Consider the Lilies of the Field

Since I was young I have loved the bright orange prairie lily when it grew prolifically in the wild. It brightened the ditches bordering all Saskatchewan roads and highways. It isn’t spotted so easily today and I miss it. When the pioneers first came to the prairies, during the summer months there were thousands of bright red and orange prairie lilies blooming. The decline of this flower led to it becoming protected by the Provincial Emblems and Honours. Simply stated don’t pick the lilies! It grows from a bulb so once the bulb is pulled out the flower will no longer grow. I said protected. Yeppers, the act boldly says: “No person shall pick, cut down, dig, pull up, injure or destroy, in whole or in part, whether in blossom or not, the plant that produces the flower that is the floral emblem of Saskatchewan.”

Over-picking and increased use of herbicides has led to declining numbers.

Unless you are a stranger to Saskatchewan, you know the Prairie Lily is the floral emblem of our pretty rectangular province and blooms forever on the Saskatchewan flag. It was August 1906 that King Edward VII granted a coat of arms to the province of Saskatchewan with this lily embedded within. As it is written: “The flower known botanically as lilium philadelphicum andinum, and popularly called the “prairie lily”, shall be the floral emblem of the province.” If you are a history buff, well no surprise that our remarkable province was only ONE year old when the King ordained the prairie lily OUR flower! Unique or what?? (Might be a bit of an exaggeration!)

 Its appearance varies depending on its local environment. Always beautiful, the lilies stand out brilliantly in flaming orange and red against a natural green background. They were a delight to see during road trips so many years ago. Today we are wowed to see our personal cultivated lily blooming in rainbow of colours in yards and flower beds across North America.

Swallowtail butterflies mostly pollinate it, but is also visited by hummingbirds. These birds can collect nectar without touching the plant’s reproductive structures. For this reason, they are less effective pollinators than butterflies. When its blooms are finished, sadly this plant is often overlooked. If, like myself, you are a lily lover, you have to be patient when planting. Grown from seeds – which are 3 sided capsules about an inch long – this plant often takes up to four years to produce flowers! But we can let the nurseries do the leg work and purchase them full bodied.

I did a bit of digging (no pun intended) and read that this pretty flower is edible and is also a source of vitamin C and pro-vitamin A. The Prairie Lily was a staple food of many native tribes. The Indigenous people of the Plains and early settlers used the lily for medicinal and food purposes.

Vegetatively, the lily reproduces from bulbs composed of starchy scales. Bulbs were boiled and eaten. Tea brewed from the lily treated stomach disorders, coughs, and fevers. Poultices were applied for swellings, bruises, spider bites, and wounds. Steamed lily was considered a potato substitute. White settlers did learn a few plant-based remedies from the Indigenous people, and a few prairie plants were prescribed by frontier doctors. But in both the number of species used and the varieties of treatments administered, the Indigenous were far more proficient than white settlers.

A creature I dislike very much and has me running to Randy’s protection, also enjoy this lily. The mouse-like vole! The Cree first discovered this and gave the lily another name: mouse-root. Another enemy reared its head on the prairies the summer of 2020. The enemy even smaller than the vole was a tiny invasive foreign insect known as the red lily beetle. Researchers believed the insect arrived in Canada in a shipment of infected bulbs.

 I always wish this flower would bloom much longer because when it isn’t, this plant is so overlooked. Hail to this orange plant for choosing the prairies to live on. “Us” other planted residents know personally that Saskatchewan can be a punishing place to call home. Our winters are bitterly cold so this hardy lily just digs down farther for preservation to amaze and mesmerize us summer after prairie summer.

One day late spring, our son came from the shop carrying something truly remarkable. Out of a piece of old steel, once belonging to a combine that rattled across a dusty prairie field, he had grinded, cut, welded, polished and created a tall steel prairie lily. Studying photos and the lilies by our home, the detail was remarkable. All summer he has been creating these breathtaking steel lilies. Each one unique. Just like our prairie lily and you!

Once upon a . . . combine!

Life is a beautiful thing and like the lily, it is also an endangered species. It is fragile, the heart – like a bulb can be cut down, injured and destroyed – in whole or in part. During our 50+ years of marriage, life has had many rough spots, some really dark seasons that made us dig down deep and wait, knowing that winter will pass. Natalie Sleeth expressed it flawlessly in her beautiful song: In the bulb there is a flower, in the seed, an apple tree, in cocoons, a hidden promise: butterflies will soon be free! In the cold and snow of winter there’s a spring that waits to be, unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.”

Please take care of yourself these awesome dwindling days of August.

Love, Arlene

https://www.facebook.com/852170037/videos/813064276766304/

Just a few of our son’s sculptures. If interested email: ramartin@sasktel.net

ONCE UPON A . . COMBINE!!
One of Ross’s steel lilies with a copper finish
Giving spirit and beauty to rusty pieces of steel!

“. . If I could walk around, I swear I’ll leave, won’t take nothin’ but a memory from the house that built me!”*

These beautiful watermelon and sunshine days my heart especially misses and thinks of mother. I recently celebrated another trip around the sun and birthdays were her specialty.

A birthday never went by without one of mother’s amazing rich and yummy cakes. She would ask the birthday person what kind of cake and icing they would like for their special day. The choices were difficult but delicious: angel-food with seven–minute whipped frosting, lemon cake with chocolate fudge icing, vanilla cake with cherry icing, or chocolate cake with caramel or mint icing. After the selection was made, mother slipped into her apron, her mind already picturing the superb finished product.

Stoking the wood stove to get the oven the perfect temperature, she set out eggs gathered the same day from our laying hens, flour sifted from the four-foot high flour barrel, fresh cream and homemade butter from our cows, and all the other ingredients. Humming strains of ‘She’s The Yellow Rose Of Texas’ or ‘In The Sweet By and By,’ mother was bent on her mission: to bake and make a cake that would be a gift in itself. She would fetch her handbag and start removing spare change. If she didn’t have enough she would call father and ask him to empty his pockets. She knew the occasion would be far more festive with surprise coins inside her big birthday cake, a common practice of that time. When the cake was beginning to rise she inserted pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters wrapped in wax paper. I can’t remember when this custom stopped and have wondered if someone choked on a quarter and the innocent baker spent a lifetime paying off a lawsuit.

‘The cake’ was always a masterpiece and often we had to stare temptingly at it till party time. Brother Brian and I always wondered how mother knew we took swipes in the icing with our fingers when she wasn’t watching. We never fooled her. She always told us she had eyes in the back of her head. Something I didn’t fully understand until I became a mother.

When the birthday bash occurred during the hot summer months we looked forward to orange or cherry Kool-Aid. I would watch mother mix the powdered Kool-Aid in a pretty pitcher. She said most others added an entire cup of sugar as the small package instructed. She poured glistening white sugar crystals almost to the three quarter mark in her Pyrex measuring cup and said it was just a waste of good sugar to add a full cup.

Winter parties we drank milk from our cows that father had milked very early that morning or hot cocoa from the same heated milk.

Mother added the candles to the cake last and her eyes also lit up with excitement as the candles glittered and flickered on top of her beautiful cake. We weren’t concerned with germs and viruses as we yelled for the birthday person to make a wish before the big blow out. As long as our drinking water was fluorinated and our vaccinations were up to date, there wasn’t much time spent worrying about our health. When we were sick mother took us to the doctor and the solution usually was having our tonsils removed. There wasn’t much time for worrying, period. Mother always said worrying was a waste of time and gave a person wrinkles.

Perhaps I suffer from ‘The Mayberry Syndrome’ but I often wonder what happened to those simpler, happier, less stressful days. Maybe my thinking is delusional from a baby crib covered in a cheerful pretty shade of lead based paint. But I survived a world where I rode my big rusty bike helmet-less on dusty graveled roads and shared an orange crush soda from the same bottle with my friends. I took Aspirin from a container without a childproof cap, traveled in a car without airbags, and have scars from climbing trees and tripping over my feet – scratches and bruises that were painted with bright orange Mercurochrome and protected with a band aid.

Young me holding one of mother’s wonderful birthday cakes and wearing an outfit she sewed for me. Notice the ‘cat’ design!

I won’t be giving up my laptop or cell phone but sometimes I miss the days when mother solved the world’s problems by baking a birthday cake and inviting everyone to celebrate with us around the kitchen table.

 Title is excerpt from: *The House That Built Me” is a song written by Tom Douglas and Allen Shamblin recorded by American country music artist Miranda Lambert.)

“That is all I want in life; this pain to seem purposeful.” – Elizabeth Wurtzel

In the darkness of 3am I am watching lightning awaken and illuminate the black prairie sky. I find the responding celestial thunder soothing. The youngest in our feline family is terrified of sudden loud noise and I am up to make sure Windy is all right. A cup of milky tea sits beside me – specifically brewed to down my migraine medication.

My thoughts are meditative and musing. Yesterday my orthopedic surgeon had much to say and I am still absorbing, trying to grasp all our conversation. A tiny circular Band-Aid covers the spot where he injected cortisone into my right hip. I wake every morning to fight once again the pain demons that left me exhausted the previous night. But there is one thing time has taught me: life is tough BUT so am I.

I wanted my son, Ryan, visiting from Toronto, to meet this remarkable surgeon. The same specialist who, in 2017 and 2018, implanted my new titanium, ceramic, metal and plastic pain- free knees. Ryan was happy to come with me, also as my backup listener because of my hearing disability. Here’s the deal with “us” hearing impaired: we very often need to have things repeated and extra time to process – to make sense of what we heard. Listening, for me, requires lip-reading to follow a conversation and masks, mandatory in medical facilities, are a huge impediment. Hearing devices are NOT like eye glasses and people who are partially deaf don’t actually hear. We have to really listen. I have to concentrate on listening ALL the time, single conversations, NO distractions. And normal people don’t listen, they simply just hear, it is automatic. It’s quick. It’s stress-free.

An ear-splitting thunder-boomer suddenly made Windy vault. The previous day was a sizzler and evening, though still and beautiful, was also warm. Even with air conditioning our home is muggy and stifling. Rain brought coolness and so it was that Windy and I were sitting near an open window when Nature struck all one hundred thirty five decibels on her greatest pipe organ.

Dawn is not far away and this day is forecast to be another hot one. The muggy kind that tires Randy and myself, but we want for our Toronto guys. We usually all load up our aging Chevy suburban with cool drinks, sunscreen and pile in to explore prairie places we’ve not yet traveled. The recent price of fuel and their shorter period home prevents that, but we are not without adventures. The family kind – the best kind.

Likely while you are reading this, for which I am extremely grateful, they will be back in Toronto and this mama will be pondering the events, family gatherings, laughter, late nights, all our grilled burgers/smokies and on-the-barbeque meals, our yummy desserts and refreshing beverages.

I will also once again enjoy my formerly broken laptop (caused by my awkward, inept undoing) that computer specialist and programmer, Rodney, spent hours of intricate extensive repairing and restoring.

But soon daylight will burn and the sound of coffee beans being ground and the smell of a fresh pot will stir this little house on the prairie to life. And laughter will again rattle the rafters!

Though weary and with a nagging headache – the cortisone in my hip and the joy and blessings of this day will put a bounce in my step, sparkle in my eye and true joy in my heart. I close my eyes and let the beauty of this brand new day that is being cleansed by the falling rain remind me of the truth seven decades of life has shown me: storms never last!

I know YOU, dear friend, have likely been at sparkling blue lakes with your families and friends, enjoying your grandchildren and embracing the summer of 2022. It was Frank Lloyd Wright who once said, “The longer I live, the more beautiful life becomes.”

Oh, my reader, I hope you can also say the same.
Love, Arlene and Windy!

I am Summer, come to lure you away from your computer… come dance on my fresh grass, dig your toes into my beaches. ~Oriana Green

I am writing these words very early Thursday morning. My eyelids are heavy and I wrestle with slouching back in my recliner to catch a few more winks. Our Toronto kids are home. It’s their first morning here and my heart is so full of joy. Everyone will be awake soon and the tantalizing aroma of coffee and the sweet sound of laughter will permeate all the nooks, crannies and corners of our little house on the prairie. It is always exciting to listen to the happy interaction between brothers together after a year separation. To see them walking, talking and chuckling together banishes the gloom from all the craggily crooks of this mom’s old spirit!

Our house is silent as the welcoming fingers of daylight reach through the windows like beams of blessings. Blessings that will unravel throughout the moments of a new summer day. My family is together. We are ALL safe and cozy under the sheltering umbrella roof of our little prairie home. Adventures await! Family. The word alone is comforting because the world is in turmoil. But I am awake early this morning to write uninterrupted.
I find myself staring at my laptop screen, searching for words and wisdom as the weekly uncompliCATed deadline looms. Suddenly it occurs to me I am trying too hard. My audience consists of friends. Friends like you!

Its summer and time for a break from the regular and the routine. YOU may be at your cottage, or traveling, visiting friends and hopefully – your family. You may be camping, swimming, reading a good book in the shade and shelter of your front porch.

I hope you are well or as I like to say, ‘mostly’ well despite settings and situations that are leave you helpless and hopeless to change. I gave up trying to be captain of the world because the impossibility was making me miserable.

Yesterday has expired. It’s gone and nothing can bring it back. But for the moment, daylight burns and summer and sunshine are waiting.

Whatever your circumstances and your retreat or your happy place consists of – dear reader and friend – memorize the moments and sounds of THIS summer.
Sunshine memories make beautiful stories.
I’d like to hear yours!


Happy summertime!

If today you can’t be anything else to anybody, you can be the passing stranger who nodded hello. ~Robert Brault

REMEMBERING:

It was one of those searing hot summer days on the Canadian prairie when the blazing sun could melt your sneaker soles. Having an unsettling week full of sad and disappointing stuff my ‘soul’ also felt burnt out. I had to make a trip to the city and stood pondering in front of my open closet. What to wear? Stores will have air conditioning but outdoors is blistering. It was a dilemma.

Every passing year summer’s heat disagrees more with me, physically, mentally and medically. I reached for a turquoise summer sun dress I hadn’t worn for a long time, not happy with the short length, but it was sleeveless and cool. I stood in front of the mirror, my murky mood reflecting self-condemnation and criticism. Where did these flabby arms come from and what about the rolls around my waist and tummy? How did I let those wrinkles gather around my neck? Miserably I decided it didn’t matter, the sun would still rise and set no matter what I wore.

Later with almost all the items crossed off my lengthy ‘to get and to do’ list, I was exiting a shopping mall pushing a bulky and burdened shopping cart. Under the searing sun I gazed the parking lot trying to remember where I parked. Fumbling in my handbag for my keys, I looked up and was startled to see a woman in nursing fatigues smiling as she walked towards me. “You look so nice in that dress,” she said. But before I could reply she entered the big doors disappearing in the crowd.

Something happened on the drive home. How was it possible that I didn’t feel so down? I realized I was singing.

Like a sunbeam in a dark room I knew it was the unexpected smile and the time taken by a stranger to reach out with a compliment. Mother Teresa once said, “I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world.”

I made a mental note that day to make sure I also speak out and also brighten someone’s day. I was on the receiving end of an unexpected, perhaps impulsive kind word and it felt good. It also occurred to me that sometimes joy doesn’t have a voice.
But I have the ability to give it one.

I wish you a life of much joy and blessings to have all the love you need: to be able to nurture your gifts – to be blessed with good health in order to be all you are meant to be. Love, Arlene

SKINNED KNEES ARE PART OF THE JOURNEY

I’m tired. Some mornings when I get out of bed I am more tired than I was getting there the night before. Today there were things that needed to be done. I felt overwhelmed and the sofa seemed inviting and I accepted its invitation gracefully. An hour later I was awakened by the soft chime of my telephone.
I was embarrassed to admit that fifteen minutes after one pm on a sunny Wednesday afternoon I was sleeping.
   I am quickly approaching another big birthday. I remember that of all the things I never wanted to be was old. My inner voice reprimands, a reminder many have not seen and many will never see the age I am about to be.
It doesn’t make me less tired.
   The sun is shining so I open a few windows to let its warmth enter. Maybe I needed that nap because I find myself filling my scrub pail with hot soapy water. The only way to enjoy a clean looking and smelling home is to get at it and scrub. As simple as that is, for me it isn’t. I have Degenerative Scoliosis and arthritis has chewed away all the shock absorbers between each disc in my spine. It makes for a very interesting X-ray – like a zigzag railroad track with one wayward tie jutting dangerously off the track. I am waiting hip replacement surgery. So just carrying a bucket of water without gasping and collapsing is the equivalent of running a marathon and being the first to cross the finish line. Though at end of day, I couldn’t get out of my recliner without Randy’s extended hand but our home had the pleasant blended scent of Mr. Clean and Lemon Pledge.
But today while others are planting and weeding, enjoying gardens and flower pots and beds, to me this time of year is a harsh realization that my gardening days are long past. And almost everything else I was once very ably to accomplish. Arthritis can be a joy-thief! It’s easy to justify self-pity and wallow righteously in it. But the thing I call my inner voice – my conscience is quick to chastise loudly, “KNOCK IT OFF!!” I have some serious thinking to do and that voice of reason recaps and reiterates:
“Did you once take care of three large yards?” My answer is yes. I mowed a lot of grass in a lot of years: one in town and two farm yards.
“When Randy’s mother passed from cancer, did you take care of your father-in-law debilitated after his stroke?” I nodded. I had.
Voice of reason, “Did you also watch over and care for your dad when he lived alone?” Indeed I had, remembering the weight of the responsibility.
“And did you lose hearing in your right ear when you were young?” Yes. I was thinking of the disability and distress of unilateral hearing loss.
“Are you familiar with incapacitating migraine and how many days and nights of your life you’ve lost recovering in a darkened room?” Indeed. Too many to even take a guess at. “You also had knee replacement surgeries, followed by hernia surgery” I glanced out the window noting that heavy dark clouds were obscuring the previous beautiful sapphire sky. I was remembering the healing and hard times in the span of less than two years.

“Were you once-upon-a-time the wife of a long-distance truck driver juggling a job and two children?” Oh my gosh – the loneliness and struggles of those days. Also the years Randy worked away from home at a fly-in-only uranium mine. I discovered I could do things I never thought I could or would have to.
“Do you remember your mother telling you the story of how you almost died from Rheumatic Fever when you were young?” The silent probing continued painting my life in positivity. Two grown and accomplished sons. A marriage approaching fifty three years.
   The voice of reason had much to say jogging memories of times I garnered strength despite feeling I was running on empty. With throbbing back I reached for my strong pain medication and washed it down with coffee I’d forgotten about. That voice, which we all have though often ignore, was gently telling me to tolerate the things I no longer can do and trudge forward, graciously accepting change.
   These things aren’t being said in haughtiness or arrogance because I appreciate that thousands of people, diverse ages, experience much more pain and agony and they have become my teacher. From them I learn acceptance, compassion, tolerance and admiration. I type these words with weak arthritic, misshapen fingers and hurting wrists. On a pain level between one and ten, my back is screaming out a seven. Maybe an eight. C.S. Lewis said: “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

If you are discouraged, walking wounded, waking tired or weighed down it is helpful to remind yourself of past troubled times and how you overcame. Though it would be fantastic to be invincible, this I know: being human means being vulnerable. Tomorrow I will likely wake up tired. Pain is a drain whether it is physical or emotional. Full garden or only a few flower pots, summer is the season of growing and blooming. It is Mother Nature’s call to human nature to appreciate – to fathom what obstacles a tiny seed can overcome. A daily habit of gratitude, seeing life as a playground rather than a battleground and walla!! This is me telling you that superman’s cape looks really good on you!

The Saddest Loss Is A Sense Of Humor

 I’ve been thinking a lot about my father lately. He was such a caring, calm and gentle person I often wonder his reaction to today’s world events. One of his favourite things to do was laugh. He figured out that joy was key to strength, stamina and survival. Unkind words never existed in his vocabulary but his heart broke many times over about injustices, cruelty and suffering of others.

In his closing years we had moved him many times till finally his last ‘home’ was a care facility only a fifteen minute drive from our farm. Every move meant another downsize – and furniture, boxes of things and clothing that couldn’t go with him started occupying much space in our home and garage. So it was late afternoon when the frugal April prairie sun tossed its rays through the window, and with my coffee mug on the floor beside me, I tackled the biggest box of dads papers and pictures and ‘stuff.’

I sorted through years of Christmas cards, birthday cards, photos, magazines and similar memorabilia. I found half-written letters, notes to himself, his ‘joy collection’ of whimsical and funny sayings and jokes. I found old reading glasses and receipts. But it was the bill to his hearing aid dated 2004 that shocked me disclosing what he had paid for something so dinky – and for something he seldom wore. He said it was ‘too noisy and more of a nuisance than anything.’

True to many of his generation, he didn’t like to toss things away. He had a box of string, rubber bands, safety pins, used and wrinkled twist and bread ties, a motley assortment of nails and screws, safety tacks and various whatnots. He collected all these bits and pieces but his personal needs and possessions were prudent. He knew all along what it takes many a lifetime to discover: coffins don’t come with luggage racks. His treasures were things that couldn’t be placed and stored inside a box: relationships, music, laughter and his faith.

He loved music and cherished his collection of cassette tapes. After mother’s passing he filled many lonely evenings playing his violin as accompaniment with his tapes. My father never lost his song.

Throughout the years we spent many hours playing music by ear. My fingers on the piano would leap from one song, mostly the old hymns and right into the next and his violin followed fluently. We also shared the unpleasant and painful world of migraine. After being sick with a headache for two or three days, a quick phone call to my soft-spoken papa and compassion and comprehension leaped through the wires and formed an invisible hug.

That evening with renewed interest I was scrutinizing his hearing aid. I noticed it was for his right ear and thought it convenient because severe nerve damage has rendered me stone-deaf in my right ear. South Paw was sitting next to me on the sofa – as is the norm in our home, TV remote clutched tightly in his strong mechanic hands. I was leafing through the instruction manual adjusting a squealing hearing device in my ear. I hadn’t bothered turning on a lamp and the teeny print was a hard read. The high-pitch shriek eventually got to hubby and he turned to give me an irritated look.

However one glance and his face exploded into laughter. I was adjusting a very noisy squealing hearing aid, wearing two pairs of reading glasses holding the manual three inches from my face.  As the big old yellow prairie moon smiled in through our garden doors, South Paw’s laughter echoed throughout our home dispelling the gloominess of the day and my heart. With a conspicuous over-sized hearing aid screeching dreadfully loud in my right ear, I too, joined in the fun. Holding our sides and welcoming the sheer and sudden delight of joy we both laughed so loudly we knew that Heaven couldn’t help but hear.

RESCUE THE PERISHING, CARE FOR THE DYING

My tea is just the right temperature now and I set my book aside to collect a cup from the kitchen. Tears fill my eyes as I glimpse outside into the back yard at two freshly dug little mounds. My book by Nancy Tillman, a gift from a precious friend: “The Heaven of Animals”. It is a good read, a comforting read.

A writer does the best writing about familiar things. This may answer why I have not pacified grandparents with articles about the wonders and enjoyment of grandkids. Years of faith and experience has shown me that the cosmos dishes out special responsibilities and certain gifts to all individuals and families. Grandchildren were not included on our list. It may seem amusing to some that our calling for the past 20+ years has been the rescue and restoration of discarded felines: all ages, all stages of suffering and emaciation. Randy and I never asked for it, like the arrival of others’ grandchildren, one day it just started happening.

Years ago while I was in the local drugstore, I ran into someone I hadn’t seen for several years. Only minutes earlier on my drive into town, sadly on the black pavement, I saw the lifeless body of our outdoor white cat. I gently picked her up and returned home to bury her later. Mentioning this, to my surprise, she burst out laughing and said one of the cruelest things anyone has said to me, “Arlene. It’s just a CAT!”
I have never forgotten her words and how they made me feel. It truly reinforced the truth that while others are typically quick to help comfort an individual who is grieving the loss of another person, society’s attitude toward pet loss is very different. Reading this, if you are not a pet person, hang on and know it is not my intent to convert you.

Within the span of several weeks we’ve buried two little furry souls, both in their late teen years. They were part of our home, our routine, our daily life for almost the span of raising children. They never demanded anything but our attention, a good meal and a warm bed. No emotional baggage, no hidden agenda or regrets. They were always there waiting for us with big welcoming excited eyes and wagging tails.

Nursing sick little fur bodies doesn’t ever get easy because I have learned the day is looming when I will recognize that look in their dark receding eyes that silently pleads, “No more medicine. Just let me go.” But recently this time was different. It sent me despondently down the rabbit hole. In desperation I begged Heaven for healing, for more time. I did not want to feel their heart give its’ last beat, the final breath escape weak lungs.

I searched resources for information on pet loss to see if my feelings are legit. There are many and though it is something many pet people cannot conceive, there was not one source that said it is foolish to mourn and feel sad. Totally the contrary. Losing their love, affection, and companionship, according to everything I read, can be beyond heartbreaking. Many articles confirmed losing a pet(s) is extremely difficult for seniors and it is more than normal grief. Explanation being that seniors have already dealt with so much loss which becomes complicated mingled with other losses and trauma. In summary everything I read about owning a pet confirmed that they become and are an important part of our lives, hearts and home. Their funny responses and actions always adding a piece of sunshine when life was not.

So, sadly I am writing about something I am deeply familiar with.
In the shade of the big pine trees in our back yard over thirty ribbons are blowing in the prairie wind. Each one representing an individual life and personality that we loved and cared for. Most of them arrived anonymously, thrown away like yesterday’s trash and into our yard.
So I guess it was normal while emptying the clothes dryer the day after a little heart stopped beating that his soft little yellow blanket – paralyzed me. I buried my face in it sobbing his name.
Grief is grief and it indeed is a heavy cloak with straps that intertwine tenaciously with one’s heartstrings. Rather than ribbons, my son, sensing my sadness, applied his keen welding skills and fashioned two beautiful individual stainless steel sculptures placed affectionately by the recent burials. They come into sight as I settle again in my lounge chair and reach for the book I was reading: “. . But the love that you have for your animal friends is always the same – that love never ends, It makes itself known in all kinds of ways, It floats all around them, or settles or stays, And when angels whisper in animal ears, it is your voice that each animal hears . . “

In today’s world unsettled by war, uprisings, protests, floods, fires, violence, pandemics, senseless crime – one thing becomes blazingly clear. Love. All that is near and dear deserves to be embraced because life – whether wrapped in fur, feathers; children inside a mother’s heart or tucked tight in a grandmother’s arms – is so fragile.
An old song stirs the ashes of hope as I grip my cup of tea ~ “Touched by a loving heart, wakened by kindness, Chords that were broken will vibrate once more.*

 “But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you  . . or let the fish in the sea inform you. . .  In his hand is the life of every creature.” Quote from the Bible.

New International Version, Job 12:7-10.
Our son loved this little guy also and he put his energy and emotions into the design and welding of this stainless steel marker. A beautiful sunflower reflects on the sunny and happy personality of a little furry soul such a part of our home and hearts.
Her death really devastated me as I never saw it coming. We thought we’d be picking her up and bringing her home after treatment at the vet clinic. Unknown, to us she had an enlarged heart and scarred lungs. A CROWN FOR A PRINCESS. Our son made this freehand out of stainless steel. Beautiful tribute to the little furry bundle of happiness.

RESCUE THE PERISHING:

This little guy was minutes from death. Yes, it has become our calling to save furry souls. There are so many. Sorry for those who think I have misinterpreted and twisted Fanny Crosby’s beautiful old hymn for my personal agenda. It also describes where we get our strength and faith to do what we do.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gai0v2xLA5I

The universe will do the writing for you, if you just listen closely enough. ~Terri Guillemets

“WOW,” wrote a first time reader in response to my little chunk of space on the www, ” . . a fabulous blog and I loved it so much that I wandered up and down, reading and re-reading her beautiful poems and other words.  I am almost in tears sitting here on Sunday afternoon alone in the house. . .  I will save it and look at it now and again.  Your poem about the soldier that you wrote in 1970 is wonderful and I’m glad it was published and sent around so many can read it, remember, and be thankful.”

Letters like this always remind me I have accomplished what I first set out to do when I began writing and posting on a blog my son had set up for me as a birthday gift so many years ago. He believed in me and though he was so busy, he made the time to give me an outlet for my thoughts and stories. I vowed before Heaven that together ‘we’ could encourage others, make them know they are important and life – even when it is bleak, is worth getting out of bed in the morning.

I am enjoying a cup of tea in my favourite chair and watching the big moon glimmering through the movement of the big pine trees in our back yard. I have shut off the television, for the news is daunting, dark and disturbing, my gaze instead shifts to the windy late April night outside. Despite the happenings worldwide and locally, humanity, I am discovering, has special talents and gifts that can help others through anxiety and adversity. Even in chilling shadows the human spirit, though oftentimes left limping, is resilient and daunting.

Each passing precious year validates to me that encouragement is not something arduous or obscure. It arrives with a gift of baked muffins, holding a door open for someone, words of gratitude in a telephone call, an unexpected caring card, e-mail or message, and sometimes it just comes from a warm smile, a wave or a cheery hello. It seems a fabulous thing to make an effort in the chaos of a busy day to pass on words of praise and veneration for they honestly accomplish more than ever can be imagined.

The hour is late. Randy is in bed, the days have been long waiting for the chill of a delayed prairie spring to pass. I am standing on the snug side of the garden doors and scour the night one last time before also calling it a day. The uncompliCATed celestial stares back, silent and superb. My little calico, Brandy, has come to stand and scrutinize with me and I scoop her in my arms. Her green eyes are wide and ears perked just in case there is movement in the darkness. My weary mind rich with blessings and benefits during this one last mesmerizing gaze of a day that can never come again – and the old moon I have come to love – flickers back and flings me it’s biggest ever wink. 

Thank you for reading my words, on the printed page and visiting my blog. You are the reason I do this and perhaps you aren’t a writer, but trust me – you just don’t know it.

Each new day we make our own headlines, a compilation of days and months and moments that tell a story. When I tell my last story, I have a feeling they will discover ink in my veins and blood on my keyboard.

It’s not about the bunny; it’s about the Lamb.

It is Easter, the winter should be passed. It is time to get out of the cold mode. Winter is refusing to release its icy grip on the Canadian prairie. Also today most citizens of this beautiful blue planet are dealing with unprecedented “winters” of uncertainty – being shoved to a threshold of their ability to cope. I sit here with a cup of coffee staring at the wintry world outside the window. Snowflakes are being tossed and churned like the thoughts whirling in my head.

We have seen the emergence of new variants of COVID-19. Sadly, on many different levels, life as we all once knew it has diminished leaving in its wake new variants of burnout.
I have been noticeably on edge, physically and emotionally. Easter is a great time for me to acknowledge and toss the things that get under my skin and knot my nerves. It’s quiet here in the country and the ice on the creek near our back yard has finally broken. I need to identify the negative things that have been wintering in my soul. I want to toss in and get rid of my icy, complaining spirit. I have particularly been beating myself up about weight and arthritis gains. Also the recent Canadian division resulting from Anti-government, Anti-Vaxxers and Anti-Maskers, the rife originating from the Trucking “Freedom Convoy” and the heartbreaking war in Ukraine have really hoarded heavily in my heart. All of this and the long seemingly never-ending cold of winter has stolen my joy – exhaustion has set in. I know I am not alone in my weariness.

But in the midst of all this comes Easter! In a world filled with insecurity and anguish a message of hope that has the muscle to change lives and hearts appears out of the gloom.
Christian faith hollers across the world that God still has hope in mankind and sent his own son to redeem us.

For all the horrible things humans are saying and doing to each other right now, there have been reassuring acts of compassion and kindness to remind me there are and always will be good people in the world. Although the winds here still contain frost, I throw on my winter jacket and slip into my pink rubber boots. I need to connect with nature and center myself, turn off my phone and go for a walk. Somewhere in the dark of all these negative happenings, I have forgotten what I used to do every evening before falling asleep. I would list three things to be grateful for that had happened in my day. Then I always concluded with, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”

So it is time to stand by that creek and toss the things corroding my spirit.

Easter Day is a public holiday across Ukraine and celebrates Jesus’ resurrection from death. Ukraine’s Easter holiday follows the Orthodox Easter date, which will be Sunday April 24. In that beautiful country so obliterated, razed by war, Easter is known as Velykden, The Great Day. As April 24 looms, it is my longing that the war and bloodshed would be over. The shining light, my beacon of hope in that country has been the inspiring, invincible, strong, unwavering tenacity of each Ukrainian.

A recent image of a bullet-riddled marred church door in the town of Makarov reminds me of the hallmark of Easter: “. . THE STONE HAD BEEN ROLLED AWAY FROM THE ENTRANCE.”

A door of a church is damaged from shrapnel following a Russian attack in the previous weeks, in the town of Makarov, Kyiv region AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris

My cup of coffee has become cold and that’s my cue to get on with this day. Go for a walk on the frozen ground and see with my heart the greenery and flowers that lie in wait. I can do this as I remember the cry of Pope John Paul 11: “Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song.”


Happy Easter my dear friends. Keep hope in your heart.
Love, Arlene.

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