Saturday, November 28, 2015

Look! Here comes Christmas!

November 28th, 2015

Tomorrow is the First Sunday in Advent, and although Advent is supposed to be a time of contemplation and preparation for the coming of the Christ Child it is also all mixed up with eternal batches of shortbread for Christmas gifts, writing Christmas letters, buying presents, wrapping presents, putting up lights, decorating trees, Christmas luncheons, Christmas dinners, Christmas drinks parties, and for the little ones great wonder and excitement...

So how do we give to Advent the recognition and honour that is due the season????

When the children were home an Advent Log centered  Sunday Night's supper  table
during Advent.
The candle of peace, the candle of hope, the candle of joy and the candle of love.

The children took turns reciting the advent prayer, and then everybody, parents included, picked the name of another family member from a special container, and were bound to do something nice for that person each day during the coming week, secretly.

Of course there were sidelong glances and sometimes groans, but it did lend a little solemnity and thoughtfulness to the days leading up to Christmas.

There were years when we had very little money, and often December included handicrafts and special secretive projects.  The children received their share of mittens, wooden stick horses, shields and homemade swords, and sweaty little hands plyed needle and thread, making little loving presents. or fashioning little figures or ashtrays out of play dough and painting them bright colours.

And everybody helped clean silver (of which we received great quantities as wedding gifts, having been married directly after the war before electrical appliances became available again) although it wasn't a job anyone volunteered for until David, our grandson stepped up to the plate one year and made the plates and platters and creams and sugars gleam like new.

We had an Advent Calendar as well, but not the  kind where you open the door to the day's treat of chocolate or candy, - instead, behind each door was hidden a message of preparation 
for the Great Day.

I see today a combination of the old tradition of Advent Calendars with an awareness of the true meaning of Advent, and hope does that eternal springiness thing in my heart.

For each day a suggestion for random acts of kindness, opening our eyes to the needs that surround us
and the opportunity to make our spirit more lovingly aware.

These are all lovely memories, but the present finds me contemplating a much quieter Christmas.
There will be no Christmas bake sale and coffee morning at the church this year. but this evening I'm going to make the first of the 'eternal' shortbread that I plan to tuck into every family's Christmas bag, and although there is no Christmas pudding there will be family for Christmas dinner.  No magical midnight Eucharist on Christmas Eve as there was in days of yore, alas,
 - but does the hour really matter?

I didn't really mean to meander so long in memory lane, - Christmas is Christmas no matter which generation is celebrating it, and underneath all the commercialization there is still the matter of the heart, where love and generosity reign, and even if one scoffs at angels and shepherds and magi there is always the longing for Peace on Earth and good will to mankind.

So that's what December is all about, - at least for me, and I hope that for you
 it is happy and full of wonder., wonderful baking smells
and the rustle of wrapping paper and tying of bows,
and beneath it all the stillness that brings peace.

Edward Hays, in A Pilgrim's Almanac says

"Take time to be aware that in the very midst of our  busy preparations
for the celebration of Christ's birth in ancient Bethlehem,
Christ is re born in the Bethlehems of our homes and daily lives.

Take time, slow down, be still, be awake to the Divine Mystery
that looks so common and so ordinary
yet is so wondrously present."

Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Immense Journey

Thursday, November 26th, 2015

What am I reading these days?

I'm reading Loren Eiseley, - yes, I'm re-reading once again The Immense Journey and am delighted with the prose and poetry of the words and the vast scope of his awareness of nature and humankind, from the very beginning to the inevitable end....

There was a time when most of Loren Eiseley's books found space upon our shelves, - a time when all the children were in school,  when Charles, with his charismatic leadership was involved right up to HERE with the farm and volunteer work in education and agriculture.

I turned in wonderment to reading, went back to college and became immersed in philosophy, english literature, and the naturalists and philosophers of the day;  Loren Eiseley, H.H. Swinnerton, Robert Ardrey, Ashley Montagu, Desmond Morton, Asimov, Lewis Thomas and Will and Ariel Durant.  A wonderful time, - I had always loved school, and here I was, back to learning and writing and reading, and my head full of new ideas and visions.  Loren Eisely was high on my list of favourites - fascinated with the potential paths he led me down and delighted with his words and imagery....

"...our heads, the little globes which hold the midnight sky and the shining, invisible universes of thought, have been taken about as much for granted as the growth of a yellow pumpkin in the fall"

"we have joined the caravan, you might say, at a certain point;  we will travel as far as we can, but we cannot in a lifetime see all that we would like to see or learn all that we hunger to know."

These quotes from "The Immense Journey"

And then, of course, there is the story adapted from
The Star Thrower (by Eiseley) wherein a an elderly man comes upon a young boy throwing starfish abandoned on the beach by the tide, back into the ocean.

And when the old man remonstrates with the boy, pointing out that the number of starfish
are beyond saving,
 and he cannot expect to make a difference,
the boy replies, as he throws one more starfish
 into the water, -
"Well, it will make a difference to this one.

"A modern moral quotation.

 Loren Eiseley sees the magic and mystery of life, from the time when
we first crawled from water to dry land, and acknowledges its importance to our survival.

"I am sure now that life is not what it is purported to be and that nature, in the canny
words of the Scotch theologue, "is not as natural as it looks."

Says Eiseley - "At the core of the universe, the face of God wears a smile"

and he cautions....

"The need is not really for more brains, the need is now for a gentler, a more tolerant people than those who won for us against the ice, the tiger and the bear.  The hand that hefted the ax, out of some old blind allegiance to the past fondles the machine gun as lovingly.  It is a habit man will have to break to survive, but the roots go very deep."

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Terrace, British Columbia

ABC Wednesday
November 25th, 2015

The letter is T for Terrace, B.C.

Terrace lies in the beautiful Skeena River Valley amidst the Coast mountain Range and was named for the natural terraces cut by the Skeena River over the past centuries.

It is literally a city built within a forest, surrounded by National Parks with
endless tracts of trees, sweet mountain air, hanging valleys and beautiful lakes.

The First Nation people of Terrace are one of North America's oldest populations
still occupying the same land as their ancestors did.  
There are a number of First Nation villages in northwestern B.C., 
and closest to the city of Terrace
is the Kitselas and Kitsumkallum, occupied by the Tsimshian people.

Kitselas canyon, a favourite place to explore

and the Kitselas People seated around their Beaver House Totem in 1912

in modern times

                                                                the Kitsumkallum peoples

an Indian canoe on the lake

the Long House

The west Coast of British Columbia abounds in Totem poles, - in Stanley Park, 
Vancouver, in northern villages and the island of Haida Quai

Originally called Eby's Landing Terraxce began in 1901 as a telegraph station on the Dominion Telegraph Line, and in 1905 was a port of call for sternwheelers pllying the Skeen River, establishing the town's important role in future transportation in the Skeena River Valley.

George Little, the founding father of the town, tired of the Gold Rush and settled in Terrace in 1905, built a sawmill in 1911, and established the area economically.  Today
the forest continues to provide the mainstay of the area.

Terrace is home to "Ursus americanus "kermodei", the rare white Kermode Bear, and this statue in the town is dedicated to the "Spirit Bear", honouring the traditional legend that the spirits of these bears help humans in distress and protect then from evil spirits.The Kermode bear is a pale colour form of the black bear, and it is protected by law in B.C.

The area abounds in wildlife

Grizzlies,(there is a Sanctuary) wolves, cougar, black bears, bald eagles
and is a wonderfully inviting spot for fishermen.

The town has a renowned Farmer's Market, a golf course, many hiking and biking trails through  forest stands of Sitka spruce and Western Red Cedar, an Art Gallery, beaches and  interesting Heritage Buildings at the Terrace Heritage Park
 representing the distinct aspect of pioneer life.

How will you get there?  

By air, by rail or by road.....

A wonderful part of British Columbia to explore.

Lots more interesting Ts here, at ABC Wednesday, and many
thanks to all who make this great meme available
week by week.