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Archive for March, 2012

 

Leonardo da Vinci’s THE LAST SUPPER is agreed by many to be the most significant painting in all of Western art.  Not only does it represent artistic genius, it brings to life historical reality and the truth of Scripture.  Obviously THE LAST SUPPER, along with many other master works of the era, can be catagorized as “Christian Art”. 

In an epoch when the masses of people did not read, and had no access to Bibles or writings of any kind, visual art was the major medium through which ideas could be expressed.  Great paintings, timeless sculptures, and magnificent cathedral murals portraying the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus were the means by which the common people could experience and consider for themselves the truths of Scripture.*  God raised up great masters of art in those centuries, for the purpose of communicating truths which are now largely communicated through the Bible and other writings.

A friend who publishes an evangelical periodical once asked me if I could submit some “Christian art” for his magazine.  After scratching my head on that one for some time, I had to tell my friend that I really didn’t have anything which he would consider suitable.  He was looking for a painting with a cross, Jesus kneeling in the Garden, or a weeping woman standing by the empty tomb.  Because so many masters of art have “gone there, done that”, I—an absolute neophyte at painting—would be highly presumptuous to even consider painting such a scene.  And how many people have been turned off by ethereal attempts at portraying Jesus—a “Jesus” who looks more like an English poet, or a Scandinavian Hippie, than the Jewish carpenter whom He was?! 

Visual art differs from vocal music and poetry—or any medium where words are involved.  Word tell, and thus we do have “Christian music” and “Christian poetry”.  I will be publishing some of the latter, which I have written, during April which is National Poetry Month.  But it has been said that “A picture is worth a thousand words”.  So what kind of pictures today, aside from presenting Jesus as an English poet, can be deemed “Christian art”?

As an artist (although I’m a beginner, I can legitimately call myself that because I consistently and committedly make art) I know that my thrust, my overriding desire, and my main goal is to express joy, color, beauty and a quality of life which includes a sense of wonder, enthusiasm, excitement, intrinsic and indestructible meaning, and contentment in the moment at hand—a contentment which prevails for me in the midst of any and all circumstances. 

This, in essence, is the grist of the Judeo-Christian worldview which affirms life and presents a loving God of creation who commands all things.  My goal epitimizes what is meant by the Scripture command, “In all things, glorify God.”  I aim to celebrate life, and in so doing to celebrate the Lord of life!  Without making a cheesy attempt to mimic centuries of artistic genius, that is the best I can offer in the way of “Christian art!”

However, I can add titles to my paintings, and titles are comprised of words.  Here is where I frequently slip in a clue, which I hope may resonate in the mind of viewers.  A case in point, is the following watercolor on Yupo paper titled:  “By the Fiat of His Word“.

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

*Although I am not a Roman Catholic, I’m tremendously moved when I visit the old Spanish mission churches of New Mexico which depict “The Stations of the Cross”.  Visual art does live and breathe, and there may be some truth to the saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words”.

Our Lord fashioned an entire creation full of “natural wonders”—visuals through which we can actually see evidence of His attributes and His glory!

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With apologies to readers who are not knitters, and couldn’t care less, here is another pattern that is fast turning me into a dyed in the wool (or in the above-pictured case, cotton) “knit-wit” because I simply can’t stop knitting.  I knit in the car, I knit in bed at night, and I even knit in restaurants if Joe decides to read USA TODAY.  Since my potato chip scarf is still getting lots of hits, I decided to post more on the wonderful obsession of knitting.

Weeks ago my daughter-in-law, Cheri, made me a shawl like the one featured above—but in a winter weight.  When recovering from major surgery, Cheri knitted amazing items for many family members and other people she knows.  She knits like “a house afire”.  (One of my mother’s famous colloquialisms.)  For all I know, Cheri knitted something for our president—but considering her household’s prevailing political sentiments, I doubt that very much!

Anyway, I loved the shawl so much and wore it a lot—and then, guess what?  Spring/summer arrived way ahead of schedule.  The beautiful wool (my favorite fabric) shawl make me feel like Salvador Dali’s clocks, just dripping and draping all over the place.  So the answer was to get ahold of the pattern and make myself a summer weight shawl.

The above-pictured item represents the end of a decades-long war for me, a war with (and aversion to) the circular needle—which has become so trendy that it’s nearly impossible to find a standard old-fashioned set of straight needles in the upscale shops.   (Don’t panic.  Wal-Mart still has the traditional aluminum straight needles.)

So much did I want to make this shawl (and hope to knit many more!) that I grabbed ahold of a circular needle and began.  The shawl starts with 3 stitches.  Working 3 stitches on a 40″ flippy floppy piece of wire is indeed a “stitch”!  You add 4 stitches every other row in this pattern, so the garment grows.  Once it begins to shape up, you are very glad to have 40 flippy floppy inches of wire on which to work.  And I discovered one reason why the circular needle may be so popular:  it’s much easier on the hands and wrists than the straight needles!

Very much fun!  You can use any size needle and weight of yarn for this pattern.  It would be gorgeous with a fine, thready fingering yarn knitted with a large needle for anyone who might have the patience for such a challenging enterprise!  The garment is finished when it reaches whatever length you desire.  It can be a scarf or an actual body shawl, Civil War era style.  At the bottom, I doubled the amount of stitches by knitting in the front and back of each one—thereby creating the cute ruffle.  But a knitted border in a pattern stitch would be nice as well.  Maybe I’ll try that next.

Margaret L. Been—March, 2012

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How can an entity powerful enough to stop the advance of the world’s greatest armies go by the generic name of “It”?  You would think that something which ruins picnics and causes June brides to either smile or cry could be referred to by a more prestigious title!  Oh, it has a name—but that name is rarely spoken except on a television channel dedicated to the vagrancies of the subject we are discussing.

“It” may be the most common conversation starter (and finisher!) world wide—except possibly in places like Hawaii where “It” is reported to be the same day in and day out around the year.  Certainly in Wisconsin, “It” has top billing—ranking right up there with the stomach flu in winter, and the topic of “Who is throwing up this week?”

Once in awhile I hear “It” called by a gender pronoun, which is invariably “She”.  Now that just isn’t fair.  I don’t mind when ships are called “She” because there is a stately beauty and aura of romance to ships—especially the ocean bound sailing galleons of antiquity.  But “She” applied to something so outrageously unpredictable and capricious as “It”, is—in my opinion—just downright insulting!

“It” is especially predominate in telephone and post office lobby conversations—or in supermarket lines when strangers feel they need to talk to the person standing in front of or behind them.  “It” can even upstage proclamations about the constantly rising food prices and the need to sleuth out the store for every possible bargain.

By the way, how is “It” in your neighborhood today?  Here “It” is raw and windy—just like “It” is supposed to be on a March day in Wisconsin.  But “It” is giving us a lovely, early spring. 

Margaret L. Been ©2012

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Our patio door opens out to a courtyard, facing east and enclosed on three sides.  Beyond the courtyard is a pleasant park with a walking path around its perimeter—leading to a forest, a prairie preserve, and a small trail down to the wild end of a lake.  The park path is about 1/3rd of a mile around.

It’s fun to watch the walkers on the path.  This morning two young moms pushing strollers circumvented the park six times, at an unbelievably rapid clip.  It seemed like they were just there before our eyes, and then there they were again—laughing, chatting, and pushing their fry.  How refreshing!  The trips around the park were good for the children, and good for the moms—both in aspects of sociability and physical health.  As the moms circled the park I recalled those fun times when I walked our children on a fine spring day, and enjoyed the company of other stay at home moms—a resounding majority, in the days when I was raising little ones.

However, as I grew older I began to think of a “walk” in vastly different terms.  An ideal “walk” became, for me, a saunter—a time for observing and immersing myself in the sights and sounds around me—a means of restoring my soul, rather than a social activity.  I often wonder what Wordsworth, who wandered “lonely as a cloud” in England’s Lake District would think of the way many people walk today—at an agenda driven pace, with Ipads or cell phones dominating the attention of the walker. 

Unless I can stroll with a quiet, kindred spirit—such as my husband, a daughter or son, or a soul friend—I prefer to walk alone rather than with other adults.  Children are normally great walking companions.  They scamper and weave, covering far more territory in a few yards of trail than I do, yet they tend to be aware of their surroundings.  Most children are alive to the moment—noticing the cardinal’s “cheer cheer”, watching the clouds race overhead, or pausing to pick up a leaf or rock along the way.  In most every circumstance of life, I’m rejuvenated in the presence of a congenial child, and the circumstance of walking is no exception.

Perhaps the best walking buddies of all are dogs.  For starters, they don’t talk.  Like children, dogs weave in and out, at least my Dylan does.  He exists totally in the present and his senses are finely tuned.  His ears perk to the slightest bark issuing from far away, and he responds with a throaty rumble.  Especially keen is Dylan’s sense of smell.  He makes me realize how passive we humans are when it comes to smelling things; we let olfactory stimulation come to us—be it an odor (as in skunk) or a fragrance (as in lilacs wafting in the breeze).  Although we may intentionally inhale the fragrance of flowers or bonfires (as I frequently do) we often fail to actively seek out smells.

The smells that appeal to my dog would probably not be my favorites.  Sometimes Dylan (not a large dog) is so insistent and tenacious in sniffing out a small bit of earth that it’s all my 90 pounds can do to drag him away by his leash.  Undoubtedly some small critter recently died in that spot, or some live critter marked the territory with its own badge of ownership.  The canine obsession to investigate thoroughly with his nose reminds me of Hercule Poirot, meditating intently until his “leetle grey cells” light up with a solution to a crime.

I know that my life thrust contains a substantial bit of Henry David Thoreau, who wrote:  “I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art of Walking, that is of taking walks—who had a genius, so to speak, for sauntering . . . .”

In his essay, “Walking”, Thoreau celebrates the freedom of sauntering in wild places, where one can shed the cares of the day and rejoice in the wondrous details of unfettered Nature.  For years, I walked like that—in relatively wild and secluded woods, on solitary trails. 

Yet there is still another stage of human experience, when we cannot physically walk as far or as often as we once did—yet we have been blessed with such inner contentment that we can saunter in our imagination—via books, memory,or creative hobbies—and renew the refreshment of wandering or sauntering—in the manner of Wordsworth and Thoreau. 

As my feet once sauntered, and my senses went out seeking sights and sounds, I now happily experience many of them from my patio—or during just one trip around our 1/3rd mile path.  Even yesterday, as I sat sipping peach flavored CRYSTAL LIGHT® on my patio rocker, I traveled in pure ecstacy when an oriole serenaded me from the American elm just a few feet away.  Nearly every day, my paint brushes explore and revisit many of the wild places I’ve known and loved—the woods, the swamps, and the wild meadows. 

Are we walkers or saunterers?  We can be either or both at different stages of life.  It’s all in our point of view!

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

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As decades fly by, we realize how much customs and traditions change over the years.  Just perusing a Bridal Gift Registry at most any store causes me to reflect!  Today many brides (not all—I’m doing generalities today) select sumptuous and elaborate cookware, outdoor grills, and over the top kitchen gadgets.  Years ago most brides I that I knew (including myself) registered for basic cookware.  (I’m still delighted with my REVERE WARE®.)  I can’t recall getting any small appliances other than a toaster, a SUNBEAM MIXMASTER®, a WEST BEND® shiny aluminum percolator, and perhaps a pressure cooker (the 1950s’ variety that sometimes blew up and spewed roast beef and gravy all over the kitchen ceiling and walls).  It was assumed that most of us would find some little place to rent, replete with a stove—and that would be all we’d need.  On the other hand, we (generally speaking) did register for china—casual or fine, sterling silver tableware—or more economically priced silver plate, and crystal goblets.  These were the “Big 3” for entertaining.  The dishes and glassware, as well as the silverplate, were available at many cost levels.  We believed (and I still do) that setting a gracious table was a value of the first magnitude. 

And where have all the tea parties gone?  Here is a great gap in our everyday social life.  Yes, “tea parties” are popular at tea shops (“shoppes”) and magazine article type, elegant hotels.  Although the food was fancier, the tea party we attended at the Empress in Victoria, British Columbia, was no lovelier than—in fact, not as gracious as—the typical home tea party on which I was raised, and which I strive to perpetuate in our dying culture! 

A few years ago I got very tired of hearing people say they couldn’t have tea parties because they didn’t have any pretty dishes, etc.  Now please understand, these were not indigent people making up excuses.  They were people who take vacations all over the world and drive the latest models.  But they didn’t have dishes, and seemed to think they’d need to spend the proverbial arm and leg to afford sufficient paraphernalia for the quintessential tea party.

So I wrote an article telling how tea party equipment could be purchased for very little.  In the article, I cited an excursion to the GOODWILL INDUSTRIES store and quoted some prices.  Today I got” spring tea fling fever”, and decided to repeat a semblance of the article and actually SHOW rather than just tell what can be procured for a minimal output.  

So out I went, to St. Vincent’s thrift store.  The above photo displays the result of the trip.  St. Vincent’s supplied all of what you see on the above table—except for the olive oil bottle holding a fake flower, the spoons and forks, the tea pot, and the tea bread on the St. Vinnie’s plate.  The dishes (creamer and sugar bowl included), cloth napkins, and crocheted runner amounted to the staggering sum of $10.95.  ($11.51 with our famous Wisconsin sales tax.)  I love mis-matched dishes, but if one were uptight about things not matching, larger sets are also available.  I could have matched my place settings, but chose instead to be fun and funky.

The teapot is from my stash, but I bought it at a resale shop years ago for far less than it is worth.  The spoons and forks were culled from odd lots at auctions—probably from “A Mystery Bag of Unknowns for $2.00.  I cannot resist a hapless and tarnished lone spoon or fork.  The sweet serving piece on the bread plate belonged to my mother.  And the olive oil bottle came from, you guessed it—the supermarket.  There was olive oil in the bottle when I bought it.  (I often save lovely glass bottles, which are fast becoming anachronisms.  Olive oil bottles are among the most gorgeous.)

Now wasn’t that easy and painless?!  Just for fun, after the photo shoot I packed up the dishes in the napkins and runner, and placed the whole bit in a special picnic basket hand woven by our son, Karl.  I attached a party apron under the lid, and I’m ready to advertise:  “Have tea party, will travel.”  You can use a PYREX® measuring pitcher as a teapot by just heating the water in your microwave.  Not quite as picturesque as the real thing, but it will work.  And you will have to supply edibles, as I didn’t pack the tea bread in the basket.

In closing, here is what I might wear to your tea party: ↓

I confess to paying rather a few bucks for the new vintage style hat.  But the blouse and skirt cost less than my tea party accoutrements at guess where:  St. Vinnie’s!  If the weather turns cold (which it undoubtedly will before actual spring sets in) I’ll just add my pink cardigan sweater and one of the potato chip scarves—and my scuffed suede fashion boots in place of sandals for my feet.  See you soon!  🙂

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How to Long for Heaven?

How to long for Heaven

When Earth is moist with Spring

And in the swamp

The peepers’ anthems ring?

What Rapture

Without that rapture of returning geese,

And season on season

Without surcease?

My Lord is here,

Visible in Sun and rain,

Audible in growing wind

Across the plain.

Margaret Longenecker Been, ©1973

POET’S NOTE:  I do long for Heaven, every time I read a newspaper or watch the news on TV—or hear of human suffering around the world.  Many times a week I pray, “Thy Kingdom come” and “Come, Lord Jesus”.

Yet God is His creative mercy and grace gives us glimpses of Heaven on a daily basis.  All we need to do is look at the sky, and we are lifted to another, richer dimension.  And when winter suddenly turns to spring, the message of Resurrection is overwhelmingly clear!  Our Lord is here!  His visible return is simply  a matter of time.  MLB

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Every year at this time, Joe and I have the same discussions:

Margaret — “It’s 8:00, and time for breakfast.”

Joe — “But it’s really only 7:00.”

and

Joe — “It’s 8:00!  Bedtime!”

Margaret —  “But it’s really only 7:00.”

Fortunately the above-pictured clocks don’t have any problem with Daylight Saving.  They are right on time only twice a day—each on its own schedule—throughout the entire year.

Margaret L. Been, 2012

 

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