Friday, January 25, 2008

Where Wildflowers Bloomed

Here are a few reminders, photographed very quickly on this cold windy day, that wildflowers once blooomed. This is my post for week two of Elizabeth Joy's Wildflowers in Winter event. Applause, applause for anything that gets me outside for even five minutes in this deep-freeze! For a few more images of wildflowers in winter, just after snow had fallen, scroll down to my post from January 12, 2008.

all photos taken by Aisling, January 25, 2008 1) Queen Anne's Lace, aka Wild Carrot 2) Chicory 3) Spotted Knapweed, aka Starthistle 4) More Queen Anne's Lace

Monday, January 21, 2008

Wildflowers in Winter

I stopped by for a weekly visit to a Gracious Hospitality and noticed a link to her friend Elizabeth Joy's blog. Elizabeth Joy is having a "Wildflowers in Winter" weekly event through mid-march. With the pale palette of winter dominating the January landscape, I find myself hungry for light and color. I have decided to participate (as much as possible) in the weekly themes. The idea through January 22, 2008 is for participants to post a favorite wildflower photo from their files. Much more information is available at Elizabeth Joy's blog, Wildflower Morning.

I don't have only one favorite wildflower photo, but this one is sweet and sunshiny.
photo by Aisling, June 20, 2007 1) Sulfur (or Rough-Fruited) Cinquefoil

Sunday, January 20, 2008

A Winter Memory - Revisited

Since I am trying to devote much of my blogging to Stories this year, I have decided to repost one of my favorite winter stories. This is a simple story, without a lot of plot twists or fancy literary devices, but one I think of often... whenever sunlight glitters on the snow of our hills and fields. If you missed it last year, or even if you are reading it again, I hope you enjoy this winter memory.

Our first winter in the Quiet Country House was a real "up north" winter, with lots of snowfall and cold enough weather for the snow to stick around. Senryu was in first grade that year, and Haiku not yet in school. Haiku was a wonderful little Mother's Helper during Senryu's school hours. It is true that she made quite a mess with the mixtures and potions that she would churn up in the kitchen, playing at either scientist or chef, depending on her mood. But, she was also very willing to dust, or run toys to the bedroom, or offer thoughtful, carefully-considered decorating advice.

Late in the afternoon, we would look at the clock and realize that Sissy would soon be home from school. No matter how much snow was on the ground... no matter how cold the air... if the skies were clear and blue, Haiku and I would put on our snow gear and trudge a quarter of a mile up the narrow, steep lane to meet Senryu's school bus.

On the first such snowy day, I pulled the sled up behind us as we climbed the hill. When Senryu got off the bus, she settled her little sister on the sled with her and they shoved off down the long, steep slope of our little country lane. As they flew over the glittering surface of the snow, I ran downhill trying to keep up with the sled. We laughed the whole way down the hill, filled with wonder at the beauty and sparkle of a January afternoon.

photo by Haiku, January 2006

Monday, January 14, 2008

My Cultural Life...

I have been tagged by my new friend Prairie Star to share the answers to these three questions:

1. What am I reading at the moment?
2. What am I listening to at the moment?
3. What am I watching at the moment?

1. I recently set aside Winter Tales by Isak Denisen to begin reading a text book for history called "The American Promise" and a programming text called "Starting Out with Alice."

2. Even though the holiday season is over, the cd I listened to most recently is Wintersong by Sarah McLachlan. The song most recently "stuck in my head" is Dark Blue by Jack's Mannequin.

3. Of late, I have been watching my way through the short-lived series Firefly, upon which the movie Serenity is based. The dvd set of the series was a Christmas gift from my oldest daughter, Senryu.

In turn, I'd like to tag:

photo by my daughter Haiku, cattails in the pond and birch trees, 1/12/07

Saturday, January 12, 2008


The fifth graders down the hall from the classroom I was in this past week had resolutions for 2008 posted on the front of their lockers. They were all good, positive thoughts which I enjoyed reading. Here are some examples:

* Get an "A" in Social Studies.
* Stop annoying my brother.
* Play with my dog more.

The photo above shows the return of our snow. Haiku is walking in the still-falling snow as I write this, so I may have some photos to post later today or tomorrow. It is completely beautiful outdoors. Though I did not finish all of the housekeeping tasks I had planned to do, I am happy with the vanilla scented candles glowing on the piano, and the big pile of interlocking building pirces spilled on the floor which is entertaining two small boys, and the girl sprawled on the couch with a blanket on her shoulders and a pencil over her ear. It looks like home to me.

photos by Aisling, January 12, 2008 1) Snow-capped Queen Anne's Lace 2) Purple Cone Flower Stalks and the lake in the background

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

January Thaw

Legends are a theme in the fourth grade classroom in which I am currently working (on another full time but short term assignment.) In the classroom, the students have been hearing folk tales, tall tales and legends. In music class, the students have been learning about Martin Luther King and Frederick Douglass, among others, and singing a song about walkin' with some legendary heroes and heroines "to the promised land." In the library, we heard a story today about the Legend of the Teddy Bear.

During a Great Lakes history lesson, the wonderful teacher in whose classroom I am working read aloud The Legend of the Lady Slipper. Having been enthralled by wildflowers since I was a child, I was very interested in the story. Unfortunately I had to leave the classroom during the story to take a student to a small group session. Before I left the room, I heard this phrase, summarizing a lesson the girl in the story learned from her mother, "A brilliant Spring always follows the hardest of winters."

The idea of a January Thaw may not be legend exactly, but it falls into the category of folk lore. Around here, the thaw may come early or late, and there may be more than one, but I cannot remember a year without some sort of January Thaw.

This year, we have been experiencing a thaw since late last week, so it would be easy to expect the early arrival of spring were it not for the snow storm looming large in the weather forecast. For the past several days, heavy rain has fallen. Monday, an electrical storm , fully charged with lightning and thunder, raged during school hours. Last night, the wind pelted sheets of rain against the windows all through the night. Today, the wind continues but the rain has stopped.

Midway through the morning, our teacher stopped for a moment and asked all of the children to look out the window. There was a collective gasp as 24 sets of eyes beheld a blue patch of sky and a white blaze of sunshine. A moment later, clouds shifted and the light dimmed but our belief in the brilliant spring at the end of winter was restored.

Looking out the window now at bare branches waving across a shifting background of heavy clouds, this seems odd to say but: It is a perfect day. The wind is drying up much of the rain on the back roads. If there had not been this windy day without precipitation before the temperatures plummet and the snow falls, then the country roads would be a solid sheet of ice making travel treacherous. Today is a pause... a hyphen... a moment of meditation... between the January thaw and the return of winter weather.

photos by Aisling, January 6, 2007, the first days of the January Thaw

Saturday, January 05, 2008


While warmer air cleared away some of the snow outside, I cleared away some of the clutter inside. I dragged the Christmas tree out to the swamp to provide habitat for our little wild friends. There were tiny bird tracks on the surface of the snow where I left the tree. I rearranged a little indoors, cleaned some surfaces with vinegar and lemon juice ,and then lit these candles as evening fell.

Yesterday, I went to the college bookstore to purchase materials for the upcoming semester. One of my books is an autobiographical narrative by Frederick Douglass about his experiences as a slave. The clerk at the bookstore is an immigrant with a strong accent and a brisk manner that camouflages a friendly, personable nature. She commented that the book is a very good one. "I like to read a story where a person faces adversity and survives!" she comment. Stepping to the cash register, she added, "I'm tired of sob stories!" In this harsh season, where light is dim and a chill lingers in the air, I have to agree with her. Let me read a story of the triumphant human spirit! With her recommendation, I am looking forward to reading this book.

Not realizing that the clerk remembered seeing me in the bookstore over the past several semesters, I was pleasantly surprised when she added, "It won't be too long now and I'll be able to see you graduate!" Her friendly comment was like the candlelight on my piano top: a warm flicker of light added to my day.
photo by Aisling, January 5, 2008

Friday, January 04, 2008


In response to a prompt from Cate at Beyond the Fields We Know, I am writing today about acceptance. This year, I am entering into winter with an attitude of acceptance. Winter isn't something I've been very receptive to in past years, but I am trying to learn from friends who love this stark season to see its beauty. I have always been a fan of the interior comforts of winter: warm blankets, long novels, and warm mugs of fragrant, steaming beverages. I have always enjoyed the soups and stews that simmer on the stove, beginning in autumn when the weather cools. I have enjoyed sharing Christmas magic with my children: filling our house with color and light and then packing up in early January to enjoy a clean, more streamlined interior.

But... I have resisted getting out in the weather that winter brings to my windy, northern locale. All winter long, I feel as if I am walking with my head down and my shoulders squared, braced against the biting wind and bitter cold. Weather forecasts unnerve me as I anticipate difficult road conditions on the way to obligations and commitments. I tend to pare my to-ing and from-ing down to necessary trips only. A break in the weather allows a deep sigh and perhaps a spontaneous excursion.

A couple of weeks ago, just after I had written "A Song for Winter" welcoming the lengthening days that stretch ahead of us, I read a post on an email group to which I belong. The writer was telling a story of clearing her desk of Christmas decor, and setting out her white and silver winter accessories. She mentioned that the days of "deep winter" are a favorite time of year for her. The way she wrote it, that tiny two-word phrase "Deep Winter" sounded like a meditation. She was welcoming and accepting a time of year that I trudge through reluctantly.

The writer is a woman who exhibits grace and charm in all her writing. She has travelled a bit, read extensively, and always has wisdom and encouragement to share. Reading her words, I have been inspired to embrace deep winter with acceptance and joy. In these days of deep winter stillness, I want to walk in the snow more than I did last year, make more snow angels, and sing more songs in the sleeping garden.

photo by Aisling, rose leaves against the snow, December 25, 2007

Thursday, January 03, 2008


"One of the most valuable things we can do to heal one another is listen to each other's stories." ~ Rebecca Falls

My 2008 journal, A Woman's Diary, has the quote above on the first page. I intend to use that sentiment as my guiding philosophy this year, in living and in writing this blog. In conversation, in reading and writing, it really is all about the stories. Stories connect us to others in a vital way, allowing us to share the human experience! Thank you for stopping by to share my life in the Quiet Country House! A Happy New Year to you all!

photo by Aisling, December 25, 2007