To a Waterfowl #5 “In the Garden” – “Faith – All the Way to Lake Michigan… “

 

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 the 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, transforming their home into a place of beauty and sanctuary. To view the memoir visit http://www.principia.com or http://www.janethasselbring.com. 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.

“Then saw a new heaven and a new earth…” (Revelation 21:1)

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“All day thy wings have fanned,

At that far height, the cold thin atmosphere;

Yet stoop not, weary, to the welcome land,

Though the dark night is near.” (To a Waterfowl, verse 5, William Cullen Bryant)

 

 

“My parents had a little porch on the front of their house, where they loved to sit in the cool of the evening, after their daily chores were done, and look out over the countryside.  The porch was built for two, though with a bit of squeezing, it could accommodate four.  Here they communed with nature, tired, but happy and contented after a hard day’s work.  Long after the sun set over the western hills, they sat, enjoying the cool breezes, listening to the crickets singing and the frogs croaking.  On a clear day, my father, Henry, claimed he could see all the way out to Lake Michigan.” (In the Garden, pp 50,51)     3e828-viewfromporchatgrandma

Now it was approximately a 30′ drive from our house to Stony Lake and beyond to Lake Michigan and in between there were many hills, curves in the road, fields of alfalfa and corn, and apple and cherry orchards, so it would take some doing to be able to see past (or out/over) all of that to the sparkling blue waters of Lake Michigan; however, whether or not my father really could see the lake from our house is immaterial to me.

I love that my father would make such a claim. He knew the lake was there and if he and Ellen set out for the lake,  it would appear at the end of the drive, in all is beauty and majesty.  It was a statement of faith, and to me his claim is an allegory of his, and my mother’s, faith.  Just as my father claimed he could see all the way to Lake Michigan on a clear day, so firm was my parents’ faith in God, they believed they could “see” all the way to heaven from the house on the hill, on their small farm in western Michigan.

My parents’ lives were founded on the scriptures and prayer.  Spending time out of doors, they came to know and worship the God of creation.  Their faith was strengthened through life’s experiences, giving them hope and comfort in the midst of trials, disappointments and challenges.  When life on the farm came at them hard – an infected cow resulting in the day’s entire supply of milk being dumped, a windstorm ruining the cherry crop, fluctuating market prices resulting in minimal profits from the asparagus or bean crop, too much rain washing out newly-sown seed, and too little causing measly, shriveled up plants – my parents learned to view life in terms of eternity.

Just as my father believed that he could see all the way to Lake Michigan, but would have to drive over the hills and past the fields and orchards to get there, so it was with seeing all the way to heaven:

“Their faith enabled them to see past the cornfields, the cherry orchards, the clothesline, and the garden, to see life beyond.  Their faith helped them see through the disappointments of a blighted cherry crop, rotted potatoes, diseased cows, and a sick child. Faith helped them to see, at the end of it all, their eternal inheritance.”  (In the Garden, pg. 118)

My parents’ faith was not a cowardly escapism or ostrich-like wishful thinking.  Not at all.  The more they looked “all the way to heaven,” the more seriously they took their earthly responsibilities, but now they worked, loved, cared, and struggled with a new dimension:  at the end of a hard day’s toil, they turned everything over to God.

C.S. Lewis describes it this way:

“Hope is one of the theological virtues. This means that a continual looking forward to the eternal world is one of the things a Christian is meant to do….If you read history, you will find that those, who did most for the present world, thought most of the next….Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in; aim at earth and you will get neither.”  (C.S. Lewis, Christian Behavior)

Eckhart Tolle, in his book,  A New Earth, describes heaven not as a place, but an inner realm of consciousness.   

Emmet Fox, in his book, The Sermon on the Mount,  weighs in on the subject of heaven in his explanation of the verse, “Blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see God.”

“To ‘see’ in the sense referred to here, signifies spiritual perception, and spiritual perception means just that capacity to apprehend the true nature of being which we all so sadly lack….Heaven lies all about us – it is not a distinct locality afar off in the skies, but all around us now – …Heaven is the religious name for the Presence of God; Heaven is infinite;…Heaven is Eternity;…Heaven is the realm of Spirit,… To ‘see’ God is to apprehend Truth as it really is, and this is infinite freedom and perfect bliss.”  (Emmet Fox, Sermon On the Mount, pp.37,38)

This “inner realm of consciousness,” described by Eckhart and “spiritual perception,” by Fox, became increasingly evident in my parents’ lives; however, their belief in heaven, was a literal one.  They very much believed it to be a place, where they would one day meet their Lord.  And, with a faith like theirs, I’m inclined to think they’re right.

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And what of our shorebird, flapping along, high on the thermals, making his way homeward?

“You have been flapping your wings all day high in the sky. continue on, even though night is near and and beckons beneath you.”

“…Stoop not, weary, to the welcome land,

though the dark of night is near. ” (To a Waterfowl, verse 5)

 

 

 

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To a Waterfowl #4 – In the Garden – “The Dash to the Finish Line”

 

 

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 http://www.principia.com or http://www.janethasselbring.com. 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.

 

 

“There is a power whose care

Teaches thy way along that pathless coast

The desert and illimitable air,

Lone, wandering, but not lost.”  (verse 4, To a Waterfowl, William Cullen Bryant)

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On my mother’s gravestone, is the following designation: Dec 8, 1914 – Sept 1, 2005. I gaze at the brief combination of numbers and letters that summarize my mother’s lifespan. I marvel that a single dash (-), set between the dates of her birth and death, while only a symbol, can somehow, comprise her life.  You mean the countless hours I spent writing my mother’s memoir – ‘a reflective rearrangement of actual events’ (Larry Woiwode, What I Think I Did), describes something as brief as a dash??
Thinking further about this, I realize that Bryant’s beloved poem is a reminder that life – that “dash,” is, essentially, a migratory journey, which starts with our first gasp of air and ends with the last. One grand pilgrimage with many and various secondary trips throughout.

The one (secondary) experience that would define my mother’s earthly pilgrimage was marrying my father, Henry and moving with him to the little farm in west MI, to the house on the hill, where they lived together for over sixty years and where they both would die.

(March 1936) “It was only 1 1/2 miles from her {Ellen’s} childhood home in town to her new home, but it might as well have been 100, so great was the contrast between her leisurely, cultured and bountiful life in town and the life she would experience on the farm. Bountiful would take on a new meaning for her there.” (In the Garden, pg. 21) Again: “Nothing in Ellen’s life, growing up in a comfortable, well-to-do home in the city, could have prepared her for the stark reality of living on (and off) the land; still she threw herself into her new life with determination and optimism, for she loved Henry with all her heart and was totally committed to their life together.” (In the Garden, pg. 22)

Things with feathers...

“There is a power whose care…”

“Where can I go from your Spirit?  Where can I flee from Your presence?  If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.  If I rise on the wings of dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.”  (Psalm 139: 7 – 10)

The poem causes me to reflect upon when my mother first become aware of “a power” that would “teach her way…” When did she come to know the presence of God in her life – a power that would become the bedrock and center of her and Henry’s lives? As I read through the memoir, I’m amazed to find a passage where I described Ellen’s awakening to a personal awareness and consciousness of God’s presence in her life:

“Ellen had learned about God in church and Sunday School and had publicly professed her faith when she was eighteen.  She and Henry had promised, in their wedding vows, to make God the center of their home.”  (In the Garden, pg. 27)

“On a crisp Monday morning in mid-April(1938), Ellen had just pinned her last bed sheet onto the clothesline, when a little black-capped chickadee perched on a branch overhead, trilling its little heart out.  “Oh you beautiful creature,”  Ellen called.  Something about that plump little bird lifted her spirits and gave her a burst of hope.

She felt a deep longing within – it came from the very depths of her being, from her soul.  It was an awakening to nature and the power of the birds’ singing, trees budding, breezes blowing and clothes flapping in the wind.  It was then she knew there was a power beyond all that she could see, smell, hear and feel.

Now in a bird’s song, she experienced the God of creation and revelation.  God was in the bird’s song… She didn’t have to worry about her new life or feel lonely or isolated when Henry left her to do his chores about the farm. With God’s help, she could become the housewife she wanted to be for Henry’s sake…” (In the Garden, pp.27,28)

“O Lord, you have searched me and you know me.  You know when I sit and when I rise;  you perceive my thoughts from afar.  You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways… You hem me in, behind and before;  you have laid your hand upon me.  such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.”  (Psalm 139:1-6)

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Though it was on the farm, doing her daily chores, that Ellen, became conscious of the presence of God and cultivated a deeply personal trusting relationship with her Lord, the “power” had been there all along – at her birth, throughout their migratory journey, and at the end.

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb…My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place.  When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.”  (Psalm 139:13 – 15)

I stand and gaze at her gravestone:  “Dec 8, 1914 – Sept 1, 2005”

And, I hear the words of the psalmist, once more:

“All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”  (Psalm 139:16)

 

 

 

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 http://www.principia.com or http://www.janethasselbring.com. 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.

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     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

To a Waterfowl Revisited “In the Garden #1

 

 

To a Waterfowl by William Cullen Bryant

Whither, ‘midst falling dew,
While glows the heavens with the last steps of day,
Far, through their rosy depths, dost thou pursue
Thy solitary way?

IMG_20150106_080940_575~2In Bryant’s beloved poem, To a Waterfowl, the speaker is addressing a shorebird in flight. Using the literary tool of apostrophe – addressing an abstraction or a thing, present or absent, an absent entity or person, or a deceased person, Bryant achieves the effect of having the speaker muse aloud: “As dew falls and the sun sets in the rosy depths of the heavens, I wonder where you are going?”
In this series of blogs, To a Waterfowl Revisited “In the Garden,” the poem will be taken verse by verse. The reader may wish to read the poem, first, in it’s entirety.

My mother, Ellen, will be the speaker in the poem. As the poem is, essentially, a profession of faith, her musings are a testimony to her life of faith on the small farm, where she and her beloved Hinie, eked out a living, raised their children and honed their faith.
As the waterfowl begins it’s migratory journey north, it has no idea what challenges and difficulties it may encounter along the way, so Ellen, when she married the love of her life, Henry, and began a new life with him in the house on the hill, had no idea what life held in store for her:

“Nothing in Ellen’s life, growing up in a comfortable, well-to-do home in the city {if New Era could be called a city}, could have prepared her for the stark reality of living on (and off) the land; still she threw herself into her new life with determination and optimism for she loved Henry with all her heart and was totally committed to their life together.
The farm is bleak in March. A grim austere landscape greeted Ellen in mid/late March as she and Henry returned from their honeymoon and began settling into their new home.” Looking out the kitchen window, on her first morning on the farm, she would have seen the sun rising to the east. Barren, scraggy trees stood here and there in the yard. Sooty stale piles of snow were reminders of winter’s frigid blast. Patches of green dotted the snow-covered pasture and a ring of water circled the frozen pond – hopeful signs that the bleak barrenness would not last forever. The pond wound lazily uphill to the woods – a scruffy, scraggly army of trees guarding the rear boundary. She might have seen the cows, relieved of their saggy udders, straggling out in a line to greet the first signs of spring, following their leader to seek what sustenance they could find in the grim austere wilderness of the pasture.
As she waited for Henry to return from his early milking for breakfast, her sense of excitement and exuberance shifted to a twinge of uncertainty and doubt, triggered, perhaps, by the foreboding scene framed in the kitchen window. Suddenly, she felt vulnerable, alone and unsure of herself. What was she doing here? She knew nothing of farm life or being a farm wife. Her comfortable, leisurely life back home, only one and a half miles away, seemed far away indeed. …Yet, here she was in the kitchen, dressed in her new house dress and apron, feeling lost and alone.
Suddenly a flash of red flew past the window. Ellen noticed a male cardinal perched on a limb in the yard, his shebird a few branches up. A pair of cardinals, she thought. A pair, just Henry and me. The sight of the birds ifted her spirits. Henry would be home soon. He would make everything right. She loved him with all her heart. He was a farmer, so she would be his farm wife. Well, a housewife who lives on the farm, she thought. Somehow that sounded better.
Ellen started the coffee, set the sausages sizzling and whipped the pancake batter into a froth. Henry would be home soon. He would be hungry. She had better get busy fixing his breakfast.
Ellen’s life on the farm had begun.” (In the Garden pp 22,23)

pair of cardinals

And so it was, on her first morning on the farm, a pair of cardinals, would bring hope and reassurance to Ellen’ soul. it would not be the last time that “things with feathers,” – Emily Dickinson’s symbol for hope, appeared to lift her Ellen’s spirits and put a song in her heart.

I love the image of my mother, there in the kitchen, full of love for her Henry and full of hope and promise for their future together. How could she have known then how dramatically her life would be shaped and fashioned by her new home on the farm and in return, how indelibly the farm would bear the stamp of her (their) presence?
In the beginning, it was her love for Henry that nurtured and sustained her, but as time went on and the challenges of eking out a living and raising a family on the farm increased, her love for Henry and their love for each other would find new meaning and strength in their faith in God and His Word. It was in the everyday details of their lives on the farm, that their faith was honed.
Though Ellen may have recited scripture in church or Sunday School, God’s promises would take on new meaning in the days and details of her daily life:

“I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord, “plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
“For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.[a]
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.” (Psalm 139: 13 – 16)

Coming soon: the second verse of To a Waterfowl in To a Waterfowl Revisited “In the Garden”

MimiThe MimicNote: Mimi the Mimic and the Great Migration, Janet’s 5th book in her Tales From Pelican Cove series, is based on Emily Dickinson’s “things with feathers,” poem and is a tale of hope and remembering.

 

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 www.principia.com or www.janethasselbring.com.

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.

To a Waterfowl Revisited “In the Garden” #1

 

To a Waterfowl by William Cullen Bryant

Whither, ‘midst falling dew,
While glows the heavens with the last steps of day,
Far, through their rosy depths, dost thou pursue
Thy solitary way?

IMG_20150106_080940_575~2In Bryant’s beloved poem, To a Waterfowl, the speaker is addressing a shorebird in flight. Using the literary tool of apostrophe – addressing an abstraction or a thing, present or absent, an absent entity or person, or a deceased person, Bryant achieves the effect of having the speaker muse aloud: “As dew falls and the sun sets in the rosy depths of the heavens, I wonder where you are going?”
In this series of blogs, To a Waterfowl Revisited “In the Garden,” the poem will be taken verse by verse. The reader may wish to read the poem, first, in it’s entirety.

My mother, Ellen, will be the speaker in the poem. As the poem is, essentially, a profession of faith, her musings are a testimony to her life of faith on the small farm, where she and her beloved Hinie, eked out a living, raised their children and honed their faith.
As the waterfowl begins it’s migratory journey north, it has no idea what challenges and difficulties it may encounter along the way, so Ellen, when she married the love of her life, Henry, and began a new life with him in the house on the hill, had no idea what life held in store for her:

“Nothing in Ellen’s life, growing up in a comfortable, well-to-do home in the city {if New Era could be called a city}, could have prepared her for the stark reality of living on (and off) the land; still she threw herself into her new life with determination and optimism for she loved Henry with all her heart and was totally committed to their life together.
The farm is bleak in March. A grim austere landscape greeted Ellen in mid/late March as she and Henry returned from their honeymoon and began settling into their new home.” Looking out the kitchen window, on her first morning on the farm, she would have seen the sun rising to the east. Barren, scraggy trees stood here and there in the yard. Sooty stale piles of snow were reminders of winter’s frigid blast. Patches of green dotted the snow-covered pasture and a ring of water circled the frozen pond – hopeful signs that the bleak barrenness would not last forever. The pond wound lazily uphill to the woods – a scruffy, scraggly army of trees guarding the rear boundary. She might have seen the cows, relieved of their saggy udders, straggling out in a line to greet the first signs of spring, following their leader to seek what sustenance they could find in the grim austere wilderness of the pasture.
As she waited for Henry to return from his early milking for breakfast, her sense of excitement and exuberance shifted to a twinge of uncertainty and doubt, triggered, perhaps, by the foreboding scene framed in the kitchen window. Suddenly, she felt vulnerable, alone and unsure of herself. What was she doing here? She knew nothing of farm life or being a farm wife. Her comfortable, leisurely life back home, only one and a half miles away, seemed far away indeed. …Yet, here she was in the kitchen, dressed in her new house dress and apron, feeling lost and alone.
Suddenly a flash of red flew past the window. Ellen noticed a male cardinal perched on a limb in the yard, his shebird a few branches up. A pair of cardinals, she thought. A pair, just Henry and me. The sight of the birds ifted her spirits. Henry would be home soon. He would make everything right. She loved him with all her heart. He was a farmer, so she would be his farm wife. Well, a housewife who lives on the farm, she thought. Somehow that sounded better.
Ellen started the coffee, set the sausages sizzling and whipped the pancake batter into a froth. Henry would be home soon. He would be hungry. She had better get busy fixing his breakfast.
Ellen’s life on the farm had begun.” (In the Garden pp 22,23)

pair of cardinals

And so it was, on her first morning on the farm, a pair of cardinals, would bring hope and reassurance to Ellen’ soul. it would not be the last time that “things with feathers,” – Emily Dickinson’s symbol for hope, appeared to lift her Ellen’s spirits and put a song in her heart.

I love the image of my mother, there in the kitchen, full of love for her Henry and full of hope and promise for their future together. How could she have known then how dramatically her life would be shaped and fashioned by her new home on the farm and in return, how indelibly the farm would bear the stamp of her (their) presence?
In the beginning, it was her love for Henry that nurtured and sustained her, but as time went on and the challenges of eking out a living and raising a family on the farm increased, her love for Henry and their love for each other would find new meaning and strength in their faith in God and His Word. It was in the everyday details of their lives on the farm, that their faith was honed.
Though Ellen may have recited scripture in church or Sunday School, God’s promises would take on new meaning in the days and details of her daily life:

“I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord, “plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
“For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.[a]
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.” (Psalm 139: 13 – 16)

Coming soon: the second verse of To a Waterfowl in To a Waterfowl Revisited “In the Garden”

MimiThe MimicNote: Mimi the Mimic and the Great Migration, Janet’s 5th book in her Tales From Pelican Cove series, is based on Emily Dickinson’s “things with feathers,” poem and is a tale of hope and remembering.

 

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 www.principia.com or www.janethasselbring.com.

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.

I Love Quirks

I love quirks!  That’s because I have so many. I think quirks keep life interesting.  I tell my husband that if you don’t have quirks you must be a dull person.  He’s not so sure…. Wouldn’t you know he’s a CPA – a business person who likes things neat and orderly – how he married me is a mystery.  For starters, my life is a sequence of piles.  As hard as I try, they keep accumulating all over the house.  Filing cabinets and systems are not useful to me. I like my stuff out in the open not stored away out of sight – because out of sight is out of mind and if I can’t see my stuff, I might forget about it.  The thing is, I can always find what I’m looking for.  That’s because I alphabetize my piles from top to bottom.  Also interesting(quirky)is how I can be talking with someone and flit from one topic to another – it’s the way my brain is wired and it takes a fair amount of talent.  Now, my children have learned to follow me from one subject to another (remember there are no transitions or segways to help), but my husband just can’t keep up with me and it rattles him.  Funny, how I know exactly where I am in our conversation and he’s hopelessly lost.  And, then there’s the issue of time.  He feels a need to be on time, but every time we’re scheduled to be somewhere, I get this energy burst(like I felt on the day I delivered my babies) and bustle about doing little odd jobs around the house or running errands on the way to our destination.  I think it’s a waste of time to be early – to be fashionably late is my way – it’s well, fashionable. There are more, but you get the idea.  I write a children’s series called, Tales From Pelican Cove, portraying nature and shorebirds from Florida and beyond.  I think I find birds interesting, because in the research for my books, I’ve discovered they have quirks too!  Kindred spirits!  In my new book, Presley’s First Day of Fishing, coming out this week, Presley a young brown pelly, puts a little twist into his dive that’s very cool.  In another book, Baldwin, a bald eagle steals fish from an osprey and the osprey, called Ossie, after catching a fish, turns it around in his talons to make his flight home more aerodynamic.  It’s fascinating!  Laughing gulls sit on pelicans’ heads attempting to steal their fish and blue wing teals can spring into flight from a standstill.  Birds, called dabblers upend with tails in the air and nibble off the bottom of a cove or pond.  One day, I noticed a male night heron return home to his shebird with a twig in his beak, where he transferred it to his shebird whereupon she stuffed it down into a pile – did you get that – a pile of twigs that had the makings of a nest.  I’ve also noted that birds flit about – yes, flit and they are very busy and energetic.  I’ve pointed out these notable traits to my husband. He’s not impressed and doesn’t see the relevance to my life at all.  No matter. Welsh terriers are a rare breed, I remind him and I need to write my sister.  Why?  You know she had shoulder surgery yesterday.  Let’s see now, in which pile did I put her address? 

        “I love the house where you live, O Lord; the place where your glory dwells.”  Psalm 26:8