Saturday, November 24, 2018

How I Spent My 12th Blog Anniversary/Thanksgiving

November 22, 2006 was the first day of Letters from a Hill Farm. I had been getting advice from my friend Les and her husband Rod about how to start a blog, she having started hers some months earlier. My internet connection was slow and I got frustrated thinking it would never work. I remember saying I could just read my Gladys Taber without writing about her! But finally, it was all sorted out, and here I still am, a dozen years later. A dozen years back from that first day was 1994. That puts some perspective on ol' father time, doesn't it!!

We expected to be home just having a regular day, as we often do on Thanksgiving, but a day or two before, Estée, our daughter-in-law told us a story. She said they had been talking to the boys about being thankful, and explained they were going to her parents' house for Thanksgiving and that they were all thankful for them. Campbell Walker said, "are Pop and Nana going to be there, because I am thankful for them." Well, that's all it took, of course! Actually, we had been invited, a sort of open invitation every year, but we hadn't been before.

It was a lovely, lovely day.They are renovating an old house.They have two dogs, Hamish the Bernese Mountain dog, and Angus the Golden Retriever. And there is little Indy Thomas!

There was great food, and tons to eat for the vegetarians! My pictures from the day are mostly in-motion shots, and quite blurry, like the above. There was lots of good conversation and after dinner lots of music and dancing. Here is a little bit of Campbell Walker. I love his expressions!

When we went around and said what we were thankful for, I said, "family."

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Virtual Advent Tour - 2018

In case you haven't heard of this, I would like to make a public service announcement (isn't that what they were called on TV when I was a kid??). You may go here to sign up. It sounds like a lot of fun, both doing an entry and reading entries each day of Advent.

virtual advent tour 2018 signups now open

Arbo & Santa's Dog Park
This year marks the fourth time I will play host to the Virtual Advent Tour. I can’t believe it’s time to embark on the process once more!
If this is your first time here at the winter holidays, welcome! The Virtual Advent Tour is a bloggers’ take on the traditional Advent calendar in which each day in December leading up to Christmas Day you open a door to unveil a hidden scene or piece of chocolate or some other treat. In our version, each morning I’ll point you to a post at someone’s blog in which they share something about their holiday season.
While both the tradition of the Advent calendar and the timing skew Christian, the tour is inclusive and open to anyone who celebrates December holidays of any sort — from Hanukkah to Kwanzaa, from Festivus to Solstice, and from Christmas to something I’ve never heard of but that I’ll learn about from you — and who wants to share them with us. We love reading about all kinds of holiday celebrations and the traditions you’ve developed around them!
Would you be willing to share a winter holiday post one or two days next month? You’d know the date(s) ahead of time (and can request a specific one if you’d like), your post can be as simple or as complex as suits you, and there’s no need to tell me what you’re going to write about in advance. Folks have shared favorite holiday music, charities, recipes, religious calendar dates, literature, local events, memories, and traditions both old and new, to name some of the topics from years past. All that I ask is that you have your post published by midnight your time the evening before the date(s) you pick, so I can link to it in my post and direct visitors your way. (Speaking of visitors, make sure leaving a comment on your blog is as barrier-free that day as possible if you’d like folks to respond.)
If it sounds fun and you’d like to participate, please leave me a comment on this post telling me what date(s) you’d like. I’ll update this post as people claim days and will create a 2018 Tour button/badge folks can use if they want to.
Thanks in advance for making this one of my fun December traditions!

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Today's picture/4.39 pm

On our way walking down (and looking back to our house) to bring cake and present to Margaret for the 36th Margaret's Day. It was the 19th, but Hazel had gotten up early and was tired so we waited till today. Margaret's Day is the day that our Margaret flew on a plane at one day under four months old to become our daughter.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Today's poem by Ted Kooser

This is actually his poem from yesterday. I found it delightful.

november 18

  Cloudy, dark and windy.

Walking by flashlight
at six in the morning,
my circle of light on the gravel
swinging side to side,
coyote, raccoon, field mouse, sparrow,
each watching from darkness
this man with the moon on a leash.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Today's picture/seen in a school

I saw this in Campbell and Indy's nursery school (I think it is called pre-k now). I had never heard of "mindfulness" until seeing Ernestine's blog years ago. I've done yoga all my life, and I know about meditation but the term mindfulness was new to me, and is such a good one. I try hard to practice it. Not easy.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Jacob's Room is Full of Books - November

I came away from reading the November chapter thinking how much I like this woman. I so like learning what she thinks about all sort of things. This month began with a mention of a hymn, For All the Saints. If you don't know it, here is a version with the words. I'm not wild about the pictures, but the videos from church services didn't offer words.

Personally, I like it sung just a wee bit faster!

Susan Hill writes:
'For All the Saints.' One of the best hymn tunes. As with the Bible and The Book of Common Prayer, you do not have to be a Christian, or even a believer, to appreciate and be uplifted by hearing a church full of people singing something out of Hymns Ancient & Modern. Modern hymns are awful. I don't know why they bothered. If they felt the words were outdated, and so of limited appeal to the young, it would not have been beyond the wit of an Anglican subcommittee to write new ones to old tunes. But no, the baby went out with the bathwater and we got slush and soup and sentimentality.
And to this, I say Amen! This is a subject very dear to my heart. Changing the hymns, changing The Book of Common Prayer, changing the old and beautiful language and for what? Did they really think that young people would come to church or stay in the Church if the language was different? I just don't get it. I grew up in the Episcopal church. I was a child, a teenager, a twenty-something. I never thought, oh, I wish the language was cooler, more colloquial, more relevant, whatever that means. Let's change the language of Shakespeare or Yeats or Wordsworth or Wodehouse so the proverbial young will understand it better. I'll get off my soapbox, but it was nice to hear someone speak about this.

A very funny section that I loved.
There is a shorthand, shared among people who have read the same book more than once, and mostly they are parents. Once learned, the words of the stories stay with you for a lifetime. In the doctor's surgery, I sat near a mother reading to her 3-year-old. 
'So Chicken Licken, Henny Penny, Cocky Locky and Drakey Lakey, scurried off to tell the King that the sky was falling in.'
She turned the page.
'You've missed out Ducky Lucky,' I said, beating the 3-year-old to it by a nanosecond.
A friend made a comment on Facebook about someone's new dog. 'It looks like Bottomley Potts,' she said. 
'All covered in spots,' someone chimed in at once.
Someone else contributed, 'Hercules Morse ...'
'As big as a horse ...'
We had finished the entire book in the time it takes to drink your morning coffee, (Facebook being the solitary writer's social break in the middle of work.) How many people know Hairy Maclary from Donaldson's Dairy as well as our little gang?
I wanted to raise my hand and say I do! Well, I don't remember all the words, but we read it in this house, and I walked around frequently saying Bottomley Potts. I wonder if the kids remember? I might get a copy for the little ones.

Living on a hill, and not near water, I was amazed to read
There have been morning mists, beautiful soft mounds of it lying over the water, but today there was a dense fog. Apparently, ambulances were not able to go out last night, it was so thick - visibility down to a few yards in places.
Susan Hill, who is in her seventies, writes something all of us who have a few years on us can surely appreciate.
Snow in Yorkshire. Snow forecast nearer here. I hope we are going to get a hard winter. Today the advice of those non-medics employed to nanny us is for the over 65s to keep warm in cold weather, by eating hot meals and drinking hot drinks and wrapping up. I wonder if they ever sit back and ask themselves to whom they are talking? Those of us who lived through the years before central heating, who were not sent out in the morning without having eaten a bowl of porridge, who wore liberty bodices for Heaven's sake, and a vest and a school skirt and a cardigan and a coat with a lining and long socks inside of boots and ... Meanwhile, I sometimes pass school bus stops on bitterly cold mornings and see all the teenagers waiting to be transported to school, without coats and the girls in skirts reaching only to their thighs, hatless, bootless ...
Toward the end of the November chapter, she writes about Christmas lights. Actually this is another thing I have quite a strong opinion on.
The Christmas lights switch on. Always fun, always too early. The lights themselves are hideous, as they all are now, because they are the starry bright white halogen sort, and do that insane chasing round and round. What with that and the electric blue ones, it's enough to give anyone a migraine and epilepsy combined. The churches' lights are always pretty, though, softer, slightly golden - and theirs stay still.
So, you might ask, what does Nan object to in the current Christmas lights? Well, I should begin by saying I am a Christmas traditionalist. I have a real tree. I put it up after Thanksgiving. I have a creche. I play only Christmas music in the house. But most importantly I use the big, hot, primary color Christmas lights. To me they say Christmas. All the other lights I see are small, neon-ish in color, and yes, some of them do chase. I avert my eyes and shake my head. I'm not sure what she means by the "starry bright halogen sort." We have white lights that hang along the porch year-round. We've always called them "fairy lights", I suppose from some reference we read ages ago.Those I love. Not for my tree though.

In light of the news today from England, I thought I'd try and find out if Susan Hill was for leaving or staying. I had a hunch it was leaving. I found a little piece she wrote here, if you are interested. To an American, this divisiveness is much like it is over here between people who are for or against the president. Personally, I don't choose my friends based on their political beliefs. Our very best friends, the people we love best in the world next to our kids, are polar opposites to us when it comes to almost anything political. But it doesn't matter. They know us and we know them. We accept each other, period. No judgement. Just love. (I feel like I'm channeling Gladys Taber here.)

There is only one more month for this book. I'd be very sad if I didn't have The Magic Apple Tree to look forward to.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Four Seasons with Susan Hill and Gladys Taber

When I completed my monthly reading of Gladys Taber's Stillmeadow Daybook and Rachel Peden's Rural Free in May 2012, I ended the post with this:
This year winter begins at 6:12 am EST on December 21, the earliest arrival of winter since 1886. On that day I plan to begin reading two chapters called Winter from two books: Country Chronicle by Gladys Taber in Connecticut, USA and The Magic Apple Tree by Susan Hill in Oxfordshire, England; New England and old England. Each book is divided into four seasonal chapters. These two women, though not the same age, are writing within a few years of one another. Country Chronicle was published in 1974 and The Magic Apple Tree in 1982. Susan Hill was born on February 5, 1942 so she was 40 when The Magic Apple Tree was published. Gladys Taber was born on April 12, 1899 so she was 75 when Country Chronicle was published. 
For a variety of reasons I never got around to it, but I plan to begin reading both books on the first day of winter this year, December 21. And somewhere near the end of each season I will do a posting. I read Country Chronicle fifteen years ago, but haven't read The Magic Apple Tree. Oddly enough, the two women's ages are opposite to their ages when they wrote The Book of Stillmeadow and Jacob's Room is Full of Books.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Jacob's Room is Full of Books - October

As I near the end of this most wonderful book, I find myself hoping so much that Susan Hill will write another and another and another like this and Howards End is on the Landing. They are as food and drink to me. My mind and heart are expanded with every chapter. I am in the presence of a real scholar, though she says of herself, "I am not scholarly material."

I feel like October is a pensive month, especially the second half. The days get shorter, daytime itself gets darker, and often the rain or snow prevents outside activities. This makes me happy, as I've noted probably too many times before in the almost twelve years of Letters from a Hill Farm. I am an introvert (not shy), I like sitting and reading, I like time to be quiet and think. So October and November suit me perfectly. The October chapter is 31 pages of many deep thoughts, and I was in reading heaven.

Susan Hill writes about Rievaulx Abbey.

If you arrive late and out of season, when the sun is going down, you really can get some sense of what life was like in this bowl of the Yorkshire Dales, where sheep bleat through the soft air and the light gleams through the majestic ruins, archways, slit windows, whole 'rooms' and magnificent spaces.
I am glad there is so much left of Rievaulx. When you stand alone there, even though the sky and not a roof is over your head, you can hear the whispers of monastic chant and the faint ghostly swish of the heavy robes, see the shadowy procession of hooded figures on their way to and from the chapel. And there is nothing remotely spooky about it. 
The author goes on to talk about Aelred of Rievaulx.
I came to love Aelred because I came to know him. So much of that time is very distant and different, yet there is enough left of Aelred's writings, we know so much of his life and personality, that he can come closer to us than many who have lived later. ... Aelred was a great and good man.
And how did she come to learn about him? Well,
A decade ago I did what I had longed to do since 1963, when I received my first degree, and started to read for another, an MA this time in theology. Having been brought up in a Catholic convent, and spent many years as an adult Anglican,  ... I felt - and indeed, still feel - that I knew too little about the basis of and background to it all and about various aspects of Christian history. But I wasn't about to return as a full-time student to what is now called the campus, I studied by distance learning. If you have already taken a first degree, and especially if you are older and doing this voluntarily, and so anxious to learn and put the hours in, this is an ideal way. The internet has made it all possible. My essays were e-mailed in and marked and returned by the same route, but nice, fat, printed books of the modules came by post.
I loved the course from Day 1. I immersed myself in it as in a warm bath.
So, you see what I mean about her being a scholar!

Suddenly, she stops and writes this beautiful sentence.
A long skein of pink-footed geese has just gone over towards the marshes.
She offers a wonderful granddaughter story.
Lila was only two and visiting once when the owl man appeared to do his ringing. He brought a white cotton drawstring bag, and came right to the house, by the back door, so that we could all watch. My grand-daughter stared in amazement, her eyes really like saucers, as he drew out the young owl from the bag, inspected it, let it open its wings to their full extent - which even on a baby owl is pretty wide - and then ringed it without any fuss, folded its wings gently together and slipped it back in the cotton bag. Two and a half years later and she still remembers.
Susan goes on to write about her granddaughter and books.
It is a joy that she is now having read to her some of the stories we read to her mother, and often from the very same copies. The most recent favorite is Tales of Polly and the Hungry Wolf by Catherine Storr, which was loved by us all thirty-five years ago. Lila's father does a very impressive wolf's voice. And so the same stories are re-born over and again. The Elephant and the Bad Baby, Stanley & Rhoda, Each Peach Pear Plum, Burglar Bill, Mog the Forgetful Cat, The Tiger Who Came to Tea and so on, to My Naughty Little Sister, that everlasting favourite, and now, to my delight, The Magic Faraway Tree.
As you might guess, I loved this so much! We have passed along quite a few of Margaret and Michael's books to them so they can read them to their little ones. We've read a bit to Hazel over the years, though not too much because often with children, much of the reading happens at bedtime. We're looking forward to Hazel, Campbell, and Indy staying overnight when they get older. In fact, right now we are working on the HCI room! Tom has finished the painting. We'll go about it gradually, buying beds, etc.

I think I've mentioned that when we brought the kids to England, Ireland, and Wales in 1992, we bought tapes over there to listen to in the car. The very most favorite was The Magic Faraway Tree. My kids still do perfect imitations of the narrator saying, "Saucepan". We also own two of the stories Susan Hill mentioned - Mog the Forgetful Cat and The Tiger Who Came to Tea.

They are in this collection

which was given to me by my long-time blogging friend, Val, last year. Of all the books we have, this is the one Hazel asks for the most.

This month's The Oldie magazine has an article on Judith Kerr.

She is 95, and still takes walks and has written a new book! In this country I think she is best known for When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit. It was in Tom's classroom library when he taught 7th and 8th grades.

There is much, much more in the October chapter about authors and prizes and writing and even eels (yuck, me says).

Sunday, November 11, 2018

November 10

Ted Kooser's poem for yesterday.

november 10

    High winds all night

Most of the snow passed north of us,
but this morning we're given the fancy white lace
on the edge of that blanket,
every weed on the roadside coated with ice.

Behind the counter at the post office,
somebody's small carton stamped with block letters:

I drive very slowly all the way home.

Another little gem! In snow country, "blanketed with snow" is quite a common term, but the idea of "the fancy white lace on the edge of that blanket" is completely fresh and new to me. That's what poets do. They see the world in a different way. He uses the familiar "blanket" but gives the reader a new way of thinking about the "edge". And, as is often the case with poetry, readers see different things in it. Tom interpreted the icy weeds as the "fancy white lace" and after he said it, I thought of course, but I had read it in a broader way - that the blanket of snow missed his area; it was on the "edge" of the blanket.

And what's with that carton at the post office??! I bet he wondered about it on his slow drive home. I think I wouldn't have been able to stop myself from asking what in the world it meant!

I went for a walk from 3:40 to 4 pm. We had a snow squall earlier in the day but by then the sun had come out and it was just beautiful.

The weeds were indeed "coated with ice". I tried to capture this beauty but it doesn't work well taking a picture into the sun. The little green dot must be some kind of sun reflection, but still you can get the idea. They sparkle like the proverbial diamonds.

Amazing, amazing clouds

I love the late afternoon light on the house

Abbey Road  oak leaves (in homage to my blogging friend, Penny who so often finds whimsy in the natural world)

This is one of my favorite spots. I really should put a chair or bench there.

Soon after my walk we drove down to Michael and Estée's house to take care of Campbell Walker and Indy Thomas while the parents had a "date night". We had a wonderful time, as you might imagine. And we had the joy of putting them to bed. Is there anything so precious as a sleeping child? It fills me with feelings that are so deep I can't begin to put them into words. Probably Ted Kooser could though!

Usually it is a straightforward ride between our houses - about 45 minutes on mostly highway. But not last night. Tom wanted to get some coffee. We pulled off in one place, but everything was closed so we drove on to another town, and went to a MacDonald's. There was a stretch limo in the parking lot and quite a line of cars in the drive-through lane, and we thought uh, oh, they've been slammed at  10:30 at night. We waited half an hour! When we finally got to the window, the man gave us our order free (I, of course, couldn't pass up French fries and milk) because of the wait. He told us his employee just walked off the job. Can you imagine doing such a thing?

So we continued on our way. It was snowing further north. At one point we found ourselves behind two side-by-side snowplows. We went 25 mph, and had the safest drive in town! Driving slowly just like Ted Kooser.

Friday, November 9, 2018

November 9

I began a new reading project today inspired by this post on the Sew and Sow Life blog.

I ordered a used copy that is in excellent shape. The idea of the book is, in Ted Kooser's words:
"In the autumn of 1998, during my recovery from surgery and radiation for cancer, I began taking a two-mile walk each morning. ... During the previous summer, depressed by my illness, preoccupied by the routines of my treatment, and feeling miserably sorry for myself, I'd all but given up on reading and writing. Then, as autumn began to fade and winter came on, my health began to improve. One morning in November, following my walk, I surprised myself by trying my hand at a poem. Soon I was writing every day.

Several years before, my friend Jim Harrison and I had carried on a correspondence in haiku. As a variation on this, I began pasting my morning poems on postcards and sending them to Jim, whose generosity, patience and good humor are here acknowledged. What follows is a selection of one hundred of those postcards."

Isn't that just lovely?

Every day I am going to read the poem that corresponds to the present date. I don't expect to post a poem each day, and maybe not even each week, but occasionally I will post one with notes and perhaps pictures of my own walk on that same date, twenty years later, and in New Hampshire, not Nebraska.

november 9

    Rainy and cold.

The sky hangs thin and wet on its clothesline.

A deer of gray vapor steps through the foreground,
under the dripping, lichen-rusted trees.

Halfway across the next field,
the distance (or can that be the future?)
is sealed up in tin like an old barn.

I so love that first line. Such a unique concept. And I think the distance/future is just brilliant. A lovely poem, I feel.

I haven't been very faithful to my idea of walking often up and down my road. I did a few times, and even took photos, but then didn't have the chance to post about them. I do hope to get back in the groove of writing much more often. It is good for me to stop and examine my life. Even if no one ever reads the postings, I feel better when I really take the time to pay attention. So, today with this new reading scheme, I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to take a walk as Mr. Kooser did, though mine is not two miles. It is half an hour. I dare not walk up the hill into the woods this time of year, but come winter I hope to do so.

Today I was so thankful to see geese. I took this little video. Click to make it larger and turn your volume up, and there they are!! A little magic in the skies, methinks. And you may hear the cheery little chickadee.

The beech and oak are the only trees that still have their leaves.

When we moved here in 1981, we brought an oak tree we had recently planted at our other home. It is quite a mighty oak now.

We've noticed many little oaks have sprung up between this oak and Margaret, Matthew, and Hazel's house. Just for fun today, I decided to count the saplings. There are 19!! Our original oak was the only one on our 200+ acres, and in a few decades, they will line the road. Amazing, amazing.

Nebby and the sheep were curious as I walked back and forth.

I walked from 1:30-2, and it was just so pleasant. Cool, not cold. No precipitation, and all those lovely brownish colors everywhere.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Hallowe'en 2018

Yesterday was the fifth anniversary of the day our Margaret went into the hospital with pre-eclampsia, a dangerous, scary condition that can happen in pregnancy. I've written about it here. There isn't a moment of a day that I am not thankful.

Our Hallowe'en this year was a perfect celebration of the miracle of Margaret and Hazel. It wasn't planned, which in a way made it all the more special. All the families were together except for Matthew and his mother.

For two years we've spent Hallowe'en with Michael and Estée and the boys. In the town next to where they live the tradition is a walk down the main street and trick or treating at the stores. Adults and children alike are in costume. The street isn't open to car traffic for a couple hours. It is a wonderful event.

In 2016 the family dressed as characters in Jurassic Park.

And last year Campbell and Indy were Ninja Turtles.

Hazel's Hallowe'ens have been spent trick or treating in our town, going first to her other grandmother's house.

Yesterday we happened to stop by to see Margaret and Hazel on our way to the boys' Hallowe'en. Even after a whole day at school, she decided she wanted to come with us. So she packed up her costume, and she and her mother hopped in the car and we were off.

We all had so much fun. The kids were older so could walk more of the street. We visited a haunted house that wasn't too scary for the little ones. We saw some really creative costumes - Wolfman and his son, a baby dressed as a mouse in a trap, a child hotdog and her mother wearing a ketchup sign, Sherlock Holmes. All ages and sizes of people. One little girl was Vampirina, as Hazel was, and they were both delighted. Campbell was a vampire and Indy a ghost.

I had the happiest Hallowe'en of my life (so far)! And I'm pretty sure everyone else did too!