all we were born to do

There are hearts to be found in quiet places… Here are a few I’ve photographed recently.

A lilac heart.

 

A sweet woodruff heart.

 

Bleeding hearts.

 

A yarrow heart.

 

I think passing love around
Is all we were born to do.

~Michael McDonald

 

May your day be touched by love.

a thimble of dreams

One of my favorite Instagram accounts is @onebouquetperday. Its administrator, Juliane Solvång, is a Berlin native who resides in Sweden. Her gallery is devoted entirely to wildflowers and vintage dresses. Each day of the growing season, Juliane wanders garden, woodland and field to pick a sweet bouquet. Her photographs focus on the graceful blooms she holds, with glimpses of her charming vintage clothing in the background.

On May 10th, I quite literally gasped aloud when I came across Juliane’s bouquet of the day. It was a tiny thimble filled with delicate flowers, a bouquet to make Thumbelina clap her hands! Suddenly, I knew just what I was going to do. I pulled on my shoes, scooped up my garden shears and headed out to the garden. There, I picked a blossom of “Jack Frost” brunnera, a tiny stem of sweet woodruff, two stems of ‘Basket of Gold’ sweet alyssum, and a pink blossom from the plant in our rock garden whose name I’m ashamed to confess I’ve forgotten.

Coming back inside, I selected the largest of my great-grandmother’s silver thimbles, filled it with a few drops of water, and arranged my tiny bouquet. I was so smitten with the result that I decided to write this post and share a few photos.

As it often happens in families, my mother had next to nothing of her mother’s and grandmother’s special keepsakes. In fact, all she had of my great-grandmother’s was a sterling silver-over-copper hinged walnut, inside of which were two small silver thimbles. Here is the larger of the two, with the tiny bouquet I picked.

The other thimble is so petite that I can only fit it on the very tip of my little finger. It’s my favorite, decorated with three plump cherubs holding garlands of flowers.

To take these photos, I placed this little collection on a hand-tatted lace doily my mother had been working on.

The silver walnut was part of a chatelaine my great-grandmother once wore. Chatelaines were hugely popular from the 1860’s through the end of the 19th century. (I’ve seen a photo of Mary Todd Lincoln wearing one.) A chatelaine (pronounced SHAT-uh-lenn) is a set of short, decorative chains worn on a belt. Suspended from the chains might be a thimble, a pair of scissors, a tiny notebook, a watch. I used to think chatelaines were worn by embroiderers only, but an article I read online recently informed me that chatelaines were worn by nurses, painters, golfers, even by women attending a ball. The items that dangled from chatelaines were remarkably diverse. The word chatelaine is French and refers to a woman who owns or controls a large estate. (“La chatelaine” probably wore the keys to her grand château on a chain hooked over her belt!)

I like to think my great-grandmother wore her silver walnut suspended from an elegant chatelaine that also was fitted with a pair of embroidery scissors, a tiny needle case, perhaps a vinaigrette filled with a tincture of lavender. I’m grateful my mother was able to pass this treasure down to me.

My thimble bouquet still sits on the sill, reminding me of my heritage and days gone by. I wonder what my great-grandmother might have made with the help of her trusty thimbles. I imagine her sweeping into the parlor in a rustle of long skirts, her silver chatelaine jingling in dulcet tones. Pleasant thoughts, these –a thimble of dreams, really…  I discover again and again the truth that, often, the very smallest of things can mean the most.

the music of her laughter

Carol…. Her name means song. 

Carol was my brilliant, beautiful, and only sister. And I lost her, ten years ago tomorrow…. Sometimes, when the music of her laughter echoes back to me, sunbeams break through clouds.

In memory of my beloved Carol, whose heart I’ll cherish forever, these words today:

There is a music for lonely hearts nearly always.
If the music dies down there is a silence
Almost the same as the movement of music.
To know silence perfectly is to know music.

~Carl Sandburg, (1878 – 1967)

Spring

Twinkling like the morning star along a quiet trail near our home, a bloodroot unfurls delicate petals…

As I was scrolling through my photo archives this morning, this image called to mind a simple line of poetry I whisper to myself each year. I’m posting it here to celebrate the joyous arrival of the vernal equinox. xo

Nothing is so beautiful as Spring —

~Gerard Manley Hopkins, (1844 – 1889)

“You are here!”

While revisiting a series of photos I snapped after an ice storm a few winters ago, I noticed this one, a close-up of a clump of sweet autumn clematis vines, frozen solid:

The seed head in the photo’s center caught my eye today. For some reason, it reminded me of those red stars you search for when you’re lost in some labyrinthine space and need to find your whereabouts on a locator map.

“You are here!” says the locating star.

What do you suppose would happen if, theoretically, you had to navigate your way through the labyrinth of vines in this photo? What a convoluted mess you’d face. To extract yourself from a tangle like this, how could you know which path to try first? With too many options and no one, clear road, you might freeze in your tracks, just like this seed head.

Life is like that. You wend along your merry way when, suddenly, you enter territory where no clear path is evident. You stop. You blink. You rub your eyes. You look around. Which way should you go?

You freeze.

You’re lost.

In my life, I’ve felt lost more times than I care to enumerate. I’ve felt lost in the company of those I clearly didn’t belong with, lost on the career path as I moved from job to job. Before I was ready to handle the deaths of those dearest to my heart, I found myself lost and alone in an endless maze of grief.

When it comes to feeling lost, there are hundreds of scenarios possible. Live a little while and you’ll plow straight into one or two, or several.

Today while I turned over in my mind the hypothetical plight of a traveler frozen in a labyrinth, the words of the poet, Galway Kinnell, came to mind:

the first step . . .
shall be
to lose the way. 

And there it is:

Getting lost is bound to happen because it’s part of the journey. The discomfort of feeling frozen in a place you don’t want to be is what compels you to make your next move.

I have no special wisdom to share about how to get through The Labyrinth of Feeling Lost. But I know this for certain: feeling lost is most assuredly not the end of the journey; it’s merely a part of the process of moving forward into your life.

So.

If you’re feeling lost right now, go ahead, take a step. If you’re not on the right path, your innermost heart will know, and you can try again.

Remain true to your deepest self and persevere. Somehow, some way, you’ll get through this. Later on, somewhere down the road, you’ll glance back at the uneven ground you’ve covered and realize you’ve grown along the way.

As you travel, remember this: no matter how thick the tangle or unclear the path, there’s a way to get through, and you’ll find it.

“You are here!” says the locating star.

Don’t freeze up now. Go ahead, take a step.

Wishing you strength for the journey, and a light for your path.

xo

 

a place of repose and inexhaustible beauty

On a brisk afternoon last November, I drove to the post office to mail a package. Walking back to my car, I spied a sycamore leaf on the sidewalk. Scooping it up, I examined its interesting form and delicate coloration. The leaf was something most passersby would likely overlook. To me, it was a botanical specimen, its unique shape rendered all the more interesting in juxtaposition to the angular stretch of sidewalk on which it rested. I ferried my little treasure home, traced its outline on paper, cut out the shape, and added it to my growing collection of leaf templates.

I began collecting leaf samples in the autumn of 2014, reasoning that someday I would enjoy having the outlines of real leaves to use in some future sewing or art project. My interest in leaf shapes over the past few years has made me develop a true reverence for them. The more closely I study the intricacies of nature, the more I’m enthralled. I think this has always been true of me. Nature whispers my name and bids me draw close, and closer still…

Because I wanted to preserve late autumn loveliness, I decided to design hand-beaded leaf ornaments as Christmas gifts for our children. Happy with the concept, I wandered around our property, plucking leaf-jewels from the grass, considering which kind of leaf would make the most fitting gift for each child.

A stalwart symbol of fortitude, a white oak leaf was my immediate choice for our youngest daughter, who moved far from home last August. The white oak is not only the state tree of Illinois, it’s also a reminder of our home, which nestles on a hillside heavily populated with oaks of various kind.

A red serviceberry leaf was my choice for our son and his wife. Like the white oak, the serviceberry is native to Illinois. When our future daughter-in-law first visited us in April of 2011, she and our son posed for a photo beneath the white-blossomed boughs of our serviceberry, an airy tree that forms a lacy canopy over our garden arbor bench.

I selected a yellow river birch leaf for our oldest daughter. While the river birch isn’t native to Illinois, it’s certainly a familiar icon of home. When our family moved to this house, we planted a river birch that has become the focal point of our front yard. Also, although many miles and state lines divide us, we and our oldest daughter both live beside the Mississippi. Because a deep flowing river connects her to us, a river birch leaf seemed just the right choice.

These hand-beaded leaves, traced from actual leaves gathered from around our property, were my favorite Christmas offerings to our far-flung children. I hope these small tokens of love will remind them of our strong family roots and encourage them to be attentive to nature’s loveliness…

*****

My family and I redesigned our Christmas tree this year. We left in boxes the baubles of previous decades and invented a new, woodland tree. At the top, we hung a simple star of braided straw, and a graceful papier-mâché bird with outstretched wing. We tucked among the branches a fox, a deer, a raccoon, a pair of winter-white wrens, a glistening acorn. There was a delicate sprinkling of wooden stars, and a quiet cascade of wooden snowflakes. Gone, the bright-beaded garland of yesteryear. In its place, the soft glow of undulating gold ribbon, gleaming like late summer sun on the Mississippi…

 

 

 

Before Christmas dinner, my loved ones clasped hands beside the sparkling tree. All heads bowed to hear once again the familiar words of my mother’s lovely Christmas benediction. I read the words aloud for the first time without tears… Ours was a sweet, simple, natural, joyful, meaningful Christmas. I’ll cherish its memory always.

*****

All too quickly, the holidays have come and gone. Our beloved children are back once again in their respective cities. As I write, freezing rain taps at the window. Glancing up, I notice our metal peace dove. She hangs from a prominent bough in our Japanese maple. With a coating of ice on her wings, the dove teeters precariously, just as peace seems to teeter in this uncertain world.

Braving the icy onslaught, our peace dove maintains a resolute southward gaze, as if focusing her vision on warmth, kindness, light, growth, renewal. In her beak she holds something precious: a leaf! It makes me smile… Her wings are spread wide, inviting me to rise with her above the heaviness of the fabricated world and soar free in the true one.

My true world is the real world: the world of nature –a place of repose and inexhaustible beauty where all are welcomed home.

 

 

Postscript: For those of you who enjoy reading my occasional musings, I apologize for posting them so infrequently. Since 2015, I’ve been studying embroidery, which has equipped me with a fascinating new means of expressing myself. I’m happy as can be with my needle in hand, but embroidering more has meant that I’m writing here less. I still have things to say, however, so stay tuned! If you’d care to connect with me on Instagram, I maintain a regular presence there. My account carries the same name as this blog: mypathwithstarsbestrewn .

My best wishes to all for a beautiful, nature-filled 2018! xo