Thursday, December 13, 2018

sand and snow

The book's yellow spine had "Egypt" written in bold, block letters.
At the table beside the bookshelf, a tall dark-haired woman shed her jacket and settled into the sunlit chair.  Her partner - for conversation? for lunch? for life?  sank into the chair across from her, sun shining across his shoulders as well.  His back was to the book about Egypt and all other books on those shelves.  Our eyes met once, accidentally, before his gaze shifted quickly to his partner, and I back to Egypt.  My son is there.

My prairie-bound soul is not sure what that means; that he rides camels and sees a horizon marked by pyramids, learns a language spoken across desert sands and around bedouin camps.  What words is he speaking, people is he seeing, smells and sounds swirling around him while I crunch through new-fallen snow under a Saskatchewan sky?

Friday, November 30, 2018

becoming storytellers... and advent

I have another series to add to my advent collection - Steve Bell's Pilgrim Year. It will join others on my coffee table and beside the Christmas tree... and this morning I simply have his companion song "May It Be Done" in my earbuds on repeat.

Randy brought our tree home yesterday - cold, tight and tied up. We balanced it in the tree stand and poured warm water into the well.  Over the evening its branches settled into their well tended shape and started filling the room with the scent of balsam. We'll decorate sometime in the next few days. 

Each year there are new stories to add to our family - new adventures, new struggles, travels and friendships.  And each year there are stories not told - my son travelling through Egypt has given me snippets and snapshots of his days, but I look forward to sitting across the table from him and hearing the stories pour out. 

I love stories.  I love well-told stories.  I love gut-wrenching true stories that shape us.  I love stories of redemption.  I love stories that children tell, and the ways they tell them.  I love the stories that intersect with Jesus, and shift and change in that intersection.  I love the opportunity of Advent to tell the stories of faith to another generation.  I love the way Advent helps us to become storytellers, rather than deferring to the professionals.  These stories become more familiar each year, and they shift and shimmer as we journey through our lives, so that different parts of the story shine differently through the lens of each year's events. 

I am gaining respect for storytellers who are not afraid of a story that is in process. Telling a story, letting the story heal. Telling a story while unsure of how the story will end ... letting the telling of the story reveal the healing.  I am used to carefully sculpted, scripted story telling so that I can control what I say, and what I reveal.  There is a beautiful, vivid color and courage to stories still at work in people's lives. 

What do we do with a story that is not yet done, that is not done shaping us, not done finding resolution, not done intersecting with our Creator and Savior? 
Advent is about waiting - even though we know that actually the event we "wait for" has already happened.  We count the days to Christmas, and we long for the story to resolve in our own lives.  So Advent can become a rehearsal, and walking with the wise men following their star, walking with Mary as she lives out the consequences of her "yes" to the angel, walking with Joseph as he stumbles through a commitment that he does not understand, walking with shepherds, blinded in the night by a strange announcement...

Friday, November 23, 2018

traveling library 2

My mom talked about reading books over and over again as a child.  She talked about pretending that she had not read the books before, could not remember the endings, so that she could be surprised.  

I have lately wondered about those books of mom's.  How did those books get to her?  How many books?  What kind of boxes carried these books to children who were living in Saskatchewan in the 30's and 40's?  WHICH books did she read?  And why did I never ask mom when she was here to be asked??  So I have begun to ask questions of libraries ... in Beechy and Herbert, and to ask questions of friends.  The answers are beginning to come, but in the meantime I've been wondering, and writing about what might have happened when my mom was little, and loved to read. 

As soon as the snow began to cover the dirt, the wind would tear across the field to toss it aside till the brown showed through again. She watched the hare take off across the field, only movement giving it away.  The white fur was overtaking brown of his coat, matching the earth's shifting colors.  The road would likely disappear under the snow by morning.

She kept her eye on the horizon where the road vanished over the hills, waiting for the horses to appear.  It was a game to try to figure out how far away things were on these prairies.  Things that traveled along the road were unfairly easy to judge, as they knew that journey well.  The hills were nothing majestic, but they played on her horizon.  From the north side there was a sudden rise against the sky and she could see the line of the land shift upward.  Standing on the side of the hill facing east showed her the waves of prairie rolling away for ever.

If the books came from that direction, she would eventually see a speck heading towards her.  Steadily it would grow larger till she could see which horse was pulling the cart on its round. If the books were coming from town, the horse would just pop over the hill, almost in her neighbor's yard.

The horse popped into sight today - the dark head bobbing as she pulled the cart with six large wooden boxes.  As the boxes were pulled onto the yard she and Helen pulled on their boots, wrapped their winter jackets around their shoulders, and flew out the door. 
"Did you like those?" the driver asked as she handed back the books from his last visit.  
"Yes. Oh yes."
No choosing this time.  She was working her way through the rows of books - letting the library choose what order she read.  She had discovered that the books she loved eventually came back to her, and the books she read while waiting for her favorites were at least a doorway from this little house.  Colder weather had begun to close them all in for the winter months.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

traveling library

She ignored the rising disappointment, lifted her chin and looked again at the row of titles on the worn books.  She had been waiting for these boxes all week, had long ago finished the two books she had picked the last time the books came around.  There were no new ones here.  She had read every one before.

She closed her eyes and reached out. Blindly took one with her right hand, and one with her left. Once she had pulled them loose she saw that she was going to the island.  Anne with an e.  And one with horses.

Today she would head for the hay loft.  The turkey was occupied in the far corner of the pen, so she cut across the yard and ducked into the dusky light of the barn. Her books tucked securely under her arm, she swung herself up the ladder as she heard her name called from the house.

She had finished washing the bedding, she thought.  Maybe not.  Her mother would eventually find
her. But in the meantime she settled into the hay, running her fingers across the cover and quickly leafed through the familiar pages.  Then resolutely counted backwards from 10 ... 4  3  2  1.
Corralled the memories of this book into the back pasture of her mind and was ready to pretend she had never read the book before.

These books were her window onto the world, a passageway through the dusty summers and long cold winters.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

moonlight brims

hay mazes
pumpkin glazes

horizon blazes
little one chases

leaf that glides

sunshine thins
moonlight brims

over the horizon
flickers across river winding

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

banjo and a purple finch

There is a beautiful place in my house that shines in morning sunlight. The windows look into the front juniper where I placed a bird feeder a few weeks ago. The birds love the sheltered branches and opened spaces in that juniper.

So I sit on my big brown couch practicing backwards rolls on my banjo; watch the chickadees, nuthatches and purple finches flashing in the morning sunlight as they come for seeds in the juniper.

Do not worry about your life,
what you will eat or drink
or about your body, what you will wear...
look at the birds of the air;
they do not sow or reap or store away in barns,
and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. 
(...also, I help!)
In a world inundated with news about disasters and people not having enough food or drink or shelter, these words may seem cavalier ... but they are also part of an assurance that we are seen.  That a heavenly Father is working behind the scenes, or in the scenes, and that we are a part of his work.

My Saskatchewan bird book describes purple finches as not really purple, but birds that look like sparrows dipped in raspberry juice.  Well.  For so many reasons, that is now the bird I look for
in the morning sunlight.

One parked himself on the feeder for a while before hopping onto a bare sunlit lilac branch
where he sat and watched me practicing my backward rolls on the banjo, tilting his head to the side, listening to these strange sounds... and I looked right back at him and kept playing.
After a few minutes I put my banjo down and he flew away.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Northern Lights Bluegrass Festival

We set up the tent to the sound of a banjo, waking up at night with loons calling from the nearby lake.  Ate breakfast in the morning with a penny whistle in the distance  and a raven circling close to our camp site with a strangely distressing call

I attended a song-writing break out session led by Tim - the stand up bass player from The Barrel Boys.  Some of the things he said were:
-inspiration may or may not happen.
-pay attention to what is on the fringe because the most interesting things do not show up on the most well trodden path.
-you cannot surprise yourself.
-turn off the filter.  write fearlessly.  later edit mercilessly.
-liberate the creative process by putting things in a box. restrict your options.
-do some free writing every day. 5-10 minutes. then walk away and make coffee
-find the surprise.
-if the idea is outside of yourself, you just need to execute the form. it is less attached to you
-commit to one thing ahead of time. helps to restrict possibilities

The last part of the song writing break out session, of course, was to partner with someone and take a shot at writing a song.  Tim set the restrictions: make this a sad song.  Write a sad song about an animal at camp.  My assigned partner and I tossed around a few ideas, and decided to go with a story about the raven I had heard at breakfast.  We decided it was a sad raven.  We had a few ideas and lines down by the end of the break out, far from done.  The raven story stayed with me... woke me up early in the mornings in the tent till I "finished" it. 

I have written exactly one song in my life.  That was on the shore of a river somewhere in northern Ontario part of the way through a college choir tour.  So here you are - the second song that I have written.  About a sad raven at the Northern Lights Blue Grass and Old Tyme Festival at Ness Creek.
Melody still to be determined.  So no, not technically a song!  A few days later we heard 2 owls hooting at each other in the late afternoon haze.  Sounded territorial but I've rarely heard owls, and certainly not in the daytime.  So maybe they were mad owls.  Sad ravens.  lonely loons. and cheeky blue jays. So many songs could have been written about the birds we heard and saw! But I digress.  (clearing throat). a Sad Raven.

Camp was built on raven land
nests high in the trees
song and smoke and raven's call
drifting on the breeze.

Raven voices reckless
while the banjo's and penny whistles sing
baby raven trying to fly
trying to take wing

mama circling back to you
calling calling
mama circling back to you
calling, calling

light has faded in the smoky sky
and the dew falls wet on the still, black wings
this little baby couldn't learn to fly
while the banjos and fiddles sing

mama circling all around
calling calling
little baby raven on the ground
calling, calling

Camp was built on raven land
nests high in the trees
song and smoke and raven's call
drifting on the breeze.