The last day of November was warm with a brisk wind to scurry about the colorful leaves. I walked the streets in Clayton to do some banking and grab a bite to eat on my lunch hour. The wind whipped from the west and changed directions several times that hour. The tell-tale sign of changing seasons. A mild autumn is quickly going into winter-like weather this week. The weekend forecast includes snow flakes, and colder than normal temperatures next week. “Each year is a parable begun in stillness, and chill, of bare ground warmed with spring life returning, then bursting, buzzing, peaking in summer, and issuing a final flare in autumn, to subside in another winter’s seeming nullity,” author Stephanie Mills writes in her book Epicurean Simplicity.
Preparations for the winter season may not be a necessary stack of firewood in my suburban lifestyle. I remember as a child the excitement of my family’s annual New Year’s Eve stay at the one-room cabin my father built on the family farm in Franklin County, Missouri. The simple shingle covered dwelling probably no bigger that 500 square-feet had no bathroom or electricity, but a wood stove for its heat source. My father and Grandpa would cut down old trees on the 100+ -acre farm and split wood throughout the autumn season in preparation for deer hunting trips and these winter weekend visits to the family farm. My current preparations include sweaters and boots being pulled from the depths of the closets as well as my epie pin and antihistamine stowed in my purse for the next 4 months. An allergy to cold air and water is not easy, but is not the worst a person would have to deal with. Thank goodness for gas heat.
And now I focus on my own heart matters for today. Simplicity. “Try to see the beauty in your own backyard to notice the miracles of everyday life,” religious leader Gloria Gaither says. I would say that is great advice. Perennial thoughts and ways, appreciating what you have now, and making do. Simple, thankful, authentic, resourceful. I am intrigued by the choice of voluntary simplicity as I further my research for an enrichment class to teach at my work place. There are authors, activists, and societies devoted to this way of thinking and lifestyle. Choices made such as local community versus global; homegrown versus mass produced; renovate or upcycle versus disgard; a 3-generation home versus having separate homes; public transportation, carpooling, or riding a bicycle versus commuting to work with one’s own vehicle everyday; hand-crafted versus manufacturer made; purchase local versus big brand, slow food versus fast food, and the list goes on. As author and ecological activist Stephanie Mills states“bigger has not turned out to be better.” I like the change back to some old ways and traditions. What does simplicity mean to you? How have you made simplicity a lifestyle choice? I would love to hear.
In a world with ever changing values and technology, some things remain the same. Kinship, old mountain towns, and summer lakes. Most of the time you can depend on all three. Family is family. Most of us are connected if not by blood, in some other fashion to each other no more than 3 times removed. We connected to Joe, owner of this small town bar & grill and a new eatery called the Galloping Goose Cafe while in Rico, Colorado. He is a visionary for this town. Not sure if I could go back 4 decades, but the brief week we had in the old mountain town cabin took Dean and I to the simplicity of our childhood years. And we loved it. In search for WiFi a couple of times to get connected to our urban civilization to post photos and reserve a hotel room for our travels back home, other than that we lived without any electronics and screens. Dean and I resorted to reading, writing, napping, cooking, bird watching, photography, and walks. We return to our full-time employment with government entities that overwhelm with procedures, projects, policies, and politics. Cannot escape it in the evening with the political conventions being aired. So here is to wonderful July 2016 memories with family in the old mountain town and near the summer lake. I will keep reading, writing, … making more memories and connections.
Author and teacher Ruth Senter says, “When you are truly joined in spirit, another woman’s good is your good too. You work for the good of each other.” How often do you feel joined to or work for the good of another? Do you feel joined at the hip, inseparable, much like conjoined twins with a friend, sibling, or spouse? When the other is happy, you are and not feeling skated. When the other grieves, you as well yet hopeful for the other. Goodness is the goal not self-gain. To witness or live this kind of friendship, it is a gift.
During the Lenten Friday dinner at Our Lady of Guadalupe in Ferguson, Missouri, my Dean and I saw some lovely bonding between this community. The whole church celebration of Latino song and dance as well as fish dinner punctuated the beginning of our weekend. A multi-cultural band of musicians from Mexico, Ecuador, Aruba, and Kenya beautifully entertained the congregation with a Latino instrumental rendition of “Hotel California”. Later women and children danced in festive colored costume. Such a memorable evening.
Dean and I are joined at the hip for life. Besides commuting together during our work week, we work and play together on weekend projects. This weekend we secured our plants as the cold set in for 36 hours despite the spring equinox. We unpacked and sorted more household items. Pictures, photos, and trinkets are going up, which is the fun part about making a house a home. We crafted a bathroom towel rack made from scraps of recycled barn wood belonging to my paternal great-grandfather and clearance curtain tie back holders. Our Sunday date to Hermann’s WurstFest included the hunt for an antique shelf or table to house our bathroom towels. It had to be no wider than 11″ and no higher than 44″, but the length was open since our lone bathroom is long and narrow. We saw a few new furniture pieces at Pier One Imports and Home Goods, but the prices were not attractive. At one of our favorite Hermann antique shops we were greeted by a special lady friend. We perused the shop’s goods, and she finally pointed us in the right direction. A repurposed oak bucket bench made into a floor shelf unit. Perfect. On the way home from our Sunday excursion we stopped at Home Goods to buy some totes, a big basket, and a metal caddy for storage. The total price 65% less than what we saw earlier. Satisfied local shoppers we are!
I had a deja vu moment this past weekend while walking down a neighborhood street to the auto part store with my Dean and our Midnight. During our brisk walk I approached a view unforgettable from my childhood. An old brick house, the grandmother’s house of a farm family I grew up with just down the road from my childhood home and tree farm. I was 12-years old again and at the place where I knew I was more than 1/2 way home from the old town ball diamond where I played softball. On occasion my sister and I would walk to ball practice and our games. It was at least a 2-mile walk one way, and required us to cross over the interstate on a cross walk. Considered a summer adventure, not scary. Over 40 years ago, my hometown St. Peters, Missouri was a farm community. Everyone knew each other, and for the most part everyone was trustworthy. That cross walk was torn down a few years back. But if it was still usable today, would I let my 10-year old or even 14-year old granddaughter walk that distance to ball practice from home and back again? I would say “no” as this community has greatly changed in size. We do not know our “neighbors” like we did back then, and who knows about the interstate traffic and travelers. The world has changed its character.
“Almost home” is like those familiar places and people. Thankful for, content with. The rental house has been a temporary refuge for us, almost home. But home and family is where we are meant to be. All my senses clearly see, smell, hear, touch, and taste its warmth. The pine wood and painted walls smell fresh, clean, new. These colored walls are awaiting our human presence. I hear our birds chirp near the front porch in the maple and dogwood trees. And I feel the crisp new bed linens and quilt to my skin as I lay in my bed along side my husband. This weekend we will be moving our personal items back to our renovated home. And our hearts come with. Living minimally has been refreshing like the aromas of fresh wood. Dean and I vow to continue this. As I wrote a few weeks ago, “’Home’ is where you lay your head, and share your heart and blessings with your family…” no matter the structure or belongings. The Books of Matthew and Philippians in our Bible say, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” and “I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content–whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need.” My prayer for each of us, we know that God our Father provides for our every need and that we each are content with His provisions.
Some days the pets as well as neighborhood squirrels and birds watch us as if we are their entertainment. Most other days, it is the reverse. The household and outside critters are our entertainment. Our pets, Midnight, Celine, Jonas, and Pennylane will greet us at the front door after a long day at work. The dog with a wagging tail and panting smile, and the feline friends with purrs and nudges to be petted. The birds and squirrels gather at the dogwood tree to feed on seeds at the feeder or underneath where the seed remnants lie on the leaf-mulched earth.
When asked what my new year’s resolution is, the word is “repurpose”. Repurpose items already obtained. Rejuvenate, repair, renovate, recycle, all to mean the same as repurpose. Utilize an item for a purpose or meaning once again. To go with this year’s theme of “repurpose”, this weekend I had purposed to wash all the stuffed animals and characters that have residence in our home. We have quite the collection of teddies, rabbits, chicks, dolls, doggies, and even a Tazmanian devil from my children and grandchildren. These toys provded hours of entertainment and occupied a hammock hung in the back bedroom or sit on the bay window seat. One basket situated in the living room was bed to some favorites, ready at a moment’s notice to be gathered into the arms of a visiting child. Since my daughter moved in, more space is needed in the back bedroom. We placed these critters in plastic bags until after the holiday madness simmered down. To the local laudromat we went with 3 large plastic bags, filled 2 front loading machines. Dean and I watched as the soapy faces plastered against the door windows, as if they muttered “help!” from their foaming mouths. After the wash cycle we dried the freshly washed critters for just a few minutes in a gigantic-sized dryer. We brought home the damp stuffed animals, lined them on the trundle bed to air dry. Dean captured this photo of their greeting smiles. A bath always makes you feel better! Later we turned the critters on their heads, with their backsides up to air dry. We waited for our Labrador, Midnight to land himself atop the stuffed critters as the trundle bed is one of his favorite spots to nap. But the stuffed critters remained undisturbed.
Maybe there were too many of the critters, slightly overwhelming? We think so. Two of these toys date back to 32 years ago, my oldest daughter’s 1st Christmas teddy and 1st birthday Hush Puppy. The Care Bear with a band-aid on his leg was given to my oldest when she recovered from appendicitis at age 5. Another doggy belonged to my other daughter, and a teddy with a blue beret belonged to my artsy son. Others are a handmade rabbit and doll from a special grandmother. So the other purpose for the communal bath and animal reunion was to donate the less familar clean, germ-free critters to Goodwill. Some other children to love on their cuteness, softness. Tote to a tea party, wagon ride, or bedtime. We filled 2 bags to repurpose. And the other special animals and dolls sit in the living room inside the white wicker basket with a pink-gingham cloth lining. These await another child’s love, maybe more grandbabies?
Elisabeth Elliot, a Christian speaker and author who devoted her life in missionary work, lost 2 husbands while in this work, now resides with her third husband of 37 years and both retired from heavy travels. Elisabeth’s works are down to earth. See http://www.elisabethelliot.org
for more information on this amazing inspirational woman. There are many differences to my life and Elisabeth Elliot’s, though similarities indeed. My education is not in theology nor my travels and work with tribes in Ecuador or Africa. I have not written books or spoke at huge conferences. Though I am a Christian and I am educated with a summa cum laude honored Bachelors of Art degree in Human Resource Management. I use my education and God-given gifts of organization and leadership with working Americans, and attempt to write inspirational thought with work communique and this WordPress blog. I speak on occasions to fellow business colleagues. Elisabeth Elliot is quoted,“It is God to whom and with whom we travel, and while He is the End of our journey, He is also at every stopping place.”
I am at “a stopping place”. I can count on my two hands the number of times I can recall “a stopping place.” Every stopping place is God-ordered. I do not sense a brick wall here. Though a time to be still, reflect, pray, get reenergized, and then get back to work. I am being called into some new work…I am still today, reflecting, and praying. The strength will come for that new work. The thick clouds have rolled in this afternoon. A winter snow warning has been issued for Missouri. Predicted are several inches of snow and ice, and severe Arctic winds and temperatures to follow. Sub-zero temps will keep me in my warm house while frosty art paints the windows, God’s healing hands bring health to my body. Tasks can wait at this God-ordered stopping place. The earthly journey comes soon enough.
The storms aftermath. This post continues from my very late night WordPress post My Friday Family Adventures: https://deannagreensandgardenart.wordpress.com/2013/06/01/my-friday-family-adventures. Three days later, and I can still feel the van vibrant, hear the tree limbs scrapping the top of the van with the rain beating and wind screaming. Dean and I were spared what many others in our community were not. Demolished homes, though no deaths. Thank you God for Your protection of life, what matters most. We did not realize at the time, but that tornado blew a kiss towards us. Please view this video taken from Tornado Tim, a storm chaser. This local high school was hit just a few minutes after we saw the black cell carrying the tornado, and we would have been in its path, if the van had not gotten stuck in the mud. Words of advice: Do not do what Tornado Tim does, folks! Dangerous business!
My body has ached for 3 days, finally felt some relief while gardening last evening. Stress and pushing on a multi-ton vehicle will do that. Thankfully, my regular chiropractor appointment is this week. Electric power still out in many neighborhoods. Dean is off work due to no electric. The Mississippi and Missouri Rivers are up. All the rains from the storms caused the St. Charles’ riverfront park to be closed yesterday with the Missouri River expected to crest. Same in St. Louis and Alton with the Mississippi River. Surely not another 1993 flood, please! The emergency alarms went off at 11:00am today while at work in the St. Louis County Police Headquarters building in Clayton. “Just a test of the emergency warning system” the recorded voice states. What warning signs are you paying attention to or ignoring? How are you preparing for survival? What life storms aftermath are you experiencing today? Nature has her ways to teach us. Prayer and faith with everything in life is essential.
A slow, quiet snow continues to fall this Lenten Friday morning. A hush only experienced just at sunrise and with snow cover. The songbirds will become active within the hour, feeding on sunflower nuts and seeds we have provided for them. Another inch of snow overnight, and a forecast saying the cloud cover will dissipate sometime this morning. It has been another week of snow, sleet, and ice, not quite the volume of last week, but winter all the same.
Lenten Fridays become a culinary holiday or tradition in my neck of the woods. Two or more dozen churches in the St. Louis area offer a Lenten fish fry. Even a Jewish community in St. Louis offers a “meatless” menu on the 6 weeks of Lenten Fridays, an opportunity for folks to gather during these last days of the winter season. These “fish fries” can include baked fish or steamed shrimp, a healthier alternative. Each year Dean & I peruse the newspaper and internet to find well-priced fish fries close to work or on the way home. The fundraiser efforts of our community churches can be expensive on our tight budget, so we gather 3 or 4 times during the season. Sometimes we get off on a Friday early enough, and make it to our home parish All Saints. We make sure we partake at the St. Peter Church in St. Charles on one of those Fridays. The wonderful portions of homemade slaw and desserts beat all the rest. St. Paul, Missouri has 2 places for a Friday evening destination, the local bar Dog Prairie as well as the local Catholic church serve up fried fish and shrimp. Albacore tuna on crackers works as well as a meatless pasta dish like my Pasta Primavera I wrote about in my previous blog. We will meet with my brother and sister-in-law next Friday, and the Friday after with Dean’s cousins. We people are like the birds who gather at the feeders and trays on these winter mornings. Chirp and chatter about the savory dishes we are partaking in, local happenings, upcoming trips, and the long winter.
Robert Frost wrote a poem called “Mending Wall”.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
“Stay where you are until our backs are turned!”
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of outdoor game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
He is all pine and I am apple-orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, “Good fences make good neighbors.”
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
“Why do they make good neighbors? Isn’t it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down!” I could say “Elves” to him,
But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather
He said it for himself. I see him there,
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father’s saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, “Good fences make good neighbors.”
This poem says much, which can be condensed with the old Czech saying, “Do not protect yourself by a fence, but rather by your friends.” I would rather have friends than fences and walls, wouldn’t you? So much strife and bitterness amongst people, and the violence is horrible. Dean & I have a place we go where fences are not necessary, except clever ones to keep the deer out. It is Boone Hollow Farm in Defiance, Missouri. It is where our greenhouse takes home. There are no fences or walls to divide the lots between tenants, we each just know where our own spot begins and ends. Even our dog, Midnight knows. Caring and sharing is the attitude, so refreshing. I anticipate a great growing season, growing herbs and vegetables as well as friendships in this community.