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Harvest times tend to come along all at once. I went out last week to offer volunteer services to my vegetable garden, and realized that the peas, raspberries, onions, and potatoes all needed attention at the same time.
I know how to pick and shell peas. I know how to pick raspberries. But I realized I didn’t have a clue about the right time to pull onions or dig potatoes.
So I called a friend. Who is, fortunately, kind enough not to laugh at my ignorance.
“You need to bend the tops of the onions over,” she said.
The tops of my onions had fallen over already, on their own.
“Then you can pull them,” she said. “But they’ll need to be dried.”
Categories: Soft Edges
Tags: learning, onions, potatoes, osmosis
We took Joan Taylor home two weekends ago.
The four remaining members of her family – her daughter, two grandchildren, and I, her husband – drove her ashes 500 km and five mountain passes back to Kootenay Lake, where she had grown up.
She had been clear, all through her leukemia, that she wanted to be cremated, not buried.
“What do you want done with your ashes,” we asked her, in her final months.
“I don’t care,” she said. “I won’t be there.”
Oddly enough, those were the same words my father used, when I asked him the same question. A few days later, he had second thoughts. He wanted his ashes scattered in his favourite fishing river.
Tags: Kootenay Lake, ashes, cremation, Crawford Bay
He got cancer. A rare kind of cancer, his doctor told him. He knew he was looking death in the eye.
He remembered an old saying: “There are no atheists in foxholes.” When bullets zip past your head, you don’t turn to philosophical theories for comfort.
And he realized that no matter how sincere his convictions about a God who was inside, outside, and everywhere, a God embodied in the world and in him, at that moment what he wanted was a God who could do something about his cancer. A God who was more than an abstract understanding.
He realized he still yearned for that God “out there.”
Tags: God, fear, cancer
The yucca plants along my driveway are in bloom. This year, 51 spikes, creamy white columns of glory, rise above their clusters of sword-like leaves,
I don’t know what kind of yucca plants I have. There are, Wikipedia tells me, 49 species of yucca, and another 24 sub-species. Some grow over 30 feet (10 m) tall. Some are used for food. Some grow only in deserts. Some have fleshy leaves that store water like aloes; some have leaves as hard and dry as old shoe leather.
All I know is that my yucca border began with just two plants. The man who built our house was doing some work in his mother’s yard. He dug up some yuccas, and said to himself, “Jim Taylor needs something to grow along his driveway.”
His mother is long gone, but her yuccas live on, and delight people walking by when they burst into their annual celebration of summer.
Tags: yucca, provenance
IThe Bible asserts -- not just once but three times -- that Moses led 600,000 men of fighting age out of Egypt. Forty years later, when they crossed the Jordan River into the Promised Land, the Israelites still had 600,000 men able to go to war.
So a whole new generation was born while roaming through the deserts and mountains of the Sinai peninsula.
Which means -- I think I’m correct here -- that there must have been women among them, although the Bible didn’t bother counting women. Or children. Or seniors, such as Moses himself.
Assuming that birthrates haven’t changed much, 600,000 men probably meant an equal number of women.
Add children and seniors, the total nears two million.
If you’ve ever seen the Sinai desert, it is inconceivable that two million people could wander for 40 years through that arid wilderness.
Tags: numbers, new math, Sinai, Petra
t’s a four-hour drive from Edmonton to Jasper. Visually, the highway is slightly more exciting than any road out of Regina.
Joan was driving. I was bored.
I had read stories about people who believed that by concentrating, they could burn holes in clouds. I thought that was nonsense. Since I had nothing better to do, I decided to prove them wrong. I focussed all my attention on a small wispy-looking cloud up ahead.
It dissolved into blue sky as I watched.
Pure coincidence, I thought. I chose some bigger, puffier clouds. I found I could bore a hole through them, too.
So I picked one of the least likely clouds, one with a heavy dark base. I chose what seemed to be the thickest part of the cloud. I focussed myself totally on that cloud.
Tags: clouds, mental energy
The follies of my youth have caught up with me. For a dozen years, I spent almost every sunny weekend out on the water, just bumming around in small boats. Sometimes up Howe Sound, sometimes up the North Arm, sometimes just in Coal Harbour.
But wherever it was, I got blasted two ways by ultra-violet rays -- from the sun overhead, and from the sun reflecting off the water.
It was a glorious time, I remember.
But now I’m paying the price. A dermatologist told me that I will need to have seven pre-cancerous patches on my face removed surgically.
“Ideally,” he said, “I’d like to see you living in the bottom of a coal mine.”
My instant reaction was, “I’d rather die!”
Tags: choices, skin cancer, ultraviolet rays
A friend gave me a little book to pass on to our local museum. But because Covid-19 closed the museum for the last couple of months, I’ve kept the book on my bedside table for occasional edification.
It’s called “Rules for the Conduct of Life” -- a large topic. Closer inspection reveals a less lofty goal. It was intended as an ethical guide for apprentices seeking to join the Freemen of the City of London.
The text contains 36 rules. I found it interesting that only four of the 36 rules were considered self-evident, capable of standing on their own.
All the rest include at least one text from the Bible. Sometimes two, or three. As if they needed an external authority to validate their wisdom.
Tags: rules, authorities. Bible
The dogwood tree stood as a pillar of creamy white blossom. The hawthorn tree celebrated with a joyful chorus of deep pink flowers. Azaleas flamed fluorescent -- white, orange, red, violet, yellow. Purple allium heads tried to look like computer visualizations of a coronavirus. The rhododendrons toasted the morning in deep claret and white.
Lilacs, shaded from Ming to Wedgewood, ensured that this was not a fragrance-free zone.
Tiny yellow, white, and blue flowers cascaded down the rock garden. A septet of humming birds danced around their feeders. A great blue heron rose lazily from the lake below, trailing his legs behind him.
And there was evening and there was morning, in the four billionth year, and God saw that it was good.
Joan would have loved it. She would have rejoiced in her garden. I could not imagine how she could willingly leave it.
Tags: heaven, death, Joan Taylor
My shovel sank into the soil the full depth of the blade, effortlessly, liker slicing butter. I turned the shovel load over. The soil was rich, black, moist. And loaded with fat wriggling worms.
Some robins thought I had called them for dinner. They hopped happily over the lumps of earth only a few feet away from my own feet.
What a difference 27 years makes. When we first moved onto this property, the land was a horse pasture. Back then, the earth beneath the sod consisted mostly of river-tumbled rock and gravel. In some earlier era, this bench had been the mouth of a rushing mountain stream dumping glacial debris into a lake much larger and deeper than today’s. It left a legacy of stones and sand.
The remains of the streambed still lie inches below our lawn. But this garden plot is different, thanks to 27 years of relentless composting.
If I’ve achieved nothing else in my life, I’ve created rich black soil that didn’t exist before.
Tags: composting, achievement