About Mary Ann

Kitchen Keepers is a blog for sharing good memories, good stories and good recipes. I have been asked to record family recipes which have been favorites for many years, adding to their story every time they are prepared and enjoyed as well as those newcomers which have their own story. Since I believe growing and preparing your own food is not only a pleasure but an art which is worthy of passing on, I am pleased to begin. Gathering around our table has been so much more than providing physical nourishment for me. For as we gather, whatever the table shape may be, we form a circle, a place of conversation and knowing and caring. Expressing our gratitude for the provision of food and family, giving thanks for bread and baker, we enter a sacred space. .

Listen to the Flowers

These days of quarantine and isolation require focus to capture moments of blessing and beauty. Even without roses in my garden, if I pay attention, I don’t have to look far to be surprised by joy and simple lessons from growing things. My friend hand stamped some concrete blocks with the lines I quote so often from Mary Oliver “Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.” I think of her hard work, pressing the letters one by one into the hardening blocks. I think of her smile when she brought them to our back yard. No hugs as we once would have enjoyed. No lingering visit with thoughtful conversation. But a sparkling smile and eyes that danced and the gift of her hands needed to be enough, so they were.The blocks are not laid like stepping stones but standing at the edge of roses and touch-me-nots where I see them from my bedroom window.

If you are not familiar with the old fashioned flower called touch-me-not, it is lovely and unusual. When the flowers fade, fat seed pods grow rounder and fuller until they pop open at the slightest touch, scattering seeds. All the flowers behind the stones in the photo below have returned from last year’s seeds. Seeds of hope are nourished right now in what can feel like a hopeless time.

The flowers preach and these stones sing out love and promise.

 

Consider the Lilies of the Field

Flowers preach to us if we will hear:
The rose saith in the dewy morn:
I am most fair;
Yet all my loveliness is born
Upon a thorn.
The poppy saith amid the corn:
Let but my scarlet head appear
And I am held in scorn;
Yet juice of subtle virtue lies
Within my cup of curious dyes.
The lilies say: Behold how we
Preach without words of purity.
The violets whisper from the shade
Which their own leaves have made:
Men scent our fragrance on the air,
Yet take no heed
Of humble lessons we would read.
But not alone the fairest flowers:
The merest grass
Along the roadside where we pass,
Lichen and moss and sturdy weed,
Tell of His love who sends the dew,
The rain and sunshine too,
To nourish one small seed.

Source: Christina Rosetti , Goblin Market, The Prince’s Progress, and Other Poems 

The Next Step

Yesterday one of my granddaughters called me to ask questions from her 6th grade art assignment. When she finished interviewing me, I asked her the same questions. She will be 12 this year. I will be 80. We both have questions; we both have some answers.  There are questions that seem impossible to answer. This week marks the one year mark of recovery for me after a serious injury. Now, our world is reeling from injury of more kinds than we can count. I am thankful that in this prayer from Every Moment Holy by Doug McKelvey.I see the words “But You…”  

 

“In a world so wired and interconnected,
our anxious hearts are pummeled by
an endless barrage of troubling news.
We are daily aware of more grief, O Lord,
than we can rightly consider,
of more suffering and scandal
than we can respond to, of more
hostility, hatred, horror, and injustice
than we can engage with compassion.

But you, O Jesus, are not disquieted by such news of cruelty and terror and war.
You are neither anxious nor overwhelmed.
You carried the full weight of the suffering of a broken world when you hung upon
the cross, and you carry it still.

When the cacophony of universal distress unsettles us, remind us that we are but small
and finite creatures, never designed to carry the vast abstractions of great burdens,
for our arms are too short and our strength is too small. Justice and mercy, healing and
redemption, are your great labors.

And yes, it is your good pleasure to accomplish
such works through your people,
but you have never asked any one of us
to undertake more than your grace
will enable us to fulfill.

Guard us then from shutting down our empathy
or walling off our hearts because of the glut of
unactionable misery that floods our awareness.
You have many children in many places
around this globe. Move each of our hearts
to compassionately respond to those needs
that intersect our actual lives, that in all places
your body might be actively addressing
the pain and brokenness of this world,
each of us liberated and empowered by
your Spirit to fulfill the small part
of your redemptive work assigned to us.

Give us discernment
in the face of troubling news reports.
Give us discernment
to know when to pray,
when to speak out,
when to act,
and when to simply
shut off our screens
and our devices,
and to sit quietly
in your presence,

casting the burdens of this world
upon the strong shoulders
of the one who
alone
is able to bear them up”.

Amen.

This liturgy is from Every Moment Holy by Doug McKelvey.

 

 

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Savoring Garden Grace

WhenWhen my son and granddaughters were with us in the first days of this new year, my thiirteen year old granddaughter wanted to paint in the prayer garden at our church. While she sketched and painted with oil pastels, I savored being back in this space after a long absence. I have written before about this small garden and ancient oak tree. I have photographed the labyrinth and written about its prayer walk. The word I chose for a focus word for 2020 is savor but I didn’t even think intentionally about that. My joy in being back there, watching Maddie take it all in and put her impressions into her work was complete.

Later, when I hung her painting on my wall, it came to mind that savoring was just what we were doing. Although there were benches there, my back injury keeps me walking, so I walked the prayer walk and around the garden paths over and over. I took photos of Maddie, and dappled sunlight through a dozen different kinds of leaves.

The walker I need to use now does not travel as well on grass or sand or pebbles, so that part of walking was a different effort for me. It was a listening walk for me. I heard the rustle of oak leaves, wind, scattering dry leaves, soft notes from a wind chime, distant sounds of a train and cars, closer sounds of nearby lawn care. She was absorbed in creating. We savored this place and this time. When I made a turn in the labyrinth, I saw that the wheels of my walker had left tracks in the spiral next to me, reminding me I leave prints behind regardless of  my manner or speed. I won’t forget that lesson. I love Maddie’s art work and enjoy it often. But the picture of her dear head bent over her work will always accompany it in my mind.

 

A Growing Edge

It is the last day of 2019. Will my thoughts be of the past year or will I pause on the cusp of a new beginning? I am asking questions. What is my growing edge? How am I able to move beyond unwanted circumstance and find new wonder, new ways to encourage, new resolve? What is your growing edge?

“Look well to the growing edge. All around us worlds are dying and new worlds are being born;all around us life is dying and life is being born. The fruit ripens on the tree, the roots are silently at work in the darkness of the earth against a time when there shall be no new lives, fresh blossoms, green fruit. Such is the growing edge! It is the extra breath from the exhausted lung, the one more thing to try when all else has failed, the upward reach of life when weariness closes in upon all endeavor. This is the basis of hope in moments of despair, the incentive to carry on when times are out of joint and men have lost their reason, the source of confidence when worlds crash and dreams whiten into ash. The birth of the child – life’s most dramatic answer to death – this is the growing edge incarnate. Look well to the growing edge”.  ~ Howard Thurman

Water for Dry Roots

On this first day of Advent 2019, I am drawn to these photographs I took early one morning from our back porch. I learn so much from paying attention to gifts of green and lingering mist on the lake and leaves in our garden.

Water for Dry Roots

Lord, send my roots rain.

I need water for dried up hope.

I stand on tiptoe, reaching for Light.

I yearn to be watered by Grace.

 

I need water for dried up roots

Clouds of unknowing clear.

I can be watered by Grace

leaving drops for my growing roots.

 

Clouds of unknowing lift,

bathing my thirsty soul.

Grace gathers on my greening heart.

I have a God of green hope.

 

Gratitude salts my tears.

Thank you for sending rain.

Roots grow again.

I reach toward Light.

Simple pantoum, inspired by need, by receiving the gift of these photos on a morning I so needed to be reminded, and by Advent readings.

Seeing for the First Time

I was given a gift of waiting yesterday. When I finished a medical appointment I waited outside for my kind daughter in law to finish a meeting of her own and come back to drive me. Our mid October weather was refreshing, perfect for walking. Most hospitals  have landscaped outside areas, many changed out with annuals seasonally. But years ago, some wise plan included a group of Bald Cypress trees where I walked. Since I was on a sidewalk at the edge of a parking area where the trees are planted on a sloping lawn, it was easy to admire the shape of tree and the grace of drooping foliage.

I noticed the ground near my walkway was dotted with odd cylindrical shapes I recognized as Cypress knees. They had been sliced off even with the ground so that the inside was exposed as a cross section. This left dozens of them, scattered randomly beyond the tree nearest me, an art gallery on the ground!  The photograph above is only one of many I took, every one beautifully unique. A few fragments of grass and cypress needles garnished each whorled creation, a palette of cream and bronze and browns.

We once planted one of these trees in our yard, recommended by a gardening friend as one of the most underrated trees in our area. It did not grow knees, but structures can emerge from the root system that allow adaptation to wet sites. The knees I saw yesterday were on the down side of a slope, even emerging on the other side of a sidewalk. I wondered if slicing them off endangered the trees, so I read more about them.

I found that this tree grows slowly for about 200 years, growing up to 150 feet tall and it usually lives for 600 years. Some are said to survive for over 1000 years. Like our beloved Oak Trees, generations pass under their branches.

The answer to my question?  Unlike broad-leafed trees, the cypress won’t send up new root sprouts from the wound. According to an article in the Houston Chronicle, carefully trimming the knees will not harm the tree. In this case, it provides beauty for anyone who stops to notice, possibly thousands passing by on the way to a hospital room or a doctor’s office. I am grateful for a season in time and life to walk, to wait, and to pay attention.  You see, I have been to this place many times, but this is the first time I walked, waited, and paid attention.

 

 

T

Flowering

Night Blooming Cereus   September 26, 2019

change begins, barely noticeable

 pay attention to little things

wait expectantly

in anticipation of fleeting beauty

flowering in a dark, dry night

Over 4 years ago, a friend mailed me a brown envelope containing 2 different varieties of several long narrow “leaves.” These were actually leaf-like structures, flattened stems that function like leaves. Following my friend’s instructions, I stuck each of these into pots where they easily rooted. I lost one of the plants to an unexpected temperature drop 2 years ago. The remaining plant had one bloom last summer that we missed until it was withered.

A few days ago, almost by accident I saw a bit of growth on the edge of one of the flat stems and sent a photo to the friend who sent me the start of the plant. She confirmed it was a flower bud. That meant watching the plant carefully for the next 2 or 3 days. As the growth lengthened and began to swell, anticipation grew so that by the evening I felt it was sure to open, I was bound to stay up and watch. How magical!

Night blooming Cereus may not begin to flower until the rooted plant is four or five years old. It only blooms in the dark.  The flower is almost 7 inches across and is fragrant, borne off the tops of the stems. The bloom usually begins at 9 or 10 p.m. and is fully open by midnight. After the sun rises, the petals droop and die.

Stitched Together

Photograph of briar stitching on a crazy quilt made by Mary Clyde Terrell, 1887 – 1977.

This week our sons, one of our granddaughters,  and my husband traveled to North Texas for the burial of Joe’s brother, Pasco Parker. My stage of recovery from a spinal injury did not allow me to travel that distance. In the days they were gone, naturally a flood of family memories and reflections surfaced as I pictured the gathering that was taking place.

There were 5 brothers in Joe’s family of origin. Now he, the youngest,  remains, along with his oldest sibling, a sister. As those siblings decrease in number, the increase in numbers of their descendants is great. Family. Stitched together by blood and bone.

Over 42 years ago I lost the grandmother whose gnarled hands lovingly created the art of stitches pictured above. But there remained so much more than I could have then imagined.  When she passed into eternal life,  her family and legacy of faith grew and continued. As our family leans into the days and years ahead, there is certainty along with uncertainty.  There has been and will be loss. But there is also continuing connection, something we cannot lose. Those who have gone before and those who are to come are stitched together.

 

 

 

 

 

Leaving Prints

When we moved in 2016, there were many choices made about keeping. After so many years and so many moves in our married life, Joe and I were joining households with our son Ben and his wife Kristen, our granddaughter Nora (at the time, 2 years old) and Oliver, who was born later that year. Every move meant sorting and packing and rearranging to fit us into new space. As years went by, we changed some things, discarded some things, and  of course, acquired some things. As much work as each move entailed, I always enjoyed the part of unpacking where we chose what would go where, and the ways in which we would make the new place home.  When we did that, I invariably linked many things sentimentally with where we had acquired them, how they had previously been used, and remembered their story.

This small handprint is part of a pair of handprints on a mirror. The mirror is part of a larger wooden piece which we found in the attic of our beloved Victorian house in our hometown, Jacksonville, TX. The house was built in 1904 by John Wesley Love and has its own story here: https://mappingsforthismorning.blogspot.com/2010/10/home_3697.html

I am not sure of the origin of this piece, but I am sure it is part of something else – a mantel, the top of an organ, I don’t know. The original mirror suffered damage in one of the moves so we had that replaced but we have found a place to hang this in every home we have made since 1982. I was sure we wanted to keep it with us this time. Only after I had it hung in my bedroom (over a fireplace) here did I notice the sweet reminders that a granddaughter had left her touch. It must have been while the piece was sitting down on the floor waiting to be moved or hung. It must have been Nora, who was 2 at the time. MIrrors are always a fascination, a mystery to babies and toddlers. This week, she started Kindergarten, out the door in her school uniform.. In what seems like only a few heartbeats, she is reaching for new mysteries, leaving more handprints.

I know that no matter how much she grows, Nora has and will always leave her touch, her handprint on not just a mirror, but on me, a God given blessing. The same is true for all my grandchildren . I  don’t know  how the marks I leave behind will be noticed  or make a difference, but I am aware that I am leaving prints behind as well.