Category Archives: Nature

Happiness is . . .

Welcome mat reading "this is our happy place, at the bottom of a set of stairs.

This is the welcome mat below deck of the Pride of Baltimore II, a Baltimore Clipper tall ship, circa the War of 1812.

The crew of the Pride of Baltimore II find their joy on a craft that catches wind in mighty sails that carry them across the bounding main — and the Great Lakes. They rest easy on a ship that can anchor when needed, save them in peril, and fire up weapons to fend off foes.

Their happy place is nothing like mine — I prefer dry land, uncrowded sleeping space and luxurious showers — but I find joy in knowing that the crew of the awesome tall ship is in their happy place when skimming across glinting waters .

What is your happy place?

Take a bow: All is well

Are you having one of those days?

The kind where it feels like you’ve been exposed to the elements for too long and you’re bending under the pressure?

The kind when it feels like the weight you have to bear is too much?

Take heart.

You are serving your purpose.

The load you are carrying is in place and not even sliding on the slippery slope.

See the sun breaking through and shining on the trees in the background? Brighter days are coming.

All is well.

Birding: The uncommon but fantastic

I follow a blog written by a bird/nature enthusiast who lives in my city of Ottawa, Canada. It’s called The Pathless Wood and it is interesting.

I walk in the same wooded areas that she writes about, and I’m ashamed to say that I don’t notice even a quarter of the highlights she brings to the attention of her readers.

She wrote about an olive-sided flycatcher, for instance, a bird she described as “uncommon but fantastic.”

I didn’t even know such a bird existed, and I thought, “What if I was in the right place at the right time, and an olive-sided flycatcher alighted on a branch next to me? I wouldn’t appreciate it at all. I wouldn’t know that it was uncommon but fantastic!”

I experienced that uncomfortable feeling of being blind to something important, like when a person meets a celebrity but doesn’t recognize them, and afterwards someone says, “You know who that was, right?”

On my nature walks I could be rubbing shoulders with the bird equivalent of Tom Hanks or Helen Mirren and not even know it.

I’m not sure there’s a resolution to my problem. I have enough going on in my life (too much), so I can’t add birding to the list. I will keep reading and learning though, in the hope that in future more uncommon but fantastic things will get the appreciation they deserve.

Two birds on a post. "We may be common, but we're still fantastic." "Oh, yeah. She took our picture, didn't she?"

New and beautiful out of old and broken

Some days I feel ancient.

Some days it feels like so much of my life, so many people and events, lie on the path behind me, how much more can be ahead?

On those days, it’s helpful to stumble upon trees like these growing together on my friend’s property near Lake Huron.

A twig sprouting out of the sawed-off portion of a cedar trunk

A sprout of a completely different kind of tree is growing through the trunk of the sawed-off trunk of an old tree.

I searched from all sides and from high and low angles, and I could not find the root system for the younger twig. It is below ground, an integral part of the roots of the cedar.

The largest trunk on the original cedar was cut off—a loss that must have felt like the end. But no! Something unexpected was hiding there all along, intertwined with the roots, waiting to spring to life.

Modern tree stumps

Pioneer woman in long dress moving a tree stump.

Meet my great-grandmother.

I’m told I have her chin.

There are many things to love about this picture—the long dress, the apron (!), the hat that looks like something Charlie Chaplin might have sat upon, the natural grass untouched by any lawn mower, and the corner of a barn that was probably raised on a good old-fashioned barn-raising day.

And, of course, the tree stump she’s wrestling into submission.

The thing I love the most is that she doesn’t look unhappy. There might even be the hint of a smile.

The woman is digging tree stumps in a long skirts and she doesn’t seem to mind.

In some ways her challenges were greater than mine. She probably sewed that dress that she had no choice but to wear. She had to clear the land where they grew the food they ate, she had to bake from scratch every single cookie and loaf of bread she consumed, and she had to can her green beans and tomatoes. She was driven to do those things because otherwise her family would go hungry. She worked hard—physically—from dawn to dusk.

In other ways her life was simple. She had food, faith and family. She never had to suffer the irritation of four-way stops, she never had to receive emails from hackers trying to scam her, and she never had anyone in the next cubicle eating curry for lunch.

The modern “tree stumps” I have to wrestle into submission are quite different, and I don’t have to do it while wearing a long dress. (Although I can if I choose.) My tree stumps challenge my mind, my emotions and my spiritual equilibrium more than my body, but they still challenge me from dawn to dusk.

But, from what I hear, I inherited another thing from my great-grandmother—the calm joy of moment.

No matter what’s happening—no matter what—there’s joy to be found, even if it’s the flip-side of sorrow.

Flow: Clogs, floods, parables and Justin Bieber

The main pipe that takes water waste away from our house clogged.

For a twenty-four period while we waited for the friendly rooter person to come and clear out the gunk, we couldn’t wash dishes, shower or do laundry for fear of back-up and damage.

Before the clog, I thought of water in terms of supply. That is, how important it is to have water flowing to my house. It also should be a world priority to have water flowing to people no matter where they live. After the clog I realized that water flowing from my house is equally important, or flooding and damage is the result.

While water was backing up in our pipes, it was flowing wildly in the Ottawa River. Two years after a disastrous flood—one that was supposed to be a “hundred-year flood”—another one came to us, and this one was worse.

The flooding damaged homes, cottages and businesses along the shoreline. Even though the force of the water through one of our bridges was three times that of Niagara Falls, the enormous volume of water flowing to our area exceeded its ability to flow from us. Flooding and damage resulted, and that bridge will be closed for weeks because the force of the water could undermine the integrity of the structures.

Still shot from local news - Niagara - 2400 m cubed per second of water, the Chaudiere Bridge, 7497 m cubed per second.
Matt Skube on CJOH News Ottawa with graphics showing the force of water through the Chaudière Bridge.

We experienced what I call the “Justin Bieber effect.” (More on that later.) The community pulled together to fill sandbags and clear up damages. The community will continue that work for weeks and months to come

While all this was happening, I was participating in a series of group discussions about the parables in the Bible. Those stories have been studied, analyzed and dissected for centuries and people still can’t agree what they’re all about. The same story can mean two different things to the same person at different times in their lives.

For me, right now, the parables remind me of flow. They teach me two lessons: (1) There is enough and more where that came from flowing to us, and (2) we’d better share or there will be damage, and everyone is worthy of receiving the flow from us. The loaves and the fishes, for example, can be interpreted as saying, “Never think there’s not enough. There’s enough and more where that came from, and everyone is worthy of receiving it.”

Which brings me to Justin Bieber. As I stood by the banks of the Ottawa River watching the level continue to rise even though there was nowhere else for the water to go, I started to think about flow in terms of abundance and money.

Justin Bieber was a simple kid from Stratford, Ontario. He was adorable, but not well-known, and there was no excess of money in his household when he was a child. Then he got noticed on YouTube. Then important people noticed him on YouTube. Then there was a torrent of wealth and fame that descended upon him, and it was TOO MUCH all at once. The volume flowing to him was more than the flow from him could handle. The flooding caused damage and the force threatened the structures.

Justin needed some sandbags and some clean-up help from community.

This spring of clogs and floods reminds to allow the flow, to trust the flow to provide for my necessities and maybe some fun too, and if sandbags are needed, community is there.

Here is a video of fun in the flow.