Author Archives: Arlene Somerton Smith

About Arlene Somerton Smith

Plain and simple writing on meaningful topics.

Around the bigger obstacle

For the past few years, every time I walked on my favourite wooded path of the NCC Greenbelt, I have had to step over this fallen tree.

A decaying tree trunk, approximately 6 inches in diameter, across a forest path.

No big deal. The decaying trunk is small, and so many human feet and knobby bicycle tires have knocked wood chips out of it over the years, it is returning to its earthy source. I notice this fallen tree, and I must be certain not to trip, but all I need to do is take one larger-than-usual step to clear it.

Yesterday I arrived at the spot. Beside the smaller fallen tree, exactly parallel to it, lay this larger tree trunk, knocked over by an overnight storm.

This one stumped me (pun intended) for a second or two. Too big to clamber over (at least with dignity intact). Too low to crawl under. Must go around.

In only one day so many others had resolved not to let a bigger obstacle block their path that the ground around it was already trodden flat.

New path being forged through the woods.

Every day I clear small obstacles in my path. I must notice them and take extra measures to deal with them, but I manage, no problem. I navigate the pylons narrowing the roadway on my way to work, and I take a few seconds to put on a mask before entering a store.

I ask myself though: Am I allowing some bigger obstacle to block my path? How can I go around?

May you have a day of small obstacles only. Do you have bigger ones you must go around?

Hammer and nail

“Into God’s temple of eternity | Drive a nail of gold.

—from In Search of a Soul by Raymond Moriyama
Box of Common 1-1/4-inch nails

We are spending some time at our cottage, where renovations never cease. It gives me opportunity to re-visit one of my past posts.


I sit on the sofa and contemplate a box of nails.

“Common” nails, the box tells me. Ordinaires. Nothing out of the ordinary.

Those common nails hold together the kitchen in which I sit—the heart of our cottage home—but only because they are working together. One nail alone can only endure stress for a brief time before it snaps from the strain.

Those common nails don’t judge themselves against longer ones, or thinner ones, or younger ones. They know they are the perfect size, material, and shape for their purpose.

The nails know and accept without question that they need help from an outside source: the hand that wields the hammer. Nails on their own must wait.

Once work is underway, the hammer strikes the nail. It doesn’t feel good. It hurts! Fulfilling purpose is not a pain-free, comfortable experience.

If I am a common nail, I have a purpose for which I am the perfect size, material, and shape.

The hand that wields the hammer is with me. I’d better call up some friends.

Can’t write . . . eating chocolate . . .

I don’t always eat sweets, but when I do, it’s usually chocolate.

Melt-in-the-mouth milk chocolate for me, although I understand if you want to be all healthful about it and eat dark chocolate.

Today is World Chocolate Day.

If you need an excuse to indulge . . . you’re welcome.

Here is a list of fair trade chocolate options.

Two small heart-shaped chocolate cakes with burnt sugar spikes, by @butteraimee
Chocolate desserts by @butteraimee

Servicing and light repairs

In the early days of rail travel, steam locomotives could only travel forward. Trains required turntables, like this one at the John Street roundhouse in Toronto, Canada, to turn them around for return journeys. While at John Street, the locomotives received “servicing and light repairs.”

Canadian Pacific rail car on the roundhouse at Roundhouse Park, Toronto, Canada.
Roundhouse Park, Toronto, Canada

According to the Toronto Railway Historical Association, locomotives serviced there were so attractively maintained, their appearance became known among railroaders as the “John Street polish.”

I’ll be taking a few weeks away for some “servicing and light repairs” of my own before turning around for a return journey, or at least some spit and polish before moving forward again.

Some of the time will be spent at my cottage—one of my roundhouses.

Do you have a “roundhouse.”

Orange and purple sunset over a lake

Revenue and paying

Where I live, in Canada’s National Capital Region, many people speak French. Perhaps the prevalence of the language around me is the reason why I began to ponder the word revenue.

In French, revenue is the feminine participle form of the verb revenir: to come back.

Elle est revenue. | She came back. 

For something to come back, it must go out in the first place. In other words, if you want revenue, put something out there, baby. She will come back. Elle reviendra.

These are the things I think about.

Also, paying attention. When we pay attention, we give our attention to something. Our attention goes out.

I don’t know about you, but when I wake up, give my head a shake, and choose to pay my close attention to a single thing in my surroundings, I always get something back.

Movement. Flow. To and fro. Giving and receiving. That’s how we get rich.

Put something out there. See what comes back.