Monday, August 18, 2014

Sunbeams and Sunflowers

Sunbeams and Sunflowers
“The friendship between Emily and Dolly deepened with time. They shared a passion for flowers, reading and little children, and were lucky enough to find plenty of each to keep them happy.” Miss Clare Remembers 
The Lady-of-the-House is in the middle of reading Miss Clare Remembers by Miss Read. It is the fictional biography of Dolly Clare, the older teacher in the two-room schoolhouse of the Fairacre series, whose childhood memories begin in the 1880s. This is the Lady-of-the-House’s second or third reading of it. Have you noticed, that in a subsequent reading something pops up that was less striking before? Beginning chapter 9 the Lady-of-the-House paused. What a sweet set of girlhood delights, she thought; friendship, flowers, books and little children.

Andreola children 1991

Reminiscing during these summer days she recalls the sunflowers she and her children started from seed (in 1991) and planted up against the house – the sunniest part of our suburban front garden.

Their sunflower experiment made it into The Parents’ Review, later into A Charlotte Mason Companion - yet again into Pocketful of Pinecones. When sunflowers turn up, they turn the heads of passers-by. How can they fail to impress children with their towering stalks that emerge from little seeds?

Fast-forward ten summers. The Lady-of-the-House remembers her daughters playing a sunny song on their string instruments for the little children of VBS.

“I’ll be a Sunbeam” is a happy sounding children’s hymn. Opening the old hymnbook, the violinist improvised with the right-hand piano part, while the cellist played the “oom pah-pahs of the left. It brought a cheery atmosphere to the little country church in Appleton and was a good reminder to share the light we’ve received with a sort of radiant living.

Hymn I'll Be A Sunbeam

“Jesus wants me for a sunbeam, to shine for Him each day” is simply put, with child-like friendliness. But perhaps too easily dismissed as “quaint.” For Christians of all ages, it is a high and worthy ideal. Apostle Peter explains how we can live in the sunshine with “joy inexpressible” through this world’s trials - by keeping our “believing” eyes on Jesus. (1 Peter 1:3-9)

It is August on the early pages of Lessons at Blackberry Inn. During her weeks of recuperation Carol had memorized every crack in the walls and the way the afternoon sun cast polka-dot shadows through the eyelet curtains. It was the sunshine through the window glass that made her patience run out. Leaving her bed one day sooner than doctor’s orders, she couldn’t wait to sit under a tree with her husband Michael and feel the warm breeze and dabbled sunlight on her face.

Squinting at the blue sky above her, the lines of a children’s poem came to mind, from R. L. Stevenson’s “Summer Sun.”

Above the hills, along the blue,
Round the bright air with footing true,
To please the child, to paint the rose,
The gardener of the World, he goes. 

Wood Lily  Lilium Philadelphicum

The gardener of the world has been kept busy in this part of it. On a walk to the mailbox the Man-of-the-House was first to spot something red in the woods. He pointed it out to the Lady-of-the-House who had to look up his “find” in her Audubon field guide. In all her years of Nature Study she hadn’t yet stumbled upon these beautiful wildflowers. Wood Lily (Lilium philadelphicum) likes thickets. Its roots were once gathered and eaten by Indians.

The woodland border is a refuge for wildflowers and weeds. You can hardly see the house from the street through the brambles. Behind the mailbox is the tall mauve-colored Joe-Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum) in the sunflower family. It attracts a silent party of swallowtail butterflies high above the camera lens of Lady-of-the-House. Folklore tells us that an Indian Joe Pye used the plant to cure fevers.

Joe--Pye Weed Eupatorium purpureum

 The coneflowers the Lady-of-the-House planted around the lamppost are bright and bushy. They are abuzz with honeybees, with stems speckled with aphids that seem to be doing the plants no harm.

Equal in sun-hunger are the purple Echinacea. The little clump on the south side of the house, thrive. Those the Lady-of-the-House unwittingly planted on the north side died of starvation she concluded. They are hardy perennials usually, but only when fed large servings of sunbeams.

Sun-ripened fruit bend the bows. The daughter of the Lady-of-the-House went berry-pickin’ with her little guys. They were keen at the task.

At home she preserved the bounty of blackberries into jars. When she gifted a large jar of jam to her parents, Mom couldn’t resist blurting out, “Someday, when you read your mother’s home-teach-y Charlotte-Mason-inspired-story, Lessons at Blackberry Inn, I think you’ll find that you have things in common with Carol.”

“Oh?” her daughter smiled, caught off-guard by her mother’s too-forward-to-be-just-a-hint remark.

Her mother held her purple jar with admiration She softened the jest with, “This jam looks wonderful. Thank you. And seedless did you say? – Oh goodie, just the way we like it. And with blackberries picked by my little grandsons. Perfect.”

Post Script
“Summer’s lease hath all too short a date.” William Shakespeare

We’ve enjoyed the most mild, most pleasant, summer that we can ever remember. Are you sensing the brevity of it, too?

cross stitch Lessons at Blackberry Inn

I was invited to contribute a guest article for the Simply Charlotte Mason Blog. Sonya Shafer has been hosting a workshop on the method of narration. Her readers are finding questions answered along with practical tips and direction.

By-the-way, the hooked rug of sunflowers isn’t normally kept at the front door. I placed it there to photograph it in brighter light than it receives indoors.

Wishing you and I radiant living,
Karen Andreola


  1. I'm so glad to hear that you have had such a lovely, moderate summer. It has been much the same here in Texas. We have had a bumper crop of tomatoes, as many as we can use and plenty to share with neighbors. The few plants continue to produce and thrive since we have had many fewer 100 degree days. My flowers are growing well, too. What a blessing to have beauty around us outside and inside.

    Dianne L

  2. You've made me think of:

    There is sunshine in my soul today
    More glorious and bright
    Than shines in any earthly sky
    For Jesus is the light.

    We are also enjoying a somewhat milder summer. We've had a few nights down in the 50's. I can't remember the last time that happened in August in our part of the world.

    Sunflowers are such happy things!


  3. This has been the loveliest summer I can remember here in Pennsylvania. My tomatoes would like a bit more heat, but I am happy.

    Rachel grew sunflowers last year - so pretty and so many varieties! I find that I have many of the same flowers as you - including the two wild ones! I had no idea that was Joe Pye Weed, but have been wondering what it was! My black eyed susan's are still looking good, but my echinacea has been pollenized and are now losing their petals. The finches love the seed heads though and it's fun to watch them through the front window.


  4. Lovely post! I've been going down reminiscing lane of late and smiled when I read about your children growing sunflowers, as ours did too.

    We are looking forward to summer - we had a mild winter which I'm jolly greatful for.
    Love Leanne NZ

  5. I always get excited when I see an email that's a new blog post from you, Karen. I so enjoy reading your words. I loaned my well loved A Charlotte Mason Companion to another new homeschool mom the other day and it brought back so many memories.

    On the topic of Lessons at Blackberry Inn-I would be first in line to buy the book if you decided to write a sequel. ;-) I am rereading A Pocketful of Pinecones, going through it slowly so I can savor it. Thanks again for your many contributions to the homeschooling community and for your continued encouragement through the years.


  6. What a delightful post! I felt like I was breathing the fresh air outside as I looked at the photos and read your words. We too have had a remarkably cooler summer this year. How fun to have found the wood lilies! I have a garden that is full of different lily flowers and I add a new variety each spring. It is a memorial garden for our daughter Lilly. Lilium firecracker. :)

  7. Thanks for stopping by for a chat in the blog neighborhood, Ladies, with your notes and observations.

    Wouldn't you know it that 24 hours after acknowledging and appreciating our weeks of a remarkably mild summer that the weather turns. The tomatoes will get the heat and humidity they crave after all. While the challenge to be bright in spirit remains.

    We're expecting out-of-state company this week-end and are excited to see old friends from Maine.

    Karen A.

  8. Yes! we are so warm here today that the cold tap is sending out warm water. Hooray for air conditioning and shade. My mom always says, "We still have September to go, dear," when I anticipate autumn. Oh, but isn't the taste of what's to come so very nice?


  9. I love the first photo of your own little sunbeams there with their sunflowers. I am reminded of how short those days are...and I quietly wish that the current homeschooling mothers could get a glimpse of this rapid passage of time and be encouraged. We are given a few short years to invest...

    I can imagine that the jar of blackberry jam given to you by your daughter and grandsons must be the sweetest ever!

  10. 9169Lovely post! The first garden I ever planted as a young girl was sunflowers. :-) Miss Claire is a favorite of mine too, as well as Pinecones.
    Blessings and enjoy your day!

  11. Hello, Karen. While browsing you tube for help with lace knitting, I stumbled across a presentation about Shetland Islands Lace. I hungrily listened to the music in the narrator's voice. It looks to me like a place we could all go where heat would never be a problem. I wonder... Distinct seasons are a joy to me, and I'd probably end up missing the unique loveliness that summer does bring Isn't it a mercy The Lord doesn't leave us in charge of the weather!

    Still anticipating autumn,

  12. Lovely post Karen. I adore Miss Read's books, by the way, and especially Miss Clare Rememebers! Thank you for being such an inspiration to us all! God bless. ~Christie

  13. Oh Miss Clare Remembers is my favorite Miss Read books. My mother collects her books and has all of them but I treasure Miss Clare the most. Clarice

  14. We are having our second truly warm day of spring. Everything is looking lush and beautiful. The lawn will soon need its first mowing.
    Be blessed and enjoy this lovely season.
    Laura of Harvest Lane Cottage