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October’s Lady

It’s the cliche of the season, I know, but I have to agree with Anne Shirley: I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.

It’s no secret to anyone who reads here that I am not a woman who was made for hot summers. Not only am I a west coast Canadian, most at home caught between the ocean and the mountains, I am Canadian by way of the northern tip isles of Scotland and the grey middles of England. I’m freckled and pale. My ancestors made it clear: I was made for cardigans and moccasins, for cool evenings and the bite in the air.

Yet I’m not much for the big rituals of autumn; for instance, the epic outings with perfectly staged photos. I think they’re lovely, they’re just not my focus, I guess. We’re not into Halloween and you won’t ever catch me doing more for dress-up than stopping at the pop-up-shop in town and stuffing three $10 costumes that will suffice for the school costume parade into the shopping cart. I’m not pinning gold-dipped pumpkins and, much as I enjoy crafting, I don’t have much time for it these days so there aren’t any homemade wreaths. Sure, we’ll do the pumpkin patch thing and the apple orchard, no doubt, and we’ll trot around the neighbourhood in mass-produced costumes that shouldn’t be left near an open flame gathering candy in last year’s Halloween buckets like we do every year but those aren’t the moments of October I savour. Not really.

For me, the gift of October is in the light of the days, the last gracious light of this turn around the sun. It’s the golden glow of our moments as they fade away into the cool darkness, earlier and earlier. It’s the smell of dead leaves after a soaking rain. It’s standing outside in the changing woods, still, watching the leaves pirouette down in sheets during a gust of wind. It’s the vibrant colours – bright gold of the aspens, the red of oak and maple trees lining the boulevards and the playgrounds, the orange of beech, even the maroon of the overlooked ones. Perhaps it’s because these colours stand in perfect relief again the deep blue of the afternoon light. The blue of a sun-filled autumn afternoon – now there’s the argument for the restoration of creation.

Crisp mornings, sharp like a tart apple, wake me up from the stupor of summer. The air crackles with ideas and renewal, this should be the true start of the year, we come alive again.

It’s the way we gather in the autumn, too. Today in fact, our tables are set. We make the turkeys the way that our mothers made their turkeys, thumb through cookbooks with dog-eared pages, bake our goodies off of recipe cards made translucent with buttery fingers over the years. I like to consider myself a pretty good cook but I met my Waterloo in pie crust: it keeps me humble. So I buy my pies, proud in my common sense.

It’s the sound of children outside, and the old games that never seem to go away – tag, hide and seek, freeze tag. It’s school days and backpacks filled with Roald Dahl books and packed peanut-free lunches.

October’s true delights are in the small homebody rituals though. Lighting candles, full pots of tea with steam curling upwards from the new autumn blends from David’s Tea in old pots covered with hand knit tea cosies, comfort baking, pots of soup, draped scarves around our necks, revisiting the novels we have read a dozen times already just because we know we love them, sweaters on my knitting needles and old movies on rainy afternoons, dark and slow mornings, red lipstick stains on coffee mugs.

homebodies

Print by Be Small Studios. Available here.

I’ve learned one secret of happiness, perhaps – be easily pleased. I’m easily pleased by small things, by lovely things, by beautiful things, ridiculous and simple things perhaps, but I’m happy in these days and so it’s enough.

October feels like a woman who knows her age and rests comfortable in that knowledge, like the woman I want to be someday. Bearing her years like a crown, beautiful but in her own beauty not the borrowed or contrived beauty of past seasons, wise and patient, crisp and alive, a bit tart but restful. October feels kind and strong in equal measure.

 

Continue Reading · abundant life, enough · 25

In which it snows in the morning

Every day do something that won't compute :: Sarah Bessey

Wake up to a brighter bedroom, the snow has been falling outside all night. Take a lazy look around the room, look at the life it is reflecting back to you: a sturdy homemade bed; tangled and worn white sheets; a man with a beard is sleeping, his hand still resting on your spine; bright yellow baby rainboots tossed in a corner; piles of books. Stretch the length of your life.

The tinies will come clumping down the hall soon, their voices filled with wonder: “Mum! It snowed!” That man you kissed last night will roll out of the bed because Sundays are your day to sleep in, a deal’s a deal, you do Saturdays. But you both know you won’t go back to sleep – you never do. Watch him head upstairs to the ministry of coffee and Bubble Guppies on Netflix.

Get out of the bed and go to the window, look out into the forest. The snow is still falling, thick and lazy, almost predictably. Open the window for a few moments, just to smell it. Crawl back into your bed, pull up the covers, and grab a book. Once a week, you get to read first thing when you wake up and so here is a stack of Wendell Berry and Flannery O’Connor and Luci Shaw, practice the resistance of reading of good books.

When you go upstairs in an hour, make a pot of tea. No solitary mugs will do for a snowy Sunday, get out the big sturdy brown pot and your mother’s discarded delicate white teacups, the ones with blue and silver flowers on the rim. Hug your babies, good morning, good morning, yes, I see you. Listen to the dishwasher chug, everything is brighter and slower when it snows.

Church is cancelled, you’re pretty sure everyone is relieved for a day off anyway, an excuse to stay in their jammies, watch movies, work puzzles, roll in the snow, read novels. The more judicious might catch up on housework, pay the bills online, answer emails: the kindred spirits will make a bit of room for delicious indolence.

Decide to do something real today, then bake a loaf of bread. Yeast, flour, water, salt – simple is good for the soul and the belly. Guide small hands into kneading properly, let everything rise in its time.

Scratch a few lines into a journal. Write a bit but try not get frustrated because you are interrupted seven times in fifteen minutes. Read a psalm. Pray in the shower. Listen as you go through your day. Clean the kitchen. Bath a baby. Make the beds. Use the good dishes for a lunch of plain soup. Scatter children’s books around the house like bait. Put on lipstick. Flirt in the kitchen in quiet saucy voices. Comfort tired children, prescribe naps and quilts with seriousness. Promise a movie later on. Later when the snow settles, you’ll go for a walk in the dim, into the in-between for a conversation with yourself, you’ll be so relieved to be away from them all for a few moments but yearning to return to them all by the end of the block.

Watch the snow fall in the ordinary beauty of a Sabbath spent practicing what makes you feel most fully human.

 

Continue Reading · abundant life, enough, family, gratitude, love, marriage · 15

In which there is joy in enough

It seems that we always need to get through the details, the mundane daily stuff, of who is doing what and when and why before we can get to the really good heart stuff. My mother’s blue eyes are the same as my youngest daughter’s blue eyes.  She laughs too loud (so do I) and she’s an incredibly beautiful woman, even more so as she ages. Her lines are falling in pleasant places and she looks so much like her Dad, it’s uncanny sometimes. I can see the grey at her temples and the bones in her hands are tiny like a bird’s. We talked a mile a minute, cramming a lot of laughter and weirdness into a short amount of time, diving straight in.

She listened to me (Isn’t it such a gift to just be listened to?) as everything in my heart spilled out about how tired I am sometimes, about how physically and emotionally exhausting this mothering thing can be with its sheer constancy. I jumped from yammering about homeschooling and my many thoughts on true education and spirituality and then I was telling her that we kind of want to sell everything and move to Africa or India to make some sort of a difference—maybe I could be a midwife!—and have you heard about this, that and the other thing? How this person did this thing and I thought it was awesome or terrible or hurtful, and everything that I want for myself and all the time I want back and money concerns and how I kind of need a minivan because three car seats don’t fit well in our car  but if I have to drive an ugly vehicle, then I want it to be weird-ugly not boring-ugly and on and on and on.

I made a bit of a fool of myself, to be honest.

When I was little, the primary emotion in our house was joy. My mother was happy and we knew it (clap your hands!). She loved us and loved my dad and loved her life and we all knew it. We weren’t rich. We didn’t have a lot of stuff. We didn’t “change the world” and no one knew about us, but we were really, really happy together.

I looked at her and remembered her joy, and was hit by the knowledge that my own tinies perhaps wouldn’t describe me (yet) as a person of joy.

“So what did you do, Mum?”  I was really, truly asking her because I didn’t feel simple or restful or joyful. (One of her favourite things to tell me is that a woman can definitely have it all—just not all at once. Most of the time, she thinks I need to chill out.)

“How do you calm down your mind and heart of all the mundane daily things that somehow sap the energy and time when there is all this world to save, all this difference to make, all this stuff to do and become? How do you have the joy in all of this? It always feels like I’m not enough. I’m not doing enough or being enough for the tinies, for my husband, for my home, for my community, for my world, let alone for myself. I just never feel like I’m enough.”

Read the rest of this post at SheLoves Magazine...

This month, we’re talking about joy. There’s a link-up for you to add your voice.

Continue Reading · christmas, enough, family, gratitude, Mum · 0

In which we make room for the small joys

Snow !

It started to snow one morning this week. We’re in an odd little pocket of Canada, caught between the ocean and the nearby mountains, so we actually don’t get much snow here. For a couple of prairie kids like me and Brian, this is almost ridiculous. We tend to have cold, drizzly, grey winters with occasional bits of snow. I don’t miss -43 degrees Celsius of my childhood much – but I do miss snow forts and skating outside, the smell of wet wool mittens on the radiator and the blinding white crisp of winter sun. When it does snow here, it’s a novelty, a joy to be enjoyed because it’s fleeting and impermanent. (I can hear my Saskatchewan family laughing from here.)

The snow fell in the fat lazy flakes of barely freezing temperatures, the tinies crowded around the window breathing delight onto the panes of glass, and we were late for school. I’m a last-minute leaver, perpetually one of the last ones to drop-off no matter my best efforts, and of course we were running behind again this morning. I had my Mum Means Business voice out in full force: get your mittens, zip up your coat, come on, we’re going to be late. Let’s go, guys! We do this every morning.

We tumbled out of the house in disarray and urgency. I had a long list of work for the day, don’t we all. But then I saw the snow and I saw the looks on their faces, the longing to touch the snow and taste it, mingled with their resignation to the schedule as they headed for the grey minivan, lugging their backpacks along.

I stopped abruptly, without thought: “Go on then,” I said. “Go on. We’ll be late, take a moment for this.” They looked at me to make sure I meant it, disbelieving, and then they were off like a shot, falling into the two inches of snow on the lawn like it was a drift from the Arctic.

Evelynn, our toddler, stood in the middle of the yard with her puffy arms straight out and her eyes closed, her mouth wide open, “I eat it!” she crowed. Anne and Joe rolled like puppies, tossed handfuls of snow at each other from a point blank range. I wandered out of the garage and stood under the satisfying beauty of the morning and took a deep breath. Another. Another. Make some room to breathe deep. Exhale before you take in the day.

Make some room for the small joys. Make a little room in your schedule and your world-saving and your end-meeting, in the midst of your meal-planning, program-directing, list-accomplishing. Make some room for the moments, however fleeting, of beauty that breaks through our resolve and our armour, our urgency and our self-importance.

Stand here with me, out in the snow for even just a few minutes. Listen to laughter and stand in space you created with your pause, look at the trees stretched out bare and unshrinking.

Tip your face to the heavy sky until you feel like a woman in a poem; surely a poet could spare a word or two for the tired thirties of womanhood and the sacred discipline of pausing in the midst of the rushing, for the snowflakes and the joy to gather in your hair like fleeting stars.

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Continue Reading · enough, family, parenting · 16