Heaven knows I do my best here to avoid grousing about politics and society.  If I allowed myself I’d have plenty to write about – like where is Miley Cyrus’s mother  anyway?

Remember Hannah Montana?

Remember Hannah Montana?

And the political blabbering that is filling our airways?  It’s only just begun.  Perhaps one day I might slip and have my say.  Trouble is, I’m well aware that my say is of no import – and it’s best I continue to listen and hope that someone eventually will rise with character and wisdom and humility.  It’s a thin hope.

Lincoln Memorial

Lately Mr. A. and I have watched a few television shows, launching their fall season.  Our bent is to go to British television on PBS – and that is what we will be doing again this fall.  However, we have given a few American shows a try – which undoubtedly all come out of Hollywood.  What we have witnessed is, to put it kindly, the underside of human nature.  In one series after another we are subject to sickening violence, relational abuse, deviant and/or promiscuous sex and general nastiness.  It’s only early October and I’ve had my fill.  Back to PBS, old movies, football – and maybe Dancing with the Stars.

We fell in love with irascible Doc Martin and his town of Portwenn

We fell in love with irascible Doc Martin and his town of Portwenn

My thoughts turned to popular television the other day as I was reading a little article about Ted Danson in the paper.  Seems he appeared on a panel for the Clinton Global Initiative last week speaking about the sustainability of the oceans.

Mr. Danson has some credibility here as he has been actively concerned and working for the health of the oceans for 35 years.  It’s long been a trying cause, but lately he claims to have reason to hope.  The organization (Oceana) that he works with has been going from country to country helping to establish fishing limits which will help the native fish populations recover.  Little by little they are making progress in that and in other care-for-the earth concerns.

Ted Danson

Ted Danson

I wasn’t thinking so much about fishing however, as Cheers.  Where everybody knows your name.  It was a different era in television, where humor and humanity trumped violence.  For a decade in the 80’s we all knew this little Boston pub, populated by Sam and Diane, Carla and Woody, Norm and Cliff, Frasier Crane and Lilith.  Even as we laughed at their antics we became mired  in their lives and wanted the best for them.  They were our neighbors.  Other than a little sloth, sarcasm, naivete, flirtatiousness and pomposity – and no doubt because of it – these were a delightful bunch.  


Compare to today’s diet of autopsies, shootings, infidelity, walking dead, totally corrupt Washingtonians – and on and on.  (I do make exception for Madame Secretary, which does seem to care about virtue.)  Even our favored Friday night treat, Blue Bloods, has taken a recent more violent turn.  If I, a reasonably aware person, has trouble building a heart shield against all this mess, what is happening to our children?

Build a joyful fence! by Quebec artist Carole Spandau

Build a joyful fence!
by Quebec artist Carole Spandau

In the late 80’s another, albeit adult, comedy kept us coming back – Seinfeld.  We saw Jerry Seinfeld in person once – and his comedy that night was squeaky clean and hilarious.  Who didn’t laugh and find himself loving Jerry and George, Elaine and Kramer, and of course, Newman?  In the 90’s Frasier came out of Cheers – with the same perceptive writing – and characters worth knowing, Frasier, Niles, Roz, Daphne and Martin.

Oh, I miss these guys.


Which brings me back to Ted Danson, who is now a CSI guy, picking his way among corpses and criminals and cyber crime.  I bet he misses Cheers like the rest of us.  


But I will be working my best to avoid the unrelenting noise and images passing for television entertainment today.  I hope you do too. 

Ted was talking about social activism last week, but his words resonate with me on many levels . . . 

“You do the best you can, and you need to do it with a light heart and some joy, or you will drop out and become overwhelmed.”

Rainbow breach of a humpback whale

Rainbow breach of a humpback whale – a light heart and some joy . . .

 “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”  Phil. 4:8-9

We all do remember . . . 

Making your way in the world today

Takes everything you’ve got;

Taking a break from all your worries

Sure would help a lot.

Wouldn’t you like to get away?


Sometimes you want to go

Where everybody knows your name,

And they’re always glad you came;

You want to be where you can see,

Our troubles are all the same;

You want to be where everybody knows your name.



Images courtesy of:  Red Fence by Carole Spandau;  pinterest,  Rainbow Breach;

Remember Me



“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”  Proverbs 22:6

My cousin Marti is a jewelry designer and for my birthday gave me a necklace that she had created using a World War II era keepsake, a small silver link called a “forget-me-not”.  Evidently young women shared these links with each other in bracelets as signs of friendship.  Mine is engraved with my mother’s name, Dorothy.  I’m not likely to forget her!

It says Dorothy too!

A vintage forget-me-not bracelet that says Dorothy too!

Emily recently told me, “you have an amazing memory!”  It’s only partially true however.  I do remember many obscure things in detail, things which have no bearing on my life at all.  And gosh, half the fun of writing May 1st is remembering people and place and particulars of these 75 years.

Minneapolis skyline of my childhood

Minneapolis skyline of my childhood – with the Foshay Tower predominant

Skyline today - can you find the Foshay Tower?

Skyline today – can you spot the Foshay Tower?

Lying abed the other night I thought of Wings Over the Woodshed, a book we had as children.  Although I had not thought of this book for 60-some years I could recall the exact cover.  So I went to Amazon and found an old copy and ordered it for my brother for his 77th birthday. :)  He remembered it when he saw it.


On the other hand I’ll easily forget the name of the movie we saw last month – or the plot of a book I read in June!  I’ll forget the name of someone I’ve met 10 times in church, but remember that Johnny’s birthday, (a childhood friend), is June 28!

Rodin's The Thinker - has he forgotten something?

Rodin’s The Thinker – has he forgotten something?  Pants?

It’s evidently some strange occurrence of old age, a natural selective memory.  We happily wander down memory land with the slightest encouragement.  Of course most of life lies behind us and if we are fortunate, there are sunny days to remember, the details of which are in technicolor.  People are generally not fascinated by peculiar old details, so we are doubly blessed if we have long companionships with siblings and spouses and cousins – and occasionally lifelong friends – with whom to glance back.  In truth this remembering of our past has deeper significance as it keeps us on the path of understanding and recognizing ourselves.

Remembering Monet by Alsyah Ang

Remembering Monet by Alsyah Ang

While I’m pretty good at remembering, I’m really good at forgetting.  I don’t even want to tell you all the things I forget.  I forget promises to myself within an hour.  I can promise to pray for you and then forget the same day.  Mind you, this is not usually the case, but often enough to grieve me.  Only when God imprints it on me to pray  can I be sure to remember.  My Johnson cousins and I agreed to pray for each others’ children every Tuesday.  By grace and surprise I have remembered.

Remembering Picasso

Remembering Picasso

“Please pray for me.  Don’t forget!”  This is what Pope Francis repeatedly implored during his recent visit.  They were his parting words.  Maybe Francis too knows the frailty of memory.

Remembering Seurat

Remembering Seurat

As I write I think of my beloved sister-in-law Marlys.  Mar lives now in memory care and we can tell with every succeeding visit, she remembers us less and less.  This is Marlys, I’m talking about – Marlys, a teacher, a reader, a walker, a painter, a welcomer.  She told us of her diagnosis about 3 years ago, (or was it four, I forget ). “Susie, I can’t remember how to do the checkbook!”  Always good at math, she could no longer remember simple arithmetic.  This road of not remembering is a lonely road and is of course, also cheerless for the ones who have been forgotten.

Blue Water 2 (1)

Years ago I visited my Aunt Gladdie who was in the hospital, in her last days and very far away.  She didn’t seem to know me and didn’t talk.  I sat by her side for a bit.  Gladdie had been my Sunday School teacher for a long time when I was a girl.  We were alone in the room, so I began to sing quietly one familiar hymn after another.  Tack, o Gud, for Vad du Varit, (Thanks to God),  Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us, Children of the Heavenly Father . . . . and Aunt Gladdie’s face and body fell into quietness and calm.  I think it was a remembering of Him.

by Karen Hollingsworth

by Karen Hollingsworth

C. S. Lewis talks of a longing for a place where we have never been and yet know with a sweet and potent remembering.  I pray for Marlys and others whose memories are failing that within their spirits Christ himself is bringing a holy remembering that sustains and gives them peace.

Pink Sand by Oriana Kacicek

Pink Sand by Oriana Kacicek

I heard a preacher once tell a story of his father, an old Norwegian immigrant who had left the old country a hundred years before.  He left his village by rail and recounted that as the train pulled away he saw his mother running by the track and calling as she ran.  He never saw her again.  Her last words were,  “Remember Jesus.”

Station on the Grimstad Line, Norway

Station on the Grimstad Line, Norway

“The time is ripe for looking back over the day, the week, the year, and trying to figure out where we have come from and where we are going to, for sifting through the things we have done and the things we have left undone for a clue to who we are and who, for better or worse, we are becoming. But again and again we avoid the long thoughts….We cling to the present out of wariness of the past. And why not, after all? We get confused. We need such escape as we can find. But there is a deeper need yet, I think, and that is the need—not all the time, surely, but from time to time—to enter that still room within us all where the past lives on as a part of the present, where the dead are alive again, where we are most alive ourselves to turnings and to where our journeys have brought us. The name of the room is Remember—the room where with patience, with charity, with quietness of heart, we remember consciously to remember the lives we have lived.”
― Frederick Buechner, A Room Called Remember: Uncollected Pieces



The Taize hymn, Jesus, Remember Me . . .



Images courtesy of:  Forget-me-not;,  Remembering Monet by Alsyah Ang;,  Remembering Picasso;,  Remembering Seurat;,  Pink Sand by Oriana Kacicek;





Torfin the Boulder Roller

An old farm in Norway

An old farm in Norway

Elias Aas had a prodigious memory.  And evidently his Norwegian ancestors kept detailed accounts of their lives including the nature of appearance and vigor and faith that dwelt among their kin.

“Unbelievable stories were told of Lars and Ellen, about their strength and how they were capable of carrying loads resembling loads ordinarily pulled by horses.  They all reached high old age.”

Emigrants by Gustav Wentzel

Emigrants by Gustav Wentzel

Reliable information dates the Aas family back to the 15th century, settling high above the Rylfylke Sandfjord on a mountain ridge, called an aas, which eventually became the family surname.  Elias begins there with Gunder and tells the tales of eleven generations down to his own 13 children.  We have his telling in the book, The Pioneer Pastor.

“Several of my father’s relatives were of large and powerful build.  It is told of a brother of my grandfather that he pulled a load up a hill when it became too heavy for the horse.”

Sand fjord, Norway

Sand fjord, Norway

This was a believing family high on the ridge across the fjord from Sand, Norway.  Stories remain of their handsomeness and endurance:

“She was a large and beautiful woman.”

” In spite of his impaired health Lars made a trip each year in his boat to Stavanger . . .to see his brother Christen Hauge.  On one of these trips . . .he reached the landing  place below Aas late in the evening after having rowed against the wind a distance of 70 miles, sweaty and tired.  As the light had gone out in his lanterns and he did not dare to walk up the ravine to Aas in the dark, he laid down in the sawmill by the fjord.  Next morning he was found dead.”

Aslak Painter decorated the Aas house when Elias was 6. Was it similar to this?

Aslak Painter decorated the Aas house when Elias was 6. Was it similar to this?

They worked the land, cut the forest, constructed their buildings by hand, spun and wove into wool, made shoes from hide, ground corn in their mill, made butter, made dyes, boiled sea-water for salt, made implements in their blacksmith shop and made fire by striking flint.  Praise God, I was born in the 20th century.

Living on a fjord

Living on a fjord

There remain many records of visions where the faithful were given words and verses to sustain them during trials and illnesses.  They also saved deathbed images and words.

Elias’s father Lars Christensen Aas sang on his dying day, “I am a stranger, I am a pilgrim, I can tarry but a night – -Amen, yes amen, God’s friends together, all I heartily bid farewell.”  His last words whispered to his wife Sessala, “The sin is atoned for.”

Sand, Norway today with the Aas farm high on the mountain across the fjord.

Sand, Norway today with the Aas farm high on the mountain across the fjord.

As he died Elias’s great uncle Reinert said, “I see a ship”.  “Where is it going?”, they asked him.  “It is taking me to my home with God,”, Reinert replied and breathed his last.”

My favorite deathbed story that Elias recounts was of Haakon, several generations before Elias and married to the wise Kari.  Unfortunately Haakon fell from a tree and down a high cliff which greatly reduced his mobility for the remainder of his life.  He had a deathbed vision in which he was looking into the heavenly mansions and saw many people who recognized him.  Kari asked him if her father Lars was among the saved.  “Yes, but just barely.”

Houses to brighten the dark northern winters -

Houses to brighten the dark northern winters –

Today Norwegians don’t go to church much.  Same is true in much of Scandinavia.  But the driving force in young Elias’s life was faith in Jesus Christ and a sense of urgency to become a missionary.  It had been passed down to him from Lars and Sessala and all the Gunders, Christens, Reinserts, Rasmus’, Kari’s,  and Valborgs before him.  The Aas, living on the mountain ridge above Sand, had  for eleven generations known God.  They sent their children to school.  They read the Bible every day together.  They sent their children to confirmation.  When they could not cross the fjord to go to church, they had home worship.  Some became pastors.  Some became teachers.  Some became missionaries.  Some worked the land.  One became a ship-builder.  One lost everything to fire.

The beautiful Hose Bridge at Sand, a favorite picnic spot -

The beautiful Hose Bridge at Sand, a favorite picnic spot –

And a few came to America.  Elias, born in 1855, came to Minnesota in 1883 and entered Augsburg Seminary.  This is, of course, where our story begins.  Elias became a Lutheran church planter, married Christine Hegge and had 13 children.  His tenth child, the sixth son, was Frithjof, my father-in-law.

Fritz on the left and Christine and Elias on the right with Mel's family between before Mel's birth in 1939

Fritz on the left and Christine and Elias on the right with Mel’s family between before Mel’s birth in 1939 ( plus lone Uncle Ben thrown in the mix )

The story of Elias and Christine Awes  (Aas) is worth telling and I’ll be thinking more about it and what is most important to record.  They were faithful followers and their children have walked in the Way.  Reading again The Pioneer Pastor makes me long to know more about our other ancestors – and also to record what we know for our children and grands.

Sand is about 70 mi. from Stavanger and about 8 miles across the fjord to Aas farm.

Sand is about 70 mi. from Stavanger and about 8 miles across the fjord to Aas farm.

Christianity took root in Norway in the year 1,000 A.D.  The earliest known Aas settled in the district long before then.

Viking Longship by Granger

Viking Longship by Granger

Picture this:  You are a Viking, fallen in with a nasty bunch, sailing the fjords, raiding the villages, plundering the people who are eking out a living along the coast.  You and your crew have no small amount of success until the day you sail up Rylflke’s Sand fjord and there on the north side you anchor and ravage the hamlet and begin your way up the mountain.  Without warning huge boulders are rolling down upon you.  Many of your men are squashed under the tonnage of falling rock, but luckily you escape to tell the tale of . . . .


Torfin Aas, the Boulder Roller.

Torfin’s field and his door flag-stone remain to this day.


“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good tidings, who publishes peace, who brings good tidings of happiness, who publishes salvation.”  Isaiah 52:7


Christmas in Norway was precious to Elias.  Here is a Norwegian Christmas Song Mitt Hjerte Alltid Vanker – sung by The Norwegian favorite Sissel –





Images courtesy of:  Old Farm;,  Emigrants by Gustav Wentzel;,  Sandsfjord;  world-of-waterfalls,com,  House on Fjord;  acruisingcouple,com,  Sand, Norway;,  Bright houses;,  Hose Bridge;,  Viking Longship by Granger;

The Company We Keep

Warming Signs by Julie Adams

Warming Signs by Julie Adams

In 55 years of marriage Mr. A. and I have some very interesting tales to tell of the company we’ve kept.  Some of these encounters have been work related, some by neighbor proximity, some by happenstance and many by our choosing.  We look back upon them now and even when we have reason to giggle, we are thankful to have known so many interesting people from across the country – –  and in many cases to have been invited to their homes to share a meal and a peek into their lives.

Garden at Giverny by Claude Monet

Garden at Giverny by Claude Monet

Take Chick and Peggy.  Mel was a young pup, learning the Watkins business as an administrative trainee.  Chick was seasoned distributor in St. Louis, servicing a hundred or so dealers who sold their wares door to door.  They invited us to dinner and although I have quite forgotten the entree, I do remember the evening’s entertainment:  Peggy put a lampshade on her head and wearing a leopard skin outfit, did a long imitation of Judy Garland singing her way through an entire album.  (There’s another lampshade-on-head story in my life – which quite drove away a prospective boyfriend, but that’s beside the point – it involved a nutty uncle.)

On the Edge of Knowledge by Lori McNee

On the Edge of Knowledge by Lori McNee

For every funny story there are two to tell of rich encounters.  You know what I mean . . . those occasions where the conversation begins at the door and doesn’t stop until you’re driving off.  It was just that kind of day with Mary and Phil a couple of weeks ago.

Amery, Wisconsin

Amery, Wisconsin

We only get to see them a few times a year as their retirement has them at home in Georgetown, Texas, for the long winter.  And then there is all that world traveling in between.  They literally keep their suitcases open all summer at the lake, ready to take off on the next adventure.

Phil and Mary once told us all about Gaudi architecture in Barcelona

Phil and Mary once told us all about Gaudi architecture in Barcelona

Our day in Amery, Wisconsin, with Mary and Phil, was a joy from the first moment when they came out of their house to greet us, having watched for our arrival – until their choreographed good-bye wave as we drove away.  We explored their delightful 1940’s lake house with nooks and crannies and room to sleep 20 or so – even 3 bunkbeds lined up in a basement room for a little dormitory for the grandsons.  Also in the basement was Mary’s pottery studio, humbler than her pottery – and a KILN!!  Yes, a real live wonderful kiln of her very own!  They even discovered a bomb shelter under the house, built evidently during the Red scare.  (Stepping into it made me realize I’d rather be bombed :))  The upstairs is out of a storybook with quilted beds, dormer windows, slanted ceilings and secret hideaways.  Books everywhere – and the gardens?  Layered and fragrant and colorful.

by Jeffrey T. Larson

by Jeffrey T. Larson

For lunch we went to a fresh, organic, home-grown-everything restaurant in town which Phil and Mary patronize twice a week to keep the owners encouraged, followed by a stroll through town.  We stopped at Carol and Wayne’s on the way back, (see last week’s blog) – and then a little drive through town and home again to continue our conversation in the living room.  It continued throughout a yummy chicken dinner – ending with “the last blueberry pie of the season.”

Blueberry Tart by Oriana Kacicek

Blueberry Tart by Oriana Kacicek

Phil is a physician, now retired, and Mary a nurse and they both possess unusual curiosity about everything and are informed and conversant especially in cultures, science, politics, history and most significantly, the faith.  The books have been read – and the Book – and articles abound, printed out from magazines and the internet.  They talk and they ask and they listen.  Their generosity runs deep and has made many dreams come true.

To talk of current affairs with Mary and Phil is great fun -

To talk of current affairs with Mary and Phil is fun and clarifying –

Such good company.  Isn’t it the best ever – to have give and take in conversation?  Good company can be enjoyed on many levels, but to share a worldview and still learn and grow from another’s thoughtful ideas;  to fill up with laughter and tears in the same interval;  to be with those who possess a holy optimism . . .this is great company.

The Eagle and Child in Oxford, where the Inklings met for conversation . . .

The Eagle and Child in Oxford, where the Inklings met for conversation . . .

The faces of our friends across the years come to mind and with such delight I think of them – and wonderful evenings spent in their company and at their tables.  Our newest friends are Lou and Paul  – and their friendship came as a surprise as we make fewer friends as we age and settle into comfortable routines.  But I can’t even begin to tell you about them today as the sum of their substance is a treasure itself.  I do realize however that I must introduce Mary and Phil to Lou and Paul – and I think I’ll have Mike and Barb over for that dinner party too.  That’ll be great fun – as my friend Rebecca always says, “a foretaste of the feast to come.”

Before Dinner, also by Julie Adams, Amery, WI

Before Dinner, also by Julie Adams, Amery, WI


Now to become good company – that’s another thing.




This is The Lord’s Doing performed by the Oslo Gospel Choir . . . .



Images courtesy of:  Warming Signs and Before Dinner by Julie Adams, Amery artist; and,  On the Edge of Knowledge by Lori McNee;,  Gaudi house;,  Still Life by Jeffrey T. Larson;,  Blueberry Tart by Oriana Kacicek;,   Eagle and Child;,  lampshade with permission by


No She Shed

Cottage by the Sea by Alida Akers

Cottage by the Sea by Alida Akers

Mary and Phil invited us to spend the day with them in Amery, Wisconsin at their lake home.  These are people with whom to spend a day – and I’ll elaborate a bit next week because those hours have lingered.

Today I just want to talk about something we saw there that has sent me down a meandering path of dreaming and a tad of regret.

by Beverly Brown

by Beverly Brown

In their years at the lake Mary and Phil have come to know the little tourist town and many of the folks, including neighbors who have become dear friends, Carol and Wayne.  We stopped to see the magnificent gardens that Carol has designed throughout the large yard with the muscle and carpentry skills of Wayne.  We were enchanted by the sumptuous layers and colors and textures, magical birdhouses, fairy statuary and glazed hand-made bowls to gift water to the critters.

A similar garden

A similar garden

But once we got to the way back garden there was a little shed that appeared to be about 6′ by 8′.  It had windows on two sides and a screen door on one end and I stepped inside to find a tiny English tea house.  It was soft and curtained, with four over-stuffed comfy chairs and a table between to hold cups and cakes and just enough space for easy conversation.  Little trinkets and a few books adorned the minimal wall shelves and there was lamplight for evening reading or prayer.

Oooh - I love this one too

Oooh – I love this one too

I must have gasped with delight – and perhaps turned a bit green.  Even at first introduction – these clearly are people who are living at a proper human pace, spending their energy on beauty and in fact, sanctuary, for themselves and even for passers-by.  I love people who have learned to live like this.

As usual I am 10 steps behind in knowing that there has been a growing movement nationwide (and beyond) called “she sheds”.  Ben and Rachel filled me in on it last week when we were up north.  Evidently she sheds are the female counterpart of the “man caves”, made popular by giant TV’s, video games and huge leather recliners with cup holders in basements all over the country.

Sandra Foster was early in the craze re-doing this tiny hunters shack into a Victorian Fairy Tale house in the Catskills

Sandra Foster was early in the craze re-doing this tiny hunters shack into a Victorian Fairy Tale house in the Catskills

So just as men lick their lips over the prospect of their own place to watch the Vikings and hang their antlers, (or make their rockets), women are pouring over catalogs for shed kits and studying myriad blogs for designing and bedecking their very own shed.  There exist already dozens of blogs and myriad kits – and it has come in sync with the growing trend of “tiny houses”.  But this idea is more like the desire that many (if not most) little girls had for a real playhouse in their backyard with a door and windows and big enough to stand in.


Jamie Wright, author of the blog “The Very Worst Missionary” writes humorous and real essays and recently posted about the completion of her little shed.  Read about it here.

Jamie's finished shed

Jamie’s finished shed

Who wouldn’t want a little house just for what you need?

A place to paint . . .


A place to sew . . . .


A place for conversation . . .


A place to pray . . . .


A place to nap . . . 


A place to create . . .


A place to write . . . .


It’s not a new idea, of course.  Creative sorts, especially artists and writers, have long had studios, places set apart just for their work.  And in fact our friends Kent and Judy Hodder have just completed dual studios in a new building on their property which morphed into something more.  Fantastic.  You can view the photos from the Star Tribune article here.

In one of her delicious five published diaries Anne Morrow Lindbergh tells of turning a little out-building into her writing studio in Michigan.  I read this years ago and began to dream of doing something well enough to justify a tiny house for me.  I rather quickly did away with the thought.  I knew I was no Anne Morrow Lindbergh.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh and her writing studio

Anne Morrow Lindbergh and her writing studio

at her desk

at her desk

Books and shells, precious to AML

Books and shells, precious to AML

But now women need no such justification.  In fact the designing and building and adorning of a little she shed can be justification in itself.  It can be the very launch of the new creative self.


I write on a big IMac, 26 inches across, sitting on an old black Formica kitchen table, picked up for $2 in a garage sale.  Next to this desk is a small cabinet with a printer atop and some little shelves below to hold paper, clips, post-its, etc.  My chair bumps against a bed – for my office is in the corner of the guest room.  It all works just fine and outside the window (we’re on the 4th floor) is a huge box elder tree, my view and my song of rustling and of birds.

Here’s the rub.  In our last house we had extra bedrooms, emptied as our children left home.  At any moment I could have turned one of them into a writing/painting/creating room for me.  What?  Why didn’t I? 


And even more unbelievable to me today . . . in the way back of our yard was a screen house.  We did re-screen it – but it was never used except occasionally by Mr. A. during the times when he smoked a cigar – or when a teenager might have sneaked a cigarette or a kiss.  (I certainly would have at 16 -and did).

It would have been something, eh?

It would have been something, eh?

But there it was all along . . .my she shed!  For a fraction of the cost of a new Honda Civic I could have turned that little red house into something splendid.  It was big enough for a painting table AND a writing table and a comfortable chair, shelves for paint and brushes and supplies and books.  I think the chair would be a recliner, suitable for dreaming up ideas. 

I’m not sure we need the words “she shed”.  For no matter our gender we all need a space where we can become and be ourselves and press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of us.  And sometimes in solitude.

I write in a corner of the guest room.  I paint in a corner of the living room.  Two corners will do, but if I had to do it over again I’d surely turn that screen shed into a personal sanctuary.  I’d have an extra chair in case you dropped by and the coffee on.



What is the answer? There is no easy answer, no complete answer. I have only clues, shells from the sea. The bare beauty of the channeled whelk tells me that one answer, and perhaps a first step, is in simplification of life, in cutting out some distractions. But how? Total retirement is not possible, I cannot shed my responsibilities. I cannot permanently inhabit a desert island. I cannot be a nun in the midst of family life. I would not want to be. The solution for me, surely, is neither in total renunciation of the world, nor in total acceptance of it. I must find a balance somewhere, or an alternating rhythm between these two extremes; a swinging of the pendulum between solitude and communion, between retreat and return.           ………Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Gifts from the Sea


And always Bach would be there. Here is Book I:  Prelude and Fugue # I in C. Major by Sviatoslav Richter



Images courtesy of:  Cottage by the Sea by Alida Akers;,  Jamie Wright’s shed is found on her blog;,  all other photos found searching she sheds on bing or google or pinterest.

A Fair Feast



The world is so full of a number of things,
I’m sure we should all be as happy as kings.

We wandered the Fair on the first day.  No one paid us any mind and we felt free to take things in and people too.  Mr. A says his favorite part of the Fair is watching the folks.


They come in from the farms and the hamlets and the suburbs and the cities and who can tell one from another?  

The 4-H kids are bunking with their sows and lambs and combing their Holsteins, (the “belted Galloways” are my favorite bovine).  Piglets are arriving and all sorts of critters are looking their best for judgment.


More artists than ever tried to get into the fine arts gallery this year, and the competition was stiff.  Consequently the art took my breath away, especially the paintings.  

Tried to photo many of the paintings - this one a favorite for me

Tried to photo many of the paintings – this one a favorite for me

2nd Ave. - feels familiar, doesn't it?

2nd Ave. – feels familiar, doesn’t it?

Any these don't begin to show the diversity in the art - only my bias

And these don’t begin to show the diversity in the art – only my bias

Boathouses on Lake Vermillion

Boathouses on Lake Vermillion

There’s another enticing building called “Creative Activities”.  Literally thousands of craftsmen work for a year to gain entry into one of the myriad categories, trying to win the Sweepstakes, Blue Ribbon, any place or or even honorable mention.


These are the premier knitters, weavers, folk artists, wood carvers, needleworkers, beaders, kayak builders, felters, quilters, bakers, jam makers – etc.  The variety, the color, the work, the gorgeous, intricate work is mind-boggling.  The least I can do is to walk slowly and look – and gasp.


It’s not just the handwork.  Folks come to show off their tractors, their reptiles, imported goods, hot tubs, motorcycles, butterflies, et al -and food booths, designed to satisfy every possible weird palate and/or deep fried advocate.  Dressed everywhichway fair goers make a beeline for their favorite vendors and begin to munch on alligator-on-a-stick, crepes, hand-cut french fries, micro-brews, Tiny Tim doughnuts (12 to a bag), mac and cheese muffins and Thanksgiving in a bowl and more, more, more.


There are booths for Christian songsters and preachers, governors, senators, Republicans, Democrats, agricultural scientists, hucksters, wildlife and fishery guys.  There’s a pumpkin that weighs 1,473 lb.  There’s a very fun giant yellow slide and a very terrifying haunted house.  Under the Grandstand you can buy anything you need and lots you don’t.  And in the Grandstand bleachers you can be entertained by Keith Urban or Def Leppard or Garrison Keillor.   Crowds gather at the local TV station huts, some gaining entrance into the small bleachers to watch the news live and get a glimpse of some semi-celebrity.

Loved this one too - and it won a prize

Loved this one too – and it won a prize

The Midway is color and music and electric cord taped to the ground.  The rides are dizzy and whirly and oh, so high and upside down.  The children laugh and scream and beg for more.  People end up wandering the day with giant, cheesy SpongeBobs won by tossing a token into a milk bottle or some such unfortunate luck.


Swedish egg coffee begins our day.  Next to the screened dining hall run by a Lutheran church stands a motor blade from a wind turbine. It’s in front of the Eco Experience – which also houses the world’s largest wad of paper.   Nearby is machinery hill, always my dad’s favorite destination.  Mr. A. and I see it from the air, gliding over the Fair in a swing dangling from a cable. 


I am fascinated by passion.  People bring their passion to the Fair and put it on display and the rest of us walk the grounds to see what they have brought, all the while chewing something on-a-stick.  It’s glorious and noisy and fun and inspiring.  And exhausting.

Wonder what Amelia will get in her stocking this year? Maybe the ribbons.

Wonder what Amelia will get in her stocking this year? Maybe the ribbons.

We always stop by the University of Minnesota building for a Gopher fix – and this year to savor the football team’s giant coveted trophies – the Little Brown Jug and Floyd of Rosedale, (having beaten Michigan and Iowa last season).  Mr. A. decides if he needs a new maroon and gold sweatshirt or jersey.  He only has half a dozen.  

Floyd of Rosedale

Floyd of Rosedale

Over 1.8 million people came to the Minnesota State Fair last year to see what they could see.  What we see is a galaxy of gifts, silly to sublime.  Mind you, these are not “the Gifts of the Spirit”, but they are for sure gifts of spirit, the human spirit, which is driven to create and to enjoy – and is surely blessed by the Lord.


He was present at that carnival on Thursday.  I saw him in the tender care two little boys were giving their lush rabbit, in the beaming of a woman pointing to her blue ribbon needlepoint, in the laughter, in the happy jostling, in the tastes and in the cacophony.


Thus says God the LORD, Who created the heavens and stretched them out, Who spread out the earth and its offspring, Who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it, “I am the LORD; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you.   Isaiah 42:5


There is a “free stage”, one of many throughout the grounds.  It’s called the Front Porch.  We paused to listen to the choir singing there.   A dapper gentleman was walking by.  He stopped and looked and nodded and after the song was over, he took himself a seat and became audience.  He’s been on my mind ever since – as has the song they were singing,  ‘What a Wonderful World.’



Grandpa Elliott and children’s choirs around the world . . . 

ps:  a couple more I liked . . coffeeshop


Only in Minnesota

Only in Minnesota



Two beginning lines are of course from Robert Lewis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses.

Repeat: I Hope You Have an A+ Day

In honor of my grands beginning school these days – and just for fun here’s a re-post of a past blog – – 

Back to School by Cynthia Koch

Back to School by Cynthia Koch

Dear Child –

I pray you have an A + day.

I hope your outfit feels just fine.

May no one push you out of line

Or say mean things or be unkind

In the yellow bus or in the halls

Or in the yard.

Going on the School Bus by Crystal Cook

Going on the School Bus by Crystal Cook

May the knot in your stomach go away

And all the answers that you need

Come easily.

Don’t be afraid to raise your hand

To answer or to ask

Or take a stand

For all is good.

Watercolor by Debi Watson

Watercolor by Debi Watson

May all your teachers take good note

Of what is best in you and how

Especially splendid

You are right now.


Downtown with School Bus by Laurie Breton

Downtown with School Bus by Laurie Breton

Don’t forget to look outside

And see the sun

And changing leaves.

I hope the window opens wide

so you can hear

The wind.

Across the Way by V. Vaughan

Across the Way by V. Vaughan

Don’t forget to look around

And see the children close to you

And those across the room.

Remember too

That they have worries of their own.

You will see it in their eyes

When they’re afraid.

Be kind to them and it’s ok

To hold their hand

Or catch their eye.


Wilenskys Counter with School Bus in Montreal by Carole Spandau

Wilenskys Counter with School Bus in Montreal by Carole Spandau

Don’t forget to look inside

And find your voice.

Craft carefully what should be said

And what should not.

Find new words and

Speak the truth.

Give others turns to speak

And listen well.


School Bus #24 by Joseph Sandora

School Bus #24 by Joseph Sandora

I hope that you have fun in school

And laugh a lot and draw,

Make wondrous things.

I hope you learn

To lift your weight,

Dissect a frog and


To speak some French

And play the horn.


The School Bus by Nita Leger Casey

The School Bus by Nita Leger Casey

I hope you come to know

Walt Whitman and

Picasso too,

Johann Sebastian Bach

and Edgar Allen Poe.

Read Austen, Bronte,

Twain and Moby Dick.

Learn Valley Forge and Seward’s Folly,

Gettysburg and Hello Dolly,

Abe Lincoln and John Kennedy,

Normandy and King.

Get good at discovering

Where countries are

And see the stars.


The Yellow School Bus by Becky Joy

The Yellow School Bus by Becky Joy

I hope your computer

Is more than just fun.

I hope that at lunchtime

You’ll sit by the one

Who has nobody by her.

School Bus by Pete Sullivan

School Bus by Pete Sullivan

Please remember the stories and

The people you notice

So that at table tonight

I can hear all about it

And picture your day.

schoolbus painting

Dear Child,

Days are all that we have to spend.

May you spend yours awake

And aware and today

I hope you have an A + day.


Yellow Bus on a Hill by Jackie Uthus

Yellow Bus on a Hill by Jackie Uthus

“Have no fear little flock for it is the Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Luke 12:32


Known and sung by schoolchildren across the land, “America” –

1. My country,’ tis of thee,
sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing;
land where my fathers died,
land of the pilgrims’ pride,
from every mountainside let freedom ring!

2. My native country, thee,
land of the noble free, thy name I love;
I love thy rocks and rills,
thy woods and templed hills;
my heart with rapture thrills, like that above.

3. Let music swell the breeze,
and ring from all the trees sweet freedom’s song;
let mortal tongues awake;
let all that breathe partake;
let rocks their silence break, the sound prolong.

4. Our fathers’ God, to thee,
author of liberty, to thee we sing;
long may our land be bright
with freedom’s holy light;
protect us by thy might, great God, our King.


Images courtesy of: Back to School by Cynthia Koch;, Going on the School Bus by Crystal Cook;, Watercolor by Debi Watson;, Downtown with School Bus by Laurie Breton;, Across the Way by V. Vaughan;, Wilensky’s Counter with School Bus in Montreal by Carole Spandau;, Bus 24 by Joseph Sandora;, Yellow School Bus by Nita Leger Casey;, The Yellow School Bus by Becky Joy;, Oil painting by Pete Sullivan;, Bus from Rear;, Yellow Bus by Jackie Uthus;