Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Really Deep Christmas Questions

The Week Before Christmas

The First Question: Hmm...what am I going to get my people for Christmas?

Christmas Eve

Wrapping Paper? Oh. I thought you said Scrapping Paper.... now, if I work really hard, can I get everything put together before tomorrow?

Sigh. How come I always cut off more than I can chew?

Why is Christmas so exhausting?

Christmas Morning

Did I get everything done? Am I really ready for Christmas?
Whew...Looks pretty good...I'm feeling quite proud of myself...

Who said giving was better than receiving?

Is that all? No more shredding?

So is this is Christmas?

Who's gonna clean up this mess?

Monday, December 22, 2008

What if people defined place?

The great nature writer, Wallace Stegner wrote...
A place is not a place until people have been born in it, have grown up in it, lived in it, known it, and died in it – have experienced and shaped it, as individuals, families, neighbourhoods, and communities, over more than one generation.

In this merriest of seasons, take some quiet time to consider your own connections to place…the memories and thoughts that bring you comfort, the imprints you or others have left on your community or neighbourhood. What feels like hallowed ground to you? What echoes will you pass on to your children and grandchildren? How will your life affect theirs?

We need to realize we do not simply exist in the space occupied by our bodies. We are part of the cycles and rhythms of nature and life; the ripples of our passage here move ever outward. Christmas is a good time to consider how deeply our lives intersect with the people and the world around us.

Each of us leaves an indelible mark. Each of us helps define a place.

We are but one layer of many. Celebrate.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Christmas..Memory, Stone and Song...

We attended a lovely carol sing at the Irving Memorial Chapel in the little seaside town of Bouctouche last evening with some friends. The small chapel, crafted of New Brunswick stone with a slate roof and interior beams of magnificent Douglas fir, was designed in tribute to the Irving family’s Scottish roots. (these photos were taken this fall).

It is a small chapel, but quite beautiful…located on a large tree plantation and garden overlooking Bouctouche Bay and surrounded by an amazing stone wall, each piece perfectly placed...crafted without mortar by Welsh and Scottish wallers.

We've always trusted stone to carry our stories forward, haven't places beyond our limited horizons.

It could not have been a more perfect winter’s evening…a clear sky filled to the brim with stars…trees sparkling with white lights…fresh snow…chapel windows softly lit, echoes of piano and organ music…drifting...

There is something so essential and profound about the beauty of a small, intimate church at Christmas. As sweet voices floated upward in song, it struck me that the words were all right there...mortared in my heart…like the occasional old hymn or scripture verse that lifts to my mind unbidden...

How often have I rested on these old carols…time after time…year after year…they remind me that somewhere deep beneath the tasks of every day, lays a firm foundation set in place by my own ancestors.

I looked around at those present…many of us strangers … yet here together on this night, shoulder to shoulder…united by perhaps an unspoken desire for something solid...something beyond gifts and glitz...something worth clinging to.

As harmony lifted familiar words, I felt gratitude for roots…for foundations. For tradition. For trees and stone and the strength of my parents, grandparents...great-grandparents...and the beliefs they cherished and passed on.

And for the power and grace of a Christ-mas that still gives us a song to sing...a reason to celebrate...and remembrance.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Great Blue Beyond

During my last visit to Gwen’s Desideratum website, I was delighted to read her Out of the Blue post, where she was drawing a name for a set of exquisite, handmade aqua blue earrings from those who left a comment.

As I paused to leave a few words, ‘out of the blue’, I found myself typing, ‘Wish now…that I would win…” I stopped short. They were the words of my late grandfather…

“Wish now, Debbie-girl”, he’d always say. I hadn’t thought of that expression for years.

A fragment of memory lit on my mind … a limp ball of patchwork fur cradled in large, calloused farmer’s hands...rough, like a cat’s tongue and cracked with dirt. It was just before Christmas and I was 5 or 6…the limp fur was a barn kitten, barely alive.

“Wish now, Debbie-girl, let’s see what we can do for this little ‘un.” My eyes were wide as marbles. He placed the kitten on a towel on the open oven door of the wood stove. I knelt on the floor in front of the stove, watching and wondering what would happen, my lips silently praying… “oh please, God.”

I watched until my legs cramped and I had to shift positions.

Slowly, small bugs began crawling from the kitten’s ears, nose, eyes…I looked up at my grandfather in wonder…

“Wish now, Debbie-girl, the heat’s drawin’ them out. You just wait now, we’ll see if we can bring’er back.” Big sausage fingers picked at the tiny black bugs and wiped them against his coveralls.

I watched silently. The kitten began to stir. Her eyes opened, just a bit. Then a wee bit more. A paw twitched.

Life returned...out of the blue. My first Christmas miracle.

Wish now.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

What if there was magic in light?

Splashes of colour, magical stories narrated with a thousand sparkles of light…great trees tossing sparks into the air… No matter our age, we are drawn to them like mesmerized children…those homes whose owners have taken many hours, tremendous effort, creative imagination and careful planning to create enchanted worlds for the enjoyment of others.

Such is the giving spirit of Christmas…for I’m sure the looking out on such a scene night after night is not nearly as wondrous as the looking in or the unexpected delight of chance discovery.

This home is located on a slow country road not far from my home. At Christmas, I detour by often, just for this gift of light.

Each night as darkness falls, traffic slows, watchful drivers nod and wave patiently at each other as they inch along, passengers twist in their seats to take it all in…then continue on their way…smiling...hearts lighter, all rush and stress forgotten.

Thank you George and Diana, for sharing the magic of Christmas.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

What if leaders really led?

I don't know how long this will remain online, but this article appeared in the Globe and Mail on Dec. 6th. It is the story of Sgt. Robert Short, a New Brunswicker and one of the first Canadians to be killed by the enemy in Afghanistan (in Oct 2003). The video and the poignantly crafted article that accompanies it brings home the true cost and sacrifice of war.

I don't often comment on political issues, but I couldn't help but see the contrast after reading this piece about the grief of a family splintered by loss.

On one hand, we have the courageous men and women of our armed forces, working together, putting themselves in danger's way, giving selflessly for a country and a cause they believe in....knowing full well the weight of their choice is carried by their families back home. And the repercussions will echo for years.

Meanwhile, in Ottawa, our nation's leaders have been posturing, scrapping and backbiting like snarling dogs, unable - it seems - to dig deep within themselves to find the moral character and wisdom needed to find compromise and work together in a time of crisis, even knowing their country's economy depends upon it.

How disheartening.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

What if chance was really design?

Consider this…

A chance encounter….

a tiny sparrow…helpless and alone.

Just a wisp of life, really… but with a special story to tell; a lesson to impart …

Did I find him or did he find me?

My little sparrow lived only long enough to fulfill his purpose.

No more. No less.

To touch hearts. Plant seeds.

Were you part of His plan?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

What if a little sparrow were wiser than I?

We were headed back home again from our daily walk. Up ahead, I saw Callie stop short. Something had her attention. Her ears perked up, her nose went down and she jumped back, turned around and raced back to me. When I reached that spot, I saw a jumble of feathers on the path, perhaps part of a large bird. But, as I came closer, I realized it was a whole fox sparrow.

The poor creature was chin to the ground, missing tail and wing feathers. All about, downy fluff rolled in the breeze. I thought it must be dead, however as I knelt down, it craned its neck to look at me. It seemed in terrible shape, all twisted and wings outstretched, so I suspected it to be mortally wounded. Thinking I could do little to help, I picked it up carefully, intending to set it down at the base of a tree, where it had a little more protection. Then, in my mind, I heard the words to a much-loved childhood hymn, ‘God sees the little sparrow fall’.

How many times I heard that hymn when I was a child. It reminds me that although a sparrow may seem small and insignificant - easily expendable - our Creator considers each one to be a creature of value. This small bird had met with peril within the scant ten minutes since I first walked past this place. Two paths converged. Even if it died in a few minutes, I could not leave it behind.

Looking it over carefully, I saw no evident wounds. I covered the ruddy little body with my other hand and started for home. A spunky little thing; it grasped my glove fiercely in its beak, refusing to let go. Presently, however, it found trust and relaxed its grip.

As I write this, the little sparrow is resting in a newspaper-lined box. I heard him munching millet and sunflower seeds a while ago, and he even sat for a while on the wooden perch I made for him.

I’ve had days lately, when I, too, have felt wounded and beaten, my feathers pulled. But the tiny fox sparrow that fell on my path brought me a very important message.

Wait. Rest. Trust. Grow new feathers. The time will come to fly again.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Quiet Days, Slow Walks

On days when I want to feel immensely popular, I take Callie-dog for a romp down the trail to the duck pond behind our house. She tears down the trail ahead of me, whipping around the crest of the hill, her feathery blond tail whirling, past monstrous anthills that are somewhat deflated now that the tenants have moved out. Her joy is infectious. It makes me want to run, too, but I force myself to walk slow.

She leaves me to wander alone past piles of damp deadfall lining an overgrown woods road. I spy the blaze orange of her vest just ahead and know she is busy sniffing out rabbit tracks, but will be back presently to check on me. At a fork in the trail, I turn left and enter the Dark Woods; a gloomy place, damp and shadowed with spindly spruce. There is very little soil on top of the rock here and uprooted trees pile like pickup sticks, sparse roots ripped from the moss and stone.

The days are deathly quiet now, the birds still, insects hunkered down for winter. I can see where an animal – perhaps a deer - has trod a short while ago, lifting the sodden mat of leaves. I watch for animal tracks in the damp mud and spy a cigar-shaped string of coyote scat.

These days, in the silence of autumn, I try to quiet my mind so I do not walk in oblivion. I try hard to pay attention to what I see and smell and hear. A while ago, I finished reading Sharon Butala’s wonderful book, Perfection of the Morning. Sharon lives in rural Saskatchewan and writes about her beloved prairie. She, too, appreciates long walks and the subtleties of the landscape. She, too, looks for the hidden stories and tries to listen for the voices of the land. It made me sigh in relief to read her words…she had found a way to express the inexpressible within me.

I feel frustration that I don’t know all the stories. I see, but I don’t understand. My mind is coming alive and it has questions. But it will come. I have time to find the answers.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

What if November was Beauty?

We often think of November as bleak; the time of year when we begin to pull ourselves inward for the winter. But those occasional warm days are last minute gifts to be celebrated and bleakness, like beauty, depends on the eyes of the beholder.

The Hopewell Rocks was ours alone today. Even the Bay of Fundy was empty, miles of mudflats stretching down to tiny Grindstone Island, gleaming in the sun, Shepody Mountain draped with low cloud. Callie-dog romped and we walked familiar trails while the sun darted in and out.
Down the back trail to Demoiselle Beach, we were graced with the image of trees glittering with diamonds and magical shafts of light filtering through steamy fog. As we emerged on the beach, a fog bank rolled in atop of the mudflats.
All was silent, save a pair of chortling crows. We followed rabbit and moose tracks on the beach, admired the jeweled collage of seaweed and scanned the golden bronze of the marsh grass, brushed and tufted like the fur on the dog’s back.
We sat on a log, breathed the air, listened to the silence, felt the warmth of the settling sun. Even Callie-dog was subdued today, preferring to sit quietly instead of explore for goodies in the seaweed.
Beauty. For the taking.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

What if we were all perfectly coloured and shaped?

Everything seems clearer in autumn. These past days, I've been travelling to Moncton daily, as my husband has been in the hospital. In spite of the purpose for them, I've been thankful for these glorious drives. Otherwise, I would have been at home, in front of my computer, working and missing it all. I'm also thankful I live in Atlantic Canada, a place of seasons.

Driving down Route 114 has been like following a corridor of light and I'm struck by how fall allows us to see each specimen more clearly in all its glory.

While everyone oohs and ahhs over the deep crimson maples that provide depth and shadow to this palette, I must say I prefer the luminescence of the orange maples - they, alone, seem to glow with some strange inner light.

In summer, these trees blend together into a tapestry of sage and emerald, chartreuse and pine, myrtle and olive. It is difficult to distinguish individuals in the crowd, and we tend to see the forest as an entity unto itself.

But in fall, a tree begins to separate from its neighbour and stand tall in its unique shape and splendor - almost as if each has found the courage to shine with its own inner beauty. They bring all that surrounds them to life - even the unchanging fir or pine.

The sky's a deeper blue, the water crystal clear, the buildings more striking. A small white clapboard church against a backdrop of maples exudes peace and harmony.

I notice the burnished oaks with their sturdy trunks, airy limbs stretched outward, leaves clattering like waves on a cobble beach.

Leggy birch groves glow like splashes of waving sunlight, their leaves a gentle applause.

Then, of course, there are the spicy maples of all colours; some tall and cone-shaped, others wide and round; still others pruned to odd shapes to accommodate the sway of hydro lines.

I remember thinking once about how we rummage through garden centres, searching for the perfect, upright, healthy specimen to take home, and yet each tree, each shrub, each plant, has actually grown perfectly in accordance with its environment. Some have grown tall and straight, unencumbered by stress or strife, while others have endured trauma, lack of nutrients, sunlight, water, yet still somehow survived. Perhaps we should consider that they are really the strongest - the most likely to thrive.

I guess I feel a sense of belonging in this season. Now, in the autumn of my life, I have finally found the courage to stand alone, to be find contentment in how I've been uniquely pruned and shaped and nurtured...and to shine with my own individual colour and style.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Passing on a Gift of Friendship

I received several beautiful cards for my birthday was last week, but this one was particularly delightful.

Besides a heartfelt personal message inside, my girlfriend included this PS note:
This is a handmade card from my artist friend, Danielle Ouellet. She gave me two for my birthday and made me promise to send one to a special friend on her special day.
What a truly lovely idea to pass on from friend to friend. Thank you so much, Danielle and Dianne (who sent me the card).

Sunday, September 7, 2008

What if anyone could write?

I’m tired of hearing people moan, “I can’t write a word”; to which I respond, “How often do you try?” I couldn’t write a decent word either, if I didn’t practice and work at it, just like runners have to train before they can run marathons.

If I hadn't read mountains of books when I was young, my intuitive self probably wouldn’t understand basic story structure and proper grammar…but I did read mountains of books. Those books are all in me. I ate them, one by one. Now I carry their structure, their lessons, their rhythms with me. They guide me into the deep tangled bushes of possibility and enable me to clear the path to the story. It’s like understanding the lay of the land because you spent so many hours in the forest. Or knowing the currents of the sea, because you sailed it.

Herbert is a good example. A few years ago, we overnighted at the Lighthouse Inn on Quirpon Island at the very tip of Newfoundland’s northern peninsula. A gale blew all night long. The next morning the wind had calmed, but the seas remained rough. Herbert, a quiet, steady Newfoundlander, togged out in an olive green rain slicker, took us back to the mainland in his small open boat with an outboard motor. As the boat fell into troughs, I uneasily eyed the waves above us.

I remember Herbert calmly sidling up to a rocky channel and idling the boat, watching the white frothing waves churn through the narrow opening. I wondered if he was looking for an alternative route. Suddenly the motor powered up and we were speeding toward the opening. Horrified, I realized he intended to go through. Just as we reached the channel, the waves subsided and we motored through without difficulty. After that, I trusted him. Herbert knew this seacoast.

If you want to feel the forest, walk through it. If you want to understand sea, spend time in a boat. If you want to write, read. If you want to write well, practice.

This is what Write from the Soul is all about. Check the details for this workshop coming up on September 20th. I still have just a few seats left. Act fast. Deadline for registration: Sept. 12.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

What if no one dreamed of wild places?

Five blissful days of rest and lazy drifting at Mount Carleton Provincial Park have left me grateful for those who dream.

In 1883, Edward Jack, a provincial surveyor, dreamed of preserving a piece of the Appalachian Mountain Range to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Loyalist landing in New Brunswick. His vision only became reality in 1970 when Crown Land was set aside to create Mount Carleton Provincial Park, forever protecting the majesty of these mountains and chains of pristine lakes for the enjoyment of those who appreciate wilderness.

Evening paddles on silent lakes of sky and cloud, morning mist drifting through valleys, mountain hikes through endless forests and meanderings along mossy brooks and waterfalls…such are the gifts of Mount Carleton.

In my mind, I still see fish leaping from polished ebony, the darting swoop of a pair of kingfishers, a trio of moose feeding at water’s edge, the watchful curiosity of a quartet of loons, and a sunrise that transformed the dark haunting presence of Sagamook Mountain to the warmth of a blush. It's not surprising our Aboriginal peoples considered this sacred ground.

Slow, watchful wanderings through dappled forests, the magnificence of the sun’s rise and sun’s falling, and the silence of night broken only by a loon’s haunting echo across the water or coyotes calling the moon - these invoked such tranquility of spirit that I felt bereft with our leaving. Such is why we need time in wild spaces.

As my kayak slid through a sunset reflected in Bathurst Lake, the space of silence broken only by a distant chatter of a squirrel, I couldn’t help but feel deep, abiding gratitude that someone, somewhere, long before my birth, dreamed of saving this wild place.

Monday, August 11, 2008

What if Cape Enrage Loses its Spirit?

This weekend, I paid a visit to Dennison and Ann Tate, who operate the lighthouse, tearoom, adventures and interpretive programs at Cape Enrage. I have this small - and very special - list of people who stay true to their beliefs, give selflessly and act courageously and this pair are certainly on that list.

For sixteen years, they’ve given their spirit and time and vision to develop one of the most beautiful places in Canada – the Cape Enrage Lighthouse. Together, and with considerable financial risk, they took it from derelict eyesore to an innovative adventure and interpretive model that is innovative, sustainable and truly unique.

It’s a place of learning and growth. It’s a place to breathe raw nature and beauty, to encounter challenge, to test one’s mettle, to experience the exhilaration of personal achievement. Visitors come here to see the Fundy coast at it's most formidable and spectacular. Youth and adults from all over come here for outdoor training and to challenge themselves – whether for survival, education and adventure skills, emergency preparedness, or rope and climbing training.

But the Tate's commitment goes much deeper than that. Through example, they’ve encouraged a personal creed of sharing and service amongst the young people who work and learn at the site; a culture and attitude that has changed many lives and set many paths. In this sense, they are not just keepers of the lighthouse, but keepers of our future.

The sad part is that Dennison and Ann are tired, now. They’ve been the heart and soul of Cape Enrage for too long – every powerful heartbeat now drains them. It’s time to step back and make room for the next generation of visionaries. That, at least, is their hope.

The Tates presented an innovative succession plan to the Province of NB and now await a decision. Will the Province share the beauty of this vision? Or will it sterilize it with bureaucracy? Or squelch it entirely?

All of us here in this region – those who value our wild and beautiful spaces - wait breathlessly. The nature of a lighthouse is to be a beacon in times of trouble and it serves its purpose best in the midst of tumult. Cape Enrage has certainly been a beacon for youth. And it's weathered its fair share of tumult through its history. Can it weather this?

Cape Enrage is so much more than a tourist attraction. It’s where spirit and land and people exist together in synergy. And this is something to cherish and protect.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

What if we each had but one fleeting moment of glory?

In a previous post, I spoke of a quiet moment of joy when I discovered my first luna moth. At that time, after it flew, I ran home to sketch it so I wouldn’t forget. This weekend, I saw another. And I had my camera handy.

This elusive, ephemeral creature was lying on a gravel path in Chignecto campground, Fundy National Park; the same place where I spotted my first. Fearing someone might inadvertently trample it, I picked it up and moved it to safety.

The wings were the colour of fresh cornhusks and as transparent as onionskin. Its furred body and underside of the wings were silky to touch; the bushy antennae, shaped like the veins of a leaf, identified it as a male. Eyespots on his wings, intended to confuse predators, enhanced the magical quality of this exquisite creature.

But, those delicate, silken wings were tattered. It had been hurt, suffered damage in its short life. As I held it gently, it began to quiver and shudder. I wondered if it would die right there in my hand. Then, suddenly, it gathered itself together, lifted those poor tattered wings and fluttered to the underside of a large leaf where it remained, hidden, perfectly blended with its surroundings. A quiet place to gather strength. An hour later, I checked and it had flown.

I feel blessed by such a rare encounter. The chances of finding a luna are very slim. To hold one in the palm of one's hand, even more extraordinary. An adult luna moth will only live in this glorious state for 7 days, during which time, it will mate and then die.

What if we, too, were permitted only a fleeting moment of glory in our lives…only a short time of exquisite beauty and magnificence to fulfill our purpose and leave something of ourselves behind? Only one brief interlude to touch another life and leave it profoundly changed.

Would we let the paralysis of hurt and damage hold us in place to be trampled again? Or would we allow another to lift us up to safety? Would we blend in with our surroundings and hide with our hurts in fear, or would we have the courage to spread our wings and fly to our purpose?

I love this quote by Marianne Williamson in A Return To Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles, Harper Collins:

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

What if we all could see beyond the horizon?

A friend took me for a coast crawl in his ultra-light on Saturday. We departed a small, grassy private airfield outside of Hillsborough and flew down the Bay of Fundy coast as far as his gas tank would allow. A hot, motionless morning, three days past the new moon, meant the tide was unusually low and we didn’t have to deal with wind. Perfect for a low altitude flight.

Floating along several hundred feet above the coast, the beauty of this landscape and all its elements left me breathless: the sleepy lull of a bay at rest, mounds of ancient mountain ranges, hidden finger lakes, extraordinary mudflats wrinkled by a myriad of rivulets, and the deep emerald patterns of the Hillsborough and Shepody marshes. My horizons spread out and flew.

Cape Enrage
We paralleled the cliffs at the Hopewell Rocks, taking photos of tourists taking photos of us. Further up the coast, others waved from the Cape Enrage Lighthouse. As we passed Waterside Beach, long and lean as a yardstick, we skimmed barely above the sand. We sailed high over the great rubbled cascading cliffs of Alma and Fundy National Park, the coves and wilderness campsites along the Fundy Footpath, circled Martin Head with its swirls of sand and water the colour of abalone shell, then turned for home.

Martin Head
As we floated over the great river valleys slicing the coast, the Two Rivers estuary and the Mary’s Point mudflats, stretched out like buffed leather, I found myself struck by a deep, profound passion for this place… has always been here, this passion for place, long before I knew it had a name...long before I learned the stories of our magnificent tides, our vibrant salt marshes and mesmerizing shorebirds. The passion was born in the days when my parents began bringing me on Sundays to visit my Albert County cousins, but it has been a quiet, comfortable resident in my soul, growing slowly, building layer upon layer through a wealth of experiences and explorations.

Through the years, this place has entered me...I've carried its soil under my nails, its mud in my pores, its gifts in my belly. Its sea has cooled my body, its salt crusted my skin, its scent filled my lungs.
I've gathered it into me, in bits and pieces, filling my life with its sights and stories; but, this wondrous day - seeing how all the hills and valleys, coves and rivers that I cherish fit together into a whole -it suddenly overwhelmed me.

I wanted to grab our leaders by the shoulders - those who cannot see beyond today or their own glory or achievement - and plead with them to join me in protecting this wild space. This is my land. My ancestors bowed to it and claimed it to make me Canadian, to make me a New Brunswicker. My heart tells me we need our wild places, we need to stand firm and not crumble to the lure of the dollar or unnecessary development.

It raised a she-bear in me…this God’s-eye view.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

What if Country Gardens were more about Friends than Flowers?

Albert County had its first annual garden tour on Saturday, featuring a number of gardens in Hopewell Cape. It was an idea long overdue.

One of those featured was actually my former garden. It was like meeting an old friend who has matured since you last saw her.

I walked about familiar beds and marveled at the size of my Polaris and Snow Pavement rose bushes, the profusion of honeysuckle vine and the way the tiny old fashioned rose sprig I’d transplanted before I left was vigorously climbing the arbour swing.

As I wandered, I remembered Jamie, who gave me the humongous hostas and Aiko, who contributed the lady’s mantle and yellow loosestrife that have gone on to decorate so many other gardens. The veronica and lilies came from Nancy; sedum and iris from Dot; phlox from Janet. The maple tree was one my husband dug from the forest. It had grown into a fine specimen – perhaps something the new owners will use as a backdrop for photos someday.

My garden was like a collection of memory, friendships and love.

I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the backyards of my former neighbours, as well, and wondered why, in the 15 years I’d lived there, I’d never taken the time to visit them. It made me feel a little sad - to think of the missed opportunities; the missed friendships and sharing.

The gardens of Hopewell Cape are, indeed, quite lovely – many of them messy, unruly country gardens that don’t mind a weed or two. Just the way I like them.

They flow around heritage homes and newer constructions; some incorporate ‘discovered’ treasures, others are decorated with purchased ‘finds’, but they share one thing in common. Each is as unique and colourful as its owner. Each is a small plot of flowers that evolved and expanded with time and diligence, illuminating the personality and passion of its caretaker. I feel like I know each of my neighbours much better now.

And I’ve made a promise to myself to start visiting the backyard of my new neighbours. No more missed friendships. What better investment of my time?

Sunday, June 29, 2008

View from the Marsh

I’ve been walking more than running these days, but even this has been sporadic. So, in an effort to get myself into the groove again, on Thursday night, I walked with Ann Duffy’s Nordic Walking group out on the Hillsborough marsh. We left from the Tourist info building at 6:30 pm. (Check the link to the Albert County Events calendar on the sidebar for other nordic walking nights). Some walked in twos and talked, others walked in solitude, but each at their own pace.

We stopped at the midway point, by the river lookout beside the old gypsum silos, to wait for everyone to catch up and I was able to appreciate the views back toward the village. The tranquility of this space always reaches out to me and I feel so fortunate to live in an area where scenes of such understated beauty are commonplace. Ann and her group motivated me with their enthusiasm and inspired me to get with the routine.

The next morning, my dog and I were out on the marsh again. For a solid, glorious hour she romped and I strode along the river dyke as the tide flowed in from the bay. Long grasses bent in the same breezes that kept us cool in the morning heat, bringing the smells of fresh-turned earth and the myriad of wildflowers that grow so prolifically here.

In the quietude of marsh life, cobalt blue dragonflies and tiny periwinkle butterflies crossed paths in mid-air. I spotted a deer, grazing and nibbling at fresh shoots. A bald eagle soared. A farmer plowed a field between long lines of raspberry canes; another walked through hip-high grass with a border collie, searching for something.

Suddenly, there along the dyke, miles from any homestead, I spotted a single, mature honeysuckle bush, fragrant with blooms. I had to wonder how it came to rest there. Had someone dug it from an unruly garden and discarded it many years ago? Or had it steadily grown from a seed or sprout? Somehow, it found a place to root, to grow and to bloom in glorious colour, so solitary walkers, like me, could find joy in the surprise of its presence.

Looking back towards Hillsborough, it was easy to imagine the ebb and flow of life here for the past 300 years. I couldn’t help but consider how our transplanted ancestors found roots here in this wild space. Somehow, from nothing, they built solid, colourful lives for themselves and all those who could come after.

Tall white church steeples punctuated the sky along a main road lined with historic homes, many owned by generations of family. I thought about how they built the community; about the sweat that went into creating and maintaining these dykes and wondered how many others had walked this route through the centuries and appreciated this view.

When you take a chance, make a new beginning, plant a new seed, add a new routine, act on a new idea, you really have no idea how far down the road, it will bloom into something much bigger than you ever dreamed.

Friday, June 27, 2008

When do ideas become actions?

A few weeks ago, I watched my sister-in-law, Beth, as she made peanut butter cookies. Her strong, capable hands dipped into the big bowl and emerged with a small mound of dough. These same hands rolled the dough into ball, picked out a small portion, rolled, added a little chunk of dough, then rolled the it again in the palm of her hand.

While she talked to her guests, laughed, told stories, these hands kept working, rolling, adjusting, giving, taking away, rolling again, creating tiny, perfect balls of cookie dough.

I looked at the others, all lined up and evenly spaced on the cookie sheet, each one the exact same size.

Beth has made a lot of cookies in her life – for her two daughters, her husband, for church functions and bazaars; now for her grand-daughters, as well. Like her husband, Roger, who taught me to fly-fish, her hands don’t need her mind to work. They just do what she’s trained them to do. If I asked her what she remembered about that particular day, she’d say the enjoyment of talking with family members. The routine of cookie-making was a relaxing background task.

I remember when I learned to run – it was so hard, so foreign…my body needed time to learn what I wanted it to do. A friend once remarked, “For the first 20 minutes, my body just screams at me, ‘Stop! What are you doing to me?’, then all of a sudden, it’s like it says, ‘Oh…I get it…this is what you want me to do.’ And then everything kicks into gear and feels great.” She nailed it. After the first 15-20 minutes, running found rhythm. Rhythm found release. Release found revelation. Running was what generated my best thinking. I set out to learn to run, but also learned to elevate my thoughts.

With new things, our body needs to get used to the action, to warm up to the idea – just like our minds. At a recent workshop, the facilitator said, “On average, we hear an idea six times before we remember or act upon it. Six times.”

I think far too often, we don’t give ourselves enough time to adjust to something new before we give up on it. Beth made a lot of cookies before she perfected the routine.

Pull out an idea, roll it around in your mind, add a bit to it, take a bit away, roll it about some more until it’s the perfect shape and size. Then act on it.