“All I Really Need to Know, I Learned from my Mother” #1 A Tribute for Mother’s Day

About “Hoeing ‘In the Garden'”  – 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), putting down her roots in the place 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 her 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.

 

“All I Really Need to Know, I Learned from my Mother – A Mother’s Day Tribute 2017”

“Next to the might of God, the serene beauty of a holy life is the most powerful influence for good in the world.”  (Dwight L. Moody)

Amazing Grace Dec. 8, 1914 – Sept. 1, 2005

I gaze at my mother’s gravestone, amazed that a simple dash, set between the dates of my mother’s birth and her death, can comprise her life – her birth to a well-to-do-family, her happy precocious childhood, her romance and marriage to the love of her life, Henry, my father, their life together on a small farm in west Michigan in the 1930’s, where they eked out a living and raised their family, their retirement after selling the farm to Wendell, their son, Henry’s death, my mother’s declining health that resulted in her being infirm and homebound the last years of her life, and her peaceful and victorious death.

That simple audacious dash is a sobering reminder that when we die, everything associated with the physical realm of form – our money, possessions, career, clothes, friends, and yes, even our egos, dissolve.  Our life experiences become part of the “memory bank” we leave behind, but the solemn truth is this:  with our last breath, we are stripped, bare to the soul, to the very essence of who we “are.” Not “who” we knew, “what” we did, or “where” we lived, but the “constant radiation” of what we are at the core of our being.

The “essence” of my mother is what stays with me in the years after her death – the “serene beauty of a holy life,” that grows stronger with time and reflection.

“Ellen’s last years weren’t her best years, heath wise, but time spent with her, during these last years, as rich and rewarding. Moments spent with her were moments lived in the present, moments of eternity – kairos moments.  As her body withered and faded, something remarkable was happening.  She grew weaker, yet her spirit waxed stronger.  She was helpless, dependent and vulnerable.  Her skin was thin as an onion’s, yet she glowed with an inner radiance that was otherworldly.  It was as though the sunshine of God’s face was shining through her, this emptied tired, humbled, ordinary pilgrim.”  (In the Garden, pp 105,106)

“Into the hands of every individual is given a marvelous power for good or evil – the silent, unconscious, unseen influence of his/her life.  This is simply the constant radiation of hat a person really is, not what he/she pretends to be.”  (Wm George Jordan)

One of the most endearing things about my mother is how her faith grew and matured through the challenges of her life on the farm.  It’s in her struggles during these defining moments, that I find guidance and direction for my life. Her life was grounded on Scriptures and prayer, where she came to know the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – the God of the covenant.  She communed with the God of creation as she picked string beans in the garden, trimmed and tended her beloved roses, and hung sheets on the clothesline, but it was in the “why” moments, when life came at her hard, and it often did, that she came to know the Lord and Master of her life.

     My mother was naturally strong emotionally, fiercely independent, self-reliant and she possessed a healthy self-image; however, when she came to the end of herself, was unable to cope or continue on in her own strength, she threw herself on the mercies of her Lord and prayed the prayer that would become her mantra:  Not my will, but Thy will be done.”

The essence of my mother’s life is surrender. Giving up her will and submitting her ego to the will of her Lord, didn’t mean she became weak, vacillating, compromising, or shilly-shallying.  Quite to the contrary. She was absolutely tenacious where her faith was concerned, but her conversation was without ego and judgment.  She was gentle as a lamb; powerful as a tigress – she is my hero. I love and adore her.

Stay tuned – this series continues with the words of Jesus in The Sermon on the Mount, words that come alive for me in the lif e of my mother.  It is said that “seeing is believing,” and her life personifies for me the truth of the Scriptures.  “Blessed are the meek…”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To a Waterfowl “In the Garden” Verse 8 – “From Zone to Zone”

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.

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“He, who, from zone to zone,

Guides through the boundless sky thy certain flight,

In the long way that I must trace alone,

Will lead my steps aright.”  (To a Waterfowl, Verse 8, Wm Cullen Bryant)

The heavens are silent.  The shorebird has reached his summer home, where he will build a nest with his shebird in preparation for  a new brood of chicks.  As the poet ponders his passing.  I, too, stop to ponder the significance of my mother’s journey and her peaceful and victorious passage into “the abyss of Heaven.”

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Zone to Zone I  –  “Sunrise – The Early Years”

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

To a Waterfowl is, in essence, a declaration of faith in God, and Ellen’s faith was honed on the farm, with Henry.

“After their honeymoon to the Wisconsin Dells, they returned to the farm and the house Henry had built for his bride.  It sat on a hill, overlooking the countryside…. When Henry, ever the romantic, scooped up his petite bride (all 5’4, 90 lbs. of her), carried her across the threshold, up the back stairway and deposited her gently on the kitchen floor, their life together officially began.  Their lives would be shaped by that house on the farm, and in return, the farm would forever bear the stamp of their presence.”  (In the Garden, pp. 14,15)

The challenges were multiple:  if a cow got sick, the entire  day’s supply of milk would be contaminated and would have to be dumped; too  little rain would suffocate newly planted seeds, while too much would wash them away, and an inopportune windstorm could destroy an entire cherry crop, and to make matters worse, Henry would have to pay to have the cherries picked and dumped to insure a healthy crop the next year.

Though Henry was used to the vicissitudes and vulnerabilities of  farming, it was Ellen, a farm fledgling, who often comforted her beloved Hinie in the face of adversities:

“Henry stands at the dining room window sobbing as  he watches the windstorm wreak havoc on his cherry crop.  His entire crop is ruined.  “Ruined,”  he sobs.  Everything is ruined. How will we pay our bills?”  Ellen too wonders how they will manage.  “Don’t worry, honey,” she says.  “God will provide.”

“God will provide,” became her mantra.  And, He did.  As the house on the hill  was built on a firm foundation, their faith was honed on a daily diet of scripture and prayer.

“Like a muscle, it {their faith} would be exercised daily,  stretching and growing strong as the rocks turned over by the plow in the field; their trust in God as sure as the sun that rose and set daily overhead; their walk with God as straight and narrow as the furrows formed by the plow Henry held as he walked back and forth across the fields behind the workhorses, Maude and Daize.”  (In the Garden, pg. 33)

Both Henry and Ellen spent much time outside.  There in “the house where You live, O Lord, the place where Your glory dwells,” (Psalm 26:8,9), as Ellen went about her daily chores – hanging out the clothes, pulling up onions in the garden, or weeding her beloved roses, the truths contained in her daily scripture reading became real to her and their mysteries unfolded within her soul. There she communed with her Lord.

While their faith was honed early on with the physical challenges of eking out a living for their family, there were challenges ahead that would rock the foundation of their faith and cause their trust in God to be tried in the crucible of suffering and tragedy;

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“Where can I go from Thy spirit?  Where can I flee from Thy 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 the 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)

Two events would challenge my mother’s faith and try her faith in the crucible of suffering – the death of her daughter and the estrangement of her youngest son.

When my sister died, my family was in shock; however the news hit my mother especially hard.  If you had taken a baseball bat and struck my her outright, she could not have been more stunned.

“As she struggled to comprehend the incomprehensible, accept the unacceptable, her spirit sagged within her and ebbed slowly away.  She appeared dazed and lifeless.  Finally, paralyzed by grief and despair, she withdrew to her room, where she remained for several days.  I passed by once as my father was leaving the room.  She lay under the bedcovers, facing the windows, still as a shroud.” (In the Garden, pg. 65)

Now, along with grieving the death of my sister, we were worried about my mother.  We didn’t expect her to attend the funeral.  Then, suddenly, there she was, a definite peace and serenity, almost otherworldly, radiated from within her.  She began doing a few chores with a calm, seemingly detached manner.  She attended my sister’s visitation and funeral, and though quiet and subdued, she carried herself with grace and graciousness.  Her manner gave my sister’s life and struggle a measure of dignity and respect it deserved.

My mother was never the same after my sister’s death.  She carried her grief to her own grave; however, the peace and serenity, she exhibited at the funeral, stayed with her for the rest of her days.

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My youngest brother left for the Vietnam War when he was eighteen, just out of high school. My mother  had no idea, when she bade him goodbye, that their relationship would be altered forever.  Her youngest son, her baby,  survived the jungles of Nam, but never returned home to his family.  To her dying day, my mother hoped and prayed that she would see him one last time, but it was not to be.

What makes this story especially poignant is that my youngest brother was a miracle. The pregnancy was difficult from the start.  Not only was my mother sick most of the time, but complications led the doctor to advise my parents that if my mother carried this baby to term, she would most certainly die.  Imagine the dilemma for my parents.  They did not believe in abortion; however, if my mother died in childbirth, how would my father cope with seven children to manage by himself?  As always, my parents took their problems to the Lord in prayer.  My brother was born and my mother survived.  He was always special to her – not only was he her youngest son, but he embodied an answer to prayer.

How does a mother deal with a son who she carried in her womb and nursed at her breast, who rejects her, his family?  How does one comprehend the unthinkable, accept the unacceptable?  How many bottles would it take to hold the tears shed in her grief and sorrow? (In the Garden, pg. 80)

With Job, she cried out in her anguish, “Have pity on me, my friends, have pity, for the hand of God has struck me.”  (Job 19:21)

Once again, at a crossroads of her faith, my mother threw herself on the mercies of her Lord.  In her despair, she clung to the promises of scripture.  Completely broken and at the end of herself,  she prayed the Jesus prayer, “Not my will, but Thine be done.”

In this state of total surrender, she placed her son’s good above her own needs and desires.  She came to understand that his experiences in Nam were traumatic and emotionally scarring, making it difficult for him to return to life as normal on the farm.  Though she came to respect his decision, she never stopped praying for his physical and spiritual well being, and while she might not see him this side of heaven, she prayed that she would see him one day in eternity.

“I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end He will stand upon the earth…yet, in my flesh will I see God.”  (Job 19: 25,26)

Many people, who experience tragedy and loss, find they can no longer believe in a God who would allow tragedies to happen.  My parents never blamed God for the death of my sister or the estrangement of my brother.  They never forsook their Lord; instead their faith and trust were strengthened in the crucible of suffering.  They laid their pain at the foot of the cross, where their Lord met them with compassion and love and filled them with acceptance, strength, and grace.

“Faith is what God asks of us.  His invisibility is the test of faith.  To know who sees Him, God makes Himself invisible.”  (Hillenbrand, Laura, Unbroken)

“Faith helped them when there was no visible answer to their prayers.  Billy Graham notes that those whose prayers are not answered in the way they would choose, who must hold on by faith alone, reap a far greater heavenly reward because they endure by faith and faith alone.”  (In the Garden, pg. 119)

When I think of the pain my mother endured being estranged from her youngest son, I am overcome with emotion.  Though their story did not have a happy ending, I can’t help but think that the whole story has not been told.  God, the worker of miracles, will have the last word.

“He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches:  ‘To {her} that overcometh, I will give to eat of the hidden manna and will give {her} a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no {woman} knoweth saving {she] that receiveth it.”  (Revelation 2:17)

I am so bold as to think the name written on the white stone is my brother’s.

2015-11-04 17.29.53From Zone to Zone III – “Sunset  – The Final  Years”

“Next to the might of God, the serene beauty of a holy life is the most powerful influence for good in the world.”  (Dwight L. Moody)

My mother died a gentle, humble emptied child of God. Death was not the end for her; it was a beginning.  Watching her fearlessly face her final enemy, Death, changed my life and over time, was the impetus for writing her memoir.  ”

“The more I reflected on her life, the more I came to respect and appreciate her.  I wanted to learn all I could about her; to be like her – to be a model for my children and my grandchildren, as she was, and continues to be, for me.”  (Preface, In the Garden, pg. v)

In her last years, my mother was homebound, vulnerable and virtually helpless; however, when I think back on my visits with her, I do not remember her as frail, weak or infirm.  She radiated serenity, peace, holiness – transparence, as though the sunshine of God’s presence was shining through her.  I wanted to be with her.  I had the distinct sense that to be with her like being on holy ground.

What was the secret of her strength, peace, and victory over death?

Like three biblical giants of scripture, my mother’s faith had been tried and tested in the furnace of suffering and pain.  First, like Jacob, she wrestles with God.  After my sister died, my mother withdrew to her room, physically, emotionally and spiritually exhausted.  It is there she wrestles with her Lord, who finds her, alone, broken, and powerless to control her fate.  Afterwards, touched, healed and with a new name, she emerges from her room, “a definite peace and serenity, almost otherworldly, radiates from within her.”

Second, like Job, she comes to the end of herself and concludes that understanding the reasons for pain and sorrow is beyond the scope of the human mind and simply waits on the Lord:

“Where does wisdom come from?  Where does understanding dwell?  It is hidden from the eyes of every living thing…” (Job 28:20,21)

Be still and know that I am God…” (Psalm 46:10)

Finally, like her Jesus, after crying out in anguish and pain, “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me,” she was finished.  She surrendered her ego, her will, her self to her Lord.  Therein, I believe lies the secret to her victorious and peaceful death – she “died before she died”.

 

Acceptance and surrender became the trademarks of her extraordinary life.  Hoeing "In the Garden" #4 - Of Lilies and Sparrows

“When you surrender to what is and so become fully present, the past ceases to have any power.  The realm of Being, which had been obscured by the mind, then opens up.  Suddenly a great stillness arises within you, an unfathomable sense of peace.  And within that peace, there is joy. And, within the joy, there is love.  And at the innermost core, there is the sacred, the immeasurable, That which cannot be named.”  (Eckhart Tolle, Practicing the Power of Now)

Madeleine L’Engle writes that there is a fine distinction between resignation and acceptance, but the choice of one over the other will make all the difference in one’s life. Resignation leads to hardness; acceptance to softness and gentleness; resignation builds crust, acceptance, holes and vulnerability; resignation opposes the flow of life; acceptance yields to it;  resignation turns one away from God, acceptance brings one closer to Him.  My mother didn’t have a hard, crusty bone in her body.  She was soft, gentle, vulnerable and Love, personified.  She offered no resistance.

In a state of ease, lightness and grace, she was like a deep lake. On the surface, the outer circumstances of her life,    the water might be calm, sometimes windy and rough, but deep down, at the level of Being, the infinite, the lake is always peaceful and undisturbed.

It was in the act of total surrender, more than scripture reading, more than prayer, more than going to church or reciting the creeds, important as those were to her faith,  that the spiritual dimension became a reality in my mother’s life.

The lesson she taught me…

“He…in the long way I must trace alone

Will lead my steps aright.”

“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 the 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: 8 – 10)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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)

 

 

 

To a Waterfowl Revisited “In the Garden” #2

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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 the rest of her 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 her 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.

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“Vainly the fowler’s eye
Might mark thy distant flight to do thee wrong,
As, darkly painted on the crimson sky,
Thy figure floats along.” (To a Waterfowl, stanza 2 by William Cullen Bryant)
The waterbird faces many a challenge on its migratory journey. Finding food, veering off course, mighty winds and always, the feared hunter – all pose threats; however, the poet assures us, that the hunter, or fowler will have no success in bringing down the waterfowl as it floats in silhouette against the crimson evening sky.
Ellen, like the waterfowl, would face many challenges and difficulties in her life on the farm with Henry:
Eking out a living on the farm:
“Life was difficult for them, because, in living on the land, they were vulnerable in so many ways… When the cherries were ruined by a windstorm, not only would there not be a cherry crop that year, but workers would have to be hired to pick and dump the wind-bruised cherries, otherwise the next year’s crop would not come in. Her heart breaking within her, Ellen comforted her weeping husband, Henry, with the words, “God will provide.” And somehow He did. When a cow became infected, the entire batch of milk would have to be dumped… Henry and Ellen had no insurance… When family members, suffered broken limbs, needed surgeries, dental or doctor care, there was no insurance.” (In the Garden, pp.56.57)

Losing a daughter to depression:
My sister was 48 years of age and in the prime of her life. When she died, everyone in the family was in shock, but the news hit my mother the hardest.  She was stunned beyond belief. “As she struggled to comprehend the incomprehensible and accept the unacceptable, her spirit sagged and slowly ebbed away. She appeared dazed and lifeless. Finally, paralyzed by grief, she withdrew to her room. My father guarded her privacy and along with family members, saw to the details of the funeral, answered the phone and greeted friends and relatives who stopped by with their condolences.” (In the Garden, pg. 65)

Estrangement from her youngest son, who survived the jungles of Vietnam, but never returned home:
“One of the most painful things my mother had to deal with in her lifetime, was being estranged from her youngest son. To her dying day, she held out hope that she would see or hear from him one last time, but it was not to be… My mother held onto the hope that if her son could be found, he would return home. When he was located, she implored her older son to visit. How she must have prayed while he was away. But, when he returned home, the news was not good. Her youngest son had been cool an distant to his older brother, treated him like a stranger and showed no emotion when he was told of his mother’s love and desire to have him return home. My mother’s hopes and dreams were shattered.” (In the Garden, pp. 75,79)

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And, yet in spite of the challenges, the grief and loss, Ellen, like the waterfowl, was not brought down by trouble and despair – the fowler, who would do her harm.

“Henry and Ellen’s faith was honed on the farm…They were both brought up in spiritual homes. Bible reading and prayer were their spiritual bread and butter, a sure foundation for the many challenges and difficulties they would face. Their faith got stronger as the years went by. Like a trainer strengthens a muscle through exercise, so God strengthened their faith by stretching and exercising it. Each time they faced a hardship, they would take it to the Lord in prayer, then trusting in His promises, they forged ahead with the chores and details of their life.” (In the Garden, pp. 56, 57)

Their life on the farm was a journey, a pilgrimage founded on faith in God. From the sunrise years of their early beginnings to the sunset years, of old age and frailty, they trusted their Lord, until that final day, when “silhouetted against the crimson evening sky,”  their journeys would end and they would see the One in whom they had placed their trust every step of the way.2013-05-05 20.02.20

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Illustration, page 16(from Mimi the Mimic and the Great Migration)
Note: Mimi the Mimic and the Great Migration is the author’s 5th book in the series, Tales From Pelican Cove,” and is based on Emily Dickinson’s “Things with Feathers” poem. The book’s themes of hope and remembering are also the themes of her mother’s memoir, In the Garden, where the author describes how God’s winged wonders often lifted Ellen’s spirits and put a song in her heart. See http://www.janethasselbring.com for more information about Janet’s books.

The Moonbird – A Story of Pluck and Perseverance

   Does life ever get you down?  Ever feel discouraged and ready to give up?  Read about the Moonbird, a gutsy, plucky red knot, who has flown the equivalent mileage of traveling to the moon and back in his twenty years of migrating from Patagonia to upper Hudson Bay and back every year.     

 

23 May 2013

·         The Philadelphia Inquirer South Jersey edition
·         By Sandy Bauers
·        

It looks as if B95 — a shorebird that has attracted both popularity and paparazzi — is continuing his publicity tour of South Jersey.
B95 is a red knot, and the name refers to the identifying letter and number on his leg band. But he also has the nickname Moonbird because, in his long life, researchers figure he has flown the equivalent distance to the moon and halfway back.
http://cache2-thumb1.pressdisplay.com/pressdisplay/docserver/getimage.aspx?regionguid=11f3cdab-e56b-4fb4-bd7b-7b227e0fc954&scale=400&file=14892013052300000000001001&regionKey=0snqEY4jvbhQfTOTLKeUwA%3d%3dA week ago, the famed bird was spotted on the Delaware side of Delaware Bay. On Friday, he was spotted on the Jersey side, at Cooks Beach. Then — where’d he go? To Fortescue, still on the Jersey side, it turns out. Several observers spotted him there Sunday. He was spotted again on Monday by Yann Rochepault and Cristophe Buidin.
Luckily, Buidin was able to get a photo of B95, adding incontrovertible proof to the growing number of sightings.
On Wednesday, Rochepault spotted B95 again, this time at Kimbles Beach.
“Oh, my gosh, that little guy’s getting around,” said Charles Duncan of the Massachusetts-based Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences.
Buidin and Rochepault are from Quebec and are part of an international team of bird researchers on the bay, led by Amanda Dey of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and Larry Niles, an independent consultant.
Every year, the researchers crowd into a Reeds Beach shorebird house, rev up their computers, post their charts of bird weights and sightings, and spend a month immersed in all things shorebirds.
Praise for the spotters is coming in from worldwide — Canada, the United States, Mexico, Panama, Venezuela, Argentina, Chile, Switzerland, even Bangladesh, said Duncan, director of Manomet’s Shorebird Recovery Project.
Biologists scan flocks of birds to find ones that have been banded, which provide population data. B95 was first banded 20 years ago, and spotters began to see him regularly.
Whenever they don’t see him, they fear he has finally died. But then he shows up again. B95 is now the oldest red knot they know of, and he’s become a conservation icon for shorebirds, which are in decline worldwide.
Last year, Nature Conservancy staffer Phillip Hoose wrote a book about him, Moonbird: A Year on the Wind With the Great Survivor B95. Two statues have been erected in his honor.
This is shaping up to be a good year for the birds, which once numbered as many as 100,000 on the bay.
They declined to about 16,000 before rebounding a bit in recent years. Researchers blamed the harvest of horseshoe crabs, which are used as bait in other fisheries.
The birds, which migrate from the tip of South America to the Canadian Arctic, arrive on the bay every May emaciated. They depend on the fat-rich eggs of the crabs to regain bulk and strength.
Crab harvest restrictions were enacted, and last year the birds numbered closer to 24,000.
On Wednesday, red knots were still arriving, Niles said. He guessed they numbered from 5,000 to 6,000 between Reeds Beach and Fortescue alone
 

Hoeing "In the Garden" 4b Of Lilies and Sparrows – "Lessons From the Birds, ‘For the Birds!’"

Hoeing In the Garden 4b – “Of Lilies and Sparrows – “Lessons From the Birds, “For the Birds!'”

The birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the sea.  O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth! (Psalm 8:8,9 KJV)

Mimi's friend, the Carolina Wren
Carolina Wren

One of the most moving spiritual sagas is that of St. Francis of Assissi and his memorable sermon to the birds.  After spotting a flock of birds, St. Francis preached his famous sermon, exhorting them to praise their Creator and always love Him.  In response, the birds spread their wings, stretched their necks and gazed lovingly at the priest.  After blessing them with the sign of the cross, St. Francis went on his way.  After that experience, he made it a habit to preach daily to his feathered friends.
While St. Francis preached to the birds, my mother, Ellen, by contrast, was a student of the birds.  When life on the farm was challenging and lonely, she received hope and comfort from them.
Here is my mother, in March, 1936, on her first day on the farm, just back from a honeymoon to the Wisconsin Dells.  Dressed in her new housedress and freshly-starched apron, she is in the kitchen fixing breakfast for Henry, who has risen early to milk the cows.

             “Her sense of excitement and exuberance shifted to a twinge of uncertainty and doubt as she looked at the bleak, foreboding scene through the kitchen window.
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 like Henry and me. The sight of the birds lifted 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 farmwife.  Well, a housewife who lives on the farm, she thought.  Somehow that seemed 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 pg. 23)
Northern Cardinal Photo

Ellen and Henry’s life was founded on the Word of God and prayer.  Daily they found guidance and sustenance for the cares and challenges of ekeing out a living on the farm, by reading God’s promises and walking and talking with their Lord in prayer; however,  their faith took on personal meaning and significance in the great out-of-doors,  as they performed their daily chores.  Much of their time was spent outside, plowing, weeding, harvesting crops, picking and snipping beans from the garden and, when time permitted, taking drives through the countryside.
Their spirits became one with nature – the wheat waving gently in the wind, the roses lifting their faces to the sun’s rays, dewdrops glinting in the early morning sunshine, raindrops pelting boldly from the sky, a chickadees cheerfully singing its name, “chick – a dee-dee-dee,” and sparrows frantically chasing each other through the bushes in the front yard – indeed they became one with the very soil of the farm itself.
Ellen’s relationship with birds grew beyond her initial fascination with their beauty, and their ability to fly and sing, and  took on an almost mystical quality.  She, like the poets of the early nineteenth century, came to  appreciate these avian flyers as symbols of imaginative freedom in their flight and for the full-throated ease of their singing.  Here she is in the front yard, hanging out the wash.

“On a crisp Monday morning in mid-April, Ellen had pinned her last bed sheet on the clothesline, when a black-capped chickadee came and perched on a branch overhead, trilling its little heart out.
‘Oh you beautiful little creature,’ Ellen called.  Something  about that plump little bird lifted her spirits and gave her a burst of hope like the cardinals had done for her earlier.
Se felt a deep longing within – it seemed to come from the depths of her being, from her soul.  It was an awakening to nature and the power of 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.
She had learned about God in churcBlack-capped Chickadee Photoh and Sunday School and had publicly professed her faith when she was eighteen.  She and Henry, in their wedding vows, had promised to make God the foundation of their home.
But now, in a bird’s song, she experienced the God of creation and revelation in her heart.  God was in the bird’s song, the budding of the trees, the cooling refreshing breeze and the tulips blooming by the side of the house.  She didn’t have to worry about her new life or feel lonely or isolated when Henry left to do his chores about the farm.  With God’s help she could become the housewife she wanted to be for Henry.  She felt strangely moved – changed.  Ellen had experienced a moment out of time – a kairos moment. (In the Garden, pgs. 27,28)
What lessons did Ellen learn from the chickadee, the cardinals and the other birds which nested nearby, ate at the feeders Henry set out, picked at the ear of corn nailed to the maple tree out front, and flitted about in the shrubs and bushes?

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Lesson 1.  Her true nature
Just as birds express their true natures and go through life perfectly themselves, without knowing anything of the worry and anxiety that warp so many human lives, so Ellen came to the realization that she, though on an infinitely higher plane of creation then her avian friends, was created in the image of God and thus her true nature was spiritual. She adapted herself to her true element, as a spiritual being, as the birds adapted to their true elements of flying and singing.  The freedom and joy, so apparent in birds, were meant t0 be her birthright as well.

“Behold the fowls of the air; for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them.  Are ye not much better than they?”  (Matthew VI KJV)

SONY DSC
Lesson 2.  Flying  – “…and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”  (Psalm 23)
Ellen  has just taken down a load of bedding from the line and carrying her clothesbasket back to the house for ironing and folding.  Her basket is not the only load she is carrying.  Last evening, a strong windstorm came through the farm and ruined the entire cherry crop.  Henry is devastated.  Not only has he lost his crop, he will have to pay to have the cherries picked, or next year’s crop will be stunted on the trees.  They needed the money for food, medical bills and upcoming school clothes for their six children.  Ellen is pregnant again and she senses something is wrong with this baby.  She just doesn’t feel right.
Suddenly, she notices an eagle soaring overhead.  It circles round and round and then hovers in the air, perhaps waiting for an updraft.  Ellen is mesmerized.  She sets her basket down and watches in fascination.  Suddenly, the tightness in her breast, like a brace of birds, broke free.  It was as though she glimpsed Heaven beyond the circling eagle.  She was enveloped with the presence of God, Himself. She dropped her basket and fell to her knees.  She had known Heaven as her future home, but now it was present with her here,  on earth, on the farm, on the back lawn of the house on the hill.  The voices of her children in the yard brought her back to reality.  She got up, picked up her load and continued on her way to the house.  Only now, she walked with a lighter step, as though she had one foot on the earth and one in heaven.
Ellen’s encounter with the eagle remained with her throughout her days on the farm, helping to put the cares and challenges of each day in perspective.  God was in charge.  She was His faithful and obedient servant.  Her future was secure and happy.  This realization didn’t mean that Ellen stopped working, doing or praying.  Indeed it has been said that it is no good praying for something unless one works for it with one’s entire being.  But now her working had a dimension of lightness to it that was not there before.  She would do the work – the result was in God’s hands, until the day she would “fly away” home.
“At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with someone sitting on it.” (Revelation 4:2)

Orange-billed nightingale-thrush
Orange-billed nightingale-thrush

Lesson 3.  Singing -a  symbol of hope and joy
If a bird’s flight had lifted Ellen’s thoughts beyond Earth to Heaven, it was the full-throated ease of a bird’s song that enabled her to experience the joy that was her birthright as a child of God. 

Though there is no bird more noted for the full-throated ease of singing, than the nightingale, (it’s mostly the male bird that’s known for its melodic singing, as many as a thousand songs, usually at night, to woo the female during mating season),  it is the skylark, whose melody best embodies the mystical quality birdsong held for Ellen.
In his poem, “To a Skylark,” Shelley expresses the irrepressible charm of this “blithe spirit”:

         Hail to thee, blithe Spirit!
                Bird thou never wert,
         That from Heaven, or near it,
                Pourest thy full heart
In profuse strains of unpremeditated art.

Imagine  standing in a field near dawn, listening to birdsong pouring down from the sky for two minutes or four, a very long time, as the singer rises, hovers, swoops above you, often visible only as a speck in the blue. Finally he plummets to the ground and is lost to view.

Orange-billed nightingale-thrush
Orange-billed nightingale-thrush

The bird sings not from a perch but while flying, so the song emerges from the sky above, as the night flees and the first glow of dawn appears. It becomes associated with all the possibilities of a new day, the freshness of dawn, the light banishing darkness.
In this stanza, Shelley draws particular attention to the skylark’s two worlds, sky and earth. It soars, sings, then drops to a point unseen on the ground where mate and nest have remained.
Higher still and higher

                From the earth thou springest
         Like a cloud of fire;
                The blue deep thou wingest,
And singing still dost soar, and soaring ever singest.

The skylark’s song generally lasts 2 to 3 minutes, quite long by birdsong standards, and is often even longer later in the season. What a great effort is put forth by this bird (which weighs only

Skylark and her young

30-45 g), singing continuously while he is zooming up into the air, holding steady aloft, and plummeting down!
Shelley goes on to compare it to a lonely maiden in a palace tower, who uses her song to soothe her lovelorn soul. It is like a golden glow-worm, scattering light among the flowers and grass in which it is hidden. It is like a rose embowered in its own green leaves, whose scent is blown by the wind until the bees are faint with “too much sweet.” The skylark’s song surpasses “all that ever was, /,  Joyous and clear and fresh,” whether the rain falling on the “twinkling grass” or the flowers the rain awakens. Hail to thee, blithe Spirit!
A visitor to the great plain of Salisbury, recounted his experience at hearing a skylark for the first time:

“From the contentment of her lowly nest in the grass, the songstress rose on quivering wings, pouring out a flood of perfect joy.  With infinite courage the feathered atom breasted the spaces of the sky, as if her music lifted her irresistibly skyward.  With sublime confidence she passed out of sight into the azure; but not out of hearing for her cheerful voice fell yet more sweetly through the distance, as if it were saying,  ‘Forever, forever.'” (The Story of the Psalms, Henry Van Dyke)
Though Ellen would never have heard a nightingale or a skylark, for neither is found in North America, she was surrounded with birds on the farm.  In her darkest moments and challenges, their full-throated melodies lifted her spirits heavenward.  In their trillings, she came to know the truth of her Lord’s words:

      “So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.” (John 16:22)
 
Front Cover

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.

Sparrows

“Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins?[a] And not one of them is forgotten before God. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. (Luke 12:6-8 NKJV)

Hoeing In the Garden #2 – Ellen Walking and Talking with her Lord



Note:  The memoir, In the Garden, portrays my 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.  Ellen lived her entire married life in the house, on the hill, on a small farm in west Michigan (site of present day Country Dairy), rooting herself in the place where she believed God had planted her.  There, alongside the love of her life, Henry, 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.

      In the memoir of my mother, Ellen, I describe the defining
moments of her life –  the “why” moments when she was at a fork
in the road and struggled to make sense of life’s challenges. It’s been noted that the “why” moments of our lives are the crucial
moments when we will choose either acceptance or resignation, hope or despair, faith or doubt.  So it was with my mother.
     I needed a way for readers to get inside my mother’s head – to
know what she was thinking during these times of trial; to get inside her heart – to feel her pain and grief during times of loss; to get inside her soul – to catch a glimpse of a pilgrim, like Jacob of old, wrestling with her Lord during times of crisis, when her very faith was at stake.
    I thought then  of C.S. Lewis’s Narnia Chronicles – of Peter, Lucy, Susan and Edmund and the great Lion, Aslan, the God figure in the book.  It came to me that Aslan would make a great model for Ellen’s God – the great I Am, who is the Creator and Ruler of the universe, yet, accessible to a humble pilgrim, like my mother, Ellen.

     The children learn about Aslan from Mr. and Mrs. Beaver:

     “Is he a man?” asked Lucy.  “Aslan a man!” said Mr. Beaver sternly.
 “Certainly not. I tell you he is the King of the wood
and the son of the great Emperor-Beyond-the-Sea.  Don’t you know
who is the King of Beasts? Aslan is a lion – the Lion, the great Lion.”
     “Ooh!” said Susan.  “I’d thought he was a man.  Is he–quite safe?
I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”
     “That you will, dearie, and no mistake,” said Mrs. Beaver, “if there’s
anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re
either braver than most or else just silly.”
     “Then he isn’t safe/” said Lucy.
     “Safe?”  said Mr. beaver.  “Don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you?
Who said anything about safe?  ‘Course he isn’t safe.  But he’s good. 
He’s the King, I tell you.” (from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe)

     Sprinkled throughout the memoir the reader will find
Ellen walking and talking with her Lord “in the garden.”  Listen in as she
talks with her Lord, early in her marriage, after the cherry crop is ruined
and she doesn’t know how they will pay their bills:

     “Ellen”
     “Oh my Lord, it is You?”
     “Yes Ellen, I am here. Why are you crying dear one?”
     “Oh my Lord,” she wailed, “the cherry crop has been ruined by the
wind.  Oh, I do not know what to do.  If Henry cannot pick the cherries we
will not have enough money to pay our bills.  We were counting on that money.”
Her voice broke off in a sob.
     “Ellen.”  The voice was sweet and so, so gentle.  “Ellen, when you first
found me here on the farm, did I not promise to take care of you?
…Did I promise that the way would always be easy?  Did I promise you a rose garden?”
     In spite of her woes, the hint of a smile wafted to her lips.
     “No, my Lord.  But I am so frightened and I need to be strong for Henry. 
Please my Lord, help me.  It’s hard to be strong when I’m afraid myself.
I don’t know how we will manage.”
     “Ellen. Remember what I told you.  ‘If you abide in me and my words
abide in you, you shall ask what you will and it shall be done unto you.’
Now if you had a wish, what would it be, my dear?”
Note:  Ellen asks that the wind damage be undone or they
be given the money lost by the storm, but when challenged by
her Lord, she realizes she is being put to a test and finally decides
to rethink her wish.
     “This is my wish my Lord – that You would comfort Henry and
give him the strength to go on in spite of losing his cherries.  He
cannot survive without hope and he worries so about taking care of me.
yes, that is my wish – that You would give Henry peace and make him strong.
     He smiled.  “Your wish is granted my dear Ellen. …. And, now a
wish for yourself?”
     “Nothing for myself, my Lord.  It is enough to be here in the garden with You.”
     Again He smiled upon her.  “You have chosen well my child.  Go with my
blessing…” Then he was gone.
     Ellen remained in the garden for a time, savoring the moments with her Lord.
Something stirred deep within her – she felt altered, transformed.  Her eyes
filled with tears but they were tears of wonderment and joy.  Gently, she
wiped her eyes and went in to fix supper for Henry.” (In the Garden, pgs. 39,40)

     Ellen’s God, like Aslan, was not particularly safe but He was good.  You can
read more of Ellen’s conversations with her God in the memoir.  Visit       
www.Principiamedia.com or www.janethasselbring.com

“Conversation about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative.” Oscar Wilde    
     At the risk of sounding unimaginative, “It’s a windy day, the water’s white with spray, and if this wind keeps up, the world might blow away.”(Poet unknown)  And, at the risk of sounding blustery, I will report that Maggie May and I braved the bluster of Lake Michigan today.  Unlike the peaceful tranquility of summer, captured here on canvas by artist Jon McDonald, the waves hurtled and churned ashore.  Overhead a swirl of red-shouldered hawks were soaring on the wing. “…and He will raise you up on eagles’ wings…”  A cardinal sang a full throated melody.  “…His eye is on the sparrow…” Oh, to fly like a bird and be free. Oh, to trill away with utter abandon. Woof, woof. OK Maggie… With my feet back on the ground, Maggie and I headed home, but here in the refuge of my house,  I want you to know, part of me is still out there soaring with the hawks and singing with the cardinal.  Wherever you are, on this blustery day, I hope you take time to soar and sing.  That’s pretty wild, I know.  But unimaginative?  What do you think, Mr. Wilde?

At The Risk Of Sounding Unimaginative…

“Conversation about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative.”

Oscar Wilde

At the risk of sounding unimaginative, “It’s a windy day, the water’s white with spray, and if this wind keeps up, the world might blow away.”(Poet unknown) And, at the risk of sounding blustery, I will report that Maggie May and I braved the bluster of Lake Michigan today.

Unlike the peaceful tranquility of summer, captured here on canvas by artist Jon McDonald, the waves hurtled and churned ashore. Overhead a swirl of red-shouldered hawks were soaring on the wing. “…and He will raise you up on eagles’ wings…” A cardinal sang a full throated melody. “…His eye is on the sparrow…” Oh, to fly like a bird and be free. Oh, to trill away with utter abandon.

Woof, woof. OK Maggie…

With my feet back on the ground, Maggie and I headed home, but here in the refuge of my house, I want you to know, part of me is still out there soaring with the hawks and singing with the cardinal.

Wherever you are, on this blustery day, I hope you take time to soar and sing. That’s pretty wild, I know. But unimaginative? What do you think, Mr. Wilde?