Saturday, April 14, 2007

From the Library.....

When I left the Library today Husband looked askance at the armful of books I carried, - and well he might. When will I find time to read four pleasurable books and one that requires concentration, as well as listen to the tapes I have at home - two boxes of Edward Rutherford's "The Forest" and six tapes of Nevil Shute's "Trustee from the Tool Room" The tapes are designed to keep me glued to the loom as I listen and weave, - and I must say they fulfil their purpose most successfully.

So what made me order all these books in addition to the tapes that await me in the Loom Room?

Well, from somewhere memories of the books of Gladys Taber came to haunt me. I think they were recalled when I happened upon Elizabeth Goudge, who wrote much the same type of book as Gladys and at much the same period in the 20th century.

Old Fashioned books - but books that bring back memories of life as it was then, - before TV, before computers, before morality loosened all her stays.

Glady Taber's Stillmeadow books centre around the old home that she and
her friend, Jill (Eleanor Sanford Mayer) escaped to from the bustle of New York, in order to provide a country upbringing for their children. Jill's husband had died in 1943. and Gladys and her husband, Frank Albion, were divorced in 1946. Jill and Gladys were childhood friends, who had also roomed together in College and maintained a close and loving friendship through the years until Jill died in 1960.

I think that Gladys was the original "Blogger" - Stillmeadow Road, the book I am reading now, is a collection of short essays that she has written through the year, as the Seasons pass.

I can remember when I was a young mother reading first her columns in The Family Circle magazine, and the pleasure and encouragement they gave me. The stories about Stillmeadow, - the struggle they had to bring the old house which spoke to them when they first discovered it - "Here I am, What took you so long" into the home it was as depicted below.

Her gardening tales, her cooking comments, and the graceful way she had of describing the times as they were then, in the forties and fifties, keep me in a delightfully nostalgic haze.

Of the 59 books that Gladys Taber wrote, only a few are still in print, so it is not easy to come by them. Hence my haste in ordering what the library does have, in case they end up in the discard bin.

Here is an excerpt from The Stillmeadow Road, - writing which appeals to my own enjoyment and appreciation of the changing seasons.

"Now the light lengthens as the season moves toward May. Dusk is violet, night cool and tender. Sunrise is luminous. Daffodils star the hill by the pond and bloom in the Quiet Garden. Violets begin to open their pointed buds. We have the tiny white violets in the meadow and the dark purple around the house, and the Confederate violets are ivory white streaked with true blue. And by the pond, the dogtooth yellow violets hang their delicate trumpets. In fact, violets love our soil so well that the vegetable garden has hundreds of the purple ones and Jill has to spade them up before planting. I save as many as I can, and must have carried in bushels and bushels to be set around the giant maple trees, along the picket fence and around the terrace.

At night the peepers sing away in the swamp, a flutelike sound. This is the beginning of a new cycle of growth, a quickening of the earth which will only end as the harvest is gathered in the autumn. And as Hal Borland says "Spring is one thing that man has no hand in."

When I go out with the dogs, I feel a quickening in my spirit too. The season of bloom is upon us, and then the green summer days, and at last the ripeness of autumn, all ordered and unchanged by the world's dissensions. It is something to count on.

Humbly I thank God for the eternal miracle of spring."

And here is advice from Gladys on the importance of touching the quietness of nature, and drawing from it the spiritual strength to keep things in proportion. How often things get away from us, - we lose perspective in our day to day lives, and the disturbances which result can be heartbreaking.

Here is a small way to regain peace....

A time of quietude
brings things into proportion
and give us strength.

We all need to take time
from the busyness of living,
even if it be only a few minutes
to watch the sun go down
or the city lights
blossom against a canyoned sky.

We need time to dream,
time to remember,
and time to reach toward the infinite.

Time to be.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Vimy - April 9th, 1917

Yesterday the Royal Canadian Legion in this small village held a ceremony and reception honouring the Canadians who took part in the Battle for Vimy Ridge on Easter Sunday, April 9th, 1917.

It was a windy day, and the breeze that blew out of the West was fair fit to send the small drummer with the large drum tumbling, - and the flag bearers sailing with unfurled flags.

Nevertheless, it was a fine turn out of both local people and visitors from the South Okanagan. Those present were at once reverent and enthusiastic in showing their regard for the Veterans of this famous Battle, where Canadians so significantly exhibited their metal, their dogged persistence and their incredible bravery.

There are only a few World War Two Veterans in the population of the Village, and certainly no World War One Veterans survive. They do live on - some in recent memory and some in the memories and the heritage of sons and daughters, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Wreaths were laid, people brought pictures of Fathers and Grandfathers who served at
Vimy, at Arras, at Cambrai and other battlefields in that swath of destruction that swept across central France. One lady brought a copy of her Father's
letters from the Front.

I took pictures of our Dad, who did not arrive in England until June, after the April battle at Vimy, but who was wounded at Cambrai a month before the War ended in November, 1918.

A daughter of Piper Harry Lunan, who survived the horrors of the Battle of the Somme and was the Last Piper of the Great War, was there to honour her father.

The great Granddaughter of two of the men who were at Vimy, - one in the struggle on the ground and the other in the air overhead, spoke of her awakening awareness of Canada, and the part that Vimy played in making this country an independent Nation, - and of her pride in her heritage.

A small band of Cadet Pipers and Drummers sponsored by the B.C. Dragoons played during the ceremony, and the Pipe Major played the Lament.

As the Parade marched off they left 90 Red Candles, placed around the Cenotaph by Veterans and youth, to shine all night in silent vigil.

It was tribute organized by a young and enthusiastic member of the Legion, who realizes and appreciates the freedom we enjoy in this country, won at such great sacrifices.

And his caring helps to contradict the opinions of a gaggle of young historians who seek now to diminish the meaning and importance of Vimy, referring to it as a mythical Battle which has been glorified for political reasons. One wonders at the immaturity and cynicism of their opinions as they challenge the valour of the men who took part in Vimy and the meticulous planning and training instigated by Arthur Currie which made the Battle a brave and bloody success.

There is a certain leftist element in this country who would denigrate the fighting courage of the nation's past, and the determination it took to win the right to the Freedom they enjoy. Unfortunately in many cases this freedom is being used to re-write history and to make moral judgements without any criteria or sense of time, place and circumstances. I speak in particular about Brian McKenna, whose opinions of Bomber Command in the Second World War bore so little credibility in relation to the truth about this vital part of the victory. These opinions are saddening, especially to those of our generation who were so involved in these struggles and lost dear ones who did not survive the shells, the mud, the gassings and the terrible barrages.

There is another picture I remember well, - it hung above the fireplace of the rectory in the Parish we were part of when I was a child. The Rector had been a Padre in the First World War (as he was again in the Second World War.) The picture was of a Padre celebrating communion on a small hill with some soldiers, amongst a scene of carnage such as shown in the picture above.

The image has stayed with me all my life and left an eternal consciousness of the ultimate sacrifices .

My last memory is of Husband and I travelling up the coast of France from Falaise to The Moyland Woods, and singing Roses of Picardy as we passed through that portion of the country. My tears were for all of those, who like our Father, endured and for the many,many thousands who perished.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Easter Sunday 2007

The day dawned bright, but gradually the wind came up, the clouds rolled in, and we end the evening with dark, threatening rain clouds hovering over the valley.

In between, the usual scramble to get ready for church on time, making sure the right organ music is packed in the cream and blue bag it calls home. I don't usually have the butterflies in the stomach that used to flutter about and cause a bit of panic, but when the music is special and I am planning something different I have some trepidation. Today it was the Hallelujah Chorus that was causing me to quaver and waver, - but in the end I was brave, and as my sister put it, blasted the congregation out of the church! Hopefully it pleased some people that I made the effort to include this most traditional of Easter Postludes.

A small effort in the garden, attacking the cutch grass with hoe and shovel while the wind whipped my hair around, and the cat said from the window - "What are you doing out there, silly woman???" I finally staggered in, disheveled and ready for tea.

My thoughts have drifted during the day back to Easter Sunday, 1943, when after church two young woman packed a frying pan, some pork chops, niblets, a quart of milk and some potatoes for frying, and took off over the High Level Bridge in Edmonton, down the pathway to the river, bent on a good hike and a fine cook-out.

At the same time, a young airman from the I.T.S. headed for the river and a Sunday afternoon walk.

Fate was heavy in the air when the two young women came upon the airman, - coat flung over his shoulder, gazing down the river, - and when one of them said to the other - "Slow down, he might catch up!" They did, and he did, and thereby hangs a tale of a lifetime of devoted endurance!!!

Take that phrase as you will........

This morning I didn't leave the organ to take communion until Husband came up the aisle, one of the last communicants - it seemed somehow fitting that we should kneel once again side by side, on Easter Sunday.

And Venus shines bright in the western sky as it did that April so long ago.