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.