Decaf worry-what’s the point?

I can honestly say I am not afraid of ebola.

I am not afraid that I will be blown up by a terrorist.

I am not afraid that I will contract Aids.

I have only had my cholesterol levels checked once.

But, every now and then, when the elevator door opens, I fear I might find a dead body in it.

I had not been afraid of drinking tea, until last Friday’s rerun of Marketplace. My IMG_4989innocence is shattered. I have been informed that most teas have residues of pesticides. Oh my darling Earl, Grey is what my hair is turning over this latest scandal. And I doubt I can take comfort with you any longer. To reassure us, a CBC spokesperson said that “a person would have to consume approximately 75 cups of tea per day over their entire lifetime to elicit an adverse health effect.”

Fear Mongering … Overwhelming information is at our disposal. After I bumped into the owner of the local Tea shop, she challenged me to take a look at apple pesticides, only to discover that apples top the list of the dirty dozen for pesticide residue. If only the organic section looked more appealing.

A trip to Africa is on my horizon, and a friend asked if I was not afraid of travel to the continent of ebola. I asked her if she would stay home from Florida because Alaska was having the flu?

Perspective is hard to maintain with the current information overload.  I think I will go have another cup of tea with apple slices as I re-read a list from 1933.  In a letter to his 11-year-old daughter Scottie, author F. Scott Fitzgerald listed things for her to worry about, not worry about, and to think about. Pesticide-free food for thought:

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Things to worry about:

Worry about courage

Worry about cleanliness

Worry about efficiency

Worry about horsemanship (Whew—I can strike that one off the list)

Things not to worry about:

Don’t worry about …

Dolls

The past

The future

Growing up

Anybody getting ahead of you

Don’t worry about triumph

About failure, unless it comes through your own fault

About mosquitoes

About flies       (Did he read the research that claims we ingest a pound or two of bugs in our food per year?)

Don’t worry about insects in general  (The tea pesticide will take care of them)

Don’t worry about parents       Worrying

About boys

About disappointments

About pleasures

Don’t worry about satisfactions

Things to think about:

What am I really aiming at?

How good am I in comparison to my contemporaries in regard to:

(a) scholarship

(b) Do I really understand about people and am I able to get along with them.

(c) Am I trying to make my body a useful instrument or am I neglecting it?

With dearest love,

Daddy                     Source: F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Life in Letters

(Some repetitive wording was eliminated)

Canadian Thanksgiving is upon us, I could worry about overeating, but I will  focus on being grateful for the many blessings in my life.

 

Not Set in Stone …

BUT CAST IN BRONZE
IMG_0471Does the clay speak back to the potter?

You bet your wrought iron she does!!
(She likes to think of it in terms of having conversations)
And has she been struck by lightning?                                                                                                                                                              Not yet, but she is considering a weathervane as an early warning device.

This past weekend, I discovered that my new hometown boasts Western Canada’s first and largest artistic bronze foundry. Studio West is located in what looks initially like a small building, but then you see add-on, to add-on, like the little house that added a bedroom with each new baby. Karen Begg, the grand-daughter and daughter of the original founders, was my tour guide. She explained their success story of steady growth and right time expansion. Their humble bronze pour beginning in a Calgary garage had the neighbours talking.
Karen’s passion for the creative process is evident in the stain of the hands, the caress of the finished products, the excitement in her voice as she shares the history, the process, and the Canada to Europe locations of their finished IMG_6732pieces. From concept to larger than life, she provides the short version of how to create a lasting monument.  The quality of their works have garnered numerous awards, five of their pieces have been unveiled by the Queen.
It is Karen’s explanation of the Lost Wax foundry process that intrigues me. In a nutshell, they cover the original sculpture with rubber, then a layer of hot wax is poured over top, cooled, and then the outer  mould is crafted from the same material used in the space shuttle tiles.  The wax is lost-or melted out. Space the wax occupied, becomes bronze. Experience has taught them to make a small model before the full size. The final statue is poured in sections approximately 325-500 lbs at a time. Pieces are welded together, after which smoothing out the joints and fine detailing takes place … always going back to the original model as their guide. (Note-this does not happen overnight.)

IMG_1134In the back room, we met a pair of one hundred year old dogs,  to be refinished and given a new home.
“What turns the parts of the statues golden?” one of our group asks.She replies, “when they are loved, see the tips of the nose, and tops of heads.”          I wonder  if I develop any golden character when I am brushed up close and personal with people.

So many comparisons to ancient words … about, a Creator that has crafted artistic works, being made in His image, always going back to the original, the potter’s hands.
I forgot to ask Karen if any of her monuments ever talked back to her …. or were struck by lightning.

An interesting book I recently discovered is: Conversations With Monuments in Winnipeg                    by Kathleen Francis. Photography and thoughts around some of Winnipeg’s bronze characters.

Studio West Bronze Foundry & Art Gallery – Galleries West

The Inch Worm

Downsizing of Dreams

My life moves ahead in Fits and Starts 

I am the Inch Worm

  Folding in half for each step ahead

    Vulnerable, easily squished

      But I am not the Inch Worm

        Because I have Skin

          A backbone that aches

            Pain lets me know

              That I am alive

                I taste Joy in this

                  Velvet Morning

                    Pink Skies give Way

                      To a Brand New Day

                        To Inch Ahead.

-crop-127-140-127px-Take-Care-of-Inchworms-Step-1-Version-2

Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.

Vaclav Havel-Czech Playwright and President

Snow-shaker, Ice-breaker

This is only September but …
Postcard Christmas snow burdens the branches IMG_6312
pristine heaviness
Silence of snow
insulates the earth,
muffles the birds
Invites me
to withdraw from the world
As outside it piles heavy on unprepared trees
Branches about to break,
Like humans under the weight of worry.
Be a snow-shaker, when you can …

CrazySunday I was picnicking with friends in 25 degree weather, and
Monday morning it snowed, and snowed for three days and three nights … the branches sagged till they met earth.
Tuesday on my walk I delighted to see the branches spring back with a light shaking … it was kind of fun. That evening Mayor Nenshi of Calgary was on the news asking people to give branches a gentle shake, to reduce the burden on the trees. Trees full of leaves, each catching more snow to add to the weight.
Wednesday Armed with a three-prong rake I went out, hooked higher branches, shook and released. This was play in the snow for me. This also became my version of the current ice-bucket challenge as heaps of snow dumped on me as I moved from tree to tree. Satisfaction as the branches lifted off the ground, back into the air. It struck me how helpless the branches were, totally dependant on someone to relieve them in this dilemma.
Thursday I met a new neighbour, who had witnessed my snow fun, she had also tried some shaking.
By Friday, most of the snow had melted and I wondered if it had made any significant difference-even though I saw an immediate change-but maybe they wouldn’t have broken, and maybe it would all have been okay, and maybe I did prevent a few broken limbs … and maybe it does not matter if I know. All appeared back to normal.

In my life I have had both snow shakers,IMG_6362 and ice breakers, people that chipped away the cold, shook me out of the doldrums and lifted the spirits. I am eternally grateful for those people.
And now I have the privilege to play it forward, for others weighed down.

Worry weighs us down, a cheerful word picks us up. Prov 12:28 The Message

An anxious heart weighs a man(woman too) down, but a kind word cheers him(her) up. NIV

Pick Me Up, I’m Falling Again

IMG_5699Autumn is the mellower season, and what we lose in flowers we more than gain in fruits.”
― Samuel Butler
Is it just me, or does fall come more quickly every year?
The overachiever tree along my bike path turned yellow a week ago and by now has dropped most of his leaves, unaware that the world is not quite ready for its glory. The back to school busses have increased the local traffic, but at least a few tired moms smile with the return of school structure.
Thankfully I haven’t seen the geese heading in the other direction, I might have to shoot them.
When I lived in Australia for two years, I realized that I actually missed the distinct changes of season. It was hard to complain when every day was near paradise. The Ozzie’s lame lament about their cold was spitting in the wind. The first winter proved to match temperatures with the prairie summer I had left behind. My school teacher sister had been reluctant to miss summer to visit me down under in the cold season, only to discover that an Australian winter was similar to a Canadian prairies’ summer.
I think each passing fall makes me realize I am truly more in the autumn of life than spring or summer. I have matured into foliage.IMG_5640
Having grandkids could be considered one of the qualifications. Instead of begrudging autumn’s arrival, lamenting the lost long summer days, I want to choose to embrace the season’s gifts. I enjoy the settled peace of September. Fall brings it’s own new beginnings … unlike the artificial New Year, where I feel coerced into resolutions of new direction.
Fall transitions naturally … the change in weather invites me to try something new, read a book, try a course, dust off my hobbies. I stopped at the Michael’s craft store on a cloudy day this week, and with forecasts of single digit for next week, I bought a knitting book! Not any knitting mind you, but arm knitting, it’s a loose weave, where the upper limbs turn into a kind of giant cat’s cradle game. She must be going bonkers, I was thinking of myself, as the negative voices in my head chastise me for starting something new again, that I might not finish. And I talk back, it is better to start ten things with enthusiasm, perhaps finish one of them, than not start at all. Much of the enjoyment comes from the possibilities of the dream, I could envision lovely scarves.

DSC_0962I recognize an unspoken longing that perhaps this next season will meet expectations, that desires be met, and I realize This is Life. Live it as it is, where it is, in this moment, in this season. I cannot go backwards in time … I don’t know what lies ahead, but I have this day. I choose to make the most of it.

All photos by Jocelyn

Silence & Sacred Idleness

Work is not always required …there is such a thing as sacred idleness, the cultivation of which is now fearfully neglected.

George MacDonald
DSCN7439
Silence is scary … I am left with my own thoughts. The voices in my head.
I think one of the reasons technology does well is that few people want to be alone with their thoughts. In fact it’s difficult to get the peace and quiet to be in that space. Being (Over)busy, has become the accepted hallmark of value and approval.
But when something desperate or traumatic happens in life, be it a big or small desperation, the necessity of silence and the need to address the inner voices becomes inescapable. At that time I have the power to stifle the voices, to run from them, or to ask them – what is it I really need to learn from you?
Being alone with my thoughts … I confess to not minding my own company … I value times of silence. A dear sister and I expressed the mixed fear and delight of becoming these eccentric mature ladies-didn’t want to say old. I would be vividly odd, and she would be cerebrally offbeat, and strangely enough we think it would be ok. It’s the freedom to not care what others think anymore, and the urgent desire to listen to and give voice to that too long silenced inner self. One of my favourite images comes from a U2 song line …
she is running to stand still.
Be still and know that I am God ….IMG_5687
Those were the words that came to me many years ago, in the middle of a snow storm … My daughter Kristen and I were speaking at a Mother Daughter retreat … and I was contemplating the busyness of life, a possible new career direction, or a decrease of same. Options weighed on my mind as I took a short walk in a Nov snow storm and came to a clearing in the woods … in that small magical space, snow whirled all around me and here I was …. Calm and Silent, as though I was in the eye of the storm. The silence spoke powerful peace into my soul … and the ancient words came to mind …. Be STILL and KNOW that I am God. How could I know? I’d been so busy running, flapping on the spot … the way I see the ravens in a strong wind … flapping before they soar.
At that moment I knew I could not take on one more thing, as good as it was.
I often remember what the silence of the snowstorm did for my soul.
No longer do I apologize for my time to sit by the river, to absorb the beauty, to let the chaos of mind seep out of my body.
Although it’s been a tad hard to buck the norm, I have never regretted a moment of Sacred Idleness . IMG_7562_2

Silence does not exist in our lives merely for its own sake.
It is ordered by something else. …
Silence is the strength of our interior life.
Silence enters into the very core of our moral being.

Thomas Merton
from his book No Man is an Island

Tribute Tarries

tributaries_06
(Photo by Joel Krahn, African River tributaries)

Like a river that flowed and reached into dry corners
she spread her love and acceptance
Beneath Martha she hid her Mary soul
But that woman, she knew how to clean ….
She opened both her well vacuumed home and her heart …
Her brother said, her walls always had a window,
a window that had been recently cleaned …
She loved, she accepted, she cared, she stayed in touch …
All spokes led to the mamma … the hub of the family.
I don’t think she ever missed a game.
She was loyal, caring, kind
Her faith always practical
Thank you for being my friend.

The initial message of her passing came via email … and said that she “had gone to her eternal rest.” One thing I know about my friend, she wouldn’t want to be in eternal rest. She was an active person. I don’t think rest is what Heaven’s about. I used to wonder about eternity … if it was going to be forever anyways, I saw no rush to get there. But after I had two term deposits, my perspective changed. Randy Alcorn’s book, Heaven, paints a phenomenal picture of experience and beauty, an exciting future he believes will greet us upon arrival. He is convinced that we continue on in our creativity, and work in the eternal future. Somehow, I don’t think my friend will be vacuuming her days away.

IMG_6150While kayaking last week, heavy with thoughts of my friend’s life, and the upcoming funeral, I saw the most exquisite flowers, unlike any I had ever seen before, what made them so unique? They were underwater. I have seen enough seaweed and lily pads, to know this was exceptional … I kayaked over the clear blue green mountain lake waters again, to be sure my eyes had not deceived … yes, there a few feet below the water glass top, tiny yellow and white flowers smiled up at me … the water dimmed their colours, but they truly were blooming where planted. What a picture of hope for me … under the ocean of grief new flowers can bloom.
The reason I like Sudoku is that there are nine squares, nine numbers fill those squares, only one way to do it. Simple, clean, no deep mystery.
Grief is not like that.
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Emily Dickinson says:
On subjects of which we know nothing, we both believe and disbelieve a hundred times an Hour, which keeps Believing nimble.

Deadheading

The soul should always stand ajar, ready to welcome the ecstatic experience.
Emily Dickinson

Deadheading begins with the head?
Earl Grey tea warms as I sit cozy on my balcony, Sarah Ban Breathnach’s book,IMG_5586 Simple Abundance, invigorates as hardy petunia’s smile at me, potted in shades of purple, pink, and white. I reach out to pick off the done blossoms. Sarah writes about her search for wholeness in the everyday epiphanies, the mystical in the mundane. This day she speaks of changing our clothes, our style, in order to keep the creativity alive. Not that out of date clothes are the factor, but the idea to allow the inner authentic self, to be expressed. Letting the inner child out is not a new concept, but is shed like a garment outgrown, in my need to be responsible, frugal, productive. A continuous mini-war goes on inside my head, how much I do for my own self nurturing … versus the belief that it is selfish to do so. “Selfish” is a very bad word in religious circles, it carries heavy judgment … But its judgement has come into question for me.
Many times I quote a favourite fridge magnet—Take my Advice I’m not Using It … at times it comes back to bite me. I do recognize the importance of others taking care of themselves, while hesitant to apply that to myself for fear of being “selfish.” It has been a continual balancing act … lately I’ve come to think of it less in terms of a rigid balance scale, and more as an ever moving line, a wave, a slow dance that responds to the music of life. Why am I trying to contain myself when I see all around me evidence that the creator is abundantly lavish in creativity, in beauty, in breaking His own rules.
The dried blossoms drop to the floor, are picked up by the wind, and carried away.

I see beauty and music as universal soul therapists. Fifty shades of sunsets clamour for attention. A week ago my sister came to visit; as I saw the sky IMG_6065change colours I said “We need to go right now!” After a quick drive to a higher ridge, we inhaled the the majestic mountain background, with ominous thunderheads to the south, a phenomenal lightning show, ecstatic, electric beauty that was available for all to see, but we were alone in the viewing.
Sometimes we need to go now, or we miss the moment.

Last weekend, sisters joined under and over the rain tarp as showers and sunshine competed, in a Rocky Mountain setting, while the Canmore Folk Festival provided music to set toes a tapping, and bodies swaying. It was a deadheading of the soul.
Words sung by Blues singer Guy Davis still ring in my ears “Had my old shoes on, got new shoes now, had my old clothes on, I got new clothes now and I feel like dancing.” The power house lines for me: Was thinking my old thoughts, well I’m thinking some new thoughts now, and I feel like dancing.”
Warning—Deadheading leads to dancing.

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Difficult times have helped me to understand better than before how infinitely rich and beautiful life is in every way and that so many things that one goes worrying about are of no importance whatsoever.
Isak Dinesen

Volunteers in a Dangerous time …

(Folk festival etiquette for volunteers—or social norm tips amongst crazy IMG_6048creative folk festivallers)
“May I join you?” the question from long dreads that fall from the tall black felted top hat, as her blue meal plate balances in left hand and walking stick in right.
“Yes,” I reply, then add “You don’t look like an ordinary volunteer.”
“I’m not sure how to take that.”
“None of us are ordinary volunteers,” simultaneously from the aging grey haired hippy, accrued pot (or beer) belly, loud red flower shirt.
Trying to politically correct my opener I add, “Last year I noticed that a few of the artists ate in the volunteer tent.” (She looks more like a performer than one of the 1,800 usual volunteers)
“Well, last year I was a performer.” She fesses … and puts in a promo for her current weekly gig at Angel’s Cappuccino. (Aha, I was right.) And then quickly I chastise myself that it’s not about being right/wrong. This woman in the black pleated mini-skirt and hat sits down directly across me, ready for conversation.
“That’s the best hat I think I’ve ever seen,” an 18 yr old starry eyed girl gushes to my new found dinner partner and receives a huge grin thanks in return. Why didn’t I think of that? While social graces are different in every setting, compliments are always acceptable.
The ancient words I’d read and adopted that morning were to give encouragement to the tired, and I realize one fatigue comes from trying to fit in with the surrounding culture, without being swallowed up whole.IMG_0259
Earlier that day the meal coordinator came to ask for extra bodies to help with food preparation, but then asked if we were vegetarian, as we would be working with meat. The other girl bowed out, but I said, “I’ve worked in operating rooms for over 30 years, I’ve handled a lot of meat.”
Faux pas number one …

Later under a perfect summer evening, Bruce Cockburn sings Lovers in a Dangerous Time, and I’m left to ponder some of the artificial social dangers created which add stress. What was Bruce thinking when he wrote those words, along with:

These fragile bodies of touch and taste
This vibrant skin — this hair like lace
Spirits open to the thrust of grace
Never a breath you can afford to waste
… …
When you’re lovers in a dangerous time
Sometimes you’re made to feel as if your love’s a crime —
But nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight —
Got to kick at the darkness ’til it bleeds daylight
When you’re lovers in a dangerous time

Cockburn’s response was:
“When I wrote that, I was thinking of kids my daughter’s age. She was quite young at the time. But, for any given individual, the world has always been a place where you could die. That’s the baseline. At times we can ignore that, more than other times. There are times when fear is in the air, and, of course, there’s always people around willing to exploit that, and enhance it, if need be.”(1)

It appears I was a volunteer in a dangerous time! But as Red Green used to say, “Keep your stick on the ice, we’re all in this together.”
I’m letting go of taking things too seriously.
And the curried beef was fantastic that evening!

(1)-from “Bruce Cockburn: Interior Motive” by Mike Boehm, Los Angeles Times, 22 November 1994. Submitted by Nigel Parry./Google search

Our Daily Becoming

The person inside struggles to get out
Eyes open … head shakes in terror … non-recognition … fear …
IMG_5790And my heart drops to my toes … this is not my friend
The next day …. I see her in those same eyes, my friend has returned
The intensity of the ICU waiting place…
The question lingers for me, Where has the she been in this time of unconsciousness? … while body fights for breath, tracheal tube blocks words from lips … but, this last evening, she responds with slight smile, the eyes are hers … lips shape words that cannot yet be voiced.
Intensive care—a reason for the name. Three other heavily monitored people share this sacred space … under heavy equipment security … machines record and alarm. The machined man diagonally across … at one point … seven staff members rush into his cubicle … curtains close to keep us out … and yet in the crack I see … syringes inject another fight for life. And the next day another body occupies the bed.
And sometimes I want to ask the nurses not just to look at the machines, but to look into my friends’s eyes … to know the person inside …. the beautiful person she is … and I cannot ask them that, as they are busy saving lives … but I myself can do that, I can look into her blue eyes and express caring.
… jazz vespers at church next to the heart hospital … as the melody begins … the minister speaks of the music’s power that transcends the cares and speaks to the soul … and it does.
And back to hospital room, back to hotel … and we discuss on patio in beautiful evening, in beautiful city, under full moon the heavies of life … over white wine … and we contemplate the recognition of who is the person … and how we have been challenged with the homeless people, the nameless faceless people, the hospital bed people, the walking on the street people… and a mouse sneaks along the edge of the patio … we are startled … no screams, but we do move back one table… and then someone else asks us “Do we have change so he can buy something at McDonald’s?” And we cannot walk by him, he has entered our space … I ask him his name, he is Keith … we ask if he has a place to stay, as my friend is looking for change … and gives him a bill … he assures us he will not buy wine … and she hands him the bill … he leaves and we look at each other and marvel at the day … so many people on this planet … our desire to be known … our desire to be cared for … our gratitude in life … being one of many walking the face of this city, this planet … from long hospital corridors, to musicians on the street, to biking the city, to our friend … the intricacies, delights and beauty of the day.
Wow, was all we could say … and God is good.

Our Daily Becoming
 
Adam Clay
Like animals moving daily
 through the same open field,
it should be easier toIMG_5734 distinguish 
light from dark, fabrications 
from memory, rain on a sliver 
of grass from dew appearing 
overnight. In these moments
of desperation, a sentence
 serves as a halo, the moon 
hidden so the stars eclipse 
our daily becoming. You think 
it should be easier to define 
one’s path, but with the clouds 
gathering around our feet,
there’s no sense in retracing 
where we’ve been or where 
your tired body will carry you.
Eventually the birds become 
confused and inevitable. Even our 
infinite knowledge of the forecast 

might make us more vulnerable
 than we would be in drawn-out
ignorance. To the sun
 all weeds eventually rise up.
 Poem from Poem-a-Day/ Poets.org by Adam Clay