Monday, June 29, 2015

One year ago...

...we were in the little village of Taizé, France, which has become synonymous with the Taizé Community, an ecumenical place of worship that draws young pilgrims by the thousands every year, but particularly in the summer. For me, walking into the Church of Reconciliation was a homecoming that filled my heart with so much joy because it is a place where all are welcome at Christ’s Eucharistic table, where music is the primary form of prayer, where  justice, reconciliation, love, and hope are the bottom line, and where people of all ages share their spiritual journey.

The beauty of nature surrounds the little village, and nature's proximity added so much to the experience. Hearing the birds singing their morning songs through the open windows of the church in our times of silence, or walking to St. Stephen's source kept us in touch with God's wonderful creation even in the midst of 1500 pilgrims. It was more beautiful than I dared to imagine.

I was deeply, deeply touched by the experience of being there, to the point that when I was trying to explain what it was like to visit Taizé at a Good Friday Taizé service, I couldn’t speak for the emotions that filled me. All I can say one year later is that the prayer services, three times a day, were a taste of heaven for me. The whole place was!

It has been quite a while since I’ve moodled about my heart’s home here, so I leave you with a walking tour of the place that touched my heart so deeply one year ago, set to one of my favourite chants. It's a bit jumpy, but so wonderful to walk that road again. Thanks to Mostar Taizé for posting this video on YouTube. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

A question of fair balance

" is a question of a fair balance between your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance.  As it is written, 'The one who had much did not have too much, and the one who had little did not have too little.""
2 Corinthians 8: 13b-15 

These lines struck me as they were read in our extremely warm church this morning, and they must have struck my husband too. Or maybe it was the combination of the sweat beading on our faces as we helped lead the music, and the words of Whatsoever You Do sung for the communion procession. Whatever it was, when we came out of into the 32 C (90 F)sunshine afterward, Lee turned the song's words into action. It was a simple thing, really. I'm not going to tell you what we did, but if you know the words of the first verse, you might be able to guess. I don't know how many times we've sung that song together, but today was the first time it moved us to action. Frankly, it took way too long.

So many of us in North America have so much that we can share with those who have so little. Jesus is always calling for justice. What would happen in our world if, every time we heard his words exhorting us to do something for our less fortunate brothers and sisters, we actually did it instead of letting those words wash over us like a too-sweet Sunday school lesson? 

The New Testament isn't a fairy tale storybook about one good man, it's a challenge to all God's children to do as Jesus did. It's never too late to preach Jesus' message with our lives, which is what we're supposed to do. We've listened for a long time, and this morning, we went out and made a small contribution towards a fair balance. 

How has the Gospel moved you to action?

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Kill the air conditioning...

If air conditioning had not been invented, I wonder how long it would take the people in power to pay attention to the climate problems besetting our planet? A lot of governments and oil companies' head offices are in pretty warm places... and they might not need every office space cooled as much as the people of Karachi, Pakistan, would appreciate relief from the latest heat wave. At least a thousand have died this week. The poor pay the price for our convenience too often.

Pope Francis' latest encyclical is underlining how some of our technologies are costing us and this gorgeous planet we share by increasing the speed of climate change. I'm reading it instead of moodling these days. Can you tell?

Monday, June 22, 2015

Late nights and dear friends

It's a very slow start here today. I haven't moodled online in almost a week because of our L'Arche Annual General Meeting, which is my busiest work time of the year, gardening (spent four hours on Friday sifting this season's first batch of compost) and a wonderful series of re-connections with old friends. I am also working on a brief review of Pope Francis' latest letter to the world, but it's a long encyclical that takes some time to read. So today's moodling is just a stream-of-consciousness note to my regular readers, so that you know I haven't fallen off the face of the earth yet.

Yes, there have been a lot of late nights lately, and as a result, my vertigo/dizziness is spinning my brain more than usual today -- I'm actually quite nauseous, which isn't often the case anymore. The dizziness never quite leaves so I've learned to live with it, and it's guaranteed to be worse after I've been out for the evening, or have stayed up too late. So much for my life as a party animal! But late is the operative word for the last few nights!

On Friday night, longtime friend Brother Dan came for supper and visited well into the evening with me (most of the family had gone to see the 9:30 showing of Jurassic World  and youngest daughter was supposedly studying for her final exams). Dan and I went to Newman College together in the early '90s when I was getting my religious education degree, and we have made lots of music together over the years. He's an Oblate of Mary Immaculate who has been living in New Orleans since 2013, working with the homeless not far from Congo Square, where jazz was born. He has a lot of amazing stories to tell... and it's easy to see that as much as he ministers to the homeless, they are also ministering to him in different ways. It's a beautiful thing.

Saturday's late night was completely different, as I welcomed 11 friends from High School (three on Skype, believe it or not!), a couple of whom I hadn't seen since we graduated. In High School, we had what we called hen parties -- no boys were invited -- and because we're all celebrating a significant birthday this year, I decided it was time for an un-birthday hen party with lots of wine and too much food. I pulled out my yearbooks, and we had a little game where everyone had 5 minutes to answer the same ten questions about themselves so that we'd leave feeling like we at least knew something of each others' lives. The friend stuck in Heathrow Airport (where it was hard to hear us) managed only to say hello to everyone, but the other two on Skype, calling from BC, participated in a good part of the evening, and we had so many laughs. The picture below is one of them, taken from the computer's point of view!

It's always so amazing to me how so much time can pass, and lives can change so much, but with some people, it's possible to pick up right where we left off... I'm still chewing over all the wonderful conversations with Dan and my High School buddies, revelling in special friends and renewed friendships. Definitely worth the dizziness!!!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Harry's miracle

Harry* has had a difficult but amazing time of it lately.  As a member with a disability in our L'Arche community, he's always been one of my favourites because he has quite a cheerful outlook on life, and loves to visit with admin team members in our offices at the community centre. I have his art on my wall at work. Harry used to say, "Hi, my boy!" and call me by name, or by what I know to be my name, Mre, before launching into a charmingly garbled story, interspersed with chuckles and grins, leading to a punchline that I didn't understand, but that made him laugh -- which made me laugh.

But well over a year ago, the people who lived with Harry began to notice changes in his personality, and it wasn't long before those changes became evident at the community centre, too. Harry and Thomas were friends who had a habit of greeting the admin team in the mornings, but soon it was only Thomas who came to our office, sometimes in tears because Harry had hit him. Harry became unsteady on his feet, and shouted with no warning, at times when we couldn't guess what might be bothering him. He stopped making any kind of sense, and forgot our names, which probably added to his frustration, and hence, his screaming. It was as though the Harry we all knew and loved had been replaced by a stranger, and though his medications were changed and many different tactics were tried, nothing could bring the old Harry back. The word dementia was spoken, though the experts who used it weren't sure what it actually looked like for someone like him.

At Day Program, a few staff members were physically hurt by Harry's outbursts, and the man on team, who credits Harry's friendship for bringing him to L'Arche in the first place, became Harry's main helper. Harry's friends with disabilities learned to keep an arm's length away from him at all times, a sad thing because he had often been seen walking hand in hand with them down the hallways in better times. His yelling carried through the building, and one of us would inevitably comment, "Poor Harry."

Likewise, life in his house became pretty unbearable -- his family members, both with and without disabilities, were unsure of him, and there was little anyone could do to ease whatever was bothering him. Medications were changed, and changed again to no effect. Everyone in the home was on edge. Finally, Harry was sent to an assessment facility so that a psych team could try to determine the best way to help him. His house family and many friends from the community scheduled visits with him during the month he was to be away.

Unfortunately, the facility was placed under flu quarantine shortly after Harry arrived, so no one was allowed to see him for many days. Without visitors from home, he became withdrawn and miserable, and from all reports, was getting worse instead of better. Before his month-long assessment time was up, the community decided that it was necessary to bring him home.

He was welcomed like a long-lost brother, and was clearly happy to be back among familiar faces, but his joy didn't translate to his behaviour for quite some time. The people in his home continued to love him as patiently as they were able, and as time went on and effective treatments were implemented and relationships rebuilt, he slowly began to show signs of being the Harry that everyone knew before. The love of his community slowly brought him back. One of the assistants who lives with him. Daniel, told me at a recent community gathering that Harry's slow recovery had been one of the most moving experiences in his life in L'Arche.

Being a rather irregular face at the community centre, and somewhat out of the community loop due to working at home, I never expected that my friendship with Harry would ever return to what it was two years ago. After all, I'm not exactly a fixture in Harry's life. But...

Last week a neighbourhood party was held at the community centre, involving a barbecue with a band, a bouncy castle, face painting, games, and fun for all. I was wandering among those seated at the dining tables when Harry stopped me and said, "Hi, Mre, how are you, my boy?"

It was so unexpected that it didn't compute. "Fine, Harry," I said, and then his words sank in. "Harry? What did you call me?" I asked.

"Mre." He said it like a shrug. Then he told me in his garbled Harry-language that he was hungry, and his housemate showed up with a burger for him.

"He remembers my name," I said. "He hasn't called me Mre in well over a year." Harry's friend, the one who has been so touched by Harry's recovery, grinned and said, "Did you know that he went to church on Sunday? The first time in ages! Wonderful, isn't it?"

Miraculous, I would say. We're all enjoying the return of our friend!

*I use pseudonyms for the names of my L'Arche friends.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

The miracle of music

I don't get to attend a symphony performance very often, but when I do, I'm guaranteed a God moment. I close my eyes and marvel at the wonder of music -- that composers can create such incredible scores, that human beings can fashion instruments capable of making such individual sounds that can blend into one big sound that brings tears to my eyes. Julian of Norwich liked to talk about God sitting in heaven, completely relaxed, wearing a smile like a marvellous symphony, and last night's concert really worked with that image for me.

I especially liked Kurt Weill's Lady in the Dark, which seemed like a necklace of interesting musical ideas. George Gershwin's Concerto in F was incredible, too, all those instruments blending into amazing and intricate melodies, just like God has created a world with all sorts of people and ideas that work together, sometimes well, and sometimes with considerable dissonance. I found myself thinking that, although we're all living an unfinished symphony in this life, eventually, we'll be part of the marvellous symphony that is God's smile.

I would love to share a video of some of the music I heard last night, but it can't be found on YouTube. I'll leave you instead with 13-year old Emily Bear's version of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, recorded with the Santa Fe Orchestra. How I love the melody that begins around the 13 minute mark. That anyone  -- let alone a thirteen-year-old -- can play the piano like she does amazes me!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Simple Suggestion #236... Climb a little

Okay, so this isn't just a little climb -- it's 132 steps from the river valley up to the plateau near our house. It's quite a workout if it's done a couple of times. Once is enough to feel my thigh muscles complain a little. Or maybe a lot, depending on how much climbing I've been doing lately.

Thing is, if we don't use muscles on a regular basis, they have a tendency to atrophy a little, making for stiffness when they are used in non-regular ways. This was hit home for me when one of my aunties, who has no stairs in her home, came to visit my mom and dad, who live in a split level. Auntie had an interesting time getting up the eight stairs to the guest room -- those climbing muscles were out of practice. I think she was a little shocked by how her fitness had changed just because she's been living in a ground level duplex.

So I'm making it my practice to try to do these 132 stairs at least once a week. Maybe twice. Just to keep in shape. Failing that, there's a set of stairs to the basement I can always use.

What do you do to maintain your muscles?

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

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Three sisters

I come from a family with three sisters, I've given birth to three sisters, and now I'm growing three more sisters.

Beans, corn,  and squash are the three sisters of the vegetable garden. After reading Joseph Boyden's book, The Orenda, a really fascinating novel about the Huron and Iroquois First Nations people and the French immigrants who brought them the small pox, guns and liquor, I decided to try some Aboriginal wisdom in my garden. The three sisters, supplemented with hunting, supplied a lot of the food for the original Canadians, and though this won't be supplying a lot of food for us (it's only one box out of 32 in my garden) I'm enjoying watching the sisters as they grow.

Companion planting has occurred for many centuries. The idea, in the case of squash, corn and beans, is that the nitrogen provided by the pole bean plant feeds the corn, which provides a trellis for it. The squash also benefits from the nitrogen, and shades the roots of the other two to prevent the soil from drying too much in the heat, like a living natural mulch. Of course, the First Nations people didn't use all these scientific words, but they clearly understood that the trinity of plants grew best together.

I suspect, already, that I've done my planting wrong -- should have waited until the corn was taller before adding the squash and bean seeds because the bean is already higher than the other two! But we'll see what happens, and I'll post pictures as things progress, and learn from my mistakes, as is often the case! Gardening has so much to teach me!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Being holy...

means simply being who you are, says James Martin, S.J.

It makes me think of people I know who might be frowned upon by the church for being who they are... many of whom were in the wonderful Pride Parade my kids attended on Whyte Avenue yesterday. It makes me think of Jimmy A., a kid I went to school with, who was always teased that he was gay because he was somewhat effeminate, and another girlfriend I've known for 35 years who just recently admitted to me that she is a lesbian and struggles with her sexuality because some churches, hers and mine in particular, have not been accepting of the spectrum of sexuality. She was afraid I might judge her harshly, too.

Sexuality is something that religion often seems to have seized upon in order to ignore the bigger issues. It's easier to condemn people for their sexuality than it is to live non-violence, forgiveness, simplicity of life, renunciation of wealth, care for the poor and marginalized, etc., etc. As a result, we have too many churches that have been slow to accept our homosexual brothers and sisters and those they love, leaving them on the margins.

But Jesus lived on the margins, hung out with the marginalized, and saw and loved people for who they were. Who they are.

Today I pray for my many LGBTQ friends and for my church -- that each may come to know and love and see the holy in the other.


Image result for Pride

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Simple Suggestion #235... Be a positive example

We just never know when someone is watching us -- you could say that role modeling actually happens all the time, whether we realize it or not -- so, every action has the potential to be a positive or negative influence in the world.

Last week Shadow and I were walking through the park where my neighbour and I discovered the mess left by the folks who used the party poppers (click here to read that moodling), and who did we run into but the elderly gent who had helped with the clean up to the best of his ability. He was way down the park, and I could see that he had a plastic bag in hand and was stopping every so often to pick up things, likely trash that others had left behind. Part of me wanted to run to the nearest junior high and high school and bring kids back with me to witness the man's example and to encourage them to do the same all through their lives, well into their eighties, too.

There are endless ways to be a positive role model -- clean speech, kind words, a non-judgmental attitude in the face of judgment, a smile or greeting when passing someone on the street, not to mention simply living an exemplary life... Often, simple positive examples are the most powerful.

Today's suggested challenge is to be mindful of the opportunities around us to make a positive difference in our lives and the lives of others. We never know who might notice and follow our lead...

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

Monday, June 1, 2015

2000-year-old squash and other stories

Lee and I were marveling this weekend at how many garden renos we've completed already this year. Sometimes, April and May are a write-off when it comes to gardening, but June 1st has arrived with everything in the ground this year. I guess you could call this my earliest garden report ever!

We've been eating some pretty colourful lettuce of late...

With the real water (rain) that finally came down on the weekend, 
purple carrots are starting to make an appearance. I've never
grown them before, and they're up sooner than their orange mates.

Our cucumbers are showing up, too. 
Lee mounted some old trellis for them to climb...

Broad beans...

potatoes... with a mound of dirt in the middle, ready for when
they need to be hilled. We had to do a bit of research on
how to hill potatoes grown in raised bed boxes.

This year I'm managing to keep ahead of the cut worms that love my onions.
My neighbour is having a harder time with her cut bunny, 
a local jackrabbit who loves her unfenced garden. 
Brings Beatrix Potter's Peter Rabbit to mind, 
though Olga isn't nearly as scary as Mr McGregor!

Here come the pumpkins! Half Moons and Sweetie Pies.
I think they'll be happy in their double deep box, 
especially since it got a big share of compost.

The strawberries have thrown their flowers up in the air 
in exaltation ever since we got rain Saturday night!

I learned an important lesson about growing seedlings this year. 
Thought I'd be smart and use my own compost enriched soil, 
which worked well enough until the seedlings reached a certain size 
and started to look a little sickly, probably because there's so much clay in our soil. 
Now I understand why my super-gardener aunt uses potting mix 
to start her seedlings -- they look healthier by garden transplant time.
These plants are recuperating just fine now that they're in full garden soil.

I'm guessing this will be the first oxheart tomato that we eat in 2015.

Saskatoon berries and raspberries are coming along just fine...

and on Saturday, Lee and I installed six new blueberry bushes 
where we removed the dead mugo pine and other half-dead looking shrubs.
I love the idea of having shrubs that will provide food as well as beauty.
The stepping stones make it so easy to water my planter box, which holds
some of my Dad-in-law's baby marigolds that grew from seed. 
Can't wait to see them flower!

My goal to always have something interesting blooming in the front yard
might just come true this year. The tulips have been going steady since April 29th,
and now the perennials are kicking in -- cornflowers, anemones, and day lilies.

And my birthday dahlia, thanks to Stan and Charleen!

I'm posting this picture and planning to take updates on the first of each month.
Watch this space grow!

What about the 2000-year-old squash, you ask? Well, last fall, my daughter and her boyfriend attended a workshop on small scale farms, local food, and the importance of seed-saving to preserve genetic diversity. One of the presenters told how some squash seed had been discovered in an earthenware jug that had been buried some 2000 years ago. The archaeologists who found it were delighted to discover that the seed was still viable -- and the presenter offered workshop participants some seeds taken from squash grown from the 2000-year-old seed. Christina and Landon brought home two "great-grandchildren" seeds of the orginal for me, and wouldn't you know it, of all the squash seeds I planted this year, the 2000-year-old variety were the first two up! Here's one below. I have no idea what the fruit will be like, but God- and weather-willing, we'll see! (And if they're good, I'll have seeds to share...)

If I'm missing in action when it comes to these moodlings, you know where to find me! Happy gardening!