Wednesday, December 19, 2007

What if trees could talk?

There is a tree that grows along a shady path, just beyond the seashore at Mary’s Point.

This tree has certainly withstood the storms of many seasons but, somehow, has been afforded enough protection to grow sturdy and tall, its trunk straight, its shady boughs reaching out to shelter and protect all that surrounds it.

From the base of this mighty hemlock, surely springing from the very same place, grows a white birch; its bark clean and pure, catching the sunlight that drifts down to this shady space. Its branches spread wide and brilliant, reaching ever outward; naked in this winter of its life, yet the birch remains stunning in size, simplicity and beauty.

Together, they have grown, one supporting the other, their very roots sprawling wide, intertwined and knotted below the surface. So supported by such strength, the birch, perhaps, has spread its limbs much wider than it might have alone.

I found this odd pairing of trees while walking the path with my friend, Gwen. We had just been to visit naturalists Mary Majka and David Christie, to offer our condolences on the recent loss of Dr. Mike (Mietek), Mary's husband of 59 years. At 84, Mary is still somewhat of an enigmatic force of nature - a flamboyant storyteller and activist who, for 40 years, has flung herself into nature and heritage protection. Her life's mission has been to encourage others to understand their place in the landscape as caretakers and her influence has spread far and wide. Her husband, the quiet and steady Dr. Mike, was always in the background, strong and supportive.

Upon leaving the house, Gwen and I decided to walk the path from the house to the shore. A pair of partridge flew upward from their hiding place in the bushes, and two rabbits, part brown, part white, scampered in opposite directions, for cover.

The beach and marsh glowed in the sinking sun and the sea salt dusted away our melancholy mood. We walked in silence, watching the waves, stopping to inspect copper leaves, streams of baby clamshells, or polished beach glass in the sand. Just appreciating a friendship that needs no words. It was upon our return, in the shelter of the path once more, that we found the trees.

The two of us walked around the pair, almost in reverence, touching the bark, tracing the lines and groves in wonder. We each caught the other’s eyes, knowing we shared a single, identical thought.

Here, on this day, tucked away in this quiet place, two trees lived - in tandem to the lives lived on the bluff above. Here, on this day, tucked away in this quiet place, two friends saw and understood, without a word, there was deep meaning in this.

How wondrous is that?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

What if we took back Christmas?

I really am a Christmas rebel at heart. The first sign came when my mother wanted me to hang tinsel one-by-tedious-one, and I would secretly (or so I thought) toss them on by the handful (did I think she didn’t notice?). Somehow they always seemed to sort themselves out over night. To be honest, my tree is still rather unruly, but I like it that way. Actually, now that I mention it, my life is unruly, and that’s OK, too.

It’s been years coming, but this time I really mean it. I’m so sick of telemarketers invading my suppertime, trying to sell me something I don’t want or need. I’m sick of sale flyers trying to convince me I need the latest gadget at the lowest price of the season; I’m sick of technology that promises to make my life easier, while taking away my ability and desire to think on my own, I’m sick of crowds and cranky people and partygoers who drink too much and of those who want to take my Christmas away and demote it to a mere “holiday”.

I'm just tired of how the world defines Christmas.

I want my Christmas back. So, when a friend asked if I was ready for Christmas, I told her the truth. I’m not baking. I’m not shopping like a madwoman. I’m not planning any social evenings. These things are not me. If I feel like having someone over, I will do so at the last minute and play it simple. I will enjoy myself, relax and get in some quality snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. I will visit people I care about because I want to, not because I feel I have to.

I will roll in the snow and make snow angels. I will romp. I will soak in the tub and paint my toenails red. I will curl up with a good book and drink chai tea. I will make eggnog from scratch. I will enjoy a moonlit walk in the crystalline snow. I will snowshoe up Shepody Mountain on Christmas morning with my husband and look for deer and rabbit tracks instead of opening far too many gifts. And above all, I will thank God for all the wonderful people and blessings and beauty in my life.

So now I am writing it. I always say that when you frame your thoughts into words and place them on paper, you make them real. You give them substance and power.

I, alone, have the power to take back my Christmas. And this makes it real.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

New Brunswick Gives from the Heart

Despite the Christmas season, this little corner of New Brunswick has proved itself, once again, to be truly in the giving spirit. While we won't be getting Jay and Charlotte into their new home by Christmas, we are confident that February will be the month.

We need to thank so many people and so many businesses - most of which do not want recognition...

The site preparation and landfill, concrete slab, roof trusses, shingles, exterior plywood, interior studding, Typar, insulation, windows, electrical wiring and heaters, sheet rock, paint, flooring, kitchen and bathroom cabinets, have all been donated by local area businesses or through individual sponsorship.

A number of individuals have contributed cash and manual labour, and many people have been purchasing Home Hardware gift certificates and dropping them off at Downey's Home Hardware in Riverview to be applied against our 'Gifts from the Heart' account.

We've also received generous donations from:
  • Atlantic Lottory Corporation
  • PropertyGuys.com
  • Moncton Area Control Centre
  • Royal Bank (RBC), Riverview
  • Bank of Nova Scotia, Hillsborough
  • Hollingum Agencies, Ltd., Moncton
  • R. & B. Storey Logging Ltd., Doaktown
  • St. Michael's Ladies' Society of Moncton
  • St. Mary's Anglican Church Women of Hillsborough
Blessings and Merry Christmas to all.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Moncton writers to unlock their trade secrets at January workshop

Have you always wanted to write, but don’t know how to start? Maybe you’ve been writing secretly for ages, but don’t know where to go from here?

You're in luck.

Join the MonctonWriters.ca group of professional freelance writers for an informative half-day workshop that will show you the possibilities and realities of the professional writing world.

"The Write Stuff: Writing for Profit" will be held Saturday, January 26, 2008 at the Moncton Public Library, Northrop Frye Room, from 1-5 p.m.

Workshop presenters will share stories of how they carved careers doing what they love best: putting words to paper. Participants will learn about the writing life, how writers write and where they can be published. The format will be casual, with lots of time provided for questions. Topics include writing from home; finding markets and protecting your rights. The writers who will be passing on the tools and tips of their trade are members of the Professional Writers Association of Canada, Southeast NB Chapter.

This workshop makes a unique Christmas gift for the budding writer on your list. Pre-register and the group will send you a confirmation gift card that you can put under the tree.

For complete details on the workshop and the presenters, visit the group’s website at http://www.monctonwriters.ca/; email info@monctonwriters.ca; or call Allison Finnamore at 860-7761.

Hillsborough's community volunteer project goes Global

Did you catch the segment on Hillsborough's community house building project on Global TV news last night? Or did you see our story on the front page of the Times and Transcript this week?

Still want to help out? Just drop into Downey's Home Hardware in Riverview and tell them you'd like to contribute to the Gifts from the Heart project.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

What if ‘Glee‘ wasn’t so old or odd?

A colleague (and friend), Lynda MacGibbon recently wrote a column in our local newspaper about glee. Specifically, it was the glee she felt when a woodpecker came knocking at her door. “It’s an odd, old word…”, she says, “meaning mirth or to express joy”. Hers was a simple story, about one of those meaningful moments, when creation touches us in a profound way. I like how Lynda writes. She sees the world with her heart, not her eyes. And I'm so glad she made me think about glee.

Glee. How often would you say you felt ‘gleeful’? Would you know what glee feels like? It’s bubbly. It’s childlike. It’s a ripple that starts deep and erupts on the surface…and it’s contagious.

Another writerly friend, Gwen, wrote to me about a very solemn conversation she had, through the bathroom window, with a barred owl. I remember how I laughed when I heard her story. And how envious I was. To speak with a barred owl - and have it speak back - is quite special... like a blessing.

One of my favourite memories of Gwen takes place when we were walking through the forest surrounding her home. We stopped for a moment and she called forth a gathering of chickadees and kinglets and sparrows with a “whish…whish…whish…”. They clustered about us in the branches, curious, singing back. I giggled, with wonder.

I tried this myself, one frigid cold winter’s day, with my mother. We were both delighted when a heavenly host of chickadees arrived to serenade us with their gleeful song.

What if we sought more moments of glee in our lives? What if we shared that glee with others?

Friday, December 7, 2007

Read all about it...

Many thanks to Eric Lewis of the Times & Transcript, who wrote a heartfelt story about our Gifts from the Heart house building project. It's on today's front page and you can read all about it here for a short period of time.

We still need donations and some skilled tradespeople and general labour to help build Jay and Charlotte's home. A few faithful volunteers - John Tingley, Gord Hisey and Norman Woodworth, are at the house as often as they are able; Pat is there daily, so if you think you can help in any way, drop by the house at 72 Mollins Rd., or call Pat and leave a message. Our telephone # is 734-2367. Monetary donations can be made through Downey's Home Hardware in Riverview - they know about our Gifts from the Heart project and have provided as much assistance as they can to make our work so much easier!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Let it snow...

Our community volunteer building project continues...slow, but sure. John Tingley of Hopewell Cape worked all day installing siding, just finishing up one end as the snow started to fly. Work continues inside on room petitions. In spite of the storm forecast for tomorrow, two volunteers have plans to return via 4-wheel drive to continue work inside the house.

"No point in missing a full day of work, just for a little snow," my dearly beloved mutters. It's been a full time job for him since the project started, contacting businesses, arranging building supplies as needed, coordinating helpers...I know he'd be pacing like an expectant father if he had to miss a day of work.

Volunteer labour is still needed! It's not too late to lend a helping hand and there is still much work to accomplish.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

What if Christmas was about Scenes not Stuff?

The other day, a colleague was reciting for me all the gifts he had bought for his wife. As he was listing such things as sweaters and jackets, rings and earrings, remote car starters and the like, the thought entered my mind that when I am old, I do believe my mind will be more apt to dwell on and recall the moments rather than the things.

Stuff wears out, breaks, goes out of style, but expressions of love never fade. I thought about it a moment. Could I remember all the Christmas gifts my husband and I shared in our past? A few perhaps…but what comes to mind more easily are scenes shared in our past.

I remember a decade ago when we were part of a team running a 24-hour relay race. I was heading out for my lap at 3:00 am. “Do you want me to come with you?” my husband asked. I shook my head. I wouldn’t admit I was a little nervous about running the trail alone. He respected my need to do it on my own. I didn’t know until later he watched from a distance, just to make sure I was safe.

I remember watching a singer on TV. I sighed, “I wish I had a voice like that.” (Anyone who knows me, knows I can’t sing a note.) He turned and looked at me. “Your voice is how you put words on the page.”

I remember oh-so-many times, while lying in bed at night, that we howled like idiots over some ridiculous thing like ‘old people noises’; laughing uncontrollably until we wiped the tears away, then moments later, starting all over again.

I remember standing, side by side, on the top of the Tablelands in Newfoundland, both of us silent with awe.

I remember how carefully he chooses his words when I ask him his opinion on something I’m wearing that he doesn’t like. Or when he withholds his opinion on decisions he knows I have to make on my own. Or when he leaves me to walk alone on the trail, somehow knowing without words, that I need the space and quiet and solitude.

These are the things I remember. So this Christmas, we are opting out of the rat race of gift buying and going for the moment to remember. Weather permitting, we will get up early and go for a hike or a snowshoe, perhaps to the top of Shepody Mountain.

Just to see what Christmas looks like from there.