Friday, August 20, 2010

Adventures in Fern Hollow

Last night I got to hang out with a great friend, Autumn. She has been away in Jasper all summer working and is now home for a few days before heading back to college. She penciled me in for last night and I was so glad to be able to hang out with her. Of course, my idea of fun, walking through the forest on some beautiful trails (armed with cameras and a bear banger) turned into something more like an adventure. I have to say that adventure is something that I have come to expect, especially in the company of certain people!!

We hit the trails shortly after 8:00pm last night. It was a beautiful night, a little smokey due to the forest fires burning in B.C. and a little buggy; but that's just to be expected!
We saw and ate wild raspberries.

We chased a spiky porcupine.

We listened to some grumpy hawks squabbling.

We hugged a massive tree.

We swam in a fern-filled hollow.

We watched the murky waters of the Pembina.

We saw the track left by a black bear....and tried not to step in some other "fresh" offerings he decided to leave on the path.

We enjoyed each other's company as we walked aimlessly down leafy trails.

As it turns out one of our trails came to a dead end. Instead of turning around and taking the path back where we had come from we ventured on into uncharted territory along the river bank thinking that we would soon come upon the open "camping spot" just around the bend or the next bend or maybe it's the next bend??!! Autumn called this "off-roading". I called it adventure. We felt like we were walking in the jungle or what we imagined the jungle to be like. The foliage and fallen trees were very thick and at times hard to traverse through. Autumn kept wishing for her machete, a purchase recently made in El Salvador, to cut through the thick brush. And I kept wishing for a sight of the "camping spot".

After what seemed like an eternity, probably about a mile, of off-roading on foot through the bushes, hair full of forest-type things, snags and pulls on our clothes, pokes and prickles in our feet we finally came to a spot where we could see the opening along the river bank where the camping spot was located. It was getting darker by the minute. We gracefully (ha!) jumped down from the river bank to walk the rest of the way in the mud and see the frogs scramble out of our path along the river. We survived our adventure and didn't have to stay in the middle of the spooky woods all night long with the bears and the porcupines.

What I found interesting in all of this, was that the woods were intriguing and beautiful until we felt like we were battling them and feeling a teensy bit lost. That's when the fear came and took away our eyes to see the beauty that was still all around us. Instead, the woods became threatening and full of hungry bears. The woods were the same, our perspective of them had changed. Crazy. You can draw your own life altering conclusions from that!

The evening ended with laughter, of course, and banana bread. Which is how I think every adventure with a friend should end.

Monday, August 16, 2010


A poem of Solomon...and a song by the Beatles....

There's an opportune time to do things, a right time for everything in the earth.
A right time for birth and another for death,
A right time to plant and another to reap,
A right time to kill and another to heal,
A right time to destroy and another to construct,
A right time to cry and another to laugh,
A right time to lament and another to cheer,
A right time to make love and another to abstain,
A right time to embrace and another to part,
A right time to search and another to count your losses,
A right time to hold on and another to let go,
A right time to rip out and another to mend,
A right time to shut up and another to speak up,
A right time to love and another to hate,
A right time to wage war and another to make peace.

 I was reminded of this poem from Ecclesiastes today because I felt bound by time. I had X amount of hours today to do more than my allotted amount of X was offering me. I have a list, you see, of things that I have deemed important and that I absolutely need to get done. If I don't do the things on said list I just don't know what might happen. It could be catastrophic, or so I believe. As I was laying in my bed trying to use my allotted seconds for sleep in a productive manner I could not stop thinking about time and how in the grander scheme of things why I have put so much pressure on myself to use my time to be a human doing rather than a human being. Nowhere in Solomon's musings are the "to-do" list types of things. Solomon's list is rather like a "to-be" list. He describes time as more of an intense experience to be shared and felt with others.

I tend to focus a lot of my time on the tasks that will never really cease needing attention. I don't think this is necessarily wrong it just does not lend itself to me feeling like I'm actually getting anywhere. (I think this might actually be the definition that is found beside the word insanity.) Sometimes I feel like I am wasting this precious life on things that really don't matter, which leads me to question what really does matter. My kids. My husband. My family. My neighbors. My community. People and how I treat them...that's what matters.

Sometimes I picture God just watching us go from here to there and do silly things... like going to meetings that really don't accomplish much or dusting a knick-knack for the hundredth time or checking another thing off the to-do list or playing solitaire...ALONE. He must be just shaking His head in wonderment at how we use our time. We seem to think that our time is indefinite and unquantifiable (if that is a word!!). Two of my favorite philosophers of all time, Bill and Ted, have most excellently summed up the brevity of our time in this quote, "All we are is dust in the wind, Dude." Dust. Wind. Dude.

I'm not exactly sure how to fix our time dilemma. But I think I want to have a to-be list on the same page as my to-do list. I think it might remind me to have a little more perspective on how I use my dust.

Friday, August 13, 2010

And now for something upbeat......

I bought Elle a bird book back in the spring and it has had a prominent place on the window ledge by the kitchen table ever since. Elle loves learning the names of the different birds and I have actually heard her singing the song of the white-throated sparrow. Sometimes she takes her book and her mini binoculars outside in search of the birds that she hears singing in the treetops. She told me that she would like to have a pet eagle! I'm not sure an eagle would do well in a cage in the house?! Can you imagine what you would have to feed an eagle? That is somewhere my mind does not go willingly.

I have noticed that the song birds have left our neck of the woods over the past couple of  weeks. They don't beckon me from sleep in the morning anymore. It's been so quiet in our yard, it's almost eerie. I didn't know that I would miss the warbling birdsong filling the air until it was gone. It has been troubling to me that they have disappeared. I wasn't ready for them to leave. To me songbirds are the epitome of joy. They wake in the morning and they just have to sing. It's inside them and they have to let it out. They are not trying to do be something else. They don't try to bark or moo or quack. These little songsters just give it all they got and let the world know they are there.

I have had the privilege of knowing a couple of human songbirds. They aren't singers per se but they are people that are full of joy. One of these people is my very own Mama. Songbirds love to laugh and spread a feeling of contentedness wherever they are. They are comfortable in their own skin and somehow rub that off on you when you are with them. You want to be around people like this because they seem to have a secret about life and you hope that if you keep company with them they will tell that secret to you too. I think that all of us could do with more laughter, contentment and joy in our lives. That's why these people are so attractive to us; they are somehow able to pull these things out of us. They have a gift. I also know when these people have disappeared from my life. I know when I have not had a good laugh in a long time. I know when I am feeling just out of sorts. I know when everything seems to be overwhelming. I know when I need a shot of joy. Sometimes the cure is connecting with a songbird.

Sometimes the cure is to be a songbird for someone else.
Giving joy means having joy.
Sing a song that is infectiously sparkly and invites others to sincere cheerfulness.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Lifetime Student

I love reading. I like to think that I always have. My mom said my favorite reading material as a toddler was the Sears Catalogue. I would flip through the pages and point to things asking what they were and expanding my vocabulary. I remember when I started reading chapter books like Little House on the Prairie and Anne of Green Gables and how I just couldn't put them down. Reading transported me to places outside of my time and experience. I would read long into the night, often hurriedly putting my book under my pillow and faking sleep as my parents climbed the stairs to go to bed. I still have a hard time putting a good book down. Just one more page, one more paragraph, one more sentence are guidelines that I can never seem to stick to. Chapters later I am still awake and reading.

Over the years I have read many books, both fiction and non-fiction. Reading books has been a source of pleasure, knowledge, wisdom, and challenge in my life. Without reading I would never have had the desire to write. One of the regrets of my early adulthood is that I didn't go to university after I had finished three years of bible college. I didn't really know what I wanted to study and pour my energy into so I opted to work and pursue some rock star dreams. The desire to learn and be challenged was inside of me then and I have to say even more so now. Reading has given me an education that has been tailored for me. I love reading books that challenge my small ideas and mindsets. I love reading books that awaken my passion for people and causes. I love reading books that call me to something more than what I currently limit myself to. I love reading books that make me think about faith and God in a new light. I love reading books that teach me about places that I have never been. I love reading books that help me learn about different cultures and history. Reading has expanded my knowledge as well as my awareness of the things that I have yet to discover, my ignorance.  My greatest educator has been found between the covers of a book at the fraction of the cost of formal education.

Reading has not offered me a job, a degree, or letters behind my name, but it has enhanced the person that I am becoming. Many people leave university and never again crack the spine on a book. This is so sad to me. Cramming books down people's throats because they need to read them for an assignment or a course does not instill a love of learning or knowledge. I read something recently that promoted the idea that leaders are readers. I think about the kind of person that I want to follow and they are people who don't necessarily have all the right answers but who are asking the right questions. As I alluded to previously, knowledge isn't about being right or having concrete answers but about realizing that there are still things to learn and to educate yourself about, the things that you are ignorant about.

I am assuming, that because you are reading this blog right now that you value reading and learning. On this assumption, I would like to challenge you to read books, blogs, newspapers (anything you can get your hands on) that expands your knowledge and makes you ask questions. Become a lifetime student, knowing that there will always be something else out there to discover. Get a library card; it's unlimited access to thousands of books with little cost. Promote reading to children, it's time well invested on the leaders of the future.

Question? What book has influenced you the most and in what way?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


Spunk, get-up-and-go, oommfff, energizer bunny, dynamo, vigor, gusto, zest, verve, pep, live wire, and fervor are all words that are, to me, synonymous with energy. Many of you know that I have two children, Elle and Coen. This word, energy, applies to both of them but in particular to child number two. Coen is two and a half years old and is full of life. The following words have been said about Coen upon observation or from having spent any length of time in the same room with him; rambunctious, monkey, hyper, handful, wiggly, and does he ever sit still?

Coen loves to be where the action is and if there is a dull moment he will fill it up with some kind of craziness. He giggles and tickles and runs very fast on two small legs. He throws things and loves to get into the honey when he thinks that no one will find "his royal stickiness". He is an amateur escape artist and can con anyone into giving him things laden with sugar, his drug of choice. And then he smiles and wants to cuddle melting your heart into a big puddle of goo (he gets that from his Dad). Five seconds later though he starts up with the mischief all over again (he gets that from his Dad too!). This is just how he is and I love him to bits. The downside is that he really seems to wear me out. I sometimes wish that his energy could recharge mine somehow.

Everything about life requires energy. Relationships, jobs, studying, parenting, cleaning the toilet, playing Bocce ball, learning Japanese, riding a unicycle, pulling weeds, climbing Mt. Everest, and writing a blog late at night, all require that some effort on our part is exerted. I don't know about you, but when I have completed a task that required a lot of energy I sometimes like to stand back and just look at it for a bit, even if it's only an abstract observation in my own mind. I like to think about how the work that went into whatever I was trying to accomplish was worth it. I like to think about how that work can or will affect others around me. I love it when I can look at my effort and feel like I did my best. There is a sense of satisfaction in energy well used.

The flip side of this happy coin is the fact that sometimes the energy we put into things drains us. I know that I have a lot harder time seeing the value in things that make me feel like I would rather just stay in bed! Sometimes there is not a whole lot of immediate return on the energy that we spend. This is called investment. The return is far into the future, if ever. Yet these uphill battles and struggles are worthy pursuits because they require us to persevere and to be faithful even when there doesn't seem to be an end to them or a reward. Maybe the reward for our investment is not our own, but someone else's. I know that as I parent my monkey, Coen, the energy that he consumes from me, is my investment in who he becomes. As much as he wears me out now and keeps me on my toes, I know that every moment I spend with him will shape my little world-changer and it's worth it!