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

A trip to Galena

October 25th: Sunny and clear. Because my husband and I have a rare day off together, we decide to make a date day of it and take a leisurely drive north beside the Mississippi along the Great River Road. Our destination is Galena, Illinois.

Oct 25.1

As we meander our way upriver, vintage jazz plays on the stereo and sunlight pours over us like butterscotch, setting farm fields, meadows, and wooded bluffs ablaze with late-autumn splendor.

Oct 25.2

Along the way are pumpkin fields stretching as far as eye can see.

Oct 25.3

A sign points to Argo Fay (the town whose indisputably Pig Latin name, we think, is secret code for Fargo).

Oct 25.4

A vintage Ford looks right at home along Galena’s charming streets.

Oct 25.5

I pause to capture a photo of this winsome side-street marriage proposal. I keep wondering, did Jenny say yes?

Oct 25.6

A colorful yo-yo quilt, on display in a sun-dappled antique shop window, catches my eye.

Oct 25.7

Blossoms like this little lovely brighten Galena’s every street corner and storefront.

We didn’t come to shop, but we peek inside a few stores anyway. In a kitchen shop, Jeff samples some fiery salsa with another shopper and fellow chili-head who turns out to be Frank Fritz from the popular TV show, American Pickers.

Oct 25.8

In the foyer of a rustic building is the most stupendous pumpkin we’ve ever seen; it tips the scale at 1,033.5 pounds!

Afternoon transitions into evening with a burst of golden light. We squint in late-day sun to admire every exquisite detail of the nineteenth century architectural gems that line Galena’s winding streets.

Just before sunset, I hold my breath as a mighty flock of northbound Canada geese pass high overhead. As the great birds melt away behind the silhouettes of rooftops, we listen until their wild cries fade into stillness…

The dinner hour approaches; we consider the menus of several possible restaurants but elect to dine at home rather than spend a bundle at a pricey establishment. Daylight spent but not quite over, we amble back towards the place where our car is parked beside the Galena River.

Oct 25.9

As we near the river, we are met with a sky of palest lavender and a full moon so luminous, so breathtaking, it brings these lines by Walt Whitman to mind:

Lo! the moon ascending!
Up from the east, the silvery round moon;
Beautiful over the housetops, . . .
Immense and silent moon.

I simply have to get closer to the river, just to linger a while in the hush of twilight, just to absorb the ethereal loveliness of the rising moon. Trekking through ankle-high grass, we clamber up and over the hill to the riverbank, to the mystical place where gold-laden saplings and bare boughs tremble and deconstruct in dark water. Inexorably drawn to this moon-bathed silence, we stand transfixed. A sense of wholeness envelops us. I feel I could stay here forever.

Oct 25.10

Twilight fades, the first stars appear. We climb up and over the hill, heads filled with the day’s sights and experiences, hearts synchronous and serene. It has been a picture-perfect day. Hand in hand, we walk back to our car…

Postscript: Alas! Not five minutes after leaving the deep peace of this moonlit scene, I slipped and took a tumble in dewy grass along the riverbank, severely dislocating and fracturing my left ankle. With two corrective surgeries now behind me, thankfully, I’m slowly, s l o w l y on the mend. In case you’ve been wondering, now you know why I haven’t posted much of anything here for the past many weeks. Now that I’m feeling better, I hope to post again more regularly. xo