Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Hope floats
as a wispy seed pod
blown by a child into the air.
Do I blow it higher
or keep it in my pocket
for those dark times
when it slips
and I need a wish,
a hope
to cling onto.
You give and take away
echoes through the ages
though eternal hope remains.

-Jan Lyn Lewis with thanks to Friend Peter Lawless

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Autumn WIld Days, part 2

Indian Grass/Sorghastrum nutans and
New England Asters/Symphyotrichum novae-angliae
in one of my favorite fields

moss, the woods simple carpet....
(yes, I did touch it)
(touched that too but refrained from bringing it home)

White Wood Asters/Eurybia divaricata

Pennsylvania Smartweed or Knotweed/Polygonum pensylvanicum
These are just a few more of our pictures that we captured and added to our personalized nature journals throughout the week as we continued our drawing.
We use quite a few field guides and some online as well, but the books that inspire and guide us the most are listed below. When I became suddenly ill I sold several of them. I have since determined that I have missed them so much and and have been in the business of replacing them since the start of this school year, along with a new set of Prismacolor watercolor pencils. It's great distraction....
  1. Keeping a Nature Journal, Clare Walker Leslie, Charles E. Roth
  2. Wild Days: Creating Discovery Journals, Karne Skidmore Rackliffe
  3. A Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady, Edith Holden
  4. Handbook of Nature Study, Anna Botsford Comstock
  5. Pets in a Jar, Seymour Simon
  6. Girl of Limberlost, Freckles, Gene Stratton-Porter

Autumn Wild Days, part 1

Artist fungi

full of wonder

Black Eyed Susans/Rudbeckia hirta

Cardinal Flower/Labelia Cardinalis

I consider Charlotte Mason, a British educator of the past, a woman of wisdom and way before her time. I try to incorporate some of her methods into our learning here, and while I cannot get outdoors every day I strive to do so as much as possible. Charlotte strongly urged that children must observe nature first hand and I can't agree more. Secretly, if anything drives me, nature does and I will make that attempt to a near by pond, field or woods when I can. I grew up playing in the fields and spending days outdoors and so am comforted by it, the freedom and fulfillment of curiosity that it brings me even now as an adult.

We keep a bag packed full of our journals, pencils, watercolors and field guides with a bit of non-perishable food ready to go out at a moments notice if I get the urge. My old thick quilt is folded neatly in the back of my van to use along the way. It is often there that we sit or lay down and enjoy nature, observe and draw and renew ourselves in the learning process, and like Karen Skidmore Rackliffe's book, I refer to our days of escape from routine as "Wild Days."

One of my favorite quotes on nature study comes from Charlotte's Vol. I, (p.61) :
"It would be well if all we persons in authority..could make up our minds that there is no sort of knowledge to be got in these early years so valuable to children as that which they live in. Let them once get touch with Nature, and a habit is formed which will be a source of delight through life. We were all meant to be naturalists, each in his degree, and it is inexcusable to live in a world so full of the marvels of plant and animal life and to care for none of these things."

When I cannot make it out, we spend time in our own yard or at least the girls do and plenty of it in the afternoons stretching into dusk many days. We do so often regardless of weather conditions and the girls play, take care of the animals and explore the back fields. So for both guide and students, we've found a form of sauntering that we yearn for and connect in together; it heightens our awareness and reverence for life, a wonderful gift.

As my children are growing older, I collect these memories and catalogue them in my mind. When my son still studied with us, we observed a creek at our previous home in every season of the year. It taught us so much about nature and creation, but also it taught us to be still, how to appreciate the simple things like how to get along and love and respect one another. To this day, my son says what he misses now by attending public school are days like this and the teaching of common sense which does not seem to exist amongst his academic world now.

So, I'm glad we have these memories and as we cycle through all areas of science now that the girls are getting older as well, we do not leave our nature study completely behind but cherish some simultaneously. I also must admit that although no one sees my own dated sketches with observations, classifications and occasional quotes and poetry added, they are a source of enjoyment, perhaps that "Motherese" that Charlotte believed would renew a mother. So, unlike other blogs, you will not see my drawings here. They are for very few eyes only. However, our adventures confirm to me that the power of observation is beyond the pages of our books.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Reflections on First Day

Sometimes I relish the simple best and I often like to hear ministry of the very young or from those older than myself particularly. Today in Meeting an elderly women shared her experience of a neighbor inquiring what it meant to "hold something in the Light." For her, she means that she will think about that person, their difficulty and keep them in prayer. She went on to say that she feels so often people have two types of prayers, the "please, please" prayer and the "thank you" prayer. Then she bluntly told us that there ought to be another more prevalent prayer in which one just asks for acceptance of a situation or problem that's been given and the ability to be faithful to the measure of strength given as necessary to endure it. After all my years of hearing sermons on formulas and methods of prayer, reading on many different forms I really thought to myself, that uncomplicated statement held a whole lot of common sense.

Another older man spoke in which I did not feel his main ministry was directly for me, however within it he touched me deeply on another level when speaking on the heavy burden on the country right now with the economy, the impending outcome of the election, various tragedies that may befall us and the looming panic some are experiencing currently. In the wisdom of his years, he briefly conveyed his feeling that tragedies can be opportunities and this is a great time in history to live. That part of his message was hopeful and I shed a tear as it humbled me that I could quietly disagree with part of his message, but feel so blessed to be imparted with the sweetness of the remainder of it. I delight in when the Spirit speaks to me through various means that I would not normally expect.

On the way out of Meeting, our daughters had bags full of leaves and acorns to show us from their nature walk. One of them excitedly reached for a leaf out of her bag and handed it to me as she believed it to be heart shaped. As usual, that heart shape spoke to me and brought me a smile, so did her enthusiasm and her heart decorated socks she purposely planned to wear this day. It really is the simple message sometimes that soothes amidst the start of a brand new week.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

God Bless the Broken Road


I’m sharing this as it is a beautiful depiction of language to me. Actually, I feel it not solely a language but a marvelous work of art. American Sign Language (ASL) is more a deaf persons true language; it is a real language in itself, while Signing Exact English (SEE) has proper English word order. This appears to be a graceful combination of both to me.

One of the reasons I was enamored with deaf studies was that in my free time during university I watched language burst forth time and time again in young children who were enrolled with our current student teachers. It seemed so effortless for them compared to me as a young adult attempting it. It was an alluring, and enticing way to avoid text books for awhile.

Consequently, I minored in deaf studies and learned very basic SEE. To this day, I am not fluent as with any language it takes daily interaction. I can understand it much better than present it. My partner in class was a young man with such proficient language skills and articulation that his deafness eluded me those early days of class. He enjoyed every minute of that secret. I soon found out he was not in my speech major, and attended to learn to sign as he wanted desperately to relate to the deaf community as he was in the speaking community his entire life. SEE was an obvious choice for him as he was fully immersed in proper English word order. This peer made for a wonderful partner because of his first hand experiences he shared. He was my first glance at the complications and controversy of choosing a particular mode of communication for the deaf or hearing impaired.

Branching out into those early days of actually graduating and teaching my own speech students, I had a quiet dream of using my minor some day. It never came to fruition and I had some disappointment and even personal loss within that. I don’t think I will ever feel comfortable with the way I released the dream, and so this song captures more than a romantic love story to me. It reminds me of the journey I’ve been on to find myself again and a connection with the Spirit that is settling my past and has written my future already and a loved ones days. I couldn’t envision a resolve let alone a happy ending, but it has been revealed to me that there is another dream and that I’m just a tiny part of a grander plan that is coming true as the lyrics say. There is beauty in the broken road and I can see that clearer now through God’s art work amongst my own human choices.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Our Mini Shannon

We certainly have a way of picking animals. It's taken five months now to get this miniature horse calm enough to accomplish this photo, but this past weekend was sweet success. I wouldn't say she is broken or bullet proofed by any means, but my two daughters and husband have worked awfully hard to take good care of her and begin simple ground training.

Shannon is 6 years old, give or take some as she was purchased through a breeder that got her from an amish family. We realize that could mean about anything, but one thing for sure is that she was in with about 25 other minis and a stud roaming around and not worked with at all. So, basically we paid a foolish price to rescue her!

Shannon is a size B pinto, and makes it by 1 inch to spare. No perfect lines or papers here, but a real treasure as a pet. She is strong as can be and we figure she can take the weight of our 40 lb. daughter. We have a small saddle as the girls ride a paint up at a neighbors farm, but Teacup was wanting to ride bare back and I thought that might just be alright as this lady is not used to the weight. Obviously we are novices and extremely naive ones at that as we are still trying to decide if we have a fat mini or a mini with foal. We are guessing a fat mini that needs more exercise and less sweet feed. After hearing the additional fee of a pregnancy test on top of our vet bill, we decided to shoot for the surprise method. So far, no surprise and so we are counting the months until she is out of her window of possibilities so that we feel the freedom to exercise her more.

Shannon's got a long ways to go as we still have the occasional attempt to nibble, butt my husband when working in the field and she is just plain a sassy mare. She definitely needs discipline not to get into our personal space! However, through the fence she is as tender as they come with eyes that can melt you. She is a good listener too and we are whispering her into seeing things our way a bit more. I think she's turning around some, enjoying our company and tolerating being petted and groomed much more than before. She's a keeper and the problem with these minis is they are so cute and such social animals that she really needs a friend. Someone once told me they are like potato chips and you just can't have one, but for now we've got one and that's good enough to practice contentedness with. We originally bought her with the intention of cart training but delayed that thought after getting to know Shannon, so we really never dreamed this would occur. Oh, and see the nice smile on my husband's face? What a guy.....he just had his foot stepped on prior to my photo taking. Perhaps new boots are in order for him.

Monday, October 6, 2008


For as far back as I can recall, I enjoyed the company of those with physical disabilities, chronic illness and learning disabilities. My mother was a positive influence on appreciating others with differences of this sort and often connected me and my siblings with those who suffered. In part, that may be the reason why I was the kid who volunteered to play ball with a bell in it with a blind girl rather than join in with others during my gym class. My hand would raise up rapidly at the opportunity of volunteering my notes and help during school with the learning disabled girl whom no one paid attention to and the ESL students in college who needed further interpretation of lectures and texts due to special challenges. I love how they were strategically placed in my life for my own learning and unforeseen preparation.

It was not for my glory, as time and time again, these individuals gave back to me a greater gift than what I ever had to offer them. Frankly they made some of the best friends and still do. One was thrilled to find she could teach me to roller skate and do it much better than me. Another shared the warmth of her small university apartment when I felt alone on campus and when the bay tunnel bridge closed leaving me no way back home. I found friends this way, shared joys and struggles and was always the one blessed. Little did I know then that I was just beginning to have my own struggles.

We do not have to share the same difficulty to share the kinship and unity offered as ones that deal with challenges whether physical, mental, or otherwise. So many of the emotions of accepting and coping can be similar if not the exact trial and so support and connection can come as a quick gift.

"Off the Beaten Path" reminds me of this different journey, the one that is so often thrust upon so many. It is a reminder to me that I am not alone as well as the alternate usage of the word "beaten" to not beat myself up about my chronic illnesses. They are not my own doing but part of being fully human and living authentically and in some minute way even experiencing a fraction of what Christ did. This is a reminder to me to not make myself my own victim, but to move further to a place where my illness is not all that I am. On the flip side of this, it is a reminder to not allow others to victimize me in this and in that I mean to subject me to blame or all sorts of formulas on how to be healed or worse yet state reasons that I am not healed. We have all had well intentioned, unknowledgeable people or doctors in our lives label us with mistaken diagnosis’ or thoughts as to what the causal factors just may be. Self esteem can take it’s toll with illness alone, without taking on further fallacies. Lingering looks or harsh words from those in parking lots when using a handicapped placard can sting. It’s easy to think of a quick remark when hurt and ones illness is invisible. However through the years I've figured out it is better yet to share a smile and pray that they are prepared for such a time as this if it occurs to them. That’s also when a long look back at some of my contacts through the years makes me feel blessed to know fellow sojourners.

They are loyal people with a certain gift of empathy and sensitivity that have been forced off the fast lane of life. I fall short in expressing my full emotions in this, so much so that it so reminds me of my study of linguistics and learning that words are symbols for things, feeling, and concepts. By attempting to put into words, I limit myself some what on how humbled and honored I feel to know others in this journey who understand without sharing all words. I don’t have to constantly struggle to explain myself and make the abstract concrete with them. It’s already understood. Many have been good reminders to me of the fact that I do not need to seek validation, but accept further and lay it down with The One whom knows me best.

God’s love toward us as humans despite our thorns in the flesh is so cleansing and healing in this battle. The Light constantly illuminates to me that all people have equal worth and all human life is sacred. That place of not always understanding or having all the answers can then become a place where faith accelerates as is that not where faith enters in, that place that involves what we cannot see and some mystery? Seems to me that’s a big part of what faith is all about.

Resting in the Light then can mean more of a gentle striving to listen within the stillness in nonlinear ways rather than expecting a constant exchange. Above all just knowing that the Light is within and a deep sense of Spirit and Truth can be discovered and experienced for us personally. This helps me as it gives me full permission to listen individually for insight rather than focus on the opinions others whom lovingly seem to be experiencing their own answers to my health struggles for me. I can lean on these struggles as part of my Inner Teacher rather than constantly and frantically seek the healing that so many feel should occur. It’s not that I do not believe in healing, but I often believe healing may occur in another area and what is meant to be is quite purposeful and permanent for reasons that remain unseen. I can’t pretend I know the answers, but this is not giving up.

It seems I have effortlessly been given the gift of some people as mentors and even healers. Along with the Light within, these individuals in the past two years displayed to me how to blend illness, faith and lack of answers into a walk that I can embrace more fully. I needed examples as the pain and tears at times clouded my way and still can on some days. I also began to take notice again of the musician Ginny Owens, who speaks with such clarity in her song "If You Want Me To." She strikes that chord in me literally as every day for me involves vocabulary such as "survival" and "relinquishment". Obviously in her state of blindness she came to a place where as she says in "Free" that she is "free to stop bearing gifts as burdens." She sings so gracefully about that and tends to remind me on my darker days that there are still gifts within. I can then accept a bit better and be free in the Spirit to stop my denial, control worry and just remember to go on to live, dance, love and forgive others who do not share the same understanding of the situation I am in. I can relate and even rejoice in the idea of releasing ones self of all those chains as her lyrics exclaim! Above all, I am free to trust that God loves us more that I could ever put into words. Here's Ginny.....she sings it better than I can say it.

If You Want Me To