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Archive for the ‘The Wonderful World of Nature’ Category

Grandpa Longenecker and his racer

The above racing team consists of my paternal grandfather, George Washington Longenecker (1864-1951) and one of his American Standardbreds.  Grandpa George may be considered an obscure poet; but he was far from obscure in Neillsville, Wisconsin where he served for decades as a preacher in the 1st Congregational Church.

Along with “pastoring” (actually Congregational preachers* are called “Reverend” rather than “Pastor”), Grandpa George raised American Standardbreds and competed in sulky races at local fairs.  This activity raised a few legalistic eyebrows in the small Wisconsin community—probably due to the possibility of spectators gambling on the races.  But Grandpa’s recreational passions involved horses and poetry, not money.

Having made poems ever since I can recall and pursued a lifelong study of poetry as fine art, I need to mention that most literary poetry aficionados would consider my grandfather’s verses to be doggerel.  Although Grandpa was raised on classical literature, his course of study was theology—not the fine arts.  Like many Congregational Reverends in his era, he graduated from Ohio’s Oberlin Seminary.

Grandpa George loved the Lord Scripturally, with all his heart and mind.  His poems reflect his love, and that’s good enough for me!  My grandfather also loved music, specifically the great hymns of the Christian faith which he played on his violin.  Much of Grandpa’s poetry contains the cadence and meter of a hymn.

In 1947 Grandpa self-published a book of his work titled SUNSET POEMS—named after my grandparents’ home, “Sunset Point”, on a bluff overlooking Wisconsin’s beautiful Black River.  Here is one of the poems:

Grandpa's Poem

George W. Longenecker

No feature concerning Grandpa George would be complete apart from mention of his beloved life partner, Emma Rosina Ernst Longenecker (1866-1952), my grandmother.  In past blog entries I have celebrated Grandma Rose who was known for her abundant garden produce, homemade bread, and frequent litters of kittens generously shared with people around town.

Here is Grandma Rose when she was a young, Victorian era girl:

Grandma Rose

*A contemporary novel, GILEAD by Marilynne Robinson, centers on three generations of small town Congregational Reverends from the Civil War to Mid-20th Century.  I was riveted to this book and want to read it again, as it reflects my roots.  Potentially classic, GILEAD is a quietly-powerful piece of fiction.  Marilynne Robinson’s storytelling gift is poignantly beautiful.  Two more of her novels, HOME and LILA, form a trilogy with GILEAD.

Margaret L. Been — April 6th, 2016

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Us

“Finally, Brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”  Philippians 4:8

“See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time as the days are evil.”  Ephesians 5:15-16

One would have to be clueless, to doubt the fact that the days are evil.  The days have been evil ever since the game-changing fiasco in the garden.  But Eden did not have cell phones, a worldwide internet, FACEBOOK, TWITTER, and billions of people—starving, warring, and suffering unspeakable horrors.  Eden’s evil was not so sophisticatedly organized, so widely and criminally justified by evil national majorities—so whitewashed to appear humanitarian, reasonable, rational, “kind to the planet” and altruistic, as the convoluted sin of these days.  It took thousands of years to get here.

Those of us who prefer keeping our heads in Scripture rather than sand believe we are nearing the book of Revelation, when the Lord Jesus Christ will return to earth to establish justice and reign in His Holy City, Jerusalem.  No we are not to name the day or the hour.  But YES, we are to watch for the signs prophesied by Old Testament Prophets, the Lord Jesus in His Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24-25), and New Testament letters culminating in Jude and Revelation. 

The days are evil, and we are nearing the end of the Church Age.  In the words of beloved Christian brother, Francis Schaeffer, “How do we then live?”  How am I to respond or react to evil times?  Am I to go high stress, slap-dashing about in a fervor of Chicken Little-ish behavior?  Wrong!  Am I to think about nothing else than the fact that the days are evil?  Wrong again!

Am I to eschew beauty and instead fashion a drab, lackluster world around me, an environment which says nothing about creative living?  How horrible is that!

So what is Right?  My quest for an answer always comes back to the above quotes from Philippians and Ephesians, and countless other passages having to do with gracious, Spirit-filled living.  Joyous living.  God is still in charge.  God has always been and will always be in charge.

Yes, we are to speak up and out whenever we can.  Yes we are to pray with compassion for those who suffer all over this crazy, convoluted earth.  Yet it is still God’s earth.  As well as being fully God, Jesus was fully human—modeling the perfect humanity intended for people on earth, until man and woman (not in that order) blew it in the beautiful garden which God had provided for them.

Our Lord Jesus Christ will return, to reign on earth for 1000 years.  Scripture predicts a New Heaven and New Earth.  Certainly we will not fathom details until they unfold, but nowhere in the Bible is “earth” left out of the equation.  God created earth, and He loves His creation.  In light of that truth I can only gather that we humans, the most valued of His creation, are to go on living and loving the life He has given us on earth.

That means gratitude rather than gloom.  That means serenity rather than stress.  That means pure, down-to-earth appreciation for and pleasure in His boundless gifts—people to love, gardens to plant, creative hobbies to pursue, art, music, poetry, sports, sunshine, fresh air, the list is endless.  Earth gifts!

There is a pathetic “hangover” from past Christian eras and persuasions which taught that physical and soul pleasures were intrinsically evil.  Hence:  the monks who starved themselves or didn’t converse with each other, those Christians who wear drab clothing because anything eye-catching might lead to idolatry (or immorality), and believers who avoid the enjoyment of any pastime without blatantly “spiritual” overtones.

Asceticism is NOT BIBLICAL.  It NEVER WAS BIBLICAL.  Asceticism is a boring, yet potentially devastating ploy invented by the Evil One who—if he cannot get Christians to throw in the towel and quit, will instead lure them into nurturing a sense of pride in not doing this and not enjoying that.*

The paradox here is that within God’s creative, expansive and wholesome arena of “this or that”, we are to walk with joyous confidence; it is the pride inherent in asceticism which God hates, and holds us accountable for.  The person who lives by asceticism may be bowing before the idol of pride!

Life on earth is to be loved, savored, celebrated, and enjoyed to the max while never losing sight of our Creator, never forgetting that He is the Creator of all things—every breath we inhale, every flower we plant and gather.  With our heads full of God’s “whatsoever things”, our lives will shine out to the lost souls who desperately need to know about our Saviour.  As long as God’s people remain on earth (His earth!) and continue to redeem the time, there will be some light, and some good, although the days are evil.

Margaret L. Been — January 26, 2016

(First posted in “God’s Word is True”, September 25, 2015)

*THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS, by C.S. Lewis provides a witty and wonderful treatise on the pitfall of asceticism.

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Pleasant places, pleasant times

gorgeous Wisconsin

Today we traveled just a few miles from our small lake-country community, out to the surrounding countryside—the rivers, farms, and woodlands which say “Wisconsin”.  Pictured above is the Rock River, once a part of the Sauk Indians’ Wisconsin and Illinois territory embedded in history by the leadership of Black Hawk.  From the photo you can see that we’ve had plenty of rain; that white thing apparently floating beyond the high grass slightly above center is a picnic bench.

Joe (flanked by Dylan) cast a line in this river park, which is simply a spur off a county road—one of countless natural retreats for travelers in our state.

gorgeous outing

When Dylan wasn’t fishing, he strolled with me along the water’s edge.  Suddenly, he decided to go wading—something he has never done before.  I was amazed, because it’s always a struggle to get Dylan into the bathtub.  But then, haven’t little boys always preferred wading in rivers to getting lathered up in a tub?  So it’s no wonder that Dylan went in up to his belly, which isn’t all that high off the ground.  Perhaps the presence of hundreds of teensy tadpoles darting in the water provided a lure to adventure, even when it meant my corgi had to get wet.

From the river site Joe, Dylan, and I meandered along country lanes west of the Kettle Moraine State Forest where we lived for 21 years—the longest I have ever lived in any one place for my entire life.  We visited a friend on a farm near Fort Atkinson (more historic Sauk country), and Dylan ran free of his leash—something he hasn’t done since we moved nearly 5 years ago, from our wild northern acres.  On that farm Joe and I stroked horses noses and fondled a small herd of mini-Nubian goats—all of whom Dylan approached with friendly enthusiasm.  (Dylan LOVES all living creatures, barring dogs.  He wants to KILL dogs!)

Laden with rhubarb and some of the best fresh spinach we’ve ever had, we returned home via a favorite country ice-cream shop—“Pickets” possibly named after a 1990s TV series, PICKET FENCES, hypothetically set in  Rome, Wisconsin.*

The actual village of Rome (on the Bark River) seems like something Time forgot, except for the occasional local person walking around with a cell phone.

As you readers can probably gather, our octogenarian decade is at this moment an extremely pleasant time.  We live surrounded by pleasant places, and Home is the most pleasant of all.  Currently we have another family living with us—not inside our 4 room condo, but just outside and above our living room/patio door.

gorgeous best yet birds

The nest contains 5 baby barn swallows.  A week ago we saw nothing but mouths lining the edge of the nest; and when they were open the mouths looked like mini-Muppets.  Now the babies are leaning out of the nest, and they are hilarious.  The middle bird is huge compared to his or her “sibs”, and also the most aggressive.  Some have learned to back over the edge to do their bird jobs; consequently we’ll soon have a piece of work to clean-up.

What we are seeing is Entitlement in action; I call it “OCCUPY NASHOTAH”.  For several days the parents have been zooming and fluttering around between feedings.  It seems that Mom and Dad realize it’s time for their nestlings to get out on their own and DO THEIR OWN WORK!  I hope to be out there when it happens!  🙂

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Pleasant places, pleasant times.  Every single day, I thank our Lord for them.  I’ve lived long enough (and through enough!) to know that “pleasant” can change in an instant—to “crisis”, “emergency”, and even “tragedy”.

Because I know and trust the Lord Jesus Christ who died to save us from our sin and rose to give us Eternal Life, and because I know that I’m in His care forever, I have no fear of the future.  As I rest in Him, He will provide the Grace to bear whatever lies ahead!  Meanwhile I’m thankful beyond expression, for God’s gift of Life—and for the pleasant places and pleasant times He’s given Joe and me today!

©Margaret L. Been, July 2014

*Never having watched PICKET FENCES, I’m not sure of the naming of the country store—or whether or not it was featured in the series.  Perhaps the store was always “Pickets”, and the show was named after it.  Who knows?  Further GOOGLE research may shed light.  🙂

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North

My above-pictured collage, simply titled “North”, tells a story—an account of eight years when my husband and I lived, year around, north of Highway 8 in the Wisconsin Northwoods.  Included in the collage are photos of our lake and the Big Elk River around the bend, snippets of my cropped art, bits of aluminum foil, Japanese lace paper, some cheesecloth, lots of acrylic paint, and a favorite quote from a beloved American author:  Henry David Thoreau:  “I had three chairs in my house . . . one for solitude, two for friendship, and three for society.”  Walden

People who know me may laugh when I share this favorite quotation.  They know that:  1) I have far more than three chairs in our home, as well as far more than three of most anything else.  I’m a collector of everything! and 2) My idea of “society” is a lot more than three people.  We have a gargantuan family.  All are welcome to come and sit on our multiple chairs—although many are still in the stage of running around rather than just sitting.  (My “up north” friend Sandy commented after viewing a photo of our family, “That’s not a family; that’s a tribe!”)

Meanwhile, aside from Thoreau’s eastern philosophical views, I love most everything that he wrote.  His chair quote, to me, symbolizes an inner peace and unswerving stability.  A true Yankee at heart, Thoreau was never swayed by customs, crowds, human opinion, or even his own precarious health issues.  I have his complete diary spanning 24 years and two huge volumes.  Right up to his last entry, when Thoreau was dying of tuberculosis, his focus remained on the wonders of creation and the intricate details therein.

The wonders of creation predominate around our home in Northern Wisconsin, along with solitude and an undescribable stillness.  Black bears abound. Despite the fact that they tore up a few bird feeders and pulled a screen off our front deck, I loved the bears (but my husband did not!).  Perhaps the most unique thrill of all was seeing timber wolves on the ice in front of our pier.  The wolves brought unforgettable excitement to a minus 25° morning.  (That’s 25 degrees below zero, folks!)  But nature’s wonders notwithstanding, my most precious memories of up north have to do with the friends we made—friends forever.  As always, I was thankful to have more than 3 chairs in my home!  🙂

Now we are back in the Southern part of our state, where much needed medical care is within 13 minutes from our door.  And family!  In recent years, 16 great-grandchildren have appeared on the scene and we live close to 9 of them.  We are watching the little people grow up.  We attend their school concerts and some of the birthday celebrations.  I attend church with children, grandchildren, and 7 of our great-grandchildren.  When out-of-state family members visit, we are all together in one county—so tribal gatherings are easily managed.  Joe and I enjoy our condo home, my little gardens, the good neighbors on our lane, the park and woodlands beyond our door, and quick access to great restaurants and bistros.  A new grandbaby is due in June—within rocking and cuddling distance. 

Yet now and then on hot summer nights—when I lounge outdoors on the patio while viewing the hazy moon and scanty stars over our nearby metro area—I recall those northern night skies, plastered with millions of stars.  I often think of my friends up there, and I’m thankful that we stay in touch. 

We never really lose the beloved people or places in our lives.  There’ll always be a part of my heart labeled, “North of Highway 8”.

Margaret L. Been, ©2013

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I’m in agreement with Maria in listing “raindrops on roses” as one of her “fav — or — ite things“!  We’ve been parched around here for a couple of weeks, with sunlight and high winds.  Late last night the thunder and rain rolled in.  What a joy to go to sleep and wake to the sound of raindrops on roses and everything else.

I went out early this morning with my little red SONY®, to capture those raindrops.  They don’t really show up on the photo, but the rose bushes do—along with mertensia (Virginia bluebells), hostas, bleeding hearts, some columbine greenery, and other treasures around my beloved derelict red chair.  (The barrel cactus is fake; it stays out all year.)

I can often spot whether people around here are on my page, by observing their response to rain.  People who just don’t get it are apt to say, “It’s a nice day so far, but later it’s supposed to rain.  (Followed by a grimace.)  But!  But!  In Wisconsin we grow crops.  Barring floods, we need rain.  I lived in the Wisconsin Northwoods for years, and learned that a dry spring is the most fire-dangerous time of the year—as the rising sap in the trees is incendiary.  My gardens need rain.  My soul needs rain.  Rain in moderation and balance, that is.

There is an exception to the “soul need” for rain.  Anyone who lives where it rains for weeks and months on end, with no sight of the sun, is justified in saying “But it’s supposed to rain”—followed by a grimace.  I might do the same thing, if I lived in beautiful, green Northwest Washington State.  We have family members who live there.  Laura, are you reading this? 

Our daughter, Laura, works for a bank in Bellingham, Washington.  She tells a humorous story about when people came to her bank recently on business, from Arizona.  They walked around outdoors in a kind of euphoria, exclaiming, “Isn’t this WONDERFUL?!!!”  After awhile, Laura got tired of hearing the exclamations, and she answered very firmly, “No, it’s NOT!”

Years ago, I visited Laura and her family in January—and experienced the same euphoria registered by the Arizona bunch.  Wisconsin is often below zero in Wisconsin in January.  Our nose hair is apt to freeze up when we go from the house to the car.  So the smell of rain and the moist green Washington earth was heady indeed. 

After I’d exclaimed “Isn’t this Wonderful?!!!!!!!!!” ad nauseum, Laura’s daughter Nancy (then 9 years old) said, “Grandma, doesn’t it ever rain in Wisconsin?”  I think they’d all decided I was nuts! 

This afternoon, more thunder and almost hail sized raindrops are landing on the roses and everything else out there.  It’s wonderful!  But we’ll see how wonderful it is if we have a couple weeks of it! 🙂

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I write a lot about our “full house” of old stuff.  But I do want to share that I appreciate those of you who love the composure and serenity of extra space in your homes!  Indeed there is something very soothing about three interesting things on a table, as well as thirteen.  I do understand your way of seeing!  🙂

The beauty of uncluttered space impacts me whenever we drive through Nebraska or the Dakotas.  Those vast expanses of corn and wheat pressed against a big sky are heartbreakingly lovely!  I never tire of road trips west.  Open spaces tend to surface in paintings reflecting my passion for nature’s beauty.  Hence the above rendering, titled “Deep Powder”.

It is so good that we are all different!  That’s one of many reasons why people are interesting and precious!  How routine it would be if everyone on earth had to walk sideways to get through the furniture groupings in their homes—or found themselves bumping into stuff in the dark of night!  (Around here, things don’t “go bump in the night”.  People do!)

Along with the fact that I’m incurably sentimental about “stuff”, perhaps my love for clutter (albeit organized) is partially due to my reptillian metabolism!  I actually think and move rather slowly—although I’ve been known to talk fast!  Perhaps my decorating style is a kind of visual caffein, keeping my sluggish grey cells as alert as possible throughout the day—just as that ubiquitous “cuppa Jo” keeps my body circulating. 

Meanwhile, I’m thankful that every individual has an unique way of expression in his or her choice of surroundings.  What a blessing!  And without a doubt, The Master Designer has created the most gorgeous decor of all:  priceless views of water, prairie, mountain, and sky!  🙂

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

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One of the many perks here at our pleasant Nashotah home is the fact that in our very same building there is a man who has a northern home just a short distance from where we lived up north, near Phillips. Wisconsin.  Earl gets up north frequently, something we’d hoped to do but so far haven’t managed. 

But never mind!  A recent chat with Earl, apprised me on happenings in our beloved northwoods.  I relished this conversation with our neighbor—good conversation about cougars, black bears, and wolves, oh yes!  It was a deja vue for me, having lived in the north full time for 8 years where tales about the wild things abound.  At nearly every gathering someone has a story to tell, and the talk is never dull! 

I’m keeping track of people who have seen a cougar (mountain lion) in Northern Wisconsin, and now—happily—I can add neighbor Earl to my list.  He has seen a cougar, just west of Phillips.  A few years ago our northern neighbor, Kathy, saw a cougar on County Highway “H”—our road into town.  Other eye-witnesses have surfaced in recent years.  It’s a hoot that for years the Wisconsin DNR denied the existence of this large cat in our state.  A standard answer to the sighting claims was:  “It must have been someone’s escaped pet.”  Or:  “It must have been a bobcat or lynx.”

The bobcat or lynx reply is especially silly.  Both the bobcat and lynx have tufty ears, and a cougar does not.  Both are smaller than the cougar.  The bobcat has a skimpy tail just a few inches long, while a cougar’s tail is spectacular—measuring from 23 to 33 inches!  Bobcats and lynxes are common around Wisconsin, especially in the north.  It would be hard for anyone who lives there to mistake them for a cougar!

Finally the Wisconsin DNR has admitted to the existence of cougars.  DNR researchers have tested blood samples, tracks, etc., and now they are saying:  “Yes, we have cougars.”  Although I certainly don’t want cougars around my great-grandchildren or dog, I do love knowing they are up there in the deep woods! 

When we lived up north, we had a motion-sensitive camera strapped to a tree outside our bedroom window.  We put a sled filled with deer corn near the camera at night and got photos of visitors while we slept—like the above ↑ shot of one our most commonly-sighted wild mammals, north and south!

One night our camera produced the below ↓ photo.  What is it?  We assume it is a fox, but it’s fun to wonder.  If it’s a fox, it’s not a very hairy one!  The tail looks foxy.  But I like to think it looks a bit cougarish, as well!

The next picture ↓ captured by our night camera highlights one of my favorite critters.  In our family, I think I’m the only foolish one who likes black bears.  Yes, they are distructive and they can be dangerous.  It’s essential to leave your cookies and sandwiches inside when you go walking up there.  And try to avoid Mom and her babies!  But aside from confrontations over food and babies, I’m with Teddy Roosevelt.  I think the bears are cute!  I probably will always think bears are cute!  Otherwise why would I have a home full of benign, make-believe bears (which neither eat nor have babies)?!

Unfortunately, I don’t have a photo of our big canine neighbors up north.  We did see wolves several times, twice on our frozen lake.  My heart nearly stops when I see a wolf.  I certainly don’t want to be mystical about wolves, but they are so beautiful!  My husband can do without them, but I enjoy knowing they are out there—far away from my little children and dog of course!

According to Earl, both the bears and wolves are getting more and more pesky.  Anyway, they make good conversation.  We’re never totally removed from wild nature, even down here in Southern Wisconsin.  Our northern home is only 5 hours away.  Meanwhile our neighbor, Earl, has brought the north right back to our doorstep!   🙂

Margaret L. Been, ©2011 

Note:  I couldn’t resist including the following “rendering” which I did of “Brother Wolf”.  The wild ones are ever close, via my imagination!

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