Saturday, 18 July 2015

1, 2, 3 ... 100!

This is post #100 on CrowDayOne.

When I posted my first blog piece more than two years ago, I never envisioned where this journey would lead. Now, 99 posts later, I look back and realize the truth of Confucius’ statement:

Blogging on CrowDayOne step by step by step has been an amazing journey.

I think back on the that first single step I took – and even before that, the decision to take that first step. For many years, I had been dreaming of bringing my art and my writing together, and using these two mediums to address spiritual issues common to women of “a certain age.” I had no idea how that would happen – a book? A giant quilt? A series of pieces? –  but I traveled on in faith, learning more about quilting, about women’s issues, about writing genres, and about my own changing spirituality.

Then the crow appeared at the top of my winter tree, and I heard her say, “The time has come.” (No, not literally – but that’s the creative thought that appeared as I worked on the piece, and how that happens? Only God knows.)

I marvel at the threads that come together so wonderfully at certain points in one’s life. This was perfect timing. I began, and oh, wow! I felt as though I was doing what I’d been created to do. Such joy! I’d have done it even if nobody read it, because all the thoughts and questions and ideas that had been percolating in my head over so many years had found a home at CrowDayOne.

And the bonus was that you responded to let me know that I was on the right track, that my observations and questions were often the same ones you had. I thank you from the bottom of my heart! You are the icing on the cake.

But all journeys come to an end eventually. If this blog is a train, then it is running out of steam. Some days, it’s hard to get it started. It stutters and complains and seems reluctant to go. I think the time has come to take it out of service for an assessment and inspection. Actually, though, deep down, I know that while the train may need a bit of work, the problem really is with the engineer who is driving the train.

The writing and the art that has appeared on this blog has come out of me, out of my heart, out of my deepest truths. But I found that with a blog on the go, I rarely journaled anymore, even though journaling had always been a spiritual practice of mine, a way to grow and stay connected with the Creator. Journals from years past line a shelf, holding stories of spiritual struggles fought and (sometimes)  resolved, hard won insights that worked for me, and quotes from authors who have helped me on the journey. (And I’ll be honest: a whole lot of drivel, too.) While you can live on stored-up nourishment for a long time, there comes a time when the larder is empty. That, I think, is what has happened to me. Now I’ve begun to journal and walk again, and feeling more at peace.

Just as the timing was perfect for the beginning of the blog, so now the timing is also right for this ending. 100 is a nice number! And in a few weeks, DV, the resident sweetie and I are embarking on a journey of a different kind. We’ll be in Europe, during which time we are meeting up with all our children and grandchildren in an old Frisian farmhouse for a Family Roots trip. We’ll visit where Al and I were born, meet up with some relatives, check out windmills and historic places, visit the graves of ancestors, and oh, yes, just hang out with each other.  It will be a time to be, not a time to do. We will be traveling in a spirit of openness, welcoming new experiences. With my ears, my eyes, my mind and my heart receptive, who knows what will happen? It will be another adventure on the journey of life, exploring possible new pathways to follow into the future.

A new blog reader posted this the other day on Facebook.

I love it! There’s a time to sit in the second and third rows for a while to catch your breath, but when I’m ready, I hope to be in that front row again!

I am so grateful for these last two years of my life. I am especially grateful for the support and encouragement of the resident sweetie, who is my first reader and truthteller. He put up with a lot of ribbing about his nickname and he took it graciously. As well, my writing group has been a Godsend, whether they believe it or not. I wouldn’t have started this without their cheering me on. And for all you friends and loved ones who were long-suffering and patient listeners as I shared  my dreams over and over again  – you know who you are – bless you! – an enormous hug goes out to you. What a long list I could compile of other gratitudes – I feel incredibly blessed.

And in September ... ??? We shall see. The journey continues ...

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Letters to Live By

We live in an age that is awash in messages composed of a few letters that stand for a whole lot more. I wrote a post about that a while back when I entered the brave new world of smart phones with messaging capabilities. LOL. Well, the folks who popularized cell phones may think they invented all this cool internet slang language, but I have news for them. Back when we were youngsters, there were initials too, that we used to communicate meaning.

In fact, we even had a weighty word for these initials: acronyms – i.e. (that is), initials that are short forms of phrases or expressions. For example,  e.g., which  means ... ta dah!: for example!

I did a little prowling on the internet, and discovered that acronyms were rarely used before the 1950s. Those that were common at that time were often short forms of Latin phrases: e.g. (Exempli gratia), AD (anno Domini), a.m. (Ante Meridien) etc. (et cetera).

Mom often included the letters DV in her letters to Holland when she wrote about events that were being planned.
Mom's letters to Holland after she and dad immigrated were a real life line. I'm fortunate to have a treasure trove of them.

“We will be going to Dunnville to visit Klaas and Martje DV next weekend,” DV meaning Deo Volente – the Lord willing. Those two letters were so ingrained into my upbringing, that I still have a hard time talking about plans with others without including DV in the sentence. After all, “Man proposes, God disposes” – an old-fashioned phrase that has not yet been acronymatized – but these days, maybe it wouldn’t hurt to include MPGD in our internet lexicon to remind us that we’re not totally in control of our destinies.

Letter writing was something we did a lot. I had a pen pal, and most of the letters I wrote to her ended with a PS (post scriptum), where I wrote bits of news that I’d forgotten in the main body of the letter. Then, getting silly, I would add PPS, PPPS, and sometimes even PPPPS. PS could also stand for public school. (Today, PS can mean a host of other things, Play Station being one of the more common ones.) Sometimes, I’d add SWAK to the back flap of the envelope: Sealed With a Kiss. Apparently, those initials became popular during the 20s and 30s, when military men posted overseas sent letters home to their sweethearts.

Another great set of initials was D.A. Only guys could have a DA hairstyle, but oh my, they were cool dudes, rocking the boat and thumbing their noses at society. We teenaged girls swooned!

DA stands for Duck's Arse

Fonzie had one, too, plus lots of stuff going on up front. What a dude!
In the 60s, we gathered around our TV (if we were fortunate enough to have one) to watch NHL games on Saturday night on CBC -- or we'd play a game of table hockey.

Or we'd watch The Man From UNCLE later in the week. U.N.C.L.E  stood for United Network Command for Law and Enforcement, an organization that was at war with  T.H.R.U.S.H. "Technological Hierarchy for the Removal of Undesirables and the Subjugation of Humanity." Is it my imagination, or is THRUSH still around these days? That just may be the explanation for so many instances of dehumanization these days. Time to send out an SOS to the men -- and women -- from UNCLE.

We had many other important acronyms “way back then”: UN, NATO, NAACP, USA, OPEC, NASA, RCMP. And no, LOL was not invented by teenyboppers. Doctors have been writing that on hospital charts since the olden days to denote Little Old Lady, usually with some extra initials to describe her condition: LOLWNAA – "little old lady with no apparent ailment" being an example.

Which brings me to my current letters to live by. NB: these are important!

The first is LIG. My wise baby sister taught me these three little letters when I was spazzing out a couple of years ago, trying to manage oodles of  details with two sons getting married 2 months apart. LIG stands for Let It Go. When you’ve done what you can, but there’s still more on the list, you need to LIG. Will the world come to an end if everything you thought was important doesn’t get done? No. And will you be happier if you just LIG? Yes. (More importantly, would the people who love you be happier if you would just LIG? Yes.)  And this does not only apply to weddings. Surprise, surprise, it also applies to life. We are not totally, utterly, always responsible for everything.

The corollary to LIG is NMP – another acronym Fran taught me. NMP means Not My Problem. Certainly I have problems I am responsible for, but not everything is my problem. I can't fix it all. When I have done my best to live at peace with a fractious person who wants to keep fighting, then it is NMP anymore. I need to LIG. When I’ve suggested a solution to a difficult situation, and the people in charge aren’t interested in what I have to say, then it is NMP. I will LIG. My responsibility is to sort through situations and decide which are my problems, and which are not.

Because, in the end, IIWII, and IWBWIWB: It is what it is, and it will be what it will be. MPGD.

And thank God for that.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Just a Simple Story

I was going to write a blog called "The Garden as a Metaphor for Life." Then Google told me that there were 55 million hits that responded to that phrase. You can read one of them on Huffington Post, where Maria  Rodale says you have to shovel the sh*t if you want to harvest the results, and a lot more. Read the blog I could have written at

Instead, I’ll tell you a story. If you want to find a metaphor in it, you’re welcome to do so. But if you just want to look at the pictures, that’s okay, too.

Once upon a time on a beautiful island, so the story begins, there was a wannabe garden. It was gravelly, and bare, and surrounded by a fence. It didn’t look promising. Someone had sprinkled grass seed all over it. It was a wannabe garden dressed up like a lawn.

To the “lawn with the heart of a garden” came a man and a woman. I won’t call them old, but they had been to the top of the hill, and now were on the downward slope. They had tried gardening in other places in Canada,  most recently in a land where frost was a possibility in any month of the year.  They looked at this  “garden” and they looked at each other, and they said, “Yes!”

Dreams of sugarplums – no, Italian prune plums –  danced in their heads.  And rosemary! And lavender.  Roses, too. The woman pictured a wide perennial border all around the yard with splashes of colour. The man pictured a pond with goldfish and lily pads. So they bought the garden, as well as the house, which was a bonus!

That first winter, the  man took courses at the college in garden design. The woman joined gardening groups. They learned how to garden in a mild climate. By the time spring arrived, there was a five- year-plan for the garden. It would no longer be a lawn.

Their son was a permaculture guru. Permaculture is sustainable agriculture on steroids. “So where are you planting the vegies?” asked he who believes we can all grow everything we need to eat (organically, of course), thus saving the planet and feeding the world.  Oh. Vegies. Hmm. The woman added a smallish centre bed  to the yard plan for vegies. The man reduced the size of his pond, scheduled for year 4. Secretly, they both hoped the vegie thing would peter out by then. “We tried it and it didn’t work,” they’d tell the son.

And then the work began.  Bazillions of rocks of all sizes lay a foot or two under the surface of the neighbourhood. Those rocks were hauled from building sites in the area, and laid out around the yard as borders for raised beds. The sons and their young, strong legs were invaluable – they hauled rocks and piled hundreds of wheelbarrows of gardening soil and compost on top of cardboard which had been laid down to kill those parts of the lawn, and in no time, the beds were ready.

The man and the woman indulged themselves with all the plants their little hearts desired. Some they bought at nurseries, but many were given to them by friends and neighbours – lavender, daisies, rose canes, tiny spring flowers and more. They planted vegies, and oh Wow!  Cabbages the size of pumpkins, zucchinis the size of baseball bats, potatoes, beans, a tomato that weighed in at just under 2 pounds.

To her surprise, the woman liked her vegie garden just as much as her perennial border. Except just wasn’t quite big enough. That was year one, and it was good.

At year 2, the 5 year plan went out the window. The garden was enlarged to accommodate more vegies; a pond, complete with twin waterfalls, was dug;  and an enlarged patio was added to the yard.

They planted trees and an herb garden. They built a shed. The plants flourished – and the man and the woman were content to sit on their patio and watch their garden grow, and their fish swim, and their trees  bear fruit. That was year two.

But as every gardener knows, there’s always a bit of tweaking to do, a new plant to add, a shrub to pull and replace, more beds to add at the side of the house. In year 3 and 4 and 5, much tweaking went on. Each year, there was a little more in the garden: a grape arbour, a woodland garden, a raspberry patch and a boysenberry climber.

In year 6, the man and the woman decided to show others that, yes, you can successfully grow a garden that combines vegies and flowers, and it can be beautiful. The garden became part of a tour. The people came, they saw, and maybe some of them were inspired to feed the world by growing their own food. Maybe!

One day, the neighbour jokingly asked if the man and woman were offering safari tours through the jungle. They shrugged it off as jealousy. Perhaps his peas didn't grow as tall or produce as bountifully. Perhaps the neighbour thought of it as a jungle, but it was their own precious jungle.

But just recently, with the garden 8 years old – a mature garden, the gurus would call it –  the man and the woman looked at each other, and the woman cautiously asked, “Do you think our garden may be a teensy-weensy bit overgrown?”

View from the dining room window.

“Yes,” admitted the man. “We've had a lot of fun with it, and we've tried a lot of things. But we’re not as young as we used to be. We can’t do it all anymore, and we'll have to choose which plants to keep and which to give away.”

That was tough to hear, but smart thinking, as well. “Maybe next year we can cut back,” she replied. And they will, because in a garden, there’s always some tweaking to do. "And maybe you can build a little table for the grape arbour, and we can sit there enjoy the view!"

And if something in this story that works for you as a metaphor for life, well, go for it!