Fill ‘Er Up.

Today, I attended a relative’s funeral.  This will be the ninth family funeral in three years for me.  Seems odd, doesn’t it?  It does to me.   Some were to be expected.  Some not.  Even before this funeral, I had been giving  this life/death thing  a lot of thought.  I have been accused of letting my head wander places that most heads would not  and, of course, it seems to have wandered that way again.   The joy in me doesn’t dwell too long  on life ending because I feel  certain that there is a life of eternal bliss that will follow this. I rejoice for those who go before me.   I will admit also, that I struggle in this world and often times feel I have no place here which leaves me daydreaming about what is to come.   I suffer from insomnia so I look forward to one day taking a very long nap.  And I can’t eat many foods that most people enjoy, so I look forward to an eternal mountain  of cookies when I enter heaven too.   I told ya.  My brain gets on the wrong train sometimes.

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So where did it wander to this time?  Memory Bank.  Making deposits.

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While we live, we possess an  unbelievably complicated gift of a memory bank.  We each possess one and it is full up.   Both of my parents suffer/ed from forms of dementia.   I am keenly aware of the gift of our memory bank.   And what a gift it is.  As I take my daily stroll through the woods, I can pluck out a memory from yesterday, or 45 years ago.  I can ruminate on it for a fleeting second or really dig in.  Maybe even end up on a couch over it.  In an office.  With someone listening intently about my precious memory.   Which I have many times.  Memories are not all good.  Each one makes up   who I am.  Good or bad.  Happy or sad.

But you know what?  My memory is mine.  It is very personal.  Very intimate.  I own it.  Our memory banks cannot go bankrupt(except with the dreaded disease) .  There are thousands, probably millions of them  at my disposal.  We can bask in our memories.  When you think about it (as deeply as I tend to think) it is  incredible that we are blessed with such a rich  deposit  of data that can be flashed before our eyes in the second of an adrenaline rush.  Or an aroma.  For me,  a song will send me back to a place that I can literally smell and feel.  Sometimes the stirring of a memory can make my heart hurt.  Just from the yearn for the long-lost time.

Life is really amazing to me and  I like looking deep into it because it’s all I’ve got.   And what a precious, wonderful, hard life it is.  I have very special memories about each of those relatives I have lost recently.  I can bring them around at will.  That is one heck of a good idea.

Peace,

Karen

 

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When Am I Ever Going To Learn..

….Or do I need to?

In my studio there hangs a print of a couple back in the old country that are bowing at the harvest that lay at their feet.  In prayer.  It is called The Angelus.  It’s lovely. It’s humble. And I like it.

The Angelus

When I was outfitting the retreat lodge, I came across two prints that looked to be from that same era of The Angelus. The Angelus, by the way, was painted by Jean-Francois Millet in 1859.  I was drawn to them in the same way and thought they would be a great addition to our lodge.  One print is of three women farming and the other is a gentleman winding up his day walking his tools back to the barn. I do not have the artist’s name who rendered the original work.

A few weeks back a good friend noticed the prints and brought to my attention that I had hung prints of slaves on my wall and that may not be in the best taste given the fact the lodge is used for many people coming and going.  Someone may find this to be offensive.  I was taken aback and argued as to whether or not these figures were in fact African-American.   That is not what I noticed when I purchased them.  I saw people farming.  He further said that these people had to be slaves given the time portrayed in the picture and the activity they were engaged in.  huh.  My first response was, well…that is not my intention and of course, I cannot be in control of how others interpret the print.  And that I see people as people and not as a color.  And why would I try to make a statement about slavery on my wall?  There is not a racist bone in my body and African Americans were very much a part of my childhood.    My friend agreed,  but others may not feel the same way.  If the lodge is to be used for retreating,  then  it is vital that I do not make anyone uncomfortable in their retreating experience.  Point taken.

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My second response was a pity party.  I felt attacked for a decision I had made and how dare someone question my decision.  That is my go to even if it is not called for.  Working on that.  Diligently.

After I got over the attack which  wasnt an attack  at all(it was a sensitive concern about a sensitive subject brought on by a sensitive fellow), I talked to another good friend about it.  She said..wait a minute….Did these people in the print live north of the Mason/Dixon line?  Or south?   (I love this woman.)  Could they have been, perhaps, celebrating their freedom to farm?  Could these people be just plain farmers?

Yeah.  I liked these answers.  I wasnt looking to be vindicated but it helped that there COULD be more than one answer here.

I want to do the right thing but I don’t see the world always the same way the majority does sometimes.  Just like the farmer picture.  I didn’t see slaves.  I still don’t see slaves.  I see people.  Like me.  Like you.  I realize that that is not the experience of others so  I DID take the prints down. The last thing I want to do is offend people. If I was African-American, I might see all photos of farmers from another time as slaves.  I don’t know.  But I take some comfort in seeing these people as people. Which is what they are.  And for me?  I am glad I don’t see color when I look at them.  And I get that color is important, but the people underneath the color are more important.  I feel the more distinguishing of differences we make about each other the greater the chasm we create.

I’ve thought about what to do with the prints.  The farmers and I have a history now.  We’ve been through some.   While I believe some African-Americans don’t want to associate themselves with farming because of their ancestral background, I can assume there are a good handful of them that love being farmers or would love a slice of land they could call their own to grow their food.  Next door to me.   Farming  + African-Americans doesn’t = Slavery all the time.  I have decided to keep the prints and enjoy them in the privacy of my bedroom  where there won’t be a chance to offend another and I can share my love of farming with people in the picutres who  I am choosing to believe are people enjoying their love of farming.

Peace,

Karen

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The Queengdom Is At Stake

Queen Claire, our Pyrenees, is the ruler of our land.  I nominated her and voted for her at election time as she is more wise than I. She is more calm and patient than I.  She is prettier and more fairer over all the land than I.  She is gentle, soft and frosty.

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Claire

I can’t begin to compete with the gloriousness of her tongue.   Most of all, the most content being  I have met.  I aspire to be Claire.

Claire was  met with our other Pyrenees, Francis, when we moved our goats and  Francis over to Claire’s palace. Claire kindly welcomed her and has been putting up with Francis’ immaturity ever since.  Although Francis is beginning to get that she is a Pyr now and that work is first and foremost.

Serious guarding goin' on.

Serious guarding goin’ on.

Great Pyrenees have an impressive history as Livestock Guard Dogs.  Roaming the slopes of  the Pyrenees  mountains of France and Spain,  they can maintain in the most frigid of temperatures.  Which is fortunate for us this week.

It is  unfortunate that the rescue scene for this breed has grown quite large because at first site they are fluffy, cute, white puppies.  What is not known about them is they are not domesticated dogs.  Their instinct to work is still bred strong.  As a result, their behavior can be off-putting by humans.  The main complaint is that they start barking at dusk  and wind down at dawn patrolling their pasture perimeter in order to protect their flock.

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They are aloof.  And an invisible fence can not keep them from the distance and effort they risk to keep their flock safe.  We knew all that going in.  To watch them ward off hawks and other predators is nothing short of spectacular.   I was feeding Francis a few weeks back.  She was all hunkered down at her bowl ready to devour her hard-earned kiblits and out of the corner of her eye she saw a flash of shadow on the ground.   She knew immediately that danger was present.   She went tearing off to shelter and protect.  I looked up and there was a Red-Tailed Hawk swooping back and forth over the pasture.  Good job, Francis.

The territory is at risk of a take over while I digress.

When you order day old chicks from a hatchery,  they come via the good ol’ USPS.  They call you when they arrive at the post office and you run your little buns  over to pick them up fast, fast, fast,  before the little critters fail.  They are sexed at birth and I always order hens. That makes the most sense since I’m in the market for eggs.  Every once in a while a mistake is made and a rooster is thrown in there.  It is not to be revealed until they are 3 months of age when you begin to hear a strange throaty sound coming out of one of them.   We have one that has just been revealed.  When he realizes that he is a he…..well…. watch out world cause there will be an overthrow attempt.  Every time I visit  the pasture he lets me know that he is NOW in charge of all with his puffed up chest.

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Now some of these chickens have not been in the same room with a gentleman rooster for over three years.  These last couple of weeks have been traumatic to say the least for the lowly hens.  It has been survival of the fittest to be sure.

Some hens stand frozen with their beaks to the wall hoping if they stand still long enough  and they can’t see HIM,  just maybe he can’t see THEM and will leave them alone.  And might I add that….well… some would simply rather die than to be subjected to the goings on that he brings into our Chickondo.   Three to be exact.  My farmer friend who spends time here once a week, Mr. Shady, said he would take him off my hands.  He is good at doing that.  Thank you, Mr. Shady. I may take you up on that.

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In the meantime, maybe Mr. Rooster will freeze his little…………….never mind..

Have a super weekend.

Peace,

Karen

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Here. We. Go.

I read somewhere recently that the evolution of  punctuation in the English language is  “evolveing” into something dfferent and we may just do away with commas.  And the period is gone haywire.  Like in my title.  For someone who doesn’t have mature writing skills, comma, this sits fine with me.

And…….. well……. hello there.

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I live.

It has been 14 months since my last visit to The Shieling.  As I recall, I paused because of a life time big mosaic project I was working on.  I was overwhelmed.  I completed that project in August and have contemplated picking my blog back up ever since.  I am humbled by the requests to begin again.  Thank you very much for your votes of confidence.   Even from English majors for goodness sakes.

LIfe has certainly happened in the last 14 months for you and me.  It is amazing.  And life involves the good, the bad and the ugly.

I will try to give you a quick wrap.

1. Little Roger Brown, June, and Ruthie, our baby 2-year-old goats, went to live at a friend’s house.  We still have the two mommies.  You might recall the Roger Brown video a few short days after he was born.  We have new animals and their shenanigans. All for a near future post.

2.  Holy cow.  I finished my project.  My mind (and my body) totally atrophied over the 16 months. Truly it did.  Imagine standing in one place for a year and a half putting a tiny puzzle together.    But I still think that it was a huge blessing to have been a part of such a great project.

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3.  Can you travel too much?  I did this year.  I think I was experiencing some serious withdrawal from setting up house here for several years.  Saw amazing people, places and things. And was very excited about touring 4 major national art museums in the US of A.  Wow.  The inspiration was astounding.  Not sure what to do with it.  The last trip we went on though, I felt a pang of homesickness as we were loading the car to GO on the trip.  That tells me it is high time for a very quiet year home making babies….of the animal sort.   Traveling is a privilege and not to be taken for granted.  Easy does it for me going forward.

4. One travel detail especially worth noting….We traveled to Italy last Christmas.  We took all the kids and had a BALL.   Time with the special people in my life is the best and most important thing I can do with my time.

Chat with Pope Francis on Christmas morning.

Chat with Pope Francis on Christmas morning.

Amalfi Coast

Amalfi Coast

Important points of view to note.

Important points of view to note.

5.  I started a Bible study in my home for the first time since we moved down here into these here hills.  Feels REALLY good to be back in the Word on a routine basis.

6.   We finished the last “phase” of our farm/retreat build out.  We turned the stall space  of our barn into a retreat lodge for family/friend gatherings.  And to lend it out to folks wanting a space to hold retreats.

The Shieling Retreat Lodge

The Shieling Retreat Lodge

It has been very busy here since the “grand opening”.  LOVE  seeing people come and renew the Spirit within them.

So many good things.  We have nothing to complain about.  We have so much love in our family. And  friendships that leave me in awe.

But it is not without trials, challenges and sometimes some down right tragic life events. This year has held a few of those too.

This year my family has been feeling the ache of cancer.  It is hard and I am aware that it touches all of us any more.  We are getting good results with treatment and we continue to pray for health.

This year my family lost my 26-year-old nephew and his 2-year-old son to a house fire.  The thought  is unfathomable to me.  It just begs for one word. Why?    After nine months I had difficulty knowing for sure that Jim was not going to be the first to drive up our drive for the Christmas gathering as he always does/did.  Do we ever really understand death?  Especially when it takes the lives of 2 people who had so much life to live?

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The fire was caused by pinched electric cords.  ugh.  As we might…..look for a blessing in incomprehensible situations…..The blessing here is that Jim was able to donate 4 of his organs and saved the life of 4 people.  Wow.   Jim and Baby Andy are in Heaven.  That is a blessing to me.  Anyone getting to spend eternity in heaven is one lucky guy.

And that is life.  The good.  The bad.  The ugly.

We gear up for another year.  I cannot imagine what it will hold.  I just pray that whatever it holds for each one of us,  we  choose to hold the hand  of God and let Him guide us as we meander the forest of life. Cause there are some boogeymans out there.

Peace,

Karen

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Try, Try As I might.

My plate is full and I cannot keep up.

Today and yesterday, I installed my 2nd panel for Marian University. Whew.  Taxing event.  But I had good help  (Thanks MC and Holly!)  and it is done.

2 down.  3 to go.

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Came home to very rainy beautiful fall evening.  The leaves were spectacular on the drive home.  I looked up our peak last year and it came a full two weeks earlier last year.  That was normal.  Peak the last day in October is not normal.

Happy Halloween.

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We only have three trick or treaters.   I dont know if they are tricking us or treating us.  Or are we treating them?  Or…. I never understood Halloween.  It falls in the same category as amusement parks and parades for me.  Maybe I don’t know how to have fun.  That’s it.  I’m no fun.

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My mosaic project is a large project for me.  Largest ever by far.   My farm duties, studio work, normal chores are spreading me quite thin.  I am thankful that the mosaic job is not a permanent add to my daily agenda. But am sure glad I have it.  It is all my passions rolled into one.  Art, God, and nature (The nature part is the fact that St. Francis, who the work is about, is a patron saint of nature. and I love him and nature).  He is the bomb.  This work is affording us to visit his hometown this coming Christmas in celebration of him, my work and Marian University.  My job will end and I will be able to resume painting and creating at the pace I am used to.  Everything I love to do will be given more attention.  Including this blog.  I have so enjoyed writing here.  Many days are spent in solitude, which I love, but I also love being connected.  This blog gives me that opportunity to connect.  Especially to those I miss so much from the ol’ hometown.  I am going to suspend writing until my mosaic is through so that I can fully pour myself into my work and  not feel pulled so thin.   I don’t even have any tomatoes put away for the winter  the pulling has been so severe.

I will see you next year!  I love you.   I  pray that God blesses us and keeps us until  next year.  And forever.   He is so good I can’t stand it.

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See you soon!  I will miss you.

God bless,

Karen

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How Far Would You Go?

News on TV is fear driven,  panicky,  and biased.  I try not to  allow myself to be swayed by the media.  Sitting for any length with the media is neither good for my stress level or my soul.   I like  the facts, ma’am, then I will find a quiet place to ruminate on the facts.  When you think about it, a news fact only takes a few seconds or minutes at most to relay.  When the media reports for hours on end, we are receiving far more than facts.  It is like an injection of  fearful stress.  

The weather channel.  Online.  They have cool reports of neat things that I wouldn’t ordinarily know. I can enjoy them and they do not affect me like the news media.  

Like wonderful cloud formations.  Or one of a kind underwater photos.   

Last week they took me to monasteries around the world that literally hang off cliffs.   And now I ask again….How far would you go….for silence and rumination?  Would you hang onto a side of a cliff?  Would that be far enough away?

Do we need to go to the ends of the earth to find that silence?  Is it the only place that we can go to get far enough away from it all so we can hear ourselves think?  Better yet.. so we can hear God speak to us?  Hear Him help us understand all being heard in this really loud world?   So He can help us sift the worthwhile from the worthless?

I don’t know about you, but I am easily scared.  If I listen to the news media for any length of time, they accomplish their mission.

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It would be worth my while to travel to any one of these sacred places.  Not to mention,  breathtakingly cool.    But I still question…do I need to, to get what I need…which is peace, perspective, quiet, and answers.

In my experience?  No.

God hears me everywhere.  And God takes me where I am.   AS  I am.  Thank goodness, cause there is always some business that He needs to address with me.    I cannot hear Him unless I make myself available.  Going somewhere quiet IS necessary for me.  Not sure I have to go to the ends of the earth though.  I can’t concentrate on anything when there is something else going on.  Can you?

Going for a quiet walk works.  Sitting in a Chapel works.  Sitting in a room by my self works.  Staring out a window works.  Actually,  sitting at stop lights work.   I suppose it is just a matter of getting out of the world for a bit and stepping into His world is all that it takes.  Tell me, Lord.  Show me, Lord.

Have you ever noticed people who like silence and quiet have a calm, joyful quality about them?   I admire that.   It just occurred to me the reason may be that through their silent and quiet time, they are hearing God and receiving His graces to be calm, and grateful.  Wow.  I want that.

No matter our circumstances, we all can reach that same place with Him.  Any one of us can find a quiet place.  It is just a matter of choosing to do so or not.

God bless,

Karen

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Tribal Dance

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Our poor guineas have been trying for months to do the hatching thing to no avail.  They lay a clutch of eggs, then the doggies come along and snatch them.  Laying them out in the middle of the yard will do that.  They finally got smart and went over to  the wood’s edge on the outside of a fenced pasture.  The dogs can get there but they dont know it.

About 6 weeks ago, they began laying their eggs.  They lay everyday until they think they have an ample supply, then they pick odd lady out to sacrifice the next thirty days of her life to sitting on those eggs.

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Fifteen was the magic number.  I kept thinking…I don’t know if I want 15 more guineas runnin’ around here making all that noise.  And shooing them out of the barn at night so they don’t poop all over my barn floor.  Only goats are allowed to do that.  By george, that guinea sat on those eggs every minute except 10 or so minutes in the late of day.   She’d get off and the other 4 would chase her around saying..get back on that nest.  We told you…..  She is Cinderella and they, the wicked step sisters.  I imagine she did not even lay any of those eggs herself.

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Last week, we had 5 hatch.  I went out one morning and saw little things wiggling underneath her.  I snatched them up so they would have a chance at survival.  With all of our dogs, cats, etc.  They would last about a minute.

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Four guineas.  The fifth came later in the day.  They are growing like weeds.  Healthy as can be and will be out running around when they get older.

Cinderella sat on the eggs for about 3 more days and said..I’m outta here.  You guys want more keets, you sit on them yerself.   10 have been left unattended.  Since she stopped sitting, they have either died from hypothermia or they were not fertilized.  What I have decided is that the internal clock  or gestation of the mommy guinea is 30 days and she can detect that when that has come and gone she must be done, whether the eggs are done or not.  I, quite frankly, am glad.  I only got 5 new guineas and that is plenty.

Another sort of tribal dance…

I received all of Eric, my son, and his wife, Emily’s wedding photos last week and need to go through them.  I will  post some special moments of that torrential affair next time.  One photo makes me laugh or cry, I don’t know which….

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I think Eric’s and my feet tell the story here.  It was “our” dance.  It was a song that was interwoven in my past where our parent-kid relationship was concerned and I thought of my kids with a  hearty passion every time I heard it for years.  I would sing it with verve  and gyration where ever I was.    The day was stressful with the rain and when I began to hear the song, I sang and danced circles around my son.  I celebrated the hearty passion that I feel about him and my two other sons.  Eric was taken aback.  Didn’t know quite what to do or how to answer back.  I don’t blame him.  There may have been some feelings of embarrassment on his part.  There were days in my past I was capable of embarrassing my children for all the wrong reasons.   When I begin to feel bad about how I may have made him feel, I stop myself and think….this time my “out of my head” response was a full-blown celebration from my heart that could not be contained.  Not even in front of 200 people.  I was out of my head.   In love.

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He says….Holy Father, let this be over.   God love ‘im.

I can’t wait to get through the 1000 photos and pick the very favorites to share.  When I shared with someone about the weather conditions at our wedding and how that changed the expectations I had for the wedding, they said…Wait til you see the photos.  They will tell the real story.  They do tell the real story.  The wedding was gloriously us.

God bless,

Karen

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