Sunday, October 28, 2012

On Blackbirds' Wings

Thank you, friends, for your kind words of condolence regarding our dear, departed Wilberforce.  It was important to me to share the joy of his life, so, in a way, you may carry a bit of him with you, as well.  He truly was a gift from God.

Today's post was a response to my daughter, Gracie's fear of Halloween.  She recently told me she didn't want to celebrate Halloween because it was just too scary.  Though we don't subscribe to the gore that has become the trend, she was hesitant to even go into stores this time of year, lest she be accosted by an errant head or shrieking skeletons!

I created the Raven-Drawn Carriage after Grace went to bed last night.

I was inspired by the carriage to write this poem for Gracie as she slept in her bed this morning.

Without further ado...

 On Blackbirds' Wings

Mommy, I’m frightened of Halloween
The spooks haunt my days
And enter my dreams!

My darling child
There is nothing to fear!
No need to be frightened
At this time of year

It is not quite as scary
As you believe
You see, love is the reason
For All Hallow’s Eve

To honor the memory
Of those who have passed
To make certain the bonds
They have forged still hold fast

I place my child
To sleep in her bed
A glowing light above her head

Her dreams turn to thoughts
Of Halloween
Of bumps in the night
And things unseen

Then, a loving hand guides her
To a magical scene!
Of pumpkins and carriages
Blackbirds on wing!

The carriage awaits...
The child arrives
Once she’s in safely
It takes to the skies!

Silken black feathers
In unison fly
To carry the child through a black, starry sky

Each star, the light of a loved one, since passed
So grateful to finally meet you at last!
The glow of the starlight sparks in your heart
Warm with wisdom of which you’re now a part

Upon the horizon
The light of the dawn
A new day awaiting
It’s time to move on

Wake in the morning
Sun on your face
Pluck your costume from its place

Pull the ensemble over your head
When something wafts and alights on your bed

And pulls you back to
The edge of a dream
The silken feather
Of a blackbird’s wing...

What dreams are made of...I created the Raven-Drawn Carriage with bits of ormolu that I have collected.  The concept had been floating around my head for a while.

Marie never left the sunroom this year.  Perhaps next year she will stand watch over the parterre or the potager?  I considered using a white pumpkin but since I made this for my daughter I wanted it to be more "of the Season", something a child would relate to and, perhaps, dream about.  Initially, I had planned on using a real pumpkin but came to my senses and realized I only wanted to do this once!  In retrospect, a real pumpkin would be too heavy for the chassis, fabricated of dowel rods.

Detail of the Raven-Drawn Carriage.  Escutcheon keyhole covers for windows, ormolu as door and rein attachment.  Drapery tiebacks as wheels.  The angels were taken from a 1960's lamp table that I bought on Craigslist.  The table was hideous but the ormolu was heart stopping!  You may recognize the angels on the table beneath the carriage as well.

I added the ostrich plumes for a bid more grandeur.  See where I glued the tiebacks together?  This was a fairly simple project! I purchased the foam pumpkin at Target, under the assumption it was hollow and could be carved.  I was wrong.  It would have been nice to have a candle inside.  Oh well!

Crown detail...actually a candleholder from Wisteria.

Blackbirds take flight...

To the land of dreams...Did you know a group of crows is called a "murder"?  A murder of crows...spooky!


Another angle...the chassis was the most challenging part of this endeavor. I actually had all the parts in the basement, including the dowels.  I used wire and screws to fasten them together. I painted long dowel rods with bronze paint, then drilled holes to wire the birds through.  They came with wire attached to their feet. I screwed a brace at the base of the dowel rods to the birds would remain upright, then wired it at an angle to the chassis so it looked as if the birds were in flight.

After I read the poem to Gracie and showed her the Raven-Drawn carriage that I made while she slept last night, she told me she could imagine herself in the carriage being drawn by blackbirds.  It is precisely what I wished for!

I hope I have changed the face of Halloween for Gracie.



I am participating in Boogieboard Cottage,  Masterpiece Monday
No Minimalist Here, Open House Party
Between Naps on the Porch, Metamorphosis Monday
A Stroll Thru Life, Tabletop Tuesday
Savvy Southern Style, Wow Us Wednesdays
French Country Cottage, Feathered Nest Friday

Monday, October 22, 2012

Wilberforce, A Love Story...

"If to be feelingly alive to the sufferings of my fellow-creatures is to be a fanatic, I am one of the most incurable fanatics ever permitted to be at large."
~William Wilberforce

Friends, it is beyond my capacity to grasp but our darling Wilberforce passed away last night. Too soon. Far too soon. I thought I had more time. I thought we had more time.

I cannot recall how his photo crossed my path initially but I fell in love with him that very moment.

The rescue organization, Ruby In the Ruff, was calling the little fellow "Bubbi".  He was listed as 11 years old. He had spent his entire life as a breeding stud in a puppy mill.  A commodity.  He was no longer of use to the breeders so they threw him away.

I hesitated to send an email because English Bulldogs are considered "old" at the age of 7.  I knew my heart would be broken sooner rather than later, when he passed.

I could NOT get that beautiful face out of my mind, however.

I sent an email with my heart in my throat.  What if he was already taken?  By now, he was MINE!
Two days passed with no response.
I sent another email.  They had not received my first.  He WAS available!  I wasted no time in convincing my handsome husband that adopting Wilber was his idea (and a brilliant idea at that)!
I scrambled to fill out all the paperwork, hoping I was good enough. The rescue accepted our application!  
He needed a proper English name.  We decided to name him Wilberforce, after William Wilberforce, the youngest member of British Parliament.  Wilberforce was instrumental in ending England's slave trade.  A staunch animal advocate, he was also a founder of the world's oldest anti-cruelty society.
The movie, Amazing Grace, was written about his life.  A beautiful movie, if you have not yet seen it.

On September 15, 2012, Wilber came home.
The trip from St. Louis to Chicago, via transporters from Grahamville Rescue, was an exhausting experience for the little man.  I gave him our best blanket.  He slept for hours!

Wilber had been "fixed" right before his adventure.  At 11 years old, it was no small deal.  He had been missing an eye, no one knows what happened.  His ears had been infected so many times they were DEEPLY scarred.  He had earmites and intestinal worms.  He had small wounds all over his body, from the other dogs biting him, that had become infected. The flesh on his nose was so dry, it must have been extremely painful. I left my veterinarian's office with myriad medications, along with special cleaners for his skin folds and ears.
Turns out, it didn't matter what we called him because he could not hear a thing.  Still, when I sang to him, I would press my lips to his head and call him Wilber. He would make a funny growling-purring sound when I did that.  He also made that sound when I scratched his neck.  I made it a point to hear that sound as often as I could.

Wilber chose to spend the majority of his time in his crate.  It's what he knew.  He was not potty trained so I brought him clean towels night and day.  I always loved the look on his face when I put a towel, fresh from the dryer, scented with lavender, over his head.

He had spent the majority of his life in a cage. In a cage.
It took a short while for us to learn to communicate with each other.  I would make big, sweeping hand gestures to get his attention.  He followed me everywhere I went...except upstairs.  He was just unable to make it.  At night, I would wake up several times to come and snuggle him.
One night, my husband noticed I had been gone a while and came to look for me.  I was outside with Wilber.  For almost an hour Wilber had just stood in the garden, staring.  I told my husband that he had not had this just be. To enjoy the night.  I wanted to give him that; To be loved and respected and doted upon. Wilber never barked.  Often, when we raised our hand to scratch behind his ears, he flinched.  Towards the end he realized that human hands are not always bad.  I loved to shower his head with kisses. He loved it too.  I miss that the most tonight.

Wilber was very famous among the neighborhood kids.   He adored them, as well.  Everything about them.  In return, he received more snuggles and giggles than he had probably seen in a lifetime.  Ten kids, waiting their turn to pet him.  It is a picture I will carry in my heart forever.

There are not too many photos of Wilber, not only because his time with us was so brief but because every time I stood in front of him to take a photo he would come running to me.  By the time the shutter clicked, all I had was the tip of an ear or a foot or the wall behind him!  I truly believe he loved me as much as I loved him.

Upon his last night on this earth, Wilber was brave to the end.  It was only 10 minutes between recognizing he was in trouble and his meeting with the Lord.  I laid with him in his crate and I sang to him. He made that familiar growling purring sound, he looked right at me with a love I have never known and then...he died. He was at peace.  Now, my grief begins.

I realized something upon my dear Wilber's passing; if I were to die no one would know what my beloved pets were like.  The things they loved, favorite blankies, how they behaved when they were ill, what they liked to eat, where they liked to be pet, etc.  Only me.  I decided to write it all down and I urge you to do so too. Every last detail you can muster.  You are their voice.

I don't now if I would have recognized any symptoms with regard to Wilber's health, or Frannie's health, Shenanigan's, Duchess' or Jenny's.  I do know that knowing their histories would have helped.  It would also have helped to make them more comfortable in their final days.

Wilber also spent a great deal of time in the front boxwood garden.  I joked that it really wasn't a proper English garden unless it had bulldog piddle in it.  That is where we will spread his ashes.  He would have liked that, I think.

Last night, Gracie saw a shooting star.



Friday, October 19, 2012

Scarecrow Couture!

Has it really been that long since my last post?  If I wasn't so busy and if I had better manners I'd be ashamed! LOL! 

While working in the gardens, I often wondered how my Blog friends were doing.  I hope this post finds you in good health and good humor! I have missed you!

The Spring and Summer literally flew by!  We accomplished more than I expected but we still have not finished the gardens.  We also have two new family members!  Daniel, a cat from one of the pet  transports we did, he is 14 years old and FIV positive but he has come so far!  We also have a new canine love, Wilberforce the English Bulldog!  Wilber is 11 years old and is missing an eye. He was a puppy mill stud.  He is so beautiful!  More details soon...

I would like to introduce you to our newest Autumn/Harvest garden addition...
I could not place just any scarecrow in my boxwood parterre, now could I?    I had been planning my Marie Antoinette scarecrow for the past two years.  She is finally complete!

I did a great deal of research into historic gowns...
Inspiration: robe a la polonaise, ca 1780.

Source unknown

Robe a la Francais

Source unknown

Source unknown

Robe a la polonaise, ca 1780

I didn't want her gown to be too fussy, nor too rustic. I really wanted it to be as elegant as possible.

Her gown is made from burlap, her hair of raffia, her Autumn toile train is a tablecloth, her lacey oak sleeves are actually table runners! 

She wears a necklace of acorns...

Her stomacher is trimmed in pheasant feathers!

Detail of gown...

Detail of sleeve with pheasant feathers and earth toned lace oak leaves...

Her hair was created with raffia.  It has a texture similar to my own hair, so it was easy to work with! Her head is a wicker hat stand.

Detail of necklace...

Detail of train...

Detail, gown back...

I found the pheasant feathers on a walk around the lake.  I think a coyote had pheasant for lunch.  :(

I found a mannequin on Craigslist.  It was very thin!  It needed a bit of padding!  The gown is my size. I considered wearing it on Halloween to scare the neighborhood children!  Too itchy, though! 
Itch O' Rama!

Detail of shoe...

I had to fasten the head to the mannequin, ironically.

The panniers are actually packages of quilt batting...still in the plastic, tied in place.

I think she needs a mask for Halloween!  What do you think?

This project was too much fun!  It is tempting to do something like this for each Season!  

As the weather turns more brisk, I will finally have the time to catch up with my dear blog friends!  Please tell me what you have been up to!



I am linking up with Sherry, at No Minimalist Here Open House Party!
Kim, at Savvy Southern Style Wow Us Wednesdays!


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