Category Archives: Things great and small

“I”m trying as hard as I can.”

Those words were spoken quite a few years ago by my young niece at a tea party as she checked herself on her manners. Many days they seem appropriate for me to speak about my life and intentions.

The beginning of October, Pastor Di wrote her blogging plan for the month would be “31 days of Paying Attention.” While I cannot hope to imitate her writing in even a small way, I did think it would be an easy focus to get me back on track writing.  After all, I notice, I pay attention, I think about things. YOU notice that I have no posts for October. Somehow my paying attention became a serious introspection that required processing, sifting and interpreting.

ear;y morning

Even simple things like the early mornings and dark evenings that I love, became thought provoking. So, I’m finishing out the month with a few observations, a few attempts to notice, to pay attention.

  1.   candle light   Looking down into the clear glass jar, I see the illusion of light trapped by sold walls. One of the meanings of my name is light. It is easy for me to feel like light trapped. We are all meant to be light carriers. To shine. To brighten the darkness. And I wonder if I do.

day lily2.   One morning I stepped outside to cut a last bloom for the table, I glanced at the Elephant Ears with all the veins and shading of green glowing. Then I noticed the mist had settled like a dusting of silver.  elephant earSo beautiful and different from the large beads that usually form. I began to look through the garden and noticed other changes. Like the “skin” of the aged leaves no longer supported the droplets has they had.

leaf collage

3.   I confess: I much, much, prefer coffee to tea. But tea does have a small place in my life and cupboard. I like the thought of taking tea, but I don’t actually like tea. And I have tried many. Loose teas, tea bags. Fancy tea rooms, kitchen tables. Green, white, red, black, fermented…

I have lovely tea friends who gift me with tea cups and accessories, all of which makes tea time charming. And Dear Aunt Dolly, urged me to take the family spooner, so many years ago. spooner  It holds a small assortment of silvery spoons from family kitchens, long closed.  All at the ready for tea time.

I grew up in a tea drinking family. Teabags were common and easily discarded in trash or compost. And a great annoyance if by chance one burst open or one slipped from a dish and left a stain. Recently, I became aware that people were paying attention to those insignificant tea bags! They were looking closely at the construction and the dyed fiber of them. They were noticing even how the drying stains could be art! Hmm, I had to see for myself, so I began drinking tea, or at least boiling water and soaking tea bags.  tea bags Different teas, herbs, spices – it was intriguing. While they dried, I watched tea bag artists on YouTube! Then, I hunted up my stamping supplies and tried my hand at a simple project.card making

And I made a note card. One.  note card  I wrote a note and sent it off to an artist. Have you looked at a tea bag lately?

4.   A pathetic photograph of the charming Woolly Bear – Woolly Bear  Those fuzzy, wuzzy fall caterpillars, thought to predict winter weather. A friend mentioned that he had seen one. It made me realize that I had not seen one in a while. Pyrrharctia Isabella (Isabella Tiger Moth). A little research and I am amazed! These woolly creatures emerge in the fall and look for a dark and sheltered place to hang out over winter — FROZEN! True! They freeze solid and survive because they are designed with cryoprotectant in the tissues! I love knowing this! And yes, this deserves lots of !!!!! I’m on the look-out for Woolly Bears now.

autumn

5.   A post on Instagram asked for our earliest memories of Trick or Treat. The flashback was immediate. I was perhaps 6, maybe 7. Dad had walked my younger sister and I down the street, we visited some neighbors and collected our loot in those scary looking paper mache pumpkins of those days.  I loved dressing up in costume and for some reason, I think I was dressed as a gypsy in a fancy skirt and bolero.  Even with street lights, it was very dark as there were still some leaves on the trees.  We walked as far as the Rosenburger’s home almost at the end of our long block. It was very large and on a very large lot, bigger than any other on the street. The Rosenburger’s  were very elderly and I hope they enjoyed our childish visit.

As we turned from the door to walk down the steps, well, that was when it happened.

I became aware, alert, enthralled, if you will, with the darkness, the windy darkness and the swirling, rustling dry leaves. I hear some folk don’t like to hear the wind, do you?  On that night, so very long ago, in the mystery of wind, it became my friend.

There was strong wind the other day, so I stepped outside. The dry leaves swirled around my feet, whispering. And the wind wrapped itself around me like a shawl and I was 6 again.

leaves and needles

 

 

 

Thinking about September

sky

I read and ponder this quote from Frederick Buechner:  “Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it, no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.” 

violet

September is like January – a new year – for me. September was full of birthdays when I was young. A new school year usually brought anxiety calmed with new notebooks and writing instruments and outside school activities.

cupcake

There are far fewer people to celebrate their September birthdays in family and among friends, leaving only my cousin and I to celebrate our mutual date.

 My mother used to speak of things that ‘had fallen by the wayside.’ Trees have fallen here. This one caused the death of our cherry tree and now cherry pie in June has ‘fallen by the wayside’.

fallen tree

 Two friends died, suddenly, like great trees fallen from our lives. And we mourn.

 squirrel   deer   Carolina Wren

Squirrels gather black walnuts, deer stroll through – eating the gardens when I’m not looking and the Carolina Wren draws me to the windows early in the morning  as if to remind me, ‘there are new mercies for each new day, open your eyes, Elaine. Wonder abounds, be grateful!’

day lily   hydrangea

swing

Cooler weather finally arrived, the lighting changed and autumn arrived. And I enter in, reflective, pondering. Taking more notice of the moments. Before they are fallen by the wayside.

autumn sign

 

Garden Notes

calla lily

September 20, 2014  I wrote about discovering seed pods in my neglected pot of Calla Lilies.calla lily seeds

July, 2015, I wrote of sprouted seeds.
calla lilies

Last fall, we moved the pot of sprouts into the garage where they would not freeze. In the spring, we rolled the pot out and up steps to where the plants would be seen and watered.

And we waited.

Our sprouts popped up and flourished. Sort of. We have a great pot of leaves. But no blooms.

Calla leaves

Around July, I did some research. Too late, I found that they don’t like to be all cozy but needed to be given some space when you plant them. I would need to use more pots or space in the gardens.

Soon, we’ll move the pot back down the steps and into the garage. I hope the tubers have strengthened and  will overwinter again. If they do, then next year, I will follow instructions and give them all room to grow and hope for bloom.

Colocasia

Another note: Last fall, I dug up the Elephant Ear bulb and found 3 offsets, which I saved.  They managed to survive the winter cast onto the pot where the Calla Lilies slept.  Potted up, they sprouted and have grown well.  Previous years, I was not successful in keeping the bulb over winter, so this was great fun.            Colocasia The “ears” wiggle in the slightest breeze.

 Elephant ear

Rain and dew collect on the fleshy leaves and I’ve seen butterflies stop for a drink but they are much to quick for me to capture to share here.

Note #3: An odd sighting on the grounds. We have a bird bottle from Williamsburg, VA nailed up by the wood shed near our driveway. I’m used to wrens nesting in it twice each summer. However, the other week as we were driving out, I looked up and saw something quite startling — and certainly not a bird! You can click on the picture for a better look.bird bottle

So many things happen from day to day, it’s good to take note. One never knows just what might happen next in a wild, living community!

August – delightfully interrupted

Hot. Humid. August. Definitely in need of a lovely interruption.

Our daughter came bringing the Grandpup, Marigold,IMG_8273

and Grandkittie, Sadie 20160814_103830

Both are rescued and well loved. It was first visit for Sadie who made herself at home at my writing table right away. IMG_8275 Although she also kept me company as I did some hand stitching. 20160817_102627

Marigold was harder to capture but was so much more at home on this second visit — until the thunder storms. Then, although she has a crate, she tried hiding in all kinds of places she did not fit. Including beside the dryer. That turned out to be a bonus gift for us as we became aware of a hole hidden in the folds of the venting material. A hole unseen, but big enough to interfere with the function of the machine.

The days went so quickly and then, it was time to say our goodbyes.

20160817_110315 Marigold was ready to go with her mama wherever she was going!

We hugged and waved and there may have been a tear as we held each other and watched the car disappear from view. Come again, sweet girl!

 

From the Garden

sticks  It has been the summer for yard exercise. When rain comes, it is heavy. Dead wood becomes sodden and gives up clinging to the trees. truck            So, I pick up and pray gratitude for the county brush recycling just a few miles away.

In between rains, I am working at conscious beauty rests.  Join me for spa treatments?

morning light     elephant ear     wild ginger     butterfly bush     rainbow     daylily rebloom     butterfly     cleome     butterfly

Early morning light, Elephant Ear leaf, Wild Ginger “cushion”, Butterfly Bush, Rainbow, Stella re-bloom, Butterfly feeding, Cleome, Nectar hunting! Click on photo for best view.

My friend, Marta, at Selah Reflections takes beautiful photographs as she lives her goal to find moments of stillness in the midst of the busyness of life. Whenever I forget, there she is with a post to remind me to stop and really be aware and rest in the beauty so generously supplied to me.

June Days

There is a freshness in the air today. Glowing greens and beautiful bloom where yesterday there were only buds.

Tradescantia

In the early mornings, This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. Through the Lord’s mercies, we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I hope in Him!”

Lamentations 3:21-24 NKJV

Longings

Tim Willard in Longing for More, week 17, reflected on the mystery of beauty – it’s draw on our souls, the need to stop and see. I have found many writers who train my eyes, speak to my soul. My friend, Marta, challenges me the same way. Will I be still, will I allow myself to see, to rest in the seeing?

Twice in April, we were able to get away to the park. While the area we go to has a beach, it is the woodland that we enjoy. Each table really has a different view, almost a different plant environment.

park in AprilNot many people this Sunday, so the park is quiet with only occasional boat sounds from the river, bike tires whizzing by or the small birds that flit and do the original twitter. Bees buzz in blooms so small, I must bend low to look into the beauty. We are refreshed.

At the park week 2A week passes – we choose a different table. Fresh leaves shine green on some trees this clear day. On others, there are still buds of promise. Not so many wildflowers at this site. Here we have mosses and flowering trees and shrubs.  Mini suns – and a moon – explode from the ground nearby. dandylions

We picnic with hot soup and sandwiches then sit enjoying the last of our time here. I lean back to look up at the shining green against the clear blue. Sweet gum leaves like stars. Sweet GumThen looking beyond the canopy, I see them. Bald Eagles riding the currents, sky surfing!

bald eagle

This place is like a soul spa. A soaking, cleansing, refreshing place. A place displaying the beauty, mystery and wonder of Creator God.

Tim ended Week 17 with this prayer,  “Lord Jesus, I love how you unfold your truth in the mystery of your glory. Thank you for thinking of me enough to delight my sense with all that you are. ”             Amen!

 

 

 

International Tatting Day (updated)

Tatting: Lace made by hand with fine thread and a small shuttle. I believe this piece came from the hands of my Grandmother Anna. I remember as a very small child standing by the side of her rocking chair as thread became beauty. It was a magical thing and I have never forgotten her beautiful hands with their long slender fingers, her wide gold wedding band and the tatted lace.  I think this might be where my love of thread began.

Anna's things The earrings were hers, always worn. The silver, a piece of hers as well. Small tokens can bring memories to life.

Update:  link to a past post with a photo of Anna and beloved August

I found a tatting shuttle in an antique store. It has a bit of thread attached.tatting

Easter Reflection

Easter blooom

Easter came and a few members of the family were able to gather with us for dinner. We ate well and talked long. Stories were told, travel adventure photos shown and messages shared from a distance. One from a long distance in time.

Since my Mom moved house in 1998, I have housed an old comforter made by her mother, Amelia.  I really can’t say why I’ve kept the old thing; it served no purpose. I decided to salvage the cover fabric. After dinner, I shared how I started to de-construct the blanket and saw the fine stitching and workmanship that set this utilitarian bed cover apart. This was the careful work of a skilled needlewoman, truly showing the Art of Work that she employed. I needed to share this glimpse of our Grandmother.

de-construction

My sister rose from the table and returned with a tote bag. She carefully unfolded a packet of tissue paper and unrolled history. Amelia came to the table then —  young, the Amelia we could never know.

 Amelia   My sister and I talked of trousseau and my niece asked – what is that? A truly foreign word to this modern career woman. We examined the fine fabric, the tatted lace, the exquisitely hand stitched French seams and fine hem, the embroidery of this camisole… like a fragile page from a young woman’s diary… hours spent stitching in her hopes and dreams for the future. camisole

And again I felt the ache rising, the missed opportunities , the un-offered opportunities to sit, to learn from this master needlewoman,

                              hidden in plain sight,

                                                     disguised as my grumpy grandmother.

 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

These words from 1 Corinthians 13:12 do not mean window glass, but today, they seem to reflect how we move through this earth, seeing, but not knowing what we see, how none of us is really known by another. I’m changing the stories I make up about Amelia and pray that someday, I will see her face to face and know her as I never did. I’ll know what made her laugh, what touched her heart with delight, which dreams came true, her favorite music…

I know I will like her.

Visits with an old friend

My writing here has been to try to share bits of life where comfort and joy touch me deeply. It’s a brief recording of my journey through life aware of beauty and the possibilities of peace.

In some ways I think my earliest readings fostered this search. The beautiful language and illustration of the Childcraft: Poems of Early Childhood, was precious to me. Then came the library with wonderful series describing more of life than my small world held. Eventually, I found Mrs. Tabor’s “Butternut Wisdom” in the Family Circle Magazine.

In a way, I suppose she became an example of wonderfully adapting to country living – if perhaps a bit romanticized.

book

I poured over my 1984 reissue of The Book of Stillmeadow, wishing for her connections and knowledge in my own country living. Perhaps it was she who encouraged my bread making efforts, the gardening, and the canning, preserving, and freezing seasons of life even without all the “amenities” of her old country farmhouse. And certainly without the bevy of Cocker Spaniels who so enriched her life!

My copy is worn from use, the edges stained grey by fire soot. Many years it was only dusted but for the last several, I have walked with Gladys through the months. It is a bit like revisiting old family letters. In February, I again came upon the “Comfort Powders”:

“My great-great-grandfather was a minister in Boston, and among the relics in his little haircloth, brass studded trunk I found this week something which pleases me very, much. I had forgotten about it during the terrible war years, and now it seems a new discovery. It is a small, yellowed box labelled “Comfort Powders.” The fading, flowing script says, “Take one every morning with a generous draught of cheerfulness and thanksgiving. Good for the mind and heart, will promote love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance.” Inside are thirty folded papers such as were used for powders by the old family doctors, folded at each end to keep the medicine from spilling. On each folded paper is a message, to be read for the day.

This is a lovely idea, I think, and bears repeating. For starting a new day with a beautiful thought might help us all. Grandfather’s comfort powders were Biblical, naturally.”

Gladys Tabor, The Book of Stillmeadow ©1948, reissued 1984

Gladys goes on to quote “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” From the Gospel of John 14:27

While she penned this book in 1948 reflecting back to WWII, her thoughts so apply today:

“In a world still uneasy, these are good words to hear. And as we hear the daily news, we might feel a world of peace was a most vain illusion. But under the snow, violets sleep, and in the world there is still love, gentleness and goodness.”

violetd

In our world, there is still great war going on and peace seems very far away. Today, I take a few verses to savor and to calm my heart and soul. May I offer you a few good and soothing words?

  • Psalm 94:19: In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul.

  • Isaiah 41:10: Fear not, for I am with you, be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand. RS

  • Lamentations 3:22-23:  Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.  They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. NKJV

  • Psalm 118:24 This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.

And David’s words, so full of hope and promise:

  • Psalm 23: The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.  Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

Peace be with you, friend.

If not noted, passages of Scripture are  from the King James Version of the Bible.