📝 Abundance

And just like that I’ve shifted from sitting in the quiet abundance of sky and clouds and mountains and trees to a proliferation of lesson plans and an overabundance of teenager-ness. I know that’s not a real word, but for now it seems to capture the broad array of behaviours, perspectives, and attitudes that bubbled and bumped into my classroom yesterday. It was an exhausting first day of school.

It is evening now and I sit again watching an endless river of clouds slowly ripple past the bedroom window. The sun spreads a warm blush across the horizon. The colour will fade to grey and eventually to night-black, but there is goodness here and it settles me, slows my mind, reminds me that I am surrounded by a grand generosity.

This month’s (one-day-late) issue of Jots & Doodles is a reflection on abundance and generosity. I choose doodles that emphasized clouds and sky because the prairie sky feels like a generous gift to me. Even when it is full of angry storm clouds or is an expressionless grey or a texture-less blue, I am drawn to its vastness and variableness.

I’m still processing many thoughts about generosity, particularly as it relates to God’s generous creation and character, but I’ve tried to capture snippets of my reflections on this topic through the brief “jots” included in this issue. Thinking about God’s generosity forces me to look at the world around me differently, to consider how I should live in response to it, and it definitely leaves me with questions that I need to keep pondering. Because sometimes life seems to fall short of the abundance that Jesus said he came to give. Sometimes I need to be reminded that I may be determining abundance and generosity by the wrong criteria.

And sometimes (all the time!) I just need to rest in the knowledge that God is enough and in his generous grace, I lack nothing. Nada. Nothing. Zilch.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. Psalm 23:1-2

You can view and print Issue 8 here, or go to the Jots & Doodles page from the main menu.

📝 Joy

It’s midsummer and we’re on Heat Warning #110, or something like that. Our heat warning parameters are normal summer temperatures for some folk further south, but ‘normal’ has become a concept fraught with relativity and ambiguity and sweat. Apparently. So here we are, grateful that at least we have air conditioning in the truck if no where else.

It is also time for a midsummer issue of Jots & Doodles, a ‘bonus’ issue I’m squeezing in so I can meet my goal of 12 issues this year. As always, there is a bit of back story to both the jots and the doodles.

First, this issue includes actual doodles on the front cover, because what better way to introduce the theme of JOY! It includes doodles of enjoyable things (to me!) like fields and mountains, pebbles and flowers (of course!), and things that just are: sun, rain, wind. I find joy in these sometimes, but not always. I’m wondering if this wrestling with what gives us joy one day and not another, and what not only doesn’t give joy but actually snatches it away is part of what it means to be human.

A secondary theme (unintended) in this issue is daughters. The drawings within the zine are of three daughters — two are daughters of dear friends, one is my own daughter as a baby. I chose these drawings because I was thinking about how we express joy, and their facial expressions helped me explore some its nuances. Sometimes joy radiates from our faces, lights up our eyes, explodes into song or laughter or worship. But there are also times when joy is less about how we look or feel, but how we live. It is contentment and gladness and gratitude and wonder. It is also faith, comfort, and strength. It promotes peace and serves others. It is a fruit of the Spirit, evidence that he is at work in us regardless of circumstances. We are so easily derailed by circumstances, aren’t we? And then we choke on the words of the apostle James who tells us that we should “consider it pure joy” whenever life gets really bumpy and hard. Which, of course, is precisely why joy is a fruit of the Spirit. We may know what it is like to feel happy and glad, but the deep cultivating work of joy comes from surrender to what God is doing, not what we can manufacture from the bits and pieces of our lives.

The three little pieces I have written only scratch the surface of joy. So much more comes to mind even now as I write this. The first explores joy as wonder, the second, joy as contentment, and the third, joy as Jesus’ desire for us. God actually desires us to have his joy. I’m still letting that wrap itself around me because trying to wrap my head around it just leaves me in tears — it is a truth so profound and beautiful and … just… wow.

You can find the Joy issue here or by going to the Jots & Doodles page from the main menu. May it spark some joy in your life!

📝 Generations

For a portion of the semester with one of my grade 12 classes, we focus on how values and beliefs influence our decisions. We examine how this plays out for characters, relationships, and societies in literature, as well as evaluate our own beliefs and decisions. We also compare the differing values of various generations and the choices that have resulted. The Internet is full of data, much of it conflicting, about the core values of Traditionalists vs Boomers, Millennials vs Gen X or Y or Z, or whatever title is being attached to the most recent demographic; however, the data is less important to me than the conversations and questions that students have as they explore the generational profiles. One surprising thing always comes up: students are harshest in their judgement of the values and beliefs of their own generation. They inevitably look to their parents and grandparents as having better work ethics, morals, and empathy. They worry for their generation.

Unlike my students who are an emerging generation, I am an “inbetweener.” My parents are aging, my children are adults; I’m in between them both. This is hardly a new phenomenon; for all of human history, our roles and responsibilities change as we move through the generational cycles. My parents require more physical care than they did several years ago; my children require less physical care, but still need parental support.

I’ve taken some of my thoughts about generations and turned them into the next issue of Jots & Doodles. The art “doodles” in this issue is gleaned from some of my older work that has been tucked away in sketch books and journals but seemed to fit with this theme.

There are only two “jot” pieces this time because one of them took up more space than most “jots.” For the first one, I was thinking about generational cycles and since I was also doing laundry that day, the metaphor sort of stuck — and works to the degree that metaphors are both appropriate and limited. Maybe it will get us all thinking about the core value of love and how it can affect our ability to both give and receive from one another.

The second piece is about fences, which on first glance has nothing to do with generations. I did the pen & ink drawing years ago simply because I was drawn to the contrast between the old fence and the new one. I actually titled it, “Generations” at the time. My thinking about the two fences has evolved and shifted over time, but when I actually sat down to write about them it took me a while to understand what the key focus needed to be. Was it about aging and the need for the next generation to fill the gap? Was it about the ultimate failure of one generation and the success of the “new and better” ideas of the next? I finally realized that aging and failure and success will come for every generation even if our perspectives and purposes may differ in their focus. What will determine our impact on each other, our communities, and our world, is how our values and decisions stand the test of time. Legacies are the product of time.

You can find Issue 6 of Jots and Doodles here or on the Jots & Doodles page listed in the menu. As always, it is free to download, print, and share. Your feedback and thoughts on this topic are also welcome!

Pebbles in Pockets

I find them near rivers and streams and on mountain tops. They come in all sizes and shapes and colours and textures. Rocks are beautiful and they fascinate me. I’ve gotten better at not slipping so many of them into my pocket or backpack to bring home. I tell myself that I can pick up as many as I want, but I have to choose the best one, the most unique one, and leave the others behind. Mostly I obey this self-imposed rule.

At home, I have pebbles in jars and picture frames, trays and boxes. I treat them as the works of art that they are even though I know that their presence in the world is not purely aesthetic. Rocks can be quite problematic says the chipped windshield and the stony, unproductive field. A pebble in a shoe is an irritant; grief is a boulder lodged in a heart.

I decided some time ago that this month’s issue of Jots & Doodles would be on rocks, or stones, or pebbles – whatever word seems most appropriate. Now that the month is almost over, I finally have it ready. In metaphorical terms, it has been a rocky month and its been hard to find the time to work on the ‘doodles’ in particular.

The first written piece is a true story. I still have the rock in my classroom where it reminds me to keep myself grounded in truth — to live it, speak it, seek it always.

The second piece about rebuilding is a reflection on how I have to rebuild a small decorative wall I constructed years ago to hide the empty space under our front deck. I collected the flattest river rocks I could find, but they really aren’t very flat. Every year part of it gets knocked down. Every year, I rebuild it. As I rebuild, trying to find new ways to fit all the pieces together into a coherent whole, I think of the ways we have to work to maintain communities and families and relationships when our bumps and bulges don’t fit together like a manufactured brick or Lego wall would. We falter and fail, crumble and stumble because we are people and fitting together will always require a commitment to rebuild — to apologize, to forgive, to love.

The final piece comes from thinking about rocks and stones in the Bible. Just for the record, the Bible has much to say about rocks, both literally and figuratively. My brief poem mentions some literal ones, but the real focus is the image of Jesus as the Cornerstone, the one stone that ensures that all else is secure, stable, squared – a sure foundation upon which our faith is built.

You can find this issue of Jots & Doodles here.

☕️ There’s a daisy…

A Saturday Caesura AND Jots & Doodles

The artist Georgia O’Keefe once wrote that “in a way — nobody sees a flower — really — it is so small — we haven’t time — and it takes time like to have a friend takes time.” O’Keefe knew something about taking time to see a flower because many of her paintings are of flowers. The most famous one, a single white Jimson Weed blossom, sold in 2014 for $44 million. Maybe the new owner doesn’t have time to see flowers in their natural environment, and the painting provides an opportunity to “really” see. Maybe the value of a painting is that it preserves a beauty that normally fades and falls away in the cycles of seasons.

In art and in literature, flowers are often heavily imbued with imagery and symbolism. My grade 12 English class just finished reading Shakespeare’s Hamlet where an emotionally distraught Ophelia prattles to her bewildered brother: “There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance… And there is pansies, that’s for thoughts….There’s a daisy. I would give you some violets, but they withered all when my father died.” In most contemporary circles, we have lost much of the folklore and symbolism associated with particular flowers, but we maintain flower traditions for Mother’s Day, anniversaries, funerals. Red poppies are synonymous with Remembrance Day. We have national flowers (Canada’s is Cornus Canadensis, the Bunchberry) and provincial or state flowers: Alberta’s is the Wild Rose, a prolific presence alongside roads and fields across the province.

Whether we pay close attention to them or not, flowers capture our collective imagination on some level.

I don’t attach particular meaning or psychoanalytic significance to flowers, any more than I care about star charts and the zodiac, but contrary to Georgia O’Keefe’s generalized conclusion, I do notice flowers. I first began paying attention to them during my childhood roaming of the forests and meadows near our home. When I found out that flowers actually had names, I wanted to know them all — not the confusing Latin ones, but the common ones like butter-and-eggs toadflax and bedstraw and saxifrage. I pored over wildflower identification books. When our family travelled somewhere, I watched the roadside swish by, looking for recognizable snatches of colour — blue chicory, yellow goldenrod and salsify, magenta fireweed. I met my first Mariposa lily from the window of a vehicle, grateful that my father understood my love of flowers enough to pull over so I could have a closer look.

I grow flowers in my yard that are not native to this area, but I’m grateful that they don’t find the cold winters so disagreeable that they refuse to grow and bloom. I extend an open invitation to indigenous ‘wild’ flowers to make themselves at home on this patch of land I claim to own, so I have hybrid lilies and irises and harebells and wild roses and false solomon’s seal and lily-of-the-valley all living together in harmony. I see them all and they fascinate me. It has taken time to make friends with them, but it has never been time wasted.

This month’s Jots & Doodles zine contains some words and images that arise out of my appreciation for flowers, and especially, my gratitude and worship of the God who saw fit to include them in his creation. May your eyes be drawn to see — really see — the flowers around you, and your heart opened to know — really know — the creator of them all.

☕️ Gifts

A Saturday Caesura

The first story I remember writing was about a cougar. At the time, I was positive that it was the greatest story ever written. I have only vague memories of what I actually wrote, but I can guarantee it was everything you would expect from an elementary school student: sentimental imaginings, clichéd descriptions, and gaping plot holes. I remember this particular story because writing it made me realize for the first time that the ideas and pictures in my head could become words on a page, that writing wasn’t just about copying letters or spelling words correctly or answering study questions in full sentences. I’ve not given much attention to story-making in the years since that failed masterpiece, but I’ve developed a love for story-finding among the bits and pieces and images of daily life.

The first picture I clearly remember drawing was of a poster-sized blue garbage can with big eyes, an open lid for its mouth, and “Feed Me” (or something similar) written on its belly. It won an anti-littering-on-the-playground contest which was monumental to my little-girl-self, not because of the prize (which I don’t even remember), but because I realized that I could draw and that I enjoyed drawing. At first I mostly drew animals. Okay… horses. But eventually a charcoal cat and a moose and mountain goats and even a cougar. Later, I realized that drawing people was somewhat similar to drawing animals; I just had to change the shapes and features and lines and proportions and perspectives — in other words, everything but the actual drawing techniques. Even later, I learned that artists call pencil crayons coloured pencils, and now I have a glorious array of them. They are still my favourite art tool.

Over the years writing and drawing have been relegated to the When I Have Time portion of the calendar. I regret this. I realize now that what I lacked was not time, but a proper understanding of the gift they are to me. For the past several years I have tried to be more faithful in using these gifts. I write and draw nearly every day, even if it is only for a few minutes – a quick sketch, a sentence or two. From this habit, comes a new project: a zine I’ve entitled Jots & Doodles, which combines inked images from my sketchbook with poems and reflections from my writing notebook.

Jots & Doodles Volume 1: Issues 1 & 2

As a gift to anyone who happens to stumble across this blog, I am making each issue of Jots & Doodles available as a PDF download. They can be printed on a single sheet of paper and folded into a booklet (see instructions below). They are the perfect size to tuck into a card or a pocket or an envelope, attach to a gift or pin on a bulletin board. If they bring you (or someone you know) some encouragement, I’d love to hear about it!

Gifts are only gifts if they are given.

Source: https://tellingcambridgetales.wordpress.com/2016/04/01/how-to-fold-a-zine/

Note: please notify me if there are any issues with the download links. Thank you.