Sunday, September 30, 2012

Forever Young

Whether sixty or sixteen, there is in every human being's heart the lure of wonder, the unfailing child-like appetite of what's next, and the joy of the game of living. In the center of your heart and my heart there is a wireless station; so long as it receives messages of beauty, hope, cheer, courage and power from men and from the infinite, so long are you young.
Samuel Ullman, American poet and humanitarian (1840-1924)

Colourful balloons and cupcakes set the stage for lots of laughter, smiles, and hugs marking today's celebration for S-I-L. With her zest for the game of living, she's forever young.
Happy Birthday!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Art of Quilting

To send light into the darkness of men's hearts — such is the duty of the artist.
Robert Schumann, German composer and music critic (1810-1856)

When I see something of extraordinary beauty, my lungs contract as all oxygen is drawn out by the beauty's force. I guess that's where the expression "You take my breath away" originates. The quilts of Jim Wilford, now exhibited at the Creative Arts Centre in Ingersoll, are breathtaking.

One of the more whimsical quilts, titled "Thieving Magpies", recounts the story of a magpie stealing a gold ring. (Look closely in the upper bird's beak.) I'm rather enthralled with magpies because until I moved from Ontario to Alberta I thought magpies were fairytale creatures. I now know them to be no better than crows but they still hold some magic for me. How fragments of the tale of the thieving magpies infiltrated my young psyche, I really can't say. No one in my family was an opera buff to have related Rossini's opus. Perhaps one of my grandmothers recited the old nursery rhyme: "One for sorrow, Two for joy, Three for a girl, Four for a boy, Five for silver, Six for gold, Seven for a secret never to be told." I'll never know how it all began but Jim Wilford's quilt connected with me and my past.

From the arts centre, M-I-L and I went off to see the "Pieces of Magic" show hosted by the Oxford Quilters Guild. Quilts blanketed the upper floor of the arena from top to bottom. The juxtaposition of so many designs and so much colour overwhelms a single visit so I tried to focus on just a few. I took away some good ideas; I just wish my brain had more capacity to take it all in.

"Pieces of Magic" is on until Saturday, September 29th at 4 p.m. Jim Wilford's quilts are exhibited at the Creative Arts Centre until Sunday, September 30th at 4 p.m.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Life's Stories

You must have control of the authorship of your own destiny. The pen that writes your life story must be held in your own hand.
Irene C. Kassorla, American psychologist

Today's first meeting of a creative writing class brought together six students and a teacher from very diverse backgrounds. By the conclusion of our 10-week class on writing life stories, we will be strangers no longer. For me, the class promises to be an interesting exploration of my life in distant lands. My goal is to dig into the past, with a pen instead of a trowel, to uncover and preserve treasured experiences. Wish me luck!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Food & Fellowship

Laughter is brightest where food is best.
Irish proverb

Eight lucky people 'won' the silent auction prize of dinner in the church parlour. None of us knew what to expect. One person suspected that we would be served the cold plate dinner of sandwich quarters and pickles that is normal fare at her church. Thankfully, that was not the case. Rather, we were dazzled by the table decked out with linen and crystal and a centerpiece composed of fresh sage, kale, basil, rosemary and parsley, and amazed by the flavours and presentation of each course. With good food and good wine there was much conviviality around the table of strangers who were drawn together for a single evening. Fellowship springs up in unexpected places.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Grainy Goodness and Beauty

She was perfectly quiet now, but not asleep — only soothed by sweet porridge and warmth into that wide-gazing calm which makes us older human beings, with our inward turmoil, feel a certain awe in the presence of a little child, such as we feel before some quiet majesty or beauty in the earth or sky — before a steady glowing planet, or a full-flowered eglantine, or the bending trees over a silent pathway.
George Eliot (a.k.a. Mary Ann Evans), English Victorian novelist (1819-1880)

Every morning for the past few weeks I relive wonderful breakfasts beside a cool, clear lake and amidst towering trees by making "Obed porridge". I feel as soothed and as warmed as George Elliot's child.

The instructions I received are quite simple: "Just mix one portion of whatever grains you like with a double portion oats; pour over some dried fruit in the bottom of a pot; sprinkle in some salt; pour four portions of boiling water over top; cover pot and let it sit overnight. In the morning, cook over medium heat until it comes to a boil."

As I mix the grains together I'm struck by their beauty. They are the epitome of health. Tomorrow's porridge is a mix of kamut, spelt and kasha grains with sunflower, sesame, flax and chia seeds, hemp hearts and steel cut and rolled oats, and sweetened with coconut chips and dried cherries. The next morning will be different. I'm not a breakfast eater but I love this grainy goodness!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

To Market

To market, to market, to buy a fat pig;
Home again, home again, jiggety-jig.
To market, to market, to buy a fine hog;
Home again, home again, joggety-jog.
To market, to market, to buy a plum bun,
Home again, home again, market is done.
English Nursery Rhyme, first published in 1598

The larder needed stocking so we took a drive to the village of St. Jacob's to shop at its famous farmers market. Have you heard of the 100-mile diet which urges people to eat local produce? Well, the "eat local" movement is catching on in southern Ontario: it seemed that just about everyone who lives within a 100-mile radius of this small town came out today to buy their veggies, back bacon, sausage and Cheddar cheese. The crowds brought back memories of my Tuesday expeditions to the vegetable souk in Luxor -- only I didn't feel quite so overwhelmed there.

Friday, September 14, 2012

May Light Shine Out

May the blessing of light be on you –
light without and light within.
May the blessed sunlight shine on you like a great peat fire,
so that stranger and friend may come and warm himself at it.
And may light shine out of the two eyes of you,
like a candle set in the window of a house,
bidding the wanderer come in out of the storm.
And may the blessing of the rain be on you,
may it beat upon your Spirit and wash it fair and clean,
and leave there a shining pool where the blue of Heaven shines,
and sometimes a star.
And may the blessing of the earth be on you,
soft under your feet as you pass along the roads,
soft under you as you lie out on it, tired at the end of day;
and may it rest easy over you when, at last, you lie out under it.
May it rest so lightly over you
that your soul may be out from under it quickly;
Up and off and on its way to God.
Peace to you, as you journey home,
And may the Lord bless you, and bless you kindly.
Scottish Blessing

Today we celebrated the life of a gentle-man. I didn't know Jack well; only as a kindly older man who sang from his heart in the choir as he had done since a wee lad in Scotland. I came away from his service of remembrance wishing that I had made the effort to get to know him better. The Scottish Blessing are words to live by and I think Jack did. With his blessing, may the light shine out of the two eyes of mine.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Feline Approval

For me, one of the pleasures of cats' company is their devotion to bodily comfort.
Sir Compton Mackenzie, Scottish writer (1883–1972)

Today's email brought a smile with its visual proof that "Houston" - the quilt - has been approved by the feline connoisseur of comfort at its new home. Purr-fect!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Of Wind and Water

The past rumbles beneath the watery surface . . .
a gutteral repose . . .
and then – in a flash – the present leaps out –
thrusts high – catches wind – and in its pause, touches – for a moment –
the future.
Poem accompanying "Ráfaga - Unleashed" sculpture by Veronica and Edwin Dam de Nogales (2004)

I took an afternoon walk along the bayfront. A light southerly wind blew in my face carrying with it water's sweet scent. Some might turn up their noses and say "It smells of fish," but a watery breeze smells sweet to me.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Preserving Preserving

Wasn't it pleasant, O brother mine, In those old days of the lost sunshine Of youth—when the Saturday's chores were through, And the "Sunday's wood" in the kitchen, too, And we went visiting, "me and you," Out to Old Aunt Mary's?

It all comes back so clear today! Though I am as bald as you are gray—Out by the barn-lot, and down the lane, We patter along in the dust again. As light as the tips of the drops of the rain, Out to Old Aunt Mary's!

. . . .

The jelly—the jam and the marmalade, And the cherry and quince "preserves" she made! And the sweet-sour pickles of peach and pear, With cinnamon in 'em, and all things rare!— And the more we ate was the more to spare, Out to Old Aunt Mary's!

James Whitcomb Riley, American writer and poet (1853-1916) in his poem "Out to Old Aunt Mary's"

The multicoloured jars of jams, jellies and relishes laid out at the annual church fundraiser had my mouth watering. The combinations were amazing: chocolate and raspberry jam, peach infused with lavender jelly, hot pineapple salsa, to name just a few. How creative! How delicious! How nourishing! Thank goodness people are back to preserving the earth's bounty.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Rainy Days

The canoe especially connects us to rivers – timeless pathways of the wilderness. Wave after wave of users have passed by. Gentle rains falling onto a paddler evaporate skyward to form clouds and then to descend on a fellow traveller, perhaps in another era. Likewise, our waterways contain something of the substance of our ancestors. The canoe connects us to the spirit of these people who walk beside us as we glide silently along riverine trails.
Kirk Wipper, founder of the Canadian Canoe Museum (1923–2011), in the foreword to Canexus: The Canoe in Canadian Culture (1988)

My head is still in a hammock and the sound of rain on the roof outside remains me of a similar, but oh so different, sound that it made on the cabin's roof. And so my mind drifts quietly.

Perhaps this is the same rain that fell days ago and miles away, that nourished the earth, heightened the colours, evaporated, and then drifted eastwards to fall again and again, repeating the cycle. I am here, but my mind is connected to a lake miles away.