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Archive for the ‘The joy of rain!’ Category

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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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. . . 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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 “To be as ‘mad as a March hare’ is an English idiomatic phrase derived from the observed antics, said to occur (some say incorrectly) only in the March breeding season of the hare.  The phrase is an allusion that can be used to refer to any other animal or human who behaves in the excitable and unpredictable manner of a March hare.

“A long-held view is that the hare will behave strangely and excitedly throughout its breeding season, which in Europe is the month of March (but which in fact extends over several months beyond March).  This odd behaviour includes:  boxing at other hares, jumping vertically for seemingly no reason, and generally displaying abnormal behaviour.

“Although the phrase in general has been in continuous use since the 16th century, it was popularised in more recent times by Lewis Carroll in his book ALICE’S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND which has the March Hare as one of its main characters.”  Wikipedia

Old sayings hang on forever because they are so appropriate!  Never before have I felt more like a March hare than today!  I’m not boxing at other hares and jumping vertically for seemingly no reason.  But if I could safely jump vertically, I would.

The vernal equinox, longer days, demise of mountains of snow, and recent full moon have joined forces in making this blogger feel as though she has been shot out of a cannon.  I must move cautiously or I just might display abnormal behaviour (I love the English spelling).  It would be too easy to do something I’d sorely regret, like cut my hair!

So I’ll walk circumspectly, stay away from the scissors, and stroll in the rain with Dylan.  He’s been acting a bit silly—gazing through the patio door and rumbling, when apparently there is nothing out there to rumble at.  Maybe we can find a March hare for him to box.  🙂 

Margaret L. Been ©2011

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Hunkering on the mantel of our electric fireplace, beneath my Dad’s collection of arrowheads found around Aztalan, Wisconsin in the 1930s, you will see an assortment of clocks.  Every one registers a different time, and every one is correct two times a day.

In our fast pace culture, people are said to “live by the clock” (although today I think many live by their cell phones).  But Joe and I are not fast lane people.  Even during those decades when we had to frequently glance at a clock (an accurate one!), we were slow lane people.

For me, the clock that matters is not that attractive little timepiece on my wrist or bedside table.  The clock that matters is God’s clock—His sun which He moves faithfully across the sky century after century, eon after eon, to delineate the seasons.

Science has shown how migrating birds respond to the increase and decrease of daylight around God’s seasonal clock.*  Spring migrations move as the days grow longer.  A migration may be halted temporarily by wintery weather, but the impetus to move is solar generated. 

The birds do not dream of balmy breezes and lilac blooms; rather, they instinctively know when to move north and stake their mating territories in sync with accelerated daylight.  Thus, spring theoretically begins for migrating birds when the sun says “GO”.  This is in February around the Gulf of Mexico, Central America, or South America where our summer birds spend their winters. 

I’m like the birds, in some ways.  By mid January, more sunlight poured into our windows.  Now, by mid February, I sit outdoors in a sheltered sunny spot.  The sun grows higher and stronger every day, and in my heart it’s spring. 

Much as I totally love those intoxicating balmy breezes and lilac blooms which come in May, I don’t need them to experience the turn of a season.  Despite the probability of more snow storms, our February sunlight—rising ever higher as it moves north—is SPRING!  I can always bundle my body against the cold, yet feel that searing warmth and strength of God’s sun on my face. 

The entire progression of spring, beginning with increased daylight following the winter solstice, is exciting. Now we are having a thaw.  More snow may come, and we can savor its fleeting beauty because we know that the sun will continue to move northward according to God’s law! 

Soon we will hear the mourning dove’s “Whoo-whooo-whoo”, and the “cardinal’s “Cheer-cheer-cheer”, followed by the “Oka-reeeee!” of that evangelist, the redwing blackbird as he proclaims, “I am FREEEEE!”

Maple syrup days will come.  Thawing days and freezing nights raise the sap in us as well as in a sugarbush!  Then we’ll have a period, perhaps weeks, of cold rain—dreary to some, but tremendously exciting to me as the rain releases that fresh green fragrance from the earth. 

It’s all about spring!  “Cold and wet” are a huge part of spring in our land, and it’s wonderful!  Balmy breezes and lilacs are a long way off, but never mind.  I don’t need them at the moment, because I have the ever lengthening daylight.  God’s clock never fails.  God’s clock says “SPRING!”

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

*A fantastic resource of scientic info on bird migrations is found in THE SNOW GEESE, A Story of Home, by William Fiennes.  I read this recently published book (2002) two or three times every year.  The author weaves his touching personal story into a wealth of well-researched material on migrating birds.

NOTE:  Now you see him, now you don’t.  In the event that you visited this page recently and found Humphrey Bogart, and now are wondering where in the world he went, Humphrey has been moved to http://richesinglory.wordpress.com/  . 

I decided “Riches” was a more appropriate place for that entry.  🙂  MLB

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Although we still spend a lot of time outdoors, especially throughout the beautiful Autumn, cooler weather draws us inside as well.  Joe and love I being at home.  There’s room for everything we enjoy doing, right here in the cozy corners of our little condo which resembles an English country cottage. 

I’ve switched from iced tea to hot tea.  An English teapot and cups and saucers are ever ready on our living room coffee table (where coffee is served as well).  I love to hostess tea gatherings, fiber sessions, poetry readings, and afternoons of book or art talk.  Joe and I thrive on lunch or dinner company as well, and our fall and winter soup* suppers are special.

Now that the heat and humidity are behind me, one of my spinning wheels is constantly before me—and I’m producing more gorgeous woollen yarn for wearable art.  How lovely to spin away a rainy afternoon beside the fireplace**, while drinking Earl Grey loose tea steeped in an English teapot!

One of my favorite quotes of all time comes from Dorothy:  “There’s no place like home.” 

So join me, for a mini-stroll through our “Heaven on earth”. 

My mother would be proud of me.  I practice nearly every day!

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My gallery of wearable fiber art is always available for viewing.

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Our pretty kitchen!  Lots of wonderful things happen here!

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Our great-grandchildren’s play corner features this gorgeous doll house which Joe built from a kit years ago.  Completing the doll house with all the individual “cedar shakes” took him longer than it had taken him to add a room onto our home.

The boys and girls love the doll house.  When they visit, it is theirs to arrange, rearrange, redecorate, or whatever.  Not shown in the photo is the rest of the play corner, with a farm and loads of animals which find their way into the doll house.  (My toy dog collection resides there all the time.)

Also in the play corner the little ones enjoy Lincoln Logs, play dishes, many Teddy bears, and loads of wonderful books!  Bring on the children.

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If you are ever in the neighborhood, please stop in for tea!  🙂

Margaret L. Been, ©2010

*For years when we lived up north, we dined at a restaurant which featured sweet and sour cabbage soup.  It was a thin dinner soup, and I purposed to concoct my own thick sweet and sour cabbage soup.  (I make the kind of soups you can almost prop a spoon in.)

By Googling “sweet and sour cabbage soup” I found the constants—the sweet and sour typical proportions for a medium sized crock pot full of soup.  But many recipes contain cider vinegar.  I wasn’t happy with inhaling vinegar fumes while eating soup.  Finally I latched on to lemon juice—the most wonderful “sour” of all.  Here is my sweet and sour cabbage soup:

In a crock pot, cook overnight (14 to 18 hours on low power) a boneless pork tenderloin or boneless beef pot roast in a cup of 100% apple juice, 1 or 2 cups of water, 1 tablespoon of chicken base, 1 tablespoon of beef base, plenty of white pepper (it has to be white pepper for that wonderful afterglow in the mouth!), salt, and a few shakes of MAGGI®.

The next day, tear the meat apart with forks until shredded.  Remove two thirds of the meat and freeze for a later meal of meat and rice, sloppy Joes, or whatever. 

Keep the remaining 1/3rd of the meat in the crock pot.  Add 3 capfuls of REAL LEMON®, 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, more white pepper and salt, a bit more MAGGI®, about one third or one half of a shredded and chopped cabbage, some chopped up carrots, a bit of tomato (not too much—just enough for color and interest), and 3 or 4 tiny chopped up green onion heads.  Add 1 or 2 handfuls of noodles, or 2 or 3 cut up baby reds.  Cook on low power all day—at least 8 hours.

This soup, with homemade or RHODES® bread, jam or honey, and fresh fruit, is about as close to Heaven on earth (foodwise) as you can get! 

But I say the same thing about pea soup, bean soup, minestrone soup, and that amazing post-Thanksgiving turkey soup (made from the boiling the turkey bones, left-over meat and skin, etc.) which we enjoy all winter!  🙂 

**Our “fireplace” consists of 4 behind-the-scene light bulbs over simulated logs.  It glows and “flames” like a fireplace, and also has a heat setting for nippy early Autumn mornings.  These gems come in many sizes, and are available at Menard’s.  The one shown above has an attractive surround, with a mantle for my collection of interesting and funky clocks.

We have a smaller Menard’s “fireplace” in our dining area.  How mellow is that!

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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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Can those of you who live anywhere south begin to imagine what happens inside of us northern folks when— after 6 months of bare trees and frozen, snow-covered ground—we experience the annual explosion of green?  Can you comprehend our joy in the sudden appearance of fluffy, peach colored buds preceding the green?  Can you appreciate our euphoria, our sense of freedom as the days grow longer and warmer?  Maybe it’s kind of like being shot out of a cannon—something I’ve never experienced, but assume to be rather thrilling! 

Color, after months of grey and white!  We 4-season people do find beauty and color in winter—in thickets of scarlet dogwood branches and tawny fields of corn stubble, and in those spectacular winter skies of violet blue. 

I celebrate winter’s beauty, even write poems about it.  But by March, my odes to winter begin to resemble “whistling in the dark.”

When the air grows wet and warmish, I actually have what I call “green dreams”.  At night I phase out with the scent and sight of green things racing in my head.  There are many winding, woodsy stretches in our area where branches of hickory, prairie oak, American elm, and maple dip down over the roads—and yards are cloistered in green, poignantly lovely in the viridian of early spring, and darkly mysterious later in summer when the foliage turns to a deep, intense green.  These wooded lanes are the scenes of my green dreams.  I dream them over and over, year after year, on spring nights.

In one of his books, New England naturalist Hal Borland likened the annual explosion to a “quiet revolution” representing incredible power, the power of chlorophyll production which takes place in every leaf and blade of grass. 

Over our long Wisconsin winters I read many books, and I frequently read about human revolutions:  the French Revolution, the American Revolution, the Irish Revolution, the Mexican Revolution, etc.  History is fascinating, and I’ll always read it.  But now there is only one revolution on my mind:  the explosion of green. 

I live and breathe the color green—waking and sleeping.  This spring focus on earth, with its burgeoning life, is a homecoming.  Although we are pilgrims en route to another place, earth is momentarily our home.  Today we are citizens of earth—placed in God’s Creation for a time, to savor the beauty and experience the goodness of life so aptly summed up in the annual explosion of green.

Margaret L. Been—All Rights Reserved

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