Monday, October 15, 2018

Making a Rich Creative Space

I love my little studio. Each day that I'm able to come here and work/create, I try to make this small space as appealing to the senses as I can, so I find it happy and inspiring. The five senses are key.
I keep it visually appealing to me. I sit in front of a big window that looks out onto the farm pasture. From here, birds, squirrels, chickens, dogs, trees, sky, and sometimes my dear husband are all in view. The studio itself, while cluttered, is also dear to look at; all my creative tools are close at hand. One thing I avoid visually is the screen. I don't keep screen-savers rolling or videos playing while I'm trying to write/paint/sketch/work with yarn or do my soap business. Screens are not visually enriching to me.
I burn nice incense for scent.
Pandora is playing beautiful music (Christmas at present) in the background.
I often have tea or some little nibble at my elbow.
All the creative work I do is very tactile, and I don't do any work that I don't love touching.
This pattern of sensory satisfaction just occurred to me a moment ago ... I think. If I've written about it before and have forgotten about it, please tell me, haha! My memory is not the best :)
So if you want to be creative, be sure to give yourself the best possible opportunity with a rich sensory space. Even if all you do is sit there and enjoy how it smells, feels, looks, sounds, and tastes for the first few days, you'll be well on your way.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Deeper Into Elizabeth Goudge

Image result for elizabeth goudgeOne benefit of an autobiography is that the author can state clearly, more directly, what she thinks, compared to how she must present the same ideas in fiction. I'm enjoying Elizabeth Goudge's words in Chapter 11 of her autobiograph, The Joy of the Snow, entitled "Pain and the Love of God."

"If we all suffered equally there would be no problem, but we do not suffer equally, and it is the inequality that creates the heart-searching for those among us who believe in the love of God."

"... unbearable suffering can corrupt as well as redeem." (both p. 195)

Quoting a conversation between two men she knew:
"I am tormented by the suffering of so many good and innocent people," one said.
"Yes, but what bothers me even more is the suffering of the wicked." (196)

If suffering is divinely intentional, prescribed and dosed, and redemptive, then it is puzzling why the wicked suffer. As punishment? Perhaps. But it's rather like giving medicine to a very sick person, who then throws it away. What a waste!

Goudge continues, "That would suggest that how an individual takes his pain, what he allows it to do in him and through him, is much more important than the pain itself. The scene of suffering in each person seems to be a battleground where a thing evil in its origin comes up against the battling love of God that would transform it into an instrument of victory, not victory for the individual alone but also for God himself in the cosmic battle between good evil." (196)

Isn't that a stunning image? Picture a plain of battle, and God is engaged for war. He is wrestling and fighting against our suffering, forcing it into submission, making it cow and bend and become something victorious in our lives -- bringing about those layers of "silver linings" that we're told to look for on each storm cloud. He's fighting to produce those good things that do emerge from the horrible phases of life. What a thought!! -- that God doesn't just conquer evil; He transforms it, forcing it to be His servant and do His will: our good.
Image result for elizabeth goudge
Goudge's mother was very ill most of her life, a constant source of worry and sadness. But Goudge's particular suffering was depression, a state she fell into badly at times, with suicidal thoughts. What troubles her most, however, is the realization that she didn't empathize with others in their suffering until she suffered herself. "It is when it touches your own flesh," her mother told her, "it is then that you know." (196) Goudge felt remorse at her own callousness, and viewed her own mental illness as a most common one. 

Goudge struggled as many people do with her own faith, with suffering, with God's love, with reconciling these things. "I could not totally disbelieve in God because during my worst and most despairing nights there had seemed to be something there, some rock down at the bottom ... And always my parents' love and faith, the world's beauty and the sound of great music, seemed unexplainable without God .... Therefore I had to find a God I could love." (201) She does as many have done; she concocts a God who is weak and not in control of suffering. But her father would not allow her to believe such "utter nonsense" without a hearty disagreement. "A God who is not almighty is not God, and to believe in his possible defeat is not comforting; that way lies despair." (202) 

She wrangled with her heart and concluded, "If our own small intuition, upheld by the experience of the saints and mystics of all religions through all the centuries, persists in murmuring that God exists then there is nothing left for us except the humble acceptance of paradox and mystery." (202) I know strong-minded young people who reject this acceptance, precisely because it does require humbleness. Only the arrogant require a theology that our tiny human minds can fully comprehend. Any study of God by a human mind should end with a few paragraphs of "I couldn't figure this out," and "This is still a mystery." 

Speaking of Christ on the cross, she says, "And so God and the suffering caused by sin are inseparably united, and will be so until sin ends." (202) I've never thought of that aspect of the cross, that God was sealed to our suffering, that He continues to be united to human suffering. It is part of what He accepted on His shoulders when He became the Savior. Goudge says there is comfort in this thought. "It is hard to doubt the love of a God who is ready to suffer and die for us." And, "when we suffer we must be as close to God as we are to the pain." (202)

"Christ ... took our vileness into his body as a sponge sucks up water, that it might die with him on the cross .... Is it possible that our wretched little pain, united with his huge suffering, can also redeem?" (203) Do you see what she's asking? If our sin (which produces so much suffering) was absorbed and turned to redemption in Jesus's death, doesn't it seem logical that our sufferings as we experience them in real time should have redemptive effects? That's fascinating! (That's why I love Goudge, and discerning her mind in her novels, this is exactly the kind of mind I expected to find in her, in an autobiography.)

As I read this chapter I realize there are too many gems to share here, so I will recommend it to you for yourself. It's a slim book, but is meaty thick. I'm still chewing.

Saturday, October 13, 2018


Yesterday was burn pile day. I do love a day outside, burning brush, carrying limbs and sticks, sitting in the grass with Adam and the dogs, feeling that good weariness after hard work, and the satisfaction of cleaning up mountains of brush.

This week Adam also removed our old HVAC system. Some kind stranger took it from the side of the road, probably wanting some semi-valuable component buried deep inside.

We're glad it's gone. When we receive a check for replacing it, Adam plans to install a duct-less mini-split heating and A/C system. Don't know much about it, but it sounds like a great idea, and no duct work under the house! Yay!

I finally visited the thrift store and discovered a basket of fancy yarns, 3 skeins for a dollar. Yes, you read that right. I was in Yarn Heaven. Do I need more yarn? No. Would I buy more yarn at Michael's? No. But would I pass up a deal like this? No way! Here's the addition to my stash:
$4.00 for ALL of that! (I think they gave me more of a deal than they were supposed to.) Here are some close-ups of various ones, for you fellow yarn slaves who cannot resist giving a new home to homeless yarn:


One of my favorite customers brought an interesting article to my table this morning for me to examine. It's a little traveling jewelry pouch.
She's had it for many years and hasn't been able to find a replacement. She wonders if I could make some. They'd make wonderful gifts. I might give it a try.

Lastly, I've decided to get rid of most of my old homeschooling books. I bought many of these as recommended by Susan Bauer's reading lists in her book. If anyone reading this blog wants any of these books, they are $1 each, and you must pay book-rate shipping. Just leave a comment and I'll be in touch. Here they are:

I'll end with a little photo and tiny poem that I shamelessly stole from Granny Marigold's blog. It tickled me and I just had to have it:
I can relate.

Oh -- did I mention that our black lab, Ned, is now transitioning to being a mostly "inside" dog? Since Baby died, he is just too sad and lonely outside in the pasture, especially at night. So we're working on adapting him to house life.
 I think he's doing just fine.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Settling into Squirrels and Such

It feels like autumn at last, just a bit. I feel as if October is flying by, after a rather appalling September. Autumn, please slow down!

Here are my latest squirrels. Mastering a particular animal takes a lot of practice in various positions. I think I mastered chickens and mice, but I want a squirrel story next.

In our warm climate, after herbs die back from the heat of summer they reseed for a second, light crop in the fall. I have cilantro, dill, and parsley coming up, plus lots of pretty basil still.


Punkin has been unwell. For quite a while she's had messy bum feathers, and then she stopped laying. I was worried she was egg-bound (an egg stuck inside her that needs to come out).
Grumpy Punkin
So I gave her the Spa Treatment two mornings in a row. I soaked her bum end in a tub of warm Epsom salts, gently removing all the messy poop from her fluffy feathers. She was nervous. Punkin is always nervous. But she's all cleaned up now. She's not waddling, and although I could feel her bones down there (hips? pelvis?), I could feel no lodged eggs needing to come out. 

I meant to do the Spa Treatment five mornings in a row, but this morning she hid in the very back of the coop, very still. "If I don't move, that farm lady can't see me," she was thinking. She's all cleaned up, and since she doesn't seem egg-bound, I'm leaving her alone now. I'll give her some ground calcium later, which should help her too.

Getting back to painting, herbs, and chickens is making my world feel normal again. Now I must get back to writing too, but that's the hardest one, the most emotionally taxing. I hope your October is dreamy and beautiful, and everything you've been waiting for as we've anticipated fall! It's my favorite month, but I do wish it were a bit cooler this year. See you 'round the bend!

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Insist on Beauty as a Human Calling

So many websites and videos have come my way online in the last couple of days, and they are congealing into something. A friend shared an interview with poet John O'Donohue, described as a philosopher who "insisted on beauty as a human calling." That phrase grabbed my mind. 

You'd expect a poet to fervently defend such a concept. But why would anyone have to insist that beauty is a human calling? Shouldn't that be a given? Is it because we long ago accepted the adage, "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder"? How can a poet embrace beauty as his life's calling when everyone's definition of beauty will be different? (This interview is well worth reading. O'Donohue's focus on the inner human landscape is one I plan to ponder.)

Another friend sent me a link to Nature 365, a site that posts a gorgeous video from nature each day. (Please click over and watch a couple of their brief videos!) Does it show my fragility that I long to view a calming video of nature each day? That I need to look at it all day, out my window? In today's ugly world, is beauty a salve? A distraction? An opiate? A dream of eternity? 

Our world seems to be engaging in and entertained with the ugly, more and more -- ugly behavior, ugly relationships, ugly words, ugly gestures, ugly news. When did we give up on beauty and decide, "It's no use. Ugly is winning"?

To be more specific, here's an excellent video by Keith Getty, church musician. I don't know much about the Gettys, and haven't used their music, but his message here is compelling -- we should be careful what we sing in worship, careful to sing of the beautiful, careful that we teach our children of the beautiful. The world will instruct them completely in the ugly. He describes Cecil Francis Alexander, poet and hymn-writer. Image result for cecil frances alexander Dissatisfied with what children were singing in church, she set out to write songs for children herself, and gave us "All Things Bright And Beautiful" and "Once in Royal David's City." 

The fourth site I enjoyed this morning was an interview with Susan Wise Bauer, my favorite modern educator. Among other things, she emphasizes a parent's crucial role to constantly remind her children that the negative voices -- the words that tell them they're not good enough, they can't do it, they should doubt themselves -- are not the voices they should listen to. Those negative words are not the true inner voice. We can't block those voices, but we can recognize them for what they are. In other words, recognize the ugly voices inside us, and instead give more volume to the beautiful ones. This wisdom from Bauer touched me deeply because this is parenting that I can still do, in fact I can do it more, with adult children. They need to hear it as much now as they did ten years ago -- you are beautiful, God loves you, I love you, pursue what is beautiful in your life, pursue kindness and goodness, believe in yourself and your gifts, don't give in to the ugly. 

This is a human calling, and it's no surprise that the poets, when everyone else has forgotten, are the ones to remind us of it.

Friday, October 5, 2018

The Brilliance and the Brutality

 These fascinating clouds hung around us on Tuesday night as we drove to church.

This evening Adam and I returned home on the ferry at sunset.

 Lately I've been sketching squirrels.

 At Green Bay Marina, the hurricane surge crashed through buildings that had been there a long time, leaving shredded walls.
 One of the trailers at Green Bay had its skirt ripped away, and its hurricane straps snapped.
This trailer was pushed from its foundation and ripped apart.
 I turned from that shattered trailer and looked at the "Point" at Green Bay -- the tip of the property that juts into the water and faced the worst of the hurricane. 
How peaceful it is now! Only two camper trailers sit there now. Really, the marina should have only these kind that can be removed easily before a storm. See how open this Point is? There were a handful of single-wides there, and Hurricane Florence swept them off their foundations, into the creeks, and away. No one knows where they are. In their place is now this peaceful park. Thankfully, their owners evacuated.

The world is full of both brutality and brilliant beauty. Here's another Goudge quote that addresses this:

"As this world becomes increasingly ugly, callous and materialistic it needs to be reminded that the old fairy stories are rooted in truth, that imagination is of value, that happy endings do, in fact, occur, and that the blue spring mist that makes an ugly street look beautiful is just as real a thing as the street itself."

I love that last truth. Even the brutality and callousness of life can be softened, and some of the saddest, darkest, or most destructive scenes of human existence -- can't they be redeemed? Mercy and sympathy given in a moment of anguish are most beautiful, and can be more powerful than the suffering itself. But leave it to Goudge to pick a perfect image, a filthy street and a blue mist, to show it.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Good-bye, Nocturne!

Two days ago we were rather despairing about our boat, Nocturne. Post-hurricane, she was perched on a dock with her nose resting on another boat. $3600, paid to a local professional would have solved the problem ... if only we had that kind of money sitting around. I prayed very hard. I asked people for help and advice.

Another couple, dear friends, offered to come look at the boat yesterday. We were supposed to meet about 1:00. But they couldn't come then because of another appointment, and we waited and waited through the afternoon. Finally, we drove to the marina to meet them about 4:45. Waiting was hard, but God had His reasons.

We arrived to find our friends there, but someone else too, a 14 year old boy who's helped Adam with the boat before. He's strong, intelligent, problem-solving, careful, intuitive, tenacious, independent, and he knows about boats. Nobody else we knew could help us get that boat off that dock, but this 14 year old boy said, "Oh, no problem. I do this all the time." We agreed to meet him back there today at 5:00. He couldn't come any earlier, you know, because he's in school all day.  So here are photos of what they did. He is in the white shirt. He also brought along a friend to help. And there's a short video showing how they used a come-along to shift the boat.

The menfolk ponder the situation. He brought along his skiff with the outboard, and a small metal dingy, sitting closer to our boat his boat.
 First he had to disconnect the boom from the submerged boat.

 Nocturne would barely fit between the submerged boat's mast and the far piling.
 They attached the come-along to the cleat on the deck and inched the boat forward, making it tip over more.
 The Coast Guard had already been around, letting everyone know they were aware of the boats tossed up everywhere.
 These boys clambered from boat to boat and shifted lines and cables until they got the boat where they wanted her.
 Here's a little video of the moment when the rudder finally came off the dock! Hooray!
He also stepped down the mast.
Once the hull was off the dock, Adam's trepidation began to subside a bit, and he could watch more calmly.
 They moved the come-along many times, attaching it to different pilings to shift the boat's position.
 Nearly there!
 She's floating free! She looks so small and harmless this way -- it's hard to remember just how much heavy hull is under her.
We hope her new owner will enjoy her for many years. A Cape Dory Typhoon is a desirable boat from a rather famous designer. They sail beautifully. We got her for free, and we enjoyed her for a couple of years, and Adam particularly enjoyed the work he did on her deck and hull and wood trim. That was his favorite part of boat ownership.

If we'd gone to the marina yesterday at 1:00 as planned, we would have missed our young friend yesterday, and none of this would've happened. God wanted us there at 4:45 though. I prayed for help, and I specifically prayed for help from an unexpected source; God did that. And I can't think of anybody on the planet I'd rather have this lovely boat -- who will care for her and enjoy her fully -- that our young friend.

Oriental folks, if you need to hire a resourceful, boat-smart young man to help you, I'll link here to his dad's marina on Blackwell Point. They can put you in touch with him.