Thursday, February 29, 2024

Lake Morey, Vermont, Winter in Our Veins


I do not have a bucket list. However, I do have heart's desires. One of my heart's desires is to play outdoors in the winter. When we left New England and moved south twenty-three years ago, we left behind the kind of winters that were a way of life. You either embraced the cold and ice or you suffered. While we do have a winter season here in Virginia, they do not take on the same bite as a New England winter. Ponds rarely freeze over and hefty snowfalls come maybe once every four or five years. Indoor ice skating rinks cannot compare to the freedom of outdoor skating on a frozen pond, lake, or flooded field. I am sure a large part of my longing is nostalgia. Whatever the reason, the desire to ice skate outdoors has constantly tugged at my heart. As I grow older, that desire feels more urgent.

Life in the 1960's, before computers and play dates, meant we played outside every day. Winters were no exception. If there was snow, it was it all the better. Even without snow, we could still ice skate. We had farm ponds and flooded fields all around us. The only thing that would drive us back indoors was frozen fingers or toes..and supper time. Ultimately, my older cousin who lived next door, built a skating rink in the empty lot on the other side of his house. He borrowed a bulldozer from his work and scraped the field, pushing all the dirt to create a bank on all four sides. Then he came in with a cement mixer filled with water and flooded the depressed ground. He installed a spotlight on a telephone pole and a burning barrel for us to keep warm. He even built a bench where we could change into our skates. We couldn't wait for school to let out in the afternoon to all meet up at the rink. Often times, we would go back out again after dinner and skate in and out of the pool of light created by the spotlight. When school let out for Winter Recess in February, we would have a solid week of outdoor winter play, sledding, skating, and building elaborate snow forts. Below freezing temperatures were pretty much guaranteed in February and many big lakes would hold winter carnivals during Winter Recess week.

I recall the year I turned twelve. It was Winter Recess and we neighborhood kids were all sledding. The boys started throwing snowballs at the girls. An ice ball hit me in the eye and caused some serious damage. I was under a doctor's care for months and I wasn't allowed to play outside for the rest of that recess week. I remember sitting in front of the picture window watching my sister and the neighborhood kids ice skate on the flooded field across the road. Even with a horrible headache and an eye patch over my eye, I begged to be let out to play. The hot tears I cried made my eye and head hurt even more and I was miserable. My mother did not relent. I felt jipped when we finally returned to school the following week. I still bear a scar under my eye with that memory.

Nowadays I subscribe to Yankee Magazine in order to get my New England fix. Sometimes I cry with longing for the all that I miss of our old home. Two years ago the magazine published an article about a place in Fairlee, Vermont called, Lake Morey Resort. The article told about how the resort clears a four-mile path around the lake for ice skating. It is advertised a the largest ice skating path in the United States! They also clear large swaths for ice hockey and some fun little paths in between. I studied the photo in depth wondering if it could be as wonderful as it appeared. I saved the coveted article and showed it to the family. I claimed that this was going on my bucket list. It remained the one and only item on my non-existent bucket list. 

 Last fall I re-mentioned this Lake Morey winter adventure to one of my daughters. Quick as anything, all the girls were on board to make it happen... in February! We made reservations at the resort, four of the girls made flight reservations and two of us made driving plans. It was really happening!

A lot of moving pieces had to come together to make this trip a reality. We were blessed with good health, good weather, and good travel. The excitement of arriving to find the lake and the resort all that we hoped for was nothing short of a miracle. The resort had everything we needed on site. They had three kinds of skates to rent; figure skates, hockey skates, and Nordic skates. They also had hockey sticks, pucks, helmets, and sleds. There was also one nifty item that we had never seen before called a Kickspark. It is like a scooter with two long blades instead of wheels. You put micro crampons on your boots and kick off on this self-propelled machine to glide across the ice. It was a blast! The four sisters and granddaughter skated the four-mile path around the lake twice each day. They also played hockey and just messed around on the ice, sampling the different kinds of skates. I could not make the four mile loop on skates but I did walk, Kickspark and eventually skated a little before the trip was over. 

The moments of purest joy for me were to see my daughters playing together. For three days they weren't moms or wives or employees. They were just kid sisters having a blast together. This was a rare opportunity. Of course I felt joy when I finally got my skates on and I let go of any support. I found that I could still skate even after many years of not having done so. Muscle memory of how the subtlest shift of weight from side to side sent me firmly gliding and gave me confidence. The cold air blew across my face as I went a little bit faster. At one point, I stood alone near the middle of the lake. It was very quiet. The sky was heavy and gray, and the air was biting cold. I could feel the dampness of frozen water rising up from the ice. It is unique in feel and smell; different than snow. It awoke winters from long ago that shifted into the here and now. I lifted my face and breathed in as deeply as I could. I needed to get in enough winter air to save up and last me a while. I thanked God for this remarkable gift.


Sunday, February 25, 2024

Exploring an Abandoned Farmhouse


On a beautiful fall day last September, Audrey invited Tess and me on an adventure. We were going to explore an abandoned farmhouse on some acreage she and her husband had purchased. She packed a picnic lunch for us and we set out to make a day of it.

I assume everyone itches to explore old, abandoned houses. I can't drive by a one without wishing I could explore it. I like to imagine what life was like in the home and what sort of people lived there. I want to look for traces of their ordinary days and see what was forgotten or left behind. Short of trespassing, we don't often get the chance to actually explore those places. They roll by, out the car window, leaving only our imaginings to keep them company.

Audrey had done some research on their land and she knew the house had been empty for a very long while. It had no electricity and no plumbing. It was 1860's old, yet it was very well preserved considering how long it had stood empty. The woodwork and trim inside were lovely as was the stairway and banisters. The flooring was in good shape too. This did not appear to be the home of someone who had been struggling on hard times. It was a solid, successful farmer's home. There were comfort items like a pretty bed frame and a piano in the living room. There were two porches, one on either side of the ell that was the kitchen off the back side. I imagined garden vegetables being carried across the porch into the kitchen for canning. An open, stone-lined well stood a couple of yards from the back door where I could imagine the wife drawing water up from the well for her kitchen use. Curtains still hung on some of the windows. They were so dry rotted that the slightest touch sent the fabric crumbling away. My favorite place was one of the porches off the kitchen. It still showed the beautiful blue paint on the wainscotted ceiling. I pictured myself sitting on a chair, shelling peas in the cool shade of a summer afternoon. My heart ached as I noticed all these signs of life from an era gone by.

We talked about whether anything was worth salvaging. It would be a big job to salvage woodwork, flooring, and fireplace mantels without damaging them. As we walked away from the home, we carried with us an old wire and metal gate we found. Audrey said I could have it for my garden. It reminded me of one that my parents had at my home growing up. We talked about coming back with the metal detector to dig deeper and see what else we might find. 

Unfortunately, we got sad news about the house only one week later. The county required the auction company to demolish the house before the final closing sale could take place. Within one day, it was razed to the ground and hauled away. Just like that. When I heard that news, I felt melancholy all evening. It was strange that I would feel that way about a house I only saw once and never lived in myself. I had really wanted to go back and visit it again. It felt like an old friend. I hated that the past was disappearing, along with a way of life. 

Well, it is time for new beginnings and all that. My six year old granddaughter played with her toy horse in one of the fields there today. She is imagining a life that is yet to come. I pray it is as lovely and peaceful as the old house led me to believe it used to be.

                               The kitchen ell off the back of the house and one of the porches.
             The piano was made in Albany New York. The place of my birth. What are the chances?!

                          Pretty bed frame with the contents of a straw mattress that once sat atop it.

             Look at the beautiful blue paint on the ceiling! The garden gate that went home with us.

                                                    1924 calendar page found on the floor.

Sunday, February 11, 2024

Work in Progress, Apothecary Rose


I am currently working on a rug called, Apothecary Rose. It is by my favorite pattern designer, Karen Kahle. I love all of her whimsical patterns. I find that her designs suit my home's style, particularly in the sense they that I can use brighter colors and I do not need to stick to a primitive color palette. 

I bought this pattern a few years ago and it took me a while to approach it. I felt intimidated by it's complexity and I needed formulate a plan on how I would work out my vision of color. I was drawn to the soft colors that Karen used. I saw warm cream tones, splattered with pinks and bronze-greens and some surprises of blue. I enjoy dying wool so I dyed the background textures in a color called, Antique Paper. For the blossoms and buds, I used shades of a dye recipe called Apple Blossom Pinks. I bought a piece of wool from a designer/author/dyer named Katie Kriner. She calls the color of that wool, English Breakfast. I thought it was the perfect shade to use in the grid lines between the blossom squares. I like to hook from massive amounts of mixed wool strips rather than one, singular piece of wool. I keep them in bags and bins next to my frame and pull strips from there as I hook.

I keep my rug hooking frame next to a window so I have lots of light shining down on the rug. I also have a window directly across from my chair so I can look outside while I work. (This is how I happened to spot the bobcat that ran by the shed two years ago.) All in all, it's a pensive past time that suits me well. I listen to many audio books and podcasts and I think and pray. Keeping the hands busy in tasks that don't require much concentration, like hooking, stitching, weeding, and washing dishes allows the brain to flow into a thoughtful space.  For some reason I need to counterbalance busy days with lots of time like this. Hence, a lot of rugs are produced...or a lot of dishes get washed. 

Last fall and into the winter, I stitched a couple of things as well. I realized I was going with all the same choices of color scheme- pinks, creams and bronze greens with some blues. I guess those are my soothing colors for this season. : )

Thursday, February 8, 2024



    Our view across the road has changed. When I lamented about the loss of our view, Steve said, "Well, we got to enjoy it for twenty years. Like all things, it comes to an end." I can't help but feel happy for the new family who will live out their vision of country life there. We were once in their place and I wouldn't begrudge it for anyone. But, that view was beautiful. 

     Change makes me uncomfortable. One of the quotes I placed in my banner when I designed this blog was, "What some people view as stagnation, I view as contentment." I am happy and content with familiarity. I do not rearrange our furniture. I do not replace things for the sake of updating. And I need to know exactly where to find the masking tape when I need it. Last month, in a fit of insanity, I decided to wear. bangs. As if that wasn't enough change, I also parted my hair on the opposite side. I have never felt so uncomfortable and awkward. I couldn't wait to get home and dunk my head under the faucet to wash all the changes away.

     If I could manipulate time and make all the sad and uncomfortable changes go away, I would.  Imagine that a stream represents the flow of time. I would place pretty rocks across the stream with a gentle net to catch all the good things that flow by. Time in that net would stand still and we would live with all the people and good things that gathered there. We would have our grandparents, parents, children, and all the things and people we love, all in the same place at the same time. Sigh. In writing this, I realize I may have described Heaven. 

     The photo in the previous post is of the view across the road as it was up until last fall. I know changes come and I must try to accept them. Some changes are mildly uncomfortable and some are incredibly painful. As the lyrics in the Fleetwood Mac song below say, "Can I handle the seasons of my life? I don't know." The best we can do is take it as it comes, with all the grace and love that God gives us.

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

But Mousie... A Repost From June 2018

But, Mousie, thou art no thy-lane,
In proving foresight may be vain;
The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy!

Still thou art blest, compar'd wi' me
The present only toucheth thee:
But, Och! I backward cast my e'e.
On prospects drear!
An' forward, tho' I canna see,
I guess an' fear!

These are the last two stanzas of " To a Mouse" by Robert Burns. I quote the third line often. Here's the modern English version:

But Mouse, you are not alone,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often askew,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!

Still you are blessed, compared with me!
The present only touches you:
But oh! I backward cast my eye,
On prospects dreary!
And forward, though I cannot see,
I guess and fear!

     This week was to be my first week of vacation which would be free of commitments. I had a list in my mind of all the things I wanted to catch up on or enjoy. I had made my "best laid plans" and it was to be all about me. And then things began to "go often askew". Not one, not two, but all three of our cars had mechanical issues. On a Goldilocks scale of problems, one car's was minor, one was medium, and one was major. Behind that scene, some health issues were creeping up that could no longer be ignored. The final straw (and it only takes a tiny speck of straw to set one over one's limit) occurred when I had resigned myself to stay home because I had no car. I decided I might as well catch up on the ironing. I got everything all set up, ready to dig right into that mountain of ironing and... my iron conked out. As in permanently. A small thing indeed, but it did cause me to raise my face Heavenward and ask, "Really?"
     At this point I began to be just a little bit afraid to leave the house. We've been studying Job at church and images of Job's suffering were filling my mind. I knew my annoyances compared nothing to Job's suffering, but still, things were heaping up and "forward, though I cannot see. I guess and fear!".
     By Sunday morning I had reached a point of pure agitation. I was in constant pain from aforementioned health issue and I was angry at myself for feeling angry. At one point I firmly sat myself down on a chair and told Steve I was not going to church. Period. (I'm not actually eight years old but I'm good at acting that.) Of course we did go to church but I made up my mind I would not be fake smiling. As the singing began and as our guest speaker began to speak, I felt my heart slowly softening. By the end of church I was "real" smiling without being aware of it.. Our guest speakers that morning were the Bonilla family. Juan Carlos and his family are missionaries in Spain. I had spotted Juan Carlos at Fine Arts Camp the previous week. He was dancing and singing his way down the path between our buildings. His joy was so obvious. I thought a lot about that. We also had the wonderful privilege that Sunday morning of witnessing a family baptize their three children. Pastor Stephen lovingly held each child and reminded us all what it means to dedicate our lives to the Lord and to be called a child of God.
     Anyway, I knew my problems weren't about cars and health. They were all about attitude. I had been losing my focus. It was no longer on God, nor on what it is to walk this life with him. I was trying to handle all life's annoyances in my own strength and I was miserably failing. A friend took me kayaking on Monday and there were no calamitous accidents. I did end up tipped into the river and I did clunk my friend in the head with my kayak. But these were more hilarious than anything. The next evening, other friends invited us to swim in their pool and we had a great conversation about our faith and what it means to live with this faith in our world. And yesterday, I hooked, as I do every week, with my dear and wise friend of eighty-something years and again our conversation centered around our shared faith.  
     I am so glad God turned my face again toward him. I cannot be any kind of help to my family or others when I am consumed by my own problems. Evidently, my best laid schemes were not God's schemes for me this week and because of that, I have been blessed.