Freesia symbolizes grace under pressure.
“The grace or love of God, whence cometh our salvation,
is free in all, and free for all.”
Grace comes in many forms. On the live stream video of the New Zealand mosque attacks, a Muslim gentleman is heard saying “Hello, brother!” as the murderer walked into the entrance of Al Noor, his place of worship.
Hello, brother! Simple, gentle words. Amity. Goodwill. Clearly the practice of loving-kindness (Metta) is routine for this gentleman that he was able to display such generosity of spirit in such an intense moment. Grace, simply given.
An article on the Buzzfeed site about the victims of this barbarous attack reads: You should learn everything you can about them, because their lives mattered. A poignant and appropriate reminder amongst all the blame-laying, finger-pointing and political posturing posts and essays assaulting our senses. If, like me, you’d like to learn about the victims, here is the link: Buzzfeed
Sit lux perpetua luceat Dei in vobis.
May God shine perpetual light upon you.
Regardless of what you read, I hope you’ll fact-check some of the quotes and statements. Contrary to what Mr. Trump and other zealots and fanatics of his ilk are saying, academic experts, data collectors and police forces alike confirm that violent white extremism and bigotry are on the rise, especially here in North America.
During the past month I’ve enjoyed being able to spend some more time reading my social media feeds. These have become an important part of my life; connecting me with old school friends, friends from my old neighbourhoods, and cousins far-flung across the globe. Yet the Internet, the very thing that enriches my life so, was – on Friday – the conduit for the hate-filled massacre that shocked, saddened and angered us all.
How on earth did the Internet explode this far out of control? It has become an incubator for fledgling racists, nurturing them, encouraging them until they mature into violent, radical agitators themselves. A small group of individuals, to be sure, yet social media seems unable to stop them from perpetuating cyclical hatred and brutality.
Where we stand determines what we see.
Changing what we see changes our perspective.
Altered perspectives change what we choose to capture with our lens.
[Prof. G. Barratt]
Social change requires inclusion and that everybody focus on the same goal. Perhaps we might all reposition ourselves, alter our perspectives, become more aware of the pain in our communities and of how it is perpetuated and spread. Imagine the impact of changing what we stand for and who we stand with. Everyone wants to be safe, to have ample food, to enjoy good health and to be free to worship, but even more, all people want respect for who they are. It is time to refocus.
Grace comes in many forms. The core value of any meaningful life is grace. Let’s always remember “Hello, Brother!” and the fifty souls who perished in this evil attack. Sit lux perpetua luceat Dei in vobis. May Allah shine perpetual light upon you!
‘Til next time, y’all…
One of the nice things about being finished with school is that I’ve had more time to browse through my social media feeds and catch up on all the events and jokes and pictures I’ve missed. A common thread amongst recent posts is the yearning for spring; no more wrangling kiddos into snowsuits, no more shovelling snow and scraping ice off car windows, more daylight hours, warmth, sun, gardens, bikes, tennis, golf, and (for me) paddling… I get it, but…
Thanks mostly to all my farmer friends who have ever so patiently(?) educated me, I have a grander appreciation for winter.
We really ought to respect and honour winter; its apparent dormancy hides great productivity. Both the snow and the cold temperatures are important to our planet, most especially to food production (both for us and for wildlife).
In addition to insulating the earth (moderating it’s temperature and temperature loss) snow also protects the soil and the organisms it hosts from harm caused by fluctuating temperatures above the snow’s surface. Come spring, the melting snow helps raise the water table which is of vital importance to well users, flora and farmers alike. The runoff replenishes the water levels of our lakes, rivers and streams upon which so many creatures (ourselves included) depend.
Even (surprisingly to me) frigid winter temperatures are essential, notably to fruit trees and bushes. Every species, in order to generate an abundant amount blossoms that all open fully (essential to pollination and fruit set) requires quite a specific amount of cold weather (below 1℃). For example, most apple trees found in Northumberland’s apple belt require a minimum of 1000 continuous hours (42+ days) of sub-zero temperatures without which fruit yield will be compromised.
Instead of wishing it away, honour our winter folks, it is providing for us in countless ways!
Although winter weather constantly tempts me to cosy-up in the warmth of my home – snug by the fire with a hot cuppa – I do love spending time outdoors in the fresh air, enjoying the abundance of snow, ice, and yes, even the sharp winds.
Last Friday was a gloriously beautiful winter day. Cam had business at the golf club and I tagged along for the ride. Whilst he was occupied inside, I took myself off for a walk on the snow-covered links. Meggling through the deep snow, making the first tracks on the pristine snow fields made me feel happy, special even. Daft? Yup I know, but still…
Friday was FRIGID (not complaining, now that I know), the icy wind raspy and wuthering all around me – seemingly from every direction at once – but I, luckily, was toasty-warm in my Eddie Bauer down mufflements. There were views of snow-capped evergreen branches, icicles dangling jewel-like from the clubhouse, frozen ponds concealing a community of dormant snappers and – borne on the wind – the clean, refreshing scent of pine needles. It was entirely beautiful.
My walk was all too short but in those delightful moments, my world was enveloped in a magical, calm and restorative quietude.
‘Til next time, y’all…
(For Carolyn with much love.)
All photos taken at Baxter Creek Golf Club, Fraserville, ON.
My thesis was titled Becoming a Photographer. My inspiration whilst writing was Leonard Cohen’s “Anthem”. The last two lines of his chorus resonate deeply with me and through the writing process I realized the impact of those words on many of the shots I had taken for the course:
“There is a crack, a crack, in everything,
that’s how the light gets in.”
Considering the sum of my parts though, my thesis really ought to have been titled simply Becoming. The woman I am today is an amalgam of a great many snapshots, only one of which is labelled photographer.
”Make no little plans; they have no power to stir men’s blood
and probably themselves will not be realized.”
Recently I was invited to interview for a board position and was asked to bring along a copy of my (non-existent) résumé. In writing the first draft of a new CV, I realized that a main-stream employer would undoubtedly register both confusion and disapproval on a candid brow. Post banking days, my interest and attention have jackrabbited from various needle arts, to photography, to minimalism, to meditation, to Buddhism, to writing, to kayaking and, and, and…
The conventional part of my psyche, the part of me that is so easily influenced by mainstream values – fit-in-at-all-costs – fears that by dabbling in so many creatives, I have become a Jack of all trades, master of none. I can’t quite squelch the feeling that I’m somehow missing the mark, that I’ve lost focus. I wondered how the board would interpret the varied contents of my résumé.
Fortunately, the interview went well and there were no raised eyebrows at the CV, quite the opposite in fact – the board chair remarked that I must have very good focus to learn and develop so many new skills so late in life. A compliment, I think?
On the tickle: Plucking oneself from a comfortable yet staid routine may be inspiring, but trusting in the adventure ahead, the mystery outcome, is downright scary! To leap from Plan A to Plan B (and C and D and E…) midstream, always chasing a new passion, is akin to risking the ruination of a favourite pair of expensive shoes as they get soaked in that proverbial stream. Many times have I felt that tickle, the germ of a new idea. The restlessness, daydreams and wonder always seem to herald the beginning of a new creative venture; a project I instinctively know I must begin. Looking back today, though, I realize that every interest, every new skill mastered, every path taken are all key elements of my becoming. Combined, they will eventually guide my footsteps to where I am meant to be; they are my creative incubator.
Perspective: It’s liberating to understand that the sum of my parts is my potential, but it is truly exciting to think that my whole might one day be greater than that sum. I’m not turning my back on that snapshot labelled photographer – photography is, after all, my bliss – but I know that ultimately, many albums, crammed with many snapshots will tell the full story of my life.
‘Til next time, y’all…
❋ Mr. Burnham was an architect, most well-known for designing the famous triangular-shaped Flatiron Building in NYC.
All images are of the ice volcanoes along the south shore of Presqu’ile Provincial Park.
My course and work responsibilities for 2018 are nearly complete, nicely in time to take stock and consider my goals, hopes and dreams for 2019.
Every December, as the New Year draws nigh, some self-evaluation takes place; do the people I love feel cherished and treasured, am I respectful of nature, am I positively contributing to my community and am I properly caring for my spiritual, physical and mental health? This year, as with all the ones before it, I know that I still have a long way to go to meet these goals.
It takes me absolute ages to come up with resolutions; because I am a world-class procrastinator and because I’ve won gold medals in rationalization (I can find a multitude of reasons to abandon – even the most recently penned – resolutions). Mostly, though, I resent the notion of us all sorting through our lives with the sole purpose of finding fault and picking at our flaws. Instead, I believe we ought to bravely, confidently and enthusiastically live our lives with the grace* and the forgiveness** and the peace*** we’ve been promised. In the musical “Hamilton”, Lin-Manuel Miranda eloquently cited a verse uttered so often by President Washington: Everyone will sit under their own vine and under their own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid, for the Lord Almighty has spoken.**** I think we should all do exactly that – live life in a relaxed and fearless manner.
Nevertheless, once again this year, I’ve composed some non-resolution intentions for myself and – for 2019 – it is an über-short list: Responsibility, minimalism and kindness.
- First up – I need to do much better at letting go of anything (“Indy!”) that is not within my control; less worrying or obsessing about those issues. Hand-in-hand with this goal, though, is owning my actions and their consequences, so: Always be responsible and culpable for all of your words and deeds.
- For two years now I’ve been pruning the excesses from my life; less possessions, less of other folks’ busyness and drama, less self-made pressure and expectation and less white noise. As a result I’ve found more kindness, more gentleness, more peace. Life is much better pared down, so: Minimalism proves to be more.
- With her annual Christmas address, Queen Elizabeth stressed the need for respect and kindness. Indeed kindness ought always to be front of mind so, to that end, I’ve accepted (Thanks Effie!) the 30-day Kindness Challenge. It is simple enough, really, I undertake to perform one unsolicited, unplanned act of kindness every day for a month. It is my wish that I shall think less about me and more about others. Although the challenge is 30 days specifically, I hope I am able to continue this commitment beyond the end of January. More to follow… So: Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.*****
To everyone reading this post:
May you be safe from all harm.
May you be happy and have everything you need.
May you be filled with loving kindness.
May you live in peace and harmony.
Happy New Year!
’Til next time, y’all…
*But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” [James 4:6]
**Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon. [Isaiah 55:7 NIV]
***“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” [John 16:33 NIV]
****Micah 4:4 NIV
Said the little lamb to the Shepard boy,
do you hear what I hear?
The sounds of the season – jingle bells, carols, children’s laughter, and the Little Drummer Boy’s pa rum pum pum pum…
Christmas is nearly here and my thoughts are gambolling in a million different directions but, rather than leaving me feeling stressed, I am feeling joy. And I love it. Do you feel it too? I’ll bet you do!
This week, Jamie on our local radio station (93.3 myFM Northumberland) asked listeners to call or text with some of their favourite Christmas memories and the things they most love about the Yuletide. There were loads of happy responses, ranging from togetherness (spending time with family and friends, decorating the house/tree/garden, baking/decorating cookies, attending candlelight services), to activities (watching movies, tobogganing, skating, skiing, shopping, delivering gifts) to music (listening to/singing Carols, school concerts) to the very simplest of all (staying home, sitting by the fire/tree, drinking hot chocolate, wrapping presents) but… Do you hear what I hear? What I heard in these comments was tradition, smiles, coziness, kindness, compassion, peace, family, grace, friends. In short, love! Christmas is love.
Do you see what I see?
A star, a star…
Three wise men, astrologers and foreigners, found that first star and followed it in search of a promised king. Instead, the Magi found a mere baby. The greatest gift of all time was a lesson in modesty and simplicity, humbly reminding us that, rather than in a palace grand, the greatest throne was actually a common feed trough in a barn amongst the animals.
Gifting is our tangible means of sharing our love for one another, but this Christmas do try to help your family celebrate the holidays, not the haulidays (thank you Sydney). When your family gathers, be mindful of making sweet new memories. Like that first Christmas, give them simplicity – your time, words of encouragement, a favourite poem, a drawing – something you have made or shared especially for them. Easy, non? Yet your gesture is sure to convey your nurturing, devotion and affection, all of which will be remembered forever – unlike many of the gaily wrapped packages beneath the tree. “People will always remember how you made them feel.”**
Pray for peace people everywhere…
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.
I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
[John 14:27 NIV]
‘Til next time, y’all…
For your enjoyment, here, sung by Ms. Underwood, is a link to: Do You Hear What I Hear
*Written in 1962 by husband/wife duo Gloria Shayne Baker (music) and Noël Regney (lyrics), this Christmas song was an entreaty for peace – a prayer that is equally relevant for Christmas 2018.
Do You Hear What I Hear
Said the night wind to the little lamb,
do you see what I see?
Way up in the sky little lamb.
Do you see what I see?
A star, a star,
dancing in the night
with a tail as big as a kite.
With a tail as big as a kite.
Said the little lamb to the shepherd boy,
do you hear what I hear?
Ringing through the sky Shepard boy.
Do you hear what I hear?
A song, a song,
high above the trees.
with a voice as big as the sea.
With a voice as big as the sea.
Said the shepherd boy to the mighty king,
do you know what I know?
In your palace warm mighty king.
Do you know what I know?
A child, a child,
shivers in the cold
let us bring him silver and gold.
Let us bring him silver and gold.
Said the king to the people everywhere,
Listen to what I say.
Pray for peace people everywhere.
Listen to what I say,
the child, the child,
sleeping in the night
he will bring us goodness and light.
He will bring us goodness and light.
You’re 62 today! (Ouch! How did that happen?) A smattering of advice as you enter your sixty-third year ⁓
- Start each day with a positive frame of mind (thanks, Dad). Just like musical earworms, typically the first thing you read each morning stays with you throughout the day so make it an intentional choice not a random item on your screen. It ought to be true, informative and worthy of a day’s thoughts.
- You should be using more of your time and resources to help others. Service should be a touchstone. (Thanks again, Dad.) In this era, when self-indulgence is not only accepted but encouraged – salon days, treating/rewarding ourselves, electronic everything, spa pampering – buck the tend. Kindness, helpfulness and usefulness should always be your first choice.
- The past two years have proven that it is not only possible but easy to be more and be happier, with less. Stay true to this choice! Zero net gain! Focus on the good things, not every thing. Whenever the lure of new, of “If I only had…” pulls you in, remember this: You need very little to be happy, to feel contentment and you already have everything you need! Which, of course, leads to the next item…
- Gratitude; being thankful is simultaneously profound and very, very simple. Generosity depends upon us being joyful and contented with what we have. Twee as it may be, on your birthday, be most grateful for your life; you know full-well that you’re blessed to have reached this age – too many others that you knew and loved were not so fortunate. In fact, you very nearly did not make it this far yourself! Do not squander this gift, Pam, make the most of it!
- Sugar is your kryptonite. There is a fine line between enjoying the occasional treat (birthday cake, for instance) and overindulging (holiday baking, for instance) so maintain your focus, my girl! Less sugar = more serenity. You. Can. Do. This.
- Paleo Salmon and Broccoli. Always!
- The way you live your life is your choice; do not compare it to others, do not let anyone’s judgment knock you off-course! Try your level-best to live each day with truth and goodness and kindness. Strive to be noble. And yes, you will fail but keep trying! Do not allow this tenet to be diminished trying to please others.
Put your best foot forward, Pam – your sixty-third is going to be a great year!
’Til next time, y’all…