June 30, 2015

“Nature is a part of our humanity, and without some awareness and experience of that divine mystery man ceases to be man.”
~~Henry Beston, The Outermost House

When my husband and I visited Cape Cod two years ago I was introduced to an truly wonderful book by American writer/naturalist Henry Beston.  The Outermost House chronicles his time on the wild and windswept shores of Cape Cod in the 1920s.  While of course evocative of Thoreau's Walden Pond, I enjoyed this book more--the writing is warmer, somehow more elemental and poetic.  The following quotes from this book seem so aligned with my experiences in Door County...

It is only when we are aware of the earth and of the earth as poetry that we truly live.”

"Touch the earth, love the earth, honor the earth, her plains, her valleys, her seas.  Rest your soul in her solitary places."

For the gifts of life are the earth’s and they are given to all, and they are the songs of birds at daybreak, Orion and the Bear, and the dawn seen over the ocean from the beach. 

“We lose a great deal, I think, when we lose this sense and feeling for the sun. When all has been said, the adventure of the sun is the great natural drama by which we live, and not to have joy in it and awe of it, not to share in it, is to close a dull door on natures's sustaining and poetic spirit.”

“Our civilization has fallen out of touch with night. With lights, we drive the holiness and beauty of night back to the forests and the sea; the little villages, the crossroads even, will have none of it. Are modern folk, perhaps, afraid of night? Do they fear that vast serenity, the mystery of infinite space, the austerity of stars?”

“The world to-day is sick to its thin blood for lack of elemental things, for fire before the hands, for water welling from the earth, for air, for the dear earth itself underfoot. In my world of beach and dunes these elemental presences lived and had their being, and under their arch there moved an incomparable pageant of nature and the year.”

Have a wonderful day, my friends!

June 29, 2015

Good morning!  A photo heavy post today, as I'm still a bit tired from the weekend.  Perfect weather--beautiful views--and yummy cherry pie.  What more could a girl ask for?!  I'm sharing William Stafford's poem "How to Regain Your Soul" today--I read it last week and thought it would be perfect after a visit to Door County.  I hope you enjoy it!

Come down Canyon Creek trail on a summer afternoon
that one place where the valley floor opens out. You will see
the white butterflies. Because of the way shadows
come off those vertical rocks in the west, there are
shafts of sunlight hitting the river and a deep
long purple gorge straight ahead. Put down your pack.

Above, air sighs the pines. It was this way
when Rome was clanging, when Troy was being built,
when campfires lighted caves. The white butterflies dance
by the thousands in the still sunshine. Suddenly, anything
could happen to you. Your soul pulls toward the canyon
and then shines back through the white wings to be you again.

June 24, 2015

not forgotten...

Some special dates are wonderful to recall...reliving your children's birthdays, your anniversary, and perhaps the date of your first kiss can bring back such lovely memories.  A few bad-news days I'd rather not remember but some of them have a sneaky way of sticking in my mind, no matter how hard I try.  One of those days is Father's Day, now a poignant reminder of how much I miss my dad, and also a sad reminder that it was on that special day that he fell ill.  He never saw my last Father's Day card--by the time my sister stopped by to see him and deliver our cards, he was sleeping, having mentioned earlier in the day he wasn't feeling well.  A short while later came the phone call to my mother--he was being transported from the nursing home to the hospital with a critically high fever.  So I worried and paced for a few hours until the dreaded evening call came--"the doctor says family should come quickly".  Within an hour we had assembled clothes, packed the car and were headed home.  All of this came a week after my son's wedding--truly the highs and lows of life were packed so close together that year.  And now here it is five years later--we celebrated my daughter's birthday and my son and daughter-in-law's anniversary (same date!), and Dad, as always, is never far from my mind.

So when I discovered this beautiful poem earlier this week, "Not Forgotten", it seemed the perfect choice for remembering not my father's final illness, but his legacy of love and laughter.  As my son said just the other day, "Grandpa's eyes always twinkled as he waited for you to get the joke he just made..."  

I received my first bike for Christmas--a lovely Schwinn with a basket, fondly named Queen Elizabeth by me (even then I had a slight obsession with the royal family.)  And I rode that bike all over town for years, reluctantly trading up for a new one wwhen I headed off to college.  It was the vehicle by which I had all sorts of adventures with my friends, and also the vehicle by which "Santa" revealed his true identity.  The bicycle, parked under the Christmas tree, had a handwritten note from Santa letting me know how proud he was of me and that he knew I would be responsible with it.  Funny thing, though...Santa's handwriting looked just like my Dad's!  That note is now nestled every year into my Christmas tree, a lovely reminder of a very special gift and a very special father.

But before I could set off on adventures, I had to learn how to ride it.  I impatiently waited for spring (unlike my siblings, who evidently mastered the whole riding in snow thing!)...

Spring finally arrived and my dad took me to the nearby empty lot to practice riding.  I eventually mastered the bike and proudly pedaled around and around the area, so Dad left me to my fun.  Well, that worked until I was ready to stop, and realized I had no idea how to stop riding--the brake lesson had been overlooked.  Dad eventually returned to see how I was doing, and found me circling round and round the lot while crying because I was tired and afraid to just tip over and stop. Gee, what I wimp I was!  This poem beautifully captures that special day when my father gave me the courage to spread my wings and fly, and also the wisdom to know when to stop. 

Not Forgotten

by Sheila Packa

I learned to ride
the two wheel bicycle
with my father.
He oiled the chain
clothes-pinned playing cards
to the spokes, put on the basket
to carry my lunch.
By his side, I learned balance
and took on speed
centered behind the wide
handlebars, my hands
on the white grips
my feet pedaling.
One moment he was
holding me up
and the next moment
although I didn't know it
he had let go.
When I wobbled, suddenly
afraid, he yelled keep going—
keep going!
Beneath the trees in the driveway
the distance increasing between us
I eventually rode until he was out of sight.
I counted on him.

That he could hold me was a given
that he could release me was a gift. 

“Not Forgotten“ from Cloud Birds (Wildwood River Press, 2011) © Sheila Packa. Reprinted by permission of the poet. 

June 18, 2015

Just living is not enough...one must have sunshine, freedom and a little flower...
~Hans Christian Anderson 

Glimpses from the garden yesterday...

Never lose an opportunity for seeing anything that is beautiful;
For beauty is God’s handwriting — a wayside sacrament.
Welcome it in every fair face, in every fair sky, in every fair flower,
And thank God for it as a cup of His blessing.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

 What grows in the garden, so lovely and rare?
Roses and Dahlias and people grow there.
~A Gardener's Diary

 Flowers always make people better, happier and more helpful--
they are sunshine, food and medicine for the soul.
~Luther Burbank

 The only Commandment I ever obeyed..."Consider the lilies."

~Emily Dickinson 

There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.
~Anais Nin

Love planted a rose, and the world turned sweet.
~Katharine Lee Bates

This wild honeysuckle plant grows on a trellis right under my bedroom window.  The fragrance that wafts in on the night air is indescribably wonderful!

The Wild Honeysuckle 

Philip Freneau

Fair flower, that dost so comely grow, 
Hid in this silent, dull retreat, 
Untouched thy honied blossoms blow, 
Unseen thy little branches greet: 
  No roving foot shall crush thee here, 
  No busy hand provoke a tear. 
By Nature’s self in white arrayed, 
She bade thee shun the vulgar eye, 
And planted here the guardian shade, 
And sent soft waters murmuring by; 
  Thus quietly thy summer goes, 
  Thy days declining to repose. 
Smit with those charms, that must decay, 
I grieve to see your future doom; 
They died—nor were those flowers more gay, 
The flowers that did in Eden bloom; 
  Unpitying frosts and Autumn’s power 
  Shall leave no vestige of this flower. 
From morning suns and evening dews 
At first thy little being came; 
If nothing once, you nothing lose, 
For when you die you are the same; 
  The space between is but an hour, 
  The frail duration of flower.
Have a lovely Thursday! 

June 16, 2015

"Then followed that beautiful season... Summer....
Filled was the air with a dreamy and magical light; and the landscape
Lay as if new created in all the freshness of childhood."
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 

Isn't that a pretty view?  We "discovered" a new state park last weekend, and to our delight across the water was our beautiful state capitol, cloaked in a fine mist.  I imagine the view is spectacular on sunny days, but I enjoyed the mysterious shrouded look as well.  And we were a little embarrassed to discover  this jewel of a park only minutes from our home!  I'll be back to take more pictures on a different day--on Saturday we were too busy celebrating my daughter's birthday to do much exploring.

My very thoughtful son-in-law threw my daughter a surprise birthday party close to our home so that her high school friends could join in the fun.  Two of her brothers and their girlfriends were also able to join us, and in spite of rather dreary weather we all enjoyed chatting and eating the delicious dishes everyone had prepared.

The birthday girl and two of her brothers

Twenty four years ago we hung the "It's a Girl" sign on this cross-stitched door to celebrate our daughter's birth, and today we're still celebrating!

Birthday girl and her husband, plus a really delicious cake!

Family fun continued on Sunday, with a visit from our oldest son and his family.  We were tickled to watch Lily while he and his wife ran errands, and let me tell you--you need to be on your toes with Miss Lily now!  She's running everywhere, and quite the curious little girl.  Go, go, go Lily!  Grandpa introduced her to our neighborhood:

but the rest of the afternoon was spent chasing her!  She was eager to make friends with Willow, although I'm not sure Willow felt the same way...

And we finished our lovely weekend with a Sunday dinner that brought back memories of my grandmother's kitchen after church...fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, coleslaw, and, of course, sweet iced tea.  A special thank you to my mother for the pretty white tablecloth!  Recent rains have wiped out the peonies, but I did manage to find a few pink roses to grace the table.

Here's a sweet poem by Jayne Ferrer about her recollections of Sunday dinnersSweet tea, attention and lots of hugs...may all our days be filled with the joy of these simple things!
Thank you, God, for days like these—
when lifelong memories take root
in simple scenes.
There’s Grandmother in the rocking chair,
my sleepy toddler on her knee . . .
a quartet of dads stretched across the porch
trading sports tales and stock market stories . . .
cousins—size small, medium, and large—
bounding through the house
and across the lawn . . .
meanwhile, we women flit
from one room to the next,
bequeathing those things that are vital:
second helpings, sweet tea, attention,
and lots of hugs.
Let my child know many of these moments, Lord.
Let her delight in the joy of spontaneous laughter,
rejoice in the comfort of sorrows shared,
wallow in the knowledge that she is loved
just because it’s her birthright.

June 12, 2015

Isn't she lovely, isn't she wonderful....

Special day...extra special memories!  Happy birthday to my amazing daughter!

Isn't she lovely
Isn't she wonderful
Isn't she precious
Less than one minute old
I never thought through love we'd be
Making one as lovely as she
But isn't she lovely made from love

Isn't she pretty
Truly the angel's best
Boy, I'm so happy
We have been heaven blessed
I can't believe what God has done
Through us he's given life to one
But isn't she lovely made from love
( "Isn't She Lovely", lyrics by Stevie Wonder)

I love lilacs and avocados
Ukuleles and fireworks
And Woody Allen and walking in the snow
But you've got to know that

You're the love of my life
You are the love of my life
You are the love of my life
You are the love of my life
From the moment I first saw you
The second that you were born
I knew that you were the love of my life
Quite simply the love of my life
("You are the Love of My Life, lyrics by Carly Simon--
the perfect song after last week's adventure!)

In my daughter's eyes I am a hero
I am strong and wise and I know no fear
But the truth is plain to see
She was sent to rescue me
I see who I wanna be
In my daughter's eyes 
You are so beautiful to me
You are so beautiful to me
Can't you see
Your everything I hoped for
Your everything I need
You are so beautiful to me

Such joy and happiness you bring
Such joy and happiness you bring
Like a dream
A guiding light that shines in the night
Heavens gift to me
You are so beautiful to me
("You Are So Beautiful", lyrics by Joe Cocker)

In my daughter's eyes everyone is equal
Darkness turns to light and the
world is at peace
This miracle God gave to me gives me
strength when I am weak
I find reason to believe
In my daughter's eyes

And when she wraps her hand
around my finger
Oh it puts a smile in my heart
Everything becomes a little clearer
I realize what life is all about


It's only for a moment you are mine to hold
The plans that heaven has for you
Will all too soon unfold
So many different prayers I'll pray
For all that you might do
But most of all I'll want to know
You're walking in the truth
And If I never told you
I want you to know
As I watch you grow

I pray that God would fill your heart with dreams
And that faith gives you the courage
To dare to do great things
I'm here for you whatever this life brings
So let my love give you roots
And help you find your wings 


May passion be the wind
That leads you through your days
And may conviction keep you strong
Guide you on your way
May there be many moments
That make your life so sweet
Oh, but more than memories


It's not living if you don't reach for the sky
I'll have tears as you take off
But I'll cheer as you fly

I hope you never lose your sense of wonder,
You get your fill to eat but always keep that hunger,
May you never take one single breath for granted,
GOD forbid love ever leave you empty handed,
I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean,
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens,
Promise me that you'll give faith a fighting chance,
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance.

I hope you dance....I hope you dance.

Happy birthday to a daughter who is so loved by her family, and adds so much joy to our life and music to our hearts.You are strong and brave and wiser than you know, to quote Christopher Robin.  I admire and respect the way you juggle your full time job helping homeless and runaway teens with your master's study in criminal justice, on top of adjusting to your first year of marriage.  And you still find time to be there for your friends, to laugh with your family, and to love your husband. 

You are, quite simply, amazing.

"A Mother's Prayer"
I pray you'll be my eyes
And watch her where she goes
And help her to be wise
Help me to let go

Every mother's prayer
Every child knows
Lead her to a place
Guide her with your grace
To a place where she'll be safe

I pray she finds your light
And holds it in her heart
As darkness falls each night
Remind her where you are

Every mother's prayer
Every child knows
Need to find a place
Guide her to a place
Give her faith so she'll be safe

Lead her to a place
Guide her with your grace
To a place where she'll be safe 

June 11, 2015


Warning...longer than usual blog today, but hopefully the ending is worth the wait!!

After my conference ended in Providence, my husband joined me for a weekend of fun that included our first visit to Martha's Vineyard.  Although there are high speed ferries near Providence, we opted to rent a car and enjoy the drive over to Cape Cod, where we left the car and took a steamship to the island.  It was such a pretty drive, and the forty-five minute ferry ride was smooth as silk.

 Sailboat near the ferry

  Coming in to harbor at Vineyard Haven

Since it was our first visit, and we didn't have our own transportation, we opted for a three hour bus tour of the island, and our tour guide Chad didn't disappoint.  We met two lovely ladies from Australia on their first visit to the U.S. and had a lovely time.  The only disappointing part of any tour is that your time is not your own, and so many things that I would have loved to capture with my camera were just a blur outside the bus window.  But we did get a nice history of the island and a small feel for the island culture and all in all, it was a lovely day...with a big surprise finale!

Would you like to join me for the tour?  First off, it's movie time!  What famous movie was filmed here in the 70's?  Here's a little hint:  Duuun dun duuun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun BOM BOM dun dun dun dun dun dun doo dedoo doo dedoo dede doo dede doo dededoo.  And with the theme song of Jaws now firmly in your mind, here are a few places used on set:

 Beach with that terrifying opening scene of the girl being dragged under by the shark...nightmare inducing!

There are six villages on the island, and we traveled through each of them on the tour.  First up, Oak Bluffs with its iconic "gingerbread" cottages.  These cottages were built to replace tents during Methodist revival meetings In the nineteenth century Methodists gathered each summer for religious "camp meetings" held under large tents and in the open air. As families returned year after year, tents pitched on the ground gave way to tents pitched on wooden platforms and eventually to small wooden cottages. The cottages grew more elaborate over time, and are now utterly charming (and expensive!)


I wish we would have had more time to get off the bus and really explore, but we did get to roam a little near the national landmark of the Gay Head red clay cliffs near Aquinnah, home of the Wampanoag Indians.  We discovered the historic 1854 lighthouse had just been moved back 135 feet the week before, due to fears of erosion on the cliff.  Before its move, which cost two million dollars, it was only 46 feet from the cliff. 

is home to the Wampanoag Native American Tribe
is home to the Wampanoag Native American Tribe
is home to the Wampanoag Native American Tribe
is home to the Wampanoag Native American Tribe
is home to the Wampanoag Native American Tribe
The views were beautiful, looking towards the cliffs...

I wish I had better luck in capturing the lovely flowers--the rhododendron bushes were huge and little wild roses were blooming everywhere--they only bloom for a month so we were lucky to see them at all, but pictures taken inside a moving bus tend to be a bit blurry...

After our bus tour we had an hour to kill before the next ferry back to Cape Cod, so we happily wandered around Vineyard Haven, where English settlement of the area dates back to the mid 1600s. Little reminders of its seafaring history are everywhere:

And of course, charming little shops dot the main street, giving tourists a chance to spend some more money before heading home!  I enjoyed the floral display in front of one of the shops, as pansies are one of my mother's favorite flowers. 

I also ducked into this shop to browse...and ended up with a little story to tell!

In the shop, I discovered a display of children's books, written by Carly Simon.  Carly has always been one of my very favorite artists--I love her spunky attitude, her ferocious love for her children and family, and, of course, her beautiful songs.  I play one of her albums almost every night while cooking dinner, and belt out You're So Vain or Anticipation while chopping vegetables or stirring the pot.  I even used You are the Love of my Life on my son's wedding video that I made...every time I hear "from the moment I first met you, the second that you were born" I tear up!

So of course I had to buy her book, Midnight Farm, for my little Lily, and stood in line to purchase it.  The woman ahead of me was talking something over with the sales manager, so as I waited I chatted with the woman behind me who was also holding one of the books.  We agreed we both loved Carly Simon and were delighted to have this small souvenir to take home with us. 

And then...as the woman ahead of me turned towards us we realized she was...CARLY SIMON.  In person.  Right next to me.  My knees buckled.  Yes, they did.  She was in the store (which turned out to be her store--check the name of it!) to personally sign more of the books, so guess who now has an autographed book of Midnight Farm?  I think Lily will have to read it at my place...and wear white gloves when she touches it!!

And delightfully, she was as charming and gracious as I always imagined she was.  I didn't ask for a picture as I absolutely didn't want to be one of those fans who intrude on her space, and I was thrilled enough with her autograph.  But my husband did sneak a picture of her with the manager from the doorway...

So thank you for hanging out on Martha's Vineyard with me all the way to the end...it was quite an exciting adventure for me!  I'll leave you with one of Carly's songs, Never Been Gone, that she wrote about the island...

The wind is coming up strong and fast
And the moon is smiling on me
Miles from nowhere so small at last
In between the sky and the sea
I'm bound for the island
The tide is with me
I think I can make it by dawn
It's night on the ocean
I'm going home
And it feels like I've never
I've never been gone
Seagulls cry and the hills are green
And my friends are waiting for me
Great ambition is all a dream
Let me drown my pride in the sea -
I'm bound for the island
The tide is with me
I think I can make it by dawn
It's night on the ocean
I'm going home
And it feels like I've never
I've never been gone
Oh it feels like I've never
I've never been gone