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Archive for June, 2011

NOTE:  I’ve finally updated my “Paintings and Poems” page on this site.

Nearly every week I read over the back pages of my blogs, where the stats are listed.  On these pages I learn which entries were most frequently read, the search terms used to arrive at my blogs, the number of viewers each day and week, etc.  The stats have been encouraging, and Northern Reflections is far ahead of my other blogs in numbers of readers. 

Consistently, the most widely read entries on Northern Reflections are those which focus on home—especially the creative home arts:  decorating, entertaining, gardens, hobbies and crafts, collecting, junking, antiquing, etc.  I find the popularity of the home arts to be heartwarming, since my heart is and always has been at home!  Evidently many others share my enthusiasm for creating a lovely, nurturing environment for those we love.

A passion for beauty and the hunger to create with one’s hands are universal traits, found in people around the world.  Gardens are universal—from Japan to England and most places in between—not just for food production but for flowers and ornamental trees and shrubs.  Crafting is universal, not only for making useful things but for creating objects of beauty as well—les objets d’art.  A case in point is the fact of stunning decoration found on common untensils made in primitive cultures.

A love for color and design is universal.  God delivered a magnificent WOW when He created Heaven and earth and all that is within.  The drive to replicate color and design in our surroundings (and on our bodies!) is integral to our humanity.  Made in the image of a Creative Maker, we humans are happiest when we can make or do something beautiful—even some little thing like sticking snapdragons and daisies in a jar with water to brighten our day, playing a favorite melody on an instrument, or baking a cake for someone we love.

I’m frequently reminded of the creative drive in myself and in others.  I never go anywhere that involves sitting and waiting without bringing my knitting.  Joe and I have many clinic appointments each week, and the knitting bag goes along.  Constantly, I meet men, women, and children who are drawn to my side by the siren’s call of clicking knitting needles.  I hear wistful, nostalgic overtones in the conversations which ensue.  People say, “My grandmother did that; I wish I could learn!”

I always answer, “But you can learn!”  Then I mention yarn shops that I know of, little havens of relaxation and instruction, plus helpful websites where one can learn to knit.  I’m currently knitting a winter hat for each of our 15 great-grandchildren, for next Christmas.  I’m now on hat number 13, and I carry a few of the hats in my bag for people to see and feel.  Occasionally a fellow knitter will sit down beside me, and then I can glean from another lover of needles and a good yarn!

There are so many options for creativity, most of which can be explored within the boundaries of kitchen, living room, home studio, basement, garage, or yard.  Once a person gets over the roadblock of worrying about being “good enough” at a hobby or skill, the sky is the limit—very literally for me , as I keep striving to paint the sky!  Of course my renderings are not great art, but they are colorful and satisfying to me.  Unless we are training to be a professional, we should never focus on being “good enough”—but rather on having fun, discovering, and forging a new path in our passion to create. 

I realize that generalities are leaky, but here is one that has proven true again and again:  a person who loves to make things is most often a serene person regardless of circumstances.  Individuals who find joy in creating tend to prevail during the hardest of trials.  The contemplative process of producing a batch of cookies, quilting a table runner, or making most anything affords us thinking time in which our minds are cleared.  Hand work provides an atmosphere for prayer.  We come away from the creative process stronger and more able to deal with the issues in our lives. 

Obviously peace of mind and contentment are gifts from our Lord, freely given when we know Him and prayerfully read His Word.  But God has created us to be earth creatures at this point in time.  He has given us an abundant earth where we can reflect His creative life.  For our good and His glory God has given us a passion for making things.  These are the things that sustain!

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

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For I have known them all already, known them all:

Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,

I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;

from The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, by T. S. Eliot

Like the famous Prufrock, I’m measuring out my life—only not in coffee spoons, but rather in those pink plastic containers every patient gets upon admittance to our hospital.  The “pinkies” hold toilet items:  toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant, soap, lotion, etc.  The hospital disposes of them after each patient, but I always take ours home because they are infinitely useful for holding plants, collecting garden weeds, containing water and Murphy’s Oil Soap® for scrubbing floors, corraling puzzle pieces, etc.

Like Prufrock, I’m measuring out my life—not with T. S.Eliot’s existentialist despair*, but rather with the divine assurance that “all things work together for good, for those who are in Christ Jesus and are called according to His purpose.”  The pink containers which I’ve brought home from hospital stays (both Joe’s and mine) also serve as a scoreboard.  We have accumulated 16 pinkies since October, 2010.

Our latest pink container has settled into my storeroom.  Last Thursday, Joe had a heart attack while sitting in his reclaimer at home.  We were taken to Emergency in a shrieking ambulance, and Joe was admitted to the hospital.  A defibrillator/pacemaker was inserted to prevent future arrythmias.  His arteries are severely clogged, he has had 6 by-passes, and he’s “stented out”; his vessels cannot accept more angioplasties or stents.  Joe also has diabetes and high blood pressure.

I’m measuring life—while treasuring each day and letting the pinkies keep score.  J. Alfred Prufrock was a kind of walking Ecclesiastes, but without a knowledge of the Lord; Prufrock’s life was weary and meaningless.  How thankful I am, to know and believe God’s Word and realize that we are pilgrims on earth—destined for eternal glory with Him!  Because of our Lord, we never cease to hope.  Because of Him, every moment is pregnant with meaning!  Even our most abject sorrow has a purpose!

“So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.”  Psalm 90:12

*Poet T. S. Eliot’s life did not end in the despair expressed in his fictional character, J. Alfred Prufrock.  In 1927, Eliot became a Christian, and left wasteland of existentialism.  Eliot’s last years reflected his newly discovered faith.

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

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On June 20th, Joe and I will be celebrating our 58th wedding anniversary—God willing.  The above picture was taken at our northern home, at our 50th anniversary gathering.  One granddaughter was missing at the occasion because she was on a mission trip to Mexico.  Since that day, 17 more people have joined our family.  An additional 2 will soon join us—one through birth and one via marriage.

Many Junes, many moons.  The years have catapulted inexorably forward since June 20th, 1953.  Now I look back through albums of photos, documents, and poetry across an immense deja vue—more than one lifetime can hold.  And yet I have held it all and preserved it for posterity. 

I have archived past joys and sorrows in Creative Memory® albums, showing how God’s Grace has prevailed.  As the Psalmist says, “The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places.” 

Photos embrace individual moments in a long life, ardently lived and loved.  Pages of documents preserve objective history—recording people, places, and events.  But my poems record the deeper things that cannot be put into words that all the world can understand—simply because there are things which all the world will never bother to understand. 

Poetry is the place where the life underlying photos and documents is pared to the essence and fearlessly addressed—in a few concise words.  Poetry speaks only to those who desire to read between the lines, those souls who—having experienced much—are still vulnerable and willing to experience more.

Meanwhile current joys and sorrows are accumulating, soon to be arranged in new albums.  The joys of family and friends, my garden, and my Pembroke Welsh corgi will be preserved.  Also archived will be the heart attack which Joe had 2 days ago, and his newly inserted defibrillator/pacemaker which we pray will give him renewed life and energy.  

Joe is now recuperating at Aurora Summit Hospital with me by his side.  Meanwhile we’ve received word that, due to serious illness, a beloved granddaughter has been admitted to another hospital just a few miles away. 

Archiving life!  Photos and documents can skim the surface of these latest events.  But there are times when, like prayer, only a poem will do!

Margaret L. Been ©2011

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“The tale that River told was so strange, so mysterious, that all the listening in the world did not explain all that was in it.  Even River, who seemed to be doing just as he liked, was not entirely his own master . . . . something that the sea had said had got into his spirit.”  Faye Inchfawn, WHO GOES TO THE WOOD

Ever since I can remember, I’ve lived near or on water.  I’m passionate about lakes of all sizes, and ponds.  But perhaps I love rivers most of all!  There is something about water, especially moving water!

Much of my growing up was done on a lake in the summer, and in a small town for the rest of the year.  On the edge of our town property, there was a river—actually a quiet stream—where I spent a lot of time exploring its icy path in winter (not the smartest thing to do on a river!) and catching tadpoles in the late spring.

My paternal grandparents lived on a river too—on a high bluff overlooking Wisconsin’s gorgeous Black River.  There were four guest bedrooms upstairs in my grandparents’ home.  When my family visited alone, with no cousins present, I got to choose my bedroom for the duration of our stay.  I always chose the one overlooking the river.

The river pictured above, where you see my husband fishing, is the Big Elk which flows into a bay by our up-north home.  I have spent many drowsy afternoons in a canoe or my pedal boat on the Big Elk—with a book and a thermos of iced tea.  I would bank on a sandbar upriver, where no homes could be seen, and swim off the sand bar.  Sometimes I would take a sandwich and cookies—also not a good idea, on a river where black bears abound on the wooded banks.

Now we live in a condo in an area of farms, quaint villages, and newer subdivisions.  There’s a lot of water in our neighborhood.  Rivers flow into lakes, and between the lakes, forming a network of water and a very special culture—known as “Lake Country”. 

Small communities of old Victorian style homes, Cape Cods with gables, 1920s bungalows, and cozy cabins have lakes and rivers at their doorstep.  Any given lake or river may be banked by circa 1880s mansions, with small summer homes close by.  Good old boys’ bait shops with names like “Mike’s Musky” share a village block with establishments for high end dining.  Horse farms sprawl across the Lake Country—sharing the turf with corn, black Angus, and Herefords.  There are even a few dairy herds left in this moist and fertile bit of Wisconsin. 

In the midst of our condo buildings there is a small pond surrounded by grass, shade trees, some gardens, and benches where people can rest.  With a heart full of lake and river years, I now love sitting beside the pond and watching the water.  Cattails grow along the edges, peepers trill and sing on spring afternoons and evenings, and occasionally I see a pair of mallards in the pond.

In the center of the pond, a fountain gushes up and out—ruffling the water, reminding me of rivers of rushing water.  I sit here and reflect on the goodness of life.  I think of my large and loving family, and my heart stirs like the ruffles in the pond.  Currently Joe and I have 15 great-grandchildren, and another baby is due next autumn.  Rivers of blessing! 

We have yet to meet one of the great-grandchildren—a little boy born last autumn.  He lives in another state, and we hope to meet him soon.  This little fellow has an unusual name:  “River”!

One more River in my life!

Margaret L. Been ©2011

Note:  The big water on the header of this page is the greatest inland lake in the world, a lake which has totally captured my heart and imagination:  Lake Superior.  The boy wading in Lake Superior is far more precious than the lake:  our grandson, Joelly.  🙂

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The laptop, so cleverly hidden under books on the left of my desk, is almost gone.  In fact, this entry is probably the last thing I’ll do on it—with the exception of ordering some paints and 140# watercolor paper from Daniel Smith online.

The above laptop has been my friend since 2004.  It has served me well, but over the last few months it has humbled me.  My old Toshiba has proven that I am not the patient, philosophical, slow-lane person that I like to think I am. 

With its recent habit of taking 20 minutes to boot up, and many minutes to navigate online, my Toshiba has been in distinct danger of being hurled out the window by an irritated me.  Patience is a fruit of the Spirit, which I would like to think does not apply to recalcitrant computers.  But I confess that I’ve metaphorically slipped a disc (computer or spinal—either one will fit) when webbing on this now bothersome and nearly extinct machine.

A few weeks ago, a message popped up on my screen:  “You need to update from WINDOWS XP to WINDOWS 7”.  When I mentioned this to our son Eric, he replied, “You don’t have enough RAM for WINDOWS 7.

(Pardon me for a nostaligic digression.  I still remember when the word “RAM” meant that handsome, studly animal which I rented once a year to cover my ewes—or possibly a football pro from some sunny region far west of Wisconsin.)

Anyway, now I realized that the sluggish computer was due to insufficient RAM!  Because Joe and I have been in a state of medical flux for almost 8 months, I shoved the idea of a remedy for my frustration to the uttermost parts of my mind.  Then one day last week, I heard Joe in his den—talking softly on the telephone. 

Joe has a booming voice, which even people who profess to be deaf can hear.  Most of us can hear him rooms away, and even down the block.  Even when injured or ill, Joe can be heard.  For that reason, whenever he speaks softly over the phone I know something is up!  This has always been the case.  His voice softens before Christmas and my birthday, when talking about gifts with our children—or when placing orders for wonderful surprises like a (round trip) flight to Denver or a Pembroke Welsh corgi puppy. 

So whenever Joe speaks softly my hearing accelerates to maximum capacity and I listen very carefully.  A few days ago, this happened—and I heard a telltale word:  “TOSHIBA”.

This evening, Eric plans to come and set up my new TOSHIBA.  It will be exciting, if I can get the hang of it.  There will be no more MICROSOFT WORKS.  Even WORD (which I’ve never used) is evidently extinct on new models.  Something called OFFICE will be my word processing program.  New technology always makes me tense, until I get comfortable with it.  So please pray that the easy-going, slow-lane person I’d like to be will somehow surface—no matter what!

Eric says I’ll love WINDOWS 7, and my increased RAM.  I’m sure I will.  But I can’t help recalling those less complicated days when a RAM did his thing and we had baby lambs jumping all over the place!  🙂

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

P. S.  Installed and working!  Hurray!  Will I be able to think fast enough to keep up?  The new model does have WORD–different from WORKS, but it will fly with a bit of practice.  🙂

 

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