TILL DEAF DO WE PART

(The following is re-written from an article I wrote in 2009 when we were grain farming. I didn’t know at that time, two years later we would sell our land and retire. Today as we reflect, the changes in the farming industry are overwhelming. Corporate farms have indeed replaced most of the small farmers. Our equipment I mention in this article is now obsolete.)

“We’re still here trying to get the word out that 330 farmers are quitting every week . . As long as there’s a few farmers out there, we’ll keep fighting for them.” -Willie Nelson

Bittersweet memories of these two ‘old guys’ – harvest time was tense, but exciting.

It was a cold dark late September night as our two Massey Combines churned in the field. The moon was draped in clouds and the stars decided it wasn’t worth the effort to break through. My brother-in-law and our son were driving the twin Masseys. Randy was trying to keep up with emptying the grain truck as the combine hoppers, heavy with black canola seed, emptied into the truck box for transporting to the grain bins about a mile away.

We were down to one grain truck, the power steering hose had burst on the big Ford and it sat lifeless and useless somewhere in the canola stubble.
Driving our old meals-on-wheels rusty Chevy pickup, I was on a late night supper run, (yes, the last meal of the day here on the prairies is called SUPPER!) – the coffee hot and the cooler loaded with goodies. Waiting on the second combine to come to the truck to discharge its hopper load, and call the driver over to eat, impatient and edgy Randy, in the passenger seat was downing his second cup of java. I really wanted him to understand that being in the driver’s seat puts me at a huge disadvantage. My stone-deaf right ear faces the passenger seat and I am unable to hear – especially with the noisy combine engines running. I knew my farmer had other things on his mind and didn’t respond. I heard him say, “Drive me down the field to get the grain truck.” That’s the honest truth about what I heard, so away we went in the dark night. I had to ask him to point me to it. The boonies in darkness have no helpful neon road signs. His hands waved directions and I dropped him off and watched him climb into the industrial old grain truck.

I made my way back following the lights of the combine and parked in the same spot. I waited and watched for headlights, taillights – anything that suggested he was following. Ten minutes later he parked beside me and opened the passenger door, “Where did you go? You were supposed to come and get me!” Apparently he wanted to leave the truck at the edge of the field, half a mile away. I hadn’t heard that part.
When the second combine emptied its heavy load and the driver had his supper, Randy, instructing me to follow, then wait for him again, got into the big truck. We would make another attempt to park it so it would be close for the two combine drivers to empty their hopper loads. Off I sped into the night following his taillights.
Back beside me in the passenger seat, the night windy and stirring up dust that obscured combine lights, I had no idea I was headed in the opposite direction till I heard, “Where the heck are you going?” My sense of direction had become higgledy-piggledy in the black night. I turned around as the wheels vibrated over and through the rough field. Anxious about being at the edge of a nearby swamp, suddenly he yelled, “Get off the swath! You’re driving on the swath!” Animated, arms waving directions, he was instructing me to just go back the same way I had come – asinine advice to me attempting to navigate in an obscure, moonless murky field.

Finally and with relief as I drove the dusty back roads towards the lights of home, I burst out laughing. My deafness had caused both of us a lot of tension and dissension. I learned years ago that during harvest time a farmer’s wife requires a sense of humour, serenity and stamina.

Once upon a time when we were farmers.

I can never really get lost on our land for it is our existence, our essence and Randy was agitated and anxious because that night the farm-clock was ticking. It is a life that continues to evaporate as farmers and farms become corporate and new combines have half a million dollar price tags.

For now it is what we do – which come to think of it, reminds me of something else Willie Nelson said, “All I do is play music and golf – which one do you want me to give up?”

Randy surveying the collected canola seed in the combine hopper and scanning the field around him.

 My Favourite Crayon is Autumn

Sun sets across the highway plunging the old yard, the place where Randy grew up, into darkness.

For work, for rest, for play, for break of day, for sunsets, seasons, smiles, clouds, festive noisy crowds. Mother nature, human nature, full moons and lazy chilly afternoons. I AM THANKFUL.


The October sky flaunted amazing brush strokes of brilliant pink, amber, yellow and gold against a dark blue evening sky. I felt elated rambling beneath the canopy of tall trees shading our paved driveway. I’d just skirted the ample peaceful perimeter of our farm yard, every step softly lined and crunching with auburn and gold leaves. For the past two days our son helped trim the thick unkempt overgrown caragana, weeping birch and tall pine trees embracing that road into our yard. It was a huge undertaking but the results were amazing. Randy maneuvering our skid steer (a noisy relative of the Bobcat family) hoisting the huge bucket containing our son, a skilled chain-saw operator, up to the caragana tree tops. As the branches dropped, I picked them up and threw them into the big box of our old grain dump truck. Part of a two-year yard maintenance project finally we could pop the champagne cork.
“Mew.” A white cat was asking permission to tag along and I laughed noticing four more trailed and traipsed blithely beside me. The arthritis in my lower back throbbed with each step as other joints joined the complaining cacophony. Two days of bending, turning, reaching, grasping and tossing trimmed and also dry dead branches and stumps incited protest in my worn out aging frame.
The sun was beginning to set while I walked with my furry following. My guys busy servicing and storing the saws, power tools and parking the big grain truck and skid steer. All of us – cats included, were very hungry.

I thought how lucky I was and breathed a prayer of thankfulness just to be alive and indulging in the gilded moment. I was grateful. Period. Neighbouring golden fields resting from the seasons of planting, sprouting and producing surrounded me. My thoughts were abruptly interrupted by the clamor of geese in a darkening prairie sky. They were late to leave perhaps due to an unusual and unseasonable warm October. Mesmerized, I watched the endless v-shaped formations boisterously but beautifully fly overhead, a sight I never weary of. It means winter is coming but trust us – so is spring and we will return.

Before entering our home I rested on the porch, my feline entourage at my feet and atop my lap also enjoying the restful late autumn evening. Thanksgiving around the corner, my mind began a mental inventory of friends, family and faithful readers. I hoped everyone knew how proud I was of them. It takes a lot of courage to get up every morning, greet the sunlight with its yet unknown challenges, day after day after day – still they all do it and influence me to do the same. To get up and show up! In a world raging with a deadly pandemic and unsettling evening news, the clout of love and validity of being and belonging is something deeply extraordinary. And beautifully uncompliCATed!
 

The window I sat beneath reflected the cheery warmth of home and I mused how delicious those burgers waiting to be tossed on the grill would taste. Though I ached miserably from two tiring days it was worth it just to be outside and know exhaustion from a good day’s hard – though, rewarding work. My spirit had also been starved for Nature’s grandeur and quiet AND for taking stock of every day beauty and blessings. I glanced in the big kitchen window, like a peeping tom, of sorts, only with an agenda of love and thankfulness. As our happy outdoor cats played around my feet, I picked up soft purring, Max and memorized the satiating gentle view – the lights of home.
Happy Thanksgiving my friend.


Love, Arlene.

Treat each person as if their heart was breaking. More often than not you will be right.*

Autumn was mother’s favourite season. Mine also. I feel like I am inside a scenic painting enjoying the stunning warm colours of trees and fields and vivid September sapphire skies. Though she’s been gone almost thirty years, fall always makes me feel especially close to her. She died at the beginning of the Christmas season and it was hard to make sense of the timing. Plans were in place to celebrate my parents 50th Wedding Anniversary and it was also mother’s birthday. Canada Post was flinging a potpourri of Anniversary, Sympathy, Christmas and Birthday cards into father’s mail box.

It seemed cruel. For almost three decades she was a busy Avon lady and the day of her death a box of Avon requiring receipts and delivering arrived in the mail.

After many months of soul-searching and time for me to sort it all out I questioned the mortal agony of important milestones and meaningful high points. I figured out the things important and relevant to us, don’t hold the same merit and significance to God. He loves us but his celestial agenda is different – non-human and all-knowing/loving. We have itineraries, schedules, agendas, dates – but Heaven is free of all that. I concluded that only today matters and what I do with it: am I rude, am I kind, am I encouraging, do I apologize when my psyche says I need to. Do I blame others, do I take accountability – is my reach too short to help others, do I smile or look rushed and irritated? Do I compliment or criticize? All that trumps events and plans and reminds me that my voyage on this beautiful blue planet is short.

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My heart aches for my friends struggling with loss, anxiety, depression, illness, loneliness, fear and anything that puts a choke-hold on the heart. Heartbreak and hopelessness is an obscure heavy cloak. I am often surrounded by many of these hurting, hiding hearts. I think Heaven drops hints that sometimes I am too busy with other things, mostly self-centered and irrelevant, that cloud my vision. Of course people need clocks and calendars, but more importantly – humans need a smile, forgiveness, empathy, encouragement, acceptance, hand on the shoulder and generosity. These are what I believe free our humanness to love and sincerely appreciate others. It occurs to me that judgement needs to be removed so love can do what it was created to do.

Mother knew these things and the way she lived proved it. She embraced even strangers like family and her laugh was quick and easy.

I wish I could talk to her about the pandemic for I know she would have words of wisdom and comfort. I also know that with a smile she would chastise me when I take my life too seriously.

I believe I heard her radiant laughter only moments ago. This morning when I slid my feet into my waiting comfy slippers, one was wet inside. Brandy, my little aging calico who sleeps on me every night, saved me the bother of cleaning my bedroom floor. Instead, she puked neatly in my right slipper.

My cue, a startling reminder on this beautiful sparkling September day – for Heaven’s sake, Arlene – tread softly.

*Title: David Weedmark

Swimsuit Edition

I was gripping my Winner’s shopping cart in the Women’s Active Wear aisle looking for bargains in my new chubbier Post-Pandemic-hibernation size. To my right I heard a recognizable voice and turned quickly. I was especially surprised to see a very prominent Canadian politician standing beside me in a row of women’s swimsuits. He was chatting with a chic attractive smiling woman explaining to her that he and his wife were soon to board a plane. His wife apparently forgot to pack her swimsuit and asked him to quickly dash to Winners and select one. Last time I heard this man speak he was on television arguing with our Prime Minister and it certainly wasn’t about women’s swimsuits.
Though said legislator is no longer in the lime light, the image of this renown politician/husband/man shopping for that particular item made me think their marriage must be rather sound.

That evening I put Randy to the test and caught him off-guard with the question, “What kind, color and size bathing suit would you buy me?”
I laughed at his startled reaction, “What do you need a new bathing suit for and can’t you get it yourself?” After my explanation he simply said, “I’d buy you one with *spots.” (Translation: *polka dots.)
“But,” I inquired curiously, “What size would you get?”
True to habit he squinted his eyes like he always does when he’s deliberating but this time he was using his familiar analytical mechanic-expression that tells me his mind is focused on something containing an engine. “Not sure,” came his solemn reply, “But let’s see. First I’d have to go out and measure your seat in our truck.”

Fifty two years married and I’m still asking Left Brain stupid questions.

White Sand Hills On the Prairie?!

It was like the heavens opened up on the prairie and rained and pelted the earth with sand. Mounds, slopes and dunes of sand! Beautiful sand, the kind you like to feel on your shoe-less feet as cool sapphire waters graze your toes along a squishy sparkly shoreline. But in this case – there was no water, no beach just shifting hills of shimmering bleached sand.

Everyone knew it would be a long drive and the five of us piled comfy in our not-so-new Chevy suburban before 8am anxious for adventure and family time together. What am I talking about? We drove for almost six hours to arrive at our destination: The Great Sand Hills Ecological-Reserve, these little known about sand dunes. We’ve wanted to see that place in southwest Saskatchewan for many years and finally decided no more putting it off. There is still so much about our beautiful rectangular province that we aren’t familiar with and where we were going that sunny August afternoon is truly a geographical anomaly. Total distance from our little house on the prairie is about a five hour drive. We took the scenic route and at the busy town of Davidson, we enjoyed breakfast (take-out, of course) at a very busy Tim Horton’s! On our way again we crossed a pretty stream by ferry.

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We were a long way from home. The day consisted of 17 hours travel time but the scenery was spectacular and so very different from the flat landscape we are used to.
Beauty surrounded us in every direction during the long drive. Our Torontonian son catching one of many fantastic photos.

Always on the lookout for old abandoned buildings, our kids were not disappointed. The prairie landscape is dotted by crumbling schools, farm yards, churches and other buildings. We even found a large cement ‘cube’ – the vault of a very old bank standing alone shadowed by beautiful rolling green and gold hills.
When we reached The Great Sand Hills near the little town of Sceptre, the few cars in the parking lot had Alberta license plates and more Albertans kept arriving.

The entire area was sprinkled with sagebrush and prickly cactus. What we saw did not disappoint – truly it was a desert like wonderland! Sprawling hills of white sand! My kids even spotted wild horses from their vantage point atop the peak of a dune.


A bit of research explained that these dunes are created by the strong winds and are relentlessly moving, shifting and changing by weather and seasons.

The Great Sand Hills contain one of the largest set of active sand dunes in Canada. Randy and our son (and chauffer) enjoying a fantastic view.

A small grassy hill topped by a large intriguing wooden arch caught my eye and I discovered the many shapes attached to it were cowboy boots. I learned later it was erected by the former John Both featuring his and his family’s boots as “a cowboy’s way to show his appreciation and love for life.”

Cowboy boots nailed to wooden arch atop a hill. Our white suburban in distance is peeking out behind the sagebrush mid picture.

I didn’t see it, but our son mentioned watching an enormous beetle when he was exploring the massive sandy rifts. I can sleep at night knowing I wasn’t privy to it and also the different types of snakes that call the Sand Hills home, even small rattle snakes. (Ick.)
A long journey ahead of us, we left after several hours and taking a detour for another prairie anomaly, The Loop, where the river loops between Alberta and Saskatchewan. More cactus and sagebrush and deep steep drop-off cliffs overlooking the winding Saskatchewan river as far as the eye can see! Viewing it by sunset was incredibly breathtaking.

Spectacular view (pictures above and below) standing atop a high cliff at a place not many are familiar with called ‘The Loop.”

It was a full and long day and the lights of home and my waiting bed never looked more inviting. As I type these words, I am remembering details because everything was overwhelming for one day. I am thinking about those white sand hills many First Nations call a special place, a very sacred place – how their cultural beliefs suggest this is where their spirits live after death. I still hear the whispering of leaves as we ate our delicious sandwich lunch in an old picnic area framed by huge sprawling timeworn poplar trees.

Our driver taking a mini-rest after enjoying our picnic lunch.

We spent seventeen hours traveling and my family was concerned about “mama’s bad back!” But I’d do it again in a heartbeat – both Randy and myself. Saskatchewan has so many natural attractions that beckon and call all nature lovers to come see, COME SEE.

Yours Truly enjoying every moment of a great Saskatchewan adventure with my family.

I am already planning next summer’s trip, if our elderly Chevy Suburban and my old ailing crooked spine are both still up and running. We haven’t seen The Big Muddy Badlands Outlaw Caves, The Dark Sky Preserve or The Limestone Crevices. Mostly there’s a spot calling my name and I can’t wait to mention it to my family. In a year hopefully, stay tuned as I tell you about a place eerily called The Valley of 1000 Devils!

and that’s the truth ~ and nothing but the truth!

A Visit to the Receding Waters of The Quill Lakes and Other Late Summer Adventures

Though the recently flooded shores of the Quill Lakes are receding significantly, the waters are visible from our farm. The flooding, you might recall, was especially dire in 2017 and 2018 causing a loss of thousands of acres of pastureland, farmland and recreational land. Originally composed of 3 separate lakes (Big Quill, Little Quill and Mud Lakes), recent high water levels have merged the lakes into a massive ocean, the largest saline lake in Canada! The Quill Lakes offer a spring and fall stop-over for 300 plus bird species. It is an International Bird Area and literally millions of birds go through this area every year. Did you know before the introduction of the ball-point-pen – the lakes were named for the bird quills collected near shorelines and shipped to England for British royalty to use as quill pens? Also, an interesting fact: RCAF Station Dafoe (just minutes from our little house on the prairie) was a Second World War Royal Canadian Air Force station. It was home to the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan’s No. 5 Bombing and Gunnery School. The planes would drop ‘fake’ practice bombs into the waters of The Quill Lakes because the salt content of the lakes meant the lakes were considered devoid of traffic and fish.


In a matter of only weeks the horizon around and over our home will come to life with the noisy passage of birds making their departure. I wish you could experience this with me. It’s absolutely amazing.

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Days ago with my family packed into our Chevy suburban we decided to tour the area and see first-hand the damage caused by the flood waters and winters icy reach of the Quill Lakes. Climatologists are reporting this summer has seen the driest conditions in 100 years so we decided we might be able to view our personal salty ocean from the other side. The intense heat will have secure dry land.

It was a pleasant drive as our cell phones took pictures of old abandoned homesteads, a deteriorating old school and crops silently screaming for rain. When we reached the grid road which would take us to these lakes, we came upon a roadblock and sign, “ROAD CLOSED.” Always on the adventurous side, our sons ignored the concrete obstacles and we circled around them through an overgrown grassy ditch and made our way down that gravel road. It was shored up by huge rocks on both sides – an obvious unsuccessful attempt by the road department to keep the impending flood waters from covering and smothering it. Though my son, the driver, did his best to avoid ruts and bumps, I kept my medical complaints to myself as our diesel-engine vehicle lunged, bounced and vaulted for a long distance, waves lapping on each side of the road, littered by dead trees and tree limbs. The enjoyment of being with our Toronto kids trumped the discomfort and pain in my arthritic joints and antagonistic lower back. Gazing westward, I knew we were on the other side of the huge lake and our farm was nestled far away safely under the beautiful blue summer sky. The ROAD CLOSED sign took greater significance when we reached concrete pillars indicating the road accessing a bridge had eroded on both sides. The bridge stood alone, a concrete island irreparable from years of smothering salty flood water.


I did get sightings of several beautiful huge Sandhill Cranes, (I adore that bird!) numerous shiny black Double-crested Cormorants and other interesting feathered species. We searched for another road and soon found it wondering if the Quill Lakes bird blinds had been destroyed and, yes, we saw that they had also succumbed to the powerful unforgiving rising, raging water. Still, it was all good, the laughter and chatter inside our vehicle as we headed home, tired but happy after another day of making memories.


Several weeks prior we had another bird sighting or rather, close encounter. Driving upon a smooth highway I commented on the many big white birds oddly lining both sides of the pavement. While discussing the oddity, suddenly and without warning THHHH-UMP! One of those white birds, yes – you guessed it – a Seagull slammed beak first into our windshield. It happened so quickly. We looked at one another, stunned. As I write about it, our Chevy pickup resting in the garage, has a six inch and growing windshield crack from the impact.

Until it is replaced with a new one, I choose instead to remember the visit with my sister that day and not the damage by a confused Seagull. Blue-sky-watermelon days are just better when they are relaxed and uncompliCATed! And before my grown children head back to the big city of Toronto, we have one more exciting excursion planned within our beautiful province. Nowhere near our Quill Lake ocean, still beautiful moments waiting to happen that I can recall in the lonely times I am missing my family.
This one thing I know with all certainty: memories always and ever harbour within the horizon of the heart!

It happens, the little hand-prints become higher and higher, and then, one day they just disappear.

I am enjoying the lingering summer days and nights with my children home from Toronto. This mama’s heart is full and happy. The chairs around our kitchen table are occupied, my family is home! I know that time is a speeding comet so I have set aside everything else because my heart is taking snap-shots and collecting happy memories.
Several days prior to their arrival Randy and I were leisurely enjoying a quick meal and coffee in a fast food restaurant. I watched with interest as two beautiful young girls with bouncy blonde hair climbed on seats at a table beside us. Little feet in pink sneakers dangled spiritedly as sparkly blue eyes looked curiously around the busy bistro. An older brother joined them and the three sat waiting. Their mother soon arrived carrying an oversized tray of beverages, an assortment of fries, onion rings, chicken pieces and burgers. She helped distribute their meal, then before she touched her food she reached for her cell phone and began scrolling.
I turned my attention to the busy street outside the large windows but couldn’t help glancing often at the mother who wordlessly ate her meal absorbed by whatever she was viewing. The young girls ate their meal silently while the older brother assisted opening ketchup and mustard packages and removing the protective film from drinking straws. If she looked at her children, I never saw it. Instead, her gaze was intent on the small screen she set beside her food, using one non-greasy finger to swipe.
I found myself remembering the times so many years ago when I was mommy and took my young boys to a restaurant. I stressed at thoughts of them misbehaving or being loud and if memory serves me right, those times were mostly fun. Everything was interesting to them and I don’t think we ever had a meal out or at home in total silence. Back in the present, the children were quietly finishing their meal as if they knew not to bother mommy while she was on her phone. There was no conversation, no barter of happy teasing and fun, no laughter, vivacity or chatter. It all seemed so joyless.

My years of being mommy was a long time ago and though they weren’t easy, in reflection they were wonderful. I thought I’d be wiping noses and cleaning sticky little fingers the rest of my life. But it didn’t play out that way. One day my arms were empty and so was our home.
Sometimes after a particularly trying day I used to set the big kitchen clock ahead one hour so I could hasten their bed time, enjoy the silence and lengthen a quiet evening. It’s easy to feel stifled and weary when the days revolve around caring for small children. Till they read this today, they never caught on. But as the words and memories spill onto this document, I am thinking there isn’t anything this mother’s heart wouldn’t give to take back all those precious minutes and moments.

And if today’s phones were as smart as we think they are, they would automatically go silent and shut down at the dinner table.
But right now – before it’s time to whisk our grown children back to the airport – I wish you could hear the laughter and repartee reverberating within the walls of our little home on the prairie.

If Time Had A Battery I’d Be the First To Take the Darn Thing Out!

Tick, tick, tick. That was the sound of the clock near my bed side. I was awake because of the intense deep gnawing pain in my right shoulder. Arthritis is a thief in the night and a killjoy by day. I raised my arm high over my shoulder and rested it over my pillow. Relief was brief but welcome. Meanwhile the clock ruthlessly reminded me it was 3:12 am: tick, tick. I’d never really thought about it but that night I listened to time dissipating in hasty pursuit of that place called tomorrow. Darkness often makes tomorrow scary because human nature is wary of and worried about the ‘what if’s and uncertainties’ within a brand new unchartered day. Depending on circumstances tomorrows are known for harbouring the depth of one’s weaknesses and strengths. Robert Burns, 1785, penned it well, “The best laid schemes of mice and men go often askew. And leave us nothing but grief and pain.”
Brides worry that rain may spoil their big day, a planned vacation might be canceled because of illness, the car might have engine trouble or a flat tire, the medical appointment might bring devastating news, maybe a tornado is lurking in tomorrow. And the ticking resumes.
Listening in the darkness to the sound of time I wished it would just stop. I wanted to be enfolded in the nothingness and unconsciousness of sleep. By the time you are reading this, our fourteen year old gentle cat, Benny, will be buried with the others in our back yard. Fluid surrounds his lung and heart. His breathing is noisy, laboured and painful. Dr. Kim did everything to prolong the inevitable but our boy Benny has run out of tomorrows. Tick, tick, tick.
I’ve always maintained it takes courage to offer home and love to a pet. Yet silly humans all over this beautiful blue planet do it over and over knowing a tomorrow will come when goodbyes are tearfully, heart-wrenchingly sobbed into fur.
Hubby and yours truly recently and quietly celebrated anniversary number fifty two. That’s a big number. A number so many don’t reach and it tells us we are very lucky, we are blessed. Some mornings when South-paw is sleeping later than usual I check to see if he is still breathing.
I’ve said it often because sometimes I am lacklustre and ignore the ticking of time. Though moments lag and dawdle during the nights of painful migraine or arthritis, still it’s so true – the biggest lie I often tell myself is that I have lots of time.

A happier time with Benny in 2013.

Inside each tick of that clock, knowing tomorrow is Benny’s last, a tear falls from my soul. I think of other hearts, human and fur-covered that also ran out of tomorrows. Then it comes to me, something I wrote a very long time ago, in part:
“. . I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, I’ve felt its whip, know its sting
But often in my pondering I’ve felt the brush of angel wing.”

Eventually I nod off because I know with all certainty that I am never alone in any new day. My heart hears the whisper of wings. Tomorrows always arrive with caring and loving angels – human and heavenly.

It’s the truth. Happiness Is Homemade.

Fifty two. That is the number of years Randy and I have been married, though it often seems we didn’t do the math and that big number is wrong. Like everyone else, we’ve had turbulent times but we’ve faced and fought the giants together. We’ve also enjoyed a lifetime of wonderful pinnacle moments that give new meaning to the word gratitude.
As calendar pages take flight, so do my thoughts of how many more? And so it was one early morning hubby walked into the living room as I was contemplating the span of fifty two years.
“Anything wrong,” he asked.
“Nothing, hon. I was just thinking.”
“Thinking?”
“Yeppers. About how happy I am.”

Randy flashed a big grin before turning his attention to our fuzzy cats perched atop the sprawling tree-stand, ears erect, tails wagging, all vying for his attention and pats. I thought about the simplicity of happiness. It is not something multifaceted, rather something ambiguous – something that comes to us quietly on ordinary days and never shouts for attention.

I have observed that happy people ultimately recognize one has to man-up and stop accusing others and circumstances as joy embezzlers. Realistically I know it’s impossible to reside daily on the bright and breezy mountaintop and in an unsuspecting moment loss can lay a person flat and gasping for breath. The impairment of grief, amazingly is not meant to carry a dark life sentence, it is an invisible indefinite and very personal waiting room.

From the kitchen window I watched the big morning sun detonate across the prairie horizon and then it occurred to me that happiness is companion to resilience and courage. Unlike last summer we are almost seeing the lights and aftermath of COVID flicker in our rear-view mirror. Please, dear reader – life with its golden memorable moments is like trying to hold a slippery squirming salmon! It’s so slippery. Grab this summer with both hands and squeeze the daylights out of it! Make it a remarkable joy-splattered good one!
Life is wonderful. I would hate to miss it.
Love, Arlene!

God’s finger touched him, and he slept.” – Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Sitting on a patio chair on our back deck my attention was draw to the weedy and unsightly condition of our little feline family cemetery. In the shade of the big sprawling oak and the beautiful majestic tall pines, are iron markers attached with long coloured ribbons that signify the miniature burial places of our beloved cats. “Time to clean things up,” I told Benny, our little old moggie resting quietly and contentedly on my lap. He followed and watched with interest as I tore away at the unsightly weeds.
“This is where Ginger is buried,” I said aloud. “She was Pokie and Patchie’s sibling and was the first of the litter to be struck on that awful highway. She was only four months old.” Then I moved on to the spots where Inky, Meadow, Izzie, Misty, FurB, Scoutie, Penny, Betsy, Taffy and Patchie were buried. My heart was heavy and I found myself wiping tears with a dirtied hand. Finally all the small little sites with their ribbons gently waving in the prairie wind were tidied up.

We’ve been saving furry souls for twenty years and I lost count at thirty ribbons before returning to my deck chair to assess and admire my work. My back was throbbing and perspiration stung my eyes.


A friend once asked why I bother. I could hear twinges of sarcasm and scepticism in her voice. I explained: “The love of each one of these little innocent ones and the ones who just disappeared – likely from coyotes, was unselfish, gentle and pure. Treated like trash before – we show them kindness, and offer them a home. I like to believe their lives had validity so Randy and I give them all proper burials.”

That seemed to satisfy her and I noticed a quiet change in her demeanour. She was silent for a long time watching those fluttering ribbons
She was the friend who told me she once owned a cat but upon its death refused to take on another. Ever. When I asked why, she responded, “Too painful. It hurts way too much when you lose them.” I answered just as ardently, “Oh honey. That’s the price tag of love.”
I’m not sure she understood. So many don’t.

Sadly, it’s been my experience when the purring stops one of the hardest things ever is to silence the piercing sound of sadness.