Friday, September 28, 2018

Loving Brambly Hedge

Two dear blogging friends (Henny Penny and Granny Marigold) recently mentioned their love of Jill Barklem's Brambly Hedge books. I've noted them before, but it seems a good time to share some of her illustrations and show why I love The Four Seasons of Brambly Hedge.
That's Barklem's real painting desk!
Henny Penny organized her cute sewing room in the fashion of Brambly Hedge, and I realized I like that same look: a loose, flowy organization on open shelves, like this:

Look, Granny Marigold! Teacups!

If forced to choose favorite pictures from this book, these would be the ones. I love the wealth of detail, the step-back cupboards, weighty beams overhead, and stone floors. It's why I chose to redo my kitchen as I did.

This book by Barklem begins with a sort of written interview with her. Sketches show how she creates her little mice.
And the world they live in:
She talks about her writing process.

I adore cross-sections of structures (especially trees) like the one below! It combines my love of order and architecture with my creativity and domesticity.
I love the idea of living inside a cozy tree.
Barklem's tree-living reminds me very much of Shirley Barber's Martha B. Rabbit stories. Martha lives in an apple tree.

 One winter Martha and her friend Tabitha take in all the cold, hungry woodland inhabitants who need help - fairies, birds, deer, mice, and even an elf!

 Barklem's picture of this mouse before his winter fire reminds me very much of Mole and Ratty and Badger.
 The afternoon temperatures and mosquito clouds outside may not agree, but I think it's the time of year to visit Brambly Hedge and the Apple Tree House and The Riverbank, don't you?

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Being Home

I'm back home. There's great truth to the old saying, "Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home." Some have asked about damage to our property. The yard/farm is a mess, with downed branches and big piles ready to be burned. The orchard fence fell down a bit. The herb beds and other flower beds are in frightful shape. Everything needs tidying. I'd take photos for you, but that would require going outside, where the mosquitoes currently hold a reign of terror.

Our central AC/heating unit will have to be replaced. It's at the ground level. The insurance adjuster will give us a quote to replace it and all the duct work under the house. Most of it did not get wet, but if any of it did, they assume the mold will do its worst. Right now, we are so thankful for that window unit we bought! So many friends whose central units were ruined are sweltering right now.

The little house sustained wind damage of some sort; an adjuster will decide that. We'll also be reimbursed for the loss of all contents of our frig and freezer, which is wonderful. That's what we've been paying those insurance premiums for all these years!

I had a very long road trip from NC to WV to TN to MS, back to TN, and then back to NC. I'm somewhat worn out, although all the driving went fine. Our old van now has 231,000 + miles on it. It rattles as it cruises down the highway, but it got me home. 

I was very glad to be at all the places I went (and was glad not to be in NC without air conditioning!). The week in Mississippi was very good. I feel that I know Anna's life now a bit. The family there has had a difficult road in recent weeks with her mother-in-law's illness and death, and she is terribly missed, but the family is relieved she is beyond the pain, and is now with Jesus and others she loves. The funeral was wonderful. 
That's Anna, pretty tired, snuggling with Chauncey, the cat she married into :),  wrapped up together in the prayer shawl I sent for Julie.

Artists were painting a massive mural on the sides of some of Clarksdale's old downtown buildings.

 Pretty cool!
I also got to visit Philip, Kara, and Julia in Chattanooga twice, and they babysat Beau and Trixie for a week (!!) willingly. Inexplicably, both my laptop and Adam's desktop computer died while I was gone. That's a significant loss for us, but Philip was our techie hero (yet again!!). He gave me this lovely thing ...

His hobby is collecting dead computers and bringing them to life again, so this is a resurrected laptop.

Philip also cooked us a noodle bowl. Kara did the poached eggs. It was delicious!
 I hugged Philip a few times because he's just thoughtful, helpful, and wonderful. 

I returned home with all the things I left with, several bags of only the few things I didn't want to lose if Hurricane Florence swept our house away. It's interesting what you decide to keep. For instance, when you love books and have many dearly-loved books, which few do you save? Which ones can't be replaced?
Adam bought me this copy of Miss Suzy years ago, my favorite children's book. I love that silly Forest Robe poetry book. I've read it over and over. A Tuscan Childhood and The Country of the Pointed Firs made the cut above all others on my shelves. I took my recent journals too, some photos of the children, our wedding album, and some of Julia's artwork. I returned last night and found all my books, all my stuff, all my home still here, and I'm thankful.

But yesterday I kept thinking of Julie, Anna's mother-in-law. She went home too, to her true home. As Jesus says, a place where nothing can be destroyed, nothing can be lost, nothing can be stolen. Sweet homecoming, Julie, my other-grandmother. (That's always what I think of her as - the lady with whom I'll share grandchildren someday, even if she is in heaven.) Save me a spot at the table.

Monday, September 24, 2018

The Latest

Hi, friends. I'm still in Mississippi but leaving for home soon.  All is as well as it can be.  I won't be blogging much (if at all) for a while because my laptop has died.  We will try to repair it.  That's it from me!

Thursday, September 20, 2018

More from Elizabeth Goudge

I've read a good bit of Elizabeth Goudge now. Of her books I've read, two stick with me better than the others: Green Dolphin Street and The Scent of Water. As a reader, I look first and always for the author's voice and style; if I enjoy those it hardly matters what is written about, where it occurs, or who occupy the pages.

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Goudge has mastery of all elements of writing however, and since I read her with the certainty that her lively, innovative voice sparkles no matter the book, I then look for my second-favorite element, setting -- location. The two books I mention had settings I grew to love, so I remember them best. Characters, in fiction, become shadowy images to me after I've closed the final page. I am too busy exploring and inspecting my way through the author's setting myself, hand-in-hand with her, to bother with her characters much.
Goudge lived from 1900-1984. She published The Joy of the Snow in 1974, a short autobiography because friends demanded it of her. That's what I'm reading now. Delightful as ever, she now entertains me with personal family tales, and I feel I get to know my friend better with each page. Her grandparents hailed from Guernsey, one of the Channel Islands that I've been so interested in lately.
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Guernsey Island
 Goudge is humorous. She writes this book "to share, too, some of the conclusions I have come to about work and life. Neither will be in the least exciting and so my hope for this book is that it will be a good bedside book, and keep nobody awake." (2)

And this, about turning 70: "The Bible thinks you have about had it by then. And so you have. You have almost closed the circle and like a ship that has sailed round the world you see the last stretch of water narrowing at a startling pace. But the coast of the country to which you sail is obscured by the spray of breaking waves, and the rainbows in them show you the shapes and the colours of your own childhood. What the poets say is true. The beginning is the end and the end is the beginning."  I would add that the end feels like home.

She can begin with a light-hearted joke and seamlessly move into a most deep and meaningful metaphor. Does life feel like an adventure? Is it also a circle? Do you feel the familiarity of an old home as you come near your end? What are those "spray and breaking waves" of the final shore that obscure your return to home? How many people have feared that landing, only to find at the end that they are right where they have wanted to be? Goudge does all of that by the end of page 2.
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Perhaps I identify with this confession she makes: "As I look back on my life I realise that together with the beauty of the world that holds them, I have loved places too much and people not enough." (5) I know this in myself and fight against it. It's good to hear it admitted by another.

I have many more Goudge books to go, and how thankful I am that she worked to hard so keep us all happily reading!

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Wednesday, September 19, 2018

What Do We Say in Suffering?

It's a week of suffering. Friends in our state and our county are emerging from the ravages of a hurricane -- a Category 1 storm with Category 4 storm surge, we're told. Some neighbors have lost everything they own. When you don't have money for next week's groceries, how do you rebuild? Where do you live while you rebuild? Who will help you?
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This is the restaurant where Anna and Gramm had their rehearsal dinner.
Those are supposed to be roads all around.
(photo credit: Larry Summers)
But I'm in Mississippi, helping Anna. She and Gramm are tenderly caring for a beloved family member who is ill. They're both working too. I came to clean their home, do their laundry, clean out the refrigerator, feed them, love them. 

These are only two kinds of suffering; turn on the news and find more. You have your own suffering too. What do we say when we suffer?

We say, "Why?" Or if you're a person of faith, "Why God?" Or if you're a Christian, "Why, Jesus?" We may scream, "Help me!" or "Save me!" "Take me out of this horrible place in my life!"

I was up about 4:00 this morning. I've slept in five different beds in the past week, away from home. The morning's peaceful routine of reading my Bible is so calming, so I turned to today's chapter, John 12 ~~

Jesus knows He's about to be crucified, a horrific, degrading death in itself. On top of that, He'll have mountains of our sins piled onto Him, to bear into Hell on His shoulders so He can get rid of them once and for all. What a thing for a God to do! 

"Now My soul is troubled," He says. Of course.
"What shall I say?" Jesus asks.  In His suffering, what does He say?  What should we say when we suffer?

"Father, save Me from this hour"?
"Father, save me from this flooding and destruction."
"Father, save me from losing my home."
"Father, save me from cancer."
"Father, save me from watching my loved one die."

Jesus says no. In suffering, He refused to say, "Save me, Father," because He knew the Father would do it. Then we would all have been lost forever, banned from heaven. 

Instead, Jesus said, "Father, glorify Thy Name." 

It is so very hard to say anything other than "Save me!!" when we're going under. Peter yelled it, and Jesus saved him. Sometimes "Save me, Father!!" is the automatic distress call; we can't help it. But if we have time to think, it can be better to say, "Father, glorify yourself in my suffering. Use it to show who You are and what you can do. Use it to show other people your love. Use it to show how You can transform the human soul. Use it to show your power. Use it in ways I can't even imagine yet." 

Or like Jesus, "Use my suffering to save others into heaven."

Monday, September 17, 2018

Deep in the Mountains

When I arrived at my brother's apple orchard, I told him that it makes "the back end of nowhere" look urban. We spent several hours that afternoon riding around backwoods paths on his 4x4. He told me this is about the most remote area in West Virginia, and as a land surveyor for 30 years, he would know.
 Above is the house, an old structure with rooms added on the back. It was very comfortable and relaxing there. No wifi. No cell reception. It felt blissfully like I was 25 again.
 Gently curving dirt paths, grassy pastures, leaning wood fences.
My brother has quite a selection of apple varieties. They're nearly ripe this time of year.
 I love the front door of the house - isn't this gorgeous?
 This is the view of one fenced-in orchard plot from the house porch. The orchard property lies nestled in a narrow valley next to a stream with hills sheltering on either side.
 A few grape vines drape near the house.
 A previous owner built this covered bridge, which is so quaint! It does cross the creek, but it doesn't lead anywhere.

 An old barn that's falling down:

 The creek has a rock bottom.
 This is the building where the picked apples are kept cool. The deep porch is so pretty.
 The view back down the valley:
 They cleared trees from this hillside to provide more sunlight to the apple trees.
 Marshall took me for a long 4x4 ride, and we saw some lovely sites. Here's an old mill next to a creek.
 Outcroppings like this are not rare in West Virginia. We were deep in Webster County and wandered into Braxton County.
 We came upon a down tree. Marshall piled stones on either side, and at last he just gunned it really hard to bound over the tree. We didn't want to walk, way out in the middle of nowhere!
 They're putting in a big new natural gas pipeline through the middle of this area. Hardly anyone lives there. 

 Another cabin is on the property too, very cute.
 I had to share this picture too, a church with two tidy outhouses in the side yard -- men's and women's.

Marshall and I had a wonderful time together, riding the 4x4, looking at the orchard, but mostly talking and talking. We had a lot to catch up on! I'm so grateful he shared this beautiful place with me. I feel very at peace in West Virginia, and the more deeply into the rural mountain valleys I go, the more peace I feel. His orchard is a truly peaceful place indeed.