Friday, 22 May 2020

View from the Crow's Nest: It's a matter of perspective.

May 12:

Most of us are now are feeling somewhat bewildered by the passage of time. Which day of the week is it, anyway? The hours slip through our fingers, and we wonder what we got accomplished. And yet, it feels like we’ve been in this lockdown forever – so long, that it is now the new normal.

One way to measure the passage of time is by looking at our hair (if we have some left to look at.) I’d rather not, actually, but there it is, in the mirror every morning, sticking out all over. And I’m not the only with hair issues. Just look at the news anchors on TV, and even our own PM, brushing his lovely locks to the side or tossing his mane impatiently when it blows into his eyes.




Yesterday, I cut the Resident Sweetie’s hair. He doesn’t have a whole lot of hair to swing around anymore, but what there is needs regular trims. I’ve been his “resident barber” since early in our marriage, except for a hiatus when I went on strike and refused to cut his hair ever again. This was because, whenever I mentioned that he needed a haircut, he ignored me until even he noticed that he needed a haircut. In the meantime, I had to keep looking at him. So I told him, “Fine, I quit.” But then I didn’t like the way the barber cut his hair either. It was not a win-win situation. It was an impasse, and I had to give in. Since then, we’ve been muddling along, sometimes the barber, sometimes me, but always at a time of his choosing after I’ve bugged him for a few weeks, when people are beginning to wonder if he’s a street person. (I exaggerate, of course.)

We’ve both been pretty shaggy lately, but then, so is pretty well everyone else. We’re in this boat together. So I did not mention his hair – and he didn’t mention mine. And then, it happened: he asked me to cut his hair without any “suggestions” on my part. Covid had brought him to this.

Now he looks good, and I don’t. Life’s not fair, is it?

May 13: I was feeling pretty good about that lighthearted little observation yesterday. Then this appeared on Face Book.



It puts a whole new spin on the phrase, “Life’s not fair.”

People are toting their guns to the legislatures protesting that the lockdown has deprived them of their rights. I saw a sign that said, “We demand to have communion at church." Really? Really???? Life’s not fair, they say. But they can’t pick up signs to picket for clean water for the children in Flint, whose life expectancy is much lower than other children. And that’s fair?

Is it okay for me to be mad about this? I am.

But as the saying goes, when you point a finger at someone else, there are four fingers pointing back at you.

I want to protest my innocence in this, but find I am speechless.

Tuesday, 19 May 2020

View From the Crow's Nest: I check out the neighbourhood.

Another log from View from the Crow's Nest logbook:

May 11: Went for a walk around the block this morning. It’s about time – I have so slacked off on this. When I do walk, it’s usually into the woods to experience solitude and silence. But today, I decided to check out the neighbourhood. It’s where people live, people like you and me, all coping with the pandemic in their own way. I’m a bit of a recluse, and I recognize that could get me into trouble eventually, because social interaction is just as important in the long run to your health as social isolation is in this time of pandemic.

So here’s what I saw:

I saw that many people had posted hearts and teddy bears in their windows and on their fences, visual messages of solidarity and gratitude. “We are all in this together” is what these symbols are saying. “My heart beats with your heart.”


I saw and chatted with a few neighbours. The toothless old man down the block is outside with another younger fellow. Dave used to be a social worker. Now he does social work: he takes in men who are having a hard time getting their lives on track. He helps them find jobs, then makes sure they show up at work every morning, watching over them until they are ready to move out. This morning he was telling me about one of “his boys” who works at Tim Horton’s and is very busy.

Okay, Dave’s yard is a bit of a mess, littered with boats and trailers and cars that might be projects for these young men to work on. But I can live with that when I know his story. Isn’t that the way it is? If you know the story, your boundaries widen.

I walked by another messy yard. I’d driven past the house on the corner several times.  Now I stopped to take a good close look. I saw that these folks had turned over the front yard to their children.

There was a makeshift sandbox scrabbled out of an empty patch of lawn. There was a makeshift tent structure, created with dead cedar branches bent over and tied together.

There was a little kitchen unit, complete with sink and counter, and little flags hanging over it as a makeshift curtain. There were cheerful messages painted on rocks. Shingles had been laid down to make pathways.

I smiled in recognition. My memory goes back to our backyard when our kids were young and rambunctious. There was a well-used trampoline for the kids to jump on. There was a sandbox with guy wires running up to the crabapple tree, where GI Joe figures slid up and down. There was a rabbit that had free reign in the yard, and ate every attempt I made to beautify the flower beds. There was a dog who buried things. There were buckets that served as goal posts for the soccer ball that got kicked around. There was a picnic table covered with craft supplies in the summer. There was a mother in the kitchen wondering when she would ever create some order out of the mess and have a yard that resembled those of Better Homes and Gardens

Now she knows: there’s time enough for beauty and tranquility in the garden after the kids are gone.

And I saw two butterflies, a little blue one and a big fancy one, and a swallow swooping by. It was a good walk.

Friday, 15 May 2020

View From the Crow's Nest: I see Goldfinches

I logged these notes several weeks ago. I gave them time to settle before re-reading them and deciding whether to share them with you. As with almost everything, it's not the whole story, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, but it is part of my story that I'm living with in these unusual times. I hope it is for you, too. 
 
May 3: I awoke this morning and checked my Facebook page to find these words by poet Mary Oliver.

Oh yes, indeed! We have yet again an opportunity to be alive, to experience a fresh morning in a broken world. Reading that was a second wake-up moment for me.

You can read the rest of the poem here (I hope you do!):
https://wordsfortheyear.com/2017/08/28/invitation-by-mary-oliver/

 
May 4: Yesterday’s poem was about goldfinches.

Oliver reflects on the goldfinches gathered in a field of thistles “to see who can sing the highest note, or lowest, or the most expressive of mirth, or the most tender” ... not to be winners, or to please us, but just out of sheer delight and gratitude.

As I write this, half a dozen goldfinches are flitting about in our yard.



They are joined by golden crowned sparrows, rosy finches, juncos and pine siskins, robins and towhees, hummingbirds and the occasional flicker, taking baths in the rock pools in our pond, fighting over the feeders, hiding out in the blooming dogwood and singing their hearts out.


 “Oh, do you have time to linger for a just a little while out of your busy and very important day?” asks Oliver. “I beg of you, do not walk by without pausing to attend to this rather ridiculous performance. It could mean something.”

May 5: That word “ridiculous” in the above line catches my attention.

The adjective “ridiculous” comes from the Latin word ridere, which means “to laugh.” But it’s often used in a mocking way – “What a ridiculous outfit she’s wearing,” for instance. Ridiculous can also mean preposterous, foolish, absurd.

I think about the goldfinches gathered in a field of thistles, singing their hearts out. Ridiculous! What will it get them? Where’s the profit in that? They’re singing out of the sheer delight of being alive, but that doesn’t bring home the bacon. Ridiculous...but thank God, they’re singing and filling that field of thistles with song. Someone will stop to listen. It could mean something to someone.

photo from MyMinnesotaWoods

And what about me, holed up in my studio for hours on end, making pieces of art or writing notes to myself? Ridiculous! Where’s the profit in that? But it is who I am. Perhaps only God will check out the results of my creating. But that would be enough.

So I’ll take my chances and join the goldfinches in their ridiculous songs. It could mean something to someone.

Not "20 finches at the feeder" but the entry for April 20 in my Diary of Daily Delights!


By the way, this site  https//wordsfortheyear.com  
is a wonderful site for finding beautiful poems.)
And to hear a goldfinch song, check out this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S2wRlRCqK2I

Or come visit our backyard!

Monday, 11 May 2020

View from the Crow's Nest: I See Tulips

I realize that I may have to post a little more frequently than once a week to keep you up to speed with my daily notes. This past week I was fixated on tulips.

May 7: Yesterday’s paper featured a photo of tulips, planted in a local park, in the shape of the number 75.  The tulips were especially bred for this year, the 75th anniversary of the end of WW2, and are named Liberation tulips. May 5 was the day when the Nazis surrendered Holland.




Now it just so happens that I am in the process of writing a family history, and as part of that, consulting with my dad’s written family history. So I am up to my elbows in Dutch stories, many of them stories about the war.

I think about the five years of hardship that my parents and their families endured during that war. Dad tells about narrow escapes from Nazi raiders who were looking for strong young men to work in their munitions factories. He talks about shortages of everything, especially in that last horrible cold winter. He tells that it was forbidden to cut down trees for firewood, so my mom and her brothers snuck into the forest at night to bring home deadfall to heat the home where she, her parents, her 8 siblings, plus a Jewish child, plus a man in hiding, were living. He writes about senseless destruction of dykes and farmland, of farm-wagon loads of refugees passing down the road, old women and children shivering under ragged blankets. He writes about being part of the secret force that supported the liberation of Leeuwarden at the end of the war, of a family member who was betrayed and shot without trial.

Many died, but many also survived. The stories of their survival give us hope and courage as we sojourn in the land of Covid.

May 8: There is just something about tulips – in the language of flowers, they symbolize perfect love. There is no greater love than laying down your life for someone else, so using them in memorials to the war speaks a message all its own.

I remember when Dad first planted tulips at our house in the late 50s. He guarded and watched over those few dozen tulips, and eventually they multiplied so that there were beds of tulips all around the house in the springtime. I can’t think of the home where I grew up without thinking of tulips.

At the beginning of this pandemic, while we were dealing with the shock of social isolation and the seriousness of our situation, I turned to tulips and made this art piece.





The yellow jug and the lace curtain background remind me of mom, and the tulips remind me of dad. I find myself reaching back into memories, and wanting to say thank you for the unnoticed and unappreciated gifts of endurance, steadfastness and love we were given as we grew up.

May 9: 46 years ago I carried our 6 week old firstborn in one arm, and prepared to board a plane to Edmonton where Al was. He was starting a new job, and had gone ahead to find us a home. In my other arm, I held a large paper-wrapped bouquet of tulips mom had picked from the flower beds around the house. “Just a little reminder of home,” she said.

Tulips didn’t grow easily in Edmonton, and anyways, I was too busy raising children to do much gardening. But 33 years later, when we moved here, tulips got planted everywhere. They were just a little reminder of home.

After I made the first 2 tulip pieces for my sisters, I decided to make one more, this time including features of the Dutch culture that was part of my life: a Delft Blue vase, a heavy plush tablecloth, lace, and tulips. When mom and dad established their home in Canada, these were the decor items they included, features of the home they left behind. And for me, now, just a little reminder of home.


Dutch tulips, in process. It's a scary thing to start with nothing but an idea. Each piece I add could be the beginning of a disaster which will destroy the picture. So far, so good!


Wednesday, 6 May 2020

In April, I marked off the days by making little quilts of things that delighted me every day.  April is over, and here are the last few I created:



Then the question was, how do I mark off the days in May? I decided to write short journal entries every day about things that struck me as worth thinking about. Occasionally, I will put these out there on my blog. I will call it The View From the Crow's Nest.



Perhaps you'll find that these topics are worth thinking about, too.

Here are the first two entries.

May 1:

Last week, after I posted my first blog in months, I felt like a fraud.

In the blog, I told readers I have found my happy place, and I am abiding in it. This is true, but it is not the whole story.

There are bad days and tearful hours, too. Like Easter Sunday -- it was not good at all. I missed my kids and grandkids, I missed the church service with everyone singing with gusto, “Christ the Lord is Risen Today.” I missed a dear friend who had died two days earlier and I had not been able to say goodbye. I tried to make gluten-free cinnamon buns to take over to the grandkids, but I think I killed the yeast. “Christ has risen indeed, yes...but not these buns,” I grumbled. Because I was grumpy, I took it out on the resident sweetie. That was ugly.

It took me another day to sit with those bad feelings and come out the other side.

Finding your happy place and being grateful does not mean that life is always hunkey-dorey. It isn’t. It never was, even in the best of times. But still we abide, salvaging shiny bits of joy from the rubble of the day and putting them in our treasure box of delights.

In the dark times, we pull them out and remember.

May 2:

I’m noodling about that word Abide. The dictionary has many meanings, but the one I like the best is this: to continue in a place, sojourn. And unpacking the word further, I find that sojourning means staying in a place temporarily.

We are here in the land of Covid 19. How long this sojourn will last is unknown, but in the meantime, I will abide in this place.

I once asked a wise woman the question, “What do you do when you find yourself all dried out spiritually?” She told me, “Do what the Israelites did when they found themselves marooned in the wilderness on their journey to the promised land: they pitched their tents, and made themselves at home there.” And so will I.

In a sense, we are all on a journey to the promised land, and we are all sojourners here. In the meantime, do good and make this temporary home a better place.

Tuesday, 28 April 2020

The Corvid on Covid

I know I told you I was finished with the Crow. But apparently she’s not finished with me. She started nudging me. “Hey, did you hear that? They’re talking about me: ‘Corvid this, corvid that’.” I replied, “You need hearing aids old crow. They’re saying Covid, not corvid. Go away.”

But she hung around. I tried to ignore her, but she won’t shut up when she has something on her birdbrain. She pokes at me till I listen.

The other day the Resident Sweetie and I drove out to the ocean to watch the wind and the waves. And there she was again, sitting down beside the car, her beady eyes fixed on me. Some people would say, don’t take it personally, the crow is begging for food. But I rolled down the window and we had a little chat. She won. Of course.


So what do I say in this blog? You do not need yet another analysis of what we are all going through. The internet has it covered. I don’t have any advice. I’m going through the same ups and downs that you all are. All I have is my story of the pandemic and how I’m handling it, so that’s what I’ll share. Maybe if I tell it to you, the crow will quiet down. And maybe something good will come from that.

When we realized how serious and close to home this pandemic was, and how vulnerable we, being “elderly” were, we took the STAY HOME message seriously. Since there was wine in the cabinet and books on the shelf, I took a little vacation with my wine and my books. Nice! For a little while, at least.

Two weeks in, my Calvinist work ethic began chewing me out. You have a lot of time now, take advantage of it. Get productive, eh? (This Calvinist work ethic speaks Canadian English with a Dutch accent.) Do something every day, it told me. So I made a (mental) to-do list and decided I would keep a visual record of what I did every day, beginning April 1. I would create a little quilted picture, each picture a diary entry of the days in April. (Surely this thing would be over by then, wouldn't it?)

Day 1: April 1. I have a bag of weeks-old kumquats in the refrigerator. When I saw them in the store pre-covid, I remembered how good kumquat marmalade tasted when we visited Arizona two years ago. So I made kumquat marmalade.

April 1: the rhubarb is coming up!

April 2: I created a little quilt for April 1 featuring a jar of Kumquat marmalade. It was a start: I would be working backwards, each day depicting what I had done the day before. I liked it. It felt good.


April 3: I created a little quilt square of me creating a little quilt square. But what about tomorrow? Me creating a quilt square of me creating another quilt square? Hmmm.

Fortunately I was listening to a podcast featuring a man who had decided to write an essay every day for a year about the little things he delights in – dandelions poking out of the concrete, strangers waving at you, etc. A light bulb went on, actually lots and lots of them. Yes! My daily diary of productivity was renamed and became The Diary of Daily Delights. Here's what my diary wall looks like right now.



And these are a few close-ups. I celebrate the simple things: a bird eating from Al's hand; the rhubarb coming up in the garden; sipping a cup of tea on the beach, and finally making a shopping trip (very quick, of course.)



 What a delight it has been for me to create a diary of daily delights! One little 3 x4 inch quilted picture doesn’t take long to make, but it serves to put me into a positive mindset, remembering the good things from the day before. While I’m working on it, it serves as a prayer guide and quiet space for meditation. And the project has primed the pump to other creations – an appliqued jug of tulips, some writing on the family history, and ideas for more.

To tell the truth, the studio has become my happy place. This is where I belong right now. It’s how I will get through the pandemic ... not by crossing jobs off my to do list, but by being who I am, creating, listening, and being open to direction.

What I also begin to understand is that there is a difference between enduring the pandemic, and abiding in it. “Our spirituality is lived inside out, beginning with abiding. By abiding, we cultivate the life that arises from within,” writes Bob Holmes, the Contemplative Monk. Abiding is like finding yourself in a new place, and making yourself at home there. You inhabit the new place, exploring, checking out the neighbourhood, looking around to see what might be there to delight in, what might be there to love.

So that’s my story of how I am getting along during these trying times: I’ve found my happy place, and I am abiding there for a while. Some people have their happy place in the garden, or cultivating relationships over the phone or the internet. Some are cheerfully sewing masks or reaching out to the homeless or playing music...or writing blogs. One woman I know is teaching her grandchildren over the internet, and her face glows as she talks about it. What makes you glow?

I hope you have found a happy place and can abide there for a while.

For the podcast about Delight, check out https://onbeing.org/programs/ross-gay-tending-joy-and-practicing-delight/

For a deeper reflections on Abiding, check out https://www.facebook.com/ContemplativeMonk/posts/2075431449172760

And for another variation on this theme https://sarahbessey.substack.com/p/love-this-in-particular?fbclid=IwAR2FTL0uvSW2Xm2NcvD3BVTfWXEw113CxU4Jv09afMGtzNFtrbhMdelkG74

Saturday, 18 January 2020

What to do with a snowy week


It’s been snowing steadily here. First a major dump of about 30-40 cm. that resulted in impassable roads and school and business closures. Snow on this island, slippery and slimy, is not something to be macho about – BC drivers are not wimps, they’re just smart. Stay home.





Then, just when that was under control, it began to rain. And then snow again. And now rain again. A stretch of ten feet of slushy snow 10 inches deep separate our cleared driveway (thanks, Snowblower George!) from our one-lane equally slushy street. It’s called heart-attack snow, so we are holed up again. And that is okay by me. ...

Enforced enclosure can be very good for body and soul.

Enforced enclosure prompts me to sort through my unfinished art projects and get moving on them. At least 10 are 3/4 complete, just needing finishing touches. Several are now finished. There, that felt good!
A big-bed quilt for Grace, a work in progress since last May. 

Arbutus at Night, promised to someone last fall.
But enforced enclosure also gives me the time to listen to my heart. My head tells me that I must not start anything new until the old is done. All those unfinished projects! But then my heart sees a photo we took at Christmas; our grandchildren are walking together in the woods, laughing and chatting. They are enjoying each other's company.


I want so badly to capture this very precious and yet so ordinary moment and translate it into an art piece. Creating this piece will make my heart sing. Enforced enclosure changes the boundaries of time; it feels like I am in an oasis where time for a little while stands still, and I can do this thing that makes my heart sing without worrying about the “next” thing to do.

Paper pictures of the kids are pinned to this new work in progress. Mitchell isn't in the photos, but he will be added. I like it!
Enforced enclosure gives me time to think about a new word for the year. Last year my word for the year was “EXPLORE” but honestly, I didn’t have the energy or will to follow through on that. My word last year should have been “fallow” – because that’s what I seemed to be. I didn’t produce much new creative work, and I seemed to be waiting for something to sprout. I learned (again!!!) that you cannot force this kind of growth, that new growth needs its period of dormancy. I sort through options for new words but can’t choose, so maybe that’s what the word needs to be: UNSURE.

At first glance, “unsure” seems like such a negative wishy-washy approach to a new year. Set your goals, our culture tells them. No pain, no gain. Follow your bliss. Move. But Unsure is where I am at, and I do believe that’s okay, even a good thing. If we cannot accept uncertainty, doubt, dormancy, and occasional aimless wandering, if we are driven to achieve our preconceived goals, we may pass up many opportunities that present themselves. Perhaps we will pass by the open door that is beckoning to us, calling us to enter and experience new joys. So I will learn, I hope, this year, to be at peace with unsure, and to keep my ears and eyes and heart open to new possibilities.

Enforced enclosure has given me time to sort through my writings that have focused on family history and personal reflections, including some of my blogs, over the last ten years. It’s a big jumble of possibilities and it will take time to sort out what’s good and what’s not. In this case, I listened to my heart and have enrolled in a writing course for non-fiction writers who wish to have help creating a manuscript. And I have been corresponding with a published author of a wonderful memoir who has agreed to be my writing coach.

Both these books are wonderful. Carla Funk is the memoirist, writing about growing up in a Mennonite community in Vanderhoof, BC.
I am unsure if there will be an end product, but that is okay. It’s a door that has opened, and I am walking through to see what new joys await me.

And last, enforced enclosure has given me time, too, to experiment in a safe place with the words, “I am finished with CrowDayOne.” I try it out on the Resident Sweetie, and the stars do not stop in their courses. I try it out on a friend or two and they are still my friends. I say it to myself, and it feels right. This blog – CrowDayOne – is finished. But I still need to write, and I still hope to communicate with all of you, the wonderful 14 readers who stuck with  me through thick and thin. I wonder where that will go. Perhaps I will start a new blog. Or write a book. Or create a web page. Or...well, let’s just say I am unsure, but the wide-open future awaits.