Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Frugal Beauty. Swan Shed.

If you’ve been coming to Smithellaneous very long, you know that I sometimes share some of the beautiful writings from my younger sister, Ruth. Before I post one today, though, I’d like to show you another way that she expresses beauty.

As a bit of background: Ruth and Arnold have lived in rural Wisconsin ever since they were married. Along with their kids, they lived in a quaint, charming, temperamental, beloved old farm house until it burned to the ground several years ago.

Starting from scratch, on the very land where the farmhouse once stood, Arnold started re-building. Except for getting the rafters in place and laying the foundation, Arnold did every bit of the work himself. Is he a talented fella or what? (Of course, Ruth was right beside him all the way, helping in a hundred different ways.)

When the house was built, they did an almost miraculous job of furnishing and decorating it. You have to remember that every stick of furniture and decoration they owned went up in smoke and they were having to start from scratch. You also need to know that Ruth is one of the thriftiest people I know and is just about allergic to buying anything new. In these pictures, the only new things you will see are the major pieces of furniture, which they bought at an overstock/damaged goods store. Everything else was bought at yard sales, thrift stores, auctions, etc.

Ruth and Arnold did such an incredible job of creating a simple, lovely home; here are a few pictures showing their new “humble palace,” set amidst the rolling fields of Wisconsin.

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Here is the Rehberg family in 2006 at my mom and dad’s 50th anniversary celebration. Ruth was reading a piece she had written for mom and dad and started crying so they came up to comfort her. Tears and comfort among people who love each other reveals yet another kind of beauty!


And speaking of beauty, here is another piece of Ruth’s writing. It’s especially timely in that it mentions September—the month we’re in and the month of Ruth’s birthday.


By Ruth Rehberg

It is mid-morning and a rising mist borne on a light breeze swirls my hair. The evocative scent of the salt laden sea is faint on the moving air. I breathe in, eyes closed and smile. That smell always brings to me a sense of urgency and a reckless desire to explore; it makes me feel like I need to move, to search, to run, to soar, to do anything, in fact, but stand still. But standing still is what I am doing at the moment, fixing my gaze on a weather beaten, tin shed that is sitting at an angle far off in the rough field before me.

I set out toward it, avoiding heavy clods of earth, brushing the blowing hair from my eyes, scanning the broad, deserted field which is empty except for the small shed perched so precariously on the earth. I imagine that it is the only source of habitation for miles and miles on these coastal plains of North Carolina. I am set back in time a bit, alone but not lonely, free at that moment to be whoever I wish--maybe just plain old me, or maybe someone new. Free to explore the hidden paths of life stretching in a tantalizing array of twists and turns, far ahead in my youthful imagination.

Having recently arrived at the fresh age of eighteen in that misty month of September, I am intent on taking life moment by moment. The future is full of goodness and nothing can touch the glory and brightness it holds, spotless and pure in my mind, absolutely breathtaking. I am young, strong and unperturbed by worry or doubts that may lie sunken like pesky potholes, just waiting for my sure feet to plunge into. Youthful optimism assures me that I will deftly evade such silly traps. I am smart and sure of myself, more than I’ve ever been before. Fascinating adulthood looms magnificently ahead me.

What is so hard about being an adult anyway? The dull picture of drudgery portrayed by a few plodding people is not for me; no unwanted responsibilities will weigh me down. I mentally make this important decision with naïve determination as I trudge closer to the shed. I will live my life with constant, positive hope and beauty, eagerly seizing life’s open bag of surprises that lures me onward to always explore, always be fully alive.

The gray shed has three windows, no glass, a rotting floor and a creaking, one-hinged door. A brown field mouse makes a hurried departure under the gaping floorboards as I sit down and stretch my legs on the sloping doorstep. Perfect. A private place to dream and to while away an hour or so. The sun warms the tall grasses, touching my uplifted face and emboldening the songbirds to flit and soar, singing on wings of enviable grace and freedom.

After a wonderfully endless time of relaxing and musing about nothing much at all, a strange sound comes to me over the damp, salty breeze. Craning my neck around the corner of the lopsided door, I see a huge flock of migrating, whistling swans circling low. Some are starting to settle on the wide field and a thrill surges up in me. I love these rare, beautiful birds, so huge and cottony white, emitting endearing honks that carry a distinctive tone of vulnerability.

Some sense of implicit trust is communicated in their ceaseless calling to one another. They seem so connected yet still so individual. They are able to rise and fly at any second or else they can decide to just keep flocking about in cozy chaos, brushing up against other regal white wings, content to abide in the atmosphere of the flock community. It is beautiful, the sight of these living colors mixing effortlessly--black earth and white bird, the two basic hues from which other colors emerge.

I could listen to their wild, winsome voices all day; instead though, I begin a slow, stealthy approach toward the flapping, feeding ground. Not content to observe them from a distance, I decide that I must get closer, rush right into their exclusive circle and be invigorated by the wild spirit they spill so lavishly out into the cool day--free for the taking.

The radiance of their majestic forms puffs up like milkweed fluff, spirited shadows scudding off into the fall breeze, calling me to join their royal parade over the mottled earth. Their beauty and glory is striking against this natural background and I feel that their brief presence has somehow hallowed this drab parcel of ground. A shock treatment of splendid glory has illuminated it, a shining, white waltz of flowing music is the transient scene I am beholding.

Moving, pausing . . .moving, pausing . . .I am making progress toward my swan flock. They’re still there, watchful but not alarmed. Their form and movements are throwing out rays of magnetism to me, I want to be enclosed in the fluid company of downy soft bodies, plunge into their midst and inhale the wild magic fluttering off their huge, wing tips.

Suddenly a few dozen swans lift off, honking fervently, releasing anxiety to the milling crowd below. I hold my breath and stop stock-still. The grounded birds crane long nervous necks worriedly around, then settle down once more, intent on feeding and rest. Crouching low, I continue closer, wondering how I should go about covering the last few yards between us.

Breaking into a run I’m there, flowing right into the rising current of a colossal take-off. A hundred huge, writhing bodies hurtle skyward, pulled into the windy heavens by invisible cords of power and strength. The sound of whirring wings rushes into my head, rapturous music to my eager ears. Head held back, I’m looking up into the blur of a feathery storm of swans blown above the gravitational hold of earth, reaching for warm, lofty airwaves, rapidly leaving this humble sanctuary behind.

As I stand far below still gazing, they merge into the instinctive “V” formation, the cry of adventure ringing in their whistling song. I am silent and rooted, frozen like a clay statue, still watching until the last speck of the flock is gone.

Was it worth joining them, disturbing their peaceful existence just to satisfy my selfish spirit? Just to try and inhale some of their wild nature?

Yes, it was, I decide. To mingle with the glory of nature is always worthwhile; we do so little of it, letting it pass by with open but staring, unseeing eyes, content to trod our human pathways, rarely glancing or pausing to be uplifted by the natural world around us all.

I learned something that day. I learned to take any moment available. I learned to soak my life in the available solitude and peace that is swirling visibly alongside my daily life. It is always there, somewhere, if I care to seek it out. I found a way to enrich my soul at the sweet age of eighteen. Harmless, positive, free and magnificent. What a great gift has been given . . .take and receive.

Traveling on into new years of marriage and responsibility, away from that idealistic time, I keep the gift close by, protecting and sharing it with my children, hoping they will perceive the wonder of this bountiful world sooner than I did. It’s always here, never failing, continuously filling the physical senses with immense awe and amazement that has flooded the people of our earth since the first whistling swan took joyful flight . . . from the open hand of God.

6 Had Something To Say (Just click here!):

Anonymous said...

OK, so both of my sister's writings should totally be published. How to do that?

Anybody with publishing connections out there? I'll be their agent! :-)

Deb (The Third Sister)

Guerrina said...

Marvelous! Wish I could meet swans like that! Only ones I meet are WAY too non-social!

MaryH said...

Beautiful home and beautiful writing.

Becky, I am sorry about the additional surgery - hope this is the final hurdle you have to get past.

Also, happy belated 21st birthday to Nathan - it is such a great milestone and I am glad Steve was able to be with him - you and Sarah and Snowy were there in his heart - you all should be very proud of that wonderful man you raised.

Anonymous said...

Ruth's writing is magnificent! She should write a book!


Anonymous said...

Ruths's writing was descriptive; a beautiful psalm of praise of God's wonder and beauty.

MaryH said...

Okay, after looking and looking and looking again at Ruth's home, I am in awe of her ability to furnish her home so beautifully from yard sales and such. She should not only be published for her writing but also her decorating skills. What talent. Thank you for sharing her with us, Becky.