Thursday, August 25, 2016

Simple Suggestion #255... Give back to the Earth

Our planet provides us with everything we need to live... but how often do we think about helping it out? We have the ability to return the favour, maybe not on a grand scale, but there are definitely things we can do...

Last week I spent several hours at my composter, good tunes playing through my headphones as I turned over unfinished compost and sifted out a full cubic metre of gorgeous black humus. It will be turned back into our garden this autumn to replenish the soil's nutrients for next year's plants. It's not that difficult, really -- and it's the least I can do to replenish the fine layer of soil that supports life on our planet, if only in my own back yard.

Composting requires a bit of space, plant-based kitchen and garden scraps for a nitrogen source, brown materials like leaves or wood chips to provide carbon, and air and water. Basically, I throw down a half bag of leaves, spread a bucket of kitchen/garden scraps on top, and cover with more leaves, repeating the cycle until a fair pile accumulates. I try to "stir" or "fluff" the pile every two weeks or so to give it enough air so that anaerobic bacteria can't make it too smelly, and keep it damp enough that everything will rot. I'm helping the earth by reusing the nutrients in plant leftovers to enrich the soil, and turning 55 bags of last fall's leaves into soil amendment right here instead of having it trucked away. Here's my stack of last year's garbage bags... with fall garden cleanup beginning, they'll soon be piled with organic garden waste in the other two bins of my three-bin composter, and I'll have more compost in the spring!


I realize that many people don't have the ability to make compost because of their living situations, but really, we give back to the Earth every time we make an effort to reduce our impact on its ecosystems. Edmonton's recycling and composting facilities ensure that the waste of those who can't compost at home goes to a process to either recycle glass, plastics, cardboard and metal from our blue bags, or to turn any compostable items that end up in the trash can into compost that is used by the City or sold to gardeners. So everyone is actually giving something back to our planet every time the City uses compost in our parks and gardens, or around road construction areas and boulevards.

Some other simple things we can do to help the Earth rejuvenate its life systems include grasscycling -- leaving our clippings on the lawn when we mow (the nitrogen from the clippings feeds and protects the roots of the grass), leaving our autumn cleanup until spring (so trees and plants can drop green nutrients into the soil), and avoiding the use of fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides so that toxic chemicals and salts aren't being absorbed into our food chain.

Everything we do to contribute to the organic health and wealth of our planet's soil is something we ultimately do for ourselves. So giving back to the earth only makes sense. Especially when I eat an heirloom tomato and cucumber sandwich!

P.S. Looking for more Simple Suggestions? Click here.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Rediscovering the Balloon Guy

I first met Glen when our kids were in kindergarten together. His sister, Judith, became a good friend of mine (her son was also in the same class), and we all ended up at different gatherings together, where I learned that Glen had a particular talent with balloons. He was the guy our kids crowded to see because he could make all sorts of interesting animals, hats, and weapons (I remember that bows and arrows were quite popular) with long stringy latex tubes.

My kids switched into French Immersion a few years later, and we didn't see Glen as often, so I lost track of his balloon business. I can't remember the last time we saw him, so I was delighted when his sister forwarded the link below. He's a personable guy, lots of fun, and I can't get over some of his creations. See for yourself!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

A parent's prayer

Parenting is hard. Don't get me wrong -- I love it -- but sometimes the challenges are overwhelming. I really loved it when my kids were little and followed my lead... but now they are young adults who think for themselves (which is generally a good thing) and we've reached the age and stage where what Mom has to say is often taken with a grain of salt. And Mom herself finds that she rarely knows what to say, or says things she wishes she had said differently...

That's why I have decided to rely on a simple prayer that came to me this week. Things have been going a bit smoother since I've been asking for help every day with these words:

Come, Holy Spirit,
be with me today.
Help me to say
what you want me to say.
Help me to do
what you need me to do.
Let me rest in your love
and let others rest, too.

+Amen.

It really has helped me to feel better about my parenting, this business of calling on the Holy Spirit to help out daily...

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Time disappears...

...when I'm in my garden. I step out the door and lose three hours. There's just so much happening these days!


Pumpkins plumping up...


too many scarlet runner beans to keep up with...


Brussels sprouts sprouting
(my experimental crop this year)...


the return of the 2000-year-old squash...


more kohlrabi than I know how to handle...


our first cabbage patch...


and winter tomato plants coming along
(saved them from my compost pile a few weeks ago).
In the front yard...


gorgeous little monks in their hoods...


the last of the day lilies...


plenty of zinnias...


stuff to cure the common cold (echinacea)...


and a hummingbird's-eye-view of honeysuckle vine
(we have a little green male and his mate
who seem to be visiting regularly this summer).

There's lots more going on -- of the picking, cutting, and blanching variety.
If you feel like coming to help, I promise you can take some home with you. 
But if you're not interested in free organic produce, there's always


Sunday, August 14, 2016

Dimitri's parting gift

In case you're wondering where I've been (if you've even noticed that I hardly moodled at all last week), let me just say that I was busy preparing to receive some very special visitors and didn't get to my computer.

Our friend Dimitri, who died suddenly in June, was supposed to come and visit along with his friend Xavier from August 11-14. The two didn't have any trip cancellation insurance, so after Dimi's funeral it was decided that Xavier would still come, with his wife, Ilse, in Dimitri's place. When we heard that they would be coming, we sent word that we would very much like to host them in Edmonton.

So this past week I worked hard to get ahead of the garden produce for a few days, mowed the lawn, and did laundry two days earlier than usual so that everything would be ready when our company arrived on Thursday afternoon. Lee left work early on Thursday and took Friday off as well, and we looked forward to our visitors' arrival, though we knew next to nothing about who they were. Because our friend Dimi was a 34-year-old para-commando, I expected we would be visited by one of his young army friends with a young wife.

So I was a bit surprised when a couple close to my own age pulled up in their rental car, and it took only a few seconds to realize that they were my kind of people. After Belgian kisses (three on opposite cheeks) were exchanged all around, I asked Xavier how to pronounce his name. "How do you pronounce it?" he asked. "Any way you want to say it is fine." When I insisted on hearing the proper pronunciation, he said, "It's Xavier (Ksaav-yay), pronounced the French way, or Richard, or whatever you like."

What unfolded from that point on was a lovely weekend with a wonderful couple -- both of whom were warm and friendly, with an excellent sense of fun and a marvelous command of English. Xavier is a retired barber of a philosophical bent who is now Mr. Fix-it for a senior's facility and acts in his local theatre company, and Ilse is a physiotherapist who provides fitted wheelchairs for the disabled, loves cycling and being with people. We had so many wonderful conversations. They were very interested in outdoor pursuits, and the weather was perfect while they were here, offering us a lot of time outside.

Thursday evening we introduced them to the Miracle Treat Blizzard fundraiser at Dairy Queen and did a wee bit of sightseeing, watching some Pokemon Go insanity at the Legislature grounds. On Friday we spent an hour in the bison paddock at Elk Island National Park just watching a herd grazing. Then we went canoeing for two hours on Astotin Lake, and had a leisurely lunch on a hillside with a gorgeous lake view. Friday evening we visited the Fringe Festival in Old Strathcona, taking in some street performers, and ended the evening at the High Level Diner for coffee, beer and dessert. On Saturday, we took a 30 km bike ride through the river valley (I never would have made it up the Keillor Road hill without Xavier's help!!) and we all went out for dinner with our kids. And this morning Julia made them two kinds of berry pancakes before they caught a plane to visit friends in Ontario.

It is only now that they are gone that I realize how much their visit meant to me. Dimitri's death was a shock, something completely unforeseeable and heart-breaking. He should have been here touring the Rocky Mountains, canoeing, and drinking Canadian beer with his friend and mentor, Xavier, who is still very much feeling the loss. We were so far removed from the tragedy of Dimi's death because of distance, but Xavier and Ilse's presence made it accessible and real for me, and assured me that life continues for my friends in Belgium, albeit without a beloved friend, son and grandson. After Ilse and Xavier left this morning, tears of sadness -- and gratitude -- flowed.

Dimi, your death is a hard thing to understand -- you had so much to live for. But somehow, I think you know how grateful I am to know your friends Ilse and Xavier, and I thank you for providing the impetus that sent them our way. Your friendship was an unexpected gift in my life, and your parting gift of these two warm and funny friends is also unexpected and much appreciated. You loved them, and now I love them too.

Dankuwel, my friend, and rest in peace.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Laudato Si: Sunday Reflection #50... The Grand Finale, period

I'm feeling a little emotional, believe it or not. It's been just over a year since we began to read Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home together, and it's been an interesting journey -- I know I learned a lot, especially from the footnotes of the document, which you can access by clicking here and scrolling down. The endnotes contain a lot of references to other important documents, many of which I hadn't heard of before reading Laudato Si. So if you are looking for more material about helping our sister, Mother Earth, to regain her equilibrium, I'd encourage you to check them out at your leisure.

With this last reflection, our year of study is over, can you believe it? And with garden harvest imminent, it's time to put my dog-eared, water-stained, highly-highlighted copy away (though I'll refer back to it often, no doubt).

I hope you've enjoyed the journey as much as I have. The first time I read Pope Francis's letter from start to finish, I did it in a hurry, without too much thought about how it actually applied to my life. Writing these reflections forced me to slow down and consider the ways to apply Laudato Si's teachings every day, and gave me an appreciation for what weekly columnists go through! Sometimes it was a struggle to figure out how the Pope's words in particular sections translated into action, but there was always something.

Pope Francis and his writing team make it clear that human beings need to change our outlook on life from that of a self-centred, narcissistic, materialistic, and resource-gobbling society to one that is a generous, interdependent community of people who live simply so that creation can simply live. And for a Grand Finale to be really GRAND, we need to remember what we have learned in the past year and continue to apply it. The titles of Laudato Si's chapters (which it seems I somehow mostly managed to ignore) lay it all out:

Chapter One -- What is Happening to Our Common Home -- points out how very bad things have become for our planet and many of its inhabitants.
Chapter Two -- The Gospel [Good News] of Creation -- reminds us that all that surrounds us is God's gift, not just resources for our use.
Chapter Three -- The Human Roots of the Ecological Crisis -- underlines human misunderstandings that have contributed to ecological and social dis-ease in our world.
Chapter Four -- Integral Ecology -- encourages us to see ourselves as one small part of the Big Picture rather than the pinnacle of creation, and to take our proper place in God's plan for the earth.
Chapter Five -- Lines of Approach and Action -- offers concrete things we can do to support the common good and to return our planet to better health.
And Chapter Six -- Ecological Education and Spirituality -- calls us to connect our belief in God present in all creation to the lifestyle changes we must make for the sake of our sister, Mother Earth, and all her inhabitants.

As promised last week, here's part 2 of my summary of what we can do to improve life for all creatures on our planet, some directly from and some inspired by our readings:
  • Support small, local businesses. Buy at farmer's markets when possible. If it's necessary to shop at big chain stores, opt for human cashiers instead of automated check outs.
  • Have an attitude of gratitude for the labour saving devices provided by technological advances.
  • Make choices in life with integral ecology in mind: What will this decision cost the planet? Who will be affected? Are fossil fuel emissions involved? Is this sound ecological practice?
  • Help struggling peoples in our world by supporting organisations that work WITH communities at the grass roots to create their own solutions.
  • Focus on the fact that God loves every person on the planet as much as She and He loves you and me.
  • Be welcoming and hospitable to people of every "stripe."
  • Make "fostering the common good" our superpower.
  • Decrease the size of our ecological footprints.
  • Take some simple steps to reduce personal greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Appreciate organisations that works for a planet-saving cause by contributing to their efforts financially or actively and/or offering moral support.
  • Ask those with power to make positive environmental and social change to do so by phone, letter, email, or in-person conversation.
  • Question everything, asking: How does this contribute to an integral ecology? See where improvements can be made and work to bring them about. Take one small step to push change.
  • Sacrifice. Live with less.
  • Reimagine the world with sufficiency as goal. Educate our leaders toward that goal.
  • Participate in ecological/scientific discussions as people who bring a faith perspective.
  • Overcome individualism by broadening personal and local community and bring someone along with you to deepen their awareness. Groups can accomplish more than individuals in most cases.
  • Support ecological causes that focus on fixing ecological problems.
  • Say grace before and after meals. Don't miss an opportunity to give gratitude to God.
  • Do random acts of kindness for the earth and each other.
  • Appreciate and participate in weekly rest as an opportunity to relax and contemplate the Big Picture.
  • Remember that the world is in God's hands and frequently ask for God's help to meet the challenges our planet faces.
  • Remember that "everything will be okay in the end," one way or another, and sing as we go.
I've decided that I'll compile all these ideas into a little "Laudato Si Says" standard-sized paper poster, and if you would like a copy of it emailed to you (as a pdf file) you can email me (my e-address is under The Moodler profile on the sidebar). Anyone who asks will receive a copy to print up and post on the fridge, or at the office. Why not pique the curiosity of others who may never read Laudato Si?

There's no way to do justice to all of the thoughts in the Pope's letter to the world. All I've managed to do is share what struck my small intelligence and pull together some of the inspirations it brought me -- ideas about things we can all do to improve the health of our sister, Mother Earth, who supports all life as we know it (and probably life we can't even imagine). The true Grand Finale is how we do what is necessary to reduce the effects of climate change, fix other environmental and social problems caused by our human lifestyles, create more just and equitable societies, and treat everything with the love our Creator has for every single part of creation.

Over the past year, I have really come to love the prayer which concluded most of these reflections, so today let's pray it together one more time, in heartfelt supplication:

A prayer for our earth

All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe
and in the smallest of your creatures.
You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.
Pour out upon us the power of your love,
that we may protect life and beauty.
Fill us with peace, that we may live
as brothers and sisters, harming no one.
O God of the poor,
help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth,
so precious in your eyes.
Bring healing to our lives,
that we may protect the world and not prey on it,
that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.
Touch the hearts
of those who look only for gain
at the expense of the poor and the earth.
Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,
to be filled with awe and contemplation,
to recognize that we are profoundly united
with every creature
as we journey towards your infinite light.
We thank you for being with us each day.
Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle
for justice, love and peace.

+AMEN.

(A prayer for our earth and all quotations from Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home © Libreria Editrice Vaticana)

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

English is weirdly wired

My cousin, Dallas, posted this picture and reminded me of something long forgotten...

When I was in high school, my English teacher, Ms. D. (the only Ms. in my life back then -- everyone else was Mrs. or Miss in those days -- she was ahead of her time) passed out the following poem by someone named Charivarius. I have been keeping a lookout for it for years, and finally found it today (amazing what you can find with a good search engine). It's written by a Dutch man named Gerald Nolst Trenité, and I have to hand it to him -- he certainly had a mind for our language's oddities -- or maybe he just kept a list for years and years and finally compiled it into what's below. Anyway, for your enjoyment or exasperation, I give you The Chaos. Keep in mind that each two lines rhyme, more or less.


Dearest creature in creation,
Study English pronunciation.
  I will teach you in my verse
  Sounds like corpse, corps, horse, and worse.
I will keep you, Suzy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy.
  Tear in eye, your dress will tear.
  So shall I! Oh hear my prayer.
Just compare heart, beard, and heard,
Dies and diet, lord and word,
  Sword and sward, retain and Britain.
  (Mind the latter, how it’s written.)
Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as plaque and ague.
  But be careful how you speak:
  Say break and steak, but bleak and streak;
Cloven, oven, how and low,
Script, receipt, show, poem, and toe.
  Hear me say, devoid of trickery,
  Daughter, laughter, and Terpsichore,
Typhoid, measles, topsails, aisles,
Exiles, similes, and reviles;
  Scholar, vicar, and cigar,
  Solar, mica, war and far;
One, anemone, Balmoral,
Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel;
  Gertrude, German, wind and mind,
  Scene, Melpomene, mankind.
Billet does not rhyme with ballet,
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet.
  Blood and flood are not like food,
  Nor is mould like should and would.
Viscous, viscount, load and broad,
Toward, to forward, to reward.
  And your pronunciation’s OK
  When you correctly say croquet,
Rounded, wounded, grieve and sieve,
Friend and fiend, alive and live.
  Ivy, privy, famous; clamour
  And enamour rhyme with hammer.
River, rival, tomb, bomb, comb,
Doll and roll and some and home.
  Stranger does not rhyme with anger,
  Neither does devour with clangour.
Souls but foul, haunt but aunt,
Font, front, wont, want, grand, and grant,
  Shoes, goes, does. Now first say finger,
  And then singer, ginger, linger,
Real, zeal, mauve, gauze, gouge and gauge,
Marriage, foliage, mirage, and age.
  Query does not rhyme with very,
  Nor does fury sound like bury.
Dost, lost, post and doth, cloth, loth.
Job, nob, bosom, transom, oath.
  Though the differences seem little,
  We say actual but victual.
Refer does not rhyme with deafer.
Feoffer does, and zephyr, heifer.
  Mint, pint, senate and sedate;
  Dull, bull, and George ate late.
Scenic, Arabic, Pacific,
Science, conscience, scientific.
  Liberty, library, heave and heaven,
  Rachel, ache, moustache, eleven.
We say hallowed, but allowed,
People, leopard, towed, but vowed.
  Mark the differences, moreover,
  Between mover, cover, clover;
Leeches, breeches, wise, precise,
Chalice, but police and lice;
  Camel, constable, unstable,
  Principle, disciple, label.
Petal, panel, and canal,
Wait, surprise, plait, promise, pal.
  Worm and storm, chaise, chaos, chair,
  Senator, spectator, mayor.
Tour, but our and succour, four.
Gas, alas, and Arkansas.
  Sea, idea, Korea, area,
  Psalm, Maria, but malaria.
Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean.
Doctrine, turpentine, marine.
  Compare alien with Italian,
  Dandelion and battalion.
Sally with ally, yea, ye,
Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, and key.
  Say aver, but ever, fever,
  Neither, leisure, skein, deceiver.
Heron, granary, canary.
Crevice and device and aerie.
  Face, but preface, not efface.
  Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.
Large, but target, gin, give, verging,
Ought, out, joust and scour, scourging.
  Ear, but earn and wear and tear
  Do not rhyme with here but ere.
Seven is right, but so is even,
Hyphen, roughen, nephew Stephen,
  Monkey, donkey, Turk and jerk,
  Ask, grasp, wasp, and cork and work.
Pronunciation (think of Psyche!)
Is a paling stout and spikey?
  Won’t it make you lose your wits,
  Writing groats and saying grits?
It’s a dark abyss or tunnel:
Strewn with stones, stowed, solace, gunwale,
  Islington and Isle of Wight,
  Housewife, verdict and indict.
Finally, which rhymes with enough,
Though, through, plough, or dough, or cough?
  Hiccough has the sound of cup.
  My advice is to give up!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Laudato Si: Sunday Reflection #49... Grand Finale, part 1 of 2

Gold Stream Falls, one of my favourite natural places
on our common home
We've reached the end of Pope Francis' letter to the world, Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home. As you know, I think it's a hugely important document -- in the year since it was published, it's been feeling like the world is really starting to pay attention to the problems human beings have created for our planet and its inhabitants. I was hoping that Christianity as a whole would grab onto it and start talking about it every Sunday, but that hasn't come to pass, at least not that I know of. I haven't even heard a homily about it in my own church, and so far, all that's been underlined in our parish bulletin is the idea that we should remember to pray before and after meals. That's a good idea, yes, but...

There's so much more to Laudato Si, and so many possible lessons and practices we can take from what it says. It reminds us that we are just one small but powerful part of creation, and that we can do much better when it comes to protecting our environment and caring for the marginalized. It notes the many challenges our earth is facing and calls us to work together toward potential solutions.  It challenges us to reconsider the consumptive lifestyles we are living in favour of a deeper, more satisfying simplicity. Everything (in creation, including us) is connected, everything is related, everything is interrelated/interconnected is its oft repeated refrain that needs to be considered with every choice we make, every day of our lives.

For my own summary, I choose to underline some of the ideas for helping our sister, Mother Earth, which came to me from out of our weekly readings of the encyclical:
  • Pray "for our good and the good of all creation" every Sunday Mass during the Preparation of the Gifts.
  • Consider how we are using (or abusing) the soil, water, air, natural resources and lives of other creatures with whom we share our planet.
  • Ask: "what is one small thing I can do to make a positive difference for the earth's inhabitants today?"
  • Undertake a personal garbage audit and determine how to waste less.
  • Use less energy through alternate forms of transportation (walk, bike, take transit, carpool, buy local foods).
  • Appreciate water and consider how we can protect and conserve it. Carry refillable drinking bottles.
  • Spend some time outdoors, appreciating the natural life where we live.
  • Ask: Is this really the quality of life we want? How do we want our society to be? What must we change? How do we go about changing it?
  • Drop the complacency of indifference and choose to care about all our human and non-human brothers and sisters with us in the web of creation. Support a just cause, or more than one.
  • Consider all that we take for granted, and appreciate it more. Share it more.
  • Practice gratitude by using things wisely.
  • Ask: where is there a "disordered use of things" in my life? How can I change my life to improve care for all God's creatures?
  • Be a sign, a role model, an example of doing the just thing -- no matter who is watching (and even if no one is).
  • Let local, national and world leaders know that we want positive, just changes for the sake of our planet's future generations. Speak out for our environment and all its inhabitants. Become an activist in some small (or larger) way.
  • Note the places where God's action and goodness are present in creation and in life.
  • Give some thought to the needs of creation in its entirety, and remember that our planet's life isn't just about human beings.
  • Own less. Travel less. Eat simply. Share. Live in sufficiency, not excess. Appreciate everything.
  • Consider: How would Jesus live in our present era -- and change our lives to match his.
  • Practice spirituality (connecting with God) and self-restraint.
  • Ask: Is technology serving its rightful purpose in our lives, or distracting us from what's really important?
  • Slow down to appropriate technology's "positive and sustainable progress that has been made, but also to recover the values and great goals" that have gotten lost along the way.
  • Ask; "Are we always the best examples we can be in caring for creation?"
  • See the world with its Creator's eyes.
These ideas are just from the first half of Laudato Si -- and I think this last one is key. We have all had the experience of creating something and giving it to someone else in the hope that they will appreciate it. What would it be like to create a world and then watch how human beings are treating it now? If we can imagine the world as our home rather than our playground, and desire only what is best for all living things, we will do things differently, won't we? And that's what God and Pope Francis are calling us to do.

To save this summary from being completely overwhelming, I'll look at the second half next week, and wrap it up, whew! Until then, I will close with the end of the final prayer of Laudato Si. Please pray with me:

God of love, show us our place in this world
as channels of your love
for all the creatures of this earth,
for not one of them is forgotten in your sight.
Enlighten those who possess power and money
that they may avoid the sin of indifference,
that they may love the common good, advance the weak,
and care for this world in which we live.
The poor and the earth are crying out.
O Lord, seize us with your power and light,
help us to protect all life,
to prepare for a better future,
for the coming of your Kingdom
of justice, peace, love and beauty.
Praise be to you!

+AMEN.

Next up: The Grand Finale, period

(A Christian prayer in union with creation and all quotations from Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home © Libreria Editrice Vaticana)

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The difference three weeks makes

We're back! We had a wonderful vacation out to Vancouver Island -- great camping, good weather, and some excellent visits with family and friends. And now we're home... and you could say I'm a little overwhelmed by the garden, as usual. Things grew so much in the two weeks we were away. See for yourself -- in the series of photos below, the first was taken July 5th, and the second, July 25th.



The garden, overall...



Herbs and snap peas...



Scarlet runner beans...



The corn is taller than I am now!

We had a fair bit of hail the Friday before last, so my tomatoes aren't looking very happy, but overall, I'm pleased with our garden's progress... and I have a ton of work to do. So the vacation highlights reel will have to wait a bit, but it's coming, I promise. 

For the next few weeks, you can find me in the garden...

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Laudato Si: Sunday Reflection #48... Everything will be okay in the end



Being something of an optimist, I've always appreciated the saying that appears above. The Pope is also an optimist, I'm guessing, and his way of saying the same thing appears at the end of this last section of Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home, when he says, "At the end, we will find ourselves face to face with the infinite beauty of God" (you can find this week's reading by clicking here and scrolling down to paragraphs 243-245).

The Grand Finale of Pope Francis's letter to the world, Laudato Si, is a little section called Beyond the Sun, and two lovely prayers. The Pope and his writing team begin by trying to express a bit of what heaven will be like: "Eternal life will be a shared experience of awe, in which each creature, resplendently transfigured, will take its rightful place and have something to give those poor men and women who will have been liberated for once and for all."

We are reminded that, until then, we still have work to do to care for this earth and all its creatures as we journey to God. I really love the lines at the end of paragraph 244: "Let us sing as we go. May our struggles and our concern for this planet never take away the joy of our hope."

As a somewhat musical person, I can't help but love the idea of singing as we go, and I had hoped to end these reflections with a song which is not quite ready yet, so please watch this space because I will share it in the near future. And, as promised at the very beginning, there will be fifty reflections -- two more posted on the next two Sundays because I'm seeing the need to pull together what we've been studying for the past year in a way that will hopefully be helpful to my readers.

The final paragraph of Laudato Si (245) reminds us that "In the heart of this world, the Lord of Life, who loves us so much is always present" -- we are not alone, because God is in all that God has made, and God's love will help us find our way. In spite of all the difficulties and trouble our world is facing, there is always hope because God is with us, and that's reason enough for Pope Francis and friends to to end the encyclical as it begins --

Laudato Si!


*******


Instead of ending with "A prayer for our earth" as I have every other, I close today's reflection with the final stanza of "A Christian prayer in union with creation" found at the end of the encyclical:

God of love, show us our place in this world
as channels of your love
for all the creatures of this earth,
for not one of them is forgotten in your sight.
Enlighten those who possess power and money
that they may avoid the sin of indifference,
that they may love the common good, advance the weak,
and care for this world in which we live.
The poor and the earth are crying out.
O Lord, seize us with your power and light,
help us to protect all life,
to prepare for a better future,
for the coming of your Kingdom
of justice, peace, love and beauty.
Praise be to you!

+AMEN.

Up next: Grand Finale, part 1 of 2

(A Christian prayer in union with creation and all quotations from Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home © Libreria Editrice Vaticana)



Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Where has the time gone?


These fresh-faced youngsters have been through a lot... and are doing pretty well 27 years to the day after they met, and 25 years to the day after they tied the knot. Love is a wonderful thing. So is laughter, friendship, pillow talk, and a daily walk, holding hands. 

Thank you, my love, for choosing me! 

And thanks be to God for everything else -- most especially our kids, family and friends.

It's all GOOD.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Laudato Si: Sunday Reflection #47... And now, a word from our sponsors

We're almost there, my friends, just a few paragraphs from the end of Pope Francis's encyclical, Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home. This week's two sections make me chuckle a bit, because they seem like the advertisements at the end of a TV program -- hence the title of this reflection.

The first section, paragraphs 233-240, is titled The Trinity and the Relationship Between Creatures, and the second, paragraphs 241-242, is Queen of All Creation (they can be accessed by clicking here and scrolling down). To me, it feels like the encyclical writers, good Catholics that they are, decided they had better hurry up and make mention of Mary and the Trinity before closing time. Even so, these two sections contain some good reminders for those of us who aspire to follow the will of the Triune God, and who take Mary as a model of how to do that.

Paragraphs 238-240 remind us that God is the source of everything, that Jesus is God united to creation through his humanity, and that the Holy Spirit, who blew over the waters of creation is the one responsible for "inspiring and bringing new pathways." When we give thanks for creation, we are praising all three persons of our One God. When we are one with God, we will see the deeper inter-connectedness of God's "constant and secretly woven relationships" throughout creation. What a time that will be! The eleventh and final refrain of the "Everything is interconnected" Laudato Si song is heard once again, calling us to relationship and "a spirituality of that global solidarity which flows from the mystery of the Trinity."

The summer I was fourteen, our family took a trip to the West Coast and visited an aquarium where an injured young killer whale was recovering. At some point (I think while the trained seals were doing a show) I wandered by myself back to the young whale's pool. A piece of straggly sea weed floated near its edge, and I was able to grab it and toss it to the middle of the pool. The whale brought it back to me, and waited for me to throw it again, which I did, over and over. I remember feeling sad for the whale, living in a small enclosure instead of with its pod out in the open ocean -- but I was even sadder that we couldn't communicate. A bit of global solidarity inspired by the Trinity? It was a spiritual experience, or I probably wouldn't remember it today. And one day, when the new heaven and the new earth come about, communication with all of creation won't be an issue, of that I am convinced. We will all know how interconnected everything is!

As Mother of God, Mary stands with the crucified Christ once again as she "grieves for the sufferings of the crucified poor and for the creatures of this world laid waste by human power." In paragraph 241 the encyclical writers note that her human life, lived according to God's will, is one part of creation that has "reached the fullness of its beauty.... Hence, we can ask her to enable us to look at this world with eyes of wisdom."

Of course, since St. Joseph is Mary's partner and the patron of the universal Church, it wouldn't do to forget about him. As caregiver of the Holy Family, "he too can teach us how to show care, he can inspire us to work with generosity and tenderness in protecting this world which God has entrusted to us."

In reading these paragraphs this week, I can't help but think that it's a call to humility for those of us who take up the challenge to work for change, for justice, and for the good of all creation. Perhaps you've heard that saying, "We must pray as if it all depends on God, and work as if it all depends on us." But these paragraphs seem to reverse that -- we must pray as if it all depends on us, and work as if it all depends on God. It is God's creation, and it is God who gives the success. Otherwise, our activist egos might get in the way and sabotage the change that is required. Oh heck, everything depends on God, doesn't it?

In the week ahead, whenever we run into news about environmental or human disasters, let's pause and put them into the hands of "our sponsors" before we look for possible solutions. Let's pray as if it all depends on us to ask for the Spirit's help and inspiration (because without God we can do nothing), and then let's be God's hands and feet and get to work!

*******
A prayer for our earth

All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe
and in the smallest of your creatures.
You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.
Pour out upon us the power of your love,
that we may protect life and beauty.
Fill us with peace, that we may live
as brothers and sisters, harming no one.
O God of the poor,
help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth,
so precious in your eyes.
Bring healing to our lives,
that we may protect the world and not prey on it,
that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.
Touch the hearts
of those who look only for gain
at the expense of the poor and the earth.
Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,
to be filled with awe and contemplation,
to recognize that we are profoundly united
with every creature
as we journey towards your infinite light.
We thank you for being with us each day.
Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle
for justice, love and peace.

(A prayer for our earth and all quotations from Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home © Libreria Editrice Vaticana)

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Simple Suggestion #254... Install a clothesline

It doesn't have to be a fancy double-pullied system like ours -- a simple piece of nylon cord between two trees is what we always use on vacation, and it works just as well. 

Clotheslines are a brilliant thing -- they fill our clothes with sunshine and fresh air, and cut our monthly electricity bill a full fifteen percent. That's right, 15%! So investing in a piece of nylon cord or a folding umbrella clothes stand like my sisters just found, or even a clothes rack that can stand in a corner of a laundry space pays itself off in a hurry -- and helps our environment to boot. Not to mention it's easier on clothes than a hot-air tumble dryer ever could be.

Why not give your clothes a longer life and install a solar, wind, or air powered dryer in the form of a clothesline today?

Looking for more Simple Suggestions? Click here.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Laudato Si: Sunday Reflection #46... The other 3 Rs

Are you old enough to remember when Sundays were Sundays? By that I mean, when churches were open but stores were closed, when most people had the day off to go to church and/or spend with their loved ones, and no one expected anything different.

All that changed in 1985 when the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that banning Sunday shopping was unconstitutional. These days, in our multicultural society, some faith traditions observe days other than Sunday as sacred, but from the look of the mall parking lots on most traditional days of worship, many people would rather check out the chapel of consumerism's newest gizmo rather than spend time praying or thinking about the mystical connections between God, ourselves and creation.

This week's reading of Pope Francis' letter to the world, Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home reminds me of the importance of Sabbath time, which in observant Jewish culture is actually from sundown Friday night to sundown Saturday night, a full 24 hours. So many of us don't have Sundays off anymore, but it's a good idea to try to set 24 hours of Sabbath aside for God at some point in the week, simply because our consumption-oriented culture barely takes an hour a week of God time, if any at all.

Paragraphs 233-237 of the Pope's encyclical (which you can access by clicking here and scrolling down) reminds us of the importance of making time each week for R&R&R -- rest, relaxation and reverence. They are just as important as reduce, reuse and recycle, because if we give them proper place in our lives, our faith can lead us to a change of attitude that encompasses deep care for the earth.

Sunday, Sabbath, sacred time on whichever day of the week fits your faith, is super important time -- so important that Pope Francis devotes five paragraphs to it in a section entitled Sacramental Signs and the Celebration of Rest. Celebration of Rest, I like that. The whole section is excellent -- if you have some understanding of Eucharist. (I guess Pope Francis forgot that a lot of people in the world might not know the meaning of that word -- or maybe he wants to inspire curiosity about it.) The basic idea is this: God comes to us through the beautiful and ordinary things of creation, so really everything can be a sacrament -- a sign of God's presence and love. And if we can see everything in our world as sacred, as somehow connected to the Creator, we give thanks (the word Eucharist means thanksgiving) for it, we become more receptive to God's presence in it, and we will want to do our utmost to care for it.

Cameron Lake, in Waterton Park AB
I feel like we've come full circle as I post this picture from the third Laudato Si Sunday Reflection way back when. That's when I asked if my readers ever stood in awe before creation, exultant or speechless, and somehow aware of God in it all. Sabbath time is meant to give us an opportunity to take a break from the usual rat race and find God in everything. Really, that's what this entire section is about, and I would encourage you to read it for yourselves because it holds many beautiful ideas. So this week, I'm just going to quote one piece of paragraph 237, which talks about the importance of making time for the rest that allows us to be reverent and aware of God's presence in everything and everyone around us:
We tend to demean contemplative rest as something unproductive and unnecessary, but this is to do away with the very thing which is most important about work: its meaning. We are called to include in our work a dimension of receptivity and gratuity, which is quite different from mere inactivity. Rather, it is another way of working, which forms part of our very essence. It protects human action from becoming empty activism; it also prevents that unfettered greed and sense of isolation which make us seek personal gain to the detriment of all else.... Rest opens our eyes to the large picture and gives us renewed sensitivity to the rights of others. And so the day of rest, centred on the Eucharist, sheds its light on the whole week, and motivates us to greater concern for nature and the poor. 
In this gorgeous week of summer ahead of us, let's find a place of rest where we can be aware of the beauty with which we are surrounded, the Creator who gives it to us, and the work we need to do so that everyone may enjoy it in simplicity, peace, and freedom.

*******
A prayer for our earth

All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe
and in the smallest of your creatures.
You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.
Pour out upon us the power of your love,
that we may protect life and beauty.
Fill us with peace, that we may live
as brothers and sisters, harming no one.
O God of the poor,
help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth,
so precious in your eyes.
Bring healing to our lives,
that we may protect the world and not prey on it,
that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.
Touch the hearts
of those who look only for gain
at the expense of the poor and the earth.
Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,
to be filled with awe and contemplation,
to recognize that we are profoundly united
with every creature
as we journey towards your infinite light.
We thank you for being with us each day.
Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle
for justice, love and peace.

(A prayer for our earth and all quotations from Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home © Libreria Editrice Vaticana)

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Working hard

I've been as busy as a bee lately, almost. There's so much to do out in the yard... weeding, staking, sifting compost, moving things around... The good thing about spending so much time outdoors is how easy it is to fall asleep after all that fresh air and exercise, and the difference it makes to the yard. Things are growing at an amazing pace, and there's never a shortage of things to do.



The back yard is almost as weed free as I can make it, but the front yard can always use work. The lupins have finished blooming, and the delphiniums, gaillardia and lilies are starting. I love to see the garden change as different plants bloom... every morning I wander around just to notice "what's different today?" That's the real joy of being a gardener, in my books. Makes all the work worthwhile!



But I'm still not working as hard as these guys in the video below. The Energizer Bunny should have been a bee, I'm convinced. Not enough to have one working a flower, they both have to get in there! If only my kids were as anxious to participate in the yard work! Enjoy your day!

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Laudato Si: Sunday Reflection #45... Rebuilding a culture of care

This week's Laudato Si reflection comes at a good time, because a lot of what's said in paragraphs 228-232 has been on my mind lately. Our world seems to have taken the low road rather than the high on too many occasions in the last few months. This is what I feel like saying every single time:


Especially to a certain presidential candidate south of the border! He gets wayyyy too much media attention for his nasty comments, and doesn't seem very interested in creating positive change. And he's not the only one -- there are all sorts of public figures in the news whose personae are built on tearing down the good. But Pope Francis takes exception -- this week's section of his letter to the world, Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home, encourages us toward a culture of care. Section V is entitled Civic and Political Love, and it can be accessed by clicking here and scrolling down.

Even if the non-inclusive language in this section could use some improvement, Pope Francis says some very important things:
We must regain the conviction that we need one another, that we have a shared responsibility for others and the world, and that being good and decent are worth it. We have had enough of immorality and the mockery of ethics, goodness, faith and honesty. It is time to acknowledge that light-hearted superficiality has done us no good (paragraph 229).
AMEN, brother. Sing it loud and clear! There are two problems here, as I see it -- 1) the public figures who grab headlines with their outrageous mean-spiritedness, and 2) the media who give them coverage. The solution? A small step -- protesting, boycotting those networks, "unfollowing" those public figures or otherwise letting them and their agents/networks know that they must work for a culture of care, not nasty negativity. Clearly, if we are to re-establish a culture that values our planet and its life, supporting people with small and narrow minds won't help. We need more people with wide and loving hearts to lead us.

That's why I love that the Pope holds up St. Therese of Lisieux's "little way of love" as an alternative in paragraph 230 -- and encourages everyone on the planet "not to miss out on a kind word, a smile or any small gesture which sows peace and friendship." St. Therese was a young woman who lived a short and hidden life in a small convent, focusing on the little things she could do to show love. Her autobiography, Story of a Soul, had a deep impact on me in my teen years, teaching that something as simple as acknowledging people with a smile is a tiny but important step toward defeating the negativity that can seem overwhelming in our world -- a tiny but important step worth taking.

"An integral ecology is also made up of simple daily gestures which break with the logic of violence, exploitation and selfishness," the Pope says. I suspect that, like St. Therese, he does many such things about which we'll never know. He knows and reminds us that it's these "random acts of kindness" and the "paying forward" of goodness that stops misery in its tracks. And every time he's caught doing one of these simple things, love for him fills the cyber sphere. That kind of "good press" blows me away.

Pope Paul VI might have been the first to use the words "Civilization of Love" for the World Day of Peace in 1977, but the phrase has been echoed ever since as something we need to create -- or there may be no civilization at all. Paragraph 231 emphasizes the importance of love in all spheres of human social activity -- cultural, economic and political. Encouraging "a culture of care" which permeates all of society is a good thing, but let's take it a step further and ensure that we also care for everything that God has made.

Paragraph 232 reminds us that even if we aren't the kinds of people who feel we can engage directly in political life, people like us can connect through organizations that "work to promote the common good and to defend the environment, whether natural or urban." When I became a Voluntary Simplicity practitioner, I wanted to save the world, but soon realized that, as an introvert, I'm not built to deliver impassioned speeches that can move people to change. God gave us all different gifts, and mine lead me to share what I know via these moodlings, encouraging change with my little suggestions and the sharing of the work of good people around me. I could never be a politician, or a TV host! I'm not crazy about leading workshops; I'm much happier working in my garden.

That doesn't mean that I don't support other organisations that can do more. Attending rallies, donating to an environmental cause, signing petitions and sharing information are all important because even the smallest of our actions can help to
cultivate a shared identity, with a story which can be remembered and handed on. In this way, the world, and the quality of life of the poorest, are cared for, with a sense of solidarity, which is at the same time aware that we live in a common home which God has entrusted to us. These community actions, when they express self-giving love, can also become intense spiritual expriences" (paragraph 232). 
I'm thinking of yesterday's moodling about Supersu's party boxes, and all the conversations about reducing waste that result because of them. Not quite "intense spiritual experiences," but people realize that they hold the same value of caring about our planet in those moments, and that they can make a difference, too.

The moral of this week's story is that it's easy to feel overwhelmed by the negativity in our world, but we all have the capacity to be agents of change. So in the week ahead, let's give some thought to the little things we can do to rebuild a culture of care for our Sister, Mother Earth, and for all her creatures.

I shared the video below in another moodling a few years back, but it's an inspiration that's too good to forget. We all need to care as much as the hummingbird, and do the best we can, as Wangari Maathai did. Have a good week, and don't forget your little acts of kindness for the earth and each other...


*******
A prayer for our earth

All-powerful God, you are present in the whole universe
and in the smallest of your creatures.
You embrace with your tenderness all that exists.
Pour out upon us the power of your love,
that we may protect life and beauty.
Fill us with peace, that we may live
as brothers and sisters, harming no one.
O God of the poor,
help us to rescue the abandoned and forgotten of this earth,
so precious in your eyes.
Bring healing to our lives,
that we may protect the world and not prey on it,
that we may sow beauty, not pollution and destruction.
Touch the hearts
of those who look only for gain
at the expense of the poor and the earth.
Teach us to discover the worth of each thing,
to be filled with awe and contemplation,
to recognize that we are profoundly united
with every creature
as we journey towards your infinite light.
We thank you for being with us each day.
Encourage us, we pray, in our struggle
for justice, love and peace.

+AMEN.

Next up: The other 3 Rs

(A prayer for our earth and all quotations from Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home © Libreria Editrice Vaticana)


Thursday, June 30, 2016

Simple Suggestion #253... Have waste-less dinner parties

One of the things that drives me crazy about large family gatherings is the tendency to pull out the paper plates, plastic utensils and disposable cups. Garbage bags full of them end up in the landfill every year, and though it's convenient, it's just not necessary -- besides, that kind of waste of resources in single-use items is not good for our planet.

SuperSu to the rescue! She's one of my Simplicity Sisters (@redworm_mama for you tweeters) and she's brilliant. She came up with the Party Box -- well, two of them, actually, and she lent them to me for our Canada Day party tomorrow.

Here's what you get when you borrow Supersu's party box:


Everything in the box was either purchased at a thrift store/garage sale, or made/donated by Su herself. Much of it may have ended up in the trash, but she rescued it from ignominy and now it's keeping all those other single-use party items from even being purchased and used only once before the long drive to the landfill. And it's a very festive looking collection, as you can see by the pictures below.






The cloth napkins (mostly made by Su) say "Use Su's", and don't you love the host/hostess' apron? There's a cute little apron for a child host/hostess, too. The utensils are sturdy plastic or good old-fashioned metal silverware/flatware of different kinds, and you'd be hard pressed to set a matching table for more than six people... but the variety makes for a very festive looking gathering, don't you agree? (The reusable cups are mine -- it would be hard to fit them into the boxes.) This is only fourteen place settings -- you could easily feed fifty ore more with the dishes/utensils in these two boxes.

As a Master Composter/Recycler, Sue is into reducing, reusing and recycling in a big way, and she's a strong supporter of the sharing economy. Her party boxes are available for loan if you live in the Edmonton area and can pick up/return them on your own steam. She can be reached at supersu @shaw.ca. And if you don't live nearby, maybe you'd consider starting a party box for the sharing economy where you are. 

Wasteless parties are the new black, so there!

July 2nd, the morning after the party...
A good time was had by all at our Canada Day party. 23 people came, we sang our anthem in both official languages, the food was delish, and there was no big black garbage bag of single-use so-called disposable items going out the back door at the end of the night. Not even one paper napkin! I told everyone about the party boxes during our "Fun Facts" icebreaker, and one of my friends said that "Supersu deserves an award."

But knowing my humble friend, she's feeling the love just by knowing that she's making a difference and planting the seeds for future wasteless parties. Some of my friends are now planning to dig out those plastic dishes and unmatching utensils and make party boxes to be shared around their clans for larger family gatherings, too.

Looking for more Simple Suggestions? Click here.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Simple Suggestion #252... Go back in time

A tradesman and his family lived in a space
much like this in Fort Edmonton in 1846
Yesterday we took a little family field trip to Fort Edmonton. It's a lovely historic park in the crook of the North Saskatchewan River's arm. The park highlights different eras in the life of Edmonton, beginning with the fort that was established by the Hudson's Bay Company in the mid 1800's. In the history of humanity, 170 years ago isn't such a long time.

What always strikes me when visiting the fort is how simple and uncluttered everything is. Furniture was built for function more than comfort. Almost everything was made of wood, plant and animal fibres of some kind -- totally biodegradable materials. Beds and doorways were short because people who sometimes went hungry didn't grow so tall. Gardens were necessary, hunting essential, and the spring supply boats were anticipated more than Christmas.

I wouldn't want to live the way they did. I like my comforts, but the spareness of those homes helps me realise that I would probably be just as happy without so many books on my desk and pictures on my walls. I wouldn't want to live without a refrigerator or hot water tank, but there are many other things in my home that are unnecessary. In the mid 1800s, no one needed exercise machines. Or patio furniture. Or tablet computers. Or clock radios. They worked hard, played hard, entertained each other and slept from dark til dawn.

Going back in time offers us the opportunity to think about the craziness of consumer culture and the hectic lifestyle it seems to engender. If you have a museum or historical place in your neighbourhood, why not pay a visit for a reminder that life can be lived more simply?

Looking for more Simple Suggestions? Click here.