Saturday, November 26, 2011

stumbling into an irrational season

"It's so irrational," my friend said this week as we sat around a table, "that the creator of the universe would limit himself to one particular body, on one particular speck in the universe to live his life out for us.  So irrational." 

Today we are cleaning and vacuuming, dusting and re-organizing; getting ready to put up the tree.  I give myself permission to play my new Christmas CD by Carolyn Arends, "An Irrational Season".  I love the way she thinks.  Wondering where she came up with that name, I googled "irrational season" just to see what I would see, and stumbled on a treasure that I did not know existed.  Madeline L'Engle has written a book named "Irrational Season": reflections and autobiography, with a year that begins and ends with Advent.  This will frame the season for me this year.  Carolyn knew, of course, and the words for her song are L'Engle's words.  Should have checked the album cover notes first! 

I bought a calendar last year, "A Christian Seasons Calendar" beginning with Advent.  The pages are marked not by months, but, rather dis-orientingly, marked by Christian seasons.  A new page is turned on Christmas morning.  The twelve days of Christmas lavishly spread themselves over one entire calendar page.  The seven days of Easter week also get their own page.  These days - these irrational days of glory being limited, and death shattered - they mark the turning of the pages.  I like that. 

Lauren Winner first suggested to me the possibility of shaping life differently if we framed the celebrations differently in Girl Meets God, and then again in Mudhouse Sabbath.

I feel as though I am stumbling into this irrational season.  I want to embrace the joy of this season ... and I love to prepare a celebration.
But how do we frame it with Christ, rather than Hallmark
...with the longing of something that is not yet done,
combined with the celebration of that which has already been finished. 
There is so much that is irrational about this whole thing;
that my Lord, the Word of life, lay down Glory and  became wordless.

It'll take a whole lifetime to figure out how to celebrate well. 
And then the celebration will really begin.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


perhaps it was courage
or an instinct for survival

perhaps it was love
for the students
for the music
for a man quietly gone

she walked into the room with a smile
our applause meant to warm her
our laughter a surprise to us
but I think not to her

she intended to make us laugh
breath into lungs
the air that would sustain us
through long notes of her bidding
through the sharp moments of pain

her voice still remembers how to sing, to soar
her hands how to conduct
her feet to carry her
her face to smile
but beneath the music and the song
lies the silence of one gone

we sing into the silence
the songs of the redeemed

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

fragment or foundation

I'm not quite ready to  leave this summer behind

the details of the days
  are losing their focus
     without giving me time to put things into perspective

sending our daughter off to foreign soil for the summer
  moving our daughter and son-in-law out of the home
       where our grandson was born
hearing our son's first car arrive in the neighborhood
  watching our youngest yearn for a chance to drive

dancing with my Sudanese friend on our Canadian soil
celebrating freedom and a new chance for life
   on her Sudanese soil too often stained red

sorting through brittle bouquets
  satin, crinoline and spanish lace
fragment or foundation
  scraps or scaffolding
    ...these pieces of fabric in my mother's rooms

dragging our air mattress out of the tent
  to sleep under the star-filled sky
awakening to stars falling
  and dew on our faces

dislodging perennials from my front gardens
  disentangling roots and seeds, weeds and bulbs
praying for the same gentle disentangling of weeds for my soul

Friday, September 9, 2011

time with a toddler

The woodpecker wasn't a bit shy as she landed on the newly shorn poplar
and began her hunt for bugs. 
Following the ridges upward,
a light knocking sound corresponded with the bird's head bobbing
... eventually helping a 1 1/2 year old find what his grandma was pointing at. 

We whispered, and followed her, and she quietly keep looking for food;
not immediately flying away,
but pecking and knocking her way to the far side of the tree
- away from these two who insisted on following her. 
Eventually she tired of us and flew off. 

But we whispered for a while about the woodpecker
and screeched for a while about the blue jay
and cawed for a while about the crow

time with a toddler ... attending to life 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

pruning the poplar

This was a pruning week. 

On Tuesday morning, two young men with hard hats, climbing gear and saws, swung themselves up into the branches of our poplar and disappeared into the foliage. 

They climbed to the top (where crows, blue jays and an occasional sparrow hawk have perched to survey this part of my world), cutting off the smaller branches and limbs that were growing off the main trunk and getting in their way.  Once they reached the top, they attached climbing ropes to stable upper branches, anchoring themselves as they swung wider and farther to trim and cut.

I heard the cracking and snapping of twigs and branches before they littered the ground underneath.  The ground showed evidence of the work long before you could see a difference in the branches.

A little painful, the pruning of my poplar was. 
Things are not quite as they were. 
The sunlight is a little harsher on the west side of the yard. 
The tree looks a little barren, but clean. 

My Lord said,
"I am the true vine, and my father is the gardener. 
He cuts off every branch in me that does not bear fruit,
while every branch that bears fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 
 [pruned if you do, and pruned if you don't ... either way, we get pruned!]
You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 
Remain in me, and I will remain in you. 
No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. 
Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me."   

Sunday, August 14, 2011

restless hills

It's not that I want to live in the mountains. 
I don't mind this land that lies flat and lets the sky play over it,
lets the water carve its valleys,
unabashedly open for us to see
as far as we can see. 

But as we drive west for our holidays, over hills that grow increasingly restless,
there is one hill that banks a canola field to the right and then rises
and as we reach the top of that hill, the horizon explodes. 
That hill always takes my breath away. 

We used to live within sight of that jagged ridge, in southern Alberta.
If you drive the 22x from Pincher Creek up to Sundry,
you can have that living horizon on one side of you for a few hours. 

Mountains holding back the clouds, before releasing them in a torrent,
or letting them trickle over the ridge;
or putting a bridle on them, holding them in a perfect arc while the warm wind whistles through.

... anyway... as we drove, kept thinking of one of my favorite passages in Isaiah 55.12
"You will go out with joy, and be led forth with peace
the mountains and hills will burst into song before you."


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

solar thirst ... and composting corners

Composting corner

 Three sentinals stand in the northwest corner of the yard.  I emptied one, right to the rich bottom loam and surprising day lily roots [those day lilies earned my respect by growing even when I threw the roots into the composter one summer ... refused to decompose under pressure!].  One is finished composting and ready to be distributed.  The third one was turned this morning, extra grass clippings added to the top, and now I'll let that stew for a month or two :) 

Amazing to me, how watermelon rinds, slimy potato peel, poplar leaves, carrot tops, cilantro stems, lemon peel, and other left over vegetable matter from our dinner table can weigh each other down, sink into the oblivion of those black bins, and end up as rich, pungeant crumbling soil to enrich my gardens.

Testifies to the transformative power of a Creator for whom there is no life or action that cannot be transformed...

One squirrel runs back and forth along the fence behind the composters.  By the time August rolls around, she takes trips back and forth all day long, going empty handed one way, and then returning with a peanut or some other treasure.  The blue jays are back too, letting the whole neighborhood know that there's food available, and that they are claiming the territory. 

I put a beautiful solar lamp into the back yard this spring.  It soaks up the day's sunshine, and when the night falls, sends out a soft white light.  These summer days reveal a solar thirst in me as well.  My laptop is plugged in on the deck, so that I can write and research outside.  I can watch the squirrels and birds occupy themselves in my space, and soak in the life and activity of this corner of the world ... saving the sunshine for the long Saskatchewan winters.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011



I finally discovered the culprit. Occasionally, after working in the back garden, or the compost, I'll come inside and find tiny little green burrs stubbornly attached to socks, pant legs, and shoe laces.  I'd go back to the areas where I was working, and find only day lilies, bleeding hearts, and something that looked like a blue forget me not. This was a very secretive and creatively mobile plant.  As I was pulling out some weeds that were trying to take over territory behind the back fountain, I took a closer look at the forget me not look alike.  Those innocent little blue flowers were in the middle of morphing into unbelievably stickly little burrs. 

Posted by PicasaBleeding hearts, ready to populate my yard. 

Thursday, July 28, 2011

our favorite: honey and oatmeal bread

Why a recipe for bread?? 
For 2 reasons:
  1. I'm following in the footsteps of my bread-making mom.
  2. This has become such an ingrained part of my weekly rhythm of life, I thought I'd share it with you.  We received a bread maker as a gift many years ago, and that started our appreciation for fresh bread.  It broke down after many years of good use, and while we were investigating repair costs and time, I found a recipe for bread from scratch.  We loved it, making minor adjustments over the years.
This is our breakfast staple, grilled cheese sandwhich building block for feeding hungry high school boys, soup companion, and end of the day comfort food when there's nothing else to eat. 

Add 1 cup of quick oats to 1 cup boiling water, stir, and let it sit.  In the meantime ...

In a very large bowl, combine:
3 cups white flour
3 cups whole wheat flour
2 Tbsp. yeast
2 Tbsp. sugar
some salt (I add a few shakes - less than 1 Tbsp.)
1/2 cup (more or less!) cornmeal

In a 4 cup measuring cup, combine
1 cup hot water
1/2 cup honey
1 cup oil (part of the cup can be leftover bacon grease from Friday's pizza night)
Stir it up till all is liquid, and add another 1 1/2 cups water

Add liquid to the dry ingrediants in the large bowl

1 cup water
oatmeal/water mix that you started with
1 egg

Also add this liquid to very large bowl of ingredients and stir it all up with a wooden spoon.
Keep adding flour, a cup or two at a time, and stirring ... till it's too sticky to stir (about 6 cups more ... I alternate whole wheat and white flour, but any combination will do, depending on how you like it).

Sprinkle some flour onto the counter, scrape the dough out of the very large bowl, and start mixing with your hands.  I use the official "fold and punch" method :).  Fold the dough in 1/2, punch it down, turn it 1/4 turn, fold and punch again.  Too sticky?  Add more flour (1/2 cup at a time).  Fold and punch some more.  Once the dough isn't sticky any more, and starts to show cracks in it when you fold, don't add more flour.  Just keep folding and punching till it shapes into a nice ball.  Throw it into a larger bowl or pot with a lid, and put it into the oven (not turned on) for about an hour.  More if you want to.  The dough's not very fussy.  If you leave it alone for too long, it'll rise too far, and start to push up the lid of the pot.  No problem - just punch it down again, and it'll keep rising.  An hour is usually good though.

Spray 5 bread pans with oil, and sprinkle them with flour.  Cut the dough into 5 similarly sized pieces, and then shape them into loaf shapes, slapping and slamming the dough onto the counter to get rid of air bubbles.  Works well when slightly frustrated about something!  Dough doesn't mind at all.

Cover the bread with plastic while it rises another hour or so (not too long this time, or it'll creep out of the pans), and then put it into the oven at 350 for about 23 minutes [how's that for specific?  no idea how much actual flour I use, but it's a definite 23 minutes till done in my oven!]. 
Let it sit on the counter for 15 minutes or so before sliding a knife around the side and shaking the loaves out of the pans.  Leave the loaves on a baking rack till fully cooled before putting them into plastic bags.  Or cut them while fresh, and have them with strawberry jam, or honey and butter. 
mmmmm good. 


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

moving day for mom and dad

My morning glories have reached the top of the supports, and are leaning and reaching upward and outward for something else to climb.  They'll eventually bend downward to find another morning glory arm, and twist around themselves for support.  Always upward.  The west-facing vine is exploding with flowers.  The one facing east is still focused on climbing.  No flowers yet.

So Mom and Dad are moving today. 
Funny thing about parents ... children who grow up and leave home often operate under the assumption that parents just keep on doing what they've always done, being who they've always been. 

As we packed and sorted and talked and laughed and cried our way through rooms of assorted books and collections and furniture and pictures, I saw evidence of things I did not recognize. 
Things they had done while we weren't looking; ways they had grown, ways they had kept a foundation, ways of faithfulness, ways of laughter, ways of living with heads up and eyes forward and upward. 

Mom has fought some tough battles in the last years.  She has faced down her own cancer 3 times.  She has prayed against and helplessly watched cancer take precious family members and friends.  She drove Dad to the hospital after his collapse 3 1/2 years ago, and watched him come back to her.  There is a new look of defiance in her ... I'll fight.  Never thought my mom was made of that kind of mettle.  Sometimes, though, the defiance is completely gone,and she is at the brink of defeat.  Too many battles to fight. 

So it's moving day.  Transplanting time.  A new transplant needs lots of water, and tender care, so that roots can go down deep into the new soil.  They say there is more than enough water in Morris :).  Grow well in this new soil, Mom and Dad.    

Monday, July 11, 2011

climbing days

It's a cool morning on my deck. 
The wind is restless again, throwing clouds across the sun to try to figure out what's best for this day.

But these are climbing days.  The vines are agressively claiming territory.  I used to measure my boys daily against the morning glories; the boys manage inches annually while the morning glories manage inches daily... twirling quickly around anything within grasp. 
Morning glory

The black-eyed Susans reach out as far as possible before conceding that the best place to wrap themselves is closer to home. 
Black eyed Susan (Thumbergia)
 Virginia creeper has taken over a tall old poplar stump ... long tendrils going in every direction, searching for more spaces to cover.  In fall, this will be a bright crimson corner. 

Virginia Creeper

Posted by Picasa

Saturday, July 9, 2011


So many of my journal entries over the years begin with:
Monday, [month, date, year]
The bread is rising, the kitchen is clean, and I am sitting in the
[living room, kitchen, back yard]
[the snow come down, the birds flying through the yard, the peonies falling with the weight of rampant blooms, the boys jumping on the trampoline,] ... 
Then come variations of prayers and processing, scriptures and sayings,
and records of the moments of life in this place.

The Monday journal entries happened as my children grew.
Mondays saw them off to school, and I reclaimed physical, mental and spiritual space.
Monday journal entries continued as children's ministries at West Portal gave me Monday space to recover and renew, to reflect and reorient myself. 

But this new phase of life is out of sync with quiet Mondays. 
Today is Saturday.  Bread is baking, kitchen and bathrooms are cleaned but the house is full. 
It's a good full, but Saturdays ask different things of life than Mondays do. 
Saturdays ask for lawns to be mowed, and projects to be completed. 
Mondays at Bethany have been teaching days, so Sunday final prep leads to Monday mad dashes.

It's been more than a year of busy Mondays.  I like to think that I am not a creature of habit, but it seems that I may perhaps be mistaken. 

As my sister's GPS often told me, while navigating construction and highways on unknown Dallas territory: "Recalculating". 

Monday, July 4, 2011

where children grow


they came through the door
into the room for mud
little jackets hung on small hooks
little boots strewn across the floor

always there was mud
and clothes that don't want to stay hung
and shoes of some sort
strewn across the floor

 the sun streams through the window
through the blurred prints of hands
onto the kitchen table
where children grow
on bread and honey

sunlight filters through the frosted glass
as we sit at supper,
arguing over who should pray
all hands reaching for the milk
all voices asking for butter
all of the family speaking a kaleidescope of sound

living room
 there was a place for horses, and giants, and jumping, and camels
where Daddys chase and Mommys tumble
across the carpet
and little ones giggle and hide in the curtains
and sometimes there are Christmas trees
with babies sleeping underneath the twinkling lights;

on the stairs, a million parades
of dinosaurs
of little boys who can't sleep
of thunderous feet propelled by some strong childhood sense of fear or anger 
of children waking from sleep to play, to draw, to eat, to laugh
of girls escaping kitchen duty
of little boys riding watermelons
of friends whispering their way to a hideaway
of tired footsteps going up to rest
of young women slipping through the gate of childhood

We left this house in 2002 ... this house where my children grew.
We've lived in a 'new' home in Saskatoon for nine years, and this house holds such different sounds and memories. Our oldest son turns 17 tomorrow ... my watermelon riding, dinasaur stomping son has grown into a fine young man, and this house holds those sights and sounds.
Happy birthday tomorrow, Adam.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

one last stand

There is a strip of my yard - a narrow, untended, overgrown strip between my neighbor's garage and the play area with a sandbox, trampoline and playhouse - where I put plants for one last shot at life in my care.  They end up there because a) I don't really like them, b) I have too many of them, and like them too much to get rid of them, c) I have no idea what to do with them, or d) curious to see if this should be the plant that takes over this narrow strip. 

Some unknown mint had taken over a garden along the side fence, so one summer I pulled all of it out ... it has one massive and stubborn white root system ...and threw it into the compost.  Except for a few stray roots.  Let's see if you really want to live!  And I planted a few into no man's land. 

A beautiful white Japanese anemone had taken over a front garden bed.  Pulled it all out.  No thick white roots here, but thin, hairlike roots that were almost impossible to completely irradicate.  It still hides in corners of that bed, under the blue spruce, tangled into the monkshood and lady's slipper roots.  Every spring those hairroots send up new growth and somehow manage a white flower before I yank them.  I couldn't get rid of them all, could I?  No.  A few go into the "anything goes" patch.

I had clumps of iris that had to be separated.  And when you separate iris, you either need to find many friends who need purple iris, or put them into unsuspecting neighbor's cars when they leave their doors unlocked, or dig up lawn to make more space for iris.  After trying all of the above, I just gave up and put one iris clump on top of the ground on the strip of chaos.  Didn't even plant it.  (That's passive aggressive gardening).  I'm not throwing you out.  Quite.  But not planting any more.  I'll just set you here for a few chilly months.  I'll check on you in the spring. 

Yarrow?  Yup.  Random lily bulbs?  Check.  2 raspberry bushes ... um yes.  But those are different!!!  There was a thought at the back of my head that maybe this random 'live if you want to' patch should become a nicely contained raspberry patch.  There is really no other place for raspberries.  But I couldn't quite get rid of all of the other courageous plants that will not die. 

Were you wondering about the iris?  The next spring, after abandoning the iris clump to the cold Saskatoon winter, I was taking a walkabout the yard, and that crazy iris was sending up shoots!  It doesn't bloom there; doesn't get enough light, but it lives.  The lily is blooming.  I really cannot remember how it got there.  The mint is spreading with abandon.  It supplies flavor for a great grilled pepper recipe from Jeana.  I'll get my first raspberries this summer.   

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

hot compost…

It was a secret withheld for years of my life.
I’d read about it in gardening magazines, but I knew no one who had successfully heated anything up in their backyard. My dad dismantled the composter in his yard after the neighbours complained of the smell. I tried one out of chicken wire – the pile of leaves just dried up more and sat stubbornly in a pile… through the winter they waited and sat through another summer; unchanged and uncomposted. I tried one out of a green garbage can, with holes drilled into it. It sometimes worked, but was more muck and smell than anything the magazines described.
During our first fall in Saskatoon I watched with horror as the gigantic poplar tree in our backyard covered our lawn (and all of the neighbors’ yards) with millions of huge lily pad sized leaves. I bagged them. Those 9 bags of leaves sat under the poplar tree for the winter… in the spring they were still there. 9 bags of leaves unchanged and uncomposted.
The second fall I just took the lawn mower to the offerings from that huge poplar. Drove over and mowed all of the leaves, dumped them in a pile in the back corner together with whatever grass clippings decided to come along, and soaked the whole thing. (My boys couldn’t figure out why I was watering the pile of leaves and grass.)
A few days later the first Saskatchewan snow fell, and when I looked into the backyard everything was white except that crazy pile of leaves. I went out to look, put my hand out, and felt heat radiating from that thing.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Dandelion Dilemma

Written 12 years ago... 
this bearer of dandelions bouquets will be 17 this summer.

As your 5 year old comes and silently stands beside you,
       you vigorously dig your long "dandelion root destroyer"
       5 inches into the ground with one hand,
       and pull at the plant with the other hand
       till the whole thing comes out of the ground.
          Satisfied, you move to the next plant.

Quietly your 5 year old asks you what you are doing?
       And you (with no small amount of guilt)
       recall  the little hands gripping precious yellow flowers,
       bringing them into the kitchen with kisses
       and promises that he will always bring you flowers...
       every day when he is five, and then when he gets older
        and even when he is a Grandpa,
       he'll always bring you flowers.

              The promise is sealed with a kiss.   

Sitting on the grass
     with my 5 year old's arms around me,
     and a memory of a bright yellow bouquet
        on my kitchen table,

I wonder who thought to call them weeds.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

prairie footprints

straight lines betray our presence

     rows of evergreens lining the farm yards
     fenceposts rising and falling over the hills

     telephone posts disappearing into the horizon
     parallel tracks of steel

     fading gold rows of last year's grain fields

but the river
meanders in and out of view
traveling through the valley it carved out for itself
in no hurry
to determine it's path

bushes and trees
tumble over the hills in dark veins
following the gathering rain as it tumbles out of the sky, 

the wind-tousled tangle of grasses
give way to a fox and his tail

the horizon... stretching from sunrise to sunset
     crooked line where land meets sky
          interupted by poplar stands and house tops
               blinking towers and river valleys

Saturday, June 4, 2011


you have no idea what I would give
if you asked

you ask for half my inheritance
so that you can run away

it runs through your fingers like sand
turns to corn husk and mire

I would give it all to you
if you stayed

like sand on the sea shore
stars in the sky

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

poplar pomp and circumstance

This creature overshadows the entire yard.
   Not just mine - it sits strategically at the junction in our back yard
   so that it can deposit spring stickies and yellow fall leaves
   onto four different properties.
   A good wind can give an even better distribution.

I love the fall yellow
   the climbing challenge for strong teenage boys
       who want to conquer the world
   the birds who hide in the top canopy
       and spy on the world

The roots keep surprising me. 
Sometimes they masquerade
   as underground sprinkler lines.
They meander into my garden,
   tangling up my fork as it digs for potatoes.
They slip under my orderly patio bricks, and create
   berms where they were not wanted.
They sneak across the lawn
   and into the sand box.

And it doesn't matter where they run;
they are constantly testing me.
"Annnnnd ...GO!"  A root sends up a shoot under the tree house.
If I don't pay attention, it calls its friends
   and three more shoot up right beside the successful attempt. 
If I find it and rip it off, it'll go into hibernation for a while.
But it'll come up somewhere else. 
   In the middle of the lawn.  That takes nerve!
Along the fence?  Sick.  Didn't notice that one.  Need a pruner for that small tree.

And slowly it begins to dawn on me...that I will never win this battle. 

As I drive across the open prairies,
   I see the poplars - they grow as families. 
Rarely do you find a lone poplar. 
If one is established, it automatically sends out roots
   that are ready to go instantly from horizontal meandering to vertical scouts.

One storm blew through Delisle a few years ago,
breaking trees as old and established as my poplar
   as though they were match sticks. 
Those big old trunks couldn't hold their arms up through the storm. 
As amazed as I was, I didn't feel sorry for them at all. 
I knew them. 
That wind may have set them back momentarily,
   but the reserves were deep and ready. 
Went back home and looked at my poplar. 
My big old poplar whose leaves give us piles big enough to jump in,
   whose branches could take out a garage, a garden shed,
      several fences and a piece of our roof,
       ... it continues to preside over the junction.
It is positioned to take over the entire neighborhood. 
If that trunk came down, the roots are ready with an instant replacement forest. 
It wouldn't take long!

There is as much energy and potential underground as there is pomp and circumstance above the ground.

Well, you could hardly call the branches of a poplar "pomp and circumstance", could you?
Perhaps "sound and fury", or "flotsam and jetsam".

No, I'll go with pomp and circumstance.   

Thursday, April 21, 2011

peripheral vision

Star gazing with Randy has taught me a few things over the years ... one of those things is that when you are looking for a distant and fuzzy galaxy in the night sky, it is best to use one's peripheral vision.  Things are a little clearer in the dark with the peripherals.

This morning I am thinking about the things I have seen in this neighborhood with my peripheral vision. 

Driving up the driveway on a summer day, my neighbor Keith is often tending his beloved but slowly deteriorating Mayday tree.  Its spring blossoms fill the neighborhood with a luscious fragrance, but one by one the branches are dying, and Keith would climb the ladder with his pruning shears and tend to the tree, to prolong it's life and cut out the dead wood. 

His green truck headed often for the Railway museum, where Keith restored an old train station, bringing to life the train cars and engines.  We have had many visits over the fence, or standing on the driveway about trains, and stations, and railways in Saskatchewan.  He knew every track that was laid, which ones were being torn up, the way the towns in Saskatchewan were named alphabetically along the tracks, the history of the railroad.  The year that I used trains as an analogy for speaking at Redberry, reading Pierre Burton's books on the Canadian railroad, Keith took me to the museum for a tour (just at the junction of the #7 and the Pike Lake Road).  It is a wonderful place. 

When we moved into the neighborhood, I was in a hurry to hang pictures on the walls.  Didn't want to wait till the boxes were completely unpacked, and besides, had no idea where the hammer might be. I went next door, and asked Keith if he would happen to have a hammer handy, that we could borrow for a moment.  He informed me that I had come to the right place - he had a hammer in every room.  Over the years we were to discover that he had the right tool for every job.  When ice accumulated on the driveway - he had a heavy de-icer.  When digging out my shrub in the front yard, Fran informed me that they had just the right spade for that job - hanging on the back of the garage.

He lent us his green truck when it was time to load up our flower baskets and climbing morning glory screens for Josie and Mitch's wedding.

Much of what Keith did was behind the scenes ... something that doesn't take place on centre stage.  But if you paid attention with your peripheral vision, you'd see Keith coming and going, or in the yard; slowly, and methodically doing the things that needed doing.

Last night  the comings and goings came to an end.

The neighborhood will miss you.  The Klassens will miss you.
Peace to the family as you grieve this wonderful, and kind man.

Saturday, March 5, 2011


our grandson turns one this week

snow continues to accumulate
countries are in turmoil

but we mark the arrival of this precious one

the world becomes small when you enter the world of a little one

the layers are few
his needs, his wants, his joys, his sorrows

he is starting to become aware of comings and goings

people that he loves sometimes surprise him by showing up unexpectedly
or disappearing without his permission

he likes some things (soup)
more than others (avacado)

charges down hallways with one adult firmly in his grip
one finger and one heart at a time
chattering and growling and pulling and pushing and
turning and running and sitting and pointing

all intensity and all important and all consuming
then quietly considering his book
for a while

and then onward to discover new worlds
and touching noses and earrings

there are unexpected kisses, and then hugs
and then chattering and growling and pulling and charging down hallways
with this one adult firmly in his grip - by the finger and by the heart 

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

breaking loose

wrestling with words
with the Word
trying to contain it in a lesson plan
a coherent system

only to have it break loose and shower me with grace
drenching me in the pure, unbelievable, amazing grace
of our uncontainable God

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

self defense

Gardening magazines in January are exercises in faith. 
Thinking of growing things when the temperatues are -30 are exercises in hope. 
Funny how color and brilliance prepare us for a season of whites and browns.  I have begun to recognize the changes of the seasons as part of the way that my Lord teaches me to live my life. 

In this particular corner of the world, the summer seemed short and unusually soggy.  We decided not to fight the rains, and simply lit a fire in the fireplace when the days seemed dreary... enjoying occasional indoor weiner roasts, and pretended we were camping in the rain. 

 And these days, with long extended cold snaps, with reports of beauty and warmth in Cuba from quite a few sources ... we just keep on making fires in the fire place.  We finished burning the last of our well seasoned poplar trees, which have gone down in our backyard over the years with a wide variety of tree-cutting methods (that will have to be another post). 

As the trees have come down, I am trying to figure out what new trees to plant.  I have a growing appreciation for the things that take longer to mature (perhaps my strategy of self-defense... our growing age gives us increasing appreciation for other things that take a while to mature).  My meanderings through nurseries and greenhouses take me more often into perennials, trees and shrubs than into the annual aisles. 

Trees and shrubs are more the backbone of a garden and yard; they seldom draw attention to themselves.  Yet they shape, color and flavor the whole yard and park.   Birds may stop where they didn't bother to.  A child may rest in the shade, not even realizing that the tree filters the harsh mid-day sun.  Or that child may look up, figure out a way up, and end up inside the arms of the tree looking out at the world.  

They stand tall in the snow, wearing the snow, dancing through the wind, keeping their last few fall leaves stubbornly clutched in their branches.  Until sap begins to flow again, pushing fresh green past the dried up leaves. 

But that day is not this day.

more than a strategy of self defense ... the planting of shrubs and trees. 

Friday, January 7, 2011


it is the difference in the cry when a baby is irritable, or hungry
the difference in grains of wood,
the difference in textures of green in the forest
the slight shifts in technique, releasing the basketball for a shot
the quality of shade that welcomes or repels the astillbe
   (I have yet to find a place where it will thrive)
the sound of a ferrari as opposed to a ford;
the reality of grace and free gift when compared to my work,
    and my response to that grace
freedom and slavery
grace and expectation
sometimes the difference is only a shade.  only a nuance. 
it catches us by surprise when we were expecting a whole new universe. 
And you only catch the nuance when you live long in that land. 
Listening often to that precious child, you learn the difference between pain and hunger. 
working with wood teaches the difference in grains
   and why one is suited for flooring and another for carving

...listening for grace.