Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Writers and Writing’ 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

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Leonardo Aguilar II:  I know I posted this hombre before, but I couldn’t resist posting more.  Little Leo will be effortlessly bi-lingual.  His Dad reads to him in Spanish, and his Mom (our granddaughter, Jamie) in English.  Maybe I can pick up a word or two of Spanish from our youngest great-grandson!

Little Senor 4

More Little Leo, in Great-Grammy’s Shawl:  I made this garment for a Teddy Bear, and then thought “Hey.  It would look even better on Leonardo II!”  He’s smiling as if he likes his colorful snuggy.

Little Senor 3

A Backyard Retreat:  My friend Karen is a Master-Gardener, and she has the greenest thumbs (and fingers) of anyone I’ve ever known.  Here are some photos she took of her beautiful sanctuary in Waukesha.  Karen laid yards of winding brick pathway for an enchanting, rustic touch.  Along with the gorgeous gardens to grace her neighborhood, Karen has a Little Library where anyone passing by can exchange books.  How great is that!

Karen 5        Karen 4

Karen 1

A Memorable Outing:  My friend Liz (pictured below) treated me to a day of antiquing, etc. just across our border—in Richmond, Illinois and the surrounding area.  The day was just right:  perfect weather, delightful browsing, good food, fun acquisitions, and best of all great company!

Liz 23    23 1 R

23 3                      23 4

A Time to Be Silly:  Our daughter Debbie took some of her grandchildren (our great-grandchildren—DUH!) on a surprise train ride and a vacation at a Wisconsin Dells water-park resort.  The Amtrak speeds by our road every day at approximately 4:20 p. m.  So on the day Deb was taking the children to the Dells Joe and I walked a few yards from our door, and waited at our road beside the Fire Station, so we could wave at the children as the train roared by.

Frequently I cannot resist being utterly silly where my children (of all ages!) are involved, so I had to do what I call a “Do Do Dee Dee Dance” with my derriere aimed at the passing train windows while Joe looked on very sedately from his 4-wheeler.  (Joe doesn’t do Do Do Dee Dee Dances.)  Meanwhile Debbie caught a blurry, impressionistic shot of the vaudeville act.

do do dee dee dance

And Our Private Heaven:  That long cold winter has morphed into luscious spring.  A month ago it looked like nothing was going to happen.  But now . . . !  The treasures in our patio garden are better than ever (I say that every year), and our patio is the perfect outdoor living room—with sun in the morning and shade for hot afternoons.

G 14 3    Garden June 1 - 2    Garden June 1 - 3    G 14 1

And SKY:  Those of you who have checked this site on occasion over the last five years know that I have a thing about sky.  As a child, I spent countless afternoons lying on the grass, watching clouds while searching for dragons, genies, and horses in the sky.

Now I recline on the berm outside our condo courtyard and watch clouds, with Baby Dylan (corgi) at my side.  That is our warmish day agenda.  On steaming summer days I flop on the patio lounge for afternoons of reading and cloud gazing, with ice tea ever handy.

Never has cloud gazing been more rewarding than it is here in the Lake Country, with the open expanse of park beyond our door.  We are surrounded by lakes, so there are nearly always clouds—ever changing, ever exciting to view.  I have years of cloud photos, enough to create a picture book.  (That’s a great idea, for next winter!)

Meanwhile, here are some recent gems, starting with a sunrise:

Sunrise 1  Sunday morning sky 2

Sunday morning sky  Sunday morning sky 3  Sunday morning sky 4

Yes, I’ll always have my head in the clouds.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________

In closing, here is a confession of something that I never thought would happen.  (Daughter Laura, are you ready for this?)  My man is planning to get me a TABLET.  Yes, family, I’m finally taking the plunge.  Ever since tablets surfaced, I’ve said “No, I don’t want one”—and I meant it, at least I think I did.  But recently something snapped.  Now I look forward to having my very own tablet.

People with tablets appear to have thousands of pictures.  (Hyperbole intended, but perhaps it’s not hyperbole.)  Is this writer turning into an ex-writer, perhaps a “recovering” writer?  Maybe a picture is worth a thousand words.  🙂  Well, we’ll see about that.

Margaret L. Been, June 2014

Read Full Post »

Hill House

Years ago, for a class at the University of Wisconsin, I read a poignant novel titled YOU CAN’T GO HOME AGAIN, by Thomas Wolfe.  Employing a cliché, “I beg to differ” with that deceased American author.  Yes, you can go home again; I know because my husband and I have done exactly that.

Due to health issues, Joe and I had not made the road trip to our homes 280 miles North since Memorial Day weekend of 2010.  A friend has been taking care of the yards—mowing and snow blowing, cleaning up fallen branches, etc. so the area around the two houses has been well tended.  The remaining 14 acres are wild woods—to be left the way we have always loved them, in God’s hands through the venue of nature.

A daughter visited the homes several times, when vacationing North.  She reported that things were compromised there.  The downstairs at the lake home smelled musty and the sweet house pictured above—a factory home built for our guests when we lived up there full time—had gone to the mice, mothballs notwithstanding.

Two garages at the lake home were packed full of Joe’s tools, half finished carpentry projects, years of nuts and bolts, life jackets, random bicycles culled from rummages, junked furniture, shovels, rakes, an outboard motor, canoe paddles, paint cans, oil cans, batteries—just for starters.  The houses contained dishes, bedding, decorative items, pictures, and enough kitchen utensils in each house to accommodate the vacations we had thought we’d spend there when we moved to Southern Wisconsin in September of 2009.

The above-pictured house has provided a charming site for some of my mother’s favorite furniture pieces:  a cherry wood dining room table, a mahogany secretary with a glass cabinet, Mom’s cedar hope chest, and a highboy in some elegant unknown-to-me wood.  Both houses groaned with books leftover from the many boxes of volumes we moved with us 4 years ago.

What to do with all of this?  I think Joe and I simply stuffed all issues surrounding these homes due to larger and more crucial concerns—namely multiple surgeries and other medical procedures spanning many months.  Occasionally our beloved North, where we’d naively thought we’d live “forever”, surfaced in my mind.  Whenever this happened, I prayed:  “Lord, these are Your houses.  They are in Your hands.”

(Have you ever yielded something you dearly loved to the Lord, with no bitterness and no sorrowful misgivings?  Have you ever relaxed and said, “Lord, this belongs to You?” only to have God graciously hand that something back to you—with a minimum of stress and effort on your part, while taking care of every minute detail along the way?  Well, this is what has happened to us.)

Since 2009 we went right on paying the utilities and telephone bills, and annual taxes on our property North.  Would we ever return?  We really didn’t think so, as we arranged to put business matters in our son, Eric’s hands.  We were happy here in the South.  I think we didn’t want to grieve, so we were refusing to acknowledge the fact that these homes were still ours even though we couldn’t go up there.  Someone else could eventually sell them for us, and we’d pay a commission and just bank or invest the results—all in God’s time of course.

Then about a month ago a man called from Green Bay.  He had been on our road North, and he’d read “For Sale By Owner” on our mailbox up there—with our Southern Wisconsin phone number.  He drove in, walked around the yards, probably peeked in windows, and then called.  He sounded very interested in possibly buying both homes, and he wanted to meet us up there.

We scrambled, quite against our will.  After all, life was so easy here in the South and we were super contented.  We didn’t want to go up there (we thought!) and we certainly did not feel up to the gargantuan task of cleaning those houses and emptying the 2 garages.  But circumstances were kicking us in the head.  Something had to be done and we could not in good conscience dump the burden on our 6 beautiful children.

God was in charge!  We were given the name of a wonderfully efficient and energetic woman, Marilyn, whom we hired to clean the interiors of the houses and wash the windows.  She had completed the above-pictured house when we arrived on the scene nearly 2 weeks ago.  We decided to stay there, on the hill, since Marilyn would be doing the lake house next—approximately a 3 day job.  When we stepped into our house on the hill, originally installed as a guest house, Joe and I had the same sudden and drastic response.  We fell in love all over again irrevocably with this colorful, sparkling, easy-to-manage home high on a hill with maples and birches around the edge of the yard.  Instantly I prayed in my mind, “Oh Lord, if it be Your will, PLEASE don’t let that man from Green Bay want this house!!!”

For the next 3 days, prior to our appointment with the Green Bay fellow, Joe and I planned, sorted, discarded, etc.  Our grounds helper, Allen took loads of burnable trash to dispose of at his home where he has a permit for burning.  Some of the equipment also went home with Allen.  Marilyn and her husband were wonderful as well.  They carried many pick-up truckloads away with things they could use on their property at another lake nearby.  I sold some furniture to Marilyn, and gave her many household items we just didn’t need.  Our friends, Betty and Joe, took many more items—and so did friends, Dee and Jim.  And my Joe took 2 van loads, packed to the ceiling, to our town dump.  The houses are in beautiful condition now, and the 2 garages are miraculously (almost!) empty!

For 10 nights, we slept in the commodious bedroom on the hill—the sleep of contented, well fed and amply exercised children.  For 9 days we happily did projects, and spent quality time with the above mentioned friends.  We went to town (10 miles from home) several times.  In every store and restaurant, we were greeted as good old friends.  “Where have you been?”  “I’ve thought of you so often!” were familiar refrains.

However for several days prior to the man allegedly coming from Green Bay, I carried an ache in my heart.  We had advertised 2 houses.  What if he wanted both?  We were settling into the hill house, bringing in more “treasures” from the lake house, making the hill house ours for future vacations now that we realized we were healthy enough to make the trip and enjoy the North once again!

Then one night we picked up a message from our phone answering machine in the South.  The man from Green Bay reneged and would not be meeting us.  He would not be thinking of buying anything until maybe spring of 2014, and then he might see if a house was still available.  Joe and I were in bed at our hill house, when we got this news.  We shouted for joy, and I wept!  We were enjoying our vacation home, and God-willing we will enjoy more.

Even if this was to be our last vacation North, it would be a priceless gift.  But we anticipate more.  In fact we hope to go up for a couple of weeks in January when, although much colder than South (like minus 25 degrees F) the air is always fresher without that damp, penetrating (and I think, miserable!) Lake Michigan chill we have South.  The only problem with winters in the North is that (I think) they last just a bit too long.  When I was itching to dig in a garden, we were still blowing snow.

Judging from his melancholy novel, Thomas Wolfe had a disillusioned slant on life—sadly lacking in any vision beyond the material and temporal.  So the character in his literary work could not go home again.  Things were never the same at home, in that book, and all was lost.

Praise God that doesn’t have to be so!  Joe and I have “gone home again”—home where there are more Virginia whitetails than people, home abounding in howling timber wolves and ever-ravenous-until-hibernation-time black bears.  Things are the same.  No, I rescind that statement!  Things are even better!  We willingly yielded the North to the Lord, and God has graciously handed it back to us—for whatever amount of time He’s ordained in Eternity Past!  What a PRAISE!  🙂

Margaret L. Been, 2013

NOTE:  We plan to list the lake house with a realtor, by spring of 2014.  Again, it’s all in God’s hands!  What a GOOD LIFE!  (Our Lord must have a sense of humor to put up with us, if we sometimes lapse into thinking we are in charge!)

ANOTHER NOTE:  Sunshine, are you online?  I’ll see you on a 4th Monday sometime in 2014!

Read Full Post »

Reflections on Home

®®New Play Area

My philosophical mother left me with many quotes on which to ponder, one of them being:  “It takes all kinds of people to make a world.”

That certainly is a fact, as each of us was created to be unique.  Each of us is an original piece of art.  Although we may have similarities we were not intended to be prints or reproductions of another human.

I try to understand other people whose style and preferences differ from mine, and it’s just plain fun to discover whom people are and what “makes them tick”.  Perhaps the best way to get acquainted with another person is by visiting in that individual’s home.  I want to believe that most people who spend considerable time in their homes have some pastime they love, some kind of a life within their walls.  This life may be reflected via the books on the shelves, the cookbooks and appliances in the kitchen, baskets and tables overloaded with crafting supplies, the presence of houseplants indoors and gardens outside the windows, a dog or cat (or both), and of course a musical instrument—perhaps more than one.  The presence of art on the walls and family photos on shelves and tables says a lot—if indeed the walls, shelves, and tables are laden with pictures which are worth a thousand words.

But occasionally when visiting a home I draw the proverbial blank.  No books, no projects, no art to reveal a period or style of interest, no messes, no pets, no plants beyond the “tastefully correct” one or two—potted in matching, stylized planters rather than those ice cream buckets and COOL WHIP® containers which frequently hold my overflow of greenery.  Not even a happily messy computer corner!  Sadly, only one piece of equipment normally characterizes the apparently wasteland homes:  that ubiquitous television.

Quite possibly, the homes which appear sterile, sans personality, may not actually be like that at all.  When one is a guest, one seldom sees all the nooks and crannies.  In the most generic of furniture store homes, there are apt to be hidden away places where the residents read, craft, make music, or whatever.  As interested as I am in people and their lifestyles, I certainly don’t want to be crass and ask to see their hidden recesses—the NO ENTRY zones of a house.  So I give my host or hostess that benign benefit of the doubt.  Certainly they have some life passion, some activity that causes them to jump out of bed each day and say “HELLO, WORLD!”  Probably my host and hostess simply have chosen not to divulge exactly whom they are and what they are about.

I accept the preference for anonymity, and I understand that I may be the odd one in today’s world.  I LOVE to share.  I love to be transparent—an open 1000 page book with loads of information on every page.  As much as I love to know, I love to be known.  And as far as I know, that’s the way life was originally intended to be!  Unlike that pair in the Garden after the fall, I have absolutely no desire to hide from God or anyone else!

Meanwhile, since Joe and I have moved into a four room condo it is easier than ever for visitors to ascertain what we are all about.  Our interests pervade every corner of our home, for all to see and enjoy.  We have never had more of ourselves on our walls, tables, shelves, and floors—and we are delighted beyond expression with the overflowing abundance of our current time of life.  Crowded, YES!  Even CLUTTERED—although to me “clutter” bespeaks random chaos, and I will have none of that.

Tidiness and order rule the day, and we can always stuff one more meaningful object into the order of our home.  Minimalist gurus (who for some odd reason find no significance in memories manifested all around them, no joy in the colors and textures of a life well-lived) will call us “hoarders”.  I call us “LOVERS OF LIFE”!  Thus the spinning wheels (which really spin beautiful yarn from luxuriously fleeced sheep’s wool) lurk behind a favorite easy chair, accompanied by baskets of wool and more baskets of yarn—plus needles and other accoutrements of knitting.

My piano hosts an assortment of music books—and musical scores printed out and taped together so that I can play without turning pages.  Our kitchen contains the necessaries—toaster, coffee pot, blender, crockpot—plus a representation of bygone eras in funky kitchen collectibles.  Our dining area buffet serves as a display area for my soap industry—while hundreds more soaps are stacked in drawers and stored in huge plastic bins under furniture and in closets.

Our bedroom is also my art studio, with a messy table for acrylics, collaging, etc., and another table for watercoloring.  Crammed into a bedroom corner is my writing studio with my very own laptop, printer/scanner, and voluminous files (I will always love paper).

My husband’s den is his bit of Heaven on earth with the TV, his own computer/printer/scanner, filing cabinet, posh reclining chair (suitable for snoozing on), and even a daybed for that occasional afternoon “lie down”.  Joe keeps his clothes in a dresser and closet in his den, while our enormous bedroom closet houses my clothing plus bins and shelves laden with more soap and somewhere between 600 and 800 paintings.  I tell our children they’ll have a post-humous fortune on their hands some day.  (Obviously, I’m joking!  My art is amateur stuff, paying dividends of endless and infinite fun!)

Both living room and bedroom have indoor garden areas—with tropicals in the east facing patio door, and succulents in our south facing bedroom window.  And everywhere are BOOKS, BOOKS, BOOKS.  Shelves groan with books, tables support the weight of them, and floors feature book towers in every room.

All of that—including a zest for collecting with a partiality for Victorian era art glass produced by our great American 19th century glass companies, English china, and most anything vintage and funky—goes a long way toward telling our guests whom we are, in this happiest of homes which I’m inviting you to tour with me today!

The above play area is a magnet for our great-grandchildren (16 children, ages 10 and under) who visit whenever they can.  And my happy little kitchen beyond.  (Actually, it’s Joe’s kitchen for the duration of my post-surgical, arm-in-sling adventure.)

Fiber studio

My fiber studio resides behind a living room easy chair.  The spinning wheels are not for “show” (although they are very beautiful, made from cherry wood).  The spinning wheels spin, and produce luxury yarns for sweaters, scarves, and hats.  Years ago, Joe made the pine dry sink for me.  It houses my collection of English flow blue china and my Grandma Kate’s English (Aesthetic Period—circa 1885) Indus wedding dishes featuring graceful birds and foliage reminiscent of the British Empire in India.

Most of the baskets in our home are homemade.  The one with the coral insert is an Irish potato basket, and below it with gorgeous ultra-marine blue/violet fleece inside is an egg basket—both crafted by moi.  The larger basket, in the style of Wisconsin Native Americans’ basketry, was woven by our daughter-in-law, Cheri Been.

make art

One of the many perks in our condo home is the fact that Joe and I each have our very own bathroom.  What fun is that!  Joe’s is the larger of the two, and it contains a shower which he loves.  (I HATE showers, probably because they remind me of that most detested of all scenarios—high school gym class!)  I have a tiny bathroom, but it contains a TUB (one of the great loves of my life).

I painted the blotchies on the upper walls, and our grandson, Tyler Been, painted the gorgeous New Mexico-ish red lower walls.  This is my Louis L’Amour bathroom—replete with cowboy pictures, and photos of family members on horseback.  As you can see on the above left, I have hung some of my own Southwestern art here as well.

TPJ 2

Here is another shot of my sweet loo.  The Civil War era folding chair is a family heirloom, with needlepoint painstakingly stitched by my mother many decades ago.  I treasure the no-longer-available glass ARIZONA TEA® bottles, plus my collections of all things horsey and Western.  (The oil painting on the left is not mine.  It was a rummage sale prize, unearthed a few years ago.)

Art 3

The messy inner sanctum of my studio is open to all who venture here, since we always have our company put their wraps on our bed.  That’s an old fashioned thing to do, perhaps dating back to when closets were not so prevalent as they are today.  To me, wraps on the bed are the most gracious way to go.

soap 5

No home photo shoot would be complete without a glimpse of my soap.  I brag about my soap way too much.  It’s excellent, and we have used nothing but my home made soap since 1976.  Today my soap is far removed from that crude stuff the pioneers made over an open fire, using fat drippings from their slaughters and kitchen grease cans.

I use the finest vegetable oils (olive being the Lamborghini of oils!) and pure, rendered tallow—all of which I purchase online from COLUMBUS FOODS in Chicago.  High grade cosmetic pigments go into the soap for color, plus quality fragrance oils.  I have online sources for these ingredients, as well.  Soap making is an expensive hobby, well worth ever drop of cash and elbow grease involved!  And we saponifiers always have a beautiful gift to offer our family members and friends—the gift of the finest soap.

Ambience (2)

Old painted furniture, dried hydrangeas, British India style shelves, platters and bowls which don’t fit in cupboards and thus are relegated to the floor, family photos, sparkling glassware including Vaseline glass with glass fruit, cookbooks, a teapot and cups and saucers (just a few of a plethora about the home), and a toy bear (also one of many) co-exist in happy harmony.

Now if you happen to be thinking, “This is really weird!” just remember:  “It takes all kinds of people to make a world!”

Margaret L. Been, 2013

Read Full Post »

 

I wrote the following lines, thinking they might make a good epitaph:

I’ve always needed something in my hands . . .

a doll, a Teddy bear, kitten, puppy, infant,

new-born lamb, bread dough, yarn and knitting needles, 

a teacup, pen and paper, book, steering wheel, handkerchief,

a piece of quartz, an oak leaf, acorn, chestnut,

bouquet of daisies, dried hydrangeas . . .

EARTH! 

I’ve always needed something in my hands, and will

until You pry my fingers loose and lead me, empty handed,

HOME!

© Margaret Longenecker Been

Everyone knows I love words.  I never bothered to talk as a toddler, and until I turned two years old my parents were afraid I’d never talk.  Then I turned two, and my parents were suddenly afraid that I’d never stop.  I recall my mother telling someone: “Margaret can talk a bird down out of a tree”!

Shades of loquacity notwithstanding, what may be an even stronger trait exists in my DNA—the tactile gene.  This gene is an actual hunger at all times of the year.  Indeed over the winter holidays, when much of our time is occupied with pleasant social gatherings, the hunger intensifies to a point where I realize I HAVE to take my knitting along to group occasions in order to maintain soul balance—and also that I will not eat all the available goodies.  I must have something in my hands.

The hunger continues, rampantly noticeable, throughout the rest of the winter as I dream of the gardening season ahead—when bare hands in earth will be satisfied and filled with rejoicing.  Meanwhile, I repot houseplants—taking special care to get some of the soil under my fingernails while indulging my sense of smell in the heady fragrance of green roots in wet earth.  I paint with a paintbrush, but relish the traces of alizaron crimson and French ultramarine on my fingers.  I stroke my doggie’s back and pat his head, while revelling in the softness of his fur and the smoothness of his velvety ears.

And I knit!  Yarn has special appeal as each variety has its own texture.  Without looking I can differentiate between silk yarns, factory spun acrylic blends, and those precious yarns which I’ve spun from my own (long ago) sheep.  There is a distinct difference in sheep wools:  I still have a soft Shetland batt, and some Border Leicester wool which is lustrous and coarse—fine for my sun weathered skin, but frowned upon by many folks who can’t handle a bit of the scratch on their delicate bodies.

The first full blown realization of my abject need for tactile experience came to me over a couple of decades when I frequently attended workshops and conferences.  Many of these were focused on writing, and no matter how helpful and informative they were I would come home drained and stressed—wanting to scream but not knowing exactly why.  I may have been inspired and challenged, but I also felt kind of “ill”.  I was sick of words—and weary of the competition and drivenness commonly exhibited at conventions of writers!

Also in those years, I attended woollie gatherings—spinners’ conventions and knitters’ gatherings.  I came home from these occasions with an overflowing cup of contentment and well being!  The diverse textures of the subject matter were accompanied by the glorious scent of wool and high stimulation of COLOR—all set against a background of pleasant conversation.  To this day I feel healthy and strong in the wake of a spinners’ or knitters’ gathering—where all levels of “art” are welcome and respected, and participants are bonded in their shared love of a hands-on project.

Oddly enough, I can read a fine quality 600 or 700 page book (and often do) without that burnt out feeling that I get from a writers’ gathering.  Somehow, the aptly written word fulfills, challenges, soothes, and satisfies while building rather than depleting my soul.  So can words spoken by a teacher, preacher, or friend.  Quiet, one-on-one conversation with a friend or family member refreshes me.  And I can write volumes, with impunity. 

It is the cacophony of many competitive people talking that jars me to the core—along with the above mentioned drivenness that motivates (and sadly afflicts!) many writers in a group of their peers.  I’m settled and fulfilled whenever I have something in my hands! 

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

Read Full Post »

“There are strange things done in the midnight sun

By the men who moil for gold;

The Arctic trails have their secret tales

That would make your blood run cold;

The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,

But the queerest they ever did see

Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge

I cremated Sam McGee.”

Robert Service, “The Cremation of Sam McGee”

For some unfathomable reason, every year about this time I get out my COLLECTED POEMS OF ROBERT SERVICE and read through the selections night after night—especially those narratives set in North America’s last frontier.  There is something infinitely exciting and wonderful in reading about the utterly frozen northern reaches of the world—when winter gales are howling outside our windows and we are snuggly secured in a warm bed, in a warm house.

My love for Robert Service goes back to the 1940s, and my Wauwatosa High School days.  Forensics were big in schools back then, and each year I competed in the dramatic reading division.  Always, someone would recite from Robert Service—choosing “Sam McGee” or the “The Shooting of Dan McGrew, and presenting these narratives with hilarious tonal effects as well as body language.

I wonder if (and seriously doubt that) contemporary young people have ever heard of Robert Service, let alone read him!  Do today’s students even know what a narrative poem is?  If not, I wonder if they have a gnawing sense of missing something vital—some integral aspect of the human experience!  The oral tradition of the narrative poem predates written history; it is as essential to the whole person as those material basics of water, food, and air.  Like music, the narrative poem is ancient and universal! 

I grew up on English language poetry—line upon line, volume upon volume, year upon year of it.  Ingrained in my soul are lines from classic narratives such as:

“The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees,

The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,

The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,

And the highwayman came riding . . .

Riding . . . riding,

The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn door.”

Alfred Noyes, “The Highwayman”

The spell binding quality of the narrative is unknown to many today; yet it is familiar to the youngest child whose parents have the good sense to read aloud to him or her from small babyhood on.  I have grandsons who love poetry, and write verses with ease, because their mother read to them from Day One—as she nursed them.  Children love narratives and any other poetry containing rhyme and meter.  Even an extremely active child will slow down and go dreamy eyed in the presence of a real poem—which, when read with sensitivity, is a form of music!

Perhaps many of us who write poetry today tend to eschew structure in our lines because of the Greeting Card Phobia!  Greeting cards are fun to receive, and I confess I sometimes send them to friends and family members.  But what is inside a greeting card is normally so generic and predictable, it deserves the classification of TRITE!  We poets tend to shrink from producing anything that might read like a greeting card! 

I know that I have written a number of “poems” which are not really poems at all; rather they are prose paragraphs strung out in lines to resemble a poem!  Contemporary poetry can abound in figurative language, apt metaphors, and depth of content.  Yet if you were to unstring some of my poems, and format them into paragraphs, you would be  struck by their “prosy-ness”!

Surrounded in my home by stacks and shelves laden with centuries of great poetry, I continually fill my hunger with pages from the past.  I honor my “debt” to our English language heritage by immersion—and thereby feed my eager soul in the process!

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

Read Full Post »

September 2011 marks the third anniversary of my online writing adventure.  Northern Reflections began when we lived up north by the above-pictured wild woods and water.  Shortly after that, I added God’s Word is True, Grace with Salt, and Riches in Glory.  A year later Joe and I moved to the (not-so-wild) woods and water of Southern Wisconsin and I added Northernview (now The Messy Palette) to the mix.

Obviously, Northern Reflections leads the pack in number of readers.  God’s Word Is True and Grace with Salt are close to each other in numbers of viewers, amounting to second and third place respectively.  Riches in Glory comes next, followed by the “new kid on the block” Northernview/alias The Messy Palette.

It’s fun to go back to square one and view the search terms used to access these sites.  The stats show which entries are most frequently read.  Blogging is rewarding for me as a free lance writer, because things I wrote online many months ago are still being read. 

Communication is my whole purpose for writing!  For many years I wrote articles and essays for magazines and newspapers—not nearly so satisfying as web writing because:  1)  When writing for publications, I never knew if anyone actually read my published pieces—feedback was rare; 2)  Magazines and newpapers get discarded, whereas cyberspace writing lingers on!  Writers have to LOVE this technology!  🙂

Here are the topics most frequently accessed, per search terms, on my blogs. 

1)  Northern Reflections:  Life before Antibiotics, Polio and Dr. Salk, English Country Decor, Flea Markets and Garage Sales, Edith Schaeffer, Circus Lore and Circus Topics, Decorating with Junk, and Joyce Kilmer’s Poem about Trees.   2)  God’s Word Is True:  “Converge Worldwide”, Purpose Driven Apostasy, The Emergent Church, Israel/God’s Chosen, and Psalm 23.  3)  Grace with Salt:  Scriptures about Forgetting, Scriptures about Pressing On, Dealing with Toxic Relationships, and Dealing with Verbal Abuse.  4)  Riches in Glory:   Most People Don’t Understand Chronic Illness and Pain, Invisible Illness, Introverts and Extroverts, and (this one cracks me up!) Humphrey Bogart Smoking.  5)  Northernview/The Messy Palette:  English Country Gardens, Garden Junk, and Soap.

What a great adventure!  I enjoy the contacts I make through my sites—the responses from family members and friends, and comments received from new kindred-spirited friends as well.  WordPress is a fantastic web host!  The support people are ever-ready, and have helped me wade through a lot of my cyber confusion. 

Thank you, readers—and thank you, WordPress! 

©2011, Margaret L. Been

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »