Friday, December 29, 2006

Here is Miss Roo in September, 2005. With a bell around her neck so that we could discourage her wandering spirit that yearned for "home" and the Lost Garden.

And here is Missy, sitting in the same window, but looking in, instead of out! Methinks that portends good things, and she will hopefully be a stay at home cat.

Today Missy and Caspar had their first skirmish. He is being amazingly patient, but she became just a little too familiar when she decided to sniff his leg! Indeed, - decidedly too familiar. I had thought it would have been his waving tail that would initiate the first stand-off, if she should decide to bat at it with her little paw. Not so - and I'm afraid we have lost some ground in the friendship game.

All this happened later in the morning, but first thing, just after getting up, here is the spectacular sunrise that kept us outside in the cold wind, taking pictures and marvelling at the fiery beauty.

Eventually the colours faded to a soft gold, and so began the day!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Somebody new has taken up residence, with headquarters in the Big Bathroom.

But she has quickly taken to roaming the rest of the house....

and capturing hearts right and left!!

When I first heard that David, our grandson, was wondering if we were ready for another kitten yet, the pain I felt at losing Miss Roo last spring twinged in my mind and behind my eyes.

When Christmas passed and no kitten arrived on the doorstep I thought an awkward moment had been avoided.

But when David and Missy arrived on Boxing Day I knew that he was wise, and I was beguiled by this little miniature image of Miss Roo, - friendly and sweet and full of adventure. When she first met Caspar I venture to say that she was the "spitting" imagine of Miss Roo, but after two days they are becoming comfortable with each other.

Any objection Husband might have had to another little animal around the house was immediately overcome by his soft and tender heart for all things small and vulnerable.

So we start our days with Missy - the only name she has so far, and perhaps that is the one she will end up with.

Thank you David!!

P.S. A wee, tiny, fragile kitten has inspired Husband to remember to put down the lid of the toilet in his bathroom. UP UP with MISSY!!!!!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

In Praise of Boxing Day

This morning I had occasion to look into the kitchen pantry with my eyes wide open - my "housekeeping eyes" that is! I viewed the carnage that seemed to take place silently in this little catch-all in the days before Christmas, and mentally made a note of priority regarding restoring order.

But Not Today - Today is Boxing Day.

The day that I understand arose from the practise of taking boxes of food and essentials to the poor who lived on the estates of the rich.

When I was a child the day was devoted to visiting friends, - a continual round. I never figured out how it was determined who was to travel and who was to stay home to receive the travelers with good cheer and the traditional grog.

Then there was the practice of using up the left-over turkey to continue the celebration with those who weren't present for the actual Christmas Dinner.

And in the days when Christmas Parties were de riguer, Boxing Day was a favourite to gather all friends together for a "cocktail" and an exchange of Christmas stories.

Most recently Box Day has degenerated into an economic frenzy, and I could say more about this aspect of the secular take-over of a Christian religious celebration, - but that is a subject for another Blog.

But none of these things happen in this House. And not at this time......

Since the mellowing advance of age, this is a pictorial view of how Boxing Day is preferably spent around these parts! Not that friends aren't welcome, but in between times snoozes are delectable and to be indulged in along with left-over turkey and plates of sweets.

The Master and the Dog. And the blog person is about to go and make a quick turkey sandwich before falling on to the couch to join the slumberers.....

Friday, December 22, 2006

The days draw in as we reach The Birthday Celebration.

Already the shortest day in the year has come and gone, and if one had time to ponder the future surely the prospects of February, March and April would rouse one's gardening spirits.

However, here we are in the midst of busy and blessed days.

And I find I am not as swift as I once was. In my effort to stay calm and serene during Advent days I have reluctantly relegated some of the Christmas traditions to the Once-upon-a-time-we-used-to Era.

There are no mince tarts in the pantry. None in the freezer, either...... The outside lights are simple - no elaborate displays of stars or fancy strings of lights along the fence and through the garden.

All the myriad pieces of silver we received for wedding presents lie tarnished as the elves who used to clean them grew up and go about their own fascinating teen-age business. This will be a down to earth Christmas, - lacking in elegance, but not in joy or in a grand feast.

Despite having to play at two church services Christmas Eve we will have a modified family drop in Christmas Eve gathering supper, - Oyster Stew for those who grew up loving it, - Chili and Ham and buns for those who entered the family not knowing of this exotic tradition, and not prepared to do more than sip a little oyster broth and try to look as if they were enjoying it!!

The morning sun comes up on intermittent days, and glorifies the skies where the clouds linger over the mountain tops. On other days the clouds hang low, but the air is milder and the wind is still.

All the parcels and letters and cards have been sent away, and the most intriguing boxes surround the Christmas Tree in return.

Nicky and David, - our family who are too far away to spend Christmas with us physically, have once again made donations of various farmyard animals in the names of the family, through World Vision, and it inspires me to do the same next year (God willing!!)

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;

William Wordworth, in his time, bewailed the lack of simplicity and the loss of the core of spiritual life as we spend our energies accumulating stuff and as a consequence keeping our head to the ground, our shoulder to the wheel, our nose to the grindstone - while above the stars shine brightly and unheeded.

Ah, I am sinking into the philosophical mode and I think it is time to take up my knitting and ponder the ways of the world in a meditative mood.

All the time wishing Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Men, a joyous Christmas, and the spirit of love pervading the whole wide world.

Monday, December 11, 2006

How beautiful the march of days
as seasons come and go.
The hand that shaped the rose has wrought
the crystal of the snow.

Has sent the silvery frost of heaven,
the flowing waters sealed
and laid a silent loveliness
on hill and wood and field.

O'er white expanses sparkling pure
the radiant morns unfold,
the solemn spendours of the night
burn brighter through the cold.

Life mounts in every throbbing vein.
Love deepens round the hearth
and clearer sounds the angel hymn,
goodwill to all on earth.

Francis Whitmarsh Wile

I keep these words in my heart as
the beautiful days march on to Christmas
and I busy myself with parcels and
letters and baking and music and
love of the season.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Taking a Toll of the Bell Choir

Well, actually we aren't the tolling kind of Bell Choir, - we are an English Handbell Choir. Nonetheless, we are wondering for whom the bell tolls as illness "takes its toll" and we have had to cancel all the Christmas events we planned and practised for.

We made this decision tonight, and I was caught in a mix of emotions. Sympathy for those who are ill; a little sadness for those who have looked forward to our concerts at this special time of year; but also a small and secret sigh of relief as I struggle with efforts to simplify Christmas celebrations.

This is not an easy thing to do! I yearn for a quiet December in which to prepare for The Birthday. It would be nice to recognize Advent for what it is, - a time of quietness and reflection, and yes, preparation. But not the frenzied preparation we seem to start earlier and earlier. Not the demands on our time and our budget that we inevitably seem to yield to.

Even the loving preparations, - the baking, the shopping, the plans for gift giving and for entertaining family and friends, the Christmas letters, the bazaars and the Christmas bake sales and teas...they all take their Toll (there we are, back to that word again)

However, this will be my 61st year as a wife and mother - she who is responsible for all the Christmas traditions and the aforementioned busyness. I scan my Christmas cook books for easy and simple ways to cut down, and all the traditional baking recipes jump off the page and pull at my sleeve. (or is that my heart)? How can we do without butter or mince tarts, - or lemon curd and shortbread. What about hard sauce and toasted almonds, and sausage rolls and oyster stew!!!!

And not put up a Christmas tree, or all the treasured wreaths and ornaments from years gone by?

It is a dilemna - one that calls for stern discipline and an unemotional approach.

Not sure I'm up to it!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Wintry Weather

The weathermen - and the TV weather girls, - rumoured the imminent arrival of wintry weather well before it finally arrived.

The first morning we woke to snow the Johnny-jump-ups were sheltered under the remnants of the fall mums.

All around the hills were blanketed, but the clouds were still light and bouyant.

The garden looked gentler than it has during the past weeks, when the dry stalks of faded summer flowers and plants gave a sad atmosphere of neglect.

Meanwhile, back in the house where it's warm and cosy, Caspar the dog, inspects with interest the process of cutting vitamin D pills in half, and discovers that the noise that snaps and sends him woofing down the hall is really not so bad when he understands the operation!!!

Tomorrow we brave the wintry weather to go and pay our respects to the doctor and enter the fray as we start Christmas shopping venture.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Putting the garden to Bed

The sun shone brightly this morning and one would not have given credence to the dire weather report that is currently being touted for the week-end.

However, experience has made me aware of how temperatures can plummett, especially when the skies are clear and brilliantly blue, and the snow on the mountains is glistening in the sunlight. So as the temperature rose this morning, so did my gardening spirits.

I went out and tidied up all the pots and pathways, snipped back the long stems on the roses, admired the few violets that have mistaken the mild weather for spring, and even a little clump of johny jump-ups. The allysum, which grew abundantly and kept the garden sweetly scented all summer, made a wonderful addition to the compost pile.

While I worked I was heartened by the sounds of the young fellows installing the new garage doors. They were young, and full of vim and vigor. And competent as well!

Not ever having had a garage before, - let alone one with doors that open and close automatically, - we are luxuriating in this up-town addition to our lives. And Husband looks forward to finally having a place where he can go and tinker and fix things. I am happy for him, although he is still welcome at the breakfast nook table when the weather is bad. At least by me, - Caspar, the dog, is another story. His sensitive ears disturb him greatly when Husband makes any sharp noises. Even the three hole punch causes him to retreat along the hallway, woofing in distress. After thirteen years of doggie loyalty he has a fair amount of influence about what goes on. Who'd a thought it!!!! What next, I wonder...

I have been sorting through pictures with my final goal to put them into albums and pass them out amongst the family. I am amazed at how many snaps of faithful canine friends I find in the boxes of pictures. We have never been without dogs, since the first Doberman Pincer we were given for a wedding present over 61 years ago. Mostly wonderfully intelligent Border Collies who worked with the Sheep and were dearly beloved by the Shepherd. May the grass grow sweet o'er the spots where they lie sleeping.

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Church Bazaar

Here are a few pictures from the Church Bazaar, setting up for the big day, all the hurly burly of the selling tables and the friendly chat over tea and the ladies' scrumptious dessert.

The Bazaar is a well loved and well attended tradition in the community. In that it draws people to help who look upon the church as "their own", even though they don't attend or support in any other way, it is a form of mission into the communityl And one that is hard to give up.

After a fifty year run its future is considered year by year, but the congregation is loathe to abandon it. Nature hates a vacumn - what might replace it?????

Dessert was delicious, wonderful time was had by all, - but at the end of the day I wondered if there wasn't some little niche I could fill that didn't require so much work!!!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Remembrance Day was observed with due respect and loving memories. The Day has passed, but the memories are eternal.

Life turns over so quickly, - we are now into busy Bazaar times, at the same time we cope with shifts at the Bargain Centre, (the church's mission outreach). A traditional event, the Bazaar is part of the vitality of the Church and the Community, in cooperation. As is the Bargain Centre.

I muse about this cooperation in the secular society that has evolved in the last forty years, and am grateful that the spirit lives on in many non-church-goers, as much as it does in those who gather to worship and keep the church alive.

The congregational members of the church age, and we lose them, one by one. The few young people who are still part of the parish have found other places to put their energies, - all of them of the utmost value.

If I go back fifty years and remember the Evening Branch of the ACW, - all young women with young families, and full of young ideas - I have a better perspective of what keeps the young people of the Parish from participating in this "old ladies" endeavor.

We weren't old ladies then, - we were young and full of new ideas, vast stores of energy and enthusiasm. When "Rummage Sales" outgrew the small parish hall we looked for a place to store and sort and make these sales available to the community on a weekly basis. It was a lark, and great fun! It contributed to a growing friendship amongst the members, and established the Bargain Centre in the community as a place of outreach and help. We moved around from spot to spot as the enterprise expanded and required more room. In the meantime we grew middle-aged, - still having fun and making inroads into an ever growing mission in the community, - providing clothes and household needs at bargain prices from donations that arrived with generous abandon.

When the Anglican and United Churches came together to form an ecumenical parish the United Church parish hall was made available to us, and we grew by leaps and bounds.

And when the secular world had made sufficient inroads into the church family, so that church givings were not large enough to enable us to maintain a full time minister, then the Bargain Centre and the Community who supported it, helped in meeting these expenses. And everybody profited, - where there is a church there is a sense of spiritual stability, even to those who have lapsed. In this community there are people who refer to the church as "our church" even though they have not been inside it's doors for any reason except a baptism, a wedding or a funeral.

Ah, but alas, - now the original members who started with such enthusiasm, have grown old. The spirit is still willing, and the friendships which have been forged are strong and true. But oh, the flesh is weak, and so we value and appreciate all the younger people who come from the community to assist us in our Bargain Boutique.

Next month we will take them all out for a Christmas Lunch, - but our true thanks lies in our grateful response to their help, week by week. It is a wonderful example of friendship and cooperation between Church and Community that strengthens the bonds that tie us together.

I'm off to knit another scarf for the handicraft table at the Bazaar!!

Friday, November 10, 2006

O Valiant Hearts

Tomorrow Husband will once again read the names of the Fallen from this Community - those who gave their lives in the First World War, the Second World War, and the Korean War. In a neighbouring town someone else will have this honour, and the names of the Fallen there will include the names of Husband's two brothers, who were killed within six months of each other in France and Holland. There is a sharp sense of loneliness in a lifetime lived without that close comradeship between brothers.

This morning my niece sent me a video of the Juno Beach Academy ceremony at the Field of Honour in Queen's Park Cemetery, Calgary, where more than five thousand veterans are buried.

Under grey skies and in blowing snow, students from the academy marched to the Field of Honour to remember their comrades. The Piper and the Drummer leading them were my niece's sons, and close behind in the Division was her daughter. The Bugler who played the Last Post and Reveille was the Piper's girlfriend.

I watched the video through tears (hopefully you can too, by going to the above website).

The respect and understanding shown by these young people helped to counteract the disgusting suggestion I have heard in the last few days that Remembrance Day become a moveable "holiday" so that it can always provide a long week-end! Shame to those who do not observe the 11th Hour of the 11th Day of the 11th Month to honour those who died to maintain the freedom they enjoy, and often abuse.

My father was wounded at Cambrai on the 11th of October, 1918. When I was a young child, between the two Great Wars and still in school, Remembrance Day was not a holiday. However, at the 11th hour of the day all commerce ceased, and wherever one might be the two minute silence was observed in memory of the sacrifices made in that most horrible of wars, fought in trenches and mud and with bloody persistence and valour.

The cemetery at Brettville sur laiz where Tom is buried, - near Falaise where he was killed.

In 1995 Husband and I visited the cemeteries at Groesbeek and Brettville sur laiz. From my diary of June 20th, 1995 - "Went out towards Groesbeek, and stopped in the town..... Then we went on to the cemetery, - had lunch there, picnic style, and spent a couple of quiet hours. Charles asked one of the attendent gardeners about putting the remembrance plaque on Gordon's gravestone permently, and got permission to do so - so he did, with the epoxy glue he had brought from home. We took some more pictures. It is so quiet, and peaceful, - the birds were singing, and it broke my heart to think of three thousand young lives sacrificed in these peaceful fields."

The Moyland Forest, on the German border

and the grave of the brother who is buried at Groesbeek.

During the past week Husband has been in touch a number of times with a reporter who was interviewing him as a veteran and as a Lancaster Pilot. The stories he related about his experiences with his crew were interspersed with many passionate political opinions, but when the paper came out today we were pleased that the reporter had done an excellent job of sorting out the factual experiences from the philosophies which he has accumulated during the 61 years that have passed since his discharge from the airforce.

Time passes, but the memories of those who lived at the time of these wars remains vivid.

Time passes, and for many these events are something that happened in the dim and distant past, long before they were born.

It encourages me to note that the young are being made aware of the sacrifice of so many thousands who literally "laid down their lives" and I am encouraged that the stores now close on Remembrance Day.

Such a small thing to show gratefulness and respect most especially on this one day, - and to feel those same emotions in our hearts, each and every day of our lives.

An overly emotional post perhaps, but my comments on a day that we view reverently in our family. "In Flanders Fields" is joined by "O I have slipped the surly bonds of earth", and a heartfelt prayer of gratefulness for valour, and hopefulness for peace.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Yesterday Husband and I went to Penticton, - he to speak at a Remembrance Day event, resplendant, with medals all shined and his mind attuned to the points he wanted to talk about. He is a man of passion, and when he speaks of those things which he values greatly he sometimes walks on the edge of a political precipice. One never knows when he might lose his footing a little and digress to another point carrying political overtones that excite him to express deeply felt opinions! It's a risk we must all take when he is asked to speak!!!! Ask anyone who has ever interviewed him.....

I went along for the ride, and what a splendid drive it was over the pass into the Okanagan Valley. The skies were dour, but the hills glowed with a wonderful luminence.

The fall grasses dotted the hillsides with gorgeous patches of naples yellow, covering the small benches. Along the roadside the grasses were longer and more varied, - shades of orange and gold, with hidden spears of green. The small red shrubs that hug the rocks are indescribably soft and range in shades from pinks to wines. Words fail to express the wonderful feeling of quiet mystery that shrouds the mountain with these suble earthy colours. Unfortunately we were late getting away, which made picture taking impossible, and when we returned the sky was pouring buckets of rain. Perhaps we will be lucky enough to meet that same combination of sky and hill and colour the next time we go, but for now it is a picture in my mind that I remember as being wonderfully relaxing as we hurried to make up time and not be too late.

On Sunday a "Chicken Little" Lady bemoaned the lack of water in the riverbed, foreseeing this as a sign of the climate change that threatens to devastate us. On Tuesday the river was brim full with all those wonderful buckets of rain that come in the fall to feed the thirsty trees and plants as they go into dormancy.

I think you have to live long enough to experience earth's cycles of drought and heat and rain and heavy snows, before you can view climate change as natural, and not the fearful disaster that is forecast. Occasionally we are blessed with the perfect June, the most glorious fall, or the most benign of picturesque winters and I do pray that the doom and gloomers take them into account and are thankful for them.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

“No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds, - November!”

Thomas Hood

November! The melancholy month. The month of Remembrance. The month of gusts and gales, wild rain and dark mornings. The evenings draw in and the fog swirls throughout the valley as day dawns.

But still the beauty remains. Our days remain sunny and the nights are clear and frosty, but when the mists descend the remaining autumn colours glow with a beautiful translucence.

It was a race to get the geraniums in to warmth and safety, - when frost threatened it was a late evening task to bring them in from the deck after they had been potted from the garden. They are bringing cheer to the big bathroom, or else they are crowding the space around Husband's grooming sink, - whichever perspective you want to foster!

The Canna Lilies found refuge under an outside table while they dried in the sun, and eventually were stored in the Travel Trailer where I hope they will survive until spring. They are a new venture for me, - the first time we have grown them in the garden.

October left us with precious gifts, - lovely new Great Grandsons, - one for my sister and one for Husband and I. Born only hours apart on October 31st these sweet little Halloween spirits slipped ( an adjective I'm sure their mothers would not have used) into their new earthly adventure, no doubt trailling Wordsworth's "clouds of glory". Each generation lives life according to the prevalent traditions, culture, morality, and historical events and values them as the norm. I wonder what life will be like for them eighty years on, and in the intervening years, before they start to say "you call THAT music!!! - in MY day".......... What can a Great Grandma do but pray for their happiness and their safety, and pray for their souls that the beauty of this earth brings awe and contentment to them.

Love to their parents, their grandparents, and all who treasure them.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Today in an e-mail I received the following excerpt.

"Each day is a gift, and as long as my eyes open I'll focus on this new day and all the happy memories I've stored away. Just for this time in my life....

Old age is like a bank account. You withdraw from it what you've put in.

So, my advice to you would be to deposit a lot of happiness in the bank account of memories!"

This little homily, together with the presence of four LARGE boxes of pictures that sit on the trunk at the end of the bed, has prompted me to consider the contents of the four LARGE boxes and the memories that we have accumulated there. Memories of
Husband and I, our family and our friends. For a number of years in the 60's and 70's we relied on a movie camera to record the passing days. Those memories are tucked away on film, in a box. All except a select few that we had transferred to VHS, and thence to a DVD. For the past few years we have used a digital camera, and there are a couple of thousand pictures of the Similkameen Valley, the Lost Garden, Sunsets and Sunrises, and family celebrations stored in our computers.

Well, what do you do about those thousands of pictures once you get to be an octogenarian, and you know that someone, somewhere, sometime is going to have to deal with all these memories. Husband's sister has tackled the job, year by year, and is creating extremely elegant snapshot albums recording each year's family gatherings, visits from friends and important events. I admire her work and the time, the love and the dilegence she has devoted to it. I realize, however, that the task is beyond me unless I wish to give up the garden, the weaving and all the other activities that fill our days now.

This is about the time that I realize I am not alone in enjoying rummaging through these abiding memories!! Husband is equally as sentimental as I, and far better at organizing a method for dealing with this problem than I could ever be. Given the 17 empty albums we have accumulated over the years, in hopes that at some point we will buckle down to the task or sorting pictures into family groups and passing them on to children, - and given the number of shoe boxes that are sitting around waiting to be used for sorting, - Surely the moment of truth has arrived, - the point of no return!!

To strengthen and support this project is the advance of winter, the need for Husband to find something to do that will favour his sciatica (now that the tractor is in decent repair).

I can see it now, - the happy hours spent in contemplation of times long gone, - precious friends who take their place either amongst the quick, or the dead. The stories associated with times and places, and the reminiscences of Christmases, small children, birthday parties, travel to well loved woods and fishing spots.

I pick up a handful of these pictures, and I am taken back to the time when we were young grandparents - and all the delightful times we enjoyed with young grandchildren.

Here is a picture of a distant cousin from the 1800's who is the spitting image of one of our granddaughters when she was the same age.

A picture from the 50's of Husband and young friends with a rogue bear they shot, with our oldest son looking on, wide-eyed.

One of dear friends, gathered together for New Year's Eve sometime in the early 90's; a picture of me that Husband carried with him when he was Overseas, together with a snap of some of his crew and Himself, on leave at the Spa Hotel in Tunbridge Wells.

There are pictures of our grandparents and their family and friends - a few even of the generation that precedes them. All precious and worthy of good care, - all part and parcel of the memories that we have banked over the years, for just such a time as this.

At the end of this homily which arrived in my e-mail box were the following five simple rules to be happy.

Free your heart from hatred.

Free your mind from worries

Live simply

Give more

Expect less

All rules that reminded me how simple it all is, - this business of being happy!!!!!