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

Mountainous-Landscape-Behind-Saint-Paul-Hospital - Van Gogh

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!

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Supreme Beauty

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There was a leap of joy in him, like a flame lighting up in a dark lantern. At that moment he believed it was worth it. This moment of supreme beauty was worth all the wretchedness of the journey. It was always worth it. “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” It was the central truth of existence, and all men knew it, though they might not know that they knew it. Each man followed his own star through so much pain because he knew it, and at journey’s end all the innumerable lights would glow into one.

Gentian Hill

Elizabeth Goudge

p.208

(emphasis mine)

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Kingdom of Opposite Tale: Part 2

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Part 1

Soul crouches, cowers in the crevice. It covers its ears. It doesn’t want to take on the path right now. The swirling opposite stream’s Siren call is loud today. Tendrils of a whisper float to Soul, “Just give this foolishness, this outmoded path up. Ease, tranquility, softness, and beauty are yours, Soul.  Just calmly step over.” Soul traces the tentacle scars on its arms. The edges ooze, pus and pain mingle in its mind.  A beautiful face is now in the crevice, swirling and hovering near, slender finger beckoning. Soul is tempted. Why face the mundane road of thou-shalts and whosoever wills? Why feel the bruise and pain of this Kingdom of Opposite? Soul decides to just hide from it all. There is no danger in this crevice. After all, it’s still on the path. Soul leans nearer and stares harder. Siren’s lustful song is longer, mournfully louder. Cringing, Soul remembers. Eyes of its mind shut tight, forgetting again, fighting to remember. Its eye strays toward the path. That blood, a watering of red, on the dusty trail beyond its resting place. Startled, Soul stretches forth one leg, creeping back, faith seeping into its doubting heart. It can’t be. What is that small piece of greening hope in the barrenness? It shuffles closer and peers down. A curling, swirling vine is growing from the red stream.  Something sprouts in Soul’s heart.  Hearty, simple, brave, little vine.  Beauty among dry bones, Soul muses. It pulls itself up, brushes itself off, straining eyes ahead, following the swirls and twists of green.  “One must look hard for beauty in this Kingdom, but isn’t that the very essence of True Beauty? It comes up through the hard places, the lost places, the gruesome places of our path.” Soul speaks these truths out loud, telling itself, drowning her voice, watering the little seed of its heart. Soul starts forward, following the Vine wherever it may go, a spark of beauty leading it onward. It begins again with one step.

~

 

 

 

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

~

Haiku

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{precious moments}

 

Strands

willow bough unfurled

shifting riotous wild strands

daughter’s curly mane

 

Plain

clop, gleam, clack, hoof-beats

solemn, silent, saddened face

stooped figure, plain

 

Logophile

words afloat, dandy fluff

flitters through air lazily

mind and pen a swirl

 

Silly 

i’m hungry mom

nothing to eat in whole house

fridge and cupboard groan

 

(I recently met with some of my library writing ladies and we learned about and discussed haiku together. These above are my attempts. I really enjoyed trying to learn this form, the Americanized version usually following a juxtaposing of a nature element and other topic with a 5-7-5 syllable count.)

~

 

Five Months In – Kingdom of Opposite Tale

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Welcome to the Kingdom of Opposite –

Soul is on a path, rocky and barren, dry, desert wind blowing.  This part of the path has been five months and a little more, it reckons. Sweat- laden, Soul turns its head and glances around the landscape, plodding, plodding. Step at a time, day at a time, one tear at a time. A side way glance, grasping, grabbing arms, tentacle-like flail from a stream going the opposite direction. Soul sees flashes behind, flashes of fascinating things, muddied and unclear. It stops, staring and mesmerized. Shaking its head, it turns, glancing at the path that it’s been on…almost half of this new year. The same old, same sharp stones, same small way.  Soul’s head turns once more to the brilliant flow on either side of him. It thinks to itself, “I have none of those accomplishments, what is that newness, I need that, I’m different, I’m wasting, withering in obscurity, I’m desperate for easy, restful things.” Something sticky and hard is on its arm. Soul looks down. A black, stinking, ugly tentacle is grasping its arm. The stream gleams, it glitters, it accomplishes great, measurable things. There are accolades and praise in the sweet-smelling stream. Soul trembles. What has Soul done compared to the this alluring flash surrounding it? How can Soul measure up? Another tentacle joins its companion. Soul thinks, “I have nothing, I am nothing, all I have is this journey of rocks, painful and jarring.” Closing eyes, deep breath, Soul hears something. It can’t compete with the glamorous beauty flowing all around it. It is so faint, so gentle, yet has a musical, lyrical bell-like quality to it. Soul bends. Soul rests in the wind of it. Reaching and stretching its ear to it, Soul finally yields to its draw. Listen. Can you hear it with Soul? “Be still and know.” Soul realizes that its cheeks are wet like the dew of the morning and its parched, patched heart is refreshed. The tentacles are gone, bloody traces of their grip slashed across Soul’s wrists. Soul turns once again to the path winding in the opposite direction of the teeming stream. Something brilliant on the path jumps out at Soul. It stoops to touch it, warm on its finger. It’s gruesome, it’s dark red, it’s sticky, it’s messy, it’s a blood trail. Soul never noticed this before. Soul’s blood drip, drips, down mingling with the blood on the ground. Soul crests the next rocky ridge, plod, plod, step, step, and upon looking down into the valley below, through a heavy, dank, fog, it catches a glimpse of Something. Soul can’t name it. Yet, it takes a step down and toward, into the unknown, refusing a glimpse to the side and the beautiful, teeming, mass flowing beside it, instead filled with an unexplained, incredible Love that fills the lonely, confused, and weary crevices of Soul. Soul scrambles, tripping, stumbling over the rocks, relationships rocks, Soul-wrenching rocks, just to catch one glimpse. It never does, but it follows the brilliant Light that surrounds the Something, sending out a pulsing promise of “You are loved.” Soul catches its breath, places its scarred feet one step lower into the Kingdom of Opposite. Soul falls, but looks up, faintly seeing this Beauty ahead, on the same path, together with Soul. The Light beckoning with love and acceptance, Soul seeing the path of blood flowing from the One, that blood mixing with its own on this journey, and nothing, no ease, no prize can complete with the brilliance of this dusty, love-soaked path. Step, step, plod, plod. One moment at a time.

~

 

 

 

 

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?

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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 (*****)

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Monday Ponderings {Memorial Day 2017}

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All old farms, I imagine, have some such rustic flavor in their walls; country dwellers will recognize what I mean. A hundred and fifty years of barrelled apples, of vegetables stored in a field-stone cellar, of potatoes in the last of spring, of earth somewhere and never very far, of old and enduring wood and wood-smoke, too, and perhaps the faintest touch of mould from things stored long, long ago in a bin – all these and heaven knows what other farmhouse ghosts were unmistakably present in the neat room with its lamps and books. The cold and humid night had stirred the house as well as ourselves: it had its own rustic memories.

Northern Farm: A Glorious Year on a Small Maine Farm 

Henry Beston

p. 70

(I can just feel and smell what the author is saying here, can’t you?! Hearth Ridge isn’t nearly as old as our former home, yet it has a touch of this mystery to it, and it’s one of the many things I love about old country buildings and rural living.  The history of so many lives is carried right on through the warp & woof of the buildings. That’s also why I love England. You just tangibly FEEL the history. Sigh. So beautiful!)

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.

~