Patchwork

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I jump in feet first. Sort of like Mary and Bert into those chalk pictures. It’s deliciously colored, looks soft, smells of clean earth and sky. I’m falling, down, down, down. Just as I thought. It’s an old patchwork quilt, stitched lovingly by hand. A mother, a sister, a daughter like myself carefully hoarded and saved precious pieces of fabric. Bits of cloth for this masterpiece, useful and beautiful. In the lamplight, or maybe with hot wax dripping off a taper, she cuts slowly, choosing the pattern, tongue out in concentration, piecing the intricate memories together. Her husband’s flannel shirt, a flour sack, bit of an old rag, piece of her baby girl’s first dress, bit of blue the color of the sky, green like the meadow. I slowly circle her work, fascinated and enthralled. The patience, attention, and fortitude to her craft astonishes me. Me in my 21st century three second glances at a web page, drive thru coffees, and buy it now, one click shopping. I sit cross-legged at the edge of the table. She looms above me, the colors of her art, life, work, swirling, stunning me. I hear a hum from her lips, a sigh of satisfaction as she places another small piece in the perfect place. Scissors down. Resting, sipping coffee, gazing a moment out the cabin door. A breeze flows in because it’s open a bit. She returns purposefully to her work. A graveness steals over her as she carefully handles some white muslin. What does it mean to her? A lost mother, a child? I feel my eyes well up. I stand up, brushing free of a stray thread, and take a last glance at this woman’s history laid out on the table in front of us. One life represented. So brief, yet complicated, messy brevity. A span caught in a single item can never truly reveal all. But it can try. I jump up and I’m out, out and now how do I live my own quilt rightly? I don’t know. But I will try.

~

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Daily Diary (Sunday Wind)

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{Miles Davis goes well with these Ginger Snaps, just in case you ever wondered}

I crept out onto deck to escape the after lunch chatter, chili dishes being scraped to the last drop, sourdough bread sighed over. We stopped to pick it up from a grocery store bakery after church today. Everyone was in rapture over it. As I sat down on the bench, the gusty, lovely wind kissed my face, running its fingers though my hair. I closed my eyes and felt the glorious warmth blanket my face. The autumn colors are wooing us all, our drives to and fro becoming private Artist showings. I feel a prick of pain, heart and soul, as I know it will be all over much too soon. But never-mind that. I’m here now, aren’t I? And that prick was actually a wasp sting! Time to duck back into the house, supervising the meal clean up. Music playing, wind in the curtains, we get things generally put to rights. Annie and Noah head out with my father-in-law, Peter, and Amos in the rumbling, rusty farm truck, the “littles” staying home with me. I order them a dose of sunshine and then taking my own advice, grab coffee, with dash of half ‘n half, stack of books, a small quilt and head out myself. The wind hasn’t forgotten me, it’s welcoming as I sink back into the swing. What a perfect Sunday afternoon.

~

Daily Diary {Illness}

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“Yesterday is ashes; tomorrow is wood. Only today does the fire burn brightly.” ~Old Proverb

A clank, a splash, dish washing noise mingles with children’s voices, and one of our favorite bits of music, Loreena McKinnett’s “The Book of Secrets”.  I wipe away the hot chocolate rings from a mug, rinsing, and dipping my hands into the hot water again. Each dish, a drink sipped, a meal shared, a person strengthened, sustained. The twinkle lights flickering in my peripheral vision. I don’t often do dishes anymore. Noah is away, my wonderful dish washer for this year, so I’m back sink-front. Momentarily wandering, I vaguely remember the long days with all little children needing me, all the chores done by my own hand, instead of the family effort it is now, and how short the years do end up being. I was listening to a podcast recently, and this jumped out at me. That idea that we have to overcome our fears, an idea we’ve heard for years, what if it’s wrong? What about just working alongside of our fear? Living and working with the fear. Not letting it overwhelm us, but humbly acknowledging it, and just keep going. For myself, my faith has an answer for fear. It’s Love. Love so great, fear cowers piteously. This idea continues to rattle around in my head, just how much, and how far I go to overcome or put off something until I’ve “mastered” my fear of failure, discomfort, change, or of whatever random unknown it may be at the moment.

However, there is something to be said for just putting one foot in front of the other, no matter if the next step is off a cliff. We just don’t know what tomorrow holds. Why let it rob today? Urgent care visits yesterday for my Ben, his airway restricted due to a cold triggering asthma-like symptoms.  Family issues, broken down vehicles, and puke staining the floor can make me afraid. Afraid that I can’t do this. Afraid that my comfort is being challenged. My whiny-First-World little self can’t handle the heat.

Yet, fear can be kept at bay. I can live alongside my old enemy, all its nasty, looming shape-shifting grotesque self. I can hug the little wheezing boy, kissing him, giving him another asthma treatment, reading a dinosaur book. I can search for those lost keys, carefully choose a new t shirt for Noah that I know he is going to love for Christmas. I can just be with these people. I don’t have to be anything special, I just have to be. Fear may be sitting alongside me, but I’m choosing to notice my Phoebe’s hands cutting out little shapes, I’m choosing to notice the flicker of candle light, the raindrops suspended on the clothesline, Sam’s elaborate drawings and stories. I’m choosing to appreciate the way the light hits the stack of clean dishes on the counter. I’m choosing to live with gratitude that I’m here today, surrounded by gifts, tangible and intangible. I hold onto the infinitely small, those little candles lighting the way through the enormous cavern of life. Sure they send out only small rays, but it’s just the right amount light to see my way for today. And that’s enough.

~

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, 2 Peter, 1-3 John, Jude, Revelation

Happy Reading!

~

 

 

 

Monday Ponderings {October 2nd}

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WILLOW

In the young century’s cool nursery,

In its checkered silence, I was born.

Sweet to me was not the voice of man,

But the wind’s voice was understood by me.

The burdocks and the nettles fed my soul,

But I loved the silver willow best of all.

And, grateful for my love, it lived

All its life with me, and with its weeping

Branches fanned my insomnia with dreams. But

– Surprisingly enough! – I have outlived

It. Now, a stump’s out there. Under these skies,

Under these skies of ours, are other

Willows, and their alien voices rise.

And I am silent…As thought I’d lost a brother.

1940

Anna Akmatova

AKHATOVA POEMS

Everyman’s Library Pocket Poets

p. 120

Daily Diary {Autumn Breeze}

 

Just like that. The cooler weather is back. The countryside slides by, emerald green tinged with orange-hues, deep and rich, my windows down. The Amish are out splitting wood, mums and pumpkins appearing all over, this day gorgeous, breezy. It was clear with a few fluffy bits of white tickling the blue. Pink cosmos gaily dancing, smell of pears baking, this autumn feeling deserves a dessert. Tetleys in our cups, poured over sugar and cream, we read “The Children’s Hour”, such a lovely bit of poetry. We can imagine ourselves in the same exact situation with Mr. Longfellow, his sweet daughters clambering all over him. A bit of that lovely breeze tickles the red gingham curtains. I finally hemmed them up a year or so after buying the fabric. Something so simple, that brings so much joy. Since I’ve hung them we’ve admired the red glow, the breeze dancing with them, a kind of stop and think about it moment. Clothesline is flapping with towels, most the books are back in the basket for today, although Annie, Noah, Sam and I want to read Plutarch together. It may have been dubbed “Puketarch” a few times here, but the richness of language, characters have us returning. We always end up with bits of gold jumping out at us, surprise-like if we press through the difficulties. That’s life in a nutshell.

I’ve been missing my reading stack a bit, but I realized that I’m really enjoying all the books the children and I are reading together. I’ve been sneaking a peek of Dreams and Wishes: Essays on Writing for Children by Susan Cooper here and there. The title is a bit misleading as it is so much more. Essays on imagination, reading, fantasy, writing, and too many interrelated ideas to count. It’s fascinating and inspiring. Poetry also has been a constant fount to draw on, soaking deep into the cracks. Abigail Carroll, Wordsworth, Mary Oliver, and most recently, new to me, pieces by Anna Akmatova. I’ve been dipping my toe into one of my favorite rereads during my current season of life, Bequest of Wings: A Family’s Pleasure with Books by Annis Duff. Inbetween the pencil sharpening, listening, cooking, and coffee sipping, her lovely words about this feast we are partaking warms me. It sets me to the grabbing of the next beloved book off the shelf, striking the match to light another candle, and ignoring the spider webs in favor of just one last chapter. Last night, my heart welled up as we sat, cozy under blankets, I just listening from my spot on the faded green couch. It was like they were coming alive. On their laps, pages open, was Rosemary Sutcliff’s Black Ships Before Troy: The Story of THE ILIAD and this led to many thoughts and ideas being slung back and forth. They touched on history, geography, morality, religion, art, helping one another, companionably arguing, thinking and hashing things out. I sat there, silent, stunned, learning and taking in so much. My heart sang as I read Mrs. Duff this morning on this very life of relationships. This relational life of the tears, the dishes, the beauty of seeing and knowing TOGETHER, of having others to share with the richness of words, nature, music, art. All of it intertwined, shining, sounding out a loving Creator Who is reaching out His hand to us all. The gift of this life is stunning and I can’t ignore it.

The sun slowly descends, I think of my chicken and vegetables waiting for their bed of rice, the hungry bellies to fill, another day coming to a close. Pajama-clad little ones, perhaps a bit of the Ralph Moody Series or Mandy by Julie Andrews, before climbing in our cozy beds for the evening.

Welcome, Autumn loveliness.

~

Daily Diary {Humidity}

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Monday dawned as Monday is wont to do. We’ve had some unseasonably humid and hot weather, I shouldn’t say unseasonably actually, as that is unfair. Our area is known for all sorts of weather and I appreciate it’s variety as it graces me with autumn colors each year. For that I am grateful and content. The trees are frozen in their half change of color, waiting for the coolness to return. However, yesterday, I was melting a little, green skin, witch-y hat and all. We decided to use the cooler morning time for outdoor chores and playing, and attack the books in the afternoon. One of the many joys of home educating, flexibility and freedom.

However, sometimes it’s best to press through and follow a general rhythm, as any deviation from the set course of the ship is hard. It is difficult to turn this big vessel, with its many sailors, it is slow moving, cumbersome. It’s always a balance and risk to change anything. Noah, flour dusting his shirt, and Ella, with flour everywhere, decided to make eight loaves of bread before the deep midday heat hit. The smell was heavenly, yeasty, and homey, temperature of house rising. Our little window air conditioner was huffing and puffing, trying to blow the house cool. The other children were creating, playing outdoors, and yes, fighting. Ahh, real life.

We rallied a bit around lunch time, the kids opting for a Paddington meal of marmalade and bread, cold milk to wash it all down. I returned (again) to my healthier eating, baking some zucchini w/salsa and a bit of cheese, Greek yogurt and banana for dessert. We finished eating while giggling together at the silly poems from Sing a Song of Popcorn, lovely collection we are reading currently. Hiding in Amos’ office, I audio messaged a friend for a bit and we productively commiserated on all we had not yet got done, laughing. Technology is good for something.

Ben was put down for the nap he never took, instead we heard him talking and singing upstairs. We crunched the numbers, we scribbled the words, we read, I listened to various children’s narrations, and we worked on chores in the middle. Somewhere in the fray, I had a vague thought about laundry, but nothing ever materialized from that. Thankfully, I had remembered to thaw the ground turkey for dinner, although I am a professional at turning frozen hunks of meat into meals, no need for weightlifting here.

I received an email saying that piano lessons were canceled, a bit of relief to the afternoon. We watched a small portion of an naturalist talking about nature journaling on youtube and then headed out to sit under a tree to work on our nature drawings. Noah had a dead chipmunk that the cats had caught that he worked on sketching, while the rest of us worked on the life cycle of the monarch, holding our noses at the smell of the chipmunk. We had recently found a monarch caterpillar, the gift of watching it form its chrysalis, hatch, and then Phoebe saw it flutter away, all a thing of glorious beauty.

We worked on some Spanish, recited Isaiah 53, and noticing that the branches of our tree school room, were slowly starting to sway, we looked up to the sky. The hot, still afternoon slowly shifted to one of coolness, gusts of breeze, the wide expanse darkening to a deep blue-gray, angry looking. It added a lot of atmosphere to our continued reading of Saint George. We conferred on who would carry what if we needed to make a mad dash indoors and then enjoyed the refreshing breeze as we narrated to one another. “I felt a drop!” hollered Sam, various children dropping from their perches in the tree, like monkeys. Tin jar of colored pencils picked up, backpack of journals grabbed, and everyone laughing, giggling and scrambling for the door. The skies opened up as I reached the last step of our deck, Idlewild, and we shut it tight, we gazed at the deluge.

We finished reading a bit of history, shaking off the leaves and dirt. We packed up the books and started cleaning up the extra large mess from the weekend. I felt like I had lived a week in one day. Ha. But in that moment, the heavy, humid weight of my heart lifted, and a cool realization, damp and fresh, swept me. We had done it. We had walked through another day. We had steered our ship just a little bit more. We had moved forward together.

Late afternoon had its moments, of course. I won’t talk about the huge Nerf gun fights that ended in tears, popcorn messes, and arguments over media games. I made the spaghetti and salad for dinner, and then I may have shut myself tight up in my bedroom for a moment or two.  I gazed, my eyelids drooping, at these beautiful people, finishing the day reading a chapter of The Swiss Family Robinson, what an amazingly hard, yet beautiful Monday.

~

Soup’s On

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The pungent odor, the juicy, crisp feel, onions sliced, dropped into the pot. The sizzling music plays as flavors meld together, spatula stirring and chopping ground turkey as it browns.

The pungent, slightly morbid poem “Adventures of Isabel” by Nash chuckled at over breakfast. Uncontrollable laughter over Carrie, the half talking cat in Lear’s Half Magic, dropped lightly into the mixture.

Plump, diced chunks of tomatoes. Thin, black beans, morsels of golden corn added with the onions and meat.

Dicey moments over proper way to make a basic dough. Guffaws breaking tension as full stick of butter falls on floor, face down, bits splattering. A quick clean up, stir of resolution and a pinch of lets-start-over thrown in.

Water running, water necessary for life, soup pot is filling. Spices to birth flavor, to compliment vegetables, meat, and bringing soul, depth to sustenance.

Stones and sand, water flowing over our mock little river bed, four boy eyes gazing at geology experiment. The flowing, flowing of life giving words from The Holy Bible, Charlotte Mason’s Ourselves, rushing, tumbling, swirling, compassion and interest about a boy in Malawi. Folk tales about Paul Bunyan and Babe, straighting out a road in Minnesota. Spice for the heart, soaking for the imagination.

The simmering. Hot heat on my hand as I gently stir. The patience and a light shake, bit o’ pepper and salt into it all.

Listening, answering, sowing, words, numbers, the scorching of being “on” all the time. Inner patience, cultivation of a restful heart silence even through the shaky hop, skip, and jump of relationships. Throwing in an extra measure of grace, knowing full well how truly much I’ve been given.

A smell so delicious sifts through the air. A simple table cloth, candles flickering, mismatched bowls catch the light. Hearty soup, bread, fresh stick of butter, the meal has been prepared. The mixing and simmering are in the background, the relationships are here all around.

Gather in closer, sip, lather your slice with creaminess, taste and see. A daily dance of living ingredients, slowness, humility, and astonished gratefulness.

~

Monday Ponderings {September 4th}

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2 Kings 2.19-22: Salt in the spring of the waters.

I have noticed that when there is a word about the wonderful love of God, someone is sure to write and say how much that word helped; and this is joy to me. But I have also noticed that often that same one is cast down about the merest trifle, overwhelmed by difficulty, overcome by temptation. This should not be. The love of God is meant to make us valiant. A soldier who is constantly bemoaning difficulties has missed something.

This morning as I read 2 Kings 2, it seemed to me that verse 21 was for such: “And he went forth unto the spring of the waters, and cast the salt in there, and said, Thus saith the Lord, I have healed these waters; there shall not be from thence any more death or barren land.” The salt was cast into the spring of the waters, and then the Lord said, “I have healed these waters.” We must let God deal with the spring of action, the very inmost in us, if we are to be thoroughly right. What is it that makes things go wrong? It is often some inward pride. What is the cause of discontent? It is that love of myself that makes me magnify my own troubles and forget those of others. Self, self, self at the spring of the waters makes those waters utterly useless for the help of others.

Salt smarts when it touches raw flesh. Do not be surprised if the first effect of some sharp word of God applied to your soul is painful. Suddenly to realize that quarrelsomeness has its root in pride; that to take offence simple means that I love myself; that laziness is another kind of self-love – is to be stung, as the raw flesh is stung if salt or anything with cleansing power be applied to it. If we ask our God to cast salt into the spring of our being, we asking Him to deal with us thoroughly, to cleanse us thoroughly.

     That means that next time the temptation comes to pride, selfishness, sloth, we claim the power of the Cleansing, and in the strength of our God refuse to yield to the I.

Amy Carmichael

Thou Givest, They Gather

p. 136

(emphasis mine)

~

 

 

Anne of Green Gables: Chapter 13 & 14

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Continuing our reading…

Anne’s enthusiasm for life is so contagious. I love how excited she is about ice cream, picnics, and every little thing. Something to keep in mind as we go through our days, plodding along. There is so much around us to be grateful for no matter how hard our circumstances might be. I love the names Idewild and Willowmere. I’ve stolen the first for my deck’s name with its tangle of morning glories. I’m sure I will think of something to use Willowmere for…Anne uses it in reference to a pool, but hmmm….

I agree that this is one of the best gifts from children, imagine having never had the pleasure, poor Marilla!

Getting through with her “ohs’ Anne cast herself into Marilla’s arms and rapturously kissed her sallow cheek. It was the first time in her whole life that childish lips had voluntarily touched Marilla’s face. Again that sudden sensation of starling sweetness thrilled her. She was secretly vastly pleased at Anne’s impulsive caress,… p. 91

And this:

“You set your heart too much on things, Anne,” said Marilla with a sigh. “I’m afraid there’ll be a great many disappointments in store for you through life.”

“Oh, Marilla, looking forward to things is half the pleasure of them,’ exclaimed Anne. “You mayn’t get the things themselves; but nothing can prevent you from having the fun of looking forward to them. Mrs. Lynde says, ‘Blessed are they who expect nothing for they shall not be disppointed.’ But I think it would be worse to expect nothing than to be disappinted.” p. 94

The debacle with Marilla’s broach is so sad and humorous at the same time.

Such a lovely couple of chapters!

~

 

August Reads

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Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf in the Forest by Carl Larsson – 1881

What is on your reading stack?

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren (*****) –  4.5 stars. I was extremely intrigued by the beautiful, minute, yet deep observations on nature and life. They were subtle, and I almost want to go back through this book and try to jot them all down for rainy day reviewing. The story was one of the exhausting, messy life it really is to make it as a scientist- weird, quirky, and a bit nuts. Besides the excessive use of the “F” word, this crazy, beautifully written memoir, was so interesting and inspiring no matter what line of work you are in. The vague, strange undefined friendship with Bill, her lab partner, was a bit hard to read and maddeningly endearing at the same time. The author ranted a bit too much about how bad she was treated as a woman in a science field, other than those few things, I really enjoyed it and now want to go plant a tree.

Pied Piper by Nevil Shute (*****)-  This beautiful story follows John Howard, a grieving 70 year old man, who escapes to a fishing vacation in France, after the death of his son in the RAF. It’s summer 1940 and he craves quiet, avoiding all the talk of war and death in England. Little does he know what he is headed for! This was a BEAUTIFUL, heart-wrenching tale that blessed the socks off of me. It was written in a plain, straight-forward style, and yet I was right there with Mr.Howard through every step of this extraordinary journey. The love and grace shown by him and others was an example to me of God’s unconditional love. I loved the children in this book and Mr. Howard’s treating them as people. One of my favorite books of the year so far!

News of the World by Paulette Jiles (****) – My sister recommended this to me and it was a sweet, yet sad story of a little girl who was captured by a Kiowa Indian tribe and it now being returned to her relatives many years later. Old Caption Kidd is commissioned with this task, and he funds their long journey by reading the news for .10 cents a person as they slowly trek across frontier Texas. This is a sobering read and brings to light the brutality of our country in those wild west days. Gun battles, primitive living, dangerous elements, and fiery political arguments following them as they fight to stay alive. The care and love that grow between the little girl and Kidd, who she begins to fondly refer to as Opa, is so heartwarming and I found this to be such a rewarding historical fiction, as I believe it’s based on some true facts.

Waking the Gods by Sylvian Neuvel – (***) 3.5 – fun, sci-fi with a creepy side to it. Written in an unique way through interviews, media reports, etc. This is a sequel to Sleeping Giants, which I read at the beginning of this year. If you are into alien invasion stories, these books are for you. I think there might be a third in the series coming as well.

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson – (****) I love the humanity of this book, Robinson’s writing humming with reality and depth of soul, these are real people to me. I found the questions of Reverend John Ames, his doubts, fears, and thoughts to be universal in their simplicity and complexity. I loved how the love for his wife and child were strongly FELT, even as he told. I enjoyed the town of Gilead, it’s smallness, again the feeling that it could have been me living here at that time in history.I enjoyed the generational lines to this book, the looking back and forward, deeply into the lives of these people, particularly the three ministers, grandfather, father, and son. Robinson definitely has strong views of her own, I feel like those come through in her writing, even though she tries to put “always questioning” spin on them. Her writing is just exquisite and the beauty is in it’s plain, straight-forward way of flowing. It took me awhile to read this, I hesitate to say this, since so many love it, and the Pulitzer Prize and all, but occasionally, I felt like it was trying to be beautiful, especially in the beginning, I struggled to fully get into it…, but when I hit 1/2 way, maybe even 3/4 of the way, I really started to appreciate it and see its richness. Lovely and I look forward to reading more of this author.

Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury (*****) –  this book follows the story of 12 yo Douglas’ summer vacation in a small town during the late 1920’s. This book is so strangely weird and deeply beautifully, bordering on creepy at times. Bradbury does a wonderful job looking at life through the eyes of this extraordinary boy’s imagination and spin on things. The language and turns of phrase are unforgettable. I believe some of this might be inspired by Bradbury’s own childhood.

A Gathering of Larks: Letters to Saint Francis from a Modern-Day Pilgrim by Abigail Carroll (*****) – I found this delightful poet in an anthology, and I’m so glad I did. I’ve been searching out her works and this is a lovely juxtaposition of the life of Saint Francis with Carroll’s modern life. I love the introduction she gives us to St. Francis and I love her jarring, beautiful, simple poetry. Go here to read some beautiful poetry.   

The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish (****) – Slight spoiler here, just FYI! This is a beautifully written story, touching a point in history (immigration of Spanish/Portuguese Jews to London due to the Inquisition, following through to the ravages of the plague on London) and historical characters that I knew nothing about. I’m still in awe over Kadish’s writing. Antique documents found in an old house, dusty caches of inked treasures drew me in. I don’t always love stories that jump from the past to the future and back again, but this was done well. So much rich detail, characters, and well-developed sense of place. Ester’s deep internal ramblings, along with Helen’s regret, and Aaron’s search all tie together well, occasionally some of their inner musings got a little muddled, but over all, interwoven so well. This felt slightly dark, chilly, and sad in so many ways, just all these people living in terrible fear, and the horror of persecution for beliefs. Little shafts of light shone through the darkness though and I appreciated those, because otherwise this would have been pretty heavy. The tension over the documents of antiquity found and studied by competing departments of the university was intriguing and kept me on my toes, I actually felt my fist clenching a bit as I read.

The ending was pretty predictable in regards to Helen, Aaron’s was not as clear, and Ester’s was a surprise. I felt saddened by the choices, viewpoints, and conclusions that the author comes to. I disliked the heavy immorality. Overall, this was an deep, fascinating read and one I will be thinking about for awhile.

Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin  (*****)- I loved this charming story of young Rebecca going to live with two spinster aunts who help her get an education. So sweet and I was enchanted by her and how she blessed the whole town.  I found the end of the potential romantic interest a bit jarring, weird, and unsatisfying for some reason. I saw a lot a reviews online saying that this obviously inspired Anne of Green Gables and I didn’t see that much at all! I was surprised because it seemed even to the point that people where alluding to Montgomery using a little too much inspiration, if you know what I mean. I can see similarities to Wiggin and Montgomery’s writing style and the story line of a young girl wanting to be a writer. Emily of New Moon is more similar in plot, than Anne! Anyway, this was just a pleasure to read.

Poetry of Lucy Maud Montgomery by L.M. Montgomery (***) – This is a small collection of her poetry, she was actually a very prolific poet. By her own admission, she did write poetry for the market, paying the bills, and you can see that in some of these. However, there are quite a few that were so lovely and blessed me so much. I could just breath the very things she was talking of in her poetry, while I was in P.E.I., since many are on nature.

Landmarks by Robert MacFarlane (****) – This is such a hard book to describe in a good way. I loved this book. About sense of place, about people who’ve connected with their immediate surroundings and specific far-off places, and the history of place words. The importance of recognizing and keeping places in nature alive for family, the lore, legends, and special connections the words bring to these intimate geographical parts of our world. I’d say this is part travel log, part reading log, part naturalist memoir, part logophile’s dream. This mainly focuses on England/UK, but it is worth reading no matter where you live. I definitely plan on reading more of this author’s work.

The Alpine Path: The Story of my Career by L.M. Montgomery (****) – this is a short, simple biography touching on the main points of Montgomery’s career. I found this inspiring and lovely for anyone who loves writing and words, or who is just a fan of her beautiful stories.

Jurassic Park and Lost World by Michael Crichton (***) 3.5 – I found these entertaining and just ok for a light read. Definitely violent and a bit creepy. The huge sections on evolution felt clunky and out of place in the high action plot. I felt the first was TOO fast paced, the second was a better balance of action and dialogue.

The Holy Bible (*****) – 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, James, 1 Peter

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