A Morning at the Monastery

In October we had the chance to visit the Benedictine monastery Mt Angel Abbey.  It was a blustery day, but the sun did finally come out.  We walked the grounds, enjoyed the views.  Joseph kneeled and kissed every statue he found.  Then we went to the bookstore cafe to warm up with hot chocolate and muffins.  They even sold index cards, so we could draw a bit!

Now any visit to a monastery that includes an active toddler is going to be…active.  There were no extended times of stillness and silence.  Yet the morning was full of wonder and reverence and blessing.  May this New Year be likewise full.

The Year in Books: 2014

This was an amazing reading year.  I couldn’t choose just one favorite book, so here are my favorites in a few different categories.  Maybe you’ll find the perfect book to get the New Year started right!

FictionPride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.  How is it that I made it into my 40th year without reading P&P?  What I mean of course is how did I miss the Colin Firth movie version?!  But really, I loved this book.  I listened to a Librivox recording every night for a few weeks as I made dinner.  Then I would re-tell the story to the children, finding the best scenes to read out loud.  Excellent!

HomeschoolingThe Living Page by Laurie Bestvater.  I got this book for my birthday, and read it during the summer.  I had no idea how much I would like it.  Bestvater’s prose is evocative and lush.  And she’s writing about a topic close to my heart; I went to the cafe today with 5 different notebooks!

The Urban Bestiary by Lyanda Lynn Haupt.  If you are looking for a way to incorporate more (or better informed!) nature study into your homeschool, then you should definitely check out this book.  Thought not a homeschooling book per se, Lyanda’s easy, conversational manner is as engaging as it is informative.  As with the Jane Austen, I read the book, and then told it back to my children.  We started seeing patterns and animal sign immediately!

Drawing–This has been an expansive year for my drawing and journaling.  First, two best of the year resources that aren’t books at all: Lisa Congdon’s drawing class at Creativebug and Lori Pickart’s Journaling class.  These two classes were game changers for me.  I am excited to read Congdon’s 40 Ways to Draw a Tulip in 2015.  For some strange reason, our library doesn’t own it, so I have to wait to request an interlibrary loan.

In December I finally got the chance to read Syllabus by Lynda Barry.  It’s a book about drawing, but really it’s about teaching and learning.  So engaging + inspiring.  I have pages and pages in my notebooks filled with quotes from this one.  We also spent quite a long time The Sketchnote Workbook by Mike Rodes. Again, not a homeschooling book at all, but with plenty of applications especially in relation to keeping notebooks and The Living Page.

Spiritual–But if I had to choose just one book to be my favorite from this last year, I’d choose The Monk’s Alphabet by Jeremy Driscoll. He is a poet and Benedictine monk from Mt. Angel, the monastery we visited in October.  This book is a miscellany, short reflections on a variety of topics organized alphabetically.  The strange way that topics flow into each other is one of the pleasures of the book.   I have read it completely at random, just opening the book and starting to read for a few pages.  But I don’t get far before I find an arresting idea or image.  The poet and the monk are perfectly entwined in Driscoll’s writing.  This small book is not to be missed.

I keep track of my reading all year long at Goodreads.  Here’s a look at all the books from this year!

What books made all the difference in your year?  I’d love to hear + add them to my 2015 list!

The Festival of Carols on the Golden Nights

This morning dawned bright, clear, and WARM!  It’s a Christmas miracle.  Tomorrow is set to be even warmer.  Perfect weather for raking up the last of the leaves, cleaning out gutters, and getting the outside of the house ready for the rest of Winter.

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Today AP of my heart took the big kids downtown to the art supply store.  They didn’t have any big lists, they went to look around, see what’s there, soak up a little Downtown culture at Christmas time.  That left Joseph with me!

We promptly turned on the radio and started wrapping presents.  Our local classical station broadcasts on the internet, so *you* could be listening along with us!  Through Christmas they are playing a Festival of Carols.  It’s lovely music to accompany your present wrapping or hot chocolate next to the tree.  On Christmas Eve they’ll play Lessons + Carols live (live!) from Cambridge.  It plays at 7 am here on the West Coast.  It’s a singular treat.

On Reading Wendell Berry

I started reading Wendell Berry 22 years ago.  Sort of amazing really.  I was an 18 year old city girl going to college in a new town.  What affinity could I have for books written by a farmer who was older than my parents?  But along with Annie Dillard and Barry Lopez–because the three of them always go together in my mind–Wendell Berry gave me characters that reveled in the created world that was steeped in a religious sensibility.  Their works were not something that would be found on the shelves of the local Bible bookstore, but they were nourishing, they were formative in deep ways.

I’ve read all of Wendell Berry many times over but find it very difficult to recommend a place to start.  His fiction is interconnected; characters you meet in one story are often bit players in another.  But in the essays too, the same themes come up again and again.  And for me the more I read, the more affection I had for the man, and the more my understanding grew.

I think I would begin with the poems (but not the Sabbath poems).  Even long poems are short.  There’s not much commitment.  If you don’t like one, you can always turn the page and start another.  But if you do find something you like, the lines will keep singing to you all day long.  I’d start with The Country of Marriage or The Wheel.  These are the poems you’ll hear me quoting from, these are the lines that have informed the last 22 years.

Then I’d read his biography of Harlan Hubbard.  The Hubbards lived down the river from Wendell and were a major influence on his life.  They lived very simply and made art and loved each other.  This book will fill up your commonplace book with delicious quotes!

Then I’d listen to Wendell himself read selections from the essays in What Are People For?  You’ll have to find these used and dig out your cassette player, but it is oh so worth it to hear the humor and complexity in his voice.  Words that sound strident and harsh on the page, dance off his tongue.  It’s not that Wendell isn’t strident and harsh–that’s exactly why some people like him.  But that’s not all he is.  And his voice helps me find that other stream.

And finally some fiction…generally speaking I think his writing has gotten better over time, so his more recent work is better than the older stuff.  But the interrelated stories inform each other, and what you know of a character in one instance helps you understand the implications of what happens in another story.  If you’re in the market for a good, thick novel maybe start with Jayber Crow.  Or my favorite, A Place on Earth.  The novels both take place during World War II, and were written 33 years apart.  In many ways the older work, A Place on Earth, is a darker, more pessimistic novel.  But it’s aging very well.

Or you might start by just searching for Wendell Berry on this blog!  I’ve shared quite a few of his poems here over the years.  What was the first Wendell Berry you read?  Or where do you recommend starting?

One More Advent Resource

I began blogging because our little family moved away from my family, and I wanted to keep a record of our days to share with them.  But one of the best surprises of blogging has been *meeting* new people, the readers here at One Deep Drawer!

St Nicholas Altar

Sarah, one such lovely reader, sent along the link to a set of Nativity printables made by Gertrud Mueller Nelson.  I absolutely love them!  We’ll be working on them tomorrow.  Print out a set and join us!

You might also poke around the Good Ground Press site.  The online retreats look fascinating.  They might be the perfect way to say goodby to 2014 or to begin your new year.

Our friends at Pray as You Go will be praying the O Antiphons.

I’m also pleased to announce that Lisa from Through the Mind to the Heart won the drawing for a copy of The Liberal Arts Tradition!

If you are still curious about Classical education, there’s no better place to start than with the series Schole Everyday: Incorporating Restful Learning into Your Day

Praying the O Antiphons

I’ve been thinking about praying the O Antiphons during Advent for a few years now.  But for some reason none of the prayers that I had read seemed to call out to me.  So the idea languished.  Until a few weeks ago when Celeste at Joyous Lessons wrote a bit about the changes coming in the Morning Basket during Advent.

Praying the O Antiphons

She mentioned a prayer companion for the O Antiphons made by Jennifer Gregory Miller.  It is glorious.  As soon as I saw it, I knew that finally this would be the year that we tried adding this simple devotion to the golden nights leading up to Christmas.

From December 17-24 there is a prayer that addresses Christ with a different messianic name each day–O Wisdom, O Root of Jesse, O Key of David.  Jennifer has paired the prayers (in English and Latin!) with lovely art work, a corresponding verse from “O Come Emmanuel,” and simple suggestions for food that underscores the day’s focus.

I’d love to hear if you plan on praying the O Antiphons as well…or about any other devotion that turns our hearts again to the coming of the light.

A Little Christmas Reading?

I’d love to send you a copy of The Liberal Arts Tradition by Kevin Clark and Ravi Jain.  Maybe you’ve been wanting to read it, maybe you know someone who is interested in Classical Christian education.

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Here’s a very enthusiastic review...though for the most part the book didn’t resonate with me.  I much prefer The Living Page or Beauty in the Word.  Just leave a comment, and I’ll draw a winner on Monday night.  Then I’ll put it right in the post!

Freight Train, Freight Train Going So Fast

Last year for Christmas Joseph got a copy of Freight Train by Donald Crews…and he couldn’t have cared less.  He was way more interested in books full of people, especially babies.  But he rediscovered the book a few weeks ago and is reading it to shreds!

A few weeks ago we got the chance to go see the Columbia Gorge Model Railroad.  Jojo was in heaven.  At one point he let out a squeal, and one of the men operating the trains said, “That’s the sound that we live for!”

Here’s a little Elizabeth Mitchell singing “Freight Train.”  She even rides the train to visit her friend named Jojo!