Ecliptic Ecclesiography

st-marys-anglican-church-manvers-twp-on

He has made everything beautiful in its time.
[Ecclesiastes 3:11]

This month book club was all about the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes.*

Everyone, even the least religious amongst us, can reliably quote Ecclesiastes because verse 3 (To every thing there is a season…) is unquestionably the most-recited wedding scripture of all time. It became a pop culture icon after it was used by Ren McCormack in the town hall meeting scene of “Footloose” in 1984: A time to dance…

Ecclesiastes, essentially King Solomon’s autobiography, is – if we allow it to be so – much bigger than that common verse, especially in these times of religious intolerance. Solomon, son of King David and Bathsheba, is regarded and revered as a prophet by at least three major religions – Christians (Bible), Jews (Talmud) and Muslims (Qur’an). Any and every bridge between faiths is important when there is so little common ground in our embattled world.

Written by the elderly King, “Ecclesiastes” is obviously not the author’s name, it is a professional title meaning, variously, preacher or teacher. Etymology is the Greek word ekklesiastes meaning one who addresses an assembly. This title came about because the king, having spent the latter years of his life in sin, became enlightened and desirous of passing on this newly-discovered wisdom to his subjects and heirs with the hope they would not repeat his mistakes and suffer the same misery. He taught his people not to live an empty life of trivial materialism and physical gratification and to search for meaning and truth in the pursuit of God. Why this message? Solomon wrote that eventually we all die and our lives are meaningless self-absorption without God:

“The conclusion, when all has been heard, is:
Fear God and keep His commandments,
because this applies to every person.”
[Ecclesiastes 12:13]

At book club, this was considered and discussed in relation to our previous and continuing study of Plutarch’s Moralia and Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. Ecliptic Ecclesiography, then…

The ecliptic is the imaginary circle which the sun follows from Earth’s perspective. A circle has no beginning and no end. Everything travelling that circuit eventually comes back to it’s original position. A closed shape with only two options: Interior and exterior. Who is inside and who is outside? I am thinking of the fifteen hundred (Yes! 1,500!) abandoned/orphaned children in the Calais Jungle. They are definitely outside.

“Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion
to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.”
[Albert Einstein]

Aid workers in the Calais refugee camp (Calais Jungle) are furious that there is no government plan (neither French nor British) to resettle/adopt/care for the 1,500 unaccompanied children remaining. Instead, French and British authorities are relying on the good offices of charities, chiefly the British Red Cross, rather than providing state support.

In case you’re interested in donating (specify Calais Camp orphans):
http://www.redcross.org.uk/en/Donate-Now?single=1

It’s Time!

It’s time to pause and to remember your ten year-old self. Would you have had sufficient coping skills to adapt to life in a container jungle? Without your parents and siblings? Without speaking the language? Without regular meals and access to clean water? Without knowing what might come next and without a plan for your future? I know, with absolute certainty, I would not – nothing in my life to that point would have prepared me for such harrowing survival challenges.

It is time, then. It’s time to pause and take a breath. It’s time to reflect on who we are and who we want to be. It’s time to widen our circle. It’s time to embrace all God’s children and at this time, most especially the 1,500 abandoned children of Calais.

It’s time for all of us to consider how best each one of us can be a part of widening the circle. It’s time for each of us to think about how best we can heal the broken hearts and spirits of not only the camp children but of all persons displaced by war and insurgency in their homelands. This week, I hope we all make time for the pause, take a deep breath and consider our potential roles. No one, especially a child, deserves to live in conditions like these:

reuters

Ecliptically, I’m back where I began, with the wisdom of Solomon. For me it’s entirely simplistic – do unto others as you would have them do unto you – the basis for the law of Moses and the teachings of the prophets. He has made everything beautiful, in our time, so we must widen our circle of compassion to include everyone!

*Our most contentious recommendation and read to date.

‘Til next time, y’all…

Eddystone Baptist Church, Eddystone, ON.png

Advertisements

Graceful Badass

Asked how she’d like to be remembered, Kathy Bates responded:

“As someone who is graceful… And a badass.”

Having spent thousands of hours in the ballet studio as a girl, I grew up thinking of grace in terms of motion; moving in an elegant and beautiful way. As graceful as a swan.

pam_5506

Grace is really so very much more than movement though. Ideal grace is an enormous concept that embodies kindness, politeness, compassion, benevolence, acceptance, fairness, courtesy and honesty. A lofty aspiration to be sure. Something everyone ought to be striving for? Just imagine a world full of grace…

Lately the value of grace has been a prevalent thought. I’ve come to detest having to witness so many graceless actions and words repeatedly televised on the news, broadcast on the radio and printed in the newspapers, to say nothing of the reactionary and retaliatory comments fighting for space and domination on the global network. It is overwhelming.

There has been so much for all of us to absorb and assimilate, so much that is universal and not merely American. So much, in fact, that it’s almost impossible to know where to begin. One thing is certain: If these distasteful and hurtful patterns are not to continue, the time has come to not only reflect upon but also to widely discuss these offences – rape and why college rape culture is not going away, gender issues, the value of good manners, language and the consequences of the words we choose, bullying and how it is not limited to school grounds; in short, right vs wrong, Then there is the current media blockbuster – locker room behaviour. None of those are graceful. None.

Is Kathy Bates graceful, then, I’m thinking she is and I hope I am right.

Badass! A badass is many things: Ultra-cool, formidable, strong, impressive, maybe even intimidating. Badasses are woke. They live by a code, never listening to the haters. Badasses are supremely confident and never explain or defend their thoughts words and deeds. Badasses never follow trends or fads, marching instead to the beat of their own drums. All of this, combined with a quintessential disregard for authority makes the badass universally admired and envied.

Hell yeah! Ms Bates is definitely badass! Pretty sure most folks would say that Ms Bates is the prototypical graceful badass. Mission accomplished.

The graceful badass concept got me thinking…

The other day I was asked which person in my life I could or should allow to influence me more. Put on the spot, I could merely stumble through an entirely unsatisfactory and unworthy response. Now, though, I know with absolute certainty that the women in my life are the ones who do influence me and who I should allow to have a greater impact on my life.

These women are an eclectic bunch. One volunteers for Habitat For Humanity and is very involved in community theatre; she has the best moral compass of anyone I know. One is a retired banker now full-time granny-of-the-year, who is smart, funny and über-loyal. One is a United Church minister, a beautiful quilter and the best-ever confidante.  One is an extraordinary, earthy, spiritual artist, activist and teacher (to her students and to me). One is an accountant – by trade and by nature with the sharpest of wits – she ought to be writing this blog. One is a dairy farmer turned merchandiser who is (and she’ll shudder reading this) a truly good person.  One is the ultimate Blue Jay fan with a wicked sense of humour, who has known me the longest and knows everything about me.  One is the most sincere, dedicated animal rights activist on the planet. All but one have been in my life for more than thirty years. All are cherished, precious, kind, loving and loyal; salt-of-the-earth types. Each one is full of grace, each one is peerless. To the question posed last week, I’d now answer – with certainty and conviction – “The graceful badasses in my life!”

Next time you’re sharing a leisurely cuppa with your girls, ask them who in their lives they could or should allow to influence them more…  I’ll bet you’ll be surprised by the responses. I was.

To all my gregarious and uniquely graceful badasses, I love you all to bits and pieces.  Elizabeth says it best:

“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.”
[Elizabeth Barrett Browning, 1806 – 1861]

Ideal grace? Absolutely!

’Til next time, y’all…

Apples

an-apple-for-teacher

During the past month, meandering along the country roads travelling from Cobourg to Presqu’ile, I’ve experienced sensory overload: The beauty of the coloured leaves, the bright red apples on the trees, the smell of the ripening apples and the tantalizing aroma of baked apple treats floating on the air… Pure amazingness!

Does it get any better than apple country in the fall?  Northumberland County is home to some of Canada’s finest orchards which were the inspiration for our famous Apple Route (appleroute.com) which draws thousands of tourists every autumn.

One of the most familiar sights of the Apple Route is The Big Apple in Colborne – you’ve likely seen it on the south side of Highway 401 at the exit ramp. Baked goods, fun for the whole family and, of course, the big apple:

dsc_8280-1

Sandwiched between Lake Ontario and the Great Pine Ridge is a magnificent swath of prime farmland with rich soil plus the perfect growing season and moisture supply needed to produce high yields of top quality apple crops.  Our Apple Route celebrates this very special region.

Although I’ve neither seen nor spoken to anyone at this farm, Scarlett Acres is by far my favourite orchard because – with a sign like this one – how could it not be?

scarlet

After I commented on the wonderful aroma of ripening apples to one farmer, he had a great belly-chuckle and then corrected me; that heavenly smell comes from windfall. Country girl? NOT!

pam_5018

The Apple Route farmers are a hard-working, friendly and kind community – it is truly delightful to visit their farm gates, have a chat, buy some apples and perhaps some baked goods. Some of the sweet offerings I’ve seen for sale this year include apple taffy, apple strudel, apple muffins, apple jelly, apple bread, apple cake, apple squares (The. Best.) and a wonderful selection of candy and caramel apples. At some farm stalls it takes herculean willpower on my part to resist bringing one of each of these treats home!

In chatting with these men and women, listening to their stories, the stress caused by the Drought of 2016, the almost constant worry about yield and their tales of successes – past and present – and their history of helping and relying on each other, I was reminded of Paul Harvey’s radio broadcast “So God Made A Farmer”. Mr. Harvey was a master of the rant long before Rick Mercer came along. These words, first broadcast back in 1978, are a lasting and fitting tribute to those special people who grow and raise the food for our tables. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to read this homage and so honour the farmers of our world.  Here is “So God Made A Farmer”:

And on the 8th day, God looked down on his planned paradise and said, “I need a caretaker.” So God made a farmer.

God said, “I need somebody willing to get up before dawn, milk cows, work all day in the fields, milk cows again, eat supper and then go to town and stay past midnight at a meeting of the school board.” So God made a farmer.

“I need somebody with arms strong enough to rustle a calf and yet gentle enough to deliver his own grandchild. Somebody to call hogs, tame cantankerous machinery, come home hungry, have to wait lunch until his wife’s done feeding visiting ladies and tell the ladies to be sure and come back real soon — and mean it.” So God made a farmer.

God said, “I need somebody willing to sit up all night with a newborn colt. And watch it die. Then dry his eyes and say, ‘Maybe next year.’ I need somebody who can shape an ax handle from a persimmon sprout, shoe a horse with a hunk of car tire, who can make harness out of haywire, feed sacks and shoe scraps. And who, planting time and harvest season, will finish his forty-hour week by Tuesday noon, then, pain’n from ‘tractor back,’ put in another seventy-two hours.” So God made a farmer.

God had to have somebody willing to ride the ruts at double speed to get the hay in ahead of the rain clouds and yet stop in mid-field and race to help when he sees the first smoke from a neighbor’s place. So God made a farmer.

God said, “I need somebody strong enough to clear trees and heave bails, yet gentle enough to tame lambs and wean pigs and tend the pink-combed pullets, who will stop his mower for an hour to splint the broken leg of a meadow lark. It had to be somebody who’d plow deep and straight and not cut corners. Somebody to seed, weed, feed, breed and rake and disc and plow and plant and tie the fleece and strain the milk and replenish the self-feeder and finish a hard week’s work with a five-mile drive to church. Somebody who’d bale a family together with the soft strong bonds of sharing, who would laugh and then sigh, and then reply, with smiling eyes, when his son says he wants to spend his life ‘doing what dad does.'” So God made a farmer.
[Paul Harvey]

pam_3879

‘Till next time, y’all…

 

Wildflowers

solidago-canadensis-goldenrod

Solidago canadensis (goldenrod)

There is a native folklore analogy that likens the circle of life to flowers.

It suggests that a person is born a cultivar: Planted, tended, protected, living safely sheltered from harm in a garden. With age, wisdom, experience and pain, metamorphosis occurs and the plant becomes a wildflower: Indigenous, uncultivated, defenceless against the elements. Life tests and teaches the flower by subjecting it to nature’s splendour and spleen – the sun, the wind, the rain, the snow, drought and flood – and from that exposure it becomes strong, tenacious and useful – in harmony with nature.

This legend has been running through my mind a lot lately as it recently occurred to me that for most of us who graduated in the Wexford CI class of ’75, me included, our next birthday will be our sixtieth, meaning that we are the wildflowers.

As for me, I absolutely did begin my life in a bubble. Greenhouse-styles. I was a protected (over-protected, some might say), nurtured, cherished and shielded child. Those who know about the many catastrophic attempts and subsequent bereavements Mum and Dad suffered trying to have a child, have no difficulty whatsoever understanding that level of safeguarding.

 

What I know so far is that I am no longer that fragile flower. Escaping from that level of defence, of security, of safekeeping was not easy, did not come without quarrelling and definitely not without resistance. My effort to break out of that cocoon was rewarded with attributes that I enjoy to this day, chiefly strength and independence so now, when faced with adversity, I reassure myself that I am tougher, gutsier, because I am a wildflower and not that juvenile greenhouse flower, so well-protected from life.  But in harmony with nature?  I’m not sure I’m entirely there yet.

 

A much-loved theologian once told me he believed the goal of our life’s journey ought to be the creation of a beautiful soul. Wise words indeed! A beautiful soul, I feel very sure, would be in total harmony with nature so I hope I have lots of life left in me because I have much work to do on my soul.  I’ve far to travel to find that sweet and total harmony with nature those wildflowers of native legend enjoy. Pretty sure that reaching this goal will require much intentional fortitude and I hope that I have enough.

 

On this Thanksgiving Sunday I am very grateful indeed…

  • For having had another year with my sweet Cam – for his good health, for his beautiful spirit, and for his unconditional and endless love; and
  • For all my doctors, for their wisdom, for their dedication, and for their patience with my near-constant frustration; and
  • Especially grateful for all the wildflowers in my life – you are beautiful souls and my life wouldn’t be as rich without you.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

pam_4380

’Til next time, y’all…