Sooty

I creepy, crawl after it. It’s there, it’s here. It’s found through the gloaming, drowning the morning, and drenching the moment. I look around a corner, catching a glimpse. I find it coming through cracks, through slats, through window panes. Blinding me, flashing out at me from mirrors, bokeh in my background, reflections framed with eyelashes. Between the pages of books, words shear out, smokey through steam rising off coffee, wavering candles, turned on, blown out, snuffed, words breathed, music sung, ink penned. I’m searching, running, walking over crunchy shorn corn-cobs in pursuit of it. Diamond-fire off water, horizon splits liquid blaze, early purple-pink eater, eyes heavenward, inky blackness drinker, eye-pilgrimage, pupils dilated, greedy. Glitter grains of poetry, silty, spilling, sinking, sucking downward, grasped, gulped, and galloped right on through to the end, straight on till morning.  Flared, sparked, struck, shaft-seeking. Seep, spread, shine, sparkle, gleam, luster-laughter gatherer.  Face turned, sunflower-like, baked warm. I see it, down into valleys, up, around the edges of  hilltops.  Hide-n-seek around birch trunks, bright on white, slanted rectangles on bare, wooden kitchen floors. The Word absorbed, an overgrown, ancient path lit, dawn through darkness, antidote to blackness, bleakness, unfolding brilliance, radiance, spirit-life cadence. Unfolding, forging, summer-haze lingering, fire fly chasing, lucent-twilight enveloping, caressing breath of wind full of it, just reach out and touch it. Wash my soot-covered body with it. Breathe the murky, blackened, griminess away. Faster then the speed of words, sounds reverberating, cutting through, soaking, drenching, shining away the dark.

Following the Light. Sooty Sojourner.

~

 

 

Advertisements

November Reads

IMG_7130

Hey, fellow Bibliophiles! There went November. What did you finish reading this past month? I’d love to hear!

I’m Half Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley (***) – This is the fourth in the Flavia de Luce series and we find Flavia at Christmas time putting up with a big surprise from her father. They are in financial trouble and he hires out their historic home to a film company. Flavia, of course, always has something up her sleeve, and this time is no different, as she hatches a plan to trap Santa. After a famous actress is found dead, she is on the case. I found this book a bit  predictable with a heavy dose of cheesiness.

Life Creative: Inspiration for Today’s Renaissance Mom by Wendy Speake and Kelli Stuart (*) – This book rubbed me the wrong way. You’ve been warned.  Spoiler alert and long review/rant here if you are interested.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (*****) –  Magic realism fascinates me, but I suspect with this one, I really just love the story of justice for the little boy who’s family is murdered. The quintessential battle between “good” (as good as dead people in a graveyard can be) and “evil”. The creepy, fantastical elements make for just a simply good story to me. I really love the relationship with one of the graveyard characters, Silas and the boy, Nobody Owens. I think there is some metaphor here maybe, deeper things, but I just see it as a good story.

Ourselves by Charlotte M. Mason (*****) – This might actually be my favorite so far (I haven’t finished Formation), of Charlotte Mason’s works. I can’t articulate why yet, still mulling over it, but I absolutely loved it. I especially found Book 2 to be challenging and beautiful!

Two-Part Invention: The Story of a Marriage by Madeleine L’Engle (*****) – I can’t tell you how much I loved this book. Madeleine looks back over life, marriage, parenting, and the creative life while walking through her husband Hugh’s cancer diagnosis. Such a beautiful look at life through the lens of faith. I don’t agree with L’Engle on all elements of faith, but her refreshing outlook on God’s character really blessed me. 

The Lighted Heart by Elizabeth Yates (*****) – Elizabeth Yates is probably best known as the author of Amos Fortune, Free Man, although she has written many other beautiful stories. In this lovely memoir, she walks us through her life with her husband Bill as he is going blind. I just love how she describes this from an outsider, yet close relation to someone struggling and how she tries to understand what he is going through. A beautiful story of how different a life of hardship can be if you choose the path of beauty and don’t shut out others, life, and the world around you. So very challenging and heart-warming.

Take Your Characters to Dinner: Creating the Illusion of Reality in Fiction: A Creative Writing Course by Laurel Yourke (****) – A sweet, online friend mailed this to me as a surprise! I savored it slowly and found this to be a fun way to learn how to write deep fictional characters. This is a book you can go back to over and over and work on small parts of it slowly. Very in-depth, detailed instruction on building believable people in your stories.

Dracula by Bram Stoker (****) – Over Halloween, the Bookstagram community (yes, that’s a thing) on Instagram, were digging into creepy classics, so I decided to try one. This is nothing like what you expect…no teen romances with vampires, or vampires struggling to be good and loving humans. (I haven’t read any modern vampire stories, just FYI) This is deep, creepy tale of good versus evil. Easy to read, engaging setting with gorgeous, haunting descriptions, much of this was written in the form of letters and journal entries between the main characters. I found myself tense and disturbed by the Professor and his friends having to find, track, and “kill” the un-dead, all victims of a centuries old vampire, Count Dracula. They then team up to end his generations of terror. Occasionally, I felt like parts were a bit redundant, like didn’t we just go through this exact situation, but overall, fascinating. Stoker’s use of vampire lore/legends was a bit “cheesy” at times, like garlic being a talisman against vampires etc. (An online friend mentioned that these might have originated WITH Stoker!) Overall, I found this adventurous and interesting.

On Writing: A Memoir of Craft by Stephen King (****) – Other then the excessive swearing and general crassness, I really enjoyed this book and felt like it was inspiring and practical. It wasn’t overly technical, which I appreciate. I’ve never read ANY of Mr. King’s fiction, just doesn’t seem like my cup of tea (he hates clichés, btw. Ha.), but I’m really glad I picked up this title. It makes me feel hopeful, encouraged, and gives me a place to start at with writing.

P.S. I found his attitude towards his wife refreshing and wonderful.

The King’s General by Daphne du Maurier (***) – Beautifully written, informative fictional story based on true people and events during the English Civil War. The immortality and lack of any redemptive characters was disappointing to me. Honor was intriguing, but I could never like her very much. Overall, I felt sad and disappointed at the end. A lot of the situations are probably what it WAS truly like but I was hoping for something a bit more hope-filled in the lives of the characters.

Thoughts Afield: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter by Harold E. Kohn (****) – This took me a very long time to get through because I wanted to read the sections in the corresponding season. These were beautiful short devotionals/essays touching on humanity, faith, and nature. For the most part, I found these just so gorgeous and lovely with bits of stark beauty jumping out. A few were a bit moralistic, but overall, I loved them. I see that Mr. Kohn has a large back list and I can’t wait to read more of his quiet essays and observations.

The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro (*****) – The beginning was slow, so it took me a bit to get into this title. For me, this story asked more questions then it answered about memories, age, time, and love. It was a subtle, surprisingly powerful read for me. I really think I’m probably missing a lot in it’s vague undertones, but I came away with much to think about and ponder. I really appreciated the approachable prose, it’s beautiful, yet simple. Yet the implication of what Ishiguro writes is complex. Can’t wait to read more by this author.

The House on Foster Hill by Jaime Jo Wright (***) – Christian fiction title that I’ve been anticipating. A longer review here if you are interested, a bit of a spoiler alert.

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke (*****) – The middle dragged a bit for me, but the story was wonderful and full of delicious book-lover’s dreams, characters coming alive, real power in reading out loud, writer’s ink bringing life to characters – my oldest and I really enjoyed reading this and talking about it! We are looking forward to the other two in the series.

The Holy Bible (*****) – Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. I just love those names, don’t you? I finished reading through for the year. However, I’ve started the Gospels again and read Matthew in November also.

Here are a few titles I forgot to include in other month recaps!

School Education by Charlotte M. Mason (*****) – I recently finished rereading this as part of my CM Book Study Group and it is so fantastic. Read here for an overview!

The Secret Life of Sarah Hollenbeck by Bethany Turner (**) – Spoiler Alert! Everything happens too fast (boom – a best friend, boom – a Christian, boom – love at first sight, boom – engaged & married. The End.) The story idea was an intriguing one, but just very little character development.

The Esther Paradigm by Sarah Monzon (***) – A modern retelling of the story of Esther. I loved the setting, detailed and richly woven life with a Bedouin clan. I liked that the romance wasn’t just physical-attraction driven, character was important. However, the romance situation was hard to swallow. Overall, this was a light, interesting read.

Mr. Write (Sundaes for Breakfast #1) by Chelsea Hale (**) – The title (not to mention the cover art) should have clued me in, what can I say? This was very predictable, eye-rolling plot, annoying, inspirational romance.

 

~

 

 

A Seed of Sympathy

_mg_6699

…she will point to some lovely flower flower or gracious tree, not only as a beautiful work, but a beautiful thought of God, in which we may believe He finds continual pleasure, and which He is pleased to see his human children rejoice in. Such a seed of sympathy with the Divine thought sown in the heart of the child is worth many of the sermons the man may listen to hereafter, much of the ‘divinity’ he may read.

Charlotte Mason

Home Education, p. 79-80

(this quote is talking about the mother (or father, of course), what may be her role as an interpreter between her child and Nature. Miss Mason cautions that this is an infrequent or occasional thing that the mother might do reverently,  probably because we can quickly become moralistic, preachy, and completely get in the way of God’s Creation and the child.  I found this to be such a beautiful passage and idea, that I couldn’t not share it!)

Emptied

IMG_5815

{Prince Edward Island, Canada – August 2017}

 

Empty Vessel

 

Poured out, drained, decantation

Bone-dry, cracked, fearful

Dusty, grainy, gritty, grim

 

Lonely, solitary, shelved, siren-sucked,

Useless, stagnant, stuck

Yearning, thirsting, doubting

 

Portal, shaft, brilliance, unbroken

Chink-patched, warmed, lightened

Outside, upward, forward

 

Burgeoning, blooming, full to top

Fruitful, tangy, rich, overflowing

Emptied to be filled

 

Potter, Vintner, Maker

Earth, sun, sky, sweat

Blood, tears, laughter

 

Slipping, spilling, sloshing

Filled to pour out

Best wine saved for lasting

 

~

 

Gratitude List {One Hundred Bits by Thanksgiving} #6

_MG_5749

{continuing my gratitude list}

51. giving, giving, and giving more…coming to the end of myself, seeing the need of my Savior more than ever to carry me

52. library trips

53. listening to my 8 year old daughter talk, talk, talk

54. fluffy, hot, clean laundry from the dryer

55. poetry

56. Minestrone soup with thick-cut sausage, home made bread slathered with butter

57. early morning light reflecting off glass-glazed ice puddles

58. warm, woolen coats

59. new tights, cardigans, rich colors

60. Amish gentleman rollerblading by with his bow hunting gear slung over his shoulder, welcome to the “deep country”, I’m so thankful I live here

~

Gratitude List {One Hundred Bits by Thanksgiving} #5

_mg_4506blogeditb

{continuing my gratitude list}

41. the way leaves swirl up behind our vehicle as we drive down the road

42. Ben’s sweet little hands

43. hours of LEGO playing

44. grilled cheese on sourdough

45. a husband who faithfully provides

46. early morning stillness

47. two oldest passed Hunter’s Safety

48. first big flakes of snow, so beautiful

49. a big load of seconds from apple orchard at a good price

50. hot chocolate mustaches on little children

~

Fells {English Memories}

_mg_5700blogheadera

{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.

~

Gratitude List {One Hundred Bits by Thanksgiving} #4

IMG_6928

{continuing my gratitude list}

31. fresh sheets on my bed

32. owl hooting outside my window in the wee morning hours

33. stuffed animal birthday celebration

34. planning Christmas surprises

35. writing group at library, so inspiring

36. surprising the children with donuts and trip to a little local dam (we’ve been reading about them!)

37. sunlight hitting the table full of nature treasures JUST right

38. hot coffee

39. Go Fish and Uno games

40. twinkle lights around the house

~

 

Gratitude List {One Hundred Bits By Thanksgivng} #3

IMG_7005

{continuing my gratitude list}

21. Yesterday

22. Today

23. Sunlight flickering through field corn

24. Sumac’s brilliant red color

25. Friends to talk about home educating with

26. Commonplace journal for quotes to look back on

27. Sam and Ella chopping ham and potatoes for crockpot

28. 45 minute drive we have to get to bigger towns – time to think, pray, decompress

29. Prayer

30. Holidays coming to see family

~

Daily Diary {Autumnal Thoughts}

IMG_6902

There is a rich depth to autumn. A culmination of the years work, a closure, a going out with style. I’ve been wading through our full learning days to the core of beauty that this time of the year brings. It takes a conscious effort and choice to slow down and choose to take time to really see. To really soak my soul deep in the little things that are happening. Noticing the old-fashioned Amish corn-shocks, the swirl of fallen leaves behind you on the road, the birds flying southward overhead, wood smoke lingering in the air, the brilliance of the blue sky, and of course, the amazing, deep jewel colors of the tree splendor engulfing us.

The mood is mostly one of delight, a coming in, last of the zinnias and cosmos being picked for bouquets, the last moments of soaking up warm sun rays, the bringing out of fluffy quilts, the sipping of hot drinks. There is a somber tinge to this time too, a realization that death, and cold icy grip are at hand. The coming November especially starts to leech out the color, the green, the life landscape slowly becoming gray, brown, and stark, sharp black. Locally here, two friends have died from cancer, and that has me thinking of this whole seasonal shift, life outlook, and cycle of seasons.

All of this together becomes a kaleidoscope of color, moments, bleakness, thoughts, and most of all gratitude. This swirling mass, twirling, spinning, diving, a tapestry of life. Of which I can never be thankful enough for. It is a gift. A gift that becomes a question. A question that becomes a purposefulness. A purposefulness that brings one to setting aside the iPhone, the to-do list, getting down on a knee and squeezing those little ones, dropping a card in the mail, having people over. Painting a butterfly with your 5 year old instead of writing, reading a bit of The Magic Pudding with your 10 year old even when you are exhausted, laughing with him over the antics of Sam, Bill, and Bunyip Bluegum, not to mention the Pudding. It’s learning to listen, oh how I need to listen, both ears open wide, heart grasping at deep meanings that matter to my loved ones. Listen to my dear Amos, to my young-adults-in-the-making even when it’s 10:37 pm and tooth-picks are holding up my eyelids.  The endless cooking, dishes, laundry, even questions become a golden thread in this autumnal stitching, a beauty unsurpassed as it all is given out of a heart of thankfulness.

Rich, deep Autumn. Thank you for reminding me again of so much beauty, even in the midst of a dying away. A dying away of nature, a continual dying away of self, a laying aside of what easily besets. Till we meet again, I bid you adieu.

~

 

Patchwork

IMG_6972

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.

~

Monday Ponderings {October 2nd}

IMG_6525

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