Archive for the ‘Wisconsin Summer’ Category

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!  🙂


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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Now we’ve had a light frost in our county so these warm, euphoric October days constitute the beginning of Indian summer—and what is more lovely?  Springtime and summer are as lovely, but what is so poignantly beautiful as Indian summer?  Mums in an array of analogous shades offer color dominance—while lemon thyme, lavender, mint, sage, garlic chives, sweet basil, and last year’s tomato plants fool us into thinking we still live in a green world.

Indian summer is a time to pause and luxuriate in the sun, but it’s also a time to say our last farewell to summer.  Today I gathered my “garden art”, to be stored in the garage until spring.  I have four garden areas.  This project took over an hour as so many funky treasures either tower over or hover beneath our perennials and bushes.  The items had to be hosed off and transported to the sanctuary of our garage.

Farewell to summer!  Farewell to those derelict chairs (1 cardinal red, 1 hippie era orange, 1 saffron) which sat in various gardens for months—holding bounty such as a blue granite pail, a broken English porcelain teapot, and a tarnished silverplated pitcher.  Farewell to the vintage croquet set.  Farewell to the clay warty toad with a baby toadie on its back—so ugly, it’s cute!  Farewell to other stone and ceramic critters:  the chipmunk, froggie, hedgehog, and rabbit. 

Farewell to the fairy house and the diminutive horses that fairies might ride when no one is looking.  Farewell to those wavy, stick-in the-ground thingies on (now delightfully rusted) metal poles:  ducks, road-runners, gnomes, sparkly plastic balls, weird insects, and whiligigs.  Farewell to the cobalt blue bottles which I insert on bare branches and poles into gardens every spring.  Farewell to the brown bottle, and the green bottle as well. 

Farewell to the fake flowers which filled spaces where real flowers forgot to bloom.  Farewell to the copper coffee pot, the stainless steel perc, and the enameled dippers and pitchers.  Some of these will take refuge in our home over the months ahead. 

Even as I bask in the euphoric Indian summer sun, winter whispers icy insinuations to the periphery of my mind.  Winter will come.  Winter always comes to Wisconsin.  Winter with its pristine beauty and recreational delights.  Winter, with its time of testing.  Winter, the proving ground for true grit. 

Farewell to summer and the funky garden accoutrements.  Spring will return, and another summer will follow.  God willing, I’ll be here in 2012—to put summer back together, garden art and all! 

Meanwhle as I surveyed my gardens, now devoid of manmade “art” yet still abounding in live growth, I saw an exquisite piece of real art:  a delicately patterned monarch resting on a flowering hydrangea. 

The garden stuff is fun, and I’ll probably always enjoy “planting” it.  But God’s art is best of all, and it’s with us in one form or another—no matter what season we are experiencing!  🙂

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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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“The morning wind forever blows, the poem of creation is uninterrupted, but few are the ears that hear it.”  Henry David Thoreau, WALDEN

Nearly two years ago, Joe and I moved back to a community after nearly 30 years of living in semi-wild places.  I had no misgivings about having people around, although we’d enjoyed solitude and space for so long.  People do not intimidate us; we remain true to ourselves in the midst of any crowd as well as alone in the woods.  Both of us have a blessed capacity for inner solitude which is the only kind that matters!

My concern in moving from a woodsy home to a suburban community centered on the fact that we’d completely relished our natural surroundings.  We had never tired of wild creatures for neighbors.  We had thrived on fellowship with sun, rain, and wind! 

In retrospect, I need never to have questioned the wisdom of our new environment.  We have deer tracks in the park outside our door, great blue heron and sandhill cranes flying over all summer, songbirds galore, muskrats in the nearby lake, and WIND!

Wind is something like your pet cat:  it is never completely domesticated.  Murmurs and innuendoes of wildness accompany wind wherever it goes.  The big windows in our condo home face a narrow lane, a wind tunnel open to the west wind as it whoops east.  The channel of the lane crescendoes the wind into moans, whistles, rumbles, rattles, and screams—the likes of which we have, in the past, heard only on select occasions.  Here the wind howls outside our walls most every day, in all seasons.  We’ve come to realize that there are very few windless days in Wisconsin!

I love listening to the wind while falling asleep at night.  I close my eyes and recall other occasions when wind was foremost in my mind:  changing a tire on a desolate road in high blown Kansas summer heat; venturing out on Lake Superior among the Apostle Islands, on an X-16 foot sailboat with two of our children and a dog—not realizing until our craft sailed out beyond a prominent point that wind is king on that great lake; watching from a hospital window during a horrendous blizzard, as the hospital flag whipped and swayed in the violent gale.

Along with reliving the winds I’ve experienced, I think vicariously of wind on the Yorkshire Moors–setting the atmosphere for Emily Bronte’s WUTHERING HEIGHTS.  And Scarlett, Rhett, and the Old South—in Margaret Mitchell’s GONE WITH THE WIND. 

Wind–one of the most destructive, enigmatic, and unpredictable forces on earth.  The voice of God.  The “poem of creation”!  I’ll never feel too civilized, trapped, or removed from raw nature in a home that is dominated by the whooping west wind!

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

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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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Are you one of those individuals who reflects upon and attaches significance to nearly every event, sight, sound, and experience in your life?  If so, then you and I are kindred spirits!

Roses are significant to me for many reasons gift-wrapped in memories:  my mother’s garden, high school proms, a rosebud on the church altar for new born babies, and numerous gala occasions—especially our 50th wedding anniversary. 

Most recently, roses represent many dimensions of the huge transition which Joe and I have made in the last year.  A year ago last June, we bought our Southern Wisconsin home without any prior planning.  The sudden purchase was motivated by our realization that we needed to be in this area for different reasons—the main ones being health facilities and proximity to family.

On that June day in 2009, as I walked around the condo which would soon become our home, I wondered:  “How will I be able to stand living in a community after nearly 30 years of country living in beautiful, wild places?”

An answer to my question was found in the little patio garden outside our future condo living room.  Three plants—-a bleeding heart, a clump of chives, and a couple of very straggly rose bushes—were in evidence there, pushing up through that “beauty bark” which landscapers delight in stuffing between plants.

The elderly man who had owned and lived in the condo had died, and we were buying it from his family.  I clipped a couple of roses from the forlorn, abandoned garden, and placed them on the dashboard of our van. We went back up north in late June, to prepare for our September 1st move.  The arduous, seemingly endless challenge of packing our life into some 280 boxes is well documented on last summer’s blog entries.  Yet weary as I was during those weeks, I was encouraged all summer by the sight of the roses drying on the sunny dashboard. 

The crumbly relics of what wanted to be a garden went everywhere with us.  It seemed like the dried roses were saying, “You are going to love your new home.  There you will have a garden of children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.  And there you will plant flowers and herbs as well!”

When we finally moved into our condo home, I placed the dried roses in a tiny Fenton hobnail cranberry glass vase.  There they sit, on our buffet, reminding me of the summer of 2009. 

Meanwhile, my current rose bush saga is known to you if you’ve read recent Northern Reflections.  You know about the encounter with slugs.  After planting dishes of beer around my gardens, and especially under the demolished rose bushes in our patio garden, I harvested at least 20 disgusting, bloated, beer-soaked and literally dead drunk slug bodies—and worked them into the ground as compost.  I trimmed the bare-except-for-thorns rose bushes to the ground, and poured a gallon of water spiked with plant food over their “grave sites”.

After about a month, we observed God’s great miracle of new life from death.  The rose bushes were springing up, thickly foliated with rich green leaves.  Buds appeared, and now we have ROSES again—pictured below—healthier by far than last year’s motly assortment. 

Some of these treasures are pictured above.  I did not put them in water.  They are sitting in the satin glass tumbler, waiting to dry out and join their forefunners on our buffet.  Each summer I hope to add to my collection of dried patio garden beauties. while reflecting on the many layers of life lessons implicit in the parable of roses!

(The dried circle of roses on the blue bottle in the top photo is yet another rose memory.  It’s my wrist corsage of white roses which I wore on August 7th, at our granddaughter Nicole’s wedding. )

Margaret L. Been, ©2010

P. S.  For a glimpse of our “English Garden” in August, see http://northernview.wordpress.com/  .  You won’t be able to spot the roses because they are hunkered in among towering perennials and a lot of herbs  But the roses are thriving there as pictured above in all their glory.

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“Circus World Museum is located in Baraboo, Wisconsin, because Baraboo was home to the Ringling Brothers.  It was from Baraboo in 1884 that the Ringling Brothers began their first tour as a circus.  Over six seasons, the circus expanded from a wagon show to a railroad show with 225 employees, touring cities across the United States each summer.

Baraboo remained the circus’s headquarters and wintering grounds until 1918, when the Ringling Brothers Circus combined with the Barnum and Bailey Circus, which the Ringling Brothers had bought out in 1908.  The combined entity, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, was very successful, and is the largest surviving circus company in the United States.

In 1954, John M. Kelley, a former attorney for the Ringling Brothers, incorporated Circus World Museum with the intent of forming a museum of the Ringling Brothers Circus and circus history in general . . . . After an initial period of organization and fundraising, the museum acquired a large site in Baraboo that included the former wintering grounds of the Ringling Brothers Circus.  This site was deeded to the State Historical Society of Wisconsin (now called the Wisconsin Historical Society) to be used as the museum’s location, and Circus World Museum opened to the public on July 1, 1959 . . . . The museum sits on some of the land owned by the Ringlings, and includes eight of the ten remaining Ringling buildings on the grounds. Circus World Museum holds one of the largest collections of circus materials in the world, including circus wagons, posters, photography, and artifacts used by shows from all over the United States. The museum also has smaller collections of Wild West shows and carnival materials.”  WIKIPEDIA


Many people connect Wisconsin with tractors, breweries, paper mills, wild woods, rivers, and lakes (more than Minnesota has, although some of our lakes have not been officially surveyed and mapped).  But how many individuals know that Wisconsin is the birthplace of America’s circus?

Yesterday Joe and I took our Colorado grandsons to the Circus World Museum at Baraboo, and what a nostalgia trip that was!  The museum is authentic, with daily circus performances and magic shows held under a tent with only gigantic electric fans to ease the high temperature and brutal humidity of an old-fashioned Southern Wisconsin summer.  

Today’s huge, glitzy circuses held in big city arenas may offer excellent entertainment, but they lack the ambience—the sounds, smells, and sweat of the real thing preserved in the Baraboo museum complex.  Only at Baraboo and in the numerous small town fairs and mini circuses across our land, can one sit five feet from a ring full of performing elephants flanked by attendants with gigantic shovels—ever ready for you know what! 

The skills and discipline represented in the world of circus never fail to amaze me.  Circus is a culture of its own.  Technologies may advance, but the commitment to a lifestyle—often a strong family lifestyle—is ageless.  Beyond the performances, the remaining outdoor tent circuses reflect an essence both poignant and comforting.  How reassuring to listen to a calliope, and enjoy entertainment which hasn’t changed all that much in over 100 years!

As always when sharing with grandchildren, I hope they will see beyond the sights and sounds into the heart of the experience.  At the Circus World Museum I silently prayed that our grandsons would glean the essence of the circus world, which to me is so evident:  a world which revolved on gigantic wheels and axle grease rather than micro-chips—a world of perspiration, animal odors, and even flies!

A world where entertainment was live and “hands-on”, a very real world and yet one that provided an escape from the often-harsh details of daily existence!  An ageless world!

Margaret L. Been, ©2010

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