Monday, September 30, 2013

more is more

These babies were separated at birth but have been wonderfully reunited.

When my daughter was a tiny mite, two or three, she became very attached to a doll in her Grandma's Sunday School class. It was one of those long distance relationships. My parents lived far away and we were only able to visit a few times a year. Love endures though doesn't it?
Because the doll had been motherless for several years, my mother placed her out for adoption and my little daughter happily took her new baby home.
Some time later, my visiting mother made a startling garage sale find. A tiny orphan lay in a cardboard box, almost hidden by stuffed animals and broken toys.
Of course she rescued it and urged me to think inclusively. More is more has always been her motto.
Years passed.
The third baby was hard to resist when I happened upon it, having such a dear familiar face.
And there was that poem I loved too.
"Three babes in a basket and scarcely room for two......"
Home it came.
And then, last year as I browsed a thrift shop, there it was.
Baby number four.
I didn't even hesitate.

doesn't purr

I'm putting it in writing.
I like cats.
This one has been my pet for many a year.
It's a great mouser.
The good news about a wooden cat is that you don't need a litter box, or a cat door, or little tins of food or a lint roller.
The bad news is that it doesn't purr.

decoy cat

I made a door stop many years ago, but it has spent most of its life propped in a window.
I suppose a window sill is just as likely a spot to find a cat as a doorway.

One day a neighbor clutched me by the arm when we met near the mailbox.
Her eyes were wide.
She confided that she'd noticed her cat in our window and was so embarrassed. She couldn't figure out how it had gotten inside our house.
As she stood before our window transfixed, a joyous realization had slowly dawned.
It wasn't her cat after all.
In fact, it wasn't a cat at all.

She was giddy with relief.
I guess it shows that the eye is easily fooled.
It sees what it thinks is there.
It's a principle that duck hunters have used for years, but who ever heard of a decoy cat?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

dear Joe

May I introduce you to my dear old friend Joe?
We've known each other since we were children.
In fact, Joe was a Christmas present the year I turned three.

The little boy next door could never be persuaded to play with dolls, but monkeys, well monkeys were OK so Joe got to tag along over hill and dale.
He was in and out and up and down and over and under, just like we were.
He was the constant companion of my childhood.
He wasn't left unchanged by time of course.
His first hair color was red, well, orange really, just like his eyes.
He dressed differently then too, just as you would expect.
Can you squint and imagine him in a blue and white sailor suit?
I barely remember that now.
His legs were striped blue and white, like permanent stockings.
Somehow, I can remember that better.
Perhaps because of the shock of waking one morning to find Joe had aged over night.
His body, his entire body was now a soft gray flannel.
And his hair was tan.
I thought he was a visiting toy, but my mother gently explained the transformation whilst I perched on her knee.
I imagine I was four or five then.
Joe received yet another total makeover the Christmas I was eight.
New skin again, and a wonderful tartan suit.
But best of all, he received a companion.
I was in school day after day then and perhaps my mother felt sorry for old Joe all alone.
That Christmas, the year I turned eight, Joe appeared under the tree clannishly clad in plaid and accompanied by a black haired girl monkey in a matching skirt.
She clutched a banana in one hand.
You know what they say about the way to a man's heart.

My own children didn't play with Joe. I guess I must have kept him packed away.
When toys are played with, they become woven into our very childhood. When they are not played with, they are just things.

I want more than that for my dear old friend.
He's hanging out again with the dolls and I can see that my little granddaughter has kindly carried him out to the living room where he can be part of the action.

He represents all that was good and wonderful about the first decade of my life. He represents my childhood, the joy of make believe, of friendship, of play; a time so rich in memory that I find myself thinking of it often with gratitude. Those memories have sustained me through many an adult dry spell.

Thank you dear Joe.
I know you love me, but I love you more. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

ribbon blue

I love color; spring leaf green, faded mountain mauve, blue ribbon blue...............

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

sea of light

From where I am sitting, I can gaze far away to the east.
I never tire of watching the changing clouds, the light brightening with the first flush of morning, color ripening and lightening, the clouds lit from behind.
Some days the sky is the color of dirty blue jeans, darkly brooding.
Some days, achingly blue, sweetly blue; the clouds a cliche.
It makes me think of time lapse photography.
How amazing it would be to see the sky, the 'sky from my window' compressed and played back, a year at a glance.

There really is no such thing as an ordinary day when you look up at the sky.
It has never looked exactly like it does right at this moment.
It is a great ocean overhead.
A restless sea of light and cloud that laps at the horizon.

Monday, September 16, 2013

seating is limited

Are goldfish pets?
Sure, but I like to think instead that ours are part of a watery exhibit, like the Belugas at the Vancouver Aquarium only smaller?

We have three goldfish preforming daily in our oak rain barrel outside.
I'm sure they were influenced by the zest and humor of their first trainer, my father. They have certainly flourished.
All three goldfish perform 'round the clock, drifting down deep into the murky darkness of the barrel and zooming up into the light.
They skim along the surface and smack their lips loudly. They splash and dive and circle.

They were nothing more than orange and white apostrophes when they arrived but they've grown into great, glistening goldfish.
Admission is free but seating is limited.



When you see him, do you think Rhinoceros, or Rhinosaurus?

Sunday, September 15, 2013

thinking big

Some people are organized. Their cupboards and closets are an outward reflection of their inner quietude.
I am not one of those happy people.
I did rearrange my pantry this year though, and I must admit that I feel positively virtuous. It's so easy to find things now too. No more searching amidst the canned tuna for a jar of marmalade. No more stale crackers languishing behind the linguine. It has added such a shot of joy to my daily toil that it makes me want more.
More order.
To transform my pantry I used a very simple principle. Put like with like. It seems so logical but had completely eluded me.
There is a variation of 'put like with like' and that is 'put it all together in one place.' That change has made Tax Time terror a thing of the past and wasn't hard to do at all.
One drawer.
I whip it open and drop in the goods.
Then at Tax Time I just divide and conquer.
It's a small, faltering step, but change is good.
I'm thinking big but starting small.

rusty nails

We pass this pole as we head off on our route; our walking loop through distant neighborhoods. It is studded with staples and rusty nails.
Garage sales and open houses have been advertised here.
Lost cats and dogs lamented.
Posters and balloons have probably had their day here too.
The pole is looking pretty battered now and weathered.
But people know where to look.
They aren't bothered by the rust.
It's all about the message.

magic seeds

Sunflowers have always seemed as astonishing as Jack's Beanstalk to me. They spring up in that brief interval of golden summer as we slumber unaware, wakening to discover autumn looming overhead.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

without teeth

It's Picture Day at my grandson's school. Just hearing that this morning made me remember my grade three year with a grin. Not a smile with teeth showing though.
I have no school pictures for grade one and two. We lived in Blue River then, that little town locked in time. There the two room school house still reigned; no library, no gym, no picture day.
A move to Kamloops catapulted us into the fast moving stream of popular culture and that included school pictures.
We lived within walking distance of an elementary school. Well, running distance some mornings. I'm sure you've noticed that you will be up and ready with the birds on mornings when it doesn't matter a whit, but on a morning weighted with importance like Picture Day, life will cast marbles under your feet.
I remember sprinting for the door as my mother did a fly by visual check, only to be found wanting.
"You haven't brushed your teeth," she wailed.
Too late, too late.
Sometime later, when the photographer instructed me to smile, my mother's words acted as a sort of adhesive. No matter how I was exhorted to smile, my lips remained firmly sealed.
A grin of sorts was preserved for posterity. I was as happy as I could look without including my teeth.
Looking at the title of this post has made me laugh.
My grandson is missing several front teeth so they will be absent from his school picture too.
May his smile be big.

math of life

Do you remember when I shared the math of muffins?
And then the math of cake?
Well, there is a math of bread too.
I don't know why that seems like a revelation to me this morning.
The math of bread is just as simple as can be; for every loaf desired, a cup of liquid and three cups of flour. And the flour, so neatly divided in thirds should be added just that way, in thirds. The first cup will be stirred into the liquid containing the dissolved yeast and beaten into a smooth batter. This releases lots of gluten which equals texture. The second cup is then added to create a thick and sticky dough. The final cup is kneaded in. The larger the batch of bread, the longer you will need to knead. Hey, wouldn't that be a great bread cookbook title? The Need to Knead? or Needing to be Kneaded? Bread can be made without kneading but the dough is kept in the fridge and time creates the gluten and therefore the texture instead. A very different texture of course, but just as delicious.

Baking is more than technique and a mathematical formula though.
It's art.
The hand and heart of the baker are part of the magic.
And think of painting, or quilting for that matter.
They benefit from good technique, and an understanding of the math of art; the basic principles of design, but the hand and heart of the artist or quilter are part of the magic. The art itself becomes a reflection of the creators inner world; their dreams and passions.

We live in an ordered universe. There is the math of life so to speak. The earth revolves in a predictable pattern, the tides and moon likewise. There is DNA and the Periodic Table. But that doesn't explain the magic. The hand and heart of the Creator are there to see and tell us something about God, about His dreams for mankind and His passions.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

all art is

I love birds.
I love watching them,
and I love reading about them
and I love painting them.
I love when other people watch them
and then write about them
or paint them.
Sherry Nelson is a decorative painter of birds and butterflies and flowers; all wonderful subjects for artwork.
The little speckled bird above was based on a pattern in her Birds In My Garden book.
Although this is not an original composition, it is still one of a kind in a way that all art is.

Monday, September 9, 2013

in our hands

We had company yesterday.
Oh such anticipated company; my Aunt and Uncle and dear cousin.
Doesn't 'dear cousin' sound so Sense and Sensiblility?
We decided, my cousin and I, that we'd not seen each other since the early nineties at my Grandmother's funeral.
Twenty years have hastened by.
Twenty event-filled years.

Time does hasten by doesn't it?
Unless you are waiting.
Unless you are glancing at the clock and peering out the window with the regularity of a cuckoo clock.

I was fairly certain my company would not be arriving until after lunch.
Nevertheless, I baked blueberry muffins mid-morning just in case. The house was infused with the golden fragrance of baking.
I looked at the clock.
I peered out the window.
Then I mixed up a Sally Lunn. This was my Grandmothers signature tea bread and I felt certain that a family visit called for a family recipe.
It was soon in the oven, puffing up to its full importance and turning a lovely burnished brown.
I looked at the clock.
I peered out the window.
I imagined my Aunt and Uncle and cousin finishing their lunch in the city.
I imagined them climbing into their car and backing out of the driveway.
They could arrive anytime.
My thoughts turned to supper.
I wanted to share a light meal with my visitors before they continued northwards, wending their way home.
Soup seemed sensible; a sort of Grandma supper.
I looked at the clock.
I peered out the window.
That's what we needed.
What is soup without fresh buns?
I mixed and kneaded.
They were baking just as my guests arrived.
I have to admit that the equator at noon came to mind as I opened my oven door and placed the steaming buns next to the pot of simmering soup.
I have no idea what I would have baked next if they had been delayed by traffic but we were mercifully spared from finding out.
It was so wonderful to chat,
to visit
and re-visit.
Time flew by but I sent them on their way with leftover Sally Lunn; love in a ziploc bag.


I've been pondering what it is about quilting that I love. You have time to ponder when you hunker over a large quilt and endlessly stitch.
It makes me think of a wonderful quote attributed to Michael Kanin, "I don't like to write, but I love to have written." Similarly, I sometimes am convinced I don't like to quilt, but I love to have quilted.
It would seem that the sum of quilting is greater than its parts, but like all creative endeavors, the parts are often why we do what we do.
For example, I love the part where I begin to plan, to dream, to imagine.
And I love the part where I choose fabric; hoarded favorites against silky newcomers.
I even like the math; the challenge of making it all work together, making an impossibly large number of blocks emerge from an ever dwindling array of fabric pieces. It's sort of like sudoku but with more at stake.
But then I just put up with the sewing to get on with the pressing so that I can get back to the sewing. I put up with the sewing and pressing so that I can watch the blocks magically appear, their numbers ever increasing like carrots before my twitching nose.
Mind you, I really do love to sew blocks together into a completed top. There'is no feeling that can match the joy of a completed quilt top.
Well, unless of course it's the joy of a completed quilt.
First there is the sandwiching though.
I don't like that.
And the basting.
It doesn't like me.
And then the quilting.
That can feel like standing at the bottom of a steep hill, but the view at the top is worth the struggle.
And at last the binding; a quilters grand finale. It may seem like an anti-climax but it's actually a perfect ending.
You can sit with your feet up and serenely stitch.
No decisions are required.
No math.
No hunkering, sweating or muttering of oaths.
Just calm composure.
And then you can say truthfully and emphatically, "I love to have quilted."

expecting to see

We interrupt this program for a special news bulletin.
A quilt is forming in the west.
It's size is a matter of grave concern.
We are expecting to see miles of thread disappear.
There is a possibility of localized high pressure and intermittent thunder and lightening.
Some moaning has been reported as well as increasing unease from residents in the area that are familiar with this sort of system.
Experts believe that we can expect most of September to be affected by this unusual weather pattern.
You are advised to stay well clear.
We now return you to your regular broadcast.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

outing adventure

Families have been going on outings since the earth was new. This is the Nelson family captured right in the midst of an outing adventure.
My mother is the girl on the left. She is looking muddy but happy. On the far right is her sister, closest in age. She is even muddier. Mud is a badge of honor. It is proof positive that you have had an outing adventure.
The little girl in the middle.....oh adorable my aunt looks in her layered garb and thickly bobbed hair. I note that she is clean poor dear.
And the boys! The toddler looks so European in his short pants and cap and the baby is as bright as a bluejay.
Grandma looks happy and relaxed and Grandpa dear.....I find my eyes going to his face.
He had a presence.
I wish I could remember him better.
I really only have one clear memory of him but I know him none the less.
And to know him is to love him.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

beginning again

The first morning of the school year.
I have been having mixed feelings about that this year.
It has seemed to be coming too quickly.
It has seemed like it will mean the end of something rather than the beginning, as it should.
My thoughts this morning shaped into prayers just as it began to rain.
Just as children everywhere were hastily wiping away toast crumbs and scurrying for shoes and bags.
Just as mothers were buckling up babies and backing out of driveways in their vans, the clouds burst and rain poured down in a torrent.
It seemed such an appropriate conclusion to the summer break.
When the dust had settled as it always does after the rain, I could clearly see that today is another fine day.
Just like yesterday was.
And just like tomorrow will be.
There is a time for everything.
A time for rain and a time for sun.
A time for ending and a time for beginning again.

dinner gong

"Lunch is nearly ready," I called out to my mother by way of encouragement that we would indeed eat.
I had been toiling on a quilt.
An endlessly large quilt.
As I quilted, my thread kept breaking.
Continuous line quilting should be continuous shouldn't it?

There are many variables.
The type of needle, the type of thread, the tension, the quilter, the tension of the quilter......
"I'll just quilt 'til the thread breaks," I assured my mother. "That shouldn't take too long."
I sewed and sewed and swirled and and curled and sewed some more.
The bobbin thread eventually ran out; a quilter's dinner gong.

if sherlock holmes

If Sherlock Holmes held this photo in his hand he would surely draw the following conclusions about the three children, based on the body language of the three cats in their laps.
The girl, my Aunt Dorothy, is smiling serenely at the camera. So relaxed is her posture, so gentle her hold, that it has transferred to the cat who is blissfully slumbering.
Here is a child, tender and therefore vulnerable.
The middle child is my Uncle Don. The cat has eyes only for him. It is anointing him with kisses feline. Here is a child, destined to be loved by all, animal and person alike.
The third child is my Uncle Ralph.
His cat seems poised to spring, but he is manfully clasping it to his heart. His grin and his grip tell the same story. He is ready for fun. He is ready. Period.


This picture was taken just as the twenties gave way to the thirties. From this distant vantage point, those decades have almost become cliches. The Roaring Twenties, a decade of prosperity followed heartbreakingly by the Dirty Thirties, a decade of drought and desperation.
My mother was insulated from so much of the despair of that decade by the remoteness of her upbringing. The Nelson family lived in the woods of British Columbia. They had goats and chickens and a huge garden. Grandpa hunted and trapped and fished. In the summer, their were berries aplenty to pick and in the winter, Grandpa harvested ice from the lake to sell to the hotel, and the family skied and skied and skied. Grandpa was from Norway. That is all the explanation you need on that point.
My mother enjoyed a childhood rich in family life.
Is there a better foundation?

Sunday, September 1, 2013

old souls

I love this old photo. It was taken in the late thirties up Mt. Cook, a mountain with its feet in my grandparents farm and its head in the clouds.
It's a pretty relaxed looking group of teenagers perched atop a rocky bluff. They are enjoying a snowcone of sorts; original and unflavoured.
My mother is smack dab in the middle of the picture. Such a beauty with her long blond hair. I note that her feet are sensibly clad in hiking boots, her overalls and blouse likely home sewn.
I'm not surprised my Dad was drawn to her like a moth to the light.
He had recently moved to Blue River from the city of Drumheller. He was an eldest too, sensible and mature in the same sort of way that my mother was; two old souls.
My father is wearing one of his hats as usual, and it has cast his face into deep shadow.
My father at the edge and almost hidden by shadow.
The simple, honest friendship of the Nelson family drew him out into the open.
His heart was on his sleeve then, and my mother just reached out and took it.