Is it good luck to plant seeds while wearing your bathrobe?

I have heard that you can ensure greater garden success by planting during certain phases of the moon (who knows? I can’t say I’ve tried it). This morning, however, when I was out in the early morning sunshine, I wondered what might. Perhaps planting seeds while wearing just the right outfit? Like my white, waffle-knit bathrobe? Maybe.

The truth is, I was just so darned glad to be upright and of sound mind that I didn’t care what I was wearing. It’s been a long winter full of too many bouts of ill health (one of the reasons for so few blog posts) and now that I am finally on the mend after a nasty bit of pneumonia, I am anxious to get the garden party started. Even in my pyjamas.

The great thing about having raised garden beds is that they warm up quickly in the spring. And while I may yet top them up with some compost or manure, all of them are ready to be planted now, in mid-March. So, after a strengthening cup of tea, I got out a few seed packets that advised planting, “as soon as the soil can be worked” and set to it. Go me!

018 I have been anxious about planting a few things early: lettuce, so I can stop buying it at the grocery store; peas, because they need enough time to grow before the hot weather arrives; and spinach, because I am in a race with the dreaded leaf miners who will hatch in May and completely destroy all the leaves. Besides, every gardener spends the winter waiting for spring to arrive. And here it is!

It didn’t take much time to put a few rows of seeds in and cover them with a thin layer of soil. But I was out there long enough to notice the green daffodil shoots poking through the soil and see the first yellow crocus. I heard a cardinal singing to beat the band, as my grandmother would have said. I noticed that some of the parsley has made it through the winter. Even a little pot of chives was showing signs of life (I had meant to plant it in the fall but just never got around to it. Oops.)

021I was probably outside a grand total of twenty minutes but I felt terrific when I came in. I was so glad I had seized the moment instead of stopping to put on pants first. Because then I would have seen the laundry that needed to be folded, noticed the dog’s empty bowl and gone running to answer the phone. I never would have made it outside at all.

It’s sort of like the child who showed up to church on a Sunday morning in a princess costume and a Dora wig. Sure, dressing up would have been nice, but if her mother had stopped to insist that she get changed they might never have made it at all. I was just glad they showed up.

So that’s my thought for this spring: seize the moment! Whatever it is that you are longing to do, just do it: go for a walk, sit on the porch with a glass of wine, put a few seeds in the ground. Grab a few minutes in between all the other things going on in your life to enjoy this fresh, new season. Even in your bathrobe.

 

 

 

 

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Zucchini for Christmas: Frankenmuth

I know that the seasons are changing but I’m just not quite ready to say goodbye to summer yet. Even while I am enjoying the gorgeous colours of fall, sweet local apples and (still more!) kale from the garden, I am still feeling grateful for my summer that was full of gardens and greenery.    

466I know that most people visit Frankenmuth to shop at Bronner’s (if you haven’t been there, it’s a Christmas shop the size of…well, you have to see it to believe it. It’s HUGE.) I also know that the chicken dinner, Bavarian style, is famous. But the flowers all over town were what blew me away!

411First, we enjoyed a tiny enclave overflowing with purple coneflower, lavender, nasturtium and every manner of garden herb. then we saw the sign: The Herb Society of America: Frankenmuth Mid-Michigan Unit Garden for Herbal Education. I bet there are some great volunteers behind such a lovely space. 416

Then we looked across the street and saw a candy shop. Granted, it is not unusual for me to notice those, but the property! It was so beautiful I stood in the middle of the street (safely, of course)  to snap a picture:

424 The best part, though, was the garden kaleidoscope. I have never seen anything like it. Looking through the lens turned pansies and impatiens into breathtaking patterns of pink, purple and green. The kids loved, too.

427Of course, we did go to Bronner’s and spent hours looking at nativity sets and Advent calendars. What else did we find? Gardens (and garden produce!) are everywhere. 438It was a sweet little side trip this summer. I hope your summer had a few of those, too.

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You’re beautiful and I should know. I’ve seen you naked.

In the last twenty years, I have grown to appreciate beauty in new ways. I have especially come to love not just the natural world with its flowers and gardens but also the human body, with all its curves and abilities. Given my history, this is no small thing.

Kristine canoe 1988I grew up knowing that I was fat. I was teased mercilessly at school. At home, I was taught that being overweight was a sign of moral failing and weak self-discipline. People should be skinny and look exactly like my thin parents and my thin sister. I didn’t. Clearly, that meant something was wrong with me.

I was an active kid, swimming, skating and later taking dance lessons. I was a cheerleader in high school and a canoe tripper at summer camp. When I look back at the photos I can see that while I was never tiny I was hardly overweight, either. And yet I was ashamed of my body every moment of every day.

It took years of hard work in therapy, loving friends, a gentle husband and a maturing faith to begin changing how I feel. But you should know that you were part of my healing, too.

You might not realize it, but I have noticed you in the gym locker room. I promise that I don’t stare at you, but I can’t help but see you when you are getting dressed or going to the steam room.

Some of you have gentle, round curves. Some of you are tall (much taller than me!) and some of you are petite. Among you there are legs that are well-muscled and skin that is soft and dimpled. I can see that some of you have children and some of you had surgery. All of you have creases around your eyes from laughing.

You are beautiful.

072This is the reason I want to thank you. When I look at your body, I can so easily admire God’s handiwork. Looking at you has helped me to realize that I am beautiful, too. Each of us has our own shape and our own colour. We have our own posture and our own way of moving. Our scars tell important stories about who we are and how we’ve lived. Not one of us is the same as another.

I have taught my daughters that it is healthy and helpful to see other women naked, to see the variety of hips and breasts and bellies among us . I want them to know that real women have real bodies. I want them to learn early on what I have struggled for forty years to learn: God made us beautiful. Each of us. All of us.

Thank you for helping me learn such an important and wonderful truth. May we remind each other often and teach it to our daughters and granddaughters, nieces and neighbours. Even if it is only by our silent, beautiful presence in the locker room.

 

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Quetico: Hard work and a surprising payoff

This summer, I had the blessing of quite literally getting away from it all. We journeyed to northern Ontario, past Thunder Bay and into Quetico Provincial Park, a remote and beautiful wilderness. But first came the hard work of getting ready.

068There are special rules in the park to keep it from becoming polluted and so, after booking our entry into the backcountry (there are a limited number of permits issued each day) we discovered that no disposable containers–cans, bottles, boxes and the like–are allowed. I spent almost a week gathering a collection of Nalgene bottles, tea tins and even travel-sized shampoo containers.

Next there was the long drive: we left at 6 am and drove straight through. With a few stops for gas and bathroom breaks, we arrived just outside of Thunder Bay at 10pm. How strange to be tired from sitting day!

Finally, after fourteen years of dreaming about it and weeks planning packing for it, my husband and I found ourselves on the water again. We were thrilled! It was bliss! Except…

014Wind greeted us that first morning and stayed with us for days. And while I love the feeling of a breeze through my hair, this was hard-core wind that made paddling across open water almost impossible. Waves broke over the bow and left me soaked to the skin. Our muscles ached. Hard work doesn’t begin to describe it. And that was just the first half hour!

We stopped early and aching on that first day. Day two was the same (see me in that picture above? That was the end of one very long, muddy portage!) On day three we tried again but gave up when a cold, stinging rain dampened any hope of progress. The upside was a wonderful, leisurely day of reading, napping and hot chocolate.

040On day 4, now halfway through the trip, with nighttime temperatures a chilly 5 degrees and our progress not nearly what we’d hoped, we turned and headed for home.

We were immediately  rewarded with the arrival of gorgeous sunny weather. The water was calm, which made us relax our pace. We spent a beautiful afternoon with a family of loons who let us sit close by as the parents fed their chicks an enormous lunch. We dug out the fishing rod, too, and discovered that bass were just waiting to be caught (we threw them back, and of course the biggest one got away).

As we sat out on the rocks and watched the sun set at a beautiful campsite on our last night, something slowly began to dawn on me: perhaps the wind was part of a divine plan to slow us down. Because it was only after we gave up on our mileage goals that we turned our attention to our most important objective: quiet, rest, and time together in a beautiful and pristine corner of Canada.

In the end, I am grateful for those howling winds.080

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Summer is for (lavender) adventure

Every trip is an adventure. Some trips, however, are more adventurous than others. Sometimes that was because our family didn’t plan quite enough (oops) or the weather wasn’t what we expected (drat) or because we’d never travelled with so many children before (yikes). That was 2003.

That summer, our youngest was eight months old. We desperately wanted to get away and we had time, just not much money. In all our wisdom, we decided on a maritime road trip: one van, one tent, six people, and all the stuff necessary for travelling with two babies and two children. We actually put the kids in their car seats and packed stuff in around them every day (and yes, we drove somewhere new almost every day. What were we thinking?).

andrew and tucker 03It was chaotic, loud, and far more work than we had expected. It was also filled with beauty and laughter–those moments that create family jokes and lasting memories.

One of those memories was a lavender farm that we stumbled on as we were driving through the Nova Scotia countryside. Out the window we were amazed at gently rolling hills covered with rows of purple blooms. We pulled the car over to the side of the road and discovered a little booth and a lovely woman. She had just started the farm a year or two earlier, she said, and we were welcome to wander around. We did. We sniffed and smelled and stretched our legs, marvelling at such a glorious discovery.

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Since then I have visited a lavender farm in Niagara, but now I’ve found one even closer to home. Weir Lavender Farm and Apiary is in Dundas, Ontario and both the farm and the shop are open regularly for tours.

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This time, we were on our way to dinner when we made a slight detour. It was Sunday afternoon and there was no reason to rush. Our stop was much quieter this time, of course, with only my husband, me, and an empty back seat. We meandered through the fields and then, since there were no children begging to go to the bathroom or asking when it was time for a snack, we spoke with one of the owners, too. His was the story so many people dream of: he quit his high-powered city career, bought a small farm in the country, and started a whole new life. He assured us he would never go back.

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He also said that most of what they know about farming they have learned along the way. They rely on trial and error as they plant, grow, harvest and create new soaps and culinary delights. It may not be the most efficient method of doing anything, but l like that. It appeals to my sense of adventure.

This summer, my sense of adventure is leading me to an exciting and slightly scary destination–stay tuned for that story! In the mean time, may these last weeks of summer be full of beautiful sights and smells. Make sure you take every opportunity for adventure along the way.

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Best summer decision: I set my phone on silent

069This summer, I was ready for a break after a tough year. I longed for quiet and solitude. I needed to step away from the frantic pace of life in ministry. One simple thing helped me accomplish it all: I turned off the ringer on my smartphone.

Normally, I have my phone set up so that it emits a chorus of small sounds.  A blip says my kids are texting me. A chime says I have an email waiting. A short beep alerts me to a Facebook message. And then, of course, there is the jazzy ring for phone calls when someone wants to talk and the song that sings when someone wants to facetime.

Those little sounds come out of my phone at all hours051 of the day and night. But not this summer. This summer, with none of those sounds, days feel quieter even when I have lots to do. I get to choose when to look at my phone and when to respond. I can thin the carrots uninterrpted or harvest cucumbers in peace. None of my converations are paused while I glance over at my screen and say, “I just have to answer this…”

Many religious traditions include the practice of keeping silence. Sadly, many of us in those traditions forget that it is a practice worth keeping. When I stay at the guest house with the 034Sisterhood of St. John the Divine, for example, I soak in the silence and let it revive my soul. The problem is that I only stay there for a few days once or twice a year. The rest of the time my ears are full of life’s cacophony.

As I revel in the fresh silence coming from my phone, I wish you some silence, too. Maybe you can turn off your ringer. Or turn off the TV. Or take the ear phones out of your ears, even for just a moment or two.

May you find a little time to rest in a quiet hush this summer.

 

 

 

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Homewood Health:

075Recently, I offered a pastoral visit at the Homewood Health Centre in Guelph. Although I was disappointed that someone in my community needed their services, I was delighted to have an opportunity to admire the healing space they have created on their property.

Homewood is mental health and addiction facility that sits on fifty acres of green space bordering on the Speed River. Along with out-patient programs, there are some three hundred people at a time who are able to access their in-patient care. When I visited a few weeks ago, it was because L. invited me to come during their stay.

085I was impressed at the the scope of the horticulture program, which invites residents to spend time in the greenhouse. Together they can watch new life grow as they propogate plants or nourish the trees and flowers that will be used inside the building or out in the garden. It is well documented that being in contact with nature is healing, and I can well imagine that there are residents who are deeply impacted by this program.

But it was a beautiful spring day, and we didn’t stay inside for long. As L. and I left the main building and began to wander the grounds, I discovered a beautiful healing space. There is plenty of room to walk, places to sit and talk, and a number of special destinations.

083There is a labyrinth that encourages a calm and meditative spirit. There is a memory garden where residents can visit to think and reflect on those they have loved and lost, and residents are welcome to leave mementos under the small tree there. There is also what looks like a large, enclosed vegetable garden set in a lovely symmetrical pattern where all the beds were prepared and waiting for a new season of plants.

It is clear that a huge amount of time, energy, money and hope is being invested in the property all around the buildings. Everything was neatly kept and in good repair. Every part of the property we found offered a sense of refuge and comfort.

081The two of us walked and talked. We stopped to notice the mint and sat for awhile in the gazebo. We didn’t solve the world’s problems by any means, but we did connect with one another in a different way than we would have in a coffee shop or in my office. Our conversation was relaxed, and sometimes lapsed into silence. It was a moment of God’s creating, and it was good.

I would not wish anyone the need for services at Homewood. Addiction and mental illness bring such terrible struggle for people and for the ones who love them. Many of us know this only too well.

079But I am glad to know that such a place as this exists. I am even more grateful that, as their website says, “an integrated team of physicians, psychologists, nurses, social workers, addiction counsellors, and other therapists deliver comprehensive care that addresses the physical, psychological, and spiritual aspects of disease.” They know that these illnesses will not be cured simply by writing a prescription. To find healing and wholness, there is a need for care that engages the heart, mind body and spirit. Beautiful, green spaces like this one are an integral part of that.

 

 

 

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