Friday, March 28, 2014

March in the Rear View Mirror

End of March. One quarter of the way through 2014. Does that make you roll your eyes, too, and wonder where the days go?

Time for the link up with Chatting at the Sky, Emily Freeman, and her collection of thoughts, reminisces and randomness for what we learned in March. And maybe, even some profoundity. That's profound, not profane...

Thinking back over March, I didn't remember learning anything in particular. Picked up my journal, thumbed through March's pages. There was more there than I thought.

 I am coming out of - at least I hope I am coming out of - a time of brain fog. An actual term, actually, for a condition caused by: A - poor nutrition, B - hormonal mess, C - lack of exercise, D - vitamin deficiency, E - just because, F - lack of sleep, G - stress, H - any combination of the above. Take your pick. (This is an unofficial, personalized re-interpretation). A nutritional book I've been reading, and somewhat following, recommends not eating any grain. For the experiment, I drastically reduced any breads, cereals, or pastas. What I learned, is that I can focus on protein for breakfast, eat a big salad for lunch, and feel full. Didn't think that was possible without crunchy chips or slice(s) of bread. While I am not going completely gluten free, I am cutting way back, and discovering I do feel better without it. Except for once in awhile, when a little bit tastes extra yummy. Learning to find the balance point. And clear out the brain fog.

Finished up Grace for the Good Girl, this month, by Emily Freeman. It brought back to me lines from a very old hymn. Found the words in one of our ancient hymnals, "In the Secret of His Presence", by Ellen Lakshmi Goreh:
"In the secret of His presence
how my soul delights to hide!
Oh, how precious are the lessons
which I learn at Jesus' side!
Earthly cares can never vex me 
neither trials lay me low;
For when Satan comes to tempt me,

to the secret place I go, 
to the secret place I go."

"When my soul is faint and thirsty,
'neath the shadow of His wing
There is cool and pleasant shelter,and a fresh and crystal spring;And my Savior rests beside me as we hold communion sweet:If I tried I could not utter 
what He says when thus we meet,what He says when thus we meet."

"Only this I know: I tell Him all my doubts, my griefs and fears;Oh how patiently He listens!and my drooping soul He cheers:Do you think He ne'er reproves me?What a false friend He would be,If He never, never told me of the sins which He must see,of the sins which He must see."

"Would you like to know the sweetness of the secret of the Lord?Go and hide beneath His shadow:this shall then be your reward;And whene'er you leave the silence of that happy meeting place,You must mind and bear the image of the Master on your face,of the Master on your face."
                 (sorry about the formatting, my computer and I are not working well together)

"Frozen" came out this month on DVD. I imagine you have heard the theme song, "Let It Go." If you live in a house with girls or granddaughters you have probably heard it hundreds of times. For me, "Frozen" tied in with the message of Grace for the Good Girl. Elsa learned to let go of her mask of fear, hiding from her sister, the people, not allowing them to see, to know who she was. She replaced that mask with love - love for her sister, her people, and she rediscovered the joy in life.

We received photos of two ultrasounds this month, both long awaited grandbabies. Woohoo! One, a little boy, due in August, the other, due in October. Our youngest grandson turns one next week. Exciting days of growth and learning and challenges for them and their parents - remembering the times I fed and fought with and talked with and taught and played with and helped our children to grow - now it is their turn, with their own children, and I am caught in this blurred time warp of it being just yesterday or ages and ages ago.

Two of the books I checked out from the library have a common thread. The Backyard Parables, a garden book, by Margaret Roach, an author familiar from her days as the editor of Martha Stewart Living magazine, and I also read her detailed and sometimes technical blog about gardening. Jeff Goins recommended an author, a writing book, Marion Roach Smith, The Memoir Project. Hmmm, similar names, so I looked them up. Yup. Margaret is big sister to Marion. Pretty cool that I would have both of their books, on unrelated topics, not knowing their connection. I like to discover things like that, life's little coincidences that make me feel like maybe, just maybe, I am on the right track.

March was a month of garden classes and symposiums, three Saturdays in a row. Good timing for me. Too early, too cold to get out and work in the garden. Good to focus my thoughts on planning and learning and visions of gorgeous gardens to come. The group of us who volunteer at the local xeriscape demonstration garden started our winter clean-up today, trimming, clearing up scattered leaves and tumbleweed, pruning back, and raking up winter's debris. I learned how much I could be doing in our yard, now, even though we can't plant yet. At the demonstration garden, the plants I helped plant last spring have tiny green shoots, the grape hyacinths bloomed, and the feeling of life, surging beneath the dead-looking foliage, encouraged me. Even though it is still freezing at night, the wind can be icy, and most likely we will have more snow, the plants know it is time to begin to grow. To reach for the sun. Me, too. To leave March behind with a glance in the rear view mirror, and look ahead to April and spring.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A Friendly Year

Love the title of this book. Aren't we all looking for a friendly year?

Three hundred and sixty-five daily entries were compiled from Henry Van Dyke's writings, published from 1887 to 1905, this book published in 1906. The front page says, "From Ralph, xmas, '07." Would that be 1907 or 2007? Hmmm, I wonder.

I rushed the reading, anxious, I guess, to find that friendly year, reading two pages each day, four entries at a time. I tried to pick a favorite quote - the one I posted in January, A Footpath to Peace is probably the favorite, but there are many, many choices.

Because this book is out of print, I will share a few others with you.

"And if some of the rich of this world (through the grace of Him with whom all things are possible) are also modest in their tastes, and gentle in their hearts, and open in their minds, and ready to be pleased with un-bought pleasures, they simple share in the best things which are provided for all."
"...ready to be pleased with un-bought pleasures..." - love that line.

What a surprise to find pressed flowers, placed in this book over a hundred years ago?! You won't find that in a Kindle or a Nook (sorry, had to put that plug in there for books with pages you can feel). Was there a special quote on this page that inspired these flowers, which look like Johnny Jump-Ups? Maybe this one, from April twenty-fourth:
"By the breadth of the blue that shines in silence o'er me,
By the length of the mountain-lines that stretch before me,
By the height of the cloud that sails, with rest in motion,
Over the plains and the vales to the measureless ocean,
(Oh, how the sight of the things that are great enlarges the eyes!)
Lead me out of the narrow life, to the peace of the hills and the skies."

Henry Van Dyke makes reference to the fast pace of the age, the distractions and clutter of their busy lives. What would he think of today?

"Let me but live my life from year to year,
With forward face and unreluctant soul;
Not hurrying to, nor turning from the goal;
Not mourning for the things that disappear
In the dim past, nor holding back in fear
From what the future veils;
But with a whole
And happy heart that pays its toll
To Youth and Age, and travels on with cheer.

So, let the way wind up hill or down,
O'er rough or smooth,
The journey will be joy:
...My heart will keep the courage of the quest,
And hope the road's last turn will be the best."

May your journey be with joy, your year friendly, and the flowers you press last a hundred years!

Sunday, March 23, 2014


Saturday morning I attended a waterwise gardening class. Thoughts of spring and planting and green danced in my head. I walked around the garden in the sunny afternoon noticing the tiny green plants beginning to revive and stretch toward the warmth of the sun.

Saturday night it snowed. Welcome spring. I realize we are not the only part of the country still under the icy grasp of winter. In order to absorb the moment and accept the quiet beauty of a snowy morning, I went out to take some photos. What I saw amazed me. I would have missed it entirely if I stayed inside reading my gardening books in the cozy chair.

It is an icicle starburst, tiny icicles hanging on all the branches.

This time of year is like taking a long hike in the mountains. Ahead is a high place on the trail and you are sure that from there, you will see the end of the path. But, you get to that spot and beyond lie several more peaks. You know there is still a long way to go. One step at a time. Keep moving. Keep looking forward to the day when it really will be spring. But don't miss today and  pay attention to the tiny details of beauty in every step along the way.

 The message those icicles shouted at me: Don't miss what you have today, wishing you had something else.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Extra Hours

I am the typical winter gardener: devour garden books, order seeds, sketch out [un]realistic garden plans. One entire shelf on our bookshelf is garden books, most of which I re-read each year - at least parts of them. This year, I have a new favorite, The Four Season Farm Gardener's Cookbook, by Barbara Damrosch and Eliot Coleman. The first half is how-to garden basics, the second half, how to cook what you grow. Lots of yummy photos of recipes I look forward to cooking. Remember that post I wrote about eating a daily rainbow? Lots of colorful ideas toward that in this book.

This weekend we switch to Daylight Saving Time (did you know it is Daylight Saving not Daylight Savings? I didn't).

Did you know a big impetus behind it was lobbied by gardeners? In March of 1918, during World War I and facing shortages of food, the National War Garden Commission worked to extend the clocks ahead every spring to allow for more food production in home gardens, as it gave gardeners an extra hour of sunlight when they got home from work. "In materials published after the war, the commission proudly stressed how effective that extra hour of light during the gardening season had been. By multiplying all those extra hours over the course of a year by the number of war gardeners (more than five million by their estimate), they came up with the stupendous total of 900 million hours of gardening gained every year thanks to daylight saving time." The Four Season Gardener's Cookbook, Barbara Damrosch and Eliot Coleman. The Victory Gardens of World War II were even more successful, estimated at 20 million gardens planted.
"So, if you set aside a small plot of your land [or patio or balcony] and spend an hour at the end of those long summer days growing food, you can feel a kinship with the many patriotic gardeners of years past."
                                                                                  - Barbara Damrosch and Eliot Coleman

There is a lot of debate as to the value of Daylight Saving Time. Many do not like the upheaval it creates in schedules: farmers, the travel industry, equipment with scheduled operations, and many others experience complications and confusion.

For the home gardener, it is a blessing. More time to work outside creating and enjoying the process of a productive, beautiful garden. We do not have the shortages of wartime, but producing our own food is an important skill to have, for health reasons, especially.

It is too early to plant outside here and in many other parts of the country. We had a low of seven degrees a couple nights ago, and snow yesterday. In a couple of weeks I can start seedlings in the basement under fluorescent lights, and a few weeks after that, plant frost tolerant seeds outside.

For now, those longer evening hours of sunlight will be for yard clean-up and walks with the dogs. Come the baking hot days of summer, in those extra late evening hours, it will be a relief to work outside in the garden, in the cooler air and the peach golden sunset glow.
(photos from last year's garden)

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

1,000 Gifts, Page Two

Somewhere along last October, I stopped counting.

Those months, all those wonderful, delightful, surprising, sometimes ridiculously ordinary things I could have jotted down in my One Thousand Gifts list slipped under the bridge and away on the current of never ending ripples. Gone.

Did you ever play Pooh Sticks? Two buddies each drop a stick off the upstream edge of a bridge, then run to the other side to see whose stick crosses by first. We still do it as adults (or adult sized bodies, anyway) whenever we're on a walk and cross a bridge over a stream. Grab sticks, toss them in. Debate whether it was the current or the weight of the stick or a superior toss that created the fastest stick. While the sticks float on downstream, beyond us.

In January, starting up the list again was my number one to-do. My mom gave me a slim little journal for Christmas, and I decided it was perfect for a fresh start with my list. A fresh start, with an open heart, a hands-out welcome of life's events and beauty and emotions floating by.

My goal is to write at least three each day. Normally, once I start, more ideas come, the gratefulness flows.

In hindsight, it is with great effort that I attempt to remember. I think part of the reason I let it go for so long,  I felt I had to catch up. To remember all that I forgot to remember. That did not happen, of course. I finally realized (yes, I am slow) that I needed to start today - that day. To write down the day's gifts, to pay attention today, to unwrap the blessings and joy and moments, small and great that reveal the Lord's love for me, for those in our home and family. Today.

"There are a hundred touches of kindness that come to us every day to tell us that we are not orphans or outcasts upon the earth. Every trace of order, every gleam of beauty, every provision of bounty in the natural world is an evidence that  it is God's house."
                                                                                    The Friendly Year, Henry Van Dyke

I want to feel and understand and see the moment before it slips under the bridge, downstream, out of sight, beyond memory. This is how I want to live.

For Christmas, our daughter made me a gratefulness scarf. She took a lightweight white scarf, pulled up my list from the tab at the top of this blog, and with a Sharpie, copied items from my list.

When I put it on, it is like wrapping myself in a prayer shawl, in a visual reminder to see and listen and understand and pay attention. A reminder of all the wonder in my life. And I need those reminders.

To see my new list click on the tab at the top, 1000 Gifts - Page Two. If you notice a discrepancy in the numbers between the two lists, I have not updated the first list from the first book I used. But I am putting it out there anyway. One of these days I will finish typing those on to the computer. I needed, this time, to start where I was and move forward from here without procrastinating any longer, waiting until things were perfect and complete. Not going to happen in the near future around here. This moment, now, it is good to be writing the list again.

Pooh drawing from The World of Pooh, by A.A. Milne, illustrations by E.H. Shepard - a much used, worn out family classic.
The concept of a gifts list is from Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts, A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, Thank you, Ann!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Psalms, Illuminated

The Psalms are my favorite book of the Bible. I read them three or four times a year, in a variety of versions, each time learning and listening to the expressions of love to the Lord. This book, The Psalms of David, With illuminations by James S. Freemantle, is a favorite. This may be an overload of photos, but I couldn't pick just a few of the best. Actually, this is just a few of the best. If you want to read the Psalms with a fresh, new-life-giving perspective, pick up this book.

James Freemantle was an artist who lived his whole life in India. Many of the flowers, wildlife and art reflect scenes from his home in India and his travels. He worked on this, from about 1906 until 1934, a labor of love for his wife, Clara. The forward, written by his son, said he wasn't a religious man, but Clara must have deeply loved the Psalms for him to give the hours and years he devoted to this work. I quote from the forward: "I remember my father seated at a desk by the window with his paints, specially ordered from Winsor and Newton, spread out before him. He only used those paints and India ink, often taking many hours to do just a couple of lines of his fine wealth of decoration. Sometimes he would do the lettering with a paint brush, making the bodies of the letters first and then adding the tails painstakingly so that no join would show. Thus, half a page a night represented good progress."

There are tiny mistakes, which I love to see. A forgotten word, inserted with a carrot, a repeated word, smudges in the ink. To me, these give the pages a life, a presence, a touch of reality.

The art and wide variety of scripts can be distracting, absorbing the reader's attention on their own merit. Again, for me, these gave the reading a refreshing perspective of beauty and life and joy.

Deuteronomy 17:18 tells the future kings of Israel to copy the words of the law in their own handwriting. This book gives us an example of how beautiful and inspiring this work could be. I love how his efforts were devoted to his wife, a way to share his love for her.

Amazon has this book available.
(not an affiliate link)