One Foot

One Foot

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Giving Thanks For Gardens

        For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; …..Wherefore I saw that there is nothing better, than that a man should rejoice in his works; for that is his portion: for who shall bring him back to see what shall be after him?   Ecclesiastes 3

                I have always remembered this scripture as it seems to sum up the circle of life as we live and die on this earth.  Of course I have only used the small section I needed for this writing; a section that directly refers to my life these last few months.

Johnson grass invasion

  During the past year, I have rebuilt my farm house that was lost four years ago to fire and this provided a shelter while my sister and I restored our mother’s garden.  We spent weeks fighting the invasives that had infiltrated the entire area – garden beds, pathways and raised beds were filled with Johnson grass and tree seedlings.  With spade and reinforced garden gloves we dug the beds, removed the roots and prepared for planting anew and restoring the old.  As days changed to weeks and Johnson grass returned, I grimaced and told myself that everything has it’s season, but the season was ending for trash grass.

End of first summer
    The summer has passed quickly, and the digging has left little time for writing and enjoying.  We have continued to fight new sprouts while we laughed and talked the hours away, digging and digging.  As fall has closed in, we recognized we might not complete all the beds, but wisely we didn’t close the season on digging.  As my sister took her leave to visit her children this week, we took a few photos and proudly stood side by side, surveying our accomplishments.  We have cleared and prepared and planted, and it felt really good to know that we have given it a good beginning on growth before winter sets in.

Awaiting spring
     The scripture ending, “there is nothing better, than that a man should rejoice in his works; for that is his portion” may be the secret to why we dedicated gardeners endure through such a difficult, seemingly impossible task as my sister and I have gone through summer.  It isn’t just pride in our work that drives us.  We could get that at the gym I suppose.  It is also that we are tending the growth that God provides on this earth.  It is a tending that was fulfilling to our mother, and now to us.  Gardens, after all, are the creative replacement of plants that God gave us, only more widely distributed.  We are just helping him out a little for ease of viewing. 
Me and Sis

          I will continue to putter in our garden this winter, and hopefully have more time to write. As we gather around our Thanksgiving table, though, I plan to mention that we are so very grateful for our sister-time, our health to apply to our garden, and the beautiful garden we know will be there come spring.    

Friday, August 5, 2016

Reading Children's Classics as an Adult

                I attended a Kansas rural school in the era just before such schools were closed and consolidated with larger districts.   Out of that education was born a girl who learned to love books and learned that the way into and upward in the world was through books and education.

              Even from a child’s eyes, I could see resources were limited in our classroom.  We had dictionaries and encyclopedias in the bookcase.  We had textbooks for all grades, but I don’t remember having any books or magazines to go along with the textbooks.
                Our library was a library trunk that the teacher checked out from the larger library system in the county seat, and although I didn’t need an incentive to read, there was a reading achievement reward for reading a certain number of books during the year.  No problem. I read them all, regardless of level.  I’m sure I enjoyed each one.
Then, a few years ago, after making friends with my neighbor, a children’s’ librarian, I was introduced to the “Recommended Children’s Book List” made up of children’s literature that is now considered “classic.” How disappointed I was to find I hadn’t read the great majority of those books.  And so, last year I began checking out children’s books for me.  I discovered a world of imagination that I am so sorry I missed as a child; and a world of writing skill that I wish I’d found earlier.
I have been consistently impressed with the sophistication of language in these books.  It is both an example of language used in the authors’ time, as well as a model of use for large and varied words.  Sometimes we try to control these factors, supposing they contribute to high grade level readability, but given rich content, kids willingly tackle them.  A good example is the series of Harry Potter books that are quite high in readability, but has an interest level that hooks even very young children.  
As an added bonus, nearly every book I’ve read has a great story.  Just this week I found a collection of classics in audio-book form.  “Anne of Green Gables” is in the car today and a wonderful read – reminding me of all the books Miss Holte, our rural school teacher, read to us right after the noon recess and just before mathematics.  
For someone who loves to read, as I do, there are two lists that merit regular attention.  One is the list of books that all students that are going to college should be reading or have read.  The second is the list of the books that make up children’s classic literature.  
I may not ever write a great American novel, but if I don’t, you can bet I have been reading one.  Chances are it was written for children!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Working the Scrap Basket

I am an avid quilter and produce many small projects a year.  I love to read and the books read and unread line up across the wall.  I always seem to have something to do and a place to go, but when a cold winter day comes along, my body senses that this is a time to take a break.  Perhaps it is a left over genetic trait related to hibernation, for I yearn for a task that will rest my body and brain and relieve me of self-imposed demands.
           It is on such a winter day that I do what generations of farm women have done  – they “work the scrap basket.”  Doesn’t every woman have a scrap basket?  This is the disorganized heap of fabric created from sewing projects or disassembly of donated clothing with the idea that “someday” one will organize it all and make an heirloom quilt or a rag rug. 
            I imagine I am typical of others who let that scrap basket get to near overwhelming size, but this winter I have tackled it for the third time in my sewing history.  One year I had worked with batiks for gift quilts and the remaining miscellaneous scraps were too valuable to toss.  That pile became a lovely square-in-a-square quilt.  Another year I had basic cottons that became a tessellated pineapple quilt. This year, I am attempting a strip quilt and am determined that I will keep making pieces for that quilt until the scrap basket is empty.  I am beginning to wonder if that will be in my lifetime, and I am certain that the quilt size will exceed king-size.
               Why would a modern woman, perfectly capable of buying fabric endlessly, mess with scraps of fabric?  The answer for me is that working the scrap basket calms me.  There is something pleasing and quiet about the near mindless task of touching the fabric, fitting it into a simple pattern, and seeing scrappy beauty come about.   I can play with the pieces for hours.
          I might also admit that when I play with my scraps, I don’t watch television.  I might have some quiet music on the stereo, but I play without the environment pounding on me.  It is similar to taking a good long walk in the woods – you walk for a while; you think, you sing, and before you know it, you’ve come up with something creative.  So it is with my scraps.  My mind is seemingly grateful that there are no quilting rules to follow.  There are no color specifications.  The pattern is simply mindless once selected.  And actually, I don’t even care if there is a “finished” quilt resulting. 
           I am convinced we ought to work a lot more scraps in our lives than we do.  I know others who find their scraps in the garden.  Others find their scraps in puzzles, car repair, painting, fishing, etc.  For a few hours, we enjoy simplicity, not complexity. 
          My grandmothers worked their scraps because they lived on isolated farms, but now Grandma is more apt to be at the senior center playing bridge (or pool).  Whatever the lifestyle, we need a few quiet and peaceful moments in a day.  My mind is one that needs to do a little resting and healing and benefits from those moments.
           On days when I don’t feel like working the scrap basket, there is always the possibility of writing a little rambling piece like this.  I can always end it with…..”now, where was I going with this?” 
           Just like the process of sewing those scraps together into a whole, one just never knows.  It’s the process that brings peace.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Gifting is an Act of Grace

          I enjoy pets and find personable cats to be good company in my home.  The very habit of rising in the morning to their pleas for food, resting beside them in a favorite chair, or talking with them as we work are all within a contented and ordinary day.
          That is not to say that my cats have no annoying habits.  My Siamese, although sweet in disposition, annoys me no end by nagging for food.  I always feed a small bowl of wet food in the morning and her dry food bowl always has a portion in it.  But she apparently perceives this as a half empty bowl, which is unacceptable to her.  So she meows incessantly, rubs my legs repeatedly, nibbles my ankles and pleads.  Of course this puts cat hair all over my lower half clothing and irritates me so I fill her bowl to stop it.  I am compliant for sure.
          I’ve learned that this behavior has nothing to do with hunger.  It has to do with the act of giving to her and this I believe is my lesson this season. Gifting is not an obligation to be fulfilled.  It is an act of grace.
          While we are taught to believe that it is better to give than receive, there is a  message delivered with receiving.  Someone thought of you, loved you enough to take the time to find some small token or gift and gave it to you.  Or perhaps a person did something thoughtful for you.  This too is a gift.  And when this happens, you feel as if you belong to them; you connect with them in this huge world. When you are not thought of in some small way, you feel disconnected and at least slightly alienated.
          The value of the exchange falls equally to the giver and receiver, for both must learn to know and care for each other. You are blessed both as a giver AND a receiver.
           Too often we stretch too far for the big gifts in life, when the small treasure would do well.  It is far too easy, even with the people we live with, not to voice recognition of the acts we appreciate or fail to validate responses.  Gosh, if we could only purr it would be easier.  Love, and the act of giving and receiving it, is given to us by the grace of God, and without it we waste away, or “like flowers, whither...”
          This year I will try to do a better job of validating my relationships and showing my love of others.  The result would be better relationships for sure, and lead to a deeper appreciation of those I love.  Loving one another is our earthly challenge.  God surely knew his people would grow only through relationships.
          This morning as my cat and I went through our routine, I grimaced as she rubbed her face against my ankles.  Just as an experiment, I reached into the bag and laid a single cat food nugget in front of her.  She ate it daintily and looked up to me with loving eyes.  I knelt to give her a good rub and her purr rumbled toward me.  “Thanks for the lesson,” I thought, and reached for the fur grabber.