Monday, February 25, 2019

Pretty Girl

My alarm goes off at 5:30 am so I can listen to the news of Nova Scotia. A rather detailed weather forecast follows then by the time the Sports report begins, I am awake enough to shove a cat or two off me and get out of bed.
I fix the fire in the wood furnace then make my chai tea and start my yoga practice.
This has to happen early, when it's still dark outside, not because I love the peace and quiet of being the only person up -- but because it's too distracting to do Sun Salutations while the little wild birds are flitting through the spindly branches of the lilac tree outside the living room window.
It's breakfast time, but breakfast hasn't been served yet.

I put out five bird feeders early every morning around our front yard and dump a big container of corn and mixed seed in a special spot way down front. Every evening, I bring them all in because I don't want to encourage the resident raccoon, nor have her wreck the feeders trying to empty them.

The past couple of mornings, I've seen several lines of deer tracks crossing the front yard, and pass through that special spot down front.
This morning, at about 8:30, I was sitting on the couch reviewing the speech I was giving to a local Rotary Club today when my mother said, "Don't move, just look out the window."
Speech forgotten, I spent ten minutes watching this pretty girl munch on seeds around the birch tree underneath our church bird feeder.
Talk about a holy moment. My front yard transformed into a temporary sanctuary.

The speech was well-received but this visit was the highlight of today.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Morning Skate

Snow on the way so I headed out early in the morning to do some skating before the ice was covered.
Skating is my new addiction: I can't get enough. Can't get enough of that feeling of letting go, both physically and mentally. That's saying a lot considering I'm not very good, but I've lived my entire life with more enthusiasm than skill so this is perfectly in line with who I am.

And this morning, I went by myself. Just me and the frozen pond and eventually the snowflakes.
As soon as I got my wobbly feet under me and began doing my circles, I dropped out of my mind and just concentrated on skating. Into that circling, that repetition, that unthinking concentration came the ideas: a title I've been waiting for, a paragraph for my sermon this Sunday, and then the thoughts about finding this stillness in order to hear what you need to hear -- not from the world but from YOU, from yourself.

I know this -- over and over in my life, the truth of my own voice has been proven but it still doesn't really sink it. The truth is found not on social media, not in the television, not even in our favourite music; the truth is found in stillness -- when we are QUIET, when our minds are focused on an activity that doesn't require its attention.
When the only things going in circles are your feet and the only noise in your ears is the shusk-shusk of a pair of skates. 

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Skating By the Light of the Full Moon

So it happened: I skated by the light of the full moon. The wind was cold! But it was worth it.
It was quite bright -- the phone darkened the scene down, which is a shame, and also my warmest outer gear is black so that's doesn't help. But you can see the moon reflected on that perfect ice and that's my shadow and my legs, and I skated and skated and skated until I could not feel my toes.
It was exhilarating.

At one point, as I whizzed towards my husband who was tending the bonfire on the edge of the ice, I said, "This feels like a vacation."
I don't take vacations -- I don't need them. My whole life feels like a vacation. I work hard, but it's not the same as working as a full-time teacher or nurse or a service provider in a store or restaurant.
But still... sometimes it's nice to get away on a vacation. Even if it's just a two-minute walk across my field to the pond!
That's the best way I can explain how it made me feel to be skating by the light of a full moon. I think it felt like a vacation because I had never done that before. It was lovely and unique and new -- like the first day at a resort in Mexico would feel, I'm sure, since I've never been there either, but I was much happier to be out in the cold night air in our field in rural Nova Scotia.

Amazing how easy it was to make my heart happy.
Maybe that's it: I took a break from striving. That was my vacation -- not thinking about tomorrow and all the work to be done, all the chasing of a dream, of income, of bills to pay. My vacation was simply being in the moment.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Pair Skating

Brand new skates! 
We managed to squeeze in our first skate together earlier this week. That's one item checked off the Skating To Do List.
Now to wait for the snow from Wednesday's storm to disappear from the ice (rain on Saturday and plus 8 C) so we can whirl around the pond under next week's full moon (February 19th).

Now that Dwayne has a pair of skates, I wonder if this is the year I might get to skate on the river...

The Nova Scotia country boy back on the ice! 

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

A Story For A Stormy Day

Once upon a time there was a small red squirrel named Half Tail.
He had an older brother and an older sister. His brother lived in a box on a high shelf in the garage. His sister lived in a hanging basket in the garden shed. All summer, while he ran around the yard, up and down trees, in and out of the garage and the garden shed, Half Tail looked and looked until he found the perfect spot to build his nest for the winter: in the big black barbecue sitting on the front deck of the big red house.

"You can't use that," his big brother scoffed. "The humans fill it with flames and cook food in there. You can't build your nest there."

But Half Tail kept any eye on the big black barbecue and for all of August and September, no one even opened the lid of the barbecue.
He listened to the crows who said winter would come early this year so as the days grew shorter and the wind colder, Half Tail decided the barbecue would be his home for the winter.

All fall, he gathered dried leaves and discarded feathers, and every day, he added to his growing collection inside the barbecue, and when the snow arrived early in November, Half Tail slept snugly in his nest inside the barbecue.

Every morning, Half Tail watched through a crack in the side of the big black barbecue to see when the human brought out seeds and peanuts for the birds. When the human went back inside the big red house, Half Tail squeezed out a larger hole in the back and went collecting peanuts and sunflower seeds. Every day, he ran around with his brother and sister, and he chased the blue jays and listened to the chickadees. He climbed up the pine trees to talk to the crows, and he sat on the back deck and watched the sunset before going back to his nest in the barbecue.

It was a strange winter, one day snowing, the next raining; one day, frigidly cold, the next day warm enough to melt the ice.
One of those warm days, as he sat on a limb in the maple tree, he watched one of the humans come out onto the front deck and open the lid of the barbecue. He heard the human call out and another human, the one who brings the seeds and peanuts, stepped outside. This human looked at the nest and laughed, then she closed the lid and shook her head.

A week later, Half Tail was running across the yard when he saw the two humans come out onto the front deck. One human had a container in her hands and when the other human opened the lid of the barbecue, the first human scooped up his nest and put it into the container.

"My nest! My nest!" Half Tail hollered from on top of a rock in the garden. "Get away from my nest!"
He was dismayed. The humans removed his nest from the barbecue -- in February! It was still winter. Where would he sleep? How would he stay warm on these cold, cold nights?
Then he noticed the human with the container was putting it down in the corner of the deck where it meets the side of the red house. The human then placed a larger blue container over top. The blue container had a hole in the front.

Then the human searched around for a heavy board and placed it on top of the blue container, and pushed a chair against it, holding it firmly in the corner. The two humans stood back and looked at the blue container wedged into the corner, with the board hanging over like a little roof, nodded their heads, and went back inside the red house.

Half Tail was curious. His nest was no longer in the barbecue, but his nest wasn't destroyed, it was now inside that container in the corner of the house.
He was about to go and inspect it when he heard a human step out onto the front deck. He watched as the human put a handful of peanuts on the deck right in front of the hole in the blue container, then return inside.

As he was taught, Half Tail took the long way to get up to the deck, zig zagging from tree to tree, scurrying from the far end of the deck to the other, then heading under the deck to check things out. He popped up in the corner, right behind the container.
There was a small opening in the blue container at the back as well! The human had given him two ways in and out, just as he was taught to have.
He sniffed the back of the container, and he sniffed the edge of the hole. He sniffed the hole itself then stretched his head inside as far as it would go. All he could smell was his nest. All he could smell was the familiar scent of his leaves and his feathers and himself.

Half Tail flung himself through the hole and scrambled around the smaller container. It, too, had two openings at the front and the back, and inside was his nest, a little out of order but safe and secure. Half Tail sat and touched the leaf sticking out of a slat in the side of the small container. He realized this container nest was much less drafty than the barbecue; he wouldn't be kept awake by the wind howling through vents and openings. It seemed less leaky; he wouldn't have to sleep on damp leaves.
Half Tail ran out the front hole, under the deck and back up through the back hole. He ran through the back of the small container, right through his nest, and ran out the front of the container. Then he ran back into the nest.
His nest. This was his nest. Just like it had been in the barbecue, but better. Warmer. Drier. Safer.
This was his home.

His brother had his shelf. His sister had her basket. And Half Tail had his container.

The next morning, Half Tail woke up with the dawn. He could hear the wind outside but he felt no draft inside his container. His nest was cozy. Even though he was hungry, he stayed curled up in his nest, savouring the warmth before heading out into the cold winter day. As he lay there, he heard a rattle and he froze. After a long time, he pushed himself through his nest until he could poke his head out the small hole and look out the hole in the blue container.
His nose twitched. He sniffed. He stretched his neck until he could see.
The human had left a pile of peanuts right outside his front hole.

He even had home delivery now.

(Inspired by a true event! All other characterizations are purely imagined -- and occupation is as yet unconfirmed - although the peanuts are disappearing every day.)

Monday, February 04, 2019

It's A Really Big Pond

While I sat inside the house reading, I completely forgot that we'd had snow overnight so the pond wouldn't be ready for skating when I put my book down and picked up my skates.
But what a sense of accomplishment when, after two hours of shovelling, I had the entire surface cleared of snow.
The pond is bigger than I realized!
With showers and freezing rain in the forecast, and freezing temps later this week, I get the anticipation of a wonderful weekend whizzing over this one woman's work.

Tonight is the new moon -- meaning "no" moon -- so we waxing towards the full moon in two weeks. My one goal this winter is to skate at least once after dark in the moonlight. Wouldn't it be lovely if my country boy and I could skate under the moon on Valentine's Day?

Sunday, February 03, 2019

Sunday Quote

I've started sharing a quote from my church service on my Facebook author page. Today's quote, however, didn't come from the service but I came across it while researching -- and it's everything I live for, and write about.

"Walking and talking are two very great pleasures, but it is a mistake to combine them. Our own noise blots out the sounds and silences of the outdoor world... The only friend to walk with is one who so exactly shares your taste for each mood of the countryside that a glance, a halt, or at most a nudge, is enough to assure us that the pleasure is shared."

~ C.S. Lewis, from his 1955 memoir, Surprised By Joy

This reminds me of an experiment I tried once while I still lived in Cobourg, Ontario, and my dog Stella was still young and wild, and needing hours of exercise each day. I read somewhere about walking without speaking to your dog, and that your silence would make your dog pay closer attention to you (apparently dogs get more information from our body language than from our spoken language). 
One Sunday morning, we did our regular hike through the Northumberland forest, likely the long and rigourous C Trail (I always went at a time there was the least chance of running into other people and their dogs because I HAD to let Stella run off-leash). Instead of constantly calling to her and giving her commands, I hiked the entire trail in silence. We made eye contact, I might have gestured, but it really was "at most a nudge" and it made the walk a pleasure. 
I'm not sure if my silence made her pay more attention to me (this is Stella we're talking about) but I know I was more relaxed at the end of the hike. It was like a silent meditation in the woods -- "with the sounds and silences of the outdoor world" around us. 

Abby, pictured above, is an easier dog with whom to walk so most of our walks are done quietly. Abby definitely shares my taste for each mood of the countryside -- and my mood as a human. 

Saturday, February 02, 2019

A Life's Journey

2003, at the cabin - Garth is second from the left.
Because of Garth Mundle, our family's journey, and my life's journey, includes Nova Scotia.
Our dear family friend died earlier this week, and now my father is reunited with all his friends.

I've known Garth since I was three years old; he hasn't been a daily presence in my life since the mid-1970's yet he's always been a part of my life.
As I write in Field Notes, the book, Garth is the reason the Jewell family came to Nova Scotia in the first place, in 1979. He was our minister at the time, and he invited us to come to the place where he was born and raised -- Pugwash. No matter where he lived, or where he travelled, he always returned to the cabin on the back shore, to his family, and to his roots. We aren't the only people who know and love the Northumberland Shore because of Garth and his wife, Dorothy.

Garth was seven years old than my father (who died in 2009 at the age of 67) and as Garth aged, his looks reminded me of my dad. I appreciated those moments when it was like my father was right there. You can see in the photo they don't look alike (and my father had put weight on since his diagnosis) but seeing Garth always reminded me of my father, and that was special to me. I suppose this means, now that Garth is gone, that last tangible connection to my father is gone as well (I mean this in a way that is different from seeing Dad in my sister's children).

As I write this and read Garth's obituary, it occurs to me that my father and I might be alike in this way: We attract into our lives people who are more flamboyant and outgoing, who are oral storytellers and uninhibited dancers, who live life to the fullest -- and allow us to be at their side to watch and listen and absorb, in great appreciation. Being with Garth was always wonderful. I'm glad we shared a meal at the back shore last summer.

I know you don't know Garth, and have only read about him briefly in my book, but I'd like to share the words from his obituary because it captures him completely, and reminds me why my father treasured this man and their friendship -- and why I feel so blessed to have known him all my life:

MUNDLE, Garth Irving 
1935 - 2019 
On Monday, January 28, Garth journeyed from this life. He died in Ottawa after suffering a massive stroke. Born in Nova Scotia to Stanley and Alice (Coulter) Mundle in 1935, Garth grew up in Pugwash and could be found there in the "yellow cabin" every summer since. Mourning his passing are his wife Dorothy Naylor; son Jim (Sandra) and daughter Carol (Jean); grandchildren Heather, Isabelle and Andre; great-grandchild Bella; brother Eldon (Janice) and sister Carolyn Cameron; the extended Mundle family; the Naylor family; and a large network of friends. Son David and grandchild Tina journeyed from this life before him. Garth was a faithful and skilled minister with many congregations in the United Church of Canada, and also served as principal of St. Stephen's College, Edmonton. He was passionate about progressive theology and social justice, delighted in music and dancing, and savoured simple pleasures such as a good hors d'oeuvre and aperitif before dinner. Approaching life with gusto, wit, and candour, he made gatherings he attended lively and thought-provoking events. Garth shared his talents and time freely, and will be greatly missed by those who knew and treasured him.