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Archive for the ‘The Joy of the River’ Category

March Walk

I am not referring to the “outdoors” for millions of Americans, that world which is surrounded by cement, concrete, metal, steel, brick and mortar or any other of man’s useful building materials.  Despite the usefulness of these necessities for community living, we can become so acclimated and overwhelmed by them that we are in danger of forgetting there is another “outdoors”—that which God created not simply to provide resources for the above-listed essentials, but specifically to nurture our bodies and souls.

Speaking from personal experience, I must not only bring God’s created world of outdoors in, I must keep it in to remain balanced and whole.  Thus our home is filled with natural treasures:  a variety of sea shells, coral, hunks of quartz and petrified wood, stones and polished agate, jars and bowls filled with chestnuts, fresh flowers blooming in their season, houseplants, and beauty like the above-pictured gleanings of last summer’s dried bounty harvested yesterday—in the prairie just a three minute walk from home.

We bring the outdoors in when we visit wild places, hike or ski through them, or even just view the natural countryside from a car window if that is all we can do.  Exposures to natural and wild beauty can imprint our hearts and minds for a lifetime—renewing and refreshing over the years.  Even though I can only remember from years ago a vacation at the rocky Maine seacoast, or living with the majesty of the Colorado mountains a few miles from my back yard, I am surfeited by theses experiences recalled.

With a vivid and lively imagine we can bring the outdoors in via books that take us anywhere in the world we desire to go!  I am a person most blessed because I have vicariously traveled the world through books.  When I read I am THERE—wherever I have decided to go—and my soul is richer for the trip!

Over 160 years ago, an American whom I love wrote these timeless words:  “Our village life would stagnate if it were not for the unexplored forests and meadows which surround it.”  Throughout the many decades since Henry David Thoreau penned WALDEN and many other writings, Americans have enjoyed God’s gift of nature so wisely preserved by federal, state, and local governments.  But Thoreau also celebrated and wrote about natural creation which can be found at home, wherever there are gardens, birds, and life!*

I often muse over the era in which Thoreau lived and wrote: the mid 19th century.  Technology back then consisted of trains and factories.  In Thoreau’s lifetime one got around by:  train; horse–or horse drawn conveyance, boat, or foot.  Although the telegraph had been invented, most personal and everyday communications were still largely conducted via the spoken or written word.  Thoreau wrote about the human need to periodically remove oneself from human technology and society.

Thoreau loved to walk, engrossed in every natural sight and sound along the way.  What would the perceptive philosopher think about our world today?  Could he ever have envisioned a culture where countless people walk along a lovely park path, heads down and preoccupied with texting or otherwise puttering with their phones?  Or tuning out the birdsong with earphones and streamed music?

Whether or not Henry David Thoreau could have envisioned such advances, he very clearly understood the human drive to discover the potential of and harness resources for man’s use—with all the more urgent necessity to bring the outdoors in, for the good of our souls!

Margaret l. Been — March 23, 2018

*Thoreau’s writings are not just “reads”; they are “re-reads” over and over and over!  One always discovers something new and fresh with the re-reading.  For Christmas one year, my Joe gave me the complete huge 2-volume set of Thoreau’s diaries.

It is fairly well-known that this “beloved Yankee” died at age 45 in early May, 1862, of tuberculosis.  The diary entries (from 1837 to 1861—two volumes approximately 1750 pages each in small font) center on the natural environment with occasional references to books or articles read by Thoreau, or people in his community and individuals he has met in his travels.  The journals include writings dated until a year before Thoreau’s death, and nowhere in reading have I found anything about Thoreau’s illness or personal distress. 

The final entries in 1861 indicate that Thoreau is no longer out and about.  Friends, one of whom is Horace Mann, bring him natural specimens and gleanings from their nature walks, and Thoreau writes from his past observations when out in nature.  In these final entries we see evidence of the outdoors brought into the immediacy of his home:  descriptions of birds viewed from a window; prevailing weather (always a natural phenomena observable from anywhere above ground); and (most poignant of all I think), delightful descriptions of a batch of kittens born during Thoreau’s final days of writing.

NOTE:  Another and hugely significant reason to love Henry David Thoreau was his dedicated and very vocal advocating for the abolition of slavery.

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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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“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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For weeks our home has been surrounded by silence—the silence of deep winter.  Only the whoosh of wind outside our windows, the whisper of sleet and snow, and the strident caw of hungry crows have broken the lifeless hush which set in around late November and continued through the darkest December days—into the new year.

But suddenly, last week, the silence broke.  Outside our bedroom window, we have an ornamental tree which has graced us with pink blossoms in spring, lush verdure and families of robins in summer, and lovely orange berries in fall and winter. 

Last week, the ornamental tree graced us with a flock of chickadees feasting on the berries, filling the gap of winter with their happy commotion of “chick-a-dee-dee-dee”.

I weep for joy when the birds and their songs come back.  Each day I go into semi-raptures over the cardinals in our front yard tree.  In just a matter of weeks, we will be “cheer-cheer-cheered” when the cardinals burst into territorial proclamations.

In about five weeks we will be able to make the hour trip south to Whitewater, Wisconsin, where we have traditionally seen the first returning redwings of the season.  Their “oka-reeeee” sends me into a state I cannot even begin to describe.

About the same time, the skies will fill with returning Canadas.  I will gaze upward, and wonder which ones are headed for our beloved northern home, to nest and raise their goslings along the Big Elk River around the bend from us.

And chortling robins.  And chattering sparrows.  And the joyous ringing of sand hill cranes overhead, sounding like hollow bamboo wind chimes on a gusty spring day.

Grace in the trees.  Grace in the skies!  Great is Thy faithfulness, O Lord!

© 2011, Margaret L. Been

P. S.  For a bit of funky fun, see “Frontal Lobes and Happy Genes!” on another one of my blogs:  http://northernview.wordpress.com/

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A beloved treasure is our Big Elk River, just around the bend from the bay at our northern Wisconsin home.  Soon the ice will go out, and we’ll be heading north to savor the sights and sounds upriver. 

In canoeing weather we like to go up-river at least once a week, to see the changes in flora and fauna.  We watch families of ducks and geese grow from new-in-the-water to teen-ager.  We see new fawns in season, and on a few occasions we’ve surprised otters sunning on branches over the water.  I delight in the progression of wild flowers, from angelica to Joe pye-weed to tickseed sunflower and purple aster with many beauties in between—including sky blue forget-me-nots which bloom for weeks on sunny banks and mossy logs.

Ahhhh, River!  When we first moved up north I often took my paddle boat, a thermos of iced tea, and a book—and hung out on a sand bar up-river for a few hours all by myself.  Then my love, Joe, got spooked about all the bears running around, and put the kaboosh on that.

This illustration of our river is not a painting, but rather a photo—computer enhanced.  I have also achieved a similar effect with watercolor applied to Japanese masa paper, with its beautiful fractured sizing.   

A Poet’s Place

A poet’s place

where every aspen branch

drips metaphors like Dali’s clocks,

alliteration echoes angelica

artemisia anemone . . .

with stillness-saturated solitude

against the onomatopoeic thrum

of frogs.

A poet’s place

of imagery in river-clad

forget-me-nots, where figures of speech

slide otterwise from scruffy banks

of sandy streams on drowsy days,

and symbols pierce the lunar-nugget nights

in cadence with a Milky Way

of dreams.

Margaret Longenecker Been—All Rights Reserved

Published in A TIME UNDER HEAVEN—seasonal reflections and poems, by Margaret Longenecker Been

NOTE:  Below, is a watercolor which I did on masa paper.  FUN!!!!!!!!!!

A PARTING NOTE:  Please check out my friend Patti Wolf’s new blog:  http://wolfsrosebud.wordpress.com/

You’ll like it!  🙂

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Good Catch

Finally it’s summer!  Gone are those 40 degree mornings, and raw days which threatened to be all we would get this year.  We are having beautiful days, in the 80s.  Soporific days of fishing, reading, sleeping, and lollygoggling about on the screen porch.  Our Denver grandsons, Nathaniel and Joel, arrived yesterday.  When they are here, they bring the essence of summer.  Now the weather is cooperating.

We went upriver today, and Joe landed the above-pictured northern.  We’ll have our fish fry at home tonight.  At this moment, the boys are building a game.  Wherever they go, they have fun together–creating, entertaining themselves (and whomever is around them), and enjoying whatever the moment brings. 

Last night I went to sleep to the delightful music of the guys talking and laughing.  We all go to bed around 9:30 when the boys are here, but we tell them they can read and/or play in their room until a time individually arbitrated by however early we plan to get up the next day.  I normally give them a good 45-60 minutes of extra relaxing playtime at night, so I can savor going to sleep to the heavenly sound of their voices.

Tomorrow we plan to go to our county fair, just a few minutes down the road.  We’ll start with breakfast at the fair, and do as much as we want–remembering to take refreshing breaks whenever needed.  Then we’ll top the day with pizza at our favorite lakeside restaurant.  Of course, we end every day with that old-fashioned summer necessity:  ice cream!

Is there anything more wonderful than soporific summer days?

Margaret L. Been–All Rights Reserved

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Marsh Marigolds--3

Our home sits on an incline, overlooking the bay and lake.  Along the shore is a marsh which skirts our front (lake side) yard, and covers most of the eastern side yard–under the driveway and out to the road. 

Now, as every year in May, our marshland is covered with butter–that glorious butter of blooming marsh marigolds, sometimes called cowslips. 

Marsh marigolds, along with spring beauties which simultaneously adorn the upland into our woods, are the first of our flower friends to return.  Like those friends at our bird feeders, how I love the wild friends that make up “God’s Garden.”

Dandelions are among my favorites; they’re starting to spread their own butter in the grassy areas.  How sad to mow the dandelions before they even have a chance to seed.  I recall the butter we smeared on our noses as children, and the feathery seedlings we blew to the wind when the blooming had finished.  (Child at heart that I am, I still smear and blow!)

The progression of wild flowers goes quickly in the far north, and we don’t want to miss a minute of it.  Soon daisies and orange hawkweed will appear, and those precious little bunchberries down by the sunny shore. 

On a shady, well-drained hill I’ll find bloodroot–appropriately named for the red stain in its stem.  Canada anemone, violets, hepatica, pussy toes, and wild columbine will grace our woods–while wild strawberry flowers, prairie roses, raspberry blossoms, butter and eggs, yarrow, thistles, Queen Anne’s lace, milkweed, black-eyed Susans, and tansy will thrive in sunny spots. 

As we canoe up the Big Elk River, we’ll feast our eyes on towering banks of angelica, tickseed sunflowers, and Joe-pye-weed.  Then, upriver we’ll find exquisite treasure:  masses of forget-me-nots. 

The forget-me-nots sometimes begin in late June, and I’ve found isolated pockets of them way into September.  Not only do they grow along sunny and shady shores, but they pop out of grassy logs midstream–little floating gardens of forget-me-nots.  I think these tiny gems radiate the most heavenly blue outside of heaven itself!

By mid-July we realize that life on earth is a poignant, fleeting thing and time is moving too fast.  Suddenly goldenrod springs up, seemingly out of nowhere.  And then the asters–purple and white–foretelling autumn and the demise of another year.

Flower friends!  Welcomed every spring and summer, and mourned when they leave!  We’ll enjoy them while they last!

Margaret L. Been–All Rights Reserved

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