Friday, July 27, 2012

silver thread

high winds momentarily shut down the ambitious spiders who
fling themselves across gaps on my deck in the night, leaving
sticky silver strings in their wake

one morning a single silver strand
drops from the poplar and swings across my line of sight.

some overnight projects are a little overly ambitious, stretching
across walkways only to end up caught in my hair with some spider frustrated
at the one that got away 

others create a tangle under a chair
no apparent pattern but a maze of ways for a fly
to get stuck

the perfectly constructed web
symetrically woven
sparkling with fresh dew in the morning, waits
for the first small creature to choose the wrong flight path.

Tyler spotted a web at the playground,
and we found the tiny tan spider sitting motionless at the anchor point
 where web touched metal
a mosquito caught on the far side of his web
we prodded the spider 
and then Tyler decided to take out the web. 

the spider instantly flew across her disintegrating trap
snagged the mosquito before it fell
 surrounded it twice with silver strands, and dropped
down on one of the remaining threads
to disappear
under a playground platform
before the destruction was complete

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


first glimpse of the morning sun

Our summers have often brought us to this part of the world ... we have slept under the stars,
kayaked and tubed down the river,
run the Friesen/Klassen mini-olympics, enjoyed amazing food,
watched fish jump and swim along the shores,
sat around camp fires,
thrown sticks for Chewy and Wuss to retrieve from the river,
and watched the house and yard gradually transformed under the care of Rick and Irene. 

First heard Wailin' Jennys on a summer evening in Grand Forks ...

I love the things that they build.  Community.  A place for restoration.  Homes for those who cannot afford a house.  A dock in the river.  Their current project for Habitat is nearing completion, and the seven handicapped men who have helped to build this home will soon be moving in. 

They have also invested heavily in  The Pines Bible Camp (recently devastated by a massive windstorm) over the years in many ways. 

When I think of living a simple, uncluttered life, I think of Rick and Irene.  The phrase by Eugene Peterson "a long obedience in the same direction" keeps coming to mind.  They rarely seem hurried, but their hearts and passion are set in one direction, and they have created such beauty. 

Monday, July 23, 2012


The smell of summer savory drifted up as the wheel chair drove over some of the long fragrant stems that had tumbled out of the pot and onto the sidewalk. 
“You could freeze that now,” Mom said.  “It’ll make good soup in the winter.”

We brought her home for an hour Friday evening.  The air had cooled to a wonderfully warm temperature, and the grandchildren were lively on the front lawn, bringing laughter to her face. 

She was grasping for
the children that kept running by.

Like butterflies ... fluttering close but not daring to alight. 
Finally they did – both of them. 
For a moment, a hug, she was grandma again,
though the cancer insisted on creating a new Thing that must be reckoned with, pushed aside.   

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

green beans and chemo

There was a knock at the door just after eleven pm. 
Mom's friend was standing there with a pail of green beans.  Perhaps I had woken up in a Barbara Kingsolver Animal, Vegetable, Miracle nightmare...

I knew that mom was exhausted last year when she didn't mind leaving her garden behind.  Her new place had no garden plot, and no patch of dirt in which to plant things.  She didn't care.

This summer was a different story.  She wanted to know what could survive in the 4 inch wide patch of gravel between her outer wall and the sidewalk.  There are now three hanging baskets, two coleus, two impatience, and some summer savory thriving in pots just outside the door.  She planted a garden with a friend who has a larger patch of earth.  Just a few green beans, carrots, one sweet million tomatoe plant, one potatoe plant and green onions.  It's the "just a few green beans" that kept me up late.  Beans have an amazing capacity to over produce. 

I deliberated, pail in hand, for only a few seconds.  Mom and her friend had discussed this pail.  Mom could have this one, and her friend could take the next one.  I had told her I could freeze them for her, but had forgotten about them in the midst of the rather unpleasant preparation for Mom's first day of chemo.  Couldn't remember exactly how long to blanche them - didn't have my books, had no internet access, and Mom wasn't available just then with her wealth of green bean wisdom. 

So I sat down, snipped off the ends, chopped them up, and put them into a pot of boiling water. Blanched them for about one minute ... I think that was a little on the short side.  Bagged them, and put them into Mom's freezer. 

The next day Mom was facing down the monster - pain had gotten out of hand during the night, and the medical team was assessing whether she had the strength for this struggle.  "Do we go ahead with the treatment?" her doctor asked.  Her chin tucked in a bit, mouth tightened into a line, eyebrows up, determination to go ahead with this unpleasant thing shone through tired eyes.  It was a look that reminded me of days long ago when she was telling me to eat my green beans.  So what if you don't like it.  It's good for you, so eat it.  

"Yes.  We go ahead."  


Monday, July 9, 2012

Astilbe stubbornness ratings

Personality and stubbornness ratings for perennials would be so helpful.  Hardiness zones are so, well, limiting! 

My first run-in with stubborn plants was with a discarded batch of run of the mill orange day-lilies.  When I found the yellow roots sprouting in my compost bin the next spring, I retrieved them and gave them the place they deserved.  Irises have been added to that list, and now one particular astilbe. 

I first saw astilbes waving in abundance in our friend's shade garden on Vancouver Island. 
I assumed that they would never survive in the prairies,  but every year the garden centres bring in these beautiful delicate astilbes. 
So I bought one.  Put it under the trees in the back border. 
It flowered the first year (well, actually it came with a flower, so that was technically cheating), and then the next year the foliage reluctantly emerged, but definitely no flower. 
It looked so dejected that I decided it needed a new home.  Put it into the front in the shade of the blue spruce and purple leafed sand-cherry.
Didn't like it there either.  Refused to emerge till I dug around looking for it.  
Oh.  Time to come out?  Ok ... and it would send out two or three shrimpy and grumpy looking stems that just sat there glaring at me. 
Fine.  You don't like it there?  I'll move you again. 
(A battle of wills with an astilbe is never a good thing.) 
Put it back into the back yard against the house where it gets early morning and evening sun. 
Right beside some very happy hostas.  Nothing. 
This spring I dug around looking for it, long after its companion astilbe across the path was well on its way.  (Yes.  couldn't help it.  I bought another astilbe - a much less stubborn variety.) 

Definitely dead.  I left the old root ball on top of the soil and forgot about it...
till a few weeks ago when I was weeding in that bed,
and about to put the hoe to a new random bleeding heart seedling
when I saw a happy little red stem with leaves, hiding behind the bleeding heart.
I put it back into the soil, and put a little fence around it, reminding me to leave it alone.
If all this astilbe wants to do is send out little stems, some years grumpy, some years quite happy,
I've decided to let it do what it wants.  I give.

 This is not a picture of my astilbe:

Official description from gardening website :  "Growing Astilbe is very easy..."

I feel as though I should write a "parenting Astilbes" response.  What do you know?  You just haven't met my astilbe!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012


There are a few basic realities that oh-so-strongly influence the way that I have parented. 
I want my children to be able to make strong and informed choices. 
I want my children to have both roots and wings (a card from my sister-in-law with these words several years ago made its way onto my windowsill, where I do my dishes). 

I want my children to understand that they are not here by chance, but by design, and that their lives have infinite value in my eyes as well as in the eyes of the One who knew them before they took their first breath. 

And I have loved the perspective of Kahlil Gibran in The Prophet on children ...
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
   for they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
   for their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
   which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams. 
You may strive to be like them,
   but seek not to make them like you. 
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday. 
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth. 
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
   and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far. 
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
   so He love also the bow that is stable.

I have always looked forward to the worlds that my children will show me
as they build and travel, dream and think ...