Thanksgiving Day Hike

As is often our tradition, we do a hike on Thanksgiving Day weekend. Today we went to Foley Mountain Park in Westport, ON. The air was fresh, the sky was blue, and the trees were just beginning to colour.

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We followed the Orange Maple Trail

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The trail wound through young forest on the rocky Canadian Shield.

The canopy was beginning to turn colour.

The canopy was beginning to turn colour.

And closer to Big Rideau Lake the colours were more vibrant.

And closer to Upper Rideau Lake the colours were more vibrant.

We enjoyed exercise, fresh air, and sunshine.

We enjoyed exercise, fresh air, and sunshine.

And also enjoyed moments of beauty...

And also enjoyed moments of beauty…

and serenity.

and serenity.

We're pretty sure we saw a bear paw print in the sand. What do you think?

We’re pretty sure we saw a bear paw print in the sand. What do you think?

It was an afternoon of blessing and goodness. Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!

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Kouchibouguac Equipped Camping

On Labour Day, my husband and I drove our daughter to University in New Brunswick for her freshman year. And then the two of us went camping at Kouchibouguac National Park , on the eastern shore of NB.

We drove our small Honda Fit for 10 hours to get to campus, and everything “fit”- university essentials from a fan to a floor rug, clothing and personal items, and camping gear for us! The three of us were cozy but we could still see out the back window…

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The pillows were squished down more firmly before we said goodbye at 4:30am!

Moving Day was excellent. We started with a yummy, leisurely breakfast, and then went to campus to register, get keys, make a bed, plug in a lamp, and hang artwork. The weather was fantastic, the people were friendly & helpful, and all-in-all, it was a good launch (despite the mother’s tears…)

The great thing about kids gaining more independence is that the parents do too! My husband (W.) and I now were able to spend 5 nights together with no children and no other obligations, which truly has not happened in many years.

We chose Equipped Camping at Kouchibouguac  National Park because

  1. I love camping and the great outdoors!! (W is just a good sport-it’s not his first pick).
  2. We were travelling in our little car, and had no room for more gear.
  3. It is more economical than staying in a hotel, cottage or kitchenette.

And equipped camping proved to be an excellent choice! We ended up arriving late at the Park- so late, in fact, that it was already mostly dark. We did not have to worry about setting up tents, and all that stuff. We just unlocked the zipper to our prospector tent and walked in. We walked a few sites over to use the washroom facilities, and then we settled down for the night, without even starting a campfire. It was a great relief after a long few days.

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In the daylight…

Unfortunately, in all the busyness, we had neglected to check the weather forecast, and with our lightweight sleeping bags were woefully unprepared for the unseasonable cool night temps! We both shivered the night away, adding multiple layers of clothing as the hours ticked by. (The next night we were better prepared, and the following nights the bundling up was not necessary).

We loved the large equipped site, and would do it again. It included the tent, with two Adirondack chairs, a picnic table with a screened tent, a full BBQ size propane tank with a campstove, and a full shelf of dishes. A clothesline already hung. Everything was very clean and of high quality, and we were impressed.

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The only thing we really regretted NOT having was our own lawnchairs to sit around the fire with. Understandably, the Adirondacks were bolted to the deck.  But hey, we enjoyed s’mores anyway!

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

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Columbine

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Allium

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Rhododendron

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Hosta

Trollius

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.

 

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!

Tissues & Tears

My father-in-law is in the hospital. He has multiple medical concerns, perhaps the greatest being the state of his lungs after a lifetime of cigarettes. But the most disconcerting thing is his dementia and decay of mind.

A dedicated farmer, “Opa”  began his life in Friesland (northern Netherlands). He has always claimed that he started work at the age of three. I’m not quite sure what exactly that looked like, or how true it was, but it is true he did not live long before he was helping on the family farm.

He milked sheep outside and hated it. They were wet and smelly, and it seems he did the job alone. (Sheep milk is used to make cheeses such as ricotta or feta.  I am not sure if the Dutch made sheep-milk gouda. Can anyone tell me?) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sheep_milk)

Sheep that may be similar to the ones milked by my father-in-law as a child.
Photo from: ( http://www.ansi.okstate.edu/breeds/sheep/friesianmilk/index.html)

The oldest of 11 children, he carried much responsibility, including when he immigrated to Canada as a young man, with other family members, taking over financial responsibilities and other things for his father.

When I entered the scene, years later, he and his brothers were living on successful, thriving farms, or operating other successful agricultural businesses like potatoes and apples. He himself had pigs, which he did not really enjoy, but which gave a steady income prior to the sharp decline in pork prices in the 1990s. He also had Holsteins, his true love.

The birthday parties when all the brothers and sisters were united were noisy, joyous occasions. The longer the celebration was, the louder it got- the stories became more boisterous, the tales of the past more adventurous. My husband and I would hear crazy stories of these Boys in Friesland with their wild horses. They were reckless, bold, and not afraid.

We heard stories of Opa being dragged down a cobblestone street full-speed by a runaway Dutch Warmblood horse. (For more about the Warmblood, go here: http://stabledays.typepad.com/stable_days/2009/01/five-fun-facts-of-my-favorite-horse-breeds-dutch-warmblood.html

We heard stories of him as a teenager, having to walk miles to deliver their best horses for World War II service, and how heartbreaking that was. To this day, he loves a fine horse, particularly Warmbloods or Friesians.

Friesian Horse

But as I mentioned earlier, his true love is Holstein cattle. He spent years milking them, studying and developing pedigrees and good genetic strains. His office is decorated with colourful ribbons won in many competitions and classes. He got out of bed every day, eager to spend time with his cows. In the evening, on his cot, he would fall asleep, Holstein Journal opened in front of him.

He was smart and shrewd, a sharp businessman, which did not always win him favour. But he knew his stuff and wasn’t afraid to dicker. I heard more than one business transaction get heated over the years that I was on the farm with my husband.

In 2012, one of his Holsteins, Friesia Goldwyn Lainey, won significant prizes in various prestigious competitions:

2nd five-year-old at Quebec Expo; 4th at International Holstein Show &Quebec International Fall Show; and 5th at Royal Winter Fair.

2nd five-year-old at Quebec Expo; 4th at International Holstein Show &
Quebec International Fall Show; and 5th at Royal Winter Fair.

(Friesia Goldwyn Lainey continues to win: http://www.belfontainegenetics.com/en/nouvelles.php?id=23)

Which brings me to the title of this post- Tissues & Tears.

Opa has dementia, the mysterious decay of the brain. It means he has days where he does not know where he is, what he is doing, or what he is saying. He wants to get out of bed, but is not really able to. He sees things that we don’t. Yesterday he kept saying there’s water coming in, mice and rats are running, the hay will get wet, there’s water coming in…

I wish I knew the story behind that.

He also spent time yesterday taking every Kleenex out of the box- swoosh, swoosh, swoosh- methodically, one by one. Then he tried stuffing them all back in. This story brings tears to my 18-year-old daughter’s eyes. It has always been a family joke that she did the same thing when she was 18-months-old and I was napping on the couch.

Kleenex

It is very hard to see someone you love become frail and helpless. To see the strong become weak. To hear the garbled words of someone who could earlier play with words. To feel strong and vibrant next to vulnerability.

Grief.

Tissues and tears.

We love you, Opa.

Update: Opa passed away on April 11, 2013, one day after his 84th birthday.