Happy Spooky Cozy Halloween

October 30, 2009 at 5:18 pm | Posted in cats, country life, country living, faith, family, food, gardening, gifts, Halloween, Holidays, Life, love, photography, pumpkin recipes | 4 Comments
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Hope you have a Happy Halloween, and may the love and generosity of The Great Pumpkin and the Witch and Ghost he hangs out with be bestowed upon you and yours throughout the coming holiday season.






Copyright © 2009 J. L. Fleckenstein ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

The hawk came calling

February 17, 2009 at 3:22 pm | Posted in art, cats, country life, dogs, faith, family, flowers, knitting, Life, love, pets, photography, snow | 11 Comments
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17feb09_prettystuffOne morning last week, when we still had much snow on the ground, I was sitting in the living room with my daughter when she said she saw a hawk high up in a tree over the river. I looked out the window and saw him too, way up on a branch sitting perfectly framed close to the trunk of the tree. It was a great photo op. I hesitated though, because I was lounging in my red union suit — yes, it has a flap in the back and everything — and I knew that by the time I threw on some snow pants, a coat, a scarf, some gloves, boots, and a hat and got out the door with the camera the hawk would most likely be gone.

A couple of minutes later he was still there and I realized I needed to seize the moment regardless of how likely it was it he might leave. I ran through the house, grabbed the camer and changed to a long lens then ran to my snow clothing that is piled on things around the back door. After bundling up and grabbing for the door knob I heard my daughter yell from the living room that the hawk had flown away.

17feb09_blu3I told her I was going out anyway to see if I could find him anywhere. So out I traipsed on outside through the snow in search of the hawk. He was long gone, but I enjoyed searching for him and while I was doing so I found many other interesting sights and sounds.

It was a gorgeous winter day with blue sky and golden sunlight, shadows showed up in crisp detail on smooth a smooth ground of heavy windblown snow. Blu was outside with me, poking his nose around in the snow and running here and there.

When I was out front the cats became interested in both Blu and me. One by one they stretched and made their way off the porch down into the yard toward me. Yin sat up prairie dog style to look up over a snow trench and watch Blu’s antics. She sat like that for the longest time, turning this way and that and watching things going on in the yard.

17feb09_yin1All seven of Kat Kat’s off spring from her two litters do the prairie dog thing. Kat Kat doesn’t do it at all, but all of her “children” do. They look really funny sitting around that way, and I am happy to have caught Yin in that position with my camera.

I made my way out back to the barn and the trees, the various shrubs and branches poking up through the snow. I was fascinated by the flowing shadows giving bare and seemingly dead raspberry canes and wild grasses glow with aesthetic grace.

If you recall Rhoda, our antique tree peony, and how I have captured her many stages of growth. This is what she looks like in mid-winter amidst a deep, hard snow.

This experience with the hawk taught me yet again one of the most important lessons I have learned in life: seize the moment. The hawk landed on that branch and stayed there long enough to get my attention. He beckoned me outdoors with my camera, promising a wonderful photo op once I got myself in gear.

17feb09_rhoda1He didn’t promise I would catch him with my lens, but he did promise beauty and interest. I answered his call, albeit somewhat hesitantly, and was rewarded with rich opportunities that I would not have had otherwise.

Isn’t life like this. Something pulls you onward and you move. The thing you thought you were reaching for eludes you, poof it’s gone. At that moment you can sit there and be disappointed and believe you missed your opportunity. Or, you can keep going and keep looking. Perhaps your opportunity is yet to be discovered and the first thing you reached for was just something to get you moving and alert.

Don’t give up at that point, move and act and look and see. Something is most certainly there but you have to make yourself available.

That’s the trick, making yourself available in life.

17feb09_shadowart1There is a guy who attends our church and he had a powerful feeling that he should buy a little cafe near his home out on the shores of Lake Ontario. He tried to buy the little place last year but it didn’t work out. For some reason he kept reaching for it, and now he found some other people to buy it and they want him and his wife to run it. Now, this guy has a really “good” job right now working at a fairly new hydroponics plant nearby. He is a plant manager there, and in this economy it is a positive thing to have a good secure job.

Unfortunately, the guy he works for is a jerk of some kind who works his people into the ground in order to keep his own profit high. Our friend has had to miss out on many of life’s beautiful moments working long, arduous hours at the plant sometimes seven days a week.

His wife quit her job a few months back — I don’t know why. The plan until recently was that he would keep his unhappy job and she would manage the cafe. A week ago he announced at church that he has decided to retire from his job this summer and will work full time with his wife at the cafe.

Side Bar: For my knitting readers, be sure to see this week’s knitting progress and news of upcoming pattern releases at The Knitting Blog. Also, I have added a few new needle felted items to Firefly’s Studio.

It sounds like a bad idea, doesn’t it? He has a job, it is a pretty sure thing. And he’s leaving it to run a cafe with his wife; doesn’t he know how risky the restaurant business is and isn’t he painfully aware as we all are about the poor economy we are all grinding our way through right now?

But, here’s the thing. He is miserable in his job, and he works for someone who he doesn’t like or respect. He is giving up hours and hours of his life every day and week to do a job he doesn’t enjoy and help a man who doesn’t seem to have regard for his fellow man to become more profitable.

Our friend said it this way, he said that he knows God has some kind of plans for him and he needs to make himself available. His current job keeps him so busy for so many hours of so many weeks throughout the year that if he stays in that job, regardless of the security of it, he will not be available for something that might be more important and more worthwhile. So, he is taking what seems like a big risk and making himself available. I have a very good feeling that things are going to turn out very fine for him and his wife, in spite of all “evidence” to the contrary, because he is making himself available.

17feb09_easterbunnyThat is the key: making yourself available. That doesn’t mean everyone should fly off the handle and quit their jobs. That’s what it meant for our friend, but that isn’t what it would mean for someone else.

It just means that when a hawk comes calling … whoever or whatever the hawk is, make yourself available and see what turns up. Get out there and be involved in your life in refreshing and surprising ways. Bundle up and get out into the world and if the first thing you are reaching for eludes you don’t get discouraged.

Chances are, something even better is just up ahead or around a corner.

I wish you well,

A sense of wonder

December 11, 2008 at 2:43 pm | Posted in art, baby, blogging, cats, Christmas, country life, faith, family, gardening, gifts, Holidays, knitting, Life, love, marriage, pets, photography, relationships, romance, snow, Thanksgiving | 23 Comments
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08dec08_2carolersoutsideWhere has the time gone; where have the leaves, the sky, the green grasses gone. It is nearly one full month to the day since I have posted.  My intent is to post once per week, to treat this blog as a weekly feature and responsibility that my readers depend upon. Regardless of my best intentions, time has lapsed. Here I am, at last.

We have enjoyed several snowfalls by now, a quiet and loving Thanksgiving has come and gone as winter reaches round our cheeks and necks, up our sleeves and down our collars. Cold, cold chill is in the air and the snow outside brings with it a sense of wonder.

Eight cats and kittens reside on our front porch, which is enclosed on three sides and offers some protection from the elements. Since the arrival of the first magic cat more than one year ago, we no longer hear critters great and small running around inside our old farmhouse walls and rafters. These cats are hunters and survivers, barn cats who roam our fields and the banks of our river.

08dec08_seqyek1The cats bring with them love, play, entertainment and … a sense of wonder.

As I write this entry a heavy, wet snow falls steadily and wind blows it hard against tree trunks, branches, sign posts, and window sills.

I think of holiday events coming in the days ahead, of treasures I have recently made in my studio, and of magical events coming in the days and months ahead. I am filled with a sense of wonder.

There is news to share … come spring a child will be born and my husband and I will become grandparents. Is that not something! I think ahead to Christmas times in the future and the fun we will all have creating and participating in that extraordinary magic light that children and childhood bring to Christmas. What plans we all have, what dreams.

08dec08_twodecorateThis is a time for dreams and love. I am not only referring to this time as for my family, but this time as for you and yours as well. You see, we all need to continue to remind ourselves and each other that we are the creators of our own feelings and attitudes towards life.

It is easy to forget that you are the one who gets to decide how you feel about and what you think about life … and yet, it is true. Sometimes it is a difficult responsibility to accept, and that is also true.

Several years ago I set out on a quest in my own life to resolve inner conflicts I had regarding money and finances and the material side of life. I have lived through and suffered through times of great scarcity. The most painful of those times were when I was raising my children alone and out of both work and money.

During those times, I would wake up each morning wondering how I would pay whichever bill was due that day, or buy a bit of gas to get to someplace I had to go, buy some groceries to last a few more days as I waited for a check to arrive.

08dec08_thistleonian2One particular Christmas many years ago I had no job and my car broke down a month or two before Christmas. We were so low on money that it hurt inside and out.

I write of these things not to bring sorrow or sadness to my readers, not to gain pity or sympathy. To have experienced adversity and found ways to experience joy and love and cheer in spite of my financial circumstances  gave me strength and inner lights that I would not trade for all the money in the world.

Without a job to go to and without a car to drive, that Christmas season I had much time on my hands.  Luckily I also had the full use of my creative mind and spirit.   I am not saying it wasn’t sad or worrisome to be in that situation but looking back on it I know that situation was an opportunity, not a tragedy.

With just barely enough money coming in to buy food and very basic necessities, but Christmas gifts were out of reach. However, I did have watercolor paper and paints, fabrics, art board, and various other supplies here and there in my home.

08dec08_littlesknitter2Watercolor supplies became portraits of nieces and nephews to give to brothers and sisters and their spouses. Scraps of beautiful red velvet fabric and snow white rope braid stashed away became handsewn Santa costumes and bags for two small bears I had on hand. I even happened to have a bit of actual gold leaf on hand in my art supplies, and my son and I made two magic boxes for the Santa costumed bears to “bear”. My son made the boxes — nice cube shaped boxes and tops. We covered them in wrapping paper and lined them with the gold leaf.

The two teddy bears with costumes, Santa bags, and magic boxes were gifts for my parents and one brother and his family; portraits went to others.

On Christmas Day when we gathered with family my children and I felt all tingly inside about the gifts we were bearing. I think the most wonderful moment that day was when we handed my younger brother’s gift to him.  As he opened his gift he found two portraits, one of each of his boys. They were two of my best children’s portraits ever. He instantly sprang to his feet and came across the room to embrace and thank me, with tears in his eyes. I had no idea the paintings would mean so much to him, and it touched me deeply that I had been able to do something for him that meant so much.

08dec08_littlestknitterHe told me that earlier, when we had arrived he had seen the shape and size of the packages we carried in and he had a feeling there were paintings involved. The thought occurred to him there might be a painting of his boys, and he trembled — literally trembled — in anticipation.  That is a touching Christmas memory.

I had no idea, no idea at all the solution to my Christmas problem would create such a deeply felt response in someone else.

It was a magic Christmas and one of my best Christmas memories. There were several years when we faced similar problems and in each case my children and I used our creativity and love to find and spread the real spirit of the season. Mostly, we found the spirit within ourselves by solving the Christmas problem when it arouse.

08dec08_barnA few years ago my mother told my daughter and I about what Christmas was like when she was a child in the rural farmlands of North Carolina. At that time, getting a walnut and a piece of citrus fruit as your special Christmas gift was a huge, magical experience. She shared memories with us of her parents going to their church on Christmas Eve, standing in line to receive nuts and oranges to give to their children.

Wonder of wonders, children receiving the humble gift of a walnut and possibly an orange on Christmas morning were cheerfully grateful and filled with an inner sense of magic and joy.

How do such memories compare with recent stories of stampedes of people “Christmas” shopping the day after Thanksgiving in the lustful glee of getting their hands on one of a limited supply of electronic gadgets or high priced toys at bargain prices.

Is it any wonder the world is in financial turmoil right now? Has mankind not allowed him/herself to become contorted out of shape emotionally and spiritually in thinking that happiness lies in items that can be procured from shelves in stores. Have people not traded their financial souls to the devil by buying far too much  “stuff” on credit , undoing their own future security and happiness in order to get the buzz of the “new” right now? 

08dec08_yinyangIn my experience happiness and pleasure and magical moments in life reside in the quiet, humble, simple corners and folds of the lives we live.

Fail to notice those little places and things, fail to value the humble bits in life and you will fail to cash in on the greatest gifts your life holds. Those are the gifts it would be tragic to miss out on, not the things that are found on a store shelf at a discounted price during a sale the day after Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving, Christmas … gratitude for God’s gifts, the gifts of life. Peace on Earth, goodwill toward men. If we instill in ourselves the simple, clear and down-to-earth sense of wonder that this season is truly about we have a chance of instilling that same sense of wonder in our children and grandchildren and leaving traces of the magic we create in the lives of men to come.

08dec08_wreathThis holiday season I celebrate with the anticipate of a grandchild who I will endeavour to inspire with a sense of wonder about every day life.  Of course, we will amp it up to even higher proportions each and every holiday season.

What fun I will have showing her how to gather wild things from the environment, dry them in the oven, and organize them.  Then each and every November I will will teach her how to transform some of nature’s ingredients into magical little Thistleonian characters, miniature wreaths, table decorations, and Christmas tree ornaments.

I will write and tell her stories of both fiction and my actual life … the good stuff, the best stuff that holds all the magic and wonder of the better parts of life.

It is the winter, Christmas season … do you have your sense of wonder on?

Ho, ho, ho and merry times to you and yours. 🙂



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