Saturday, December 29, 2007

I am starting to write this post early, as I'm sure I must have something profound to say about the passage of time, even if it is just a matter of discarding the old and pinning up a new calendar, full of hope and promise and good intentions. A little mundane catalyst.....but one that springs eternally and with great hope.....

"For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning."
~T.S. Eliot, "Little Gidding"

Profound thoughts do not always come easily, - they float around like vaporous clouds for some time before taking shape and form. And sometimes the end result is not as profound as one would wish.

Memories keep confounding any attempts at serious speculation about 'how times change', 'where are we headed', 'what is truly important as we skid along, day by day' and 'who is in charge of this wild ride'?

New Year's Eve has always been a special time in our lives. Christmas was for the children, but New Year's Eve was for parents, partying and compatriots. With six children we had to make a stand somewhere and strike out on our own.......

When we first came to this valley almost sixty years ago we settled on a DVA project along with forty or fifty other veterans of World War Two. We were all poor, - the fellows had spent the early years of their young manhood in Europe, and by today's standards the compensation was very sparse indeed. But we were rich in friendships and community, and our memories of those years are sweet (well, sometimes bitter sweet - it was an adventure, but also a struggle).

We partied in half built homes, - we organized dances (the old fashioned kind) - we went on scavenger hunts and played bridge at every opportunity. And New Year's Eve was important to us in many ways, - a relaxation, a time of hope that next year would bring good crops and markets (the orchardist's perennial optimism).... Sometimes New Year's Eve extended well into New Year's Day - always it was an expression of friendship and good fun.

In later years New Year's Eve was quieter. A game of bridge, some reminiscing, a drink or two, always crab sandwiches, - and always the same fondness for the dear friends we celebrated with. Time has a way of changing the things we would like to cling to. Death intervenes, and now we have come full circle, and New Year's Eve is usually spent with our children and grandchildren.

Precious moments, but still we are overcome with nostalgia for old friends and Auld Lang Syne. Midnight finds us tender and maybe teary-eyed.

So where are the profound thoughts? Awash in a sea of sentimentality I reach for the words to express the direction the world seems to be taking.

Two poems come to mind... the first one written by Minnie Louise Harkins and quoted by George Sixth in his 1939 Christmas address to a world so recently embroiled in war.

I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year
'Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.'

And he replied, 'Go into the darkness and put your hand
into the hand of God
That shall be to you better than light and safer
than a known way!'

So I went forth and finding the Hand of God
Trod gladly into the night
He led me towards the hills
And the breaking of day in the lone east.

So heart be still!
What need our human life to know
If God hath comprehension?

In all the dizzy strife of things
Both high and low,
God hideth his intention."
Words that brought hope and kindled feelings of faith and trust and courage in those dreadful times, but I wonder if today they seem merely 'quaint' (at best) to a majority of society.

The other poem I puzzle over is 'Invictus" by William Henley. "Invictus" I have read, is "...the culmination of a long and torturous struggle for life and truly as an epilogue to all the poems Henley wrote". His life was a struggle, - economically in his younger years and as a result of tuberculosis in his youth he lost one of his legs, and suffered immense pain all during his life. In spite of this he contributed greatly to the lives of young writers in his role as an editor, but I find so many of his poems melancholy and despairing.

Therefore, "Invictus" seems to be a triumph over all the vicissitudes that he bore, and it has been an inspiration to many who suffer hardship. It inspires a stiffening of the spine, a determination to maintain integrity, and to cope with whatever life sends us.

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

So why does it puzzle me, when it is clearly an admirable poem?

It is the last two lines.... I know that Henley meant them to express his courage in overcoming adversity and fate, and that in this context they have helped many to deal with despair and seemingly hopeless hardship.

And yet, and yet - they almost seem like a rallying cry for those Darwinian scientists who place their belief in genes and neurons and a natural progression from the slime of the ocean to the art, the music, the culture, the search for knowledge, the altruism and the faith that has, alas, faltered in the last four hundred years. And while they nurture their belief it seems to one who was brought up in a more innocent and moral age that the world is careening on a hand-cart to hell.

It is a paradox, indeed, that Christianity allows mankind the right of self-will and conscience, whereas the modern scientific outlook chains one to a theory of evolution which controls our actions, our thoughts, our mind and our very soul (if they but admitted that the soul exists...)

Then, I have to ask myself, how can those who accept their version of evolution as gene-controlled be "master of their fate" or "Captains of a soul" that they deny, - and I end up more perplexed than ever....

But there, after all these memories and musings I finally wish you all a blessed New Year - keep the faith, whatever it may mean to you, and strive for goodness.......

Another sweeter poem by William Henley...but still with a hint of the inevitable............

O, gather me the rose, the rose,

While yet in flower we find it,

For summer smiles, but summer goes,

And winter waits behind it!

For with the dream foregone, foregone,

The deed forborne for ever,

The worm, regret, will canker on,

And time will turn him never.

So well it were to love, my love,

And cheat of any laughter

The death beneath us and above,

The dark before and after.

The myrtle and the rose, the rose,

The sunshine and the swallow,

The dream that comes, the wish that goes,

The memories that follow!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Morning Sunrise

and now it's

To me the house is fragrant with the scent of the Paper Whites.....and their beautiful greenery is reflected in the silver which a Grandson has put his heart into "polishing to perfection". Thank you, David.....

To husband, who wrinkled up his nose whilst playing cards tonight, sniffed, and remarked on the strange smell in the house, - to him those lovely, delicate flowers smell something like car exhaust..

To each his own.....if nothing else he was glad to know the source of the odour.

Boxing Day finds us honouring the old traditions, - bah humbug to the scrabbling merchants who seek to fill their stores with frantic buyers and their coffers with still more dollars....

We went visiting with shortbread in hand...

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The first blossoms on this year's Paper Whites, which just two weeks ago were little brown bulbs living in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator, almost forgotten. Every year it is a gamble - will they be in bloom for Christmas. Have I planted them too early? Too late? They are one of our cherished Christmas traditions (along with my mother's recipe for shortbread and Oyster Stew on Christmas Eve) You will notice the cunning support that Husband devised for the Paper Whites from tomato cages, - as they mature and the blossoms grow heavy they are inclined to fall into one another, and spread themselves in disarray, This year they are neatly contained , growing straight and true, and filling the room with their beautiful scent.

After many years of trial and error I have a pretty good idea when I should go out and gather gravel, fill the bulb pots half way up, and then place the paper whites in the bowl. However, there is always the possibility they will be overlooked, and not planted on time, - but usually the little dinger goes off in my head and sings "paper whites, paper whites", so they are fragrant and pure at Christmas time. And available for gifts.

About the other traditions? Everybody loves the shortbread. My mother's recipe calls for rice flour and castor sugar, which makes a fine, rich biscuit, and they truly do melt in your mouth. I do remember the care she took in adding just two tablespoons of flour at a time, mixing it carefuly, then adding two more tablespoonsful, until it was a lovely golden mass, ready for kneading.

While Husband was overseas she sent him these delectable shortbreads in Care packages, so he was well initiated into their delights.

As for Oyster Stew, - I brought this custom to our marriage from my own childhood home. Our children grew up with the tradition, and love the Christmas Eve oysters. The in-laws? Well, it is a touch and go situation with some of them. A few will have a little broth, and some will revel in the richness of the oysters, - we always have an alternative for those who would go home hungry, or overstuff themselves with shortbread and other goodies.
It is a magic time, - each year as the grandchildren grow older and their worlds' expand, I think that perhaps it is time to stop having Christmas Eve and Oyster Stew at Grandpa and Grandma's, but each year brings the same old holy sorcery..... The alternatives to the main dish may grow smaller, - the goodies may not be as varied, but the love and the warmth and the traditions remain the same.

And all who are absent from the party are here in our hearts......loved and cherished wherever they are.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

More and more these days as I pass the piano I slip sideways on to the bench, consult the sticky notes containing the hymns for Christmas services, and lose myself in the lovely music of Christmas.

Some of my new favourites are not the ones that are old and precious to the congregation, and so it is not easy to introduce them into the Christmas services. I love the old familiar carols too, but I find much beauty in some of the new tunes.

"Silent Night" invariably brings unshed tears as I remember Christmases past, but "Still, Still, Still" arouses feelings of tenderness right down to my fingertips as I play the music.

We sing the John Rutter translation of this old Austrian carol, and I find the words more appropriate and stirring for Christmas Eve than some of the other lullaby oriented versions.

There are other carols in our hymn book that I find particularly beautiful, but which are, alas, not familiar to the congregation. As we don't have a choir to introduce them the organist must bear the brunt of winges from parishioners who "don't know that tune, - can't sing it, - why can't we have Jesus loves Me - everyone knows that!!!"

"In the Bleak Midwinter",
and the Divinum Mysterium setting of "Of the Father's Love Begotten" would be wonderful interspersed with "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" and "O Come all ye Faithful". On the other hand, I am thankful that previous organists and popular renditions have introduced our lovers of Christmas music to "The Virgin Mary had a Baby Boy" and "Twas in the Moon of Wintertime" - I love the suggestion of drums in the bass in the Moon of Wintertime.

I look forward to these Christmas Services but am bemused by the small attendance at the beautiful Christmas Eve Communion (which has always been the essence of Christmas to me). I guess it is a sign of the times that the Service of Lessons and Carols draws triple the number of participants.......both pathways to the holiness of Christmas.

And how about Boney M"s "Daughters of Zion", and "A Child is Born".....

Ah bliss, pure bliss....

Sunday, December 16, 2007

As we celebrate the Third Sunday in Advent, the tone of the season turns from one of waiting, to one of approach; and the closer we get to Bethlehem the sweeter the preparation for Christmas.

Today the Handbell Ringers with whom I associate every Monday evening, played in both churches that make up the Charge of our Parish. Last Sunday we played in the Roman Catholic Church. We plan our offering so that it is part of the Service, rather than a performance, and today I thought our offering was quite acceptable.

At one time our group consisted of twelve or thirteen experienced ringers, and we tackled fairly sophisticated music, but over the years we have lost ringers and then gained more wannabees (whom we welcome with open arms) Our present membership includes four new ringers, and as they learn so we simplify our repertoire to accommodate them. Nevertheless, bell music can be delicate and simple and still be pleasant and heart warming.

We are NOT the Raleigh Ringers. whose music and athletic dexterity we greatly admire. The music they are playing in the YouTube video below is Wizards of Winter, which seems to be very popular with Handbell Choirs of extreme musical virtuosity and also Christmas Light Shows - (some amazing visuals if you go googling). I hear the sleigh bells ringing and the sound of the horses hooves as they canter down a snowy lane.....

We are just a small group of ringers of all denominations who start to practice in the fall for Christmas performances in Churches and Care Facilities - good friends and lovers of music. And Christmas isn't Christmas until we've spread a little joy around and done our thing.....


Monday, December 10, 2007

It is a starry, starry night out here in the country.

Just cold enough to make the snow twinkle back at the stars above.

The Little Dog and I have been out walking, - our evening constitutional. He gets such delight out of plunging his little bearded chin into the snow that he forgets to attend to business, and we occasionally have to make two trips down the road, admiring the heavens all the while.....

During the day we try to slow down time so that we can give some clarity and meaning to preparing for Christmas. I am doing less, and yet more involved in what I do, - baking shortbreads, wrapping gifts, putting away clutter to make room for Christmas decorations. The top of the piano is bare, awaiting the nativity scene, and life is good.....

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The busy days of December have been starting off with fiery sunrises that come upon me suddenly as I am having breakfast, and shuttle me out the door with the lens set at Landscape.

Here are a few samples of what the sky offered us yesterday, and today. Even before the morning show begins the Little Dog and I are treated to a beautiful duo, - the sliver moon and Venus, riding just above her.

Later in the day the ACW ladies were joined by all the treasured volunteers who help them in the Bargain Centre. Mostly the elderly ladies are ACW members, - the volunteers are the ones with the brightest smiles and the most vitality. They are a precious commodity, - gems of great value, each and every one of them.
Good food, great friends, - a merry way to start the Christmas Season..

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Neat Nellies versus Pack Rats

What a lot of enjoyment Neat Nellies miss out on, - oh yes, I know they have the satisfaction of a sparkly, pristine environment. They probably know where everything they
own is located, - and that will be the minimum of possessions. (Certainly no books stacked under dining room chairs, or works in progress cluttering up the odd corner - or lovingly handcrafted gifts from grandchildren taking up space on the top of the piano).

On the other hand - has any Neat Nellie you have ever known had the exquisite joy of going through ten years of Christmas cards, - re-reading letters from dear friends, admiring meaningful and magnificent missives that talk to you of the Spirit of True Christmas? What a lovely way to spend a snowy afternoon, on the pretext of looking for addresses and old letters.......

There is nothing better to prepare you for writing A Christmas Letter that expresses the deeper meaning of the celebration, or the depth of love that accompanies the Christmas Season.

I packed up all those heart-felt cards and letters in a nice, large suitcase that I doubt we will ever use for traveling again. What better use could it be put to....? Perhaps I will come across them again in a year or two and they will once again refresh my thoughts and fill another snowy afternoon with love and memories.

Mind you - I have great admiration for Neat Nellies, and perhaps some day I will live the life of simplicity, tidiness and organization. I cannot recreate the circumstances just yet, but it MAY happen....

In the meantime, lets hear it for The Sentimental Pack Rats. (There are two of us who live in this house.....a compounded Pleasure? Problem? Take your pick - whatever your way of life...)

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Another dour day, - November waved farewell in sulky fashion, - gone her fleeting sunny smile.

And to make it even dourer I forgot to murmur "White Rabbits" as I arose on this first day of December. As all English people know, this is a sure fire way to ensure a happy month ahead...........

Be that as it may, our first concern today is the roses. The Weatherman predicts very cold weather for a period of about 36 hours, and so we will go out and gather God's natural insulation, - snow and leaves, to pile around the sleeping roots.

Husband spent yesterday morning snipping seed pods from the branches of the Heritage Sweet peas, carefully collecting the seed for sharing. The sunflower heads that we gathered from along the fence were also of concern. He saved seeds for next year's roadside fence display, and what was left will go into the Sunflower Delicatessen along the garden fence, - treats for the little birds that forage in the pile of stalks and berries, along with the puffed up quail that make their daily route march through the meadow and the garden.

At first snow fall their herringbone tracks were bright and distinct in the newly fallen blanket. As the days go buy and their journeys through the garden increase the tracks become blurred and I regret not recording them earlier. I have always found it fascinating to watch the way the quail move, - almost as if they are skimming , but their tracks prove otherwise, - the little legs must move at mega speed to give this illusion of taking off, one after another as they trek along.

The quail spend their nights in the huge pile of brush and prunings at the bottom of the meadow. Tonight they will have company as an outdoor fireside birthday party is planned, and I guess we will all shiver together if the weatherman is on target.......

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Ah November...

After being a grinch for all of 27 dreary days November decided to make known the fact that she is really just a capricious flirt at heart.

First thing this morning she greeted us with a fall of pristine snow (not welcomed so warmly by those who have to shovel) that makes the whole world look pure and white. The hills slid behind a curtain of mist and snow, and thus it continued for most of the morning.

But then, this afternoon the clouds cleared away, and a summery sky rumoured that November had turned into July......

Until one saw the hills below, escaping from their gauzy wrapping...

What a lovely departure gift from a wintry minx....The garden was happy too, as the pretty white counterpane tucked in over the bare and frozen ground.

Friday, November 23, 2007

By my bedside.....

November crawls on, - through the fog and the mist, the frost and the dismal weather. A most lachrymose month.

A few events brighten up its days momentarily. I get lost in Christmas lists. It is a month of birthdays, celebrating the presence of precious children in our lives, - I rejoice in talking to granddaughters who rejoice in anticipating the arrival of first-borns, and it is good. But still, but still - it is a most depressing month as far as the darkness closing in, the remnants of this years garden, frozen and sad as they stand guard over next year's underground promises. Alack a day....

I turn to books for comfort and distraction.

Tucked into the space between the mattress and the bed stand are a couple of Christmas cookery books and a magazine or two. But when I reach down for some last minute reading before sleep I most likely bring up one of two books.

The first is "What's so great about Christianity" - a rebuff to the atheistic books of Hitchen, Dawkins, Harris and ilk. I seem to be of such an age that I have absorbed all the questions, and the answers are familiar to me as well. On both sides of the fence.... But I read on, hoping that something will convince me that Dinesh D'Souza is right when both he and Alister McGrath speak of the Twilight of Atheism. Is Antony Flew a forerunner of the converted atheist?

Waiting for me at the library is The Spiritual Brain by Mario Beauregard and Denyse O'Leary, a neuroscientist's case for the existence of the Soul. Denyse O'Leary writes a blog that I haunt daily, - the, for information and inspiration.

What scares me most about this whole subject of Christianity vs Atheism is the increase amongst mainline churches of proponents of the incredulity of Jesus being the Son of God. When I read Marcus Borg on the Jesus Seminar, and when a former Moderator of a mainline church declares publicly that Jesus was ONLY a man (although a GOOD one), I wonder at the inroads that are being made by the secular world into the sacred world..... I understand that there has always been a segment of the Christian world that has had doubts about The Trinity, and the part that Jesus plays in it, but it seems to me it has escaped the bounds of theology and is being promoted amongst people who are at the best apathetic towards Christianity, and quite prepared to accept any startling secular views that discredit it.

Stephen W. Sather, reviewing the Heart of Christianity by Marcus Borg, has this to say:

"Borg is very up front about the fact that his book reflects a conflict between "two comprehensive ways of seeing Christianity as a whole." While Borg claims to reclaim the "heart" of Christianity, this is definitely not the faith of our fathers. Instead, he embraces what can be viewed as Christianity lite. Much, if not most, of the supernatural is rejected. What is retained is social activism based on the non-supernatural teachings of Jesus combined with a vague sense of spirituality. "

I note today that Marcus Borg is a Keynote Speaker at the Epiphany Explorations to be sponsored by the United Church of Canada in Vancouver, in January. Close to home......

Well, if I get too despondent about this situation I can always reach for the second book that lives between the mattress and the bed stand, - another delightful Isabel Dalhousie story by Alexander McCall Smith, whose books I find a joy to read, - The Careful Use of Compliments.

I also brought home an old book of Nora Ephron's the other day, rescued from the shelves at the Bargain Centre. I downloaded a later book of hers - "I feel bad about my neck" - from our e-book library service, and I am looking forward to more of her wit and humour...

And to further anesthetize my brain when it gets too concerned with spiritual matters, I have also made a little note to order from the library some of the books of Terry Pratchett, who says, - and I quote -
"The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it."

Compensation for all the dreary days - the curly willow at sunset, with the porcelain moon shining through the topmost branches.

Monday, November 19, 2007

A little November Hiatus while Husband and I said a lingering farewell to those traumatizing colds that kept us confined to barracks for a long while...

and then a week of preparation for,- ta da, the

Everyone who was supposed to help on our table got sick, so Mary and I ended up tending the White Elephants.

I see advertisements in newspapers and magazines for terribly sophisticated big city Bazaars and Christmas Craft Sales, and our traditional Church Bazaar is very small-town by comparison. However, it is an outreach into the community that has been welcomed annually as Christmas approaches for at least the last forty years. Sometimes the ladies who stand behind the tables come to church, and sometimes they are volunteers from the community who come to help and have fun.

There is a great rush of buying after the Bazaar is officially opened, and then everyone settles down to coffee and tea and the same dessert they have been enjoying for almost the last ten years. It is so good, why change?

Here are the ladies who two days before put together this simple recipe that is popped into the fridge where it metamorphs into a wonderful Napoleon type French Pastry with delicious sauce of your choice.
The recipe for this fabulous stand-by.......

Line the bottom of a 9x13 inch pan with unsalted soda crackers.

Pile on one third of a bowl of instant pudding, flavour of your choice.

Smooth over one third of a bowl of softened Cool Whip.

Repeat until there are three layers, - crackers, pudding, Cool Whip. Cover and pop into the fridge for forty-eight hours.

Make a variety of sauces, - strawberry, raspberry, blueberry, chocolate, - (blueberry with lemon pudding is a great favourite).

And voila - a dessert fit for a king and just perfect for a Country Christmas Bazaar.

Or a Christmas Eve gathering, - or a large family dinner, - or just anywhere that you want to earn accolades for a delicious and light dessert.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

A Merchant Marine and a Lancaster Pilot talk seriously about their experiences in World War II at Remembrance Day Observances today.

A goodly crowd to pay tribute.....

Standing between the Leader of the Service and the Bugler, Husband reads the names of the Fallen of two World Wars and the Korean War

On a lighter note a Trio performs a tentative rendition of the Whiffenpoof Song.
Wally, Charlie and Gerry

I chatted with the widow of a Veteran who has been dead for many years, and as we reminisced we recalled the rather raucous Remembrance Day observances when memories of the War and Fallen Comrades were still fresh in the young Veterans' minds and hearts,
and it was still within bounds to drink to lost chums.
They were bittersweet parties, and bittersweet memories.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Sick A-Bed, - Husband too.

With our feet on two chairs, - one for him, and one for me.

This is such a mournful month to get sick; it's so dismal outside and I feel quite sorry for us.

Husband is watching TV, - maybe sleeping - and I have tried to distract myself with hot water, lemon and honey, and a few pictures that give a small insight into the way the World Wars affected one family out of thousands.

With a grandfather and a few cousins thrown in as well........

Friday, November 02, 2007

I am, literally, awash - in books. Library books, newly purchased books, e-books - old, used books. The stack of books beside the bed climbs inexorably towards the top of the mattress, - teetering a little when I climb into bed (literally, - we have a very high bed).

I have filched this problem solver from a crazily practical blog with an abundance of creative decorating ideas, and have bookmarked the blog for leisurely perusal.

It does have its drawbacks for a before-sleep reader, - what if you change your mind about what you want to read to put you to sleep tonight? Do you have to lean precariously from the bed and undo those darned straps before you can knock the whole thing on the floor looking for the book that appeals. This strap idea calls to my "company eyes" that I don when I want to make a good impression, housewise, - but to mine own careless self I prefer to go unbound.....

Enough of quantity, - what about content?

Well, first of all I am almost finished a John Mortimer book which husband recommended for a relaxing sleep time book, - "Quite Honestly". The excerpt from The Independent review confines itself to a line about John Mortimer - 'an institution....wise, endearing, quixotic and delightfully entertaining' - and anybody who has read his Rumpole books would have to agree.

The Daily Mail comments that 'John Mortimer's triumph has been to immortalize the supremely dark and dotty world of the criminal justice courts so that some kind of moral order shines through its parade of innocents, fools and evil-doers'. I would like to think that this is a believable description of the courts and the world of crime, but sometimes I think it is darker than John Mortimer portrays, and it is difficult to find any shining moral order. Which makes one wonder if books such as this contrive to an ostrich-like acceptance of what goes on in the world today Is thievery really romantic.? Ah well, I am being too sober and responsible about the whole thing, I guess, - after all, I presume John Mortimer was not writing a Moral Tome, but meant this book to relax and entertain.

Also on the go is an interpretation on the Book of Mark by Richard I. Deibert. It concentrates on the Mystery of Jesus Christ, and the book was assigned as an accompaniment to a Bible Study, leading into the season of Advent. So the book will unfold weekly, - although I am not known for waiting to read from chapter to chapter, or page to page, but am a great 'peeker ahead'. I have even been known to read the last page when the prospect of reading through the whole book looms too dull (not relevent to this particular book).....

Growing more and more incensed with the strident Christian bashing books by such as Hitchen and Hedges, I sent away to Chapters to purchase the book by Dinesh D'souza, 'What's so great about Christianity'. So far I have only read a list of the contents - albeit eagerly. This list brings to mind some of the books that sit on the bedside shelves, and were part of my earlier reading life, - de Chardin, C.S. Lewis, J.B. Phillips, Jane Mossendew and Alan Paton, amongst others, and I am anxious to begin... (in balance I must admit that earlier reading also included Bishop John Robinson and other writers who supported the God is Dead movement, and I also must confess that for a time they had influence in my spiritual life, alas....)

For pure delight I have, from the library, Alexander McCall Smith's new Isabel Dalhousie mystery, 'The right attitude to Rain'. I love his writing, - it is elegant, yet down to earth, - and the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series is charming, and yet profound.

Yesterday, whilst at the library, I picked out two wonderful knitting books by Debbie Bliss'Simply Baby' and 'Special Knits'. Both feature knitting for babies, like new great grandchildren already here, and great grandchidren on the way who make Great Grandma's fingers itch to knit little things for little beings.

I do this while listening to E-books, which brings me to the next area of over-abundance.

My OverDrive Media program is chock-a-block with the five books allowed, and I fear another Hold will become available before I can get one finished and ready to be removed from my computer. Anthony Trollope is fated to go back, unfortunately unread. But you can be sure I will put another hold on the Barchester Tower series, and hopefully I will have enough sense to order it when I am not already overwhelmed.

At the moment I am knitting a pretty fuzzy pink scarf, and listening to 'Anxious Souls will Ask' by John Matthews, and 'I Feel Bad about my Neck' by Nora Ephron. Waiting in the wings is Alice Munro's new book, 'View from Castle Rock'.

John Matthews explores the future of Christianity, and the anxiety with which Christians are beset as they experience great changes in their churches and in the morality of the world at large. It deals largely with the life of Deitrich Bonhoeffer, and his Christ centered spirituality. I am only half way through it, and await anxiously to fully understand Bonhoeffer's reflections, his philosophy and his beliefs regarding the future of Christianity, (which, John Matthews states, he was not always successful in conveying to the lay person because of the theological language he used) and how they relate to present day anxieties..

Bonhoeffer wrote from prison to Eberhard Bethge , on the 16th of July, 1944..

"Anxious souls will ask what room there is left for God now; and as they know of no answer to the question, they condemn the whole development that has brought them to such straits."

His belief that God should be the Centre of our lives, rather than a peripheral Being whom we perhaps consult on Sundays, when we are sick, when we are weak or when we are in dire straits,
presents a challenge to present day Christians and Churches.

On the lighter side Nora Ephron explores the years that women have to put up with scrawny wrinkled necks, or necks with dumpling chins and she also goes on to berate the habit purses have of collecting old stubs, bills, bobby pins, etc. etc. - a subject dear to any Husband's heart, I'm sure.

I know that it will be wonderful to listen to Alice Munro's short stories, and I can hardly wait, - but in the meantime it is eleven o'clock and I haven't even put the laundry on or opened the pantry door with 'good intentions'.

This morning Husband is out, and with Frank's help putting the finishing touches to renewing the paint and fixing the Bell in the Bell Tower he had removed from the roof of the Church to enable the new shingling. A long and convoluted sentence, but it explains why I have lingered so long here babbling on about my literary problems.......

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The other night, whilst Stumbling through the rolling green sward that covers Google's treasures, I came upon the Fly Lady.

At one time I was on familiar terms with the Fly Lady, for a period of about three weeks in 2004. It took me about that long to get bored with polishing my sinks, but in the beginning there must have been a chaotic crisis to send me cruising for her advice.

Well, then we moved into a new house, and it is only now that the newness has worn off, - I see the cobwebs faintly, clinging to the corners of the cathedral ceiling. The drawers in the kitchen are all in need of sorting, discarding and re-arranging. The stockings and lingerie have escaped from their prettily lined shoe box compartments in the bureau drawers. The Linen closets (I do have two, but one of them was assigned to Husband as a recompense when the second bedroom became the Loom Room) are stuffed to the gills. Despite a scrupulous Martha Stewart ordering of the Linen closet just a year ago, (I did stop short of the ribbons tied around the towels....) I am amazed at what has found its way on to the topmost shelf and into and on top of the baskets that sit on the floor. I don't plan to take a picture, but you would be amazed too.....

And the pantry - large, large sigh when I consider the pantry. We all know what a pantry is supposed to look like..... Believe me, it is going to take a number of marathon sessions with the Fly Lady before mine bears any semblance to the picture below. Oh well, it's just a picture, and probably staged for the camera, think you not???

Nevertheless, I think there is probably a week coming up soon in which anyone who ventures near this house will find the Lady of Same Abode with her head deep in cupboards and drawers, or virtuously scrubbing lintels and doors and any other woodwork that requires attention.

I have a friend who is moving shortly, and all of her children are coming to help her downsize and clean house. I have considered this solution, but I think I have played that card to its fullest value, not too long ago.

There is nothing for it but to put on some merry, invigorating music, and make like Ethel, the Cleaning Lady, with the occasional peek at the Fly Lady for sanctimonious advice.

We all know this will not be a Swiffer Operation - Deep Cleaning is the name of the game.

Click on the arrow and listen to the merry music..

oops, - I pulled the plug.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

I award myself ONE point for having finally brought Procrastination to its knees and finishing my lovely black and white deflected double weave scarf, just as depicted in Handwoven.....perhaps a cowardly way to do it, but it was my first effort at this weave, and I did need the practice. And besides, it is such an intriguing pattern, thank you Madelyn. It has some bitty errors, but it's done. And I'm sure that a blind man going by on a horse would be pleased to see them......

HOWEVER...... I award Procrastination ONE HALF A POINT for having succeeded in keeping me from this accomplishment for a good six months, during which the battle was grim and tenacious, and it was touch and go who would slide first down the slippery slope to the place where the streets are paved with good intentions.

I have no illusions. Procrastination will be back, as I tackle that last part of the warp and devise a different patterned scarf for Husband.

Never mind. I will have him on my side, prodding and pushing for the project to be finished...... and he's a good nagger, in his own sweet way.

Do I hear titters and snorts from errant offspring?

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Similkameen today, as viewed by a couple of wanderers who got distracted and detoured down back roads whilst out for a quick run to pick up the paper.....

Came home brimming with beauty and overcome with glorious colours.

Just a small on the pictures for a full view.....

Looking down the Similkameen River towards the Cawston Hills from the Bailey Bridge

And here, gazing upstream towards the west.The sun bids farewell to Daly Bluffs. Husband remembers with nostalgia and some regret walking off this hill in younger, more vigorous days, when the legs were strong and sturdy and the heart beat strong and true.The Lombardy Poplars that I see from the front porch, away across the valley, have lost the golden glow the sun lends them.

But just a little way down the road another line of Lombardi's reaches up to catch the last rays.

Brilliant leaves who lead a tenuous life, safe in the stillness but vulnerable to autumn winds.

In the far distance, as we look south down the Similkameen , the Chapaka Peak straddles the border between British Columbia and Washington State. The meadows are still mostly verdant, but along their edges the grasses turn various shades of russet and Naples Yellow.

Here are the Hills of Home that our children cherish, - the gullies they explored, the hillsides they climbed, the caves they crawled into and the waterfall that splashed down intermittently. Such treasures hidden in a little patch of hillside. We farmed the fertile Similkameen Chip Loam for almost forty years, just at the bottom of the hill where the silver water tower hugs the sage.As we wend our way homeward the shadows creep up the Cawston hills. Dinner was a quick stir-fry, but then of course we had fed our souls, as well.