Homebound: From Mersea To Maplehurst, With Love (March Third)

Welcome to Letter Two in the Homebound epistolary journey. To read Letter One, simply visit the page tab indicated on the home page here, at Elizabeth W. Marshall to read each letter in the series.

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March 3, 2017

From the leather sofa, seated beside the wiggly English Cocker puppy named Sweet, in view of copious amounts of pansies.

Dear One:

I am still savoring the words tucked into your recent letter from Maplehurst. Since my last letter we have witnessed both an explosion of color from early spring growth and a re-visiting of what feels like winter creeping back in. The seasons are overlapping and colliding. March is known to come in like a proverbial lion, right? I am looking forward to the birth of the lamb.

The pink azalea bushes are blooming, the ones in the front yard by the sidewalk. They say Easter to me. They always will. I gave into the temptation to bring home pink geraniums. The color choice is always a bit difficult. How odd that we can get stuck on small seemingly inconsequential things like petal colors. Pink is prevalent in my yard this year; pink camellias are still blooming along with the geraniums, the cherry tree and the azaleas. It is a new birth color, full of hope and possibility. It may just be the color of joy too.

I monitor the arrival of spring by taking note of the cherry blossoms. They pop open by the dozens daily, it seems. A favorite, the lady banks rose is climbing up and into the cherry tree, making it appear to be a hybrid with its mix of yellow roses and pink cherry blossoms. No house or trellis is needed. The tree generously gives the rose a home. They seem to be co-existing well, making space for each other.

With so many glorious changes in the yard and even in our lettuce and herb garden, it is easy to be content with focusing on the natural beauty. For now. While the pace of renovation and change is slower than I’d like, I cannot help but be grateful for how far we have come. There is enough natural change to distract me from my desire to make physical and aesthetic changes to Mersea. (And by design, everytime I say Mersea, I am reminded to be grateful.)

I am tempted to shift my perspective back to what I do not yet have. I struggle to focus on what I long for and what I want. There is a tension between contentment and gratitude and longing and desire. Is it always that way in doing the work of restoration?

When the cherry tree blooms I am reminded of that spring we fell in love with this old home. The tree seemed to call to me to explore and consider, to take a second look at the possibilities. And to dream and imagine the potential of making this our home. Beauty beacons us to stop, to pay close attention. And when beauty appears by way of the trees, the limbs, like arms wave an invitation to come closer.

Your own floor restoration at Maplehurst reminds me of our periods of significant restoration. We cycle through periods of growth and change, an ebb and flow not unlike the tides here. Restoration and renovation will come again to Mersea by way of sanding the exterior, fresh paint and new Charleston green shutters. But for now we wait. Thought not always by my design or of my choosing, this slow process of transformation shapes and changes me. It is formative.

I lean into the sacred time of waiting. There is much to learn in listening well, looking closely and seeing well. It happens best when we slow down. Perhaps this Lenten season will be for me about intentionally trying to re-discover the sacred ordinary and savoring the small moments of my life.

Our next big project is to reglaze the windows. The windows are the original ones which means they were born around 1900. There are a few broken and cracked ones, but they are all a little foggy with age. When the reglazing is complete will the pinks seems pinker? How much will our vision change because we have something new and shiny? And how much will be reality, how much only perspective?

Until the big projects get underway, I remain content with small changes. When Daddy came for a visit last week, the first since Mother died earlier this year, I knew exactly what to do. He and I love to porch sit and bird watch together, so I poured my energy into a front porch spring makeover. Somehow, we focused less on our grief and more on the moment. Interesting how something rather small brought us so much joy. In smallness, that is where the joy seems to hide. Grief comes like the tide and like the changes at Mersea, ebbing and flowing. Is it that way by design? Is it more manageable that way, the grief. The pain. And the change.

While Daddy was here, the robins stopped by as they migrated north. Droves of them gathered in the backyard, fueling up for their long trip northward. I wonder what they will find when they arrive at Maplehurst. I grieve with you the thought of spring being snuffed out by the frigid cold air that is predicted to interrupt spring. I am hopeful that you will preserve your early spring beauty and that you too will find joy in the robins this year. There is an optimistic bounce in their step as they go in search of fuel for their journey.

The lady banks, the fruit trees and the robins, I am learning from each of them this year. And from you, my friend. You too, teach me so much.

Peace and grace and warmth as the Lion of March moves through,

Always,

Elizabeth
Mersea

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Visit Christie Purifoy at her blog, Christie Purifoy, A Spacious Place where you can read more or her lovely writing, and learn more about her recently published book “Roots and Sky”.

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Homebound: From Mersea To Maplehurst With Love, March First

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Christie and I are homebound. I, a writer of poetry and prose, am bound to Mersea, a 1904 simple white Victorian, nestled in the historic district of a southern shrimping village. She is bound to Maplehurst, a red-brick farmhouse built by Pennsylvania Quakers in 1880. We are both writers, wives, and mothers, but nearly twenty years and hundreds of miles lie between us.

This season, as winter turns toward spring and Lent leans toward Easter, Christie and I are writing letters, she beneath the hemlocks and maples and I beneath the pines and pecans. We reflect together on our homebound journeys. We will explore the bonds of love and faithfulness that tie us, and not always easily, to these particular places and to the people sheltered within them.

Please join us for an epistolary exploration of love, loss and restoration.

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My first letter to Christie may be found here. To read Christie’s response click here or the link to her letter may be found at the conclusion of my own.

February 2017

(From my green leather chair, the color of pea soup, at Mersea)

Dear One:

The wind is almost violent today. The gusts are like bursts of labor; nature is birthing something weather-wise that reminds me of the hurricanes we have lived through. Mersea has seen more than I. But I have seen all I care to see in one lifetime. Last fall’s hurricane, the one named Matthew, made landfall here. We chose to ride it out, to stay with our home and so we witnessed the force, the power, the destructive nature of the wind.

Today when the wind stops howling it is so peaceful and yet there is this waiting. The pattern is set. There will be more rattling and rumblings. The wind comes in like a train too fast at the station. My heart calms and speeds up in tandem with the wind.

Each time the wind barrels through the pine trees I am reminded of the bending and breaking they do. How resilient they are. And yet, in a moment one could come down on the house. The gust too much for the fragile, weak or old tree. So much restoring left to do here and yet a ripped and damaged roof would add to the list of “we need to’s”. I love the restoring. It feels important and life-giving. But do I want to add a project birthed from disaster?

I love the trees here in the village and at Mersea. They are mostly old and grand , some pecan, some pine and some oak. We live with them and learn from them. They seem to be storytellers and teachers. Walking us through the seasons with hope and renewal. Pointing out and upward with limbs of praise.

In the winter they appear to be grieving. Bearing up under the weight of their bareness. Providing so much and asking so little. Generous to a fault like the one in the book, “The Giving Tree”. Givers and teachers and beacons of what’s to come, these trees seem to be. Shade givers and hammock holders. Tire swing hangers and fig producers.

The wind is coming in a little calmer now. Just as the seasons do, change comes if we hold on tight and wait. I can hear the songbirds better when the wind dies down. Their song is vibrant, telling a story I cannot quite interpret. But yet, and yet, I miss the passion of the heavy gusts.

Our restoration has slowed down a bit here. I miss the passion we once had. But in this time of dormancy I am learning contentedness in the waiting. The quiet lull between projects provides a sanctuary of sorts. I must wait. And it is always good, no better even, when I do. It changes and shapes me, this waiting.

Peace and grace to you and your beloved Maplehurst. You are on my heart as I wonder what is being birthed and restored in your own heart and in your home.

Wishing you joy and hope in your restoration,

Elizabeth,  Mersea

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To read Christie’s beautiful response to me from Maplehurst  follow the link to her blog found here. Christie, author of “Roots and Sky” writes on her blog Christie Purifoy, A Spacious Place

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For All The Poets: A Letter of Gratitude

Thank you for joining me while I journey through gratitude framed by poetry. Always a pleasure to have you along.

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For All The Poets: A Letter Of Gratitude

In the beginning was the Word
And much later for me poetry
I would credit you if I could
Remember
The seed scatterers scattered many
Milne and Mother
And Mother Goose
Among them, along with
The multitudes of songs
And Psalms
Left a well worn trail to my door
Two roads diverged
One was less poetic
Frost was right, this one is less travelled

Poetry knocked
Gently, would you expect
Anything different

Perhaps I could name just a few
Of the teachers
But no, knowing them
As humble
And quiet souls
They would rather I not
Until the rejection letters come
And then you’ll hear from them

We woke up
My pen and I

We woke up
Hidden, buried deep,
Artist side of my
Brain
Head and heart teamed up

Prayerfully I say
I hope you look at me and say
You took the gift and used it well
Soulfully I weep
Salty gratitude
To every poet who came before
Dancing on the pages with lyrical delight
Rhyme and rhythm

And it all started after His part
With you
Poets
Ushering me into the beautiful
World of condensation of words
And still I am learning
For this letter of gratitude
Needs a good editor
And I still need my poets

From which to learn
The artful way to
Say thank you
More poetically
Scratch that
This will have to do
My display of gratitude
For fear I will get lost
Buried in my own world
Hidden by this
Pile of words from which to carve
My art,
Forgetting
As I did the last verse of Wordsworth’s
I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud

For All The Brenda’s: A Letter of Encouragement and Gratitude

Follow along for the month of November as I express my gratitude in the form of “the poetry of letter writing.” I will never say all my thank you’s in just a few short weeks. I won’t even come close to honoring everyone that inspires me with their gracious spirit, deep well of kindness, or ability to bless me and others with the overflow of their heart.

But I can start. So this is just  a way to begin

One poem of gratitude, one thank you note at a time. (Thank you, as always for reading and journeying with me).

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Dear Brenda,

In an effort to be more of who I am, I want to be more like you.
It is a paradox that I am chipping away at daily.
Not the part about being like you. But of focusing on simple acts.
Engaging in the simple act of singlemindedness.
(I think I was made to focus on small things)
I think grand and great are left for others.
This is a revelation. With a small r.
But that would be presumptuous of me.
I do not imply that your work  (did you know I call it the “fluff and fold”) is not a big thing
Did you know, I long to love like you. Love simply and gently with your service and your smile.
I walk in hungry for kindness (don’t we all). And you give, so generously.
You take my soiled clothes in your hands, dutifully. Every. Single. Time.
I give you dirt and you you give me joy.
I give you a job and you give me your best.
I leave and you remain. You spend hours serving among the spinning machines.
Watching dirt wash away. Witness to transformation. Giving the world cleanliness and fresh starts.
You are throughly immersed in your work, thoughtful and diligent.
I want to write and love and live and serve with the devotion you give, to the laundromat.
The world needs more Brenda’s.
Secretly I know that you carry your private world around with you, concern for those you love, as you feed the coins into the machines.
But the grace and gentleness are all I see. You are all business. No hints of your personal life.
Oh lovely Brenda. Knowing you is a gift.
Until we meet again at the Fluff and Fold
with love and admiration,

e

thank you peach

Joining Laura today. She makes Monday’s so extra lovely