Oak Hill Vignettes

Today…a visit from Sandy

 

 As I type, Sandy is headed our way!  Everything outdoors that can be put away has been, containers of water are filled, dishes and clothes washed with the last load drying–all in preparation for the unknown!  With the house clean and everything prepped as much as possible, I  decided that it’s a great day to cozy up to the wood stove to read the rest of What Are People For, by Wendell Berry.  I am also going to spend a fair amount of time practicing my piano pieces, and hopefully get to the embroidery project I never seem to have time for.   And of course, I am thinking of my son away at college near the place that Sandy is to make landfall and praying for God’s protection over him.

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These fading days


The days are quickly fading, and I don’t mean only the changing of the seasons with nightfall getting earlier and earlier. More and more often it seems of late, there is a little voice that echoes in my mind, reminding me that the years, they are quickly passing.  How fleeting this life is.

It came to me again, just this afternoon as I was making my bed and noticed how the once brightly colored coverlet now has a muted appearance, its once starchy fabric, now yielding and compliant.  Why does it look so, it isn’t that old….well, yes, it probably has already been 7 or 8 years since I carefully chose it from the LL Bean catalog.  

And, of course, there are other reminders, almost daily.  Looking at pictures of myself and others I had known only 10 short years ago tell the story.  My they are looking older now–just like me.  And their children, they are also teenagers like my own two.  When I last saw her she looked so different and I have somehow left her back in yesteryear, when she’s been a fellow traveler all along!

One of the biggest reminders that confronts me daily, is that Luke is now in college.  It is hard to think of this in concrete, “there’s no going back,” terms.  In fact, I prefer not to think like that at all.  I refuse to think of the likelihood of him never living (full time) at home ever again.  It is too painful…so much bittersweet; too hard to digest.

I have always cherished thoughts of him when he was like this:

Luke, age 3

Yet, sometimes it is bitter, wishing for the sweet taste of yesterday, only to be denied.  Those days are gone.  Period.

But, God in His rich grace mixes sweet with the bitter.  As I choose to focus on today, and the positives, I am cheered.

Last weekend we got to visit him on campus, and what a pleasure those few hours were!

Luke, age 17

I am seeing many positive character traits in my son, and I find myself growing in admiration of him.  I love to be with him and hear his thoughts and opinions.  In all honesty, it was difficult at times in the early to mid teen years, and I have no doubt that much was due to my own approach with him.  Again, God’s rich grace.

He is growing into a fine young man and is, in many ways, wise beyond his years.  He has challenged me to think deeply about issues, and I have emerged a different person, hopefully better and wiser for the challenges he has set before me.  He sets high standards for himself which keep him ever reaching upward in many ways.  He is creative, fun, witty, and quite smart, and yeah, I just truly love and enjoy my son!  (For those still going through trials and challenges with their children, I urge you to NEVER give up on them!  Love them as best and fully as you can, each and every day!  It is key.)

And so, fading days aside, I am choosing to cherish all of it, for the passing night must always yield to the glorious day!

The beginning of fall color and the end of Anna Karenina

I took this photo during my morning walk today even though I had to take a break right in the middle of my routine.  I really don’t like to break my pace,but whenever I see beauty like this, I can’t resist running for the camera!    

It was a rather bittersweet morning walk as I listened to the last chapters of Anna Karenina, bringing an end to a summer long reading/listening project.  Like other books that take me a few months to get through, I have grown attached to the characters and feel pretty immersed in their lives at this point.  I will admit that a few days ago as I was finishing up Book 7 (there are 8 “books” total), I was beginning to think that Tolstoy had dragged things out a bit.  But by the third or fourth chapter of Book 8, I couldn’t put the book down.  (I did a mix of listening to a librivox.org recording while walking, and reading at other times.  It works out well if I need to reread a section or if I just want to continue the story without putting headphones on and becoming deaf to my family!)

Although at times it felt like I was reading a modern romance novel, it became apparent pretty quickly that there was so much more, really good content packed into the 950 pages of this Tolstoy treasure.  It was my second Russian novel within the year and so some of the Russian “scenery” felt familiar.   The ruling elite class juxtaposed against the working class was interesting to me.  And I especially enjoyed getting to know Levin, the “simple”  country farmer who had such depth of character and insight.  I felt drawn to the rich agrarian countryside where he worked side by side with the colorful peasants.  Of course,  Anna carried much of the storyline, and I couldn’t help but think about the subtle lure of sin and its enormous consequences.  How helpful it might be if every young person would read and contemplate this book prior to taking marriage vows.

But my favorite part was right near the end, and I won’t spoil it in case some of you have not read AK.  It has, however, to do with some deep spiritual insights that Levin came to grasp which really struck a chord with me.

(Sigh)

So, what’s next on the listening/reading list?  I’m thinking I might just stick with the Russian novel theme and switch back over to Dostoyevsky.  Crime and Punishment is on librovox’s list.  Maybe I could finish by Thanksgiving or Christmas?  I think I will take a break though and let Anna Karenina settle a bit.  It seems a shame to just quickly move on and forget those little gems that are still sparkling in my mind.  For now, I might just listen to some Josh Garrels during my walk and let his music provide some backdrop to my thoughts.

Feathered Friends

 

The ladies are so generously supplying us with three eggs a day–one per chicken, that is.

 

They really are a gentle lot.  I love visiting them each morning.  They are especially happy to see me when I have a few crusts to toss their way!

 

This rafter~I had to look that one up!~ of turkeys caught be by surprise one afternoon.  As I glimpsed them out of the kitchen window, my first thought

was, “Oh, no, the turkeys are out!!…..Oh, wait, we don’t have turkeys.”

This is not the first time we’ve seen various fowl hanging out near the chicken coop.  All summer, we had a pair of pheasants living on the hill.

We’d see them in the early mornings feeding on various insects and worms in the field.

It was a sad day for us and our hill neighbors when we discovered the male was hit by a car on a nearby well traveled road.

I took a few pictures early in the summer, but unfortunately can’t find them now.  The male was really beautiful though, with his bright red and green neck!

We didn’t notice any young ones, but are hopeful that somehow we’ll have another pair next year!

seasonal comforts and the natural rhythms of life

Time to stack the wood!

A few posts back, I briefly stated that the rhythms of the seasons are a comfort to me.   As far back as I can remember, I have looked forward to the change of the seasons.  While growing up on a farm in IL, some things that induced that feeling of comfort during the time of year when school was starting were: the whirring of the cicadas in the yard trees, cooler nights, Summer Bounty Ratatouille (made with our home grown veggies), early evening walks along the creek, picking up apples with Grandma in the orchard behind her house, spending an hour or two after school with Grandma, often doing some household or yard task usually followed by a snack at the kitchen table. Later on, as late summer turned to fall, the scent of drying corn leaves and husks filled the air; the opportunity to take rides on the combine with Grandpa and Dad, colder crisper nights, and making apple cider with my grandparent’s senior church group–all of these things I cherished and looked forward to without even realizing it!

Most of these happy memories centered around home and not so much my hectic schedule away from home at school or while participating in one of the several activities that kept me busy throughout the school year.  Perhaps those comforts filled my heart and mind with a sense of peace just because they were part of the more natural rhythm of life— things that brought a deep sense of meaning and purpose that all the other busyness lacked.  They included the people I loved and nature and simple pleasures.

I am at a transitional place in life with decisions to make on what comes next for me.  For the last 17 years, I have devoted the bulk of my time to caring for and teaching my children.  It was (and is) the most wonderful, purposeful job (or rather privilege) I have encountered up to this point in my life, and quite possibly ever will.  My job is not finished, but since they are getting older and will become increasingly independent, my mind has naturally turned to the question of what next?

One thing I want to be especially careful of is not rushing headlong into the well worn paths (ruts?) of a fast paced, shallow existence that leaves people feeling dried up and running on empty, void of purpose and meaning.

And so, as I pray about and ponder my future, one thing is becoming clear.  There must be time to live slowly–to find a pace that keeps in step with the natural rhythm of the seasons!  Exactly what form this will take, I still don’t know.  But, I do know, there is much that I don’t want to miss!

Yesterday morning…

I love morning routine, and this time of year especially.  The raspberries are coming on strong now.  For the next month or so, I expect to gather a bowl full nearly every  morning.  They are just getting going, so the amount shown here will likely double or triple.  I couldn’t resist taking this picture yesterday morning after picking.  I love the colors!   The little blue colander was one of my recent finds at one of my favorite stores, TJ Maxx.  It is just the right size to rinse a small amount for breakfast.   And the peaches…well, I wish I could say they too came from our yard, but alas, they came from the supermarket, though they are Eastern peaches, so I imagine they didn’t have to travel too far!  They are still a little firm and are ripening up a bit in the morning sunlight of our sunroom.

This is the first week of my new “normal” and I have to say that my morning routine, though quieter without everyone about, has been quite enjoyable.  I’ve even been inspired to go a bit out of my way to make myself some out of the ordinary breakfasts.  I have been trying to put a little more effort into the whole process of food preparation and presentation, trying to eat  a variety of colorful, healthy foods, as well as considering how it all looks while I’m eating.   I’m good and hungry after finishing my morning walk, so it really was nice to sit down to this.

Notice how golden yellow the eggs are!  That’s because they are fresh!  (and very yummy!) They come from our little hens that we purchased this spring.  They began laying a few days before we returned from vacation.  After going without for several months, I had forgotten the big difference between store and fresh eggs!

I thought I might have a picture of the hens, but I guess not.  They are quite pretty–Rhode Island Reds, and I really like their gentle manners.  Our last batch seemed to be always squabbling, and whenever I threw over some bread crumbs they would fight and argue about who got what.  Not these little ladies.  So far, they have shown some modesty and restraint.  I like that.  Well, I’ll have to do a photo shoot sometime.  I’ll just finish up with a few pics from around the yard.

Nasturtiums…a first for me this year.

Heirloom tomatoes…great in BLT’s!

I have never grown such healthy eggplants! We have six plants, and each has had about 8-10 eggplants. Needless to say, we’ve shared quite a few!

They’re also getting quite large!

Move-In Day

Here’s Luke in his dorm room not too long after we rolled onto campus last Friday.  I couldn’t have asked for a smoother move in.  I half expected cars to be jammed in to various tight parking spots near the dorms, and thought surely we’d have to fight our way in past other students and their families trying to move in their stuff.  Thankfully, it was not the case at all.  It really was easy as pie, though a bit warm.  Luke is a boy of order and I quickly realized  that I needed to step aside and let him do his thing.  Within minutes he had all of his stuff where he wanted it and I was able to take this picture of him.  Normally, photos of him portray a very confident, relaxed (if not a bit impatient) look.  But this one is different, and I treasure it because I see such a mix of emotions on his face and demeanor.  Very understandable.

After sharing a box lunch of fried chicken in a shady spot on the campus lawn, we made a quick run to Bed, Bath & Beyond to pick up a hot pot to heat water for Luke’s favorite study drink, tea.  Then all too soon it was time for us to go since Luke had to attend a mandatory meeting.  Of course, our parting, though short, was filled with emotion.  Thankfully, Luke, very excited to start this adventure, had a smile on his face.  It sure made things a whole lot easier for me to leave him behind!  Also helpful was the fact that we were able to meet a few of his suite mates, including his roommate, and I was impressed.   They all seemed very nice and friendly, and the RA was especially helpful, cheery, and down to earth.  Whew!  Of course time will tell, but I left feeling hopeful that this was a place that Luke could really come to like.

Unfortunately, things really went downhill after we left.  We hit traffic just outside of New York city and it was bumper to bumper for the entire CT coastline.  Wow, we really didn’t see that one coming!  It took us an extra hour and a half to get home, and we managed to get totally stressed out by the end of our drive.  I really don’t know how people from the city manage the stress of driving.  It’s not something I want to experience again anytime soon!

It’s been a year of change, with most of the change culminating right here at the end of August.  Not only did Luke move on to college, but Michaela has entered high school, thus bringing an end to our homeschooling years.  Recently, a friend jokingly stated “So, Silvana, your teaching career has pretty much come to a grinding halt!  What are you going to do now?”  Thankfully, the emotions weren’t too near the surface at that particular moment, or I might have burst into tears.  Instead, I laughingly agreed.  Change is inevitable and I hope to make the best of it as I seek the Lord as to what comes next.  More on that later.

August comforts

Just thinking today of how grateful I am for the  rhythms of the seasons.  

They are a comfort when change is in the air.

Summer where have you gone?

It was a beautiful day for Luke’s graduation celebration!

Food, family, friends…

COLORADO!

Hiking at 14k feet.

Beauty everywhere!

Garden of the Gods.

 

Hiking at Great Sand Dunes.

Evening storm over the mesa.

Pueblo cliff dwelling at Mesa Verde.

And a few more less formal pics…

We had a good laugh at this shot caught as Bill was making his way down the trail. We do not know the lady, but had to laugh at what she might have been thinking as Bill passed her by!

 

And now, a week remains before we bring Luke to college–the day I have been dreading for myself and looking forward to for his sake for many months.  A few days after that, Michaela will start school, and I will be quite alone with all these happy memories of summer.  A whirlwind of a summer it has been, and I wonder what the calm and quiet will be like.

 

 

 

Art as a necessity of life?

My latest artistic pursuit has been brewing in my mind for several months now.  I am quite smitten with a particular type of embroidery called Jacobean Embroidery.  Its roots go back to 17th century England under the reign of King James 1, where designs rich in stylized exotic plants and animals would adorn everything from bed and window curtains, to clothing and cushions.

The materials used are typically two-ply wool yarn and linen.  The combination of shapes and colors as well as the rich texture of the yarn and linen really appeal to me.

The top photo shows the design that I am just getting started on.  It will be my second Jacobean piece.  I “finished” (still needs to be sewn to make  a small pillow) my first test project a few months ago, and had begun another embroidery project, a table runner with a pretty design running down the middle using regular cotton floss, but I just couldn’t get into it. My thoughts would travel back to the Jacobean designs.  Finally, I set it aside and decided to do what I like best—life is too short to finish something  just for the sake of finishing it!

So, last week I ordered a few supplies for this project and here I am today, tracing out the pattern onto the linen.

 

 

I ordered these Evertite stretcher bars that I learned from my online research many people really like.  Having the entire project stretched out without having part of the design crushed in a hoop frame will be very nice.

 

 

It felt so good to finally get this going!  I was pondering today how important creativity and artistic pursuits are in life.  I know it’s been written about somewhere, but I’m starting to think that to create it is an innate need of every person living.  I believe it is part of our inheritance of God’s image.  Coming to terms with this has helped me to change my thinking.  There has been this nagging sense of guilt recently whenever I have considered taking time out of my busy day to do this, which explains why is has taken me nearly a year to get serious about this.  Because there is ALWAYS something that needs doing in the home (or out), doing embroidery has gotten knocked down to the bottom of my priority list.  Perhaps it is ok to push it closer to the top?  Might art be considered a necessity of life?

 

 

And so here it is, all ready to go.  Don’t you just love the color palette for this piece?  So rich and typical of the colors in nature.  (Well, maybe not quite the blues– but maybe in some part of the exotic world?)

What are your thoughts?  Do you consider art/creativity to be a necessary part of your life?