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Archive for the ‘Winter Solstice’ Category

SON

I have read more than once of how people in Europe, generally speaking, have a greater handle on relaxing and savoring the ambience of the moment compared to those of us in the USA.  The utter devastation of the big wars, something most Americans cannot even begin to comprehend, resulted in some cases in a determination to celebrate the moment whenever there was a moment of peace.

Most conservatives, of which I am one, decry the mentality that would sooner accept a government handout than look for a job.  But how often do we realize that there are also some Americans who drive themselves relentlessly, even ruthlessly, in a self-imposed and unnecessarily severe work ethic which precludes taking a time out for rest, relaxation, recreation, and soulful reflection.

It is one thing to struggle when necessary for SURVIVAL.  But quite another to drive and push in order to procure the myriads of material things that many of us have grown to believe we need and must have—items far beyond the basics of food, decent shelter, and adequate clothing.

To clarify, please understand that I really enjoy material things—and I have an abundance of them, although many are of the vintage shop variety purchased for a little more than a song:  things the trendy crowd would sneer at superciliously.  But I am not, and never have been, willing to sacrifice a lifestyle of savoring the moment in order to obtain myriads of “things”—and certainly not “high status”, flashy, grandiose things which mean absolutely nothing to me in contrast to a better way:  the timeworn, gracious, contemplative, and appreciative quality of life.

We Christians should understand and appreciate God’s mandate to “Be still, and know that I am God.”  Quite apparently, it runs against the grain of human nature to “be still”, and when it comes to noise I know I can contribute volumes.  But God calls us to a lifetime of poised stillness—an inner attitude of restful quiet while we work or socialize, and as we defend God’s truth in our words and actions.

Too frequently we leave the serenity factor to the New Agers.  They are great at focusing on tranquility and peace; but theirs is a false, demonic “peace”—a counterfeit of the true peace that only the One True God can give through His Infallible Word—and through quietly savoring each moment He gives us.

Our nation is in the midst of a vicious political/cultural season, with evils of immorality and the horrendous demon of anti-Semitism on the rise.  Frequently we must speak and act to project the truths on which we stand.  But to speak and act with an attitude of genuine inner serenity—that is the challenge, one of which I too often fall short.

There are times when we must (and will!) be visibly, viscerally angry.  For instance, I am livid over the Obama-via-Samantha Powers dissing of Israel at the UN on 12/23/16—a day of infamy—and I express this anger with every opportunity.  Yet I must cling to the understanding that God is in control; He must be the very center of my being as I speak, act, and even as I express my abject anger.

In view of national and global chaos, I pray I will never forget the better way—to be still and know that God is God.  For my husband and me, the “better way” translates to treasuring the simple joys:  time spent with family and friends, birds at the feeders, the drip-drip of melting snow from our rain gutters during a January thaw, these ever-stretching daylight minutes since the darkness of winter solstice, and ever-present scenes like the one above—a fantasia of ice and snow photographed from our patio.

Meanwhile, I’m wishing you a New Year blessed with tranquil islands of solitude and serenity, for savoring the better way.

Margaret L. Been, 1/22/17

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Clean Palette 2

Except for last minute baking, I’m ready for Christmas.  Tree lights are glowing.  Gift bags, stuffed with presents and labeled according to family groups, are neatly arranged around the tree.  Our out-of-town family members’ gifts (to Colorado, Washington, and California) have arrived at their destinations.  

With approximately 46 family members, Christmas preparations are no small accomplishment.  But, by God’s grace, I’ve managed to do it again.  Online shopping and the plethora of available gift cards have made Christmas traditions incredibly easy.  And it’s fun to shop throughout the year—finding gifts at art fairs, antique shops, and bookstores.  Some of the items have been produced (painted, grown and dried, knitted, etc.) right here in our home.  By December my storeroom is groaning with bounty, eagerly waiting to be wrapped or bagged.  A sense of order reigns.

While savoring the process of preparation, I focus on the Greatest Gift of all: our Lord Jesus Christ and the salvation He has provided through His shed blood, for all who will believe.  God Incarnate died to pay our sin debt, and rose to give us Eternal Life.  Through the Abundant Life of His Indwelling Holy Spirit, we have peace in the midst of turbulent times.

As the earth turns . . . !  Now that may sound like a silly soap opera title.  But the revolving of the earth around the sun, season after season and year after year, is far more exciting than any human meladrama ever imagined!  The revolving of the earth is a God drama, and it never grows old. 

Some individuals are acutely sensitive to the turning of the earth and seasons, and I’m grateful to be one of those people.  In our souls, we actually feel the turning which accompanies seasonal changes in the amount of daylight.  The turning surges in our blood and bones, and we respond with anticipation and joy!

Thus when we plummet headlong toward the darkest day (approximately December 21st this year), those of us who turn with the earth anticipate the very next thing—an increase in daylight which will begin shortly after the solstice.  By Christmas Day, we’ll have gained one minute of daylight.  According to my charts, New Year’s Day will bring an additional 4 minutes!  The sun rises later for awhile after the solstice, but daylight compensates by increasing substantially at sunset.

This after-solstice turning is illustrated by the above photo: a clean palette representing a new year.  Recently I got up in the night, determined to make a fresh start at my bridge table studio.  I really do believe in setting New Year’s goals, because (reasonable) goals inspire me to new adventures.  

My art goals for 2013 are:  1) slow down, deliberate more thoroughly, spend days (or possibly weeks) on a single painting and 2) work bigger.  The sheet of ARCHES 140 lb. cold press paper pictured above is larger than I have successfully negotiated so far.  I’ve tried working on a sheet this size, only to botch up part of it—resulting in cropping and matting smaller renderings from my initial attempt.  Perhaps the goal of slowing down will facilitate a shift in the size of my “masterpieces”.

I know I’ll start in on the sheet and clean palette before January 1st.  When I’ve learned to paint this size to my satisfaction, I hope to graduate to the American standard full sheet of watercolor paper which is 22″ x 30″.  For that undertaking, I’ll outgrow my bridge table and will need to clear off 2/3rds of our dining room table—leaving a commodious 1/3rd on which my husband can relax over his meals.*  (I’ll sandwich my miniscule servings into a space at the edge of my palette—while being careful not to crumb up the work in process.) 

Human goals notwithstanding, only God knows what 2013 will bring!  Someone recently posted the following comment on one of my blogs:  “I think Obama was re-elected so Americans will put their trust in God rather than politicians.” 

A wise statement!  Perhaps this will be the year when our nation returns to the premise on which we were founded.  Perhaps 2013 will be the year when our Lord returns for his own!  God is faithful and He will fulfill His plan as promised in Scripture, as the earth turns . . . !

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

*Praise God, I have a husband who heartily applauds my makey lifestyle.  He has been apprised of my desire to paint big, and he’ll be interested in whatever is going on at his dinner table!  I could set up an art camp in the middle of our living room, and he wouldn’t mind a bit.  But he does have his very own room for lounging in a LAZY-BOY, resting on a daybed if desired, viewing whatever sports are in season, and working at his own paper-inundated computer desk. 

It comforts me to note that some geniuses (among them, reportedly, Albert Einstein!) have had messy desks like Joe’s.  My desks are picky neat, so I’m obviously not very brilliant!  But I never mess with Joe’s space, other than the occasional perfunctory swipe of the woolly duster on his TV screen and around the pictures (my art) on his walls.  

Joe’s room is his domain—although he did buy a comfy chair on wheels which can be rolled out of a corner so that I can join him to watch National Geographic lions, or whatever.  We are highly compatible!  🙂

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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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Three weeks ago today, Joe and I drove to a nearby city anticipating a hearty breakfast at a favorite Greek owned restaurant.  After letting me off at the restaurant door Joe suffered a serious accident, which has impacted our lives in making each moment we have on earth more infinitely precious even than before! 

Life was always precious to us, but the treasure of our time together has reached a new, heretofore undreamed of level!

Joe suffered no broken bones or internal organ damage from the accident, and no other persons were involved.  The remaining challenges consist of a 3rd degree burn on his left leg (which will eventually require surgery) and a considerably damaged shoulder which may respond to physical therapy.  The burn is painless, because nerves were destroyed, and the shoulder grows less painful every day.  Also, Joe had a coronary artery incident last week and that has been treated as well. 

Joe and I have received grace upon grace, and blessing upon blessing in a short span of 3 weeks’ time.  We have been moved to tears by the kindness and generosity of our family members who have dropped everything to cart us to appointments and help with our daily household needs.  Since I am only a few weeks out of lumbar fusion surgery, help at home has been a lifeline.  Our daughter, Debbie, who lives a mile or so from us has been a constant cheerful worker!

We are amazed at the caring, personal quality of the doctors and nurses who are tending Joe during his crisis.  He is receiving the best of care, just as I have received for my surgery and recovery.

Meanwhile, the quiet, “darkling days” are upon us.   The demise of daylight savings has descended with a thud, reminding me of a curtain falling on a stage—signifying the end of a drama, in this case the drama of 2010. 

Summer born, I’m a creature of light.  The onset of darkness makes me cling to that small bit of remaining light—as well as to the fact that in just 6 weeks the winter sun will be moving back to the north and our beloved daylight will slowly, inexorably return.

Joe and I are resting.  Our little patio garden is resting as well.  In a low alcove, protected from all but the east wind, the herbs continue to flourish—several frosts notwithstanding.  The garden will provide fresh sage for a turkey dinner.  Garden mint for my tea will sustain me, bringing me closer to that moment when the sun resumes its northern climb.  

I gaze out at the patio, where I lounged most every afternoon during our long hot summer.  The poignant sweetness of summer lingers in my heart, with an undercurrent of sadness.  But the promise of spring in my garden brings a spirit of joy, and a prayer of gratitude. 

Joe’s accident reminds us that, in our personal lives, we never know what lies around the next bend.  Our envisioned breakfast out can turn into a day of sorrow at the nearest Emergency Room.  Dreams can become nightmares in just a few seconds.  Humanly speaking, this very moment is all we can be certain of on earth!

But eternal truth prevails as expressed in a favorite hymn based on Lamentations 3:22-23:  “Great is Thy faithfulness, Oh God my father . . . Summer and winter, springtime and harvest, sun moon and stars in their courses above . . . .”* 

Healing requires time and patience.  Winter requires time and patience, at least here in Wisconsin.  But our Lord is faithful!

Margaret L. Been, ©2010

*From Great is Thy Faithfulness, by T. O. Chisholm and William M. Runyan

(For a recently penned ode to the darkling days, please see the “Paintings and Poems” page on this site.)

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For the first time since November, I am watching the dawn–and here is the reason.  Our large living room patio door faces east.  We are situated in an alcove, tucked away from views to the north and south.  From our patio we can look neither north nor south:  only straight ahead–east.

Dawn seems to quit somewhere during November in our northern land.  It’s out there in the darkest weeks, but the dawn is merely a phantom of its former self–greyed by an overcast sky.  If one faces east, even the phantom is obscured.  Through our bedroom window, we see early morning light in all seasons.  But not the actual dawn.  Dawn happens far away in the south, throughout those bleak days around the winter solstice.

Our family is experiencing a winter solstice.  Nearly 48 hours ago, on Thursday morning, our daughter Judy suffered cardiac arrest.  She was resuscitated, and since then has been connected to machines and monitors at the Waukesha Hospital–in a medically induced coma, for the best possible recovery.  Today is crucial.  Judy is scheduled to come out of the coma, and we will know more about what the future holds.

Meanwhile the sun is slowly, faithfully moving back to the northern zenith.  Today is still grey and misty.  But on the first clear day, the woods beyond our patio door will glow a rosy-gold–reflecting the returning dawn.  We are watching the dawn, and waiting . . .

“Though I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there shall Thy hand lead me, and Thy right hand shall hold me.”  Psalm 139:9-10

Margaret L. Been–All Rights Reserved

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. . . it’s CHRISTMAS! 

This morning I read the Airstream Communications weather report:  “Winter storm, snow batters west, heading east.”

I ache for travelers, as I recall countless snow filled Christmas holidays when we were on the road or waiting for loved ones at airports.  My husband and I have driven on treacherous highways and lingered for hours in midnight airports, clogged due to delayed or cancelled flights.  Indeed, it seems like an unwritten law that planes from Denver to Milwaukee will be delayed for hours around Christmas–and invariably at night! 

Yet no matter what the weather, it’s Christmas!

We have experienced some Christmas holidays which were far from “merry”–times shadowed by the death of a family member, or the rebellion of a loved one.  And there were celebrations where I went through all the festive motions with a broken heart due to fractured relationships!

Yet no matter what our circumstances, it’s Christmas!

Recently we attended a preschool Christmas program held at a huge church, once known for upholding the Gospel and God’s Word.  The program featured a manger scene with all the main players entering in their turn.  When it was time for the wise men to join the group, they were announced as “wise people”. 

Evidently it’s no longer “correct” to refer to wise men–even though the Biblical travellers (who didn’t actually arrive on the scene until about 2 years after Jesus’s birth) were historical figures, and men!  

Then the adult narrator of the program talked about “Jesus”, but I’m not sure which Jesus he meant.  He spoke of a Jesus who wants to come into our hearts “so that we’ll know how much we are loved by God”. 

Well, good, and true!  But the life changing message of the Christian faith, the very core of the Gospel, was omitted.  Christmas is the prelude to Calvary and Christ’s resurrection.  However the narrator never mentioned mankind’s innate sin condition and our desperate need for salvation.  The children’s program presented a bloodless gospel, in other words no good news at all! 

Yet no matter what the world says or does in its attempt to obscure or distort God’s truth, it’s Christmas!  Our Lord has come.  He is risen!  He will come again as promised. 

“For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.” Isaiah 9:6-7

 
Margaret L. Been–All Rights Reserved
 
Note:  Now it’s 12/27, and I’ve read the ominous news of events on the plane arriving from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day. 
 
Our daughter, Martina, travels from Nigeria to the U.S. via Amsterdam–sometimes coming through Detroit.  (This Christmas, Martina is on a safari in Kenya.)
 
Here is the sobering bottom line:  one never knows!  But Christmas is still Christmas!   MLB

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It happens every year.  Daylight wanes and darkness reigns for many hours out of the twenty four.

Summer born, I love daylight and the months of outdoor living.  But I love the four seasons as well.  One of our daughters lives in Nigeria where the days and nights are about the same length, year around.  This would be hard for me to handle, as I find so much meaning and sustenance in the passing seasons and the varied entertainment they afford.

Years ago I read about Seasonal Affective Disorder.  This seemed like a hoot to me, since the annual demise of daylight is simply a part of life in our northern locale. 

Naturally I’ve always felt a sense of loss when the days grow shorter, but I never dreamed of making a big deal out of it–or of calling the down feeling by some kind of trendy name.  Yikes! 

An antidote advertised for SAD is a “light box” to sit beside for so many minutes every day.  Double yikes!  Why not just turn on all the pretty lamps in one’s home?  The SAD treatment light boxes cost upwards to over $250.00!  One can buy several lovely Tiffany style, made-in-China lamps at a gift shop or garden center for the price of one boring and butt ugly light box!

Along with turning on my gorgeous lamps (some of which are family heirlooms, not made in China), I counter the annual plunge of daylight by hosting extra tea parties, luncheons, and supper parties.  How can one be down in the dumps when the doors are flung open to welcome family members and friends?  Hospitality and the blues simply can’t co-exist!

Neither can creative hobbies and the seasonal blues co-exist with the seasonal gripes!  Diminishing daylight and rude weather mean more days spent indoors–days which are enriched by arts and crafts, hours at the piano (or any other instrument of your choosing), and huge increments of time for BOOKS!  If you love Charles Dickens (and others of his ilk) like I do, you won’t mind a few less hours of daylight with longer nights for reading 780-800 page novels!

Then there is the outdoor beauty which attends this time of year.  I am the first to say I’m passionate about leaves on trees and the color green in general.  But just look outside your window at the beauty today–bare branches pressed against a rose/grey sky! 

Last night Joe and I were out driving at sunset.  The shapes of trees and branches, backlit by the amber/rose sunset, sent us into raptures.  Even my husband, who is of stoic Scandinavian descent and a practical civil engineer by training, commented on God’s visuals in the sky.  (Joe is as blown away by nature’s beauty as I am; he simply says a bit less about it.)

Finally, I track the annual fall and subsequent rise of daylight.  The charts in the OLD FARMER”S ALMANAC are loads of fun.  One can also access Sunrise/Sunset data online, for any part of the world.

These charts remind me of God’s faithfulness.  In a world that seems to be whizzing and whirling around us, God’s created universe remains in stately order–as so vividly displayed in our four season climate!

As Christians who can make a choice concerning our mental attitudes, I can’t see how we can fail to grasp all the wonderful things God has given us to enjoy during the annual plunge.  Like transportation vehicles built on principles of aerodynamics, we don’t have to go down with gravity.  (Unless, or course, we run out of fuel or have a maintenance issue; our fuel and maintenance consist of God’s Word coupled with prayer!)

With a view of God’s faithfulness as expressed in His Word– embellished with pretty lamps in our rooms, frequent tea parties, a plethora of hobbies, the sight of branches pressed against the sky, and a daily glance at those reassuring charts–we have upward mobility!

Margaret L. Been–All Rights Reserved

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