Wednesday, December 18, 2013

drifting time

drifting time, without marking time
punctuated by the click of a tweet, facebook update, or email inbox
waiting for someone out there to respond
to like, to follow
my status
my quote

comics mock it
parents made to look foolish for either joining
or fighting it
either way we lose

set a different course
only to be sucked back into the swirling eddy
vortex of screen and the internet

google the entire earth

strange frontier
life turned in on itself
going everywhere by going nowhere

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

distracted by the annuals

Hidden by the thriving and multiplying bleeding hearts, I assumed it was also happily growing and gaining strength for the long winter.  But this highbush cranberry was silently shriveling away.
It has survived two previous moves - one from a shady location where it sat patiently, not growing, not doing anything.  It put on green leaves for the summer and sat there.  So I moved it into the sandbox beside the play house.  (Ok - sometimes I have too many plants, don't know where to put them, and dare them to bring beauty to a desolate place).  Well it put leaves on again in the spring after it's move, but started getting kind of spindly.  Last fall I decided the sand box was too harsh, and besides, I needed room for raspberries. So out it came again and into another border location. Mostly shady but some dappled sunlight. Bleeding hearts beside it seeded out and went to town. But this poor struggling highbush cranberry is the picture of despair. I'm putting water on it today, but it may be to late.


Meanwhile its classmate (purchased at the same time) who was put into a more favorable location and never transplanted, has been growing happily and even put on a few berries.

I bought a few more shrubs last fall as well, to fill in the back fence border.  Well.  I apparently have been underestimating the amount  of water the poplar steals from its neighborhood, and overestimating the resiliance of these new shrubs. 


One has turned red far too early - it's a beautiful brilliant red flag signalling distress, I think.  One other shrub, a vibernum, looks unhappy, but completely detached.  No wilting despair or flashing red like the highbush cranberries - it just stands there with many bare branches. The leaves that are there look healthy and green, but the whole shrub looks, well, like its hanging on by a thread. No idea whether it'll last the winter.  And it is not asking for help.  I'm watering it anyway. 

That's the story from the shrubbery.  The part of the yard where Darlene assumes things will thrive, and leaves them alone for far too long. 

Always translateable into my life. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

edges of the morning

panic has settled around the edges of the morning
if I turn to stare it down
it dissipates
but insists on lingering on the fringe of my vision

two meetings, one for endings and one for beginnings
both in my home

emails yet unsent

the warmth of a new morning
marked by rampant velvety purple morning glory vines
trying to induce me to linger
chickadees singing just on the other side of the fence

these days - this season
marks Mom's transport into glory

these summer savory, green bean producing
hot yet waning days of August

ah. perhaps therein
lies the source of this sense of panic
something escaping my grasp

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

moose tracks and morning glories

"Sitting in your favorite spot, are you?" my son says with a grin as he comes home from work and sees me sitting on a stool at the end of the island, surveying the new landscape.

I didn't know it would be my favorite spot.

But from here I can watch a July sun sink behind the poplar in the back yard,
can see the tips of my peonies and the faded blooms of the lilac in the front,
watch the bread bake,
catch sight of Hobbs (our orange cat) as he nabs a wayward fly on the window sill.

Most comings and goings are visible from here.  It anchors me, orients me.

"Your new kitchen will have to teach you how to bake in it," my friend told me.
Yes, yes indeed. 

My rhubarb has reached epic proportions as I have willfully ignored it this spring,
thinking that I had better things to do. 
It just kept growing,
completely unmindful of my neglect,
beautiful red thin spears of tart flavor covering the entire corner of the garden. 
No thick woody stems of spite.
Yesterday it was bread, and this morning it was rhubarb muffins. 
My son was off for an early morning of work,
so I figured I would see if I could work with a new oven, and new placements of EVERYTHING ... flour, baking powder
(no baking soda - we used that up in sand castle volcanos with our grandsons last week!),
sugar, cutting boards, knives, measuring cups ...
where did I put that again??

Success was moderate - muffins were on the counter by the time he came up for breakfast but I hadn't been able to find the cook book with my favorite recipe, and the crumbly topping wasn't ready for the first batch - had to wait for the second pan.  Adam was out the door by the time those were ready. But there was a rhubarb grin on his face. 

So far this has nothing to do with moose tracks or morning glories ...
but I haven't written for a very long time. 
There is such disorientation of a house in disarray, and decisions to be made;
 often I write the title of a post before the post.  So I'll stick with it.

moose tracks?
-my favorite ice cream (a Safeway Lucerne brand) 
-echos of a wonderful week at Redberry Bible Camp, where I told stories of moose (plural: moosin) and of a risen Lord, and enjoyed rich conversations with campers

morning glories?
-those stealth self-seeding vines that begin quietly, and have now reached the take-over stage.  They are throttling innocent day-lily blooms, taking down tomatoe plants, and running around the peas producing their last meagre pods.

This is a season of being anchored, and present. 
I am content - deep down content.

Monday, April 29, 2013

thoughts from tour

 Road and travel

Tuesday, April 23rd
Driving to Regina with streams of conversation drifting back and forth across the benches of the van … some are real conversations, and some are scripts. You cannot tell by tones; more by names, and unusual pauses that reach for a word rather than processing a thought.

Also there is crocheting, planning programs, and Sudermans snoozing. 

Fields are still snow-studded somewhere between patches of green on white, and patches of white on green.  Ravens are roaming. 

Friday, April 26th
My daughter’s soccer coach said that what you do when you do not have the ball is just as important as what you do when you have it … so what a drama team does between performances may be just as important as what they do on stage …

George settles into the first bench, white head phones securely blocking out the conversations from the team so that he can rest after driving from Calgary to Revelstoke.  Ty takes the wheel for the rest of the day.  We are serenaded by Elaina’s playlist.  Dynel’s songs brought us to Calgary, and Elaina’s take us out. 

Lines continue to be rehearsed as we drive.  After travelling together for a while, the rehearsed lines become second nature, and eventually work themselves into many conversations, context lost somewhere in transit, involuntarily becoming inside jokes that defy explanation.

Conversations drifting through the van … lines being rehearsed, driving directions, quiet conversations, comments about the mountains or the snow, or a couple of people reviewing Elaina’s collection of videos so far.  A group of mountain sheep, thick horns curling downward, are spotted beside the highway, interrupting “the Hobbit” for a moment; and then Brittany, or Dynel resumes her reading of the adventures of Bilbo Baggins to those within earshot.  After a time she pauses, passes the book to the one beside her, and a new voice carries us into the firelight of the mountain trolls. 

Finding the alphabet in roadside signs occupy Susan, the driver, and occasionally the passengers in the front bench seat through the mountain passes.  George and Susan devise a new system where you can bank J’s, Q’s and Z’s for when you need them.  After spotting the sign:  Avalanche Blasting Ahead, Beware”, they also decide that this stockpile of A’s should not be wasted.  Seventeen A’s become a wildcard substituted for any letter you need.  So begins the sliding slope into the alphabet banking and wildcard system.  If you find three X’s, they can count as one Z.  Ty loses interest in the changing game. 

Tracy-Lynn has conquered both the crochet hook and the harmonica.  George eventually wakes up and joins Micah in crocheting scarves.  Micah puts his hook down to read the Hobbit for a while, but crocheting wins out in the end.  George never wavers.  We move from Hobbit to Stuart McLean, and then mind puzzles. 

Solve Amy's best one:  “when the man lit a match, he knew he would die”! 

Susan’s GPS has kept us following its pink trail down into Regina, through Herbert, into and around Calgary before heading into the mountains, over the mountains, and finally into a Langley spring. 

Rock and buildings

We kept finding ourselves in buildings that had been restored as we went into our first week of tour.  Rick and Mary Guenther served a send-off supper in their home - a hospital from Rosthern that was moved to their farm close to Hepburn.  Regina Christian School restored and now occupies an old brick school house, originally slated for dismantling and rebuilding as condominiums.  The Cube, a youth drop-in centre in Herbert, is a new ministry taking shape through a combined vision of the Herbert churches in a building that used to house an Evangelical Free Church.  Our hosts in Highland MB in Calgary told us about the multiple additions to their building as they have adapted to changing needs in the people they serve.

There is a skit that the team has done a couple of times, called “Nametags”.  The skit has nothing to do with reconstituted buildings, but it plays with labels that people are given that stick and shape their perception of themselves.  As I read 1 Peter 2 on Saturday morning, his thoughts about living Stones and spiritual houses ran along that same theme of buildings.  Jesus had publically dubbed Simon as “Peter” (meaning rock) while they were still hanging out together years earlier, and the name stuck.  Not only had it stuck, but it seems to have seeped into his theology.  Here Peter is, sending a letter to the people of God, telling them that they too are like living stones, being built into a spiritual house.  Peter has decided he’s not the only pebble on the beach.  He pulls out Isaiah’s prophetic words about a precious cornerstone, ties in the words from Psalm 118.22, and points to Jesus as this capstone, this true cornerstone.

I have thought much about this underlying theme in the first days of tour.  As we come to him, the living Stone – rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him – you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house …

It all started with a new name.  And now we too are being rebuilt.  Rocks and names.  Like Simon who became Peter.  Like Rick and Mary’s hospital that became a house.  Like the Regina Christian School.  Like the church that became a drop in centre for youth.  Rebuilt and repurposed.
We worshiped with North Langley Community Church for their morning services, and shared a skit with them about a woman at a well.

As the house settles for the night, Susan and I talk about programs for the coming week, and the wonderful people that we accompany on this tour. Our day has been filled with the laughter and generous hospitality of Brittany and the Suderman home.


Saturday, February 16, 2013

L3 - pizza fridays

Traditions and recipes seem to conspire together in our house. 

Pizza days were often on Mondays when we lived in Coaldale.  Three wonderful children joined us after school, and then parents joined us after work.  I remember little ones on trampolines, and a table surrounded by little hands.  Pizza was not my favorite meal to eat, and so had to depend on the helpful opinions of the experts around that table.  Maybe try a different sauce...  too much cheese ... not sure if that meat was my favorite ... honestly Darlene, don't you like pizza?  Nope.  but I love to watch you all enjoy it.  So I'll guage my success by the speed of the emptying pans!

I'm not sure when Saskatoon Fridays morphed into pizza days, but somehow those were days that family gravitated home, and pizza ended up being the go-to.  And pizza seems to lead naturally into the compulsive playing of games ...

The basic recipe comes from the kitchen of Carol Thiessen, when we were neighbors in Fresno, California.  We'd walk on sidewalks covered with ripe olives, and wonder where our families would live when we were done school there.  The apron that she made for my Jeana is now Tyler's apron as he assists with the making of the dough.

Pizza dough
3 cups flour
1 Tb. yeast
a few teaspoons sugar
a bit of salt

1 cup warm water
3 Tb oil

the morphing of the dough
double the recipe, and increase oil to about 1/2 cup total
substitute about 1/3 of the flour with cornmeal
and then add(due to the influence of Melody Schellenberg's Focaccia bread)
a couple of Tablespoons oregano
a teaspoon or two of garlic powder

Add all dry ingredients together, and mix together (you can use a wooden spoon, or plastic or metal spoon, but my current favorite mixing companion is my nearly three-year old grandson who puts his little fingers into the flour and cheerfully mixes it together).  The recipe works best with a good dusting of enthusiastically mixed flour combo landing on counter, clothing, and general kitchen area. 
Add liquids, at whatever speed works best (spoonful by spoonful - again, aided and abetted by said wonderful almost three-year old), or a speedy and gleeful splashing of liquid into a dry well of flour and friends. 
Mix the dough (don't allow too much to be eaten before the baking begins), as much as you can, and then begin to kneed it by folding in half, turning, folding in half, turning, adding bits of flour till it doesn't stick to the counter anymore and looks like a nice ball (with little finger prints in it for final effect).  Unfortunately, the finger prints don't last.

Let it rise for anywhere from a half an hour to an hour.  It's fine if it has to sit for an hour and a half as well.  Two hours would likely be too long, but I've never left it quite that long!

Meanwhile, bacon needs to be done and cut, and mushrooms sliced and sauteed, mozza cheese grated, babies fed and held, Dads and Grandpas welcomed home, and a salad perhaps needs to be made.  Perhaps a greek salad with a cucumber, cherry tomatoes, red pepper, kalamati olives on the side, a container of feta cheese, and dressing of balsamic vinegar, and olive oil, some more oregano and garlic power with a bit of lemon juice. (Beware of over-zealous sampling by bacon or mozza thieves.) 

This recipe will cover four pizza pans.  Generously grease the pans, and then press 1/4 of the dough into each pan.  Our favorite sauce is Unico's garlic and basil.  That goes onto three pizzas.  Our current practice is to make one bacon pizza, one bacon and mushroom, and one 'out on a limb' (ok - not very far on a limb, but somewhat unpredictable) combo that usually involves peppers and/or pineapple, chicken or ham, perhaps feta and mozza.  The first pan of dough is usually covered with 2 Tb olive oil instead of pizza sauce, 2-3 freshly minced garlic cloves spread onto the dough, a generous sprinkling of parmeson cheese, and then grated cheddar.  That comes out of the oven first, and serves as an appetizer dipped into a balsamic vinegar and olive oil combo on a plate.

The oven should be at 400 degrees, and my pizza doesn't really like timers.  They scare us all, because they are so seldom used on pizza night.  (That may or may not be an overstatement.  They scare some of us, but would be so reassuring for others!)  What would we do without the recurring questions and exclamations as we hover over the focacchia dip ... Is it done yet? OH SICK!  Have you switched this batch yet?  (My oven can do two at a time, but only if they switch places roughly half way through).

Eventually we settle into our chairs with our coke, pizza on the table or finishing in the oven, and someone thanks the Lord for his grace to us this day. 
Prayers of a nearly three year old are pretty precious and silence all other conversation.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


light is stretching,

reflecting from bright snow
absorbed into thick flakes
released into the days

new moon suspended
all sleep, still,
beneath the thick blanket

light is stretching

all sleep, still

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

building mighty menageries

"Come play zoo with me?" my grandson asked as I took off my boots in the doorway.  "My room is just down the hall, Grandma" he said, as though it was my first time in his house. 

I have no idea what "zoo" looks like when others sit with his wonderful menagerie of monkeys, elephants, bears - so many bears, zebras, tigers, a dinasaur, dolphins, a little rooster, and a penguin.  But it is more like "Calvin ball" with rules and expectations constantly morphing than any other game I've played.  Sometimes we organize, sort and count them.  Sometimes we put Tyler onto his chair and see how many animals we can stack onto his head and lap before the pile collapses in laughter on the floor.  Sometimes we pile them all into the box ark and pull them across the carpet ... all except the dolphin, of course, who didn't need an ark.  nor the crocodile (as he fell out).  nor the penguin (who loves to swim through the cold water). 

And sometimes a zoo animal goes tragically missing, abandoned on a lone adventure. 
So of course we must go looking for them.   

Tyler climbs onto my back as I go down on all fours,
back down the hallway to find the lost creature. 

...I learned that technique long ago from another one who loved to play on the floor
with his children and grandchildren
entering with them whatever world they created
following their directions into that world, and helping them build it.

perhaps that is the only way back into Narnia ...


Sunday, January 20, 2013

winter migrations and mountain ash

On this sunny January day in Saskatchewan with windchill dropping temperatures down past -27 C, there is a robin in my mountain ash tree stubbornly standing guard over her winter food supply.

Heavy pollen dust in our backyard this spring was the first sign of the tree's fruitful intentions.  A thick musty smell drifting through the yard welcomed us when we walked through the back door, and the back deck and table were perpetually covered with a fine whitish powder.  By late August the branches bowed low over the grass, weighed down with the tree's overproduction.  The robins fought off the other birds coming in for meals but there were too many berries to successfully fend off the competition.

The fall migrating birds didn't even begin to make a dent in the berry supply, and I looked forward to the winter flocks of cedar waxwings that often swarm through the neighborhood in mid-winter.  They would come to a mountain ash tree laden with orange berries, descending en masse into my yard. 

My back deck and table are again perpetually covered with whitish power, of a snow rather than the pollen variety.  The cedar waxwings have not yet arrived.  But the tree seems to have convinced a robin to abandon its warm winter vacation plans.  The sparrows flit lightheartedly around, perching on the neighbor's bird feeder for only seconds before flying off to another snow-covered  perch.  The squirrel bounces along the back fence, knocking off a ridge of snow with each landing.  The robin, though, grasps desperately to the one branch and moves only her head to keep watch over her storehouse.

I wonder ... Was she too drunk with fermenting fall mountain ash berries to catch the last group of robins heading south?  too preoccupied with getting her last hatch out of the nest before realizing that it was time to leave?  somehow got turned around and headed for Saskatoon rather than San Francisco? 

Enough with the wondering.  Googled "robin migrations" and discovered that this is not all that unusual.  Food supplies affect robin migrations, so my mountain ash simply made it unnecessary for the robin to head south.  (I consider these facts far less interesting than my speculations.) back to wondering ... I wonder if she regrets that decision these days! 


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Available at McNally Robinson in Saskatoon: "What Kind of Goodbye?"

I am pleased to announce that "What Kind of Goodbye?" is currently available at McNally Robinson's in Saskatoon.

When a parent, grandparent, or other loved one dies, a child will grieve deeply, but often differently than an adult. Samantha McRorie's paintings of prairie landscapes partner with my writing, creating a resource to help children, and those who care for them, to walk into the difficult journey of loss. It includes spaces to record treasured memories of the person who is gone.
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