To a Waterfowl Revisited “In the Garden” #3 –



Note: The memoir, In the Garden, portrays the author’s mother, Ellen, an ordinary woman, who became extraordinary by surrendering her will and ego to the will of God at every crossroads of her life. She chose faith over doubt, acceptance over resignation, hope instead of despair. “Not my will, but Thy will be done,” was her mantra. After marrying the love of her life, Henry, Ellen lived her entire life in a house, on the hill, on a farm in west Michigan(the site of present day Country Dairy)rooting herself in the place where she believed God had planted her. There she found her calling as a helpmeet and homemaker. She transformed the house on the hill into a place of beauty and sanctuary for their family. To view the memoir visit or In Hoeing “In the Garden,” the author revisits her mother’s story, cultivating and digging up tidbits of truth to provide inspiration and encouragement for the challenges of her life.

“Seek’st thou the plashy brink

Of weedy lake, or marge of river wide,

or where the rocking billows rise and sink

Off the chafed ocean side?”

(To a Waterfowl, verse 3 Wm Cullen Bryant)

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     This verse addresses the question, “Where? Where are you going? Are you looking for the marshy edge of a lake, the bank of a river, or the shore of an ocean?”

      Sounds like a travel agent planning a trip to an idyllic destination in the great out-of-doors.  Our waterfowl, pursuing his solitary way, certainly had the best views, finest accommodations, and cheapest rates, unfettered by traffic, deadlines, or queues.

     My mother loved birds.  She loved the full-throated ease of their singing and now and then, might have felt a twinge of envy at their effortless freedom of flight.  In the memoir I note, that when Ellen followed her heart and married the love of her life, Henry, my father, and went to live with him on the farm, she gave up a life of comfort, luxury and freedom. My mother could have been anything and done anything she pleased, but once she met Henry, her role, as Henry’s helpmeet and housewife  (my mother didn’t like the term “farmwife”) became the overriding passion of her life.

    Not that my mother ever looked back at what her life might have been or second guessed her decision.  I can’t help but wonder though, when life came at her hard, if she looked at a bird on the wing and felt a twinge of envy.

“Ellen wholeheartedly accepted her role as Henry’s wife and helpmeet, yet she must have had dreams and ideas just bursting to be set free. She was intelligent, cultured, determined and creative {as was Henry}.  She had the capacity to do anything she chose to do; yet there was very little time in her day to pursue anything for herself.  When life was hard and she and Henry struggled just to make ends meet, she must have wondered if her dreams, or the dreams she had for her children, would ever find fulfillment.  Yet, she never flinched in fulfilling God’s purpose for her as homemaker and helpmeet in the house on the hill.”  (In the Garden, pg. 42)

     During their early years on the farm, daily chores and caring for children made it difficult for my parents to get away.  Babysitters were uncommon in those days and besides, finding someone to care for seven energetic and rambunctious children would have been a challenge.  So, more often than not, if they went somewhere, we went along – all nine of us jouncing along in the turquoise and black Plymouth sedan.  Seat belts had yet to be invented. I perched on the edge of the seat in between my sister and mother in the front. Four down, five to go.  My  younger brother had a similar position to mine, in the back, while the other four  vied boisterously for the remaining seats. The window seats were the best.  And off we went, my father at the helm, driving his brood to the world beyond the confines of the farm, our womb and comfort zone.

      Even though my mother was getting away from her chores, I can’t imagine these trips were restful or pleasant for her.  There was always a great deal of normal give and take in our family and now it was limited to the confines of a car, with no way to escape.  I remember taking a family vacation to Niagara Falls once, with my mother’s parents, Grandma and Grandpa Postema. We took two cars – thank goodness for that. We stopped along the way for our meals, which my mother and grandma had packed – guess people didn’t go out to eat back then.  My mother had a migraine headache for most of the trip and after setting out the picnic meal, she returned to the car to nurse her migraine in peace and quiet.87ae0-2013-07-0411-24-18

     During the summer, when the chores were done and time allowed, my mother would pack up us girls and drive to Stony Lake or Lake Michigan for a couple of hours.  My mother could swim, but if she could just get her toes in the water, she was happy.  I remember her sitting on the beach watching us frolic in the water or playing in the sand.  Thinking back, I realize how luxurious those moments must have been for her.  Was it then, as she watched the seagulls swooping and diving over the water, she felt an affinity with their freedom of flight?

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     As we grew older, and were able to stay home for a few hours by ourselves, Ellen and Henry would take off for a drive in the country. How my mother loved poking about the countryside, investigating new sites and areas of interest.  Often, in the evenings, they would drive out to Lake Michigan to enjoy the sunset.

     Once the older siblings were old enough, my parents were so bold as to leave us alone in their care and attend evening programs at Maranatha Bible Conference in Muskegon, Michigan.  It was there one evening, shortly after they had settled into their seats, their hearts ready and ripe to accept the word of God, they were called out for an emergency phone message: Return home immediately.  Back at the farm, we, children, had organized a swing-jumping contest.  When it was my turn, I pumped myself higher and higher and then, when the swing began to bump, alerting me that I was at its highest arc, I leaped from the swing, surprising even myself, so brave it was, and alas, landed in a pathetic heap on the ground.  (Where were the babysitters anyway?)  I won the contest, hands down, but broke my right arm in the process – so badly, that it would need surgery.  Instead of enjoying an evening away, my parents ended up in the emergency room.  To make matters even worse (could they get worse?) my parents had no insurance.

     Somewhere, along the way, probably after we were out of the diaper and toddler stages, my parents started attending Winona Bible Conference in northern Indiana, for one week in the summer.  This week became the focal point of their life, so much they loved the time away in pleasant surroundings, their hearts alert to the words of beloved preachers and softened by the music of hymns sung and listened to.  My two older brothers stayed on the farm with my father’s parents and we, girls, along with my youngest brother, were left with my mother’s parents, who had a large house in town. Later on, some of us would go along.  I remember accompanying my parents on a couple trips.


     While we were small, my mother’s parents, purchased a winter home in Clearwater, Florida.  I remember family trips to visit Grandma and Grandpa Postema, though how they put us up in their modest home, I can’t imagine.   Once my mother my youngest brother, who was a toddler, traveled to Florida by train.

     And, then suddenly, their nest was empty.  In 1968, my father passed the farm on to my brother, Wendell, and for the first time, since they started life together in March, 1936, my parents were free to travel.  Now, unencumbered by daily chores or financial worries,  they could visit their daughter Joan, in Florida or Alabama and their son, Roger, in Virginia. Finally, Ellen’s wanderlust longings would find fulfillment, and though my father’s favorite place was his recliner in the living room or the front porch, he consented to travel the world with my mother.  They toured the continental U.S., Hawaii, Nova Scotia and Europe.

“With their children gone and the farm sold, they had time to slow down, relax and enjoy life.  The sale of the farm, along with the inheritance they received from their parents, relieved them of money problems they had dealt with for so many years.  Now they could afford to travel….” (In the Garden, pg 62)3e828-viewfromporchatgrandma

 The waterfowl is on a migratory journey and though his destination is set, he is enjoying the sights along the way.  Ellen, too, is on a journey with a clear destination.  She too, from the rigors of the early days on the farm to the more relaxed recreation of retirement, accepted her place on the farm as God’s will for her.  From the times when she sat on the front porch and longed to experience the world beyond to the days when her longings were fulfilled, she found peace and contentment in the confidence that she was in the place God meant for her to be.

After one of her {later} conversations with her Lord, “in the garden,”

“Ellen felt a fluttering within, like a brace of birds, longing to be free.  Free!  Oh, how she longed to be free.  Free from the woes that beset them on the farm.  Free from the lack of money, free from the dreaded windblight {that ruined their cherry crop}, free from sick cows and contaminated milk, free from lack of rain and parched earth, free from accidents, just waiting to happen.  Free!  Free!  Free!  The flutterings increased until, like a wave, her fears rose up inside and nearly overwhelmed her.  She could scarcely breathe.  She thought her heart would burst.  Then, with a sudden surge, the wave of flutterings burst forth and like a bird, on the wing, her soul felt light and free.  As she stood in stunned relief, a stab of joy pierced her heart.  In spite of everything, joy!  Just as her Lord had promised.  She heard His words once again:  ‘…and ye now therefore have sorrow; but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy noone taketh from you.'” (In the Garden, pg. 56)SONY DSC

        (illustration on right from Mimi the Mimic and the Great Migration, Bruce DeVries, artist)page 16


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