Booted Into Winter

Just when I change my website background to a nice fall theme, the season, with an uncharacteristic lack of tact, booted us out. Early this week a 24 hour blizzard shoved us clear into the middle of winter.

After insane winds and a foot of damp, heavy snow, we’re still in shock. Making mad scrambles for shovels, mitts, and toques. We’ve had cancellations right and left. Highway mishaps. Frozen car doors, and irate birds.

My willow and lilac trees, still in full leaf, appear comically out of place. The raspberry canes  rest on the ground at the foot of the clothesline cross, as do multiple branches all over the yard. Weighted down by such lovely stuff. Pity. And far too much like me, sometimes. 

But the white…the white. So lovely. So lovely. See for yourself.

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Waiting For the Promise

We’ve just returned from several weeks on the road. We left our prairie home in fall’s dawn, and arrived home to find delinquent summer. People from our area have been waiting for promised summer since June. It never showed up. Now, on this Thanksgiving weekend, people are raking leaves under a blazing sun. Sweating. Tall glasses of lemonade nearby. The air (sublime change) feels dry. No puddles in the basements. There are, alas, mosquitoes, exacting their due for a lost season of bloodsucking.

On the road home we noticed combines scurrying across the fields like so many beetles. In a week there could be snow, but here in the Canadian prairies–as elsewhere–farmers literally make hay while the sun shines. It hasn’t done that nearly enough this year, they say. We all say. (Sorry, God. We know you have an absolutely perfect perspective on the relentless deluging of this area since last spring. And, on the bright side, things are awfully green around here.)

Across the ocean, European weather forecasters predict the coldest winter in a thousand years.  Their Canadian counterparts say we’re in for record-breaking snows on this side of the water. 

The times, they are a changin’. Astonishing advances in technology, policitical upheaval, odd alliances worldwide…doesn’t it make you wonder? For millenia, Christians have anticipated Jesus promised return. Some have prophesied dates and times, even waited in hills to be the first to see him return in the clouds–a foolish thing, in light of Jesus’ comment during his earth-days, that no one knows the time of his return–not even himself.

Nevertheless…it makes me wonder…like our long-awaited summer, could Jesus return today? And if so, if I could really know, how would I then live this day?

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Grateful for the Mystery

It’s midnight in the Kootenays. I’m sitting awake in my son’s apartment, high above Windermere Lake. Thinking. A train whistles slow beneath me and the moon rests cozy in the sky, like a silver coin on dark velvet. Across the lake, mountain shapes loom black, and the small lights of Windermere fringe the shore.

Unlike earlier today, stillness surrounds the apartment. This afternoon whitecaps dotted the lake. Yesterday I noticed a sailboat and a windsurfer below, but no sails challenged today’s wind. It felt like the CP train passing—loud, determined, and powerful. The tall pines near the apartment swayed a good deal south, and an aloe plant on the sill of the open kitchen window toppled into the sink.

Bears—black and grizzly—frequent the nearby woods. Earlier this year, my son had to chase a black bear away from his truck. It had hopped up onto the box to fetch his garbage, which he’d placed there only moments before.

I often walk in the woods surrounding our son’s home. But no, I won’t go down to the woods today, or tomorrow, or anytime this season. The bears have picnics in the fall, that’s why. They raid gardens and meander trails, fattening up for coming winter. Trail travel is not recommended.

I have plenty of fat they could have, mind you. It’s the getting-it-out-of-me part that troubles me.

Deep thoughts come easy here in the Kootenays. High ponderings. Like the size of God. And how vast his love must be if it’s truly higher than these mountains, deeper than this lake, and wider than this sky. I read the first verse of the book of Job this morning. One of the most puzzling verses in all of scripture, I told my husband later. Job feared God and shunned evil. Did everything right, it seems. And yet…and yet.

Doesn’t seem fair to me. But then, neither does the fact that in spite of numerous inadequacies and failings on my part, I’m here to enjoy the moon spilling a milky way over dark water. To ponder, and never understand His Greatness. To sit in the dark and be. Still. Grateful for the mystery.

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For the Love of Fall!

I noticed it this morning. A large gold streak near the centre of the biggest maple in my neighbours yard. I like it. A splash of brilliance on God’s part, I think. An announcement: Fall’s comin’, even though the butterfly ballet continues, the rhubarb still stands at attention, and raspberries, ruby and sweet, still dangle in the patch out back.

Hurrah to the season of pleasurable returns. Return to routine. Return to learning. Return to warm sweaters, cups of hot cocoa, and most noticeable, a productive return for the season of hard labour in the garden.

A good friend detests fall for that very reason. She and her husband plant vast gardens. They share liberally, but by the time the last tomato blushes, the last zucchini freezes, and the last jar of berries seals (yes…they still preserve their produce!) she swears rather vociferously that next year, the garden will only be half the size, and if the man who plants, plants so much again next spring he can take care of the blasted garden all by himself. She’s going to Mexico–alone. I exaggerate, but something like that.

She’s cut back a bit, but her country garden is still large enough to intimidate most market gardeners. How she manages is so much of a mystery to me that I’ve contemplated setting up a live-cam somewhere in the vicinity.

Autumn and I have been friends too long for all that. A giant garden could seriously jeopardize our relationship. In the backyard of Hope House, in a corner we call (rather presumptuously) our “garden,” we have twelve tomato plants and six winter onions. (I had more of those, but they wilted in a margarine tub in the garage, while I waited too long to plant.)

Salsa, anyone? Raspberry and rhubarb crumble?

(By the way Sunny Side Up features a great story this week–check it out!)

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My Kindly Lights

I hadn’t opened our wedding album for at least a half-dozen years. But our thirty-fourth anniversary is coming up in a few days, so I did that this morning.

And found myself suddenly overwhelmed.

On almost every page, I found people I’ll never see again this side of the Jordan. Dear ones I haven’t thought of in years. Great-aunts, sisters of my grandmother, who I never knew.  Tanta Zada has her white-sweatered back to me, but I recognize that impeccable coil of white hair. Her hand reaches into the aisle to clasp mine as my new husband and I make my way out of the church after the ceremony. In the reception line, her sister, Tanta Maria, grasps Rick’s hand, smiling. I can almost smell the linament those old aunts used to calm their arthritis.

Aunt Lillian, my mother’s half-sister, is there too, I recognize her cheerful face, though the camera rudely chopped half of it off. Mrs. Chappell watches me toss my bouquet. We once spent an entire Sunday afternoon together in her attic, reading soppy poetry and bawling the ugly cry–wads of tissue, red eyes, the works. A little like I feel like doing right now, in fact.

Beloved Great Uncle Ben, my father’s uncle, hovers. All through  my childhood, I never heard him speak an unkind word. Hannah Traub, my youth pastor’s wife is there too. I adored  her–she treated me like a friend as a teenager. She died of cancer, far too soon.

I sit surrounded by memories of precious souls this morning. People God arranged as some of the kindly lights of my youth, some of my “great cloud of witnesses.” People who didn’t know I was watching, but by their lives helped me find the right paths through my own–and tried to make sure I stuck to them. Sometimes they succeeded.

When we’re young, most of us imagine the people we adore will be around us forever. It’s likely better that way–imagine living with a constant fear of their leaving. Nevertheless, leave they do.

I wish I’d told them thank you while I had a chance .

So just in case people read blogs in heaven…thank you all. Watch for me.

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