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Archive for May, 2012

My friend, Ellen Grace Olinger, has inspired me greatly and I sense a deluge of haiku (and related forms) rushing from my soul!  Ellen is a master at the Japanese poetic forms.  She has the rare gift of saying volumes in a few succinct words. 

It’s exciting to be seized by a fresh creative passion!  You can check out some fruit on my currently updated Ekphrasis page on this blogsite. 

And please visit Ellen’s two sites—listed in my blogroll as “Beautiful Poems and Thoughts by Ellen Olinger” and “Poetry Inspired by the Psalms and Nature”.  You’ll be glad you did!  🙂

Thank you Ellen!

MLB

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Years ago, in 1941, I had a playmate named Ann Marie.  We lived a block apart in Chilton—the small Wisconsin community where I grew up.  Ann and I were buddies for nearly a year, when Ann Marie’s family moved to a farm and I never saw her again—until . . .

Fast forwarding exactly 60 years to 2001, Joe and I were seated at a park pavillion near our newly acquired Northwoods home—far from Chilton or the Southern Wisconsin area from which we’d just moved.  The occasion was a semi-annual potluck held for and by neighbors who lived around our lake.  A couple across from us got to talking, and somehow the name “Chilton” came up.  It didn’t take long to discover that I was chatting with my childhood playmate.  Ann and her husband had raised their family on a farm here in the Northwoods.

Ann was a whiz with anything that grew.  When I visited in her home, she gave me a small leaf from her orchid cactus.  That shoot took off, and a few years later became the flowering beauty pictured above.  I started many more cactus plants from Ann’s initial gift, sharing them with family and friends all over the place. 

In 2007 my friend Ann died, after a long illness.  When Joe and I moved back to Southern Wisconsin in 2009, I left the “mother plant” (by that time HUGE—bearing many blossoms in the summer) with a good friend and neighbor who had also been Ann’s friend.  I brought many offsprings of the orchid cactus with us to our new home, and they are thriving.  I keep sharing and sharing, and the plants keep growing like there is no tomorrow.

We still have our Northern homes—the sweet cottage we lived in and the factory-built guest house we added up the hill on our 14 acres.  The future of these houses is uncertain, but we hope to sell one and keep one for future vacations when we are fit to travel again.  A young man (about 55 years old) takes care of our Northern property—removing snow, mowing lawns, picking up fallen timber, checking on the homes, and keeping things in order around our woodsy lake retreat.  The young man’s name is Allen, and he is Ann’s son.

The beauty of continuity!

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

Note:  See the orchid cacti—one in the vintage transferware chamber pot on the table, and one in the pink plastic bucket in the window?  🙂

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All the arguments against Creationism prove ridiculous and fall apart, when we focus on the basic tenet of our Judeo-Christian Worldview:  that we humans are made in the image of God, a Creative God!

Yes, the higher mammals have intelligence.  Yes, the higher mammals have forms of communication.  Yes, the higher mammals are capable of great emotion—even that of unconditional love.  I gaze into my Pembroke Welsh corgi’s eyes, and see undying adoration.  My long life has been happily filled to abundance with dogs, and every one has reflected a love and loyalty that many humans can only hope to possess.  

But what specific thing can humans do, that no higher mammal will ever manage?  Made in the image of a Creative God, we can create.  Whereas God created Heaven and earth out of nothing, we must have materials at hand with which to create.  But we do create.

As far as I know, dolphins have never composed operas or symphonies.  Clever and entertaining as they are, primates do not paint masterpieces or design bridges.  My brilliant Pembroke Welsh corgi has yet to bake a cake or stir up an omelette.

On that, I rest my case!  🙂

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

Note One:  I posted this entry a couple of weeks ago, on my “God’s Word Is True” blog ( http://hiswordistrue.wordpress.com/ ), and decided to post it here as well for two reasons:

1)  Some Northern Reflections’ readers don’t know the the “God’s Word . . . .” blog even exists and so this entry would be new to those readers;

2)  The weather has been so gorgeous that I’ve only been indoors to get meals and change loads of laundry these days.  The gardens and patio have captured my heart.  But I did want to update Northern Reflections, since Mother’s Day is a week behind us.  Anyway, every day is Mother’s Day for moms!  🙂 

Note Two:  Here are some photos taken this week around (and in) our condo home in Nashotah:

(I sit on our patio for hours—sun bathing, reading,  and enjoying our Southwestern decor.)  ↑

(Our foxgloves are reminiscent of Beatrix Potter’s Jemima Puddleduck (silly creature!) and the “Foxy Gentleman” who was sneakily seated amongst the foxgloves.) ↑

(Who can resist sticking a derelict chair in a garden? ↑ ↓)

And last but not least—along with reading and gardening—I’m knitting more of those world famous Potato Chip Scarves!  ↓  This photo has been posted at the risk of non-knitters hurling rotten tomatoes and cabbages my way. 

Yes, I know you may be weary of the potato chip scarves!  Good thing I’m hiding behind my computer!  🙂 

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Photo:  circa 1937.  How I love the vintage furniture, doors, and carpet!  But most of all, I love the lady pictured there beside the chunky little kid whom I once was.  My mother was a Victorian, born in 1896 and she lived to age 93.  I cherish memories of her, and think of her every day of my life.  As I “mature”, I frequently add new recollections to my treasure câche of nostalgia. 

Lately I’ve been recalling how she had me memorize Psalms 1 and 23, starting when I was about the above pictured age.  Every night at bedtime, I recited these Psalms to her.  What an imprint.  When you consider those Psalms you realize that they beautifully summarize great truths of Scripture.  Psalm 1 speaks of man’s condition—both with and without the Lord in one’s life, and Psalm 23 (the most beloved of all!) speaks of the Lord’s tender care for each of His sheep.

Then Mother taught me a little verse, which was added to my bedtime repertoire: 

“My heart is God’s little garden

And the flowers blooming there each day

Are the things He sees me doing

And the words He hears me say.”

Anonymous

I recited these gems to my mother until I went off to college.

Mother was equanimity personified.  She NEVER raised her voice, NO NEVER.*  She didn’t have to.  She “walked quietly and carried a big stick”.  The big stick was used when necessary, which in my case was fairly often as I was a bit of a rip. 

While I grew up, Mother brushed and braided my hair every morning—with the possible exception of Saturdays.  This was a giant step, in keeping me “under control”.  I was a melodramatic kid who fancied myself a wild Gypsy—and I had the dark, snaggly thick mane to go with my cherished self-image.  Mom was committed to keeping me from looking and acting like the turbulent thing I liked to think I was.

Although she would always take a stand against anyone advocating or doing something that was morally or ethically wrong, my mother NEVER said an unnecessarily unkind word about anyone—NO NEVER.  Her patience with other humans was incredible.  Often, if a derogatory remark was made about someone, Mother would say, “But she means well.”  When she decided that someone definitely did not “mean well”, she would simply sigh and remark, “It takes all kinds of people to make a world”.

Only one contradictory sentence ever shadowed Mother’s attitude of forgiveness and goodwill, and it was a very funny one indeed.  Over and over throughout the years, I heard her say, “God gave us our relatives; thank God we can choose our friends.”

I hesitate to employ that one liner myself, because my relatives are precious—they are my best friends.  But Mom did have some overbearing relations.  When reviewing Mother’s life with her pastor before her memorial service, I mentioned the “Thank God we can choose our friends” statement—and he laughed so hard he nearly fell off his chair.  He wanted to include that in Mother’s eulogy, but I firmly said “NO”.  A couple of remaining, ancient relatives would be at the memorial service and I didn’t want anyone miffed at the eleventh hour of that venerable Victorian generation!

On past Mother’s Day entries, I listed many wonderful things about my mother—how she was proud of her Scottish and Irish heritage, and how she was a hard worker who trained her children to work as well.  Mom loved her family and friends, and her loyalty was peerless. 

I inherited a lot from this amazing woman—either through the genes or from example.  Mother loved all of life, from the largest creature down to the smallest bird or butterfly.  She loved cats and dogs, classical music, classical poetry, tea parties, antique glassware, and dressing up every day

Before my marriage, Mother said, “Don’t ever let your husband come home at night and find you in the old clothes you’ve been wearing for cleaning and gardening.  Always dress up, and remember to re-fix your hair and face at least once during an evening—especially after dinner!”  This advice is branded in my heart and soul, and it’s an integral part of my life. 

Returning to Mother’s spiritual input in my life, I often recall how—when I was around 6 years old—she told me about the early Christian martyrs in Rome.  She told how they were put into the arena with hungry lions, and how they (the Christians, not the lions) sang hymns as they were being carried off. 

Now isn’t that a strange thing to tell a 6 year old kid?  But I’m grateful that she did!  The essence of the story stuck with me throughout the years.  When I became a Christian believer, at age 37, I began to reflect on that account—and I realized that whatever God was going to allow in my life would be undergirded and enabled by His Grace!  Lions are pretty terrifying, but God has conquered fear!

I think of Mother every day.  Recent Mother’s Days have been accompanied by a kind of inner aching because I don’t have her here.  But I will be seeing her again, FOREVER!  How fantastic is that!  🙂

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

*I grew up in such a “rose garden”, that I never heard anyone yell—except in a film, or at an exciting basketball game.  But there was one exception in the rose garden.  I heard my father shout—vehemently!—when my older sister brought home a young Communist whom she was dating at UW, Madison. 

Dad and the young Communist (who was fomenting revolution) had a deep discussion, and Dad SHOUTED!   This was very exciting to me, as it appealed to my sense of melodrama.  The fracas also imprinted some strong political views in my head!

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Have you ever felt like Rip Van Winkle, suddenly waking up and realizing that changes have taken place while you were sleeping or simply not focusing on a particular thing—perhaps a thing that you grew up with, something ineffably lovely—and now that “something” has vanished?

Although my husband and I are certainly not “bar flies”, we recall an era of poignantly sweet piano music emanating from the bar areas of fine restaurants—or, in the case of a Supper Club—in the dining room itself.  How elegant dining out used to be!  We lingered over the treat of a restaurant meal—eating slowly (like the French reportedly do), and relaxing over many cups of after dinner coffee while enjoying the melodies from the piano bar.

Dining out is not the experience it once was.  The cell phone sometimes provides the only “music” at a restaurant these days, but more often there is music—or rather noise—loud, thumping, blaring, and totally inconducive to gentle, cultured conversation.  It has become virtually impossible to go out to dinner and relax over coffee in most public places.  And no one seems to care—no one, that is, except for my husband and me!

Whatever happened to the piano bar?  Whatever happened to the glorious experience of dining out, with its built in ambience?  There is a charming restaurant two minutes from our home which still does provide quiet elegance, and the environment is beautiful—like an old English inn.  But at from $20 to $36 per entree, Joe and I don’t choose to go there very often.  And, the elegant fine dining place in our neighborhood does not have a piano bar! 

So waking up to the reality of a piano bar-less pop culture, Joe and I have done a fun thing.  We’ve created one at home.  In recent years I’ve focused on learning some favorite classics (easier versions of Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, etc.).  I am working George Winston’s arrangement of Pachebel’s Canon up to tempo (how I love that piece of work!), and homing in big time on Scott Joplin’s rags. 

But recently, in a mode of nostalgia, I dug out my old sheet music and unearthed decades of treasures like Deep Purple, As Time Goes By, Moon River, Born Free, Lara’s Theme, and many more—a couple of which are pictured above.  Joe copied the pages individually and taped them together.  Now loads of lovely ballads are strung out on the piano.  I no longer have to go through the frustration of pausing to turn a page, or continuing to play with one hand while frantically turning pages with the other.  Paper clips keep the whole shebang from flying away and piling up on the floor between sessions.  When I finish one piece I simply remove it and lay it across the back of the couch which is close behind my piano—and procede to the next number.

We serve iced tea, Crystal Light®, or Sierra Mist® at our piano bar.  The player sometimes goes on for an hour or two—until it’s necessary to quit and fix dinner.  And then, dinner does not cost from $20 to $36!  🙂

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

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