Give Thanks- Always

Today, in a moody late winter day, we have had ice and overcast skies, puddles of melting snow and brilliant sun.

But for our little town of 1000, it has been a tragic day. Blair’s Barbershop has burned to the ground. The people above the shop have lost their home.

While the details will come out in the news in the next several days, my eyes tear up. Blair had one of the longest, if not THE longest running business in town… 45+ years.  His shop was a cozy place. Small, smoky from the woodstove and the lingering scent of customers, filled with memorabilia, deer antlers, antique toys and more. It was a landmark.

And as I write, it is being torn down, smouldering, stinking. Charred, rippled, century old beams- some of which are still in one piece- are toppling to the backhoe that sits in a narrow lane by the post office. It barely has room to swing around. I see the BLAIR’S BARBERSHOP sign in blue lettering get crunched. The sun is bright and people stand around in winter coats, but no toques or mittens.

Blair’s Barbershop shared an old stone wall with Stedman’s Department Store. That wall, and the valiant efforts of our local volunteer fire team, have saved Stedman’s. And the brick post office beside it. The post office is closed indefinitely due to smoke. The department store must also be.

I spoke to Giles, Stedman’s soon-to-retire owner, and he said, “You never know what you’ll wake up to, do you?” He is thankful. But he immediately thinks of Blair.

Moments before, I crossed the street under police direction to go to FoodMart to get some of life’s essentials. I saw Blair coming the opposite way.

An OPP officer was leading him, almost supporting him. Blair is a man in shock, and I don’t think he even saw me. I feel nothing but sorrow for the man. He was alone when I saw him, and I felt grateful for the officer who was doing his duty with dignity. Blair’s entire life’s work and efforts and memories have gone to flame in a matter of hours, minutes even. Heartbreaking. Nothing will ever replace it.

I could have taken photos today, but it didn’t seem right. Even though the sidewalks had many people around, it was quiet, hushed almost. The cracking of timbers reverberating off the buildings across the street. It didn’t seem right to freeze such a moment in time into a still-life.

Ironically, there is a funeral home within a stone’s throw of the barbershop- basically  at the back door.  There was a funeral today. Everyone dressed in black. Exiting the funeral as the burned building is taken out. Parking is full on both sides of the street, some on snow banks. Traffic is moving in slow motion as this is also the detour route around Main Street.

Life is full of twists and turns that would probably overwhelm us if we saw them in advance. You never know what you’ll wake up to. So give thanks. Give thanks that you woke up. Give thanks for all the good in the world.  Give thanks- always.

 

Poem to the One I Love

I wrote this to my husband, who travels extensively for work. We met for dinner at a restaurant, as he was going through town on his way from Point A to Point B.

I noticed him watching me a lot as we ate, but he did not say what he was thinking. So I asked him…

This poem came to me on the drive home, and into the evening, so I thought I would share it here.

POEM TO THE ONE I LOVE

What do you think when you look at me?

I asked.

So now I ask myself:

What do I think when I look at you?

I see a healthy, clean, pleasant face.

Neatly trimmed hair around thin, refined lips.

I see a nose that moves slightly when you talk.

And eyes, clear blue eyes, like

A bright blue day-

With a few clouds scudding past.

I see wrinkles and crinkles of years

Of smiles by your eyes. I love those lines.

I see your brow, smoothing out

As we eat and talk.

I see a face more familiar than my own.

For who has gazed upon their own face

In conversation, in concentration, or at rest?

When I look at your face

I see love.

                                ~Brenda Visser, 2016

Happy Early Valentine’s Day Everyone!

Card- Love Blossoms 3

 

 

 

 

 

A Gardener’s View

I love June!

Here are a few photos of gardens I have been tending. My own, and my friend Pat’s . She and her husband have been on a hiking trek in Europe (see her blog http://www.patanddanmakingtracks.com), and I have had the privilege of tending to the flower beds, as the birds serenaded me in the dappled shade. Enjoy!

Peony
Paeonia
Iris
Papaver
Scabiosa
Baptisia australis
Iris by the St. Lawrence

DSC08945

DSC08948

DSC08953

Columbine

DSC08987

Allium

DSC09001

Rhododendron

DSC09005

Hosta
Trollius

Making Tracks

Hey Everyone,

It’s been awhile since I’ve made a decent post here, so meanwhile I thought I would link you up to an adventure my friends Pat & Dan have been having in Spain as they walk the Camino Pilgrim Trail. Pat was able to make almost daily blog posts, on top of walking 20km+ a day! (An inspiration, or what?)

Beautiful scenery, how to take care of blisters, and friendships around the world!

Check out their site:

http://www.patanddanmakingtracks.com

(And just because I love poppies as much as Pat does, I have taken the liberty of posting one of her Spain photos here… Thanks Pat!🙂 )

Pat's poppies, Spain

Moods of the Sky

I love the sky.

I love the backdrop it provides for our lowly activities, like birdwatching, and smiling.

Canadian Geese, Eastern Ontario
Canadian Geese, Eastern Ontario
Sky 3
The sky reflected on the van in this photo of my daughters

I love how picturesque and pastoral the sky can be.

Contentment- but is that the beginning of storm clouds?
Contentment- but is that the beginning of storm clouds?

I love the mystery of the night sky,

Moon over fields and brush, Leeds & Grenville, ON
Moon over fields and brush, Leeds & Grenville, ON

and the surprises that it showcases.

Rainbow, Leeds & Grenville, ON
Rainbow, Leeds & Grenville, ON

I love the drama.

Technicolour Sky over the Confederation Bridge going onto Prince Edward Island
Technicolour Sky over the Confederation Bridge going onto Prince Edward Island

I love the storms.

A story builds over the TransCanada in Northern New Brunswick
A storm builds over the TransCanada HIghway in Northern New Brunswick

 

Clouds building over farm, Leeds & Grenville County, ON
Clouds building over farm, Leeds & Grenville County, ON

 

Storm Brewing, Leeds & Grenville County, ON
Storm Brewing, Leeds & Grenville County, ON

I love the boldness.

View from my deck
View from my deck

And at the end of the day, I really love the serenity.

Sun over the St. Lawrence, Riviere du Loup, PQ
Sun over the St. Lawrence, Riviere du Loup, PQ

 

Soothing Bay of Fundy Sunset
Soothing Bay of Fundy Sunset, Nova Scotia

 

 Calm Bay of Fundy Sky
Calm Bay of Fundy Sky, Nova Scotia

I once read about a woman who survived World War II in a prison cell by looking at the sliver of sky she could see between the bars. When the war was over, she said the sky kept her alive. Gave her hope.

I believe her.

It gives me hope too.

 

Ice & Snow & Winter Blues

It is barely into January, just past Christmas, and already I am longing for spring and green things and eating fresh from the garden.

Fall 2013 001

Like much of North America, we had a very cold, snowy December. Much colder and snowier than the previous couple of winters. And ice. The big ice storm that crippled Toronto and other places. Today, a flash freeze warning because after the chinook-like above 0*C temperatures and high winds last night, we are headed back into a deep freeze tonight. The kids didn’t have to go to school, but I had to go to work. It was hard to get going in the dark morning.

At work, the roof is leaking and plaster is falling off the ceiling. Lots of excitement. Which I came home to as well. Water leaking in the kitchen because the ice dammed up under the shingles on our 100-year-old-plus saltbox addition. Thankfully, at work, there were a lot of capable volunteers around to work on a solution. And thankfully, at home, my husband is not afraid of hard work, and scooped off sheets of hard-packed snowice.

So what to do to chase the winter blues?

I tend to work on a lot of creative projects, full of colour.

I sew frilly aprons.

Frilly Apron

I make cards.

Card

I crochet. (See another post- Crocheting Dutch Doilies).

The pattern for this can be found at http://solgrim.blogspot.ca/2013/04/flowers-in-snow-pattern-in-english.html
Flowers in the Snow- I found the pattern for this Norwegian afghan online (http://solgrim.blogspot.ca/2013/04/flowers-in-snow-pattern-in-english.html).
I need 192 medallions before I can piece it all together. Right now, I have 102…

I also paint and renovate.

(You really don’t want to see photos of that— you know the saying–  sometimes things get worse before they get better…)

My teenagers are really into real fruit smoothies, and that’s all they want for breakfast lately, so I oblige. No mother ever said no to healthy eating (at least, I hope not!). Lots of colour & nutrients there. A great little pick-me-up during porridge season.

I also pore (pour, poor ?) over seed catalogues, carefully selecting this summer’s crops. (My favourite company is Vesey’s in Prince Edward Island). I love the colour of food I can grow in my own backyard!

And doing all this can help me forget a little the stress of winter, and maybe even make me look forward to winter come next fall. (Maybe).

What do you do to combat the winter blues?

John’s Positive Pipe Organ

My father grew up in the Netherlands, and as a young boy was impressed by the pipe organ he heard in church. That impression never left him. Organs became his hobby, and my childhood was full of organ music.

I remember Dad reading the Diapason magazine, studying it, really, as my brothers played with Lego around his feet.

He taught me to play chess, while pipe organs from Europe played from vinyl records. A lot of times, it was Johann Sebastian Bach.

Apparently, I was the referee before I even learned how to play the game. Dad is on the left. Sunday afternoon was the only time Dad had for chess games, and most likely there was organ music playing.

I would come home from a stressful day in high school, and Dad would be home from work, alone, eating his jam sandwich, with pipe organ music belting out of the stereo. I didn’t necessarily smile, but he sure did. I liked it. It was such a switch from the day-to-day grind of teenage hormones and insecurities. It meant home.

Often times, Dad would wake us up on weekends with his playing.

Along the way, I attended pipe organ concerts along the French  or the South Shores of Nova Scotia.

One of the most remarkable feats was when he acquired a complete pipe organ that was sitting abandoned in someone’s barn. It came to us in thousands of pieces, like a giant 3-D jigsaw puzzle. Dad patiently reconstructed it all, even making way for its soaring soft pipes by cutting into the empty barn loft of our century barn. He eventually sold it, and it is now in someone’s home.

He built a clavichord, a pretty little instrument. Again, a pretty neat accomplishment.

And his latest feat was the building of a small, living-room size pipe organ. It is entirely, painstakingly, built from wood, pipes and all. Some of it recycled wood, and all of it carefully chosen.

The organ is showcased here, in a 10 minute interview, via the link below. Take a look!

http://youtu.be/wZ7fx7zrj4g

The Tree

This is a guest post that originally began as a Facebook post, by my husband, Winston Visser.

As 2013’s days are numbered, I reflect on a year of loss, transition and opening to other possibilities: My father died at 84, sadly, after several months of worsening health physically and mentally; the practice of my vocation ended, painfully; and my perspective on future possibilities improves, slowly.

During this season I remembered events past. Once upon a time, sometime between 8 and 11 years of age, I trudged through the snow with my father to the tree lot behind the back pasture. We were searching for the perfect Christmas tree in my mind’s eye. We inspected one sparsely branched spruce after another. None looked like the one in my imagination. Christmas Tree

Then, I saw it, in a small clearing, “The Tree” of my dreams! It was 30 feet up! From that perspective it looked perfect. Dad tried to argue me out of it. But I remained rooted in my choice.

So, with axe and saw, we hacked till, with a crack, it fell to be cradled by the snow. Six feet from the top, Dad cut then set it upright. It no longer looked perfect. It was more “Charlie Brown” than “Country Living”.

Disappointed, I wanted to look some more, but Dad said, “No. We’ve done all that work, plus wasted some 24 feet left to decay in the woods.”

So we dragged it home, set it up in a stand and spruced it up with lights, tinsel, bells and a star way on top. These filled it out a bit, bringing it closer to “The Tree” of my dreams.

Most years of my youth included such “uncouth trees”, natural, not nurtured on a lot, disappointing, yet with some decoration: acceptable.

Charlie Brown Christmas Tree

It could be seen as the story of your and my life: looking for perfection. Then disappointed because it’s not.

Or it could be that each of us is a Charlie Brown Tree, far from perfect.  But once decorated (“clothed” as the Apostle Paul writes) in Christ, perfect in God’s eyes as we’re ever going to be.

May we have eyes to see self and others as God does, throughout every season of loss, transition and possibility!

Enjoy these last days of 2013 living into the possibilities of 2014 including loss and newness.

Blessings to one and all!

Village in the Snow

It is quiet in our little village of 1000. A snowy Boxing Day after the rush of preparation seems fitting. A mid-afternoon walk and simple beauty made it rich. Enjoy!

Wagon Wheel

Fence

Gate

Frozen Crabapples

Church St.

Red Shed & Tree

snowmobiles

Streetscape

Yellow CAr

ADHS

Athens UCC

Nativity

Almost a Gingerbread

Library

Blue Birdhouse

Elgin Street 2013

yellow Shed

Red Barn

Judson's

Chris & Marie 2013

Our House 2013

 

Knives, Nonsense, and New Life

It was a beautiful spring day in Nova Scotia. The grass was turning green, the sky was blue, and birds were singing everywhere.

We were in the picturesque province for a funeral, and a bit of a mini-vacation with family. Being on the go, one night we decided to order pizza from Luigi’s- the yummiest pizza around. We ordered, and my husband and I hopped in the car to pick up our boxes.

As we left the subdivision where my mother-in-law lives, we drove by a cute yellow colonial house that was in the process of being upgraded by her owners. Three mid-teens were outside, standing in a circle to the side of the house. We were almost past them, when a glittering object fell to the ground, not far from them.

It was a knife. A large butcher knife. That fell from the sky.

It took a moment for this to sink in.

These two boys and one girl, probably around 15 years old, appeared to be playing a “dare” game. A game where a dangerous activity is agreed upon by a few or a group, and the challenge is to not flinch or “chicken out” by saying “no” or “stop”. Examples of these types of activities are found all over the internet, and I find them disturbing, so will not elaborate on them here.

We arrived at the pizza parlour early, and while we waited for our order, we debated what we should do. Knock on the door and tell the parents? Call the police? Ignore the situation? We did not know if these kids had ill intent, if they were on drugs or alcohol, or what the state of their minds were.

We decided that if they were still out there when we went back, that we would simply ask them to stop. We hoped they weren’t an angry bunch who would  turn on us…

Sure enough, as we approached the yellow house, a knife catching light from the sun clattered to the sidewalk. A teen ran over and picked it up, pulling up his sleeves, sweating. They stood in a circle. He threw the knife. Up high. Very high. The knife came down. Landed with a thudding plunge into the grass. Inches from a bare foot.

We drove up with cautious urgence. Rolled down the window. The knife was in hand to be thrown again. All three looked at us silently.

“Could you please stop throwing that, please? It’s so dangerous!” I pleaded. My husband echoed those thoughts. “Please stop. You guys don’t need to be doing that!”

Then a surprising thing happened. I expected them to laugh, to be angry, to ignore us or swear. Instead, what we heard was the most meek thing ever.

“Okay,” they all said in unison. “Okay”. They looked down, and immediately started walking towards the house. They were quiet.

“You are all too valuable for games like that!” we said.

“Okay,” they said, completely submissive.

The transformation was astounding.

It was like these kids were waiting for someone to say something. Not one of them could bear to break the peer pressure and say no, but it appeared they all wanted to. They welcomed our words, received them in a way rarely seen in teenagers. (Believe me, I know. I have four teens in my house!) The relief was tangible and evident.

In Christianity, turning from your old ways to a new, God-inspired spirituality is considered to be a conversion. New life.

Now, I have no idea about the hearts of these kids or what drove them to engage in such a dangerous activity, but something profound and deep happened that day. I could feel it. I could see it. I could hear it.

It was a conversion, of sorts. A chance of new life, and a stepping away from something destructive.

I do not know how this has affected the kids involved, or if they even think of the incident anymore.

But I know it affected me:

Words are powerful.

They can build or break.

Choose them carefully-

See the difference you can make.

I am so glad I spoke up that day.

***Song lyrics from Colleen Reinders and Grace Moes, "Encourage One Another"