Saturday, 27 February 2016

The Road Not Chosen

On Ground Hog Day, a friend posted that the palm tree had seen its shadow: thus, there would be 6 more weeks of Florida. Ha ha.

 On Vancouver Island, the ground hog saw rain and said there would be 6 more weeks of grey skies and clouds – or that’s what it feels like, right about now.

If I had my druthers, I too would be sitting under a palm somewhere, enjoying balmy breezes and pina coladas.

Druthers: great word! My good friend Google tells me druthers is a shortening of 'would rathers'. It was first used in the late 1800s and written as “‘drathers.”  Later, ‘drathers became ‘druthers, and was popularized in the cartoon strip L’il Abner, who was fond of saying, “Ef Ah had mah druthers, Ah'd druther...”. (I could write a whole blog on L’il Abner ... maybe another time.)


Some people, at this time of year, strap themselves into an airline seat, order their glass of bubbly, and wing off to someplace warm and fun. The resident sweetie and I strapped ourselves into the seats of our little Yaris and zoomed  our way south, too (Toyotas do not zoom-zoom, for that you need a Mazda)...all the way to Victoria, 3 long and rainy hours and 38 stoplights down island. If I had my druthers, I’d opt for the flight to Hawaii. Some people book themselves into a fancy hotel with room service and a balcony that offers a view of the ocean waves and gorgeous sunsets. We booked into a little apartment decorated in 80's style, and a view of the neighbour’s cluttered backyard. If I had my druthers...well, you know!

Now of course, some peoples’ whines are other peoples desires. A lot of people consider a holiday on Vancouver Island – Canada’s banana belt – a wonderful choice in January and February. And some people don’t want to skip winter – that’s ski season. But the resident sweetie and I, if we had our druthers (as well as the shekels to pay for it) would be seeking out a warm sunny clime for few weeks right about now. We may be living in the banana belt, but you need a lot of rain to grow bananas.

Instead of that kind of vacation, however, on a rainy Sunday a few weeks ago, we walked through the doors of the Royal Jubilee Hospital and went through a rigorous day of pre-operation orientation.

The next morning at 5:30 a.m. (5:30?!@*) we walked through the doors again, and Al underwent all the indignities that go with surgery – hospital gowns that hide little of your naked self, full body shave, and waiting, waiting, waiting. Then off he went to the OR.  Separate vacations may be the norm, but if I had my druthers, I would have gone with him.

It was quite a week: quadruple by-pass surgery, intensive care where round-the clock-nurses watched what was happening to all the tubes and monitors that were going in and out of him, and then recovery in a room that overlooked the hospital parkade. Long story short, though: he did amazingly well. In fact, the nurses called him the poster boy for what recovery from by-pass can be. Five days after surgery, he was shedding the hospital jammies and wearing his street clothes as we transitioned to the apartment, and one week to the day after the surgery, we were on our way home.

As the week went by, there were many times when I thought about those druthers. Every choice we make means that something else can’t happen. Of course, if we had our druthers, we'd rather not have any trouble or pain in our lives. But that's just not possible. So then we get to travel an unexpected pathway. Al and I took a detour on the road that leads to the palm trees and sunny beaches and ended up in a place we wouldn't have chosen. But the experiences we had on that unexpected road made me rethink my druthers.

Instead of tropical paradise, we found crocuses in the rain.

Instead of waiters carrying trays of drinks, we were surrounded by many, many people who wished us well and prayed for us and wanted us to be sure to let them know what happened. They were cheering for and with us, and we were amazed and humbled and grateful and sometimes in tears. Instead of car rental agencies and tour guides, there were the skilled hands of the surgeon and a team of doctors and nurses carefully repairing what needed fixing.

There was more. The magic of cell phones, computers, e-mail and facebook meant that we could talk to each other even when we were apart. My daughter stayed strong and held my hand when I got anxious and antsy. Our one-year old grandaughter sent Opa a “letter” (with the help of her mom, of course) which brought a smile to his dear face. The landlady who rented us the apartment was flexible and kind. I learned again that we are not alone – that we can lean on our Creator, on our family, and on an intricate and interwoven net of relationships, and we will be held. Those are truly blessings, aren’t they?

So in the end, I discovered, that I’m actually living my druthers, the life that I’ve been given, and that I wouldn’t ruther trade it for anything.

Friday, 12 February 2016


Lately, it’s a delight to peek out at the yard through the raindrops and see what’s happening.  The flash of gold in the pond means our fish have decided to unearth themselves from their winter hideout in the muddy bottom.

The garlic, planted last fall, is up at least 6 inches. And under our dining room window, the snowdrops have begun to bloom. The garden is waking up.

The word “awakening” has been floating around in the back of my mind for the last few days, a sure sign that I’m supposed to blog about it. It’s a lovely word, setting my neurons to tingling. If you created a word web, with AWAKEN at its centre, you’d  come up with lots of connections, many of them having nothing to do with the physical experience of opening your eyes after a good night of sleep:

And to this, I should add Star Wars – its latest blockbuster is entitled “The Force Awakens.” 
While we all awaken every morning, we also have many other awakenings in our lives. It’s the Aha! moment, when we suddenly see something in a different light. Or it could be a gradual understanding that we are not the same people that we were 10 years ago. Or perhaps, the awakening happens just as we’re entering a new phase in life, when something which had been incomprehensible before now makes complete sense.

In this sense, awakenings are what happens to us over and over in our lives. One of my earliest memories is of such an awakening. When I was a child, like all other children, I thought I was the centre of the universe. But something happened when I was 6. We were living on a farm outside of town, with big old maples lining the long drive which led to the gravel road. It was a perfect summer day, big fluffy clouds in a blue sky, and green corn growing in the fields.

My sister and I (on right) in front of the farmhouse, with big trees in the background.

When I begged my mom to let me walk to the neighbour’s farm where my dad had gone to borrow something, she let me go, all by myself. It is a memory I have more than 60 years later, a memory of beauty all around me, a sense of awe and amazement filling me. As I look back on this moment, I realize it was the beginning of understanding that this world was huge, and I was just a little person, not at all the centre of the universe, but a very significant part of it.

Such awakenings have happened often since then. There was the horrifying moment in the middle of an argument with the resident sweetie, when I suddenly realized that I was guilty of all the things I was accusing him of. That wasn’t fun – but it was necessary. There was the time I read a challenging book, and when I closed it, I knew that I could never look at the world the same way again. I felt as though all my life I’d been living in a secure little world, which,like an eggshell, had protected me; but through reading the book, the eggshell had cracked. Sometimes, when I am working on a piece of writing or a piece of art, I am  suddenly aware of something that I would not have been able to express before I began the work. These are awakenings and they change me.

Some people have sudden awakenings, like a flash of light on the road to Damascus that the apostle Paul experienced. The experience left him a changed man. The Aha moment is so exciting, you’ll never be in doubt that you have experienced something special. Other times, an awakening is a gradual awareness – you take little steps in a certain direction without much thought, but one day you realize you’ve gone so far on the road you’re travelling that the road has changed you.

The snowdrops below my dining room window have been teaching me a lot this week about that kind of awakening. They are such humble, unassuming flowers – not bold and brassy like daffodils, or beautifully elegant like tulips. They push their way out of the ground in January, and because it’s still cold, they grow slowly – just little green nubbins in the cold brown earth. We hardly notice them at all, but they keep growing. One day, we notice that the green spears are bearing flower buds, and then that the buds are slowly turning from green to white. There they stand, like shy maidens, their heads hanging demurely. I picked a few stems and brought them inside, poking them into a vase of heather. Then this morning, I noticed how much they had changed again, brought into early bloom by the warmth of the indoors. Their heads were still hanging, but if you took the time to really examine the flowers, you would see that  now the buds were wide open, revealing a beautiful green central trumpet set off by three white petals.

And so I think about that little girl that I was – the little people we all were – with so much potential hidden inside us, sometimes gently, gently unfolding, gradually revealing more and more, but sometimes forced into a sudden blossoming by new conditions. The heart of who we are now has always been there. As we move through life with all its challenges and changes, more and more of us will be revealed if we are willing to awaken to new possibilities, pay attention to what is around us, and are open to growth and change.