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Archive for the ‘Quotes’ Category

I would rather sit on a pumpkin, and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion. 

Henry David Thoreau

I am not sure that I would actually sit on a pumpkin, but, Tom and I did recently rest upon a log at the Morton Arboretum’s Glass Pumpkin Patch on a rather blustery autumnal afternoon. The glass pumpkins were quite intricate and lovely and the log was actually comfortable so we did not feel at all like bumps.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cinderella did hitch a ride in a mouse drawn coach fashioned from a pumpkin and Peter, that infamous pumpkin eater, notoriously put his wife in a pumpkin shell. Despite tales told long ago, I truly doubt that he kept her there very well! Pumpkin pie would have been a much better choice for Peter’s pumpkin and much more pleasant for his ill-kept wife. Such are the ways of nursery rhymes and fairy tales.

Hereabouts, pumpkin patches in produce stands are much diminished as we near the end of October. The days grow shorter and the shadows longer as the nights close in and we edge toward the first true frost of the season.

I find myself leafing through cookbooks and magazines looking for new recipes and reviving tried and true favorites at this time of year. Jack-o-Lantern Tea Loaves (pumpkin bread) and potato soup, hearty stews and warm, crusty bread nourish our bodies in the flickering glow of candlelight. Russet and amber hues replace the sun filled rooms and bright colors of summer as warm jackets appear and socks and sturdier shoes replace summer’s sandals.

Walden Pond

When I happened across Thoreau’s quote it reminded as much of the Glass Pumpkin Patch as it did of a long-ago visit to Walden’s Pond. On a crisp and sunny October day, Tom and I sat on Walden’s shore eating a simple picnic lunch as we watched rowers and swimmers glide across the pond. A scattering of writers and artists and others worked at their crafts as we wandered a well-worn path to the site of Thoreau’s cabin. There, I imagined, as I do now, the short but notable life of a man whose words continue to inspire in this still new and quite troubled century. It is not such a bad thing to be content with the simpler things in life rather than the crowded velvet cushions. I think I’ll pick up my current read, have a cup of tea sweetened with local honey and settle in for the night here along the Cutoff.

 

 

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Oh, September grass is the sweetest kind, it goes down easy like apple wine.
Hope you don’t mind if I pour you some, made that much sweeter by the winter to come. – James Taylor

 

There is an aged apple tree: near death if-truth-be-told. It stands, barely, far back on this equally aged property we call home. The tree has a newly splintered limb as well as a hallowed-hidey-hole demeanor. It is related to an apple tree that straddles the neighbors’ property and ours along a grassy peninsula of ferns and creeping Charlie.

We take turns looking at the drive-by apple tree and contemplate its condition in times of neighborly chats, musing over its gnarly stature, remarking over the observance that we can now see through the trunk and hoping that it doesn’t topple in the next big storm. That the apple tree still bears fruit is remarkable.

The deer wander down our respective driveways, munching on the windfall apples or tugging on the branches, stripping them of fruit. Oddly enough, there are still plenty of apples that one side will bake a pie with, the other applesauce.

The wasps arrive, come September, attracted to the apples’ juices – road cider pressed from the weight of our cars. The scent is noticeable now, not only along the drive, but also in the grassy plot of sunshine and fallen oak leaves further back. What the deer don’t eat the riding mower will devour. We will, however, manage to claim some apples for ourselves. They are easy enough to harvest in the grass and a long pole with a basket grabs the hanging fruit, plucking them from the  tree branches.

As the long slant of the warm September sun casts her golden glow upon the apple trees, I feel gratitude for the earthly stewards who planted them so many years ago, for these apple trees provide shelter to birds, squirrels, butterflies – and they host a vociferous chorus of tree frogs that serenade us well into these soft September nights. The shade us from the sun in summer and they add to the winter landscape when the snowfalls arrive.

Do you have any fruit trees or pick fruit yourself at orchards? Do you cook/bake with apples?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“I have found, through years of practice, that people garden in order to make something grow; to interact with nature; to share, to find sanctuary, to heal, to honor the earth, to leave a mark. Through gardening, we feel whole as we make our personal work of art upon our land.”
– Julie Moir Messervy, The Inward Garden

I have not read Julie Moire Messervy’s book, but, as soon as her quote appeared to me it brought to mind the gardens on this year’s Elmhurst Garden Walk. I hope to read this book sometime soon.

From the homeowner who reverently said “my garden is my sanctuary” to the garden that was overflowing with plant divisions from family and the garden abundantly planted with garden art, the six private and one public garden weave well into Ms. Messervy’s words.

The day bloomed with all the glory of a made-to-order day. A soft breeze, low humidity, blue skies and sunshine – it could not have been a better day for An Afternoon in the Garden. 

Along with the gardens, the Faire in Wilder Park was bustling with a wonderful mix of vendors and a Monarch Festival.

Would you like to take a walk with me to the Faire, the private gardens, and the public gardens of York Community High School?

The Faire

York High School’s Inner Courtyard Garden

The private gardens.


I wish you could have been with us in the gardens, at the Faire, among the personal work of art that filled the day.

I wish, as well, that you could have met the homeowners, the teachers, the students, and a few of our scholarship recipients that also came to the Elmhurst Garden Walk and Faire. Scholarship and helping local endeavors, which include the activities that involved children and students this year are why the Elmhurst Garden Club holds this event and where funds raised are allocated.

Have you attended a garden walk or public gardens this year? Have you read this book, or another garden related book that moves you to garden, to explore nature?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“Your mind — your curiosity — will be your comfort.”*

I recently stumbled upon yet another “Lucky Day” pick from the La Grange Library – and lucky it was!

As often happens, I was drawn to a book by its cover. I slid it off of the “Lucky Day” shelf at the library, and wondered, for a brief moment or two, why the cover looked so familiar, then realized it was reminiscent of Andrew Wyeth’s painting,  Christina’s World. Was it written by Christina? Well, of course not, but the author’s first name compelled me to read the flap of the dust jacket and to peek inside. I walked out of the library with Christina Baker Kline’s fictional novel, “A Piece of the World” and was soon engrossed in Christina’s world on the coastal farm in Cushing, Maine. The farm was settled century’s earlier by ancestors who came to escape their name, Hathorne, and the taint of the Salem Witch Trials.

Christina’s life is confined primarily to the family home in Cushing. From the earliest childhood years of her illness, her debilitating condition molds her life. From her determination to keep moving and living and making the best of her circumstances, to her later years, she stoically strives to keep moving through life. As she eventually can no longer walk, she uses her arms, then her elbows to move above, do chores in a house that is old, rundown, without indoor plumbing or adequate heating.

Christina excels in her small, country school, is encouraged to continue her education and to eventually become the school’s teacher. It is the kindness and encouragement of her teacher that gives her hope of a future, and the stubbornness and viewpoint of her father that end those dreams, taking Christina out of the school and keeping her at home, taking over her mother’s chores and diminishing her contact the outside world.

The book follows Christina’s life, from her loving relationship with her grandmother, her mysterious illness, her staunch refusal for what seems like experimental treatment, and her relationship with her brothers, especially Alvaro, and her friendship with Betsy and Andy. Betsy’s family has a summer-house in Cushing, Andy meets and eventually marries Betsy, who brings him, as a young man, to the Hathorne, now called the Olson house. He is intrigued by the house and the light and the views and spends countless days in one of the upstairs rooms, painting the scenery as well as the two remaining inhabitants of the house; Christina and Al. When Al is introduced to Andy, he is told that he is the son of N.C. Wyeth. Al remembers N. C.’s illustrations and declares that “Treasure Island” is probably the only book he ever read to the end. The house is both a blessing and a curse; a monument to history that often hold Christina and her brothers back, yet, it is a house that fascinates Andy, and it is both the anchor and the chain that confines Christina.

I loved the lyrical prose, the attention to detail, the simplicity and sparseness of words at times along with the weight of those words. I loved Christina’s fondness and instinctive understanding of Emily Dickinson’s poetry. My heart ached at her naiveté and eventual heartbreak of a relationship she was led to believe would end in marriage. I was angered by her father, an immigrant and a sailor, who lacked compassion and understanding of his fragile, strong-willed daughter.

While the book is fictitious about the friendship of Christina and Andy (Andrew Wyeth) as well as Andy’s wife, Betsy, it is based on research and known facts. It imagines the restrictive edges of Christina’s life and how she endures the hardships that surround her. “A Piece of the World”  is a captivating novel that I not only enjoyed, but, a book that led me to further exploration of the life and the illness of Christina Olson, her relationship of the Wyeths, and her family’s ancestry.

As I closed the pages of “A Piece of the World”, I remembered a trip Tom and I took to Philadelphia where we saw a retrospective exhibit of Andrew Wyeth’s paintings at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. While Christina’s World was not part of the exhibit, there were other paintings of the Olson farmhouse, and its inhabitants. It was a remarkable trip to Philly, prompted by the exhibit. I then fired up the laptop and was greeted with a discovery that had me heading to the post office as I returned “A Piece of the World”. How opportune that the USPS released these Andrew Wyeth stamps just as I closed Christina Baker Kline’s compelling novel.

 

This quote is the parting words of Christina’s teacher when Christina leaves school for the last time. *

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We are fast approaching the Elmhurst Garden Walk and Faire, which is on July 9th this year. The homeowners are busy as bees weeding, planting, adding flourishes and embellishing with their individual styles. This year has been cool and wet and erratic, a challenge for sure – but each year brings its own trials. I am always amazed at the ingenuity and fortitude of homeowners preparing for hundreds of strangers to walk through their gardens. I am also very grateful for it allows the club to provide very generous scholarships along with community endeavors.

This year, I have the pleasure of writing the garden descriptions, which means I see the gardens as they are emerging and until the crunch is on to go to print. We don’t release the names or addresses until the day of the event, but, dear reader, I CAN tell you that the gardens are as amazing as they are varied. From newer construction to a century old homestead, they reflect the character of the gardeners and their many ways of gardening and there is something of interest for everyone in attendance.  The York High School gardens are an added feature this year and they are as inspiring as they are educational. There is also a Faire in Wilder Park with vendors selling garden related products and plants and there will be a butterfly festival as well. More information is here.

While I cannot show you the gardens, I did want to show you this one element I found in one of the gardens, which harkens back to my previous post on nests. The gardeners, a most charming couple, have incorporated nests in several spots of the garden. I found this one quite enchanting coupled with Emily Dickinson’s words.

If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.

Emily Dickinson

 

 

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First, the woody stems swell,


then a tight bud pushes forth and changes,

a petal at a time,

from winter wear into a silken skirt. Stylish Springtime flair..

Tree Peonies.

The epitome of how to dress for tea.

half a mind
to dress up and bow down
to the peony
~ Shiki

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When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

– Wendell Berry, The Peace of Wild Things

April is National Poetry Month.

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