Wednesday, May 20, 2015

State of Wonder: 2015 Homewoods Gathering

She (wisdom) is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her: and happy is every one that retaineth her. Proverbs 3:18

Last weekend was full of wonder.  I was speaking at the 2015 Homewoods Gathering, a retreat focused on learning and living out the principles of Charlotte Mason.  It was held at the beautiful home of Alex and Cindy Vasquez in Little Flock, Arkansas.  When I arrived, I was treated to a walk around Bentonville, a performance in front of the historic courthouse by the Bentonville High School Orchestra, and a delicious meal at Table Mesa with organizers Cindy and Emily.


Early the next morning I took off into the unknown on my morning walk/run.  I love this part of exploring new places.  Landscapes before 8 a.m. reveal all sorts of delights. Around the bend, I was stopped in my tracks by an intoxicating fragrance in the air.  It was wild honeysuckle!  Later, Makayla demonstrated how to suck the single drop of honey out of the flower.  I felt like she was sharing a childhood secret.

An Introduction to Nature  - Birds, Flowers, Trees by John Kieran (The northern mockingbird is the state bird of Arkansas.)

Further on, I heard the call of my beloved cardinal.  When I looked up, it was not a cardinal but a mockingbird who then sang about 5 other distinctly different songs.  Then, as I turned to go back, I stood at the edge of a pasture in awe as a cow gave birth to a calf, ate the afterbirth, cleaned up the calf and nudged it until it stood up and ate for the first time.  Breathtaking.  A truck crept up behind me and startled me out of my reverie.  It was the owner who had seen this a hundred times but clearly was awed once again, judging from the theological discussion that followed.

And all this before 8 a.m.!

When I arrived at the actual Gathering, Punky presented me with this little gift -

Talk about knowing you are exactly in the right place!  Here was a group of humble, gracious ladies presenting folk songs, local lore, poetry, good company, deep discussions, nature study, and much more.  It is amazing what happens when such a diverse group joins together to form a gathering for others.  Cindy, Emily, Punky, Kari, Kelley, Karen and so many others helped make this a nourishing and refreshing weekend for everyone.  Thank you.

Funny how every person exceeds our power of measurement.

"We attempt to define a person, the most common-place person we know, but he will not submit to bounds; some unexpected beauty of nature breaks out; we find he is not what we thought, and begin to suspect that every person exceeds our power of measurement." - from The Story of Charlotte Mason

Wondering still,


Sunday, May 10, 2015

Made Happy By Simple Things

Dicentra spectabilis

A sure sign of spring around here is when the airy bushes of bleeding hearts appear.  I have been given a few of these old-fashioned plants for Mother's Day over the years.  I plant them next to our door to be sure and spot the dangling beauties as soon as they arrive. This year, my daughter entered them in her Nature Notebook as a gift to me because she knows I love them. I think she does, too.

Did you know that if you gently fold back the skirt of one of the flowers, Princess Di Centra appears?  And there is a story to go along with her, of course.  I learned about it from Sunflower Houses by Sharon Lovejoy. It goes like this:

Once there was a beautiful princess who wandered away from her walled garden and became lost in the darkness of an ancient forest. The princess fell prey to an evil crone angered to have her privacy disturbed.  In an instant, Di was reduced to a fraction of her normal size and entrapped in the satiny pink folds of an oddly-shaped flower.

The old crone cackled happy and told Di that she was to remain forever imprisoned unless discovered and released by an innocent youngling.

Little did the crone know how tempting the Princess would be to any passing child! Only three days passed before a party of riders stopped for water in the forest. Drinking from a stream on bended knee, a boy glanced up, spied the dancing wand tipped by a pink and white heart, and plucked it (as innocent children will do). Short, plump finders folded back Di's voluminous pink skirt, and the lovely princess was saved!
There are other things to discover about bleeding hearts and other flowers in this book.

Mary Oliver has written this wonderful poem about these long-lasting beauties.

The Bleeding-heart by Mary Oliver
from New and Selected Poems, Vol. 2

I know a bleeding-heart plant that has thrived
for sixty years if not more, and has never
missed a spring without rising and spreading
itself into a glossy bush, with many small red
hearts dangling. Don't you think that deserves
a little thought? The woman who planted it
has been gone for a long time, and everyone
who saw it in that time has also died or moved
away and so, like so many stories, this one can't
get finished properly. Most things that are
important, have you noticed, lack a certain
neatness. More delicious, anyway, is to
remember my grandmother's pleasure when
the dissolve of winter was over and the green
knobs appeared and began to rise, and to cre-
ate their many hearts. One would say she was
a simple woman, made happy by simple
things. I think this was true. And more than
once, in my long life, I have wished to be her.

Happy Mother's Day!


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Communing Out Loud and Other Thoughts on Prayer

A Mother and Children By a Window at Dusk  Viggo Pedersen (1854-1926)

Is it possible that the mother could, when alone with her children, occasionally hold this communing out loud, so that the children might grow up in the sense of the presence of God? It would probably be difficult for many mothers to break down the barrier of spiritual reserve in the presence of even their own children. But, could it be done, would it not lead to glad and natural living in the recognised presence of God? 
-Charlotte Mason, Vol. 2, p. 55

Prayer and housekeeping - they go together.  They have always gone together. We simply know our daily round is how we live. When we clean and order our homes, we are somehow also cleaning and ordering ourselves.
-Gunilla Norris

Pray without ceasing.  I Thessalonians 5:17

Grace by Erik Enstrom (1875-1968)
A copy of this ubiquitous colored photograph (I always thought it was a painting!) was hanging in my Grandparents' house on Hobby Horse Lane in Mentor, Ohio some 45 years ago.  I have always loved it.  Our local antiques store has at least 25 copies in various frames stacked against the wall.  I had no idea that it was the Minnesota State Photograph. Nor did I realize the charming story behind it. 

In 1918,  photographer Erik Enstrom took this photo of an old peddler that stopped by his shop in the mining town of Bovey, Minnesota.  He thought of a simple composition that would help people remember to be thankful in the midst of World War I.  It's a good reminder today, too.

our copy on top of a bookshelf

Finally, a note about where we might meet over the next month or so.  The intimate Homewoods Gathering will by May 15th and 16 in Little Flock (not Rock!) Arkansas. Contact cindyvasquez@cox.net for the flyer. On May 29th will be our bi-annual Awakening session at Shalom Hill Farm in Windom, MN.  There are a few spots still available for that.The Farm in spring is a thing of beauty.  And don't forget the Charlotte Mason Institute Conference at Asbury Seminary on June 17th-20th.


Saturday, April 4, 2015

Storied City Pics

Must-have gem that we referred to often - Storied City: A Children's Book Walking Tour Guide to New York City

We began at the Met.
Transfixed by Caravaggio's The Denial of St. Peter
Frederic Remington's Bronco Buster (a sculpture we studied in TBG)

James Jebusa Shannon's Jungle Tales - Can you guess what this is all about?

Thrilled to see Juan de Pareja by Velazquez (a familiar friend from a recent picture study)

Snowdrops in Central Park

Our architectural guide, Jeannette, shares details about the Dakota including why it is named The Dakota!

rather creepy Mother Goose statue

K. by the Balto statue!

Stopped by E.'s future home
King's had Hannah More books in their Wilberforce collection!

Viewing the collectible books and art at Books of Wonder

Iconic lions - Patience

Loved the murals depicting the history of the printed word.

Gutenberg Bible

And just look at the original Piglet!

Children's room

St. Pat's

Last stop - Grand Central, delicious lunch with a cherished friend, and a historic speakeasy.

It's been 17 years!

For more pics go here!