Sunday, October 29, 2017

Love is the bottom line

You remind us
over and over again
through all the centuries since you came
that the bottom line
is love.

our leaders think the bottom line
is a strong economy.

But where does that get us, really?

How would the world change
if we lived by your bottom line instead?

Do not oppress
the stranger who lives in your midst,
you say.

Care for widows and orphans,
(all those on the margins)
you say.

Do not loan money on credit,
you say.

Whatever you do for the least,
you do for me,
you say.

Love your neighbour as yourself,
you say.

And if we do all these things
as you say,
then we are loving you
with all our heart,
soul and mind.

O God,
help us to live always
as though
love is the bottom line.


Friday, October 27, 2017

45 bags of leaves... and then some

All that's left in the garden is carrots... and leaves!
One evening last week, I was the only witness to a clandestine transaction in a dark parking lot. T. brought a trunkful of (once) green stuff and transferred it to E.'s vehicle. Sworn to secrecy, my lips are sealed as to identities and the whereabouts of this occurrence.

Of course it's all a joke, though it's a true story. A friend of mine who has more leaves than she knows what to do with shared some with another friend who composts. We Master Composter/Recyclers often laugh about MCRs' strange autumn hoarding habits!

For example, in the last two weeks of September, my engineer hubby designed and constructed a leaf stockade (or corral, if you prefer) and we raked up what I would guess to be about 20 bags of leaves from under our oak/elm trees and stockaded them (to reduce our use of plastic bags). Later, Mom and I raked up six more bags at my parents' home that were dumped into my corral so that we could reuse the emptied bags for the next raking. The corral was almost overflowing. And the leaves just keep on falling.

The leaf stockade/corral
Since then, several neighbours have generously contributed to my hoarding habit. Brian was out raking and gave me a dozen bags one Sunday morning, and on my trip home with our car stuffed full of leaf bags, I noticed that Dan, our local retired pastor, had another huge pile just waiting for the garbage guys. Five minutes later I drove back to see if Dan would mind me taking them. I rang the doorbell, but I suspect he and his wife were at church. Not wanting to see all that good stuff get trucked out of the city creating more fossil fuel emissions when I could make perfectly good use of it here, I loaded my car again (twice) -- another 23 bags, and phoned Dan later that day to make a confession. He laughed and said, "I wondered where they went! Go in leafs and sin no more."

Since then, I've collected another 10 bags from my dad. And there are probably another ten out in my front yard again that I'll try to fit into the corral now that the original leaves have settled somewhat. Will it ever end?

Yes, it will, and that's the whole point. I'm "gathering carbons while I may." Composting through spring and summer requires a lot of carbons/browns (leaves, dead stalks, wood shavings, ashes, or newspaper) to be mixed with nitrogens/greens (vegetable peelings, fruit remnants, grass clippings (if you don't grasscycle, but most people I know do!), green stalks, vines and other garden leftovers) as well as water and air to produce the rich dark organic soil amendment we call humus or compost. And in order to compost most of my garden waste through the seasons, it takes a LOT of carbon that can be easily collected in the fall, but is hard to come by in other seasons. To make compost the ratio of carbon/browns to nitrogen/greens is 20:1. In the past year, I composted 55 bags of leaves, and now it looks like I have enough to start all over again.

Composting is as easy as making a layer of leaves, adding some garden leavings or kitchen scraps (no meat, other proteins, or bones, though, as they get smelly), repeating the process until you have a good pile (1 m or 3 ft cubed is optimal in my books), watering it well, and stirring it every two weeks or so. Having walls or fencing around the pile helps to keep it tidy. I like to add our composting worms -- Red Wigglers -- in the summer (they live in an indoor bin in the winter) because they speed up the composting process by eating their weight in waste every day. In the cold months, when I take my extra kitchen scraps (that don't fit in the worm bin) out to the compost pile, I always fill the bucket with warm water so that it can help to kickstart the aerobes and other life in the pile for at least a little while. Frozen stuff piles up outside, but come spring, when everything melts, it's just a matter of stirring it up and reducing odors by adding more leaves -- of which we now have plenty!

45 bags and then some should last me until next September, I hope! In fact, I might even have a few extra to share...

If you want to learn more about composting, check out Compost 'S cool here in the City of Edmonton. Elsewhere, check your local library for helpful information!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Simple Suggestion #267... Stop with the straws

I'd kind of forgotten about the Simple Suggestions side of my moodlings for a while, but here we go again...

Plastic is the bane of our existence, if you really think about it. It's created huge problems for ocean life (the Great Pacific Garbage Patch) and it has broken down into micro particles in our air, water and soil. I find bits of it everywhere when I'm out walking my dog in the river valley -- broken pieces of items that were supposed to last a long time, emptied plastic water bottles, single-use plastic bags, all sorts of items that human beings failed to put in garbage cans. It gets to be rather depressing.

What we need to do, my friends, is to refuse to use plastic items as much as possible, to stop the waste before it has a chance to begin. Plastic has infiltrated our lives to the point that we don't even see it a lot of the time. The video below kind of brings that home:

So today's suggestion is just to bring awareness to one of the most ubiquitous plastic items of which we are most oblivious -- the plastic straw. Unless I am an invalid unable to rise from my bed bed for a sip of water, I really don't need plastic straws. I am perfectly capable of drinking from a cup or bottle without one. And if I get a little bit of foam or whipping cream from that ___________ (insert beverage of choice) on my upper lip, oh well, I can lick it off. Or remove it with one of those ubiquitous paper napkins to which we are also oblivious, but that's another moodling for another day.

This summer, Seattle launched a #Stopsucking campaign that is just brilliant. Though Edmonton isn't a seaside city that sees straws wash up on its beaches, we do have our own Accidental Beach that saw its own plastic cups and straws parked in the bushes of our river valley, sigh. So maybe we should take up the challenge of Seattle Seahawks' quarterback Russell Wilson and make our city strawless too?

Straws are only one item we can do without. It's important to consider every single-use item out there if we can and curtail its use for the sake of our planet. How many single-use items can you refuse in one day? How many straws can you decline in a month? I'd love to hear back!

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Giving to God the things that are God's

O God,
we are all stardust.

We do not make ourselves,
and everything we create
is invented from the materials
that you provide.

So really,
nothing belongs "to Caesar" --
everything is yours.

That's not to say
that we shouldn't pay taxes
that help to support our social structures
and the lives of those less fortunate.

It's just to say
that we need to remember
that you are the Source of All Being,
and to hold in reverence
all that is,
all that you are.

You are present in the tiniest amoeba
and the largest whale.
You live in the forests
and in the hearts of people
with a different world view than our own.

So when you ask us to
"Give therefore to Caesar
the things that are Caesar's,
and to God the things that are God's,"
I hear your invitation
to cooperate with you
in caring for your creation.

Help me to be always aware
of the ways I can improve
in my collaboration
with all the other creatures
who come from stardust.


Saturday, October 14, 2017

A Sunday reflection on wedding clothes

I can't help but think
that Matthew
messed up this Sunday's parable.

Maybe he wrote it down all crooked?

Did he fall asleep before you finished
and have to make up his own ending?

I can believe that the King
in your story about his son's wedding banquet
was disappointed
by the guests who didn't show up.

But going to the extreme
of burning down a city?

Doesn't make sense,
coming from someone
who is all about mercy and compassion.

I love to imagine a party
to which everyone is invited --
because that's just
how you roll.

After all, you're the guy who hung out
with tax collectors and sinners,
and who encourages us to welcome the least,
to care for the hungry,
the thirsty,
the naked,
the sick,
and the prisoner.

(At least Matthew got that part right.)

What I don't buy
is the end of his telling of the parable
where one wedding guest
who wasn't wearing a "wedding robe"
is bound hand and foot and thrown into "the outer darkness
where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth."

Excuse me?

That's just not how you roll,
is it?

You love us all equally
and the King in any parable you tell
would probably be more like the one
that we see at the Last Supper in John's gospel,
the one who removed his outer robe
in order to wash the dirty feet of his guests.

I suspect you would prefer to have the King in your story
take his mis-dressed guest aside
and offer him the finest wedding robe imaginable --
to raise him up rather than throw him out.

That King would be more like the prodigal father.

Is it possible that after hearing your parable,
Matthew procrastinated,
and then later,
when his memory was rather fuzzy,
he couldn't remember the way you told it originally,
and human bias and a need for retribution crept in?

I just don't get it.

Really, it doesn't sound like
the kind of story
an all-loving,
God like you
would tell.

thank you
for loving us
and for inviting us ALL
to your banquet,
no matter who we are
or how we believe.

I promise I'll do my best
to show up in appropriate wedding clothes
when I'm invited to your heavenly feast someday,
but I'm pretty sure
that what I've done wrong
or what I wear
won't really bother you one way or the other,
no matter what Matthew wrote.
I know you love me,
and I love you too.
What else matters?


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Autumn beauty

The weather is turning, and the leaves won't be with us much longer. So today I am looking at the beauty that has surrounded me on walks in the last week or two, the photos I can't help but snap every year. This past weekend, Lee and I had a couple of really fine walks in nature even though the weather wasn't great, simply because the colours were. If you haven't had time to enjoy autumn beauty, this is for you.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

A vineyard prayer

Image result for vineyard taize
A vineyard near Taize
O God,
all this talk of vineyards,
wild grapes,
and disastrous tenants!
It's more than I can take in this Sunday.

So I simplify:
It's we who are your vineyard.

You plant us where you want us,
fence us in with your love,
build a watchtower
so you can keep an eye on us,
and dig a wine press
for the harvest of our sorrows and joys.

You, our Tender God, attend to us
with the greatest of care,
and no matter how we produce,
you are jealous for us
because you love us.

In the Song of Songs you say
"Come, my beloved,
  let us go forth into the fields,
  and lodge in the villages;
let us go out early to the vineyards,
  and see whether the vines have budded,
whether the grape blossoms have opened
  and the pomegranates are in bloom.
There I will give you my love."

In the face of your tenderness,
how can we help but give our all for you?


Thursday, October 5, 2017

'Glad to be Alive' Day

We often don't think about our deaths until we meet with situations that could take our lives. We go through our days always expecting that there will be a tomorrow, and are shocked to hear when tomorrow doesn't come for people we know, when they die suddenly. Often a surprising, sudden death helps us to be more grateful for our life, at least until we are lulled back into believing that there will always be a tomorrow for us on this side of the grass.

Thirty years ago today, I was travelling with a performing group in Eastern Canada when the tour bus I was in rolled down an under-construction embankment in the Laurentians. I remember the bus tipping to the left, and suddenly feeling like my friends and I were bouncing around in a dryer drum. Unlike many other similar accidents in the famed hills of Quebec, we came out relatively unscathed because our trip to the bottom was just two revolutions. Sadly, our bus driver later died of complications related to his injuries, and one of our cast mates with a fractured skull had to leave the group due to migraines. The rest of us escaped with minor fractures, cuts and bruises, and were mostly just traumatized. To this day, some of my friends report a hesitancy to climb aboard a bus.

Ever since that day thirty years ago, October 5th has been my personal 'Glad to be Alive' Day. It's a good exercise, now and then, to remember that tomorrow isn't guaranteed. As I was moodling the paragraphs above, I received word that a woman I exchanged a smile and a few words with at a local election rally the night before last died suddenly yesterday morning. She looked perfectly healthy when I gave her my written question for the candidates. Her family and friends are reeling, I'm sure. They are on my mind and heart today, too, and in my prayers.

We just never know when our time might be up. If we could really be aware of the gift of life all the time, every day would be 'Glad to be Alive' Day. But living in that kind of awareness takes more effort than seems humanly possible. I try to remember to be thankful for my life every morning when I open my eyes, but too often, the dog's whine for breakfast or some other life event gets in the way of that train of thought. That's why I make an effort to have my annual designated day on October 5th every year because of the bus accident.

Do you have a 'Glad to be Alive' Day?

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Walking with St. Francis, the earthiest saint

Image result for St. Francis
image borrowed from Wikipedia
Today is the day the world celebrates a little Italian guy who lived over eight hundred years ago and who really appreciated life, love and beauty in all forms. Francis of Assisi was born into material wealth but saw beyond it to the things that are really valuable -- compassion, openness, the beauty of creation, the importance of living in harmony with nature, the value of those on the margins of society, and the power of simple living. He disregarded the church authorities of the day (who were on the wrong track in many ways) and invited a group of his friends to join him in following Jesus in a radical way, living with the poor and sharing everything that came his way. He was probably the first (only?) Christian to befriend Muslims in the age of the Crusades, and he understood that really, we can own nothing -- all that we have is gift from God.

It gives me no end of joy that there are still many Franciscans and other people of all stripes who follow in Francesco's footsteps today. The present Pope was inspired to take Francis as his name, and what a beloved man he has become even for people who have nothing to do with the Catholic church. Pope Francis is down-to-earth rather than in the usual churchy ivory tower, and offers our world a necessary alternative to the cult of celebrity and consumerism at a time when we really need alternatives! His common-sense approach to life is refreshing after so many church leaders who have been stuck in theological dogma and doctrine to the detriment of really understanding human beings.

If you've followed my moodlings for a while, you already know that St. Francis gets a lot of mention here. I've always felt a deep kinship with him. Today, as I walk the dog, I'll exercise my imagination and invite Francis to walk beside me. We'll discuss the state of our world and what we should be doing about it, laugh at how Shadow-dog imagines he might jump up a tree to catch a magpie, and just appreciate the beauty of a crisp autumn morning. And maybe my side of the conversation will be like the prayer below:

Holy Francis,
please pray with me.
I grieve the struggles
of those who have lost loved ones and livelihoods
to earthquakes and climate change
and human made tragedies of outrageous proportions.
Help us all to find ways to help each other.

Lover of creation,
please pray with me.
I am mourning the loss of life and good portions of earth's abundance
where wildfires, floods, hurricanes and other climate disasters
have killed and
destroyed beauty and goodness.
Remind us all how to live in harmony with nature.

Channel of God's peace,
please pray with me.
I lament the escalation of war and war-like behaviour
in so many people and places in our world.
Help us all to learn your lessons
about sowing love rather than hatred,
forgiveness where there is anger,
hope where there is despair,
and light where there is darkness.

Saint Francis,
please pray with me.
Help us all to be like you --
to welcome those on the fringes,
to follow wisdom and share with others,
to care for creation,
and to offer inclusion and love to all.


Happy St. Francis Day!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

A busy month

Since I dropped the online moodling one month ago, it's been a pretty busy time, to put it mildly. Looking back at my list of to do's, I see that I managed most things...
  • 3 apple pies (with more to come yet, I hope) and plenty of other fruit baked into yummy things
  • Jams made
  • Veggies blanched and frozen
  • Apples and plums picked with my 92-year-old Italian friend, Ralph, and a couple of wonderful visits with him and his lovely wife, Lidia (that included delicious Italian cookies and espresso to keep my nerves jangling for the rest of the day)!
  • Plenty of dog walks through autumn splendor
  • Jay gone back to school (grade twelve!)
  • Compost sifted, dug into garden boxes and started up again for the winter with freshly pulled garden stalks, plus Red Wiggler worms shared with several vermi-composting friends
  • Tabs kept on my in-laws, mostly by phone
  • Tomatoes gathered from the L'Arche community garden bed with my friends at Day Program (and another fun time with the Library Lady)
  • Lovely sunset strolls with my hubby
  • Minutes taken for the monthly L'Arche board meeting
  • Hot dogs handed out at my very last Welcome Back School Barbeque and Meet the Teacher Night
  • Almost finished reading The Brothers Karamazov
  • Next spring's tulips planted
  • Letters written to a few friends, and last but not least
  • The garden went from this...

to this...

still a bit of work left...

And there were special visits from friends who don't come to town very often anymore, we had a September Taizé prayer, I prayed with, and life moved along as it does. At times I was tempted to cut short my "time off" from moodling because I really wanted to write about something, but at other times I wondered if I'd ever pick it up again. 

But I'm back, after a very busy month. Did you miss me?