Friday, December 29, 2017

what this is not

This is not just surprise and pleasure.
This is not just beauty sometimes
  too hot to touch.
This is not a blessing with a beginning and an end.
This is not just a wild summer.
This is not conditional.

... discovered in Mary Oliver's book of poems Felicity

We marked 26 years together yesterday

a day that has bent with the weight of
joys and sorrows for others in our lives

a day that has thickened with years of
walking and
remembering and
gathering and
blizzards and
travelling and

a day that has shimmered with colors of
our children and their wonderful life partners
and grandchildren
and friendships

we are grateful.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

holiness in the rearview mirror

of course there are some times
when you know you are standing on holy ground

when a bush burns without burning up
or a voice compels you to take off your shoes

or you lift your eyes to the heavens
stunned at what you hear in a night sky

echoing forward through all of your days

but there are times
when it only shimmers when you look backwards

like the road trip through Jasper
when Mount Robson
slipped in through the rearview mirror

and you wonder how mountains
play hide and seek

or you play marbles with a two year old
trying to find the logic in
the ways the marbles are moved

listening to the precise words
a running sound track of the game

and you wonder how a child with no sin
navigated through two

what did holiness look like in Mary's house
how did he navigate his discovery of color
and depth and taste

and sounds of words
word of life
learning to speak

creator of the universe
shaped clay into life and breath
little hands picking up little stones

Thursday, December 7, 2017

lists of names - ways we remember

Many summers ago, gathered with friends in an apartment on a Sunday morning,
I followed a rabbit trail of questions and ended up in St Matthew's genealogy of Jesus. 
It was the first time that I had seen anyone lean forward in interest when I started reading a list of names
... was the father of ... was the father of ...with the occasional whose mother was ...
The boys took their hoods off, and began to ask questions about the "begats", and whose grandfather David was, and how that story connected with another one that they had heard.

I discovered the author Debrah Ellis through a book
on McNally Robinson's 'once banned books' table
Three Wishes: Palestinian and Israeli Children Speak  
It begins with names.  pages of names.
Palestinian and Israeli children who have been killed in the crossfire.

Ottawa's peace tower dominates the river bank
inside the memorial chamber, the names
of Canadian soldiers who have died in our wars
open books facing in all directions
names written with intricate calligraphy

each morning at 11:00 someone goes into the tower 
opens the glass
turns a page in each book
closes the glass

NYC's ground zero
marking the footprints of towers fallen
names of the people fallen etched deeply into the parapet
no mark on the horizon
waterfalls constantly rushing downward

a new tower standing defiantly by 
over constant crowds of people
tracing the letters
the names etched deeply into the parapet

Sunday, December 3, 2017

amtrack sunset

as the sun sets she calls
all color to herself
leaving the forests black
against a blazing sky

fading till all that is left
are faint glimmering
lights in the crescent moon's wake

Friday, November 17, 2017

places of power

I find myself googling museums and art galleries
frequented places and "must see" sights
13 things NOT to do in New York
20 minutes of things you MUST see

I get to tag along with Randy on a trip to Ottawa
I'll explore those streets and spaces while he
does the work accomplished in meetings with a diverse and
invested group of people

and then we will take a train to New York

kaleidoscope of known landscape and places
events and scenes
documented in a thousand songs and screens

we will miss the lighting of the Rockefeller tree by one day
we will see one show - one of a thousand possibilities
we will see a choir - Randy's sister in a choir- in Carnegie Hall

we will walk
and smell and taste and listen

people used to prairie spaces
trying to drink in this intersection of life
with a teaspoon of time

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Janine Karen

I have a sister
who leaves music in her wake
melodies fly from her fingertips
sing themselves through her heart and mind

she finds them for me
as we sit, laughing
or talking on our pillows at night
on those rare weekends together

plays them on my piano
or hers
or any piano standing idle

I can sit beside her with my guitar and sing along
and she grins and keeps singing
Randy can pick up the violin
and she grins even more
and keeps singing

but whether we join her or not
the music just keeps bubbling up
and running over and watering my soul

I shall not want

Friday, October 6, 2017


I have a memory of waking up in the early morning hours
day still shrouded in darkness
heart beating wildly
in response to a frightening image 
from a childhood dream

light shining through my bedroom doorway
from the kitchen
where my mom stood behind an ironing board

preparing for the day 
in that quiet space 
after Dad had gone to work
before the children woke

steam rising
board creaking as the iron moved 
rhythmically back and forth

instantly calmed 
I drifted back to sleep

I explored abandoned houses on the land 
where my mom was born
huge expanse of sky and grass

horizons shaped for wind 
to gather speed 
gather dust or snow

horizons shaped to deceive
hiding river valleys with sand castles
disguising antelope frozen in place
creating a mirage of endless bison herds 
tipis puncturing the skyline 

trees new settlers on the grassland

"That tree wasn't there when I was little" 
my aunt remarked when she saw the pictures. 
"There were no trees."  

she looked at the pictures of a little house
told me about the stairs up to the attic where she and her sister slept
told me where the back door would have been, 
   the back porch where my grandfather would sit in the weeks 
   after the horses had bolted
   breaking his leg 
remembered her mom standing in the kitchen

Thursday, August 31, 2017

on the ground

my gardens are thirsty
sunflower stems are yellowing
tips of tomato plants are red, sucking up every bit of moisture and sunshine possible
kale curls untroubled by the heat
flowers in pots stiffen by the end of the day if they don't get another drink

we feast in this season of dry summer
basil pesto and tomatoes on pizza
cucumbers sliced and feta'd
apples picked by my grandchildrens' hands
last sweet raspberries

green beans still flowering ... undaunted by consistent slug attacks
(green beans win the persistence award of 2017)
rhubarb thriving despite a spring divide
petunias DO grow on the north end of my deck ... I will repeat next year

morning glories still climbing, still starting new seeds from the ground,
quickly flowering ... knowing that their season now is short
how do they know?

Saturday, August 26, 2017


Total eclipse through Randy's telescope.  

Love this man and his awe at the universe that God created and holds in His hand.

capturing the moments

deepening shadow - almost total 

diamond ring flash

light of the total eclipse - lasted just over 2 minutes

total eclipse shadow again

We couldn't believe it was over.  Time seemed suspended.
There was much yelling and awestruck exclaiming.
Someone just down the hill called out "the world *didn't* come to an end!" and everyone laughed.  

looking through the telescope at the sunspots  

and it begins

the light was starting to thin and we wondered if it was getting cooler

the temperature dropped close to 10 degrees, the birds were starting to sing evening songs, and it felt like dusk

staggering white light shone as the sun disappeared!

last glimmers of the diamond ring

almost full corona

First glimpse of the sun on the mountain that morning.
Yep.  We were listening to James Taylor play "Here comes the sun"! 

Monday, July 24, 2017

my geese

The little ones are pretty much as big as the parents now.  Their coloring is still a bit fainter, their feathers a bit fluffier. Parents stand protectively on either side of their brood, or between them and any danger. Some days I would see how close I could get to them as they stood on the bit of road that extended into their lake.  Most days they waddled into the water and swam away before I could get anywhere near them.
I've seen large gatherings of geese along the river, raising their families together, braving the walkers and bikers of Meewasin trail together, parents hissing at anyone who gets too close to the goslings.
But this family has been pretty solitary. Just mom and dad and the kids.

This morning, though, it looked like a family gathering at the lake.  I wondered if it was a group passing through, or a first sign of gathering for the fall (kind of like the first yellow leaf to fall from my poplar tree long before anyone should be thinking of summer's end), or a day's outing to a cool lake on the outskirts of the city - kind of a day trip.

As I turned off the main road I saw the limp body of an adult goose lying on the ground by the tall grasses.
I've heard that geese mate for life.
Do they call the family in when there is a tragedy as well?
Do they come to surround the babies and take care of them till things get figured out?
Maybe this morning was just a coincidence.
By the time I left for lunch, all the geese had gone.
Every one.
I sure wonder what happened at the lake this morning.    

Saturday, July 22, 2017

quiet mornings

the sky has wrapped the morning in a cool blanket

dragonboat races have begun in the city
and farmer's markets are organizing their produce on corner lots and river sides

the air is so still this morning
I've picked a bowl of raspberries and sit
down on the deck, hearing the irregular
knocking of a woodpecker close by
eventually he flies over to the newly pruned poplar and methodically makes his way up the trunk, circling and searching for his food
on the ground a flicker pokes around in the grass, and robins are finding worms
chickadees are playing in the trees - birds in a perpetual good mood

I sit still long enough for birds to forget that I am here
a sparrow lands on the railing of the deck and looks at me for a moment before flying away
a crow silently patrols the neighborhood with a straight fly-by
something pulses by ... a breath above my head on its way through the yard
I can't tell if it touched my hair or just disturbed the air around it
adrenalin surges thru me at the sudden brush with sparrow's flight

apples gradually bending branches toward the ground
honeysuckle berries turning red and orange
daylilies standing at attention, an army of orange against the fence
morning glory canopy thickening and lengthening

and a second fly-by just above my head.
maybe it's a thing they like to do - skim just above something on their flight path
I just had to sit still long enough
on a morning wrapped in fog

God, you reveal yourself to us in so many subversive and unassuming ways... Unclog our ears to hear you, and show us how to get rid of the clutter of our lives so that we make room for you... (from Common Prayers for this day)

Friday, June 16, 2017

silver mound

speaks a language children hear
whispers a silver hello 
little fingers drawn to weave 
through the velvety dome  

Friday, May 26, 2017

restless wind

a restless wind bothers the wind chime

blows the remaining blossoms off the apple tree
begins to throw poplar dandruff around the neighborhood

dandelions insist on poking bright yellow heads up in so many corners of the yard
 in crevices where nothing should be able to find space to root

one astilbe thrives and prepares to throw it's flower toward the sky

another astilbe emerges slowly ... to live or not to live, that is the question ...

and in the front, the dwarf apricot iris from my neighbor laughs out loud
I almost missed it

bleeding heart strings of pink and white

ready for little fingers to pick and pull them apart or give them away

it is the season for daily walk abouts

Tuesday, May 2, 2017


a flicker drums on my neighbor's tin chimney
in the early morning fog
waking them if they are still asleep
annoying them if they are awake

I remember that sound of a jackhammer in my house
while my baby boy lay sleeping
walking through the house and into the basement
wondering where the sound was coming from
what was breaking

realizing days later when I saw him drumming on my neighbor's roof

not a jackhammer in the basement
not something gone very wrong with the heating

a flicker on the rooftop

Friday, April 28, 2017


Elena Isabella

we hold her close
and find familiar features

pursed mouth
arms up with fists clenched beside
her face as she sleeps
long toes
sudden startles

we soothe her when she cries
listen to sweet whimpers and squeaks and sighs
watch expressions flash across her face

so tiny
to carry our hopes and dreams
into new mornings

rock her in the sunshine
dance with her to the sound of Grandpa's violin
drifting down the stairway
spilling over the balcony

Thursday, February 23, 2017


By the time I left, the truck had pulled into the parking lot, ready to be loaded.

I had arrived in time to witness the send off.  
They spread out through the warehouse, laying hands on each pallet of supplies as they prayed. 
There were prayers of gratitude for those who have created 
   and gathered the supplies and blankets, 
prayers for safe delivery of supplies, 
prayers for those who will receive these tangible gifts 
   that they would know they are not forgotten, 
   that they would learn to know a God of love.

 1810 blankets
336 relief kits
480 infant care kits
2544 school kits
100 sewing kits

So many kits and blankets and the numbers mean so much or nothing at all. 
But I see our little Elena Isabella, wrapped securely in her mama's arms and kept warm by the blankets sent by friends and family, and know that my Lord sees each child, sees each mother shivering, each family struggling, 

and I am grateful to the faithful people of MCC Saskatchewan for the many ways that they serve. 

Relief, development and peace in the name of Christ.

Directing material resources ... thanks Jerry!

Friday, February 3, 2017

circling back - evelyn renee

I've been reading a couple of books exploring the effects of geography on politics and
effects of networking on time ... oh so intriguing ... but when confronted by the pages of a third "mind-expanding large-issues-tamed-into-a-thesis" book, my heart recoiled.  And so I put it down.

Returned to the pages of Kathleen Norris's "Cloister Walk" and Eugene Peterson's "Long Obedience in the Same Direction" ... both of which, strangely enough, anchor themselves in the prayers of the psalms.  This is good.  Like my new progressive lenses they require me to pay attention to small movements and immediate steps.

and. once again I am grounded by the joy and beauty of a one year old whose musical language without many words communicates worlds
take off your jacket so I know you are staying, mama
can I have one of the cookies that I know you keep in that container on that counter?
i'm just so tired
can we look at this together?

scrambling up onto the couch
   to sit with her brother who
      oh-so-gently or not-so-gently
                     lifts her up beside him
hands clasped together, eyes wide open as we pray before supper

she sees and comments on everything.
attends to the periphery
new bits of color
murals on the ceiling
things just out of reach

and loves pouring
pouring water from one pail into another pail
   filling up and spilling over
   pouring and missing
     water running over and all around
pouring water or sand or bits of building blocks

what are you learning in the pouring
the emptying and filling and running over
again and again and again

evelyn renee