Wednesday, June 26, 2013

maybe later

There's a spider in my house.
It is hanging out, or more accurately, hanging under a shelf.
When I sounded the alarm, my mother wisely pointed out that at least I know where it is. (as opposed to the other spiders that may be lurking in the shadows I suppose) Such are the comforting words of the practically minded.  It is the sort of comfort my mother has been doling out all of my life. Sometimes it actually helps. 
My garden is the right place for this spontaneous spider but when I peered at him I got the impression that he was happy where he was.
Body language says so much.
Sometimes it says Tarantula, but fortunately, this time it just says Maybe Later.

a bargain at that

Yesterday was Fun Day at my grandson's school. Isn't that an optimistic name for an event involving hundreds of children roiling in disarray amidst drizzle, mist and rain? Teachers are heroes to plan these special treats for the children.
The day marched on past races and tosses, relays and tug of wars, past snacks and drinks and sand pits.
My grandson had placed two loonies in his pocket to spend on candy after lunch.
He had eyed the candy table longingly whenever activities marched his class within gazing distance of it.
At last it was his turn, and he dashed off with the rest of his class.
A few moments later, he appeared, breathless before his mother.
"Can I buy some books with my loonie," he asked.
"Instead of candy?" his mother asked incredulously?
"They are such a bargain," he stated enthusiastically.
A used book table had been set up in the foyer.
One, three, or five books for a dollar.
"I want a book that teaches me something," he said earnestly to the woman behind the table.
He had hoped for a dictionary but settled on learning more about birds, science fair projects, and assorted facts.
He gleefully accepted a Websters Dictionary from my library after school and happily crowed, "Four books for a dollar."
I congratulated my mother on the superiority of her progeny.
Books over candy, and a bargain at that.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

and in

Sometimes I feel at a low ebb.
The full, sparkling tide of life retreats and I am left high and dry and exposed to the elements.
I hate that feeling.
But it is certainly a time when I can see things clearly,
lying out in the open.
Things I can change,
about how I think,
and therefore act,
or don't act.
The faithful sea sweeps out,
and in.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


My granddaughter creates her own diversions while her brother gallops about the soccer field. While his eye is on the ball, she is picking clover. While he is lining up to kick, she is lining up her toys. While he is listening, intent upon his coaches words, she is listening, intent upon a story book.
This week's most valuable player was a Little Golden Book, Kitty Gets a New Doll.
"I wish I had a kitty rag doll," my little granddaughter murmured wistfully.
I was suddenly seized with the same wistful wish on her behalf.
Surely she should not be disappointed.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

very moment

My previous post is an example of how writing can shift even as you are looking at it, how it can cause you to suddenly see what you were unable to see until that very moment. 
The original post was called 'liquid embroidery' and I thought  I wanted to talk about that. I realized though, that what I really wanted to tell you, was how liquid embroidery reminded me of my in-laws. It reminded me of how they always worked together. How they shared the weight of daily life.
After changing my post, I changed the title to 'collaboration' because that is where the joy is for me now.
Not just in remembering the complimenting lives of my in-laws, but in the happiness I am feeling to be completing something started by someone else.

Saturday, June 15, 2013


Do you remember liquid embroidery? That's what it was called anyway. Artex was a well known brand. It was pretty popular in the seventies. Maybe even earlier. 
My mother-in-law loved liquid embroidery. She had a big metal tin filled to the brim with every possible shade of paint. They looked like tiny toothpaste tubes. I think the colors were sometimes blended with an emery stick. The ballpoint tip made it easier to create fine detail than a paint brush in an inexperienced hand.
My husband's parents made quilts for each of their eight children. Clusters and bouquets and bunches of flowers were painted onto white fabric blocks which were sashed with white or green. I think they were filled with wool and then hand quilted in a giant frame. My in-laws worked together on this project. They always worked together. They cooked and cleaned and gardened together, their tasks intertwined. He cut the chicken into pieces and she fried it, he vacuumed and she wiped and washed. He punched the bread dough and she shaped the loaves. Their daily lives were filled with the comfort of routine. I was just in my very early twenties then, but I felt a wistful yearning when I observed them together. I still feel that way when I remember.

My sister unearthed a treasure on one of her thrift shop forays; a stack of twelve large quilt blocks. Each one has a different butterfly and cluster of flowers, all liquid embroidered by some artistic soul a few decades past.
My in-laws would have applauded.
They are so beautifully painted.
When my sister whipped them out of her suitcase for my admiration, I gasped.
I thought at first, that I would sash them up in green and quilt all over, but I realize now that they deserve something more. 
They deserve some attention to detail. 
Some appreciation of the original artists care. 
A collaboration.

matters of the heart

The smiling lad is my father. The length of his hair and the style of his boots makes me wonder if perhaps the picture was taken when he was home on leave. His army rucksack on the steps clinches it though.
He is sitting on the front steps, happily at work repairing a leather shoe.
Wedding shoes.
My parents married when he was home on leave in 1945.
It is such a joyous picture to me;
My young father, safely home and filled with hopes and dreams.
It is a joyous picture to me for another reason too.
My father is sitting on the heavy, hewn steps of my grandparents home.
It was my grandfather who felled the trees and shaped them into great steps at the entry to his home; the home my mother grew up in.
The dinner gong too was the work of his hands and it summoned more than one generation of children from wood and hillside, the forest echoing with its ringing.
And the cobble stones at my father's feet were grandpa's; practical and beautiful. Isn't it wonderful when practical things are beautiful?
My grandfather was a resourceful and creative man. A man of deep sensibilities.
He liked my father, his future son-in-law.
He welcomed him like a son.
They had matters of the heart in common.

and our dad

We used to holiday with our children.
Our little Volkswagen Rabbit would be packed to the rafters with camping gear and our daughters would scramble into the back seat over mounds of bedding and jackets. They always seemed wedged in like after thoughts, poor things, when really, it was all for them that we went. It was fun though.
Getting out of the car at our eventual campsite was like hatching from an egg, or like some strange time lapse; door hurled wide, the back hatch as well, and an endless stream of gear unfolding and unfurling and filling up the available space.
Getting there really was half the fun, as long as we made the ferry connections.
Even the wait at the terminal had its charms. Comics would emerge from the cache of back seat goods, snacks too, and windows would roll down.
People watching can be pretty entertaining too and we would all hunker down for the duration, somehow content and eager at the same time.
I remember one summer morning  at the ferry terminal, waiting with all of the other cars, line after endless line. As yet another cluster of teenage loveliness drifted past the car window, a man in the next aisle could contain himself no longer. He hooted and leered and lolled out his car window.
My young daughters exchanged glances in the backseat.
"And OUR Dad watches birds," said one to the other.

Friday, June 14, 2013

the aim of art

"The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance." Aristotole

congratulations always

Yesterday it became official.
My husband is now a Library and Information Technician with a Systems Technology concentration.
I know this for a fact because I was there when a host of enrobed students marched in to Pomp and Circumstance and he was one of them.
He was wearing that strange hat that all graduates wear. Not as strange as the Doctors on the platform but still an odd fashion statement. The tassel dangling in front of their eyes I get though. It must be there to symbolize a goal, always just inches away but ever before your eyes, sort of like a carrot before a pony. At least that's how I see it.
Being a student is never easy and being an older student changes that fact not a whit.
Hard work is hard work.
Discipline takes discipline.
Balance is...... well, impossible for the student. Sacrifice and focus hold sway.
But, he made it.
He hung in there.
We all did.
And the reward at the end is something I never expected.
I knew I would feel relief.
And pride. He made the Deans List.
I knew I would feel jealous.
But I never knew I would feel this sense of newness; this sense of surprise.
I wasn't sure at first what I was feeling and then I knew.
I am seeing my husband through a new window, framed by his accomplishment.
I am recognizing something within my husband that Brian Minter, the University Chancellor referred to in his address to the graduates. He said that there is one thing that will allow you to rise above the ordinary and that one thing is passion. Find and pursue passion he urged.
I am feeling so happy that my husband has stirred up the passion that lies deep within.
I looked up the word congratulations and it means to take joy in the success and good fortune of another.
Congratulations always my dear.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

that alone

Do the Eighties live on in some corner of your house?
Do you have any evidence laying around that prove you were there?
I moved a few years ago and there is almost no power greater than a move to cause you to evaluate your possessions, decade by decade and make rash and ruthless judgement calls.
I'm pretty sure I still had the odd duck or cow light switch plate kicking around pre-move.
The cull began and boxes were packed.
There are always a few things that slip in under the wire though.
It can be hard to explain to others why you have kept them.
I used to paint on wood.
Almost everybody did.
The country craze was so appealing.
Especially to those of us who already had a love affair with wooden things.
This trio of wooden bears made the cut.
I like to think of them as The Three Bears before Goldilocks.
Don't they look relaxed and happy?
I think that alone should elevate them to the timeless category.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

gentler gingerbread

"Would you like me to tell you a story?" I rashly asked.
My little granddaughter nodded.
"Once upon a time," I began, quickly sorting through the file labeled Stories For Small Girls, in my mind.
Ahhh, there it was, The Gingerbread Man.
I loved that story as a child.
I loved the illustrations just as much as the words or maybe somehow, even more.
My older sister balked at reading it aloud to me, but would always grudgingly give in.
I had memorized it as though my life depended on it and so of course she was unable to edit it for brevity.
I took some liberties with the tale as I told it to my granddaughter.
That is the beauty of story.
It can be so easily custom shaped to fit.
Together, she and I added ingredients into an imaginary bowl and then baked the little fellow. The story magically transformed our little gingerbread man into a friend. He was just the right size to play with her dolls when he visited the doll house with her.
Much better than the shock of having him leap, shouting, from the oven to run away and be gobbled up by a dishonest fox. That version will have its day no doubt, but for now, a gentler gingerbread man snoozes on a pink plastic sofa.


I gazed in admiration at roses spilling over a fence yesterday.
Red, red roses.
Fairytale red.
The color of Snow White's lips or a Prince's tunic.
It has made me ponder fairytales.
It has made me think of the power of myth.
The enduring potency of story.
For centuries, philosophy and fact were carefully crafted into story and passed along, and eventually down to the next generation.
The brothers Grimm gathered the stories that were still circulating in their day, and the fragments of stories and compiled an anthology of sorts. There were common themes but they added and embellished as is the way of the story teller. How glad I am that those ancient myths still remain.
I loved fairytales when I was a girl.
And fables.
There is an excitement in finding the gems; the glittering truth that lies obscured.
In Sleeping Beauty, a child is blessed with every blessing in the world by the fairies, and then cursed with death by a malevolent crone. The curse was softened from death to sleep and Beauty was reawakened by the kiss of true love. G.K.Chesterton saw the story of mankind contained within that ancient tale. The story of mankind being blessed with every blessing imaginable and then cursed by everlasting death. The curse of death was softened to sleep in that we die but may live again, immortals reawakened to everlasting life by the death of God Himself in our place, a divine kiss of love.
The story of Cinderella is another ancient tale rich in gems.
It contains the universal truth of transformation. Cinderella's supporting cast, the footman and coach and horses and driver were really the most ordinary things, the most mundane and even humble things; A vegetable and vermin and a mangy dog. They were elevated to a place of great usefulness, great purpose and honor. They needed only the masterful touch of the supernatural. Cinderella herself is humble, toiling unnoticed and unappreciated. But of course, the universal truth is that she was not unnoticed at all. She was a princess undiscovered. She was made ready for the Prince, who loved her at first sight and who searched for her until she was found and who then claimed her forever as his own. If you are familiar with the stories liberally sprinkled through the gospels, told by Jesus, you will see common themes. We toil in poverty of soul, in despair even. But transformation is possible. The Prince loves us and seeks us. He longs to claim us as His own forever. Transformation is His specialty. 
1 Corinthians 1:27-29
"But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him."

Sunday, June 9, 2013


I used to paint.
That was my default pleasure, but I seldom kept any for myself.
My grandmother once remarked after visiting my home that there was nothing in it to show people I was an artist. I thought about that and realized her comment meant more than it seemed to at first glance. It wasn't just an absence of my own artwork in my home that she was referring to, but an absence of that very personal statement ones home eventually wears with the passing of time. Those clues about who we are and what we value that surround us, that define us, comfort and even inspire us.
She would be pleased now I think.

I've written about this series of bird paintings; gifts to my parents once upon a time.
They have returned to me like homing pigeons.
I haven't hung them up and I wondered tonight why that is?
It's because they mean Birch Island to me I think.
Because they represent my parents as a couple, as a pair, happily living in the woods, surrounded by birds.
There is a time for everything and one day, it will seem like just the right time to hang them up on my walls and take joy.

The voice of birds in always in the air
Even here in town.
Crows are heckling cats.
Hummingbirds are thrumming amidst the foxgloves.
Sparrows are chattering.
Starlings, with their chameleon song, bubble and whistle.
The distant trees are never still.
In their top branches I see  familiar silhouettes.

And against the afternoon and evening sky, birds bank and dip and soar.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

way at the back

Long ago, Ikea sold wooden cheese boards that I seized with joy and promptly painted.
I love the green grapes and I am fond enough of the others too, but what was I thinking when I painted the strawberry leaves? Everyone knows strawberry leaves come as a three-some, like clover only bigger and toothier. Somehow that detail seems a glaring mistake and so I have hung the pictures in my dimly lit entry, way at the back by the closet we seldom use. Perhaps I should pick up a paintbrush and make things right but then what would I hang in their place?

temporarily mislaid

There is a school not far from where I live. It has a towering structure dominating the playground area that I have looked up at it with some misgiving.
Until yesterday.
Yesterday I watched my grandchildren climb it.
Climb it and hang from it and slide down it and stand on it and balance and swing and drop from it.
My grandson's face was alight with joy.
My granddaughter clung like a little tree frog.
I think I have regained something I had temporarily mislaid.


I had been teaching my little granddaughter the difference between Fir trees and Spruce trees. Lest you think I'm Yogi Bear, I had recently had a similar tutorial from my nature wise husband and was bubbling over with surplice knowledge. I was enjoying the sense of compressed joy that comes from learning something new. Maybe that's why children are so happy.
In the spring, evergreens are covered with new growth. Brown buds give way to tender green needles, as soft as silicone.
"What are those croissants for?" my granddaughter queried.
And then I looked more closely at the tips of the branches we held in our hands.
The brown buds were being pushed off by the growing needles.
They were brown and papery thin with the airy, bubbly surface of good pastry..
They were even curved.
Miniature croissants.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

tiny bright eyes

We kept a list of birds this past weekend;
birds that hopped around our campsite,
or flew over it,
or fluttered around the edge of the lake as we fished.
Two dozen in all.
My favorite ones were the Brown-headed Cowbirds.
The males strut like tiny roosters and puff up their feathers irridescent black.
Their heads are a rich nut brown.
The females are the picture of decorum,
modestly dressed in beige,
but they watch the boys with tiny bright eyes.