📝 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.

☕️ Destruction & Restoration: rethinking change

A Saturday Caesura

We (as in the friend-who-owns-a-backhoe), took out all the trees, dead and otherwise, from our backyard. This was a Hard Thing for me. The day before the Hoe of Destruction arrived, I wandered through the yard, noticing, touching, remembering…crying. Although I had already relocated my perennials and Justin’s lilies, most of what existed in the back yard was never planted by me, and I loved all these wild and wonderful green growing friends. They were so beautiful and so welcome, even as they always seemed to welcome me.

They are all gone now.

I know we needed to deal with the dead and dying trees, but I wasn’t prepared for losing everything else, too. So…I’ve been grieving this week.

But I’ve also been discovering.

I discovered shady hideaway places for the ferns. They seem to be enjoying their new homes beneath the remaining willows and tucked at the feet of a small copse of trees in the front yard. I enjoy the lacy sweep of their fronds uncurling in among the grasses and wild roses and honeysuckle. I envision more woodland shade-lovers adding texture and colour beneath these still standing, living trees.

I’ve also discovered the western sky. With no trees in the foreground, I can now watch sunsets from my deck or bedroom window rather than having to scuttle out to open spaces in the marsh to catch the full effect of the evening glow-show. I love the prairie sky as much as I love trees, so it’s felt like a fair-trade deal to exchange one for the other.

The yard itself is still a mild mess, but a Tractor of Restoration with tools like rototillers and harrows will do its thing and eventually there will be green grass and a new garden spot, which I am already “garden-scaping” in my mind. It’ll have space for the veggies I love to grow, but also nooks and crannies and islands where perennials can flash their colours and re-texturize the backyard view. We’ll re-instate the fire-pit (a necessity), add a clothesline (my wish) and an archery range (his wish) and some gravel by the sheds because it’s the practical thing to do.

I’m still adjusting, but I’m also realizing that a bare patch of ground is an invitation to possibility. Like many of us, I’m often most comfortable with what is. Even when what is isn’t really working all that well, it’s hard to accept that what could be might hold promise even though it requires change.

So, here’s me learning (once again) to let go of something I held dear and finding ways to embrace and appreciate change.

Windows vs Screens

Lately, I’ve thinking, not for the first time, about how much information is being disseminated through the Internet. The barrage is never-ending and beyond impossible to absorb, yet there is an unwritten, unspoken expectation that truly informed people connect with every allusion, tweet, subtweet, hot take, meme, sound-byte, pop-cultural historical political entertainment celebrity sports THING that virals across our screens.

It’s exhausting and increasingly meaningless.

The irony that I am posting this on a blog is not lost on me. I am aware that I contribute to the meaninglessness through my likes, ‘hearts’, comments, and posts. I may be but a drop in the vast ocean, but I’m still there.

But I’m also here. Sitting in my living room, looking out the window at a stand of trees readying themselves for winter. They anchor me to the real world in which I live.

A world that has seasons of growth and decay, of struggle and strain, of harvest and abundance. Seasons that exist in elongated rather than snap-chat time.

A world that requires the slow, often hard work of building and maintaining relationships with words and actions rather than clicks and emojis.

A world that doesn’t insist that I know everything about everything and everyone, but does invite me into knowledge and truth.

The window-view nourishes where the screen-view often numbs me.

I’m grateful for windows.

Random Spring Thinkings

🌿Green sprinkled like pixie dust
gradually spreads
downward
outward
stark skeleton branches
now lush and full with
shimmering reminders
that the dead of winter
still cradles life.

🌳The trees are gushing green and I can’t stop gawking at them. Is it a northern thing to consciously count Weeks of Leaves?

We’re on Week Five.

🌱The seeds I tucked into garden soil two weeks ago have all died and come to life again.

Saskatoon bushes and choke cherry trees have bloomed, liberally wafted their perfume, and are now settled into the slow labour of fruit-making.

🌿A few years ago, I carved out a home for a solitary fern under the sprawling diamond willow near the back corner of the yard. I envisioned a whole forest of fronds reaching upward to provide moral support to the sagging and aging willow.

Every spring since, I’ve had to poke around to find my little friend and then sigh with relief when it finally uncurls its fiddleheads to let me know it survived winter cold and spring flood.

But this spring? Oh my!

My fern is now part of a village and there is just something about all that wavy lacy fresh green contrasted against gnarly wrinkly grey-brown bark that makes me love both the ferns and the willow. They make each other that much more.

Maybe we people could let some of our differences do the same. Maybe.

🌻Last night, after a day of yard work and other such Saturday doings, we decided to treat ourselves to MacDonalds $1 ice cream cones and then we (as in my husband) needed to go to Home Depot and of course I said he could find me in the Garden Centre when he was done.

And oh my!

There is just something about the cacophony of colour with so many flowers and the evening sun touching them just right and setting them all alight.

So I just wandered and drank it all in and breathed gratitude for colour and beauty and flowers and trees and ferns and life and love and grace.

Juxtaposition

It’s Saturday morning and laundry load #2 spins while I enjoy a tea latte and rays of sun. More chores require my attention, but they are content to wait, to allow this day to unfold purposefully and leisurely.

I scroll through some pictures on my phone, thinking that it is time to delete a few.

And this one stops me.

Not because it is particularly unique or stunning – it’s just a little hillside path from a brief bike-hike a few weekends ago. At the time what caught my eye was the contrast between angled green foreground and horizontal purple background.

What stops me today, however, is the unintended focal point of the composition, the juxtaposition of two trees – one dead, one alive. One black etching on a background of green. One skeleton on a hillside of life.

And then I realize that this unassuming snapshot is actually a perfect visual metaphor for living with loss. The grief doesn’t go away. It is always part of the picture somewhere.

But only a part.

The rest of the picture teems with life that keeps reaching for light and anchoring in steep rocky soil and waving and whispering in even the slightest breeze.

Just because death exists doesn’t mean that life stops.

And because life continues, sometimes we forget to acknowledge that for many there is a resident grief-tree. A photobomber of life moments.

But maybe, just maybe, the presence of grief makes all the green-ness of life that much more meaningful and rich and appreciated.

By grace alone.