Thursday, July 15, 2021

Waiting for as long as it takes

I don't know who put this on the fence that surrounds the grounds of St. Joseph Seminary/Newman Theological College/Offices of the Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton, but I thank them for their efforts. When I stopped to take this picture, another woman pulled up in her car, and we stood there, two strangers crying together. 

These little pink moccasins are likely a bit small for the Residential School children whose unmarked graves are in the news so much these days... but they can also represent the many little ones of all ages who have been lost in the years of the Sixties Scoop, and through all the intergenerational trauma that resulted from the last 200+ years of racist policies in Canada. 100% of our Indigenous community members have been living with that trauma.

All the Catholics I speak with can't understand why the Pope still hasn't apologized for the horrors inflicted by Catholic Residential Schools in Canada. Is it because he would then have to make apologies to Indigenous communities the world over? Well then, Pope Francis and patriarchy, get on with it. Those who are so deeply wounded certainly deserve more than an apology. How about some restorative justice work, too?

In the meantime, I want to sit with the survivors, listen to their pain, and wait for as long as it takes. 


P.S. If you're from elsewhere and don't know what I'm talking about, some of the school survivors told their stories in The Survivors Speak, a report from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, which can be accessed by clicking here.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Sharing with the birds

I had a gorgeous crop of Saskatoon berries that were coming along nicely. Looking them over last week, my imagination gave me enough to bake a pie, or at least to make a few dozen smoothies. I should have known better than to count my berries before the birds!

This year our garden has been a playground for three young crows, four noisy little blue jays, and probably a half dozen magpie juveniles (or maybe it's the same three who just visit at different times of the day). 

The jays are the youngest brood, and I get a charge out of how they overshoot their landings on branches and fences. Last week, I could have sworn the magpies were playing tag, or maybe "go in and out the windows" through my cucumber trellises! And the crows -- they seem quite determined to get the clothespins off the top panel of my lettuce and pea cage so they can have a feast on the unspoiled plants. It's a puzzle for them, one they have yet to solve.

On Sunday, I heard a lot of crashing in the Saskatoon berry bush, and when I went outside, I realized that the three crows had pretty much stripped the fruit by half even though most of it wasn't ripe yet. I shooed them away, but I'm guessing the blue jays and magpies finished the job -- this morning I went out and picked the half dozen Saskatoons that were my wee taste for this year. It's been so dry, I can hardly blame the birds for eating sweet juicy berries... but I have been keeping my birdbaths full so they can drink there! You'd think they'd honour the bargain.

I'm a bit sad that my berries are gone, but the youngsters have kept me company as I garden, and keep me laughing with their clumsiness and curiosity. The young crow in this picture often washes his food in the fountain before eating, but yesterday Lee exclaimed that he or she seemed to be using the fountain as a personal belly-wash station, sitting right on top of the little jet. To be fair, the sparrows do that sometimes, too. It probably feels good in this heatwave.

I guess I don't mind sharing my yard and a bit of produce in exchange for comedic entertainment, but next year I plan to find some netting for my Saskatoon berries before they're all gone!

Saturday, July 10, 2021

A little goose parade

My eldest and I went on a couple of lovely walks on recent evenings near Chickacoo Lake in the Glory Hills west of Edmonton, during a dog/house-sitting stint for Christina's friends. We were looking at a map of the walking trails in the area when Christina suddenly said, "Don't move."

I slowly turned my head to see what was advancing upon us, but there was nothing visible... until I looked down. Two young Canada geese were puttering around our feet making funny little cheeping noises and nibbling on the grass. There were no other geese to be seen out on the lake -- just ducks, a blue heron, and numerous red-winged blackbirds.

Christina's experiences of geese have been on the unnerving side -- having a large goose come hissing and threatening with its baseball bat wings even once is enough to make the bravest soul keep a healthy distance. But these two at our feet weren't being aggressive in any way, nibbling grass and burbling to each other, analyzing Christina's toes for a minute or two. So we chattered at them for a few minutes, marveled at their seeming fearlessness, and then decided to walk further around the lake.

When we turned back for one more look at them, they were following us, and it soon became evident that they were determined to stay with us, waddling along at a steady pace. I'm not sure that they could fly -- they were small enough to be teenage geese, and their wing feathers looked a bit short. Not wanting to draw them away from their lake home and hoping that the parent birds would return, we turned back to try to accompany them to the dock where we first noticed them before they followed us up the hill.

Christina led the parade, and we eventually got them out onto the platform, then turned and high-tailed it back into the treed paths beside the lake. At that point, after all that walking, it seemed they were happy to return to the water.

I somehow doubt that it was pure curiosity that brought them to us -- I suspect people have fed them and they associate us two-leggeds with the idea of interesting food experiences. Another example of why we shouldn't feed wildlife -- as Christina says at the end of the parade video below, those two were a little too trusting.

Here's a little wildlife fix for you, friends... not that they were particularly wild.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=81TgWMNzIUI

Monday, July 5, 2021

Patience for something beauty-full

My six-year-old blooming
Lionheart amaryllis
Some years ago, I asked a florist to send an amaryllis to my dear friend in Belgium as a Christmas gift. Gaby was delighted and wrote to me, saying, "she is very beauty-full!" So the next fall, I ordered a bulb for myself, and planted it so it would bloom for Christmas. And yes, she was very beauty-full!

She also managed to produce a roundish pod where one of the flowers had been -- because I transferred pollen between the blossoms with my fingers. I allowed the pod to ripen into a hard brown shell, and eventually it cracked and opened to reveal many black, flat and crinkly seeds about the size of a loonie (dollar coin here in Canada).

I turned to the internet for information about how to grow an amaryllis from seed, but all I could find was that they produce the plants in Florida, and it takes about four or five years from germination to flower stage. Wow, that long, I thought.

I was game to try for germination at least, curious what those flat black seeds would do. So I spread them out in a large-ish shallow pot, covered them with a fine layer of soil, and kept them well watered. Before long, the pot appeared to be growing fine grass.

That fall, I transplanted a dozen of the grassy plants into small pots and left them to grow in a sunny window through the winter. By the next spring, they looked like baby leeks, and I put a half dozen into four slightly larger pots and set them outside, bringing them indoors before first frost. The next summer, I kept only the three healthiest specimens. For three years, they spent their days in the sunny back yard or the south-facing kitchen window, depending on the season.

But last fall, as they were ending their fourth year, I cut the leaves from bulbs about the size of medium onions, shook the dirt from their roots, and put them in my basement cold room for a winter's nap with my original bulb, which has bloomed every year after its winter break. 

I promptly forgot about them all -- until after Easter!

The one that didn't bloom

In the middle of an episode of insomnia, I remembered! The next morning, I planted them in some good potting soil and set them out in our little greenhouse, where they put out some healthy looking leaves... and two of the three plants sent up a flower stalk! All that patience had paid off!

I gave one amaryllis to my sisters and one to my mom, and the flowers didn't disappoint! As Gaby said, they were "very beauty-full." Perhaps the third plant hadn't stored quite as much sunlight as the other two, as it hasn't blossomed. Maybe next year!

The lesson I am taking from this is that people are like amaryllises. We all grow at our own pace -- especially when it comes to discovering and accepting the truths of life. For some people, it takes much longer than others. 

In this season of uncovering many painful truths about Canada's colonial history and its myriad injustices against our Aboriginal Peoples, we need to be patient with one another, not to give up on each other. If we can bring each other along with gentleness, kindness, atonement, forgiveness, and healing, hopefully we can all bloom together into something very beauty-full.

Please pray with me for that, and let's all do what we can to further reconciliation...

Friday, July 2, 2021

2021 Seven-minute garden tour

I guess I really wasn't awake when I made this video in my pajamas on Tuesday. It's not 2020, it's 2021, and the thing the lettuce is planted in is called a cold frame, of course. But in spite of spoken errors, at least this seven-minute video gives me a record of how things are going in the vegetable department this summer, and it will be fun to compare how things have grown when I post another video at the beginning of August. For today, though, Shadow-dog and I are keeping cool in the basement, hoping the heat dome we're under will dissipate so I can stop covering my tomatoes and peppers and get out there to pull some weeds! 

Stay cool, friends! And pray for rain...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KI8RUq6b7uo



Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Canada Day in 2021

Our neighbour is renovating his childhood home right next door to us, and in the process, his electrical supply wire is being rerouted -- right up against the backyard flag pole where we hang our Canada Flag every July 1st, Canada Day. 

At first, I was quite unhappy that we had to take the flag pole down... but since then, the revelation of over 1,000 unmarked graves of children who died at the Indian Residential Schools in our country have made me a lot less proud of the flag that was a real source of pride when I travelled Europe in my twenties. Canadians like me are waking up to the shadow side of our country, visible in its long history of settlers mistreating those who lived here for thousands of years before a pope invented the Doctrine of Discovery and Europeans took over the lands we now call Canada.

The history of prejudice continues today, with recent attacks on Muslim women here in my own city. This grand country we call Canada does not feel like a safe place for many people who live here, namely, people of colour and our LGBTQ2S+ siblings. Some of the descendants of Canada's settlers still have entitlement issues, forgetting that they are no better than anyone else even as they look down on people who are different than them.

So when my good neighbour, Shelley, offered me the sign pictured here, I was delighted. I can't fly a Canada flag this year, and truthfully, I'm not sure I would want to if I could. Not this year while we're in the thick of the discoveries of these unmarked graves and the pain it causes so many of our Indigenous neighbours; maybe next year. But the message of this sign fits perfectly for right now.

Let's do more than fly flags or post signs like this one. Let's make Canada a country we can be proud of by preventing it from becoming a home for hate. There is plenty of room here for healthy diversity, for reconciliation and healing, and for everyone.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Sunday Reflection: My simple morning prayer

I've gotten out of the habit of posting on Sundays, mainly because my Sunday mornings are now spent with the Inner City Pastoral Ministry, where we opened worship to 30 participants today, first time since November, and where we are able to provide lunch/snack bags for 200 people (and lots of water in this heat!) thanks to generous donations from over 70 faith communities in our city. It's a very important ministry for the Emmanuel Community members, who have been asking for worship and prayer since covid restrictions forced us to shut the doors at the end of last year.

My own prayer patterns have changed a lot over the course of the pandemic, but I am taking delight in the evolution of my morning meditation, which now includes this simple prayer that I have shared before, but which has developed its own melody over the last year or so. So this has been my un-moodled "Sunday reflection" since March, as I sing it on my short drive to the Inner City each week before I meet my brothers and sisters there. If you turn on the subtitles, it's easy to sing along. Feel free to use it as you will, or to share it wherever it might be appreciated.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B3SWUOLzgKM

Friday, June 25, 2021

Saying no to coal


With the June 17th Alberta Energy Regulator's decision against the Grassy Mountain Coal development in Southern Alberta, ranchers, farmers, environmentalists, First Nations communities and people like me are breathing a huge sigh of relief.

For a few minutes, anyway.

But there are more coal projects in the works, and it's important that Albertans continue to fight against the decapitation of our gorgeous rockies, the destruction of our wilderness, and the pollution of the prairie provinces' river headwaters that many of us eventually drink, never mind the habitat of many creatures that are already endangered.

So the Council of Canadians has these wonderful lawn signs (above) that are available to help interested people make others aware of the issues, and they have also made it easy to send an email to the Alberta Coal Policy Committee that is reviewing the other potential coal developments. You can access a link to their email campaign by clicking here, or click here to request a lawn sign

Tomorrow I will be participating in a brochure campaign to keep the issue in the forefront of peoples' minds. In the meantime, I encourage you to check out the links above, and to share information with the people around you. Coal strip mining is the last thing we need to be doing in a world that's in the midst of a climate crisis. Let's protect our rockies and headwaters for the sake of future generations.

Monday, June 21, 2021

Reflections on National Indigenous Peoples' Day 2021

The t-shirt I'm wearing today
With the recent revelation of the discovery of 215 unmarked graves at a former Residential School in Kamloops, BC, 104 others near Brandon, Manitoba, and the potential for many more across the country (the Truth and Reconciliation Commission gave 4,100 as a number of named and unnamed students who died at the schools -- but it's likely higher), our Indigenous brothers and sisters, and hopefully those of us around them, are very aware that there's a lot of grief that comes with being of Aboriginal descent these days. Yesterday at the Inner City Pastoral Ministry, Garry* told me that he was a Kamloops survivor. I'm so glad he is! His smile is a reflection of the sun even as his community carries so much pain... pain that no one should ever have to carry.

Today I'm marking National Indigenous Peoples' Day quietly, thinking of him, and of the childhood friend who taught me about indigeneity through her friendship. We were friends for just a few years in my childhood, as my family moved away from our shared small town in Saskatchewan when I was nine years old. Noreen was a child of the Sixties Scoop and a wonderful friend, but wasn't a letter writer, so we lost touch. She paid my family a visit in Edmonton when I was in High School and it was so great to see her again, but again, we lost touch. For many years. And I never stopped missing her.

When the internet became a place to find people, I googled her and found a picture of her riding a camel in Madagascar, but the website that displayed it offered no way to reach her. Then in 2015, Facebook came to the rescue. I found someone with her name, sent a tentative message, and our friendship as adults (in the same city!) began. 

Then three years ago, Noreen returned to her First Nations community in Saskatchewan, and lost her connection with Facebook when her phone died. I tried everything I could think of to reconnect, but was at a complete loss. I wrote a poem for her and sent it to her last email address, not knowing what else to do. That didn't work either.

But with the announcement of the 215 children lost because of the Kamloops Residential School just recently, I dreamed of my friend, and redoubled my effort to find her. Fortunately, I discovered her daughter on social media and asked to connect with her mom once again. And in no time at all, Noreen and I were texting like no time had passed, talking about our families and gardens and friendship. She has made a huge difference in my life in ways I can't even begin to express, but mostly in giving me an unending desire to connect with many other Indigenous sisters and brothers. Her friendship is an incredible gift, one I've done nothing to deserve, and I am grateful for her, so today I sent her the poem that got lost in cyberspace, and tomorrow we might video call each other, I hope!

I'm very grateful for her, and for the wisdom and goodness of Canada's Original peoples, who have forgiven us so much already, and who are willing to work with us toward reconciliation of the many wrongs Canada's settler population have ignored for too long. There's so much I learned in the Indigenous Canada course two months ago that all Canadians should know -- so that we can begin to heal the hurts.

I pray that in the years to come, we will become aware of all the festering issues that need to be healed and attend to them with speed and compassion. We have so much work to do to apologize and fix things, and it all starts with reaching out to each other. Yesterday at the Inner City Pastoral Ministry, a group of dancers came to do a demonstration and educate us a little bit. I leave you with a few beautiful images from a very touching morning with such kind, and talented dancers, all! Their strength and goodness were more than inspiring. 

May we all be inspired to build relationships of peace and justice!

*Not his real name.




Friday, June 18, 2021

Simple Suggestion #284... Nominate a neighbour (Front Yards in Bloom)

Poster borrowed from the Evansdale
Community League Website
I intended to post this a while back, but with garden dirt on my hands most of the time lately, I rarely open my laptop for moodling. So this is a time limited post for my Edmonton neighbours!

It's Front Yards in Bloom nomination season until June 30, and for the next couple of days you'll find me walking the streets of my neighbourhood and noting the addresses of neighbours whose yards inspire me to stop in my tracks and smile, or at least take a second look at the beauty they are creating.

For some of us, a yard is like a canvas, a place to create a landscape that feeds the soul, not to mention bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, jackrabbits and other wildlife that's less visible. My regular readers know that I'm with God and St. Francis when it comes to rectangular monocultures that many folks seem to value, and cheer more for yards full of colour, texture and life.

So the City of Edmonton's Front Yards in Bloom nominations are a wonderful way to encourage neighbours to create spaces that attract wildlife, increase biodiversity and give us lovely things to look at. If you have a neighbour who gives extra time and effort to their greenspace or balcony or tiny yard, or who plants edibles or native plant species where folks can appreciate them, why not visit the city website and nominate them to let them know you recognize their work as something special that makes the neighbourhood more beautiful?

The deadline for nominations is June 30th.

Looking for more Simple Suggestions? Click here.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Special message for my readers

Sunset between Nanton and Claresholm

This blog platform recently informed me that the automatic email subscription service that brings Simple Moodlings directly to many of your inboxes is ending as of July. Which means that those of you who find my little love letters to the world among your emails soon won't unless I come up with an alternate strategy for putting them there. *****

This has led me to a bit of soul-searching. You may or may not have noticed that these moodlings are fewer and farther between in the last few years, even in the year before covid arrived. Part of the decline in my web logging effort has been due to the loss of my most faithful mother-in-law reader, part due to the development of other interests and to that low-grade corona virus fatigue I've mentioned before. So for the past weeks I've been asking myself, is it possible that I have nothing left to offer?

And the answer to that question will ever be a resounding NO! As long as we have this beautiful world to wonder at, I will be wanting to share it with my handful of readers, people who are special to me. Even Friday's roadside picture of the sunset (from a weekend visit with my dad-in-law) at the top of this moodling is worth sharing with you, in my books...

So Simple Moodlings is not riding off into the sunset.

I looked at my email subscribers' list this morning and am pretty sure I recognize at least seventy percent of the email addresses on it. Thank you for being there! And there are other readers who don't receive weekly emails but who tell me on occasion that they enjoyed something they happened to read when they made a point of visiting Simple Moodlings, or if I happened to cross post a moodling on other social media platforms. Thank you to you, too!

So... almost eleven years after it began, Simple Moodlings continues, perhaps more sporadically than in past years, but there's a difference. It won't just show up in readers' inboxes UNLESS you send me an email to let me know you want it there. 

***** Email "I'm In!" to simplemoodler@ gmail.com and I promise to get my moodlings to you one way or another. *****

And if you haven't been an email subscriber yet, now's your chance!

There's simply so much wonder to share, even just a little at a time. 

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Spring beauty, spring miracles

I'm loving what's going on in the yard these days. There's so much blooming, and many seedlings poking through the ground. It's been fun walking around with my phone camera set to the macro image setting and taking pictures of things close up. To me, this kind of beauty is a miracle, but then, if you really think about it, EVERYTHING is a miracle.

I managed to get all of the garden planted on the weekend, and am glad I did because I hurt my foot yesterday and am staying off it for two days just to be on the safe side while the swelling goes down and I wait for x-ray results. I'm pretty sure it's not broken, just badly bruised. Since the weather is cool, the spinach can wait a few more days to be harvested, and hopefully it will rain to keep my pots watered, though I'm not holding my breath. Lately, the 30% chance of rain forecasted never seems to arrive in this neighbourhood, though I saw some water on the streets a few neighbourhoods over. 

Anyway, today is a lovely day for putting my feet up and reading an interesting book, something I rarely do in the month of June when there's so much to see and do outdoors. I'm grateful that my injury is minor, and looking forward to getting back outside to see more of what's below! Enjoy your week!

#ilovespringmiracles #everythingsamiracle

Perennial forget-me-nots

"Never Alone" rose

Stella D'Oro day lilies

Purple bearded iris

Striped multi-tulip (seven flowers on one stem!)

Thursday, June 3, 2021

The Peace of Wild Things by Wendell Berry

This man's poetry always touches something deep in me. If you can, take a minute to enjoy this wee film by Charlotte Ager and Katy Wang.

https://vimeo.com/451530204

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Dandelion tea and other stories

Dandelion juice is ready to pour 
through a piece of screen
Last year, I made dandelion jelly. This year, I'm making dandelion tea... not for myself, but for my garden.

But before I get into those details, I'll tell you a very sad gardener's story, very very sad. See, this gardener I know started about 75 tomato plants and at least a dozen pepper plants from seed. They grew quite happily in her greenhouse until they became root bound in their little pots, and started to lose their beautiful deep green colour because they were running out of soil nutrients.

The gardener refuses to use chemical fertilizers, so she looked at the long-range weather forecast, which showed that evening lows for the foreseeable future were between 5 and 13 degrees. So she ignored the conventional wisdom that one should never plant before the May long weekend and spent an afternoon putting all her tomato plants in their garden boxes, where they had several happy days and nights and started greening up again quite beautifully thanks to warm sun and good soil.

What the gardener forgot was that long-range forecasts are never to be trusted.

5 days later, the weather turned and a heavy snow began to cover the ground. The gardener and her husband went out into the blizzard armed with tarps and blankets and covered all the tender plants, protecting them from the worst of the storm. And they survived... until the temperature really dropped two nights later. I don't know how low it got, but when I, the very very sad gardener of this story, uncovered my plants on Friday morning, I nearly cried. Then I thought, Palestine and Israel are where real tears are being shed, and how silly is it to cry over frozen potential tomatoes and peppers when people are dying? So I pulled out my 35 frozen and drooped tomato plants and 8 peppers and vowed not to make the same mistake EVER again. 

Fortunately for me, I had not given away all the other 40 tomato plants I had grown -- still have 14 left. And my husband, sweet man that he is, took me to Canadian Tire before breakfast on Saturday morning and bought me 8 more tomato plants and 8 little peppers (wow, do I save us some money by growing my own every year!) And our eldest has a friend who has a few leftover heirloom plants, and my neighbour brought me two lovely little cherry tomatoes as a birthday gift yesterday. I may just end up with as many tomato plants as I started with at the rate things are going.

Which brings me back to dandelion tea, an accidental discovery on my part. Well, rediscovery, I guess.

Dandelion compost tea
and compostable dandelions

With the weather as cool as it has been, I haven't been rushing to replant all those survivor tomatoes, but rather, am turning my attention to the multitude of dandelions in my perennial beds. I've pretty much given up on the ones appearing in the lawn -- the bees need some dandelion nectar! -- and I have more than enough little yellow flowers to gather from among the delphinia and daisies. Mindful that organic matter should never be wasted, I've adopted the "drown-a-weed-before-composting" approach, and once I have a pail of dandies, I weigh them down with bricks and cover them with water until they start to rot (3 days or so), then transfer the whole mess into the middle of my compost pile.

But this weekend, my two sole survivor hanging tomato plants (who had weathered the cold in our greenhouse) looked thirsty, and rather than drag out a hose to water them, I grabbed a small pail and shipped some water off the top of the drowning dandelion bucket to water the tomato baskets with it. A few hours later when I checked on the plants, I was surprised by how much greener they had become. 

The next day I was telling my parents about the greening of my plants, and my mom looked it up. Sure enough, I had stumbled across one of the oldest fertilizers in the book, and there's all sorts of internet info about how to make weed or herbal teas for the garden. For example, click here for an article from the Farmer's Almanac folks. Of course, it's really no different than making compost tea, which is also great for plants... not sure why I never thought of it sooner! If I had, I might have fed those 35 tomato plants dandelion tea instead of planting them too soon!

So now that I've remembered this trick, you can bet all the dandelions I pull out of my perennial bed will not only enrich my compost, but will also fertilize my plants. Weeds have so many gifts for us -- but we tend to see them as problems rather than as resources! All the dandelion juice in my composting buckets has gone into the compost bin until now, but I finally know better!

Of course, I'll never mistake the smelly tea in my garden pails for dandelion root coffee substitute, though in my reading I've learned that dandelion flowers not only make a nice jelly, they can also be steeped for a decent, high in vitamin C tea for human consumption. I'll check into it, and if you come visit once the pandemic restrictions are lifted, maybe we could have a cup of yellow flower tea together sometime! Not of the compost variety, no worries!

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Another beautiful L'Arche video

It's been a while since I've mentioned L'Arche, a community of people with and without disabilities who share life and celebrate difference, and that's probably because these covid times have kept me apart from my L'Arche friends here in Edmonton. But they are well and healthy for the most part, and continue to live out their charism of being a sign that every human being is valuable and beloved no matter their abilities. They have taught me so much, as is evidenced by over 80 L'Arche stories I have shared in these moodlings. I look forward to the end of covid and seeing my friends in person again!

Jordan Hart is a talented young musician who grew up close to the local L'Arche community, and he has written a gorgeous piece of music that has been made into a beautiful music video with the collaboration of L'Arche Canada. If you have any friends who have developmental disabilities, you'll recognize the challenges they face and the love they give in this deeply moving video. Congratulations to Jordan and the L'Arche Canada team who put it all together. Well done!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wOW6QmcMYuU

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Simple Suggestion #283... Hug a tree

Tree hugger has been used as a derogatory term by corporations that have been frustrated by environmentalists. But if you click this link, you'll find an interesting story about the original tree huggers, who were/are indigenous people on the other side of the globe trying to protect nature (rather than white North American hippies or celebrities). It also explains how the idea of tree huggers arrived in North America in the 1960s. 

Lately I've been moodling in my mind not so much about tree hugger activists as I have been about simply appreciating trees. When my family moved to Edmonton, our home had a huge May Day chokecherry tree in the back yard, and how I loved it. I could climb high enough in its branches to see over our house, and I spent many hours in it, playing with my sisters or reading books. Unfortunately, it developed a split in the trunk and eventually was cut down out of safety concerns around the time that my parents renovated their home in the mid-80s.

To be honest, since that tree disappeared, I hadn't given much thought to the trees around me. But since a visit to T'l'oqwxwat, also known as Avatar Grove near Port Renfrew in BC two years ago, I've been much more aware of all my relations, and especially the "Standing People" around me. Often when I take Shadow-dog for walks, we head for the trees along our river valley.

So today's suggestion/poem is designed to invite us all to appreciate the canopy of pale green in the urban or rural groves now unfolding their leaves all around us. Humour me, and when the weather is fine, hug a tree...

How to properly hug a tree

Choose 
a bare tree trunk
about as wide as you are --
in a place away from the eyes of others.

Take 
the tree between your hands.

Look 
deeply into its bark
and see 
its wrinkles and imperfections;
look up 
and see
its perfection as a tree.

Lean 
into it, 
press your cheek against it
and wrap your arms around it.

Hug 
it gently,
feeling your muscles
tighten in embrace.

Think 
about the life blood 
flowing through your body
and the sap
flowing beneath the bark.

Envision 
the connection
between blood and sap --
the Creator of both.

Imagine 
the roots
below your feet 
drawing goodness from the soil
and exchanging nutrients
with nearby plants.

Close 
your eyes 
and inhale deeply
of the oxygen 
the leaves freely offer
in exchange 
for your breath.

Open 
your eyes
and let them settle
on restful green
with blue space between,
focusing on the way 
leaves and branches move.

Appreciate
the solidity,
the structure,
the strength
of the one
you hold in your arms.

Dream 
its planting,
its growing,
the birds that have nested in its branches,
the fledglings that have left it behind,
the creatures that have sheltered in its shade.

Know
it as a vital partner
to your very existence
to the web of life that surrounds you.

And when 
you have held it long enough,
Sit 
with your back against your well-hugged tree. 

Give 
gratitude for it,
for its place in the universe,
its Creator,
and for your ability to
Recognize 
all that is good.


P.S. For more Simple Suggestions, click here.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Simple Suggestion #282 -- Use the Waste Wise app

As I mentioned a few posts back, Edmontonians are undertaking new ways to handle our waste this Spring in the form of a black cart for garbage, and a green cart for food scraps. But what about all those things that don't seem to fit in either cart? Like branches pruned from my backyard tree? Aluminum pie plates? Clothing?

There's an app for that! It's called the Waste Wise app and can be downloaded from your favourite app provider. Not only will it help you determine "What Goes Where" when it comes to waste and recyclables, but it also offers a "Waste Wizard" where you can input the name of an item that you're unsure about and it will give you suggestions about how to dispose of it. There's also a handy reminder feature so no one has to miss their garbage collection day, and there's a fun little waste sorting game for the kids where they send items to the proper waste disposal situation (Ecostation, Food Scraps or Garbage Bin or Blue Bag) and choose features for their own park. 

If apps are not your thing and you're not sure how to dispose of something, it's always worth checking the City of Edmonton Garbage and Recycling webpage. If you have things that are "gently used," the City's Reuse Directory can help find a home for them. There are also dozens of "Marketplace" or Buy Nothing pages, not to mention Kijiji... but I've gotten a bit off track here.

Waste is truly a waste of our earth's resources, and while it helps to know how to dispose of it, even better yet is not creating it in the first place if you can come up with lower-waste solutions, some of which can be found under the Simple Suggestions found here. And if you have any more Waste Wise suggestions, I'm all ears!

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Learning from Indigenous Canada


Just last week, I finished a free online course from the University of Alberta called Indigenous Canada. I've been working at it since February, one or two modules a week, and it has been an excellent experience and a real eye opener. 

We all know that history is written from the perspective of the winners -- and that our tendency as human beings is to see people in binary terms of being winners or losers. When I took Canadian History 210 at the University of Alberta all those years ago, there was passing reference to the Algonquin, Iroquis and Mohawk communities encountered by the French and English colonizers, and a brief lesson on Louis Riel and the Metis Rebellion -- but everything else was about the colonists and their glorious settlement of Canada. The so-called winners got all the press.

But North America's first name was actually Turtle Island, and there's a lot more to our country's history than what European settlers (my ancestors included) brought to it. When Columbus arrived in 1492, people had already been living here for thousands of years, and had established a way of life that included gatherings, trade routes, and territories that supplied them with all that they needed to live happy lives. They were wise about the land and how to work with it through all seasons.

It makes me wonder -- where did Europeans ever come up with the idea that the Original Peoples weren't civilized? According to what I learned from Indigenous Canada, their ways of sharing the land, handling conflict, respecting nature, and raising children into responsible and caring adults involved healthy cooperation rather than nasty cycles of competition and punishment. They only took from nature what they needed, and operated out of a deep sense of appreciation and generosity rather than hoarding and one-upmanship. Whenever conflict arose, they came together to make peace treaties, covenants, with one another.

Thanks to the course, it's crystal clear to me now that a clash of world views is one of the main reasons for our need for reconciliation with our Indigenous family members. Had Europeans arrived in North America with a willingness to work with its inhabitants rather than a desire to exploit the New World, the U of A course I just finished would not have modules called "Trick or Treaty," "New Rules, New Game," or "Killing the Indian in the Child." 

Had Champlain come with a spirit of cooperation back in the 1600s, I suspect we would now have better conservation practices, fewer Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, lower crime rates, a restorative rather than retributive justice system, and a richer overall culture that welcomes simplicity and diversity over consumerism and homogeneity. There were points in the course where I cried for the things our Original Peoples have been put through by our government and by our "settler" apathy toward them, and for all that our society has lost because of it.

But crying over our broken history is not the point. The point is to listen, to learn, and to make positive changes. The resilience of our Indigenous people is really incredible -- they are the fastest growing demographic in Canada, and are forging new paths in spite of the many injustices they've been forced to deal with.

I highly recommend this course to all Canadians. It is free to anyone with computer access, and all you have to do is watch a series of videos each week for about 12 weeks. If you don't want to do the quizzes at the end of each module, no one will raise a fuss. There's an online discussion option that I barely explored, but would also be interesting if you have the time for it. And if you like, you can receive a certificate at the end of the course for a pittance (in comparison to the cost of a regular university course!)

It's a free opportunity for a deeper understanding, and one worth taking!

Click here!

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Cleaning out the greenhouse

Last fall, struggling with that low-grade covid fatigue that many of us carry, I never bothered to clean up our little greenhouse. That made it rather challenging to start seedlings last month without tripping over pots and tracking dirt around. 

Now that all my babies are thriving and it's warm enough to move them outside for short periods, I cleaned up and took a picture of the plantlings set out on our cold frame. They look so happy, and I'm excited about the coming gardening season.

So far, I've got 76 tomatoes of different varieties, a dozen pepper plants (four kinds), four trays of different onions, petunias, geraniums, marigolds, amaryllises, dahlias, calla or canna lilies (or maybe both?) and herbs.

In a month's time, everything will be lanky and more than ready to be planted in garden beds and boxes, but for now, I'm just enjoying these stocky little ones. Life is tenacious, and worth celebrating after a long winter!


Thursday, April 8, 2021

I'm F.I.N.E., how are you?

I could almost wear this as a t-shirt...

When Canadian murder-mystery novelist Louise Penny began her Chief Inspector Gamache series of 16 books in 2007 (excellent novels listed if you click here), I'm sure she had no inkling of this pandemic we are moving through. But the character of her mad poet, Ruth Zardo, wrote a slim book of poetry called "I'm F.I.N.E." Which, the reader learns, stands for F**ked up, Insecure, Neurotic and Egotistical.

And who among us hasn't felt all of those things in the 390-some days that we have been living under pandemic restrictions of one kind or another? 

As someone with Type I diabetes, my turn for a vaccine came up on Tuesday, and I was online with Alberta Health Services at the crack of 8 a.m., lucky to secure my first immunization against covid for that afternoon. I stood in a socially-distanced line with hundreds of other Albertans (some from out of town, I learned) and thanked heaven for getting me there, keeping me safe from the virus for well over a year, when my own nephew was stuck in a covid hotel. (Thankfully, he has recovered and was released from his quarantine just yesterday.)

In my F.I.N.E. state over the past 13 months, I've managed to mostly keep my equilibrium, but the feelings of being messed with, insecure, neurotic and egotistical made regular appearances -- as I felt spring and fall allergies in my throat and watched anti-mask rallies held by people who have little regard for the common good, second-guessed whether the health officials were doing enough or not enough, experienced the churning mind and high anxiety of 2 a.m. insomnia that never did allow for sleep, and when I thought of all those people who can't protect themselves very easily because they are deemed essential workers while I was safe at home...

Now that I have been vaccinated, it's a bit better. I'm fine -- better than fine because I don't feel like my diabetes combined with covid will be my death sentence -- but still F.I.N.E. by Louise Penny's standards... worried for everyone who hasn't been vaccinated  (especially those in countries that aren't receiving vaccine while we are so fortunate!) and those anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers who refuse to accept the science for the sake of world health. How do we convince them?

Of course, there is a way around being F.I.N.E. -- and that is, to forget myself and step out to do things for others... which is something I have been somewhat hesitant to do because our health officials keep telling us to stay home so that our hospitals don't overflow. 

So for the next two weeks at the very least, I am still sheltering in place. I expect that our presently cresting third wave will keep us all from being out and about much until we bend the curve down again. After that, as more and more of us are vaccinated, I'm hopeful that we can be more fine than F.I.N.E.

How are you?

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Olga's Easter bread (Paska)

It's the most wonderful dough... of the year... (sing it with me...)

When my elderly Ukrainian neighbour, Olga, who has since moved to seniors' housing, typed up her Paska and Babka recipes for me after Easter some years ago, I didn't realize what a treasure she had shared. Since then I've been delighted with the Paska process and results. I've shared it before, but here's this year's efforts from yesterday to illustrate in case any of my readers would like to try to make their own beautiful Easter bread:

Olga's Paska 

2 c (500 mL) lukewarm water

2 tbsp (30 mL) sugar

3 tbsp (45 mL) active dry yeast

Mix them together and let stand about ten minutes. (I usually do this about halfway through making the "sponge" for the bread as it's a longer process than ten minutes).

2 c (500 mL) scalded milk (warmed to 180 degrees, then allowed to cool -- scalded milk helps the flour gluten's smoothness and gives any flavouring you might like to add extra oomph) 

6 whole eggs 

6 egg yolks (Easter macarons from the whites, anyone? I made a delicious omelette for supper)

1 c (250 mL) sugar -- or a bit less

1/2 c (125 mL) butter or margarine, melted

1/2 c (125 mL) vegetable oil

1 tbsp (15 mL) salt

1 tsp lemon flavouring (almond or vanilla are nice, too, and darn, I forgot to add any flavouring this year!)

12-13 c flour... more if the dough is too sticky.

Add the sugar, salt and melted butter to the scalded milk. Mix in oil and flavouring. Beat eggs until light and add them, along with 4 cups of flour. 

Add the yeast mixture and mix well to make the "sponge," then add it to the remaining 8-9 cups of flour, or more, depending on the stickiness of the dough (different flours have different moisture content). Knead it until smooth and satiny.

Put the dough into a large bowl, cover and let rise until doubled. Punch down and let rise again til doubled.

Divide the dough into as many loaves as you like. If you have round cake pans, they are ideal for nice rounded, flat bottomed loaves (filling about 1/3 of the pan's center). Use half (or less) of a loaf's dough for decorations -- braids, twists, ropes, rosettes, etc. I put my loaves on cookie sheets, and they expanded into each other so they're not quite as pretty as they could be where they baked together...

Flatten the bottom of the loaf and moisten where you want to set the decorations. Cover with a damp towel and let rise until double in size. (Don't let the tops of the loaves get too dry or they crack and spoil the decorative designs -- I'm speaking from experience, here.)

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, but keep an eye on them -- if they are getting too brown, cover them with moistened brown paper. Then turn the oven down to 300 degrees and bake another ten minutes while you mix up the glaze:

1 beaten egg

3 tbsp (45 mL) water

1 tsp (5 mL) sugar

Brush the bread with well-beaten glaze and bake for another 10 minutes at 300 degrees.

See the butterfly and snails on the bottom loaf? Roses elsewhere...


This year, I divided my dough into eight loaves, and Suzanna and I had fun decorating. We are quite delighted with the results, and we'll be sharing the loaves among family members for Easter. Unfortunately, my nephew is far from his parents and stuck in a covid hotel not far from here for this Easter -- so this morning, I dropped one off for him. The beauty of the recipe is that it makes plenty for sharing. Maybe next year I'll try the babka recipe instead...

Happy Easter baking! 

Monday, March 29, 2021

Special Good Friday observances during a pandemic

This second Holy Week during pandemic times seems a bit more organized than last year's. The world community has a better sense of how the corona virus spreads, and with vaccinations becoming more available, it feels like we are moving one step at a time toward the bright end of the tunnel. But we still can't gather together for Easter events like we used to, and I don't think AHS will allow anyone in our churches to sing the Exsultet Proclamation -- the wonderful song exulting in Christ's triumph over death. Not yet, especially with variant cases on the rise.

But I fully intend to sing and celebrate this weekend, even if it's only at home. And I invite you to join me in the two usual ecumenical Good Friday opportunities I like to share each year.

The first is the 41st Annual Edmonton Outdoor Way of the Cross, my favourite ecumenical event of the year. Last year, it was hurriedly switched from outdoor walk to video format when health restrictions came into effect. The organizing committee learned many things about making socially distanced videos on busy streets in the inner city, not least of which was that the video camera microphone picked up city noise more easily than the voices of the presenters! 

This year, aware that our ecumenical community still wouldn't be able to gather for the traditional inner city walk, the committee had a bit more time to plan a different approach toward sharing social justice topics of concern and the ways that Christ walks in solidarity with us as we work for change. The 2021 video will premiere at 10 am on Good Friday morning, and its theme is "From Fear and Fatigue to Hope and Action: Take Up Your Cross and Follow Me." It will also be available to watch on the Good Friday Outdoor Way of the Cross Edmonton website and on the Facebook Page, but the video below should work at 10 am on Friday.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wo8IhrqjSkE


The second event is the Ecumenical Good Friday Prayer Around the Cross, a musical and meditative space that will feature scripture, silence, and the songs of the Taizé community. When we were able to gather, this was my other favourite ecumenical event of the year, usually held in the lovely chapel at Providence Renewal Centre with a good-sized crowd. This year's comes to you from my home -- I am very grateful that the Brothers of the Community of Taizé have given me permission to broadcast their music and style of prayer to those who have prayed with our Taizé musicians' group here in Edmonton in the past. The prayer begins at 7 pm April 2nd and will last about an hour. It can be found on the Taizé Prayer in Edmonton and Area Facebook Page, and if you click this link, it should take you directly to the event livestream itself:
 

For those unable to participate during the livestream, a video will be made available on the Facebook Page for viewing when the livestream concludes.

All are welcome to both online events, and the beauty of it all is that people with internet access can join us from almost anywhere that internet access is available, so it's not just us locals who get to enjoy them. Feel free to share this post with others and spread the word.

Come, sing and pray with me... and have a blessed Easter!

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Crucify him! Crucify him!

Today's reflection is brought to you by 
Mark 15: 12-14.

You know, 
O God, 
that we hear it more often than we realize.

"Lock her up!" Crucify him!

"Addicts don't deserve safe injection sites." Crucify him!

"White lives matter more." Crucify him!

"The trans/gay agenda is a threat to family life." Crucify him!

And we say and think it more often than we realize, 
in different words, 
every time we judge someone else, 
forgetting that they are your image and likeness
and that you love them 
just as much as you love us.

Forgive us and help us to change.

+Amen

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Get ready for carts!

I've been falling down on the job when it comes to sharing news about those three important Rs and waste reduction lately... my Master Composter/Recycler hat got put on a shelf for a lot of this past pandemic year as it's hard to get out and volunteer when we're not supposed to be meeting in person... and I haven't been a very motivated moodler, either...

But lately, there's lots happening for Edmontonians when it comes to how we deal with the garbage that our living produces. I'd like to note that even, maybe especially with the changes that are coming, it's still incredibly important that we reduce, reuse and recycle as much as we can, with an emphasis on reducing. 

The pandemic has helped us reduce our waste in many ways because it's more challenging to safely go shopping, and many of us are learning that we can live just as well with less. I'd like to think that once COVID passes us by, we won't be off on a consumerism binge, but will continue to swap, share and keep our waste to a dull roar. Maybe we can go back to refilling our containers, carrying our travel mugs, and using our reusable everything (I've been trying to do those things as much as possible anyway, but it's definitely been more of a challenge thanks to the corona virus).

I'm excited to share a couple of videos today about Edmonton's new Waste Strategy, which is beginning its roll out this month. Our city rested on its laurels a bit too long while some of the municipalities around us already adopted garbage and green carts, but we're finally catching up, and it's a good thing! It means that our waste collectors will be able to use automated trucks rather than having to lift thousands of bags of garbage each day, saving their sore muscles. 

It also means thousands of tons of organic waste can be diverted from the landfill and turned into compost, and I hope it also means that more people will Go Bagless, that is, stop collecting grass clippings and choose to mulch for the sake of healthier lawns. And hey, if home owners are sorting things into their green carts anyway, it only takes a phone call or text for a Master Composter/Recycler volunteer like me to pay a socially-distanced visit and help set up a compost bin with the contents of a green cart. That compost will do wonders for your lawn or garden patches!

It's all good, really, it will just take a bit of getting used to. So if you haven't heard much about the new carts, and would like to learn more, consider attending an online cart rollout session so you know what's up. Have a peek at the short videos below. And if you want some hands-on help or you have questions, don't hesitate to leave a comment in the box below -- I'd be happy to help. That's what Master Composter/Recyclers are for!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VVIZNF4WT_4




Thursday, March 18, 2021

11,550 days -- A tribute to Vivien

That's how long I knew her. 11,550 days. I know the date that I met my mother-in-law because it was the same day that I met my life partner. I remember Vivien meeting me at the door of her home with a big smile and a hug, even though she had never seen me before. I didn't expect her to be so tiny, barely reaching my chin, but soon realized that her small frame held vast amounts of energy.

We met because my best friend was marrying Vivien's third son, and Vivien was holding a wedding shower for Sue. As Sue's maid of honour, I was expected to be there to note down the gifts given and to help with hostessing. It was a whirlwind of a weekend, and I don't remember very much about it, other than meeting Vivien, her husband, Louis, and their second son, Lee, who is now the most important person in my life.

Mothers-in-law have some sort of reputation for causing trouble, but somehow she and I connected like magnets on fridges (she had lots of those, to hold up grandkids' art). Mom, as I was soon to call Vivien, had a deep, deep faith in God. She watched morning mass on TV every day that she couldn't attend in person, and surrounded herself with handwritten prayers jotted on small pieces of paper. She cooked up storms of food, shared dozens (if not hundreds) of recipes, usually with copious notes in the margins, and dispensed equal amounts of prayers, hugs, and cookies whenever she and Dad came to visit their kids in Edmonton. 

Vivien's 65th birthday
Vivien was a wonderful grandma who loved to read to her grandkids, play with playdough and Legos, or help little fingers to decorate cookies and cakes. She organized Easter Egg hunts in her back yard, baked many birthday treats, and never failed to ask, "how are the kids?" when we phoned her. She kept Canada Post in business, never forgetting to send a birthday or anniversary card, enclosing generous monetary gifts. She camped with us and sang with us and loved us well. She was a force of nature, and I'm pretty sure she's already prayed us all into heaven.

Somewhere around her 80th birthday, she tripped off a curb in a grocery store parking lot and fractured her pelvis. (We teased her that the wind had finally managed to blow her over!) After four days in hospital, she checked herself out because her food allergies were causing more problems than the fracture. 

Unfortunately, that was the beginning of a long slow decline -- during which, she still found the capacity to do good. She sponsored a younger sister of one of her home caregivers to come to Canada and assist her full time, with a two year contract leading toward permanent residency. Mom rarely did things for herself unless they helped others, too. Many of our Christmas gifts were purchased from organizations that supported the less fortunate, or came in the form of donations to charities on our behalf. 

Five-year-old Vivien
I probably didn't properly appreciate my mother-in-law until my children grew up and we had more time to chat without their small hands pulling her away to some activity or other. That's when I learned more about Vivien's life -- how she had grown up singing daily Mass in a small Cape Breton town, gone to college to learn "proper" French, and been a Home Economics circuit teacher -- moving every few days to teach at two different rural Cape Breton schools.

In 1959, Vivien's friend, Mary, found a newspaper ad inviting young people to work at the Banff Springs Hotel for the summer, and the two decided to apply for a Western Canada adventure that, for Vivien, lasted the rest of her life. She was thrilled to be working in Banff for Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip's visit that year, proven by a blurry motorcade photograph of the couple, and her lifelong love for the Royals. She never missed the Queen's Christmas message, and if Elizabeth II showed up on TV, Mom always commented on her elegance. 

As a young woman, Vivien herself was very stylish, and people often commented on the sharp outfits she sewed for herself. She loved to tell the story of how she first saw her future husband at a dance, wearing bright orange pants, and how she immediately told Mary that he was the man she was going to marry. Mary replied, "You'd better do something to fix his sense of style!"

Stylish lady
After the couple's first child arrived, Vivien's teaching career ended, and she immersed herself in being a mother (of five, eventually) and a farm wife, teaching herself to keep the books for the family's farm operation. She also designed and oversaw the construction of one of the family's homes. 

One by one, her kids headed to Edmonton for university, and she supported them with her prayers from afar. She was so proud of all her children and grandchildren (and one wee great-grandchild) and always looked forward to having visitors. Living on the prairies, she often commented on how much she missed being around water, and I will always remember how happy she was when we camped together near the shore in Waterton Lakes National Park.

She loved music, especially anything Celtic, and I have fond memories of Mom dancing in the living room with my kids. After receiving a palliative diagnosis in January, she was delighted when two of those grandchildren made a special trip, ukuleles in tow, to sing for Grandma, masks on. At a previous concert, before covid restrictions prevented indoor visits, she had them give their entire performance twice!

Vivien had her share of sorrows and struggles, carrying many of them in silence, turning them over to God daily. During our last visit with her the weekend before she died, she shared them in a whisper, and then fell into a deep sleep, from which it seemed no one could wake her. Not knowing what to do, we played her favourite hymns sung by fellow Nova Scotian, Anne Murray, spoke to her quietly, and shed many tears, thinking she was leaving us. However, after several hours, during my husband's vigil shift, she woke up, looked at him and whispered, "Lee, go to bed! It's late!"

Watching Mom's energy dwindle over the last few years has been a source of sadness for her whole family. With Dad being a man of few words, she was usually the one to carry our long-distance phone conversations, but over the last six months, her voice became weaker and weaker, though she usually managed to at least sign off with her trademark, "Love to you all." 

But at the end of a call the night before she died, she barely managed to whisper, "Love you." We told her we loved her too, as always. The next afternoon, we received the news that she had peacefully slipped away to be with the God in whom she entrusted all her cares. We miss her very much, but we know that she's pulling on God's apron strings for us, the family members and friends she left behind. That, or cooking with God in heaven's big, beautiful kitchen!

Vivien, Mom, you were a good woman, generous and strong, a friend, confidante, and support to many, including me, and a brilliant example of faith, hope and love. I am so blessed that you were my mother-in-law. I have no doubt that you are being celebrated in heaven with all the holy souls, and I look forward to meeting you again. Maybe then we'll finally have time to bake your famous apple turnovers together...

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Bloom

Today I am planting peppers and herbs, so this little film that just arrived in my inbox seems like it needs to be shared. Enjoy!

https://vimeo.com/29865151

Friday, February 19, 2021

Skating solo

I can't remember the last time I went skating all by myself. Over the almost 30 years of my marriage, I've always had my partner, my kids, or a friend to go along with me.

And for the last three winters, I don't think I managed to go skating even once. With a dog to walk, and all the trekking of the valleys and ravines of Edmonton we've been doing, we just never seemed to go skating. But this winter I vowed to put my skates to use at least once. 

I suggested heading to Victoria Oval or Hawrylak Lake several times over this wintry season, but no one seemed very keen. Then it got so cold, it felt like there was no point going as there are no warm skate shacks where people can lace up thanks to covid, and I didn't much relish going through the effort for a short skate with frozen toes... I wanted it to be a good long one! Maybe I'm a wimp, but I'm a warm one!

Last night's weather forecast said today would be balmy in comparison to the last two weeks -- above zero! So I made plans to go skating by myself. Since my partner is working from home, I have the car and decided to drive myself to Hawrylak Park to loop the islands on the lake. As I left, I told my daughter I'd be back shortly, after a good skate.

What I had forgotten was that the Silver Skate Festival is happening at the park, and of course, I had to see it all... snow sculptures, snow flowers, the "undersea garden" area, and the new Community League Plaza (which quietly opened during this pandemic), before I skated. 

My early morning timing was perfect -- there weren't too many people around so I didn't need to wear my mask, and the ice was smooth from the flooding and lower numbers of skaters during the cold snap. So I had a lovely two hours looking at art, listening to stories told by Indigenous Elders, and gliding around the two islands in the lake on my skates. I imagine the whole area would be magical at night as it's illuminated with different coloured lights.

It was lovely to be there on my own... usually, I want to really look at things, and it was wonderful to go at my own pace instead of being rushed along by impatient folks! By the time I left, people were arriving by the droves, and I was glad to be heading home before mask wearing became necessary. Those darn masks fog up my glasses!

The Silver Skate Festival runs just two more days, until February 21st. If you're planning to attend, I'd recommend going early in the day, as I expect the crowds who stayed away while we were in the deep freeze will come out by the thousands this weekend. And If you don't plan on going, you can always check out the festival's website... and my photos below.

If the ice doesn't melt too quickly, maybe I'll see you on Victoria oval in the next few weeks. Have a good weekend!

My fave in the snow sculpture competition --
owl and fox in masks!

Snow flowers...

This fellow accompanies an interesting folktale
about envy trolls...

A school of fish. 
Wish I'd gotten pictures of the jelly fish in the pines...


The Community League Plaza
has an interesting display about the
100 years of Edmonton's Community Leagues.

Stories in Indigenous languages can be heard
in the four seasons section of the Silver Skate displays...

This would make for a fun family photo!