Gratitude

Sit with thoughts. Thoughts of gratitude for family and friends. Recall acts of kindness, selfless actions, impromptu messages, coffee dates and hugs. Surrender to memories. They are gifts. Heal, create, learn. Travel through the pages of a book. Be grateful for writers, artists, and musicians. They speak to our silence.

Dare to smile.

As vision softens, notice how light bends through glass at precisely seven o’clock. Take a walk. Pray to the fullness of joy, the cluster of daffodils, shy as bonnets bow to earth. Look up. See a child’s paper heart on a windowsill. The world is filled with tiny miracles.

Turn to thoughts of health care and front-line workers: honourable warriors united amidst a global pandemic. We see you. Hearts of gratitude, forever, sincerely, thank you.

x

Simple Spaces

Sunshine, simple moments, coffee. What more could one wish for?

Sunday sharing of simple spaces.

A fresh coat of Benjamin Moore, Winter White in the entrance way. This is my new go to white. Marshmallow with a soft mouse grey undertone. Just envision a snowy day. The random leaning of a word print and the snip of an errant branch from a rambling shrub rose, grace the refreshed space.

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The simple life. Sunday, sunshine, and dahlias. Freshly picked and left at the backdoor. A  gesture of friendship.

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Simple Sundays.

 

A Gentleman

“Grandfather, Great Spirit,

Once more behold me on earth and lean to hear my feeble voice.”

~Black Elk

It wasn’t a fancy car but it was reliable. My Grandfather drove an aging Valiant Wayfarer utility wagon. This was in keeping with his humble style. A simple man, my grandfather had his own brand of street style. An aura of authenticity hovered over him. I imagine that it pleased him to note that the Valiant was manufactured in Australia.

A plaid wool blanket was folded across the Valiant’s back seat. This gentle touch offered soft comfort for a snuffling Boxer named Mitzi. In the winter months it provided warmth from the chill. Along the road of life, Mitzi and Grandfather traveled as true companions.

I recall Grandfather tidy in a crisp white shirt, sleeves rolled to the forearm. Look again and you’d glimpse a tattoo; the lower half of a mermaid’s fin. Overtop of his shirt, he wore leather- tabbed suspenders. They attached to buttons hidden under the waistband of his pressed woolen pants. His low boots appeared oiled. The leather had the sheen of rubbed chestnuts. A copper bracelet encircled his right wrist. He believed that the power of this element bewitched and tamed the demon called arthritis.

Understand, my grandfather needed the full use of his hands. They were his tools. An oiler by trade, he knew the most intimate parts of a boiler’s engine. His intuition understood every hiss, puff, and pause of machinery. His strong hands worked the land. Muscled arms heaved soil, necessary to build shelter for family. Born on the land, he was a descendent of carters and farmers.

My grandfather was a gentleman in more ways than one. A trademark felt fedora graced his head. This was the only fashionable touch of formal style he held to. It recalled a time of common etiquette and classy formality. He practiced simple courtesies such as opening doors for women. When a lady entered the room, he stood and removed his hat.

When I learned to drive a car, we would meet in the country. Grandfather had a precious sister that he visited each week. It was their ritual yet they made room for me.

Together we’d cruise in the Valiant. His favourite spot was a nearby provincial park. Gravel crunched under tires as the car wound along the rough roads. Finally, Grandfather would park the Valiant in a clearing. “Time for some fresh air,” he’d say. As we walked into the forest, my grandfather would pause to point out the trees.

“That’s a cypress. Notice the small, woody cones,” or whisper, “Look up. Find the tallest tree. Over there.” He’d stand stone still while my eyes followed skyward from the point of his finger. “There’s an eagle’s nest in that fir tree.”

When our time together ended, grandfather walked to my parent’s car and opened the driver’s door. He waited as I settled behind the wheel.

“Drive carefully,” he’d caution. “I’ll go on ahead. Follow me along the highway. I’ll lead you back to the turn off and then be on my way home.”

The dark two- lane highway was dangerous to drive. Evergreens rustled and swayed. Sometimes, I’d lag behind in speed and when that happened, he’d pull over to the shoulder of the road and wait for my car to catch up.

Up ahead, I’d see my grandfather’s car stopped and waiting. The car’s lights shone upon the Valiant. A man wearing a fedora stood tall. As I passed by, my grandfather doffed his fedora. It was our signal. We could both carry on into the night and find our way home.

A staunch fighter for worker’s rights and health care for all, he believed in bettering community. As a younger man, he rode the train from Alberta to the West Coast. At the city’s terminal station, he stood strong with the other unemployed and desperate men. Beat up and ordered to leave town, the men stood stronger together. Those were the meanest years of the Great Depression. He took whatever work he could find.

A loyalty to Queen and a new country shaped his nationalist spirit. One World War had been enough for his scarred body and gentle mind. In search of family and the opportunity to own land, he emigrated from England to Canada. The familiar grassy hillsides and vast farmlands would become a memory. His tender heart coveted memories of childhood and family left.

It was the tilt of his head that I recall. The way in which it tipped ever so slightly left. It was as if he had purposely paused a beat in time or stalled the moment. I sensed he felt the need to fully appreciate whatever was before him. Perhaps he knew too well how quickly moments vanish. A shy smile and twinkling eyes lent him humble, boyish charm.

This unassuming man possessed a gentle spirit and a watchful eye. At certain times in our life, he suddenly appeared. I believe he sensed the need to connect and guide. In those moments we exchanged few words. It wasn’t necessary. He was loyal and protective.

To me, he was known as grandfather. In his presence I felt the buzz from the purest magic, sent forth by an unseen hand. The magic came from a place beyond reason and beyond us. It felt real and true. In youth, I did not appreciate the gifts he gave me. They weren’t material in form, yet they were significant. These invisible gifts shaped me into the woman I have become. When I forget who I am, I close my eyes and remember.

Occasionally I drive along the stretch of highway that we used to travel. Whenever I do, I think of him. The winding road is now straight. Two lanes of highway became four. The ancient trees that rustled in the darkness are gone, long ago clear-cut. Behold an expansive housing development that continues for miles. Now, endless light shines from a stretch of apartment windows, illuminates the darkness.

Up ahead I see him. He is patiently waiting. Passing by, he tips his hat.

We wonder if the smallest actions matter. They do.

 

 

 

 

 

Retrospection

My lately~ has been retrospective; maybe you can relate. This morning I attacked the basement, cleaning and placing loose photos and memories into their corresponding scrapbooks with hope that one day these bits of memory will be meaningful for family. I came across a memoir of sorts, once tossed into a box, given to me by a much missed “aunt.” In it: a family’s story,the lives and loves of a family line.
It was handed to me as the keeper of sorts, in the hope that one day I would share these stories with my own children. I was too young to appreciate the message then. Instead of cleaning I opened the binder and read. What struck me was the constant thread of hope; that even in difficult circumstances, family hung on- together. This family’s story rode through tough times, loss brought them closer and their lives grew richer. They reached out, included one another, always for their children, and valued time with each other. Their circle grew stronger.
More than anything I have sought to hold family close. My wish is that one day, family will be cleaning up their basements and pick up a binder or memory box. I hope they read the stories of family or touch the items, hold to hope and love. May the message come to them at just the right moment; give them reason to pause and remember, there is

nothing that love can’t conquer.

On Being Thankful

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This weekend is the Canadian Thanksgiving; another opportunity to pause and remember all the blessings in my life. First, to family and friends. Even apart you stay an important part of a life story. I raise the first glass of Pinot Grigio to you!
There is my dear one; an excellent athlete and a gentle spirit. One day you will understand that the world doesn’t care about whether you run the 8 minute mile; rather that you kept trying to improve yourself on the track of life. (An aside rant- One day a curriculum will question the standards of a system that fails a child who runs a mile in 12 minutes! Both will be thankful for the lessons learned. Keep trying to improve; in the big picture that is all that matters.)
To my kids; you make me proud of who you are and who you will continue to evolve into. You stand up for right; you care about others, you are kind. We raised you well.
To my family; thank you for being there. Kind of like that 12 minute mile. We limp along, moving forward; sometimes we struggle through to strengthen our hearts. We circle the wagons when one of us falls off. Everyone needs to belong to something and someone’s clan!
To friends~ I’m grateful for each of you. Your laughter, stories and your mischief reminds me that together we are all better people. We enrich one another.
Raise a toast to the laughter, the fun, the struggles, the tears, the joys and the words; all moments to treasure. I wish you a gorgeous day with those you love and care for and I thank you for sharing and caring in my life.
x

Wise Women’s Club

The aroma drifts from the restaurant’s kitchen, teasing all who enter. Encircling, enticing, enveloping, the aroma begs us, sit for a spell. Coffee poured into waiting cups, chatter and laughter bubble forth filling empty souls. Who knew something so simple held such power.

They wait for me in the booth. We embrace, members of a club.  The Wise Women. Well, so much wiser than we were once upon a time before we grew up. Before the littlest moments captured our attention. Our fingers lace around warm cups. We smile; we share our secrets and fears.

We notice little moments now that we’ve matured, like the ladybug drinking the water droplet after the sprinkler’s mist. The golden rim of a child’s greenest eye. We wonder who the government’s new strategist is, chuckle at the lack of strategy. Call us, we muse. We share stories of children, aging parents, trips we’ll take, books we’ve read, journeys we’re on.

My treasured friends, long-standing members of an informal circle of women that joined hands years ago. Once upon a time, we chased our children’s joy, earned our degrees, worked full-time, worked in and worked out. One day, just like that, the years flew by us.

We can’t save the world, some days we only save each other. Aware of each member’s weakest heart spot, we probe gently, cautiously choosing wise words, affirming worth.  We’ve all shivered in grief. My friend turns and asks,

“Will you have regrets?”

“No,” I reply, “no amount of money will fix it or make me happier.”

It’s never about money; it’s always about love for another. At least that’s how it rolls for us.

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We stand, gather our bills, head over to pay the cashier. We embrace, already awaiting the next time. The Wise Women’s Club adjourns.

 

Gratitude

Beauty

Gratitude. Years ago a thoughtful neighbour brought me a clump of peony roots, dug from her colourful garden, divided for another.  On a walk, I pause to admire the show of beauty blooming so splendidly in her garden.  My eyes covet the peonies, the genus Paeonia, buds wrapped tight, stalks gently holding the shy, unfurling blooms.  Some garnet, pink, and as if this isn’t enough beauty to behold, two weeks later, the white flowers show, shining through the dark night.

On the cusp of autumn, she placed three small bundles at the doorstep. They patiently wait, still, wrapped in brown paper, tied with twine, for me to discover.   Cradling the bundles, I take them to my garden, gently hand them to the earth.  Planting the woody clumps into the soil, I wonder at the magic these simple bundles of wood and roots would conjure.  Seasons changed, the little woody clumps slept snug underneath an earthen blanket.

The following spring the roots anchor, stalks push through the soil’s surface, evolving into small bushes covered with compound, deeply lobed leaves. Three garnet peonies bloom on one of the bushes. Two weeks later, the second bloom opens to reveal the purest white petals. Years later, these small clumps have mothered five beautiful bushes.

Gorgeousness. Some believe peony compounds have the power to heal.  Inhale their fragrance, touch the soft petals with a finger tip, breathe in as your heartbeat slows under this intoxicating spell.  I wonder at such beauty.