July Remembrance: Schwan’s and Lucy Maude Montgomery

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The big yellow Schwan’s truck screeches to a rolling stop, reversing.  Easing his way, dust motes shifting, sun-glare, he backs, gravel crunching under rubber. “I saw all these kids and I knew you needed ice cream,” he grins, a glint flashing from his eye, pen pulled from his uniform pocket.  Grimy, expectant faces look from his to mine, marbles forgotten in the circle, some jingling in pockets. “I guess we’ll take a box of these little ice cream cup thingys.” I reluctantly say, pressured, silently admiring his strategy. And so begins the summer calendar, fortnight chunks, kid-measured by the sound of this man’s truck.  Little, concentric bits of confetti’d summer, if you will.

Not unlike my children, I measure the calendar this way, but by a different delicacy, “Oh, yeah, I read Persuasion that month, had kind of an Austen-sort of feeling, needed a second chance on life.”  Or, “I read all of Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising Sequence during that season, and then climbed out of my dark, depressed hole.” Come to think of it, my debut as a mother centered on vague memories of upheaval and L.M.Montgomery. Brand-spanking, newly married, I lowered my rotund, unemployed self onto our couch, baby kicking. My first home, its 750 square feet, a few spindly, half-dead plants, $50 of photo frames, even had its own laundry in the bathroom. I loved every inch of that place. Joining my friends, Marilla, Matthew, Anne, Diana, and Gilbert, we traveled to a small island in Canada. I sipped and drank, the beautiful prose, bordering on poetry, Montgomery poured out, Kleenex and chocolates never far away. It’s no wonder I gained 50 pounds that pregnancy. Last page closed, I knew I’d never forget this summer love. A romance birthed in the magic of Prince Edward Island, the humanity of these people, and the hope found in a vivacious red-headed orphan.  Not long after, July humidity hazy, bloody, crying, vernix- covered, she came, my womb-emptied at 7:13 A.M. I remember the time so vividly because it matched her weight perfectly. My very own little Anne with an E, of course. Montgomery knew what I needed that particular summer; those robust, warm, spicy, delicious morsels, summer now forever reminding me of her. Jane of Lantern Hill, The Blue Castle, and recently, Emily of New Moon, might as well be flavors of my favorite ice creams, so sweetly and satisfyingly have they fed me.

Dear Summer, Schwan’s, and Lucy Maude, you are very welcome here. Well, maybe not the Schwan’s guy, my wallet and waist-line doth protest. Time measured in ice cream and literature are wonderful things.

~

 

 

Feather

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There’s a little feather here. Along with crumpled receipts, crumbs, my broken necklace, coins, and randomness of life. The feather is rumpled, small, surprisingly sweet. She gave it to me, a tinge of excitement on the edge of her voice. “Look at this teeny feather, Mom! It’s for you.” In my hurried, distracted state, I stuffed it there. Funny how it touches and reaches for me now. Little feather dream.

~

Haircuts

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Albert Edelfelt – Boys Playing on the Shore

The hair wisps falling to floor, the faint buzz in our ears.  A softness, my hand running over a knobby head. The flash of his eyes towards mine, a wincing smile aimed at my heart. “Mom, that pulls.” I apologize and slow my hand, I want to slow this to a dead stop.  I comb downward, prayers flying upward for these boys of mine.  “Are you done yet?” he queries. “That was only the 1/3rd  of the haircut I say,” smiling, such a mom, sneaking in some math, “2/3rds left, the top, you know, and edges.” He waits, jumping up when I pull away, to shake off. “I got to get all the fur off of me!” and we laugh at a boy’s “fur”.  I continue on through these three little men of mine, my eyes tearing up at this job that I usually despise and put off as long as I can. For some reason, this closeness to them, this looking in their eyes, touches me deeply.  Hair swept, gathered, I step into the rain, and watch it float lazily down through the long grass.  A gift for our feathered friends, a gift for my heart.

~

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.

~

 

 

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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Summer Rainstorm

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Vincent van Gogh – Mountainous Landscape Behind Saint-Rémy, 1889 {Source}

“The heart of man is very much like the sea, it has its storms, it has its tides and in its depths it has its pearls too”

Vincent van Gogh, The Letters of Vincent van Gogh

 

As I crest the hill on Branton Road, I’m always stunned and surprised by the view. I often find myself holding my breath, just waiting for it. Looking down upon an idyllic valley, Amish fields, barn, and home, horses tails swishing, I sigh. The sky, however, is mainly what grabs my attention, especially on this particular June afternoon. As I turned onto Jessop Rd., I was admiring the angry, moody, van Gogh-like way the dark clouds were swirling. My area is blessed with such an expressive sky, you know how it’s feeling and what it’s thinking miles ahead of any change in weather. The grand expanse grew darker, rolled, and I caught a whiff of damp as I hastily put up my window. The sky opened up, sharing the gathered rain and suddenly my world became infinitely smaller. I had come from a land of vast vistas, teeming with life and movement, instantaneously whittled down into the interior of my vehicle. This space too, however, had its own loveliness. The sound of the rain on my roof, the flashes of light on the dash, the distant crashes heard through the window, and the huge splashes as my tires met puddles. As I drove, I enjoyed the relative calm and safety in the midst of the storm. The swish, swish of wipers, my breath fogging the window, my headlights cutting a swath through the gray sheets of rain. Boot Jack Rd was my next turn, the rain slowly trickling to a stop and as if the sky had been washed of its grime, the clouds curled away, and a happy, refreshed sun peeked its face out. Everything dripping, glistening, and new. I clicked off the wipers, letting in the outside air, and found myself back in the big, vast landscape once again.

~

 

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!

~

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

~

Pause

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The hot wind ruffles her hair. She sits among battered and bruised geranium petals, crushed and twisted leaves. I hone in on the blond tendrils whipping around her red, dirt-streaked face. June warmth and humidity are all a swirl. I push back the thoughts from yesterday, the past angry, sad moments of a mother’s plant crushed, entering the present. Her chubby legs folded on the grayed, wind and sun soaked, deck. I refuse to look down the road in fear for her future, gut-clenched and twisted, faith-felled with choking fear of unknowns, out of controls, and painful could-be’s. Instead, those blue-green eyes are smiling at me now, here in this moment, no going back or forward, I’m choosing to press the pause button of the immediate. Today, this minute, this moment is what I’ve been given. I will rejoice and be glad in it.

~

May Reads

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I can’t believe May is spent. Time for a favorite chat of mine. BOOKS! So, what have you been reading? I’ve been faithfully listening to my favorite podcast “What Should I Read Next?” and actually picked up some modern titles from her recommendations. I don’t usually read a lot of modern stuff, frankly, because I love older books so much, dislike dark, modern topics, and really there is only so much time in the day. I tend to want happier fiction and a lot fiction written today seems depressing.  A lot of my fiction reading is for inspiration and a rest for my brain, so I don’t read too many heavy topics unless I want to challenge myself. I guess I’m that way with memoir, really all non-fiction too, although I’m more able to read a darker story if it’s true. How about you? Do you like light fiction? Or do you prefer heavier topics? What are your favorite genres?

~

The Lost Book of the Grail by Charlie Lovett (****) – I really enjoyed this. England, King Arthur and the Holy Grail legend, cathedrals and all the beauty that comes along with them, loads of book talk, relics, dusty libraries with ancient manuscripts, an older, bookish professor, a well-read, spunky American, questions about faith, delicious food, cottages, fantastic, mysterious secrets, history, light, sweet romance, digging through ancient ruins, secret codes, and most of all, did I mention England? Enough geeky stuff to be interesting, but not too much to become boring. This would be a great summer vacation title.

I also read Lovett’s First Impressions: A Novel of Old Books, Unexpected Books, and Jane Austen (**) – I was so disappointed after the Grail title. I did not like the main character, Sophie, at all. She’s a liar, thief, and horrible judge of character. She uses people for her own purposes. I really loved the story in time with Austen and Rev. Mansfield, but the modern flash forward story I disliked so much. Adult content in this title.

The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell (***) – I enjoyed the plot of this book very much. Samantha Whipple is a distant descendant of the Brontë family and is rumored to have inherited important artifacts that literary historians would love to get their hands on, not to mention that people are speculating about the value of such objects. She is a student at Oxford and I enjoyed Samantha’s weird bookish, anti-social character very much (not all homeschoolers are weird, in fact I find them fascinating, so that was a bit stereotypical). I was glad to see inside her brain, although at times she was a little irritating. I loved all the geeky book info and the deep delving into Brontë history and lore. I like the dark, mysterious feel to all of it, although at times I didn’t feel that I had ENOUGH description or sense of place, if that makes sense. I thought the romance was a bit cliché and cheesy, professor and student, but perhaps Lowell was trying for some Brontë symbolism. Mr. Rochester and Jane? I was very pleased that the romance was more about how they got along, yes, there was tension, but it was more their common interests that drew them together. I liked the mystery surrounding the professor and his father! The mysterious clues regarding her inheritance left by Samantha’s late father were a bit confusing and could have been clearer, more jarring and exciting. They were a bit of a let down. Overall, this was entertaining, bookish, fan fiction-ish read and I liked it.

By Heart: A Mother’s Story of Children and Learning at Home by Kathleen Melin (***) –  I loved this memoir for many reasons, number one being the author’s gorgeous writing style. This is most definitely dated, home schooling was a newer, braver option for educating one’s children, but I found her feelings and questions to be still relevant today. The second reason I enjoyed this book was a completely different perspective for me. She is politically and religiously the opposite in many ways than myself, yet I appreciated her thoughts and challenges as she pulled her children out of public school and started home educating them. I loved her insider look at religious home educators and it was challenging to me as I thought of how I may be true to my faith, yet not in a harsh, unloving way. The beginning of the book felt a little more preachy and slow than the end. The last chapters were gorgeous as she shared her feelings, the struggles between her and her husband choosing this lifestyle, her challenges and thoughts on women in the home, career goals, etc. I enjoyed her insights into each of her children and how nature touched her in a profound way. It always is interesting to me how one can just be so moved by creation, yet not acknowledge a Creator. And although, I didn’t always agree with some of her conclusions to problems that they faced, I loved hearing her thoughts and musings. This was a simple book, but just a lovely encouragement on home educating and looking at your children and husband as individual people.

Garden’s of Awe and Folly: A Traveler’s Journal on the Meaning of Life and Gardening by Vivian Swift (****) – Swift’s gorgeous watercolors make this book a delight. She travels to nine various lesser known gardens around the world, commenting on them, sharing their history, and ruminating on life as she spends time in each garden.

Pocketful of Pinecones: Nature Study With the Gentle Art of Learning: A Story for Mother Culture by Karen Andreola (*****) – this was a reread and I love it’s simplicity, peacefulness, and idealism. I love the challenge it presents to aim high in our relationships and life. This is a fictional story set in the 1930’s about a family applying the Charlotte Mason educational philosophy to their lives.  My favorite thing about this sweet title is that life and learning are authentic. They learn and live in an intricate weaving and life is not divided into perfect compartments which rings true to me. Our home educating life is very like that, it has an ebb and flow, and so I appreciate this story because of that aspect.

The Moon Stands Still by Sibella Giorello (***) – fun, light detective mystery. Giorello is a good writer, here is a longer review if you are interested.

The Pelican Bride by Beth White (**) – review here.

With No Reservations by Laurie Tomlinson (***) – entertaining, modern plot, I liked hearing the struggles with PTSD and alcoholism in the main characters, but the romance was a bit hard to swallow.

Ruth, 1 & 2 Samuel, finished Psalms, Romans, 1 Corinthians: The Holy Bible (*****)

~

 

 

Green

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Spring has taken me by surprise. I completely missed it last year. I’ve been drinking in the green, and it got me thinking when I had last seen such a verdant spring. We’ve been drenched with rain, its drizzle helping paint the land with deep, delicious greens and the sky with brilliant blues. Last year, we were in the agonizing process of showing our former home, packing, doing important remodeling on Hearth Ridge (putting in plumbing and electricity) on a deadline, and lastly, I was preparing things for my then upcoming trip to England. Needless to say, I completely missed spring. Green is my favorite color anyway, the one that makes my soul sing, knocking me speechless as I gaze on the fields, woods, and far-reaching vistas surrounding me. It’s a small thing, yet it has swept through my heart in such a profound way. I think of the endless spreads that reach on and on for miles, I think on the pioneers crossing the meandering streams, finding perfect spots for their homesteads, battling the beauty of this land, eking out a life. I think of magical forests, remote kingdoms, I think of my Creator, His beauty and love for me. I think of hope, the beauty of all things new, I think of a living poetry moving and breathing over the land. I think of all the beautiful literature I’ve read, flashes coming alive as I feel, hear, and see what I read. It kinda of sparkles and swirls just like the bokeh of light glinting off the water. I never want to forget this spring, the first one I’ve spent here at Hearth Ridge, and especially, don’t want to forget today. The gorgeous sunshine, framing the splashes of green and blue. The birdsong, the soft-leave-rustling wind, with occasional gusts like a delightful dream hitting you, the perfect temperature, cool, yet sun warmly kissing your face, eyes closed and chin turned upward, you could just feel the rays seeping into your skin.

My young, sweet daughter, pointing as we walked, crooned, “Mom, the wind in the trees is just like little bells.”

I couldn’t have said it any better.

~

Mother’s Day 2017

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{My first daffodil bloomed Easter morn – 2017}

 

The sun greeted me this morning, a small gift with big meaning. I brewed my coffee and briefly wondered what I should attempt for breakfast for my crew. Sunday mornings are busy, usually eggs and toast are on the menu. But I chose to grab a few moments, legs folded under me, hot mug of coffee in hand, reading my favorite book. Paul’s words jumping out at me as I dipped into I Corinthians, at least I think that’s what’s after Romans and did Paul author it? The children slowly trickle down as the sun rises higher. I listened to the dear, scruffy nine year old read some Danny the Dinosaur, refilling my coffee. A bleary-eyed daughter appears headed in the general direction of the WC. A cry of, “Mommy!” from the two year old who has appeared with the 12 year old, almost man-child. I snuggle “the baby” and try scrubbing off the crusty food left on his chin from last night. I should have done baths yesterday, drat.

The children convince me that toast is all they want and will ever need, especially slathered in Nutella. Yes, such a balanced breakfast. Hazelnuts have protein, don’t they? (Just forget about the sugar for a moment.) It can’t be much worse if I gave them cereal. Then they start in with lovely happy mother’s day wishes and ultimately, hand me cards and the surprise of a Kitchen Aid mixer coming soon to a kitchen near me. Yay and hallelujah. I’ve wanted one of these for a while and am eagerly anticipate whipping up all sorts of yummy things, my poor arms thank you, husband and children.

Yikes. The clock is against me, I inwardly rale. How in the world am I to get all these children out the door for church in time? We will have to go semi-dirty as it is, I regretfully think EVERY WEEK. We scramble looking for the various items that always seem lost on Sundays. Shoes, hair brushes, and clean pants, of course, are the main culprits. There are always the inevitable battles over bathroom rights, who breathed on who with foul breath, and who gets to sit where in the big, ‘ole red van. But somehow, we all make it to church. Not all clean, not all with shoes on (true story), and slightly harried, but hopefully, with some semblance of a smile on our face. We are supposedly joyful Christians, after all.

After church, I notice all of us battle-wearied mothers, lugging all of our lovely handmade cards and various flowers gifts kindly supplied by the church. Of course, those of us who have more children than the 2.4 national average now have 245,895 smashed cards, bedraggled flowers, along with our diaper bags, Bibles, and discarded shoes we looked for over an hour this morning tirelessly.

The day continues as I enjoy my own mother, we feast, we fellowship, and we scrub some dishes. We wipe noses, and we soothe fears. Basically, we continue with our mothering dance as old as time.  I gaze in awe at my brand new little niece, wash a few more dishes, contemplating later over a quiet solo dinner all that mothering encompasses. A chance to see the world through a child’s eyes, a chance to stretch my impatient, selfish heart, and a chance to be a part of the creation of life itself.  A chance to love someone other than myself. What a gift.

~