May 6, 2015

Having a ball...

Pray you, love, remember. And there is pansies, that's for thoughts.
(William Shakespeare)

April came and went before I took an opportunity to share a few photos from our big birthday bash--all my siblings and our families came together to celebrate our very favorite ninety year old!  And since pansies are one of her favorite flowers, coming up with an idea for party decor was pretty simple:

"Heart's ease! One could look for half a day 
Upon this flower, and shape in fancy out 
Full twenty different tales of love and sorrow, 
That gave this gentle name.”
(Mary Howitt)

We decorated one of the photo tables with some of her beloved handkerchiefs...I have never known my mother to not have a few lovely ones tucked away in purse for emergencies!  I fondly remember her rolling them into little dolls in a cradle when we would start to fidget in church.

We had fun incorporating special touches that represented Mother's love of linens, her favorite books and tea.  We filled the tea cups with pastel M&Ms and surrounded the saucer with little chocolate kisses.

We re-purposed shower, rehearsal and wedding decor from the past few years as well, which added some extra special memories...

And all of it added up to a very special celebration for an extra special woman, mother, grand-mother, great-grandmother, aunt and friend...

Sonnets are full of love, and this my tome
Has many sonnets: so here now shall be
One sonnet more, a love sonnet, from me
To her whose heart is my heart’s quiet home,
To my first Love, my Mother, on whose knee
I learnt love-lore that is not troublesome;
Whose service is my special dignity,
And she my loadstar while I go and come
And so because you love me, and because
I love you, Mother, I have woven a wreath
Of rhymes wherewith to crown your honored name:
In you not fourscore years can dim the flame
Of love, whose blessed glow transcends the laws
Of time and change and mortal life and death.

--by Christina Rossetti

May 1, 2015

A tisket, a tasket...

here's my sweet May basket...

photo credit link
Happy May Day!  I simply cannot believe that April is already history--this spring is just flying by.  And shame on me--since I took a breather from my blog the last few weeks all those lovely poems I had ready for March and April will just have to patiently wait for next year!  I remember all the sweet May baskets my mother helped me craft in grade school---construction paper cones covered in paper doilies and filled with little goodies, and I have special memories of helping my children fill little paper cups with johnny-jump-ups for their teachers and special neighbors.  Sweet, sweet memories.

Another lovely memory that is always tied up in my mind with May Day was my fascination with the British artist Kate Greenaway.  I loved her illustrations and was so very proud of my pretty spring Kate Greenaway smocked dress.  This picture always makes me want to burst into the Lusty Month of May from Camelot, although admittedly these little girls are a far cry from a more sophisticated Guinevere!

Kate Greenaway, British illustrator, approx 1921

I am the proud owner of one of her illustrated books, and I thought you might like to see a few of her spring drawings, set to some of the verses from one of my favorite Concordians, good old Ralph Waldo.  The full version of Emerson's May Day Poems can be found here (spoiler alert--it is a long poem!)

Anything Illustrated by Kate Greenaway - I would spend many young childhood afternoons painstakingly copying and coloring her pictures, and I can't see an apple blossom tree without thinking of those sweet, quiet scenes.

Daughter of Heaven and Earth, coy Spring,
With sudden passion languishing,
Maketh all things softly smile,
Painteth pictures mile on mile,
Holds a cup with cowslip-wreaths,
Whence a smokeless incense breathes.


Girls are peeling the sweet willow,
Poplar white, and Gilead-tree,
And troops of boys
Shouting with whoop and hilloa,
And hip, hip three times three.
The air is full of whistlings bland;
What was that I heard
Out of the hazy land?
 Harp of the wind, or song of bird,
Or clapping of shepherd's hands,
Or vagrant booming of the air,
Voice of a meteor lost in day?
Such tidings of the starry sphere
Can this elastic air convey.

Young Ladies Dancing Around the Maypole Giclee Print
The caged linnet in the Spring
Hearkens for the choral glee,
When his fellows on the wing
Migrate from the Southern Sea;
When trellised grapes their flowers unmask,
And the new-born tendrils twine,
The old wine darkling in the cask
Feels the bloom on the living vine,
And bursts the hoops at hint of Spring:
And so, perchance, in Adam's race,
Of Eden's bower some dream-like trace
Survived the Flight, and swam the Flood,
And wakes the wish in youngest blood
To tread the forfeit Paradise,
And feed once more the exile's eyes;
And ever when the happy child
In May beholds the blooming wild,
And hears in heaven the bluebird sing,
'Onward,' he cries, 'your baskets bring,--
In the next field is air more mild,
And o'er yon hazy crest is Eden's balmier Spring.'

April cold with dropping rain
Willows and lilacs brings again,
The whistle of returning birds,
And trumpet-lowing of the herds.
The scarlet maple-keys betray
What potent blood hath modest May;
What fiery force the earth renews,
The wealth of forms, the flush of hues;
Joy shed in rosy waves abroad
Flows from the heart of Love, the Lord.

Young Ladies Dancing Around the Maypole Giclee Print

Where shall we keep the holiday,
And duly greet the entering May?
Too strait and low our cottage doors,
And all unmeet our carpet floors;
Nor spacious court, nor monarch's hall,
Suffice to hold the festival.
Up and away! where haughty woods
Front the liberated floods:
We will climb the broad-backed hills,
Hear the uproar of their joy;
We will mark the leaps and gleams
Of the new-delivered streams,
And the murmuring rivers of sap
Mount in the pipes of the trees,
Giddy with day, to the topmost spire,
Which for a spike of tender green
Bartered its powdery cap;
And the colours of joy in the bird,
And the love in its carol heard,
Frog and lizard in holiday coats,
And turtle brave in his golden spots;
We will hear the tiny roar
Of the insects evermore,
While cheerful cries of crag and plain
Reply to the thunder of river and main.

Wreaths for the May! for happy Spring
To-day shall all her dowry bring,
The love of kind, the joy, the grace,
Hymen of element and race,
Knowing well to celebrate
With song and hue and star and state,
With tender light and youthful cheer,
The spousals of the new-born year.
Lo Love's inundation poured
Over space and race abroad!

For thou, O Spring! canst renovate
All that high God did first create.
Be still his arm and architect,
Rebuild the ruin, mend defect;
Chemist to vamp old worlds with new,
Coat sea and sky with heavenlier blue,
New-tint the plumage of the birds,
And slough decay from grazing herds,
Sweep ruins from the scarped mountain,
Cleanse the torrent at the fountain,
Purge alpine air by towns defiled,
Bring to fair mother fairer child,
Not less renew the heart and brain,
Scatter the sloth, wash out the stain,
Make the aged eye sun-clear,
To parting soul bring grandeur near.
Under gentle types, my Spring
Masks the might of Nature's king,
An energy that searches thorough
From Chaos to the dawning morrow;
Into all our human plight,
The soul's pilgrimage and flight;
In city or in solitude,
Step by step, lifts bad to good,
Without halting, without rest,
Lifting Better up to Best;
Planting seeds of knowledge pure,
Through earth to ripen, through heaven endure.

Happy May Day!!

April 30, 2015

Ooh-boy...ever have one of those mornings where your body not so gently reminds you that you are (ahem) not quite as young as you think you are?  Welcome to my world!  It was so lovely after work yesterday that I was inspired to quickly change clothes and hang out in my garden for a couple of hours, weeding, weeding, and more weeding.  Darn crabgrass!  Observations to self:  no matter how pretty Russian sage looks, admire it in someone else's garden.  Don't invite it becomes a guest that totally outstays its welcome. 

So I have a little puzzle for you to solve this morning.  This poem by William Blake plus song lyrics by Billy Dean equals who I got to hang out with recently...any guesses?

The modest Rose puts forth a thorn,
The humble sheep a threat'ning horn:
While the Lily white shall in love delight,
Nor a thorn nor a threat stain her beauty bright.

I can remember when you fit in the palm of my hand
Felt so good in it, no bigger than a minute
How it amazes me, you're changing with every blink
Faster than a flower blooms they grow up all too soon

So let them be little 'cause they're only that way for a while
Give them hope, give them praise, give them love every day
Let them cry, let them giggle, let them sleep in the middle
Oh just let them be little

I've never felt so much in one little tender touch
I live for those kisses, prayers and your wishes
Now that you're teaching me things only a child can see
Every night while we're on our knees all I ask is please
Let them be little 'cause they're only that way for a while
Give them hope, give them praise, give them love every day
Let them cry, let them giggle, let them sleep in the middle
Oh just let them be little

So innocent, a precious soul, you turn around
It's time to let them go

So let them be little 'cause they're only that way for a while
Give them hope, give them praise, give them love every day
Let them cry, let them giggle, let them sleep in the middle
Oh just let them be little

 Oh just let them be little

May your day be filled with opportunities to share your love. 

April 29, 2015

Good morning!  Due to a wonderful evening out (still singing Dancing Queen in my head) today's post will be short.  I blush to admit that staying up past eleven on a work night doesn't work as well as it used to!  Yesterday's gorgeous weather inspired me to take a quick walk around the neighborhood adjacent to my office, and the trees were showing off:

Here's a great poem by Billy Collins to start our days off on a perfect note (well, a poem and a rather large cup of coffee for me!)


If ever there were a spring day so perfect,
so uplifted by a warm intermittent breeze

that it made you want to throw
open all the windows in the house

and unlatch the door to the canary's cage,
indeed, rip the little door from its jamb,

a day when the cool brick paths
and the garden bursting with peonies

seemed so etched in sunlight
that you felt like taking

a hammer to the glass paperweight
on the living room end table,

releasing the inhabitants
from their snow-covered cottage

so they could walk out,
holding hands and squinting

into this larger dome of blue and white,
well, today is just that kind of day.

April 28, 2015

Mamma Mia!

I'm so excited!  A friend has asked me to join her tonight at the Broadway production of Mamma Mia at our local arts center.  I've seen the movie but haven't had the opportunity to see the stage production, and I can't wait!  I love the ABBA songs and you already know how much I love the Greek isles.  In honor of tonight's excitement, here are a few reasons why I love Greece so much, with lines from Oscar Wilde's poem Greece:

We hoisted sail; the wind was blowing fair
For the blue lands that to the eastward lie.
The sea was sapphire coloured  
And all the flower-strewn hills of Arcady
every olive grove and creek
And a red sun upon the seas to ride

and the sky Burned like a heated opal through the air

I stood upon the soil of Greece at last!

The sea was sapphire coloured, and the sky
Burned like a heated opal through the air;
We hoisted sail; the wind was blowing fair
For the blue lands that to the eastward lie.
From the steep prow I marked with quickening eye
Zakynthos, every olive grove and creek,
Ithaca's cliff, Lycaon's snowy peak,
And all the flower-strewn hills of Arcady.
The flapping of the sail against the mast,
The ripple of the water on the side,
The ripple of girls' laughter at the stern,
The only sounds: -when 'gan the West to burn,
And a red sun upon the seas to ride,
I stood upon the soil of Greece at last!

Have a good day, and Opa!

April 27, 2015 seemed a thrill of pleasure

Happy Monday!  Even thought it is still a little chilly outside, my heart was warmed this weekend when three friends commented that they had missed my posts.  I honestly thought no one had probably noticed that I haven't posted in a while.  Sometimes it is hard to write and wonder if anyone reads my latest reflections or misses my poems when I take a break, so it was truly uplifting to hear that people really do enjoy what I have to say.  With all the blogs in the world, written on every conceivable subject, sometimes it is easy to think that you have nothing special to add to the universe that hasn't already been said.

The weekend flew by, as they usually do, in a mix of housework, laundry, shopping and craft work.  I have never defined myself as a "crafty" person (jack of all trades, master of none) but this last year has been a whirlwind of events that have required more crafting than I have ever done before, and has played a large role in why my posts have been few and far between lately.  I had intended to chronicle each event as it happened, but honestly, it just seemed to be stacked one thing upon another, so that I've never had a chance to catch my breath.

In the last year alone I helped organize a baby shower for my son and daughter-in-law, a bridal shower for my daughter, my daughter's bachelorette party, my daughter's wedding, followed shortly thereafter by Christmas crafting, and most recently  my mother's 90th birthday party.  All this on top of three long trips back to South Dakota for funerals, a trip to Indiana for a 100th anniversary church celebration and a (very!) long drive to New Orleans for a nephew's wedding, as well as some much needed home renovation projects.  And did I mention I work full time???  Whew...I get tired all over again just thinking about the past year, which I guess is my way of explaining why posts have been less frequent. 

My latest project had me floored.  Literally. In the same breath that I used to complain about the hideous blue shag carpet in my bedroom and hallway when we moved in to our home eleven years ago, I also commented that the kitchen/dining room floor Had.To.Go.  The parquet design was outdated, and extremely scratched and I couldn't wait to see it go. No, it really wasn't quite this shiny but I struggled to get a decent picture without the "glow".

Well, we all know how projects go...with four children to put through college remodeling often takes a back seat to more pressing priorities.  But once we put the new floor in the living room (replacing the awful green carpet) the contrast between the two floors was really vexing.  We finally were able to make my dream a reality, which meant, of course, that we once again had boxes of flooring in our living room...

as well as appliances spread all over...

but oh my, it was so worth all the inconvenience in the end!

I am a happy woman. I was a happy woman even with dreadful blue shag carpets and parquet linoleum, but the changes do make me smile when I walk in the door after work.  I feel like we have really put our "stamp" on our home and what's not to love about that?

Every time I stepped outside this weekend I was charmed by all the bird songs outside my door.  It gave me a small thrill of pleasure that Wordsworth mentions in his poem.  My wish for you today is that you also find a moment of pleasure and sweet mood, but hopefully they won't bring sad thoughts to mind like they did for the poet!

Lines Written in Early Spring

I heard a thousand blended notes,
While in a grove I sate reclined,
In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts
Bring sad thoughts to the mind.

To her fair works did Nature link
The human soul that through me ran;
And much it grieved my heart to think
What man has made of man.

Through primrose tufts, in that green bower,
The periwinkle trailed its wreaths;
And ’tis my faith that every flower
Enjoys the air it breathes.

The birds around me hopped and played,
Their thoughts I cannot measure:—
But the least motion which they made
It seemed a thrill of pleasure.

The budding twigs spread out their fan,
To catch the breezy air;
And I must think, do all I can,
That there was pleasure there.

If this belief from heaven be sent,
If such be Nature’s holy plan,
Have I not reason to lament
What man has made of man?

March 26, 2015

upside down...

It's nearing the end of March, and while I really do understand that even if the calendar says it is spring, living in Wisconsin means the possibility of snow hasn't left yet.  But it's a little discouraging to see things "upside down" this morning...

In my solarium I have blooming hibiscus that over-wintered far better than I expected:

and tulips at the end of their blooms:
and sprouting seeds...all hopeful signs of spring!!

Yet a peek outside my windows tells a far different story...

front yard...

and back yard...

Even a visiting baby hawk looks a little confused!

Hopefully we will soon be turning our faces toward the summer isle as poet Claude McKay envisions in his poem After the Winter.  I am sure at this point in the change of seasons we are all more than ready for wide mouthed orchids and ferns that never fade!

After the Winter 

Some day, when trees have shed their leaves
     And against the morning’s white
The shivering birds beneath the eaves
     Have sheltered for the night,
We’ll turn our faces southward, love,
     Toward the summer isle
Where bamboos spire the shafted grove
     And wide-mouthed orchids smile.

And we will seek the quiet hill
     Where towers the cotton tree,
And leaps the laughing crystal rill,
     And works the droning bee.
And we will build a cottage there
     Beside an open glade,
With black-ribbed blue-bells blowing near,
     And ferns that never fade.