--all the things you've come to expect to find in The Cottage Garden!
No doubt some of you remember the ill fate met by our beloved statue of Our Lady of Fatima back in December. We were blessed to find another image almost exactly like it, although our new statue is a bit smaller and not so heavy as the original.
For years now, I'd been meaning to offer our statue as a pilgrim image to the families in our homeschooling group. A week or so ago, I wrote a message to the group asking if anyone was interested in keeping her for a two week Summer visit. In a twinkling, ten families had signed up--Our Lady's dance card is filled until at least October, the month of the Holy Rosary.
Several days ago, I made plans to bring our statue with us to science class at a local museum this afternoon. The first family to volunteer to take the statue would be there, making it the perfect day for a transfer. Imagine my joy and amazement when I discovered (only after the plans were in place) that Thursday (today) is The Feast of the Visitation! When I realized this and told the older girls, four jaws dropped in unison!
Our Lady speaks clearly, doesn't she?
Patrick (looking glum): Mommy, today [a neighbor] said I was a crybaby.
Me (sincerely): You most certainly aren't. Why did he call you a crybaby?
Patrick: Because I was crying.
Me: Well, why were you crying?
Patrick: Because he called me a crybaby!
The best part: That last line was delivered with a giant grin, and the two of us burst out laughing. To quote more Shakespeare, "All's well that end's well"!]
Behold: The perfect doll-sized tea set for the merry month of May! My daughters--and Raggedy Ann--were very pleased with this find!
December 7, 2007. Updated: Please see the comments--Martha discovered this set now comes with a frightening warning label.
I have often wished that my friend Anne in Australia would begin a blog, but nothing could have prepared me for the perfection and beauty of Under Her Starry Mantle.
Although you are sure to be dazzled by the photographs, please do not miss the text--informative and clear in its crafting and catechetical instruction--and tucked alongside lovely Marian poetry.
Anne, you are amazing!
Here's a little something perfect for our Midsummer Night's Dream phase: The Beatles performing a version of Pyramus and Thisbe--with Paul McCartney as Pyramus, John Lennon as Thisbe, George Harrison as Moon, and Ringo Starr as Lion.
We woke from our Midsummer Night's Dream to find ourselves approaching the end of May without having taken a single Nature Walk or, other than our Marian May Baskets, completed any of our planned Marian Crafts. With a few days left, we hope to make up for lost time and began yesterday with a long walk through our favorite local gardens (the place that was the setting for our final performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream last week). Here Maureen and Eileen frolic in front of our dream thatched cottage--it is not our own, but we love it as if it were.
Margaret discovered that the unassuming purple flowers dotting the lawn look like fairies' teddy bears. This little fellow rests on my new pink shawl. According to Agnes, the shawl is "the springtime equivalent of the Irish Walking Cape."
How many more chances will I have to see my older two girls holding hands? This photo seems the perfect symbol of a family growing up--with the older ones setting out toward a bright future and the younger ones not far behind.
Slow down, Time, slow down! Let me tarry a while here in this place with these children!
Blessed be thou, fair, sweet May!
After two Cottage Garden performances of A Midsummer Night's Dream, the children had the honor of presenting the show at a local Museum and formal Garden. As you will see from the photographs below, the setting was perfect for our frolicking fairies, with lush lawns, a glassy pool, and even a Greek Theatre.
A Woodland Fairy:
[HT for this last lovely photo: MacBeth]
My friend, Almamater, of the lovely blog, Soul of the Home, was kind enough to write:
Absolutely gorgeous! I hope you will offer more commentary on how all of this was organized...how often were rehearsals, how were roles assigned (auditions?), etc. A hearty congratulations to ALL involved with the production!
Many thanks for asking, Almamater! Here is the long version, told I fear, in about as many words as the unabridged play itself:
In late September of 2005, we collaborated with four or five families to put on a skit called "Comus." My friend Kari had read that this play is presented every year at Ludlow Castle on the Feast of St. Michael the Archangel and thought it would be a wonderful tradition to begin with our children. Kari wrote our version based on a fabulous picture book adapted from John Milton's original work by Margaret Hodges and illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman. Kari directed, MacBeth created the scenery, and I hosted the practices and performance. We called ourselves "The Front Lawn Players," with a humorous tip of the hat to my front lawn. Our oldest cast member was then about twelve. The skit, which took six weeks to prepare and perform, was so enjoyable and successful, that we planned to repeat it as a yearly event.
Then in the Summer of 2006, Kari suggested we try instead an adaptation of A Midsummer Night's Dream from the out of print book, Shakespeare for Young Players: from Tens to Teens by Gertrude Lerner Kerman. She assigned parts to the original Front Lawn Players without audition, expecting to prepare and perform in the same six week time frame as Comus. From start to finish, the play would have taken about twenty minutes to a half hour to complete. Puck was the central character in the abridged version, and my daughter Margaret, the perfect eight-year-old imp for the role, learned her lines in a day. This made Kari wonder if we might not be able to do a longer version, particularly when we realized that the play had not only been cut down in the abridgement, but also altered significantly in form and language. Who wants to perform Shakespeare that isn't really Shakespeare?
The other mothers and I were all for performing the full length version, but this changed matters significantly. We would not be able to work in the planned six week time frame, but would need the entire school year to practice and learn the parts. One or two cast members could not make the commitment and dropped out, but we managed to fill all the roles with children from our local homeschooling group. We met weekly at our house from October 2006 to the time of our performances in May, with all the mothers helping to bring the production together. Mary Smith and a group of the children designed and created the wonderful costumes. MacBeth and another contingent worked on the sets and program. Caroline, Mary Ellen, Tracey, Julie, Tricia, Patrice and Patty helped behind the scenes with everything from sewing and snacks to props and baby-holding. The talented Libby Derham, Ryan Barrett, and Sean Tuffy provided the music. It was an amazing collaboration and group effort with each person offering something unique and necessary.
In the end, we performed twice in the Cottage Garden and once in the gracious setting pictured above. Each and every time, the cast was applauded by a large and appreciative crowd. It was amazing to see these young children put heart, soul and effort into their performances. The cast lived and breathed Shakespeare for a year, and what an experience it was! [Does anyone remember six-year-old Marie's Spoons from last year?] From October to May, the children grew into their parts and soared, putting on a memorable and heartfelt performance defying their young ages (averaging about ten, with the roles of Puck and Nick Bottom pulled off by two nine-year-olds). The Museum was only too happy to host the final production, welcoming us with open arms and even sending a PR person to photograph.
I cannot stress enough what a delightful, edifying, and worthwhile project this was for all of us, and the children--already close friends--are as affectionate toward one another as cousins after this shared experience. Best of all, everyone in my house from thirteen to three is able to quote Shakespeare and quote it well. Maureen, our three year old, makes a plucky miniature Puck if ever there was one!
From now on, my prayer is that Springtime will always mean Shakespeare in the Garden!