There’s a Christmas song that starts “in the bleak mid-winter…” and while to me, Christmas is never bleak, I think right now at the end of January, we’ve reach that description.
Lately I’ve been trying to cheer myself with little gatherings of flowers, like this bouquet of chamomile (found at Trader Joe’s!) and I’m on the hunt for signs of life out in the garden and out on woodsy walks. There are days when it warms up and I can feel spring coming— and the birds start to chirp and bulbs peek up from the ground. Then there are days like today— when it’s all just gray, and it’s hard to get excited to do much of anything except brew another cup of tea!
However, now that its so dark so early, I have been getting some good evening reading in. I’ve started the new year with the books by The Yorkshire Shepherdess, Amanda Owen, and am so enjoying her woolly adventures in the rural Yorkshire dales. I know she and her family have been featured on television in the UK, and I’m hoping to be able to see those as well! I imagine they are perfect sit-and-knit viewing! The best kind, if you ask me….
Thinking about books, I think my favorite book from 2019 was the book The White Witch by Elizabeth Goudge. It just blew me away, there were so many jewels of wisdom in it….so many deep thoughts and so much history. The story takes place in 17th century England around the time of the English Civil War. The story centers mainly on the character of Froniga, who is half English aristocrat and half gypsy. Because of this, she has one foot in each of these two very different worlds– one of privilege and propriety, the other one of magic, secrets and not having a true home. The story unfolds as her cousin, Lord Robert, gets caught up in the fervor of the anger against the king and joins men he admires into fighting the civil war. The story deals with how the lord’s family members, community, and even his priest, deal with his fervor and fanaticism, while others deal with their faith and how much they’ll trust to God in their lives. And since it takes place during a war there is of course intrigue, battle, and unrequited love. So much happens in this story, and I’d hate to give it all away.
All this to say, Elizabeth Goudge does a fantastic job at creating a cast of characters who are so unique and unforgettable, and a wonderful story as well. She was the only child of an Anglican theologian and priest, and her handling of the human experience and relationship with faith show her to also be so deep and knowledgeable. This book is one that will really stick with me, for many years to come. I think I’ll have to read it again, there was just so much good stuff in it….
Something else I have been thoroughly enjoying is this very old quilt I bought at an antique shop last fall. This actually came from Blue Heron Antiques when I took part in their autumn open house. I didn’t MEAN to buy a quilt….but I fell absolutely in love with this piece. Such tiny, minute stitches….and the fabric is all my colors. I am very much of the opinion that quilts like these are art— even master pieces— and the old ones, done completely by hand, blow me away….
I am also, quite humbly, working on my own quilt— this one has been in the works since last spring! All the fabric is linen dyed with natural materials— indigo, cosmos, madder root and black walnut. I am in the home stretch….all I need is a block of time to really sit down and work on the finishing of the binding. Then I can (gently!) wash it and see how it fluffs up, and put it to use! Surely I will have it done in time to bring it with me to the May Day festivities at Hunters Home….
And well….here are just a few little other things I’ve been up to this month, this beginning of a new decade….
My littlest is now 6. 6 year’s old!! He got snow on his birthday, which cancelled his party— but we still had cake and he had his presents from us, so he was happy!
We cut up our old Christmas tree (and when I say ‘we’ you know I mean my husband, right? He got a chainsaw for Christmas!) and put it in the chicken yard for the ladies to enjoy.
Despite these gals’ rather unimpressed expressions (who can impress a chicken, really?) they’e been enjoying sitting in it, on it, and beside it, and if they’re feeling crazy, they might also take a bite of the pine needles (they really don’t seem impressed with that, either) The rabbits have been enjoying it as well, and Beatrix will chew the pine with gusto. I think by the time next December rolls around, she’ll have this tree completely mulched down! Beatrix has also been very busy with her new babies, but I will share more on them very soon…..
And so….that is what’s happening here these days. Pretty quiet. The garden is quiet, and we are quiet. I have been painting as much as I can, which is good! My husband is busy studying to take his first in a series of exams to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), so that’s been a lot of our family focus in the evenings and weekends.
As for right now, I think my tea has steeped enough for me to turn my attention to it, and I’ve some sketching (and laundry! always!) to attend to.
Have a wonderful weekend friends, and stay warm!
10 thoughts on “January Quiet”
What a lovely read! I’ve enjoyed several Elizabeth Goudge books. I find I can’t read her as well during tired spells in my life because there is SO much there – such thick imagery and characterization, and as you say, wisdom. They are intense, for me. I do want to re-read one I read decades ago and found again in my parents’ basement. It’s called The Middle Window. The quilts, chickens, flowers, and tea sound cozy. Thank you for the glimpse into your world.
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She IS such a wonderful writer. The first book I read by Goudge was The Scent of Water, which was in a more modern era. I think its so interesting that she wrote in both historical and ‘modern’ time periods. I will have to look for The Middle Window!
Have you read the trilogy that starts with The Bird in the Tree?
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I do love that old star quilt you found last Fall. Such a treasure! January is indeed a quiet season for those above the low southern tier. We keep flirting with all on Spring and our flora really does need a period of rest before the onslaught of months of heat and humidity. The Camellia blooms naturally this time of year and as long as it doesn’t freeze, the big bushes fill our city with beautiful pink rose looking blooms.
The recycled Christmas tree was a good idea for the chickens and perhaps they will find more ways to use it. At least it gives the pen a source of a new exploration to be taken on!
The “brown season”of January and February reminds me of my childhood, Virginia. For some reason, the world seemed so dreary after the glorious Fall and excitement of Christmas when the outside lights were on everyone’s bushes. But then suddenly those brave little Crocus would pop up in February and even keep strong if snowed on. At that point, I knew we were heading for the beautiful spring bloom of daffodils, tulips, forsythia, hyacinths and pink and white Dogwood trees. It was worth the wait of January and early February!
Happy Birthday to your little guy! My how they grow up fast right before our eyes!
Yes, one of the lucky things for us in more southern climbs is that the spring does come quickly…..I am waiting for the Crocus to come peeping up….those first little colorful blossoms are always such a relief!
That is a lovely old quilt, and your quilt is beautiful too. Did you do the dyeing? One of these days I will weave something out of linen, once I get back to weaving anything at all … thanks for the book recommendations too!
I did! The whole thing was a bit of a long project…I dyed the linen with various natural things and then thought “Well, I need to MAKE something now” and thus— the quilt! 🙂
As Melinda said, this was such a pleasant read. 🙂 Happy birthday to your son! May God grant him many happy healthy more! And I hope your husband does well on his exams!
I love the quilts. I’m jealous that I don’t know how to sew. My sewing teacher in 9th grade was a wonderful and very sweet French woman. Everything I made fell apart except for an ugly velour top and I was stressed out about failing. LOL! One day, she took me aside and, although I cannot remember exactly what she told me, but she said this in a truly loving manner: She felt sorry for me that I was the worst sewer she’d ever seen and offered me a “B” and just be a helper. I was so excited to accept! And next semester, this tomboy gladly took wood shop. So, whenever I see someone sewing in any form, I have the utmost respect for that person, as I have for you! Just beautiful! Maybe one day, I can try again. I even have my grandfather’s Singer that I need to restore. Ironic huh?!
By the way, those chickens are adorable!
I will be honest— I am NOT the best at sewing either! I give it my best shot, and have made a few small quilts (this is my largest one to date) and I get a LITTLE better each time….but its definitely a process! Your story about becoming the assistant and then moving to shop class reminds me of my ‘week’ in Chemistry class! I was moved out of that ASAP and took typing instead. And I’m a pretty good typist now! 😀
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LOL! Too funny! It’s nice to know we all have our niche. But your work truly looks so incredible!