Friday, May 30, 2014

Spring greens, yellows, whites and pinks

Shadow and I took a gorgeous walk this morning, and ended up going further than planned because it was just too pretty a day. The blossoming trees just kept calling us further... and the early green of leaves just emerging. The fields were full of dandelions, the sky was blue, and the sun was warm.

We walked home past the corner of the park that some avid gardeners have beautified. 
It's going to be lovely again this year. 
Tulips, cosmos, spurge and salvia are already blooming!

And here's the patch God has given me to work with. I'm loving the tulips! 

I hope you're also enjoying nature's awakening if you're in the northern hemisphere... 
Have a good weekend!

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Simple Suggestion #206... Enjoy a playground

Occasionally, Shadow-dog and I deviate from our usual walking routes and take strolls down back alleys -- our neighbourhoods around here are in their 50s and early 60s already, built in a time when garages and garbage cans were hidden behind homes instead of out on the front curb. Back alleys are interesting places -- you can learn a lot about your neighbours by walking along the backs of their city lots.

In our back lanes, my eye is often caught by the glimpse of a derelict swing set or backyard climber that is weathered and unused... and I wonder why we parents do these things to ourselves -- spend a fortune on a backyard jungle gym, install it, have our kids play on it for their all-too-brief childhoods, and then wonder what to do with it once the kids have outgrown it, or even later, left home. By then, it's not fit for the grandkids! Who will probably prefer the brightly-coloured, usually well-maintained playgrounds in school yards and public parks. Running routes for games of tag there offer much better obstacle courses than the simple circle around the home climber ever could!

I'll admit that I grew up with a swing set -- across the street in a park in Plenty, Saskatchewan. When we came to the city, there was an old metal one under the trees in our backyard, the kind that, if you swing a little too heartily, one leg of the thing jumped off the ground. Our kids inherited a similar swing set (with a rather unsafe slide attached) from a neighbour (which lasted two summers in our yard before I put it on Freecycle and another mom took it -- sans slide and with two cans of spray paint that I never managed to use on its rust -- off my hands). But for the most part, the preference of the kids in all these scenarios was rounding up the neighbouring families and going to the local playground. Too much fun with the Dads chasing the runners around the equipment and the Moms visiting at the baby swings while pushing the little ones. Our kids preferred the park to their own backyards most of the time, and I suspect that most kids still like the wider range of social interactions that the park affords.

So I'd like to suggest that, before people go off to buy a backyard play set -- that has to be constructed, and someday, found a new home or demolished -- they spend a few evenings with their kids walking/biking to and playing at their local park. We don't all need our own personal playground -- just think of how many resources that requires. We pay for public playgrounds with our taxes or community fundraisers, and they don't require too much effort on our part. Plus, they're bigger, with more possible activities and room for more friends, so they're way more fun!

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

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A special birthday present

Several months ago, I found a little piece of paper on my desk, a quarter the size of a regular sheet of paper, with a tiny orange-inked drawing of a totem of characters invented my my youngest daughter. It was so cute that several times I suggested that I would like a larger version for my birthday.

By the time my birthday arrived on Friday, I had completely forgotten about it. I was working away out in the yard most of the day, and when I came in to see about supper, I was stopped in my tracks by my birthday present, displayed on the dining room wall:

The characters of my personal totem come with little explanations and include Marla the Mouse (even the small and shy can lead), Harry the Hippo (be a friend to all), Olly the Owl (good eyes also come from seeing good in others), Sally the Seal (accept everyone -- you never know who will end up being your best friend), Charles the Cat (we're all meant to live and love), Elly and Edward the Elephants (love is powerful and beautiful) and Terrance the Tortoise (we all need support).

I was thinking she might make me a little poster, but these friends stand more than three feet high. I love my totem, and the girl who made it for me. Thanks, Julia!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Gentle rain on a Sunday

It's been a while since we had any rain. My rain barrels emptied out this week, but they filled up again today. I took a little walk in the gentle rain, and took my camera with me. It smelled so good, and was soft enough that the birds were still singing in the trees. Then it thundered, and I thought, maybe I should go in...

The soft falling of the rain reminded me of the gentle words of my favourite scripture, verses 10-13 in the Song of Songs:

My beloved speaks and says to me:
"Arise, my love, my fair one,
    and come away;
for now the winter is past,
    the rain is over and gone.
The flowers appear on the earth;
    the time of singing has come,
and the voice of the turtledove
    is heard in our land.
The fig tree puts forth its figs,
    and the vines are in blossom;
    they give forth fragrance.
Arise, my love, my fair one,
    and come away.

The rain brings flowers, a time of singing, the voices of birds, fruit blossoms and fragrance. The presence of love, of God, is so clear in springtime -- or after a dark night of the soul. Do you hear the Beloved's voice in the signs of spring around you? Do you know yourself to be loved through the gifts of beauty this season?

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Simple Suggestion #205... Wear sunglasses

It's a gorgeous sunny day here today. I'm about to take the dog for a walk. But first I thought I'd post a simple suggestion to save on the wear and tear of our eyes. Sunglasses protect our peepers from sunburn (yes, you can sunburn your eyes -- ever feel that itchy grittiness at the end of a very sunny day if you don't wear sunglasses?), little growths on the eye known as pterygium, cancer, and cataracts. Sunglasses are important in the winter, too, if you live in a place where snow causes glare.

So today's suggestion is to find yourself a pair of shades. Just one is enough. It doesn't have to be fancy or trendy; remember, designers are out for profit and don't care if all of the earth's resources are used up. Keep it simple -- sunglasses just have to offer protection from those rays. If it's sunny where you are, put some on, and go out and enjoy your day! I think I'll be wearing mine with my Saskatchewan Roughrider garden gloves!

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

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Tulip time!

Finally! The tulips have stopped shivering and are opening their petals to the sun. And I'm loving every minute of it. So are my girls, who took some gorgeous pictures this weekend... So I'll start with a few tulip shots from today, give a little garden report, and end with Suzanna's close-ups, which are so pretty!

Sunny friends... and a clematis showing signs of life...

I don't remember planting these two...

The sitting stone gives a view of several varieties
(this near one is a blueberry sundae)

One of these years, my river of tulips will really look like one...

Candystripers, I think...

Elsewhere in the yard...
Tomatoes are hardening off...

Leaf lettuce is coming along...
All 50 of the new strawberry plants are doing fine in their eggshell covered beds
(to keep the slugs away)
The asparagus might amount to something someday...

And after a lot of work (thanks Mom!)
the raspberries and honeyberries will soon join the Saskatoon berries!
And best of all, the pear tree is in bloom, only a week later than usual...
I love spring, and all its potential!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

A Spring Psalm

We had a lovely spring walk this morning. 
It reminded me of Edward Hays' Spring Psalms.
I don't think he would mind if I shared one here.

O Spirit of Life, 
not that long ago the trees around me
looked like upside down roots
dangling in the wind.
Today it looks like great green clouds have come
to nest in their longing limbs.

The spring breeze that plays in the branches
is full of the song of birds, recently returned.
As flowers lure bees and insects 
by their beauty and perfume,
so I am drawn out of doors
to smell and feel your presence.

What cathedral made by human hands
could contain the awesome majesty 
of your springtime splendor?
And Bach or Handel would be humbled 
by the music of this season's sounds
blended in harmony by your baton.

O You who delight in children at play,
may I not be ashamed to bow in wonder
as I offer, this day, my prayer and adoration
in your sacred springtime shrine.

--"A Psalm of the Shrine of Spring" by Edward Hays in 
Prayers for a Planetary Pilgrim: A Personal Manual for Prayer and Ritual
(Forest of Peace Books (Kansas) 1989, ISBN 0-939516-10-1) p.111)

Friday, May 16, 2014

A beautiful girl graduates

There she is, our beautiful girl, just turned six, modelling a new wrist watch. Not only is she still so pretty, but she's turned into a wonderful young woman with a heart for friends and family, a ton of artistic talent, and a great sense of humour. And last night was her high school graduation ceremony, where all those of us who know her and were able to attend were filled with joy and pride at seeing her receive that diploma! She's worked hard all through school and we're sure her efforts will be worthwhile. We love you, Suzanna!

My prayer for her as she graduates is a paraphrase of the first Psalm:

She who chooses to live a significant life
is not going to take her cue
from the indifferent.
Nor will she conform to the crowd
and mouth its prejudices
or dote on the failures of others.

Her ultimate concern is doing what is just and right and loving,
and with justice and love in mind she makes her life choices.
She can be compared to a sturdy tree planted in rich and moist soil.
As the tree yields fruit, so her life manifests blessings for others....
She is beautiful, and she lives a beautiful life
not only for herself, but for those around her
because she walks in the paths God would choose for her.

God, bless our girl, and keep her always close to you!


Thursday, May 15, 2014

90 Ways to 90%

90 Ways to 90% less Waste
The City of Edmonton has this really cool thing going on. Besides already having an amazing rate of 60% waste diversion from residential sources through recycling and composting at its state-of-the-art Waste Management facilities, it's started a new program to encourage all Edmontonians to get our residential waste diversion up to 90% through simple, personal initiatives.

It's called 90 Ways to 90% Less Waste, and there's a website with 90 possibilities that individuals can adopt in their daily lives -- sort of like some of my more environmentally aware 200+ Simple Suggestions, but even cooler, because of the snazzy website, AND there's a contest! People are invited to choose from the 90 Ways and send 30 second videos illustrating how they've incorporated those ways to reduce waste into their lives. And there are great ideas among them -- like grasscycling (11 ways), composting (14 ways), using ecostations (12 ways), reducing consumption (13 ways), reusing (24 ways), and recycling (16 ways). I'm not much of a videographer, but I couldn't resist making a little reuse video and sending it in. #9, in case you're curious.

So if you're interested in some Simple Suggestions for reducing waste where you live, take a peek at by clicking here. It's got great interactive possibilities if you're creative, and even if you're not, the 90 ways are worth reading -- and adopting. Waste is a justice issue on our planet, whether we realize it or not. Carelessly using things up, tossing them and making a mess of creation isn't good for our earth, ourselves, or the interconnected web of life within which we live. But if each of the seven billion folks on this planet tries to reduce our waste of resources as much as possible, hopefully, the ecosystem's health will improve.

I'm with Margaret Mead when she says: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." Let's all be thoughtful and committed when it comes to reducing our waste. 100% less waste would be even better, but I'd take 90% quite happily! So, after reading the City's Ways, I have some work to do...

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Simple Suggestion #204... Be nice to bees

It's a late spring, and our bees are awake and hungry -- I've seen a few buzzing around my yard looking for sustenance. Fortunately, my first dandelions are blooming, with many more to come because I refuse to use chemicals in my yard, preferring to dig them out. And this year, my concern for my little bumbling buddies is reaching an anxiety level such that I'm not going to dig for a while, though I will pull off the seed heads. Dandelions are an excellent source of food for bees, at least until other things start to bloom.

It's been another hard winter for apiary colonies, and between colony collapse disorder, parasites, and pesticide use, bees could use a break and a little help from us to leave their food sources alone, and to plant more to help them out.

So today's challenge is to think about our little yellow and black pollinators and hold off on our need for a weedless yard, avoiding pesticides at all cost, and even leaving those dandies for a bit... at least until our fruit bearing trees are in bloom -- and other things that can support our bees.

Look at how much they do for us -- and don't forget to thank a honey bee today!

Not sure where this graphic originates, but what would we do without bees??

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

Sunday, May 11, 2014

A Mother's Day meadowlark

picture borrowed from
When I was a child, my family lived on bald, flat Saskatchewan prairie for a number of years, so you could say that I have a huge affinity for big sky and grasslands. I remember walking to the school yard on the edge of Plenty, Saskatchewan, where I ended up following a Western meadowlark from fence post to fence post around its perimeter, trying to mimic the bird's song. If you've ever heard the call of a Western meadowlark, and seen his pretty yellow chest and black necklace, you'll understand my fascination.

A meadowlark's song still makes my heart skip a beat, somehow, and this week, my heart skipped many beats! My husband took a business trip to Lethbridge and I went along, and the bonus was being able to visit with his parents and celebrate Mother's Day with his mom. Upon arriving in town, we stopped at the coulees of the Old Man River so he could deal with some voice mails/emails that had accumulated during the drive. I left him in our vehicle and walked down into the hills, hoping to hear my favourite birdsong, and I wasn't disappointed!

Not only was the music of the birds incredible, but the sound of the wind in the grasses and the beauty of the greening slopes felt holy, somehow. God really speaks to me in nature, and the meadowlark's song has to be one of the best in creation.

So come along to the bottom of a coulee with me this Mother's Day, and listen to the meadowlarks.

The brighter call is the male, and I suspect the raspier response is the female. Their music carries a long way -- I was sure the male was singing in the grasses right in front of me, but it turned out that he was on a tree at the top of the hill! There he is in the picture below, the little black silhouette on the treetop, a very shy guy. That's as close as he would let me get before he flew over the ridge into the next coulee, making me sorry he'd gone away.

It was my mom who first pointed out the joyful song of the meadowlark when I was small, and showed me other wonders of nature (but not worms!) Happy Mother's Day to all moms out there, but most especially my own, who loves her family, her God, her brothers and sisters in the inner city, and simple things like the exultation of a meadowlark, and has passed those loves on to me!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

A "shy" spring walk

Usually by the beginning of May in my neck of the woods, it's warm and trees are leafing out like mad. But not this year. We had skiffs of snow on the ground for the first three mornings this week, and my friend Kana commented, in her lovely Japanese way, "Spring is shy this year."

But it's coming... very slowly. The Sandhill Cranes flew over like they always do on May 5th, and vees of Canada Geese regularly fly overhead on their way north. Other proof lies in a few pictures from yesterday's walk with the dog. We strolled the hills around the Jewish Cemetery and Jubilee nursing home, then over to my favourite park near the high school. The street cleaners were out washing the streets so that Shadow left a few trails of wet paw prints. Not many leaves were out yet, but the pussy willows have come and almost gone, and I came upon one greening bush that is braver than the rest.

The sun was shining, the kids at the high school were having a track meet, and I predict that by Sunday morning, Spring won't be quite so shy in our city...

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

A "special" poster

After last week's Simple Suggestion moodling about sharing our knowledge, I left a piece of paper with a single waving stick person on the kitchen table, and my youngest commented, "He's all alone. Why don't you give him some friends?"

I replied, "Why don't you?"

So here's what Jay came up with:

I like all these little characters -- with arms, legs and necks of varying lengths, red hands or white, and their own little "special" bubbles which say things like, "loves flowers" -- "happy!" -- "plays flute" -- "likes Monday" (that's a unique person for sure!) -- "speaks Spanish" -- "likes Star Wars" -- etc. 

I love my little reminder that everyone is special. I think I'll hang it on my wall.