Fells {English Memories}

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{Lake District, Cumbria, England, June 2016}

What is it about the English fells that captured my heart and built my faith so much? Perhaps it’s the barrenness of them, or the romantic sentiments attached to them from so many stories I’ve read by English authors? I’m not sure, but something about these hills meant so much to me and I will never forget them. At the risk of sounding overly sentimental (what, not me!?), they burned an indelible mark into my soul. There is something about lifting up my eyes to such hills, those airy, lonely, wilderness retreats that refreshes me, makes me dream, and lifts my heart out of heaviness. I’m so thankful my newer home area has many hills and valleys, making my heart sing, as I dream they are my very own fells.

“Mountains seem to answer an increasing imaginative need in the West. More and more people are discovering a desire for them, and a powerful solace in them. At bottom, mountains, like all wildernesses, challenge our complacent conviction – so easy to lapse into – that the world has been made for humans by humans. Most of us exist for most of the time in worlds which are humanly arranged, themed and controlled. One forgets that there are environments which do not respond to the flick of a switch or the twist of a dial, and which have their own rhythms and orders of existence. Mountains correct this amnesia. By speaking of greater forces than we can possibly invoke, and by confronting us with greater spans of time than we can possibly envisage, mountains refute our excessive trust in the man-made. They pose profound questions about our durability and the importance of our schemes. They induce, I suppose, a modesty in us.”
― Robert Macfarlane (emphasis mine)

Here, here, and here – If you are interested, more about my 2016 England trip.

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October Reads

Lesser Ury (German, 1861-1931), Parisian Interior, 1881 - Copy

Lesser Ury (German, 1861-1931), Parisian Interior, 1881 {Google}

The weather is turning into a perfect blend of cold, misty, grayness. Perfect for reading, that is. Curling up with the hot coffee, quilts, and taking a deep sniff of those old books off of ones shelves is just about perfection here on earth, don’t you agree? I wanted to clear up something that came up on last month’s post. These posts list the books I’ve FINISHED that month. Maybe my title is a bit misleading, but many of these books I may have been reading for months, but I finished them up in the month I list them. I also had a request for listing the children/YA books we read here. I think I will try to do that quarterly. So be looking for an autumn children’s/YA book round up soon. Maybe later today if I can squeeze it in!

Dreams and Wishes: Essays on Writing for Children by Susan Cooper (*****) – Although the author and I have very different worldviews, I found this book enchanting, inspiring, and laced with a bit of magic. I know, I know…weird description for a book of essays. However, Cooper did a fantastic job just speaking to that elusive “something” in story that catches us deep in our core and takes us on a figurative journey. Those fictional journeys often speak into our reality. She is mainly speaking of this in regards to writing, fantasy, imagination, and especially the openness and wonder in children. I loved many of the ideas that I pulled from this reinforce Charlotte Mason’s thoughts on how young children need broad exposure to rich ideas from imaginative worlds, nature, myths, and legends. Although she is talking mainly from her perspective, there is so much in these essays that can span many experiences and situations. I really, really enjoyed this.

The Lifegiving Table: Nurturing  Faith through Feasting, One Meal at a Time by Sally Clarkson (*****) – As always, encouraging, idealistic, and something to aim towards. Clarkson’s books always make me so thankful for my life as a wife and mother. I know that some find Mrs. Clarkson a bit too idealistic, but I read once a quote somewhere on the topic of writing, “Don’t look at a wonderful writer and think that you will never be able to write like them, instead look at them and think I want to write like that.” I’m probably misquoting that and I don’t know who originally said it, but I take it as aim high, live your life to the fullest. Clarkson is that catalyst for me as a mother and friend, especially. I love her thoughts on hospitality and all the recipes in this book look simple, doable comfort food. I love her Scriptures and encouragement for my faith. She calls us high, yet shows us grace for weary times. I love her compassion towards times when things are chaotic and hard. I felt this strongly especially in this title and I loved her thoughts on young adult/adult children as I’m just entering that season. Overall, another favorite from Sally. I can’t wait to try some of the recipes.

Wild Days: Creating Discovery Journals by Karen Skidmore Rackliffe (***) – Basic, yet beautiful ideas about how to use journals as an important part of learning. This book is really nice if you need some fresh inspiration for nature, science, or common place journals.

Home Grown: Adventures in Parenting off the Beaten Path, Unschooling, and Reconnecting with the Natural World by Ben Hewitt (****) – First of all, Hewitt is a beautiful writer. Secondly, even though I’m not an unschooler, I took away a lot of beauty, inspiration, and new ways to think about learning at home with our children. Really enjoyed this!

Anna Akhmatova (Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets) by Anna Akmatova (****) – The notes at the end of this collection saved me a bit as I confess extreme ignorance about Russian history. I loved Akhmatova’s use of words, though. Sigh. Even though I didn’t always completely follow what subject she was touching on, I still loved her raw depth of emotion and the cadence. Some of her originality was probably lost in translation, but overall I just loved these.

The Silver Hand by Stephen R. Lawhead (*****) – This is the second in the Song of Albion series that my oldest and I started last month. Wow. This one was even better than the first. The two time-traveling Oxford post graduate students are now fully apart of the Celtic world of Albion, which is thrown into civil unrest at the murder of their king, Meldryn Mawr. Lewis or Llew, as he is now known by, finds himself in an important position, with insane odds stacked against him, that could affect the future of Albion.  I loved Tegid, the Bard character’s perspective, which this story is told mainly through. This is definitely for older young adults as it is very violent.

Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper (*****) – This was a comforting reread, and I loved it even more than the first time I read it. Three children are visiting their mysterious Uncle Merry Lyon, in a dusty old house on the Cornish coast. After finding an hidden entrance to an attic full of junk, a old map is discovered, and that’s the beginning of a dangerous, creepy, mission to find a missing grail. King Arthur, England, and scary evil henchman. Yes, thank you very much, Susan Cooper. Middle school on up!

Songs from the Slums by Toyohiko Kagawa (***) – Heart-wrenching poems from a Japanese minister who chose to live and work among the extreme poor of Japan’s slums.

Freedom of Simplicity: Finding Harmony in a Complex World by Richard J. Foster (****) – 3.5 I believe the author is from a Quaker background and I found his outlook interesting.  I loved the first 3/4ths of this book, so much to think on and pray about. The emphasis really being getting our eyes off of ourselves and onto the Lord. The last fourth of the book was interesting, a kind of “Christian socialism” promoted. Some of it was good and it had elements of truth, but a bit formulaic and the author seemed a bit more “preachy”. Overall, an interesting read, full of food for thought.

The Holy Bible (*****) – Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, and John (I honestly read John again at the same time I was in Ezekiel, as it is such a heavy book)

Care to share what you read this month?

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September Reads

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The Lady and the Unicorn: À mon seul désir 

How was your reading month in September? I finished a few things and started a few others. With our home learning beginning, I definitely slowed down (for me, anyway) as my brain power lowers a wee bit after spending each day in lovely books with my children. I really have too many books (is there such a thing?) going currently, which sometimes makes me uninspired to pick up anything. I need to cull my stack a bit. Someone asked me recently how I read so much. Well, I rarely watch any t.v. or movies, not that I don’t like them, it’s just I want to read, write, or be on social media instead. I read fast, sometimes too fast. I also read while doing other things, riding in a car with my hubby or I even read while cooking, which I don’t recommend. Ha.

L’Abri by Edith Schaeffer (****) – This followed a portion of theologians Francis and Edith Schaeffer’s lives as they begin their ministry of hospitality and outreach to searching individuals in the Swiss Alps. I found this inspiring and challenging. I especially loved how hospitality, simple, yet delicious meals, and just opening ones door, played a vital role in helping so many people. Food and conversation around a table has so much power.  I found it interesting to get a glimpse of the Schaeffer’s children’s lives and how they prayed in their financial support. I loved the sketched map at the beginning of this book, so charming.  The stories were just a wee bit redundant by the end of the book, but overall my faith was challenged in a timeless way and I know I won’t forget the beauty I pulled away from this title.

“Twelfth Night” by William Shakespeare (***) – This is one that I’ve been reading for awhile as we completed this last year with our Charlotte Mason Community. I didn’t love this one as much as some of the others we have done. The tricks seemed a bit too cruel, for some reason I felt bad for Malvolio especially even though he was such a silly person, and I couldn’t like Olivia very much. Overall, the language was so beautiful and the turns of phrase so interesting. Maybe I was just sick of the “twin” vein since we had completed “A Comedy of Errors right before. My children loved this play very much, so it was just me that thought it was “meh”. One thing I loved from our group was that my friend wore yellow tights with cross-garters for our class! That was such a fun touch.

Twelve Moons by Mary Oliver (****) – A beautiful collection of her poetry. I especially loved the second half of this book.

Maud by Melanie J. Fishbane (****) – 3.5 stars – This was a light, interesting historical fiction based on some true events and people in Maud’s life. A YA look at teenage Montgomery’s angst and loneliness. The grit and determination that drove L.M. Montgomery to pursue her dream of writing. I enjoyed this, although occasionally there did seem to be “fact dumps” in the middle of the narrative.

The Man in the Brown Suit by Agatha Christie (*****) – This is the first Agatha Christie that I have TRULY loved! I think it’s because I don’t really love Hercule Poirot that much (and I’ve only read his titles, if I’m remembering correctly), but I didn’t realize that was the problem till I read this one. This is hilarious in a dry way, I loved the main character Anne, lots of twists and turns, but definitely more tongue and cheek than super creepy. Light romance, history, travel, and suspense. What a fun read!

Refuge on Crescent HillEnchanted Isle, and Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor  by Melanie Dobson (***) – about 2.5 stars between the first two of them.  I heard about Refuge on Crescent Hill as something that was “good Christian fiction” and the story was mysterious and interesting. I felt like the sense of place and the depth of characters were a TEENY bit flat and I still want to know how to write clean fiction with elements of faith without being preachy. Unfortunately, Enchanted IsleI disliked immensely. I felt like this was very slow, plot-line very unbelievable (an old amusement park in The Lake District?), full of cliches and little bits of British culture dropped in to make it seem authentic. The descriptions of the nature were beautiful. Then, because I’m ever an optimist, I tried a third title from this author. I was pleasantly surprised by Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor. I’d probably give it a solid 3.5 stars and it reminded me a small way of Kate Morton. Teen pregnancy, a special needs little girl, family secrets, and a cottage and a manor in England. The characters were flawed, yet there was a redemptive vein through it all, the story was interesting, and a lot of surprising twists and turns. The flashbacks and journal entries slowly came together at the end of the story. The slight romance was tasteful. The overall tone was sad, yet hopeful. This was clean in the sense that it wasn’t graphic, but not preachy and included dark, hard choices. The sense of place was well done, not overwhelming, but yet you felt immersed in this world. I enjoyed this.  So surprising and interesting to see three novels from the same author in this way.

A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley  (*****)- This is the third in the Flavia de Luce mystery series, surrounding a lonely, slightly disturb, morbid yet genius 11 year old with a knack for solving mysteries and love of chemistry. I loved this! An attack on a Gypsy woman stirs up the town and brings to light a mystery surrounding a missing child, stolen antiques, and Flavia’s concern over her father hiding their money troubles. The depth of the main characters in these books is amazing and fascinating as Flavia’s relationship with her father, dead mother, and sisters unfolds just a little bit more. I love the glint in the police Inspector’s eye also regarding Flavia’s detective abilities. Highly recommend!

Collected Poems by Edward Thomas (***)- An English poet and naturalist, I found these haunting and sad. Some of them were a bit convoluted, but I appreciated them. Thomas seems a bit lost all the time, searching for something. I loved his close attention to the natural world, his love of the English countryside, but I often wanted to reach out and offer him some hope.

Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen (*****)- This was a reread and I loved it probably more than the first time I read it. I really noticed a difference between Pride & Prejudice, which I’ve also reread this year, and this in the writing style. S&S is much deeper, richer, and meatier, if you will. The tone is a lot more serious and it touches on some tough issues. I found myself really admiring Elinor and Colonel Brandon as characters. Marianne is harder for me to like, although I wonder if I am more like her in the way I’m too quick to show my emotions. Highly recommend.

The Paradise War by Stephen R. Lawhead (****) – This fantasy follows two Oxford graduate students who chase a crazy tabloid story to Scotland. This is a weekend diversion intending on checking the fantastic claims of this paper, seeing if they have any merit. Lewis is a bland, laid back American who is skeptical, yet curious. Simon is a wealthy, English, spoiled kid who thinks it’s great fun to drag his roomie on wild goose chases. Something is suspicious about the whole trip to Lewis and before he knows it, Simon is missing and he is in a web of Celtic history, myths, legend, cairns that open doorways to the past. My oldest, Annie, and I found this first in the series fascinating and really enjoyed it.

Thou Givest, They Gather by Amy Carmichael (*****) – I’ve been reading this devotional on and off for a year or so. This is a collection of unrelated devotional pieces that didn’t make it into Carmichael’s other devotionals. Gathered together these are piercing and soul-searching bits to challenge and encourage deeply. I highly recommend.

The Holy Bible (*****) – Esther, Job, Isaiah, 2 Peter, 1-3 John, Jude, Revelation

Happy Reading!

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St. Martin’s Church, Bowness-On-Windermere {English Memories}

Once Upon an England Trip

A favorite memory of our trip was visiting the beautiful, vast churches. I’ve been reading a bit more about them and I wrongly assumed that the bigger they are, that they are then called cathedrals.  This is another article I found fascinating about the construction of ancient churches and meaning behind some of the symbols. My children and I really enjoyed reading this book about cathedral construction, fascinating and quite astounding. I’d love to dig deeper into this study, anyone have any favorite books on the topic? I’d like to research old churches that are in America as well, although 241 years will never compare to Europe’s ancient structures.

St. Martin’s was the very first we visited and holds a special in my heart because of its simple beauty. I wrote something on my old blog home about what these grand churches meant to me and I’m trying to wrap my mind around the loveliness of the history, tradition, and memories that these spaces evoke. Entering, I was immediately struck by a cool, damp, earthy smell. I was engulfed by a hush and reverence, the vastness was so inspiring, lifting my heart toward God. My footsteps echoed as I walked through these places, reading plaques, meditating and praying, thinking through the history of the people the built, lived, worked, and died surrounding these central places of village life. I thought on the unfortunate horrors done in the name of religion, the beliefs and doctrine that shaped countries and kingdoms, all of it swirling and building awe in my mind. I found the lives of the people buried in the crypts fascinating, one could spend hours reading and absorbing.

St. Martin’s was a beautiful beginning and I will share more of the historic churches we visited later on in my trip.

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Flowers, Lanes, Gates, and all around Charm {English Memories}

 

Once Upon an England Trip

One of my favorite things about England was the irresistible, old-world, natural charm. Something about all the old stone, the gates, stiles, narrow lanes, the cool, rainy temperatures, flowers, ivy, and the landscape saturated by green, just thrilled and delighted me. Through all my years of reading about England and dreaming, this was one area, in which, I was not disappointed. Foxglove was naturally growing all over in the wild areas and it was a shocking surprise to come around the corner into its regal and intricate beauty. We started our adventures in North England, flying into Manchester Airport, landing in a little bed & breakfast near Bowness-on-Windermere. I will NEVER forget North England, it is the stuff that dreams are made of and I could imagine the inspiration and delight that flowed through many authors and poets who lived and worked in this area. Have you experienced this beautiful feeling of being transported to another time? Where were you? I’d love to hear of other areas that are naturally gifted with this sense of history and beauty.

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Drystone Walls {English Memories}

 

Once Upon a Trip to England –

I can’t remember when my love of England really took root in my heart. Unable to pinpoint it, I know that it’s grown and been watered by the amazing literature and many of my favorite authors being from Great Britain. Elizabeth Goudge, Jane Austen, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Charlotte Mason, Miss Read, to name just a precious few. The descriptions of the beauty, the history, and charm of the people continue to soak into my heart. As an American, we have a large connection to England, really much of Europe, from the foundation and birth of our country.

Needless to say, to visit, was a wild idea, one that I still can’t believe came true. My husband was so supportive, and I will never forget the amount of work he took on for me to be able to go. Being able to go in June of 2016 with my mother and sister was unforgettable.

One of my first memories, oddly enough, is of the drystone walls and buildings. I had read so much of hedgerows and am fascinated by them, but delightedly, the stone took me by surprise. Hedgerows tend to be more in the south of England and unfortunately, I didn’t get as close look at these, however, in the north we were surrounded by the drystone walls.  The ancient history represented in each stacked stone made me feel a connection with the people who toiled over them. As I’ve been reading about them, I have found myself learning about decline of feudalism, sheep farming, the “sheep-creep” holes in the bottoms of the walls, and the barren, wild landscape unscathed by human touch, except these stone enclosures. Once again, so many relationships, connections, and beauty all in one little feature of the land.

I was curious if this technique of wall building followed immigrants to America, and it does seem like there miles of drystone walls in New England, especially, and I’d like to dig further. I think there is something about using part of ones natural landscape that really speaks to me and why I find these walls so beautiful. There is nothing like fog lying heavily over the vale and fells, miles of these stones stacked silently throughout.

For further reading, I found these two articles especially interesting: Drystone in England and The Walls of New England. I’d love to hear anything you may know on these walls and their history. Books of interest or personal stories, feel free to share!

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Oh, to be in England

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(Bowness-on-Windermere, Cumbria, North England)

A year ago this week, my mother, sister, and I were in England, and eventually Paris. It is one of the most memorable times of my life (so far, anyway) and I would be remiss not to share about it. I started talking about it at my former blog home, but never really finished. So, I hope to share in the coming weeks precious memories from this dream trip.

Home-Thoughts, from Abroad
By Robert Browning
Oh, to be in England
Now that April’s there,
And whoever wakes in England
Sees, some morning, unaware,
That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf
Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf,
While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough
In England—now!
And after April, when May follows,
And the whitethroat builds, and all the swallows!
Hark, where my blossomed pear-tree in the hedge
Leans to the field and scatters on the clover
Blossoms and dewdrops—at the bent spray’s edge—
That’s the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over,
Lest you should think he never could recapture
The first fine careless rapture!
And though the fields look rough with hoary dew,
All will be gay when noontide wakes anew
The buttercups, the little children’s dower
—Far brighter than this gaudy melon-flower!

Poetry Foundation

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