☕️ 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…

📝 Mid-winter Musings

And the final issue of Jots & Doodles for the year!

December has been exhausting. The reasons why are varied and don’t need to be itemized here. But now it is Christmas Eve and I’m thinking of how exhausted Mary must have been — young, very pregnant, travel-weary, away from family and the familiarity of home. Sometimes I forget the reality of her situation when I read the too-familiar Christmas story and look at pristine nativity scenes. But really — could God have chosen a less glamorous, less noble, less god-like way to enter into the human story? What divine thinking process ended with this particular girl, in this particular town, in this particular stable, on this particular night?

I’ve been pondering the idea that God has ideas. He is a thinker. The psalmist speaks of God’s thoughts as being vast and profound (Ps. 139:17; 92:5). Sometimes I forget this aspect of God when I’m asking him to “do things,” but his do-ing is never separate from his thinking. I explore these ideas a bit in the poem, “Divine Ideas,” found in the center of this month’s Jots & Doodles. I’m still exploring the profound implications of a God who is full of ideas…

The first piece in Jots & Doodles is a list rather than a poem. Over the past few months I’m been trying to notice and name goodness, and this piece gleans from a daily practice of paying attention. It is an incomplete list and always will be, but I won’t stop adding to it.

One of my favourite Christmas carols is “O Come, O Come Immanuel,” in part because of its haunting melody. The plea that resonates throughout the lyrics is one of Israel longing for the Messiah, but the call for us to rejoice because Immanuel will yet come seems to miss the point of calling him Immanuel. I find it interesting that a song we typically sing at Christmas doesn’t actually mention the significant moment where Immanuel did in fact come. So of course, I pondered this for a while…and wrote a poem about it.

Even though the month has left me weary, I am also filled with gratitude for God’s presence with us, for his thoughts beyond my understanding, and for his goodness so evident in every day. Grace upon grace.

You can find Jots & Doodles Volume 1 Issue 12 here, or by clicking on the Jots & Doodles page in the main menu.

📝 Rhythms of Place

It’s Jots & Doodles drop day! Issue 11, with a focus on some of the nuances of place is now available on the Jots & Doodles page.

In many ways this issue is an extension of my last blog post. I’ve been trying to write a poem every day this month (with moderate success), and as is often the case, my poetry is anchored in the realities of the place where I live. One of the realities right now is truncated daylight; I drive to work in darkness, and I have to bring a headlamp for my after-supper run/walk outings. The first two poems come from thoughts and noticings while I’ve been out-and-about in these darker times of winter. They speak to place because even in the global experience of the moon’s presence, there is a particularity to how moonlight shapes the mood of night in any given place. Even though people around the world walk paths and roadways, my feet know the paths of this place best. When I notice the moon or a leaf or an animal track or a sound, I am never bored while walking the same routes time and time again. To know a place is to go on daily noticing walks. Running, skiing, hiking, snowshoeing, biking, or driving are good, too. It’s the noticing, the paying attention, that makes the difference.

Living in a particular place comes with its routines, whether they are of our own making as is reflected in “Saturday,” or those associated with the rhythms of life around us. As a child, I remember waking up most mornings to the sound of graders grumbling to life in the highway maintenance yard just up the road from our house. We’ve lived where those rhythms have included loons and boats and dogs and traffic, but here, it is trains. Whether they bring delight or displeasure, these rhythms cannot be separated from the places where we live. I choose to let them be reminders of where I belong.

So, I’m grateful to be here in this house by the marsh, in this small town on the prairies, in this region that leans more north than south, with winds that come from the west more than the east, and with more dark in winter when I am more likely to notice the glow of the moon. I’m grateful for the things God has taught me here.

🌐 The Flat World & Me

This flat world we hold in our palms does not spin, but it pulls us into its orbit through tap, swipe, scroll and makes our minds spin with endless images and trivial-alarming-banal-important-irrelevant information that somehow becomes real and alluring, exciting and vital.

How did we ever live before flat worlds became our whole world?

At what moment did I choose to be a spectator rather than a participant with the grit of gravel under my boots, the smudge of earth on my jeans, my face, my hands?

At what point did I sink into mere consumerism rather than developing the skill and patience of observing and notating the non-pixelated, unfiltered, uncropped?

I need the uncurated world. I need to see the forest and the logged-off cut blocks, the fields and the gas plants and pump jacks, the emerald-green lakes and the ones stale-green with algae, the wheat and the weeds. I need the lush green of meadows and rancid road-kill in ditches and delicate flowers and gooey mud and birds and rodents.

Place is all of this and more, and it is too rich and full to fit into pixels or the binary codes of the flat world. Pixels tell me nothing about the sandpaper rub of dirt between my fingers, the feathery tickle of a bird eating sunflower seeds from my hand, or the pleasant shock of the wind whipping my breath away. Binary code tells me nothing about the actual lived-life of the person who used flesh-and-blood fingers to tap the text that bubbles on my screen. However connected we are in the flat world (and we certainly are connected — often in very helpful and important ways), something is always lacking. Emoji libraries will never be large enough for our whole selves.

To know place is to be rooted in the particularity of place and people and community rather than spinning through the dizzying orbit of text-tap-swipe-scroll-snap-chat. To know place is to hold it in the muscle memory of experience, not just the visual memory of a social media feed.

To clarify, this is not meant to be a rant against technology. It would be hypocritical of me to decry what I myself use. For several years now, I have pursued a goal to understand more fully what it means to be rooted in the place where God has put me, and my words here are simply my reflection on how that is going. Sometimes I need to remind myself to stay grounded, keep my orbit small in scope but deep in wonder. The flat world invites me to a voyeuristic curiosity; being rooted in a particular place encourages the curiosity that leads to deeper knowing and understanding and gratitude.

I want to know this place better through exploring the physical world around me, whether that is by identifying birds in the marsh or bushwacking up a mountain or tending a garden or watching the snow fall in a silent parade of delicately formed flakes.

I want to know this place deeper by listening to people I can reach out and touch. I want to hear their stories — ones of origin and ones of becoming and brokenness and restoration and everything in-between. I want to be better at seeing behind the behaviours and the bravado to understand the particularities of place and experience that have shaped lives.

And very simply, the more time I spend in the flat world, the less time I have for this beautiful, wonderful, wounded, scarred, floundering and flourishing world that surrounds me on all sides. This is where I belong and I want to live here with wisdom and with grace.

📝 Living in the Mist

October is coming to a close. The leaves are rarely in the trees, mostly on the ground. Mornings and evenings are chilly and often frosty. Some days the chill stays even when the frost doesn’t — yet. Some snow has come and gone. Soon it’ll come and stay. Most mornings are shrouded in heavy fog, which makes the already dark drive to school in the morning even darker. They’ve been re-paving a section of the route I drive and haven’t repainted the lines yet, just some dots to show where the center line should be. Dark, fog, no guiding lines to reflect the boundaries of the road…feels a bit like life sometimes. We do indeed live by a kind of faith, whether we want to admit it or not, I think.

There has been much to be thankful for in this past month, but not necessarily any more or less than other months. We just are more open to a collective sort of thanks-giving when we’re given a day off work to reflect on all the things we should be grateful for and probably are, but maybe those things aren’t always the truly important things and maybe we still mostly take everything for granted. Maybe. And maybe stress and Hard Things grind the shine off our thanksgiving and we feel ashamed to be offering something so worn and bedraggled when really this sort of thanks-giving is probably the most authentic and honest of them all.

Yes, I do have much to be thankful for, and yes, my gratitude has some worn edges and stretch marks and too much of the month felt like driving through the dark in the fog on a road that still needs lines painted on. You’ll likely hear echoes of this in this month’s Jots & Doodles. I struggled to come up with an overarching theme for this issue, partly because I didn’t want to just default to thanksgiving because Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving in October. I want to encourage thanksgiving as an attitude of the heart beyond a certain day of a certain month. So the Jots are not connected to a theme and neither are the Doodles, for that matter, but they do reflect some of my thinking and observations over the past few weeks. I’ve been challenged and encouraged…and I’m still processing (and probably always will) what it means and what it looks like when I say that I live a life of faith in God, the only truly Faithful One.

Jots & Doodles Volume 1 Issue 10 can be found here, or by going to the Jots & Doodles page from the main menu. Maybe you’ll find some words that resonate with you and encourage you. I hope so.

📝 Leaves

The season of gold has arrived here on the prairies and I treasure it. Yesterday, I stood on the top of a mountain and marvelled at the valleys aglow with yellow and orange. Today, I view gold and red and russet trees framed in my living room windows, a life-sized art gallery. I love autumn.

This month’s Jots & Doodles is a tribute to leaves in all their seasons. I can’t imagine a world without leaves, yet we tend to only really notice them when they first arrive in spring and when they flare their fall farewell. The title poem, “Leaves” came out of an attempt to listen to the leaves, to pay attention to the aural ambience they bring to each day. Doing so made me realize that leaves bring a unique music to our world. I’ll miss them and their song throughout the winter months.

When I was taking biology in high school my teacher-who-was-also-my-uncle taught us how to identify trees by their leaves, bark, seeds or cones. The school was in Oklahoma and the variety of trees there far surpassed the popular, fir, spruce, pine, aspen regulars back home. The prairies where I now live are not exactly known for their trees, but they are everywhere, interspersed between fields and linking us to the mountains not far away. I love knowing the names of things, so I’ve learned to pay attention to all the unique characteristics that enable me to correctly identify a tree. “Family Identity” brings together what I’ve learned through people like my teacher-uncle, and what I continue to learn from Jesus about how my actions and attitudes identify me.

The final Jot in this issue, “The Fall” is a reflection on the deeper realities of autumn and the symbolism and metaphors of death that accompany this season. The closing question of the poem is one I continue to wrestle with as more and more of what I see and hear around me feels and looks like death-in-progress. Yet Jesus calls me to an abundant life with eternal promises. Living in that dichotomy is what keeps me returning to his words of hope and salvation and strength.

I’m grateful for autumn, for the blaze of colour that spreads across the land for a brief period each year. I’m still treasuring the mountain top views from yesterday’s hike. I will never not love autumn, but I will also never not continue to learn from this transitional season of death and decay.

Jots & Doodles Vol. 1 Issue 9 can be found here, or by going to the Jots & Doodles page in the menu.

📝 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.