Sunday, February 28, 2010

Loved Though Unknown

I love this picture. My grandmother was born in 1899 and her mother is the girl in the back row, the first on the left. I'm guessing that this picture was taken in the early 1890's, about one hundred and twenty years ago. What do I know about this picture? Well,
-Great grandma's name was Minerva and she is standing behind her mother whose name is also Minerva. Now why did they do that. One of her brothers, Sam, was named after his father's brother Sam. This makes life very difficult for those who like to delve into the past.
-Minerva's parents are Minerva and Robert Haddock
-Robert Haddock's mother's name was Eleanor (McBride) Haddock and although her family tree flourished in Ireland, the family roots can be traced to Scotland.
-Minerva Haddock Senior was a Baker, and her parents were Eliza and Samuel.
-Great grandmother's sisters were Allie, Ella, and Daisy.
-Minerva married R.C. Ray, my great grandfather.
-His father's half brother married one of Minerva's sisters, so cousins shared a similar DNA profile
-I know the family was Puritan and their faith was often expressed in verse and song.
Now those are all bald facts, but none of them explain why I love this picture. Aren't the boys a handsome bunch? And grandma is so beautiful. Great, great grandfather Haddock looks as wise as Abraham Lincoln (and like they might have had the same tailor). My mother remembers Minerva, but knew her only as an older woman. No one remains alive who knew Minerva's parents. Each generation in it's turn passes from this earth and eventually from memory. And yet, this picture with my darkly handsome ancestors staring out at me, stirs me. There is a connection, a familiar, tangible something. These are bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh and are loved though unknown. Loved.

Bonnie Gene

My blithe and bonnie cousin blew in like a gust of fresh spring air Friday morning. She was on her way north to take in a live play. Her mother, my Aunt, was playing Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Ernest. I just want to say, it's official, my Aunt has done everything now. Sadly, we share no genes, but she continues to inspire. What wonderful women I have been surrounded by. My grandmother, my mother, my sisters, my daughters, my aunts, my cousins........ Each one is a wonderful story. Maybe because I have been sorting pictures of grandparents to include on a quilt project, I am freshly aware of the amazing gift heritage is. In some way, we ARE able to pass on abit of the sweetness of life, lessons extracted from the bitterest experiences, not like dusty preserves on a shelf, but flowing in our veins, in our attitudes and values, in who we are and become.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

math and muffins

If books reveal secrets about their owners, my Betty Crocker Cookbook has more clues than a police crime scene. It is no mystery which recipes were featured on the menu. Like Hansel and Gretel, one need only follow a trail of crumbs..... and splatters, and smudges. A few pages have become bonded for life. My favorite muffin recipe has a portion of the opposing page added to the instructions. I learned to cook from this book. And, I came to understand that there is as much math as there is science and art in cooking. Certain ratios of dry to wet ingredients must be respected but can be endlessly adapted in muffins. A cup of liquids to two cups of dry offer plenty of "scope for the imagination." I even remember one of the very first times I made my favorite muffin recipe in the Betty Crocker Cookbook. It was thirty years ago and my brother was visiting with his family. I could tell as I stirred the batter that all the forces of the universe had converged and that these muffins would be perfection. The batter began to rise under the spoon and continued to rise in the oven into golden domes. The perfect tender crumb. A dollop of glistening ruby jam. My brother asked what kind they were and I glanced at the (spattered) page and said, "They're just called Popular Muffins," and he said fervently, "I can see why." Thankyou Betty for giving me such a warm and golden memory.

Saturday, February 20, 2010


Don't you hate it when people fold over the corner of a page to mark their place? Don't they know we're surrounded by bookmarks in waiting? They could use a twenty dollar bill, or a newspaper clipping, a pressed flower, or a photo; all things I have found at one time or another in books preread by someone else.
I don't like it when people write in books either.
Or, in a moment of madness, tear out a picture or instructions.
Books have always held something of the sacred for me. 
They can literally change our lives,
comfort and heal.
Surprised By Joy, by C.S.Lewis is on my list of "books that have changed my life."
He wrote of longing.
And the intimacy of the garden of Eden where man walked in the cool of the evening with God.
His words made a difference.

I guess it's important to mark our place, and write down our insights and save what we fear we'll forget.
And if it means you have to fold over the corner of a page, or scribble a note in the margin, so be it.

Friday, February 19, 2010


I learned a new word yesterday. Schnibble. I was once given a big, black garbage bag full of schnibbles and I didn't even realize it. A seamstress had saved all of the scraps of fabic left after making her young daughters Christmas, Easter, and assorted special occassion dresses. Of course, I now know that those scraps of fabric were schnibbles, and are little gems to a quilter. Since I had recently happened upon a stash of quilt books at a thrift store, I chose a pattern from Watercolor Quilts and started pressing and cutting. 400 little squares later, I was ready to start sewing. There are alot of different ways to arrange 400 squares and I probably tried most of them out. They say that in quilting, like in fishing, there can be "the one that got away." You know you had the perfect layout of blocks but you've moved them around one too many times, and can't remember how it went.
I got rid of all the schnibbles that I didn't use for that quilt. Cutting 400 squares had made me apathetic about those fabics as future project material. And, besides, you have to carefully manage schnibbles or they multiply and get out of hand. I'm proud to say that I have a very modest and sensible schnibble stash.

Life As Art

He who works with his hands is a laborer,
He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsmen,
He who works with his hands, his head, and his heart is an artist.
St. Francis Of Assisi

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

mother lode

I had gone hunting for treasure at the downtown thrift shop. I found myself sifting through the books, something I should be strictly forbidden to do; or perhaps a warning gong should sound, or a voice intone......."step away from the books." Treasure is always there for those who seek and sure enough, I hit the mother lode! There, amidst the National Geographics and Harlequin Romance novels was a teetering stack of quilt books. Someone had accumulated a collection of fabulous, expensive, inspiring, quilt books and I alone had happened upon them. I'm a firm believer that anything worth learning can be garnered from a book. I staggered to the till with the works and promptly fell to reading and sewing. My first quilt emerged thanks to the very instructive teaching of a woman with the last name of Mumm.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

the long and the short of it

We recently moved our bookshelves and books into one room, gathering them together to form a library. I couldn't help noticing that short stories are my preferred genre. Shelves bulge with them, and I tend to collect everything written by my favorite authors. Isn't it sad when you've read everything someone has to say and there is no more to be found? I suppose that's why I find myself reading and rereading some authors works. I suppose the relationship of reader and author is not unlike other relationships in that we always long to know and to be known. We come to know not only about the author through his work, but about ourselves, and those kinds of discoveries are worth collecting.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

How Great Thou Art

The singing in church this morning was especially good. I found myself just listening to the harmonies blending and soaring. When we began to sing, How Great Thou Art, I must admit that I wondered if anyone else remembered learning to sing this hymn from a giant song book. It was at least three feet tall and the words were printed stanza by stanza over top of the illustrated pages. It took two people to hold it and turn the pages. Could be kind of fun to bring it out one Sunday just for old times sake. It does seem to be true that the things you learn as a child not only stay with you but take on the ability to comfort.

Psalm 71:17 O God, You have taught me from my youth, And I still declare Your wondrous deeds.

O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the works Thy Hand hath made,
I see the stars, I hear the mighty thunder,
Thy pow'r throughout the universe displayed;
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God to Thee,
How great Thou art! How great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God to Thee,
How great Thou art! How great Thou art!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Have Book, Will Travel

I don't believe in Santa. I don't believe in Time Travel either. But last week standing in front of the vintage books at MCC I wondered, just for a moment. I was no longer aware of the room around me, only of books. Books exactly like the ones in the book shelves of my childhood. Ones I would have breathlessly opened, smelling the sweet book glue and turning the thick pages. Such cool, glossy volumes with covers that beckoned. Untold joys awaited me. When thoughts of love turn to books, I think of a poem my Dad has often quoted from, Who Hath A Book, by Wilbur D. Nesbit

Who have a book
Hath friends at hand,
And gold and gear
At his command;
And rich estates,
If he but look,
Are held by him
Who hath a book.

Who hath a book
Hath but to read
And he may be
A king, indeed.
His kingdom is
His inglenook-
All this is his
Who hath a book.

Friday, February 12, 2010

sorting and polishing memories

It's interesting that all the senses are involved in memory. In my collection of "childhood in Blue River" memories, I recall a warm summer afternoon. Golden light has seeped into the cedar log walls causing the room to take on a burnished glow. Sweet scents of waffle and blueberry have infused the air. Ahhhhh, lunch at Grandma's house, the original aromatherapy. We three cousins have lit on whatever perch seems handy and Grandma is settled by the open window in the big chair. She is reading from the Borrowers and I am fascinated with the name of the main character, Arrietty. It sounds so foreign to my ears, as foreign as the idea of Borrowers themselves that it lends a breath of plausibility in my mind. My Grandmothers steady voice reading, reading, the silver tinkle of distant voices rising and falling on the breeze through the open window over her shoulder. Surely there could have been a girl named Arrietty, isn't my cousins name so like it. Thus is the combined power of fiction and ambiance. Thank you Grandma.........

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Zane is Grey!

You've almost reached your limit, the librarian said kindly. Are you returning any books today? My limit?! How could I have sixty books out already. Mind you, I had staggered out to the car with a slipping, sliding stack several times in the last few weeks, but limiting out at the library!! I always have a joyous sense of limitless choices awaiting me when I step through those doors.
In the 1920's and early 30's my Father was growing up in Drumheller and he remembers library cards costing ten cents. You could fill both sides with stamps before you had to buy another and he eventually read the entire children's side of the library. He yearned to read Zane Grey but alas, Zane Grey was on the adult side of the library and therefore, unattainable. This past year, almost eighty years later, he is working his way through a friends huge Zane Grey collection. More than sixty cards to stamp, no limits.