What are you waiting for?

Summer is not waiting for me to catch up, I must catch her. This is the only summer of 2016, realize how precious and fleeting she is. Hold her hand, dance in her flower meadows … laugh with a child, blow bubbles, sprinkle in the water, dip your toes in and get wet. Don’t waste a single moment. When the heart is light, this advice is easy to take, when the heart is heavy, laughing and dancing seem far away.

But I have discovered that as I choose to smile, to dance to dawdle … to breathe in the mountain air,IMG_1541 something happens to me …  a revitalization, a realization that life still has much beauty to unfold. When beauty asks me to dance, I should get off the couch.

Beauty is found everywhere, it is ours for the viewing, ours for participating in. It has a way of enlarging the soul. I was talking to my 92 year old mother, who enjoys the view of two large poplar trees from her deck, that and her flower pots are what make her smile on a summer day as she sits in the sunshine. And then she will say, before you know it, the snow will be coming. Oh yes, so for this day I ask you the question Mary Oliver has in her poem …

The Summer Day

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?IMG_0375
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Mary Oliver

Breathe in the prayer of summertime and exhale joy … Happy Summer!

IMG_8990“So you must match time’s swiftness with your speed in using it, and you must drink quickly as though from a rapid stream that will not always flow.” 

Seneca, On the Shortness of Life

Kayaking photo by Catherine-thanks.

It’s The Climb


It’s about The Climb

Sunday afternoon with the promise of poutine to follow, I invited two international University of Calgary students to join me for a little walk. They come from Africa and want to experience as much of Canada as possible, on their meagre student budget. I can show them sections of the nearby Rocky Mountains. This particular hike, I did almost two years ago, and thought it to be fairly easy. Early on, the 27 year old from Malawi slightly short of breath states, we need to pace ourselves, and take time to enjoy the scenery. We come to a fork in the road.IMG_3298

They suggest the easy option, but I had read the reviews: the more difficult is the more scenic route. Since I am buying the poutine, they agree to go left. They have each had an intense year of studies, are here for the long haul, unable to return home, but thankful for technology which connects them to loved ones in Malawi and Zimbabwe. Our in-depth conversations have been labelled as DRDsDeep Reality Discourses … we talk about life, the expectations of women in their countries, to be bearing children at this stage of life and the singleness issue. We talk about cultural differences, the loss of fathers for each of them, we always venture into spirituality. I love these DRDs.

And then we spot them … the wild orchids.IMG_3352

I take many photos, another hiker passes us, and I point them out to her. She and I marvel at their intricacy. My students admire them, but do not appreciate the rarity of the sighting. The hiker informs us of an owl nesting in a rocky opening at the top of the hike. She continues her way down and we continue our climb. We dip our hands in the mountain stream, drink of its water, the younger woman expresses her desire to spend a day with her journal next to the sound of a mountain waterfall. We marvel at the aqua green colour of the lake, and search for the great grey owl that appeared to have been waiting for us.IMG_4011

After the promised poutine rated as the best west of Montreal, (La Belle Patate) we return back to our normal lives,  feeling a slight connection to Miley Cyrus in knowing that there’s always gonna be another mountain and it ain’t how fast we get there, it’s The Climb. At the end of the day, students returned, I marvel at the beauty of the day, the gift of the orchids, the owls and that I could keep pace with these two young women.  I hope to return soon.

IMG_3995“I will not die an unlived life.

I will not live in fear
of falling or catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living to open me,

to make me less afraid,
more accessible;
to loosen my heart
until it becomes a wing,
a torch, a promise.
I choose to risk my significance,
to live so that which came to me as seed
goes to the next as blossom,
and that which came to me as blossom,
goes on as fruit.”

–Dawna Markova
Dawna Markova, I Will Not Die an Unlived Life: Reclaiming Purpose and Passion

The Climb, sung by Miley Cyrus, written byJessi Alexander, Jon Mabe.

Tribute Tarries

(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.

Emily Dickinson says:
On subjects of which we know nothing, we both believe and disbelieve a hundred times an Hour, which keeps Believing nimble.


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.


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

Barefoot in Summer

“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.” ― F. Scott FitzgeraldDSCN8181

When winter hangs long in the prairies, spring blips and barefoot season is upon us. I called my usually optimistic mother, on a day of sit outside on the deck weather. She agreed, and then added, “Before you know it we’ll have snow again.” We all need a little Mennonite in us to spit rain on a bright day.
Summertime therapy for the blues … go barefoot, plant flowers, get new sandals, eat ice-cream, wade in the water, spend as much time as possible outdoors, all without apology. I want to run on greener pastures, I want to dance on higher hills … that is a line from a song I heard this past week, and it has me dancing now, as I see the hills around me turn green. There is much beauty in this world and I want to keep my eyes open … After all as my mother says–Snow is around the corner.
Thinking of barefoot I dug out this poem from a year ago:

Cement Blocks Continue reading

I’ve got Flowers in Low Places

IMG_4546Character is not only doing the right thing when no one is looking, it’s doing the right thing when everyone is looking. It’s being willing to do the right thing even when it costs more than you want to pay.
Michael Josephson
After three days of early May snow, we craved the taste of spring and went in search of the unrivalled spring queen flower—the crocus. We almost trampled onIMG_4470 the tiny white dots on the ground …. and as we looked more closely we noticed the white polka dots on the ground that normally we would have walked upon …. as well as fluorescent green circles of softness. New life, new growth, the beauty of nature.
IMG_3572I continue to be amazed at the abundance of beauty in unadvertised spots. Flowers that arrive before the grass turns green, flowers that arise when the flood waters recede, flowers that bloom in the desert, flowers found in remote mountain spots … smiley faces that welcome and cheer us on. Encouragement for living off the beaten track. Although I love nothing better than to explore carefully designed and well maintained formal gardens there is something exquisite in the unkempt beauty of wild flowers.
I was reminded of the lines I had recently read from the book Hinds Feet on High Places, an allegorical story by Hannah Hurnard—

All the fairest beauties in the human soul, its greatest victories and its most splendid achievements are always those which no one else knows anything about or can only dimly guess at. Every inner response of the human heart to Love and every conquest over self-love is a new flower on the tree of Love.


You win some, You lose some

Lost $20 today … the complaint of the new Canadian money is its slipperiness.IMG_4194 I went walking along the river, scrambled down the ice bank with camera to get a better picture, as recently arrived Canada Geese honked my intrusion. The plan was to pick up a few groceries on the way home, so I had slipped $20 into my back R hand blue jeans pocket. When I reached for it in the store, it had disappeared. But, we did have the return of limes today only—77cents apiece.
Recently my almost 5 yr old lightly freckled grandson lost his second pair of croc-wannabes, in as many months. As the not-quite-24-hrs-old shoe of the replacement pair, dropped from his foot off the ferry, into the swirling waters, his mother wanted to tell the distraught little boy to throw in the second one as well, at least someone might have the chance of a pair. His tears kept her from saying it.
An article in the UK daily news reported the amount of time spent looking for various items. I feel better and worse when I read the stats, better because I’m not alone, worse, cuz I could be doing something else with that time.
Top seven items lost—in order:
1. Mobile / smartphoneIMG_9728
2. House keys
3. Car Keys
4. Paperwork
5. Sunglasses / spectacles
6. Purse / wallet
7. Lip balm

That looks like my list … but I also tend to lose my perspective on the importance of the lost item, especially in the immediate moment. On average we spend seven to ten minutes a day looking for lost items. I’m not the only one to use my landline to locate my cell phone—regularly.
“Spending so much time hunting for lost items is a shame since the same research shows that we only laugh for around 6 minutes a day, visit other people for 21 minutes, make love only for 2 minutes and 42 seconds a day and spend only 2 weeks of our lives kissing another person.”**
Hmmm, I might have some catch-up to do.

What I also believe is that while we all lose things,
we also become what we search for.

When you search for truth, you become more truthful.
When you search for excellence, you become more excellent.
When you search for love, you become more loving.
When you search for compassion, you become more compassionate.
Searching for meaning, life becomes more meaningful.
Searching for kindness, grace, joy and peace, brings it about.
And as we search for beauty….we become more beautiful, and so does our life.

And Easter is coming soon, I can hardly wait to search for my chocolate, I’ve hidden it already!
**Read more about lost items at: (a car was listed as #19, ahead of the e-reader at #20.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2117987/Lost-today-Misplaced-items-cost-minutes-day.html#ixzz2y6qniYy9

Sometimes you don’t need a church

IMG_4527“So what has kept you coming back to this church? My reply simply “The teaching.” With slightly less charm than the Walmart greeter, this man in a suit tried to plug me into one of the programs, or small groups, while my mind was looking for the escape; he was cutting into my walk by the river time.
This morning I read: (link below) –Spirituality doesn’t need a church, sometimes a little run outside is all you need.
DSC_0137While I have been fortunate to visit some of the great churches in the world, DSC_0227 many times my soul has been most nourished in nature. To see a flower bloom in a remote spot, frost on a desert dune, the magnitude of the mountains, the gentle grandeur of a pine forest, sunset over the water; the calling of nature is within grasp of the human being, and it speaks volumes of serenity and calmness when life gets rushed or burdened. IMG_5314

“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. As long as this exists, and it certainly always will, I know that then there will always be comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be. And I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.”
― Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl

This is the link I followed today for the initial inspiration for this posthttp://spiritbath.com/2014/02/13/spirituality-doesnt-need-a-church-sometimes-a-little-run-outside-is-all-you-need/

Water brings life

How can anything grow here?IMG_8754
A knock at the back door, I answer and tried to explain that my daughter was not here. By her motions, I knew the neighbour wanted me to follow her … so I did. We passed through her tiny four room house to the little courtyard in the back and with a great big smile she pointed to the watered ground. There along the white plastered wall a solitary large turnip erupted from the sand. She was ecstatic with it. When my daughter returned a short while later, we were both summoned and then shown the rest of the garden. A few onion greens and leafy parsley poked through the carefully marked off circles. Now I have been privileged to garden in “the bread basket of the world” and would feel underwhelmed with this as my season’s crop. She was delighted. We were invited to coffee.
IMG_0983I recalled the change in the harsh desert climate as I had travelled the sandy road to reach the oasis, and the sudden contrast of a mini palm forest that seemingly emerged out of nowhere, testimony to the incredible power that water makes.

IMG_9270A cup of water or coffee mixed with kind words, are like a gentle rain to the parched soul. My daughter translated for Nahjwet, “You need to learn Arabic, I have so much of my heart I want to share.” Coffee, smiles and a turnip equal a desert oasis for the soul.

Decemberings-Bah, Humbug

DSC_0067I woke early, disturbed by churning thoughts around getting ready  for Christmas. In light of past rushed Decembers (when I organized concerts and had many more child and work related events) preparations are minimal this year, so initially I wondered—why the angst? The present angst distracts me from the true meaning of Christmas, and affects how I focus on what is most important, even on my to-do list.

This morning my response was to listen to Steve Bell’s “Ready My Heart” song.                                                                                 (CD Christmas Feast, lyrics credited to Lois Shuford)

 Ready my heart for the birth of Immanuel
Ready my soul for the Prince of Peace
Heap the straw of my life
For His body to lie on
Light the candle of hope

Let the child come in 2012-12-05 17.27

HOPE is the largest gift of Christmas and it is a gift meant for all.

As I look outside I see the winter’s beauty, but also recognize the icy shroud that surrounds many people’s hearts, especially those that have been snowed under by grief. The power of hope shall not be kept in fancy wrappings. It can be most present in the midst of angst, grief, and disappointment.

                          IMG_2439The Beauty of a frozen waterfall, the tragedy of an icy heart.

Light the Candle of Hope

He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree.

Roy L. Smith