Thursday, June 21, 2018

Maternity Ward

We're going to have babies!
Almost three weeks ago, a neighbour gave my husband an extra-large carton of eggs containing 18 fertilized eggs.
It takes 21 days to incubate an egg until it is ready to hatch, and this Sunday is the due date. I hope a few come late -- like me -- because I'm on the South Shore this weekend but I love watching a chick hatch out of an egg. I love watching the beak first appear, then the skinny, wet body. I love watching the chick fluff up and start walking around. I can't wait for the symphonic sound of constant cheeping!

This morning, Dwayne said to me, "I dreamed last night that all 18 eggs hatched at once. We had 14 chicks and 4 puppies."
Of course, I said, "Puppies! Oh, let's hope so!"

Monday, June 18, 2018

The Hip Bone's Connected To the ... Ground

I washed my riding clothes on the weekend...just so I could land in the dirt today. 
"Well, if you're going to fall off a horse, that's the way to do it," Bobbie said as we were walking around the indoor arena, me in the saddle and my horse on a lead line. 
Dakota has an injured eye and isn't riding until next week so Sienna was tapped for my practice ride this morning. Sienna is a beautiful red mare, larger than Dakota, but just as quiet. 
I couldn't get a feel for her.  In fact, I felt completely disconnected from my own body. I couldn't remember anything. It was an off day, and for a beginner like me, with no confidence in riding and no inherent "I'm the boss" energy, it was the wrong day to be on a different horse.

It's not Sienna's fault I fell off; it's mine. I don't know why she started tossing her head up and back and around, I don't know why she was backing up and doing tiny bucks. I had been trying to get her to trot and it wasn't happening so likely, the way I was holding my hands and elbows and my knees were sending mixed signals. What I do know is I didn't know how to arrest her reaction; I only know how to stop a bolt - and those actions were the opposite ones for whatever she was doing. I was tightening when I should have been loosening.
Bobbie was shouting, "Let go of the reins," but I know you NEVER let go of them. If I'd listened to her, I would have dropped them completely and that might have made things worse. What she meant was, "Ease off the reins." I was supposed to move my arms forward to ease the pressure on the bit. But I was using the information I had, and trying not to panic, and wondering whether she was going to buck me off or smash me in the face with her head.
The next thing I knew, I was falling. But Sienna didn't throw me; she laid me down.

She laid me down. Seriously, I think she realized she had to arrest MY behaviour so she just leaned to the left and off I tumbled from about five feet off the ground. Both of us ended up lying on our sides in the sand of the indoor arena. Despite the soft landing, I'm going to have a sizable bruise on my left back hip, where the pelvic bone met the ground.

But I now know why you need to get right back up on a horse you've just fallen off because I wasn't afraid to ride a horse while I was standing with my feet on the ground, but once I was up there in the saddle again, it was a different feeling. Every leg movement, every head twitch, every resistance to my forward command made me tense up. I could feel my "freaking out" meter rising the longer I was on her back. At the same time, I recognized that if I didn't stick it out, the apprehension would get the better of me, would be all I remembered, and I'd never get on a horse again.

"I need you to put the lead line on her and walk with us," I said to Bobbie. "I don't want my nervousness to cause a problem."
What I'm struggling with now is continuing on with riding. I know it's only one fall, but I'm doing this for fun; I'm not looking for a broken arm or a broken neck. The dilemma is that I won't get better if I don't ride, but not being very good puts me (and possibly the horse) at risk. Today showed me how much I'm still not putting together all the information I need to know in order to ride.
It looks so damn easy!
Bobbie, and others who were there, say, "Oh, just relax, don't overthink," but it's not that easy. I want to do everything I'm supposed to do because I'm on the back of an enormous animal who can act and react in ways that could see me flying through the air and landing on my head. I want to enjoy myself and I want to do a good job.
Recognizing that I am a beginner.
"Did you know how to write a book when you first started writing?" one of the woman asked, which I think she meant as a beginner's pep talk but it's a lousy comparison. No one's life is endangered if I write a really shitty story! 
Writing is so much easier. That's my message to those who say writing is hard: Try learning to ride a horse.
Her message, however, was: Don't give up. Keep getting on the horse and learning.
"You only fall off a horse once a year," Bobbie said. No one gets how UNencouraging that statement is!

I don't need to fall off a horse to toughen me up, to learn to say "Fuck it" and keep going. That was a lesson for when I was 14 years old; I've learned that lesson from other things, and honestly, at 48, I'm just too old for learning lessons this way.

All I can do is see how my next ride goes. I'll be back on Dakota. There's nothing I can do about my energy -- I'm calm and happy but I'm not The Boss -- but I can keep trying. A fall shouldn't be a setback, even if it hurts like hell.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Back At the Desk

After ten solid years, it was time to get a new computer. Actually, the computer decided it was worn out and simply refused to turn on! I've been without my trusty office companion for a week, and thanks to friends, managed to get the most pressing work done on their computer, but now it's time to get caught up on tasks -- while learning a new system!
The weirdest thing? This new computer is SILENT. I was used to the old one humming and rattling, but now I can't even tell this new one is on. Funny what we get used to, funny how we notice silence when it suddenly descends in our busy, electronic, trafficky world.

Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Plant What Will Grow

I love bee balm.
I love its colours, whether a deep fuschia or a light lavender.
I love its spiky flowers.
I love its name – bee balm. That’s B-A-L-M. Something soothing for the bees in a world that is trying to bomb the heck out of them with pesticides.

But I cannot get bee balm to survive on my property. I have probably spent a hundred dollars on bee balm plants over the last five years, and so far, not one has returned the following year. 

I love clematis.
I love its colours, whether a deep purple or a light lavender.I love the wide flowers. I love the feathery seed puffs leftover when the leaves fall off.
I love its name – clematis.  It’s symbolic meaning is ingenuity and cleverness because of its climbing prowess.

I have several thriving clematic plants. They love growing on my property. So…I bought another clematis plant. I am planting what will grow.
I also bought another bee balm this spring, and planted it in a new spot, a tried-and-true spot of good soil and lots of sunshine.

Why? Why would I plant something that will not grow?

Because if the clematis represents love and joy, the bee balm is HOPE. Never giving up, persistence. The hope that if I try something different, if I don’t give up, if I  just move it somewhere else, this time it will work, this attempt will be successful.

I planted another bee balm despite the irrefutable fact it doesn't want to live in my gardens. So this is the last time, the very last time I’m planting bee balm. One final attempt because I don’t like to give up until I’ve exhausted all attempts.

This, actually, is a metaphor for the way I live my life. More enthusiasm than skill. Persistence. An indefatigable amount of stubborn keep-at-it-ness. 
I simply don’t give up. Sometimes that a good thing -- my persistence is my sign of faith in myself. On the other hand, I seriously don't give up soon enough, whether it's a perennial, a manuscript, or a relationship. 
We all have that one trait we’d like to see less of -- I also have a bad habit of putting off doing something until it makes it more complicated, such as booking accommodations for a road trip -- but we learn to accept that quirk, live with it, work around it. 
Mine is persistence. A good thing and a bad thing.

Much in my life is clematis. Some of it is bee balm. 
Yet without my help, or even my attention, my creative life is becoming rudbeckia and phlox, two plants which are self-propagating all over the gardens!
Clematis for beauty and cleverness,  rudbeckia for encouragement, and phlox which, AMAZINGLY, represents good partnership, harmony, and sweet dreams.
Plant what will grow. 

Saturday, June 02, 2018

Flat Felt A Chicken in Lunenburg

One week today!
Just a few spots left before this workshop is sold out. Can't wait for this event next Saturday.

Friday, June 01, 2018

Some Actual Field Notes

This sudden onslaught of warm hot weather has brought everything on! I love June for its fullness, lushness, and greenness.

As we drove the back roads home from the country store, licking our ice cream cones, my husband looked around at all the apple trees with their profuse blossoms and said, "Heavy blossoms mean a hard winter coming."
Consider yourselves warned.

The photo is of the apple tree on the bank of the river on our lot across the road. A pair of ospreys is tinkering away at a nest on that lot but they also sit in the original nest. Yesterday, we have five -- 5! -- ospreys flying over our yard, two who were in the original nest who flew off to circle underneath another pair, and a lone one who eventually flew away.
It's all very confusing. There will be no babies this year but we have more ospreys than we know what to do with. Not that we actually have anything to do with it.

Speaking of babies, we have goslings!
A pair of Canada Geese nested near our pond in the middle of the field and Dwayne saw three goslings toddling along behind the pair the other day.

As I drove home from Halifax yesterday, I listened to a radio program on which a woman discussed her problem with porcupines eating her house. Really! They're eating the verandah and the floor boards and the cedar shingles. The munching wakes her up at night.
All of a sudden, an idea for a children's book popped into my mind. With rhymes, no less. If I hadn't been driving, I probably would have written the whole thing right there in the car, but I remember it and I worked out an ending while walking the dog this morning so some thinking time with a mug of tea and a notebook are in order.
And no, she doesn't want to shoot the porcupines. Like me, she doesn't have the heart for that. 
Dwayne planted his sunflower seeds yesterday, seven rows in the two beds along the road. I think this profusion of sunflowers in late August, early September has come to mean a lot of people driving up and down our road.
I'm still being asked about "my" sunflowers and I always say, "Nothing to do with me. Those sunflowers are all Dwayne." He grows the happiness. 

Monday, May 28, 2018

The Lost Osprey

On the wood pile by the fire pit in our backyard, in early May.

 A week ago, on the holiday Monday, I said to my husband at the end of the day, "The only time I saw an osprey flying around today was when the one on the nest flew off to chase away an eagle."
The other osprey did not bring any fish to the nest during the entire day and that is not merely unusual, it is wrong.
Because that's what ospreys do: they fish and they lug that fish back to the nest for whomever is sitting on eggs, or later, for the new babies. It happens two or three times a day, at least. One is fishing for two.
"Come to think of it, the last time I saw the other osprey was Sunday morning," Dwayne said. "He was sitting on the tree outside our bedroom first thing in the morning. He was soaking wet because it was raining." 
I saw him too, and that was our last confirmed sighting of him. 
Because there is no way to tell them apart, we simply refer to the one on the nest as "she" and the one bringing in fish as "he". After the babies are born, it's a crapshoot as to what pronoun to use because both parents take turns bringing in fish.

Only this year, for the first time since the first baby was born in 2009, there won't be any babies. Mid-week, the one on the nest - she - abandoned the nest. She couldn't feed herself without leaving the nest, and the eggs couldn't survive that long with her body. What could she do? The eggs had to be sacrificed.

One osprey in the nest, waiting, hoping, hungry.

 But in the meantime, before she'd given up, other ospreys showed up. Not to help her, unfortunately, nature doesn't really work that way, but perhaps to claim the nest. How did they know there was a crisis here?
It's simply not possible to know who is who: who is original, who is new. We've always claimed to know "our" osprey because they are not afraid of us; they sit in the tree outside the bedroom, they fly low over our house and look directly at us sitting on the deck.
The two who were sitting in the nest yesterday morning flew off as soon as I appeared in the yard with my camera.  "Our" osprey were not camera-shy.

One of the new tenants flew away into the cut after I appeared in the yard.

Ospreys mate for life, unless one mate is lost. Then they will find a new mate.
We have no way of knowing what happened to our lost osprey. Did an eagle kill him? Did he get tangled in discarded fishing gear? Did someone with a trout pond shoot him? We will never know, and that's hard to accept.
What is saving our sanity is the presence of these other ospreys. On the post and wheel my husband installed on our river lot across the road a few years ago, someone has laid the foundation for a nest. Perhaps this other pair who is flying around? Yet there is also an osprey sitting in the nest every morning. How sad if it is her, the one who lost her mate, the one who can't help but return to their nest. Just in case.
That's what I think. Just in case. If only hurt, the lost osprey might have been found by someone, taken to the local wildlife rescue centre, and saved. After rehabilitation, the centre always returns rescued birds to the location where they were found.
Always that hope for a happy ending.

The nest across the road shows signs of interest.

It's all very confusing and upsetting, to be honest. It throws the routine of our days out of whack. Our world revolves around the presence of these birds. First thing in the morning, we look at the nest; at sunset, we check the nest and the tree. Even without being conscious of it, we listen for the sounds of a fish coming in. We always hear the ospreys chirping at each other, for food, for flight, and for warning (of an eagle approaching).
Back in August of 2015, when the eagle killed the three fledglings, it was such a shock to suddenly not hear the ospreys any longer. Their voices are the soundtrack of our spring and summer.
And now, at the end of May, their voices are silenced again. It won't seem like summer if there are no ospreys chirping in the nest and in the sky.

Monday, May 21, 2018

A Road Trip to Remember

This is my friend Shelagh, who lives in Cobourg, Ontario, the last place I lived before I moved to Nova Scotia. She has several paintings like the one behind us in her house, and I insist we have our picture taken in front of one of them every time I visit because I really doubt -- despite my obvious hints -- that she is leaving one to me in her will.

When I stay with her, Shelagh and I are the lake sisters. We walk to the lake early in the morning, before church. We pass by the sandy beach and the marina and head to the undeveloped shore, just down the block from where I used to live in Cobourg. We sit on the round, smooth, cold stones on the shore and talk while searching for heart-shapes. I look at Lake Ontario and I feel -- home. I grew up on this lake; my family had cottages on lakes. I'm a lake girl.

I don't look for the tide. I don't long for the tide. 

But then we put on our matching T-shirts and we make plans for Shelagh to come east, to see the Halifax Library on Spring Garden Road (she is a librarian) and the Maude Lewis exhibit at the art gallery, and meet my chickens, and as I think about where I live, I am excited to call the East Coast home. I want to share my life with my friend (who has only read about it in my book).

I come home -
- wondering the entire 16-hour drive, "Is it possible to have two homes? To feel at home, and to miss a place, in two very different places, at the same time?" -
- and after a few days, I find a line from a Maya Angelou poem:
Like a tree planted by the river, I shall not be moved. 

It's from her poem, "Our Grandmothers", and it's out of context here, but still, the one line, without knowing the poem, without knowing the title, speaks to me. I live along a tidal river now, I'm married to a man who loves this river, who can navigate its channel without needing red and green markers, and I know I am rooted to this place as long as he is here, my new roots tangling with his long-established ones.

I can hold two opposing thoughts in my body, in my being, in my space at the same time. I can bear the conflicting heart tugs, and the loneliness of the road trip knowing who waits for me on my arrival.
I can be home where I am reminded of my father and where conversations with lifelong friends simply start up again as if never interrupted by distance and time.
I can be home where my heart and mind rest, where my creative life flourishes, where the stars are clear and plentiful. One home speaks to me in memory, the other in the present.
So it's not really about the lake, or the river -- it must be the water. Along with purity and fertility, water is the symbol for motion, and renewal and transformation. We are all drawn to water, to quench a thirst, to cleanse, to wash away, to rejuvenate, to change.

And then there are those paintings. Birch trees are my favourite. They, too, remind me of my father. Of home. Of being planted, and replanted, of moving and not moving, of thriving and most of all, of loving and being loved. 
East Coast style.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Come From Away

You know it's been too long since you spent a night in your best friend's house when you haven't even met her eight-year-old dog!
When my mother decided to be in Georgia with her grandchildren for seven weeks, I decided to take advantage of having the car to myself and head to Ontario (someone - I don't remember who - asked if my mother knew I was taking the car!). So I phoned my best friend, Sarah, and asked, "How would you like to celebrate my birthday with me?
Hence the decorations in her house when I arrived at the end of her work day. She'd even made giant tissue paper daisies for the dining room! The upside of having a crafty BFF.

We realized this is my first visit to her home since the fall of 2009, when my mother was selling her home in Cobourg and I off-loaded some mugs and ornaments with my best friend. Since then, her family has lived in northern Ontario for three years and returned to Orillia just in time for the start of school in 2016. This is only their second spring in their new home.And she's still using the mugs I gave her nearly ten years ago, although they all have chips in them. Perhaps it's time to off-load a few more mugs (Dwayne would appreciate that; Sarah's husband, not so much. What is it with men and mugs???).

Do you notice the plants underneath the birthday banner? These are Sarah's seedlings; obviously this is a house with no cats. She gifted me one of her seedlings, a watermelon plant, and she's requested weekly photos showing its growth in Nova Scotia. Wally the watermelon seedling is currently hanging out in my office; he won't meet our cold northern Nova Scotia soil until the end of the month. It's a great pressure, having his life in my hands.
My best friend is quite the gardener (along with her husband) and she toured me around her new backyard, showing me where the vegetable garden was going and the fruit trees they are planting. Apple and cherry already in the ground, pear waiting to be planted. She's so clever.
Here's the funny thing: while I was in Ontario, the three cherry trees she'd bought us as a 10th wedding anniversary present last summer arrived at our doorstep! I hope I've brought back home with me some of her green thumb magic. 

(By the way, Sarah served taco soup and strawberry shortcake for my birthday supper, which makes it okay for me to serve lasagna and rhubarb pie next Saturday night when my writing workshop co-host, Marjorie, and her husband, come for supper.)

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Something's Gotta Give

I cleaned out the chicken coop the other day.
And you're wondering why that's worthy of an opening sentence. You're thinking, Whoopee?

You're thinking right. Whoopee! I cleaned out the chicken coop! I don't remember the last time I did that but it's at least two years ago, maybe even three.
That's a long time to go without doing something you enjoy. And yes, I do enjoy cleaning out the chicken coop; it's part of what I love about my life in the country life.
But I'm not feeling as countrified as I once was. I'm feeling lopsided these days, too heavy on the Sara the Writer, and not enough of Sara the Country Girl.

"You're busy writing, I'll take care of it," he would say when I was writing Field Notes and writing weekly sermons for church, and as time went on, I did less and less, while he did more and more. He'd let the chickens out in the morning then collect the eggs and close them up. He'd feed the cats and dogs supper, then he took over breakfast. He planted trees by himself, he raked out my gardens in the spring.
Which was great for Sara the Writer but Sara the Country Girl became lost in the process.
 Even last year's "Summer of the Horse" was as much a part of Sara the Writer's work as it was part of Sara the Country Girl's life. Once the winter rolled around, and I started writing a novel, and without a horse of my own to care for, I stopped going to the barn, I stopped shovelling shit, I stopped riding.
Sara the Writer was too busy.

Realizing this meant having a serious conversation recently with my husband while sitting on a pile of freshly hewed posts. All winter, he'd been planning a major project and had just started collecting materials for it, but I'd been thinking hard for a couple of days and had screwed up the courage to question this project.
"Should we really be building a barn and getting animals?" I asked him.
He looked at me. "I've been wondering the same thing."

His doubts came from his chronic pain and worrying about being able to finish the job. My doubts -- oh, how I hated to doubt this -- came from knowing that Sara the Writer wasn't going to get any less busy. Getting animals was something we wanted to do together, and it was a commitment that needed both of us, but in all honesty, my husband could no longer count on Sara the Country Girl.
I mean, he'd done all the planning, he was doing all the work of getting the boards and beams and trusses, he was vetoing every animal I said I wanted (what on earth does the man have against llamas??). It was going to be his barn, and both of us knew that wasn't what we wanted. Just like building a chicken coop and getting chickens, this needed to be done together. I wouldn't want to miss out on anything, and I couldn't expect my husband to shoulder the entire load of my dream of having animals. Did I have time for the learning curve that would be keeping farm animals?

I can't believe I'm saying this but we scrapped the idea. No barn, no goats, no pig, no miniature horse. We both felt equal parts relief and disappointment.
Ten years ago, eight, even five years ago, we could have done the barn and the animals -- but too much has changed. Building a barn and filling it with critters who need far more daily care than chickens is a full-time commitment and although our hearts want it, our brains know it's no longer feasible. If we're going to wing it, we're better off with birds. We've decided to add some guinea hens and some ducks to our flock of feathered friends.
And I really do believe that if I can't have a llama, I should be able to get a peacock.

Sunday, May 06, 2018

Rural Life Sunday

Twin kids born at Mark and Theresa Wood's farm, March 2017.

This is an edited version of the message I gave at church this morning:

When I looked on the church calendar and saw that May 6th is “Rural Life Sunday”, I thought -- a celebration of rural life is exactly what we need as we head into this year’s growing season.

There really is no way to put the brakes on rural decline but inevitability doesn’t make it right, and it doesn’t mean our society won’t suffer. The danger in losing the vibrancy of our rural communities is that our country, like our faith, is built on the hard work and commitment of rural people.

Everyone is wracking their brains on how to keep rural communities – and rural churches – not only existing but thriving. There are pockets of revitalization in communities that are close to the city but those places that can’t offer an easy commute are left to flounder as large employers shut down, and there are fewer opportunities to keep young people in rural areas.

At 83 years of age, American poet, novelist and environmental activist, Wendell Berry, is a seventh-generation Kentucky farmer who, through his prolific writings, has brought global attention to the plight of fragile rural economies and the importance of sustainable agriculture.

In an article published in Modern Farmer last October [2017], Berry laments the “dispersed lives of dispersed individuals, commuting and consuming, scattering in every direction every morning, returning at night only to their screens and carryout meals.”

Some might call him a curmudgeon but others recognize his “clear-eyed view of the ways in which modern society is wrecking the Earth under the guise of progress.”

I agree with Berry, that in our rush to modernize and be progressive, to centralize and regionalize, to think globally and attempt travel to Mars (!) – we are losing two inter-connected ways of life and wrecking not only the Earth but also our souls.

I didn’t grow up on a farm, and I didn’t have grandparents who lived on a farm. I knew country living because that’s where my grandparents and my great aunts and uncles lived, but the only time I experienced farm life was during my family’s two-week vacations on Pugwash Point in Nova Scotia.
And even though I’ve lived here for over ten years, I didn’t see a baby animal being born until just last year.

My experience with "the country" came through cottages but it’s really not the same thing. It’s playing at country – it’s not living it.

I really do feel, deep down, that I missed out on a lot by not growing up on a farm. And I think our world – and our young people – and our future as a humankind – are losing A LOT as we lose our farms and rural ways.

Now, this message will try to weave together rural life and church life – rural communities and communities of faith. It will be broad strokes and generalizations, and probably something that calls for deeper conversation, but for now, this is just to get you thinking about rural life.

Jon Katz, an author who lives in rural New York State, wrote this about farms on his blog in April 2015: “Real farms have always been beautiful to me, manifestations of family, values, individuality and the hardest imaginable work.”

So first, I want to outline what I think young people are missing by not being raised on farms:
- doing chores and having responsibilities
- witnessing both birth and death
- knowing where food comes and what, and who, is involved in producing food
- learning to take care of what you have, to repurpose items and to solve problems with what's on hand
- helping neighbours – relying on each other, especially in times of crisis
- being resilient and self-sufficient

Like I said, broad strokes, but for me, looking back over a variety of life experiences and being married to a farm boy who misses farming, I believe I’d be better off if I’d been raised with all of those things – including the hard work that goes into a rural life.

Now I’d like to outline what I think people, of all ages, are missing by not being part of a community of faith:
- showing devotion and commitment to something and someone other than yourself
- taking care of each other
- accepting death as a part of life
- welcoming the stranger and embracing diversity
- developing interpersonal relationships with people of different ages, backgrounds, perspectives, experiences
- being resilient and self-sufficient

In making these lists, I was struck by how much our rural communities, and our communities of faith, have in common. They really are interconnected, as suggested in this quote from 14th century philosopher and theologian, Meister Eckhart, that uses farming imagery to speak of why we need time set aside for prayer and worship: “What we plant in the soil of contemplation, we shall reap in the harvest of action.”
[This is an idea that needs further exploration.]

At the same time, let’s recognize that both rural areas and communities of faith also have their faults:
- not extending hospitality to new people, being wary of new ideas
- being judgemental, reacting out of fear rather than faith
- being resistant to change – the old “This is the way we’ve always done it” mindset
Most significantly, I think we have failed to be good stewards of the land, and of creation. I think there is a lot of talk, in barns and in sanctuaries, about taking care of the earth, but in reality, economics and convenience win every time.

While I think bureaucracy and over-regulation, as well as the growing expectations that the government should fix everything and pay for everything, have contributed to the decline of our rural areas AND our rural churches, our resistance to change and the inability to evolve in our ideas and understanding also play a huge role.

We get stuck in old ways that no longer work or make sense in the modern world, and we lose people; they leave their rural area, they stop coming to church. They go where there are more opportunities for employment, for interaction, for meaningful experiences.

Now, I’m a city girl with the best of them but do you know why I wish fervently we could not merely stop, but actually reverse, the decline of our rural communities, and our communities of faith?
Because I chose to move here.
Because I expect(ed) to spend the rest of my life here.

What drew me here, almost on a spiritual level, are the very things that make country living and rural life so important the people, the space, the wildlife, the ability to grow and raise our own food, plus that whole idea of being known in a community (for better and for worse!).
I appreciate the idea that if my mail doesn’t get picked up, if my porch light doesn’t go off in the morning, if I don’t show up for my dental appointment, someone is going to notice, and wonder why and actually act on that concern (I've come to appreciate that nosiness has its upside!).

Losing our rural communities is like everyone using Facebook and Instagram and Snapchat: We will forget how to talk with our neighbours, we will forget what it’s like to take care of and support people in real life, we will forget that the land and the sea and the sky existed long before skyscrapers and big box stores and articulated buses.

American journalist Susan Orleans once wrote, “Living in a rural setting exposes you to so many marvelous things: the natural world and the particular texture of small town living, and the exhilarating experience of open space.”

In our reading from the Gospel of Mark, Jesus said, “With what can we compare the Kingdom of God? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown, it grows up and becomes the greatest of shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

And that is exactly why we need our rural communities, and our communities of faith – for we are those mustard seeds, and without us, where will the birds build their nests?

May these words be wisdom for our living. Amen.