Fall

The following excerpt is from a prose poem by Robert Bly entitled “Fall” (1962). It reminds me of the farm I grew up on, which is vastly different from the farm I now live on (even though I’m only a quarter-mile northwest). The seasons always seemed a little more pronounced on my dad’s farm. Here a woods to the west of the house blocks parts of the world.

The dusk has come, a glow in the west, as if seen through the isinglass on old coal stoves, and the cows stand around the barn door; now the farmer looks up at the paling sky reminding him of death, and in the fields the bones of the corn rustle faintly in the last wind, and the half moon stands in the south.

Now the lights from barn windows can be seen through bare trees.

 

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Joseph Cornell

“Object (Soap Bubble Set)” by Joseph Cornell, 1941

Something about Joseph Cornell’s shadow boxes makes me uncomfortable. It’s a little like looking at someone else’s dream. All artists have a vision, which they then transform into a work of art; Joseph Cornell has somehow skipped a step and put his vision in a box.

I still like it, in a fascinated sort of way. This one makes me think of pipes and the smell of tobacco (rather than sea shells and bubbles). Somewhere along the line I find myself thinking of my older sister, who is visiting right now from her European home of many years. We are alike in many genetic ways, but in her years apart she has become accustomed to things that I am not accustomed to. Things that make me uncomfortable and make her happy. It really has nothing to do with pipes and tobacco. But maybe it has something to do with the otherworldly sea objects. They are neither good nor bad in themselves, but these shells are so close to being dreams that they could easily transform into nightmares depending on the person who dreams them. Do you get that sense? That this artwork could make one person happy and another anxious? That’s what it’s like with my sister. I get anxious around her when she is saying or wearing or buying things that she can’t even comprehend as being nightmarish. It’s not fair to either person, and I suppose it will be what forms a barrier between us. These are things communication does not solve.

Young Woman with Unicorn

Young Woman with Unicorn by Raphael, 1506

Raphael’s paintings don’t normally strike me as funny, but this one is! It’s especially amusing (and interesting) to know that underneath the unicorn is a painting of a dog, which is supposed to represent marital fidelity. You can even see the dog’s ears in the sleeve of the dress. I wonder what the mystery is behind this painting. It’d be nice to know everything, but at the same time, I like not knowing. I like the tension between the girl’s expression and the expression on the unicorn’s face. (Is it laughing?) I really like the way she’s holding it, as if to keep it close and protected, away from whomever might be out there behind the artist. I’d enjoy a copy of this on my wall, just as a reminder that art can be both beautiful and fun.

Native America Unit Study

We finished our Native America Unit Study which I bought from Homeschool Legacy. I am really impressed! It is a six-week study, but I stretched it out to eight weeks. It covered Native America in geographical units: Southwest, Northeast, Great Plains, etc. The unit study included suggested reading, a devotional, interesting facts, website suggestions, some games, some recipes, and more. It claims to be no prep, but that’s not true, at least in my case. I had to prepare ahead of time by ordering the books from the library and making sure I had everything in time.

The best thing about the study? Reading Sing Down the Moon by Scott O’Dell. It really opened up the life of the Navajos to us. Second best? A matching game about the different parts of a buffalo and what the Great Plains people used them for. (No one wanted to get the buffalo chip match. Eww.)

I’m not getting paid to write this review; I just think it’s worth sharing with you. If you’re looking for a different sort of history unit, go over to Homeschool Legacy and check it out!

The Conflict

You could say I’m fairly well tuned to the beat of homeschooling and motherhood, at least for kids still in the elementary age. I am homeschooling and mothering every day. I read blogs by honest mothers trying to do the same things I do. I attend a homeschool co-op and listen to other moms chat in the breakroom. I even read books written by homeschool moms and dads. Well, in all the information and advice I’ve gleaned through these different sources, I sense a conflict. If you’re a homeschooling mom, you probably feel this conflict, too, even if you haven’t tried describing it. I’m just beginning to put it in words.

The conflict is one between taking care of yourself and giving of yourself.

Self-care. It’s important, right? I’ve recently added “Quiet Time for Mom” to the top of my homeschool daily schedule. My kids are old enough now that I can safely leave them with their breakfast and puzzles and Barbies in the downstairs while I take a few minutes upstairs to be alone, read the Bible, a devotional, pray, write in a prayer journal. Then I come downstairs to be Teacher-Mom. But what about at 10:30 am when Teacher-Mom is on her second can of Mt. Dew (because it has been a two-can day already), the grand scheme of the schedule has not been played out yet, and it seems easier to just let everyone play while I plan dinner and switch loads of laundry, which is more relaxing, and besides, Homemaker-Mom is feeling guilty for being non-existent all morning? Or worse, what about the times Grumpy-Mom shows up and refuses to go away? What then? Is it okay to go take care of these other sides of Mom?

Or must I keep going, self-sacrificing, refuse to notice that I’m grumpy, or tell myself that an education is more important than a load of laundry? Give of myself more and more. That’s really a Biblical concept, and that’s what I should be striving after, right? Forget about those selfish yearnings to make money of my own so I don’t have to feel bad about asking my husband for more when my wallet runs out. Forget about wanting some time to do art alone without a thousand interruptions (after all, we moms live in phases, and the phase for being left alone will eventually come). Forget about that walk the kids used to love but now don’t. Forget about trying to be rested on a Sunday afternoon (because that hasn’t happened in forever). My job right now is to Be There. To Live Here with Children. To Be Dependent on my Husband. To Be the One my Children are Dependent On. To Be in the Middle of All These Conflicts.

That’s my conclusion. Being part of this conflict means I’m where I’m supposed to be. It’s a tough job we moms have. It’s confusing. There are no books or blogs written to truly solve this problem. God is a solution, I guess, but God makes it pretty clear that following Him isn’t supposed to be an easy thing. He knows the answers, but I will never understand what I want to understand.

Song of Hiawatha

The rhythms of this narrative poem soothe me. I love reading this poem out loud. The imagery here is also beautiful, and if not soothing, then exquisite. Enjoy. Read it out loud. Or whisper it.

Can it be the sun descending
O’er the level plain of water?
Or the Red Swan floating, flying,
Wounded by the magic arrow,
Staining all the waves with crimson,
With the crimson of its life-blood,
Filling all the air with splendor,
With the splendor of its plumage?
Yes; it is the sun descending,
Sinking down into the water;
All the sky is stained with purple,
All the water flushed with crimson!
No; it is the Red Swan floating,
Diving down beneath the water;
To the sky its wings are lifted,
With its blood the waves are reddened!
Over it the Star of Evening
Melts and trembles through the purple,
Hangs suspended in the twilight.
No; it is a bead of wampum
On the robes of the Great Spirit
As he passes through the twilight,
Walks in silence through the heavens.

— from The Song of Hiawatha by Henry W. Longfellow, 1855

Day Away Home

Once upon a clear fall day a homeschool mom decided enough was enough. She was going on vacation. So she donned her favorite red and black plaid shirt, comfy jeans, put her hair up, and told her children to be good; she’d be right back. She went outside to feed the cats, got a good breath of cool air, and then she came back in. However, she did not come back home! She came to the Day Away Home (which is totally imaginary, but it just goes to show she spends much time around her daughters who play imaginary all the time).

Day Away Home itinerary:
Item 1. School. Even away from normality, one must be educated. Today happened to be science video day, which brought the class into the transition forests of the Great Lakes region. We looked up into the treetops and were thankful for the way God renews His earth.

Item 2. Streams to the River, River to the Sea by Scott O’Dell. Oh, we are enthralled with this story of Sacagawea. It is definitely a trip out west. An exploration. We were really horrified that the icky Frenchman won the Hand Game and so won Sacagawea as his wife, but we’re glad she could go with Lewis and Clark.

Item 3. Dinner. We ate food this mom enjoys but doesn’t often make: fried slices of ring bologna and mashed potatoes with pineapple on the side.

Item 4. Apple Orchard. A yearly trip to the orchard playground and store. A giant pumpkin stood in the front (was it real? was it a Cinderella coach?) A new castle structure added intrigue to the playground, and a certain nine-year-old boy who is usually bored with anything his sisters enjoy managed to entertain himself quite nicely.

Item 5. Leaf Maze. Aforementioned nine-year-old boy went to much effort to create an elaborate leaf maze in the Day Away Home backyard, complete with checkpoints and an entry sign-in sheet. Mother and sisters completed the maze and amazingly mother made it out without asking for directions!

Item 6. Games on the floor. Uno and Spot It! were the games of choice.

The day wound down, and I suppose I am no longer on my day away. But that’s okay. I have a good grown-up book waiting for me upstairs. 🙂