Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Suddenly it is summer in New England, and I have 'gone to the woods' to listen to the singing there: the birds, the wind, the pond, the frogs and bees. The amazing effect of these beautiful sounds is sweet stillness.

common cinquefoil

Bullfrog, photo by my son Seth
Then the LORD said: Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD; the LORD will pass by. There was a strong and violent wind rending the mountains and crushing rocks before the LORD—but the LORD was not in the wind; after the wind, an earthquake—but the LORD was not in the earthquake; after the earthquake, fire--but the LORD was not in the fire; after the fire, a light silent sound. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle ~1 Kings 19:11-13a

In the woods there is golden sunlight and dark shadow. There are mothers and fathers leading and protecting. There are children following and learning.

"To romanticize the world is to make us aware of the magic, mystery and wonder of the world; it is to educate the senses to see the ordinary as extraordinary, the familiar as strange, the mundane as sacred, the finite as infinite ". ~Novalis
Luke holding a spider, photo by Seth
Mallard couple - photo by Seth

If I were a woodland creature, I could imagine myself as a chipmunk. I rather resemble one, I think, with my round face and nut brown coloring, Like them, I can be shy and friendly at turns. Plus, I am attracted to their cozy, underground homes. What woodland creature would you be? Emmeline said that she would be a unicorn. 

Once, while walking in the woods, I glimpsed a magical, white creature prancing merrily through the trees. The creature's delicate grace arrested me, and I gazed at it in wonder, fully expecting to see a single horn upon its head when it turned to face me. What on earth was it, you ask? A lovely white poodle!

For a glorious week, the air was perfumed by the heavenly fragrance of black locust blossoms. These trees are native to the southeast but have become invasive here in the north and are on Massachusetts' prohibited plants list.

On one evening, we discovered that a barred owl had made its nest in the hollow of a big oak tree right next to the trail. Inside the hollow were two large, fuzzy owlets.

Perched in a nearby tree across the trail, we found the mother owl watching us with her great dark eyes. Barred owls are large birds, about eighteen inches tall. According to Peterson's Guide, they are one of only two species of owls in eastern North America that do not have yellow eyes. The other species are barn owls. From The Owls Trust: "Owls with yellow eyes hunt mainly during the day, owls with dark eyes hunt during the night, owls with orange eyes hunt at dusk or dawn."

As I gazed up at Mother Owl, and she gazed back at me, the rest of the world ceased to exist; there was just She and Me and the Mystery between us.

The experience reminded me of a painting by Meinrad Craighead that my friend Kortney Garrison posted on her blog back in 2011 (how has so much time passed, Kort??)

Holy Wisdom by Meinrad Craighead:

"those owls, her familiars.  she holds the labyrinth’s string, the red cord. our connection" ~Kortney's beautiful words, to which I would add, "and the ever-changing constancy of the moon."
The next evening, my sons went back to the tree, after fishing in the pond, and saw the mother owl fly into the nest. 

Mother Owl, photo by Seth
Two days later, the owlets had fledged.  We were fortunate to see one of them perched high in a tree across the trail from the big oak. Mother Owl was in another tree on the hill about 200 feet away. We have not seen them since. But, they are so silent and so well camouflaged that I wonder how often they are there in the evening shadows, watching, without us knowing.

Moon Over Horn Pond, photo by Seth

Perhaps the facts most astounding and most real are never communicated by man to man. The true harvest of my daily life is somewhat as intangible and indescribable as the tints of morning or evening. It is a little star-dust caught, a segment of the rainbow which I have clutched. ~ Henry David Thoreau
It is just so, isn't it?

Love and roses,

Monday, May 21, 2018

Back in 2013 I wrote a post about an article I read depicting the traditional lifestyle of Transylavanian hay farmers.  In the article the photographer interviewed a young woman, and what she said has stayed with me all this time. The young woman's name was Maria:
One woman she (Ms. Effendi) photographed, Maria, 23, was pregnant and working in the field when they met. She spoke more English than most villagers and told Ms. Effendi that she and her husband had spent a year in France, where he worked in construction. But she missed their home in the fields, and they returned.
In Maramures, Maria told Ms. Effendi, she has room for activity of the mind. People in France were preoccupied with the daily distractions of urban life, and they didn’t have any room left for “beautiful thoughts.” (A Fairy Tale in Transylvania: NYTimes Lens)
When I consider all of the troubles of our times, the senseless violence, moral confusion, disparity, oppression, inequality, antagonism, hopelessness, etc. I wonder what would happen if we allowed our minds to only dwell on beautiful thoughts.
Spring came in breathtaking splendor at the beginning of May and lasted just two weeks. The pear trees that line our lane looked like brides in white lace. 

 "The soul that does not attach itself solely to the will of God will find neither satisfaction nor sanctification in any other means, however excellent by which it may attempt to gain them. If that which God Himself chooses for you does not content you, from whom do you expect to obtain what you desire?... It is only just, therefore, that the soul that is dissatisfied with the divine action for each present moment should be punished by being unable to find happiness in anything else."
— Fr. Jean-Pierre de Caussade, p. 14 Abandonment to Divine Providence

This week is the first one of the entire year that there are no doctors' appointments on the calendar. YAY!!!  The last few months have been so busy, I don't feel like I have had time to come up for air.
So far, the year has not turned out the way I expected it to, but a very long time ago, I learned to surrender my expectations and turn my heart to the needs of the moment and the well-being of those I love. However, I cannot say with any degree of honesty that I am always content/satisfied with the way things are. But, if I could think beautiful thoughts in the midst of every moment, regardless of what happens within that moment, I can see the result would be, if not "happiness" the way most people define it, then at least peace. 

But, it is by far easier to "count our blessings" than it is to acknowledge that all is blessing. Especially when quite a lot of life involves suffering that is beyond our ability to control.

Our little chicken flock is only two now: Trixie and Henrietta. They are seven years old and still giving us eggs. I love keeping chickens, but I wouldn't do it again unless I lived in the countryside. Rodents have been an annoyingly relentless problem for us for the last year and a half. We have cats, but don't dare let them outside in this busy neighborhood after our dear Mischief was killed by a car a few years ago, when he was just three years old.

One of my favoritest things about springtime is the annual warbler migration. I love bird watching, but the window of opportunity for good viewing is a short one in New England, and I pretty much missed it this year due to family obligations. Still, there are plenty of backyard birds to watch: orioles, house finches, cardinals, hummingbirds, and blue jays. Sometimes, Love sends a golden bird to sing right outside your window.

And the kittens. 🐱 🐱 So much cuteness! Even the word kitten is nice. Rhys and Wyatt are six and a half months old now. Wyatt loves making death defying leaps onto the tops of book cases and playing in the kitchen sink:

We went to Boston on May 5th for the Pugs Take Boston event at Boston Common  It was a gloriously, lovely day with every tree in full blossom.

Elvis had a marvelous time. That's him wearing the red leash, and next to him in the neon yellow harness is a quite famous pug called Mochi . He has his own instagram account, comic strip, and even books. 

We had a lot of fun meeting other pugs and their owners. Afterward, we enjoyed looking at the beautiful architecture of the City.

I loved this house on Beacon Street. There were bluebells growing in front of the basement windows:

And now, only two weeks later, summer has arrived to our backyard. The trees are lushly green and fully leafed out.

We celebrated my baby's twelfth birthday last Thursday! When he was born, he was two pounds heavier than any of my other babies, and my older kids nicknamed him the "Big Show". Now, at twelve, he is nearly six feet tall--the tallest in our family!

Wishing everyone a Beauty-filled week. ♥

Love and roses,

Sunday, April 15, 2018

This pond, and the surrounding woodland, is the heart of the town where I live. It is an enchanted place that abounds with many stories and legends, some dating back to pre-colonial times when the water was known as Lake Innitou or Mirror of the Spirit by the Aberginian people. Over the years at least forty-five people have drowned there, which is astonishing considering that the average depth of the pond is about ten feet.

There have been many sightings of ghosts and other unexplained phenomenon at the pond.  One Native American legend claims that the pond was the ancient site of a battle between the gods of light and dark. The gods of light trapped the gods of dark in the water and drowned them. Some have seen mysterious blue lights floating over the water and in the woods. Last year, hundreds of fish washed up dead on shore. No one knows why.

Several local writers have collected the many legends and tales about the pond and the surrounding woods and hills of our town. Some of the best can be found in Marie Coady's, Woburn: Hidden Tales of a Tannery Town and Parker Lindall Converse's, Legends of Woburn (1642 -1892) [The full text of this book is available at the link.]
The pond is a place of remarkable beauty with some of the best bird watching in the area. I walk its wooded trails every day I can--it is my favorite spot on all the earth.⚘

 I have been thinking lately about stories and how they bind us to places and people. Perhaps it is the stories we hold in common, more than anything else, that imbue us with a sense of belonging and identity.

The digital age, with its emphasis on the individual, has led to solitary narrative building which has done much to unravel the old stories' cultural relevancy. Time will tell what effect this will have on us--both inwardly and outwardly. So far, I see a lot of  people desperately trying to find "themselves" (and a community) by grasping at each passing trend from simplicity to plant-based diets. Long ago, before fossil fuel made us magically mobile in our high speed trains, airplanes and automobiles, we were defined primarily by kith and kin. Kith referred to the land. The phrase "kith and kin" originally denoted one's geography and relatives. Out of those two elements sprang the ultimate uniting force: tradition--shared songs, stories, rituals, crafts, and folkways. 

Making my Great Aunt Clarabelle's scrumptious custard for banana cream pie.

My mother's dear friend Carol's braided Easter bread.

In these rocky New England hills bordered by the sea, I follow a path consisting of hearth, garden, woods/pond, and church. I never tire of this well-worn geography. Much of my time is spent in the kitchen making food for hungry people from "receipts" given to me by family and friends. There is so much love shared in recipes.

Despite weekly snow flurries, nature is slowly beginning to emerge from her slumber. On a recent pond walk, I saw a muskrat swimming in a vernal pool while the spirit of a birch tree watched on from one of his wise, old eyes. 

April ~ Pink Moon, so named for the wild ground phlox that blooms this month

Wyatt (gray) and Rhys (cream) turned 5 months old on April 6th


Last week I made a Hummingbird Cake from this recipe to mixed reviews. The frosting was excellent; we all agreed on that. If I ever make this cake again, I would double the pineapple and use half as much banana as the recipe calls for.

This past week there has been painting and knitting happening. Amy, Emmeline and I painted eighteen rocks the other day--little treasures for people to find on  the trail at the pond--as part of our town's "Kindness Rocks" project.

I'm knitting a peach colored, seamless yoked sweater and snowbaby bootees for my nephew's first little peach due in June.

If I'm honest, April has been a pretty miserable month weather-wise and otherwise, as well, with too many doctors appointments and generally low spirits; but, I know there are rose days ahead, and there is always, always plenty to be thankful for on a daily basis. ♥

Love and roses,

PS: My blog redecorating inspiration: Elaine, Sarah, and Lisa