Saturday, 6 January 2018

Starting the Year off with a Bang - Some thoughts on climate change and bomb cyclones

The last couple of weeks have been bitterly cold, but yesterday we hit new records. It was -37 where I live, the coldest it has been since the 1950s. Eastern Canada and the U.S. are getting pummelled by a winter storm that has torn off roofs, knocked out power, and caused storm surge that has flooded towns. It's called a bomb cyclone, which is a good description for it. The dogs haven't had a good walk in two weeks -- whenever I try to take them out, they go ten feet, start balancing on two paws, and give me aggrieved looks until I pick them up and cart them back inside. I'm reduced to playing ball in the front hall with Brio.

I've been noticing changes in the summer weather for a while now -- we can grow kiwi here now, and kudzu is starting to invade, and opossums have crept up from the south. We get more intense rainstorms and heat waves, and last year I hardly had to water the garden at all. But now there are differences in the winter weather too. It used to be that we'd herald the appearance of the first robin as a sign of spring coming, and it was always around March 1st. But now the robins don't even leave in the winter; they stay here. We usually only get snow worth shoveling two or three times. The zipper broke on my only winter coat about four years ago and I haven't bothered to replace it because we really didn't need coats all that much.

However, this year we've gotten a lot of snow, and now this deep freeze that gives you an ice cream headache and makes your eyes prickle as they try to freeze over. They say that extreme cold is also a sign of global warming -- someone needs to tighten up the terminology, there -- but whatever you call it, the semantics are the same and it's still tough to live with. I keep a big basket at work just to hold all my cast-offs when I arrive -- longjohns, extra socks, hoodie, coat, two pair of gloves, two scarves. Everyone waddles around looking like overstuffed penguins, with only their eyes showing. You know, there's a new bill in Quebec about Muslim women who wear the niqab having to show their faces to get government services, but personally I think the niqab makes a lot of sense right now! We all look the same, whether it's religious wear or winter wear. Do I have to unwind my two scarves and show my face if I go to Quebec? Would a man?

Anyway, I can't complain about the extreme weather, because it didn't even hit us until late December, whereas often we have snow by Halloween. It was a wonderful, long, warm autumn, and now spring can only be a few months down the road. Even in this deep freeze -- or more likely, because of it -- the sky is a beautiful blue and the sun is bright. I need to install a small greenhouse or sunroom so I can soak up the rays without getting frostbite.

And hey, it's almost time to start getting the seed catalogues out.

Sunday, 31 December 2017

End of Year and a Frank Look at Resolutions

Each new year's eve I try to write a little summary of how the last 12 months have gone and set some goals for the next year. I've had years focused on health, or getting out of debt, or pursuing creative passions. I've focused on things I felt needed improving. But I feel a little different this year, more contemplative and less ambitious. I think this year I'd rather just focus on the blessings I've received, the things in my life I value, and the gratitude I feel. I don't especially feel the need to improve, set goals, and strive toward new year's resolutions. I think...maybe...what I'm feeling is contentment. I guess gratitude leads you to that.

I've been blessed this year to survive financially in spite of my husband yet again losing his job, and I've been blessed to feel totally supportive of his not going back to work fulltime this time. I want to see him relax and enjoy a well-deserved rest. I think I've finally figured out what he figured out many years ago -- that my sense of fulfillment is tied to seeing others be fulfilled. And if I can see him develop his piping program or pursue his hobbies and develop his interests, I will find that personally fulfilling. I am overwhelmed with love when I think of his years of dedication, support, sacrifice, and hard work, and I want to make this next year smoother for him.

I've been blessed with loving children who are more or less independent and making their way in the world. I've seen them pursue interests and develop themselves and reach out feelers into their lives, and it's exciting to see. I've been blessed with huggable, squeezable, darling grandchildren who lift my heart with their smiles.

I've been blessed with the animals in my life, their devotion and unconditional love and loyalty. Nothing makes me happier than seeing Brio running full tilt toward me with ears flapping and a grin on his face, as if I'm the best person on the planet, and his joy gravitates around me.

I've been blessed to have had situations over the past year that have encouraged me to learn and grow and stretch. I've taken on teaching a class of teenagers and -- despite trepidation -- grown to genuinely love and care about them. Such a neat group of people! I've taken up weaving and needlepoint and found creative outlets that give me joy. I've got scope for the imagination. And I've learned that my writing, while enjoyable, is not my identity or even (dare I say it) my passion. It's a good thing to learn, because then I can allocate the time it deserves but not obsess about it. I've learned it's okay for me and my interests to change with time.

I've been blessed with the spirit and a deeper conviction of how Christ's atonement applies to me and my life. As I've taught these young people, the principles I'm teaching them have entered more deeply into my own heart. I think it was Seneca who said you learn by teaching, and that's so true. I'm grateful for what teaching has brought me.

I've been blessed to deepen friendships with two people at church whom I didn't know very well before, but who have turned out to be delightful, fun, and generous friends. I'm grateful to still have my job in a time when many have lost theirs, and even though it isn't a joyful thing for me, at least I can tolerate it and it puts food on the table, so I'm glad for that. I've tried to rethink how I perceive my job. Instead of just thinking of it as sitting in a cubicle wiggling my fingers over a keyboard and pushing paper around, I've tried to see how it is actually an act of service for the ten people I support -- people I genuinely like -- and seeing it that way makes it more bearable.

I'm grateful to live in a place that allows me to pursue my religion and education and personal goals, that supports me with the basic necessities of life, and promotes equality and compassion. I live in a generally compassionate society. And it's got the added plus that it's beautiful here, a landscape that sings to me. I'm grateful this country let me in and that I feel at home here. I'm grateful God created such a lovely planet and lets us participate in part of that creation. I'm grateful for the knowledge of how to grow food and the gift of a bit of land to do it on.

I hope to carry this gratitude and awareness of my blessings into 2018 and look forward to the treasures this new year will bring. And I wish my readers (all two of you) blessings in 2018 too.

Friday, 29 December 2017

Almost Lost my Mind

Went on a short trip for a few days near Lake Huron and was sorely tempted to buy a bed-and-breakfast for sale... Beautiful area. Here are a few shots from the trip. This is the B&B...

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Away for a while

I'm going on a brief get-away for a few days with no internet access. Just hubby, dogs, needlepoint, and a bit of writing to do. So you won't hear from me until Saturday. Best wishes, everyone, and stay warm!  Kristen

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Posted in 2012, revisited in 2017

December 23 or Why Christmas Adam Comes Before Christmas Eve

Goodness knows the Bible women
get the limelight at Christmas time.
Elizabeth and Mary,
and even the innkeeper's wife...
"All is bright 'round yon virgin,"
"Mary pondered it in her heart..."

But Joseph's in the back of the scene,
anonymous figure with a staff
standing behind the donkey.
We don't acknowledge enough
the sacrifices he made,
the doubtful heart he stilled,
the tender courage he displayed.

The best crèche I ever witnessed,
Mary was sacked out cold
on the hay - exhausted new mother -
and Joseph was cradling the child.

We don't think about the years
that followed that Christmas night --
the arduous escape to Egypt,
life-saving visions in the night,
leading his family to the temple,
Joseph working the wood in his hands
while the young Jesus watched and learned.

There couldn't have been a Saviour
wrapped in swaddling clothes,
lifted upon the cross,
risen from the tomb,
without a Father first.

- Kristen

Friday, 22 December 2017

White Christmas and Band-Aids

This year it will be a white Christmas. After an unseasonably warm and green autumn, the white stuff started last night, and now it's being followed by a frosting of freezing rain. I am snug at home today, off work for the holidays, and have cozy plans for music, needlepoint, and some general housecleaning. And shovelling.

All of this will be hindered, however, by a slight injury I got yesterday. I always keep Brio on the extendable leash when I let him out at 4 a.m., because if he's free to run off-leash in the backyard, he always barks, and I didn't want the neighbours getting an earful at that hour. But yesterday when I was bringing him back in, some furry gray critter (rabbit? cat?) dashed across the patio, and Brio of course bounded after him with a growl. And like an idiot, instead of using the button on the leash to stop the line from going out, I grabbed the cord with my free hand. And it kept zipping out at high speed and gave me a wonderful "rope burn" around my ring finger. Wow, did that hurt! I hurried into the house to turn on the light and inspect the wound, expecting to see bone and blood. Instead, it was a neat furrow ploughed across the joint of the finger, and there wasn't any blood because the zipping cord sort of cauterized it. I nearly passed out from pain and sheer squeamishness, though. Four Band-Aids later, I'm okay, but my sticking-out ring finger keeps hitting the Caps Lock key as I type. And I'm wondering how I'm going to shovel snow with one hand. You don't realize how much you use a particular bit of your body until you injure it.

The critter got away, by the way, whatever it was.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

The End of an Era

Thirty-five years ago, I began playing the bagpipes. It wasn't the easiest challenge I've ever undertaken, but it was enjoyable and brought me a lot of adventure, happiness, and friendship over the years. I worked hard to get them. I've played our clan tune on the hillside overlooking my ancestral home in Scotland. I've played in a Welsh pub. I was the first female piper in the history of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders regiment. I've trudged around Highland Games hauling twenty pounds of kilt and equipment for the last thirty-five summers. I've learned from Ian MacDonald and Michael Grey and Bob Worrall, legends in the piping world. I've played with the Toronto Police and, more recently, St. Andrews Pipes and Drums. But the most important thing bagpipes have done for me is to lead me to my husband, at band practice, thirty-one years ago. (I confess I also like watching the reactions when I tell people I play this unique instrument. Everything from fascination to horror.)

I am no longer able to play because of health issues and busy-ness and - let's face it - general exhaustion, and I quit the band a couple of years ago. And this week, as a final admission that I'll not be taking it up again, I sold my pipes to another female student in the band. They're good for her, the right size and weight, and I hope she gets many years of joy out of them. It feels weird letting them go, but also right. A new generation of players is moving up the ranks, and that's how it should be. And I admit a small part of me is gleeful that I no longer have to struggle with 8 yards of wool in a Port-a-Potty at the Games.