shot out of a cannon.  I must move cautiously or I just might display abnormal behaviour (I love the English spelling).  It would be too easy to do something I’d sorely regret, like cut my hair!

So I’ll walk circumspectly, stay away from the scissors, and stroll in the rain with Dylan.  He’s been acting a bit silly—gazing through the patio door and rumbling, when apparently there is nothing out there to rumble at.  Maybe we can find a March hare for him to box.  🙂 

Margaret L. Been ©2011

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Family members have been telling me that wonderful family photos are continuously posted on FACEBOOK.  Since many of our family members do FACEBOOK, I decided it might be fun to join and see the photos!  So I went through the steps, and joined.

My first glimpse of FACEBOOK provided a list of several people whom I know.  They were evidently asking to be my “friend”.  I thought, this is silly.  These people are my friends.  Don’t they know it?  Then I realized that the global campfire called FACEBOOK is a means to be “friends” online—not only to share photos, but to sit around and CHAT!  How odd, I thought.  All of these friends (except for Richard in Texas) live close enough to drop in for a real chat with a pot of tea thrown in. 

I pondered this cyber frenzy, and backed off.  With maintaining five blogs, gathering information, and SHOPPING, I spend enough time at my computer.  I even read emails sometimes.  One more online connection, one as massive as FACEBOOK, might just push me over the edge of balanced living into lunacy!

I was innocently dusting my computer corner, when I was seized with a tremendous urge which I likened to  the “Blood Wrath” reminiscent of the badger warriors in Brian Jacques’ REDWALL series.  We readers always connect things in life with things in books—or the other way around.  In the REDWALL books, “badger” denotes that fierce animal badger—not the people of Wisconsin.  Our nickname of “Badger” comes from our pioneer history when Cornish miners settled in Southwestern Wisconsin, and dug makeshift homes into the then lead-rich hills—just as the animal badgers do.

Wisconsin folks can be as fierce as animal badgers, and that’s why I compared my “urge to purge” with a Blood Wrath.  Without pausing, I dismantled my cyber system.  Computer, printer, scanner, and about a million cords and connections were stashed neatly into my personal closet—perhaps never again to be unearthed, or so I thought.  The fact that I was coming down with a nasty sinus/bronchial infection helped to fuel my sudden contempt for technology—my Blood Wrath!

Thoughts like, “What about the friends who email?” or “How will I shop?” were calmed by the realization that my Joe would, on occasion, let me use his (large and much fancier) computer system in his office/den.  I would be sparing of the privilege, saving my shopping sprees and email reading for once in awhile when Joe was otherwise occupied.

For several days, I wallowed in my newly acquired office/studio space.  I felt liberated, freed at last from those disgusting computer cords!  More room for art supplies, more room for books!  How wonderful!  Meanwhile, my sinus/bronchitis flare mushroomed to epic proportions where I felt like a Salvador Dali clock, listlessly draped over a tree branch.  Who needs cyberspace, anyway?

Then as a $7.00 per day bazooka antibiotic (avelox) began working, I seriously wondered!  How would I continually feed my hunger for information, without my computer?  How would I frequently access email from friends, not just the FACEBOOK friends but friends all over the country?  How would I satisfy my desire to share my thoughts for others to read? 

How would I SHOP—not just occasionally when Joe’s computer was clear, but whenever I realized that I needed a different size paintbrush or a new shipment of chai tea?

Again, this time in the evening, the Blood Wrath surfaced.  In a twinkling of an eye, I reclaimed my computer, printer, and cords.  Forget the scanner for now.  I cleared off my studio corner, and returned the computer and printer to their spots.  You can see the camouflaged computer in the above photo.

When it came to putting the right cords into the right ports, I thought oh my—what will I do now?  My mind doesn’t work along electrical lines, and I am somewhat mechanically dyslexic.  To my brilliant techi friends Patti and Kathleen:  if you are reading this, please don’t guffaw too much! 

I realized that to complete my hookup, I’d have to call upon Joe who was in his den watching March Madness on the basketball court—and he definitely might be tempted to guffaw.  Joe graciously, patiently put everything in its correct slot.  Did I glimpse a faint smirk on his lips, a trace of a smile that said, “I knew this would happen”?  Yes, I think I did!

Now the ugly computer cords are mostly hidden behind a decorative metal tray, and I am clicking away again:  blogging, gathering information, reading emails, and shopping.  These activities involve reasonable limits of time.  But I’m avoiding FACEBOOK—that great, global campfire.  I love friends, but . . . !

Meanwhile, I’m hearing that FACEBOOK is not only about sitting around, holding cyber hands and singing Kum Ba Ya.  “Wars and rumors of wars”, are waging between “friends” around the campfire!  Blood wrath is mounting over an issue far greater than my frustration over computer cords–the issue of our Badger governer, Scott Walket’s budget.  Were I to take my place around the FACEBOOK campfire, I know I’d get pretty lively in staunch favor of our governor and his totally necessary budget. 

But no cyber campfire for me!   I enjoy my blogs and at this time they are all I have the energy for, along with that most urgent business—PRAYER!  (And how we need that!)  The blogs are my mini campfire where I contend with the world, as well as celebrate life.  My Blood Wrath will continue to flair in print, over the many concerns of the day.*  

And I’ll continue to do battle in prayer!  It’s too late in history for just sitting around and singing Kum Ba Ya.

*Issues are most apt to be aired on my other blogs, especially:  http://hiswordistrue.wordpress.com/ and sometimes on http://gracewithsalt.wordpress.com/  or http://richesinglory.wordpress.com/  .  But sometimes a current concern will find its way to this page!

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

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