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Archive for July, 2011

. . . waking in the morning to the sound of much-needed rain,

sharing a breakfast at our local “good old boy” restaurant,

stopping at the library and leaving with 2 heavy sacks of books,

celebrating the progression of summertime in our gardens,

sitting in “our row” in church with 10 great grandchildren—ages 6 and under,

gently stepping back in time at the antique barn up the road,

eating ice cream on the patio, 

sleeping, waking, breathing in and out!

Sweet savor offerings of praise are going up each day!  For five weeks Joe and I have been at home.  This is a record.  Since September, 2010 when I had spinal fusion surgery right up until mid-June, 2011 when Joe had a heart emergency we have not been out of a hospital for more than a month.  The one-month break happened only once.  For the rest of that period we averaged a hospital stay every two to three weeks—with each stay lasting from 2 to 10 days.

I’m not clueless enough to believe this blessed hiatus will last forever.  We live one day at a time, and when a crisis comes we find peace and joy in the midst of whatever God allows in our lives.  But at this moment we are enjoying peace and joy at home, doing “normal” things!  🙂

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

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An item in today’s paper highlighted a situation I’ve known about for years:  the United States Postal Service is in dire straits.  According to the article I read, within the next 15 years postal delivery will probably be reduced to 3 days per week out of financial necessity.  The decline of my faithful old “friend”, the U. S. mail, nearly breaks my heart.

Yes, email is convenient.  I love to hear from friends.  Reading my friends on a screen does convey their presence, and I sometimes print out the letters.  Prayer requests can be zapped in a little more than a twinkling of an eye, plans can be made, and timely info can be relayed via email.  Obviously for business purposes the technology of email has become nearly indispensable, because it is cost-free and efficient.

But where is the ambience in email?  Where is the visual satisfaction of notes written on pretty stationery (decades of which I have stored in memory boxes)?  Where is that rambling, stream-of-consciousness sharing which comes so naturally when one sits down with a pot of tea, a gracious tea-cup, and a few moments to devote full attention to the age-old art of real correspondence? 

How can we send a tea bag, a bookmark, or tufts of yarn from a knitting basket via email?  Email letters can include photos, music, and fancy “wallpaper” for “stationery”—but so far we are unable to insert a sprig of lavender cyberwise, or perfume the email.  (Maybe Windows Live Mail or Outlook Express will come up with perfume next!  I’d be thrilled if that would happen!)

And where is that leisurely break in the day, when one pauses to chat with the delivery person at the mailbox—or the worker behind the counter at the local Post Office?  The face-to-face exchange of smiles and pleasantries is a slow-lane treasure in this era of fast-paced communication!

My friends include many (like me) who dearly appreciate their computers, and three “holdouts”—women who dislike computers.  These friends will never go near an email unless some major miracle changes their point of view.  Yet these women correspond regularly via snail mail, sometimes in note form and occasionally in wonderful pages of reading which require extra postage.

Bottom line?  Please keep sending those emails, as I LOVE to hear from you.  But please don’t be offended if I choose to answer via snail mail.  My letters will not redeem the precious, declining U. S. Postal Service.  But every little bit helps!  🙂  Writing a real letter is a ceremony which I thoroughly treasure!  And you, my friends, will always be worth far more than the ever-escalating cost of postage!

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

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One of the many perks here at our pleasant Nashotah home is the fact that in our very same building there is a man who has a northern home just a short distance from where we lived up north, near Phillips. Wisconsin.  Earl gets up north frequently, something we’d hoped to do but so far haven’t managed. 

But never mind!  A recent chat with Earl, apprised me on happenings in our beloved northwoods.  I relished this conversation with our neighbor—good conversation about cougars, black bears, and wolves, oh yes!  It was a deja vue for me, having lived in the north full time for 8 years where tales about the wild things abound.  At nearly every gathering someone has a story to tell, and the talk is never dull! 

I’m keeping track of people who have seen a cougar (mountain lion) in Northern Wisconsin, and now—happily—I can add neighbor Earl to my list.  He has seen a cougar, just west of Phillips.  A few years ago our northern neighbor, Kathy, saw a cougar on County Highway “H”—our road into town.  Other eye-witnesses have surfaced in recent years.  It’s a hoot that for years the Wisconsin DNR denied the existence of this large cat in our state.  A standard answer to the sighting claims was:  “It must have been someone’s escaped pet.”  Or:  “It must have been a bobcat or lynx.”

The bobcat or lynx reply is especially silly.  Both the bobcat and lynx have tufty ears, and a cougar does not.  Both are smaller than the cougar.  The bobcat has a skimpy tail just a few inches long, while a cougar’s tail is spectacular—measuring from 23 to 33 inches!  Bobcats and lynxes are common around Wisconsin, especially in the north.  It would be hard for anyone who lives there to mistake them for a cougar!

Finally the Wisconsin DNR has admitted to the existence of cougars.  DNR researchers have tested blood samples, tracks, etc., and now they are saying:  “Yes, we have cougars.”  Although I certainly don’t want cougars around my great-grandchildren or dog, I do love knowing they are up there in the deep woods! 

When we lived up north, we had a motion-sensitive camera strapped to a tree outside our bedroom window.  We put a sled filled with deer corn near the camera at night and got photos of visitors while we slept—like the above ↑ shot of one our most commonly-sighted wild mammals, north and south!

One night our camera produced the below ↓ photo.  What is it?  We assume it is a fox, but it’s fun to wonder.  If it’s a fox, it’s not a very hairy one!  The tail looks foxy.  But I like to think it looks a bit cougarish, as well!

The next picture ↓ captured by our night camera highlights one of my favorite critters.  In our family, I think I’m the only foolish one who likes black bears.  Yes, they are distructive and they can be dangerous.  It’s essential to leave your cookies and sandwiches inside when you go walking up there.  And try to avoid Mom and her babies!  But aside from confrontations over food and babies, I’m with Teddy Roosevelt.  I think the bears are cute!  I probably will always think bears are cute!  Otherwise why would I have a home full of benign, make-believe bears (which neither eat nor have babies)?!

Unfortunately, I don’t have a photo of our big canine neighbors up north.  We did see wolves several times, twice on our frozen lake.  My heart nearly stops when I see a wolf.  I certainly don’t want to be mystical about wolves, but they are so beautiful!  My husband can do without them, but I enjoy knowing they are out there—far away from my little children and dog of course!

According to Earl, both the bears and wolves are getting more and more pesky.  Anyway, they make good conversation.  We’re never totally removed from wild nature, even down here in Southern Wisconsin.  Our northern home is only 5 hours away.  Meanwhile our neighbor, Earl, has brought the north right back to our doorstep!   🙂

Margaret L. Been, ©2011 

Note:  I couldn’t resist including the following “rendering” which I did of “Brother Wolf”.  The wild ones are ever close, via my imagination!

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I’m not knocking it, Facebook that is.  Of course I like faces, and I’m very fond of friends.  But I’ve just de-activated my account on that great worldwide “hold hands around the campfire” site, because I am totally convinced that Facebook is not for me.

I joined Facebook a few weeks ago, inspired by our son Eric who said:  “Mom, you should do Facebook just to see the precious pictures of your great-grandchildren.  I love photos, and my great-grandchildren are indeed precious as well as highly photogenic—as you can see from the 4 faces (4 of 15!) pictured above. 

So I did.  I signed on—creating yet one more password based on the cuteness of Pembroke Welsh corgis.  What a shock I received when I “arrived” on Facebook and discovered a raft of individuals evidently just floating around, waiting to be my “friend”!  I knew most of these folks, and I’d really thought they already were my friends.  But then there were some I didn’t recognize.  I guess they were friends of my friends.

Over the ensuing weeks, I kept getting emails saying “So and so wants to be your friend.”  Not wishing to be offensive, I accepted these people—again, most of whom already were my friends plus some relatives who are also friends.  Trying to get in the proverbial swim, I even asked some people if they would be my friend! 

A corker was one email I received, containing a long list of unknowns who wanted to be my friend because—like me—they’d attended Colorado U. at Boulder.  I wonder if they had any idea I’d “been there, done that” way back in 1951-1952!

Then I got an email asking me if I would receive a hug from a young friend.  Now this person is very special to me, and if I were to run into her at the supermarket or anywhere else, I’d certainly give her a huge hug.  But a cyber hug?  I didn’t know how to do that.  Anyway, again being my pleasant (most of the time) self, I agreed to the hug.  I had to access Facebook to do this, and behold—I was confronted with a string of names and the caption, “Would you like to give these people hugs?”  Is that silly, or what?

One day I decided to use the Facebook facility for one purpose which is tremendously useful:  that of locating a long lost friend with whom one has completely lost touch.  I entered the name of a friend from the late 1940s and early ’50s.  This young man had been born in the USA so he was an American citizen.  But he was raised in Switzerland by his Swiss parents, and then returned to the USA during his high school years.  He had a distinctly German Swiss name.  All Joe and I knew, after last seeing him, was that he’d joined the air force during the Korean war and finally settled somewhere over the rainbow in California.

I entered the man’s first name (Hans) along with his last name (___________________) and up came a page of men with that name.  One of them was about the age that our friend Hans would be.  The Facebook Hans was pictured with his smiling wife.  Indeed it was a Germanic type face, but much different from that of the Hans I remembered.  Our Hans was tall and angular with deep set, brooding eyes.  The Facebook Hans had a full, jolly face.  He looked more like a knackwurst and beer-garden Hans.

How much can people change in 60 years?  A lot, I thought.  Maybe the smiling wife had something to do with Hans turning plump and jolly.  So I clicked the box asking Hans if he would be a friend of Margaret Been.  Somehow, I then meandered to a page where this Hans’s activities and other friends were listed.  That page was all in German, and so were all of Hans’s jolly friends. 

Ooops!  Our Hans would have been all in English.  As a young adult he’d refused to return to Switzerland to claim Swiss citizenship.  He’d chosen to be an American!  I have to grin when I think of the Teutonic Facebook Hans wondering who in the world is this American woman who wants to be his friend!  As far as I know, I never did strike up a relationship with him!

Finally, there was a place at the bottom of the page where one could click on info about more people with the name “Hans ____________________.”  I clicked, and alas.  Our Hans came up on the top of a GOOGLE page—or rather his obituary came up. 

The obit ran true down to every detail we’d known of him until we’d lost touch, and the remaining information fit.  Hans died in 2007, of a rare cancer.  The rest of my day was poignant.  I mourned the loss of a person I hadn’t seen in decades.  Circuitously Facebook had made the connection. 

After all of that, and a few more forays to see those darling great-grandchildren’s photos, it dawned on me that I simply don’t have time for Facebook—as efficacious as it may be for many people.  I see the great-grandchildren in person!  I have photos of them, given to me by their parents!  I take snapshots myself! 

Blogging and shopping comprise all the time I want to spend staring at a monitor!  So, late last night, I de-activated my account.  The screen indicated that many hearts would be broken because I was leaving.  “Your friends will miss you,”  Facebook said.  As if that were not enough to germinate a guilt trip for turning my back on all these friends, I then had to give an excuse for leaving. 

All my life I’ve taught children never to make excuses.  “Just say yes or no”, I’ve said to the little people in my life.  But that wasn’t enough for Facebook.  Facebook was so smitten with me that I had to give a reason before it would let me go!

Whew!  Now if any of you Facebook buddies happen to be reading this, PLEASE know that you are still my friend.  Email me.  Snailmail me.  Call on the phone, or just drop in!  I’ll give you a hug!  You know where I live—as well as where I went to college, etc.  Please stay in touch! 

But if you look for me on Facebook, you won’t find me—or my face.  I’m outta there!  🙂

Margaret L. Been ©2011

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Our east-facing patio which opens directly off our living room is one of the greatest joys that Joe and I have ever experienced in a home.  We are sequestered in a courtyard, sheltered on three sides, and our neighborhood has been mosquito proofed.  Last summer I think I saw three mosquitoes—and so far this year, none.  The daytime and early evening quiet is punctuated by the sounds of trains and happy voices from the nearby park.  In the night we hear trains and wind, all of which we love.* 

The above-pictured fountain is a new feature on our patio.  The water runs constantly, powered by a small pump which is hidden beneath the top pile of surrogate rocks—actually fiber glass.  Knowing that Joe and I currently live in challenged bodies, people have asked me how we set up the fountain.  For me, it was the proverbial piece of cake.  I transported the box of parts from van to patio on my 4-wheeler walker, and assembled the whole bit as instructed by the clerk at the store.  An outdoor electrical outlet is conveniently situated in the brick facing, behind the bench next to the little girl and her ducks.  Voila!  Cascading water!

So enamored am I with this fountain that I get up at least once each night and slide the patio door open, so I can listen and make sure the water is still falling down those fiber glass rocks.

Along with watching and listening to the waterfall, what else do we do on our patio?  All the things that make one’s summer sing.  We drink iced tea, slurp rapidly-melting ice cream sundaes, gaze at our patio garden, read, snooze, watch the clouds, visit with family members and friends, and snooze some more.  Sometimes I bring a spinning wheel outdoors, and spin a yarn. 

And I knit.  A die-hard knitter never breaks due to weather, regardless of 90 degree heat.  Winters are long and often severe, and we knitters realize that warm garments constitute the bulk of our wardrobes.  What better time than summer, for “knitting up” the next winter?  I’m knitting hats—one for each of our great-grandchildren who presently number fifteen.  The hats will be Christmas gifts.  (Maybe the children are wondering why this Great Grammy is always staring at their heads!)  

Below you can see my progress thus far—thirteen completed hats, number fourteen on the needles, and number fifteen about to begin.  The boys’ hats have a plain ribbed edge, while the girls’ hats are embellished with a crocheted ruffle on the ribbing.  Hats are easy and constitute a wonderful summer agenda, in addition to watching the waterfall and all those other summer patio delights!  🙂

 

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

*We’ve added coyotes to our list of thrilling local sounds.  Last week, deep in the night, I heard a pack of yelping youngsters—just like we frequently heard in our northern home.  Coyotes abound in our county, and the wildlife sanctuary on the far side of our park affords good habitat.  Our Dylan slept through the night chorus.  When it’s his sleepy time, he couldn’t care less what his wild cousins are doing.

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(Karen’s Garden in Waukesha Wisconsin — photo by Karen and Lee Veldboom) ↑ 

Poems, by Margaret L. Been 

(Karen’s Rose Arbor — photo by Karen and Lee Veldboom)

Feel the ecstacy of cloud, and rose’s beauty pain! 

Inhale the damp of ginger cool, the poignancy of rain.    

_______________________________________________________________________________

  

(Our Northern Retreat — photo by Margaret L. Been) ↑

June unravels lush across the land . . .

beauty stakes a summer tent and Love

has seized my hand.

_________________________________________________________________________________

(Margaret’s Condo Garden in Nashotah, Wisconsin — photo by Margaret L. Been) ↑

Last Eon

Last eon old ladies kept gardens—

indolent sweet

lilies of the valley,

Virginia bluebells

ringing up June-wafting peonies,

wicker chaired haunts

for pausing with timeless cups

of tea, mint scented

lemonade and cookie gardens

enticing well-patched fry

from lace-curtained homes kept

by mothers.

Last eon old ladies kept gardens.

____________________________________________________________________________________

(Walden North — photo by Margaret L. Been) ↑

Another Walden

(In honor of Henry David Thoreau, who wrote “I had three chairs in my house:  one for solitude, two for friendship, and three for society.”)

Eaves sagging,

spidered shingles veiling

squirrel-hewn beams.

A one-hinged door

sashays and scrapes

the spintered floor

where field mice scamper

with their seedy stores.

Three chairs are here

for you and me

and company,

and battered cups

for toasting joy

of mislaid schemes

among the shards

of dusty dreams.

_______________________________________________________________________________________

(Our Big Elk River — digitally enhanced photo by Margaret L. Been)  ↑

The Glory that is August . . .

. . . rejoicing in gleaming paint pots

of paisleys, morning glories tripping ankles,

riotous color circles cascading brilliant orange

from coppery berry-stained arms, ruby dollops

dripping from dangling gold, cheekbones

blushing mauve, stormy drapes valancing

languid summer eyes.

Behold her richly tangled gardens

nurtured randomly with whimsical

neglect, where cicadas thrum

and chipmunks scurry—where dynasties

of rabbits glean chamomile and mint

from shards of clay, and crackled

china plates line hidden treasure paths

unearthed by robins, hidden again

in masses of sage secluding

sweet woodruff’s piney green.

Behold her star-embroidered nights

teeming with song of wind and owl

and coyotes calling out the moon,

praising the Author of August beauty—

recalling yesterday, remembering

our long forgotten dreams.

_____________________________________________________________________________________

(Up-North Trail — photo by Margaret L. Been) ↑

While Summer Stays

I have set a bread to rise

and gone with morning in my eyes

to find a place, while summer stays

where goldenrod lights meadow ways . . .

where birchwood’s warm obscurity

retreats from time, and beckons me

to abdicate a few last days

so haunting sweet while summer stays.

I have set a bread to rise

and gone with morning in my eyes.

______________________________________________________________________________________

(Karen and Lee’s Home in Waukesha, Wisconsin — photo by Karen and Lee Veldboom) ↑ 

(Karen’s Quiet Garden — photo by Karen and Lee Veldboom) ↑

I Will Sweep My Rooms

I will sweep my rooms, and tend

my cloistered gardens, brew my tea,

and one who mocked my dreams

will never know the heart of me!

_______________________________________________________________________________________

(Joelly and Nathaniel Mining Wild Raspberries — photo by Margaret L. Been) ↑

Gardens are lovely

when they look as though nature made them . . .

lovelier, when nature did!

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

(The selected poems are reprinted from 3 collections of poetry by Margaret Longenecker Been:  WILDERNESS AND GARDENS—an American Lady’s Prospect, published in 1974 by John Westburg Associates, Fennimore, Wisconsin; MORNING IN MY EYES, published in 1997 by Sheepy Hollow Press, Eagle, Wisconsin; and A TIME UNDER HEAVEN, published in 2005 by Elk River Books, Phillips, Wisconsin.) 

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“The morning wind forever blows, the poem of creation is uninterrupted, but few are the ears that hear it.”  Henry David Thoreau, WALDEN

Nearly two years ago, Joe and I moved back to a community after nearly 30 years of living in semi-wild places.  I had no misgivings about having people around, although we’d enjoyed solitude and space for so long.  People do not intimidate us; we remain true to ourselves in the midst of any crowd as well as alone in the woods.  Both of us have a blessed capacity for inner solitude which is the only kind that matters!

My concern in moving from a woodsy home to a suburban community centered on the fact that we’d completely relished our natural surroundings.  We had never tired of wild creatures for neighbors.  We had thrived on fellowship with sun, rain, and wind! 

In retrospect, I need never to have questioned the wisdom of our new environment.  We have deer tracks in the park outside our door, great blue heron and sandhill cranes flying over all summer, songbirds galore, muskrats in the nearby lake, and WIND!

Wind is something like your pet cat:  it is never completely domesticated.  Murmurs and innuendoes of wildness accompany wind wherever it goes.  The big windows in our condo home face a narrow lane, a wind tunnel open to the west wind as it whoops east.  The channel of the lane crescendoes the wind into moans, whistles, rumbles, rattles, and screams—the likes of which we have, in the past, heard only on select occasions.  Here the wind howls outside our walls most every day, in all seasons.  We’ve come to realize that there are very few windless days in Wisconsin!

I love listening to the wind while falling asleep at night.  I close my eyes and recall other occasions when wind was foremost in my mind:  changing a tire on a desolate road in high blown Kansas summer heat; venturing out on Lake Superior among the Apostle Islands, on an X-16 foot sailboat with two of our children and a dog—not realizing until our craft sailed out beyond a prominent point that wind is king on that great lake; watching from a hospital window during a horrendous blizzard, as the hospital flag whipped and swayed in the violent gale.

Along with reliving the winds I’ve experienced, I think vicariously of wind on the Yorkshire Moors–setting the atmosphere for Emily Bronte’s WUTHERING HEIGHTS.  And Scarlett, Rhett, and the Old South—in Margaret Mitchell’s GONE WITH THE WIND. 

Wind–one of the most destructive, enigmatic, and unpredictable forces on earth.  The voice of God.  The “poem of creation”!  I’ll never feel too civilized, trapped, or removed from raw nature in a home that is dominated by the whooping west wind!

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

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