Saturday, August 12, 2017

Do you know this flowering shrub? It grows wild in one spot near the pond, or at least it is wild now, although someone may have planted it long ago. It has the most heavenly fragrance. I believe it is called 'summersweet', but I am not certain.

 Someone left this lovely painted stone on one of the trail markers. We were so happy to see it.

 My front door.  Welcome! ♥

New England spider cake (recipe below).

This morning, a baby cardinal came to our garden and inspected the feeder.

It was a mostly quiet week which was just lovely. We've had a lot of out-of-town company this summer, with more on the way, so it was nice to have time to potter around the garden and walk in the woods and read and just be.

A couple of weeks ago when I was in Gloucester, I found the slim paperback book pictured above. It is a historical novella called Moss on Stone about Susannah Norwood Torrey who lived on Cape Ann in Rockport during the 19th century. The novella incorporates excerpts from a diary Susannah kept early in her marriage and reads like a memoir. I feel I owe a debt to the author Sandra Williams for introducing me to Susannah. In 'Susa' I have found someone very kindred to myself. The book is a lovely, lovely volume with beautiful illustrations by the author's artist husband, and though it is not an exciting book or a particularly compelling tale, it captures the spirit of a person and place that have captivated me. You can read more about Moss on Stone here.

In the book, Susannah and her husband make a New England spider cake for supper one evening. I had never heard of spider cake. I found a recipe for it here and made it for breakfast yesterday. It is made with cornmeal but does not have the same texture as cornbread. It reminds me of Clafoutis. It was quite good with maple syrup, but I think it would be excellent with fruit preserves, as well.

 New England Spider Cake

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Combine 4 teaspoons of white vinegar in two cups of milk and set aside to sour (it helps to warm the milk slightly first).
In a separate bowl, combine 1 cup of yellow cornmeal, 3/4 cup all purpose flour, 3/4 cup sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon baking soda.
Whisk two eggs into the soured milk. Mix into dry ingredients and set batter aside.
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a 12 inch cast-iron skillet (I used a regular oven proof skillet). Pour in the batter. Pour 1 cup of heavy cream into the center of the batter. Slide skillet into oven and bake for 40 to 45 minutes or until top is set and golden. Slice into wedges and serve warm with maple syrup or fruit preserves. 

Friday, August 4, 2017

These are my favorite months of the year: August~September~October~November. The golden, sunlight, deepening shadows, ripening fruit, showy blossoms, hum of insects and bats--I'm always happiest and most productive in late summer and fall.

Everywhere there are signs of the beautiful, holy circle, 'world without end'.

Jewel weed and goldenrod are beginning to bloom.

And the meadows are five feet tall and thrumming with life. 

Sometimes I like to leave little messages among the pebbles on the trail for people to find.

This is the first year that my pitiful little peach tree has borne fruit--there are four exquisitely blushing peaches.

For a few years, I wore my hair quite short, but for most of my life I've worn it long (for a period of twenty years I rarely had it cut.) But then, last year in March, I gave up haircuts altogether (too expensive). My hair hasn't seen scissors or a hair dryer in almost a year and a half. This is what it looks like now--my old witchy waves are back, threaded with silver.

If you want to know where I am, you can find me here: in the woods, tending my roses, swimming, exploring old towns, wading in the sea, sitting by a fire under the stars, painting messages on pebbles, searching for old postcards in the early morning light at the Flea. Perhaps where we are defines us more than anything else.

I came across this quote on Lis's blog (linked below under "West"--you must see her gorgeous nature journal!)
It’s all too easy to get stuck inside our own heads, to live out of our imagination. But the deep, honest, authentic ancestral wisdom we’re looking to reclaim is the wisdom of the land, the wisdom of place, and in order to develop that wisdom we need to get out of our heads and out onto the land.
 - Sharon Blackie, "Becoming Native to Place" from Reclaiming the Wise Woman
Yes, if you want to 'find yourself', get to know your neighborhood: the goldenrod, the birch, the little brown bat, the monarch butterfly, the lichen, the hill, the moon, the trail around the pond, the clouds and rain, the moss-covered boulder. There is much truth in knowing your place.

Need a compass? You might find these posts as inspiring as I did:


Saturday, July 29, 2017

We went up to Gloucester and had a picnic at Stage Fort Park. This seagull watched us while we ate and hoped for our scraps. He wasn't disappointed.

Gloucester is America's oldest seaport and well known for its sea monster, mad scientist, haunted castle, and ghost town. "Dogtown" was an early 17th century settlement that became a haven for witches, fortune tellers, and prostitutes when it was abandoned in the early 19th century. Locals don't go there, as there are still sightings of strange things in the area.

There are many beautiful trails at Stage Fort Park and magnificent views of Gloucester Harbor from the top of the granite cliffs.
Middle Street is home to The Sargent House Museum. For over one hundred years the Sargent House was the home of sea merchants, American patriot and community religious leaders. It was built in 1782 for Judith Sargent Murray, an early feminist writer, philosopher and social activist, and the Sargent House is "a fine example of high-style Georgian domestic features one of the finest small collections of 18th and early 19th century decorative and fine arts in the region. Paul Revere silver, Chinese export porcelain, and superb examples of early New England furniture, as well as American paintings by Fitz Henry Lane and John Singer Sargent."

Middle Street is also full of little shops and cafes, including our favorites: Mystery Train Records, Virgilio's Bakery, Toodleloos! Toys, and The Bookstore.

I bought Murder at Hammond Castle by indie author Gunilla Caulfield. Hammond Castle is one of my favorite places--I couldn't resist a murder mystery set there!

After a bit of browsing in the shops and ice cream cones, we drove down Atlantic Avenue and got out of the car at Bass Rocks. The beach roses were spectacular .

The undertow of the waves tumbling the rocks made the coolest sound. I took a little video so you could hear it. 

Gloucester is one of our favorite places. We hadn't been there since March, and it was a really lovely outing--the best part is that it is only a 35 minute drive from our house.

Look at Mr. Lucky all stretched-out on the carpet. Currently, every animal in my house is shedding. The vacuum is in almost constant use, and still there are fur and feathers everywhere.

Last Sunday at the flea market, I found a new head vase for my collection. She has little earrings as well as sparkly polka dots on her hat and dress. I love her rose corsage and the ruffle on her glove.

The scented geranium is in bloom, along with many of my roses including 'Munstead Wood' aka Baby Groot. The color of his blossoms is deeper, less purple and more velvety than it looks here.

I don't know what're better, summer evenings or summer mornings. Both are pure bliss! I am reading the story of Mary Anning, an early 19th century fossil hunter in Lyme, England. It is a quiet book; just right for my current mood.

If I have birds and roses I have everything I need. If they are the color yellow, I am rich indeed.

My teeny tiny garden is full of raspberries, tomatoes, peppers, and zucchini. The August harvest is going to be grand! 

Next week I have to work on putting together my end-of-year home school report, as well as my next-year-plans for the school district. To be honest, I have serious doubts as to whether the powers-that-be ever look at it, but it is a requirement nonetheless, so it gives me anxiety even though I have been doing this for nineteen years. A school report card to a parent is a skimpy thing compared to the reporting that a home school parent must provide to the school district. 

I've spent my entire adult life thinking about education and practicing it with mixed results. If you home school, everyone in your life is going to judge how your children "turn out" (whatever that means) based on that single decision. If one of my children struggles in any aspect of his education (or in every aspect of his education) it is my fault. If I send that child to school and he still struggles, the school bears little to no accountability for their results. 

There have been sleepless nights in which I have wondered if homeschooling has been a horrible mistake. What am I doing to my kids? (Are school superintendents, principals and teachers losing sleep about their decisions in our kids lives?) I remember meeting a  homeschooling mother in Texas some years ago who said to me, "If you do nothing but keep your kids at home, they will be better off than kids who go to school." I spent a lot of time pondering her statement and wondering if it was true. I honestly don't know. I can't say that homeschooling is best for every kid. However, I do not have any confidence that our public school system is best for most children (although, at one time, it may have been one of our country's greatest strengths)--there is too much money and politics involved. 

My only solid conclusions about homeschooling my children are: 
  • my children's education has been different from other children's
  • they have had a lot more freedom in their learning--time to experiment and explore and just be 
  • they think critically and understand a lot more about life than I did at their age
  • they are not peer-dependent 
  • they are creative, resourceful, and responsible
  • they are hard-working and helpful to others
  • their personalities are well-developed and intact
  • they have the confidence to follow their own path
So, maybe homeschooling has been a good thing for them. And, maybe not. Who knows? All I can say is that I went to school and university, and my life is, and always has been, a frightening, beautiful struggle. Most of the time I feel bewildered and ill-equipped for it and just do my best--which is a far cry from brilliant.  ♥