P.S.

Holler, summer!

PS

“All in all, it was a never to be forgotten summer — one of those summers which come seldom into any life, but leave a rich heritage of beautiful memories in their going — one of those summers which, in a fortunate combination of delightful weather, delightful friends and delightful doing, come as near to perfection as anything can come in this world.”❋  

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Ohmigosh!  It’s the last (full) weekend of summer already!  The weather was perfection for September in these parts — hot, sunny and not a drop of rain. An Ontario summer is hard-fought-for and hard-earned. It plays hard to get until it doesn’t.  How was your summer and did you do everything you’d planned way back in the springtime?  I know summer officially ends next Saturday, but I’m celebrating Summer 2018 a little early and, as LMM so beautifully wrote, it was a never to be forgotten summer for me.

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When I was a kid, summer meant, simply, time away from the classroom and it always felt to me that it stretched out far beyond those actual two months.  Days were long; bedtime was merely a concept, no longer a rule.  I’d wake up with the sun each day and spend the entirety of it outdoors. My days were an oh-so-happy mixture of  bike rides, library visits, swimming lessons, bible study classes, trips to Thorold to visit Auntie Millie, Uncle Bob, Wayne and Debbie, butterfly catching, hay fort building, ice cream truck treats, and time at the cottage on Lake Simcoe.

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Summer 2018 was all photography, all the time and I’m jumping-out-of-my-skin excited about it! Unlike childhood, my summer seemed to shrink and the days felt shorter than ever — flying by as they did.  There were so many delightful rural rambles to capture the wide array of photos demanded of us by our professor:  Visiting woods, marshes, shores, rivers, farms, small towns and big cities shooting wildlife, bridges, buildings, agriculture, farm animals, boats, trains, trucks, cars, bikes, skies, water, glass and so much more.  I was pushed and stretched in so many different directions and I loved it.

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Learning to trust my creativity was a tough lesson but ultimately, hugely rewarding; it gave me the gift of pure enjoyment, satisfaction and amazement; the result of observing the natural unfolding of life all around me.    I’ve never been sufficiently enlightened (or motivated?) to adapt my thinking, my viewpoint, to appreciate what’s just beyond my tiny life but this course has given me a perspective far beyond my ordinary way of looking at the world.  I will forever be grateful for being chosen for this class, for the wisdom shared by the educators and for the panorama of opportunity and possibility they have spread before me. 

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As Summer 2018 draws to a close I confess that I’m already lamenting its passing, but… Here’s my universal remedy for all end-of-summer blues: P.S. — Pumpkin spice everything; candles, soap, lattes, muffins, cakes, cookies and — only if you dare — Pumpkin Spice Iced Cap! Positively orgasmic. Trust!  Dear, sweet Mother Nature, please don’t take away our beautiful Ontario summer just yet, but if you’re so inclined, thank you for leaving us with your soothing P.S.

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Yup! I dared!

‘Til next time, y’all…

[L.M. Montgomery]

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Orono Fair

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As soon as the car door opened I was assailed by “fair smell”, triggering a lifetime of fall fair memories; of candy apples, caramel corn, hot dogs and, yes, even poo. A swirling kaleidoscope of happy memories, triggered by the sights, sounds, smells, and experiences of the fairs of my youth – the Claremont Apple Butter Festivals and the Markham Fairs shared with Mum and Dad.

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If you listen to Cam, who grew up going to the Orono Fair every year, it’s a childish, fun, trashy, delicious exhibition that he skipped (and ridiculed) every year during high school. At that time he hated the fair. Now, as an adult, the fair is fun again for him; it’s an agrarian combination of colour, sound, noise and recollection that we enjoy sharing year over year; our very own signal that fall has arrived.

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I went to the fair this year anticipating eating more calories than anyone should ever consume in their lifetime: I planned, at long last, to see and taste a Beaver Tail. My tastebuds were set, I had wet wipes and hand sanitizer in my camera bag and I couldn’t wait to taste this iconic and oh-so-Canadian snack. Foiled again! For some reason, Beaver Tails were not on offer; perhaps because it was the first day, a Friday. Maybe there’d be some today. But yesterday, when I was primed for this extravagant sweet treat, there were none to be had.

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No disappointment could cloud my pleasure in the day though. I mean, there were tiny kiddos leading cows around. Sweetness overload without having to consume a single gram of sugar.

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The highlight of the day was the Durham East 4H Club’s dairy calf competition. The first class was called Peewee, open to pre-4H aged tykes. There were two participants, one helped by an ever so slightly older brother and one by an older sister. Adorable off the charts!

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The class I most enjoyed, though, were the novices. I don’t know what y’all know about 4H but appearance is paramount: The calves are all washed and brushed and sprayed and look as if they’ve never spent a day in a barn or a pasture. The kiddos must be decked out entirely in white, and in the marshalling area, mums and dads can be seen “licking” down recalcitrant locks of hair, brushing bits of hay from trousers, and giving last-minute advice.

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Novice category is judged on the 4H member’s handling of their calf, both whilst walking around the arena and standing in position. For the calf: Keeping its head in a natural position; keeping the two front feet parallel – not too close, not too wide – and the back legs staggered; and loining (keeping the calf’s spine relaxed) for a smooth, level look.

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For the exhibitor (4H members themselves): Posture is important (when explaining why one placed higher than the next, the judge frequently cited good or poor posture); calmness, helping the “team” move and appear smooth and relaxed; exhibitor’s feet should be set at shoulder width or less; and the leading arm slightly bent to keep the calf’s head up/ears forward.

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When this young lad walked into the arena, Cam immediately commented that both he and his calf were looking good. Sure enough, they won the class (of eleven).

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In the barns there were the usual “biggests” and “bests” of show.

An exciting day for the students of Orono Public School, all of whom were there with their classmates, teachers and chaperones. Happy kiddos galore, taking in the petting zoo, pig races, aproned vendors, local apple cider and dumplings, crops, animals, farm equipment, “walking taco salads”??? and – the star attraction – the rides. Happy laughter rang out and boy was it infectious.

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I had a happy time and am already anticipating next year’s visit.

’Til next time, y’all…

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Norma

Irideae

Irideae

Irises mean “thank you for your friendship”.

“The crickets felt it was their duty to warn everybody that summertime cannot last for ever. Even on the most beautiful days in the whole year – the days when summer is changing into autumn – the crickets spread the rumor of sadness and change.”
[E.B. White]

We have heard the crickets in our garden for a few weeks now; these are indeed the days when summer is changing into autumn, the days when I lament all the summer plans I laid during the winter which remain, as yet, unfulfilled.  One of those plans was to meet up with two very special friends.  Today I unplugged for the afternoon and enjoyed a special treat; lunch and a long, happy visit with a very dear old friend.  

Making new friends is truly lovely, but nothing compares to life-long friends;  they demonstrate their love and devotion by choosing to remain part of one’s life.  Most significantly for me, they are that much-valued link to my old life.

So, Norma…  She is über-smart, loyal, unfailingly kind, the best gardener on the planet, and most of all, she has the most amazing sense of fun.

We haven’t seen each other in #IdRatherNotSay, but at lunchtime and as always when we meet, we picked up exactly where we left off.  Our friendship is just like opening a favourite, oft-read book to a random page and knowing right away where you are in the story.  Throughout thirty-plus years of friendship, our lives have seen enormous change but nothing has changed between us. It’s as if there is a common thread woven through our two hearts.

There were hugs – Norma is the best hugger, ever – there was food, and drink and wonderful conversation, and giggles (lots of giggles).  Confidences were exchanged, opinions expressed and at the end of it all we had caught up on the special details of each other’s lives.  When we parted company, I was oh-so-happy and felt better about myself than I have in ages – that’s the comity Norma is to her friends!  She is a forever-friend who is always there for me – no matter how often we see each other in person, and I am very grateful for our friendship.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said,
people will forget what you did,
but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
[Maya Angelou]

I hope everyone reading this has a Norma in their life, someone who makes them feel liked, and loved, and valued, and special, and happy!

’Til next time, y’all…

Anniversary 2018

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I can hardly believe it has been 12,410 days since we created Team Perrault!!!

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Thirty-four years ago today, on an excruciatingly hot and humid afternoon, Cam and I were married in my family church – Zion Wexford United Church – in Scarborough.  How is it possible that so much time has passed us by when, in my heart, we still feel shiny and new?

“We are not the same persons this year as last; nor are those we love.
It is a happy chance if we, changing, continue to love a changed person.”
[W. Somerset Maugham]

Every new day of our marriage is sweeter, more intimate, more loving than the one before, and yes, we have changed. A lot! So, as Mr. Maugham so wisely penned, it is indeed a happy chance that we both continue to love a changed person. Yet in so many ways – all the important ways – we have not changed at all.

Deep down, we both know that we are very lucky to have had parents who gave us healthy, loving, strong marriages to learn from. We are both grateful to have had parents who stayed together; it is truly a privilege to be children of such strong marriages. Our parents made the promise to love one another always and forever and did exactly that. I am truly thankful that Cam and I both saw steadfast love in our homes growing up and perhaps that is why our own marriage has felt easy and sure. Our parents were a blessing to us and we still love them all so very much.

The very best thing about Cam is that he has made me a better person. With me, he is endlessly patient, slow to lay blame, gentle with his words and unfailingly kind.  His love feels tangible, reassuring, eternal and it is a treasure to love someone who feels like they have always been and will always be part of my life.

I have loved the most extraordinary man for 34 years.
I would love to spend another 34 years together.

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‘Til next time, y’all…

Nullum periculum. Nullum praemium.

(No risk. No reward.)

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About this post:

This week I was the victim of extreme cyber bullying. I had a very difficult time with it. My Professor strongly urged me to write a post articulating the devastating effects of this type of negative, non-constructive commentary. In the interest of transparency, I am receiving extra credit for this essay; thank you for reading anyway.

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Bridging The Gap

Whenever I was set to begin a new chapter of my life, or undertake a difficult project, or face a scary health issue, my Dad always said,  Put your best foot forward.  You can do anything you set your mind to, my pet. Or, as he inscribed in the cover of my first bible:

“Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might;”
[Ecclesiastes 9:10]

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It seems as if I am perpetually figuring out who I am capable of being and then trying hard to become that person because I feel that only then will I be living up to my potential and accomplishing all those things of which I am capable.  I hope I am making this effort with all my might.  At the moment, the work my hand findeth is my quest is to become a better photographer.  I am halfway through a year-long photography course, the curriculum of which has violently knocked me out of my comfort zone and into what is, for me, both unknown and uncomfortable territory a lot of the time.  First is the diversity of subject matter.  I am not quite sure of my genre as yet, I only know it involves nature and agriculture – animals, birds, bugs and creepy-crawlies – almost all living things.  Not, NEVER people, and not usually architecture or indoor photography and yet, for this course, all are regularly on the menu.  The second stressful element is showing my work and facing criticism, both of which are frightening and intimidating to me.

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On Ansel Adams:

“You don’t take a photograph, you make it.”
(A. Adams)

This class is meant to bridge the gaps in my knowledge, skills, artistry, design, confidence, and product/brand management.  The main tool utilized by the professor is “Show Your Work” in all it’s stages.  Or, in the words of Ansel Adams, how you make your photographs.  The art of designing – making – a photograph, of creating an image that is superior to a mere snapshot, is one of the gaps I am seeking to bridge with the help of my teachers and mentors.

Our forum for showing is Flickr, the social media site preferred by my Professor and by most professional photographers.  I currently have a few thousand images on display; some straight from the camera, some partially edited and some that are finished with post production.  This has, for the most part, been a pleasant experience.  I’ve enjoyed reading the comments and suggestions made by my prof, my TA and my class members.  None of that feedback would have been possible without showing my work.

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On Eleanor Roosevelt:

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
[E. Roosevelt]

In a social media world abounding with opinions, there exists a culture devoted to shame and humiliation through criticism, ridicule and hatred using rude, cruel, personal, misogynistic and crude commentary.  Flickr is no different.  Some of these comments are absolutely devastating.  Thin skin is embedded deeply within my DNA and in situations like this, all my insecurities, all my self-doubts rear their ugly heads, each clamouring for attention.  Comparison is my nemesis; my fear is of not measuring up, of not being good enough, of not having learned enough or tried hard enough.  Of always, falling short.  Of being less than, then.  In short, I consented.  My professor responded to this line of thought:  Do not always assume you are being measured.    But regarding the insulting narrative that was posted to my account, he advised me to look upon feedback (not his, of course) as nothing more than idle observations – not insults, just a casual interpretation that will be a mere footnote to my story.  Just an observation.  I’ll try.

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On risk and reward:

Nullum periculum, nullum praemium.

Thankfully, some of the comments are the opposite; are not vitriol-fuelled and are indeed complimentary.  Some are made by fellow photographers, expressing admiration of a wildlife “get” or of good lighting or composition or kindly suggesting ways to improve a shot based upon their own previous failures and successes.  Having been down that road, they hope their experiences might be of use to me.  Some compliments are from my professor and, as he is very stingy with those, they are feathers in my cap.  Some sweet comments are made by my friends, offering their praise for shots that have appealed to their senses.  In many ways these are my favourites because it means I’ve perhaps captured the emotion of the moment for others to see.  Particularly exciting for me is that three famous wildlife photographers have, exclusive of the course, begun following me and their comments are invaluable because they are exactly who I want to become one day.  Despite the obvious risks, these are the splendid rewards.

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On perspective:

Whilst most critiques are offered in an artistic and instructional forum, cyber bullying does happen – very publicly – on all social media sites.  In my case I was unprepared and shocked by the degree of hatred expressed.  It hurt.  I cried.  But…

I’d like to believe that my skin is now a little thicker and that I’ve gained a fresh and informed perspective.  I plan to continue showing my work just as before, stretching to reach my capabilities and potential; putting my best foot forward, with all my might, trying to bridge my creative gaps.

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In Cornelius Ryan’s oh-so-famous words, I only hope this adventure is not a bridge too far for me.

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‘Til next time, y’all…

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Intention

Intention is extraordinarily powerful; our words and deeds in this moment will most assuredly have repercussions in our future. Leading with courtesy, kindness and respect, always being mindful of accountability, our destiny will be peaceful and rewarding.

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Intentions are being called to our attention, scrutinized by analysts of all types and written about in every imaginable forum. It sure has been a dramatic, emotional, and bellicose fortnight thanks to a notorious woman in the television industry. The ensuing discussions are pitting combative right-wing, white supremacist racists against the rest of the world. Twitter exploded and, whilst we all recognize that there is an endless supply of trolls on Twitter, and that many tweets were bot-generated, there were still a frightening number of hate-filled messages proudly posted by people clearly consumed by hatred.

Undeniably there are and always have been, many different beliefs and view points in this world, all proudly expressed and broadcast. Freedom of speech is, after all, guaranteed – here in North America by Section 2 of the Canadian Charter and by The First Amendment of the United States Constitution. The United Nations also protects freedom of speech internationally with Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). This right is sacrosanct, and in its preservation and practice, sometimes we must accept and hear someone proclaiming the very thing we oppose with every fibre of our being. But…

It is not essential, it is not inevitable, it is not legal and it is not ethical to broadcast hate in order to express one’s opinions, in order to exercise one’s right of free speech.

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Using one’s hatred to intimidate, harass, terrify, harm, or threaten a person or group of people is a hate crime and those doing so will be prosecuted:

  • Under Sections 318 and 319 of The Criminal Code of Canada; or
  • Hate Crimes Prevention Act in the USA; or
  • Sections 28-32 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 and Sections 145 and 146 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003 in the UK; or
  • Articles 132-76 and 132-77 of the Criminal Code of France; or …

Whether or not Ms. Barr is ever charged for her “abhorrent” tweet, these are the facts:

  1. Not (too) long after Ms. Barr’s tweet went viral and, publicly confronted by her despicable thoughts and words, the ABC network cancelled “Roseanne” and severed ties with its star; and
  2. Valerie Jarrett, the victim of the tweet Obamaed the situation and “went high”, calling it a teaching moment. She was thinking only of the effect of the despicable words on other African-Americans: “I’m fine. I’m worried about all the people out there who don’t have a circle of friends and followers who come right to their defense…”; and
  3. No one accepted that this was a joke (as claimed by Ms. Barr), the vile tweet was immediately recognized as unbridled racism, pure and simple; and
  4. Some folk seem to be feeling badly for the rest of the cast and crew but it is highly unlikely they were unaware of Ms. Barr’s deep-seated racism. I imagine there is considerable relief amongst many of those 200+ individuals at being able to distance themselves from Ms. Barr; and
  5. The talent agency ICM Partners, who represented Ms. Barr, cancelled their association – ‘effective immediately’ despite the obvious fiscal advantages of an on-going relationship.

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Love

Ever since the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the wonderful homily “The Power of Love” delivered by the Most Reverend Michael Curry; the best part of the ceremony in my opinion. “There’s power in love. Don’t underestimate it. Don’t even over-sentimentalize it. There’s power – power in love.” He cited so many venerable sources, and in Part II said: “I’m talking about power. Power to change the world.”

This is what I know about love:

  • Love never demeans others; never seeks to hurt, scare, harrass, intimidate, threaten or destroy.
  • Love is inclusive, accepting, welcoming, nurturing, encouraging and forging. Beautiful, in fact, in every way.
  • Love motivates each and every one of us to live our best lives and be the best we can possibly be.

“Real power. Power to change the world.” And change is exactly what is needed!

This is what I know about change:

  • Change, when it happens, is a slow process requiring the participation, enthusiasm and long-term dedication of many people; no one can do it alone.
  • Perhaps we cannot fix everything that is wrong with our world, but hatred, that we can take on; we must.
  • With the words we speak, with each action we take, with each social media post, with each picture we share, we must intentionally model the change we hope for. Knowing we’ve done our very best, knowing we’ve moved the needle (even minutely) from hate towards love, is our reward. The best we can do is always enough.
  • Change is contagious, just you watch and see; with each new post, each passing day, more and more folk will take on the challenge.

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Love VS Hate

Love conquers hate. Love accepts everyone without limitations or conditions. Hate does the opposite. I wish for everyone, everywhere, to have the feelings of happiness, security, belonging, value and – most especially – peace; feelings that are only present when love is freely given and received. With intention.

Intention is extraordinarily powerful; our words and deeds in this moment will most assuredly have repercussions in our future. Leading with courtesy, kindness and respect, always being mindful of accountability, our destiny will be peaceful and rewarding.

In this moment, and every moment hereafter, with focussed intention, I wish to speak and behave with gentleness and love; not anger or hatred. Please join me.

“Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me

Let peace begin with me
Let this be the moment now.”
[J. Jackson and S. Miller]

‘Til next time, y’all…

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Beginnings

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The past year has been devastating to our family and our circle of friends. Three friends (all Baxter Boys), a cousin, the husband of another cousin and the husband of a friend have all died, leaving behind parents, spouses, children, grandchildren and friends whose lives will never be the same. Whose lives are now at the intersection of endings and beginnings. I do so hope God gives gives each and every one of them a hedge of protection as they take their first steps onto this new path.

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“Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life’s desire.”

As Cam and I have seen first hand this year, life is bewildering, frightening – even downright overwhelming – when a new beginning is the result of a tragic loss, when that change simply is not one’s own choice. When that new beginning is unplanned, instant and urgent. Rather than feeling bright, exciting and promising, the experience feels dark and foreboding.

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Grief, of course, has no timetable, no logic, no plan. Crying is a given; each one needs to shed the tears they need to shed whenever that may be – something everyone in our circle of friends needs to understand. Patience! My wish for the mourners is that they are able to feel thankful and fortunate for the life and experiences they each shared with their loved ones. Even more, I wish for their recognition and awareness that they will never lose the love shared, that it will live on in their hearts and memories – undiminished, bright and ever-present. Then, and perhaps only then will they be able to allow the the grief to ebb away, to allow their mourning to take its place, ever so slowly and gently, in the further recesses of their minds. To courageously take the first step on the path of their new beginning. That first suspension of fear and trepidation.

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“Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plenitude opening before you.”

The truth is, every morning each one of us has the opportunity to bravely step onto the path of a new beginning. The choice is ours. Easter, in fact the entirety of spring is the epitome of new beginnings, new life. Spring dawdled up to us this year, arriving slowly and with a few bad-weather-day-hiccups. Now, though, the familiar warmth of the sun teases us; it is bewitching, alluring and captivating. Spring’s new life – both buds and babies – beckons us back outdoors, stimulating our curiosity and offering us limitless possibilities mine, of course, beginning at Presqu’ile.

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I drove into the park with my windows rolled down and my roof open listening to the frogs all singing their hearts out and watching three broods of goslings learn to navigate the pannes under the constant supervision and protection of mums and dads. The cedars are quite obviously having a great year; their profusion of new shoots are a very vibrant green and their scent wafted into the car on each wisp of breeze. Fresh and clean. Three clear and glorious signs of the new beginnings throughout the park. The sky over Presqu’ile was pretty enough to be a screensaver. Le beau printemps à Presqu’ile!

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Spring is pure wonderment; an annual rekindling of marvel and fascination that surprises, awes and pleases us spontaneously. Wonder is embedded in our DNA; dormant, perhaps, until the perfect stimuli assault our senses. During life’s darkest moments, whilst grieving the loss of one too dear to contemplate living without, wonder is there in one’s soul, patiently waiting ’til, completely unexpectedly, a moment reawakens it and a small part of one’s soul remembers there is still a life to be lived, still hope, still curiosity, still love – to be given and received.

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“Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.”

My prayer for the three Baxter Boys’ wives, for Juanita’s husband Philip, for Rhoda, for everyone, in fact, who is grieving is that they feel, in some small measure, the wonder I feel at Presqu’ile, wonder that brings surprise, hope, curiosity and peace. Wonder that brings a new beginning.

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This post was inspired by the lovely writing of John O’Donnohue.  Enjoy:

For A New Beginning

In out-of-the-way places of the heart,
Where your thoughts never think to wander,
This beginning has been quietly forming,
Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

For a long time it has watched your desire,
Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,
Noticing how you willed yourself on,
Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

It watched you play with the seduction of safety
And the gray promises that sameness whispered,
Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,
Wondered would you always live like this.

Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
And out you stepped onto new ground,
Your eyes young again with energy and dream,
A path of plenitude opening before you.

Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life’s desire.

Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.
[John O’Donohue]

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‘Til next time, y’all…