Christmas 2020: Tiles, Toilet & Turkey

A Saturday Caesura, Christmas Edition

Christmas morning begins in the semi-dark living room, the glow of coloured Christmas lights and candles accompanied by hot coffee (him) and tea (me) with a chaser-splurge of hot chocolate (also me) and a deep dive into words of Christ found in Matthew that speak truths both knowable and beyond understanding. No exchange or opening of presents, just this gift of God’s presence.

I listen to “Bethlehem, Year Zero,” a poem penned and read by Irish poet, Andrew Roycroft, the lilt of his brogue adding to the resonance of his words for this day, this year. It nourishes my spirit like the breakfast bowl of warmed-over Irish oats nourishes my body.

The dark sky gives way to ordinary grey. It starts snowing, lightly.

I fill the bird feeder and the wood box, stoke the fire, don my painting clothes and put a final coat on the window trim in the bathroom we’ve been renovating. We work together to adjust the new shower drain, brainstorm solutions for tiling uneven, unsquare walls (old farmhouse syndrome), abandon the tile idea, reinstall the vanity, re-plumb the sink, reinstall & re-plumb the toilet. It needs a new seat, we agree.

I change clothes, wash renovation residue off my hands and prep the turkey, saute onions and celery and garlic for the stuffing, peel and chop two small turnips, put them on the wood stove to cook. While the turkey roasts, I lend a hand here and there to ongoing endeavours in the bathroom, tidy up tools and rags, vacuum dust ‘n bits.

We are only two here, but texts, emails, phone calls connect us to family and friends throughout the day – a glittering of grace and joy and love that sparkles like hoar frost in the sun of a winter day, like tinsel in the lights of a Christmas tree.

I exchange the everyday ivory tablecloth for something festive red and green, set out stemware, silverware, white cloth napkins. He exchanges overalls for an apron and carves the turkey while I make gravy, dress the roasted carrots and brussel sprouts with balsamic glaze, whip the turnips with a touch of cream and dollop of butter. We keep the food hot on the wood stove, serve ourselves there on pre-warmed china plates. We light candles, (an everyday supper routine), hit play on Kenny G’s Christmas album (still in the CD player from last year), give thanks to God for the gifts of this day, this year, and savour the meal, the work of our hands, the blessings of life and marriage and home.

It is not a “magical” Christmas Day, but it is one rich in meaning that extends beyond the hours that define it as a day, just as the birth of the God-Man, the Servant-King, carries its deepest meaning far beyond the hours that defined that night in a stable in Bethlehem, year zero.

β˜•οΈ Friday Night

A Saturday Caesura

It is Saturday and it is a blue-gold one, one that holds all the mercies of a new day. Last night, in the fog of Friday Fatigue I struggled to find anything to write. So I focused on my surroundings, my place at that moment, and discovered much to be grateful for…

I am sitting lengthwise on the couch that keeps its back to the wood stove so that I have full view out the front window as well as the window to my right, the one that faces the sunrise each morning, the one where perennial sweet peas crowd round to peer in like pink-cheeked nosy neighbours. Tonight I am mostly peering out the front window, watching the chimney smoke fall in gentle breaths on the mottled yellow-green leaves still clinging to the trees hovering over the now-empty garden boxes. My Mother’s Day fuchsia sits atop the wood pile on the deck, its fairy-dancer blossoms pirouetting amidst graceful leafy cascades. The sun has set. Dusk unfurls a soft grey hush. The wind grows sleepy.

Inside, a floor lamp spreads its light across my page, burnishes warm hues in the bamboo flooring. I am warm, perhaps a bit too warm now that the fire is fully engaged. I could cast off the worn afghan and fleece sweater that cocoon me, but I don’t. I like the weight of the afghan — it anchors me to the couch, calms me. A pot of water on the stove sizzles a merry melody; an off-beat percussive crackle or pop from the fire accompanies the rhythmic whir of the fan. It is good to be home. It is good to bring another work week to a close. It is good to just rest.

And there was evening, and there was morning. And there was goodness in between.

β˜•οΈ Trains and Squeaky Chairs

A Saturday Caesura

Last summer a train derailed somewhere near Winnipeg, Manitoba. On that train was an order of wood destined for a furniture manufacturing company. Because the train derailed and the wood was delayed, my Albertan students sat in flimsy, squeaky, folding chairs from the gym for the first two months of school.

The squeaky chairs were an annoying inconvenience in one of a myriad of cause-effect chains that crisscross our lives.

In fact, at any given moment we exist in the crossroads of cause and effect.

In one direction: past choices (our own and others’), societal values, political events, disasters, technologies β€” all lead to effects in our current life experiences. Sometimes we can trace the chain directly to an earlier cause, other times we live with our squeaky chairs, completely unaware of the train that derailed somewhere far away and long ago.

In the other direction: the consequences of choices we make now. Sometimes we are keenly aware of the potential results of these choices, but too often we act in the moment without doing the mental, prayerful work of imaging where the chain of effects might lead.

I know it is impossible to accurately predict outcomes, guarantee future results, or prevent every negative effect β€” life is simply not that simple. However, our world is tragically and violently waking up to the reality that a train derailed a long long time ago.

We are standing in the crossroad of causes and effects. Again. I pray that we have the wisdom to choose rightly and justly.

β˜•οΈChore Day+

A Saturday Caesura

By default Saturday is chore day at our house. Between the two of us we did laundry, cleaned the floors and a bathroom, changed oil and spark plugs in the quads, set out the tomato plants, fixed the mini-greenhouse, planted beans and squash, repotted the succulents, sharpened the mower blade, mowed the front yard, discussed a front yard make-over, made granola, pulled weeds, and folded clothes. Ate lunch.

Then we pushed pause on all chores, tossed jackets, snacks, water, camera, binoculars, bug dope into the truck and went exploring. Did we see anything new and different and exciting? Not really.

Our outing took us into familiar territory, but sometimes the familiar is a welcome comfort, especially when the trees are all dressed up in sprightly spring green and the fields have freshly groomed faces and ponds sit quiet and still so the clouds can admire their reflections. We saw baby leaves on wild rose bushes and wild strawberry plants with tiny white precursers to tiny red berries. A pair of buffleheads glided, rippleless, along the edge of a dugout; a hawk perched in a tree watching, watching. The black bear turned out to be the open end of a big culvert. The cows in one pasture had babies; the horses in another had none.

Such ordinary everyday living and moving and growing, but did we come back feeling refreshed and content?  Oh, yes.

From the mouths of children…

Fall has arrived all golden and cold.

On this particular day leaden skies and the bluster and bite of a north wind precipitated dressing double-double and foraging for gloves and a toque before heading out for my evening exercise routine.

I was almost home again, head down into the wind, when I encountered a boy out walking his dog. The dog eyed me with curiosity from across the street, and so did the boy. He was wearing a light-weight hoodie, hood-up mode, and held the dog’s leash in bare hands.

The boy seemed to say something to me, but I couldn’t quite make it out (probably because my ears were fully swaddled). He repeated it, a little louder.

“It sure is nice and hot today!”

Oh really? Well, sure, why not?

“Why yes. Yes indeed. It sure is!” I played along.

“Just look at the beautiful sunny sky!” he continued, gesturing towards the mass of grey hovering above us.

“Isn’t it lovely? I hope you remembered sunscreen.”

“Sunscreen?” He chuckled. “Why yes. Yes indeed. I put lots on!”

And so we continued in opposite directions, both of us resisting the newness of cold in our own way.

Both of us with hearts warmed by a playful, imaginative interaction.

Let’s do more of this, world.

πŸŒ„Delight

Ever since I was old enough to safely explore beyond the boundaries of the yard, I have delighted in the way vetch vines create micro-jungles along the forest floor, the way flowers bloom and fade in a seasonal procession of colour, the way sunbeams and breezes use tree branches as props in their shadow plays.

The delight has only increased over the years.

I cycle up and down prairie roads and delight in the brilliance of canola in full flower and in the undulating waves of grain. Rich shades of green lie heavy across the landscape, anchoring everything to the soil, to summer.

I hike a mountain trail where rogue rivulets from recent rains and ongoing snow melt flow down-over-around-under rocks and roots. Airy forests give way to dense shrubs, boggy meadows, and, finally, to steep slopes carpeted with lichens and stubby alpine flowers, their impossible presence a hardy welcome in these regions that border barren rock and scree. Snow still clings to the leeward edges of jagged ridges and peaks. The wind is cold. Drizzling rain turns to ice, but it is not enough to pelt away giddy delight in the views that extend in all directions.

Expansive. Majestic. Breath-arresting.

Sometimes being outdoors fills my heart so full of delight it aches.

Great are the works of the Lord; they are pondered by all who delight in them. Psalm 111:2

🌿 Cycling: An Interior Monologue (with emojis)

At the beginning

What a lovely sunny day β˜€οΈ!

a bit chilly πŸ₯Ά!

wear layers and mittens 🧣🧦πŸ§₯🧀!

up big hill β›° to start – piece of 🍰! (πŸ€₯)

wish the trees were green 🌳!

hello πŸ¦† and πŸ¦… (no hawk emoji)

and πŸ‚ and 🐎!!

πŸ‘‹ at hubby leap-frogging along in the truck πŸ₯°!!

down big hill 🀩!

BRIDGE ‼️

and ⬆️ up ⬆️ again 😩

that hill was definitely longer πŸ₯΄

and steeper (πŸ€₯)

Part way through

ditch the fleece layer and mittens πŸ₯΅

πŸ₯Ά never mind- keep the 🧀

cross wind you are annoying and cold πŸ’¨πŸ’¨πŸ’¨

ru-u-u-u-u-u-u-m-m-m-b-b-b-l-l-e strip

πŸ›‘ stop looking in the ditches

up little hill #5063 ⚠️

pool noodle, banana peel, rusty hammer, orange, apple core, blah, blah, yada, yada

hydro pole #96, Road #261, Stuckey Rd.

funny name 🀣 (okay, not that funny)πŸ˜‚

legs are a tad bit tired😧

need a bum break, snack break 🍫water break 🌊

there’s hubby waiting for me πŸ₯°πŸ₯°!!

Near the end

😬 what’s with all these puny little hills that take forever to get up??

β˜οΈπŸ’¨β˜οΈπŸ’¨ what’s with the cloud and the crosswind??

πŸ₯€πŸ₯€πŸ”πŸŸπŸ—œπŸ”¨πŸ“ΊπŸ§Ί what’s with sooooo much garbage in the ditches???

πŸ•‘πŸ•’πŸ•“πŸ•”why do the final kilometres take soooo long?????

Five minutes after the ride

what an awesome ride!!!!πŸ˜ƒπŸ˜˜πŸ₯³

I love my bike!!!!β€οΈπŸš΄β€β™‚οΈ

Depending on the moment…

Today I am grateful…

For the hard labour of re-shingling the roof which, depending on the moment included:

  • Scrape-Scrape of shovels strip-shedding the old
  • Blazing Heat scalding feet, zapping energy, and frying brain cells
  • Gusty Wind firing lose shingles like tar&grit projectiles, toppling ladders like stiff wooden soldiers, and forcing roof paper to flap frantically like a flag of surrender
  • Drizzling Rain cooling … dampening… pausing work
  • Bang-Bang, bang-bang-bang staccato of nail guns securing the new
  • Spontaneous Laughter of camaraderie and collaboration
  • Aching Backs & Stiff Legs (no similes or metaphors needed)
  • Relief-Satisfaction that these 3 days equal 25 years (?) of not. even. thinking. about roofs or shingles. Or leaks.

____ 🌿

For living room seating at the annual Bluejays vs Blackbirds turf wars which, depending on the moment included:

  • agile parents in full attack/defence mode performing tactical dive-bombing runs or counter-strike manoeuvres
  • awkward fledglings flop-fluttering for brief stints from one safe zone to another
  • protective parents flashing blue-grey against red-gold-black while screeching their claim on these trees, that patch of ground, this airspace
  • self-absorbed juniors open-beaked, squawking for more-more-more food

Raucous and intense action filled every corner of the window frame. (Amazing how the parents managed to protect, forage, and feed as if this sort of complex multitasking was not nearly as exhausting as it looked)

_____ 🌿

For a new day which, depending on the moment included (so far):

  • a soft morning fog, precursor to the crisp edges of clear-sky brilliance
  • a gentle breeze playing twinkle, twinkle little shadows with the leaves
  • a cluster of sun-loving, sun-imitating garden flowers
  • a comfortable, casual conversation between best friends over his extra hot cup of coffee (Vanilla Hazelnut, two-creams-no-sugar) and her steaming cup of tea (Earl Grey latte, 1% milk-drizzle-of-honey)
  • a worn afghan, a Bible, a notebook, and my heart filled with gratitude

_____ 🌿