Category Archives: Gratitude

A spark of light on the path

Wooded path with one tree with white leaves

On Sunday I walked in the woods near my home.

Last autumn’s leaves have not yet composted, so they cover the parts of the path that aren’t muddy. The trees in my Ottawa, Canada climate are budding, but branches are still bare of leaves. Muted colours of grey and brown and dark forest green dominate.

I rounded a corner in the path. Up ahead, white leaves fluttered on a single tree. With branches stretched out in a triangular shape, the leaves resembled the flickering lights of a Christmas tree.

I stopped to appreciate it. I walked closer to examine the leaves. I thought about another of Robert MacFarlane’s words: marcescence. It can refer to trees that hold on to leaves through winter, or people who wither but don’t fall.

Others might have passed by without noticing the simple gift of nature. I’m glad that I walk mindfully, on the lookout for sparks of light on my path.

If we’re watchful, we can perceive those little boosts to the spirits. They help us during times when we’re withering, so we don’t fall.

Close-up of a white leaf

Tastes from childhood

A few weeks ago, Tuesdays with Laurie posted about Plans & Projects. She said that she was getting “That itch to empty the house and scrub it from top to bottom. Only putting half of everything back in and donating the rest.”

At the time, the fullness of what COVID-19 would become was not clear. “I won’t be scrubbing my house,” I thought. “I’ll be free, outside, in the spring!”

More fool me.

We’ve been social distancing for two weeks. I’ve been tackling plans and projects that I thought I’d be leaving until fall.

I cleaned my fridge. At the back corner of the top shelf of the fridge I found a jar of chokecherry jelly that I had bought at a Christmas craft fair. I’d forgotten about it.

(Remember when we could have craft fairs?)

This morning I had chokecherry jelly on toast. The flavour transported me instantly back to my childhood on the farm.

Toast with butter and chokecherry jelly
Toast with butter and chokecherry jelly

My brothers and I would pick the bitter fruit from trees that grew wild along our fences. The tiny red berries always looked so good. I’d put one in my mouth and screw up my face because of the bitter flavour.

My mother would take our buckets of chokecherries, boil them and add sugar. She’d strain the juice through cloth, and from that came a jelly with the distinctive flavour I love.

It’s one of my tastes of childhood.

There are others: fried bologna, fat green onions straight from the garden, biscuits and brown sugar.

What are your favourite childhood foods?

Words of wisdom: Parent-isms

When you think of your mother or father, what sayings come to mind?

For me, it’s my mother: “It’s a beautiful day. Get outside.”

I grew up on a farm, so outside for us meant playing games of hide-and-seek in and around the trees of the woodlot, swinging on homemade swings hung from the rafters of the barn, or skating on the frozen creek in winter. To this day, I can’t abide being indoors on a beautiful day, so my mother’s words served me well.

A person I follow on Twitter asked this question and got some interesting responses. My favourite: “If cows shit butter, you wouldn’t have to churn it.”

My mother would never have used those words, but she made the same point in other ways more times that I could count.

As parents we live day to day, tackling challenges as they come. We don’t realize there will be a through-line to our actions, that someday our children will attach an overall theme to how we tackled the parenthood job.

It made me wonder, how would my children answer that question, so I asked my daughter. I was hoping for, “Be kind,” or “Honour yourself and always be creative,” or “Don’t ever make yourself small to try please someone else.”

When I asked my daughter, she thought for a lo-o-o-ong time. “I don’t think you use sayings.”

“Oh, great. I’m boring,” I said.

“No, if anything it means that you really think before you say something,” she said.

I can live with that.

Woman in a chair contemplating a mountain view. A thought bubble says, "Think, think, think."

3 deep breaths

Stop what you’re doing.

Take three deep breaths.

Look around.

Now, in this moment, how many amazing things can you find to be grateful for?

Three deep breaths can’t solve the busy-ness of our lives or dissolve our problems. But taking time for three deep breaths can re-centre us and recharge us to get through it.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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.

A time to reflect, no matter what you believe

Red Velvet Pancakes IHOP
Red Velvet Pancakes from IHOP

It’s Pancake Day, a Lenten tradition with roots in the Jewish history of the Christian tradition.

On the day before Passover in observant Jewish homes, the family cleans thoroughly and uses or removes any food that has leaven in it. It’s a symbolic way to let go of old life and embrace the new. Christians morphed this idea into Pancake Day, a time to use up eggs and fats in decadent foods before the deprivation of Lenten fasts began.

Few people I know “give up” anything for Lent anymore.

  • Some have abandoned organized religion because they see only the harm that it can cause.
  • Others are still a part of a faith community but don’t “give up” because they see that as punitive instead of inspirational.
  • Still others don’t “give up” something they love in a way that feels like deprivation or punishment. They examine their lives to find something that is not feeding them mentally, emotionally, physically or spiritually, and they give themselves “freedom from” that harmful element.

The minister at my church says Lent is like the time between when a seed is planted and when it sprouts. You know the seed needs to be nourished, but you can’t see any signs of new life yet.

No matter what you believe, this time of year is good for reflection. It’s a time to ponder what you can give yourself freedom from, or what you could take up instead.

Whether you eat pancakes tonight or not, take some time to plant a seed. Nourish it until new life grows.

What kind of sprouts do you want to see?

A field of sprouting corn stalks