Monthly Archiv: March, 2014

Whose woods these are

My skiing companion who does not appreciate the importance of unblemished tracks.

My skiing companion who does not appreciate the importance of unblemished tracks.

I had a nice cross country ski yesterday. It was the second day in a row that I skied, so I have formed a habit and vowed to ski daily until my skis hit mud. Even then, I may invent something and keep going, but the snow looks safe to last for a few more weeks, so it’s too early to say. Definitely until mud though, or at least until Wednesday.

I’ve been itching to ski the edges of the property. The fields are crisscrossed with various trails and I wanted to see where they were coming from and try to figure out what they were. I got myself behind some cedar clumps and discovered a thoroughfare. Everybody and their uncle seems to have walked that way.

Whose woods these are, I thought I knew, I said first. Then with so many prints I couldn’t know for sure,  I adjusted. Whose woods these are, I wish I knew. Deer and many rabbits, I saw for sure, maybe a racoon. Villages of little creatures with tiny adorable feet tracks were a fine reward for the few feet of brambles I shallumped through to get there. (Shallumping is what happens when sometimes skiers wearing antique skis in desperate need of wax, jab them into brambles and attempt to advance.  This is not the same as Haruhuhuhuhuhumphing, for which there really is no word. Haruhuhuhuhuhumphing is what happens when a skier with few inborn skills and a history broken fidelity vows to their skis, is alone and encounters a chest high gate sealed shut by two feet of snow. Solitude suggests a midair roll more efficient than ski removal. A very, very slow motion affair ensues as the skis on one foot or the other poke in unforeseen directions thereby bringing the gate embracing operation to numerous pauses to untangle and re-envision the completion of the roll.)

My father said that the very orderly typewriter series of paw prints belong to a fox. (We either have a lot of foxes nearby or there is one very harried, and no doubt immensely skinny fox with obsessive compulsive issues about paths in our fields. Possibly he is an artist with a vision we can’t see from the ground.)  Last week, I watched three animals cross the lake in the early morning. Even with binoculars I couldn’t get a clear sense of them. We skied out later to see the tracks. That mystery is now solved as well. There were fox on the lake.

We laid our coats near the tracks on the lake that day and went for a longer ski. We picked them up on the way back most pleased with a lake so big and so frozen. We had a bit of a shock two days later when there was open water in the same spot we’d laid out coats. And what did the fox say then?

More things to wonder about.

Hide and Seek



It’s March break here, so the kids are out of school. We are together at a lovely cottage on a lake (compliments of Nana’s thoughtful brother and his wife). After much cajoling the other afternoon, I agreed to join in a hide and seek game. The rules (according to them) were that no one could use their best spot until last, and I had to be it last. My husband was an easy mark to get in the game (although he showed a remarkable  propensity for being found quickly so as to get back to his puzzle in between times). Boy two approached Nana (65 and lover of cross country skiing and all things outside), who was already making noises about “no thank you.”

“It’s ok if you don’t play,” he said, “crunching up small for Hide and Seek wouldn’t exactly be good on old joints.”

Girl one took the prize for best spot (with much proclaiming from Boy two that it had been his idea.)  It really was a pretty impressive idea. I only found her because her siblings insisted on hanging around “to watch,” thereby telling me I was finally in the right area. After that, it was only because I heard her breathing. The shelves are about shoulder height off the ground in a tidy closet. There’s a better picture below in case you didn’t see her before. Her head is sideways. You can see one eye, her hair, and just barely an ear at the top. We hauled down Nana, old joints and all, to check out her hiding spot. :)


Read it and hope

file000459357359For the most part I don’t like book recommendations. Thanks for thinking of me, I say afterwards. I don’t say: I skimmed as far as I could and then put it down before I threw it in the fire.

That’s great. I’m looking forward to it, I say before I read.

I don’t say: Really? Didn’t I already read one in that series? (And to Boy two, whose hundredth recommendation I am currently reading . . .Buddy, you’re wearing a purple head covering and bright red shorts from morning until night these days. Don’t you think it’s possible we’d have different taste in books?)

Last week, I got another one. It had a lousy title (Tattoos on the Heart) but Anne Lamott had blurbed it so I opened my mind to potential readability. The book is written by a Catholic priest who works with gang members in Los Angeles. I thought it possible that I might be moved by something outside of me.  People who don’t speak my language, look like me, eat like me, or dress like me. I find it very safe to be touched by people with whom I have absolutely nothing in common. But the book didn’t do that for me.

Tattoos on the Heart, didn’t give me a perch in a museum to watch the strangers from. It didn’t knock me over or wake me up either. It flooded me. Gently, it rose inside of me, washed over a couple of damns (not a typo) and spilled joyfully onto the parched and dry places of my heart.

I don’t know when I have had my eyes opened so clearly to who God is or how much He loves.  Me, the people around me, and people I can really only try to imagine. I have never seen with such clarity that the love is now. Not when we’re fixed up, put together and behaving well. Right now.

If you’re looking for a book or if you’re feeling a little lost and unworthy, I would really recommend this book.


**The only proviso is language. Gang members aren’t often schooled in the King’s best English; their stories reflect this. If strong language is a barrier for you for one reason or another, then this is not the book for you. – Myself, well, I don’t mind the talk of the sea. Besides, when I hear people with worse language than myself it comforts me. I didn’t understand a lot of the Spanish phrases. My policy was to get whatever I could get without straining and skip over the rest.

Chutzpah and Heritage


A friend of mine was born with cerebral palsy. Her left hand doesn’t have the range of motion that her right does. Her left ankle doesn’t have the same strength as her right. She is not a champion typist or Olympic level jar lid opener. After that, it’s hard to find the long term effects of her debilitating condition.

She’s 61 now, a spit and fire of love and creative energy, gentle and apologetic for her ten mistakes, forgiving and generous of spirit to the 10,000 mistakes of others. She is a kindergarten teacher. Over the course of 30 plus years, she has taught hundreds. She had befriended thousands. She is a cycler, swimmer, cross country skier, hiker, skater. She bakes endless cookies, gingerbread men, and extremely fine butterhorns.

When she was young, she says she fell down a lot. Her mother let her pick herself back up again. They lived near the ocean, her beloved Atlantic ocean. She sputtered and swam crooked. Her mother let her sputter and she figured it out. She couldn’t always keep up with the other kids. Her mother told her to go play anyway.

By the time she was 18, my friend was running her own daycare in the summers. I’ve seen pictures. Kids everywhere that she fed, took swimming and played with. She went on to Gordon College and a life of teaching kindergarteners and a thousand million (as she would say) friends.


Yes, you can, she says laughing. Yes, you can, she says cheering. Yes, you can, she says nose to nose, I won’t take no for an answer. You try it and you do it because I know you can, you just have to know it too, she will say to young friends. In the history of the world, when someone tries something, she has never forgotten to cheer.

A few weeks ago, my friend came over to skate. She forgot to bring a brace for her ankle. I offered to help her lace up the skate on the bad foot and she accepted. It took us both fighting hard to get that crooked ankle to let her foot inside the skate. We got it in and we laced it up, but her left skate couldn’t stand straight, it had to go at the ice on an angle. I thought she might skate gently around the edges for a while and get a sense of the ice.

Great ice, she yelled to girl two. Whose going to play tag with me?

I’m not being facetious. I want to know. Who was this woman’s mother?

Coping strategies

Dear Music Teacher,

Apologies. The children were not able to practice their music very much this week. The end of winter is not close. Like all stressful information, this nasty bombshell dropped down of late by the Ontario weather departments (without, I am guessing, so much as a tiny consultation with mental health services. . . somebody should be fired, but I digress) has been hard to process. The children have coped as best they can.


This latest in fort construction is in the garage. I hope you appreciate the camouflage they’ve added. I’m reasonably sure that the assembly required use of things that were supposed to require permission. No doubt it came together during time that could have been spent on piano. The good news is that the children saw fit to construct an edifice rather than do what might have seemed more natural, namely deconstructing their own eyes or each other with all the many remaining icicles.

Boy two has been inseparable from his bow and arrows after school. He could only stand doing it alone for so long. The only one who would go out with him the first time was girl two and I didn’t know what was happening until she been in training sessions long enough to bang on the window and ask me to watch her shoot an arrow. I couldn’t scream – she wouldn’t have heard me through the glass anyway. So I cheered when it went five feet because I knew she would see me clapping. It’s been five days since then. Boy two and girl two have hit the house after school only long enough to grab a drink and put on their winter things. Then they disappear.

I wondered yesterday when I saw them heading out with the bow and a sled. I hadn’t known a sled was involved and I felt quite certain that it was not a scenario recommended in Today’s Parent. After the prerequisite window banging (to prove she can now shoot the arrow ten feet because her strength and technique are improving) boy two came in and disappeared. An hour later he had maps. “Our Place,” with a key. They’ve made a kind of sports village all over the septic system in the field. There are moguls, dog sled runs (boy two is the dog), places for archery, and other things I can’t understand even after careful explanation, but I get that they are really amazing. As a reward for my efforts, I was offered the rough draft copy of the map to keep for myself.

It has taken a week, but Girl one is finally jealous. The map tipped her over the edge. Boy two is playing it cool, but he’s pretty happy; his clientele is about to double.

So again, we apologize about the music, which you are obviously very serious about. If it helps, I could give you my map.

Kind regards,

Failed Practice Enforcer

Good questions


Girl one:

Is it lice season?  Her voice is anxious, her eyes nervous.

I don’t know. Do lice have seasons?

I just found a piece of something white in my hair. It was this big. She shoved a piece of lined notebook paper at me. A dot the size of an aspirin had been scribbled down in bright red pen. I didn’t know what it was so I threw it in the fire and burned it, but I made a picture so you could see.

I began checking the base of her neck and behind her ears.

It was in my bangs. I found it in my bangs, she said desperate.

No lice, I said soon enough. Her breathing and heart rate began their return to normal.


Girl two at bed time:

Are there nuns in our country?


In our country?


Good. I want to be a nun.

That’s nice.

She smiled dreamy then frowned.

But there is a problem, she said in a lowered voice.  She furrowed her eye brows.

What is the problem?

I’m going to be a figure skater. Her mouth drooped heavily.

Why don’t you be a figure skating nun, I say delighted with the picture in my mind of skater in full habit with wimple gliding past a tights and tutu girl to start her long program . Girl two’s eyes brightened with joy.

That’s perfect, she said, a broad smile filling her face. She crossed her arms content. That’s exactly what I’ll do.


Setting Sail

Admiring the ship


I feel relieved when Ash Wednesday roles around each year. I don’t get Lent jokes, I like Lent. I get that giving up things, and taking on things, and trying harder is, well, hard. But not having Lent would be worse.

Lent says that maybe something different is possible. Maybe where we are isn’t where we have to stay. Maybe our present is not our irrevocable destiny. Lent is a friend come to say that we won’t get it right, do it right, or be it right as much as we might like, but it’s worth trying anyway. Change is possible.

I believe in creative Lents. It’s not that I’ve never given up chocolate, but I have no outstanding memories of those years. The year I gave up sarcasm, it almost struck me dumb. For forty days, I had almost nothing to say. It shook my insides like I could hardly get my footing inside of me. But it wasn’t a bad shaking. I felt like I was becoming more of me. I saw a crutch that needed to be set down, (or at least converted to a walking stick).

This year I am attempting criticism, giving it up, that is. Wary from the speech deprived sarcasm experience, I am selecting a few candidates for full reprieve, and the rest of the world for mere reductions. I feel a bit of panic setting in with the day actually upon us. I worry that my candidates will feel lost without my guidance (or worse yet, they won’t even notice.) The sun has yet to rise, but already I miss my advice. It feels like I’ll be calling in sick and they’ll all be floundering around trying to make do, only I won’t be up faint and fevered on my bed, I’ll be right there watching things going every which way wrong and no one will be doing anything about it.

I wonder about tacking up lists (a few common sources of perpetual error on the doorposts between the rooms) but this may prove awkward in the spirit of things. I wouldn’t be saying . . . you put your coffee cup in the wrong sink, I would instead be dashing to doorposts, trying to bang my head just so on item four until somebody noticed. Which with all the banging that boy one is doing these days, would probably be never.

So we sally forth. Little ships setting out, imagining storms and high seas, while we navigate the tiny space of forty days. We’ll untangle rigging, and steer it all wrong, but God willing and the creek don’t rise, we’ll at least get her out of the harbour.

God bless the midwives

062My husband and I are in love with the BBC series, “Call the Midwife.” We just finished season one and a friend just loaned us a copy of season two today. Season three starts at the end of March. I may be taking vows soon never to watch anything not produced by BBC or CBC . . . and really the CBC is just to keep it in the family, and because I can’t get enough of Newfoundland. Even the commercials during, “Republic of Doyle,” soothe me. (If I ever disappear, this is where to find me.)

Back to the Midwives . . . I have a soft spot in my heart four babies wide for midwives. The midwives I knew managed a pregnant me with remarkable amounts of grace and humour. The kids came out ok too.

So watching midwives at work in London’s east end in the 1950’s is nostalgia, fascination, inspiration and creative regeneration all rolled into one. The writing, the acting, the nuns (I LOVE the nuns – that’s the other place you’ll find me if I ever disappear), even the theme song pleases me.

The weather people say it’s going to be a cold March up here. I hope it’s warmer by the 29th. That’s when Anabelle is due with her first calf.  (Not that we can guarantee she’s pregnant. All we can say for sure if that if she gets any bigger, we can probably just use her as a barn to put the sheep into at night.) I look at her and think about getting the baby’s room ready. I know we can’t go with wallpaper, but really something needs to done to cheer up that winter weary barn and let everybody know that good things are on the way.  Come May, the weather will hopefully give the sheep an easier time of it.

I’m hugely glad for upcoming birthing. My chances of becoming a midwife in 1950’s England are quite a bit smaller than becoming a figure skater. Out here in 2014, I’ll have to make do with a cow, some sheep, and a little imagination.