Thursday, January 31, 2019

fantail in the chapel

back deck in the evening
front deck in the rain
still places to read and pray
to trace meaning in my days

light shifts and drifting leaves
grow still grow quiet
the winter snow falls, lifts
in the wind as everything sleeps

New Zealand slips into my world as our plane flies around earth's generous curve, crossing time zones, skipping through winter to land on a long luxurious humid summer day.

The wrap around deck in Paparoa
was waiting for me, and I found myself reading Tolkien in the rain, writing in the morning sun, watching a completely new world of son, of bird song and flight.  (At dusk we often heard the strangely familiar sounds of wild peacocks!)

One evening a bird sound from behind me surprised me. Joel informed me that a little fantail often comes into the chapel in the evenings.  They leave the doors and windows open, so she has discovered that she can freely fly in and out.

I followed her sounds and found her flitting around the drums and music stands; watched her for a while before returning to my chair on the deck.

and the southern cross emerges in the new night sky
orion's belt hangs upside down
as the summer evening breezes sift through the trees

The wind blows whereever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.  So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.

view from the balcony in the rain
morning sun

Saturday, January 19, 2019

cloud of witnesses

sometimes funerals pull back a veil
give us glimpses of vibrant lives

hidden deep within white crowns and furrowed faces
stooped shoulders, shuffling steps

when we come late into a life
there are more echos then adventure

but when you have watched the jaunty steps begin to falter
heard the words falter when they once were clear

the echos carry a beauty forward
that help us remember

and some simply are not given sufficient
days for the adventure they contain

as we travelled on such distant pathways
we heard news of passings that made us pause to mark the days

Cam Fuller
Uncle Herb Klassen
Elvira Dueck

I've been thinking this morning about that cloud of witnesses
while looking at skies with clouds that billow, scatter, gather, storm, stretch
from horizon to horizon

Southern Alberta taught us what a chinook arch looks like in the western sky
Saskatchewan is called the land of living skies
New Zealand is called (among so many other things) the land of the long white cloud

This cloud of witnesses ...

I will say their names 
let their lives continue to anchor and shape me 
with gratitude for walking faithfully in the days that were given

Thursday, January 17, 2019

glimpses of grace and new zealand lupines

"Honey, (pause) and lupine seeds", we admitted.
The immigration official repeated "lupine seeds?".
We nodded. "And honey."

He stamped our paper and sent us to the agriculture imports desk where an official from behind the computer told us he'd just check.
"Do you have an agriculture transport permission certificate?" (or whatever the thing is called...)
"No." (And I thought - but I know someone who does!  The Solar Gardens succulent guys have been certified to bring things in.  They know what they can bring.)  Probably wouldn't help.

"Sorry.  You can't bring lupine seeds."
It's just that they do grow in Canada - we saw them blooming in the ditches around Nelson that spring when we picked up our son after his year of woodworking.  And now they were gloriously blooming all along the river that we followed to Macetown, the gold mining ghost town just outside of Queenstown.  And I've had them in my own garden.  They sprouted up for several years in what is now my raspberry patch - just the leaves.  It was not a sunny spot so they never grew to flower.  Till one spring I moved a couple of them into my front garden and one of them bloomed beautifully for a few years.  Then died back and ceased.  A few years later, I spotted a new lupine seedling.  I carefully moved it into a location that was taken over by snapdragon seeds and I left it there to gather strength and sunlight for the next summer.  Except that I forgot that it was there and in the spring when I was cleaning up the spent snap dragon plants I inadvertantly pulled the lupine as well.

So I wanted to bring home New Zealand lupines.  They are to me the signs of my sons thriving.

(How much of this conversation has played out in my own heart and how much of it I spoke out loud to the gentle agriculture gate keeper who had to make me give up the lupine seeds I will not tell you!)

"So we picked a few seeds.  No dirt."

"Sorry.. No lupine seeds. We'll pull your bags from the plane and you'll have to dig them out."
(I know.  Should have kept them in our carryon ... but that all turned out to be helpful.  And that is another story.)

Funny thing.  In several of the places where the lupines were growing rampantly we caught glimpses of patches of orange.  Someone had brought in orange lilies as they built their homes on the mountainside, beside rivers and gold mines.
We waded through the rivers of lupines, and the clear sparkling Arrow river to get a better glimpse of them ... and there they were, thriving along a river that had such beautiful glittering rocks, surrounded by pink and purple and occasionally salmon colored and white lupines.  And pink dianthis. And some rose campion.

We also brought tshirts with fantail birds, and New Zealand sheep wool and manuka honey and books ... but I had looked forward to planting those lupine seeds.

Guess what I'll be hunting for in the Saskatoon greenhouses this spring?  I'll be finding lupines.
Thanks Luke and Lisa, for the wonderful adventure! 

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.