In February of 2005, when Bonny Glen was just a few weeks old, I wrote:
When I was setting up this blog, I created a category called “Things that Inspire Me” with Small Meadow Press in mind…
…and Lesley Austin’s peaceful presence and lovely way of looking at home life have been inspiring me daily since then. There are Small Meadow touches all over my house: the “Peace Be on This House” garland hanging between living room and kitchen; the little stash of stationery (now almost gone, alas) in my correspondence basket; the small, handmade notebooks tucked into every bag I own; the calm brown binders I use for organizing paperwork; the quotation prints here and there about the house, framed or hung up with a ribbon.
I was sad when Lesley closed Small Meadow, though I well understand the necessary changes that come with new seasons of life. But with the closing of that door, Lesley opened a new one—a vine-covered door like the one into The Laurels or the Secret Garden, with a sundrenched radiance inside. Since its beginning, I’ve been a member at Wisteria and Sunshine, Lesley’s subscription-based blog and forum for exploring “wild simplicity and deep domesticity,” and in these swift months it has become not only one of my favorite corners of the internet, but practically a way of life.
Each day at W&S, there is a new post from Lesley, sometimes two, discussing—in her exquisite prose, so lyrical it’s almost poetry—topics related to home and hearth, simplifying, decluttering, making one’s home-spaces lovely with simple, graceful touches. Some days she writes about a beloved author (it’s Lesley whom I have to thank for inspiring me to read The Scent of Water) or a book we’re enjoying together—right now it’s Wise Child. Some days she shares a thought-provoking quote, inviting discussion. What she has created at W&S is rather remarkable: a close-knit community of women working together to cultivate an atmosphere of peace, joy, and order in our homes. Each month Lesley chooses a focus: a particular corner of the house (she did wonders for my bathrooms and even my closets!) or a particular corner of the soul, you might say. During the wild rush of my spring—nose-deep in my novel, busybusybusy with the blur of six growing children—I found I was approaching my housework with genuine calm and more joy than I’ve ever taken in it. And the changes have stuck. I actually enjoy cleaning my bathroom.
The name, of course, comes from Enchanted April, one of my favorite movies of all time. For those who appreciate wisteria and sunshine, reads the ad that captures Lottie’s imagination and sets off that whole wonderful series of transformations. And just as the wisteria-and-sunshine garden of that Italian villa infuses its visitors with light and renewal and contentment that they carry back into the outside world, so too does the W&S forum. Can you tell I love it? I truly love it.
The monthly subscription fee is modest, and Lesley more than earns it with the hard work she puts into making the site nourishing, useful, welcoming, and beautiful; and I’ve also come to feel like the small commitment leads to a camaraderie and…hm, I started to say seriousness, but I don’t mean in any way grave or somber, I mean nontrivial, mindful, engaged…among the members. I have so enjoyed getting to know the other forum members, and having a closer connection with the handful of friends I’d already known.
Lesley, ever generous, has graciously offered a free three-month gift subscription to a Bonny Glen reader. Now, I have to tell you this delights me on multiple levels: one, because I want to see W&S grow and thrive, and I think you really have to experience it to grasp what riches it offers; and two, because I love my Bonny Glen readers and this means at least one of you will get to join us in the garden. (I would be thrilled if more of you decide to give it a try, even if you don’t win the giveaway.)
To enter, leave a comment on this post before 11pm Pacific time on Wednesday, July 4th. I’ll use a random-number generator to draw a name on Thursday morning. Spread the word!
For a peek at each month’s topics (and a sense of the beauty and tone of the site), visit the open-to-all blog Wisteria and Sunshine Tidings.
Photos by Lesley Austin
This year: to keep hold of the important things, stopping to restack the load as often as necessary.
by Robert Frost
For every parcel I stoop down to seize
I lose some other off my arms and knees,
And the whole pile is slipping, bottles, buns,
Extremes too hard to comprehend at once
Yet nothing I should care to leave behind.
With all I have to hold with—hand and mind
And heart, if need be, I will do my best.
To keep their building balanced at my breast.
I crouch down to prevent them as they fall;
Then sit down in the middle of them all.
I had to drop the armful in the road
And try to stack them in a better load.
From a beautiful post about discovery, learning, Beethoven’s string quartets, and the way the mind works at The Last Step into the Cellar:
I don’t understand the mind. I don’t understand how it can try to be logical even as it tricks itself into not being so. I don’t understand how the mind focuses, employs its skills, or prioritizes. Three years ago I slipped on some ice getting into my car. It was one very small patch of ice between my car and my wife’s van. I didn’t see it at all and hit it completely unprepared, and because I could not fall down, I kept slipping and slipping as I tried to regain my footing until my ankle folded over on itself and went twist-twist-snap-snap. It broke so badly that it flopped freely as I hopped back toward my house. I sat on the stoop wondering what to do next, and I suddenly realized how very calm I was and that I wasn’t panicking, that in fact my mind was far more actively in control of my body than it had ever been before and that it would see me through this, and I was overwhelmed with the feeling of not having to do anything really, that all was being taken care of. Of course I knew the ankle would need mending in ways I could not do, and indeed it took some surgery, three screws, and a stay in the hospital, but those were givens. It seems ironic that I had never before felt such union of body and mind as I did that morning when my body broke, but it’s the truth of that morning and one I won’t forget. My body was following orders. My body had flashed “Emergency!” and my mind knew where to go with that. My mind was in command and control. It felt wonderful.
In a recent post about making beeswax candles (“Fruitcake, candles, glitter and knitty gifts”), Billi-Jean writes:
Glitter is inherently good. Like babies and homemade vegetable stew. Glitter is happiness in little flashes of coloured light.I don’t care about the “mess”, how it gets stuck in the grout between the tiles on the kitchen floor. Or how, months later, you are still vacuuming up the occasional piece. It is all worth it to me. Glitter is that good.
I remember once, talking to a neighbour who was shocked that I’d let my toddler use glitter in his crafts. “You never get that stuff up. Ever! You can sweep and vacuum and wash, but you’ll still have glitter on your kitchen floor.” I grinned. “I know. I like that. Glitter on the kitchen floor. It’s like diamonds on the soles of your shoes.”
I know a seven-year-old who would certainly agree. Lovely, Billi-Jean!
Chill, blustery morning here. No one felt like going outside, except for Beanie who was hoping to encounter another snake on the nature trail today. We startled one on the path earlier this week, causing him to scoot for the creek. I told Bean I doubted any snakes would be out on a shivery morning like this one, and she decided the walk wasn’t worth undertaking without the snake.
Rose was in a yarn mood, having just re-learned how to knit yesterday after an eight-month hiatus, so we all got out our knitting baskets and crowded onto the couch. Wonderboy serenaded us on the piano, tapping out a descant to the wuthering wind. Really a very pleasant way to pass the morning. Rose worked on the scarf she is making for herself, and Jane and I commenced a new project. This one goes in the So Cute I Might Die department. I stumbled across this free pattern for knitting a gnome baby which is simple enough even for my haphazard knitting skills. That’s a picture of the finished doll up there—not MY finished doll, you understand; that one was made by the nice lady who provided the pattern. So far mine is only a pair of legs and a smidgen of belly. (When I knit with the kids, I personally get very little knitting done.) But it’s getting there. So adorable. I’m using some leftover Peace Fleece wool from my short-lived weaving days long ago. What’s funny is I think it might be the very same yarn used in the sample doll in the picture. Sure looks like it.
If I get very brave (and it isn’t a total disaster) I might post a picture of the finished project. Watch this space in about, um, three months. (Factoring in my standard interruption and distraction rate.)
My wonderful friend Shelli, who is adopting a little girl from China>, sent me a link to the blog of a group of American doctors who are spending their vacations performing cleft palate repairs for children in China. The group, Love Without Boundaries, is a nonprofit volunteer organization that raises funds for medical procedures needed by children who could otherwise never afford them. This year’s Cleft Mission has already provided new smiles for over a hundred children, at no cost to their families. Many of the children, in fact, are growing up in orphanages, for children with cleft palates are often ostracized in their villages, and great pressure is put upon the parents to abandon the children.
The stories on this blog are heartbreaking and heartwarming. What these doctors, nurses, and support volunteers are doing is unbelievably beautiful. They spend their own money to travel around the world and change the lives of these children. The surgeries are paid for through donations and sponsors. I am overwhelmed by the pictures and stories.
Like this one: “The grandmother came today to help her daughter get the baby home, and when she walked into the post op ward, she began to cry. She was overwhelmed at how her grandson looked. After we discharged them, they walked down the six flights of stairs and then a few moments later I saw the grandmother making her way back up. She had a small bag in her hand, and she pressed it into mine and said “thank you”. Inside were four small cherry tomatoes…….it was all she could give, and it was such a precious gift to me.”
The Love Without Boundaries site includes a newsletter for children, full of inspiring stories about ways individual kids have raised money to provide a heart surgery or cleft palate repair for children in China.
It’s been over a month since I posted my plea for help with my search for a long lost, fondly remembered story tape about the King of the Raisins. No one responded, and I had just about given up on ever tracking it down. And then this morning the wonderful Lesley Austin posted this comment:
I think I may know this one as I heard this story once. Could it be Jay O’Callahan? We have another of his stories “Raspberries” and have SO enjoyed everything of his we have come across. I can imagine him saying what you wrote.
Lesley, hoorah for you, you did it! I visited Jay O’Callahan’s website and sure enough, there was a “Raisins” story on one of his CDs. I wrote him a note, and he wrote right back to say his was indeed the story I remember. I am thrilled!
Just this morning, Scott was quoting my favorite line from this story. Scott has never heard the tape; like my kids, he only knows the tale from my patchy reminiscences. But as I wrote last month, the bits I remember are inextricably woven into our family vocabulary. Wonderboy woke up a nasty cold this morning, and his nose is, um, disgusting, to put it bluntly. When Scott walked into the kitchen, the Boy beamed at him through the goop and tottered toward his daddy for a wrestle. Scott scarcely flinched at the affront to his shirt (ew) but I heard him mutter, “Horrible, horrible! But I like you anyway.”
Many thanks to Kim Campbell for the nice write-up at her AHA Weblogs Blog. I enjoy daily visits to Kim’s sites, both her own family blog and her intriguing and vivid reviews of homeschooling blogs at the amusingly named Weblogs Blog. What a treat it was to see Bonny Glen there!
Many thanks to MacBeth Derham for the link to this wonderful essay by the 13-year-old daughter of Allen Say, the award-winning picture-book writer and illustrator. His Grandfather’s Journey is a favorite of ours.
If the link doesn’t take you directly to his daughter’s essay, scroll down the list of authors and click on Allen Say’s name.
“My Father” by Yuriko Say
And I am similarly grateful to Julie Bogart for sharing this essay on writing by an unschooled girl who is now a college student. If you are interested in receiving Julie’s “Bravewriter Lifestyle” emails, click here.