Gift #1002: Spring Mill

This weekend I had a wonderful getaway at Spring Mill State Park with my family.   I love going there so much – it is beautiful, tranquil, a perfect place to recharge the spirit.  We’ve been there enough times now to be recognized by several who work there and I find myself looking forward to seeing them again.  Everyone there has been so kind and thoughtful to us.  The chef, who we spent a lot of time talking to on our last visit, made sure there was a vegetarian entree for me for most of the stay, which was incredibly thoughtful of him.  The seating hostess made sure to give us tables near the birdfeeders at every meal because they know we enjoy watching the birds.  It’s comforting to know that our paths have intersected so much with the park that we are now met with as much affection as we feel for the people who keep this special place in running order every day.

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My mom and I love to walk the trails – now quite familiar to us.  We have our favorite spots, our favorite trees and fallen logs, our favorite views… the land itself is an old friend now.  As we tread the paths, we can recall our history with the place – times that drew us closer to each other and cultivated a love for this place and a contentment to live here.

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Each visit is a special blend of old and new.  We can experience the same place in different seasons and each trip gives unique memories to cherish.  This time, we were able to do something quite new.  Yesterday we had a Blue Moon hike at dusk led by a park naturalist.  We’ve never had this opportunity when we’ve visited before and it was really exciting to experience the park at dark.  Our guide played some owl calls to try to bring one down.  we didn’t see an owl, but it was interesting to hear the changes in the birdsong once the owl calls started.   It was cloudy and we didn’t get to see much of the moon, but we did appreciate the sounds of the forest transitioning from day to night.  Most birds were singing goodnight and a chorus of crickets picked up the tune to keep it going all night.  The weather was beautiful and it was a magical experience.  On the way back, we got to see a bat flying!  It was too dark to take pictures, but I did write down this phrase that came to me as we savored the dying rays of sunset and welcomed moonlight:

“It was that time of twilight… when the green forest melted into shadows” 

It perfectly described the new experience of watching nightfall in our beloved forest.  A new experience… now a cherished memory.

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Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #1001: A thing of beauty

We’ve been experiencing quite unseasonably cool and rainy weather. The past few days when I’ve walked out to my car, my subconscious thinks “How lovely it would be to have a bowl of pumpkin soup for dinner and then curl up next to the fire with some cozy knitting…oh, and maybe I’ll see leaves turning on the way home!” (Fall is never far from my mind). It takes a few minutes to reorient myself to the fact that it’s actually May, not October and none of the aforementioned activities are really appropriate. But that hasn’t stopped me from running the heater!! This past weekend was really cold and windy and it found my mom and I planted at the art museum for the day. One of the new exhibits that I’ve wanted to see is called “A Joy Forever” and showcases quilts made by Mrs. Marie Webster (1859-1956).
In honor of our bicentennial, many museums are showcasing remarkable Hoosiers. Mrs. Webster lived in Marion Indiana, where she quilted and ran her mail-order pattern business with her sister. I was surprised to learn that she didn’t take up quilt-making until she was in her 50s – she’s an excellent example of the adage that you’re never too old to do…anything! Her many original patterns were featured in popular periodicals, she wrote a best-seller book on the history of quilting, traveled all over the country lecturing about quilting, and ran a wildly successful business, all the while re-igniting the popularity of quilts as objects of beauty and utility. In a sweet touch of gratitude, her home is now a National Landmark and quilting museum.

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I’d never heard of her before, but I was delighted to learn about her and see some of her personality displayed in her enduring art form. The piece above is a lovely example of her quilting style. She added fresh life to quilting by drawing inspiration from floral motifs in her garden and creating more free-form designs. I learned from a conversation with an employee that she was one of the first to pioneer the use of pastels and subtle colors in quilts. Up till that time, most quilts were made in bright, bold colors. Her creative use of pastels was wildly popular and created enduring trends.

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Sunflowers was a unique piece because of the warm tones and the strong, deep border. I was impressed with her eye for balanced design and admire the way the sunflowers achieve a balance of being visually interesting but not overwhelming. The design is quite unified. I also liked the wavy border which is made of several ombre colors from light to dark. She had very creative edgings – I had no idea quilts could have anything but straight edges! Another motif that Mrs. Webster introduced to quiltmaking was to sew decorative images in the background as a subtle nod to the main pattern. She achieved brilliant results – in the sunflower quilt, she sewed spiderwebs and flower buds in the center. Here’s a closeup so you can see better. Spiderwebs on a quilt!! Wow!!

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Dogwoods was one of my favorite. It’s a beautiful, graceful design with the wavy edges and diamond pattern of blossoms. I loved how each set of blossoms is anchored with a tree trunk into the border and the extra green leaf motif in the center provides a strong visual and pulls green across the design while keeping it simple and calming. Like in Sunflowers, she stitched shadow dogwoods in the background – it really adds a layer of interest that doesn’t overwhelm the overall effect. You probably can’t see in the photo, but each blossom has a tiny nick cut out of it and deeper pink fabric sewn behind so that the blossoms are two-toned and very realistic.

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Grapes and Vines is widely considered her magnum opus. It’s made of over 1240 grapes – each cut out by hand, along with leaves and tendrils and all hand-sewn into place. The signage informed visitors that this quilt was inspired by a popular nineteenth century “four-block” design. Ever one for putting her own mark on a pattern, Mrs. Webster added appliqued motifs to divide the blocks up. She had a marked eye for design and color and I will be spending more time studying her design to learn from her.
I hope you enjoyed a brief look at some of her quilts… you might see more in the future. Because, as the name of the exhibit reminds us, a thing of beauty is a joy forever.
Blessings to you,
Sarah

magnum opus.  It’s made of over 1240 grapes – each cut out by hand, along with leaves and tendrils and all hand-sewn into place.  The signage informed visitors that this quilt was inspired by a popular nineteenth century “four-block” design. Ever one for putting her own mark on a pattern, Mrs. Webster added appliqued motifs to divide the blocks up.  She had a marked eye for design and color and I will be spending more time studying her design to learn from her.

I hope you enjoyed a brief look at some of her quilts… you might see more in the future.  Because, as the name of the exhibit reminds us, a thing of beauty is a joy forever.

Blessings to you,

Sarah

 

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Gift #1000: A message of healing

This has been an important and emotional week for me and I’ve had to take a few days to process it all.   I wanted to share it with you though because it’s been so meaningful that I thought it would be a good way to commemorate the 1000th post.  On Wed my company, Eli Lilly Pharmaceuticals, celebrated its 140th birthday.  It was a momentous occasion with speeches by the CEO and local dignitaries.  Special videos and timelines were created to celebrate our company’s contributions to the field of medicine.  We had cupcakes and a new sculpture of Col. Lilly was added to our courtyard.  On hand for the dedication was the Mayor of Indianapolis and the great-great-great grandaughter of Eli Lilly.  We heard many people pay tribute to our founder – he was an incredible man of great genius and compassion.   The company’s slogan “Take what you find and make it better” really exemplifies Col. Lilly’s legacy.  He, his sons, and grandsons number among my heroes because of their dedication to improving the health as well as the community of the people they served.  The family had a hand in founding the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce, the precursor to Central Indiana’s United Way, and a business that employees thousands.  Our medicines have saved the lives of millions around the world and improved their quality of life.  It’s easy to get lost in the frustrations of a career in discovery science, but this week reminded me that I’m honored and blessed to be counted as part of this company’s future – a future in healing.  It’s a precious calling to wake up each morning knowing I’m part of making the world a better place through advancements in medicine and a deep compassion for those we serve.

The following day I was immersed in the nightmares that occur when medical research is divorced from empathy and human dignity.  Concurrent with our birthday celebration was our Bioethics week. This year the focus was on WWII and the birth of modern bioethics since this is also the 70th anniversary of the Nuremberg Trials.  I attended a lecture on wartime human testing, both in Germany and the US, and how those atrocities fueled regulations that promoted advancements in science but protected the safety of individuals.  It was a fascinating discussion.  Then that afternoon I was privileged to listen to Eva Mozes Kor, a survivor of Dr. Mengele’s experiments at Auschwitz.  She spoke of her traumatic imprisonment and mistreatment, but the focus of her message was on healing – a fitting topic for a pharmaceutical company.  It was not a pill, but an outpouring of forgiveness that brought healing to Eva.

She spoke of the long journey of forgiveness and how it freed her soul and gave meaning to her life.   Although she talked about events 70 years ago, it was amazing how applicable her comments were.  We face similar issues today – concerns with the ethics of research are rampant as we debate the cost of our knowledge, the world is full of refugees fleeing homes destroyed by war, the capacity for evil and cruelty seems to know no bounds.  But its influence is completely halted in the face of forgiveness and love.  The message of healing is one the world is desperate to hear.  I was reminded of a passage of Scripture I read in my devotions recently:   All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:  that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”  2 Cor 5:18-20

I love these verses because they emphasize that God’s desire for us is healing and peace too.  He’s come near to us and offered us forgiveness and a relationship with Him.  And He invites us to participate with Him in sharing peace with the world!  What a privilege it is to speak peace and comfort into a hurting world, into broken families, into wounded hearts.  We all have the opportunity to be a blessing to those around us.  Let’s all resolve to be voices of healing to those we meet.

I wanted to take a moment to thank all of you for reading my blog.  I appreciate your kind comments and hope very much that my posts bring a bit of joy to you.  Here’s to the next 1000!

Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #999: Mother’s Day

To my Mother,

Thank you for:
Playing pretend with me
Picnics at the park
Swinging with me for hours
Reading to me
Baking birthday cakes each year
Sewing my clothes
Piano and flute lessons every week

Thank you for
Planting my first flowers with me
Introducing me to God’s creation
Making washing cars fun
Buying me books
Teaching me to cross-stitch
Trips to museums
Family dinners every night
Movie nights and popcorn

Thank you for
Long walks
Deep conversations
Being my travel buddy
Showing me a life filled with love
A happy childhood
Giving me a legacy of faith

Thank you for being the best mom and the best friend I could ever hope for.

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Happy Mother’s Day!!

Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #998: Art of Daubigny

Early last week I was paging through a recent issue of Midwest Living magazine.  In the “current events” at the back, an art exhibit called “Daubigny, Monet, and Van Gogh” caught my eye.  It was on display at the Taft Museum of Art in Cincinnati through the end of May.  Last Saturday morning found my mom and I on the road headed east to our favorite weekend getaway.  The Taft museum is the historic home of Anna Sinton and her husband Charles Taft.  Their extensive art collection is on permanent display and several galleries house traveling exhibits.  This was the only US stop for Daubigny – the exhibit featured over 40 of his works, along with a handful each of Monet and Van Gogh.  An international collaboration, this collection emphasized the role of Daubigny as a founder of the Impressionist movement.   Daubigny was born in Paris in 1817 and was trained in classical painting by his father.  His early works are masterpieces of Realist landscapes.

“The Pond at Gylieu” is a prime example.  We were told by the docent that ecologists can identify over 40 species of plants and animals in this painting because of the incredible accuracy with which he rendered the scene.  In a contemporary reaction, one viewer commented that he always felt he would get a chill from viewing Daubigny’s paintings because they felt so humid.  Daubigny loved capturing the weather.  Early on he developed a fascination with the sky and painted it lovingly throughout his life.  He differentiated himself from other landscape artists by bringing the point of view down to water level.  In fact, he even bought a small boat and traveled the Seine and other rivers extensively, painting the views as he saw them in his tiny houseboat.

La Printemps” was one of my favorites.  It’s hard to capture the depth and grandiose size in pictures here.  The paintings were huge and so full of detail and light that they looked three dimensional.  We learned that Daubigny was one of the first to paint trees in flower.  It proved a popular idea and painters by the score followed suit throughout the Impressionist movement.  Daubigny himself continued to paint orchards in bloom nearly every spring of his life.  I love this one for many reasons, but mainly because the trees to the right are filled with little perching birds and the sky is dotted with birds in flight.  It was a charming and beautiful touch.  Daubigny championed large horizontal landscapes, often customizing his canvases by putting two standard frames together.  Although rare at the start of his career, it was emulated by other painters and the perspective gained in popularity.

The only vertical painting of Daubigny’s on display was this one: “Landscape with a Sunlit Stream”.    This was also a favorite of mine because the whole painting is just saturated in green.  It really felt like a sort of portal that if you stared long enough, you’d find yourself transported to the scene.  Although painted when Daubigny was ostensibly in his “Impressionist” period, this piece still retains strong evidences of his Realist background.  Just look at how masterfully he directs the light down to the center of the scene, reflecting into the river.

We saw several fine examples of Daubigny’s night scenes.  I admired him for his obvious enchantment with the moon and it was interesting to see how his rendering of night scenes changed as he was influenced by the Impressionists.  This is “Moonrise at Auvers” or “Return of the Flock”.  His novel use of new tinned pigments brought vibrancy to his sky-scapes and introduced new colors to the public.  He skillfully commands complementary colors to create a moody night scene, with the watered moonlight illuminating the sheep and the shepherd on their way home.  A contemporary art critic had this to say about the painting:   “Night has just fallen and transparent shadows veil the fields, while the full moon rises in a clear sky.  You can feel the silent quivering of evening and the last sounds of the fields as they fall asleep.  It gives the impression of a limpid grandeur, of tranquility rich with life…”    Moonrise was Charles Daubigny’s last painting.

It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience to view these masterpieces and to catch a glimpse through the curtain of history of an artist whose life was rich with tranquility and whose soul was captivated with beauty.

Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #997: First Blush of Spring

April has come to a close and that means it’s time to review the Art Bead Scene challenge of the month.  Our artwork for April was called “Jacob’s Ladder” by Helen Frankenthaler, 1957.

I’m most definitely not a fan of abstract art and I don’t really have anything to say about this painting other than it looks like someone flung paint on a canvas and I like the colors. I was working on a piece leftover from March that I submitted for this challenge -I’ll try to blog about that later.   I had been wanting to make a piece in soft pinks and green and this painting gave me the excuse to work on a design.  I had collected several beads from my favorite designer Heather Powers in destash sales from earlier this year.  One of the sets she sent contained a beautiful dogwood blossom pendant.  I had purchased a muted pink bird from her in hopes it would match the pendant and I also had a green leaf pendant that I liked with the set.Here’s the necklace I made with her beads

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I softned up the leaf with a bit of white paint and finished off the design with some green agate beads that I got at the bead show incorporated into the chain.  I had a pair of olive green beads with brown and white swirls that Heather gave me as a freebie with an order.  They looked like tiny tree branches woven across the center of the beads and were a perfect match with the necklace and just the right size for earrings.  I paired them with some brass and antiqued silver leaves and a tiny pink czech glass bead.

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I’m ridiculously pleased with how this set came out.  I get happy feelings just looking at them and thinking about spring.  I love the soft colors and the strong nature imagery.  It looks just as if the first glories of spring are captured to wear all year long.

Blessings to you,

Sarah

 

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Gift #996: Arbor Day

Happy Arbor Day!  I did not realize until an hour or so ago that today was Arbor Day.  In fact, I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t even remember we had a day to celebrate trees.  But loving trees as I do, I think it’s a wonderful idea.  Had I been more on top of this, I would have helped plant a tree or hugged a tree or something, but since it was already after dark by the time I learned of this, it didn’t happen.  I did go through my photos and pulled out a few favorite tree snapshots taken through the course of the last year.  Each of these photos is taken from a special place that is dear to my heart.

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Winter at Spring Mill Park.  This is my favorite park in Indy of the ones I’ve visited so far.  I actually haven’t made it to very many state parks as every time I have a weekend to travel to one, I end up back at Spring Mill.  It’s a sanctuary and haven – a restful beautiful place that is home to the oldest trees in the state.  Here is where I fell in love with Indiana.  It is beautiful year-round, but there’s a quiet reflective quality about the park in winter that is unique.  Time stands still and it’s just you and the trees.

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Spring crabapple blossoms in the front yard.  I adore the weeping crabapple that sits near the front door.  I’d never seen a weeping variety before moving to Indy.  Our family had planted crabapples at our home in Denver, and it was a kindness of God to provide one here too.  I took lots of pictures of her this season which I’ll share later, but I liked this shot taken at sunset where it’s just her and the sky.  She always blooms around my birthday and that makes me happy.

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Summer in the Rockies.  My favorite tree on earth is quaking aspen.  This lovely scene is a ubiquitous sight throughout the foothills.  When I looked back at these pictures, they took my breath away – I was immediately transported back to my beloved mountains, feeling the breeze and warm sunshine, smelling the fragrance of pine needles and cold streams, and listening to the aspens dance.  This my friends is what heaven looks like.   And every time I see it, I lose my heart again.  I love you Colorado.

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And finally, fall.  This scene was captured during a late fall hike at Eagle Creek.  Just a short drive from home, this is a frequent weekend destination.  Fall is my favorite season and I spend just about every single weekend out in the woods somewhere soaking in the glories of falling leaves and acorns.  In fact, my obsessive love of autumn leads me to an awkward confession:  the trees have just started to leaf out here and already I’m envisioning them turning to gold.  It’s kind of a sickness, but sometimes I think I love spring just because that means autumn will be coming again.

And so in a few photos, we’ve roamed the year in search of trees.  Ever comforting and ever beautiful, trees fill our lives and hearts with their strength and weave us into the landscape.  Their branched arms wave in the breezes, beckoning us to join with them in the great dance.  Thank you God for filling our earth with trees.   Now go hug a tree tomorrow!  I will!!

Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #995: Ferns revisited and other spring tidbits

I’ve already done a post on the “We’re All Ears” challenge for April, but I wanted to share one more pair I made.  When rummaging around in my stamping supplies, I found a set of dies with floral/leafy designs.  One of them would work perfectly for a pair of earrings.  I needed to order materials to try my hand at them and they didn’t come in time to make them for the April 15th deadline.  However I did still want to try my idea and I worked with my metalsmithing instructor on the finer points of jewel setting.  Here they are:

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I sized down the diecut and hand-sawed the design out of silver.  And then things got a bit complicated.  I wanted to make these post earrings, so I soldered a bit of half-hard sterling wire for the back and the tiny cups for the jewels.  Then my instructor helped with setting the emerald-colored stones.  I believe these are lab-created crystals because I didn’t want to buy real ones while I’m still learning.  I’m pleased to say that they match my vision pretty well.  I’m going to tumble them tomorrow at class to harden up the silver a bit and make them more durable.  I hope that doesn’t damage them.  Fingers crossed.

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With all these ferny earring projects going on in the evenings, I’ve been wanting to hike and enjoy more of spring.  A few weekends ago when the weather started to warm up my mom and I went to Eagle Creek.  We saw lots of wildflowers and relished the beauty of early spring in the woods.  Most of the interest was down on ground level as it was still too early for the trees to be leafing out.

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We saw bluebells, trillium, Dutchman’s breeches, wild violets, and …. mayapples!  This is one of my favorite times of the year because the forest is right at the point where mosses, ferns, and early wildflowers take the stage.  Green is still enough of a rarity to be a treasure, but it’s creeping into the lifeblood of the plants more and more.  Abundant sunlight still reaches the forest floor and turns the little flowers to sparking jewels.

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How blessed we are to share the world with wildflowers!
Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #994: Spring Joys

One of the most beautiful events of spring here in the Midwest is the blooming of our tulip trees.  These are actually in the magnolia family and are called tulip trees because of the shape of their blossoms.  They’re not to be confused with tulip poplars, our state trees, which have green/yellow flowers that open later in spring.  The tulip trees are one of the first heralds of spring and lead the parade of flowering trees into their glorious display.

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Unfortunately we had late frosts that damaged most of the tulip blossoms so our enjoyment of the gorgeous blooms was cut short.  I managed to photograph this stand before the frost.  I was really disappointed about the loss of our lovely “tulips”.  There’s a small magnolia bush at home that has tried to bloom at least 7 times in the two years since being planted, and inevitably some freakish event of nature happens just as they’re about to open that damages them.  This year the sweet thing had put out over 30 buds that were just about to open when the frost hit.  Despite keeping her covered, the majority of them were frozen and turned brown and fell.  A few at the bottom survived and she’s put forth a couple more buds – so there’s some to enjoy, for which I’m thankful.  I dream of seeing her one day in all her splendor, covered with resplendent pink blossoms.

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In other spring news that I wanted to share with you – in the courtyard at work are a pair of hawks that have made their nest on the top floor of a wing of my building.  Over the past week I’ve delighted in watching the birds in the morning gather twigs from the nearby trees and fashion their nest.  Mrs. Hawk has been trying it on for size and Mr. Hawk has been obliging in finding just the right materials for her.  It was fun watching him break off twigs with his beak.  I do hope they’re comfortable with us and their new home.  It would be quite special to have a family of hawks raise their little ones so close.  I hope you have been enjoying springtime and relishing the warmer weather and return of life and color to the outdoors.

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Blessings to you,

Sarah

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Gift #993: Earth Day

Happy Earth Day everyone!  I hope you all get a chance to roll in the grass, daydream with the clouds, revel in the blue sky, and hunt for wildflowers.

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May you enjoy all the blessings of God’s creation this weekend and rejoice in every ordinary miracle you see.

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Blessings to you,

Sarah

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