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Archive for the ‘Early signs of autumn’ 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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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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