Tag Archives: summer

Through the pages of an Avonlea farm

A bright, pleasant winter day, twenty years ago this December, I married the guy who brought me coffee every day in the university cafeteria, whether we sat together or not, whether  we were dating one another at the time or not. Every day. He was also the guy to whom I read Dostoevsky’s “The Grand Inquisitor” on a park bench in the small town where we studied, and the one who serenaded me on his guitar. I figured with these solids to his credit, my life would likely be headed in the right direction with him. It hasn’t all been “sunbursts and marble halls,” but I have always known I made the right decision.  And this July we were finally able to take a trip – just the two of us!- to a place I have longed to visit ever since I was eleven or twelve years old, ever since I became acquainted with Anne-with-an-“e” and suffered the Murrays alongside Emily Byrd Starr. Prince Edward Island!IMG_6485

Come, rest awhile, and let us idly stray

In glimmering valleys, cool and far away.

Come from the greedy mart, the troubled street,

And listen to the music, faint and sweet,

That echoes ever to a listening ear,

Unheard by those who will not pause to hear-….

And near at hand, would you but see them, lie

All lovely things beloved in days gone by.

You have forgotten what it is to smile

In your too busy life-come, rest awhile.

~L.M. Montgomery

And so, we took her advice.

With little agenda, other than B&B reservations, we both gloried in the rolling emerald hills, the ivory blooms of the potato fields and the red, rusty cliffs of Montgomery’s native island. In short, we fell in love.

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“…the garden and the orchard and the brook and the woods, the whole big dear world. Don’t you feel as if you just loved the world on a morning like this?”

from Anne of Green Gables, p. 32

Here is the stately grand home of Alexander McDonald of Cincinnati, built in 1895 where we stayed our first few nights. It is featured as the White Sands Hotel in Kevin Sullivan’s 1985 Anne of Green Gables production starring Megan Follows.

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A quick walk across the street led us to pristine white sands and a chilly sea. Devoid of the tourist traps at the eastern edge of PEI National Park, there were a scant number of beach tourists. We felt we enjoyed our own private beach. The seagulls, terns and sand pipers generously made room for us.

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Dan and Becky James are second-generation owners of the Kindred Spirits Inn and Cottages where we stayed next.

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Just a quick walk through a path in the trees and around the edge of a golf course takes you directly to the House of Green Gables where visitors can tour the home and grounds once belonging to Montgomery’s aunt and uncle, which also inspired the setting for my favorite spirited red-head.

Dan’s father bought the place back in the mid 80s, and it has been well maintained. Quaint and charming, but with convenient amenities, it was a lovely oasis tucked into the trees in otherwise kitschy Cavendish. Dan also gives fabulous sunset tours around the local bay delivering history, bird identification and friendly conversation.

Our last night on the island came too soon. Just south of Cavendish, in the heart of the potato and wheat fields, in glorious green hills which never seem to end, lies New Glasgow, famous for its dairy farms and lobster suppers. My Mother’s Country Inn is also a family acquisition.

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The owner’s mother was actually born in in the 1850 farm house and ran the B&B until her daughter and Swedish born husband took responsibility just over twenty years ago. Now, they are looking to retire. This will be their last season operating the gorgeous property, but if you have the opportunity, do not miss the wonderfully bucolic setting. Hopefully, the new owners will maintain it with as much warmth and care.

We have tried to bring back the genuineness of the people and the relaxation we experienced while on Prince Edward Island. I hope to implement the hospitality and openness which inspired me while I was there.

“One clear star hung above the orchard and the fireflies were flirting over in Lovers’ Lane, in and out among the ferns and rustling boughs. Anne watched them as she talked and somehow felt that the wind and stars and fireflies were all tangled up together into something unutterably sweet and enchanting.”

from Anne of Green Gables, p. 181

Now, I am home, my husband is traveling again for work, and my thoughts are focused on getting a new school curriculum started for my kids. A new co-op meeting is tonight for S and G, and A, my oldest, will be starting his high school career at a private school. New beginnings. New worries – or maybe the same ones, just wrapped up in a different bow. Raising boys to men is hard, isn’t it? And it makes me appreciate all those before me who have done it so well. This is when I fall back on God’s grace and hold on to faith, knowing He  can do it all better than I. And this is where there might be some parenting reassurance hidden in between the pages of the Cuthbert’s Avonlea farm.

“As it was [Matthew] was free to spoil Anne…as much as he liked. But it was not such a bad arrangement after all; a little “appreciation” sometimes does quite as much good as all the conscientious “bringing up” in the world.”

from Anne of Green Gables, p. 195

 

So often I worry, and forget about praise and appreciation and understanding and patience. It’s hard when you are in the middle of fuming at 14-year-old negative attitudes. Oh! If I only had to deal with someone dyeing their hair green! Right? In any case, it was a wonderful break, a lightening of the load, and upon our return I discovered something extraordinary. There are many “kindred spirits” right here in my midst. I am not sure why but it surprised me how many friends approached me asking about my trip, wanting to start comparing “Anne” stories. Growing up, I seemed to love her alone. Now, there are many with whom I seem to connect.

“Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.”

from Anne of Green Gables, p. 161

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Island Hymn

Fair Island of the sea,

We raise our song to thee,

The bright and blest;

Loyally now we stand

As brothers, hand in hand,

And sing God save the land

We love thee best.

Upon our princely Isle

May kindest fortune smile

In coming years;

Peace and prosperity

In all her borders be,

From every evil free,

And weakling fears.

Prince Edward Isle, to thee

Our hearts shall faithful be

Where’er we dwell;

Forever may we stand

As  brothers, hand in hand,

And sing God save the land

We love so well.

~lyrics by L.M. Montgomery

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Willow painting

Our summers tend to be slower paced. We don’t schedule in that many events for our kids, preferring them to experience boredom and togetherness, coming up with their own fun. We usually make an overnight trip to Chicago or Cincinnati, and occasionally play tourist about our own city.  I do not deal well with hectic, frenetic days, but feel much happier with fewer items on my agenda.

This year our three boys are spending a week at a local farm camp in the mornings.  They are feeding pigs and chickens, learning some ecology, weeding the vegetable garden, and getting brown in the Indiana sun. Once home, and after lunch, they are outside again (I love this about them!).

Lately, A is either at the neighborhood basketball courts or on his bike. S often rides his longboard down the steepest hill in our neighborhood. Since G is not old enough, according to our guidelines, to leave the block unaccompanied, he opts for the backyard. Sometimes he plays with a brother, sometimes alone. Today after watching a bit of the EURO 2016, I kick a soccer ball with him all around our yard.

For not even six years old, that kid is really fast. He looks like someone has set an old VHS tape on fast forward. Honestly, I tire of that pretty easily, so I hide under our willow tree in hopes he will be inspired to join me in a calmer, more imaginative venture. He does.

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“Let’s make a fort!” he exclaims. “And I’m going to paint dragons and pictures for the fort’s entryway.”

I slip and refer to it as a studio.  “It’s not an art studio,” G insists, “it’s the painting on the fortress walls.” I stand corrected.

G instructs me to collect the supplies while he lies against the tree, some of the unwieldy branches swishing across his legs. I let him tell me what to do…this time, and bring cardboard, tape, rope and paint on a plastic palette, along with a few brushes. G sits up, and asks me to help him tie the “canvas” to a willow tree branch.

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He gets to work.

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And this occupies him for twenty or thirty minutes.

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Eventually he brings out his pop up tent and a couple of stuffed animals. It’s getting crowded under the willow. I have to crawl in to the tent first; he follows. And, so, one imaginative idea begets another.

It’s a beautiful summer afternoon.

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The burdock and the nettle I preferred,

but best of all the silver willow tree.

Its weeping limbs fanned my unrest with dreams…

~Anna Akhmatova

How Jackson Pollock saved a summer morning

Summer is fading.  I know because the school bus brakes hiss in front of our house around eight-fifteen every weekday morning now.  The big box stores devote an entire section  to brightly colored school supplies – folders and Trapper Keepers, glue sticks and protractors.  And, because I am seeing less of my children.  They are wandering about the house in search of entertainment, irritably spending more time alone in their rooms.  Let’s not relive the petty squabbles that have become way too prevalent the last couple of weeks.

It was time to take action.  And it turns out it wasn’t that hard.  I focused on G, and everyone else seemed to fall into place.  My goal was to get him outside running around before he realized it was time for PBS’s Curious George.

I asked G if he wanted to paint outside like the famous artist Jackson Pollock.  He was enthusiastic.  A had been wandering up and down the stairs and overheard me.

“Can I paint too?”

“Sure…if you want.”

We began to gather supplies from the bottom drawer of our craft cart – paints, plastic tray for a palette, brushes, yarn, craft sticks, etc.

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S came storming down the stairs.

“Can I do a Pollock painting, too?”

“Of course.”

Here we are eight-thirty or nine in the morning.  Outside, under blue skies.  Taping our paper down on to the back patio.  Happy, all three boys doing something together again.  And it wasn’t that hard. It really didn’t take any planning.

the MixWe talked about how Pollock worked over his canvas, flicking, smearing, pouring the paint directly on.  We talked about how he created as he went, letting the paint land where it willed.  There were no mistakes.  If he didn’t like something he continued flicking, mixing until it looked right.

“I’m NOT Jackson Pollock!” G kept insisting.  “I’m Van Gogh!”  And with his purposeful, short, thick strokes, he was.

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I’m not sure why I was so surprised by how pleased they were with this unplanned activity, or how different each of their paintings turned out.  But I was.  Happily so.

A's painting
A’s painting

 

 

G's painting
G’s painting

 

 

 

 

 

After they finished painting we did watch a brief video of Jackson Pollock describing his technique.  You may view it here.

If you asked them, however, I suppose, they would vote for another round of Nerf guerrilla warfare throughout the house with their dad.  They are energetic boys, after all.  But Jackson Pollock did save that morning.

We were outdoors.  Together.  We were engaged in a familiar activity in an out-of-the-ordinary location.  The birds were singing.  They were allowed expected to make a mess.  Mistakes never factored in to the equation.  There was not a single mention of whose painting was the best.  Competition did not exist – for the moment.  Each of them was simply busy, creating…for the moment.  Quite a feat, Mr. Pollock.

A final tip: Wipe up any stray paint splatters as soon as possible.  We may or may not have had rainbow-freckled siding at our house for a few days.

S's painting
S’s painting