27 Summer Benedictions

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My summer has included grief, groans, and groping in the dark.
Same as you.
So this is not intended to be an episode of ‘my beautiful life’.
It is my retrospect of benedictions as I press onward.

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:: Farmer grandson in line to show his sheep at Stock Show ::

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 :: experimental gardening  growing Brussells Sprouts ::

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:: captivating clematis ::

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:: Mint, juice of one lime, Truvia, ice, and water ::

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:: her hair reminds me of a Fibonacci spiral ::

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:: halfway through The Pat Conroy Cookbook – a good book for foodies ::

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:: garlic scapes and wood rounds ::

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:: the moments before Susan from Munich arrived ::

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:: anniversary camping trip, Curt reading Shop Class as Soulcraft ::

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:: Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge ::

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:: reminds me of Hank, the Cowdog ::

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:: glory, glory, glory!! a surprise sibling reunion! ::

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:: Chris & Jessie’s table set for an extended family dinner ::

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:: Who knew 80 could look so glamorous? ::

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:: this girl, our youngest grand, lives life with zest ::

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:: moving up the ladder ::

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:: breakfast with Jack & Stacia, who mentored Curt in his teen years in Los Angeles ::

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:: harvest golden tones ::

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::   Papa cheesing it up with our Seattle grandsons ::

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:: Fair is where you take the hogs in August ::

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:: my ongoing magnet project — thank you, Shutterfly! ::

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:: last year I saved zinnia seeds. My frugal self is exultant. ::

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:: squash blossoms, garlic and cilantro from the garden; the makings of quesadillas ::

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:: teddy bear doubling as a pillow ::

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::  day is done (pinching myself that we live here)  ::

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:: chipmunk visiting during my day of silence and solitude ::

Awake Thou Wintry Earth

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Chives growing in my garden, February 12, 2016

Awake, Thou Wintry Earth is almost a life anthem. I came to Thomas Blackburn’s poem by way of Bach’s Cantata 129. When I heard it, I came to understand in a new way that spring is an annual demonstration of resurrection. Listening to this still gives me shivers. Singing it means I end up whispering to tell that dead is dead over a voice that is breaking.

I took a walk around my backyard this morning and was delighted to hear garlic and chives laughing at winter, death, decay.

Awake thou wintry earth,
fling off, fling off thy sadness;
ye vernal flowers laugh forth,
laugh forth your ancient gladness.
A new and lovely tale
through-out the land is spread;
it floats o’er hill and dale
to tell that death is dead.

Here is a joyful organ. 1 1/2 minutes that will lift your day high. Sing along! It’s pretty loud; turn your sound down. Or don’t. The organ is a dominating instrument and its volume is glorious!

The Blue Castle

DSC_7838My first response to The Blue Castle was to draw back from the despair. Lucy Maud! How can you? Because, you see, Anne, the Green Gables girl, had a tough beginning in life and Emily, the New Moon girl, was hurt by horrible aunts and uncles; *but* both Anne and Emily knew she was cherished by her late mother and father.

Valancy Stirling has a mother—alive and kicking—who is overbearing, suffocating, domineering, disrespectful, and mean. We meet Valancy on her 29th birthday, shamed and teased because she hasn’t married. Life has no flavor, living is a grim prospect.

All her life she had been afraid of something…
Afraid of her mother’s sulky fits—
afraid of offending Uncle Benjamin—
afraid of becoming a target for Aunt Wellington’s contempt—
afraid of Aunt Isabel’s biting comments—
afraid of Uncle James’ disapproval—
afraid of offending the whole clan’s opinions and prejudices—
afraid of not keeping up appearances—
afraid to say what she really thought of anything—
afraid of poverty in her old age.

Valancy escapes her horrid little life by fantasizing about living in a Blue Castle in Spain, where beauty adorns her, women admire her and men adore her.

Valance becomes aware of a piece of information, a secret from the family; she throws off her bondage and inhibitions and forthwith says and does what she desires. Her family is shocked—shocked!—and thinks Valancy might suffer from mental illness.

BlueCastleThe plot takes some twists and turns, and Valancy ends up living her life of paradise on an island on a lake. L.M. Montgomery includes her hallmark descriptions of the seasons.

They went for long tramps through the exquisite reticence of winter woods and the silver jungles of frosted trees, and found loveliness everywhere.

I am torn by this book. I can’t help but holler hallelujah! when she leaves her loveless family. Happy Independence Day! The happiness she finds is, however, very private, very insular. I doubt that life can be so fulfilling when lived without community. I’m not a fan of what Valancy says about living life to please herself…whoo, boy, that’s a recipe for misery. But I love the compassion she shows to a single mother shunned by society.

I laughed aloud at the imitation swearing comment. A reference that made me snort but will only be caught by those who know old hymns. Maud surely knows how to make fun.

…had her moles removed by electrolysis—which Aunt Mildred thought was a wicked evasion of the puposes of God.

“There are things worse than death,” said Uncle James, believing that it was the first time in the world that such statement had been made.

Valancy lived with me for many days after I finished the book, a sign of a good read.

Rethinking Winter

photo credit: National Audubon Society

photo credit: National Audubon Society

Ought not
WINTER
in allegorical designs,
rather be represented by
such things that might suggest HOPE
than convey a cold and grim despair?
the withered leaf, the snowflake,
the hedge-bill that cuts and destroys—
Why these?
Why not rather the dear larks for one?
The lark, the bird of the light is there
in the bitter short days.
Put the lark then for winter,
a sign of HOPE,
a certainty of
summer.

…the bud is alive in its sheath;
the green corn under the snow;
the lark twitters as he passes.
Now these to me are the allegory of winter.

— from Out of Doors in February
by Richard Jefferies