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

Update: “Tidings of Comfort and Joy” published on The Manifest-Station

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The Victorian wreath I designed for Momma in early December, with a delicate songbird and sweet mistletoe kisses.

In a blog post last February, my lovely friend, Katrina Kenison, posed a question that remains ever-present with me: “Tell me, how are you making love visible today?” As I pondered the possibilities of Katrina’s words, I never could have imagined the extraordinary ways love would be made visible this Christmas.

It all began with a Victorian-themed wreath I designed and placed at my gentle mother’s grave this December. A photo I posted of my wreath inspired my new and wonderful friend, Melodye Shore, to fashion a meaningful wreath of her own to honor the memory of our dear grandmothers, Maymer and Nana.

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Close-up of a tussie-mussie of forget-me-nots and antiqued song scrolls Melodye incorporated into her lovely remembrance wreath. [Photo credit: Melodye Shore]

Yesterday – Christmas Day – “Tidings of Comfort and Joy,” Melodye’s story of how our friendship and her beautiful wreath came to be, was published on Jennifer Pastiloff’s online magazine, The Manifest-Station. Click here to read Melodye’s wondrous tale – a precious gift from the heart of a generous and loving friend, and an experience that will shimmer in my memory forever.

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Sweet memories of Momma and Maymer will bloom for me always.

 

Tidings of comfort and joy

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A Victorian wreath I designed and created this year in memory of my lovely mother.

As I mark my first anniversary of blogging here on My Path with Stars Bestrewn, I find myself feeling humbled and amazed. When I posted my first offering, The Gate of the Year, on January 1, 2014, I was secretly filled with trepidation. Where would my words go, and who might read them? I had no way of knowing what wonderful new friends I’d make here in the blogosphere, lovely souls across the United States, Canada, and various countries around the globe. It has been the most incredible experience. Thank you!

Through our ever-lovely mutual friend, Katrina Kenison, I happened to meet a new and wonderful friend, Melodye Shore. Last February, Melodye and I bonded over While my pretty one sleeps, a tribute I wrote in memory of my beautiful mother. Over the course of this year, Melodye and I have continued to discover the many ideas and ideals we happen to share: a mutual love of gardening, music, poetry, photography, and the mystical wonders of creation.

Intrigued by a photo I posted of a Victorian wreath I designed and lovingly placed on my mother’s grave this year, Melodye struck up a series of conversations with me which led to an extraordinarily loving gift she recently gave me, a gift she has also dedicated to the memory of her beloved Nana. She has written all about it today on her blog, Joyful Noise, in a new post entitled “Tidings of Comfort and Joy.” I’d love to share it with you now: please click here to read this beautiful story!

Melodye’s thoughtfulness and generosity are love made manifest. From her careful attention to the metaphorical meaning of each minute detail of the handmade gift she created, to the lovely photographs she snapped to document this gift, to the magical way she relates this story, Melodye reveals her rare and beautiful heart as she pays homage to the divine and eternal spirit of loving and giving.

This is a Christmas tale to tuck in your heart, one whose lessons are never-ending. (Melodye’s post today also features a haiku written by my mother in 1982 – three precious lines that mean absolutely everything to me. I hope you’ll love them, too.)

Whether you’re near or far, I wish you peace, love, and joy today, and many, many blessings. Thank you, so very much, for the gift of your presence here with me on My Path with Stars Bestrewn.

 

 

a snow globe of memories

An early winter storm, blown by a stiff west wind, blankets our town with several inches of snow. . .

Since I’ve nowhere special to go today, I put the kettle on, pour a cup of tea, and settle into my favorite chair near the window with a Frostian intent “to watch the woods fill up with snow.”

There’s a certain hypnotic charm in every fall of snow. Each starry flake that floats by in December is a slowly-whirling magic carpet ready to whisk me away. When snowflakes fly, time is suspended, and the hourglass topples back on itself, tumbling end over end. Days and nights are erased, years and decades, too, until I am a child once more, safe and loved in a snow globe of memories that swirl feather-soft around me.

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If you’d like to come with me today, pick a snowflake, hop on! I’m bound for 1961. Here – take my hand. I’d love to show you around. . .

Do you see the red brick colonial there in the sparkling snow? That’s my childhood home, snug on a hill beside the frozen pond where we skate each winter. It’s nearly Christmas, and there’s so much to share; won’t you come in?

The house smells wonderful! Momma’s been baking gingerbread men all afternoon. She gives each crispy gent a pair of raisin eyes and a coat of red sugar crystals with cinnamon candy buttons, all carefully piped in white sugar icing. (Would you like one? Help yourself! They’re lined up on this tray, here on the dining room buffet.)

I’m three-and-a-half right now, and while Momma’s not watching, I’m about to treat each of these fine, baked gentlemen equally. Since I can’t choose which cookie-man looks tastiest, I’m going to move right down the line and bite the left arm off each one on this tray – a simple solution to my dilemma that’s simply delicious! (After all her hard work, Momma won’t scold me. She’ll laugh and laugh instead and repeat this tale every year, just so we’ll always remember.)

Let’s run upstairs to my room! I want you to see the mysterious scrollwork patterns Jack Frost paints on my window. Just look at these delicate frost-ferns! I love to study them. I’ve never met Jack Frost, but if I wake early enough some morning, maybe I’ll spy him at work!

Every night before I’m tucked in, I stand here at my dormer window and gaze up through frost-illuminated panes to the towering oaks beyond; their snow-swept branches seem to lace up the sky. I wonder whether I might, just might, catch a glimpse of Santa as he sails – like the down of a thistle, with gifts for children everywhere – past a bright winter moon in a star-studded sky.

Although I am very small, I understand that Christmas is about the birth of the Christ Child. I love and believe in the Christmas Story, yet my imagination turns cartwheels over the wondrous mystery of Santa Claus.

Each year on Christmas Eve, while Daddy’s dressing me after my bath, there’s a joyous jangling of sleigh bells. A low-voiced “Ho, ho, ho! Merry Christmas!!!” rings up the stairwell. I squeal, then leap from Daddy’s arms and skedaddle downstairs.

There are presents under the tree, toys in our stockings! The metal screen of our fireplace has been left ajar! I race to the kitchen, where Momma’s absent-mindedly wiping a dish she’s just finished washing. I cannot for the life of me comprehend how she could possibly miss something as momentous as a visit from Santa.

“Momma?” I ask, one afternoon just before Christmas. (She’s making us a lunch of broiled peanut butter or cheese toast, which she cuts in triangular wedges and serves with bowls of piping hot soup.) I reach out small arms to encircle her legs, press a cheek to her apron. I peer up earnestly into her sweet face and ask, “Is Santa real?”

She looks down at me with kind, blue-grey eyes, smooths my baby-fine hair with a gentle hand. No matter how many times I inquire, her answer is perfect and always in these exact words: “Santa is the Spirit of Loving and Giving.”

When, at age five, I discover the truth about Santa, I’m disappointed, but not disillusioned. I think to myself: Santa is the Spirit of Loving and Giving. Therefore, he is better than real; he’s eternal.

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Would you like to see our Christmas tree? I have two favorite ornaments. I adore this Bohemian glass ornament from my great-grandmother’s tree; its trailing tail reminds me of the Bethlehem Star.

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This is the angel my grandfather made for us: she has wavy chenille hair and hand-cut metal wings that are silver on one side, gold on the other. Her delicate gown is made of starched ivory netting covered with stars. I love her.

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Come sit with me here by the fireplace. I have a few minutes to play before bedtime. See my new dolly? Her name is Saucy Walker. In her blue dress and white pinafore, she’s exactly my size, 30 inches tall. I think her name is a mouthful, so I shorten it to “Saucer.” (Makes sense to me, if to no one else.) Saucer is big-as-life pretty, but the toys I love most are my stuffed pink bear, who sleeps with me each night and goes with me everywhere, my drawstring bag filled with bright-colored blocks, my wooden puzzles, and my ever-trusty tin of Crayolas.

Want to try my new Fisher Price cash register? I love spinning this little crank to hear the merry DING! of a painted coin as it drops into the cash box. It’s fun to count coins, but my true wealth is here in the warmth of our family circle. I’m only three and a half, but I’m learning to count my blessings: one, two, three. . .

The snow has all but ended, and my dream-time here in 1961 draws to a close. Before we wave good-bye, you might like to click here to hear a recording which served as the musical backdrop to the most fervent imaginings of my pre-Christmas childhood. In this vintage recording from 1942, Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians sing their fanciful version of “The Night Before Christmas.” I played this record over and over as a child, learning by heart every stanza of Clement C. Moore’s 1822 poem, A Visit from St. Nicholas, in the process. I can still recite (or sing!) every word.

The opening chords of this wonderful old recording spin me right back to my childhood Christmases, no snowfall necessary. I am already there — back again in my house on the hill, caught up in the arms of my precious parents, nestled close to a sense of joy so real it brings tears to my eyes, remembering it. This joy, these bright memories are an undying gift from the Spirit of Loving and Giving – a gift that will remain with me, always and always. May this same Spirit embrace you, too, and abide with you forever.