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Archive for the ‘Beauty of Summer Gone Raggy’ Category

March Walk

I am not referring to the “outdoors” for millions of Americans, that world which is surrounded by cement, concrete, metal, steel, brick and mortar or any other of man’s useful building materials.  Despite the usefulness of these necessities for community living, we can become so acclimated and overwhelmed by them that we are in danger of forgetting there is another “outdoors”—that which God created not simply to provide resources for the above-listed essentials, but specifically to nurture our bodies and souls.

Speaking from personal experience, I must not only bring God’s created world of outdoors in, I must keep it in to remain balanced and whole.  Thus our home is filled with natural treasures:  a variety of sea shells, coral, hunks of quartz and petrified wood, stones and polished agate, jars and bowls filled with chestnuts, fresh flowers blooming in their season, houseplants, and beauty like the above-pictured gleanings of last summer’s dried bounty harvested yesterday—in the prairie just a three minute walk from home.

We bring the outdoors in when we visit wild places, hike or ski through them, or even just view the natural countryside from a car window if that is all we can do.  Exposures to natural and wild beauty can imprint our hearts and minds for a lifetime—renewing and refreshing over the years.  Even though I can only remember from years ago a vacation at the rocky Maine seacoast, or living with the majesty of the Colorado mountains a few miles from my back yard, I am surfeited by theses experiences recalled.

With a vivid and lively imagine we can bring the outdoors in via books that take us anywhere in the world we desire to go!  I am a person most blessed because I have vicariously traveled the world through books.  When I read I am THERE—wherever I have decided to go—and my soul is richer for the trip!

Over 160 years ago, an American whom I love wrote these timeless words:  “Our village life would stagnate if it were not for the unexplored forests and meadows which surround it.”  Throughout the many decades since Henry David Thoreau penned WALDEN and many other writings, Americans have enjoyed God’s gift of nature so wisely preserved by federal, state, and local governments.  But Thoreau also celebrated and wrote about natural creation which can be found at home, wherever there are gardens, birds, and life!*

I often muse over the era in which Thoreau lived and wrote: the mid 19th century.  Technology back then consisted of trains and factories.  In Thoreau’s lifetime one got around by:  train; horse–or horse drawn conveyance, boat, or foot.  Although the telegraph had been invented, most personal and everyday communications were still largely conducted via the spoken or written word.  Thoreau wrote about the human need to periodically remove oneself from human technology and society.

Thoreau loved to walk, engrossed in every natural sight and sound along the way.  What would the perceptive philosopher think about our world today?  Could he ever have envisioned a culture where countless people walk along a lovely park path, heads down and preoccupied with texting or otherwise puttering with their phones?  Or tuning out the birdsong with earphones and streamed music?

Whether or not Henry David Thoreau could have envisioned such advances, he very clearly understood the human drive to discover the potential of and harness resources for man’s use—with all the more urgent necessity to bring the outdoors in, for the good of our souls!

Margaret l. Been — March 23, 2018

*Thoreau’s writings are not just “reads”; they are “re-reads” over and over and over!  One always discovers something new and fresh with the re-reading.  For Christmas one year, my Joe gave me the complete huge 2-volume set of Thoreau’s diaries.

It is fairly well-known that this “beloved Yankee” died at age 45 in early May, 1862, of tuberculosis.  The diary entries (from 1837 to 1861—two volumes approximately 1750 pages each in small font) center on the natural environment with occasional references to books or articles read by Thoreau, or people in his community and individuals he has met in his travels.  The journals include writings dated until a year before Thoreau’s death, and nowhere in reading have I found anything about Thoreau’s illness or personal distress. 

The final entries in 1861 indicate that Thoreau is no longer out and about.  Friends, one of whom is Horace Mann, bring him natural specimens and gleanings from their nature walks, and Thoreau writes from his past observations when out in nature.  In these final entries we see evidence of the outdoors brought into the immediacy of his home:  descriptions of birds viewed from a window; prevailing weather (always a natural phenomena observable from anywhere above ground); and (most poignant of all I think), delightful descriptions of a batch of kittens born during Thoreau’s final days of writing.

NOTE:  Another and hugely significant reason to love Henry David Thoreau was his dedicated and very vocal advocating for the abolition of slavery.

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AE 3

Gradually, almost imperceptibly the seasons turn.  Summer lingered, and thanks to plenty of moisture our woodland view remained green far longer than normal for a Southern Wisconsin Autumn.  For weeks I played make believe—drinking iced tea in the morning sun and making believe it was still, and always would be, Summer.   Then the mornings turned brisk, and I switched my sun and iced tea habit to the south side of our condo—rocking in a large pink rocker and absorbing every bit of warmth I could, to store against the inevitable onslaught of change.

Then the Autumn rains.  Now our courtyard is littered with sheddings from a large tree which is, as far as I can ascertain, an American Elm.  I love the leaf-littered grass, but realize that many condo owners do not.  Most folks around here do not hear my wild drummer, which forever beats to the soughing of wind and soothing of soggy leaves underfoot.  When the leaves dry, their crunching will delight my heart beyond anything words can express.

Soon the maintenance crew will vacuum the littered leaves.  I must be watchful, to preempt the crew and rake boundless amounts into my gardens for a protective buffer against winter.

Since our patio and patio garden open directly off the living room of our home, I fantasize that I’m still outdoors.  I open the patio door and inhale the pungent scent of Autumn rain, ripened and vastly different from the fragrance of April showers.  Still I pretend, pour myself an iced tea, close my eyes, and celebrate that stubborn essence of Summer which has always pervaded my innermost heart.

©Margaret L. Been, October 2014

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tall corn

↑ Taken a month or so ago, before the corn turned its beautiful tawny shade—this photo shows how bountiful Wisconsin has been in the summer of 2013!

Our littlest beauty!

↑ Our best summer bounty:  Adetokumba Bridget Josephine Adesokun, just 4 months old!

Our arbor

↑ I didn’t do any gardening after shoulder surgery, July 2nd.  But the garden “gardened” itself.  Our new arbor is a constant joy—a meeting place for sparrows, chickadees, goldfinches, and other feathered friends plus 2 chipmunks.  The hardy roses were here when we moved in 4 years ago.

The garden thrived 2013

↑ More patio garden.  The garlic chives, many perennials packed into the small space, and herbs/herbs/herbs thrived all summer (and many are still thriving) without a bit of help from a human gardener. 

Alicia and her beauties

↑ A family (among all of our children and grandchildren!) that knows how to live:  This one is Granddaughter Alicia with her husband, Dan, and their children left to right—Isaac, River, Cai, and Hannah.  Alicia home schools her young ones, and she puts  loads of creative ideas into motion.  She’s an amazing photographer—and I’m quite certain that Alicia tucked her camera into a tree (or plopped it on a stump) for an automatic “take” of this classic photo. 

And now for my fellow Knit-wits:  ↓

Another Prayer Shawl

↑ A triangular shawl—one of several which I’ve made in recent months.  The buttons are for decoration in this case.  They remind me of which is the “right side”, as the ends of the spliced yarns get tucked into the “wrong side”.  But I frequently make buttonholes for buttons which function, as well.  They keep a garment from sliding off one’s shoulders.

Rayon PC

↑ A rayon potato chip scarf—dressier than my past versions of this cutie, due to the elegant drape of the fine rayon yarn.  The button is a French import, a pewterish-looking rose—not just for decoration:  it works.

Lovely shell

↑ A very versatile shell of not-too-heavy and not-too-warm yarns.  A happy sleeveless concoction in warm weather, over just a cool cami— but it will double as a vest over a blouse in winter.

Shawl-ette Front

 ↑ A shawlette.  I love it!  It’s just the thing for a bit of extra shoulder warmth.  This is the front view.  The back is pictured below. ↓

Shawl-ette Back

This one was completed last evening, and now a similar version has hit the circular needle—in shades of coral and rose.  I’m incorporating “bubbles” by switching from a small to a large needle periodically, increasing stitches periodically for a few rows, and then decreasing—in a sequence of repeats.  Voilà, bubbles!  The border trim is crocheted.  It’s fun to include random pattern stitches, lace patterns, etc., while following the inspiration of the moment! 

Margaret L. Been, 2013

 

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Now we’ve had a light frost in our county so these warm, euphoric October days constitute the beginning of Indian summer—and what is more lovely?  Springtime and summer are as lovely, but what is so poignantly beautiful as Indian summer?  Mums in an array of analogous shades offer color dominance—while lemon thyme, lavender, mint, sage, garlic chives, sweet basil, and last year’s tomato plants fool us into thinking we still live in a green world.

Indian summer is a time to pause and luxuriate in the sun, but it’s also a time to say our last farewell to summer.  Today I gathered my “garden art”, to be stored in the garage until spring.  I have four garden areas.  This project took over an hour as so many funky treasures either tower over or hover beneath our perennials and bushes.  The items had to be hosed off and transported to the sanctuary of our garage.

Farewell to summer!  Farewell to those derelict chairs (1 cardinal red, 1 hippie era orange, 1 saffron) which sat in various gardens for months—holding bounty such as a blue granite pail, a broken English porcelain teapot, and a tarnished silverplated pitcher.  Farewell to the vintage croquet set.  Farewell to the clay warty toad with a baby toadie on its back—so ugly, it’s cute!  Farewell to other stone and ceramic critters:  the chipmunk, froggie, hedgehog, and rabbit. 

Farewell to the fairy house and the diminutive horses that fairies might ride when no one is looking.  Farewell to those wavy, stick-in the-ground thingies on (now delightfully rusted) metal poles:  ducks, road-runners, gnomes, sparkly plastic balls, weird insects, and whiligigs.  Farewell to the cobalt blue bottles which I insert on bare branches and poles into gardens every spring.  Farewell to the brown bottle, and the green bottle as well. 

Farewell to the fake flowers which filled spaces where real flowers forgot to bloom.  Farewell to the copper coffee pot, the stainless steel perc, and the enameled dippers and pitchers.  Some of these will take refuge in our home over the months ahead. 

Even as I bask in the euphoric Indian summer sun, winter whispers icy insinuations to the periphery of my mind.  Winter will come.  Winter always comes to Wisconsin.  Winter with its pristine beauty and recreational delights.  Winter, with its time of testing.  Winter, the proving ground for true grit. 

Farewell to summer and the funky garden accoutrements.  Spring will return, and another summer will follow.  God willing, I’ll be here in 2012—to put summer back together, garden art and all! 

Meanwhle as I surveyed my gardens, now devoid of manmade “art” yet still abounding in live growth, I saw an exquisite piece of real art:  a delicately patterned monarch resting on a flowering hydrangea. 

The garden stuff is fun, and I’ll probably always enjoy “planting” it.  But God’s art is best of all, and it’s with us in one form or another—no matter what season we are experiencing!  🙂

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I named the above rendering “Autumn Creeps In”.  There is a subtly to September, even considering that this year the air is prematurely snappy.  We’ll will undoubtedly have some warmish, golden Indian summer days in October.  Yet autumn is creeping in at a consistent pace. 

Beauty!  Color!  Invigorating Days!  Bittersweet Reflections!  All of these characterize the season at hand.  Recently I’ve been wrapped in bittersweet reflections—recalling the riches of the short summer from which we are emerging.  June remained chilly, and I kept a handspun, hand knitted hat in the car until early July.  Then summer began in earnest.  How languid, how lovely—except for about 5 unbearably hot, sticky days when we had to turn on air conditioning which we absolutely hate to do!

Summer guests, summer afternoons on the patio, summer evenings with frog serenades ringing from the gardens beneath our windows, summer rains (not enough of them, however), summer ice cream outings, summer, summer, summer!  We grab hold of summer in our souls, stash it in our cupboard of poignant memories, and dream of it in January when it’s 10 below zero in Wisconsin (or 30 below zero up north where we lived for 8 years).  Summer!

This week I’ve been thinking seriously about autumn creeping in, and I’ve responded accordingly.  House plants have been moved from our patio to a spare table in Joe’s den.  Most of our house plants never went out for the summer, as we have doors and windows open nearly around the clock and it’s like a garden indoors.  African violets stay inside all year, relishing their eastern exposure and the shelter of our living room.  Most of my jades, Christmas cacti, orchid cacti, and aloe plants stay indoors in our southern windows.  But a few jades and cacti have been hanging out on the patio for the last 2 months, adding to the decor.  Now all have been garnered in.  Soon the Christmas cacti will be stashed away in a dark closet, resting and preparing to bloom.

Today I dismantled our sweet little patio fountain, as those inevitable early frosts are advancing from the north.  Any night now, icy fingers could move in—snipping here, blanching there, and freezing the water in fountains.  Our fountain (with a hidden electric pump) consists of 3 levels of pretend rocks (actually fiberglass, but very realistic and rocklike) over which the water tumbles—plus a small girl and a family of ducks.  Carefully I dismantled the 3 sections, wiped the pieces dry, and transported them to our garage on the seat of my 4 wheel walker.

Now the little girl and her ducks have been re-assembled (but not in the operating mode) in a far corner of the garage, where I keep treasures:  seasonal wreaths, decorative odds and ends, junk from rummage sales, etc.  It’s fun to wander and browse among stuff in our garage.  And even during winter’s bleakest period there are sunny days when Joe and I can bundle and sit inside our garage on comfy chairs, while pretending we’re staring into a New Mexico sky.

We have a large fountain in our community pond.  Soon it will be shut off for the season.  I’ll mourn the loss of moving water, while knowing the fountain will resume it’s refreshing showers next April.  I’m thankful for the small indoor fountain which graces our living room table of African violets.  The sound of water tumbling from this diminutive ceramic “friend” will cheer many winter days.

Along with bittersweet reflections, comes the anticipation of additional hours for indoor pleasures—including extra time to knit, and spin gorgeous wool on my spinning wheels.  During the colder months, I keep a spinning wheel in front of our surrogate (electric) fireplace.  What a cozy place to sit and spin. 

Stacked in my corner studio are many paintings and collages in progress.  And for every piece waiting to be completed, more paintings and collages are lined up in my head—just waiting to be born on paper or gallery wrapped canvas.  Even when the autumn color fades, indoor color will prevail!

A new piano book of easy-version Scott Joplin rag tunes has arrived in the mail, and I’m getting a handle on “The Entertainer”.  “Maple Leaf Rag” is a bit more challenging with 4 flats, but (God willing) I’ll learn to play that as well in the coming weeks.  There are 18 rags in the book—enjoyment forever.  I have music for each day and every mood.  I love Mozart Beethoven, and Chopin.  And I also love ragtime, especially Joplin’s works!

Soapmaking is ongoing in my kitchen, as I supply many family members and friends with my beautiful facial (and body) soap.  The thrill of a creating a new batch of soap never grows old.  Our home is redolent with rose, wisteria, sandalwood, patchouli, and (for occasional novelty) soaps scented with of coffee and chocolate fragrance oils. 

(When we moved to a condo 2 years ago, a friend was shocked to hear that I was still making soap.  “You make soap in a condo?” my friend asked.  I answered something to the effect that I will always want to go on living, no matter where!  Maybe this friend thought that I should just zone out and twiddle my thumbs, since I was advancing in age and now living in a condo!)

And then there are books, books, books, books, and more books!  Within a few minutes of our door are 2 libraries, in different directions.  Although we don’t fancy many of the newer books due to their inferior writing quality and mediocre content, we love the used book sales which are frequent at the libraries.  These sales never let us down.  As we come home with bags of “new to us” used books, we add to the leaning towers of books against the walls of our home.  A KINDLE® or NOOK® would never be welcome at this treasure trove of tattered covers, coffee stained pages, and people who are passionate about real books!

So you see, as autumn creeps in my bittersweet reflections give way to downright enthusiasm.  Spring and summer will return.  In the meantime, what a wealth of joyEach day is an adventure to be embraced and celebrated—regardless of the season!

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

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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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. . . 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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