More Humbugs-Tis the Season to Fa la la

DSC_0047Tis the Season when you deck the hall, or perhaps you want to deck someone?  What if you don’t like Christmas?  What do you do then?

Sales people love an early December snowfall—it makes the cash registers ring. The “Holly Jolly” songs have been piped over the PA systems for a few weeks, adding to the urgency to run the card through the machines to show people how important they are. The new math equates amount of dollars spent with amount of love expressed. It’s a time some people love, and some people hate. (Is this another best of times, worst of times?)

For people grieving it truly is the worst of times. My first Christmas after the loss of my two children, is one I would never ever want to repeat. Although there were some incredible God-moments, I dreaded the season for months in advance.  The constant reminders and family photo-card images reinforce for those in a tough situation,  the feeling of loneliness and despair, causing many people to want to pack up and ride away for the season. Be kind to all, you don’t know what they may be going through. May the spirit of love covers all aspects of your Christmas, like a gentle snowfall.

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It’s coming on Christmas
They’re cutting down trees
They’re putting up reindeer
And singing songs of joy and peace
I wish I had a river
I could skate away on         Sarah McLachlan

THE BIG PICTURE – size small

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       In the end what matters most

             How well did you live

            How well did you love

      How well did you learn to let go.              Balinese proverb

I get these moments of great clarity when I feel as though I have conquered the mystery of life. The younger I was for these aha moments, the more open I was to accept them. The experience that comes with aging has clouded my clarity with skepticism.

While it was still dark this morning I woke with a sense that I should write down some of these thoughts I’d had … and then I realized I have often felt that way, and frequently I have written the ideas down. Sometimes I have been delighted, at other times I wondered what made that seem so brilliant in the night?

Breathing, living, loving …. as I mix this into every day life of eating, sleeping, interacting, I see that we are all searching for a deeper meaning, for more aha moments … I think we want our lives to be a part of something bigger. (I want to stay in the AHA)

One of my favourite walks takes me up a ridge, and from where I can see the Rocky Mountains span the horizon. When I have these times of feeling too suppressed in my little life I climb the ridge—I call it my perspectives walk.

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A bench waits for me, it overlooks the town and the mountains in the distance, and I ask God to have tea with me. Often I just sit there, sometimes I read, sometimes I listen to music, sometimes I write …. but I need to ponder the vast solid rocky mountains, the bigger picture … and when I look down at my town, I see the little vehicles like Tonka trucks along the roadways, busy little ant like people scurrying about with all the tyranny of the urgent, and I am reminded of the verses:

I lift up my eyes to the hills, where does my help come from  Psalm 121 NIV

For even if the mountains walk away and the hills fall to pieces,                                                             My love won’t walk away from you      Isaiah 54:10 The Msg

After pondering the truth of these words, I am able to descend, for I have gained a new perspective on the immensity of life. I carry those words with me … till next time …  like everyone else, I have a standing invite to sit on that bench. And what surprises me is how seldom it is occupied. 

A Pacifist at Remembrance Day

imagesThe Pacifist at a Remembrance Day Ceremony

For once she arrived on time to an already packed out gym, standing room only as hundreds of townsfolk came to the Remembrance Day service; not a poppy-less coat in the crowd, thanks to the young girl guides handing out programs and poppies, camouflage garb mixed with the stiff jodhpurs of the RCMP.

Her Mennonite hometown never had this large a turn out. Apparently Mennonites don’t dance and they don’t go to war. …  Only after my father had died, I found out that he had wanted to join the Canadian Air Force as a young man during the Second World War. His father would have none of it, as the church did not allow for going to war; it believed in the call to peace. And in a not so peaceful manner my father fought with his father, but obeyed. Very likely the departure of a dream.  Because conscription was the law, my father was given the option to become a conscientious objector (CO) and was assigned to work at the CO camp at Clear Lake Mb. Many Mennonite boys were allowed to stay at home and continued to work in the farms, a few defied their churches and signed up to become soldiers for Canada’s army, experiencing the rejection of their communities for their choice.

This day she came as an observer, to honour those who had died for her country’s freedom. “Freedom is not free,” she heard. Veterans of any war were asked to stand, she quickly tried to count the number, at least eighty, possibly a hundred. The bag-pipe and drum band led the procession of young cadets, aging vets, and current military recruits. Next to the men in kilts, white plumed hats and elegant capes bobbed, representing the British pomp and ceremony.

John Cotton who had fought in the Korean War, spoke with the authority and cadence of  a BBC radio announcer as he told his story …. “the Chinese came over the crest, wave after wave of men—I had never seen so many men. We engaged them we cut them down, they retreated we advanced,” words devoid of emotion, “our grenades were better than their grenades. We kept our machine guns going until they became so hot, we had to change the barrels … round after round. They outnumbered us seven to one, but we cut them down.” He did not glorify the war, he did not justify it, he gave us his description in neutral blood free terms. The war was fought sixty years ago, and he remembers it every day, and his final strong words to the crowd: “I shall never forget these men as long as I live, and I hope to God you won’t forget either.”

A processional led the throng down the hill to the town’s cenotaph, for the 11 am silence,  followed by the laying down of the wreaths. Two red and white planes circled overhead. The observers were invited to add their poppies to the wreaths. She waited her turn. Two young cadets stood in position, at either side of the cenotaph, large rifles pointed down, their eyes fixed above the crowd. She had lost a son the age of these recruits, and she knew the pain. She may be a pacifist, but she recognized the sacrifice others had made.

The sad reality hit her—many of the casualties of war are still alive. 

Not another Bloom Where You are Planted?

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After the flood devastation of 2013, the landscape of Southern Alberta has changed forever. (Till the next “Hundred Year Flood.”) Boulders have been moved by the flood waters.  Tonnes of rocks have been lifted and moved. Trees uprooted, relocated.

Majestic and special spots have been altered forever …. “Danger, the bank has been undercut” read the sign on my favorite bench, before it was removed for safety reasons.

IMG_3439Undercut Bank along the Bow River

These are small issues compared to the loss of homes and property. A week after the waters had poured over its banks…. roses bloomed where flood waters had raged.

Some of the land I’d stood on a week prior, was now laying on the receded river bank fifteen feet below me. The vegetation had moved down as well.

In Banff National Park, wildflowers bloomed this past summer; but I wondered where blossoms would be showcased next year.

Bloom Where You Are Planted, takes on new meaning.

What about Bloom Where You Have Been Washed To, or Where The Wind Has Blown You, or Where You’ve Been Shoved  or Bloom Where You Have Fallen?

Grief like a tsunami ravaged my life in 2005 …  and now I, along with many others,  have been given a new twist to that bloomin’ challenge. I have not been tenderly replanted, I have been washed up on a different shore. Can I still bloom?

There is much beauty to be found every where, even in this new territory of loss. How do you meet the Bloom Where you Have Been Planted challenge?

The post-flood roses were more beautiful than ever.IMG_3445