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Historical Travels: The Rebecca Nurse Homestead

     On a gorgeous summer day in New England, my family and I were lucky enough to visit the Rebecca Nurse Homestead last summer. If the name Rebecca Nurse sounds familiar but you can't quite place it, it is because Rebecca was one of the most well-known victims of the Salem Witch trials.

   Rebecca was a well respected member of her community. and. At 71 years old, she was one of the oldest victims ofthe hysteria that engulfed the area around Salem, MA. where many were accused and more than a dozen killed in an effort to rid the community of 'witches.'

   The Nurse homestead is located in a bucolic area just outside of the city of Salem, in the city of Danvers. It is the only original home of a Witch Trial victim that is open to the public. Set back in a lush field of countryside and partitioned by a beautiful old stone wall so common in the area, the homestead's centerpiece is the gorgeous antique red salt box where Rebecca raised her family, tended her chores, said her prayers, and watched grandchildren play.

    Inside the home was simple and gorgeously restored to the late 17th century with items displayed much like those the Nurse family would have used. As a fellow fiber artist, I was enamored with the old spinning wheels and other fiber art equipment that filled the main common room.

   Although Rebecca has achieved her fame for her tragic end, viewing her home and seeing it brought to life in such a lovely way by the volunteers who manage the property makes it clear that she led a rich existence in her 71 years before the trial. She tended the fire and made delicious meals, she sat at her wheel and spun yarn to keep her family warm during the frigid New England winters;
   She rocked babies, she cared for the sick, she looked out the window and smiled as her children ran by in play. She was an industrious woman and a person of faith. A sister, a wife, a mother, a granny. She was much more than the villain her hysterical neighbors feared her to be, and more than the victim history remembers her as.

     Perhaps it was Rebecca's death that started to sour her neighbor's lust for blood and desire to punish. To many in her community, her status as a witch rang false. Even the judges involved--- which included the ancestor Nathaniel Hawthorn, who would change his family name's spelling from Hathorne in shame-- had doubts. Her first trial had, indeed, found her not guilty. But her accusers couldn't let go. It is said that Rebecca's miss-hearing of a question led to her eventual demise. She was hung and buried in an unmarked, unchristian grave.

   However, it is family lore that once night fell, Rebecca's husband and son retrieved her body and buried her in a secluded grove of trees on the family land. Later relatives erected a large memorial to her in the family plot, and other members of the family also take their rest there.

    The Nurse family cemetery is located just a short walk from the house, across a peaceful field and enveloped in the shade of an old grove of trees. There the Nurse family find their final rest, and vindication through the wisdom of history.

    Rebecca's life is a bittersweet tale. But I am so glad I was able to visit her home, and feel more of her life there to ponder than that of her death. I am also so thankful that I was able to take photos within the house, and found the entire homestead site to be beautiful, serene, and well taken care of.

   The Rebecca Nurse Homestead is a completely volunteer run endeavor, and is owned by the Danvers Alarm List Coy in the town of Danvers, MA.
   You can find out more about the homestead at their website, HERE.

    And one last look back at Rebecca's home....so beautiful sitting there in its lush landscape, as it has done for centuries. It is interesting, isnt it, that it is her memory that lives on, her home that is so beautiful cared for.....when the memory and names of her accusers have faded back into the dusty annals of time. It is my fervent prayer that we always right our course as a nation, no matter how difficult it is to do or admit. That we always find ourselves centered back at mercy, truth and the high ideals on which our nation was founded.

   With that in mind, I leave you now with a quote from Nathaniel Hawthorne, famous Salem writer and ancestor of Judge John Hathorne, Salem Witch Trial Judge:

"Words - so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them."
~ Nathaniel Hawthorne

Summer Garden

      During the summer, mornings are my favorite time. The light is lovely and buttery, but not harsh yet. The garden has had a nice rest during the night. There is a sense of waking up, unfolding, peace.

    It's no secret around here that I struggle with summer. The heat here in the southern plains gets to be too much for me. The light too harsh.  I spend most of the days inside, waiting for morning and evening, but at least in the mornings the mosquitos arent out to eat me alive. And so, morning wins-- as the best time to be out and about in the garden.

    Recently my littlest and I were out trimming the roses. They has started to brown and fade, so I was ruthless with the remaining blossoms in order to encourage new growth. He was dismayed though, that I had cut any flowers down, and gathered them up to put in our little garden chapel.

   The chapel is, essentially, a shed. But it has become a lovely little respite for us and the centerpiece of our new cottage garden. It is also featured in a new article I wrote for Grow Christians, and just published today. I'd love for you to go over to read it!

    This summer we are not traveling, but sticking close to home. This has worked out well though, as I've started training courses for a program called Catechesis of the Good Shepherd that lasts through the summer. This training will allow me to open my own 'atrium' at my church, where children can learn about their faith and church in a Montessori- style environment. I have been able to take my son to a friend's atrium at her church, and it is so lovely and peaceful. I am looking forward to starting one for the children at my own church, and have started gathering little items to put in it.

   Some of the items I've found have included several handmade vintage linens that I found at a parish garage sale--- and they cost a wopping 10 cents a piece! I got several, brought them home and gave them a gentle wash and hung them on the line to dry. They looked so pretty out there, fluttering in the breeze. I hope they enjoy their new life with little hands. Part of the mission of the class is to inspire reverence in little ones, and let them handle beautiful things. I know these pieces that someone made long ago will help my little friends come to enjoy beautiful things and cultivate a beautiful faith.

   Meanwhile, in the garden....those hardy midst-of-summer plants are starting to flourish while the more tender spring loving plants recede. The Oak Leaf Hydrangeas are getting their pink summer color (they begin spring a beautiful creamy white and change shade as the heat rises) and the zennias have popped up to enjoy the sunshine. The roses are sleeping now and blooming less, and everything is green.  I've also had my lilies open up to enjoy a fleeting moment in the sun--- they are spectacular and last far too short a time--- and an looking forward to the phlox and black eyed susan blooming soon.

   Every pretty blooming thing has its time--- it grows, it blooms, it fades. They all get their time to shine. And I am here to enjoy it.

   Til next time--
Take Joy!~

June Blessings

    Out in the garden, we are all in bloom. The roses have been in all their glory and had it past; now to deadhead and feed them a bit, to coax them into continuing their show.  Going out into the garden in the morning after I've fed the chickens (they must be dealt with first, or they will give you a very hard time about it, yelling from the coup like a chain gang-- pacing back and forth very very agitated to not be breakfasted yet) is one of my pleasures. The light is still gentle, and the plants have had a good rest from the sun and humidity this time of year brings to the plains.

   This past month was incredibly busy and hectic, although much of it was for wonderful things like tea parties, anniversaries and weddings! We drove down to the heart of Texas to see my brother get married, and just before that I hosted a small anniversary dinner for my parents on their 40th anniversary! I keep their wedding cake topper in a glass cabinet with my own, but got it out and had a cake specially made to go with it--- Italian cream cake with white and peach flowers, to go with the peach silk bells that had graced their first wedding cake 4 decades ago!

    But now the hub-bub is over, and its time for me to turn my attention to creating-- feeding the chickens (first, of course) enjoying the flowers, and also enjoying my loom! This spring I was given (given!!!) a LeClerc Mira loom after falling so in love with weaving when I was at Eureka! Fiber Chrsitmas last year. I took weaving lessons in April and have been practicing on my own loom now--- taking the whole process from the warping board....warping the loom myself, and now I've started on this over-shot pattern which I am so pleased with! In all honesty, I'm a little puffed up like a mama chicken with pride that I actually managed to get it all threaded and working. There are so many little steps, and so many little ways to mess it all up. Once I saw that--- oh my goodness-- the whole thing was working, well, I felt like a genius! And now, well, time to weave!

   But when I'm not weaving out in the studio I am, of course, painting. I got a new window unit for the painting room and I am so excited to be able to paint in the cool air! Delectable! Especially this time of year in Oklahoma! I am turning my attention to autumn and Christmas art too, so if you have any requests, well, do send them my way!

  I am also getting ready to send out my studio newsletter, full of little treats-- plus a special coupon that only my newsletter friends will get-- so if you havent signed up, please do! You can fill out the quick form HERE, and know I will never ever pinky swear give out your information! Its just for you and me! And I cant wait to send you treats and news.

  Well, off for now! Hope you're having a great summer!~
Take Joy!~

May Garden in Bloom

    Good afternoon, my friends!
          A few days ago I showed you some of my garden inspiration from the Berkshire Botanical Garden, and this week I thought I'd share with you my own humble blooming space....and a look at how the garden chapel is coming along.

   A couple of weekends ago my husband and I worked on laying down the gravel path in front of the chapel and around the little herb beds we made after we dug out an old rock patio. At one point (about 60 years ago) this area was a pretty rock and mortar patio around the little shed, which started its life as a little girl's playhouse. With time, however, the mortar began to crack and we had a terrible time keeping the whole thing from getting covered with weeds and grass (we'd have to weed eat the patio!)

   So this past year my husband got the wild idea to dig up the whole darn thing and we've started over....using the rocks that had been the patio to edge new beds and create fresh garden space where it once was just baking rock. I'm looking forward to this not being such a scalding hot surface come summer, and I think the plants will like it!

  And just compare this chapel view to a couple of months ago and you can see, a lot has changed! Not the least of which are my two new David Austin Roses I'm keeping in terra cotta pots for the time being (Olivia Rose and Carding Mill). This week in particular things have finally started to get lush and bloom....I love it so much....it makes my heart so happy...

   The funny thing is, in the photo above, I couldnt figure out for a while what that mass of tall green plants were coming up in large clumps! But I left it alone because, well, it seemed so purposeful like it knew what it was doing and who was I to get in its way? I wondered, "What seeds did I plant there? Is it something left over from last year?" I thought it looked a bit like bee balm and googled it, and yep! That's what it is! I vaguely remember planting one unassuming little pot of it last year....and its gone crazy coming up all over this little corner bed, and Im really excited about it! My idea for this corner is that it is a wild mass of wildflowers and things for pollinators--- especially since I've discovered my neighbor keeps bees! They're gonna love that balm, dontcha think?

    It hasnt all been smooth garden sailing this spring....Im afraid we arent going to have much of a peach crop, if anything at all this year....we had a few days of really low temperatures and got well below freezing after the trees had already bloomed. I'd hoped that they'd bloomed and been pollinated in time, but....we'll be lucky if we get even a pie's worth of peaches this year, I'm afraid.

   And for some reason the Peonies....maybe because of those same cold snaps....they never made a single bud! My grandmother has a flower bed full of glorious peony bushes just ready to burst....she even called me yesterday to let me know some were opening up! But not my girls...they took this year off...

    I've been pouring over gardening books, specifically books about English style cottage gardens, especially English Cottage Gardening for American Gardeners and Tasha Tudor's Garden. Both books are essential parts of my gardening book collection and offer me so much inspiration. And you know Tasha Tudor, in general, is always inspiring me...

    The roses have finally bloomed, and first to open was this gorgeous old fashioned rose, called Strawberry Hill, which is a David Austin rose. David Austin roses are english cottage roses that are specially bred so that they can do well in American climates. This beautiful rose with its amazing fruity scent is thriving out here on prairie, reaching up the trellis on the side of my studio. I like to look out my kitchen window and see the roses on that old brick, imagining its Jane Austen's cottage just across the yard. But...I'm like that, you know ;)

Anyhow, these days are filled with sun and flowers. Trying to enjoy it, because I know that harsh heat of the summer is coming and I struggle with it every year. But until then, give me roses! Always roses.....


Garden Inspiration: The Berkshire Botanical Gardens

 And all of a sudden, it is spring!
      The winds sure are rolling today, its bright and sunny and warm. This past weekend was our first nice and warm weekend of the season (we'd go weeks with pleasant weekdays, only to have the temps plummet and rain come in just in time for Saturday and Sunday) and I was able to stop over to a local herb fair and get some plants.

   We are also really getting to work on the little garden area where the chapel is, and this weekend installed a gravel path and started planning! The inspiration for the garden is the time we've spent in Stockbridge, Mass., especially at the Berkshire Botanical Gardens--- some pictures of which I'm sharing here!

The day we visited, it was a chilly drizzly afternoon--- in June. This Okie, who'd just escaped the burning up prairie, was so thrilled to need a light sweater in June! And the light rain meant that we had the garden mostly to ourselves, and that all the plants were unfurled and lovely, seeking a drink.

  That amazing riot of color and those beautiful stone and gravel paths captured my imagination, and as we've started to work on our little back yard cottage garden, the beautiful spaces of this botannical garden has inspired me.

  All those intense greens from brilliant yellow to dusty sage, highlighted any blooms in its midst. Butterflies and bees loved the area, an I love the idea of a sanctuary space for those beneficiary little insects-- especially since I've discovered my neighbors keep bees and sell their honey!

  It will take work to get everything built up, and time for the plants to get established and thriving. But I'm looking forward to it....and will show you my little garden space soon!

  For now though, I wanted to show you my inspiration....and wish you a very happy spring!~

Bits of Easter

   And here we are, on the bright side of Holy Week. I'd meant to write here earlier--- but the whole week was a whirlwind (how do I always forget that? It's like Christmas!) and then just after Easter the schools here in Oklahoma shut down for a teacher's strike. I'm terribly proud of our teachers and how much they care for our kids. And I hope so so much, that education here will start to improve! But it has been a little scattered around here as we got completely off schedule...of course, I havent minded sleeping in one bit ;) BUT it's meant painting and writing has been scattered.

   I did manage to finish a couple of pieces though (hurray!) and have stocked my etsy shop with fresh prints. I am also so thrilled to see the outside world greening up, despite the fact that the weather teases us with warm days and then freezes us. I kid you not--- a few days ago we woke up to snow and an earthquake. Oklahoma is contrary, for sure....

   But spring is here, no matter the strange April snow. The crab apple tree bloomed such beautiful dark pink blossoms, i cant wait for that little tree to hit its stride and really fill out. I love too that between this tree and our peach trees, the bees could be happy during these early spring days.

   At church during Holy Week Robbie and I took an hour's vigil time before the Good Friday service, and we walked the big indoor labyrinth. We also sat among the lilies, which smelled pretty spectacular.

   Now, I'm turning my attention to when I can safely plant....my hydrangeas and peonies are coming up, and I'm holding my breath as this weekend we dip down below freezing at night, yet again.... I'll be covering things and crossing fingers, for sure. I am also embarking on a weaving adventure as I go learn to use a loom I was given this winter, I am so excited!

  Ah, well, I must sign off for now! We have school again in the morning, and there is always more to paint! Thank you for your visit today!~ I hope you are doing well!~