Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Bird Watching

Exciting times here along the river! New wild birds showing up, and Canada geese with their babies, and the ospreys working together to feed a couple of hatchlings; we'll start seeing their heads at the beginning of July.

Baltimore Oriole at the hummingbird feeder this morning. 

Rose-breasted grosbeak in our birch tree. 
We also have an American Redstart but I've not managed a photo of it. It has similar colouring to the oriole but it's smaller, like a purple finch.

Five goslings and two very attentive, protective parents in the field. 

Osprey leaving the nest with a fish. One parent remains with the hatchlings.
We know for sure these aren't "our" ospreys, the ones who first claimed the pole in July 2008, then returned the following April to build the nest and hatch out one baby that first year.
For starters, this pair spends more time in the nest together, and right now it seems as if both parents are involved in the feeding the hatchlings. Even when the one -- the male? -- is not on the nest, if he's not fishing, he's sitting on the perch in the field, staying close by.
They also are more skittish, chirping and flying off the nest when we walk over to the mound to plant flowers in the garden near the tree where my father's ashes are buried, and the first time Dwayne mowed over there, I thought one of the parents was going to dive bomb him! Although we are respecting their space, they will have to get used to us. We aren't going anywhere, and hopefully, neither are they.




Friday, June 07, 2019

Putting Down Roots


As I watched the young principal of the small rural school where I sub a couple of mornings a week set up tables in the gym for an upcoming community yard sale, I marvelled at his place in the community.
He's deeply ROOTED. He grew up in this place and returned after university to live there and work at the school he attended.
Everyone knows him.
For me, that is an experience I will never have, not only because I'm an introvert who doesn't put herself out there, but also because I've never stayed in one place very long.

My family doctor is thirty years older than that principal and nearing retirement. But he came from the same small rural community as the principal. At a recent appointment, my family doctor said several of the teachers who taught him in school are patients of his.

I CAN'T IMAGINE THAT.

Except there's this: I grew up knowing that my father moved his young family out of Toronto in order to return to the area where he was born and raised. Yet that knowledge didn't keep me from moving around a lot, even across the country.
I still feel connected to that place where I spent part of my childhood -- the part that really imprints on you and makes you who you are. That's the place I returned to when I left the west coast, because that's where my parents lived. That's where my father died. Yet it never occurred to me to stay there, t put down roots alongside my father's.

What was I searching for?

I have lived on this rural property in northern Nova Scotia for twelve years. It's the longest I've lived anywhere. Even Trenton, Ontario, where my family lived for nearly twenty years, I can only count at most ten years of living there; I went away to university, I lived in Oakville with my best friend for two years, I worked my first job in radio in Bracebridge. I kept returning home but only to catch my breath and relaunch.

What was I searching for?

Thinking about this on a morning walk, I intentionally asked myself if it was time to leave, if twelve years was long enough. And I knew immediately, before the inquiry had even finished, that I am home. I have no urge to leave. There is no reason for me to leave. There is no cycle to my life; I'm not "supposed to" move on after five or ten years.
I feel rooted here on this 72 acre property in rural Nova Scotia. This is my home. This is where my heart is. This is where my spirit roams free, where my inspiration soars like the eagles over the river. I am grounded in this place in a way I only felt at our family cottages -- where there were trees and water and space to breathe.

I caught my breath here, and turned off the launching sequence. (Pardon my mixed metaphors)
This is my home in the world.

But being rooted into this red soil, into this life, into another soul, doesn't mean I don't want to branch out. When I think of "getting away from this place", I don't mean I want to pack up and move. I just mean I want to venture further afield. Through books, I want to meet more people, explore more places, get exposed to new perspectives, be inspired with more ideas.
I miss the chance to network with other writers; just this week, I had turn down another offer to meet someone for coffee because I live two hours from Halifax. I can't find the time to drive 45 minutes to Amherst to buy new underwear!

One of my favourite quotes that I've carried with me since I left Vancouver and landed back in Nova Scotia/Ontario is this one from Simone Weil, an early 20th century philsopher, mystice and political activist:
"To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul."

Perhaps the question I should be asking isn't, What was I searching for? but What did I need? 

And that quiet voice inside me whispers, "Yourself."


(In Googling Weil's quote, I learned she went on to say, "It is one of the hardest [needs] to define. A human being has roots by virtue of his [her] real, active and natural participation in the life of a community which preserves in living shape certain particular treasures of the past and certain particular expectations for the future."

That certainly ties in with how the principal and the doctor experience their life. If I ever get the chance to write a followup collection of Field Notes essays, there is definitely one anchored by this idea.)


Wednesday, June 05, 2019

Be Careful What You Wish For


I've almost reached the tipping point for "Be careful what you wish for" but the upside for being busy writing is that I'm developing some amazing organizational skills. I've always said the busier I am, the more efficient I am so this morning, after walking the dog for an hour, feeding the wild birds, doing the chickens, feeding the cats and dogs, drinking coffee and eating my breakfast...
...I planted the herb garden.
The photo above is only half of it - the rosemary, thyme, tarragon and parsley - because I'm trying to give plants more space when they are little. I have two bad habits when it comes to gardening: planting stuff too close to each other, and planting stuff at the edge instead of in the middle.
Anyway, the basil and oregano is to the left.

And everyone admire the one red tulip that came out out of the five bulbs I planted along there. Why do I bother with gardens?
Twelve years ago, they seemed like such a good idea. I made gardens everywhere on this property. This is perhaps a lesson in quality over quantity, and also another example of my lifelong tendency for "more enthusiasm than skill". But thinking like that makes me feel grumpy, and sound grumpy, and I really do enjoy gardening even if my back can no longer take more than than 20 minutes at a time.
Also, there is a chance the lackluster performance of my tulips has more to do with our cold, rainy spring than my planting the bulbs too deep!

Let's end this post with some big enthusiasm for these two gorgeous tulips - two of the four bulbs I planted in a little end piece to the right of the herb garden. I say good morning to them every day when I hang out the feeders for the wild birds.



Friday, May 31, 2019

Locating The Keystone

My father in Canterbury, England, May 2002
Ten years ago, my father died.
Ten years ago, I started writing the story of how I ended up leaving a life and a marriage in Vancouver at the same time my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.
That's always how the story started: with my misery and the early hints of Dad's problems while I lived in Vancouver.
But I couldn't sell that story -- not one of the six versions I ended up writing, including one version through a university writing program. In September 2015, a publisher said, "The writing's fine but the story doesn't grab me," and that was the last straw for me. I couldn't go any further with the story. I couldn't do it anymore; the time had come to put that memoir aside, and write something else.

For two days, I cried my heart out every time I walked the dog. I bent over and cried. I let it out because it was so hard to let it go.

Two months later, I signed a contract for Field Notes.

BUT first, I had coffee and cake with one of my writing mentors, the one who has been part of my writing life in Nova Scotia most consistently: Harry Thurston. I told him about the collection of essays on submission with Nimbus but he didn't want to talk about that; he wanted to talk about the memoir. He had some suggestions and I wrote them down on a napkin. Despite those suggestions -- or really, instructions -- from a cherished mentor, my brain couldn't wrap itself around them, couldn't find the way out of my original thinking about the story and into a new one.

Start with arriving in Pugwash, Harry told me. But I couldn't let go of believing the story started in Vancouver.

This is why some books take decades to get published: Because there's a kind of writer's block that keeps a writer from seeing her project in a new way, especially when she sees a particular pattern unfolding in a particular way. But since Dad's birthday in early March, knowing the tenth anniversary of his death was approaching, I've been thinking about him, about taking care of him, and about how I learned so much about him after he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and then after he died.

And sometime in the middle of April, it hit me: the story starts in Pugwash. The story starts with my arrival at that old house on the hill that I'd never been inside, and the story isn't about me and my failed marriage; it's about my father. It's about his life and his living and his dying. And it's about the man I barely knew but came to know through the memories of other people.
I'm a better writer now and I know how to weave in the back story, those little sentences that link Vancouver with Pugwash so that it enhances the story rather than distracts from it.

You see, even though I stop thinking about the memoir, I didn't stop thinking about what Harry advised. I didn't stop turning it over in my brain - start in Pugwash, start in Pugwash - until I finally dug up what was buried underneath my failed marriage story.

I emailed Harry earlier this week to tell him that he was right, and that I would tell the story as it starts in Nova Scotia. I told him that not only have I found the overall point of the narrative, but I found the story that starts the book and that I can write my way towards in the book (the second instruction he gave me that I wrote on the napkin).
He responded most kindly: "Each story requires its own method of telling. There is a keystone which, once found and dropped in, seems to hold the structure together-- first, however, one must find it. I'm so pleased to hear that you have done so. I think the book about your father and the father/daughter relationship will be wonderful in the end. You are a wonderful writer and this is a story worth telling."

So on this, the final day of May, I am looking forward to this project for the month of June.
Sometimes, you have to give up in order to not give up. Or, as early 20th century French writer Marcel Proust once said, "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but in seeing with new eyes."



Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Early In the Morning


When I wrote the title of this post, a tune entered my head and attached itself to the words. It's from  an old, familiar church hymn, so I let it weave its way around  my brain until I caught the common phrasing that let me know which hymn it is:
"Holy, holy, holy, Lord God almighty! Early in the morning our song shall rise to thee..."

I'm not a Bible literalist; I'm a Gospel, be-kind-and-merciful Jesus follower so I don't believe in the Biblical creation story. I don't think I'm walking in world created by God. I don't think I'm walking with God but with the energy of those who have left us, like my father and my dogs Stella and Maggie. The truth is much more fascinating and I don't have a problem with the truth.
Jesus was all about a new truth, a new way and a new life -- that's all to do with ethics and how we live our human lives in relationship with each other (and failing miserably at). There's enough scholarship and research about a new truth and a new way of viewing our world -- that's all to do with science and energy. (We're also failing miserably at taking care of this creation we believe God entrusted to us.)

I don't see God in a sunrise, but I see hope and peace and joy. Dawn reminds us that every day, we get a chance to start over, try again, keep going. Every day, we get a chance to change our behaviour, change our minds, change the path on which we're walking. Every day, we can face the truth -- whatever truth we need to hear and accept -- and become free because of it.

It's been a difficult spring for getting out and walking. A lot of rainy days. So I appreciate mornings like this one all the more, with the rising sun shining through what will be likely one of only a few gaps in the clouds today. It helps to calm my doubts and focus my mind, and heart, on what I want to accomplish during the next 12 hours. It permits me to let go of all that -- the worries and the wishes and the To Do list -- for the one hour I'm on the road. It reminds me that what keeps me awake and worried at 3 a.m. isn't the truth. Or at least, isn't the whole truth.

It's up to me to achieve my potential, to fulfill whatever purpose I have in this life, my "one wild and precious life" as poet Mary Oliver put it. Walking, doing yoga, sitting in stillness are my ways of opening up space inside me to hear what my spirit, my energy wants me to know. Sometimes there's a new truth, a new way and a new path that opens up when we give ourselves a chance, and the courage, to listen to our inner voice.

I love my morning walks. It's a legacy from my father, walking the dog early in the day, and it's another way I stay connected to him -- through our shared energy -- and find the courage to keep walking through each day with hope and peace and joy in my heart.



Monday, May 27, 2019

Making New Friends


It's that time of the year - writing my Field Notes column for the summer issue of At Home On the North Shore. Along with an article about labyrinths. It's a challenging spring to be creating pieces for a summer issue; with more rain than sun, nothing has greened up or bloomed out enough for decent photos.
Everyone's covered in mud and wearing rubber boots.
But what a great photo! There's something so sweet about this child in her rain gear looking at her baby goats (whose names, I can tell you, are Beans and Boots).
This is the daughter of a young woman named Shannon who, along with her husband and daughter, moved onto a property along the River Philip and are working hard to create a property that will support them. The goats are for milk, cheese and butter.


Inside the house, I was green with envy over Shannon's sour dough starter. Right next to a rising loaf of sour dough bread! At some point, there is going to be a sharing - I just have to come up with something with which to barter.
After our conversation and a flurry of messages from Shannon of all the answers she thought of after I'd left, I gave her some unsolicited advice: Document everything! Journal her gardening, journal her chickens and goats and working pony, journey the baking and the cheese making. Write it all down, even if it's just brief notes in the busy months -- she can spend the winter filling out the details.
I think she could publish a book about homesteading.
Of course, I start to think, "Workshops!" but for once I kept my enthusiasm in check. She's a busy woman, building gardens and greenhouses, milking goats and collecting eggs. To be self-sufficient means working every day to build up the resources.


This is Schmidt, her cat. Not only is he big and handsome, as well as polydactyl, he's SNUGGLY. My favourite kind of cat! On my recording of my interview with Shannon, there are periods of me chatting to Schmidt.
Really, I'm a terrible interviewer. Not at all efficient. But come on, look at that face. I'm a shameless snuggler of other people's cats.
I couldn't work Schmidt into the column so let me tell you that he was found under a bushwhacker as a one-week-old kitten. His eyes weren't even open! Lucky for him, Shannon and her family found him -- and that little girl is his best friend.
I love happy endings. So does Schmidt.





Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Time To Sit and Watch the Osprey

Thank you, Odette Barr, for this gift of your beautiful artwork.

Or rather, that title should read, "No time to sit and watch the osprey." If I'm that busy, I need to pause and relax, right?
The weather, however, is utterly NOT conducive to sitting outside watching anyone, so I'm fine with keeping on keeping on in my sunny yellow office. Yep, even me, who doesn't care about the weather and LOVES rainy days for writing, is finally noticing how much it is raining -- mostly because it's keeping me from walking.
Ice all winter, and rain all spring. Definitely growing a Writer's Butt this year!

But that butt is in the chair where it needs to be to get things done. I'm going through a period of intense creative output which is extremely exciting. Although only my magazine writing is for "now", I really feel I'm laying the foundation for a lot of accomplishments in the future.

Speaking of ospreys, this is actually the point of this overdue post: Odette Barr is one of a trio of writers responsible for bringing to literary life a Canada Goose named Camelia Airheart who flies all over the Maritimes, not so much seeking adventure as falling into it purely by accident.
Great fun! I love these books.
Odette, in fact, is the illustrator of the Camelia Airheart books and when I saw her drawing of a pair of ospreys in the latest book, Follow the Goose Butt To Nova Scotia, I knew I needed a print of my own. She dropped it off on Sunday afternoon while out for a finally-a-nice-day jaunt with her partner and their pup.
I'm going to get it reframed behind that special archival glass so I can hang it in my sunny yellow office without ruining the print over time. These are not "our" ospreys, by the way.

And like an osprey with her eye on a fish below the surface of the river, I must dive back into work. The interview for my next Field Notes column needs to be transcribed.





Monday, May 13, 2019

Ten Years Ago Today

1966
Ten years ago today, my father died. It's hard to believe it's already been ten years. I wanted to write something profound and eloquent about these years, what I've learned, what I've been thinking about but to be honest: It's far too long for a simple blog post. It's mostly about guilt and regret, and that makes it mostly about me. 
Yet what is truly meaningful for me is that, looking back on the last decade, what stands out for me most is what I learned about him after he died. Here is just one story, and it goes with the above photo. The italicized opening is the story my mother has always told about how they got their two cats:

I don’t know why we went to PetSmart. We went on a Saturday and your sister later said, ‘Mother, you never go to PetSmart on a Saturday because that’s when they have all the adoptable animals on display.’ We walked along and looked at the animals. There were two cats in the same cage, a grey and white cat and an orange cat. The sign said they were brothers and had to be adopted together. Reg looked at them and he wondered if we should adopt them. I didn’t think we needed cats so he wandered off. I stood and looked at the cats; they were handsome. When I found him, he looked at me like he was a six-year-old boy who really wanted something. ‘Couldn’t we get them?’ he said to me. ‘We have to get them both. Otherwise, they’ll be put down.’ We went back and adopted them. We didn’t like their names so we agreed to change them. Reg named them Pickens and Percy. 
Pickens was his mother’s family name and the family lived in Percy Township. 

In the fall of 2014, my husband went through a partridge shooting phase. As we sat down to our first meal, and my first-ever taste, of partridge, along with potatoes, acorn squash, carrots and parsnips, I said, “Dad should be here for this.”
When Dwayne and Mum looked at me, I said, “There’s a photo of Dad as a young man and he’s holding a live partridge in his hands.”
Mum laughed at the memory. “He brought it into the house! I said, ‘What are you doing?’ What if it had gotten loose...” She was still smiling as she began eating.
A thought hit me: If my father hadn’t moved to the city to become a funeral director or at least, if he hadn’t lived above his funeral homes in town, if he had lived in the country with lots of land, a pond, a barn, I think he would have collected animals. He would have kept them as pets. He wouldn’t have turned any away.
“Call Reg,” I said. “He’ll take it.”
Mum laughed again, knowing exactly what my non sequitor meant.
This was a nice thought to have, this alternate life for my father, a different way of envisioning his love of animals. 

Dad on the front porch of the Pugwash house, 2002



Friday, May 10, 2019

Measured In Decades

Painting by Norene Smiley

Today is my birthday.
Ten years ago, I was celebrating with my friends, and my mother, in Ontario -- and my father was dying. May 13 is the anniversary of his death, three days after my birthday.
In a few days, it will be ten years since he died. Time for a story.

Shortly after my father passed away, around 5 o'clock on a Wednesday, I called my husband's cell phone to let him know. He was on the road, coming back from Pugwash, he said.
Turns out, this watercolour rendition of my favourite photo of my father and me was wrapped in brown craft paper and sitting on the passenger seat of his truck.

That photo was taken above the small harbour at Deep Cove, British Columbia. It was May 1999, the year my father came out to Vancouver by himself for a visit. It was during that visit he offered me money for a down payment on a condo, and said, "When I die..." and I interrupted him to say, "If you die, Dad..." 
Three years later, he would be diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease.

In February 2009, my husband asked for a copy of that photograph, to put on his desk at work, he said. I remember going into his office a month later and not seeing the photo, thinking of asking him if he wanted me to get him a frame, but at the time, we were trying to get me in for surgery on my herniated disc and I forgot about it.
I had the surgery, went home to Ontario for my annual visit a month later, was at my father's side when he died, then flew home with Dwayne a week later after the funeral.

That's when he gave me my belated birthday gift: this painting by Pugwash artist Norene Smiley -- that's why he'd wanted the photo in February, to have the painting done for my birthday.
He kept asking me if I liked it but I couldn't speak yet. When he said, "If you don't like it -- " I finally spoke.
"It's perfect. How could I not like it?" I said, incredulous that he would have any doubt. How could this not be the perfect gift at the perfect time? What made him, way back in February, think of doing this? What voice whispered the idea to him? Thank goodness he paid attention. 




Sunday, May 05, 2019

Chicken Delight


Finally hung the chicken paintings by my friend, Archan Knotz. Aren't they delightful?
My friend, Bruce, built the frames for me out of barn boards.
Original art by a local artist hanging in my office -- that's gotta boost the creative writing vibes, right?

(I interviewed Archan six years ago for my "In Conversation With..." column. A lot has changed in her life since then, including a change of address, but here is that column.)


Thursday, May 02, 2019

Riverview Wildlife Report #4


I wanted to start this post with a drawn-out expletive but my mother would object and since she stands in the doorway of my office with that look on her face, and I can't escape because she's blocking the only exit, once you've read this post, you'll say the drawn-out expletive yourself.

A week or so ago, I snapped these photos of the fox family living on our riverside lot across the road. Foxes are such beautiful creatures, and they live in families -- fox fathers are very devoted to their kits -- but my first thought was: Too close to the road! I understand the appeal of the river but really, it's not the best real estate for any animal. Every time they go hunting, the foxes have to cross that fast and busy road; add two playful kits to the mix? Dread.


And this morning, that dread found a place to rest. Alongside the light little body of one of the fox kits lying on the edge of the road.



If you've read my book, you know how I feel about "road kill" -- how it guts me, how it haunts me. The body of that pretty little kit was the size of my forearm. I bawled as I moved it off onto the shoulder. I cried, "I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry," the way I always do when I have to walk by an animal killed by a vehicle.
After I'd moved the body, and its intestines, I noticed an organ -- its liver? -- tiny and red, on the asphalt.
All of us gutted.

And I don't think we'll have any foxes around by the time spring turns to summer because the adults raid our neighbours' property -- where there are roosters and rabbits and geese -- so I expect they'll be shot. We're wondering if one of the parents has already been shot.


This is the part of country living that breaks my heart. The havoc wrought by humans -- by our vehicles on the roads, by our machinery in the woods, by the garbage filling our ditches and rivers and oceans. Garbage, asphalt and concrete instead of trees, wild flowers and water. Who are the truly wild and uncontrollable creatures on this earth?


Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Art Needs To Respond


This past weekend, the Town of Oxford put on its second annual Poetry At Large festival, wrapping up Sunday afternoon with the Poetry Cafe.
My friend and writing mentor, Harry Thurston, of Tidnish Bridge, was the headliner. He's a brilliant poet, descriptive and accessible, lyrical and lovely. AND HE READ ONE OF MY FAVOURITES, a poem about river otters. For me personally, what appeals to me about his poems is that he writes about country life and life along the river and the tidal marsh. He writes about birds and animals, and relationships.
He read two new poems that are simply brilliant.
Poetry is meant to be read aloud, and it's meant to be listened to. It needs to be heard.

In the photo, he's reading from a small collection of poems, titled ICARUS: Falling of Birds, inspired by a tragic wildlife event in 2013: 7,500 migrating songbirds were killed when the Canaport LNG plant in Saint John, New Brunswick, illegally burned off sour gas; the birds flew into the gas flare. The company faced three charges under Canada's environment protection act.
Harry, and a photographer friend, were inspired to create the collection of poems and photos because, Harry said, "LNG lost the court case, fortunately, but sometimes, art needs to respond."

I also made note of how Harry answered when asked who his favourite poets are: On the diversity of his list, he said, "I'm a self-educated poet. I read widely but erratically." Incidentally, Harry was in pre-med, studying biology, when he began writing poems.

I didn't know Harry considered himself a self-educated poet, so as a self-educated writer myself, I feel some validation for the long, slow development of my writing career.


Thursday, April 25, 2019

Riverview Wildlife Report #3


A flying squirrel.
Eating the bird seed on our back deck.
Honestly, I now have seen everything.

Actually, the first time I saw this creature was in mid-March. Because of the raccoons, I bring in our bird feeders at night, and one evening, I forgot about them until after dark. When I reached up to unhook the cylinder that holds black sunflower seeds, there was this rodent looking at me. Just hanging there, looking at me with these huge eyes.
Alien rodent eyes.
And it wasn't scared of me. It moved off the cylinder but it sat on the branch; it didn't take off.
I came inside and joked that I'd seen a flying squirrel. Why I guessed that, I don't know.

So last week, I thought this fella was our (now deceased) sick squirrel but as soon as I stepped up to the table, and it didn't run away, I could tell its marking, and its big eyes, were not a squirrel at all.
I googled "flying squirrel" and the photo matched this guy perfectly.

Actually, it's proper designation is a Northern Flying Squirrel.
This what the naturalists with the province of Nova Scotia have to say about this nocturnal creature:

Nova Scotia has two species of flying squirrels: the northern one, found throughout the province, and the smaller, southern one which is found in only two areas: the Gaspereau Valley and Kejimukujikk National Park.
They nest in the cavities of trees, and in outside nests, and they eat fungi (mushrooms and truffles), seeds and berries.

Of course, when I read this, I couldn't help but think of all the woods around us, and throughout Cumberland County, that are being cut down. Here is another creature whose habitat we are destroying:
"Flying squirrels' habitats are found in tall trees, snags, decomposing logs and relative understorey, which offer excellent gliding opportunities. Fungi are more abundant in forests with decomposing logs. Snags are used for nest sites. These habitat characteristics are generally found in older forests. Since older forests are becoming increasingly rare, flying squirrels are distributed in patches."

The above information came from an old article posted online by the Department of Lands and Forests, but here's a very engaging article about flying squirrels published in Saltscapes - with some great photos.




Monday, April 22, 2019

Riverview Wildlife Report #2


Another squirrel story. Or rather, an adventure.
We've been monitoring one of our squirrels (I think we have four) because it was eating funny. Sitting on the table on our back deck, where we've been putting bird seed and peanuts out all winter, the squirrel would sometimes do some weird head-tossing.
I always thought it looked like it had a sunflower seed stuff between its teeth, but I also figured with the fingers it has, it could pull it out itself.

Last week, this squirrel seemed to be more in distress. I could actually get right up to it as it sat on the table. So I noticed that its thumbs, forearms and belly were completely bare. And I noticed that it did indeed have something wrong with its lower jaw.
That's when I realized it wasn't eating properly (and it was getting thinner). The fur was gone because of all the drooling it was doing.
I emailed the Cobequid Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre in Hilden, NS, to see if they'd take a look at our squirrel. I said as soon as I could catch it, we'd bring it down. They strongly advised using a trap, not catching it by hand, but I was able to. Gloved hands, of course. It was none too happy to be shoved into our makeshift cage: a plastic basket with a large shoebox lid taped down. We covered it with a pink towel and put it in the backseat of the truck for the hour trip down the highway.

Here's one of the photos I sent to try and explain what was going on with the squirrel:


This is what was lodged in the squirrel's lower teeth:


A gob of fur. It doesn't look like much but when you consider how small a squirrel's mouth is, and how small their teeth are... How it got there, and from where, is a mystery. Perhaps it came off its belly, but we'll never know.

Our little friend couldn't return home with us, however, because its lower teeth had grown so long, they needed to be trimmed, and there was no wildlife vet available on Good Friday.
This next photo doesn't show the teeth very well but they look like they are almost poking into his nostrils.


He will return to his familiar territory here. CWRC will call us when he's trimmed up, nourished and ready to be back in the yard. Getting fat on peanuts like all the other squirrels.

For more information on the Cobequid Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre (which once tried to save one of our osprey fledglings after it was attacked by an eagle), check out its website.

******
UPDATE: Wednesday, April 24

Sadly, our little friend will not be coming home. Apparently, his lower teeth had grown into his nasal cavity and were too long to fix, he had no upper teeth, and his body was covered in a fungus (perhaps resulting in the hair loss on his belly). So the CWRC staff made the decision to euthanize him. His body is going to the vet college on Prince Edward Island for a necropsy; it seems that what was wrong with him was rather unusual and they want to learn more. So instead of suffering a long, painful death in the wild, our little friend passed away comfortably and will help science.





Friday, April 19, 2019

Riverview Wildlife Report #1


The osprey returned and we are breathing again.
Come April first, every year, we hold our breath, anticipating the day -- around the 10th -- when we see the first osprey sitting in the nest. After the eagle killed the three fledglings in 2015, we wondered if they'd returned, but they did. After losing the mate last spring, before any eggs hatched, we wondered if the lone mate would return.

It was Sunday, April 14 -- honestly, we were starting to lose faith in our faithful birds -- before we left for our trip to Peggy's Cove. I was outside, emptying a bag of hay (used at church during Advent) for the birds to use as nesting material, when I looked up to see the familiar shape cruising overhead.
I admit -- I almost started to bawl.
I ran into the house, shouting, "The osprey is back! The osprey is back!"
It mattered more than ever this year.


Three days later, her new mate showed up. What a relief! And how wonderful to hear their high-pitched chirping calls again. It makes home feel more like home.
My mother says she -- "our" returning osprey -- flew low over her, as "our" osprey always did, and when I was taking this photo, one of the birds flew off the nest as I got closer. So perhaps, as we discuss every year, we are familiar and she is "our" bird. Her new mate will have to get used to us, and to the river, and to the perch.
I wish we could tell he from she. It would make this story more satisfying, and more cohesive.


Here they are in the golden light of their first morning together. We never get tired of seeing this. These birds are part of our family.

From "Findings", a book by Kathleen Jamie that I bought during our trip to Scotland in 2010, in which the author talks about how we -- in her context, Scotland -- almost lost the ospreys:

"What pleases about the ospreys is the quiet success of their return to their rightful place. A damage remedied, a change of direction in our attitudes, as the bird itself makes the turn into the prevailing wind. These are native birds, but they were hunted to extinction in the nineteenth century. Then, in the mid-twentieth, they began to creep back, and with human help the osprey have now re-established 150 nest sites in Scotland. Some sites are famous; they are public spectacles with viewing places and video linkups... I like being able to glance up from my own everyday business, to see the osprey going about hers."




Wednesday, April 17, 2019

A Nova Scotia Country Boy Heads To the Sea

The view from the rocks at Peggy's Cove
Last fall, Dwayne was unable to attend the Long Service Awards ceremony for the provincial government because it happened just six weeks after his stroke. One day in October, a package arrived with his plaque and a framed print marking his 40 years with the Department of Transportation.
The print was of the harbour at Peggy's Cove, and Dwayne said, "I've never been there."

What??? Born, raised and living in Nova Scotia all his life and he never once visited Peggy's Cove?

I made it my mission to get him there, and this past Sunday, since I wasn't leading worship at church and I needed a break after four days of play-ing, and since the day promised to be sunny and warm, I declared it our Big Sunday Adventure and told him to head towards Halifax.
"I'll tell you when to turn."
It wasn't until we'd driven through Tantallon and passed the turnoff to Highway 103 (which takes you to Lunenburg, etc.) that the next sign listed the turnoff to Peggy's Cove, and Dwayne knew where we were headed.

As soon as we rounded the bend in the road and saw the lighthouse -- tiny in the distance -- Dwayne said, "Wow, there is it."
I could tell he was genuinely pleased by the surprise destination of our Big Sunday Adventure.
He couldn't wait to get parked and head onto the rocks. We took the requisite selfies with the famous lighthouse behind us, but it was the vast and sprawling rocks that fascinated Dwayne. We spent an hour walking and climbing over the rocks, and sitting, our legs dangling.

When you sit at the edge of the rocks at Peggy's Cove, with your back to the parking lot and restaurant and lighthouse, when it's mid-April and not very busy, when you tune into the sound of the incoming tide washing over the rocks,
you can imagine that the earth is just that --
the rocks
and the sea
and the two of you
sitting on the edge of the world.

I can't speak for my husband, but it was rather emotional. Every day, I'm vitally aware of how lucky we are to have these days, for him to be able to drive to Peggy's Cove and walk over those rocks. Sitting there, with the sound of the waves in my ears and the warmth of the sun against my face, even as the wind blew cool on our backs, I was deeply and profoundly thankful that we were there, together, fulfilling a promise I made to last fall to get Dwayne to Peggy's Cove.

I suspect it won't be our last visit, either.  He seems drawn to the place, to the rocks and the sea.
Sure, it's touristy and it's famous, but if you move away from the lighthouse, the teenagers shouting and squealing, and the idiots wanting to stand on the black rocks (they're wet and slippery), the massive rocks and the wide-open sea speak to your spirit in a way the field can't.




Monday, April 15, 2019

A City Girl's Search For A Stage In Rural Nova Scotia

In my minister's costume, delivering my first line.
For the past six weeks, I've been involved with the local community theatre group, called The Church Mouse Players. They do two productions a year, and we just wrapped "Virgil's Wedding".
I played a minister showing up at the chapel to do a funeral service - "Excuse me, is this where they're holdin' the funeral?" - and get flustered when I find out it's a wedding and I only have my funeral notes.

This was my first foray into acting; whether it will be my last remains to be seen. This small role in the second half of Act Two was more than enough for me, but the rehearsals (three a week) and the performances (four nights of dinner theatre) got put on top of all my other work.
So while others were bemoaning the "crash" that would follow this week, after we wrapped up on Saturday, I'm just grateful to have my Monday and Thursday nights back at home!

After dress rehearsal with "Virgil" and "Margaret"
"By golly, by the powers vested in me by the state, I know pronounce you husband and wife! Virgil, you may kiss the bride!"

Over the past 15 years, the Church Mouse Players have become known for the great dinner and the laugh-out-loud comedy. Every show sells out immediately; there's no need for advertising.
Apparently, "Virgil's Wedding" has been sitting on the shelf waiting for the right cast to come together, and it was worth the wait. The general consensus from the audience is that this was the best production yet. How does CMP top this one?

Well, with long-time actors like Anthony Black and Tiffany Lawless, as well as the same husband-wife director-producer/actor combination in Kendall Mills and Tania Thompson, this community theatre group knows what it's doing and simply keeps doing what it does best.
I am in awe of how this all comes together, and how the cast really does work together like a family (a good family, not a dysfunctional one!). Having been in the audience, and now seeing it from backstage, I understand what keeps people returning for just one more production. Having never been in a community theatre production, I can understand why people become so devoted to it.
And in such a small community as well.

The groom's mother shows off a dress to the wedding planners from the city.

Personally, as a morning person, the four nights of performances were challenging; I haven't done a yoga practice since last Monday! On Friday, I could have cried, I was so exhausted. But once you get to the hall and the ticket holders arrive, once you get backstage and into your costume, once the play begins...you forget about how tired you are and the energy of the performance takes over.
I even managed to keep my southern accent all the way through each performance!

Oh, by the way, it was the perfect play for me to do as my first one: Not only was Abba's "Dancing Queen" played three times, but there was this line in Act One, when Virgil says to his best friend, Ellard: "Them city girls may be okay to look at but you won't catch me marryin' one." 






Tuesday, April 09, 2019

The Rural Appreciation Society

I was reading the latest Ian Rankin novel when I took this photo on a rainy Saturday.

I had the house to myself this morning - Mother is due home from Georgia tonight and Dwayne hightailed it into town shortly after he got up (which was right after I got all the chores done). And because I worked at school yesterday, and tomorrow night is the opening of the play I'm in, which runs until Saturday night...
...I needed a slow morning.
I slept in until six o'clock then promptly fed all the wild birds because it snowed last night so everyone was looking for a little bigger buffet this morning. I did the chickens, who are not happy about the snow, and fed our indoor menagerie.
Then I flopped on the yoga mat for some much-needed stretches ahead of a long day at the computer, then I realized the house was cold so I made a fire in the wood furnace.
That's when the country boy rolled out of bed and rolled right out the house.

So I sat with my coffee and my book in the living room, wrapped in a blanket, while the wild birds flitted outside in the trees, from feeder to feeder, and the cats watched out the windows, and the dog lay on the love seat in the dining room.
Peaceful.
When I took my mug to the kitchen sink to rinse it out, I looked out the window at the chicken coop and beyond it, to the field. No deer out there this morning.
Then I wandered into our bedroom, and stood at the window and took another look from another angle at the chicken coop and the field. And the woods and the sky.
Breathing space.

This is why I'm working so damn hard at my writing. This is how substitute teaching is motivating me.
I want to be home in the mornings. I want to be home to have these long, slow mornings of doing chores and doing yoga, of drinking coffee and reading books. I want to be able to stand at my windows overlooking all that space, all that grass and tree and sky.
I want to be inside the peace.
I want to be part of the breathing space.
I want to enjoy living where I get to live.
This is my daily meeting of the Rural Appreciation Society.

This isn't about being lazy and not wanting to work. This is about having a chance every day to be slow and quiet and watchful. This is about wanting to be one of a dying breed of people who wake up every morning GLAD and THANKFUL to be living in rural Nova Scotia.

I want to be able to walk across the fields and through the woods while I can -- while we are both still here.
I want to be able to breathe in the fresh clean air -- while there are still trees cleaning it.
I want to be able to hear the squelch of the water in our river valley ground.
I want to be able to look up and see nothing but blue sky (or stars), I want to look down and see the tracks of deer and raccoons and coyotes in the mud.
I want to walk through the wildflowers in July and August.
I want to listen to the ospreys calling for fish from the river.
This is where I live. This is where I am inspired. This is what keeps my brain and my body healthy.
This is why the Rural Appreciation Society exists.

As poet and rural/environmental activist, Wendell Berry, wrote, "The primary motive for good care and good use of the land-community is always going to be affection, which is too often lacking."


Pussy willows on a morning walk. 



Thursday, April 04, 2019

Life With and Without Chicken


You may notice I've changed my author photo on my blog and on Facebook. New glasses meant an update of the photo. What a difference, eh?
I'm sad to lose my chicken friend, however. My new photos seem a little boring with her...

New photo credit: Shaun Whalen Photography
Old photo credit: Catherine Bussiere




Tuesday, April 02, 2019

The Abundant Life


Okay, so here's something a little unorthodox (my word of the week, apparently, because that's the second time I've used it and it's only Tuesday). I wrote my sermon (message) for this coming Sunday yesterday; not my usual habit to write the message on Monday but as I was putting together the service, what I wanted to say about "barrenness and abundance" (our Language of Lent words for this week) dropped into my head. Why wait and lose that spark?
The message just flowed out of me; it's a rough draft, for sure, but it felt good as I wrote it -- even as I recognized something from my subconscious mind was working its way to the surface.

That's not the unorthodox part!
I don't usually share my sermons online, let alone snippets even before I've shared them with the congregation, but here's part of that sermon, the personal part I'm speaking about:
"Since last year, I’ve been having a series of epiphanies about my life – it’s brought up some memories about paths not taken and allowed me to figure out why, and in some cases, provided a chance to get back on the path – even this 'late' in life.

But that’s a struggle – to look back on 25 years of mistakes and missteps, to look forward at ALMOST 50 years of age, and feel like a failure.

That’s part of the journey, though – that’s the HARD part – the CONFESSION part [this refers to last week's sermon] – admitting that I “missed the mark” over and over, not really deliberately – but from a lack of self-awareness – from being a seeker yet not being able to understand what it was I was seeking. 

In February, I was skating by myself at the pond, twirling and swirling, while snowflakes twirled and swirled, and it felt so good, I felt so free, so alive, so happy that I paused for a moment to say Thank You.

And that’s when it hit me: I was so focused on all the ways I believed I had failed my life, that I wasn’t appreciating the life I have.
I AM living an ABUNDANT LIFE – I have food and shelter, money to buy things, love and support.
What more do I want?
I have a book published – sure, I want more but I also need to be content with JUST THAT as well.
Striving is exhausting. Wanting more is exhausting.
The Eagles said it in their song, “Take It To the Limit”:
“You spend all your time making money, you spend all your love making time.”

When do you stop to appreciate the fact you have it all ALREADY?"             [end of message]


Obviously, this idea of barrenness (having nothing; uncertainty; worry) and abundance (having everything; not realizing it/appreciating it) has been on my mind for awhile, I just hadn't put it into those words yet. I wrote myself to a surprise memory, and it was one of those moments when you're like: Yes. This is the point.
I'm going to have to tweak the sermon to make it less personal but I'll save that first, raw draft because, well, epiphany, right?

Just now, I signed up for the second learning unit of the course I'm taking to become a properly licensed lay worship leader, and I was thinking of my new friend, Penny, asking me how the editing of my novel went the next time we meet.
And when I thought about that, about spending the month of March editing -- this shiver, a frisson, of excitement rippled through me. I can't wait to tell her how well it went. I LOVED editing the novel -- I LOVED the process, the sitting down with that spiral-bound bunch of papers and reading them over, crossing out words and lines, making notes, taking out ENTIRE chapters! It was good, solid work and so different from the work of writing the first draft of the novel.

I want to do it again. I WILL do it again. Because I'm learning to pay attention to those shiver moments - they are telling me what to do. They are MY HEART telling me what path to follow. Sure, there's uncertainty, there's worry, but I'm learning to dump a whole lot of appreciation on those distracting thoughts until they stop squirming.




Friday, March 29, 2019

Not My Monkeys, Not My Circus


Our area is buzzing with the news of a death, a not-unexpected death but a dreaded passing, nonetheless. These are the vibrations I write about in an essay in Field Notes, how some deaths are felt by many people, our collective disbelief and sorrow reverberating beyond the immediate contours of family and friends.
The first vibrations are the hurried footsteps to the phone: "Did you hear?"
The vibrations will continue to expand and amplify as people head to their kitchens to cook, head to the store for sympathy cards, head to the church to celebrate a life upended too early, ended too soon. 

This woman and her family are well-known in our area; the news touches a lot of people. Many of us are familiar with her treatment for cancer simply because we know her husband well enough to ask, "How is she doing?"
She was diagnosed six years ago and died the other day. She was 52. 

A few months ago, while skating, I set myself on a new path: To stop worrying about the future, and to enjoy each day. 
Are you surprised to learn I wasn't already doing that? We think we are taking each day as it comes, enjoying what we are doing and where we are living but really, worrying takes up a lot more real estate in our minds and hearts than we realize. 
Since Dwayne's stroke last August, my worries about the future increased -- a different set of vibrations, ones that left me feeling off-balance and shaky, like I was standing on a fault line and didn't know when the ground would shake and topple me. 

As I twirled around the frozen pond, surrounded by the field that inspires and sustains me, I realized I was not living with appreciation. I was not living like I am fortunate and blessed and deeply aware that we really don't know what's going to happen -- as Dwayne's stroke reminded us.
I remembered a lesson I learned in December 2017, when I let go of a situation that was sucking me dry, when I intentionally said, "No more." When I plugged those holes that were allowing my creative energy to drain out, a novel -- a  new and different and completely unexpected writing project -- dropped into my mind. 
That was an exciting experience, and it came with a powerful message; it was time for me to finally learn that lesson. 

Recently, I found myself falling into that trap again, found myself in danger of developing a leak.
"Did you learn the lesson?" I asked myself and I knew I wanted the answer to be Yes. So since then, every time I hear my mind go wandering towards the bad part of town, I yank it back. 
"Stay away," I admonish. "Don't think about it."

Instead, think about this: When I read this woman's obituary yesterday, I realized she was diagnosed at the age of 46; she died at an age only three years older than I am now. 
When I was 46 years old, I published my first book.
So her death, and her final years, are part of the lesson: Don't waste your life on situations and people you can't control and don't trust. Don't waste your creative energy on imagining scenarios and conversations that aren't part of a book. Don't spend another moment worrying about who might call or show up tomorrow while you are standing out on the front deck at 6:30 in the morning listening to the first bird of the day sing the sun up. 

Last Sunday at church, the subject of that day's "Language of Lent" series was obstacles, and I talked about the practice of non-attachment, one of the Eight Limbs of Yoga. 
"Aparigraha" is one of the four niyamas, or ways of right living. It’s the idea that we create our own unhappiness, our own suffering through attachments. 
When you think of it, most of those things we consider “obstacles” are really our attachments. Take anger for example: What greater attachment to anger is there than holding a grudge? 
When you hold on to anger or bitterness or fear, you hold yourself back, you hold everything about your life -- your creative energy, your heart, your emotions -- hostage to one emotion, one situation, one way of living. 
And it's a choice. We can choose to hang on and dwell, or we can choose to let go and live our one and only life. 

Live, love, and let go.

Life is too short, too unpredictable, too precious to allow yourself to attach to anything but the joy of snowflakes and bird song, ice cakes on the open river and the maple tree outside your window starting its slow bloom into spring -- and the absolute brilliance of your good fortunate to be alive and well.  



Saturday, March 23, 2019

Life and Death In Our Front Yard


Hey! Look who it is!
Half Tail. My friend who inspired this story last month.
Thought you might like to know he/she really does exist, and has survived the winter, and as of yet, has not been schmucked on the road.

Speaking of getting schmucked...


She's a bit hard to see (so I put a filter on the photo, and clicking on it provides a larger image) but that's a female pigeon hawk standing on the carcass of the pigeon she nailed in our front yard, its downy belly feathers flung out across the leaves.
Turns out, the hawk's eyes are bigger than her wing span because she couldn't pick the pigeon off the ground to fly off with it!
That's what happens when humans feed the wild birds and the pigeons show up...

Since we have sliding glass doors right in front of our dining room table, overlooking the front yard, we all got to eat supper together last night -- although we didn't have to pluck our pizza before tearing into it.

I got to thinking later, if Sara Jewell was a bird, she'd be this pigeon hawk. She'd be the one who kills the bird for whom she's named -- but not be able to pick it off the ground and carry it off. Sara Jewell would be the one who manages to kill the fattest bird in the flock then has to pluck it and eat right there in the middle of the garden because she misjudged everything -- and now has to recalibrate her plans.
Always learning from her mistakes because, well, as always: More enthusiasm than skill.


Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Maple Syrup Moon

Full moon over the icy River Philip
The Full Maple Sugar Moon is tonight. It happens at the same time as the Spring Equinox, and this alignment happens only every 19 years.
Not only that, this full moon will be closest to Earth in its orbit. This means we can expect higher than normal tides Wednesday-Thursday-Friday.

Interestingly enough, I took the same photo in the same spot of the full moon on Christmas Eve. 



Monday, March 18, 2019

When An Eagle Shows Up


This big bird showed up late last week.
ON OUR OSPREY NEST.
My husband thinks it's great -- I suppose he figures the ospreys aren't returning -- but I'm annoyed because
a) it's the ospreys' nest
b) I want the ospreys to return
c) eagles will eat chickens -- which we have -- while ospreys only eat fish
I haven't grabbed my lawn chair and scared the eagle out of the nest but I'm not happy about this development.

On the other hand, there is this to consider:
A few years ago, while interviewing a woman for a Field Notes column, I discovered she has a gift for deep communication. That's the easiest way to describe it, but by the end of our conversation, she had informed me that the eagle is my spirit bird.
I've been resisting ever since because
a) she told me this in the summer of 2015, shortly after an eagle killed all three of that summer's osprey fledglings and I was feeling hateful towards eagles
b) an eagle is a powerful bird and a potent symbol - way too much responsibility for me
c) I'd been told something similar when I was 24 but didn't understand this stuff back then so it didn't sink in -- but as soon as this woman told me, all of a sudden, appearances of an eagle in my life flooded into my memory -- too many at particularly significant times to ignore

Needless to say, I've been a little freaked out ever since. But I also got over my hatefulness towards eagles and that seems to have settled them down. This woman told me the eagle attacked the osprey babies to get my attention.
They could have just flown over and dropped a poop bomb on me.

This is a story I haven't shared before because it's very personal (this is just the bare bones of it, really). But suffice it to say, I pay attention to this stuff now, and this eagle started sitting in the osprey nest, which is about as close to our house, and me, as you can get when you're a large bird of prey, just at a time when I needed to keep my focus on my novel editing.
I think the eagle appeared at this particularly significant time as a reminder that I must not be distracted by other people's drama, and situations I can't control. I must keep my (eagle) eye on my purpose and my goal. I must not waste my creative energy on anything other than my writing.
What a powerful bird like this is telling me is, "Do not give away your power to others."
Whew.
It makes my heart beat faster to write that, to put that truth out into the world. But this year is all about "becoming what I was always meant to be" so if an eagle is my guide along that scary-exciting journey, lead on, my large feathered friend.
And I must admit, it's not bad having a friend with those talons and that beak in my corner.



Saturday, March 16, 2019

Reflecting On Terror and Grief

Cape Chignecto, July 2017

For the Christian season of Lent, my five Sunday messages are focusing on the language of Lent, and this Sunday’s word is lamentation.
Lament: a passionate expression of grief and sorrow. Fridays are my message and community prayer writing day, and I wrote yesterday under the heavy dark cloud of grief and despair. The community prayer opens with these words from the first chapter of the Book of Lamentations in the Hebrew Bible:
“For these things I weep, my eyes flow with tears; for a comforter is far from me, one to revive my courage; my children are desolate, for the enemy has prevailed.”

I wrote: "As our hearts and minds struggle to understand the kind of hate that would compel a human being to desire the violent death of other human beings, our spirits pour out love and peace – going where only angels dare to go –to those who must overcome sorrow and pain, and a new fear in order to live in their own communities, where they must now worry about what another person is thinking, believing, planning.

We gather together in our quiet grief to share in the loud lamentations of the world, those who mourn their friends and family killed by white supremacists, killed by civil war and terrorism, killed by domestic violence, killed by poverty and starvation, killed by neglect and isolation."

Like this one."

We always ask, What can we do? So I tried to answer: "Let us offer friendship when others offer prejudice. Let us offer grace when others offer judgement. Let us offer wisdom when others offer ignorance. Let us offer our voice when others are silent.
And, let us not forget a prayer of gratitude – for we live in a safe community, as part of the Christian world that doesn’t know what it’s like to be persecuted, even hunted down, because of our faith. We gather together for worship and are at our most vulnerable, our hearts and minds open to the inpouring of the Holy Spirit, of divine energy. We gather together for worship and do not feel the dark presence of fear or death behind us. We give thanks for your loving presence, God, in our midst, but more importantly, in the midst of those facing fear and death…in their own home, in a classroom, during a time of prayer.

And as I wrote this, I remember something that happened last Sunday during our community prayer. Remember we put our clocks forward last weekend? One of our occasional attendees, a woman from the community named Mary, arrived at twenty after eleven, thinking she was on time for the 10:30 service. Right in the middle of our moment of silence, when we name in our hearts those for whom we are concerned, Mary opened the door to the sanctuary, saw me in the pulpit, and said in her loud voice, “I didn’t know you were going to be here today!”
In the middle of our silence, of our thinking about friends and family members for whom we are worried, we all smiled. Without looking around, we knew who had arrived in our midst, bringing her particular kind of joy.

It suddenly hit me last night: I stood in that pulpit, facing the congregation, and I heard the door open. I looked up and saw Mary, I heard her familiar voice, and I smiled. I was glad to see her, no matter how late. And last night, I realized how fortunate I am – and likely will continue to be so fortunate – that it is only ever Mary who comes through that door in the middle of our silence, in the middle of our prayer. The alternative is not to be imagined even as we see it play out again and again on the television news. Or – heaven help us – live streamed.

For those in two mosques in New Zealand, in a mosque in Quebec City, in a synagogue in Pittsburgh, in Christian churches in South Carolina and Texas, the person opening the door of the sanctuary – and by sanctuary, I mean a sacred and safe space where we are our most open, our most spirited, our most vulnerable – it was not a voice filled with happiness that heralded the moment that would change lives and wipe the smiles from all our faces.

As my friend Alia signed off her text to me last night, Peace to all.
S xo

(As originally published on my Facebook author page)