Why are there trees I never walk under,
but large and melodious thoughts descend upon me?
~Walt Whitman, (1819 – 1892)
Why are there trees I never walk under,
but large and melodious thoughts descend upon me?
~Walt Whitman, (1819 – 1892)
There are hearts to be found in quiet places… Here are a few I’ve photographed recently.
I think passing love around
Is all we were born to do.
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 highest levels of consciousness are wordless.
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
No peace lies in the future
which is not hidden in this present little instant.
~Fra Giovanni Giocondo (1435 – 1515)
Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life
is the foundation for all abundance.
I spent a quiet, thoughtful day yesterday as the first snow of the season sifted down — wet, white flakes gorgeous against boughs of oak and maple, the backyard a patchwork of fallen leaves, our gardens dozing. Daylight dozed, too, wrapped in thick blankets of low-lying cloud…
Days like this used to evoke a certain wistfulness in me. Something inside felt lonesome when November skies darkened and days grew short and chilly. But my perspective shifted…. Once upon a November night, (thirty-one years ago last night, to be exact), a miracle happened: In a hush of snow while frozen gardens drowsed all through our town, a tiny new rose unfurled — a rose perfect for my husband and me, a tender rose in the form of our first child, our precious newborn daughter. We were smitten. And because of our sweet Margaret, Novembers always blossom for us now. They will never feel lonesome again…
To celebrate the arrival of her first grandchild, my sweet mother gave me a wonderful gift. She selected one of her mother’s bone china teacups, a pale pink one embellished with roses, and filled it to overflowing with fresh flowers. There were delicate sprays of pink mini-roses, and baby’s breath, and stems of English ivy. The result was decidedly Victorian, the most charming teacup bouquet ever to brighten a hospital maternity ward. I was enchanted. When the fresh flowers faded, Momma said she’d like me to keep her mother’s teacup and saucer. So the lovely china cup and saucer once owned by my grandmother became the first, and by far the most treasured, piece in my vintage teacup collection.
What’s not to love about vintage teacups? To me, each one is a work of art, a dainty reminder of times long past, when daily life was slower, simpler, and certainly more genteel… When I look at a teacup, I think of hand-embroidered linen tablecloths and lace-edged napkins, of afternoon teas and delectable cakes. Teacups serve as a transport for me. Each one I see whisks me away to a place of my imagining, a place filled with warmth and beauty and laughter and delight….
I’d like to share with you a few of the teacups in my collection. This one is painstakingly hand-painted and dates back to the 1850’s. I found this treasure in an antique shop two years ago, and it’s a particular favorite of mine.
Here’s another of my special favorites. It’s an Italian demitasse cup, complete with mermaids on one side and muses on the other. It’s perfect!
I found this hand-painted Jacobean beauty in a shop in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada. Its soft colors and design are enormously appealing to me.
Here is another cup from the same antique shop in Niagara-on-the-Lake. This one dazzled me with its rich cranberry color and gold embellishment.
As my mother so artfully demonstrated thirty-one years ago today, vintage teacups aren’t just for tea. They also can serve as containers for fresh flowers. Below are two of my favorite teacups, in which I arranged cut flowers from our gardens. I’m passionate about English transferware. This little transferware demitasse cup holds the last blossoms from our November garden.
I acquired this little beauty of a teacup last summer. The butterflies in this design turn me inside out. I filled this cup with cuttings from our late-spring gardens. The cup rests on hand-tatted lace my mother made. (Momma was Victorian to her very core.) Everything about this photo makes me smile…
Although my vintage teacups impart joy to me strictly as a collection, they clamor to be used on special occasions. One such opportunity arose last spring, when my far-flung, grown daughters, Margaret and Clare, happened to be home on the same weekend. To celebrate both girls’ belated birthdays, Margaret’s best friend, Addie, offered to bake a special cake, if I would kindly make arrangements for the tea. Happily, I agreed. But oh my! When the day of our party arrived, I was unprepared for the gorgeousness of the cake our dear Addie had made! She lovingly created a stunning cake in the shape of a teapot, from whose spout poured the loveliest sugar flowers imaginable.
The flowers cascaded into a teacup belonging to Addie’s maternal grandmother. And! …the cup actually held a mini-cake, just the right size for Addie’s young daughter to enjoy. (Because what tea party could be complete without a child to share it with? It’s a special joy to pass down a tradition as lovely as this to a member of our future generation.)
Addie’s cake was so flawless, so perfect, we hated to cut it. But oh, we were glad we did! The cake was as succulent and delicious as it was beautiful — a true feast for the senses, and certainly an elegant companion to my teacup collection.
For those of you who live locally, Addie is starting her own cake-baking business. Her artistic talent, marvelous creativity and attention to detail are already thrilling her lucky customers. If you’d like Addie to create a special masterpiece just for you, she can be reached at this email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s another overcast, chilly November morning here. As leaves of russet and gold whirl past my window, I recall the birth-day of our beautiful Margaret, and I bask in that glow…. The heirloom teacup Momma gave me thirty-one years ago today links four generations of our family, uniting past and present. It is a cup of blessings, a cup of sweetest memories, a cup of everlasting beauty.
Everything is made out of Magic,
leaves and trees, flowers and birds,
badgers and foxes and squirrels and people.
So it must be all around us. In this garden–in all the places.
~Frances Hodgson Burnett, (1849 – 1924)
The very winds whispered in soothing accents,
and maternal Nature bade me weep no more.
~Mary Shelley, (1797 – 1851)