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Archive for the ‘August’ Category

What a joy, to sit outdoors and spin in the September sunshine!  Just as wonderful as spinning by our (electric) fireplace, on a bitter cold winter day.  It’s a joy to spin, anywhere at anytime!

Our gardens made it through the drought, and are still blessing us with roses (blooming for the third time around this summer), foxgloves, hydrangeas, black-eyed Susans, echinacea, hostas, dahlias, and those ubiquitous and gorgeous ever-blooming snapdragons.  I spin to the ambience of a fresh and colorful garden—replete with the blended fragrance of herbs which thrived in the hot, dry summer:  lavender, mint, lemon thyme, sweet basil, oregano, sage, chives, and garlic chives.

I spin to the chirping of birds and the scuttling of chipmunks—one of whom pauses to watch me sometimes.  (That must be the little fellow who let me stroke his silky back a few weeks ago.)

I spin!  Now I have the most amazing source of dyed roving, ready to spin:  Psalm 23 Farm, near Kiel, Wisconsin.  The farm belongs to a family from England.  One of the daughters, Laura, is in charge of the sheep and wool—and this young lady is an absolute artist at dying and blending colors.  With Laura’s (pictured above) combination of Shetland wool and mohair (hair from Angora goats) I’m currently spinning the most incredibly beautiful yarn I’ve ever made in all of my thirty-two years of hand spinning on my trusty wheels.

As I spin, people walk by on our condo community sidewalk—or on the park path just up and over the berm.  Occasionally someone will pause and wonder what I am doing.  One woman walked by yesterday, turned around to take a second glance, and smiled.  She said, “My mother used to do that!”

More often, though, the walkers pass by in their “ingrown toenail world” created by cell phones, a Blackberry®, or whatever.  I hear the pedestrians talking, and I see them texting. 

Others jog past me, buffeting their bodies—with their hands cupped in front of them, exactly the way groundhogs wear their paws.  These hardy individuals look sweaty and miserable.  I have never seen a jogger who looked happy, and I always wonder:  do they hear the birds, and observe the awesome cloud formations in the sky?  Do they even notice the subtle seasonal changes?  Do they realize we are now in that poignant, bittersweet month of September—experiencing the dying gasp of summer? 

Normally the talkers, texters, and joggers fail to notice a contented old woman sitting on her doorstep—a living anachronism.  But I’m not sitting and spinning in order to “be noticed”.  I’m sitting and spinning in celebration of an abundant, hands-on life.  The yarn is growing on my bobbins, and turning into a sweater on my knitting needles.  What a joy!

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

NOTE:  Years ago, when Joe and I toured the back roads of Scotland, I expected to see spinning wheels everywhere.  Indeed there were sheep everywhere, but the absence of spinners was a shock to me! 

Then we stopped near Perth, to visit the factory which produced the spinning wheels I was selling in my home fiber arts business.  The owner of the factory treated us to tea and biscuits (cookies in our language). 

Over the refreshments, I asked him if there were any spinners left in Scotland.  He explained that, although traditional fiber artists were still spinning in touristy places like the Orkney and Shetland Islands, for the main part women in Scotland were too close to memories of abject poverty.   Most of the spinning wheels produced in his factory were sold to America and Australia.

For centuries, the fiber arts filled a need for survival rather than a penchant for pleasure.   A sobering thought!  How blessed we are in America to have the freedom, leisure time, and prosperity to live a hands-on life by choice!

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One of the many advantages of living outside of cities is the ever-present panorama of sky.  At our northern home, we had sky over water.  Now, in Southern Wisconsin, we view the sky over a park and nature preserve.

This has been an odd summer around here, in that the really warm (sometimes HOT!) weather did not set in until July.  Everything is different from last summer.  Perennials which were mushrooming and spreading in May, 2010 never even made themselves known this summer until mid June.  

Consequently, the obvious harbingers of autumn are late in appearing.  Our neighorhood wild prairie has yet to flash in the sun with goldenrod; coneflowers, black-eyed Susans, and Queen Anne’s lace still flourish there.  The sumac along the park path barely hints at the glory it will soon display, whereas in most years the turning sumac leaves provide an early sign of change.

The cardinals still “cheer-cheer”, cheering my heart in the process.  Mourning doves still mourn their poignant “oooo-oooo-oooooo”, reminding me of catapulting years of mourning doves—since I was a small child, first thrilling to their threnody.  Every evening at dusk, a flock of sparrows roosts in the tree outside our bedroom window.  They chirp and rustle in the leaves and branches until dark.  Then all is still, until the first ray of dawn when the birds resume their chirping, and take off for another day of foraging. 

Flocking birds are a sign of seasonal change.  I treasure the busy little creatures who hang out in the tree beside our window, because at this point I do not want summer to end.  But end, it will! 

Meanwhile, the clouds clearly forecaste change—those famous clouds of August.  Due to changing air currents, temperatures, and moisture, August clouds are distinctive.  After a suddenly cooler night, the clouds are seen as mist rising off the ground in our park.  Up north the clouds rose off our lake in August and September, reminding us of the picturesque lochs we saw years ago when we traveled the back roads of the Scottish highlands.

Clouds of change!  We who live with four seasons (one of which seems a lot longer than the other three in Wisconsin!) are accustomed to change and ready for it.  Already I’ve done some shifting around of clothes in my closet, so that when the first brisk day arrives I’ll have something warmer at hand.   I’ve laundered the summer blankets and taken a wool blanket out of its cleaner bag. 

I’m preparing my heart for that blast of sheer beauty which Autumn brings—followed by the silent, white months.  But we can never be totally prepared for the metaphorical clouds of change in our personal lives.  Last year, as August whispered sweet promises around us, little did we know that we were about to enter a ten-month period of severe medical issues—with one emergency compounding another. 

We can never accurately predict our seasons of circumstances.  All we can do is remember that emergencies are Holy Ground.  God gets our attention and speaks to us through times of crisis.  All we can do is take off our metaphorical shoes and say “Yes, Lord, whatever You will shall be done.”

Actually, for the Christian all of life is Holy Ground.  To recognize that fact is to experience the peace of God’s indwelling Holy Spirit every day, regardless of whatever the clouds of change may bring!

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

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August invariably brings a cool, rainy spell among the dry and windy days.  August rain jogs my memory and I relive an annual childhood event:  a trip to the Appleton Woolen Mill which was situated on the Fox River, about a 45 minute drive from our summer cottage on Wisconsin’s Lake Winnebago.

Since my mother and sister were knitters, it was a happy given that I would be a knitter as well.  I learned to knit on khaki yarn, supplied to patriotic knitters during World War II by the U. S. Government.  From this yarn, we made afghan squares for the U. S. Army.  My first squares contained numerous gaps created by dropped stitches, and holes where I had put the work down and picked it up again to knit in the wrong direction.

Gaps and holes notwithstanding, I learned to knit and cannot imagine life without yarn—especially wool yarn.  My love for wool is anchored in our annual trip to the historic Appleton Woolen Mill where we stocked up on a year’s supply of yarn for sweaters, scarves, socks, and mittens—plus yardage of beautiful plaid wool for skirts.  (My mother was an accomplished seamstress as well as a knitter!)

I will never forget the scent and sounds of the mill.  What is more wonderful than the fragrance of wool—be it in a skein of yarn, a bolt of fabric, fresh fleece in one’s hand, or in its most original state:  on the body of a sheep?  And the music of the mill echoes in my mind:  the blonking and jerking of spinning machinery, the clunking and banging of huge industrial looms.  To use a metaphor appropriate to the textile industry, I loved “the whole nine yards”!

I can still see those big cones of yarn.  I can still visualize the magnificent bolts of fabric lined up on a high shelf.  And I recall those rainy days on our cottage porch—following the trip to the woolen mill—when my mother, sister, and I sat contentedly clicking our needles and savoring the colors and textures of our newly purchased yarns.

Margaret L. Been, ©2010

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Time of wild asters, Queen Anne’s lace, and roadsides abounding in blue and blowing chicory.  Time for the premiere of that shining Autumn star :  goldenrod.

Time to pause and reflect on the beauty of gardens gone to seed, gardens tangled with herbs and perennials imbibing the sun in gradually diminishing daylight.  Time to realize that we were primarily created as human “beings” *, not human “doings”.  Time to inhale the aroma of cucumbers steeped in brine and tomatoes ripening in our hands.  Time to savor every frosty glass of tea and melting mouthful of ice cream. 

August is a time for all of the above.  I have 12 “favorite” months, each favorite for a different reason.  August may be my Queen of Favorites.  It’s the month when I was delivered from my mother’s womb, into a mini-world which—for nearly 77 years—I have found to be personally friendly and kind. 

But even more than the fact of a birthday, August embodies so much that I passionately love:  including a leisurely quality of life, the relaxed and summer-worn earth around me, a non-conformist/creative landscape and lifestyle in my home, and those poignant Gypsy stirrings which rustle in the blood on breezy days portending Autumn.

August is a tattered cloth, frayed at the hem and gaping at the seams.  August is a sterling silver cup tarnished green and purple with age.  August is the timeless magnificence of weathered wood, chipped paint, and rusty iron.  August is a rhapsody of life well-lived, a musical masterpiece accompanied by the rustle of field corn swaying in the wind and crickets sounding the demise of a season on sweltering nights.

* Understanding that we are human beings was a lifeline to me for many decades when my life was packed with responsibilities, multi-tasking, and many pressing things to do.  Over forty years of raising 6 children (and doing the bookkeeping and office work in our family business for several years as well) I found it essential to savor brief moments of solitude, while focusing on an intrinsic quality of life. 

As busy and often exhausted as I was during those forty years, even when there were only a few solitary moments in a week, I had to realize that I was a human being!  Experiencing the sights, sounds, aromas, flavors, and textures of every season is integral to the soul discipline of “being”!

Margaret Longenecker Been, ©2010

P. S.  For more celebration of the ragged and regal month of August, you can check my latest poem on “Paintings and Poems”—on this site.

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