“The friendship between Emily and Dolly deepened with time. They shared a passion for flowers, reading and little children, and were lucky enough to find plenty of each to keep them happy.” Miss Clare RemembersThe Lady-of-the-House is in the middle of reading Miss Clare Remembers by Miss Read. It is the fictional biography of Dolly Clare, the older teacher in the two-room schoolhouse of the Fairacre series, whose childhood memories begin in the 1880s. This is the Lady-of-the-House’s second or third reading of it. Have you noticed, that in a subsequent reading something pops up that was less striking before? Beginning chapter 9 the Lady-of-the-House paused. What a sweet set of girlhood delights, she thought; friendship, flowers, books and little children.
Reminiscing during these summer days she recalls the sunflowers she and her children started from seed (in 1991) and planted up against the house – the sunniest part of our suburban front garden.
Their sunflower experiment made it into The Parents’ Review, later into A Charlotte Mason Companion - yet again into Pocketful of Pinecones. When sunflowers turn up, they turn the heads of passers-by. How can they fail to impress children with their towering stalks that emerge from little seeds?
Fast-forward ten summers. The Lady-of-the-House remembers her daughters playing a sunny song on their string instruments for the little children of VBS.
“I’ll be a Sunbeam” is a happy sounding children’s hymn. Opening the old hymnbook, the violinist improvised with the right-hand piano part, while the cellist played the “oom pah-pahs of the left. It brought a cheery atmosphere to the little country church in Appleton and was a good reminder to share the light we’ve received with a sort of radiant living.
“Jesus wants me for a sunbeam, to shine for Him each day” is simply put, with child-like friendliness. But perhaps too easily dismissed as “quaint.” For Christians of all ages, it is a high and worthy ideal. Apostle Peter explains how we can live in the sunshine with “joy inexpressible” through this world’s trials - by keeping our “believing” eyes on Jesus. (1 Peter 1:3-9)
It is August on the early pages of Lessons at Blackberry Inn. During her weeks of recuperation Carol had memorized every crack in the walls and the way the afternoon sun cast polka-dot shadows through the eyelet curtains. It was the sunshine through the window glass that made her patience run out. Leaving her bed one day sooner than doctor’s orders, she couldn’t wait to sit under a tree with her husband Michael and feel the warm breeze and dabbled sunlight on her face.
Squinting at the blue sky above her, the lines of a children’s poem came to mind, from R. L. Stevenson’s “Summer Sun.”
Above the hills, along the blue,
Round the bright air with footing true,
To please the child, to paint the rose,
The gardener of the World, he goes.
The gardener of the world has been kept busy in this part of it. On a walk to the mailbox the Man-of-the-House was first to spot something red in the woods. He pointed it out to the Lady-of-the-House who had to look up his “find” in her Audubon field guide. In all her years of Nature Study she hadn’t yet stumbled upon these beautiful wildflowers. Wood Lily (Lilium philadelphicum) likes thickets. Its roots were once gathered and eaten by Indians.
The woodland border is a refuge for wildflowers and weeds. You can hardly see the house from the street through the brambles. Behind the mailbox is the tall mauve-colored Joe-Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum) in the sunflower family. It attracts a silent party of swallowtail butterflies high above the camera lens of Lady-of-the-House. Folklore tells us that an Indian Joe Pye used the plant to cure fevers.
The coneflowers the Lady-of-the-House planted around the lamppost are bright and bushy. They are abuzz with honeybees, with stems speckled with aphids that seem to be doing the plants no harm.
Equal in sun-hunger are the purple Echinacea. The little clump on the south side of the house, thrive. Those the Lady-of-the-House unwittingly planted on the north side died of starvation she concluded. They are hardy perennials usually, but only when fed large servings of sunbeams.
Sun-ripened fruit bend the bows. The daughter of the Lady-of-the-House went berry-pickin’ with her little guys. They were keen at the task.
At home she preserved the bounty of blackberries into jars. When she gifted a large jar of jam to her parents, Mom couldn’t resist blurting out, “Someday, when you read your mother’s home-teach-y Charlotte-Mason-inspired-story, Lessons at Blackberry Inn, I think you’ll find that you have things in common with Carol.”
“Oh?” her daughter smiled, caught off-guard by her mother’s too-forward-to-be-just-a-hint remark.
Her mother held her purple jar with admiration She softened the jest with, “This jam looks wonderful. Thank you. And seedless did you say? – Oh goodie, just the way we like it. And with blackberries picked by my little grandsons. Perfect.”
“Summer’s lease hath all too short a date.” William Shakespeare
We’ve enjoyed the most mild, most pleasant, summer that we can ever remember. Are you sensing the brevity of it, too?
I was invited to contribute a guest article for the Simply Charlotte Mason Blog. Sonya Shafer has been hosting a workshop on the method of narration. Her readers are finding questions answered along with practical tips and direction.
By-the-way, the hooked rug of sunflowers isn’t normally kept at the front door. I placed it there to photograph it in brighter light than it receives indoors.
Wishing you and I radiant living,