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Thanks to the countless friends who have prayed for Rosemary.  She is coming along, better each day—praise God!  MB

In celebration of our Risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, here is one of my all time favorite poems—also preempting April which is National Poetry Month!  🙂

Pied Beauty 
 
Glory be to God for dappled things –
   For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
      For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
   Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
      And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
   Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
      With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
                                Praise him.
 
Gerard Manley Hopkins, 1844–1889
 
___________________________________________________________________
 
Have a blessed RESURRECTION DAY!!!
 
Margaret L. Been, 2013
 
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How to Long for Heaven?

How to long for Heaven

When Earth is moist with Spring

And in the swamp

The peepers’ anthems ring?

What Rapture

Without that rapture of returning geese,

And season on season

Without surcease?

My Lord is here,

Visible in Sun and rain,

Audible in growing wind

Across the plain.

Margaret Longenecker Been, ©1973

POET’S NOTE:  I do long for Heaven, every time I read a newspaper or watch the news on TV—or hear of human suffering around the world.  Many times a week I pray, “Thy Kingdom come” and “Come, Lord Jesus”.

Yet God is His creative mercy and grace gives us glimpses of Heaven on a daily basis.  All we need to do is look at the sky, and we are lifted to another, richer dimension.  And when winter suddenly turns to spring, the message of Resurrection is overwhelmingly clear!  Our Lord is here!  His visible return is simply  a matter of time.  MLB

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I couldn’t resist.  After tucking into our Saturday morning pancakes, my little red SONY® and I plowed through drifts and wandered in our park.  I was besotted with the abject beauty, which SONY faithfully recorded for me.

From this snowy scramble, I clipped three small shoots of red osier dogwood which are now set into flower frogs in a Victorian transferware pitcher.  Soon the shoots will sprout tiny buds and leaves, and we’ll be on our way to the very next thing:  SPRING.

Much as we anticipate Spring, we can never deny or ignore the charms of the season at hand—although yesterday was a good day to celebrate the season at home rather than on the roads.  I may tire of winter, but I never grow weary of living in Wisconsin.

Early this morning I updated my WordPress Profile—so that whenever my Gravatar is clicked, my five blog sites will appear for readers’ easy access.  While on the Profile page I wondered if I should change the Northern Reflections’ explanatory blurb, which presently reads:  “gleanings from Wisconsin’s wild rivers, lakes, marshes, and woods”. 

When I began blogging in Autumn, 2008, we were firmly entrenched in our far Northern lifestyle of living on 14 plus acres surrounded by a plethora of wildness including black bears, wolves, fishers, more Virginia whitetails than people, and all kinds of winged life.  Eagles soared over constantly year around—and our marsh, lake, and river abounded in waterfowl and songbirds in spring and summer. 

Now we live in Southern Wisconsin, in a semi-rural area with easy access to Milwaukee.  Yet we are still surrounded by wildlife. Only the bears, wolves, fishers, and eagles are missing here—although eagles have been sighted in our county and somehow a very hapless black bear wandered into the Milwaukee suburban area a few years back.  There has been cougar evidence just a few miles north of us in Hartford—and coyotes roam the bountiful Milwaukee Parkway System, terrorizing small dogs and their owners.

Yes, we have wild rivers, lakes, marshes, and woods all over our state—even in our Southern county.  In fact, we live in the middle of the Lake Country with water all around us.  Our home faces a park near Lake Nagawicka, with a wildlife sanctuary along the entire side leading to the lake.  Waterfowl and other large birds fly overhead constantly in spring, summer, and autumn:  great blue heron, ducks unlimited, and of course the Canada geese.  I’ve seen cattle egrets in farm pastures around here—and we have an abundance of hawks and owls. 

Any day now, we’ll hear that “Hallooo-hallooo-hallooo” of the sandhill cranes—like reedy bamboo pipes, rolling their notes with a French “R” while preparing to land in a swamp for some raucous partying before heading to the cornfields. (We actually did see cranes in a nearby cornfield yesterday, so they must be “Hallooo-ing” up there already.) 

When they land, the sandhills may possibly only be “out-raucoused” (if there is such a word) by the tundra swans who sound like Canada geese with asthmatic bronchitis.  But oh, that winsome flight song of the cranes, soothing as our bamboo windchimes rustling in the breeze.

Yes, I’m still gleaning Wisconsin’s wild places.  No matter where I live, I’m wildness, bred and born.  My mother knew the name of most every wildflower and bird, and my dad was a hunter who loved the out-of-doors.  Although a city, Wauwatosa, was my home for most of my growing years, I had an eight year interim in a small upstate community—and there I grew to love the quintessential Wisconsin small town. Precious childhood memories include hunting and fishing with my dad.  Although I hope I never have to shoot anything, I totally respect our local culture of hunters—responsible hunters, that is.  As a kid, I traipsed along behind my father when he went pheasant hunting along the fieldstone hedgerows of hilly Kettle Moraine North near Sheboygan Falls.  I still recall the woodsy, hilly beauty which grabbed ahold of me and never let go.

Summers were spent on water, which I was “in” as much as “out of”.  In our state, learning to swim is a huge GIVEN. It’s a matter of survival, as we are surrounded by rivers and lakes.  Wisconsin kids learn to swim along with learning to read, and often before.  Ever desiring to have a companion, and lacking a son, my dad taught me to fish at an early age as well. 

Yes, I believe I can continue to blog my “gleanings from Wisconsin’s wild rivers, lakes, marshes, and woods” even though I no longer live in the wild north.  Wisconsin’s wildness is an integral part of my soul.  And there is plenty of wildness within easy walking distance of our home!

“Our village life would stagnate if it were not for the unexplored forests and meadows which surround it.  We need the tonic of wildness—to wade sometimes in the marshes where the bittern and the meadow-hen lurk, and hear the booming of the snipe . . . At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be infinitely wild, unsurveyed, and unfathomed by us because (it is) unfathomable.”  Henry David Thoreau, WALDEN

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

Note:  Below you will see my original copy of Thoreau, which I purchased in 1967.  A few years back I bought a new, hardcover edition of the book you see pictured here.  Same everything, but lacking in the ambience of my special dog eared book—with pages falling out, pages ripped, pages annotated by me, and pages flapping.  Time and again I try to read from the new hardcover, and then return to the old worn out copy I love best.

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Resurrection hymns

resound on melting lake . . .

The Canadas are back

_________________________________

Heaven is ringing

with songs of northbound geese

breaking up the winter

_________________________________

Heartless euphoria . . .

soon we’ll dash out blithering

Oh, Oh, Spring!

 

Margaret Longenecker Been, ©2006

Published in BRUSH STROKES, Word Paintings by Margaret Longenecker Been, Elk River Books, Phillips, Wisconsin

 

 

 

 

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An ornamental crab tree twists and turns outside our south facing windows.  The first summer we were here, Mother Robin built a nest within eye level and it was easy to spot hungry little beaks poking above the intricate basket work of the nest.  That nest came down the following winter in a violent storm, and we wondered if there would be another in its place. 

When spring came, we heard lots of musical commotion in the tree, but could see no signs of a nest.  Yet there was chirping for weeks, and there had to be birds there.  When the leaves came down last fall, we discovered the nest—high in the tree where only a giant could see.  So our ornamental tree is definitely a favorite spot.

For decades I’ve been combing my long hair out of brushes and combs, and saving it to distribute under trees in the spring.  I begin saving the hair in August, when the birdsong has diminished and nesting days are over.  By the following May, I have a commodious bag of hair to contribute to avian ecology.  For years, the hair in my bird bag was red, brownish, or blonde for an obvious reason.  Now our resident Mrs. Robin builds with  a “crown of glory”, my hoary white hair.  I’ve given up on the Loreal® dyed coiffure.  The dye fumes were bugging my asthma. 

(My friend, Elaine, has a beauty salon in her home, on an acre which resembles a park with gorgeous trees and shrubbery.  Elaine saves all her sweepings from hair cuts, for the birds’ nests.  She says her trees contain the most gorgeous, colorful nests imaginable!) 

I have enjoyable reasons for wearing long hair at this stage of.  Long hair is far easier to manage and control than short.  Since I love being a girl, looking my best means more and more to me as the years go by!*  And suppling nesting material for spring housing projects provides additional rationale for hair.  Long hair is literally “for the birds”.   🙂

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

*Note:  I’ve always maintained that, were I to lose hair due to illness or decrepity I would purchase a couple of long hair wigs:  one straight and Earth Mother Hippie-ish, and another curly and voluptuous like the hair on the old style Nashville singers.  Maybe I could get a Crystal Gale wig, with hair swinging between my ankles! 

Life is short!  Let’s have fun!!!

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“The tale that River told was so strange, so mysterious, that all the listening in the world did not 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 the sea had said had got into his spirit.”  Faye Inchfawn, WHO GOES TO THE WOOD

Ever since I can remember, I’ve lived near or on water.  I’m passionate about lakes of all sizes, and ponds.  But perhaps I love rivers most of all!  There is something about water, especially moving water!

Much of my growing up was done on a lake in the summer, and in a small town for the rest of the year.  On the edge of our town property, there was a river—actually a quiet stream—where I spent a lot of time exploring its icy path in winter (not the smartest thing to do on a river!) and catching tadpoles in the late spring.

My paternal grandparents lived on a river too—on a high bluff overlooking Wisconsin’s gorgeous Black River.  There were four guest bedrooms upstairs in my grandparents’ home.  When my family visited alone, with no cousins present, I got to choose my bedroom for the duration of our stay.  I always chose the one overlooking the river.

The river pictured above, where you see my husband fishing, is the Big Elk which flows into a bay by our up-north home.  I have spent many drowsy afternoons in a canoe or my pedal boat on the Big Elk—with a book and a thermos of iced tea.  I would bank on a sandbar upriver, where no homes could be seen, and swim off the sand bar.  Sometimes I would take a sandwich and cookies—also not a good idea, on a river where black bears abound on the wooded banks.

Now we live in a condo in an area of farms, quaint villages, and newer subdivisions.  There’s a lot of water in our neighborhood.  Rivers flow into lakes, and between the lakes, forming a network of water and a very special culture—known as “Lake Country”. 

Small communities of old Victorian style homes, Cape Cods with gables, 1920s bungalows, and cozy cabins have lakes and rivers at their doorstep.  Any given lake or river may be banked by circa 1880s mansions, with small summer homes close by.  Good old boys’ bait shops with names like “Mike’s Musky” share a village block with establishments for high end dining.  Horse farms sprawl across the Lake Country—sharing the turf with corn, black Angus, and Herefords.  There are even a few dairy herds left in this moist and fertile bit of Wisconsin. 

In the midst of our condo buildings there is a small pond surrounded by grass, shade trees, some gardens, and benches where people can rest.  With a heart full of lake and river years, I now love sitting beside the pond and watching the water.  Cattails grow along the edges, peepers trill and sing on spring afternoons and evenings, and occasionally I see a pair of mallards in the pond.

In the center of the pond, a fountain gushes up and out—ruffling the water, reminding me of rivers of rushing water.  I sit here and reflect on the goodness of life.  I think of my large and loving family, and my heart stirs like the ruffles in the pond.  Currently Joe and I have 15 great-grandchildren, and another baby is due next autumn.  Rivers of blessing! 

We have yet to meet one of the great-grandchildren—a little boy born last autumn.  He lives in another state, and we hope to meet him soon.  This little fellow has an unusual name:  “River”!

One more River in my life!

Margaret L. Been ©2011

Note:  The big water on the header of this page is the greatest inland lake in the world, a lake which has totally captured my heart and imagination:  Lake Superior.  The boy wading in Lake Superior is far more precious than the lake:  our grandson, Joelly.  🙂

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If I were Julie Andrews alias Maria, I might be running around trilling “The skies are alive with the sound of music . . . ”  The skies and also the trees, bushes, telephone wires, and roof tops!

The excitement of these days just before and weeks after the vernal equinox will never fade in my heart and mind!  Every time I go outdoors with Baby Dylan, I’m thrilled anew.  When the days warm up, the window in our bedroom will be open to the early morning chorus.  We’ll never turn on our air conditioning for that and other reasons!  When wonderful things happen, we want to experience them!

The snow has melted off the path around our park, and Dylan and I have resumed our walks there.  Overhead we hear the Canadas announcing their travel agenda—and the mellow, reedy “Halloooo, hallooo, hallooo” of sandhill cranes high in the sky. 

Robins are chortling in the treetops.  For weeks now, we’ve heard the “Chick-a-dee-dee-dee” of the you know what—that sweet, fat, and friendly little bird.

The mourning dove is “Whooo-whooo-ing”.  The cardinal has cheered us all winter with his color; now he is “Cheer-cheer-cheer-ing” us with his territorial song.  Juncoes are leaving to go way north, and a variety of sparrows are returning to warble and chip on rooftops. Ducks are gabbling overhead.  The skies are alive!

However, on New Year’s Eve of this year and shortly after, the skies over Louisiana, Alabama, and Arkansas broadcasted not life but death!  I’ve been trying to find answers for that avian tragedy which struck early this year—a tragedy concerning one of my most beloved birds!  Here is a clip from New York Magazine

5,000 Dead Blackbirds Hit Something Very Hard

How and why did 5,000 redwing blackbirds fall from the sky at once on January 1?  It’s the question keeping America up at night.  A preliminary report released Monday evening said the birds showed evidence of trauma in the breast tissue, with blood clots in the body cavity and a lot of internal bleeding, and likely all died from “massive trauma.”  Biologist Karen Rowe told CNN that bird trauma is often caused by a lightning strike, heavy storm, or high-altitude hail, although the signs of trauma may have also been caused by the force of hitting the ground.  Or they may have gotten startled by something and flown into a house, tree, or each other. But then there’s this detail:  Blackbirds do not normally fly at night, and it was not immediately clear what caused the odd behavior. 

The report continues:  Loud noises were reported shortly before the birds began falling, according to the game and fish commission.  “The birds obviously hit something very hard and had hemorrhages,”  Rowe said. 

Here is another report, from www.msnbc.msn.com/ : 

BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor:  We mentioned this earlier and we’re back now with the puzzling story of a massive kill of wildlife in the state of Arkansas—birds falling out of the sky, the result of some sort of trauma, and fish found dead in the water, thousands of them in separate incidents in the same state.  We get our report tonight from NBC ‘s Janet Shamlian in Beebe, Arkansas 

JANET SHAMLIAN reporting:  They rain down on a small Arkansas town like a scene from a horror movie.  Thousands of dead black birds on front lawns, and so many in the street, drivers could barely avoid them.  As many as 5,000 bird carcasses littered across a one-mile radius after dropping from the sky on New Year’s Eve.  What could have caused it?  As the state veterinarian examined the birds today, theories have run the gambit from their being hit by lightning or high altitude hail to being spooked to death by New Year’s Eve fireworks. 

Beyond the birds and adding to the mystery, there was a massive fish kill also here in Arkansas just one day earlier.  As many as 100,000 drum fish are dead along a 20-mile stretch of the Arkansas River.  The experts call it coincidence.  Wildlife officials say the fish likely died of disease, not a pollutant.  Janet Shamlian, NBC News, Beebe, Arkansas.

BEEBE, Ark:  Preliminary autopsies on 17 of the up to 5,000 blackbirds that fell on this town indicate they died of blunt trauma to their organs, the state’s top veterinarian told NBC News on Monday.  Their stomachs were empty, which rules out poison, Dr. George Badley said, and they died in midair, not on impact with the ground.  That evidence, and the fact that the red-winged blackbirds fly in close flocks, suggests they suffered some massive midair collision, he added.  That lends weight to theories that they were startled by something.  Violent weather rumbled over much of the state Friday.  Lightning could have killed the birds directly or startled them to the point that they became confused.  Hail also has been known to knock birds from the sky.

One website stated that some of the redwings were sent to Madison, Wisconsin, for further testing, but I cannot find any more info on that.  Meanwhile, not all the redwings are gone!  On March 6th, Joe and I upheld a tradition:  we went to Whitewater, Wisconsin where we first see the redwings  in Southern Wisconsin, in a swamp behind RANDY’S SUPPER CLUB (where we then get excellent prime ribs).
 
What a joyous sight, and sound!  When the redwings arrive in Jefferson County, we can expect to hear them in our county a few days later.  And guess what?  A few days ago, we did.  Yes, the redwings are here—staking out territories high in the trees* and thrilling us out of our shoes with their gorgeous sky music, “Oka-leeeeeeee”!
 

*Note:  I have read that the redwing males arrive first and stake out their nesting territory.  Then the females arrive, and choose the homesite they prefer—taking whatever mate goes along with the site.  That strikes me as hilarious!  I wonder who wears the pants in the redwing culture!

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

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