Inside My Great Walls

Rough Sketch for Great Walls story! Time to get some good art erasers and sketching pencils!
Inside My Great Walls written by Ann Gordon, audio by John Gordon

I wrote so much about this process of starting a new story but it went somewhere in my computer wires and I can’t find it! That’s ONE way to edit! I think I’ll add it tomorrow. This story I wrote while I’ve been sick and also while I’ve been thinking so much of our son, John, his wife Catherine and their two young boys who have been staying in their apartment in Beijing for way over a month now. There are so many other families with children being affected in one way or another, by this Covid-19 virus. I can’t imagine going through any sort of Quarantine, especially if you are a child or with children! Bless them all!

John did an audio read of this story I wrote and posted it on the site where he offers many new ways for people to practice their English. He made my story sound so much better than I ever thought it could sound! Thank you, John! It was healing medicine just listening to you read it!

Inside My Great Walls written by Ann Gordon, audio by John Gordon

Magical Spaces Inside Trees

“An April Shower” Painted by Harriett M. Bennett from the book,
Old Father Time, edited by Robert Ellice Mack

This painting by Harriett M. Bennett has always been one of my favorites as I was growing up. I’m wondering if Harriett had as magical a childhood connection with trees as I did? There’s not much known about her that I can find, except that she was a very popular artist in England who painted in the late 1800’s and displayed her work at the Royal Academy from 1877 to 1892. She was born in Islington, England in 1852 and she was a daughter of an accountant.

Last time I posted, I shared a picture of me in a very similar hollow tree as this one! I was walking with my brother on the golf course at Roaring Gap, one of my magical childhood places to go visit Granny (my mother’s mother, Adele Pannill). She had a thatched cottage up there and I just LOVED going to visit in the summer! spending time with my cousins and my own brothers and sisters. On our golf course walk, it began to rain…a light mountain shower. Even if it hadn’t rained, I would have still HAD to get inside that hollow tree!

From real to imagined to real to imagined…how to express the ALL!

The imagination is a wondrous thing, whether we are children or adults with inner children embedded in our beings! I’m forever amazed at the mysteries of perception!  And of course as I write this, it’s from MY point of view!

I remember pondering this in my more studious stages in college: Once in a course called, Phenomenology and Religion of something like that. Another as I delved into it on my own in an Independent Study I created for myself at Duke, which I’ll name, A Child’s Perception of the Unseen, mysteries such as god, fairies, spirit, wind….especially dealing with a child ‘pre-lingual’ if there is such a time…for I’m convinced children are already learning language in utero.                                                                                                                              In the first course I mention, we journaled  a lot about our own perceptions and also looked at how others expressed theirs, using a benchmark book called, Visual Arts as Human Experience, by Donald L. Weismenn.

On a magical memory walk at Roaring Gap!

…He also wrote another book that fascinated me called Jelly was the Word. I remember being intrigued as I tried to ‘word’ what I perceived…”the shadows of trees on the wall…am I seeing the tree or the absence of the tree? is it the light or the dark that makes the form? does it come into my eye right-side-up or up-side-down?…and just the opposite in my brain? and if I were to draw it?…”  The questions rolled faster than my thoughts!

Now as I write…which came first…the Hillock settings and dwellings? and then my ideas? or the other way around? and in my head…first the words? or the images? from my mind? or from mine eyes?…

Each day as I walk our adventure dogs, we come to The Hillock and I’m compelled to stop…to listen, look, smell….to take in what I see…to look for mysteries to unfold, characters to come forth, clues to evoke my curious ponderings. And sometimes they come forth as easily as the slug who appeared under a rock, and responding to my unearthing his hiding place, he acts out his character in ‘rare form’ as he climbs the castle turret and extends his head and hence his whole body out in mid-air to stretch a ‘kiss?’ to the iron fairy guarding the stone wing of the one-winged bird. So from whence comes Slug, the character?… from the rock? from my mind? from the paintbrush? and what if I hadn’t months, no, years ago, plopped there the broken pieces of sand castles, the flat, moss-covered rocks, the lone iron fairy, and the piece of cedar that in some perceptual or primal order became over time, The One-Winged Bird? 

Is it my imagination that intervenes? Or is it the mysteries of the land having conversations with my imagination? Who/what shapes whom/what? The questions never stop!

Again, I’m called back into my mind to a time to my second studious situation, my independent study on ‘A Child’s Perception of the Unseen’…that’s what I’m calling it now. I think back in my college years, I had applied for my ‘independent study’ under the name I concocted: Christian Education and the Preschool Child. It was at a time on my spiritual journey when I could not STAND hearing even one more time the words: holy spirit, God, father, son, Jesus.   Even though my early years were precious and alive, and I was so authentically loved, I was an age where I needed to ‘strike out on my own’ and discover what ‘was true’ and what was really ME! I had grown up hearing these words since birth and needed to reject them and either create new ones or find their alive meanings ‘all by myself’!

I remember stumbling upon a book somewhere in the Duke Divinity School Library, where I spent hours trying to get ‘at the root truth of things…from Jesus and the Dead Sea Scrolls, to the roots of perception… It was there I came upon two words that I just LOVED…mostly because of the possibilities they brought forth in my mind: BLIKS and ONLOOKS…I must go find them again!…More on them another time!

Masks & Mosses of Bold Resilience

John Gordon, reading children’s book, “My Mask,” written by Nathan Jones

Bold resilience we HAVE. It’s a part of our DNA and actually keeps us evolving enough to take on the changes and challenges of our world. We never know our real strengths until we are put in positions where we need to use them. These boldest parts of ourselves are hidden, even to us, until we need them. Those in China and elsewhere who are quarantined or self- quarantining for the good of ALL, are BOLD and definitely RESILIENT.

Among dictionary definitions I would choose “beyond the usual limits of conventional thought or action; imaginative.” Such undaunting boldness is not going ‘out there’ but courageously staying ‘in there’ and sometimes even behind a mask. I often listen to my son John on a site he uses to connect with thousands of people in China who are wanting to practice their English. For me, it is a way to hear my grown son’s voice and continue to learn from him. After all, he and all my children have been my best teachers. The audio this time is of John, reading a children’s book written by another bold, resilient man in China. He, perhaps even more intensely than John’s family, is dealing with quarantining, masking and using other precautions to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Nathan Jones, the author of “My Mask” has gone “beyond the usual limits of conventional thought or action” to meet these challenges and to help his daughter and many other children emotionally and physically navigate what could be scary, uncomfortable times.

In such moments, we each are often abruptly nudged to bring forth our individual and often unique gifts of awareness and creativity for the good of those around us! It’s a form of Bold Compassion. I am in awe of those who are doing their part to create a caring community beyond their masks, thermometers, disinfectant sprays, and moments of discouragement and even fear. Thank you for reminding us that we too have such innate boldness to draw from in challenging times. We’re grateful for your bold resilience, compassion. You are boldly resisting the toxins in our world and creating health and learning for ALL. We send you love and encouragement in these hard times!

Moss is my model of bold resilience. It’s non-competitive and quiet about its process but always there. It blankets the earth and ALSO absorbs toxins that other life forms can’t handle. It quietly filters the worst of chemicals from the air that we breathe. We don’t even realize how much it is functioning as a mask for us and our earth.

Mosses can brave sunshine, drought, cold, floods and snows. They absorb huge amounts of water in floods, preventing far worse erosion. It renews our earth by providing a moist, soft seed bed for new plant life and animal life to begin. It can grow almost anywhere and adapts to its environment.

Not only does moss live and let live. In addition to sustaining life, it also can filter and improve the quality of our lives. Moss has even been used to soak up oil spills in oceans and rivers. In the past it has been used for diapers, sanitary napkins, dressings for wounds, and other purposes that we can’t even fathom these days.

It’s a resilient evergreen that can survive the coldest and hottest and come back from extreme dry spells. It collaborates with its lichen friends (which are not mosses) to provide warmth while the lichens are supplying natural antifreeze ingredients for reindeer and other animals. It survives in cities and even deserts and I fully trust that if we humans dare to continue destroying our planet to the point of no human inhabitance, moss will once again cooperate with algae to restart life on this earth in some form or other! We can count on its bold resilience.

I want to be like that…like the brave men, women and children in China and elsewhere who in their own heroic perseverance are showing us what bold resilience looks like. I want to be like the mosses…absorbing toxins and turning them into love and health for us all.

John Gordon, reading “My Mask” by Nathan Nelson

Map of The Hillock

The story of Martha Julia Agnes Adele grew from a mossy hillock that is down in our meadow. It has been a place I have loved to visit for the last 15 years while walking our dogs. When it was time to begin this story I had no idea who the characters would be. They presented themselves to me as I walked and tended The Hillock. I took photos and made lists of the dwellings already cropping up along the pebble stone streets that I began to pave with stones I would bring there in a small bucket. Slug appeared one day, literally kissing a fairy. Slab was a natural to be there around all the clay soil, and Martha Julia Agnes Adele, well, what could I do? she lost her shoe? There were many other characters crying “pick me! pick me!” Yet they will need to wait until their time in future stories.

I had scruffed together a map to help me with my writing, and so it only seems right that it should have its place in the book. There are many more dwellings there than the ones here, which also will need to wait for next time.

Potion House III: Recordings & Mystery

It’s sometimes hard to be in the middle of playing with the GRAND ONES when they’re ‘busy at work’ and also document all their discoveries!! Sometimes MY revelations of such, happen after they’ve gone and there’s time for snooping and reflection for me! Here are some observations:

Color Formula System: When I had a chance, I asked Andrea about this and she said that was how they kept track of how to mix the colors!
Mystery of the Missing Berries: Oliver explained this mystery they were trying to solve! Here are his notes about the suspect! Hmmm…what do YOU think it might be? Guess we need to set a ‘suspect trap’?
Regarding Price $: Sofar this seems to be the most expensive potion I’ve seen in the Potion House! It’s definitely out of MY price range! I think I need to find out more information on each potion, like the purpose, the proven record of success, and what Money Back Guarantees there might be?
Their BEST Potion: Oliver describes this potion in the ‘duck’ bottle as their most precious and best potion. When he and I were checking out the potion house from their last GRAND potion work session, we discovered that there were definitely clues of some intruder (s) and berry thief! He took me around the corner of the outside of the house to check on this potion. They had carefully placed it on the ground for some reason. There it was with the cork popped off and on the ground, broken! (GUESS I BETTER SET SOME WORK SAFETY STANDARDS: Containers need to be unbreakable. Liquids and solids are not to be ingested, inhaled, tasted or sipped. Fingers, ingredients, away from face and mouth. Hands must ALWAYS be washed!…

Next time the GRANDS are here we’ll need to have a meeting to come up with their Safety Standards (every business has safety standards!): Don’t tell, but mine are the following: •Containers need to be unbreakable. •Liquids and solids are not to be ingested, inhaled, tasted or sipped. •Fingers, ingredients, and utensils must be kept away from face and mouth. •Hands must ALWAYS be washed after Potion Work!… We’ll SEE what they come up with first! Their standards will actually much stricter than mine! THEN, of course, we’ll need to enforce with their own Safety Standards with regular Safety Inspections!

Potion House II

There are so many different potions to concoct and they’re made in so many different ways! Makes sense that there would ALSO be so many different ways to create the spelling of POTIONS!

After all, potions have rare powers that need to be approached in a variety of ways! Some are dry, some are soaking or soaked, and some are mushed!

Some are soaked or soaking.
Some are mushed!

Some need to steep like powerful teas, and some need lifelike containers. Some even grow!

The Potion House

Introducing THE POTION HOUSE of Thunder Mountain! Potions don’t just ‘happen’…they are products of the alchemists of time! Maybe that’s just my fancy way of saying that they began brewing even BEFORE the births of each of our Six Grand Children! In fact, they probably started even before we acquired The Little House that we first moved to our Pleasant Green House at Riverbend Station back in 1983 before Will was born. Only when we happened to notice this clue written just outside its door, did we realize what was magically happening to The Little House….

Let me back up a bit to give a history of how this brew came to be……… There have been so many wonderful happenings in the last few months that I haven’t wanted to miss a chance to capture them in words and pictures before they fleet on.., mingle with the clouds and lose their place in my memory. Christmas day was such a day! The magic of grandchildren exploring the land makes my heart dance and my memories merry.

When we moved here from our Riverbend Station on Pleasant Green Road, I thought we’d be leaving all our memories of children there and I’d just need to keep them alive in my heart. Never know what blessings grow in the future of the unknown. But JUST in CASE, Alex and I decided to move ‘the little house’ that the railway people gave us for free. It used to be on the side of the railroad tracks near Caboose 359. It had already had a lifetime of memories itself…as a Switch Office by the railroad tracks near where Hwy 55 is in Durham. When we moved it to Pleasant Green Road, to Riverbend Station, it briefly became a tool/garden shed…morphed into a play house for our kids, a studio for my artist friend, and lastly my Fiddlehead Fern Fairy Shoppe! Then after we hauled it to Thunder Mountain and nestled it among the trees, atop the hill and beautiful moss-covered boulders, it first served as a Sleeping House, though I was mostly the only one who wanted to sleep there! I remember only a few winter nights sleeping under a comforter fluff, and walking out under the trees with their amazing shadows dancing around me enlightened and enlivened by a gorgeous winter solstice full moon! Owls were actively conversing. When weather warmed and bugs and snakes crept forth, Sleeping House slept no more and gradually became ‘The Place to Put It’ …It and all things that were in the way of Life’s next steps. UNTIL…Fall of 2019! Alex and I emptied it out, vacuumed, power-washed and then bleached the walls to eliminate mold and other crud-critters growing there! It was then that I put up one of the favorite garden signs I had given my mom which held the wise word: METAMORPHOSIS. We were hoping the Grand Kids would enjoy it in whatever fashion they chose.

We added a table, a shelf and a few small cast iron pans, thinking the grandkids might enjoy turning it into an outdoor kitchen. Next came the children, Nora, Finley, Andrea and Oliver…cooking up their own ideas for the ‘lil house’….

It LOOKED like they were cooking as they filled each bowl or skillet with berries, leaves, moss, acorns, and more! They were cooking alright! But much more than just ‘pretend food’…they were cooking up ‘real magic’….POTIONS! that is! Soon signs began to appear inside and out of The Potion House!

Renewal at The Hillock

Been clearing last bits of leaves from The Hillock so the mosses can keep spreading! Freshly washed blue skies, mosses soaked with green and sunshine, spring peepers and a pond full of frog eggs waiting to hatch! These were the greeters of the day! The dogs helped me rescue more praying mantis egg sacs before bush hogging makes room for the wildflowers!

Story Time With Joe

It’s been about 20 days, actually, that Joe (4 yrs), his baby brother, Alex (8 months), his mom, Catherine and Dad, John have been staying inside their 2 bedroom home on the 11th floor of their Apartment Building in Beijing. There are only a couple of cases of the Coronavirus in another building among the whole group of buildings that make up their large neighborhood. Now deliveries are only left at one of the gates which Catherine picks up at different times of the day, masked and covered for protection. They are quite resilient and patient!

For about the last week, Joe and I have been have a special story time every evening through FaceTime. It’s been quite fun! We spent alot of time reading different dragon adventures and now we’ve been reading about making maps. Tonight, their morning, we began working on placing objects on paper and making a map of his room and his mom and dad’s bathroom.

It looks like I’m having a mapmaking session only with myself, but he’s got his own paper on the other end of the phone on the other side of the world!

Here is the map Joe was making on the other side of the world . It’s of his bedroom on the other side of the world! His bed and floor are the same color, in case you’re having trouble figuring out what’s what. He really did an amazing job of getting all the furniture in the right places. I know because he let us sleep with him when we were in Beijing at the end of the summer!

It would be so awesome if we could play Harold and the Purple Crayon and draw maps to each other’s houses and airplanes to get us there!

Picture of Joe having ‘class’ with his preschool online!

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