Friday, October 29, 2010

Psalm 91

If you live in the shelter of Elyon
and make your home in the shadow of Shaddai,
you can say to Yahweh, 'My refuge, my fortress,
my God in whom I trust!'

…He covers you with his feathers,
and you find shelter underneath his wings.
…You need not fear the terrors of the night,
the arrow that flies in the daytime.

…Though a thousand fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
you yourself will remain unscathed,
with his faithfulness for shield and buckler…

'I rescue all who cling to Me,
I protect whoever knows My name,
I answer everyone who invokes Me,
I am with them when they are in trouble;
I bring them safety and honour.
I give them life, long and full,
and show them how I can save.'

Monday, October 18, 2010

Milly & Becky

Becky was Milly's best friend. They were always together, because Milly's older sister Annie was best friends with Becky's older sister, and Milly's older brother was best friends with Becky's older brother.

Milly admired Becky a great deal. She was daring, feisty, pragmatic, and shrewd where Milly was shy, timid, dreamy, and naïve. Becky disbelieved completely in all the faerie world, and yet was certain that Santa Clause and the Tooth Fairy were real, whereas Milly knew Santa Clause and the Tooth Fairy to be wholly false because Mama had told her so, and yet sometimes pretended there were fairies who lived in the brook and had tea time on the rocks (using her very own plastic tea set). Becky was slender and petite, with flaxen curls and big brown eyes, whereas Milly was tall and stocky, with cropped brown hair and thick bangs and big round tortoise-shell glasses, that she passively and sweetly refused to wear.

Becky lived way back in the woods of Lebanon, Tennessee, at the end of a winding gravel road that had a great mud hole right in the middle of it. Milly loved driving to Becky's house. It was scarcely three miles from Raccoon Trail, where Milly lived, to Old Lebanon Dirt Road, where Becky lived, and she liked the rugged dirt road that passed a crumbling graveyard, a long wall of tall green trees, and then turned right with a delicious crunch of tires on gravel into the Huskin family's residence.

The Huskin's house was a big, beautiful brick house with a big, beautiful back yard that was surrounded by a big, beautiful brown wood. Inside the house was a very clean kitchen, a polished wooden floor, a parlor that Milly and Becky and Milly's little sister were not allowed in, an upstairs with a thick dove-grey carpet, and Becky's own bedroom, with pink and white striped wallpaper.

Becky's mother was a very dynamic, cheery person, who was an amazing baker of cookies and brownies, and yet was rigid in the rule that Milly had to eat her salad before she could leave the supper table––even if Milly firmly refused to do it for a good half hour after everyone else left. She was practical and feisty. Milly, on noticing that Laura Ingalls Wilder in her books always called adults Mr. and Mrs., decided that she ought to call Becky's mother 'Mrs. Huskins'. But, on addressing her thus one afternoon, 'Mrs. Huskins' very jollily declared that that made her feel like an old woman, and that she much preferred to be called 'Shirley'. But Milly still felt conscientiously grey about this, and so she would refrain from calling Becky's mother anything by prefacing every request with a timid, 'Um?' Shirley called Milly 'Milly-Rose' and Gretchen (Milly's little sister) 'Gretchie-Pooh', which Milly thought very endearing.

When Milly-Rose and Gretchie-Pooh came over to Becky-Lynn's house, they played all day long. There were limitless treasures of activity pent up in the Huskin's abode, complete with goats and pastures and the closets necessary to make the game 'Hiding from Gretchen' very fun indeed.

But, above all, Milly thought that the very funnest thing to do in the Huskin's house was to transport all necessary domestic instruments outside and construct a new house. Becky, the primary leader in finding entertainment, possessed an assortment of gowns that her mother, a very good needle-woman, had sewn her. She also owned a great many toys, fake kitchen sets, quilts, and other such things that made such a game complete.

So, on a fine, sunny afternoon, Becky, Milly, and Gretchen would dress up in pioneer and Victorian-esque dresses, gather up all the bitty babies, quilts, and various domestic needs, and troop outside. The two picnic tables and a sheet draped over the clothes line provided the very perfect play house.

Domesticity thrilled Milly. The act of setting up the house, cooking a supper of grass blades and tree leaves and honeysuckle blossoms, putting the bitty babies to sleep, and then going to sleep themselves, was blissful to all the girls, even though Gretchen and Becky never did want to go through all the motions and duties that Milly felt was proper for really playing Pretend. Soon they grew bored of the acts of cleaning house, cooking meals, and caring for the bitty baby.

"Let's quit playing House and go play Tag or something!" Becky said.

Gretchen chimed in agreement.

Milly hated playing Tag. She couldn't run as fast as Becky and Gretchen no matter how hard she tried, and it was much more fun calmly playing Pretend than getting hot and sweaty and tired. But she didn't quite say so, for she felt a little ashamed of her dislike of playing athletic games.

"Well," she finally said, "ya'll go on and play, and I'll come later."

"Hey, what if we played in the sprinkler!" Becky said.

Gretchen almost jumped with delight. The sprinkler was an immensely fun game. Once it rained when they were playing in the sprinkler, and they had all experienced the terrific terror of almost getting lightning struck. Indeed, the whole world had flashed bright red, and the grey sky had split right down the middle in a white, jagged line of electricity.

"Well, okay," Milly said, determined not to be a party spoiler, even though she was loath to quit House before she had even gotten to wake herself and her bitty babies up with her rooster's 'Cockle-doodle-do!' "But we'll have to clean up before we do, because we can't get all this stuff wet."

Becky and Gretchen groaned. It was true, but somehow the thought of putting back what they had so joyously and haphazardly taken out was not very tempting.

Becky had another idea. "What about swinging on the tire swing! Let's do the Victoria Twist!"

Now this was exciting. Milly loved the tire swing, tied up to one of the strongest tree-boughs, and Becky and Milly had thought up and named the 'Victoria Twist' themselves. They both thought the name 'Victoria' utterly exquisite.

They all ran over to the tire swing, and, gathering in a circle with one foot each in the Bowl, Becky performed the traditional counting rhyme that Milly could never quite get right.

Eeny meeny miny moe,

Catch a tiger by the toe.

If he hollers let him pay,

Fifty dollars every day.

My mama told me to pick the very best one,

And you are not It!

At long last, Milly was dubbed It. She excitedly mounted the flat tire, stood firmly upon it with her feet wedged inside, her hands holding tightly to the chains, and Becky and Gretchen began the Victoria. Round and round they turned her, till the chain was twisted all the way up to the bough. Then, with all the tense excitement of suspense, they let go. The tire spun fast, fast, faster, spinning close and also weaving as a whole in a continually bigger circle until Milly was frightened lest she should hit the fence. She held on for dear life to the chains, her head flung back in the dizzying wind, her brain reeling, the world blurring around her. Finally, when she could not resist the force of gravity in the spin any longer, she yelled, 'Stop! Stop!' and the two other girls grabbed the chain in flight and dragged it into stillness, while Milly climbed out and lay on the grass in delightfully dizzy delirium.

A noise was heard in the bright stillness of the summer day. Crack! crack! resounded through the woods. Milly sat up.

"What's that?" Gretchen said.

Becky listened, her bright brown eyes widening. "It's the Old Man in the Woods."

"What? Who?" Milly asked.

"He's an old man who lives up the hill, deep in the woods. He lives through that gate and up that road." She pointed past a little grove of mossy trees––that Milly liked to imagine as a fairy dell––and up a shadowy, winding lane. "He has a very long white beard."

For Milly, only two beings possessed long white beards. Firstly, God, whose white beard trailed from his blue-white face and floated in the wind as he looked down on the earth (or so said her imagination). And secondly, kidnappers. Mama and Daddy had warned her many times about watching out for kidnappers, and in Milly's six-year-old imagination, kidnappers all had blood-shot eyes and long white beards.

"Have you met him before?" Milly asked.

"No. Renee told me about him. He's very mean. Some people say he's not right in his head."

There was silence as the little girls listened to the crack! crack! of the axe in the woods.

"Um, ya'll," Gretchen said, shakily, "let's go inside now."

"Yeah. Let's."

"But we have to get all the House stuff first."

"Ya'll…I think the noise is getting closer."

"Me too."



The little girls bolted. They grabbed the quilts and the plastic kitchen-ware, they flung the Bitty Babies over their shoulders, they tore the sheet from the clothesline and wadded up the Victorian dresses, and then they dashed as fast as they could toward the house, the Old Man in the Woods getting closer, and closer, and closer all the time, his axe brandished high.

The door shut. The assortment of their play-house furnishings lay in a mountain on the floor. They panted. They smiled. Their hearts thumped.

They were safe and sound and deliciously scared.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

A Diary of Autumnal New England

Saturday, October 2, 2010

After two full days of traveling, I find myself in the quaintest, prettiest little town in the heart of Massachusetts. We have been set up in a bed and breakfast, with the creaking wooden floors, latched doors, and peculiar building structure of historical houses. Vastly aesthetically pleasing. It has been decorated in a very eclectic, colorful style. The room where we girls sleep has wild strawberry wallpaper, a bright red quilt, and varied furniture. Interesting, to say the least.

This morning I happened to look outside the bathroom window and see a lovely, rambling meadow right next door. As we arrived in darkness last night, I had no idea we were in such a rustic area. My heart thrilled at the prospect of a ramble through autumnal New England.

I hurried through my exercise, ate breakfast (very scrumptious, with Trader Joe's white tea!) with my wonderful family, and then Berklee, Gretchen, Jeremiah, and I embarked on our country walk.

Across the street from the white, colonial-styled house lay fields, sloping down to a wood and a marsh. The sky was a perfect robins-egg blue, and the vibrantly green grass next to the zesty color of the fall foliage was beautifully striking. It is so lovely how the trees turn color when the grass is still green.

The brisk chill of the autumn air, the wind, the wild enveloping us as we walked down the hill and into the woods was so pleasant. The forest was graced with all the ancient trees, moss, writhing roots, brooks, old rocks, and leaf-carpets of a New England wood unspoiled by logging. We took pictures, feasted with our eyes, breathed deeply of the good air, and I let my soul revel in the beauty of it all. The path ended in a sparkling pond, reflecting crystal clear the trees surrounding it. On our return back, Jeremiah insisted on gathering huge pieces of aspen bark, and I treasure-hunted some for an acorn, a scarlet leaf, a golden leaf, and a wild apple from a wild apple tree (that I took a couple bites of––very sweet and so aesthetically pleasing!). Berklee laid it all out in a beautiful collage atop the aspen bark, and then took very creative, artistic pictures of it.

Lovely! And now I must depart for lunch and concert preparations…

Sunday, October 3, 2010

I had great dreams of waking up early this morning and exercising well and then going on another ramble, but unfortunately exhaustion got the better of me. I finally forced myself out of bed at 7:15, and just had time to get dressed and packed up before breakfast at 8. After breakfast, though, while the men started to load our luggage, I stepped outside and snatched a bit of a walk.

This time, instead of going across the street, I explored the lawn of the house and the neighboring plots. It was beautiful outside. Very cold, the grass still wet and vibrant with dew, the wind fresh and invigorating, and the scenery just wild and unkempt enough to be picturesque. The back yard was very shady, with a hammock slung up between two maple trees, and an old well, built of rough grey rocks covered in ivy. I explored past the rock wall, and found myself in a field, with tall, wet grass, and, at the end of it, a lovely little red barn and house. I walked through an overgrown flower garden at the back of the barn, which had pine trees and pebbles all through it, and then, my socks and shoes very wet with dew, went back down the road to join Jeremiah and Gretchen, who were embarking on a walk down the other direction.

We skipped along the sidewalk till we came to the colonial-styled historical circle, with the Common in the middle, and, surrounding that, a beautiful, white Catholic church with a steeple and bell, a lovely small rock house-turned-library, a one-room courthouse from the 1800s, an old-fashioned general store, and other quaint things.

Once back, all of us decided to go next door to the historical Church of Christ for church that morning, as it would be the one place we'd be sure to receive communion. The building was just lovely. Bright white, with two red doors in the old Puritan fashion of segregation between men and women, and large, Gothic windows. On the left was a whole wall of tall, strong, beautiful trees. Inside, the church was just as beautiful, with all the historical architecture in tact: honey-colored pews, floors, and a great pump-organ and pulpit. Therein we spent an hour in praise and prayer, and partook of the Holy Eucharist.

The service ended, and we loaded up in the cars and headed out to find somewhere for lunch. Rather difficult, as New England boasts mostly diners, but, after much search, we found the most intriguing little place, called Salem Cross Inn. All the decorations were colonial, with penmanship hearkening back to the Declaration of Independence, the room having a roaring fire and old wooden floors and rafters. They had scrumptious pumpkin maple soup and salmon and butternut squash. We celebrated Berklee's birthday, which was a great deal of fun, and then we went by a used bookstore called the Book Bear.

Inside, amidst the aisles and aisles of dusty shelves, I found all sorts of literary delights. Easton Press books, old hardbacks with faded pages, a 24-volume collection of John Ruskin's works, and, most importantly, a pocket-sized, hardback version of George Eliot's Mill on the Floss, which, being only $4.50, I purchased. I cannot wait to start reading it. George Eliot must be my very favorite author. She combines the loveliness of Austen's personality, romance, and domestic liveliness with Dickens' intelligent, intricate plots and strong socio-political and religious principles. Benjamin was bountifully blessed with a rare Sir Walter Scott novel, a rare H. Rider Haggard novel, a beautiful pocket edition of Buchan's Greenmantle, Richardson's Clarissa, and some fantasy classic that's almost impossible to find. I feel some delicious reading in my future!

Now we're winding through the meandering little roads of rural New England for Plymouth, where we will be staying for the week. Till next time…

Monday, October 4, 2010

What a lovely day! The flat where we are staying is so pretty…clean and contained, a little too small, but with honey-wood floors and nice furniture and the most wonderful kitchen. It is so amazing to have plenty of counter space! It is right in the center of historical downtown Plymouth, with cobblestone and quaint shops and bakeries and touristy delights.

This morning we all put on our hoodies and stretch pants and went running. It was beautiful outside. A little overcast, but very windy and actually rather warm. We ran down the street until we came to an actual walking path, which we accessed by running (or falling and slipping, as I did) down a cushiony green hill. There was a beautiful, chattering brook that we followed out to the ocean, which was so wild. Where we are does not have anything of the beachy quality, but is regular land all the way up to the drop off, where you see the delightful old-fashioned tempest, with tossing boats and docks and foaming waves and crying seagulls. We also passed Plymouth Rock, which was quite small, and a historical mill, which had stocks in front that we put ourselves into. Quite horrid! I can't imagine that people used to be punished that way. The discomfort to one's back and legs is bad enough, without the horrid discomfort of having to hold your head up in that position. Ugh. We also passed a log cabin that was built in the 1600s, and several memorials of Plymouth Colony and the soldiers who died in the 'War of 1861', as the memorial called it, and a Jewish synagogue. At the very end of the run, we ran up some old rustic stairs embedded in the green, grassy hill, and into an ancient graveyard that was just wild and ancient enough to be picturesque and thought-provoking.

We returned to a yummy brunch prepared by Mama, and then, after family prayers, I spent the rest of the day reading and resting. Anna Karenina is so very depressing. No wonder the Russians are in such horrid straits. Even back in the Victorian era, when England and America were enjoying a resurrection in good ethics, Russia was wholly degraded. Their attitude towards marriage, children, and home morals is repulsive. And now we see that their culture is one where orphanages are flooded and the average woman has seven abortions. How corrupt. I cannot wait till I finish this book and read Mill on the Floss, with its good, Victorian England morality.

This afternoon we braved the rain for a brisk walk through the downtown, where we found the most amazing health-food store called Common Sense, where we tasted fresh-roasted organic coffee with coconut nectar and carob cakes. Yummy.

We also found a very delightful book store, where the boys found a rare G.K. Chesterton compilation called On Running After One's Hat, and a 5-volume set of Ruskin's On Modern Painters for very cheap. I do wish I could have met Chesterton and Ruskin and Lewis and MacDonald and Belloc and Williams and Morris. The 1800s era did produce such a stellar array of Christian thinkers.

We just had supper, and now are about to watch The Third Man, which is a promising spy-novel movie from the 1950s. Good old iTunes.

Good night!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

What an utterly sleepy day! Woke up this morning to horrid, drizzling, cold rain, which completely destroyed all motivation. Finally did some exercising and dressed by lunch. Had devotions as a family and by myself. There is so much to pray about, I have to make a point to just pray throughout the day, in order to get everything in. All afternoon I persistently read Anna Karenina, as I am determined to finish it before our Boston sight-seeing day on Thursday. The others asked me to make tea and toast mid-afternoon, and I burnt the toast, which filled this entire tiny apartment with smoke. Very frustrating, to say the least, especially since Benjamin complained that I always burnt everything and that everything I cooked tasted funny. Which is completely not true. I have been doing much better about not cooking funny, and Gretchen is the one who always ends up burning things. So there. It was especially distressing, though, since it was the Belgian sweet toast, which we only had a little of. I redeemed myself by cooking a very good supper of sweet potatoes and scrambled eggs with gouda cheese and asparagus and buttered toast. Afterwards we sat around and talked. The cabin fever has been very persistent, as it has rained all day long. But I made some strong coffee and we all played Scattergories, which at least got our brains exercised. Now to more Anna Karenina

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Well, desperate to get out of the house this morning, Javier, Gretchen, Jeremiah, and I braved the rain to embark on a brisk walk down to the health-food store, where we purchased tea, and then down to a bakery owned by the same people as the holistic store, where we bought two loaves of fresh honey oatmeal bread and spelt bread. By the time we got back, we were soaked and the paper bags carrying the purchases were falling apart, but our lungs had experienced some lovely expansion, our legs had been stretched, and our spirits were wonderfully lifted.

The rest of the day I worked on completing
Anna Karenina. Finally did, and then took a nap to rest my poor mind. What horror. Kitty and Levin's story saves it, but even they are spiritual nincompoops.

We had burritos for supper, and I chopped up jalapeños for it, got a bunch of hot juice on my hands, accidentally touched my face, got it on my tongue, and have been suffering from burning patches on my hands and face ever since. Never again, jalapeños!

After supper, we all ventured down to the Blue Blinds Bakery again, where they were having an open music night, and a couple of us jammed with them. The bakery and health-food store are owned by a group of Christians who call themselves the Twelve Tribes, and who live after the same pattern of the early apostles in Acts 2 and 4. I talked with one of them for almost the entire evening, and she was very sweet and kindred-spirited.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Sun shone this morning! Had a very yummy breakfast of the gifts of pastries and cinnamon rolls that the Blue Blinds Bakery gave us, and then prayer time, and then reading. Got a bit of restless leg syndrome after lunch, and felt desperately in need of some exercise, but at that moment we all decided to go to Boston and do a bit of sight-seeing, so we loaded up in the car and headed out.

We had a great deal of fun. Daddy performed the most skillful parallel parking job in history with the fifteen-passenger van after much searching. Then we walked through historical Boston, with its cobblestone streets and old-fashioned brick sky-scrapers. We toured Paul Revere's house, which was very interesting. Built in the 1660's, extremely small and impoverished. I could not believe the kitchen. How on earth did anyone cook back then? Especially since he had 16 children between two wives over the course of his life. Of course, since back then male children were apprenticed by 13, and female children married by 15 or 16, there were only five to nine children living in the house at one time. Very interesting.

Afterwards we walked down to the Old North Church, from which the lanterns of warning were shown from the belfry. What a beautiful church. Apparently, back before Boston became urbanized, the belfry tower rose high and away above the rest of the town. Now-a-days, of course, you can't even see the belfry because it's drowned in skyscrapers. Tragical. But the church-house was beautiful. All white inside, with one middle aisle. It was interesting to see the old-fashioned box pews, with the high walls on each side of each pew. Apparently, they were built that way because the church-house was not heated in winter-time, and so the high walls framing the pews kept out drafts. People used to bring hot bricks and hot potatoes to keep themselves warm. Each family bought their own box-pew, and the warmer ones were sold for higher prices. The balcony, which didn't have box-pews, was, apparently, for the poor. Not quite friendly to the stranger…

After the Old North Church, we walked through the graveyard in which Cotton Mather was buried. It was beautiful, and used to be one of the highest points of Boston, from which you could see clearly on all sides. No more, though. The gravestones were faded and crumbling and extremely ancient, all from the 1700s, and engraved with Old English verbiage and spelling, like 'Herein lye Erasmus Worthylake y Elizabeth Worthylake, with issue Ebenezer y Myrtle y Maude y Hezekiah…'.

After the graveyard we were all tired and hungry, so we ate in an old-styled Italian restaurant called Riccardo's Ristorante on Hanover Street, and then came home…

Friday, October 8, 2010

Sunshine again today! How wonderful. This morning we had to do laundry, so, after dressing, Gretchen, Benjamin, and I gathered up all the dirty laundry in trash bags and lugged them down the block to the 'Pilgrim's Washing Well'. It was definitely not as intriguing and beautiful and clean as the name promised it would be. And expensive! Oh my goodness. $2.75 just for one small washer. And then they didn't sell laundry detergent, so Gretchen and I had to track down a convenience store up several blocks, where the detergent was $8 for just a half-gallon. Ridiculous. Finally we got the loads washing, and then we went down to the Blue Blinds Bakery, where we enjoyed some delicious granola and hot coffee and cinnamon rolls while we waited. The people there were so sweet and friendly. It is heartwarming just being in their store.

Once the laundry was done, we returned to the apartment, packed up our stuff, and left. And so ended our time in historic Plymouth. The rest of the day we have spent driving. We enjoyed getting to eat lunch in Dartmouth, where the very best fish-and-chips in the country resides (or so Scott says). Then for supper we stopped in Lyme, Connecticut, at a little place called Pizza Cucina, which has the very most delicious, ethnic Italian pizza. And now we are driving towards the ocean horizon, and I am going to take the advantage of moonlight and an empty van seat to go to sleep.

Good night.