Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden

I'm in heaven (or maybe a corner of the garden of paradise) these days as I watch things grow. It's such a beautiful time of year, and I find it hard to sit and moodle at the computer when there's so much moodling to be done outdoors. Things change daily, overnight with the little bit of rain that fell last night. Today is cool and rainy, but before the rain clouds got serious this afternoon, I took my camera for a little walk to document a bit of what's going on in our yard.

Belgian poppies and bachelor buttons go well together...

Anton the dog is pleased to have pansies... 
and an unidentified plant that will eventually reveal its identity...

I like this colour combination with my 'Silver Fir' heirloom tomato...

The day lilies and lupines are almost finished... next up, lilies!

The veggie patch is looking pretty good overall...

The volunteer lettuce makes me laugh... 
I've given salad to two neighbours thanks to it...

The yarrow tucked a little posie into my garden clogs...

and the sweetness of the wet garden can be tasted 
in the strawberries I had for breakfast!

Happy Summer, everyone!

Monday, June 26, 2017

Living out of love, not fear

Last Monday morning, we woke to discover our garage door open and my husband's fairly new bicycle missing. We still don't know how the thief gained access, but we suspect a faulty garage door opener. We filed a police report and secured our garage. Then at 2:45 in the middle of last night, Julia woke us, saying she heard a scraping noise from the garage. So Lee got up and went to see if another bike might have disappeared. 

Fortunately, everything was in place. We don't know what Julia heard, but it was a windy evening so maybe someone's garbage can was walking down the back alley? Our sleep disturbed, we lay for a while wondering if our home and possessions were secure enough. Conversation kept us awake for a while, as we talked about the things we own that we need to protect (not all that much, really). Eventually we came to the wise conclusion that our possessions really aren't that important, and that we don't want to let fear rule the way we live.

The problem with possession, with clinging to anything, really, is that we have to protect and defend what we consider to be ours. Of course we don't want things to disappear from our lives -- we need what we need, and having the things we need disappear can get costly. But locking ourselves and our possessions away from the world all the time isn't a good option either.

In Sunday's Gospel reading, Jesus said, "Fear no one... do not fear... do not be afraid..." And what do we fear? Loss, pain, and abandonment, mainly. And what counterbalances our fears? Love, of course.

I love this little reflection by Michael Leunig. I know I've posted it here before, but it comes back to me in situations like this, begging to be rediscovered. We are afraid of so many things. But when we chose love over fear, the world changes from terrible and traumatic to a place of infinite possibilities. Knowing that we are loved beyond our wildest dreams, cared for by a Creator who provides us a beautiful planet on which we live, move, and have our being, can help us to be fearless, to welcome the stranger, to forgive the thief. We know that our Creator's love touches all, even the person who stole Lee's bike, whether she or he knows it or not.

Of course, we're still one bike short, and we've taken as many precautions as we can to ensure that nothing else goes missing. It was a good bike, and I hope and pray that the person who took it benefits from it in a positive way, gives up petty crime and discovers their belovedness. But of course, that's between them and our Creator.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Bread of life, body of Christ

This Corpus Christi Sunday, my mind goes back to morning prayer at Taizé, and to the communion offered to the gathered community. Consecrated bread (host wafers) were offered to Catholics in one place, and blessed bread was also made available to everyone who wanted to partake. I didn't know about the blessed bread during my first visit in 2014 because I usually ended up sitting on the side of the Church of Reconciliation where the Catholics received the consecrated hosts, which we were allowed to dip in a cup of wine.

But when I visited Taizé in October 2016, I sat on the other side of the church with my best friend, and we received the bread together (Cathy isn't Catholic, and I wanted to share communion with her). And I wasn't sorry to receive the unconsecrated bread because a young volunteer offered us a basket from which we took a chunk of bread with a piece of crisp crust, like bread will taste in heaven, every bit as delicious as God's love should be. And as Cathy and I left morning prayer for breakfast, I said, "Taste and see the goodness of the Lord!" and she laughed and said, "I know! It was so DELICIOUS!"

I'm not sure how or why so many churches got away from sharing really good bread, though I expect it has something to do with concern for the crumbs being dropped on the floor and walked on. But to break our morning fast with such a delicious piece of bread shared with a smile by a young volunteer had a profound impact on my understanding of the Body and Blood of Christ. Jesus probably gave his followers a special meal to show that life is meant to be delicious, and joyous, and to help us know that the people who eat his meal are meant to bring flavour and celebration to all of life, especially to those who hunger and thirst for justice, joy, peace and beauty. His gift of himself as food for the feast is meant to encourage us all to offer ourselves for the life of the world in the way he did.

The idea of the Body and Blood of Christ has always been a bit too visceral for many people, but who doesn't like to share a good loaf of bread and bottle of wine with friends? Maybe the enjoyment of eating together as God's beloved people got lost in the rules around how to distribute the meal to large groups in huge churches... and in our concern for how the meal is served we have been missing out on something simple, joyful, and absolutely delicious.

If I was consulted on how to make our liturgies more meaningful, I'd say, stop worrying about the crumbs. Christ wants us to enjoy the bread of life and each other. Pass the basket to each other with a smile, let everyone take a fresh and delicious piece to dip in some sweet and excellent wine so that they can really taste and see the goodness of God, and know that together, we are all the body of Christ in the love that we share with each other and the world.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

A tune for a rainy day

Corb Lund is guaranteed to put a grin on my face every time I hear him on the radio. He's a pretty wonderful Alberta musician who grew up near my husband (though he's four years younger) and he sings some hilarious quirky songs about farming, ranching and related adventures. His sense of humour tickles my funny bone -- and he just seems like a down-home decent kind of guy. The fact that he sings about bestowing a western blessing, "May you always have cows around," appeals to the prairie girl in me. I've always liked cows, too -- there's something kind of calming about them. And Corb's vibe is like a drive down a dusty dirt road with happy tunes on a gorgeous sunny day. Mmm, smell that fresh air (unless there are a LOT of cows around)!

This morning my sister brought this old video to my attention. So if you've never seen or heard of Corb Lund, here's a little tune for a rainy day (we're having a million dollar rain right now and it sounds like my neighbour down the back alley is getting stuck). Enjoy!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The widest circle

It's Trinity Sunday, a day that I like to think about how our God is a God of relationship, and more all-encompassing than human beings will ever be able to understand. God, the Creator of all, could have stopped at coming to us as Jesus, God with skin on, but no -- She and He also appears to us as God, the Holy and Creative Spirit. Together, the three form a wide circle and invite us all in to their dance. They show us the love and inclusiveness that we are all called to offer to one another.

Imagine, for a moment, a more inclusive world -- one in which everyone is recognized and treated as a cherished child of God no matter their age, ability, culture, faith, gender, race, or socio-economic status. That's exactly the kind of circle we are called to create by the way we welcome one another and live together.

Jean Vanier understands this, and in his message to Canada for its sequicentennial (150th anniversary celebrations) this year, he offers a wonderful message about creating a more human society where everyone belongs. I love this man, and I'm guessing he could tell us more about the Trinity than most Trinity Sunday sermons ever will. Have a listen to his message, and enjoy...

"You are more beautiful than you dare imagine..."

Happy Trinity Sunday!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Oh, what a beautiful day!

The weather for this Environment Week has been gorgeous, with just enough breeze to keep the mosquitoes down during the day. I should be out in the garden, but I had to share a few pictures... I've always been fascinated by back lighting, especially on flowers, and how the sun shines through them...

And the light coming through the sprinkler caught my fancy, too...

There's a fair fluttering at our birdhouse these days... Mom and Dad Sparrow have a wee brood in there, and we are keeping an eye on them -- and they on us -- in a mostly peaceful co-existence (though I get scolded a lot for encroaching on their territory as I weed the garden). It's been fun to track their growth through the volume of sound that comes out of the birdhouse -- at first it was the tiniest noise, but now it's a loud chirping!

Here's Mom going in...

And checking if the coast is clear...

Even Shadow pup agrees that it's a perfect kind of day.
Have a good one yourself!

Monday, June 5, 2017

Be environment-wise

It's World Environment Day today, the first day of Environment Week, and there are probably a million different actions we can do to help the cause. It all begins, of course, with being mindful of how the way we live affects our planet. What we eat, what we wear, how we keep ourselves clean, how we travel, the work we do, how we entertain ourselves -- in short, everything we do during an ordinary day can have a greater or lesser impact on our environment, and most particularly on our climate. Just by breathing we are creating greenhouse gases! Never mind driving, cooking, heating or cooling our homes, etc...

Just because a certain world leader chooses to ignore the fact that we are experiencing global climate change doesn't mean that the rest of us can afford to follow suit. That's part of the reason I've been moodling here for almost seven years -- to offer my readers all sorts of simple suggestions about things we can all do to live more lightly on the planet. Some of my "Simple Suggestions" are obvious, others are whimsical -- how can flying a kite improve our planet's well-being, you might ask? The way I look at it, anything we do that gets us to appreciate our environment, to entertain ourselves and use personal energy instead of the worldwide web or the electrical grid, and takes few resources is a step in the right direction. A certain filthy rich world leader has already fallen behind ordinary citizens like us who are truly taking the lead for our planet's sake. We understand that, as Richard Rohr is fond of saying, there is enough for everyone's need, but not everyone's greed.

Rather than re-list ideas I've already listed before, you're invited to review my Simple Suggestions page, revisit your environmental footprint by clicking here (I'm happy to see that our family's footprint has gotten smaller since a year ago), or find a website with other ideas that work for you (let me know if you find a good one!) And maybe step outside, breathe deeply and appreciate the abundance and goodness of our sister, Mother Earth, and consider what else we can do to return her many favours. Let's let our gratitude lead us to action for our earth's sake and leave the climate deniers in the dust. They'll have no choice but to catch up eventually!

And now, I'm going to pick some mint and make a cup of backyard tea to toast the health of our environment!

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Breathe in us, Holy Spirit

It's interesting how my relationship with God has shifted as I've grown and changed through life. As a child, I related most to God as a father figure, probably because I have a wonderful dad. When I reached my teen years, I got to know BJ, or Brother Jesus, at a youth retreat, and he became my dearest friend. But now that I'm in middle age, it's the mysterious Holy Spirit who speaks to me the most through my creative endeavours, through the beauty of creation, and in the quietness of morning meditation. I have come to love the Spirit's gentle proddings... and I suspect today's moodling is about one of them.

In organizing our Taizé Prayer schedule for 2017 back in November, I decided, as usual, that it would be a good idea to take a break in the schedule for June, July and August as people are usually into camping/holiday/summer mode in those months, and it's hard to get musicians together for rehearsals. But the morning after our May 14th prayer, the last one scheduled until September, this chant to the Holy Spirit started playing in my brain and wouldn't quit. So I emailed my musician friends to see if any of them would be willing to lead a prayer at the beginning of June, and got enough immediate positive responses to set up a prayer for Pentecost tomorrow. I guess we were all open to the Holy Spirit's promptings... and, of course, the first church I called was willing to host a prayer.

"Breathe in us, Holy Spirit" is the translation of the German Atme in uns, Heliger Geist. It's a beautiful prayer -- asking God to fill us up, to sustain us, to bring life to our world, and the repetition of such a simple phrase makes room for the Spirit to move, at least in my experience.

In Taizé last October, this chant moved me deeply, and right away I asked Brother Jean-Marie if it would be possible to get the music, but it hadn't been released yet. When new music is being developed in the Taizé community, they take their time trying it out and perfecting it before they make it available to the public.

I love the descants to this piece, at least the ones I can understand. The English verse is from a beautiful prayer, the Invocation to the Holy Spirit by St. Symeon the New Theologian, and the first French verse lists the gifts of the Holy Spirit from Galatians 5:22-23. I don't know what is being sung in Spanish and German, but it all sounds just beautiful to me, and brings to mind the many languages spoken when the Spirit descended on the apostles.

The chant was released for publication last month, and even though our music group doesn't have access to the official sheet music, we will sing and pray it tomorrow evening as best we can. If you are in Edmonton and are able to join us, we'll meet for ecumenical prayer on June 4th at Assumption Church, 9040 95 Street, at 7 p.m. All are welcome. Feel free to bring a friend.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Simple Suggestion #127 revisited... Fertilize your lawn with compost

On the May long weekend, when Lee and I installed two new raised bed boxes in our front yard, we got more compost than we needed to fill them. We didn't want to leave a pile of it sitting on our front boulevard, so Lee spread it on the grass around our yard, and two weeks later, we are definitely noticing the difference.

This picture gives you an idea of the difference compost has made in ten days. This piece of lawn is on the south side of our house, and the way the sun beats down between our house and the neighbours' has meant that our neighbours' lawn (which is shaded by their house) is always greener while ours fries in the sun. But with compost added, our side is greener than theirs this spring -- first time ever.

Above is a shadier spot where our neighbours' lawn meets ours. I can't get over the colour difference in the two lawns. The story is the same on the sunny city boulevard below... where the compost landed (clearly not spread in the straightest line) the difference is very noticeable!

no compost over here                                              compost sprinkled on this side
I know a lot of people who like to spread those tiny fertilizer pellets on their lawns just before a rainstorm, but compost is a much greener alternative, both literally and figuratively. There are no chemicals involved -- compost is composed of well-rotted plant matter that is safe to use for a light top-dressing anytime, whether it rains or not. Good compost offers a slow release of nutrients every time it rains. We spread ours and then it didn't rain for four days, but the rich, dark, crumbly humus was working its way down to the rhizomes as we walked around on it. And when it did rain... what a difference!

If you know me, you know I'm not a lawn fanatic -- I much prefer to see interesting flowers and shrubs rather than boring green monocultures that don't feed bees and butterflies or offer any kind of habitat for birds. In fact, I could be accused of grass neglect because I have never made the effort to fertilize a lawn in my life. But this year's extra compost turned our neglected lawn a rich and healthy green (and the dandelions are happier, too, of course). I've known about the benefits of using compost with my perennial and vegetable beds for a long time, but having some to spare for grassy places, I have been floored by how green our grass has become in just ten days and one good soaking rain!

The moral of the story? If you're someone who appreciates a great lawn, get rid of the chemical fertilizers and invest in a load of compost, or make your own from your plant-based kitchen scraps. Compost is better for our environment because it recycles plant matter to enrich our soil -- which is good for everything we grow!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Straw and the city dweller

I remember playing in the barn with my cousins as a kid, moving straw bales around and creating little forts where we would play with the barn cat's latest litter of kittens. Straw was also in the stalls with the milk cow, in the chicken coop, and trailing out into the barn yard. We came in from our adventures with straw in our hair, itchy bits in our clothes and stalks poking through our socks. I never really gave it much thought -- it was just part of life on the farm.

And for the past year, it's been a useful part of my life in the city, too. Over a year ago, my hubby and I "rescued" some straw bales from our local tobogganing hill. They were going to be collected by the city and taken for composting, but a friend who works with the City's Master Composter/Recycler Program had the great idea of collecting a dumpster-ful for local gardeners' use. When we turned up to claim some from the park where they were to be picked up, the city workers didn't know anything about a straw bale bin. They suggested that we just go get what we need from any tobogganing hill before the bales were taken away. So Lee and I did just that, laughing at how funny it might seem to passersby that a middle-aged couple was kidnapping straw bales!

And guess what? I did it again this year -- got "permission" from my friend, the City composting expert, and collected two bales from the top of the same hill this time -- picture a grey-haired woman huffing and puffing, sweating buckets on the hottest day of April, lugging two 60-80 pound (30+ kilo) bales across the hill and over a guardrail to put in the back of her vehicle. It felt a little strange, to say the least... what would I say if someone questioned me? Not that straw bales are highly valued commodities in a city... but still. I'd have to tell the truth and hope my questioner would laugh along with me about my strange gardener's compulsion!

I gathered bales this second year running because the straw I spread in my garden last year did several wonderful things. To my thinking intially, its most important job was to protect my strawberries from rot, thread worms and slugs. And after that, it would keep the paths between the boxes from turning to mud -- it definitely worked like a charm in that regard. But in actuality, the biggest benefit was how much less weeding I had to do between my raised boxes. Prior to spreading straw, I spent many summer hours hoeing the pathways to clear them of portulaca and chickweed, pulling up small elm trees that had seeded themselves, and digging dandelions and other nuisance weeds. Last summer, straw made a huge difference -- it smothered most of those problems as it broke down into soft organic matter, and I vowed that it would always have a place in my garden.

Yesterday, I took apart this year's bales, packed straw around the transplants in my new strawberry boxes, and spread the rest of the bales between the garden boxes like last summer. There's a thicker layer now, so I probably won't need any more bales next year. If weeds do show up, they're easy to pull because their roots can't cling to anything substantial. Of course, the straw may bring its own seeds and weeds, but green wheat stems springing up are easy to spot and pull, and weeds peter out pretty quickly when they can't reach deep enough to root in soil.

So to all you gardeners out there who are thinking about how to deal with dirt paths in your gardens, I'd highly recommend avoiding pebbles/rocks/stones/tiles (which eventually end up with enough dirt blown in to provide plenty of weed habitat, and we all know how hard it is to dig weeds out of stony ground). Try lowly straw instead. f you don't have a tobogganing hill with a few bales to spare, you can always find some at garden centres. Straw is a great way to reduce the garden workload, speaking from experience!

And it's pretty nice having a little bit of farm in the city.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

"Why do you stand looking up toward heaven?"

Yates Thompson MS 26 - Szukaj w GoogleThe picture I took of an altarpiece at the Louvre three years ago didn't focus clearly enough, but this image I found via Google gives you the idea (the page didn't give me any details about artist or location, sorry)... But you can see the feet of Christ rising up into the air, and Mary and the apostles watching him go. I had never seen the Ascension depicted that way before, and it made me laugh out loud.

And I imagine the two men in white being similarly amused as they stood near the group and asked, "Why do you stand looking up toward heaven? (Acts 1:11)

It's an apt question, even today. For some reason, for many people, heaven is a place "up there," and God is a person "up there." I suspect that the deeper meaning of the angels' question could be construed to be, Why do you look up to find God? Do you not see that God is present all around you, all the time? In the people that cross your path, the environment that surrounds you, the creation that God has given to please your eye, from the smallest flower to the vast starry skies? Do you not recognize God's presence in beauty, goodness, harmony, justice, kindness, passion, peace, truth and unconditional love?

Heaven isn't just the sky that received Christ on the day of his Ascension. It's part of daily life here and now, if only we can recognize it. So instead of looking up to the sky, I think I'll use all my senses to find my own little pieces of heaven, to see God's love in my days this week -- to look into the eyes of someone who loves me, to listen to the song of the birds early in the morning, to enjoy the fragrance of a lilac tree, the rich flavour of my morning coffee, and the warmth and comfort of my bed at night. If not for God, would any of it exist? And would I know enough to see it as God's love for me?

Where will you look for God and heaven today?

Friday, May 26, 2017

Good tired

It's been a week of hard work to put in the garden and get the yard in shape. At the end of every day, I drag myself into the house to put myself to bed. But my Tai chi through the winter has paid off in that I have yet to be stiff from all the digging, hauling and planting... just my feet are tired!

Here's what's been happening in our yard...

The tulips I dreamed of all winter did not disappoint...

The Emily Carr rosebush that Lee gave me 
for my birthday started to bloom...

My generous guy also built and installed two raised bed boxes
(for the pumpkins and zucchinis that need more space 
than our back garden has to offer) and he also 
moved two yards of compost around...

Julia's Mother's Day present found a home among the flowers...

The vegetable garden was planted 
and staked, ready for tall stuff like 
scarlet runner beans and snow peas.
I just need to spread fresh straw for 
pathways and strawberries...

And there's been garden salad every night...

It feels good to know that everything is finally planted, our greenhouse is empty and shut down until September, and we're just waiting for sun, rain and the growth of good things. I love this season of great potential and God's beauty ever ancient and new. To all my fellow gardeners, blessings on your efforts!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Sustainable lawn care encouragement...

Bagging your lawn clippings and taking them to the trash has to be one of the biggest wastes of energy -- and lawn nutrients in the form of naturally occurring nitrogen in the mowed stems that sift in, break down, feed, and protect the roots of the remaining grass. The City of Edmonton has come up with some goofy little ads to remind us of simple ways to have a healthier lawn -- going bagless and mowing high.

For the sake of readers far afield, I thought I'd share two ads that have recently come to my attention. The basset belly metric idea made me laugh out loud (like we all have a basset hound in our back pocket for measurement!), and I kept waiting for the grass monster to grab the guy, but maybe that was beyond the CGI budget for this year... Enjoy! And don't forget to leave the bag off your lawnmower. It's better for the environment -- and your lawn!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

A gift on my birthday

Today is my birthday, and besides being exhausted from a long weekend working in the garden, I'm luxuriating in the many blessings in my life. I took Shadow for a lovely walk, I'll plant a few more vegetables before the rain that's supposed to arrive tonight, and I'm thinking I might go visit a dear friend in the hospital this afternoon... and take her a birthday cupcake.

And I will listen to some beautiful music... including the piece below. I had never run into Ah, perdona al primo affetto until I attended the music recital of my nephew's girlfriend back in March. Louise sang it with another B. Mus graduate, and their voices blended as beautifully as the voices in the video below. It's a gorgeous piece of music from Mozart's opera, La Clemenza di Tito, the story of an emperor whose clemency knows no bounds in the end, and this video is my favourite of the versions of Ah, perdona that you can find online.

Music is a gift that keeps on giving in my life, and it's been a while since I've shared any with my readers... so enjoy!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

All in one and one in all

It's funny how
the same piece of scripture
comes around every so often,
and each time,
I hear something different.

Today I heard Christ say
"I am in my Father/Mother,
and you in me,
and I in you"
(John 14:20).

So I imagine this:

A person within a person within a person.
God, Father and Mother, being the biggest person, of course.
And Christ and I
sharing the same outline,
within the great oneness of God.
Ultimately, all in one and one in all.
And that is what we all are.
Every person,
is one with all that is in God, 
part of God's life,
along with all the creatures
God made.
And wouldn't it be a different world
if, instead of seeing ourselves
as separate entities
that operate independently,
we could see ourselves
and all other creatures
as part of God
all the time?
of heaven.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Simple Suggestion #122 revisited... Learn to like dandelions

When I first wrote this moodling about dandelions in 2012, I had a much different attitude toward them than I do today. I spent hours and hours with my "weed hound," digging them out of our lawn in the company of my neighbour, Olga, who was doing the same in her yard. We were in solidarity, complaining about how the seeds from the little area park across the street blew into our yards and messed up our turf.

Since then, Olga has moved into senior's housing, we've used lasagna gardening to replace our front lawn with a big perennial bed, and my view of dandelions has changed. I've come to see them as a valuable part of our Edmonton ecosystems, providing the earliest food source for our bee populations.

Bees, both wild and domestic, aren't as plentiful as they used to be, thanks to climate change, pesticides and herbicides. Every year I seem to run across bees that aren't doing well, that seem to be reeling from illness (pesticide use?) or maybe it's just exhaustion because they work so hard. Regardless, the bee deaths I keep witnessing have distressed me to the point that it's a lot harder to pull up all the yellow flowers that so many of us view as the scourge of the green rectangles we cultivate in front of our homes.

So I've come up with something of a compromise. I let the yellow flowers bloom, and when they turn white, I pick and toss them if I have time. White seed heads aren't much use to bees anyway, and using so many hours of my life digging weeds isn't a great way to spend energy when I could be planting more flowers.

I've come to a place where I can live with imperfection in my yard, especially if it means more food for our bumbling friends. So rather than digging up all those dandies, I keep them down to a dull roar by pulling them when I can. Sometimes after a good rain I am lucky and get them out right to the end of their roots, but most times, they have a chance to bloom again later in the season. More bee food.

And it's okay, because perfect green rectangles are highly overrated, and our pollinators can't be! Our planet's food chain would be much more secure if we could garden like God does, playing no favourites -- and just learn to like dandelions, or at least put up with a few here and there!

P.S. Looking for more Simple Suggestions? Click here.

Monday, May 15, 2017

When life gets a little overwhelming

My Sunday reflection is a day late this week because there's a lot to carry right now. One of our daughters has been suffering due to low iron levels and related health issues, our youngest is finding life challenging in other ways, and last week, my in-laws, who live 500 km (300 miles) away, went through a health crisis of their own, leaving us feeling a bit helpless to come up with assistance for them in a hurry. Thank goodness neighbours and friends stepped in to help out for the time it took my husband's brothers to drive to be with them.

This weekend, Lee and I made the five-and-a-half-hour journey to help out with cooking and other things that needed attention, leaving our kids to fend for themselves (fortunately, they're of an age to manage life without us for the most part). I was on call to help Lee's mom through Saturday night/Sunday morning, and felt like a bit of zombie when we arrived home last night with just enough time for me to pull together a few things for last night's ecumenical prayer, have supper, and drive to the church that was hosting the prayer.

I was feeling overwhelmed, exhausted and somewhat grumpy when I arrived. Some kind of Mother's Day this was turning out to be, I was thinking. But the community that gathered for the prayer and the music we sang together put everything into perspective once again, especially the Taizé chant below:

Retourne, mon âme à ton repos,
car le Seigneur ta fait du bien.
Il a gardé mon âme de la mort.
Il essuira pour toujours les larmes de nos yeux. 
Return, my soul, to your rest,
for the Lord has been good to you.
God rescued my soul from death.
God will wipe away every tear from our eyes.
It was a perfect reminder that we are all loved and cared for even when we're feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, or grumpy. Hands much gentler than our own will wipe away our tears and hold us to God's heart, and serenity will return. It always does when we turn our struggles over to the Source of everything.

Thank you, God!

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The #holyroodbenchproject

A neighbourly bench across
from SEESA
Holyrood is a lovely, walkable neighbourhood, and it's getting nicer all the time thanks to the South East Edmonton Seniors' Association (SEESA) and a special project by their woodworking workshop.

The Holyrood Bench Project (#holyroodbenchproject) is the brainchild of Kimberly Buehler, the Executive Director at SEESA. She's had a bench on the grassy boulevard in front of her house for the last four years, and has enjoyed watching people stop to appreciate a little break during their strolls. She says that people of all ages use the bench -- seniors who want to rest a little, parents who let their kids run ahead and wait at the bench, newspaper readers, and those having a lunch break or coffee.

Kim and Myrna, a SEESA member
who will also have a bench
in front of her home
This spring, SEESA received funding for the project from Age Friendly Edmonton and the Holyrood Community League also offered support, allowing Kim to approach some of the seniors with bench plans in hand. She asked if they would consider building boulevard benches similar to hers as part of a community project. She expected the project would keep the workshop busy for a couple of months, but the woodworkers finished all 20 benches in two weeks flat (they have a pretty slick workshop and some very handy carpenters). They stacked the benches outside as they were made, in spite of a few snowy days in April. Around that time, I heard about the project through a neighbour who thought we should have a bench near our little area park.

I contacted Kim to let her know that we were interested, and two weeks ago, I went to SEESA to pick up a bench, a gift card for $25 to buy stain at Rona, and hardware (chain and padlock) to attach it to one of the elms on the boulevard in front of our house. Steve and Harvey, two of the builders extraordinaire, loaded the bench into the back of my vehicle, I signed an agreement saying that we would keep the bench where the public could enjoy it, we would maintain it, and leave it with the property should we ever sell our home.
Harvey and Steve in the SEESA woodworking workshop

Then it was just a matter of sanding, staining and decorating... and now there's a community bench on a boulevard near my house, a resting place in a neighbourhood where many people like to walk (we joke that we live on a 5-dog-per-hour street). People can sit and enjoy the view of the little park across the street, or my messy perennial front yard, and hopefully I'll have the opportunity to meet a few more neighbours when they stop by. And as a dog walker, I'm really looking forward to finding more #holyroodbenchproject seating areas in our neighbourhood.

Thanks to Kim, Steve, Harvey and the rest of the marvelous carpenters at SEESA, we're building community in Holyrood, one bench at a time.

(If you live in Holyrood and have a home for a boulevard bench, there are seven still available at the time of this moodling. Contact Kim at SEESA -- benchproject@

Monday, May 8, 2017

A Pigeon Lake break

Lee and I decided we needed a little break from the city this weekend, so we booked a B&B at Pigeon Lake for two nights and spent a lot of time in the great outdoors on a lovely day in early May. Baby green started to show itself in the trees, and the sun was warm. Below are some pictures of our Saturday...

It was a gorgeous morning. 
We drove to the Provincial Park and walked the beach
until we found a curious sight...

These yurts, complete with wrap around deck,
fridge, barbecue, dining set and bunks that can sleep 4-8 people
are part of the "glamping" (glamourous camping) craze, 
costs ranging from $120-140 per night. 
I guess they're heated, too!

So nice to sit in the warm sunshine, listen to the birds, 
and watch the ducks on the lake...

Ice piled up on the beach...

but it won't last long... lots of open water.

The buds on these trees probably popped on Sunday...

We drove around to the northeast side of the lake to
see Rundle Mission, part of Alberta's colonial and missionary history.
Not enough indigenous history for my liking, but interesting all the same.

I love red Adirondack chairs! 
Especially when contrasted by weathered wood.

The stories of the missionaries who came 
to convert the "heathens" made me so sad...
especially when I read that Chief Maskepetoon 
was a peace loving man called 
'the Ghandi of the Prairies' by Grant MacEwan.

We spotted a bald eagle on the edge of the lake
but she flew off before we got a really good picture.

When I was in my teens, I drank from this artesian well...
but it wouldn't be a good idea anymore.

We drove west to Alder Flats, and found Ponderosa City, 
population 2, as far as we could tell.
It's a little mock up of a Western town 
in almost the middle of nowhere, 
but when you walk into the mercantile,
this is what you see:

Everything a cowboy or cowgirl could ever need, 
plus a little restaurant with excellent cinnamon buns!

But the lake called us back east again... the melting ice 
was so interesting. Chunks of it...

or finger-like shards. It was like the ice was alive,
moving, crackling, tinkling, roaring.

Really, the whole day was a perfect break.