Jim Taylor's Columns - 'Soft Edges' and 'Sharp Edges'

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Counting my unexpected blessings

Author: Jim Taylor

I wanted to buy an airline ticket for my 16-year-old granddaughter, to come home for (Canadian) Thanksgiving, using the points on my credit card. 

           I found the flights online. I chose the dates. I couldn’t complete the booking.  The program denied access. It slapped my wrist, so to speak. 

            So I dialed the number on the back of my credit card. 

            I was expecting trouble. Sadly, I expect any negotiation with a giant corporation to be more a curse than a blessing. Especially if I have to converse with a synthetic voice that’s supposed to pick up key words and respond intelligently.

            Instead, I got an amazing agent. 

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An Alternative Alphabet

Author: Jim Taylor

A is for Apple. That’s how Alphabet books usually start -- not with A for Alphabet. Because Apples are red and round, and make a striking image on the page.

            And A is for Autumn. The time when apples ripen and when we set aside summer dreams, summer romances, summer indolence, and settle into the labour of daily living.

            A is for Adam, too –although I think “Adam-and-Eve” should be a single hyphenated unity. Whatever they did, they did it together. They had no choice – there was no one else to do anything with, or to. 

            Also because of that Apple, says the second story of creation, Adam-and-Eve were expelled from their summer garden and condemned to hard labour for the Autumn of their lives.

            Although I think they got a bum deal. After all, God put them there in the garden. Naked. Young people, naked? What did God expect? 


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Watching the winds make waves

Author: Jim Taylor

In the Okanagan Valley, summer winds are predictable. The south wind blows up the valley. The north wind blows down the valley -- “up” and “down” depending on how you orient a map, because a lake surface has no up or down.

            In spring and fall, we also have west winds, which ride over the Coast Mountains and gather speed as they whoosh down the slopes to the lake.

            They hit the lake like a physical punch. The lake reels. Its surface darkens. Waves form, long lines of foaming combers, marching in formation across the lake.

            I’ve often wondered what’s happening at the front of the gust, at its intersection with the existing airflow.

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The importance of keeping tools sharp

Author: Jim Taylor

All my tomatoes ripened at once. One day, the vines were loaded with green tomatoes, only three showing red. The next day, it seemed, every tomato was huge, red, and already overripe. 

            I picked about 30 pounds of them. Some were so ripe, they were starting to split. 

           I thought I remembered Joan, my wife, cutting them up and freezing them for future use. For tomato soup, spaghetti sauce, or chili con carne. So I washed the remaining tomatoes, quartered them, cut out the stem core, and popped them into freezer bags. 

            For I don’t know how long, we’ve been using paring knives that go back, well,  I don’t know how long. They may be been my mother’s. Or Joan’s mother’s. The blades won’t hold an edge any more. 

            So, recently, I bought a new self-sharpening paring knife. I used it on those tomatoes. 

            What a difference an edge makes! 

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Expectations rarely measure up

Author: Jim Taylor

A month or so ago, I was watching a TV program where aging artists sang the songs that made them famous, and somehow they sounded just as good as when their vocal cords were 60 years younger.

            I have a particular affection for the music of the 1950s and early ‘60s. I was young then; I was healthy; everything was possible; the whole world opened up before me.

            I embodied the Les Paul and Mary Ford song, “I’m sittin’ on top of the world.”

            So I ordered the six CD set.

            I was disappointed. 

           My disappointment, I realize, rises not from the discs themselves, but from my expectations of them.

            Indeed, when I think about it, most of my disappointments in life have resulted from flawed expectations. 

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Categories: Soft Edges

Tags: music, pop songs, 1950s




Blessings from the past

Author: Jim Taylor

 What good are memories when there’s no one who shares them? Or cares about them? And yet roses do bloom in December, because memories are sometimes just as real as reality, and so my mother’s knitting needles still click as they knit my sweaters and socks. My dark road unfurls ahead, leading who knows where, over the hills and far away, because the granddaughter who once rode my ankle to the bounce of a cock horse going to Banbury Cross has gone away too, and my empty arms can still feel rocking her through the black pit of an Ethiopian night.

            My baggage brims over with memories, transcending time. Some hurt. Still, I’m grateful each time the wisps of fog pull aside and let me re-live the past.


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Categories: Soft Edges

Tags: memories, fog




Out of disorder, a new order

Author: Jim Taylor

I had my 84th birthday earlier this week. It’s a privilege to have lived this long.

            Franciscan priest Richard Rohr has written several books about the process of aging. Basically, he suggests, the first half of life is about acquiring -- possessions, wealth, friends, family. The second half is about letting go -- of our acquisitions, our ideas, eventually our lives.

            Recently, he’s been writing about a pattern of spirituality. He calls it Order, Disorder, and Re-Order.

            In his terms, we inherit from our parents, our friends, and our social culture an understanding of the world we live in. That’s the Order. We don’t question it; we just accept it.

            Then as we mature, we discover that the old Order doesn’t work as well as it should. So we reject bits and pieces of what we used to take for granted. 

            And then eventually, we re-organize our lives and our understandings into a new Order. 

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Cartoonists tell us about ourselves

Author: Jim Taylor

“Nostalgia ain’t what it used to be,” Yogi Berra said. Or maybe he didn’t. Berra is like Mark Twain -- the more outrageous the quote, the more likely it will be attributed to one of them.

            Or to Pogo.

            Pogo was the loveable possum invented by cartoonist Walt Kelly, in 1948. Pogo’s most famous quote is “We has seen the enemy, and he is us.” People quote it who have never read Kelly’s comic strip. 

            Forty-five years after Pogo last appeared in newspapers, some of his other quotations seem oddly prescient:

·      “Having lost sight of our objectives, we redoubled our efforts.”

·      “If you can’t win, don’t join ‘em.”

·      “Don’t take life so serious. It ain’t nohow permanent.”

·      “We are confronted with insurmountable opportunities.”

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What’s Covid doing to friendships?

Author: Jim Taylor

In the Bible, I find only two instances of come-hell-or-high-water friendships. 

            David and Jonathan were more than buddies. Jonathan risked the royal wrath of his father King Saul by befriending David. 

            Ruth and Naomi seem also to have been more than mother and daughter-in-law. Ruth could have abandoned Naomi and returned to her own people. But the two stuck together, and eventually Ruth became David’s great-grandmother. 

            The other instances commonly cited aren’t as clearly “friendships of the good.” Elijah and Elisha were mentor and pupil. Moses and Aaron, Mary and Elizabeth, Abraham and Lot, all had family ties. 

            Paul built friendships with his missionary companions Barnabas, Timothy, and Mark. But he also quarrelled and split angrily with them. 

            King Herod valued his conversations with John the Baptist. But it’s hard to call it friendship when one of you is chained to the wall.

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Things you never knew you knew

Author: Jim Taylor

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.”

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