Category Archives: Art

Mow around the daisies

We have a lawn at our cottage, but it’s not a flawless stretch of green grass. The rural property at this time of year is dotted with daisies, which we resolutely mow around.

The tradition began with my mother-in-law. She wanted to keep the lawn looking nice and well cared for, but she couldn’t bring herself to mow down a beautiful flower in a natural setting. We honour her when we leave those daisies swaying in the summer breezes.

I’m not sure what our neighbours think of the patchy mowing job. Perhaps they mutter: “I wish those people would do something about that lawn.”

My wish would be that they choose instead to enjoy the beautiful flowers and take a moment to feel grateful for the gift from nature.

When life gives you beauty, don’t mow it down.

Odd but beautiful

One white birch tree in a green forest, trilliums in bloom around it.

A lone birch amongst other deciduous trees, hundreds of trilliums at its feet.  

To me, the picture represents . . .

. . . determination to be authentic no matter what is going on around . . .

. . . a white tree being applauded by an audience of trilliums . . .

. . . alone, but not lonely. . .

What does the picture bring to your mind?

Terrible photographs that are wonderful

So, I’ve had time on my hands, you know? Good time to sort through photos.

I found some oldies-but-goodies from the days of film. Remember when we had to shoot off a roll without knowing how the shots turned out until developed? None of this “Oh, that’s not a good one. Delete.”

Some of these old photos are terrible. And they are so, so wonderful.

Like this one of my mother- and father-in-law dancing at a hall in Toronto. They are the couple in the very bottom right corner of a crooked photo of . . . pillars, more than anything. But I love it. See how happy they are? Don’t you wish you were that happy right now?

Black-and-white photo of dance hall in the 1950s

This is my grandmother, probably around 1983 or so. It’s a terrible picture—crooked and overexposed with light from the window—but I love it. She lived with us for the last year of her life, and she spent a lot of time knitting by the fire. Our dog used to sit like Snoopy on his dog house on the back of the chair beside her. This terrible photo makes my heart as warm as the fire she was sitting beside.

Woman knitting by the fire. Dog on the chair beside her.

We can’t forget the classic “thumb over the lens” pictures. Here’s one of my father-in-law, red polka-dot hat on his head, hammer in hand. What is not to love about this terrible, wonderful photo?

What terrible, wonderful photos do you love?

Tech-ed off: More technology, less technology

During my book club gathering (on Zoom) one of my friends said she was becoming a little “tech-ed off.”

The need to hold a book club electronically does test the patience. Sure, it’s fine to discuss the book via the internet, but, let’s be honest, the real heart and soul of a book club is the shared glasses of wine, the tea, the dessert, and the lingering conversations that have nothing at all to do with literature. Being deprived of that connection has me a little tech-ed off too.

At the same time, I am so-o-o-o-o-o grateful for technology in other ways. I have spent more time on my laptop over the past six weeks than ever.

Even though the electronic book club was not as satisfying, it was better than no book club at all. I’ve participated in writing circles, dinners, coffee times, meetings, and church. Seeing a friend’s face pop up on a video screen is not as much fun as an in-person visit, but it’s . . . enough. The whole experience certainly has clarified who the people are that I really want to see.

I’ve also done more activities not related to technology than ever. There are six of us here, ranging in age from 22 to 64.

We have done:

  • paint night
  • blind coffee taste test (McDonald’s overall winner. Really.)
  • blind beer taste test (Molson Canadian overall winner. Really.)
  • giant crossword puzzle
  • jigsaw puzzles
  • learn-to-draw night
  • card games
  • board games (Scattergories, Scrabble, Cranium)
  • baking (desserts, bagels, baguette, bread, sourdough starter, pizza dough)
  • walking and biking
  • cleaning and organizing

In some ways this experience has a “time at the cottage” feel. We’re doing a lot of the same things we would when technology isn’t an option.

Except for when we’re using technology more than ever.

Sacraments: Letting Go and Waiting

Pruned branches of tree with one sprig of new life

Another week begins.

Another week without our usual workplaces, casual trips to the store, or gatherings of friends.

Some of us have let go of long-planned vacations.

Some of us are seized with panic about lost income.

We have let go of what is not essential. We are waiting for “normal.”

Our situation reminds me of this beautiful work by Macrina Wiederkehr, a Benedictine sister, author, and lover of the spiritual.

She wrote this poem, which she gave me permission to share, about times when we are stripped down, vulnerable, and “wearing the colors of emptiness.” At those times, we are living out the Sacrament of Waiting, ready for a new, surprising kind of beauty.

The Sacrament of Letting Go

© Macrina Wiederkehr

Slowly she celebrated the sacrament of letting go. 
First she surrendered her green, 
then the orange, yellow, and red 
finally she let go of her own brown. 
Shedding her last leaf 
she stood empty and silent, stripped bare. 
Leaning against the winter sky, 
she began her vigil of trust.
Shedding her last leaf, 
she watched it journey to the ground. 
She stood in silence 
wearing the colors of emptiness, 
her branches wondering, 
How do you give shade with so much gone?
And then, 
the sacrament of waiting began. 
The sunrise and the sunset watched with tenderness. 
Clothing her with silhouettes 
that kept her hope alive.
They helped her to understand that 
her vulnerability, 
her dependence and need, 
her emptiness, her readiness to receive, 
were giving her a new kind of Beauty. 
Every morning and every evening they stood in silence, 
and celebrated together 
the sacrament of waiting.

© Macrina Wiederkehr

Leap Day: The gift of an extra day

Most years have 365 days, but leap years have an extra one.

I know that time is a human construct and all that, but when we have the gift of an extra day, we should take best advantage. This post is inspired by the poem “The Summer Day” by Mary Oliver. That poem ends with:

Tell me what else I should have done? | Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do | With your one wild and precious life?

The Extra Day

Where to be today? Who to spend it with? What makes my soul leap, like the day?

There is a place.

The one where I plug in to recharge, where each face is love reflected, where the synapses of my brain snap with new ideas, faster and deeper, where the rainbow falls on the tree of life.

Reassurance and growth.

Wisdom and compassion.

This is where people are SEEN, where peace is made, where we question how to live, where graces falls on us all.

This is where I dance “Like a Prayer,” I travel on pilgrimages, and where my head sizzles.

Here, children’s laughter ripples through the air. I thrill in their sparks of insight, and their truckloads of questions. Here is where I say, “I don’t know.”

In this place, people are fed, body and soul, smiles right the world, and friends embrace in tight hugs.

Spicy soup simmering, tart, sweet pies, pinkie squares.

Guitar strings strumming, harmonious voices, organ crescendos.

A silent night of candles and tears.

This is where I am.

A place of steadfast friendships, where good grows out of my mistakes.

Wisdom and compassion. Healing through hardship and celebration after the light returns.

Tell me, what else should I have done? Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

Do you have a place like this? May you find it and spend this gifted extra day there.