Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Ex Ca Vation

When the excavators called yesterday, the man of the house began leaping around with glee. Literally. It begins. . . He took our two eldest out to see "the big shovel," and they came back muddy and excited. Apparently they crawled down into one of the bigger stump holes and began making mud balls. (Their little rubber boots, weighed down by a few extra pounds-worth of mud, have been confined the bottom steps where they will remain.) The lot is now stumped, the culvert is in, and the base rock for the driveway has been laid. "I drove the car right in!" Aidan was so pleased to report. Next week the slab will be poured for the garage. And then. . . we build.

Siblings: Just a good picture I wanted to share

Saturday, June 24, 2006

He knew there would be joy. . .

I have been my mother's daughter for twenty-five of her fifty years. The moment God chose to form me and place me into my mother's care, He knew there would be joy. He knit my body together. He knit my life together. And He knew it would all be joy. He knew that the woman to whom He was sending me was both a warrior, and a wise-woman: Bold and strong, yet tender enough to ease any hurt. He knew that under her care, a vibrantly loving and happy family would be established. And He gave me to her. For that, among so many other things, I will sing Him praises until the day I die.

Yesterday, we honoured my mother. At her home, surrounded by the people she loves most, her fifty years were celebrated. I have no pictures. I had not the presence of mind to take any. But I have words. And I can only try to capture the warmth and meaning of the evening:

My mother. Dark blond hair streaked with grey, pulled into a twist because her daughter wanted to make her look beautiful. "Do my eyes for me?" she had asked; her makeup spread out before her. And so her daughter did. With care. So green. Her eyes are so green. She looked lovely. But nervous. An excited kind of nervous. The nervousness borne of a woman who is unused to being showered with gifts and attention. But she is worthy. Worthy. The Gardens. Lush and inviting. Green on green. Textures and scents commingling. Lovingly laboured over for years by two women. Determined to create a haven from bare, parched soil. Achieved. Sun umbrellas opened. Lanterns strung. Purples, greens and blues. Colourful table clothes rustling in the breeze. Waiting. The people. Young and old. Making a staggered entrance by twos and threes. Laden: With gifts and food. Laden: With smiles, hugs and laughter. Laden: With Histories that have been deeply entwined with my mother's. Some still interacting closely with her. A part of the inner, bustlingly busy circuit of her daily life. Some now pushed onto the periphery by time and circumstance. Few with fresh hides, unmarred by life's many pains. Most scarred. Having come to her with dark sufferings. Having battled through them with her. But all bearing her mark. All here to honour her. The atmosphere. Right. So right. Ease and comfort. No pretense, just realness. Light dims. Lanterns are lit: Globes of light suspended against the deepening blue of the sky. Candles flicker and glow from every table. Torches stand sentry. Warding off both darkness and biting pests. Arms encircle all of my children. Here, I am not their only parent. Music plays. From an elaborate nest of computers, amps and wires. A teenage-boy's concoction. My brother. He has exposed his soft underbelly yet again. His offering for the evening: Music. Old favourites drift on the air. Lady in Red. The Twist. MoonDance. . . My daughter dances and giggles. Holding hands with her pseudo-aunt, she is flushed with joy as her little feet move. We are her captive audience. People are clustered all over the yard. Their faces reflect a yellow glow. They are talking. Really talking. Enjoying one another. They linger. No one wants to go. A panorama spread out before me. I take it in. There is a sense that washes over me, and catches in my throat: overwhelming thankfulness. I want to cry. This is my life. This night embodies all of the blessings contained in my twenty-five years. And at the heart of it all is my mother and the God she serves. Back to my mother. The night finally grows quiet. Candles blown out. One by one. But my mother, she is still glowing. She catches me up in a long, strong hug. And I know what she is trying to tell me. And I don't want her to say it aloud. There is no need. But she tells me anyway. "Thank you," she repeats over and over into my ear. "I am so blessed by you..." No mom. It is not time for you to give. Half of your life has been been spent giving to me. Not tonight. Hear me. Mother. I am the one who is blessed be you.

She is near to tears. She is happy.
Words from friends:
"...strength, courage with deep faith ... generous."

"If there is one thing that sticks with me: compassion. And grace. You have helped me time and time again to love ... I love you."

"We apprecate your honesty, your faithful support and encouragement ..."

" you have been a cherished friend..."

"...ready with a hug when I needed it and a 'kick in the pants' when I needed it... I'm happy to call you dear sister."

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

In the name of the Hundred-Acre Woods

We went on a family romp through our property on Saturday. The beauty of the trees never gets old. With the house not yet built, you get an unfettered view of the enormity of some of the trees. Standing in the middle of the clearing, they encircle you like a wall-- gently rustling and groaning in the wind.

In my bug-evading restlessness, I happened upon a sad looking little twig sprouting out of the earth. It had a piece of yellow caution taped wrapped tightly around it. I called out to Aidan; "What is the story behind this little twig?" And as he explained, it came back to me. This twig was the fallen prey of a 3-year old's "hunting" expedition.
It is a little unnerving how receptive children are to the things they hear and see. One year ago, Caelah's favourite movie was Pooh's Heffalump Movie. In it, little Roo heads out to capture a Heffalump. (For those who don't speak in Pooh dialect: Heffalump means stuffed elephant creature.) This must have been playing through Caelah's little mind when Aidan and I took her out to the forest to mark off the trees we wanted to spare in the clear-cut. As we adults were carefully selecting and taping off trees, unbeknownst to us, our little hunter was stocking her prey. We heard her warrior cry ring out behind us; "In the name of the Hundred-Acre Woods I CAPTURE YOU!" And she fell upon a hapless twig, binding it tightly with her "lasso."

These are precious moments. And I had almost forgotten this one. I had to stumble upon it, and dredge up the memory from the recesses of my cluttered mind. This post will stand as a testament to this one small but dear happening that would otherwise fade and be forgotten.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Incompatible Wants

You can't have your cake
& eat it too.

I have been harbouring incompatible wants of late. Metaphorically speaking, I have been standing on the edge of a cliff this past year, giving myself a pep talk. Trying to convince myself to let go and jump into unknown territory. To divest myself of my city portfolio, so to speak, and give the house-in-the-country idea full mental funding. And the pep talk was working. I was, and remain, poised and ready to jump. But why do cozy alternatives keep appearing? I'm staring at the water below, but joining me here on the cliff edge are less uncomfortable and much more familiar prospects.

An aggravating demonstration of how bad timing can be: Three of my dearest friends are weeks away from moving into the downtown core just as we are preparing to leave it. Life downtown has been very good to Aidan and I these past five years. But, from 9 to 5, when Aidan it trapped behind his desk, I have experienced it with the tentativeness of one who is uncomfortable alone. Trips to the park, or the mall; lunching in the Market or sipping coffee in a shop; exploring new things, and re-visiting old ones. These things are best done with someone at your side to embolden you and add vibrancy to the experience with fresh perspectives and companionable banter. Otherwise, there is a hesitancy that creeps in. An awareness of how awkward it is to be alone in a sea of people.

By summer's end, downtown Ottawa will suddenly seem a little less lonely. I will have my little sister living below me; my childhood buddy just down the street, and one of my dearest friends living in an apartment in the Market. I am flooded with a tide of happy possibilities: family dinners in the backyard, movie nights, and lots of hysterical laughter, (which tends to be bred in circumstances involving concentrated levels of estrogen). How can I leave now?

These are the ramblings of a young woman who likes to be where the action is. I always have. I used to feel hollow after a big family holiday, when the energy died, and all was quiet again. I still rush out of movie theaters to avoid the disquiet that arises in me at the sight of all of those empty seat, once occupied. I feel unsettled at night when the everyone in the world seems to be sleeping but me, and I yearn for the sound of a car engine.

I have much to learn: About learning to be content on the periphery; About the futility of always trying to sprint when that pace cannot be sustained; And about stopping to taste the fullness of my life in even it's most quiet and solitary moments. Bite by bite.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Gnome Emancipation

I scored a box full of gardening magazines at a garage sale last weekend. My original intent was to rip them to pieces for arts & crafts purposes. I was not expecting them to be a source of interest, let alone humour! And yet, I stumbled, (how could I not, when a red-capped gnome leered out from the pages at me), upon the following article: Small People, Big Trouble. It read; "Garden gnomes . . . In France these small ceramic figurines are being stolen only to reappear in unexpected places: teetering on cliffs, stranded on motorways, even huddled aboard rafts on lakes. They are victims of an ongoing cultural war started by Le Front de Liberation des Mains Jardin (FLNJ)." The leader of the FLNJ argues that they are fighting against bad taste, "as embodied by the garden gnome of the proletariat household." Sooooo funny!
This called to mind another scourge of tackiness found closer to home . . . yes, the oft-mentioned cowboy cutouts. Judge for yourself:Horrible. Really.
So I have been thinking. Shall we launch a new Movement? CCGWM: Cowboy Cutouts Go West Movement. We'll don balaclavas, and raid the gardens of Kinburn. We will steal away the offending cowpeople. Pack em' up, and ship them out to a cactus-strewn State in the american Mid-West. I mean, what are we playing at? Who ever heard of an Ottawa cowboy anyway? Let us set them free. Who's with me?

Friday, June 02, 2006

Country Neighbours Revisited: Sometimes they tell on you...

Just In: Sometimes, when you build a raging bon fire with flames that lick upwards of twenty feet, you get told on. Yesterday evening, while visiting another country home, we found out the hard way that for every ten neighbours who look out for your best interests, one is bound to be looking a little too closely. And it's not with your best interests in mind. There is a term for people like this: busy-bodies.

A group of us had congregated for an end-of-the-year Bible Study send-off. A grill, a porch swing, a frisbee, soft grass, a zillion bugs: good fun.

Then came the fire. Well, fire(s). The first was humbly build near the driveway, giving off a toasty glow. With beer and marshmellows in hand, we gathered 'round and settled in for a good time of sharing our feelings. But some among our group just couldn't help but notice the very large pile of dry wood piled high in the far corner of the yard. It seemed to beckon them. Taunting them: That's no fire! Light ME up! So they did.

Hot.Very. I felt like I was being slowly cooked alive. I'm sure the cop who came up the drive shortly thereafter felt the it's warmth. He gave the host of the party a verbal hand-slapping in highly officious tones, and warned that the fire brigade was on it's way. As it turns out, a neighbour, or passer-by, was "concerned" about the fire, and made the call. Maybe they really did think the house was on fire, and I am being a bit cynical. It's just that the house is visible from the road, and perhaps a quick peek in the yard would have been appropriate before making the call . . . they would have been greeted by some docile RP's drinking beer, and a 3-year old eating marshmellows. Anyways, no fines. Just a good story. And a GOOD fire.

Oh, and a funny little exchange to share:
Cop: "So, really, what is the occasion?"
Host:"Oh, we are just having an end-of-the-year bible study barbeque."
Cop: "A bible study? And you're drinking beer?"
Host: "Ya, we're ok with that sort of thing. . . and we're Dutch."