Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Lucky day at Elk Island National Park

On Sunday morning, Lee and I had the pleasure of taking a young L'Arche assistant from Germany to Elk Island National Park. We prepared Birte by saying that we've been there a few times when all we've seen were birds... but that's not what happened this time. We had a lovely, if chilly, morning, and took plenty of pictures. I'm not sure Birte knows just how lucky she was -- we managed to see a few herds of bison, and we've never seen a single moose in the park before, never mind two hanging out together! Here are a few pictures, for your enjoyment...

The two young bison behind the tree were butting heads...

We thought there was only one moose at first, but then they moved apart...

Brothers hanging out together, maybe?

This picture doesn't do justice to the beaver's 
engineering of terraced ponds

Birte took more pictures than I did --
but I can go back almost any time...

Astotin Lake was frozen at the edges... and my fingers were, too...

These bison weren't happy -- we disrupted their nap, 
and they shambled off into the trees...

On our way home, we stopped at the places where we'd seen the moose and bison as we came into the park, and they were gone. So if you're heading to Elk Island National Park, we recommend going early in the day... though that doesn't necessarily guarantee animal sightings. Apparently, there are more elk than any other kind of animal in the park, and we've yet to spot even one after many visits. Perhaps that's part of the fun of nature watching -- sometimes you simply get lucky.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Sunday Reflection: To be like you

This reflection is brought to you by
Hebrews 5:1-6.

Though you are God,
O Christ,
you don't hold yourself above us.

You are the one who walks among us
and who acts as our liberator,
the high priest
who offers himself
in place of the poor gifts we can give.

Because you lived our life
and understand human fragility,
you are compassionate,
and forgiving of our weaknesses.

And we are called to be like you:
and forgiving.

Not only to others,
but also, to ourselves.

It's not easy to be like you.

Please help us.


Wednesday, October 24, 2018

A sense of urgency

On Thanksgiving Monday, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which is made up of a group of the world's top climate scientists, released their 6th report since 1974. It's scary, but hopeful.

And today, one year to the day before our next federal election, I finally sat down with a green highlighter pen to read a 34-page summary of it, which I then packaged up and took to the office of my member of parliament. I added a letter requesting that she do everything she possibly can to encourage the alignment of Canada's climate policies with what the scientists tell us we must do before 2030 in order to avoid more climate and human catastrophes. The document I dropped off had a lot of green text. I was just going to highlight the important parts, but it's all important!

The report came out on October 6th (click here to read it for yourself), but was shuffled to the bottom of the news cycle by most media outlets, something that makes no sense to me. We're talking about our future here, and hundreds of scientists from all over the world are in agreement, telling us that we need to make changes now or

  • we will see a lot more intense climate and weather extremes, and an increase in droughts, floods, wildfires and weather events that will make travel to our favourite places less possible (the Skyline Trail in Jasper is no longer recommended for hikers because of fire danger, a friend's trip to Mexico has been cancelled because of Hurricane Willa, many friends' summer vacations were spoiled by smoke that stretched from the coast to Ontario this summer... see the pattern?)
  • we will lose many more ecosystems (our coral reefs and marine ice are disappearing already)
  • more species loss and extinction will result in further loss of biodiversity, which has already impoverished our planet and us as a species in many ways
  • climate zones will continue to change, bringing desert regions to higher latitudes
  • oceans will continue to acidify, currents will continue to change, and invasive species will get around more than they already have (if you think zebra mussels in the Great Lakes are bad enough, just wait...)
  • there will be more risks to human health, livelihoods, food security, water supplies, human security and economy
  • disadvantaged, vulnerable and often indigenous populations, especially those in the tropics and southern hemisphere, will suffer the most
  • urban heat islands, already in the news this summer where people were dying from extreme temperatures in large cities, will only increase as temperatures climb
  • food production in extreme weather will be more difficult, and water stress is already a concern in many countries
There are things we can do, and that's why this report is so important. It reminds us that it is possible to reduce CO2 emissions by lowering energy use, increasing energy efficiency, and working to implement the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals because action on them can create synergies between countries in the areas of health, clean energy, responsible consumption and production, the health of our oceans -- and get cities and communities working together for the benefit of all.

None of this will be easy, because governments like to talk more than act. So we have to push...

All of it will require a willingness to make sacrifices and change our ways. It might start with accepting that we need to tighten our belts and pay a carbon tax to kick start an economy that relies less on fossil fuels. That we might have to drive less and walk or carpool more get by with fewer pipelines and more solar and wind energy. That we give up on those tropical vacations altogether for the sake of our grand kids' futures. And eat less meat. And waste less of the earth's resources, using what we already have until it wears out. And remember that we are not entitled to waste things, but that we are to share them, especially with those in the developing world...

Whatever we do, we only have until 2030 to do it. Less than 12 years. So let's start now.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

River walking

It's been an emotionally heavy week, so I've been seeking solace in nature. I've probably walked 75 km, most of it along our wonderful river.

Edmonton is blessed with the most unspoiled and beautiful river valley, with at least 20 major urban parks, all of which I've walked through at one time or other, and 160 km of maintained trails. There are many paths for cycling, cross country skiing in the winter, walking and hiking, but Shadow and I have been doing a fair bit of "off-roading" of late, taking what I call coyote trails to be closer to nature and the water. When my heart and mind are in turmoil, there's something really soothing about the gentleness of the water's movement in the North Saskatchewan. Something timeless and eternal, that makes me feel like my struggles are but a ripple in the stream of life. River walking grounds me.

And there are other serendipities in walking the valley. A lengthy conversation about conservation with a fellow hiker. A pretty group of mallards who leave little wakes behind them when they paddle hard against the current. An unexpected golden delicious apple tree (probably planted years ago by someone who tossed their apple core) with sweet, ice cold fruit hanging just within reach.

For me, a walk in the valley is like a big hug from God.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Sunday Reflection: One of us

This reflection is brought to you by
Hebrews 4: 14-16.

You've already gone before us,
O Christ,
passing through the heavens
and making a place for us.

You've also been one of us
and experienced the joys and failures
that we face as human beings,
but without sin.

Your own human life
was a brief moment in time.

Now you live in each one of us,
knowing our sins and struggles.
our hurts and happiness,
and walking with us
through our dark places
and into your light.

We know that you are with us,
closer than our very breath,
in the thrumming of our heartbeats.

You are holding us with compassion and grace,
most especially when we are in need.

Thank you,
for being one of us,
and being one with us.


Monday, October 15, 2018

Sunday reflection on a Monday: An undivided heart

Image by Jay (my words)
Today's reflection is brought to you by
Hebrews 4: 12-13, a day late because I forgot to hit the publish button! Oops.

Your word,
O God,
is your living and active self,
a sword
that comes to separate me
from my illusions.

Too often
I divide what you have made
into opposing camps,
that without darkness,
light cannot exist,
that joy is sweeter
once I've known sorrow,
and that my soul
needs its body
in spite of its aging
and imperfections.

But you see clearly
where my real divisions are.

You understand me
better than I know my own mind.

Depending on the day,
my divided heart fools me
into thinking myself and others
better or worse than we really are,
but you see through me
and love me
in spite of my illusions.

Though it be painful,
show me the places
where I need to grow,
to love,
and to live
according to your will for me

Give me
an undivided heart,
and lead me to wholeness.

Let me forget myself
and follow you alone.


Thursday, October 11, 2018

Easy (and excellent!) tomato sauce

Ready for roasting
My best friend, Cathy, has been a parish nurse for the last ten years or so. In her travels, she's met and helped lots of folks. Most recently, she connected with Molly, who is in her 90s, and who shared a wonderful recipe for tomato sauce, which Cathy passed along to me.

With the gazillion tomatoes my garden produced this summer, I've used the recipe three times already, and adapted it to make spaghetti sauce (adding some onions, peppers, herbs and lemon juice to thin it out a bit and provide a little extra citric acid for canning purposes). But the basic recipe is just so good, thick, concentrated and tastier than any paste in a store bought can) and I've raved about it to enough friends that it would probably be good to post it here in an effort to share something really yummy. The first time I made it, we put it on homemade pizza... and I will never buy any kind of pizza sauce ever again. Mmmm mmmmm!

Oven Roasted Tomato Sauce
(makes about 3 cups)

12 vine-ripened tomatoes, in season
12 cloves of garlic, peeled
olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
herbs or other seasonings as desired

1. Preheat oven to 375° F, or 190° C.
2. Remove the stems from the tomatoes, making a hole into which you can insert a garlic clove deep into the tomato.
3. Insert the garlic cloves, and put the tomatoes into an oven-proof baking dish.
4. Brush tomatoes with olive oil and bake for three hours, uncovered. They may look a bit blackened in spots, but don't worry, this just adds to the flavour.
5. When tomatoes have cooled, use a slotted spoon to transfer them to a food processor or blender, leaving all liquid behind.
6. Process for about 10 seconds and taste. Add salt and pepper or other seasonings as desired.
7. Use immediately, refrigerate for up to five days, or freeze. (I like to drop my paste by dollops into paper cupcake cups and set in my freezer, then transfer to a plastic bag for freezer storage.)

Molly's recipe comes from an old cookbook page, probably long out of print, on which the author attributes the recipe to their uncle Uncle Bernie. God bless you, Uncle Bernie, wherever you are -- this recipe is better than gold. Gold could never taste this good! And thank you, Molly and Cathy, for sharing it with me.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Sunday Reflection: Rules about love

This reflection is brought to you
by Mark 10: 2-16.

O God,
we are all
your beloved children,
but sometimes
we forget that.

When we doubt your love for us,
things soon spin out of control.

When we doubt your love for others,
doubly so.

When we say
that you have made rules about love
that aren't loving,
we are putting the wrong words into your mouth.

We need to understand
that sometimes
we can be mistaken
when it comes to love
as you see it.

And so we learn hard lessons --
about acceptance,
about forgiving others,
about forgiving ourselves.

We want to become like the little children
you took into your arms and blessed,
that we may recognize
all true forms of love
and allow them to flourish
as you do.

Thank you for loving us.

Help us to be your love
in every corner of our lives.


As I write this today, I am thinking of my neighbours, L&M, two really lovely gentlemen neighbours who were recently married. Their marriage provides them with a blessing for their 17-year committed relationship, and essential spousal rights and benefits. I fail to see how the acceptance of their marriage denigrates my own in any way, as I know that many marriages are simply about loving companionship, and we have no lack of human population on our planet. In my humble opinion, the Church's treatment of our gay sisters and brothers and its black and white rules about disallowing gay marriage need to be challenged in the way Jesus challenges the pharisees about their hardness of heart when it came to the Mosaic divorce laws in today's readings.

Love is love.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

The Patron Saint of simplicity

A little pocket-sized gift
from my daughter -- from
Today is the Feast Day of my favourite Saint, Francis of Assisi, from whom our present Pope takes his name. I fell in love with Saint Francis when I was a kid, and have read about him at every opportunity. Followers of these moodlings might notice that I write about him at every opportunity as well. He's one of the main inspirations for all the work I did with Laudato Si Reflections a few years back. As there's not a lot more I can add, today I'm looking back at past moodlings about Francesco, and listing them here for any interested readers. He makes me happy because he points us to what's really important in life -- loving the marginalized, caring for creation, and following Christ. May he bless your day as well!

St. Francis, the Patron saint of Simplicity
Walking with St. Francis, the earthiest Saint
Laudato Si: Sunday Reflection #1
Celebrating the original Francis
Simple Suggestion #139... Count your squares
Book Review: The Passionate Troubadour
God and St. Francis talk about lawns

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Simple Suggestion #279... Offer constructive input

How much trash do you set out for collectors each week?

I suspect that's a question that a lot of people can't really answer, simply because we have fairly efficient waste management systems in North America. We throw something out, and it goes away, so we generally don't have to deal with a buildup of trash. But how would life change if we had to take more personal responsibility to get rid of our own garbage?

I ask these questions because Edmonton is currently reassessing how to handle its recycling and waste. China is no longer a market for our plastics, the Edmonton Waste Management composting facility is in need of roof repairs, and plans to divert 90% of Edmontonians' waste from the landfill have never quite reached the mark. All of these issues seemed to converge in the past year, bringing attention to the fact we can do better in dealing with our trash.

So the City is offering Edmontonians an opportunity to think outside the box and offer input on how our garbage is handled. Those already in the know reduce their waste by recycling, grasscycling, composting, shopping in ways that reduce packaging waste... and the list goes on. But what should we do about the waste that we can't seem to reduce, reuse or recycle?

There are a few different ways to offer constructive input regarding this issue. The City will be hosting a series of drop-in public engagement sessions where Edmontonians can discuss options. Click here for a list of opportunities to participate. There's also an online survey for those who can't make it to the sessions. And there's a waste calculator to help Edmontonians give some thought to the waste we do create, and how much energy and human effort it takes to get rid of it. I'm hoping that this whole exercise will bring some awareness to ways that we can reduce our waste and the impact that it is having on our neighbourhoods and our world.

This is just one issue where we can offer practical and constructive input from our personal experience. There are many more. We need to speak up about things that matter to us, whatever they may be, and take every opportunity to make our world a better place.

Looking for more Simple Suggestions? Click here.