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Monday, March 11, 2019

Nature Writing

“Looking closely at the commonplace things of nature that are found on almost any small family farm, one becomes aware of a quality of miracle
and infinity about them.
The more one researches these small things, such as the purple-blue
violet I picked in the yard this morning and brought in to examine
under a microscope, the more clear it becomes that nothing on earth
exists totally separate and unrelated, and that every living thing is
composed of ever smaller parts.
From the purple-striped deep tube of the violet’s petal a naturalist
could go on to an examination of the larger, related plant world, or a
scientist could as easily discover the infinitely smaller parts of which
the violet cells are composed. Either way, a thing as commonplace as an
ordinary spring violet contains the essence of infinity.”
Rachel Peden
Rachel Peden is a lesser known nature writer, perhaps because she writes specifically about her own cherished region- Indiana farm country. In the 1960s and ’70s Mrs. Peden wrote a regular newspaper column for her local paper. She wrote about her farm, the land and people of her home, the seasons (did you know that Indiana has nine of them?), and local flora and fauna. She compiled her columns and perhaps some extra material into three published books; Rural Free: A Farmwife’s Almanac of Country LivingThe Land, the People , and Speak to the Earth: Pages from a Farmwife’s Journal 

She hoped to write a fourth, but cancer shattered her plans. 

My Indiana grandmother majored in Botany when she went to college in the early 1900’s, a time few people, let alone women, went to college. We still have her first pressed plant collections compiled for her college classes. Walking with her through the wild back acres of her farm, along the creek, and through the meadows was to walk among friends. She knew every leaf, every birdsong, and every tree or flowerbud by name, both common and Latin, and she was generous in introducing her grandchild to her friends in the natural world. 

She read Mrs. Peden’s newspaper columns and books and enjoyed them so much that she wrote to her to thank her for describing so well what seemed then to be a vanishing way of life. Mrs. Peden recognized a kindred spirit and she and my Grandmother wrote to each other from time to time. Unfortunately, they had other things in common, too, and both were ripped from their families by cancer within a year or two of each other, right around my 13th year. My grandmother is still very much missed by her surviving daughters and the grandchildren who were blessed to know her. She left quite a legacy. 

A small part of that legacy is represented by the autographed copies of all three of Mrs. Peden’s books which sit on my shelves. These volumes were formerly owned by my Grandmother (who continued to cut out clippings of Mrs. Peden’s column and fold them gently and store them in the books, where they still are). 

I believe we’d like Mrs. Peden’s writing even without the emotional tie. Edwin Way Teale in Green Treasury – A Journey Through the World’s Great Nature Writings said“At best, the genre we call nature writing requires a rare mixture of scientist, philosopher, and poet.”
Peden, I think, was all of these, and she was a home-body as well, a homely soul (homely in the sense of being cozy, comfortable, and unpretentious). Her nature writing is what I like best- words  written from a sense of home, a genuine feel for a connection with the land and the green and growing things on it that comes from having deep roots of one’s own there. 

Mrs. Peden certainly felt that deep connection. 

Mrs. Peden writes of the homey things, the ladybug she found on her kitchen sink and examined under a magnifying glass, the spring beauties coming up in her yard, the grackles at her feeder, the quail calls she hears in June, and the rabbit tracks ( she calls them graffitti) she sees in the freshly fallen snow, and I nestle down cozily in a few pages of comfort reading. I have been doing this since I was a child and discovered her on my grandmother’s shelves.
Mrs. Peden looks just a little closer at the things nearest home.

In Green Treasury – A Journey Through the World’s Great Nature Writings Edwin Way Teale also said,
“Even the lifelong traveler knows but an infinitesimal portion of the Earth’s surface. Those who have written best about the land and its wild inhabitants…have often been stay-at-home naturalists…concentrating their attention and affection on a relatively small area.”

Rachel Peden, farmwife, homemaker, writer, mother, stay-at-home naturalist is a gem, a treasure who deserves to be wider known.

The following items are for sale, and  proceeds support my family's work.  When creating these things,  my constant thought was 'What might readers like to know or think about? What will help our Charlotte Mason parents and families?  What will give them something to think about, something to love, something to grow on?'  I hope you can tell. 

$5.00- Education for All, vol 2- the Imagination (and more) issue!- transcript of the imagination talk from the AO Camp meeting, with additional material I had to cut to save time.  
 $5.00- Education for All, a new CM journal,   Feed Your Mind!  This issue contains several articles on handicrafts, outdoor play, nature study and science. See sidebar for purchasing options if you are in the Philippines.

 $3.00 Five Little Peppers and How They Grew Copywork (grades 2/3, carefully selected with an eye toward finely crafted sentences, lovely bits of writing pleasant to picture in the mind's eye, and practice in copying some of the mechanics of grammar and punctuation typically covered in these years.

  $3.00 Aesop's Fables Copywork for Year One!  Carefully selected with an eye toward well written sentences, memorable scenes, and some practice copying sentences that model the basics of capitalization and punctuation.   Suitable for use with children who have already mastered the strokes and letters for basic penmanship.

Picture Study!  Miguel Cabrera's beautiful, diverse families, painted in 18th century Mexico this package includes 9 downloadable prints along with directions for picture study and background information on the artist and his work. $5.00

Common Kitchen:  What's for lunch?  Isn't that a common problem in homeschooling families?  What to fix, what is quick, what is frugal, what is nourishing?  How can I accomplish all those things at once?  We homeschooled 7 children, and I was a homeschooling mom for 29 years on a single income.  I collected these recipes and snack ideas from all over the world.  These are real foods I used to feed my family, my godsons, and sometimes my grandkids.  Includes some cooking tips and suggestions for sides, and for a variety of substitutions.  I think every family will find something they can use here. $5.00

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