Don’t Shoot the Messenger!

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If the news is the first rough draft of history, when did the media become the enemy of the people? Do we not like the history we are living at the moment? The fact checkers and the story tellers have suddenly become the enemy.

I’m very sensitive to media bashing. I’m a bit of a news junkie myself and my daughter works in the media. I know how hard most journalists work to bring us accurate and meaningful stories, sometimes endangering their own lives in the process.

I’ve had two experiences this week that have shone the spotlight on the media. The first was an online discussion about a political event that turned out to be  quite divisive. I could understand the different viewpoints being expressed, but I was shocked that so much anger was being directed at the media who broke the story. Somehow we need someone to blame for our personal discomfort. We feel badly that the stories that are being told are impacting real people and the implications are far reaching. But is the media to blame? Did they deliberately set out to ruin someone or were they telling the stories that are circulating in our culture and need to be resolved?

The second experience I had was going to see the film The Post about the brave decision made by Washington Post owner, Katharine Graham, to publish the Pentagon Papers. The publication of these papers impacted political careers and changed the course of American history. It was a BIG story and was not told without personal risk. Stories are like that sometimes. They need to be told because people deserve to know the facts if they hope to participate meaningfully in the democratic process.

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It is  our responsibility to stay informed and that means following news organizations that fact check, provide multiple sources, and search out their own biases in order to bring people the very best information available. So you will not hear me crying out fake news and blaming the media for stories that aren’t in alignment with what I want to believe. I check out the best and compare them to each other. Do they err? Sure. But they are also quick to retract when they do. Their agendas are not to bolster fragile egos or maintain the status quo at any cost. They are doing their jobs, and I’m grateful they are.

We’re living in interesting times.

The Best Laid Plans….

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I am a planner.  At the start of the new year you can usually find me in a sunny spot in the house with journals and papers and an assortment of coloured pens reflecting on the year that has passed and projecting myself into the year to come.  It’s my way of tying up what has ended and looking forward to what is to come.

Not this year…not part of God’s plan. At the end of the Christmas holidays which were a riot of family and fun, my mother was unexpectedly hospitalized. I received a call in the middle of the first night from the doctor who told me my mother was in respiratory distress and I should come. My mother did not pass away that night as it turns out, but was given another twenty-four days. We both had this time to rest in each other’s presence and for this I am grateful.

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This beautiful lady, who just happens to be my mother, passed away on January 21, 2018. 

Moving into acceptance feels like the opposite of planning to me. It is a much quieter place and doesn’t involve any grand schemes of what might or might not happen in the year to come. It’s about being okay with what is.

Acceptance, it turns out, is not letting me bypass grief or the visceral sense of loss deep in the cells of my body. But it is calling me back to life. Can happiness be that far away?

 

Beauty – an Inside Job

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A detail from “The Birth Of Venus” by Sandro Botticelli.

I’ve been thinking about beauty lately. The other night while I was watching the Golden Globes I saw Frances McDormand with nary a trace of makeup. She looked strong and authentic… and beautiful.

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Beauty, it seems, comes from a far deeper place than winning the genetic lottery and being blessed with chiselled features and high cheekbones. Look at Jane Goodall, an eighty-three year old who has been following her passion for primates her whole life – beautiful.

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And Malala Yousefi who has a face radiating love and kindness… and bone deep beauty.

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I am not an advocate of criticizing people for their appearance. Maybe because I know how hurtful it can be and how we look is not something that can be changed, at least quickly or easily. I believe that if we have a problem with someone, talking about their words and behaviours and actions are all fair game but denigrating people for their appearance is not. That is why I never share or retweet unflattering or embarrassing photos of anyone. This doesn’t stop me, however, from being intrigued by appearances and especially radical changes in appearance.

I think about this when I see old footage of Donald Trump. He is a good looking man with a nice smile and he sounds rational in some of the clips I have seen. Which begs the question, what happened between then and now? His facial expressions and body language seem to suggest an awkward, uncomfortable, and angry man.  He looks unhappy and many of his actions and words come from a mean spirited and defensive place. What happened to Donald to make him seem such a caricature of his former physical self? Is it that the farther away we get from our true genius (the purpose for which we have come here) the more distorted everything becomes, even our physical appearance? Or is it something else?

I don’t have the answers, but this I do know. Each of us has something genuine and true to our inner nature to offer. And this just happens to be what also makes us beautiful.

 

That Liminal Space

 

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As my mother enters the second week of being in hospital for breathing and heart issues, my life is lived in a liminal space. A liminal space is that time between the ‘what was’ and the ‘next.’ It is a place of transition, waiting, and not knowing.

I have settled into the routine of going to the hospital and spending the afternoon with my mother. I’m becoming familiar with the dizziness I feel as I get off the elevator on the third floor and turn right towards her room. I have to stop and breathe deeply before making my way down the hall. It’s the not knowing what I will face when I enter the room. Will she be sitting up? Breathing on her own without oxygen? Quietly lying in her silent, conserving energy space?

Once in the room there is that blessed moment of connection when she recognizes me and her face lights up knowing that I am there to spend time with her. I while away the afternoon taking care of her needs which have been whittled down to cleaning her dentures and applying lip balm. I try and bring her news of the world – family stuff and the latest Mr. Trump drama.

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Most of the afternoon, however, is spent in quiet. I knit or text the family about her condition while she dozes. And so goes life this January with a deep freeze keeping most sensible people indoors and me tending, waiting, hoping, praying, loving.

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Be well and stay warm my friends.

It’s Good to Be Back

Our house is back to its pre-Christmas state except for a few poinsettias scattered here and there and a vase of pine boughs decorating the piano. Gone is the tree and one of the infant beds I borrowed and most of the toys on loan have been gathered in the entrance to be returned to their owners. That’s a wrap for another family Christmas.

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But as memories will, they linger. Looking out on the sliding hill this  morning, I can still see bundled up figures carrying the red plastic sleigh to the top for another, maybe faster, trip down. And as I awake in the dark of the early morning,  I think I hear the sounds of jet lagged babies filtering through the air from the other side of the house.

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This home, for a short while, held it all: chaos and excitement, long family dinners around the table after the babies had been bathed and put to bed, friends and family visiting.  As life will have it, it also had its dramas: the night the adventurous twin was stuck in the bathroom and the adults were orchestrating a rescue worthy of the navy seals, and then there was the call in the middle of the night that my ninety-six year old mother was in respiratory distress and might not make it until the morning.

After returning to the house from a long day spent in vigil over my mother who was now stabilized but still far from out of the woods, I sat on the couch watching my adult children in the kitchen bantering about who could make the ultimate sandwich. Tears welled up in my eyes. How could there be so much sorrow and joy all at the same time?  I thought of this paradox again as I was returning from another day at the hospital and saw the January full moon hanging impossibly large and pink over the pale blue mountains just below. Beauty and sadness holding hands, each compelling in very different ways.

Glennon Doyle Melton who writes a blog called Momastery and is the author of two memoir style books has coined the word “brutiful” for this phenomenon. Life is brutal and beautiful, sometimes both at the same time – maybe often both at the same time. I am wondering if it is love that allows us the grace to see the beauty in the brutal. I hope it is.

Happy New Year to you all. It’s good to be back.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

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As the days become impossibly short and the cold draws us indoors, I think about times gone by when life was lived at a slower pace.

I thought I’d share this poem written by Robert Frost in 1922 that captures a reflective moment by a man and his horse on the “darkest evening of the year”.

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Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.    

My little horse must think queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

 

Happy darkest evening of the year everyone!

If you listen carefully, you just might be able to hear those harness bells.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Twas in the Moon of Winter-time…Music and Landscape

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I’ve been thinking about music and landscape during this dark time before Solstice.  Part of what has inspired me, these words from the Huron Christmas Carol:

‘Twas in the moon of winter-time when all the birds had fled,

That mighty Gitchi Manitou sent angel choirs instead.

Before their light the stars grew dim and wandering hunters heard the hymn…

Somehow the dark and barren pre-solstice landscape  seems to call for voices raised in chorus. A woman in my December Reflections photo group seemed to feel the same way and began adding music scores to the pictures I was posting. It felt just so…perfect to me and I thought I would share one of these with you to enjoy as well.

Here is the photo:

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And here is the music that she chose to go along with it.

 

It’s the seasonal message of light and hope relayed through music and landscape.

I remembered some of my old  favourite music after listening to this and dug out To Drive the Cold Winter Away by Canadian Loreena Mckennitt.

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And this album from King’s Choir Cambridge.

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Just feels right somehow to raise our voices in song at this time of year… or at least to enjoy others who do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glitter and Baubles and ….Yikes!

There’s lots that I love about these weeks leading up to Solstice and Christmas Day. I love the early morning light and the dark that descends way too early for some but calls me to quieten and sit by the fire.

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I love choir music and greenery and lights. I love the bustle and the smiles of people scurrying about town on last minute errands. I love all the promise in the air.

And, yes, there are parts this sensitive introvert finds hard. I love to give gifts but find shopping stressful.The search for gifts can be long and takes me away from the peace and quietness of the country into the overstimulating world of glitter and baubles, lights and scents that are at first pleasant but soon overwhelm. This is not a new phenomenon for me. My capacity for shopping in the city is much, much shorter than it is for many people.  I usually start at a bookstore, just to get my shopping legs before I hit the others. Even bookstores now have taken on a whole new look as they try and survive in the age of Amazon. There are gift sections and coffee shops, and a whole array of small “stuff” beckoning you as you snake your way to the cash. Quite honestly, I could go home after the bookstore and feel that my day was quite stimulating enough.

But there are still home decorating stores, toy stores, body care stores, and clothing stores to visit. I am attracted to it all and feel like a hummingbird flitting from one dazzling display to the next.

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Gelato anyone?

For a short while, I see what has been missing in my life and want it all. That is, until overstimulation hits and my seven year old inside feels like flopping to the floor and flailing my legs, willing someone to rescue me. Time to go.

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And then there are all the lists: gift lists, food lists, lists of lists… Before you know it, the peace of the season has crept under the door and is floating its way  into the deep, dark woods. “Hold on, I’m coming too,” I shout.

Maybe that is exactly the antidote we all need – a walk in the woods to find the peace that slipped away while we weren’t looking.

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May the peace of the season be with you all.

 

 

Time to Pick the Greenery

Decorating for the holiday season always begins outdoors for us. The timing depends on the weather forecast and involves putting up the outdoor lights and gathering the boughs for the wreath. (The indoor boughs don’t come in until closer to Christmas to avoid a crinkly mess of dried greenery and loose needles.)

The gifts of the natural world are what I want to surround myself with during the holiday season. My go to favourites are poinsettias and green boughs from the woods. Add a few fairy lights and the house is almost decorated. We are fortunate here to have a nice selection of evergreens to use for decorating.

I use a metal frame for the wreath on the door. The inner channel is filled with hemlock boughs. Hemlock is the softest, most flexible green that grows in our woods. This  year the hemlock is full of small  cones which makes it especially pretty.

 

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The hemlock comes decorated with its own cones this year.

Once the inner channel of the metal frame is wired in with hemlock, I usually begin adding an assortment of other greenery.

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I thought I would show you some of my choices to add to the hemlock to make a fuller wreath.

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Classic spruce with its Christmas smell.

OR

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Feathery white pine.

OR

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Cedar, one of my personal favourites. Fragrant and long lasting.

I have lots of good options as you can see. But there is something I am just loving about the simplicity of the hemlock all by itself this year.

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A simple hemlock wreath adorned with its own cones. Pure simplicity.

 

 

It’s a Black and White World

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Winter has set in early this year. The landscape has already taken on the white, black and grey hues that speak of the dark days and even darker nights that lead up to solstice.   It’s a bit unusual to feel in full winter mode so early. The last few years we have had an extended fall with snow only arriving in December, and even then often departing for Christmas, leaving everyone feeling a little forlorn.

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The light change is dramatic with the early arrival of winter. The snow casts a bluish white light on grey days which seeps into the windows and slinks across the floors. We have lots of grey days here in the mountains during the winter months, punctuated occasionally by clear days with blue, blue skies. The blue skies usually mean a weather system has come through and the temperature has dropped dramatically. Grey and warm, sunny and cold – winter in southern Quebec.

Outdoor life takes on a whole new rhythm. Boots are kept by the door for quick trips to the woodpile or compost bins and a whole layering of clothes takes place if we are going to be spending any longer outdoors. I usually rely on about three under layers followed by a lightweight down parka or jacket for most winter outings. I have tightly knit hats with a fleece lining for the coldest days and lighter weight knits for those in-between. It takes armies of footwear and baskets full of outerwear to get through a Canadian winter.

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Long walks on our unpaved road can become a bit treacherous in the winter months. The road is narrow and can be quite icy. Crampons added to the bottom of my shoes give me that added bit of traction which makes slips and falls a little less likely, but I actually much prefer walking in the woods with snowshoes to being on the road. The woods are more sheltered from the winds and there are animal tracks to follow and birds to watch.

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There’s life all around us – even in the winter. We just have to be little quieter and a little more persistent in order to see it.