Happy Things…

Hi Friends!

When the world feels unsettled in so many ways, it’s always healing to stop, catch our breath, and focus on happy things. That’s exactly what I’ve been doing the past few weeks…

Intentionally…

Mindfully…

With gratitude…

Our family recently gathered for a very special celebration in honor of our parents’ 67th wedding anniversary! What a joy it was to be together for such a happy reason! There were flowers, balloons, cards, and a delicious dinner in a very elegant setting.

Most important of all, there were so many heartwarming memories shared! The stories of how our parents met, their dating years, and the proposal on a very snowy night so long ago.

They reminisced about how my dad made it home from the Army the night before their wedding day and their honeymoon on Mackinac Island. They shared how it felt to leave their families behind, as newlyweds, when they moved to Texas where my dad was stationed next.

Months later, Mom and Dad were separated, in service to our country, when the Army shipped Dad off to Korea. They faithfully kept in touch by writing letters to one another every night. Their bundle of precious love letters, still tied with a ribbon, holds the day-to-day stories of that challenging time in their young marriage. I wonder if they will read their letters to one another again? I hope so!

Over the years, we have celebrated our parents’ wedding anniversary in many special ways and special places. However, this was one of the sweetest celebrations ever! ♥♥

After weeks of record-breaking rain totals in May, we finally have a bit of SUNSHINE!  In fact, we just had four sunny days in a row. 🙂 It truly lifts our spirits and fills us with solar energy!

We have been taking long walks, chatting with neighbors outside, and enjoying quiet times on the front porch. Our days and nights have been cooler than usual… and feel oh-so refreshing!

 

My Friendship Garden is in full bloom. It has been a delight to watch the colors change daily! The dainty, white Anemones have been dancing in the breeze. The pale purple Iris blossoms appeared next. (They always feel like a special ‘visit’ from my dear friend, Iris, in Germany!) The sunny, yellow Irises added a bright pop of sunshine to the Friendship Garden. The deep purple Siberian Irises added such depth of color to this special garden bed.

All of the plants in my Friendship Garden were gifts from the gardens of special friends. So, in addition to all of the color they add to the garden, they fill my heart with special memories of loved ones!

 

Old-fashioned Peonies added lush beauty to the Friendship Garden. They were already here 32 years ago, when I became a first-time homeowner and gardener. I often think of Mrs. G. who lived here and loved her garden for so many years. Perhaps she planted the Peonies?

Due to our abundance of rain, the bright, pink Peonies are taller this year than I can ever remember! It has been such fun to cut bouquets from the Friendship Garden for the front porch and to share with my parents.

 

After so many rainy days, I’m still busy planting containers for the front porch and our flagstone patio near the Herb and Tea Garden. “No rain, no flowers!” So, I’m grateful for the rain showers.

Although Lavender thrives in dry Mediterranean soil, our Lavender is happily blooming in its container in a corner of the Friendship Garden. Nestled along the edge of its pot are two small ‘lovebirds.’  They remind me of my sweet husband and I who will always be newlyweds! This month, we will happily celebrate our 11th wedding anniversary. The years have flown by so quickly! ♥♥

 

 

Earlier this month, a rainbow of welcoming doors was constructed and installed on the grounds of a nearby church. This artwork, created by the congregation, shows visitors to our town that ALL are welcome here. What a meaningful, heartwarming symbol of love!

 

 

A dear friend and I have a special tradition of celebrating her birthday at our beautiful Arboretum each year. This month, we were captivated by the creative artwork of Sean Kenney. Wandering along the tree-lined paths, we admired several intricate creations of insects, animals, and plants completely formed using Lego bricks. (Click to enlarge the photos to read the descriptions.)

 

Sean Kenney designs his fascinating creations to remind us that all of nature is connected just like the Lego bricks are connected.

 

 

The insects, animals, and plants are nature’s building blocks. We are reminded to take care of our fragile planet which connects us all.

 

 

Thick clouds overhead grew darker as two best friends walked and talked. Before long, we were caught in a very heavy downpour. Dripping wet as we burst into laughter, we promised to return again soon, to see the rest of these awe-inspiring creations!

 

 

For the past few months, I have been absolutely fascinated following a very special hiker on You Tube. It was her You Tube name, Radiate Joy, that first caught my attention. Yvette is documenting her 2,000+ mile journey as she hikes along the Appalachian National Scenic Trail from Georgia to Maine. Carrying her 25 lb. pack with camping essentials and 5 days worth of food at a time, Yvette is vlogging her Thru-Hike on the narrow trail, up and down mountains and across National Parks. She remains so upbeat and inspiring throughout this huge challenge!

I hope you will take a peek at her latest video on her Radiate Joy You Tube channel. As of Day 59 on the trail, Yvette has hiked northbound 865 miles, following the tiny, white ‘blaze’ marks painted on trees along the narrow footpaths. She has a beautiful way of filming her trek, with breathtaking sights and sounds of nature and wonderful music. I’m so impressed that she is filming on her iPhone and editing her videos in her little tent in the evenings. Yvette’s bubbly personality shines brightly through the rainiest of days and the countless obstacles she encounters along the AT.

In this video, Yvette shares her reasons for beginning this journey:

In this video, her journey begins:

 

Such an inspiration!! Although I would never attempt an AT adventure, I think of Yvette very often. Her joy is contagious! She inspires me to walk a little further along our nearby prairie and to meet the challenges I face along life’s journey with courage, determination, and as much joy as possible.

What Happy Things are you enjoying these days????

Do share with us…

 

Take time to smell the Rosemary!

♡ Dawn

 

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Gathering…

Hi Friends!

April showers have continued to drench the Midwest throughout May this year. We have already endured seventeen days of rain this month. Our rainiest May in 149 years has kept most gardeners indoors, as we study the weather forecast daily hoping for sunshine and warmer temperatures. Each day, our hearts have been heavy for those who are truly suffering in the aftermath of severe flooding and destructive tornadoes across our country.

May is always my very favorite month in the garden. Alas, this year’s Garden Journal holds only sparse notes of an hour here or there: tidying up the Herb & Tea garden, emptying the rain gauge, sweeping the Elm and Maple seeds from the front porch, and cutting bouquets of Lilacs and Lily-of-the-Valley. Mowing the lawn between rainstorms has taken a bit of strategic planning!

However, with our abundance of Spring rain,

 all of the blooming trees are just glorious!

While dreaming of sunshine,

I have been gathering inspiration on impromptu Artist Dates. 🙂

I took an early morning walk through a favorite park during Lilac Time.

Although I went to enjoy the beautiful Lilacs…

it was the magnificent Tulips that captured my fancy.

As I wandered through the park,

I gathered new inspiration for watercolors and ink combinations.

The designer who planned these sweeping beds

last Fall truly had an artistic vision!

As I paused to soak in all of Nature’s beauty…

I was inspired to make notes about ink colors.

Very soon, my little Paper Garden studio downstairs

will be blooming

with stamped, layered flowers for handmade cards.

Rainy days seem to call for a cup of tea, a cozy afghan, and a good book. I just finished reading The Art of Gathering, by Priya Parker. The author brings a fascinating background and her expertise in conflict resolution to this engaging book on creating transformative gatherings of many kinds. Priya Parker dives deep into many different types of gatherings throughout the world designed to intentionally bring people closer. Whether we gather for business meetings, family reunions, weddings, birthday celebrations, to mourn, or to experience something new, the author takes us step-by-step through the art and science of planning truly memorable gatherings.

As I read, I reflected on so many different types of wonderful gatherings over the years ~ those powerful moments in my primary classroom, inspiring workshops, unique gatherings of friends, and our most heartwarming family gatherings. We can all remember those very special, often unexpected gatherings that impacted us in powerful ways and created lasting memories.

Priya Parker teaches us that these transformative gatherings begin with an interesting purpose that matches a true need in our life. She shares ideas that help us understand who to include and who to temporarily exclude when planning purposeful, powerful gatherings that bring people closer together and inspire us to take action.

Oh, my goodness, I made notes as I read. I have always dreamed of bringing together the special people in my life who have never met one another in purposeful, small groups. 🙂 With thoughtful planning, just imagine the conversations and inspiration that would happen at such gatherings!

(Watch Priya Parker’s recent TED Talk here. It’s wonderful!)

Although I read The Art of Gathering on my own, I think it would make a very interesting Book Club selection. Readers would be able to share past gatherings and what made them so memorable. Creating events that bring people together with a unique purpose can have lasting power!

As I read The Art of Gathering, my thoughts also turned to our little gathering place for kindred spirits here at Petals.Paper.SimpleThymes. Our quiet, little blog is five years old now! 🙂  (You might enjoy reading about how our blog began in this post.)  I’m so very grateful for the old friends who have been visiting from the very beginning and the new friends who discover us and and join in the fun. I love to learn from you and am inspired by all that you share in your thoughtful comments. I truly appreciate you spending a bit of your precious time gathering here with us. YOU are often mentioned on the Gratitude page in my journal. Heartfelt thanks for always being here!

In anticipation of our 5th Anniversary, I have been making some changes behind the scenes here. There is a brand new About page. I have updated the Inspiration page and have included a few Podcasts that I’ve been enjoying lately. The Favorites page contains two fabulous, new stamp companies that have won my heart with their unique designs and truly wonderful customer service. The Say Hello page is an easy way to reach me anytime via email.

I also added a new Category, making it easy to search for blog posts that interest you most. In addition to Petals (gardening posts), Paper (cardmaking, bullet journaling, watercoloring posts,…), and Simple Thymes (life’s simple pleasures, family stories, antiquing, nature walks, travels,…), we now have an Inspiring Books category. Searching Inspiring Books will pull up all of the posts about books that have moved me to take action. These books taught me wonderful lessons and prompted me to make real changes! I hope that you will find them valuable, too.

It is our gatherings and connections that make life extra-sweet. Although I love the creative process of making cards, my very favorite part is sending my cards off in the mail to touch hearts. Although I am energized by the creative process of writing and shooting photos for each blog post, I find true JOY in our connection in the comments that you leave here. I love taking the time to read and answer each comment. I hope you feel comfortable chatting with one another here, too! Kindred spirits always gather here… and that’s something truly wonderful to celebrate!

Just wondering

  What gathering has made an unexpected, powerful impact on you? What made this gathering different from all of the others?

  Do you prefer gathering with people who are much like you or do you enjoy meeting people who are different, yet open to a shared experience?

  Do you find large gatherings or small gatherings more enjoyable?

  Is there a special gathering that you would love to plan some day?

Hope you will share your thoughts with all of us…

 

Please stay safe throughout this long, holiday weekend,

especially if dangerous weather threatens.

Let’s take a moment on Memorial Day to honor all those

who gave their lives for the freedoms we enjoy every day.

 

With love and gratitude,

♡ Dawn

 

 

 

 

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Cultivating Patience…

Hi Friends!

The garden always teaches me important life lessons…

and this Spring it has cultivated

a valuable

mindfulness practice,

with help from Mother Nature.

Ever-so-slowly…

Springtime, in the Midwest, seemed to

tiptoe

into my garden

this year

with its usual early bloomers.

The dwarf Irises started the garden party,

followed by Crocuses days later.

The first blossoms always take my breath away!

They were the perfect reminders to look for

tiny blessings

tucked into the corners of each day.

Ever-so-slowly…

The petite Siberian Squill

flourished in spite of

our wild, weather roller coaster ride!

They taught me to stay

strong

during the challenging times.

Ever-so-slowly…

The sunny, yellow Daffodils bounced back

after being flattened by two

wet, heavy snowfalls

in April.

Their strength is

an important reminder

to us all.

We can bounce back after multiple setbacks.

Ever-so-slowly…

The Irises, Bleeding Hearts,

Tulips, and Hostas

endured

the heavy, icy snowfall.

They remind us to look toward

the sunshine

when we need it most!

Our Winter weather began with an extremely challenging

blizzard in November and surprised us

twice with snowstorms in April.

I can’t remember ever watching my garden

bloom in the snow

until last weekend!

This snowstorm

brought our snowfall total to

49.5 inches (126 cm).

Our average Winter snowfall is

36 inches (91cm).

Magnolia petals were tossed about

like confetti

during the latest Spring snowstorm.

Most of the petals held fast to the branches,

reminding us to ‘hold tight’

and weather the storms

together!

Ever-so-slowly…

The trees and perennials soaked up

an abundance of precipitation

for this year’s growing season.

Ever-so-slowly…

The Spring snow melted.

Finally, heavy rains

brought the month of April

 to a very soggy end.

Ever-so-slowly…

I began to document

Spring 2019

in my Garden Journal.

Alas, there were only a few hours

of raking and gardenkeeping

during April.

My busiest day in the garden

so far this year

was April 23rd:

♥ mowed the lawn for the first time this year

♥ hung birdhouse in the Magnolia (in full bloom!)

♥ placed a pair of colorful Wellies and

a vintage watering can filled with Forsythia cuttings

beside the front door

♥ planted a large grapevine basket

with colorful Muscari and Daffodils

for the front porch

(and added a tiny bird’s nest

found in the garden last Autumn)

♥ planted Violas in a pretty, sage-colored pot

to bring a bit of Springtime to the

front porch

 

Ever-so-slowly…

I’m learning the importance of being more flexible…

and just taking things moment-by-moment.

Nature can’t be rushed.

My garden is cultivating a

deep sense of

patience

in my soul.

♥♥♥

I’m so very grateful

for all of the life lessons

my garden

teaches me each and every year .

Springtime anticipation

feels extra-sweet

this year!

♥♥♥

It’s marvelous, magical May!

Take time to enjoy the blossoms each day!

 

Sending sunshine!

♡ Dawn

P.S.  Have you been busy in your garden?

What’s blooming in your neighborhood?

Prickly Times…

Hello, sweet friends!

It feels so good to be back home again! We have lots of catching up to do here in our little gathering place of kindred spirits. I have really missed you all. Heartfelt thanks for stopping to visit today!

I have spent the past several months with my dear parents in Arizona. Well into their 80s now, Mom and Dad began needing a little extra help earlier this year. It has been my honor to spend extra time helping out and making plans with my parents. For health reasons, Dad and Mom decided that it was time to make a BIG move, back home to Illinois to be close to their children.

After twenty-four happy, healthy years of desert living, their Retirement dream was taking a most unexpected turn. My parents faced very difficult choices… and many months of ‘prickly’ times. There were so many hard decisions to be made. Working side-by-side, our days were extremely busy. We donated so many cherished items to charitable causes. Finding good homes for beloved antiques and collectibles proved to be a true ‘labor of love.’ So many avid collectors were grateful to become the new owners of my dad’s Lionel trains and antique telephones. My mom’s vintage irons, beautiful, old crocks, oil lamps, antique kitchen tools, and many pieces of Southwest art all went to new homes, one-by-one. ‘Prickly,’ but important, work…

Preparing to sell their lovely, desert home in the foothills of Red Mountain just made our hearts so sad. With the Tonto National Forest just a short walk away, it is a nature lover’s paradise. My parents built their home with breathtaking views of Red Mountain, the Superstition Mountains, and the Usery Mountains. Moving away from longtime friends and special places was the most ‘prickly’ time of all.

Packing boxes, boxes, and more boxes filled our days and weeks. My dad shipped his car back to Illinois. A great pair of movers loaded up a few special pieces of furniture and many boxes filled with family photos and mementos.

After the moving truck pulled away, we were all lost in our thoughts.

It was all feeling very real now…

We took our last long drive through the Tonto National Forest, admiring the mountains, the giant Saguaros, and the wildflowers in bloom. We reminisced about all of our favorite hiking places, remembered picnics at Saguaro Lake, and waved farewell to the beautiful ‘secret place’ in the desert where my husband proposed to me. We all hold so many heartwarming memories of special times in the desert over the years. My mom chose a few favorite rocks from her lovely, desert garden to bring along as special mementos.

Unforgettable, beautiful, heartbreaking, ‘prickly’ times for us all…

After special gatherings with dear friends and a few nights in a hotel, my parents and I flew back to the Midwest together just two weeks ago. Together we knew we were flying toward our next adventure ~ a brave, new chapter in all of our lives. We have been a great team through all the ‘prickly’ times. I have learned so many important lessons over the past months. My parents will always be my first and best teachers!

Throughout my life there have been several challenges,

but this has truly been the most difficult thing

I have experienced so far.

Tears have filled my eyes so often over the past months.

Throughout the ‘prickly’ times this year, I always looked for blossoms…

and counted my many blessings out loud.

It really helped!

Making time for walks in nature always soothed my tender heart.

Sunrise walks filled my soul with sunshine for the day ahead. Walking many miles each week was an important part of my self-care during this very stressful, ‘prickly’ time. Remembering my ‘why’ and tracking my foods on the WW app daily have helped me maintain my healthy weight goal. 🙂  Good health is such a wonderful blessing!

Early mornings spent pulling unfamiliar weeds (using pliers) from the dry, red earth in my mom’s garden reminded me of the gift of gardening Mom gave me thirty-one years ago. What a blessing! My life has been enriched in so many ways since I inherited Mom’s love of gardening.

Sunset walks were the perfect way to connect with my husband each evening. FaceTime allowed us to walk together, although we were 1,800 miles apart. Sharing the stories of our days made it easier for both of us.

My sweet husband has been my ‘rock’ and constantly helps in so many ways. Throughout the Summer months, each evening after work, he deadheaded my ‘He Loves Me’ daisies, so that they would be in full bloom each time I returned home for a brief visit. When the seasons changed, he took such good care of our little ‘igloo’ throughout the big November blizzard. Storm damage left our home without power for several days. So, he worked with a neighbor to prevent our water pipes from freezing in our dark, frigid home. He researched and helped arrange moving plans from across the miles. A great listener, he can always make me laugh. My dear husband is a truly great blessing in my life!

I’m so blessed by friends, both near and far. Quick texts, long emails, and encouraging WhatsApp messages were most welcome day brighteners while I was away from home for extended times. Beautiful cards and letters always warmed my heart. We are so grateful for the kindness of our friends! A perfectly-timed ride home from the airport in a friend’s toasty, warm SUV (complete with a cozy, lap blanket for my parents) was an extra-special ‘welcome home’ on a cold December day.  A friendly visit delivering hugs and homemade turkey noodle soup warmed our hearts and tummies. Heartfelt thanks, dear, sweet friends!

Each day, as I quickly checked our little blog, it was so heartwarming to know that friends were stopping to read stories from the blog archives. I could feel our connection and was both humbled and grateful for the powerful friendships that have grown here over the years. I’m looking forward to blogging often in the New Year… and finally making time to visit my blogging friends again!

We felt so blessed that my parents’ beautiful, desert home sold in just ONE day! We were very grateful when the buyers visited and promised to take extra good care of this special place. We were so fortunate that our moving plans and travel plans all went very smoothly. Such a big blessing for us all!

After a long, cross country trip, the movers delivered everything safely to a nearby storage unit. Family heirlooms were handled with extra care. We were so grateful to see the big, orange truck pull up last week! Local movers will help with the next stage of the move in January, when my parents’ beautiful, new apartment will be ready.

After spending time in the desert in the Springtime and experiencing this Summer’s Monsoon season, I was delighted to arrive home for a brilliant, instant blast of Autumn color. I was so blessed that the beautiful leaves waited for me!

We packed lots of Autumn walks into my two-week visit home! It was so refreshing after the long, hot Summer days in the desert. (This year, the Phoenix area had over 125 days of triple-digit heat! Whew!)

No matter where I roam, the Midwest always feels like home to me!

I embrace the change of seasons,

with the blessings each one brings.

 

In spite of the ‘prickly’ times, it has been a very special blessing to experience ALL of the seasons in the desert Southwest this year. I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to learn so much about the desert plants over the past 24 years. Walking with my mom is always a wonderful gardening lesson! I have also learned to beware of the desert creatures. It’s still the ‘wild west’ with coyotes, scorpions, lizards, and rattlesnakes passing through! Over the years, I have learned so much about the Native American people. I will always hold the call of the drums at the Harvest Pow Wow on the Pima-Maricopa reservation close to my heart. It was a remarkable cultural experience.  I truly understand why the Arizona desert will always have a special place in my parents’ hearts!

My greatest blessings of all are my dear, sweet parents! ♥♥

I cherish every precious moment with them!

We have been enjoying old family memories

and look forward to sharing as much joy

as we can squeeze into the coming years!

 

Hugs and simple joys,

♡ Dawn

 

 

 

 

 

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Quiet…

Hi Friends!

Our native plants are in full bloom here in the Prairie State. We are very fortunate to have several prairie areas nearby, just perfect for a walking meditation on a recent Summer morning.

The gentle, winding path took me past a quiet marsh area. Peaceful lilypads, slender grasses, sunny coneflowers, and delicate Queen Anne’s Lace inspired me to pause and reflect…

Native wildflowers have long roots that run so deep,

much like our family roots.

The Native plants support one another.

Growing together in the prairie ecosystem

allows the wildflowers to survive the difficult times and thrive.

As I walked, the silence was only broken

by the song of red wing blackbirds and crickets.

Then the stillness and quiet returned.

I wanted to let everyone know that, much like the quiet of the prairie, our blog will be quiet for a little while. I will be dedicating my time to helping my family and there just won’t be time to write and edit posts for a while. As soon as possible, I look forward to writing again. There is so much to share!

In the meantime, I hope you will peek into the blog archives to enjoy stories you may have missed during your busy times. Be sure to read through the comments, for these little conversations are always the highlights of every blog post here!

I will pop in to check our blog each day, so please do continue to leave your lovely comments on any post. Replying to your comments brings me such joy! You can always reach me, by email, through the ‘Say Hello’ page. I very much look forward to hearing from you!

Heartfelt thanks for always being here!

With love,

♡ Dawn

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Summer Songs

Hi Friends!

Ahhhh, the lovely soundtracks of Summer days…

Summer songs are all around us.

Can you hear them, too?

Each morning, as I step outside and stroll through the arbor into the backyard, I feel so grateful for all of the rainy days we have had this summer. The pitter patter of raindrops has been one of our most popular Summer songs! Over the past few weeks, we have had another 7 inches (17 cm) of rain.

In fact, our garden hose is still tucked away in the garage. Mother Nature has been watering for me all Summer long! 🙂 She even refills our bee baths and birdbath. I’ve been helping a tiny bit, using a vintage watering can to water the containers on the front porch.

Our perennial, cottage garden is quite lush and the weeds are most definitely thriving, too! The clematis blossoms that adorned the top of the arbor have been artfully rearranged by a frisky squirrel. I’ve been watching him climb up and down the arbor as if he were climbing a ladder. Although concerned at first, now I’m just tickled by the way the squirrel has arranged the pale purple clematis vines!

The garden has also been filled with a symphony of delightful birdsong this Summer!  Our feathered friends made themselves right ‘at home’ in the birdhouses throughout the garden and built a nest under the eaves. Their sweet songs always entertain me while I am busy gardenkeeping. My favorite garden task this month has been cutting bouquets of blossoms to fill stoneware crocks and Mason jars on the front porch. 🙂 What a peaceful way to begin each day!

Pops of color from the Asiatic lilies and wide drifts of orange and yellow daylilies in full bloom have been just lovely. This week, as I cut down millions hundreds of spent daylily stems, my heart smiled with gratitude for their glorious show during the past few weeks! An abundance of Annabelle hydrangeas allows me to cut armfuls of the huge, white blossoms to add cozy, old-fashioned charm to our front porch and dining room. It’s fun to send visitors home with a bouquet, too!

Now in the mid-afternoon, we can hear the cicadas tuning up. Their loud, boisterous chorus continues until  evening, when the daylight fades and the fireflies entertain us while we relax on the front porch.

The buzzing of the bees as they work to pollinate the garden is one of my very favorite Summer songs. When the bees are happy, the gardener is happy!

This month, the bees are also creating quite a buzz in my Self-Care bullet journal…

I played with a hexagon stencil and Distress Ink as I set up my July pages.

Each morning, I graph the number of hours I slept.

Every evening, I jot down things that I was grateful for that day.

My Gratitude page fills up very quickly each month.

It is always the most important page in my Self-Care journal.

Each day, I track my workouts,

the glasses of water I drink,

and my number of steps.

 

There is no mention of food

in my Self-Care journal.

(It’s so easy to track my healthy meals each day in the Weight Watchers app.)  🙂

This special journal highlights all of the other things

that make my life a healthy, happy one!

 

My sweet husband and I each wrote

‘Six-Word Love Stories’ about our marriage

and I added those heartfelt words recently.

The final July page in my journal holds a few heartwarming quotations.

Although it takes many hours to create my journal pages,

it only takes 10 minutes each evening to fill them in.

This reflective time always feels like

a special, little gift to me!

 I’m already thinking about an August theme

for my bullet journal.

Hmmm, perhaps… sunflowers!

 

There is still one more favorite Summer song…

Every year, one song becomes a celebration of my Summer days.

It’s been that way ever since my high school days. 🙂

My ‘Summer song’ seems to choose me,

very much like my ‘word’ for the year does.

This song has been following me

everywhere I go ~

whether I’m driving

or creating in my little

Paper Garden studio downstairs.

I’m always singing along!

♥ ♥ ♥

♫ ♬ This is my wish for all of you!

(With huge thanks to Jason Mraz for his wonderful lyrics!) 🙂

I’m so grateful that you stopped to visit today!

What kinds of Summer songs are making you smile this year?

Hope you’ll share with all of us…

 

Just keep singing!

♡ Dawn

 

 

 

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Simple, Quiet Beauty

Hi Friends!

Dark, storm clouds threatened overhead very early on the Summer Solstice as my husband packed up our car. (Meanwhile, I took just a moment to make our online donation to “The Longest Day” fundraiser for the Alzheimer’s Association. It made my heart feel so good to help fund the care, support, and research so desperately needed in the fight to end Alzheimer’s disease.) Moments later, we drove off to spend “The Longest Day” and the next few days doing something we LOVE, while honoring special people we LOVE. It was a perfect way to celebrate our wedding anniversary! The reason was LOVEa whole lot of LOVE!

We set off in search of simple, quiet beauty, a bit of adventure, small town charm, and perhaps some antiquing, too! As we headed south, heavy rains accompanied us throughout our three-hour drive. Rain was also predicted for the next few days. We hoped for the best as we watched the skies.

Our destination was Amish Country in Central Illinois. Over the years, we have enjoyed visiting Amish areas in Indiana. It would be so interesting to learn more about the Amish people living in our home state. We thought you might like to come along…

This beautiful, quiet region is filled with Amish farms, picturesque small towns with brick-lined streets, quaint antique shops, fun places to eat, and the friendliest people ever. The towns of Arcola, Arthur, and Tuscola, just a few miles apart, welcomed us… and the rain stopped just moments after we arrived! 🙂

 

Amish families moved from Pennsylvania and Indiana to Central Illinois, beginning in 1865, in search of more affordable land and wide-open spaces. Today there are more than 5,500 Amish people living in this area surrounded by large corn and soybean fields, stretching as far as the eye can see.

The Amish people are a very close-knit community. They are hardworking farm families, who often run small, creative, home-based businesses. Roadside wooden signs welcome visitors to quilt shops, woodworking shops, herb shops, bakeries, and more in Amish homes. The Amish are very friendly and open to answering questions about their simple lifestyle.

Religion guides all aspects of Amish life. They have chosen to live a life that is separate from the world. The Amish believe in peace and nonviolence and do not pass judgement on outsiders. They don’t fully accept the modern conveniences that we take for granted. By choosing not to use electricity, they are able to avoid many of the temptations that would impact their family lives. The Amish people value simplicity over convenience and comfort.

In this area, typical Amish farms are approximately 80 acres. The average Illinois Amish family has six children. When a young, Amish couple gets married, they are usually gifted with a parcel of land to farm, from one of their fathers.

We frequently traveled the winding, country road between Arcola, through the tiny hamlet of Chesterville, to Arthur. It warmed my heart each time we passed road signs reminding drivers to be cautious of slow-moving buggies. The familiar ‘clip-clop’ of the horse and buggy feels like a gentle reminder to savor life at a slower pace.

Most of the country roads have wide shoulders that serve as buggy lanes. For safety, the Amish people use battery-powered lights on their buggies. We always used caution whenever following a buggy and slowly passed them with care so we didn’t frighten the horse. We also saw many Amish people riding bicycles on warm, Summer days. Although the Amish people don’t own cars, they do accept rides in other people’s vehicles when necessary.

Each Amish farmhouse we passed had a large tank to store gas or diesel fuel to power their generators. They use bottled gas to operate their water heaters, modern stoves, and refrigerators. Gas lanterns and oil lamps light their homes.

Telephones are not permitted in Amish homes. We noticed wooden phone booths at the end of some driveways, near the road, shared by neighbors for emergencies and business. Today some Amish people have cell phones that can also be used outside their homes.

Families play games, build puzzles, do schoolwork, and read together in the evenings. No musical instruments are played in the homes for that would be worldly. As with all farm families, it is an “early to bed, early to rise” lifestyle.

 

In this area, families are “House Amish.” They gather in homes to hold their Sunday church services. There are 22 church districts in the area surrounding Arthur. When Amish families gather together, they speak their first language, a German dialect.

Horse-power is so important on Amish farms. Farmers drive teams of 6-8 horses to farm their rich land. Their tractors have metal wheels without rubber tires. In recent years, available farmland has become both expensive and scarce in Central Illinois. So, many Amish farmers have also taken on a trade.

In the evenings, we noticed Amish buggies hitched in the parking lot of several businesses in towns. After the farm work is done for the day, some Amish people may supplement their income by working in town for a few hours.

In addition to large farm fields, Amish homes also have big vegetable gardens and fruit trees. Beachy’s Bulk Foods sells everything else that a family might need to prepare meals and preserve fruits and vegetables for the Winter season.

As we drove along the country roads, we noticed every clothesline was filled with plain, dark colored pants, shirts, and dresses. Amish women work hard using wringer washers to do their laundry.

Our rainy Spring in Illinois has been very welcome to our farmers. Instead of “Knee-high by the Fourth of July,” the cornstalks were already shoulder-high by the third week of June.

It was fascinating to learn about Amish wedding traditions. November is the most popular month for Amish weddings. During Spring, Summer, and Fall there is too much work and little time for wedding celebrations. Tuesdays and Thursdays are the the usual days for Amish weddings, since they are the least busy days during their week. An Amish wedding takes place in the bride’s home with a four-hour ceremony. There are no rings, flowers, photos, caterers, or kisses. Typically, more than two hundred guests are invited to celebrate the happy couple!

 

“Amish people are not backwards, nor ‘stuck in the past.’

They are constantly adjusting to the pressures of the world

and striving to maintain their belief and culture.”

“It is a very delicate balance between tradition and change”.

~ National Committee for Amish Religious Freedom

We enjoyed every moment of our visit to Amish Country. I have much more to share in future posts, including several ‘hidden gems’ in the area. One of our most cherished memories is the kindness of everyone we met along the way.

The motto of the town of Arthur (population 2,200) is “You are a stranger only once.” There is so much to discover in this patchwork quilt of quiet, simple beauty and we relish the chance to learn more. We are already planning our next visit!

Although we kept our rain gear close at hand, we felt so fortunate to have dry weather for our adventures. While we were away, my garden soaked up three more inches of rain. It was a delight to find the ‘Annabelle’ Hydrangeas in full bloom when we arrived home!

I enjoyed slower-paced days the following week

without turning my computer on! 🙂

Where do you find simple, quiet beauty?

Happy Independence Day to all of our American friends

as we celebrate family, friends, and freedom!

 

Make each day sparkle!

♡ Dawn

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