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Posts Tagged ‘Reflecive Musings’

The maples and sumacs have shed their glory.  That riotous circus of color is over for another year, and the muted shades of the oak leaves remain.  The maples and sumacs catapulted me into action.  Now those subdued autumn oaks quiet my soul, as a prelude to the season of rest.

Oak leaves are the last to turn, and the last to fall.  Some will cling tenaciously to their branches until the new leaves bud out in the spring.  I rejoice in the mellow oaks as they reflect the hues of many things I love:  rusty iron, tarnished sterling, faded bronze, weathered copper, ancient pewter, muted gold, and my late autumn paint palette—purple magenta, alizarin crimson, burnt sienna, raw umber, Naples yellow, quinacridone gold. 

Yesterday Joe and I set out on country roads for an end-of-the-season visit to an antiques shop in a cozy barn, COUNTRY ECHOES.  The atmosphere of this shop induces euphoria.  Retro music plays softly in the background, and every display sparkles in the sunlight which filters through the barn windows.  There’s a tucked away section for country primitives, an area reminding me of my mother’s kitchen, and a Victorian parlor—replete with English and Bavarian china, and American pressed and patterned glass in jewel tones.  

The shop features cases of vintage brooches, necklaces, earrings (mostly the clip-on variety), rings, and bracelets.  Attempts at reproducing these beauties are rampant, and supposed “look alikes” may be found everywhere—from Walmart, to hospital gift shops and the finest goldsmith establishments.  But none of the new costume jewelry can begin to match the quaint, subdued beauty of the old stuff! 

Barring special pieces containing precious gems, vintage jewelry is still very reasonably priced.  This will continue until a new generation discovers that old can be lovelier than new in many instances.  Meanwhile, since the prices are moderate, I’m buying the vintage treasures—for myself as well as for kindred souls who also enjoy “old”.  If I have a “signature look”, it’s that of vintage jewelry—the kind my mother and grandmothers wore.

Vintage housewares, vintage table settings, vintage costume jewelry—reminiscent of late autumn, when our souls are stilled by the shades of vintage oaks! 

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

I am not alone in my passion for most things old!  Again, I recommend visiting my favorite kindred-spirited author and photographer via her inspiring books—especially FOR THE LOVE OF OLD by Mary Randolph Carter.

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My friend Karen and I visit a lot on the phone.  Such a nice old-fashioned means of communication!  In fact, the only communication venues that can compare with a congenial phone chat are:  a face to face visit and a real letter via USPS.  Karen and I enjoy these as well. 

Karen and I catch up on our family events, and we chat about gracious, homey things such as our gardens* and our home decor.  Both of us relish an occasional afternoon spent in antique malls on rainy days, and on the local rummage sale circuits when the weather is fair.  We collect all and everything that catches the eye, warms the heart, and can be obtained at a bargain price—and we love to share the news of our latest finds.

Yesterday Karen and I were talking about how we love to be at home—baking, scrubbing, dusting, rearranging, and creating vignettes of beauty around the home.  We never tire of our homes, and neither of us looks at homemaking as a chore, but rather a supreme privilege. 

Being a keeper at home—along with nurturing a family—is the most creative occupation on earth.  Our loved ones flourish in an environment that is relaxing, delightful, fun, and (in my case) funky.  People love to visit a home where the lady of the house is fulfilled and happy.  Words need not be spoken, as the atmosphere says it all!  Home is an artist’s canvas.  When the artist is contented the home exudes beauty, originality, and joy! 

Nearly forty years ago our son Eric—14 years old at that time—made a classic statement which makes me smile to this day.  Eric said (with the characteristic fondness that mellow sons have for their mothers), “Mom, you are such a homey simpleton!”

I realized that the statement, from Eric’s perspective, was a tremendous compliment.  He knew that I was in euphoria at home:  arranging vignettes of beauty, reading old books, watering houseplants, raising cats and dogs, baking bread, and stirring up huge pots of chili for Eric and our other children to share with their friends.

After I finished laughing about Eric’s loving apprisal all those years ago, I explained to him that a “simpleton” was the classic town idiot of folklore and fairy tales.  I still chuckle today when I think of it!  But maybe it’s no joke!  The “world” does view those of us who love to be at home as “simpletons”.

Homey simpleton indeed!  The best job description on earth!  How could anyone want to be anything else?  🙂

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

*Karen is a master gardener whose gardens, in the city of Waukesha, are unlike any I’ve ever seen anywhere.  Walking through her paths is like a trip to England. 

If all goes as planned, photos of Karen’s gardens will be featured on Northern Reflections in a few weeks.  Things are just beginning to get revved up around here, gardenwise.

And finally, below you will see some of the main reasons why HOME is so wonderful!  This photo was taken at a family member’s home—but these treasures visit us a lot.  We are all at HOME at each other’s homes!  🙂

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Recently I read an article in a home decor magazine, which brought my blood to that proverbial boil.  The author of the article, an “interior decorator” wrote:  “I can always tell when I enter a home which has not been decorated by a professional . . . .”  Then she went on and on, describing everything that was “wrong” with non-professional, do-it-yourself home decor.

(To that I might retort, “I can (not always but usually) tell when I enter a home which has been decorated by a professional—no verve, no panache, no individuality, no artful clutter, no plethora of memories, no evidence of personal penchants.  No soul, no spirit, no stacks of books on the floor and under tables, no dog hair*, no cats’ furballs, no funky collectibles, NO ANYTHING, simply a very tasteful and abysmally vacuous cookie cutter look!”)

The author of the above mentioned article cited a list of her self imposed “rules” which actually sent me into paroxyms of giggles, despite my boiling blood.  The funniest rule was:  All pictures must be at eye level.”

Isn’t that a hoot?!  Anyone with half a brain will question, “Whose eyes?”  The eye level “rule” is as silly as mandating that all humans must be the same height—or that they all must be 130 pounds of brown eyed brunette for women, and 185 pounds with shaved heads for men.  (Obviously children don’t even begin to factor in this “professional decorator’s” dictum.)

Here are some of my happy violations of the eye level rule:

Ooops!  ↑  My great-grandfather, Benjamin Luckey, is nearly touching our ceiling.  What is he doing up there?  Not many eyes in our family can level with him! 

But at least our 6′ 3″ tall grandson, Adam, can read his Irish ancestor’s face.  (Please note the aesthetic cobweb to the right of Benjamin Luckey.  The cobweb may not be “decoratively correct” either—but hey, I LOVE spiders.  No arachnophobia here.)

Another delightfully happy and gorgeous faux pas!  ↑

Now this funky collage ↑ goes to the other creative extreme; it’s almost on the floor.  Never mind.  Our 2 year old great-granddaughter, Lyla and our 19 month old great-grandsons, Cole and Lucas, can enjoy art at their level. 

Plus we have a 3 month old baby, Ella, in our family—and 2 more little boys about to be born.  They’ll be cruising our digs on their knees, and then on their feet, in no time at all.  Why do “interior decorators” have to forget about the little people?

Still one more hilariously stupid “decorating” rule is:  Limit groupings to 3 (or at the most 5) items.  Ha-ha!  Get a load of this!  ↓

Tea anyone?  We can celebrate the only decorating rule worth mentioning, namely:  THERE ARE NO RULES!

*And speaking of tea reminds me that the above diatribe does not apply to many British home decorators or home decor publications.  

America’s history of taxation without representation (and the Boston Tea Party!) notwithstanding, I applaud the English for their concept of home as evidenced in their magazines and books.  Tattered upholstery, chipped and crazed china, hairy dogs on crumpled beds, shelves and hutches crammed with diverse funky collectibles, muddy Wellies strewn around muddy back halls, and many other marks of beauty and ambience abound in British home decor periodicals. 

But don’t despair, all of you fellow Americans who love to collect and display junk and antiques.  We have a counter culture, in defiance of the boring “Everyone Look Alike and Get Rid of Clutter” crowd. 

We have a powerful, well-known advocate—that gracious Manhattan maven beautifully skilled in the arts of collecting and displaying junk, Mary Randolph Carter.   

Mary Randolph Carter has a brand new book, just released in October of 2010: 

Need I say more?  My copy is en route from Barnes & Noble, as I type.  What a treat!

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

P. S. Here is a motivational bit of verse which I wrote for a fellow junker a few years back.  I posted this before, and think it’s worth repeating in view of new readers and the glorious rummage season just ahead!  🙂

To a Fellow Forager
 
For countless days of questing,
tracking county roads and off-beat trails,
seeking “gold” in worn enameled pots,
dented copper bowls and rusted pails . . .
For afternoons of sheer delight
in treasure flaked and faded over time . . .
clouded bottles, china chipped and crazed,
to cherish for a quarter or a dime . . .
For serendipity of junk acquired,
and troves of memories the years unfold,
I lift my coffee mug of battered tin
and toast the ecstasy of all things old!
Margaret Longenecker Been, ©2007

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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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It will be 2 weeks next Thursday since my lumbar fusion of L3 and L4.  Already, I feel improvedl  The post op stiffnes and soreness are nothing compared to the heavy ongoing lumbar and pelvic pain which followed me everywhere and kept me awake at night over the past 14 years.

From square one, my motto has been “GRATEFUL”!  I was grateful for the prayers that accompanied me into the surgery.  Prayers work!  This was the 12th surgery of my lifetime, some major and some minor.  Since I became a Christian nearly 40 years ago, medical procedures hold no terror for me—in our culture where medicine is traditionally an act of mercy.

And all along the way, in recent days, I uttered the word “GRATEFUL”.  When I literally couldn’t move my torso an inch, I was grateful for the strong, friendly aides who came alongside me—each lifting their side of the mat on which I was lying in order to elevate me to a sitting position, and then transport me to the necessary room where they propped me up so I wouldn’t fold into a heap.

I was grateful for the nurses and aides who managed to find me a can of CLASSIC COKE® in a world which seems to have gone nutty over those sickening diet sodas.  I was grateful for every helper who came in the room and asked Joe if they could bring him a treat or an extra blanket.

I was grateful for the parade of family members who visited—there was never a day without company.  One little great-grandson, 16 months old Cole, looked terrified when his Dad carried him to my beside.  Cole and I are great friends.  We make faces at each other and giggle.  But Cole is accustomed to our meeting at home among my collection of toys, at family style restaurants, or at our local park.  The sight of Grandma Margaret imcarcerated in an odd bed, with an IV bag attached fom a pole to a wrist and several weird auxilliary IV plugs sticking out of my neck (kind of like a Frankenstein monster scenario) was too much for a sensitive, thoughtful little boy.

However, I quickly peered through the slat of the bed’s arm cage, made silly faces, and blew kisses at Cole, who suddenly went into paroxyms of giggles.  Within minutes, Cole was tooling around to room on foot and trying to climb into my bed.  I was grateful!

Right after surgery, I decided to play “John Wayne”.  I soon refused the morphine pump and that potent “oxy” stuff which is fairly standard for a few days following a drastic procedure.  I bragged that I could “wing it” on vicodin which is near the bottom of the scale, narcotic wise.  The nurses rolled their eyes, but complied with my request.

What a silly goose!  Within hours, I repented of the John Wayne act, and I said, “John Wayne is not doing well!”  Within minutes. relief had been ministered—and it was obvious that the people in charge were relieved as well.  They don’t like having to lug a pain-ridden zombie around!

Grateful!  Grateful for the people in my life, for modern medicine which is God’s message of mercy to a physically fallen world!  Grateful for the kindness shown at every turn.  I am convinced that many people who work in hospitals have graciously enlarged, loving hearts!

I’m especially grateful to our ever loving, ever righteous, all knowing Lord.  He has known about every detail of our lives, since Eternity Past.  He knew that I would be at home today. recovering from surgery, no longer needing strong medication, and praising Him for His goodness.

But here is the most important point I want to make:  What if my surgery had gone badly rather than beautifully?  What if I were still at St. Luke’s experiencing painful treatments? 

What if I were alone on planet earth, rather than surrounded by loving (and fun-loving!) family members and friends?  What if my future looked bleak rather than exciting, as it is with my plethora of hobbies and interests? 

Even with all those “What ifs?”, God would still be all powerful and all good!

During my hospital stay, I met women who fit that tragic description which I’ve outlined in bold font above.  These women live painful, discouraging lives.  God is still God, regardless of our circumstances, but there is a huge world of people who are clueless:  individuals who do not realize that an eternity of blessing and joy can be theirs by simply acknowledging, “YES, I BELIEVE!  I WANT THE LORD JESUS TO BE MY LORD—AND I WILL APPROPRIATE HIS SACRIFICE AT CALVARY TO MY LIFE!”” 

My experience of Grateful, Grateful, Grateful”  has emblazoned me with a passion to share my gratitude for our gracious Lord with others—especially with lonely senior citizens who may think their lives are empty and meaningless.  There is no such thing as “meaningless” in God’s ecomony. 

Not only are there spiritual joys and the boundless truths of Scripture to be shared, but there is vibrant, exciting, creative, and abundant life to be shared at this very moment. 

Senior citizens have more time on their hands than anyone else on earth:  time to learn to play a musical instrument, time to learn a foreign language, time to paint in watercolors or oils, time to adopt and nurture a kitten or puppy who needs the love which only humans can share. 

Time to read classic literature to a child in an era bereft of classis.  Time to knit, time to crochet, and pass these time honored arts onto the next generation.  Time to observe the natural beauty which surrounds us ever day.

Time to share a pot of Earl Grey tea. served in lovely porcelain cups, while recalling The Depression and World War II—and how God prevailed during “the worst of times”.  Time to share our photo albums, and family stories—both humorous and poignant. 

Time to share our crafts, and time to encourage others to try a hobby he or she has always dreamed of doing.  (I would probably not be building a huge inventory of water color paintings and collage art if my good friend, Dee, had not jarred me by saying, “JUST DO IT!”)

Grateful!  That’s what I am:  grateful to God for His loving control of my life, and grateful for all the creative gifts he’s give me to share.  And that’s what I am longing to share—God’s spiritual life, and the everyday tangible evidence that we are made in the image of a creative GOd!

What a joy, to be GRATEFUL!

Margaret L. Been

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“We do not stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”  George Bernard Shaw

What a profound truth!  I know people who think and act “old”, simply because they stopped playing long ago.  And, conversely, I know individuals in their 90s who are still “young”, because of an interest in life and a passion for hobbies and creative play.  My own father lived to be 102, and enjoyed life nearly until the end when his eyes gave out and he could no longer read!  

Creative play is one of our greatest gifts, as we were made in the image of a creative God.  People who have never learned to play are bored, and they are apt to be boring!

I’m thankful to have had parents who realized the intrinsic value of play!  I’m thankful for years of gluing, cutting, coloring, digging in mud (nearly to China!), and grubbing for tadpoles in the river which bordered my childhood home. 

I’m thankful for a mom who let me keep the tadpoles in a fish bowl in our kitchen (until the critters lost their tails and sprouted legs; then they went back to the river). 

I’m grateful for the live Easter bunny I received one year, and for always having a dog to cherish.  I’m thankful for litters of kittens who entertained our family with their antics, back in the halcyon days when cats were allowed to roam at large and actually act like cats! 

I’m thankful for my mother’s huge box of elegant velvet and taffeta evening gowns from the early 20th century, for her plumey hats and beaded reticules—and for countless rainy afternoons of spreading these garments all over the room and dressing up in them.  (My friends and I were allowed to play “Dress-ups” in my parents’ bedroom, because my mother had a full length mirror before which we could parade, primp, and be absolutely silly!)

I pray that—whatever happens in the future—I’ll never grow too old to create at least some little thing with my hands.  I pray I’ll always have a spirit of pizzazz and panache for living, no matter what!  And I pray that, to the best of my ability, I’ll never stop playing!   🙂

Margaret L. Been, ©2010

Note:  I recently posted the above entry on my Northernview blog, and am putting it here as well.  As I face a major surgery next week, play seems more important than ever to me!  My plans for knitting, collaging, and painting projects will carry me a long way to recovery!

When we have things we love to do—creative activities that stretch the mind, imagination, and hands—we can always manage to focus outward rather than inward!  🙂

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My friend Linda is a fellow crafter, collector, and lover of home and hearth.  Her home reflects the warmth and joy of her personality.  Linda put a wonderfully encouraging comment on my last blog entry, which I’m quoting here in the event that some of you readers haven’t read the comments: 

“Your ‘cottage’ is wonderful!  All those authors who want us to get rid of our treasures or call them clutter, don’t have a clue.  I wonder if they ever feel the warmth and love you have painted.  Just makes me want to put a pot of that soup on!!!!!”

Thank you, Linda (alias “Sunshine”, and Linda really is a ray of sunshine)! 

If I have a MAJOR PET PEEVE, it is magazines which feature articles on “getting rid of clutter”.  When I see a title referring to “clutter” on the cover of a magazine, I would (almost, not quite) rather venture into the lion cage at the zoo than buy that magazine!

People who prefer stripped-down, bare-bones digs have every right to pursue their personal taste in decorating.  I certainly agree with the wisdom of giving away clothing we don’t use, or odds and ends that serve no sentimental or aesthetic purpose (like extra plastic food containers).  That’s a huge DUH!  

But it’s incredibly rude for the minimalist adherents to excoriate those of us who cherish beauty, creativity, and the memories evoked by our collections!  

I have never before felt the need to “justify” my personal taste.  But now a bit of justification is appropriate, in the hope of possibly freeing up women who are intimidated by trendy magazine articles—and therefore terrified to let loose and express themselves creatively at home. 

I grew up in a little Wisconsin town full of Victorian era homes with attics—those romantic Mother Lode sources of fascinating family history.  My parents were avid collectors—and they frequently took me to antique shops where I wandered spellbound, with my hands carefully clenched behind my back. 

For me, the antique shops were (and still are!) a treasure trove of euphoria:  cabinets laden with glass and porcelain, the fragrance and mellow patina of exquisitely crafted oak and mahogany furniture, shelves of tattered books, bins of lace yellowed with age, sepia photos of someone’s ancestors, old guns, old fishing poles, old kitchen tools, old everything!  My parents introduced me to the poignant charm and beauty of old stuff, domestic history, and visual memories—and I have never looked back!  

But now we are surrounded by a fast-lane, functional, “throw-away-rather-than-cherish” culture—a culture where family history too often means little, and media-deadened imaginations lie dormant.  In our fast-lane society many objects (which have heartwarming stories to tell about people and places) have been labeled “clutter”, and simply trashed. 

Fortunately these unfairly maligned objects may still be found and reclaimed (recycled!) by those of us who care to preserve and appreciate.  Resale shops, antique stores, garage sales, and even curbsides abound in treasures—some useful and some purely aesthetic and/or interesting, which may be the highest “use” of all!   

Sometimes the bare-bones crowd will equate collections with messiness.  That’s really odd!  Many collectors that I know are fantastically NEAT, because they take joy in their surroundings!  Everything has its place, and artifacts are displayed to enhance the beauty of each room.   

I’ve always been a neat freak.  That’s the way God made me, and I’m through apologizing for it.  Neatness and organization are not burdensome for me.  It would be hard for me to be anything but tidy.  

Yet neat freak that I am, I LOVE to make creative messes.  When I cook, build collages, paint, or design a knitted garment, materials can be happily swimming around me.  For art projects, I spread out on all available surfaces—the floor in my bedroom studio, our bed, and even on top of Dylan’s bed when needed.  Then it’s equally fun to clean up my mess!

When a home reflects the hobbies and interests of its occupants, it’s a relaxing place to be whether tidy or messy—and with young children, home is apt to be messy in areas!  A room brimming with the detritus of family activity is a room that reflects life well-lived.

When they were young, our children made trains out of chairs, and tipped chairs upside down to create tents with old blankets slung across the top.  As neat as I was in my kitchen, our living room, and the master bedroom, I always cut our six children some slack.  Their rooms were their sanctuaries.  Although I insisted that they hang up or put away their clothes and tidy their beds, the children were free to save and collect to their hearts’ content.  Books, rocks, shells, stuff culled from rummage sales, stuffed animals, old toys, and countless oddities were their very own treasures! 

As a mother, I remembered how delightful it was for me to be a child with my collections of stuffed critters, paper dolls, bottle caps, chestnuts, Storybook Dolls, and rocks.  Seeing our children enjoy their rooms brought back the mellow joy of childhood for me.

Today my home is a living history museum.  But nothing here is roped off to visitors.  We don’t have any signs that say, “Do not touch”.  When people visit, they can relax in the serenity we’ve created—while savoring the peace of our vintage, slow-lane decor.

“Home” was meant to be a sanctuary, a respite and reprieve from the outside world, a place where we can truly rest and refresh our souls.   “Home” should be far more just a periodic escape from the “real world”. 

For Joe and me, home IS the real world!

Margaret L. Been, ©2010

 

P. S.  The tea invitation stands!  You can select the teapot we’ll use for the occasion!  🙂

Although “old” is normally my favorite thing in decor, there are beautiful items out there today—ordinary things worth saving such as glass bottles with aesthetically pleasing labels, especially the olive oil bottles. 

The green and brown bottles and charming labels are works of art!  How beautiful are these everyday bottles and jars, with or without their labels, as vessels for a handful of garden flowers or herbs!  I love to have little bouquets everywhere, in delightful containers.

Always I’m awed by the gracious beauty in simple, ordinary things.  Beauty is EVERYWHERE, just waiting for open eyes and receptive hearts! 

If you are a beauty and nostalgia lover—yet have never sampled the delight of Mary Randolph Carter’s books, try seeking her out!  Her books may be out of print, but they are readily available through online used book sites. 

My most beloved of all Carter’s books is, FOR THE LOVE OF OLD.  Her writing is as wonderful as her photography.  Carter exudes the joy of family, family heirlooms, and that mellow meaning in everyday objects which we all share!  

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Our living quarters have been transformed into garden rooms.  The sliding door you see in the background enters our parlor which is a part of the patio and garden, rain or shine.

Our bedroom looks out on another garden with peonies (finished blooming now), daylilies, sweet William, snapdragons, numerous ground cover plants, some sunflowers sprouting from seed, and an ornamental crab tree containing a mother robin sitting on her 2nd round of eggs for the season.

Gardens reflect life.  Each flower blooms for its short time, then dies and gives way to new flowers.  How we would love to freeze and behold the magnificence of a peony forever, but the peony’s voluptuous bloom is short-lived. 

We can only experience the beauty of each flower in our garden for a moment, just as we hold the timeless moments of life—lightly, prayerfully, and thankfully. 

Meanwhile, there is always the next bloom to anticipate.  Peonies give way to daylilies—and roses are followed by hostas, black-eyed Susans, and asters.  Finally, just before winter, we celebrate that glory of autumn—the chrysanthemum.

A spirit of equanimity is required for gardening and living!  Yet I hold the fragrance of each season in my heart.

©2010, Margaret L. Been

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my-beautiful-mother

When I was very young, she showed me how to feed day-old orphaned kittens from a medicine dropper.  She taught me to walk quietly, watching for wildflowers and listening for birds.

Mother valued integrity over comfort, and never betrayed the confidences of her family members or friends.  She ignored pettiness, and refused to react to crass people skilled in the “art” of dispensing insults.

Her chin was high but not arrogant, chiseled but not cold.  Her pleasantly mild outward appearance caused unthinking observers to believe she was pliable and soft. 

But anyone with discernment realized that her keen, penetrating mind commanded a backbone of unflinching steel.  She despised gushy sentimentality, and reserved her displays of affection for people she loved.

Of Celtic descent, Mother loved most things Scottish:  the diligence, thrift, reserved attitude, and bagpipes–but not the whiskey.  She had no use for that. 

She was a classical musician.  Her piano refrains are emblazoned in my soul, where the magnificence of Mozart and poignancy of Chopin will endure forever.  I cherish my legacy of Mother’s antique poetry books.  I think of her as I gather armloads of lilacs and let their heady fragrance brush my face.

Although some of the people she loved didn’t know a finger bowl from a flower pot, Mother valued social graces and lovely deportment as marks of consideration for others.  She schooled me in walking with a book on my head (to improve my posture), chewing with my mouth closed, and setting dinner plates one inch from the edge of the table with the designs facing the person dining.  She taught me to use my forks from the outside in–salad, main course, dessert.  She tried to teach me not to talk too much, too often, or too fast.

Despite my love for running barefoot in summer, despite my scruffy knees scabbed over from numerous roller skating spills, despite the fact that I spent much of my girlhood climbing trees, Mother managed to infuse me with her passion for elegant frocks, dressy hats, and gloves.

Alzheimer’s notwithstanding, Mother’s last years reflected the poise of her lifetime.  Not given to ranting and shrieking as some older people do, she sat smiling serenely beside the nurses’ station day after day.  She was dearly loved at the nursing home where she was known as “Ruthie”.  It was my privilege to do her laundry, hold her hand, and sing for her, as she had done for me for so many years.

As her time of dying approached, our youngest daughter and I spent her last two days at her bedside singing spirituals that she loved:  “Where, Oh Where Are the Hebrew Children?”, “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”, and “I’m Going Home on a Cloud”.

At the age of 93, Mother went to live with a King.  Someday I’ll join them for supper!

Margaret L. Been–All Rights Reserved

NOTE:  My Mother’s Day tribute appeared on this weblog a year ago, and I am repeating it.  I can’t imagine a better mom than the one God gave me!  MLB

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Indeed, it is SPRING!  My heart pulsates to the music of cardinals, redwings, robins, mourning doves, sandhill cranes, Canada geese, and other skyward signs of the season.

There is another sign—or rather a plethora of SIGNS—which soon will pop up in yards all over the little communities in our vicinity.  They may vary in wording—RUMMAGE SALE, GARAGE SALE, ESTATE SALE, YARD SALE, or whatever.  But these signs all mean the same thing:  absolute, abject BLISS!

I think some folks endowed with a sense of humor cackled when Joe and I moved to a condo last fall, after we had lived in fairly roomy houses for over fifty years of our marriage.  “HA,” these individuals reasoned.  “Now she’ll have to stop collecting!”

Well I am having the last “HA”.  We had scarcely unpacked our 280 moving cartons last fall when we discovered that we were smack dab in prime rummage country, and we dug right in—always coming home from a Saturday morning foray with one more thing to stick in a bare spot somewhere. 

Now we are relishing the realization that rummages will resume, any moment now.  There is alway room for more STUFF—somewhere, somehow!  I call it “uncondo-ing the condo”. 

Sometimes I don’t know which I enjoy most—the treasure hunts resulting in adding fresh decor to our home, or the raised eyebrows and eye rolling of those folks who “just don’t get it”.  When people unversed in the joy of junking visit our home, they look perplexed—even distressed.

But most fun of all, are those few individuals who “do get it”.  They may be practically strangers in terms of longevity of friendship, but something snaps when they enter our home.  These kindred spirits move quietly from room to room, wall to wall, and corner to corner—studying every detail with intense interest.  Appreciation and a sense of freedom are written on their faces.  Appreciative visitors experience THE GREAT AHA as they wander through our home as if it were a museum.  They know that, when it comes to interior decorating, “MORE IS MORE”. 

There is a nasty word out there, for those of us who love rummaging and junking.  We are called “hoarders”.  Never mind.  We are a mighty army of individuals who find beauty in things that the trendy folks cast off.  We are a brigade of non-materialistic “materialists” who value things for their sentimental implications, memories evoked, funki-ness, and unsung beauty rather than for their status or price.  You will not find the latest and most fashionable in our homes (or on our bodies, for that matter).  But you will find the most fun in our lives—as expressed in our homes and personalities. 

We are never bored—always alive to whatever we see, hear, smell, touch, or imagine.  We are an esoteric sorority and fraternity bonded by our enjoyment of stuff.  We share a priceless gift of creating beautiful arrangements comprised of whatever the trendy people throw away.

Maybe we collectors are hoarders:  hoarders of dreams, memories, and fun.  Hoarders of pizzazz and panache unearthed in everyday life!  Hoarders of quality of life!  But unlike the quintessential hoarder in fact and fiction, we junkers are hoarders who share!  We love to share our home, our stuff, and our joie de vie with whomever will slow down long enough to appreciate! 

So here’s to my “sisters and brothers” in JUNK:  Karen, Betty, Judy, Alicia, Sandy, Barbara, Julie, Joe, Andy, and countless others.  Here’s to author/photographer Mary Randolph Carter and her wonderful junk books which keep me vicariously and happily junking even in winter. 

ANY MOMENT NOW!  🙂

Margaret L. Been—All Rights Reserved

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