Monthly Archives: March 2017

The Comfort of A Poem

Today is World Poetry Day and so I offer you a poem from Madeleine L’Engle’s book A Ring of Endless Light.  This poem brought me immense comfort during perhaps the saddest time of my life when I experienced a series of pregnancy losses.  

The earth will never be the same again
Rock, water, tree, iron, share this grief
As distant stars participate in the pain.
A candle snuffed, a falling star or leaf,
……O this particular loss
is Heaven-mourned; for if no angel cried
when this small one was tossed away as dross,
The very galaxies would have lied.
How shall we sing our love’s song now
In this strange land where all are born to die?
Each tree and leaf and star show how
The universe is part of this one cry,
Every life is noted and is cherished,
and nothing loved is ever lost or perished.

What poems have made a difference in your life? 

each tree and leaf and star……….

Other posts……

The Poetry of Boxing

Fifteen Dogs and Writing Poetry

Dancing in Shangri-La

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A New Favourite!

It was gone!  I was sad when I returned to my job at the Winnipeg Art Gallery after a holiday to find the most popular painting in our Group of Seven room was gone.

I loved Clouds by Lawren Harris. It is always a favorite with children on tours.  I usually ask kids to walk slowly around the Group of Seven exhibit room looking carefully at all the art pieces. Then I have them vote for their top two paintings.  Clouds was always a sure-fire winner. But now it was gone and had been replaced by Alfred Casson’s Morning Light. 

Morning Light- Mazinaw Lake 1968- Alfred Casson

Imagine my surprise when on my first Group of Seven tour after my holidays Morning Light was the hands down favorite of the kids just like Clouds had been. Some said Cassion’s painting seemed strangely familiar to them. It reminded one girl of a mountain she had seen on cruise in Costa Rica. Another told me there were rocks like the ones in Morning Light at her family cottage near Kenora. A boy said he’d seen cliff jumping on TV and he thought the cliffs in the painting would be fun to jump from. Another fellow pointed out the monster’s claw he could see in the cloud formation. Someone  thought the shadows on the lake and rocks looked a little scary. 
I still miss Lawren Harris’  Clouds but I’m not as sad anymore that it is gone.  Its absence and its replacement with the Casson painting means visitors at the gallery will be introduced to another great painting by a Group of Seven member; another great painting that stirs their imaginations and links them to personal memories.

Other posts……..

Love My Job

The Horizon Line

Autumn at the Art Gallery

 

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Ordinary Grace

“For the blessings of this food and these friends and our families, we thank you.” That simple table grace spoken by a young boy named Jake is the key event in William Kent Krueger’s book Ordinary Grace. Jake stutters terribly.  But when he offers to say grace at the meal following his sister’s funeral he is able to pray in front of a large group of people without stuttering once.  

Jake volunteers to pray because his father who is a pastor is getting ready to say one of his usual  long-winded theologically correct table graces and his mother who is pretty angry at God about her daughter’s death shouts, “Can’t we just have an ordinary grace?”  Her son Jake obliges. Jake’s ordinary grace brings his mother comfort. 

Saying Grace by Norman Rockwell

Although many people no longer say grace I think the ritual can be meaningful whatever your religious affiliation or even if you have none.  It acknowledges the gift of food because we know not everyone in our world can take that gift for granted. When my brother who works in the agriculture industry says a table grace he always includes a thank you to the farmers who have grown the food. 

When we lived on the Hopi Indian Reservation before traditional meals were served, a small portion of food was taken from each dish and placed in a bowl which was set on the ground just outside the door.  One of the things that action demonstrated was a willingness to share food with anyone who might pass by.

Family of artist Andries Van Bochoven Saying Grace- 1629

Saying grace provides a way to acknowledge gratitude for the food we will eat, gratitude for the people whose efforts have brought it to our table, gratitude for our relationship with those who share our table and our willingness to share our food with others.  Saying a simple grace no matter what our religious beliefs can be a meaningful and comforting ritual  just like it was for Jake’s mother in Ordinary Grace. 

By the way Ordinary Grace is a great story of  a boy coming of age in 1961. The book is suspenseful and well written. 

Other posts………..

Norman Rockwell and the Mennonite Connection

A Prayer For A Golf Tournament

A Prayer for the New Year

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I Was Stuck!

Yesterday morning it was incredibly icy here in Winnipeg!  My husband Dave left for work a couple of hours before I did and called to warn me the sidewalks were treacherous.  Was he ever right!  

I only had to walk two blocks from my house before I reached an indoor walkway that would take me almost right to my job at the art gallery.  I almost didn’t make those two initial blocks.  I had to shuffle along one foot at a time on the slick surface.  Then I reached a slanted driveway. I inched my way onto it but it had a slight incline and every time I gingerly put a foot forward I slid right back. I was stuck!  I was so scared I’d fall if I took a bigger stride forward so I just stood there.

There were some workers across the street cleaning up tree branches that had snapped off with the weight of the ice. One of the workers saw my predicament, crossed the street and offered me his arm. He walked me to the cobblestone sidewalk ahead and stood with me till I had stabilized myself by hanging onto the building beside me. I thanked him and told him what a kind gentleman he was.  

 I managed to make it to work on time only to discover one of my young colleagues hadn’t arrived because she had slipped on the ice on her way to the art gallery, had broken her ankle and was now in a hospital emergency room. I felt so sorry for her! Apparently it wasn’t only seniors like me who’d had trouble on the icy sidewalks. 

Thank goodness for that kind and courteous city worker who came to my rescue!  

Other posts…………

Will Spring Come?

Inspiration to Speed the Coming of Spring

Brrr It’s Cold

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Now I Really Want to Go to Botswana

I’ve long had an inclination to travel to Botswana.  I was a huge fan of the No.1 Ladies Detective Agency books when they first came out and fell in love with their heroine Precious Ramotswe . Precious is so imbued with kindness and serenity that it leaves the reader thinking Botswana must be a kind and peaceful place too. Author Alexander McCall Smith makes the country sound intriguing, inviting and beautiful.

On Sunday night I saw the movie United Kingdom and now I really want to go to Botswana.  The movie is an account of how the country managed to establish a strong measure of independence over the ruling British by gaining  mineral rights to diamond discoveries in the country. They also decided to end their traditional monarchy and elect their first president. If that sounds like a bit of a mundane historical story line be assured it is not because at the heart of the movie United Kingdom is the love story of Botswana’s first black  president Seretse Khama and the British white woman Ruth Williams he marries while studying in London. They face considerable pressure to end their marriage especially from politicians in neighboring South Africa who are just introducing apartheid and have made interracial marriage illegal.  But the couple perseveres, winning the respect and support of the people of Botswana. Now their son Ian is the president of Botswana. 

Knowing more about the colourful  history of the country from the movie United Kingdom makes Botswana an even more alluring destination. This post is putting my personal travel planner (my husband) on notice that Botswana might need to move up the bucket list. 

Other posts………

Sometimes You Just Need a Dose of Precious

Five Things I’ll Remember About the Movie Selma

Loving

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There are People in Provencher Who Aren’t Hateful, Unsavory and Ignorant

The people in the political riding of Provencher  are “hateful, unsavory and ignorant!”  That’s what you might think if you read the second page feature in Tuesday’s Metro newspaper.  I had a copy of the Metro handed to me as I boarded the bus early Tuesday morning. I opened it up and read the piece during my transit ride.  I found the article unsettling. It describes a video posted by Provencher member of Parliament Ted Falk on his Facebook page.  In the video Mr. Falk suggests refugees who cross the border into Canada at Emerson are taking advantage of kind-hearted Canadians. Falk calls on the Liberal government to make their stance on the issue clear.

I had watched Mr. Falk’s video prior to reading the Metro story. I thought there would have been better ways to address the concerns of his Provencher constituents in Emerson.   I wished Mr. Falk had adopted a more welcoming and open-minded tone. While expressing his opinion that additional information and a clear policy from the federal government was required in the Emerson situation, he could have also talked about the many concrete ways we can all provide practical assistance to people from war-torn countries. Mr. Falk could have reminded his constituents  that at one time most of their families had been refugees too.

The Metro writer says hundreds of people have written accolades about Mr. Falk’s video on his Facebook page and that is true. I scrolled through the nearly four hundred responses and many are written in a fairly reasonable tone. There are some that remind Mr. Falk he needs to be more compassionate. They speculate as to how Jesus might have acted towards ‘the least among us’  who are crossing the border at Emerson. There are also some comments that say very disrespectful and unkind things about Muslims, the prime minster and refugees in general. I agree with the Metro writer that having provided a platform for these kinds of comments Mr. Falk might respond to them in some way. He could  delete or moderate inappropriate comments and remind his Facebook followers that informed, rational dialogue is the path to understanding.

One line in the Metro piece stood out for me. “Sadly, Falk’s views are in tune with those held by many of his constituents.”  That line makes it seem like the people in Provencher don’t care about refugees or their plight. I know that isn’t true. To balance their reporting on the Falk video the Metro might also have published a photo of the huge sign outside Grace Mennonite Church in Steinbach that  welcomes all people as neighbours in both Arabic and English.  They might have reported on the refugee families that are currently being sponsored by groups in southeastern Manitoba or have been sponsored in the past.  I personally know of many such stories.

Last summer in the coverage leading up to the Pride Parade in Steinbach the media largely ignored the efforts of the people in southeastern Manitoba who have welcomed their LGBTQ neighbours for years and worked hard to make their communities more accepting. Instead they chose to focus on the less supportive comments and actions of local political leaders. Now they are doing the same thing with the refugee situation. 

I lived in Mr. Falk’s riding for some four decades. I know it is home to many people who are open-minded, welcoming, well-informed, thoughtful and compassionate. They need to be featured in media reports about Provencher as well in order to provide more  balanced coverage.

Other posts…….

Pride in Steinbach isn’t Something  New

Thoughts on Refugees

My Former Church and the Pope

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Help Me Choose

I want to frame a couple pictures from our trip to Newfoundland to display in our home.  Here are the ones I am considering.  Which three would you vote for? 

1.

grass-on-beach

2. loster-cove-hike-nfld

3.
lobster-traps

4. bonavista-nfld

5.  plant-at-the-arches

6.

fall-colors

7.

bird-on-rock

8.

rusty-truck-on-the-shore

9.  bathrooms nfld

10.lighthouse

11.

12.

13. 

You can see all my posts about Newfoundland here. 

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How Did He Know I’d Love It?

I wonder how he knew I’d love this article? Recently my cousin Al sent me a link to a New York Times feature he thought I would enjoy. It was a brilliantly written piece by Amy Krouse Rosenthal called You Might Want To Marry My Husband.   Amy is the mother of three young adults and the author of nearly thirty children’s books. Amy was dying of ovarian cancer when she wrote her essay. In a moving, funny and beautiful way she profiles Jason, her husband of twenty-six years. She was writing in the hope the perfect woman would read her description and want to marry Jason and make him happy after she died.
I’m so glad Al sent me the link to Amy’s piece. I hadn’t heard of Amy prior to receiving Al’s recommendation and now I’ve not only read her essay, but I’ve listened to her Ted Talk, watched a couple of her videos, ordered her memoir and been to her website where I’ve made a wish and had it granted.

My cousin Cindy and I listen to cousin Al tell a story at a family party. 

 I have several ideas why cousin Al might have recommended Amy’s piece to me.  Perhaps it is because Amy is a published children’s author and I am trying to become one too. Perhaps it is because Amy writes memoirs and many of my blog posts and newspaper columns are of the memoir variety. Maybe it is because Al thinks I’ve got a fabulous husband and figured Amy’s piece would encourage me to sing his praises in print more often.  But maybe Al sent me the link just because he thought I would enjoy reading Amy’s piece and be touched by it. I did and I was. Thanks Al.

Note: Amy Krouse Rosenthal died yesterday.

Other posts………

I Held You Before Your Mother Did

Cousins

Back Porch News

 

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What’s a Portscape?

I was absolutely delighted when I found out the Winnipeg Art Gallery would be displaying Wanda Koop’s portscapes again. Never heard of a portscape? That’s the name a lively ten year old boy created last week to describe Wanda’s intriguing series of landscapes skillfully drawn inside faces. I was giving a tour at the Winnipeg Art Gallery to grade five and six students. We had been in the Group of Seven gallery looking at landscapes. We talked about what a landscape is. Then I took the students into another gallery where we examined portraits and tried to figure out what we could learn about the people in the portraits by looking carefully at how the artist drew them. Finally we visited Wanda Koop’s View From Here exhibit. “Are these portraits or landscapes?” I asked the kids. One boy piped up enthusiastically. “They are portraits AND landscapes. We should call them portscapes.”
“That’s perfect,” I said excitedly. “Can I tell other people who come to the art gallery about your new word?”
“Sure,” he said grinning broadly. We went on to examine each of Wanda’s portscapes figuring out how she had used things in her landscapes to create facial features for each portrait.
Then I had the students create some portscapes of their own. They did a great job.

One reason I love giving tours to children at the art gallery is because every single time I learn something new from them. This week I learned about portscapes.  What are portscapes? Come to the Winnipeg Art Gallery to see Wanda Koop’s View From Here and find out!

Other posts……..

Portraits or Landscapes?

Haunted by Ghosts

Through the Eyes of A Child

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Faith ABC’s

Sometimes Christianity feels like a party we haven’t been invited to.

If we deny a burden exists or that we need help lifting it; over time that weight pressing down on us can become intolerable.

It is a shame I don’t always practice what I preach but it would be a disaster if I only preached what I practiced.

We can’t just learn by ourselves, alone out under the stars.

Love of God and love of neighbour are like the longitude and latitude for locating the purpose of life. At their intersection is where I hope to live.

Those were some thought-provoking quotes from the book Letters of Faith by David Douglas. However I found its tone a little too filled with patent religiosity and I wished it had fewer platitudes and more questions. The book is divided into twenty-six sections. Each begins with several Scripture passages and includes a story and a reflection. The stories all come from a year the author spent working as a pastor in a coal mining area in the Appalachia forty years ago. The book does give some good insight into what life was like in that time and place for many people. They had what appears to be a simplistic faith but one strong enough to carry them through very tough times. The book made me start thinking about what I might choose as the ABCs of my own faith. 

Other posts………

 I Have Fought the Good Fight

A Black and White Religion

King David Was A Rapist

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