☕️ Here

A Saturday Caesura Poem

Two grain bins, weathered and warped,
squat behind a mess of caragana
as if ashamed of their gaping uselessness.
But as I walk past on a Saturday,
or any day,
their silent presence becomes a friendship
in the midst of fields stretched wide. Empty
except here, where the aging bins
are serenaded by a small chorus of redpolls,
their soft symphonies celebrate a camaraderie
expansive enough to embrace even me.

☕️ On Wind and Weariness

A Saturday Caesura

Wind weary we are. When normal prairie winds brush across the land, we put on a hat or tie our hair back and get on with life. But when big weather systems start jousting for territory, winds become aggressive, blasting, relentless. And we become weary. Weary of the moaning and blowing, of the whip and lash of hats and hair and jackets and snow and branches and shingles and siding. And our wind-weariness bleeds into our other weariness of all the Stuff and Crazy and Chaos, and we just want the only wind to be the quiet, steady breathing of our world and our lives at rest.

So when we are weary, what do we do? How do the windblown walk without listing and faltering? How do we, the world-weary, live without being torn from our roots and flapping twisting breaking crashing?

We keep showing up.

We keep doing what matters, even if it feels ragged and frayed. The doing becomes more than itself. When we keep creating and working and learning and praying and loving and caring, our roots find purchase in deeper soil. When we keep showing up for each other, our words of respect and encouragement become sturdy windbreaks behind which beauty and grace can flourish. We can breathe here, together.

So here’s my advice to myself at the end of a wind-weary week: when everything is big and blustery, find the small and calm. Show up there. Enlarge those borders where you can. And if you can’t enlarge, fortify. Small doesn’t have to become big, but it does need to be wind-resistant. ▫️

☕️ Contented Longing

A Saturday Caesura

Another winter storm blew through and returned the snow that a chinook licked up last week. The landscape is smooth and soft and clean again, which feels more February-ish than puddles, half-frozen mud, and patches of gravel. I bought more bird seed the other day because of the new snow, but couldn’t resist buying a few packages of garden seeds because part of me is beginning to yearn for spring. Another part of me just wants to soak in the pristine white fields and cerulean blue skies forever. Don’t leave me just yet, I want to tell them. But then, I can’t wait to start the geraniums soon, and then the tomatoes and peppers, and hello Green, I’m so glad you’re back.

Life exists in this tension between yearning and contentment. Sometimes I forget that I can feel both at the same time and this is okay. I can know both great joy and deep sorrow in the same moment. I can disagree with someone and still love them. I can experience solitude without resenting the loneliness of it. I can enjoy the job that often exhausts me. I can engage fully with a beautiful and broken world and yet cry with all my heart, even so, come Lord Jesus.

🎁 When a gift changes things

A Jots & Doodles Update

As a teacher, I often receive gifts from students: Starbucks cards and chocolates and homemade cookies and tea (they know better than to buy me coffee!). I appreciate these thoughtful expressions of their appreciation. This year I received some book gifts — one was a novel a student enjoyed so much that she gave me her copy with all her favourite passages marked. What a treat! Another student gave me a book full of empty pages designed for me to fill. It is called The Daily Sketch Journal and I have been enjoying it immensely. So far I haven’t missed a day, which can be a challenge when school planning and marking duties lurk throughout each evening. Sketching slows my mind. Writing stimulates it. And that is why I incorporated the two of them together in my zine Jots & Doodles.

The Daily Sketch Journal has changed some things for me. One of them is having time to compile issues of Jots & Doodles. So I have decided to set that aside for this year. I’m hoping that a year of daily sketching will provide ample material for future issues, although I do need to find a more effective way to replicate the images so that they are better quality for printing. I’m working on a solution to that problem.

So, for this year I will be sketching every day and writing weekly here, usually in the form of Saturday Caesura musings but certainly not limited to that format. I’ll try to give a peek into the sketch book from time-to-time, just so you know I’m keeping up with it (and to hold myself accountable!) I am grateful for all who have wandered to this space and expressed appreciation for what you have found here.

Thank you.

☕️ Semester New Year Reflections

A Saturday Caesura

February is like a second new year for some teachers: old semester done, new semester begun. Fresh starts, new students, and resolutions in the form of course outlines and long-range plans. Even as I anticipate Monday’s new classes, there is a lingering sadness with the realization that in spite of the connections I make, when students complete my courses (grade 12 in particular), they will move on. The hours with them — learning, laughing, struggling, growing — will be a small blip (if that) on the radar screen of their years. Memories will fade as life continues its pace. They leave; I stay.

Yes, I know that teaching is, for the most part, a short-term relationship gig, but I still feel a particular emptiness at semester-end and at graduation.

In many ways, life is comprised of these come-and-go relationships. There’s nothing particularly wrong with this, but sometimes I wonder if we abandon some relationships too easily. When the “things” that bring us together to begin with — school, church, work, family, activities, interests — are removed or fractured or worn out or burned out, what happens to us? Do we pretend we never knew each other? Exchange pleasantries when we meet in the grocery store aisle? Become Facebook friends and peek into each other’s lives from time-to-time? Maintain a manageable distance through friendly but guarded conversations? Or do we seek new connections that move us beyond that initial “thing”? Do we fight through the change, distance, absence, or inconvenience to live as if this relationship still matters?

Yes, I know that relationships take time and energy and most (all?) of us are parsimonious about how we allocate those resources. Yes, I know that some relationships need to end, and some are necessary but can only hold together because of a healthy distance. For most of us though, such situations aren’t the norm. Most of us, I suspect, just slide through our relationships on the path of least resistance. I know I often do.

But I also know that every relationship — fleeting or long-lasting, easy or hard — contributes to the larger story of our lives. And part of that larger story for me is that several young people I know and care about have transitioned from student to friend. I stayed, but they came back. We developed relationships built on something other than school: common interests, mutual encouragement, similar losses and griefs, a shared faith. And really, isn’t this what makes and sustains friendships and relationships at any level or age? It isn’t about convenience; it’s about forging connections through all the changes that inevitably come. It’s about saying that we matter to each other in ways that are worth preserving. It’s about living love.

So at this Semester New Year, I’m rethinking how I approach relationships, and not just those that arise from classroom connections. Maybe there’s a few that I haven’t fought hard enough to hold on to. Maybe there’s a few that I have fought for but need to keep doing so even when it is hard and I’m tempted to not bother anymore. Maybe I’ve written former friendships off without fully recognizing the ways that even these “short-string” friends still impact me (you’d have to have been in one of my classes to fully understand the string reference, but I’m sure you can figure it out). There’s no “maybe” about this though: the friendships I do have are a treasure and a gift, a grace and a joy.

☕️ The Quotidian

A Saturday Caesura

The penultimate load of laundry is flop-thumping in the dryer. My husband is using my hairdryer to blast away the moisture that somehow crept inside the truck’s left headlight. Beans for chili are in the pressure cooker; hamburger is cooked and on standby at the back of the stove. Two days ago it was -30C and the wind sculpted mounds of ditch-snow into elegant waves and flying buttresses. Today it is 5C and the wind is whipping up some wave action on a lake in the driveway and infusing breath into the tarp that covers the woodpile — it inhales and exhales like the slumbering mass of a forest-green monster. A raven hoover-maneuvers through the swaying trees across the road, changes its mind about landing, banks sharply north and soars up up away. I saw the bald eagle again the other day, wing-winging and gliding towards somewhere with characteristic casual determination and cloaked disinterest. I wonder why he decided to winter here — not uncommon, but not normal, either. I like seeing him. I always look for the white bookends and wide wing span that distinguish him from the more common raven. I need to refill the birdfeeder. Not for the ravens, of course, but the chickadees redpolls nuthatches blue jays downy woodpeckers pine grosbeaks. They’ve peppered the snow with cast-off seed shells. I wonder how they stay unfrozen when cold keeps everything unthawed. A magpie is squawking about something; its annoyance annoys everyone else. Inside, the dryer sings its I’m-done-ditty. The pressure cooker beeps perfunctorily. Done. The truck now has its eyeball reinstalled, all weepiness wiped away. I need to fold socks, shirts, underwear, pants, towels. Then I’ll throw some burger and spices and onion and tomato into the beans and let it simmer long into chili. Two overripe bananas suggest muffin making.

Each day is a quotidian of ordinary moments and observations threaded together into a chain of memories, experiences, and routines that form the chords of character, which eventually twine together into a stout and sturdy rope of life. Today, I think life is less about making each moment count and more about giving each moment the weight it is due. ▫️

☕️ Watch Your Step

A Saturday Caesura poem

Snow ghosts the sky, a silent
invasion that falls lightly,
gently onto a heavy
pillowed blanket. Just lies there.
So quiet. Until I step
on it. Then it cries, crunches,
squeaks, scrunches, swishes, crackles.
Snow, it turns out, has a voice
and so much to say.
We once
cared for foster children - two
wide-eyed brothers who ghosted
through each day. So, so quiet.
Someone stepped on their spirits
and they stopped crying. No squeaks
or squeals of laughter, voices
silenced by fear, by neglect.

It's okay to step on snow.

☕️ Going in Circles

Reflection. Best of lists. Highlights. Anticipation. Resets and resolutions. So many rituals connected to the ordering our lives on the foundation of time. We live into chronology like we traverse airports on moving walkways, the past recedes as we are perpetually propelled forward. Life becomes a timeline, the significant moments labeled and dated, new years noted as harbingers of progress.

This metaphor works because it is not wholly inaccurate, but it falls short of explaining the full-orbed experience of life. Life, like time, is also cyclical. The hands on the clock circle round and round measuring minutes and hours. The earth rotates as it circles the sun, measuring days and months, seasons and years. My own life is better understood through recognizing its cycles than by resolutely marching down the number-line of accumulated age and years.

Progress occurs through returning again and again to perspectives that continually shift and grow or shrink as more learning and living inform my understanding and my choices. Growth is less linear, and more a circling back to build on what was before. Sometimes to scrap and start anew. Sometimes simply to try again. Sometimes to repeat what didn’t work last time only to experience despair or self-recrimination…again. Cycles can create ruts, and dangers lurk there to be sure.

And maybe this is why we often use the metaphor of “going in circles” to describe lack of progress, lostness, “stuckness.” We can certainly experience all of these at any given time, but what if going in circles could also mean building layers of learning, like the rings of a tree. Or patterns of beauty like the concentric circles of a chrysanthemum. Or habits of faith like the woven materials of a sturdy bird’s nest. What if going in circles means recognizing repeating seasons and being more intentional about how we cycle through them. Or, especially in our relationships with God and others, what if it means rotating on the axis of a deepening love, commitment, and understanding. What if going in circles is about growth rather than stagnation. What if.

As we spiral our way through the days and year ahead, may our circles be as wide and wondering or as narrow and tight and focused as needed to let our hearts be tilled, planted, and watered by God’s good work in us. May we return again and again to what is good and true and right, and turn away always from what is not. May our wounds gain another layer of healing. May our cycles of grief be buoyed by hope and comfort. May our ruts be filled in with the core layers of repentance, grace, humility, forgiveness, and belonging. May we collect treasures of joy and goodness in each loop and lap and curve. May we know above all, that the God who first ordered time into morning and evening, days and years makes “everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart.”

I’ll spend the next years of my life circling back to ponder the implications of that last sentence. Which is exactly what was intended, I think.

Here’s to going in circles…