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Archive for the ‘Great Literature’ Category

Treasure the Moment!

Leo 7 monthAlicia's wonderlandThree preciesrecent workIF

There is no room for naivité in today’s world.  All I can do in light of the barrage of news we receive is to go on preserving and treasuring the world I’ve always known.  Indeed, my insular world may last only a moment—so I treasure each moment as a gift from God.

Beyond a series of moments on earth lies an eternity of joy for the Christian believer.  Meanwhile my precarious earth moments are filled with prayers, family, friends, a corgi, music, paintbrushes, knitting needles and yarn, spinning wheels, gardens indoors and out, poetry, books/books/books, antiques, junk, never ending batches of soap from our kitchen, and a whole lot more.

A common thread connects the moments: BEAUTY.  I know I’m not alone in determining to pursue and celebrate Beauty—and to TREASURE THE MOMENT!

Margaret Been, February 2015

soap 6

Baby D again

Again Sweet Mia

knitters

Daane Boys

IF

T1

T2

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Reflections on Home

®®New Play Area

My philosophical mother left me with many quotes on which to ponder, one of them being:  “It takes all kinds of people to make a world.”

That certainly is a fact, as each of us was created to be unique.  Each of us is an original piece of art.  Although we may have similarities we were not intended to be prints or reproductions of another human.

I try to understand other people whose style and preferences differ from mine, and it’s just plain fun to discover whom people are and what “makes them tick”.  Perhaps the best way to get acquainted with another person is by visiting in that individual’s home.  I want to believe that most people who spend considerable time in their homes have some pastime they love, some kind of a life within their walls.  This life may be reflected via the books on the shelves, the cookbooks and appliances in the kitchen, baskets and tables overloaded with crafting supplies, the presence of houseplants indoors and gardens outside the windows, a dog or cat (or both), and of course a musical instrument—perhaps more than one.  The presence of art on the walls and family photos on shelves and tables says a lot—if indeed the walls, shelves, and tables are laden with pictures which are worth a thousand words.

But occasionally when visiting a home I draw the proverbial blank.  No books, no projects, no art to reveal a period or style of interest, no messes, no pets, no plants beyond the “tastefully correct” one or two—potted in matching, stylized planters rather than those ice cream buckets and COOL WHIP® containers which frequently hold my overflow of greenery.  Not even a happily messy computer corner!  Sadly, only one piece of equipment normally characterizes the apparently wasteland homes:  that ubiquitous television.

Quite possibly, the homes which appear sterile, sans personality, may not actually be like that at all.  When one is a guest, one seldom sees all the nooks and crannies.  In the most generic of furniture store homes, there are apt to be hidden away places where the residents read, craft, make music, or whatever.  As interested as I am in people and their lifestyles, I certainly don’t want to be crass and ask to see their hidden recesses—the NO ENTRY zones of a house.  So I give my host or hostess that benign benefit of the doubt.  Certainly they have some life passion, some activity that causes them to jump out of bed each day and say “HELLO, WORLD!”  Probably my host and hostess simply have chosen not to divulge exactly whom they are and what they are about.

I accept the preference for anonymity, and I understand that I may be the odd one in today’s world.  I LOVE to share.  I love to be transparent—an open 1000 page book with loads of information on every page.  As much as I love to know, I love to be known.  And as far as I know, that’s the way life was originally intended to be!  Unlike that pair in the Garden after the fall, I have absolutely no desire to hide from God or anyone else!

Meanwhile, since Joe and I have moved into a four room condo it is easier than ever for visitors to ascertain what we are all about.  Our interests pervade every corner of our home, for all to see and enjoy.  We have never had more of ourselves on our walls, tables, shelves, and floors—and we are delighted beyond expression with the overflowing abundance of our current time of life.  Crowded, YES!  Even CLUTTERED—although to me “clutter” bespeaks random chaos, and I will have none of that.

Tidiness and order rule the day, and we can always stuff one more meaningful object into the order of our home.  Minimalist gurus (who for some odd reason find no significance in memories manifested all around them, no joy in the colors and textures of a life well-lived) will call us “hoarders”.  I call us “LOVERS OF LIFE”!  Thus the spinning wheels (which really spin beautiful yarn from luxuriously fleeced sheep’s wool) lurk behind a favorite easy chair, accompanied by baskets of wool and more baskets of yarn—plus needles and other accoutrements of knitting.

My piano hosts an assortment of music books—and musical scores printed out and taped together so that I can play without turning pages.  Our kitchen contains the necessaries—toaster, coffee pot, blender, crockpot—plus a representation of bygone eras in funky kitchen collectibles.  Our dining area buffet serves as a display area for my soap industry—while hundreds more soaps are stacked in drawers and stored in huge plastic bins under furniture and in closets.

Our bedroom is also my art studio, with a messy table for acrylics, collaging, etc., and another table for watercoloring.  Crammed into a bedroom corner is my writing studio with my very own laptop, printer/scanner, and voluminous files (I will always love paper).

My husband’s den is his bit of Heaven on earth with the TV, his own computer/printer/scanner, filing cabinet, posh reclining chair (suitable for snoozing on), and even a daybed for that occasional afternoon “lie down”.  Joe keeps his clothes in a dresser and closet in his den, while our enormous bedroom closet houses my clothing plus bins and shelves laden with more soap and somewhere between 600 and 800 paintings.  I tell our children they’ll have a post-humous fortune on their hands some day.  (Obviously, I’m joking!  My art is amateur stuff, paying dividends of endless and infinite fun!)

Both living room and bedroom have indoor garden areas—with tropicals in the east facing patio door, and succulents in our south facing bedroom window.  And everywhere are BOOKS, BOOKS, BOOKS.  Shelves groan with books, tables support the weight of them, and floors feature book towers in every room.

All of that—including a zest for collecting with a partiality for Victorian era art glass produced by our great American 19th century glass companies, English china, and most anything vintage and funky—goes a long way toward telling our guests whom we are, in this happiest of homes which I’m inviting you to tour with me today!

The above play area is a magnet for our great-grandchildren (16 children, ages 10 and under) who visit whenever they can.  And my happy little kitchen beyond.  (Actually, it’s Joe’s kitchen for the duration of my post-surgical, arm-in-sling adventure.)

Fiber studio

My fiber studio resides behind a living room easy chair.  The spinning wheels are not for “show” (although they are very beautiful, made from cherry wood).  The spinning wheels spin, and produce luxury yarns for sweaters, scarves, and hats.  Years ago, Joe made the pine dry sink for me.  It houses my collection of English flow blue china and my Grandma Kate’s English (Aesthetic Period—circa 1885) Indus wedding dishes featuring graceful birds and foliage reminiscent of the British Empire in India.

Most of the baskets in our home are homemade.  The one with the coral insert is an Irish potato basket, and below it with gorgeous ultra-marine blue/violet fleece inside is an egg basket—both crafted by moi.  The larger basket, in the style of Wisconsin Native Americans’ basketry, was woven by our daughter-in-law, Cheri Been.

make art

One of the many perks in our condo home is the fact that Joe and I each have our very own bathroom.  What fun is that!  Joe’s is the larger of the two, and it contains a shower which he loves.  (I HATE showers, probably because they remind me of that most detested of all scenarios—high school gym class!)  I have a tiny bathroom, but it contains a TUB (one of the great loves of my life).

I painted the blotchies on the upper walls, and our grandson, Tyler Been, painted the gorgeous New Mexico-ish red lower walls.  This is my Louis L’Amour bathroom—replete with cowboy pictures, and photos of family members on horseback.  As you can see on the above left, I have hung some of my own Southwestern art here as well.

TPJ 2

Here is another shot of my sweet loo.  The Civil War era folding chair is a family heirloom, with needlepoint painstakingly stitched by my mother many decades ago.  I treasure the no-longer-available glass ARIZONA TEA® bottles, plus my collections of all things horsey and Western.  (The oil painting on the left is not mine.  It was a rummage sale prize, unearthed a few years ago.)

Art 3

The messy inner sanctum of my studio is open to all who venture here, since we always have our company put their wraps on our bed.  That’s an old fashioned thing to do, perhaps dating back to when closets were not so prevalent as they are today.  To me, wraps on the bed are the most gracious way to go.

soap 5

No home photo shoot would be complete without a glimpse of my soap.  I brag about my soap way too much.  It’s excellent, and we have used nothing but my home made soap since 1976.  Today my soap is far removed from that crude stuff the pioneers made over an open fire, using fat drippings from their slaughters and kitchen grease cans.

I use the finest vegetable oils (olive being the Lamborghini of oils!) and pure, rendered tallow—all of which I purchase online from COLUMBUS FOODS in Chicago.  High grade cosmetic pigments go into the soap for color, plus quality fragrance oils.  I have online sources for these ingredients, as well.  Soap making is an expensive hobby, well worth ever drop of cash and elbow grease involved!  And we saponifiers always have a beautiful gift to offer our family members and friends—the gift of the finest soap.

Ambience (2)

Old painted furniture, dried hydrangeas, British India style shelves, platters and bowls which don’t fit in cupboards and thus are relegated to the floor, family photos, sparkling glassware including Vaseline glass with glass fruit, cookbooks, a teapot and cups and saucers (just a few of a plethora about the home), and a toy bear (also one of many) co-exist in happy harmony.

Now if you happen to be thinking, “This is really weird!” just remember:  “It takes all kinds of people to make a world!”

Margaret L. Been, 2013

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I frequently meet for lunch with friends from high school; now we are talking about friendships of 60 plus years!  Old friends are comforting and comfortable.  One never needs explain oneself to old friends.  They know who you are.  They know who your parents were.  They recall your youthful endeavors and dreams.  If you’ve kept in touch with old friends as I have, they’ve tracked with you over the years.  They still know who you are today!

New friends are delightful as well.  Often they come from different locales and family backgrounds. New friends share our interests while widening our perspective and understanding of other places and traditions.

My wise mother once said, “Throughout the years you will have a variety of friends.  Each one will be unique in a special way.”

How true!  I have a friend who shares my love for gardens, rummaging, and English cottage decor—and another friend with whom I could literally spend a long day into the evening, discussing books and films:  not only the plots or subjects of books and films but the characterization, character development, character changes, psychological overtones and undercurrents, humor and pathos, irony and subtle innuendoes, historical significance, literary allusions, and metaphorical content.

I have friends who share my love for God’s Word, friends who are fellow fans of dogs and cats, friends who identify with my passion for nature and the out-of-doors, kindred poet-friends who savor gathering for a morning of reading aloud, friends who entertain me with tales of their travels, knitting friends, spinning friends, music-loving friends, friends who relish meeting for a day of making art, friends who share my passion for Israel and Ireland, friends with whom I can laugh, and friends with whom I can cry. 

A friend is one who knows your heart, and encourages you in those creative pursuits which mean the most to you.  A friend is never sarcastic.  A friend desires what is best for you, and responds accordingly in actions and speech.   

Daily I pray that I can always be a friend!  🙂

©2011, Margaret L. Been

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The saying that books are friends is so eternally true, that it cannot be labeled “an old saw”!  More times than I can count, books have come through where people have goofed.

As a new Christian, 39 years ago, I was catapulted into a foreign-to-me culture.  Although I now held the deeper answers to life in Scripture, some questions concerning lifestyle surfaced.  Suddenly I was supposed to be a “church lady”.  But I was shocked and horrified by the church ladies who tried to entice me into their midst.

I discovered that, in this fellowship, church ladies met frequently for “prayer meetings”.  The prayer meetings consisted of a perfunctory opening prayer, lots of cake, and an overload of social conversation mainly focussed on those who were not present.  We were supposed to pray for the absent ladies.  To “help” us pray, personal details of their lives were spilled out for all to hear.  The actual prayer following this chatter consumed—at the most—5 minutes.  Also characteristic of church lady meetings were jokes and criticisms targeted toward husbands. 

After a couple of these church lady gatherings, I realized I simply could not stomach any more!  I have always detested gossip, and I believe that husbands deserve our loyalty.  (If there would be a husband problem, a church woman’s group—or any kind of a group for that matter—would not the place to share!)

When I came to faith, I already had many long-standing friends—some of whom I’d grown up with.  Although most of the women I knew did not publically profess faith in Christ—and they certainly did not run around with Bibles in hand—they were gracious, kind, and considerate.  Gossip was anathema.  My friends were home-loving women, steeped in arts and crafts, committed to creating beauty, and dedicated to gracious family living. 

Hence, the gossipy church ladies were an enigma to me—especially because I had thought that, with Scripture in their hands, they would be extra sensitive kindred spirits.  Not so!  I was soon thought to be “odd” because I didn’t want to socialize with the women, and doubly “odd” because I was so very contented at home—knitting, making bread, reading, etc! 

I had expressed my passion for the natural world (after all, it was God’s witness in creation that finally led me to Him at age 37) and that passion made me appear to be a kind of pagan.  Coupled with my interest in old-fashioned home crafts, my penchant for nature branded me:  I was an old Hippie in the church ladies’ eyes!

You can imagine my dilemma.  I wanted to be friendly to those who shared my new faith, but I was constantly aware of their thinly veiled disapproval of my lifestyle.  Was there actually something wrong with me, for hating gossip (even when it was called a prayer request) and wanting to stay home or hike in the woods? 

God saw my confusiuon and loneliness, and came through by putting the perfect book in my hands:  THE HIDDEN ART OF HOMEMAKING*, by Edith Schaeffer.  I had already found answers for intellectual questions from books by Edith’s husband, Francis Schaeffer.  Now here was a book by Francis Schaeffer’s wife—a treasure advocating the lovely, creative aspects of being a “keeper at home”. 

The chapters in this book deal with ways to incorporate every area of arts and crafts into family living.  HIDDEN ART is a joyous book, and it affirmed that my chosen vocation of homemaker was pleasing to God.  Old Hippie or whatever, I was exactly where I was supposed to be.  The church ladies had it all wrong!

I’m eternally grateful to Edith Schaeffer for HIDDEN ART, and the other faith and family based books she wrote.  According to web sources, Edith is still alive with some of her family in Switzerland.  I hope that somehow this blog entry will reach her or other family members! 

The ongoing ministry of L’Abri, started by Francis and Edith Schaeffer in the 1950s, has produced (and will continue to bear) fruit which will astonish us when we get to Heaven and learn the facts!  And the fruit of this godly couple’s books may be like the stars in the sky and the sands in the sea!

*THE HIDDEN ART OF HOMEMAKING is still available, but now it’s called HIDDEN ART.  Sometime in the 1980s the word “homemaking” was dropped, during a time when homemaking was becoming less popular (how very tragic!). 

Shortly after reading Edith Schaeffer’s book, I met a woman whom I consider to be the best, most thorough Bible teacher in the area:  Judy Dalton, of APPLES OF GOLD ministry.  (Judy is still faithfully teaching Scriptures, at 2 different locations outside of Milwaukee.)  Through Judy’s study, I met many kindred spirited keepers at home.  I left that first church with its gossipy scenario, and never looked back.

Meanwhile there’s a current groundswell of younger Christian women who make bread, knit, and home school their children!  Some of the women even raise chickens, rabbits, and sheep—like I did for 2 decades, on my little “funny farm”! 

I am happy to report that in at least some of our local fellowships, the “church lady” culture has become inspiring and fun.  My friend, Judy Dalton, has had a lot to do with the upbeat focus.  And I know that Edith Schaeffer’s writings have made a positive influence on Christian women as well!  🙂 

Margaret L. Been—All Rights Reserved

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river-beauty

Mole:  “And you really live by the river?  What a jolly life.”

Ratty:  “By it and with it and on it and in it . . . . What it hasn’t got is not worth having, and what it doesn’t know is not worth knowing.” 

Kenneth Grahame, THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS

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“The tale that River told was so strange, so mysterious, that all the listening in the world did not quite explain all that was in it.  Even River, who seemed to be doing just as he liked, was not entirely his own master.  Something that Sea had said had got into his spirit.” 

Fay Inchfawn, WHO GOES TO THE WOOD

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Today it is wet and 30 degree-ish outdoors, and one has a feeling of intense rapture.  Life is stirring.  Our river has been thawing and running in my dreams. 

Soon the ice will break, in fact it might begin today.  Just a few weak spots where the ice thins from snowy white to a shade of puce, and the current beneath the surface will rise to greet the world for another season of primal joy.

With the first truly open water on the river and bay will come the Canada goose scouts–followed in a few days by the entire triumphant tribe.  Red-wings will return to resound among the cattails with their “O-Ka-Reeeeee“.

Then, as the current cuts loose from its icy prison, River will rush into our thawing bay with a flood of mergansers–snappy black and white males circling around their red-headed ladies in one of nature’s most whimsical courtship rituals.

On that glorious day of open water, I will dance.  Nothing can stave off my shouts of ecstasy when River cuts loose.  Sometimes I actually cry with the blithering euphoria of it all. 

All my life, I’ve been passionate about rivers.  My girlhood home was situated on two acres overlooking a stream where my friends and I rode the ice floes during spring thaws.  (Our parents didn’t know about that!) 

As the season warmed, I caught tadpoles in the river (we called them polliwogs) and kept them in a fish bowl full of water indoors until they hopped out and began frogging around the kitchen.  In autumn the river quieted to a drowsy stillness.  In winter we skated on the river.

Now, in answer to a lifelong passion, I’m at home on a flowage lake.  Just a handful of canoe minutes away lies the Big Elk River–the pristine wild stream that feeds into and creates the bay and lake on which we live.  In spring, summer, and autumn we paddle up and down River, savoring its delights. 

Even during the months of seemingly inexorable winter, River runs in my mind.  When River freezes I close my eyes and dream of swirling water.  When River freezes I go on paddling upstream in currents of dreams.

Soon my currents of dreams will become currents of reality!

Margaret L. Been–All Rights Reserved

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winter-survival-21

. . . you go into ecstasy over smelling a skunk!

I actually did that a couple of days ago.  We were driving on a back road, and we smelled a skunk!  Not my favorite olfactory experience, but it was the first real sign of spring we’ve had. 

We know it’s a promise of more to come–more skunks as well as the return of our bird friends, the emergence of bears from hibernation, and the first spring beauties peaking through snow sodden ground on our back hill.

Yesterday we went to the Park Falls Library.  That’s the only “real library” in our county; it’s large enough to keep the older books.  Since “older” generally means of more literary value, this is our library of choice.  The smaller libraries throw out the high quality material in favor of the dumbed-down stuff that Oprah recommends.  Yikes!

Of course we have most of Northwestern Wisconsin’s books at our fingertips through the inter-library system.  But it’s such fun to go up to Park Falls and browse! 

I came away with a novel which should definitely see me into March when I can keep one ear outdoors, tuned in to the possibility of redwings “oka-ree-ing” in our swamp:  . . . AND LADIES OF THE CLUB, by Helen Hooven Santmyer.  I missed this gem when it came out in 1982, but now it’s in my hands–or at least in our home.

The book is 1176 pages long, with fairly small print in a big hard cover.  Now that’s a book!  I love huge novels, because–like the old fashioned Snirkles candy bar–they last and last.  My most beloved authors of huge novels are Dickens and Galsworthy.  Santmyer’s biggie matches their classics in sheer heft.  I hope it will come even remotely close in quality.  If I finish . . . AND LADIES OF THE CLUB before the redwings come back, I’ll re-read BLEAK HOUSE–or start another Dickens novel that I somehow missed.

Meanwhile, pictured below is the man who undoubtedly did more to awaken, enrage, and energize England’s social conscience than any other human this side of John Wesley!

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Courtesy of Dover Copyright Free Graphics

Margaret L. Been–All Rights Reserved

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