Prairie View

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

The Lullaby and Vulnerabilitiy

My mother used to sing a lullaby that I have never heard sung by anyone else.  Tonight after listening to the Dwight Gingrich family sing their own family lullaby on youtube, I went looking for an online recording of what we used to call "Sleep My Bonnie."  I didn't find it, but I found the words and music here, with two verses that I never heard before.  My mother sang only verses one and two.

I used to think "Bonnie" was a name.  Later, I realized it was used as an adjective for "treasure."  It means attractive or beautiful.  Bonnie can also be a form of address for one's beloved, or a baby.

Who knew that the lullaby I heard was a Lithuanian folk or dance song?  I'm not sure how a song can be appropriate for both dancing and going to sleep, but what do I know?

I have no idea where my mother learned the song , since she did not sight-read music or listen to recorded music.  Here are the words as I remember them:

Sleep, my bonny, blue-eyed little treasure. [For some of us, she sang "brown-eyed" little treasure]
Sleep till the rosy dawning of the day.
Bring the happy hours of pleasure,
Dream the starry night away.
Sleep little treasure.

May the angels hover ever near thee.
Loving watch forever o'er thee keep
Fairest visions come to cheer thee
Sleep my little treasure, sleep.
Sleep, little treasure.

The online version is slightly different in the second line of verse two.


Today, for the second time in as many weeks, I listened to this TED Talk by Brene' Brown on The Power of Vulnerability.  The first time I heard it was under less than optimal conditions.  It was part of the day's Leadership Reno County class, but no one could get the laptop sound to connect to the room's sound system, so finally the laptop got plopped into the middle of the room with the sound turned way up.  On the screen we could see the speaker, and her words appeared in text on the screen, but the sound from the laptop barely reached around the room.  I promise that no one trying to make things work had imbibed anything they found in the cavernous storage warehouse of the City Beverage building where the class was held.

The most memorable part of the events connected with the TED Talk was the discussion that followed.  That discussion was very hard work.  We were supposed to talk about vulnerability, and no one really had much to say--except Nancy, whom I saw crying in the restroom later.  She had spoken up, and the facilitator then asked the rest of us if we're going to let Nancy's words fill the space, implying that the rest of us should be speaking up instead of remaining silent.  Nancy took it as a rebuke though--for talking too much, all the while ruing the sensitivity that had resulted in tears.

Another person who had a very difficult childhood said that she knows that she has focused most of her life as an adult on moving on from that difficulty. She was processing what vulnerability looked like in her situation.  She mused that perhaps she should be more willing to talk about the hard things she has experienced in life.

I really didn't know what to say.  I like to think that I am fairly transparent.  Is that the same thing as vulnerability?  Or maybe I am more of an enigma than I realize.

As I looked around the people in the room, almost none of whom I had much in common with, I felt honestly like I would be happy to answer any question anyone might think of asking me.  On the other hand, what would be the point of "spilling my guts" right there, right then.  Should I comment on being vulnerable?  Is that what was being solicited?

Anything else seemed silly, since a recital of any shameful truths about me would seem like little more than me-centered drama, of no use to anyone else in that particular setting.  Finally I said that I like time to reflect on ideas like the ones expressed in Brene' Brown's TED talk.  At some later time I would feel more ready to talk about the topic.  Afterward, the person in charge of the discussion (everyone in Hutchinson knows her husband because of his former job and his current office) told me that she feels exactly the same way.  Whew.  I'm not the only one.

Thoughts of vulnerability kept resurfacing over the next few days.  I'm not a powerhouse of self-confidence.  Does that make me suitably vulnerable--or overly reticent?  Neither am I in the habit of chronic self-evaluation.  Does that make me suitably confident--or insufferably arrogant, or just clueless?

I kept returning to what I knew from having been exposed all my life to fundamental truths of Christian faith and the Word of God.  An awareness of sin keeps me feeling needy and willing to admit failure.  That's the vulnerability-reinforcing side.  Knowing of Jesus' sacrifice reminds me that I have great value in God's eyes.  Being in a relationship with the all-powerful God of the Universe is incredibly empowering.  In this relationship, I have access to wisdom and resources that I can't begin to drum up by my own volition and effort.  Love can be offered freely to others from the store that I have received.  Gratitude helps keep things in perspective.  I'm richly blessed, but no paragon of virtue and accomplishment.

I wonder how things would be different with me, however, if I had not had a mother who kept singing to me that I was her "bonny, brown-eyed little treasure" while cradling me in her arms.   Without that "skin-on" reassurance from before my earliest memory, I'm afraid that the vulnerability that I sometimes feel might more frequently gain the upper hand. 

God bless every mother who offers her children security and love and time.  Like me, sometime in the future, those children may fail to meet their obligations in a timely manner or act more lazy and less generous and more harsh than they should.  If they have been loved well and taught well, however, they just may have the self-awareness and resilience to try again in hopes of doing better the next time.  Repeated effort over the course of a lifetime can result in an upward trajectory, and good can be accomplished along the way.  Joy is a side benefit.  Or is that the main benefit?

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Sunday Wrap Up--April 14, 2019

Blogging has taken a backseat to many other events and occupations, of late.  With no particular plan for where this is going, I'm getting launched again.

My last post was on white privilege.  In the Leadership Reno County class that followed the one where white privilege was discussed, one student recounted her experience after the class discussion--which she had discounted as being largely irrelevant to her world.

Robin (not her real name) had joined a group of people who all traveled together in a party bus to a ball game at the University of Kansas  (KU).  After they arrived, with tickets in hand, they stood in a long line to enter the building.  Out of perhaps 300 people in the line, only one was non-white.  With no disturbance whatsoever having taken place, several security people approached the only black person and told him they could smell alcohol on his breath and he needed to step out of the line.  He stayed in line.  Soon law enforcement officers arrived and handcuffed him and escorted him outside where his tickets were taken away, as were those of the family members with him.

Robin pointed out that he was not underage for legal alcohol consumption, and he had a right to be where he was.  I don't know enough of the details involved to make a definitive judgement about whether racial profiling or blatant racism were involved, or if it was something else entirely.  Robin felt though that about 299 people in that ticket line benefited from the whiteness of their skin.


I'm exulting in the explosion of natural beauty that is part of Spring.  True, we've had to tote the seedlings in the unheated greenhouse inside to the insulated and minimally heated seedhouse to protect them from several nights of freezing temperatures.  But today they went back to the greenhouse, and I hope they've had the last trip indoors.

Today Great White Pelicans landed on the marshy area near LaVerne and Rebecca's place and later moved to Salt Creek in LaVon's pasture.  We're on their migration route.  I've seen them in the past, but didn't make the trip over there today to see them.  Their wingspan is truly impressive--about nine feet, as I recall. A week ago we saw migrating ducks.  Northern Shovelers, Blue-winged teal, Mallards, and perhaps Common Merganser were spotted on their creek.

In the landscape, Forsythia and Flowering Quince are sporting their bright yellow and red-orange blossoms. Ornamental pears are in full bloom, and seem to have made it through the cold weather relatively unscathed.  This is the best time of year to spot those that have been planted by the birds.  West of Partridge, along Trail West Road a number of them have spread into unmowed areas.  Along the railroad near our house the black currants and wild plums are in bloom as well.

Underfoot are some of the dearest wildflowers.  At Betty Schrag's funeral last Sunday, I saw two patches of Small Bluets,  one in the parking lot at church (near the pasture fence), and one at the edge of the cemetery where her body was laid to rest.  I was tempted to sneak back some time and transplant some of them beside my parents' headstone.  Then it occurred to me that digging in a cemetery might arouse suspicion.  Judy saw wild Anemones in bloom at the cemetery also.

Henbit is in full bloom.  If it weren't so aggressive, it would be easier to enjoy these flowers in the  mint family.  Ditto for Dandelions.  On our nature walk on Friday we identified Corn Gromwell,  and Shepherd's Purse--both tiny white flowers.  Yellow mustard was abundant.  We couldn't figure out one pink-lavender flower, but the next day at the MCC relief sale, I spied Filaree, lovely tiny trumpet-shaped pink-lavender flowers with ferny basal leaves.

A mocking bird flitted busily from post to branch to the ground along the far west edge of the pasture fence at  Shane's place, where I grew up.  Even the children could catch it in their binoculars field of view.  I knew there used to be wild Anemones in the pasture, but it's inhabited now by several Angus bulls, and we didn't walk there, for safety's sake.

Last week on Wednesday I saw the brilliantly-colored yellow-headed blackbirds up close, on the ground by the bird feeders.  A day or so later I heard a Wren singing near the house.

We've had one meal of asparagus from the garden.  Soooo good.  We also had a dandelion gravy one evening for supper.  I really like this spring treat, but i usually don't get it made more than about once a year.


My picture landed in today's paper.  It was mercifully a tiny picture.  I was working the HCC Demonstration garden, and the pose looks as unflattering as you might imagine--bent over, skirt spread wide (thanks to the stiff wind on that day), shovel in hand.  I'm always the only one gardening in a skirt, and I get the feeling that makes me a camera target.  I spent my time working on preparing a plot for planting cut flowers.  Linda F. and Barb H. and a number of others provided lots of good help.  The plot had been overrun by Larkspur, which reseeded from plants in the Thomas Jefferson garden that used to be in that spot.  We saved the Maltese Cross and the Butterfly Milkweed, along with one plant each of Blackberry Lily and Money Plant.  We saved Larkspur plants along the back of the plot.


Paul, the man my sister Clara married last June, has had the third heart surgery since the wedding.  Two of them were major, and the one in the middle was more minor.  In the latest surgery, two valves were replaced.  One of them was replaced earlier and promptly failed, for unknown reasons.  It was temporarily repaired using a minimally invasive technique.  The hope is that before these natural-tissue valves need to be replaced (usually in seven years or so), those replacements can be done with minimally invasive means also.  They are already being done that way in some cases.  Paul was doing well after the surgery, although I haven't heard a recent report.


Betty Schrag was born exactly one week after my mother, although they did not meet until they were both well into middle age.  I shared a birthday with Betty and I have wonderful memories of walking with her along W. Mills Avenue where Pilgrim High used to be.  She lived along the same road, and would come by during a break in my classes and we'd set off to walk to the intersection west of the school and back.  We had good conversations, and I often hoped I would be just like Betty when I reached my seventies.  Betty was 90 when she died peacefully at home.  Her daughter Ann was her main caregiver.  She did so with great respect and skill.


Our curriculum committee is preparing a government course.  Melody and Arlyn are doing the lion's share of the work, with Harry and I providing some input.  This week we're getting a boost from a writer from Virginia who works with Faith Builders' curriculum development projects.  An early meeting before church on Good Friday is planned.


My niece, Kristi, and her mother Lois are expected home tonight from having  visited Sattler College in Boston, as a potential destination for Kristi for the next school year.  My nephew Bryant is already a student there.  Sterling College is another option for Kristi.


Another niece, Hannah, is happy to have found a source for A2 milk on a dairy farm in Yoder, which she seems to tolerate much better than most other milk.  Most cow's milk has a type of protein designated as  A1 protein.  Some people are unable to digest A1 proteins.  The kind of protein a cow produces is genetically determined, with some breeds having a higher proportion of A2 producers than others.


The pine trees along Trail West Road at my sister Linda's place are apparently infected with Pine Wilt.  Since there is no treatment, they are being removed gradually, with all tree parts needing to be burned, chipped, or buried before the first of May.  If left standing, the disease will likely spread to other pines, being carried there by beetles.  Scots Pines are the most susceptible, but Austrian Pines and perhaps a few others can also be infected.  Hiromi cut down and burned a dead pine tree from our windbreak row last week.  Anthony is doing the work at Linda's place.


Yesterday, for the first time in a number of years, Hiromi and I went to the MCC Relief sale at the fairgrounds in Hutchinson.  Also for the first time, we ate at the "Feeding the Multitudes" building and had some of the traditional Russian and German Mennonite Foods.  We tried the Bona Berrogi for the first time.  I thought it was quite good, but very different from anything I've ever eaten.  It was pleasantly sweet--a bean-filled pastry deep-fat fried? and served with sweetened cream poured over it.  We also ate verenika (cottage cheese-filled dumplings with a creamy ham gravy) and borscht (soup).  Folks from the Beachy churches baked about 1275 dozen cookies, all of which were sold by 12:30.  Sooooo many other food choices were available, but we mostly looked (and inhaled) without buying.  I baked three cherry pies for the sale.


I've been working for a number of weeks to see what can be done to "save" the Partridge Grade School building for community use.  It's a daunting process.  This country mouse is not that comfortable skittering about in the district office at Haven for board meetings and a meeting with the superintendent.  When the stakes are high though, you "do what you gotta do" in pursuit of a good outcome.  I'm not alone in seeking a solution, and some wonderful help has emerged from some surprising quarters.  Right now the building is probably headed for the auction block, unless a buyer comes forward before the auction prep process gets underway.  Desperation threatens to gain the upper hand inside my head, and would almost certainly reign if I did not experience the daily quiet assurance before the Father that I need only do what He shows me to do.  When the "instructions" stop coming I'll know that it's OK to back off without guilt.  In the meantime, as long as the next step becomes clear, I'm in--for the sake of justice for the people of Partridge, and for the stewardship obligation that accompanies having already invested money and time in that place.


For the first time ever, Hiromi is interested in fasting for its medical benefits.  I'm happy for company on this stuttering journey, but sometimes my enthusiasm lags behind his. Fortunately he's not offended if I veer off on a course slightly different from his.  Lowered blood sugar without medication is his immediate goal.


Shane's family spent the weekend at a Choice Books retreat in Hesston.


Lowell and Judy traveled to Haiti today, along with James and Janet Shetler, for a week-long event, a pastor's seminar, I believe.


Tomorrow evening, Ronald and Brenda plan to come from Labette County to finish up the settlement of my parents' estate.  Ronald was the executor.