Folk Call the Road Lonely

IMG_4340Folk call the road lonely, because there is not human traffic and human stirring. Because I have walked it so many times and seen such a tumult of life there, it seems to me one of the most populous highways of my acquaintance. I have walked it in ecstasy, and in joy it is beloved. Every pine tree, every gallberry bush, every passion vine, every joree rustling in the underbrush, is vibrant. I have walked it in trouble, and the wind in the trees beside me is easing. I have walked it in despair, and the red of the sunset is my own blood dissolving into the night’s darkness. For all such things were on earth before us and will survive after us, and it is given to us to join ourselves with them and be comforted.

-Marjorie Kinnen Rawlings

Cross Creek

p.14

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.

~

 

 

‘Late and Soon’ {Living Education Retreat 2017, Part 2}

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{Beautiful gift given to us by our LER friends – “Keep cutting back until there is peace in your home.” – Nancy Kelly.  Design by – Charlotte Mason Living}

Part 1

Breakfast is being made, cheesy scrambled eggs, and I’m still feeding on the Living Education Retreat*. I’m a simmering soup after the weekend of sharing Charlotte Mason’s philosophy and practices with my fellow learners. My husband is getting an earful and my children are like, “Yes, mom, we know. Charlotte Mason, blah, blah, blah.” All in good humor, of course.  A thread, a main phrase seems to be emerging in my mind. It is the line ‘late and soon’.  I’m trying to wrap my mind around how that and other ideas tie together in a beautiful whole, taking it deep into my heart. I remembered in our Charlotte Mason book study having read it in the volumes, discussing it with my dear friends, and then stumbling again on it in a Wordsworth poem. What’s with Wordsworth lately popping up? Anyhow, here is the poem,

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.

 

I went searching for when Miss Mason uses this Wordsworth line in her writings and I found it in her School Education, p. 27.

“We ought to do so much for our children, and are able to do so much for them, that we begin to think everything rests with us and that we should never intermit for a moment our conscious action on the young minds and hearts about us. Our endeavours become fussy and restless. We are too much with our children, ‘late and soon.’ We try to dominate them too much, even when we fail to govern, and we are unable to perceive that wise and purposeful letting alone is the best part of education. But this form of error arises from a defect of our qualities. We may take heart. We have the qualities, and all that is wanted is adjustment; to this we must give our time and attention.” – Charlotte Mason (emphasis mine)

As I thought on the retreat’s theme of Simplicity, the beautiful times of sharing on math with Marcia, a poetry immersion with Karla, contemplating truths from Charlotte’s volume Ourselves with Joy, the beautiful why’s behind handicrafts with Amy, and all the main sessions with Nancy, Art, and Jeannette, ‘late and soon’ and “keep cutting back until there is peace” started to come alive to me.  What Wordsworth, Mason, and all my lovely friends at this retreat are saying to me is that I can be at rest, narrowing and aiming my focus, not getting too grand, too distracted. I often become inwardly “fussy and restless”, inwardly focused on my inadequacies, inwardly focused, instead of an upward focus on God, and an outward focus on others. I become too grand in my own eyes and of course, weary if I start to drift into thinking that everything rest with myself!  Nancy’s quote ringing all the more true here, “Inner reality that effects our outward lifestyle.” I often let the “cares of this world” to choke out the simplicity found in a Christ-centered focus, in life and in the education of my children.

The wonderful idea of “cutting back until there is peace” extends for me, not only out into the daily practicalities of my home and schedule, but an inner culling, a careful removal of all the dross of self doubt, condemnation, fretting over my children, and faithlessness. This isn’t really about me, it is about faith in Almighty God.

“Education, like faith, is the evidence of things not seen.” – A Philosophy of Education, Charlotte M. Mason, p. 29.

“This great recognition resolves that discord in our lives of which most of us are, more or less, aware. The things of sense we are willing to subordinate to the things of spirit; at any rate we are willing to endeavour ourselves in this direction.” Parents and Children, Charlotte M. Mason, p. 275. (emphasis mine)

Through the conversations, singing fireside with Bobby and Amy, the wonderful lunch discussions with Ami, Barbara, Shauna, and countless others, lingering after small groups, chatting, crying with one another, and the late night talks with Carla, the beauty of this mindset, this feast, shone forth even clearer. Spending time with my daughter and other young adults, enriched, and listening to their panel, looking back over their experiences in this life-giving educational path, all just swells in my heart and mind.

Pausing my typing, my three year old son approaches with Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? and says, “Book?” I wrestle my brain out of it’s lofty rumination 😉 , my heart melts, and we share this book together. The Supreme Educator, the Holy Spirit, the God of all Creation, of the “sea that bares her bosom to the moon” is for me and with me. He is my Source, He gently leads those who have young, in Him I live, move, and have my being.  The winds howl for hours, flowers gathered, we easily can get out of tune, but “…once the intimate relation, the relation of Teacher and taught in all things of the mind and spirit, be fully recognised, our feet are set in a large room; there is space for free development in all directions, and this free and joyous development, whether of intellect or heart, is recognised as a Godward movement.” Parents and Children, Charlotte M. Mason, p. 275.

 

 

*{Charlotte Mason was a British educator. We enjoy her philosophy and methods of  life-giving education in our home. The Living Education Retreat encourages parents on this journey.}

~

 

 

 

 

 

 

Expansion of Heart {Living Education Retreat 2017}

 

The rustle of pages can be heard here, with an occasional mouse click breaking the stillness, or my imagined stillness with six dear children present. The notes and ideas that expanded my intellect and heart this past weekend breathe around me. Swirling, turning, and watering deep. Gathered together on the edges of a lake of shining waters, northern Iowa, kindred spirits drank from a fresh well of thought at the Living Education Retreat*. My thumb holds the edge of a page with William Wordsworth’s poem, “Ode to Intimations of Immortality”, thinking on the beauty and implications of an childhood rich with ideas. He penned,

“But for those first affections,
Those shadowy recollections,
Which, be they what they may
Are yet the fountain-light of all our day,
Are yet a master-light of all our seeing;
Uphold us, cherish, and have power to make
Our noisy years seem moments in the being
Of the eternal Silence: truths that wake,
To perish never;
Which neither listlessness, nor mad endeavour,
Nor Man nor Boy,
Nor all that is at enmity with joy,
Can utterly abolish or destroy!”

{poetryfoundation.org – in case you want to read the whole of this beautiful poem}

I turn to Matthew 6:22-23, The Holy Bible, rereading the verses shared and thought over, contemplating Charlotte Mason’s poetic form of this very section in The Saviour of the World, meditating on the line, “See to it that thou keep the single eye”, flipping to read alongside of this Miss Mason’s thought on Mansoul in her Ourselves, page nine. I look closer at the painting of Fortitude by Botticelli that we were given, thinking over our discussions and thoughts on this, reflecting on what does it mean to keep the single eye. How does this effect the education of our children, really the whole of our lives? It comes from the idea of a singular focus on God and others, Nancy Kelly sharing that as an, “Inner reality that effects our outward lifestyle.”  A single eye “looks on the thing to do, not on herself as the doer.”  My note pages flip, and I look up at the screen at an essay by Charlotte Mason titled, Simplicity. A pointed, sharp look at reorientation of ones heart focus. A doing the thing right in front of you, rather than trying “to reform oneself.” A freedom from anxiousness, as anxiousness is really a focus on oneself.

Further along in my notes, I glance with fondness at the snippets of beauty and wisdom, remembering especially the fond conversations with my fellow learners. I now turn to a little gift for myself, that I picked up at the retreat. A small, beautiful book, Charlotte Mason and The Great Recognition, edited by Nicole Handfield. As I soaked in the essays, I found myself astonished that in between the covers of this little book was the essence, the theme if you will for me, of this year’s retreat. Charlotte’s thoughts on the Great Recognition, along with others, all beautifully arranged for better illumination and encouragement. The Holy Spirit as the Giver and Supreme Educator becomes a freeing truth to all, to me, a single-eyed devotion centering on our Lord Jesus Christ releases us from our burdens. Even educational burdens. Mothering and relational burdens. He is on our side, He knows all that we need and all that our children need, without reservation, abundant, above all that we could ask or think. This touched me, “We rejoice in the expansion of intellect and the expansion of heart and the ease and freedom of him who is always in touch with the inspiring Teacher, with whom are infinite stores of learning, wisdom, and virtue, graciously placed at our disposal.” Parents and Children, Charlotte M. Mason, p.276 (emphasis mine).

I glance at the piles of books, the open computer folders, take a deep breath, closing my eyes. (Well, in theory. They are still open, for ease of typing. Maybe it’s my inner eyes.) I remember the glorious morning devotions at the cross. The simplicity, quiet, and gentle cadence of lovely thoughts being shared. My heart and mind are at rest, refreshed and expanded. May my lantern shine and reflect the Supreme Educator from this day forth. ~

 

*{Charlotte Mason was a British educator. We enjoy her philosophy and methods of  life-giving education in our home. The Living Education Retreat encourages parents on this journey.}

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.

~

What Readers Wear

My frame wears its carbs, irritatingly. My mouth wears its feelings, unfortunately.  My thoughts wear their reading, hopefully.  Ideas, places, people, shock, beauty, disbelief mingle throughout our daily conversation.  The ink on countless pages have grown, shaped, given, asked, answered, and switched on the light. Now, a home library and a half later, a shoe-full of children and I, enter these worlds together, adventuring and stretching. Prayerfully, our wearing the stories of others will overflow true beauty, compassion, thankfulness, and understanding.  My heart wears an ache of gratitude.

~

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.

~

 

 

Monday Ponderings {June 26}

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Many were the tears shed by them in their last adieus to a place so much beloved. ‘Dear, dear Norland!’ said Marianne, as she wandered alone before the house, on the last evening of their being there, ‘when shall I cease to regret you?  – when learn to feel at home elsewhere? – O happy house! Could you know what I suffer in now viewing you from this spot, from whence perhaps I may view you no more! – and you, ye well-known trees! – but you will continue the same – No leaf will decay because we are removed, nor any branch become motionless although we can observe you no longer! – No; you will continue the same; unconscious of the pleasure or the regret you occasion, and insensible of any change in those who walk under your shade!  – But who will remain to enjoy you?’ – Marianne Dashwood

Sense & Sensibility

Jane Austen

p. 17

(I can identify with these sentiments so much, especially since our move last year. A place, a home, a particular moment means so much to you, and when you leave it or are far removed by time and memory, you grieve. I love this so much as I contemplate the importance of sense of place, an extension of belonging.)

~

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.

~

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!

~