Thursday, June 30, 2011

Summer Lovin'

Growing up, I spent summer weekends roaming the shores of Lake Erie with my sister and our friends. We searched for tiny shells to make necklaces with, observed the local wildlife (mainly dead fish) and perfected the art of skipping stones along the water. I remember falling asleep at night listening to the crash of the waves on the shore and the crickets chirping outside. Back then, it was “the kind of casual, daily intimacy with nature that was simply a way of life,” says author Katrina Kenison in her book of reflections for mothers, Mitten Strings for God. Well, we all know things have changed nowadays. The reality is I’m the last person to let my kids wander freely without adult supervision. So, I have learned to re-connect with my inner child, exploring along with my children as they gather stones, search for fossils and make creations from beach clay. This summer, we will make it a point to explore parks, beaches and woods in search of fresh air, exercise and the all-important bond with Mother Nature. Just this past weekend, we took the kids to visit their grandparents and explore that very same beach that I loved as a child. The kids are never so content as they are at the beach, wading in the water, collecting rocks and soaking up the sunshine. “Our children offer us an opportunity to rediscover the marvels of nature for ourselves,” Kenison writes. “You don’t need to be a naturalist or a teacher. In fact, you don’t need to identify a single bird or flower or constellation. All you need is a willingness to go, to look, and to drink in the mystery and beauty of the world before your eyes.”

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Lost Days

One evening last week, while the boys were watching the Stanley Cup, my daughter and I decided to make some delicious peanut butter coconut squares from La Dolce Vegan. Just as I wrapped the plastic wrap over the finished squares, my knees started to ache and I felt a bit of a chill. By the time I got upstairs to lie down, I was shivering uncontrollably. For the next two days, I barely moved from my bed, suffering from nausea, fever, aches and pains. I was eventually diagnosed with a chest infection. As I started to heal, I wondered how we can find inspiration on those dreary, painful days when we are sick. It brought to mind the story of American writer Flannery O'Connor, who was diagnosed with lupus in her twenties. Faced with the same disease that had killed her father, she returned to her family farm, but she didn’t abandon her passions. She went on to complete more than two dozen short stories and two novels while raising her beloved ducks, hens, geese and exotic birds and occasionally travelling to give lectures on faith and literature. She died on August 3, 1964, at the age of 39. “In a sense sickness is a place more instructive than a long trip to Europe, and it’s always a place where there’s no company, where nobody can follow,” O’Connor said. For me, my temporary illness was a reminder of some very simple lessons. Your body speaks to you. If you don’t listen, the messages get louder. If you feel sick, chances are you need a break. Ask for help from anybody who can give it. Grab a cup of tea and curl up under the covers with a good book. Or just go to sleep. The bad days will make the good days sweeter.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Home and Fireside

I went from high school to university to work, breaking only for a couple of maternity leaves. I want to know what it’s like to be a stay-at-home mom, greeting my children as they get off the school bus at the end of the day.

For inspiration in the domestic realm, I look to my grandmother, a woman who devoted her life to caring for her husband, her children and her community. She raised four children while cooking, cleaning, crafting beautiful quilts, crocheting and baking up a storm—cinnamon rolls, date squares, tea biscuits, pies—you name it, she made it.

Bright, spunky and witty, she read voraciously—anything from Harlequin novels to poetry. She could recite poems by memory and with a passion that held a listener spellbound. She gradually discarded most of her possessions, but she always held onto her stained, worn copy of The Family Book of Best Loved Poems, given to her as a birthday present by my mother in 1960. I have the book now, and I search the titles, trying to imagine which poems she loved best. I feel certain she took inspiration from poems such as Blanche Bane Kuder’s "The Blue Bowl."

The Blue Bowl
All day I did the little things,
The little things that do not show;
I brought the kindling for the fire
I set the candles in a row,
I filled a bowl with marigolds,
The shallow bowl you love the best-
And made the house a pleasant place
Where weariness might take its rest.

The hours sped on, my eager feet
Could not keep pace with my desire.
So much to do, so little time!
I could not let my body tire;
Yet, when the coming of the night
Blotted the garden from my sight,
And on the narrow, graveled walks
Between the guarding flower stalks
I heard your step: I was not through
With services I meant for you.

You came into the quiet room
That glowed enchanted with the bloom
Of yellow flame. I saw your face,
Illumined by the firelit space,
Slowly grow still and comforted-
“It’s good to be at home,” you said.

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