Monday, July 30, 2012

Meet Sadie, the community cat

Back in January, a new friend joined us at the L'Arche Community Centre. Her name is Sadie, and she was a stray who was taken in by our community leader's sister. Unfortunately, allergies were discovered in Pat's sister's home, and Sadie had to go back outside for a time. Being a very social animal, she would sit and watch TV through the window with the family, making everyone in the house feel sorry for her. So they began asking around, trying to find her a new home without allergies, but without luck. Finally, they asked Pat if L'Arche might like a cat.

Pat checked with the community, and determined that some of the homes would be able to look after Sadie on weekends, and that weekdays, she could live at the community centre. So Sadie joined the L'Arche community, living in Pat's office during the week, and entertaining us all with her antics.

One day I went into the office to meet with Pat about some work she wanted me to do... and Sadie was her usual extremely entertaining self. She played with some yarn, jumped up on the windowsill and scolded some magpies outside, and then she disappeared. The next thing we knew, she was in the corner bookshelves, trying to determine how she could leap past books and knicknacks all the way to the top. It didn't take her long to figure it out. Once she reached the highest spot in the room, she celebrated by happily nibbling on a spider plant.

Sadie gets a lot of attention from some of our core members, who pet her and give her treats and conversation. Some of them have learned to be quick going in and out of Pat's office, but Sadie will inevitably escape. She got out between my legs one day when I had an armload of binders and couldn't close the door quick enough. That's when I learned that if I find a string for her to chase, she'll follow it all the way back to Pat's office -- most times.

You can tell that Sadie is young by the way she plays. She loves to chase anything that moves, including Pat's fingers across the keyboard. In the middle of a meeting two weeks ago, Sadie went after Maria M.'s pen. Then she discovered a wasp on the windowsill, and played and played and played with it until finally, she ate it. She's highly energetic in the mornings, but by the afternoon, she usually needs a nap. Pat has discovered that Sadie likes to sleep under a shawl spread over an office chair. We've had a few meetings where no one knew that the cat was in the room, except that her tail was hanging down under the shawl.

About a month ago, we celebrated our community's new Mandate with Pat, who agreed to continue as our community leader for another term. The community participated in a joyful poem in the style of Dr. Seuss, called "Pat and the Cat." One thing's sure: Pat and Sadie bring much joy to L'Arche. I don't know what we would do without them!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

A supercalifragilisticexpialidocious Sunday song

It's been a couple of crazy weeks for me in the live-entertainment department. In other words, I've never seen so many shows in such a short time. First, Neil Diamond, then Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers. And on Tuesday night, the Broadway Across Canada production of Mary Poppins. Mary Anne, our neighbour, invited Julia and I to attend.

I was prepared to be disappointed, because how could a magical show like the 1964 Dick Van Dyke/Julie Andrews movie possibly work on stage? But DID IT EVER! The sets were absolutely fantastic (after an unplanned fifteen-minute intermission to work out a few technical glitches), the performers incredible, the orchestra excellent, and the music and dance revamped in a way that gave it even more energy than the original. It was so good that I decided to spend my little July paycheck so that my older girls could attend yesterday's matinee. They loved it, too!

Just have to share the piece that had the crowd roaring approval both times it was performed. They've got the old YMCA dance outdone eight and a half times over! Have a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious Sunday!

Friday, July 27, 2012

A shady character

A shady character has been hanging around our place 
for the last few days. Can you see him? 

According to Julia, his (her?) name is Bo.
She seems to be right at home, parked between
the delphiniums and summer snow in Eleanor's Alley
(I've called it that for my friend Eleanor,
who gave me a lot of the lilies that
are blooming at the moment).

Bo knows how to pick his parking places.
At the moment, Eleanor's Alley is the prettiest part of our yard.

And there's no shortage of jackrabbit food, either...
I just wish Bo was discriminating enough to 
eat the weeds and leave the flowers.
But I guess I can't expect so much from
a character who loves a shady place.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Beautiful borage

Back when I took my Master Composter/Recycler course in 2007, Ron Berezan, also known as the Urban Farmer, spoke to us about permaculture during one of our classes, and sang the praise of a humble plant known as borage. He told us that it had lovely blue star-shaped flowers with leaves that had a nice cucumber-ish flavour, and that it attracted bees by the droves. He suggested that if you want a bumper crop of cucumbers, it's a must-grow plant.

It took me a while, but I eventually found some borage seed in 2010 and planted it all around my cucumber patch. What I didn't know was that borage is a fairly large plant that likes to spread itself out... so the many seeds I planted meant that the plants also nearly took over my onion and strawberry sections of the garden. I learned that the texture of the fuzzy leaves wasn't my favourite, though they do have a nice flavour, and I haven't tried the flowers, which are also edible, but I can imagine how pretty they would be sugared on a cake.

What I really love is standing near a plant and watching the bees. I think my yard's fly-in bee population has doubled since I've been growing borage, which has reseeded itself every year since. This year I have about eight plants in the back yard, and six out front, and they're a never ending source of bee happiness until frost. Their leaves also make a refreshing tea, which I plan to try this afternoon.

The Urban Farmer knew of that which he spoke. My luck with cucumbers definitely improved once I had these little blue star flowers near the cucumber patch... and you can see what I mean about how they attract the bees! It won't be long til pickle time, thanks to bees and borage.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Simple Suggestion #131... Read some classic literature

Here's my crinkled-covered, ancient copy of Don Quixote. I've been working on reading it for more years than I can determine. For a long while, anyway. The reason I'm moodling about it today is that I was recently reminded of it. On a Sunday morning radio program last weekend, there was an interview with a young woman who was reporting on her plan to read classic literature this summer. You know, Great Expectations, Moby Dick, Sense and Sensibility, and others of that ilk. She went on about how her generation missed out on so much classic lit in school, and as a result, doesn't understand how The Classics have influenced society. For example, after reading The Count of Monte Cristo, she suddenly understood that a television program she'd been watching was modeled on it! Something called Revenge.

The interview made me smile. By the time I was her age, I had managed to read a few classics, and had plans to read more. Mr. Brown, a gentle old soul who lived down the block when I was growing up and did many oil paintings of dairy cows (maybe he was from the Isle of Guernsey??) insisted that I read the the Iliad and the Odyssey by Homer. I did, just to make my neighbour happy, but he never did talk me into reading Beowulf after that -- it was a bit much. In High School we had to read Jane Eyre, which I didn't like, and Pride and Prejudice, which I did. I've read a pretty decent number of Shakespeare's plays and sonnets thanks to Prof. Deluna's university Shakespeare course, and I must admit I enjoyed it, though she and I almost had a fist fight over the spelling of Goneril (how was I supposed to know that my copy of King Lear (which wasn't the one she had had ordered for the University Bookstore because I got mine at Coles) consistently spelled Gonerill incorrectly? My essay went from a 35% to a 90% once she forgave me for using my book's misspelling). I had a fantastic time reading Les Miserables on a tour through Europe, and last summer I finally read (and loved!) Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. There are a lot more classics on my list that will likely go unread simply because life is too short, and there are great new books coming out all the time with contemporary language and stories that are easier for modern minds to follow.

Even so, Don Quixote and I have a long-standing relationship that I can't abandon. I suspect I picked my copy up about a dozen years ago, around the time that I happened upon a Man of La Mancha video at the library. Peter O'Toole and Sophia Loren, 1972. Talk about a classic movie! I had seen the musical at the Citadel sometime in my early twenties, and loved it then, and even though you can't beat live theatre, the movie didn't disappoint. So that's probably when I decided to pick up Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra's book and see how the Knight-errant came off the page.

My copy of Don Quixote is 785 pages of tiny, tiny print and I soon discovered that the Wordsworth translation I chose requires a lot of patience. So much so, that if I happen upon another interesting book, it's sure to be read before I return to Sancho Panza and his master. Last year, a new fourth-centenary translation came out, and a friend who knows that it's taken me so many years to plough through my copy suggested that maybe the new version would be easier to read. At that point, the Knight of La Mancha had been sitting idle on my night table for over a year. I signed out the new translation, and returned it to the library when my time was up. It's just one of those books that's going to take time, I guess.

If you're reading this, you might be wondering why I don't just give up already. Well, the problem is, I've written a book of my own, and Don Quixote figures in it rather prominently -- his story impacts my tale, and one of its main characters reads Cervantes, unabridged. And hey, if she can do it, so can I. After all, it's a classic.

Besides that, when I do sit down, determined to get through a few chapters of Don Quixote's misadventures, I am always amazed by the slapstick comedy, the witty satire, and the poignant moments of true chivalry or friendship within. It takes more than the usual effort to read it, but when I have the patience (as I have had over the years while sitting through my three daughters' swimming lessons) it's more than worthwhile. I find myself smiling at the mad knight with his heart of gold, and especially his squire, Sancho, who has a cliche or proverb for every occasion. They far outshine the sensible, uncrazy people in the book, to the point where they come off wiser than all those who call them mad. Really, it's great stuff!

So lately Don Quixote and I have been going to swimming lessons together again. If you want to bring your own book and join me in the bleachers, you're most welcome.

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

Monday, July 23, 2012

There's just something about Bluegrass

I'm not quite sure what it is about Bluegrass that speaks to my soul, but I've always loved the sound of a bunch of percussive stringed instruments (usually guitar, banjo, mandolin, stringed bass and fiddle), not to mention the close vocal harmonies often found in the music that originates in the Southern States. There's none of that in my Russian German family background, to be sure. Maybe I like it so much because it's honest, unplugged music that gets feet thumping and hearts pumping. I can come up with no real explanation for my love of it, but somewhere along the line, I simply fell in love with old-style music, from Cape Breton-style fiddle reels and jigs to V'la l'Bon Vent (a great French Canadian tongue twister), and from The Cotton Patch Gospel to the O Brother, Where Art Thou soundtrack.

Last night was another great live musical experience (two in one week has to be my record!) as my parents, sisters and I attended a concert featuring Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers. I first ran into them when my friend Charleen sent me a video which I immediately posted. (You can see The Atheist Song here). What it won't show you is how talented each of the fellows is with their instruments. I certainly didn't realize that, besides being a funny guy, Steve Martin is such a great banjo player!

The last piece of the show alone was worth the price of admission. The group played Auden's Train, which reminded me of the fiddle classic, The Orange Blossom Special -- with a twist. Nicky Sanders is The Steep Canyon Rangers' incredible fiddle player who somehow managed to evoke a train chugging along, interspersed with all sorts of classical pieces, and even O Canada at one point. Steve Martin is good, but for me, Nicky Sanders stole the show. Even so, I'm paying both of them homage today by posting two videos -- the first, a fun banjo song played and set to video by Steve Martin (who writes his own banjo music), and the second, a slightly shaky home video version of The Orange Blossom Special, featuring Nicky's amazing fiddle. If you can identify and name the classical pieces he slides in there, I'd love to know what they are. It took me a while to figure out that piece from the Beach Boys' Good Vibrations... enjoy! We certainly did!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

A God moment with Neil Diamond

On Monday last week, my sister and I attended a Neil Diamond concert with our mom. It was a fun evening, listening to the soundtrack of our childhood, singing along to "SWEET CAROLINE... bah bah bah..." and marveling at the brilliance of a man who has written a lot of amazing music. Neil pumped out his tunes for over an hour and a half, and the audience ate it up. Marvelous to think that he's been making his music for longer than I've been alive... and that I still know the words to the songs from the records that Mom played over and over when I was small.

But what was really special for me that evening was when Neil was singing, "Play Me," and Mom turned to me and said, "I pray the chorus. I sing it to God." When the chorus came around again and I sang the chorus to God, my eyes swam with tears. What a beautiful prayer!

Since then, I've listened to the song several times, and realized that the whole thing is a prayer, if She can be God... "God was morning, and I was night time..." "You are the sun, I am the moon..." a beautiful invitation to God to make me into what She and He wants me to be.

That was my God moment this week. I don't think my mom will mind me sharing it.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Garden crazy, or... crazy garden!

While we were in the Southern regions of the province last week, our garden went crazy. A few thundershowers and a lot of heat, not to mention all the compost we added to the soil when we built our raised beds in the spring have made for the kind of jungle that we usually don't see until early August. I don't know what it will look like by then -- I might have to borrow a machete! I suspect it was a really good idea to get a second freezer two weeks ago... God willing, it will be a crazy busy harvest in the fall!

Here's the garden report for Thursday, July 19, 2012
(pictures taken Tuesday evening)...

Carrots, beets, kale and chard 
(with a few zinnias almost ready to bloom),

bush beans,

scarlet runner beans and spaghetti squash
climbing up sunflowers,
(this seems to be a successful "companion planting")

potatoes and lots of dill,

a tomato hedge (and lots of dill),

more tomatoes, cukes (and yes, lots of dill),

our first green pepper of the season,

our second bin of radishes
(so they don't get wormy in the ground),

and more salad fixings.

We've never had such great basil (bruschetta, here we come!) and other herbs, our onions, rutabaga, broad beans and strawberries are doing okay, pears are coming along (though a storm blew all the apple blossoms off our little tree), and we've already fried up our first crop of zucchini (at this rate I might be one of those neighbours who will have to leave zucchini orphans on neighbours' doorsteps). Everything looks fantastic... except for a couple of sick rhubarb plants. We're keeping our fingers crossed that the "H" word stays away, so we can give some produce to family, friends, and the food bank. As my homemade garden stepping stone says,

And, I would add, who have a little extra to share with others!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Staying cool

It's pretty warm here lately, but here's something to inspire us all to find ways to refresh ourselves. My friend Charleen reminded me of this great video -- thanks, Charleen! Enjoy, and stay cool!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Simple Suggestion #130... Use half as much

Ever tried to use the amount of toothpaste that gets put on the brush in a toothpaste commercial? I don't know about you, but I grew up using just a smidge of that amount. Using the TV prescribed amount just meant that blue toothpaste globs got stuck to the bottom of the sink! But some marketing person  somewhere back in the sixties decided that toothpaste would sell better if we all loaded our toothbrushes with more than we actually need to clean our teeth. Marketers also want us to glop on the shampoo, bodywash, shaving cream and other personal care products out there in advertising land.

Come to think of it, most commercials for almost any product that you care to name exaggerate the amount we need, because commercials are promoting consumption to the max. In many cases, we can get away with using half -- or even less than half -- of what's portrayed in advertisements. And if we cut the amount in half and find it's still too much, or not quite enough, we have the ability to adjust our amounts. We're fortunate in that regard. How often do we think about our brothers and sisters who have to skimp on everything just to get by?

So today's simple suggestion is to make a conscious effort to use half as much of the commercial products in our lives. If we give some thought to it, we become more conscious of how blessed we are, and if we can get away with using less, we're saving $$ -- and our planet's valuable resources, which are worth more than $$.

Looking for more Simple Suggestions? Try here.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Beauty on a Sunday

A windsurfer on Waterton Lake

colourful pebbles flashing under the ripples

a pair of mule deer on the shore

a canoe trip across Cameron Lake

a few of the many waterfalls at the end of Cameron Lake

Tiger Swallowtails getting a drink

a surprise as we rounded a corner on our way home


more wildflowers 

and more wildflowers

Waterton Lake from the Bertha Lake trail

lower Bertha Falls

Bertha Lake

Waterton Lake has the best stone skipping anywhere...

the American end of the lake as seen from the International,
an 85 year old tour boat (in lovely condition)

These pictures are actually from Sunday to Thursday this past week, in Waterton National Park in the very southwest corner of Alberta. Needless to say, it was gorgeous. If you've never been to Waterton, one of the parks that makes up an International Peace Park along with Glacier National Park in the US, I'd highly recommend it. It's a little piece of heaven.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Speaking honestly

Henri Nouwen has me thinking again. This time, it's because of the quote below:
Can we only speak when we are fully living what we are saying?  If all our words had to cover all our actions, we would be doomed to permanent silence!  Sometimes we are called to proclaim God's love even when we are not yet fully able to live it.  Does that mean we are hypocrites?  Only when our own words no longer call us to conversion.  Nobody completely lives up to his or her own ideals and visions.  But by proclaiming our ideals and visions with great conviction and great humility, we may gradually grow into the truth we speak.  As long as we know that our lives always will speak louder than our words, we can trust that our words will remain humble.
June 21, Bread for the Journey, Henri Nouwen
I've been thinking about this for a long time, actually... ever since I started to write my Simple Suggestions. Because honestly, I'm the first to admit that I can't fully live those suggestions out all the time, as much as I would like to. I dream of getting all my food locally, of baking my own bread weekly, of cooking more vegetarian meals, of joining a community garden... but I'm not there yet, and being as dizzy as I have been for the past eight months, I'm beginning to wonder if that particular limitation will ever go away. And as far as proclaiming God's love goes, I'm afraid I have a bit of a chip on my shoulder when it comes to institutional religion, so these days, I'm not even much for talking about God.

But Henri Nouwen gives me hope. I'm not yet a hypocrite, because my own words keep calling me to conversion. I believe in all of my Simple Suggestions, and I believe in God. And I'm not dead yet, so chances are, I'll grow into being better at doing all these things... but in the meantime, I'll humbly admit that I'm not perfect... and that I don't succeed in implementing my Simple Suggestions all the time.

You either?

But we're trying... and that's what counts.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Simple Suggestion #129... Start your own Amazing Club

Some years ago, a friend and I were taking a stroll and got into a conversation about all the amazing people in our lives. That's when I started my Amazing Club. Most of the people in the club don't even know they're members because we don't have meetings or planned events. The Amazing Club is simply a list of all the amazing people who have influenced my life:

My incredible parents
My marvelous sisters
My pioneer grandparents (I was blessed to know all four of them)
My godparents (Auntie Jo, Uncle Lefty, and Auntie Bernie)
The rest of my large extended family, aunts, uncles and cousins (I have 89 first cousins!)
The Dietrich family
Noreen and Elaine (Eileen)
My dearest and longest-standing friend, Cathy
Joan, Patricia, and Debbie, my friends through elementary school and junior high
Sue, Silvia, Susan, and Mina, my high school chums
Aldona, Butch and the kids
Mom Plumbtree
Karen at the U of A, and Eileen Conway, my favourite English prof
Karen, Stephen and Helene, with me at Camp He Ho Ha
Oliver, Philippe, Cathrin, Kathy, Junko, Rob, Karin, Guido, Lotta and Julie from my UWP year
Walter and Klara
Lee, the best husband ever!
Louis and Vivien, my in-laws... and their kids and spouses
Arthur, Jean S., Mike and Shirley, Jim M. and Elaine B., Pat and Maria L. from my Ponoka Days
Cursillo groupees...
Lucille, Bob and Louise from my time at Newman
Teresita, Faye and Shirleyan
Erik (the friend with whom I walked as the Amazing Club started... Belated Happy Birthday!)
Julien, whom I just recently rediscovered
Lee's cousins and friends (especially Claire and Peter)
My nieces and nephews
Phyllis and Kelsey
The Zukiwskys
Alan and Josie
Aaron and Angie
My children's choir (several of whom still lead the singing)
The Taize music group
Mary Anne and Jim, Ella and Mikayla
Back Alley Mary, and her neighbour, Ruby, now 101 years of age
Maybelle and Bob
Olga and her clan
Nora and her river city walkers
Mark Burch
Simplicity Circle friends
Mrs. Barr
Angie M.
Charleen, who is technically one of the Cursillo groupees, but deserves mention all on her own for her strength and courage -- and our Tuesday afternoons together
Pat and the wonderful L'Arche family...
My moodling friends

And this is just a partial list. As it's just the first time I've written it down, I'm sure I'll be adding more names to it as I remember people I've missed. If I've missed you, let me know -- I guarantee it wasn't intentional!

Starting an Amazing Club is a good exercise. Remembering all the special people who have made a positive difference in my life is a guaranteed feel-good activity. Try it yourself!

For more Simple Suggestions, look here.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

A happy Sunday video

Happy Sunday! I love Sundays, because around here we make an effort to enjoy the day and each other. So you'll notice my Sunday moodlings are usually short, and usually involve sharing a video so that I'm not spending a lot of time moodling.

Today's video came to my attention quite a while ago, and I forgot to share it at the time. It makes me happy to see how Nirvan Mullick and other people worked behind the scenes to make a nine-year-old boy happy, and how Caine gets his happiness from sharing his cardboard arcade... Have a happy summer Sunday!


Friday, July 6, 2012

Adrenaline, anyone?

So I'm hanging up my laundry this morning,
and poing!
the line breaks.
I pick up clothes from the back fence to the house,
rewash the pieces that landed in the garden,
and rehang everything else on the second line.
I have a lot of laundry to do today.
So I decide that I should try to restring the clothesline.
Except the blooming pulley is about five meters off the ground, at the back of our garden.
My husband is the monkey who usually climbs the ladder to do stuff up there.
Me? I'm no monkey. Not with my dizzy brain.
But there's a lot of laundry to dry.
So I call my daughters and set up the ladder.
It's wobbly.
But I can do this.
Can't I?
I take the end of the clothesline and up I go...
The top of the ladder (one of those extendable ones) is really shaky though the girls hold its base firmly.
I can't quite reach from the double rungs, so I have to step up on a single rung.
And one more.
I can just barely hook the curled end of the clothesline over the pulley...
but to get it through, I'll have to let go of the ladder.
My heart is pounding and my knees are wobbly.
But I'm so close, I can't give up now.
I let go of the ladder, grab the pulley with both hands, and the line slips around it.
I grab the end of it, and tremble my way back down the ladder.
Whoo hoo!
I did it!
Good to be back on terra firma, and that's an understatement.

The only problem is that I'm not strong enough to pull the two ends of the line back to the clip that holds them together, sigh.
Still a lot of laundry to dry...

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The sitting stone

Way back in December, we took a trip south to visit my parents-in-law, and collected a big white granite marker that had been in the farm yard that overlooks Cardston. Before Dad sold the land, he collected these chunks of granite in case his kids wanted souvenirs to remind them of the house where they grew up, so we brought one home, imagining it might look nice in our front yard with all the flowers.

It took us a while, but on Saturday, we finally got around to situating it in the front yard, not far from the rhubarb, close to the brown-eyed susans and bee balm. That's when I discovered that it's a perfect sitting stone. Perched on its flat, Monarch, Alberta-quarried top, I can watch the bees to my heart's content, plan where the next perennials will go, or chat with my neighbour, Marge, as she and her dog, Missy, make their rounds.

I'll admit I was a bit skeptical about how a big, white, carved stone would look in the middle of a yard full of field stones (a few of which also came from the Cardston farm), but I love it! The picture to the left is a view from our sitting stone. Settled on it, it's not so hard to imagine I'm in a lovely little meadow with wildflowers, bees and birds for company. I can tell already that it will be one of my favourite spots. It will be my reminder to slow down and enjoy the little things in life.

You're welcome to come try out our sitting stone anytime!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Simple Suggestion #128... Declare your interdependence

On June 21st, my daughter's class had a sleepover out at the Strathcona Wilderness Centre. We went out for their hotdog supper. While parents were sitting and visiting around the campfire, I wandered to the edge of Bennett Lake and discovered a family of Canada geese, two parents and three babies. I must have stood there for a half hour, watching them come and go, eating tender plants off the bottom of the lake. It was a magical time, and I found myself thinking about how the geese and I depend upon this beautiful planet for our lives... and how important it is that we humans try to live in balance with nature as much as we possibly can.

Just over twenty years ago, the David Suzuki Foundation came up with the Declaration of Interdependence that I've copied below. It affirms the interdependence of all species, acknowledges the mistakes that human beings have made, and expresses the desire to live in harmony with all of creation:

We are the earth, through the plants and animals that nourish us.
We are the rains and the oceans that flow through our veins.
We are the breath of the forests of the land, and the plants of the sea.
We are human animals, related to all other life as descendants of the firstborn cell.
We share with these kin a common history, written in our genes.
We share a common present, filled with uncertainty.
And we share a common future, as yet untold.
We humans are but one of thirty million species
weaving the thin layer of life enveloping the world.
The stability of communities of living things depends upon this diversity.
Linked in that web, we are interconnected —
using, cleansing, sharing and replenishing the fundamental elements of life.
Our home, planet Earth, is finite; all life shares its resources
and the energy from the sun, and therefore has limits to growth.
For the first time, we have touched those limits.
When we compromise the air, the water, the soil and the variety of life, 
we steal from the endless future to serve the fleeting present.
Humans have become so numerous and our tools so powerful
that we have driven fellow creatures to extinction, dammed the great rivers,
torn down ancient forests, poisoned the earth, rain and wind, and ripped holes in the sky.
Our science has brought pain as well as joy; our comfort is paid for by the suffering of millions.
We are learning from our mistakes, we are mourning our vanished kin, 
and we now build a new politics of hope.
We respect and uphold the absolute need for clean air, water and soil.
We see that economic activities that benefit the few while
shrinking the inheritance of many are wrong.
And since environmental degradation erodes biological capital forever, 
full ecological and social cost must enter all equations of development.
We are one brief generation in the long march of time; the future is not ours to erase.
So where knowledge is limited, 
we will remember all those who will walk after us,
and err on the side of caution.
All this that we know and believe must now become the foundation of the way we live.
At this turning point in our relationship with Earth,
we work for an evolution: from dominance to partnership;
from fragmentation to connection; from insecurity,
to interdependence.

Today's simple suggestion is to come up with a personal version of this... especially the resolution part. How do we resolve to live more lightly on the planet? What changes can we make in order to "remember all those who will walk after us, and err on the side of caution"?

Here's my personal version, short and sweet because I like Simplicity in words, too:

I know I am but one life form among the myriad created by God.
I believe that I am called to live gently,
so as not to break the web of life that connects all living things.
I resolve to use as few of the earth's resources as possible, 
and to leave the planet better than I found it, to the best of my ability, 
living simply so that others can simply live.

I just read my personal declaration of interdependence aloud as my pledge to the planet.

You're most welcome to join me in this exercise... Now, I think I'll go cook a vegetarian meal.
“Our present ecological crisis, the biggest single practical threat to our human existence in the middle to long term, has, religious people would say, a great deal to do with our failure to think of the world as existing in relation to the mystery of God, not just as a huge warehouse of stuff to be used for our convenience.”
- Archbishop Rowan Williams
Looking for more Simple Suggestions? Try here.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Guest Moodler: Sermon for Canada Day

July 1st is Dominion Day, also known as Canada Day. It's a wonderful day to celebrate a wonderful country of beauty, diversity, and freedom... and a day to reflect on our sense of identity...

Once again, my best friend is giving the reflection at her church this morning, and a good one it is! It flows from today's gospel reading, which is Mark 5.21-43. Happy reading, and Happy Canada Day!

Reflection on “Who(se) am I?”
Cathy Coulter
July 1, 2012

          Several years ago there was a TV beer commercial where a man comes out on a stage in a plaid shirt and does a rant about being Canadian. He gets really excited and louder and louder. “A toque is a hat, a chesterfield is a couch and it’s pronounced zed not zee. … My name is Joe and I am Canadian.”  The ad became very popular, I think because it feels good to shout out our pride.
          Well, my name is Cathy and I am Canadian, and I’m proud of it too. Canada is a wonderful place to live. We are so blessed. So lucky. A great way to find this out is to travel and I did that, living in England for two years when I was in my twenties. It’s startling for a young person to realize we’re not the centre of the universe after all but at the same time learn we have so much to be grateful for. Canada is a good place to come home to.
          One thing that makes us Canadian is sharing our stories. Some of the Canadian stories I love include Terry Fox, Tommy Douglas, Banting and Best, Anne of Green Gables, the Last Spike. One of the best parts of my work is hearing the stories of people in this church. They are great Canadian stories, too. The vision and creation of a railroad that ran from sea to sea is brought to life for me when I remember Reg’s story of going to war as a young man and taking the train for five days to Halifax where he caught a ship for England. When he got there, he stayed with some relatives who didn’t believe that there was a railroad on this earth long enough to travel on for five days. They thought Reg was telling a tall tale and he couldn’t convince them otherwise. I’ve read about D-Day and seen the movie “Saving Private Ryan”, barely able to watch the opening scene of the Normandy beach landing, it’s so intense. Then I met Bill S. and heard his story about being there, working as a communications officer on one of the landing craft. He lived that intensity and it’s an incredible story to hear. In another story, a 13 year old Gloria travelled with her family by car across the country, moving from Quebec to Vancouver Island in 1951. On the way, they had some adventures including the three kids coming down with chicken pox. Some years later, Gloria met a Lake Cowichan boy, named Ron who was a boom man on the log booms before they used boats, nimbly walking along the logs with his cork boots and pipe pole. When I heard that I thought about the Kate and Anna McGarrigle song that I love, “The Log Driver’s Waltz”, in which a log driver learns to step lightly making him the favourite of the girls at dances.
          So it’s a good day to celebrate our stories and celebrate our wonderful country. Like that commercial we can be proud to say “I am Canadian.”
          Being Canadian is part of our identity. I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately about identity in the context of our spiritual life. In the first half of life we need to establish our identity, a healthy self-image. When I graduated from nursing, I got a job at a summer camp. When people called me “nurse”, I looked behind me to see who they were talking to. My mother, who was also a nurse, worked on a maternity ward for a couple of years before she got married. And yet when she brought her first born home from the hospital, she cried all the way home because while she may have cared for babies, she’d never been a mother. Eight years later she had four kids calling her Mom and a good one she was.
          We consolidate our personalities along the way too. I’m Type A or Type B. I’m introverted or extroverted. We tell ourselves, I’m good at this, not good at that.  I’m successful. I’m a failure. Churches have an identity too. We’re progressive, we’re Bible based, we’re righteous, we’re sinners, and so on.
          So we develop our identities and that’s good and necessary but then in the second half of life, we are called to go deeper.  Going deeper means to look beneath our self-image and personality to who we truly are. I can ask, “Who am I?”  but I need to ask, “Whose am I?” And the answer is I am a child of God. I have come from God and belong to God.  By the time we reach middle age, our identities are so entrenched that we think that’s what our life is all about. We forget that we are more than Canadian, a nurse, a woman, a member of the United Church… That deeper part of ourselves is our true self, that which is one with God and all creation – that self that is beneath that shell we call our identity.
          If we think our identity is all we are, we tend to take that pretty seriously.  It tends to make us think we are separate. We are this and not that. And human nature doesn’t trust what we are not, nor do we understand it.  We are so invested in our identities that we are easily upset and offended and self-righteous. While on vacation this winter, Jim and I were at a busy tourist site and there were a lot of people moving both directions down the paved path. There was barely enough room to walk three across but group after group came towards us walking two or three abreast so I was constantly stepping out of the way. Because I am a person that follows the rules, I think everyone should follow the rules which were clear to me: everyone should walk single file when passing. I got more and more offended and upset and I stopped stepping aside, squeezing past people which really didn’t make me feel any better.  I could hardly notice my surroundings I was so annoyed. Afterwards, I thought about how silly I was. Everyone was just having a good time (except me). If I’d let go of keeping my identity as the behaviour police, I might have had a better chance at being open to God’s spirit in the beautiful surroundings and in the people surrounding me.
          This is certainly where road rage comes from, and probably most conflicts. Our identity is offended.
          Another problem with taking our identity too seriously is that we think we’re in control. This can also prevent us from being open to God’s spirit to work through us. As a helper, I’m quite familiar with this. I have an idea that it’s up to me to fix everything, help everyone. A situation arises in which there is a need and I put up my hand and call out, “It’s okay, God. I’ve got this one.” I usually end up trying to control others (in their own best interests of course) and it usually doesn’t work too well. Those times I am, by the grace of God, open to the moment are usually amazing moments, and healing moments.
          Our identities keep us bound up. We can’t think outside the box. We’re too busy performing our roles and controlling our environment. We can’t be as open as we might be. Jesus did not live this way. He knew whose he was.  He said, “I am in the Father and the Father is in me” (John 14:11) and “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). Jesus knew that God not only creates life but lives through us. Jesus knew it so well that that core of light spread to the very edges of his clothes so that when the woman with the hemorrhage touched the hem of his garment she was healed.
I’ve always loved this story. I always thought it was about the power of the woman’s faith, but I’m realizing it’s also about how open Jesus was, right to the edges of himself and beyond. Jesus did not have borders. That didn’t make him a pushover. To the contrary. Jesus was connected to his true identity in God and didn’t spend all his energy making sure his worldly identity was looking good.
That’s likely what all the people jostling around Jesus were doing. I can imagine their thoughts… “Woowee, here I am with the celebrity Jesus. If everyone back home could see me now.” Or “I wish that disciple would quit hogging Jesus. It’s my turn.” Only one person was as open as Jesus and that was the woman with the hemorrhage. All the people milling around were in contact with Jesus but only the woman who reached out in faith received his healing power.
          Her self-image was probably at rock bottom. You could say she had nothing to lose or you could say she had nothing in the way. Propping up our ego and clinging to control can get in the way of God’s healing power.  Suffering can open us up. It shows us that our identities are fragile things, that we’re not in control. 
Jairus, also in the reading this morning had that lesson thrust upon him. We know he was a leader, I imagine of fairly high status, but his status could not keep his daughter from getting seriously ill. In the reading we see a man humbling himself, throwing himself at Jesus feet and on his mercy, utterly dependent. And then, to add insult to injury, when time is critical and every second counts, Jesus is interrupted by the woman touching his garment and he takes time out to attend to her. If I were Jairus, I would have been wild with frustration. I would think I could control the situation by getting Jesus to move faster.  Jairus learned that he was utterly dependent on Jesus, on God.
This utter dependence on God is not bad news.  It’s good news. It’s The Good News. We are God’s. God is at the centre of our universe. We can relax. No more keeping up appearances, only gratitude. When we think our external image is all there is, there is a lot of pressure to measure up and keep up the status quo.  This is not to say that having an identity is a bad thing. It’s human and necessary. But keeping a humble and open heart will lead us down the paths of grace.
          Today is a day to celebrate… celebrate this wonderful country we are so blessed to live in, celebrate the stories of this country and our own stories, too. And celebrate, knowing that while we are Canadian, even more than that, we are God’s and created, loved and able to love. Thanks be to God.