Monday, April 24, 2017

Summer School ~ Mount Pisgah

Mount Pisgah @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

The Tables Turned
By William Wordsworth

Up! up! my Friend, and quit your books;
Or surely you'll grow double:
Up! up! my Friend, and clear your looks;
Why all this toil and trouble?

The sun above the mountain's head,
A freshening lustre mellow
Through all the long green fields has spread,
His first sweet evening yellow.

Books! 'tis a dull and endless strife:
Come, hear the woodland linnet,
How sweet his music! on my life,
There's more of wisdom in it.

And hark! how blithe the throstle sings!
He, too, is no mean preacher:
Come forth into the light of things,
Let Nature be your teacher.

She has a world of ready wealth,
Our minds and hearts to bless—
Spontaneous wisdom breathed by health,
Truth breathed by cheerfulness.

One impulse from a vernal wood
May teach you more of man,
Of moral evil and of good,
Than all the sages can.

Sweet is the lore which Nature brings;
Our meddling intellect
Mis-shapes the beauteous forms of things:—
We murder to dissect.

Enough of Science and of Art;
Close up those barren leaves;
Come forth, and bring with you a heart
That watches and receives.

Hiking at Pisgah @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

Our first hiking trip of the season dawned cold and rainy and we chose to be bold and adventurous!

My friend Sarah and four of her kids, Char and Monet, Holly and Ivy, and my kids and I trekked 5 miles (and the equivalent of 74 flights of stairs) to enjoy Mount Pisgah near Eugene.

Here we are huddled at the summit.

Pisgah Summit @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

Mount Pisgah Trail @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

Pisgah Trail @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

Now we’re all in pajamas under our electric blankets. Brrrrr!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

CC Spring Protocol 2017

CC Spring Protocol @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

For the past several years I’ve been able to photograph our local Classical Conversations Spring Protocol for the high school Challenge classes. [The lighting and pictures turned out the best at the first protocol in 2014, then again in 2015. The venue changed and the lighting was very dim for the 2016 event, and I only posted one picture.]

This year I finally had a son old enough to attend the event! It was a new venue again—not as conducive for photos, but the protocol team (headed by my best friend, Char) did a lovely job decorating and plating and serving. [I tried my hand at my first ever chalk board design.]

Spring Protocol @ Mt. Hope Chronicles2017 Protocol @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

The students enjoyed a four-course meal (soup, salad, main dish, and dessert plus bread and a palate-cleansing sorbet) and then an evening of English country dancing under twinkling lights.

Protocol Food @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesLevi Protocol @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

Saturday, April 22, 2017

First of the Summer Bucket List ~ Wooden Shoe Tulip Fest

Wooden Shoe Tulip Fest @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

Forty-three years I’ve lived in Oregon, and there are so many things I’ve never seen. The Wooden Shoe Tulip Fest was one of them, so it was added to the 2017 Summer Adventure Bucket List. We had gorgeous weather forecast for Friday, so I put it on the calendar.

My second son was so excited for all our summer plans. He wanted to see All the Things.

Friday morning came, and he wasn’t so thrilled. Why hadn’t I warned him ahead of time? Who wanted to see tulips?

So we got out the door later than I had hoped and with bad attitudes (primarily mine) and traveled an hour north where we discovered who wanted to see tulips:

Everyone in Oregon. And their brother.

But the weather was a balmy 62 degrees and the sun was shining and Mt. Hood was out in all its glory. The fields were in peak bloom.

There was mud. Lots of mud.

The littlest child begged for a pony ride (she didn’t get one). The bigger children begged for food (they purchased expensive toffee and shared).

Tulip Fields @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

I managed a few carefully staged photos that didn’t show a thousand people or cars.

Tulip @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

The older children have stopped allowing me to dress them. And they aren’t forced against their will to stay by my side at all times, so they rarely show up in photos any more.

Tulips @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

We watched a man carving wooden shoes for a few seconds. Lola and Leif enjoyed the (free) water trough rubber duck races. I tried to get a picture of Mt. Hood without people or cars in the way.

Woodburn Tulip Fest @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesTulip Festival @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

Clearly I’m not much of a festival-goer. As we left, the cars were backed up on the road for what seemed like miles, waiting to get in to the tulip festival. I’m glad we arrived (and left) when we did.

We had a gorgeous drive through the countryside, through charming Mt. Angel (if I weren’t festival-phobic, we’d put Oktoberfest on the bucket list), past the abbey on the hill, with Mt. Hood following us all the while.

We ignored the GPS and took the road with a sign indicating a covered bridge.

Covered Bridge @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

We meandered through agricultural country until we arrived at the Willamette Valley Pie Co. store where the kids played on the play structure and we sat in the sun at the picnic table eating homemade chicken pot pie, scones, and raspberry rhubarb pie a la mode while tractors lumbered by.

My morning-reluctant son declared that this must be heaven.

Playing @ Mt. Hope Chronicles Pie Company @ Mt. Hope ChroniclesCountryside @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

Then we drove home just in time for swim practice.

One down. A whole summer ahead of us.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Summer School Begins

Summer School Begins @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

Monday was our final day of Classical Conversations for the school year.

Luke (7th grade) and Levi (9th grade) had their last classes of Challenge A and Challenge 1, respectively. It was a long haul with few tangible breaks for both of them, Levi in particular, and I wouldn’t say we finished strong, but we finished. Gasping for air and crawling on bloodied knees across the finish line. Okay, it wasn’t that bad… Challenge is a stellar program, but we battle the lazies at our house in a big way. Diligent and focused we are not.

Leif (5th grade) also had his final testing for his first year of Memory Master. The first three tests (or "proofs") involved reciting from memory a 160 point timeline of historical events from ancient to modern (this alone takes a solid 10-15 minutes), 24 history sentences covering people and events from Charlemagne to the end of apartheid, 24 science facts or short lists in ecology and physics, multiplication facts from 1-15 plus squares and cubes, math formulas/conversions/laws, 24 English grammar definitions or lists, 6 Latin verb conjugation endings, plus over 100 geographical locations. Each recitation lasted around 90 minutes, and he had to have it all mastered by the final proof with his tutor. Mondy he had a shorter recitation with the director and passed. He loved every minute of it, and I'm so proud of him!

[Lola learned to read this past year, and that is her own accomplishment (no thanks to her mother). In addition to reading, she also listened to many stories and songs on CD. She did nothing else formal for her kindergarten year other than squirling around on CC community day.]

Tuesday marked our first day of “summer school.” I had planned to stay in my pajamas and watch Netflix all day, but after a morning of complete laziness, the utter disaster that was our house overwhelmed me. It was sunny for once, so we left to explore one of our favorite local spots—a wetland area with trails. I successfully avoided house-cleaning.

Luke and Leif continue piano lessons for a few more weeks. Levi continues an online Tolkien class for a few more weeks. We have a few swim meets coming up for all three boys.

My grand plans for morning Summer Symposium time are not yet solidified, but I do plan to do a great deal of hiking and exploring all spring and summer. Our first official foray happened earlier today despite bad attitudes from one child and his mother. Pictures are forthcoming. 

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl ~ A Review

Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl Review @ Mt. Hope Chronicles 

I am a traveler.

So begins N.D. Wilson’s Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl: Wide-Eyed Wonder in God’s Spoken World.

Wilson unleashes a blizzard of swirling poetic imagery as he invites us to travel through a year with him, season by season, giving us the distinct impression that he is along for the ride as well.

In the preface he states:

For me, this book was an occurrence. It rolled over me. I worked to shape and control it, to pace it, to leash it and teach it to sit and roll over. I did my best. But at times my best was insufficient, and in some places you might notice this thing climbing on the furniture, licking my face, or dragging me down the street.

I enjoyed the ride, though it left me panting and clammy.

For sure.

This romp through philosophy, science, nature, theology, and poetry is not for linear, just the facts, ma’am reader. It’s for the reader who is ready to experience an exhilarating and sometimes queasy joyride on the Tilt-A-Whirl. [Spoiler alert: you’re already riding it.]

Why has every culture “felt the overwhelming pressure of existence itself and the need to explain it”?

What is this place? Why is this place? Who approved it?… Was this cosmic behavior expected? Am I supposed to take it seriously? How can I? I’ve watched goldfish make babies, and ants execute earwigs. I’ve seen a fly deliver live young while having its head eaten by a mantis.

This is not a sober world. Bats really do exist. Caterpillars really turn into butterflies—it’s not just a lie for children. Coal squishes into diamonds. Apple trees turn flowers into apples using sunlight and air.

Nothing is too small or too large to escape Wilson’s notice, and he delights in the absurd.

The tour begins in winter while we are shoveling snow. We are introduced to Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Leibniz, Voltaire, and Kant. On to Heidegger, Wittgenstein, Nietzsche, Hume. Wilson is tough on them. He prefers priests.

They know this universe is brimming with magic, with life and riddles and ironies. They know that the world might eat them, and no encyclopedia could stop it.

So we move on to the question What is the world made of?

Illusion? Suffering? Thoughts? The ancient elements—earth, air, fire and water? Quarks and leptons?

What are quarks made of? Can quarks be made of something which is made of something else which is in turn made of yet another thing, ad infinitum? “Infinite regress isn’t possible.” Is the answer, at some point, “nothing”?

That olive [I held in my hand] had mass, it had savor and flavor, texture and temperature, and even a tiny fragment of pit that nicked my gum. It had a measurable amount of potential energy. I am comfortable saying that the olive was no illusion. That the material world exists in all of its toe-stubbing glory. (I see no reason to wander down the long, lonely road of self-sensory doubt. That way avoids no difficulties and only leads to chat rooms, meds, atonal music, and cosmic loathing. It is a slow and painful suicide. And, in my opinion, it’s tacky.)

Then he welcomes us to the world of faith. What is the world made of?

Words. Magic words. Words spoken by the Infinite, words so potent, spoken by One so potent that they have weight and mass and flavor. They are real. They have taken on flesh and dwelt among us. They are us. In the Christian story, the material world came into existence at the point of speech, and that speech was ex nihilo, from nothing. [God] sang a song, composed a poem, began a novel so enormous that even the Russians are dwarfed by its heaped up pages.

We look around us and realize that everything we see, feel, hear, taste, and touch is art that inhabits our story and we are the characters. What will your character do? Think? Say?

Listen to your dialogue. Look at your thoughts. Be horrified. Be grateful that God loves characters and loves characters on journeys, characters honestly striving to grow.

And later:

Living makes dying worth it.

That seems to be a theme with Wilson.

And then spring. Ah, “death and pain, injustice and grief. Evil, the problem of.”

I see a stage, a world where every scene is crafted. Where men act out their lives within a tapestry, where meaning and beauty exist, where right and wrong are more than imagined constructs.There is evil. There is darkness. There is the Winter of tragedy, every life ending, churned back in the soil. But the tragedy leads to Spring. The story does not end in frozen death. The fields are sown in grief. The harvest will be reaped in joy. I see a Master’s painting. I listen to a Master’s prose.

More philosophers. The Discovery Channel. Croesus, Agamemnon, Oedipus, Odysseus. Puddleglum.

Tell us what is, by all means. But without God, you cannot tell us what ought to be.

And quintessential Wilson humor.

The platypus is quite clearly the best currently living creature, but it is not the best of all possible creatures. In addition to its mammalian, egg-laying, duck-billed, web-footed, amphibious life, it also could have had bat wings, sonar, and the ability to fire explosions out of its rear like a bombardier beetle. To speak franky, I feel that a creative opportunity was missed.

But back to pain.

If we live in art, struggling in the boundary between the shadow and the light, unable to see the whole, how can we begin to judge? How can we presume to talk about a better painting, a better novel, when we see only a single line, a single page, and it brings us grief?


Our art is tiny in comparison to His… He is infinite… and the narratives of this universe, the song of this universe, the epic of this universe, the still-frames of this universe on every level—from quarks to galaxies—reflect His self, His character, His loves, His hates, His mercies, His judgments, His kindnesses, and His wraths.

Wilson explores the difference between cute and beautiful. We try to soften the terrible edges of beauty into a palatable and trivial cuteness. Something comfortable. “Safety scissors for all the saints!”

No safety scissors here.

Wilson continues through summer sandcastles and a fallish hell.

St. Augustine, Aquinas, Kvanvig, C.S Lewis, John Donne, Christ, Louis XV, William Blake, and Oscar Wilde.

He ends with Christ. A return to winter. Christmas.

The Lord came to clean the unclean. He brought the taint of Holiness, and it has been growing ever since. He was born in a barn and slept in a food trough.

Through it all, Wilson keeps his eyes wide open with wonder as he attempts “to find unity cacophany.”


Even though Notes asks big questions and confronts tough subjects, the book itself is a fairly brisk 200 pages. It’s engaging and never dull. It provides fodder for great discussions with teens, reading partners, or book clubs. It’s on my 15 year old son’s summer reading list, and I’m looking forward to the conversations the book elicits.


I’ll be reading Death by Living, his follow-up book, this summer.


N.D. Wilson is best known and loved, however, for his adventurous children’s novels. My boys have read and loved his 100 Cupboards series, Ashtown Burials series, Leepike Ridge, and Boys of Blur (a retelling of Beowulf set in the swamps of Florida—who can resist?).

We all (myself, my husband, and boys) read Outlaws of Time as soon as it was released last year, and the sequel was just released today. I absolutely loved the first book, and I’m glad he finished the sequel so quickly because it ended on a cliff-hanger. I’ll be reviewing them both soon, but my friend Sara at Plumfield and Paideia has great reviews of 100 Cupboards and Outlaws of Time to read in the meantime.

Here’s a teaser trailer for the first Outlaws of Time.



The following interview is a great representation of Wilson’s personality and approach to life and literature.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Between Shadow and Light

Kate DiCamillo @ Mt. Hope Chronicles

I read Kate DiCamillo for the first time this past month.

I started with The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane.

This quote by C.S. Lewis from The Four Loves expresses the book’s theme for me:

“There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.”

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Yes. But not to love is a casket.

From Edward Tulane:

[all happy stories must end with love]

“But answer me this: how can a story end happily if there is no love? But. Well. It is late. And you must go to sleep.”

[one of my favorite themes in literature, the idea of being known]

And Edward felt a warm rush of pleasure at being recognized, at being known.

[being named, listening]

Edward knew what it was like to say over and over again the names of those you had left behind. He knew what it was like to miss someone. And so he listened. And in his listening, his heart opened wide and then wider still.


“Two options only,” he said. “And your friend chose option two. He gave you up so that you could be healed. Extraordinary, really.”

[the casket]

He prided himself on not hoping, on not allowing his heart to lift inside of him. He prided himself on keeping his heart silent, immobile, closed tight.

[hope, vulnerability, courage, journey]

“You must be filled with expectancy. You must be awash in hope. You must wonder who will love you, whom you will love next.”

“I am done with being loved,” Edward told her. “I’m done with loving. It’s too painful.”

“Pish,” said the old doll. “Where is your courage?”

“Somewhere else, I guess,” said Edward.

“You disappoint me,” she said. “You disappoint me greatly. If you have no intention of loving or being loved, then the whole journey is pointless.”


I ached with a hopeful ache and moved on to The Tale of Despereaux.

From the very beginning, all I could think about was a Rembrandt painting. Darkness, darkness, a touch of light. Darkness, darkness, a touch of light. So masterfully painted.

The April sun, weak but determined, shone through a castle window and from there squeezed itself through a small hole in the wall and placed one golden finger on the little mouse.

[eyes open]

The light was shining onto the ceiling in an oval brilliance, and he was smiling up at the sight…

“The last one,” said the father. “And he’ll be dead soon. He can’t live. Not with his eyes open like that.”

But, reader, he did live.

This is his story.


Despeareaux’s sister Merlot took him into the castle library, where light came streaming in through tall, high windows and landed on the floor in bright yellow patches.


“Once upon a time,” he said aloud, relishing the sound. And then, tracing each word with his paw, he read the story of a beautiful princess and the brave knight who serves and honors her.

Despereaux did not know it, but he would need, very soon, to be brave himself.


“Oh,” he said, “it sounds like heaven. It smells like honey.”

The song was as sweet as light shining through stained-glass windows, as captivating as the story in a book… Despereaux forgot all his fear… He crept closer… until, reader, he was sitting right at the foot of the king.


… A rat named Chiaroscuro and called Roscuro, a rat born into the filth and darkenss of the dungeon…

Reader, do you know the definition of the word “chiaroscuro”? If you look in the dictionary, you will find that it means the arrangement of light and dark, darkness and light together. Rats do not care for light. Roscuro’s parents were having a bit of fun when they named their son.


His rat soul longed inexplicably for it; he began to think that light was the only thing that gave life meaning, and he despaired that there was so little of it to be had.

“I think,” said Roscuro, “that the meaning of life is light.”


There are those hearts, reader, that never mend again, once they are broken. Or if they do mend, they heal themselves in a crooked and lopsided way… Such was the fate of Chiaroscuro. His heart was broken… Speaking of revenge… helped him to put his heart together again. But it was, alas, put together wrong.


And the passage was dark, dark, dark.

“I wil tell myself a story,” said Despereaux. “I will make some light. Let’s see. It will begin this way: Once upon a time. Yes. Once upon a time, there was a mouse who was very, very small. Exceptionally small. And there was a beautiful human princess whose name was Pea. And it so happened that this mouse was the one who was selected by fate to serve the princess, to honor her, and to save her from the darkness of a terrible dungeon.”


Light and Dark
Hope and Despair
Love and Loss

Suffering, longing, regret, abandonment, tragedy.

Song, story, beauty, forgiveness, courage, redemption.

Love, even though it hurts.
Love, even though it’s ridiculous.

Because life isn’t worth living without it.


I began to think about N.D. Wilson’s Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl.

Could we improve this picture? How can we make it not better but best? Remove the tension and the contrast. Remove the black. All of it. Remove the struggle and the inevitable end.

Leave the white. Only white. And now it is perfect. Perfectly blank.

If we live in art, struggling in the boundary between the shadow and the light, unable to see the whole, how can we begin to judge? How can we presume to talk about a better painting, a better novel, when we see only a single line, a single page, and it brings us grief?

…And so we speak. Each of us wanting our own position a little more comfortable. Each of us wanting to see a little more happiness, a little less contrast, wanting to skip the struggle, throw away the novel and save only the final page, the FINIS. A world of tombstones would have no wars, no hardships, and no complaints. So would a world without births or loves or creeping, crawling, walking, or growing things.

A better artist would have made this world more like the moon, only without the black space behind it, without the contrast of edges. A sprawling, near-infinite moon. Erase the craters.

The painting is blank. The art is numb. Perhaps it is the best of all possible numbness.

And later,

When men act out their lives within a tapestry, where meaning and beauty exist, where right and wrong are more than imagined constructs. There is evil. There is darkness. There is the Winter of tragedy, every life ending, churned back in the soil. But the tragedy leads to Spring. The story does not end in frozen death. The fields are sown in grief. The harvest will be reaped in joy. I see a Master’s painting. I listen to a Master’s prose. When darkness falls on me, when I stand on my corner of the stage and hear my cue, when I know my final scene has come and I must exit, I will go into the ground like corn, waiting for the Son.”

And then,

“Why do we so often ignore the beautiful in exchange for the cute?”

Kate DiCamillo’s writing is not cute, friends. It loves. It hurts. And then it sings with hope.


As if I needed the message pounded deeper, deeper, CiRCE Institute published this article by Greg Wilbur yesterday:

Chiaroscuro: A Contemplation for Holy Week
The dance of creation is resplendent with the pattern of chiaroscuro and with the musical motif of sorrow transforming into a melody of joy.

Rembrandt. Spring.

Creation. Words, song, bringing light. A cycle of night and day.

Death and resurrection.

I’m listening.

The theme of hopelessness turning into rejoicing, of weeping that lasts for the night before the joy that comes in the morning, forms the basis of fiction and story. If we did not feel the peril and potential loss of the knight as he battles the dragon, we would also not feel the thrill of the victory over what seemed to be hopeless. A hero that nonchalantly and easily dispatched dangers and foes would not stir the imagination, the blood, or our concern. In fact, he comes off looking a bit like a bully. His light does not shine brightly because the darkness is not deep and seemingly impenetrable.