A Simple Gift

snow day    The words of the old Shaker song go round in my head. Finding myself in “the place just right” seems hard some days – like the other day when I realized that the inkjet cartridge had leaked black all over lovely wood and then I picked up the wrong can of paint and though I thought it looked a bit dark - it was wet… I went on painting. And then I had to paint again. <sigh> I know, in the grand scheme of life, not so big a deal but it is the little things some days that seem to overflow the cup. What do you do with those days? When the wind blows hard and there are even waves in the birdbath.

IMG_4512

In 1985, it was really big deal to have our beloved Nana diagnosed with dementia. We tried keeping her at home with helpers, but the disease took her away in giant steps. Too soon, for her safety and well being, it became a necessity to place her in a care facility. It was a time of busy grief.

Christmas was coming. I had so much on my mind that day I drove the beltway – from where and to where - I no longer remember. But on that drive, the thought came to me that we could give her an album quilt for Christmas. Only one problem. I had no idea what an album quilt really was but I thought of blocks, large ones, that would tell a story, the story of her life.

I went to a small quilt shop with my idea and the staff was so helpful with the project from beginning to end; even supplying fabric from personal stashes when I cut the border fabric wrong and there was not enough to finish.

I sent fabric and the plan out to family and everyone worked on squares that said something about her life. Everyone worked quickly, taking comfort in being able to do something, anything, to bring some comfort to her, and ourselves. Soon, all the blocks were back and it was time to make the quilt.

I had never made a quilt before…

Sewing the blocks and borders together was the easy part. Then came backing and batting and I recall taping it to my kitchen floor as the only place to stretch it out and layer it. Finally it was pined together and ready to quilt.

I had never made a quilt before…

I called my friend Lucy. She was a Southern girl with a country background. Did she know how to quilt? “Quilting should enhance your design, don’t do too much.” What did that mean?! I stitched some, and then some more. Then came the binding – and somehow – it was done – by Christmas.Nana's quiltThe quilt became a great gift to us as we felt we could wrap her in our love. Nana used the quilt for 4 1/2 years. At first the staff thought it a nuisance, then it changed their view of this wonderful woman. It gave her an identity, a life; it became a conversation point. It reminded them that she was loved and cared about.

There is nothing fancy about the quilt but it is now a family treasure, faded, worn and soft.

And today? That gift to Nana, opened a space for me. For when the wind blows hard, the ink spills, the paint goes on wrong… there is a calm that comes with fingering fabrics, hearing the whirl of the machine.

                   quilt     quilt

We woke to snow today, rather like a celebration to remember Nana on her birthday, with love.

Loretta    1906 – 1990

Nana

Gratitudes aplenty

“Stay alert, with your eyes wide open in gratitude.”

                                                                                                         Colossians 4:2 Mess.

We were blessed to visit in Williamsburg again. One of my favorite places is the Botanical Garden there. Like most everywhere else, it was and had been very cold. The afternoon that we visited was brilliant.  Bird chatter from high above or feeders or deep within shrubbery was constant and timid squirrels clung high.

Botanical Garden

I was surprised to find that there had been late Iris bloom, sadly hit by the bitterness. But new buds seemed untouched. There were, in fact, many brilliant things to see in this small place.

Brights

Beautybush, Winterberry, Wax Myrtle (?); Roses, gorgeous leaves, Flowering cabbage; Iris, Tansy, Bald cypress

Then I took another look to see how the garden was dressing itself for the holidays. Here is just a sample.Subtle

I really missed the names of many of these as the colonies are large. But the first is Hops and directly below is Queen Anne’s lace. In the center, trailing pinkish petals, Echinacea and next to it, Northern sea oats. I could hardly take it all in, the variety of subtle was intriguing as I walked round and through the many pathways. Then all to soon, it was time to leave.

Pinecone

I wish everyone a joyous Thanksgiving! May your tables be full of the bounty of family, friends and provisions. Look well, stay alert!

Deep into autumn

mellow time  Sumac red and dogwood mahogany fade to apricot this long and extraordinary season.

mellow road Russet and gold mellow; the world is quieting.

ice on birdbath  Ice begins to form on the birdbath and this year the Snowbirds compete with the Goldfinches at the thistle feeder.

frost  Frost twinkles in the early light before sun.

Loch Raven  Contours and features long hidden in green come back into focus.

first snow  And one night, the first snow drifts down. Time to settle into warm clothes, lamplight, comforting foods and wrapping my heart extra tight in gratitude for wonder and blessing.

Bedtime Writing

November 2, 2014

Reading Slowing Time Seeing the Sacred Outside Your Kitchen Door, sinking into the poetry of her thoughts and prayers. Tonight as I huddle under the comforter, it is quiet. The roaring, rushing winds of yesterday that lingered through the early hours of the day are whispering now.

As I linger in Barbara Mahany’s images, a little urge for something warm slips in. As I make my way to the kitchen, light is filtering through the glass block window. Light that only comes from the filling in of the moon. Finding a small quilt to wrap around me, I step blindly out into crunchy leaves so that my view of moon and stars will be clear.

Stunning seconds of beauty in the freezing cold. Right outside my kitchen door.

October bows out with flourishes

I found these lovely words by Will Carleton, American poet:

Sweet and smiling are thy ways, Beauteous, golden, Autumn days!

Bright jewel colors still linger.

October

There are mysteries this year of purple leaves and fallen oak leaves, blooms with berries and brilliance in tree tops.

October

Sunsets glorious with clouds end days.

October

 

Treasure Hunting on a Windy Day

Loch RavenToo windy for reflections this beautiful day, but as I turned away from the water view, a glimpse of color near my feet sent me off on a hunt for tiny treasures.

Loch Raven“Autumn, the year’s last, loveliest smile.”               William Cullen Bryant

Several autumns we drove from Elmira to Ithaca, both towns in New York. Near the end of this route we would come round a bend and the hillside would be swathed with purple. I always wondered what trees turned purple, but this year we have purple trees in our neighborhood! They are a bit difficult to photograph, there are not many places to stop on winding country roads but I captured this one on the drive home. IMG_4139From Seeing Trees, I am learning about anthocyanin, a blue, violet or red pigment found in the leaves of some trees. It’s activity is  dependent on sunlight, rainfall and weather. Our long cool and sunny days are producing interesting variations in the leaf color of maple trees this year. I’m learning to pay attention to these wonderful details.

 

Growing Oak Trees

I found this poem to share. It is a wonderful metaphor for the life of faith, I think. Scripture calls us to yield and to become ”oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord” – Isaiah 61

Can you see your life in these lines?

.IMG_1569

 The Acorn

In a small green cup an acorn grew

                On a tall and stately oak;

The spreading leaves the secret knew,

                And hid it like a cloak.

The breezes rocked it tenderly,

                The sunbeams whispered low,

“Some day the smallest acorn here

                Will make an oak, you know.”

The little acorn heard it all,

                And thought it quite a joke;

How could he dream an acorn small

                Would ever be an oak?

He laughed so much that presently

                He tumbled from his cup,

And rolled a long way from the tree,

                Where no one picked him up.

Close by him was a rabbit hole,

                And when the wind blew high,

Down went the acorn with a roll

                For weeks in gloom to lie.

But, one bright day, a shoot of green

                Broke from his body dry,

And pushed its way with longing keen

                To see the glorious sky.

It grew and grew, with all its might,

                As weeks and months rolled on;

The sunbeam’s words were proving right.

                For, ere a year had gone,

The shoot became a sturdy plant,

                While now the country folk

Can sit beneath the spreading leaves

                Of a mighty forest oak.

                                                                           Anonymous

Sunday hours at the river

There were three wonders to absorb my play time at the park. Gunpowder

1. Three oak trees clustered along the bank where we chose to sit. I have not yet identified them, but perhaps a reader knows. There seem to be a dozen species native to this state.

Oak 1   oak 2   Oak 3

2. Sweet gum trees. I had learned that the color of these leaves is dependent on cool nights and sunny days. The range of color on a single tree is amazing.

Sweet Gum Even the stems are colorful! Sweet Gum

3. Black Walnuts – so many trees! You will notice them first by the fruit.

Black Walnuts   Black walnuts   Black walnut

The thick green husk gives way to thick shell. Only persistence will yield the nut meats. Lacking my own trees and having heard the tales of blackened hands – from the husks – and the challenge of wresting the meat from the shell, I’ve never opened one, preferring to buy the delicious morsels by the bag. The taste is not at all like that of English walnuts. If you are not familiar with the taste of them a great way to start is with Black Walnut Jiffy Cake which is one of the easiest cakes to make. I highly recommend it! Follow the link to the recipe. It freezes well so it can be made ahead of the holidays. No frosting is needed. And, as my Great Aunt would say, I hope you have good luck with this!

I so agree with Anne -

park

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers”

Anne Shirley – Anne of Green Gables

 

 

Reflections – true or false?

Reflection

Sometimes, it seems that I get very out-of-focused in reflection.

And everything turns topsy turvy.

There is only one way for me to right my mental world:

 Finally, brothers and sisters, fill your minds with beauty and truth. Meditate on whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is good, whatever is virtuous and praiseworthy.

The Voice Biblereflection 2

Filling my mind with beauty all around. What beauty have you found today?