On Walking Home after Midnight Christmas Eve Service

Silence
Snowflakes the size of dinner plates drift slowly earthward,
soften squeak of boots on snow,
halo street lights,
whisper “Peace on earth.”
A solitary car ghosts by, not daring to defile the silence.

Our world has no time for silence
for stillness.
We must be busy
productive, engaged, connected.

We rush thither and yon
worry and fret
search for fulfilment
purpose, satisfaction

fill up our day-timers get another app make another appointment book another meeting make a call answer a call send a text Facebook LinkenIn MySpace SnapChat Instagram Google Twitter TikTok

and feel empty.

“How silently, how silently . . .”
“How still we see thee lie . . .”
“Silent night . . .”

I stand still in the darkness
catch snowflakes on my tongue
and let profound contentment mantle me
in the still
peaceful
silence.

#ChristmasEve #Meditation #Contemplation #BeingInTheMoment #MargaretGHanna

Chronos or Kairos?

Einstein was right — Time is elastic!

Some moments or hours seem like an eternity. Or else they zip by, compressed into nanoseconds.

We waste time, make time, take time, kill time, save time, “A stitch in time . . .”

We are obsessed with time. It’s in our pockets and on our wrists. It reigns over our homes and workplaces — grandfather clocks, mantel clocks, wall clocks, digital, analogue, quartz, wind-up, electric, battery-operated. They tic-toc, chime, bong, cuckoo, beep, buzz, and twitter. We have calendars and daytimers and automatic reminders on our computers and smartphones and smart watches. We have become like the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland — always late for a very important date.

Or at least we think it’s important.

We have become so obsessed with Chronos — a specific amount of time like an hour — that we have forgotten about Kairos — that things happen when the time is right, when the stars are properly aligned, when conditions are right.

Trees put out their leaves when the temperature is warm enough, the sun high enough and the day long enough, not because their daytimer says, “May 5, 9:00 am, Thou shalt spring forth leaves.”

The seeds we plant each spring poke a scouting leaf above ground and decide either, “Nope, too cold, wait a bit,” or “Yep, let’s go for it!”

Flower buds slowly grow and swell until one beautiful warm sunny day, as we scurry by, they suddenly spring open and we stop in amazement and stare at the most beautiful rose we’ve ever seen, and all that fuss and bother that we were so fussed and bothered about vanishes, and we stop and smell and breathe, and for once we are living in the moment. We are living in Now.

We are living in Kairos.

#Time #Chronos #Kairos #LivingInNow #ObsessedWithTime #Meditation #Contemplation #MargaretGHanna

The Fellowship of Food

I’m on a liquid diet these days (I’ll spare you the details of “why”). Fruit smoothies and soup blended to mush fill the stomach and nourish the body but they fail in one regard – they do not nourish the soul.

I miss texture. I miss the crunch of carrots and snap peas, the chewiness of good bread, the juicy explosion of cherry tomatoes, the annoyance of apple peel between my teeth, the fibrousness of a steak.

I miss the variety of flavours. Blended foods are blended flavours. Nothing stands out. Blueberries, bananas, papaya, kiwi become one. Same with stock and lentils and rice and cabbage and whatever other vegetables I put into the soup.

I miss the variety of colour. Stock soup is always brown; cream soup is always white. Fruit smoothies are some form of pinkish-bluish-white (I’m sure the paint stores have a fancy name for that colour).

What I miss most, though, in this time of COVID is the fellowship that attends food.

Food binds us together as family and community. ‘Breaking bread’ with someone may be a simple gesture, something of seemingly no great consequence, rather like hugging someone, but that act signifies so much:

We are friends.
We hold some values in common.
We have shared history and experience.
We can put our differences behind us for just this moment.
We trust each other.
We belong together.
We are part of something larger than ourselves.

All those young people you see on TV who are flocking to bars and beaches once they’re open? – they not just being “COVIDiots.” They are responding to the deep-seated, primal human drive to be with one another. They are celebrating an essential aspect of what it means to be human – to be part of something larger than themselves, to be part of community. Even as I shake my head, wondering “How can they be so careless! So negligent!” I envy them the joy and comradery they are experiencing.

A cup of coffee drunk alone is only a cup of coffee. Shared with a friend, it is laughter, stories, jokes, memories, and plans.

Just as a blended fruit smoothie is no substitute for the joy of eating each fruit individually, neither is food eaten alone a satisfactory substitute for the sense of belonging and oneness and joy that attends food eaten with friends and family.

Until my circumstances change, I will continue to “make do” with a liquid diet. And, until our circumstances change, we will continue to “make do” with vicarious virtual community.

Let’s hope those circumstances change sooner rather than later.

#Smoothies #LiquidDiet #FoodAsCommunity #SharingFood #FoodAndFamily  #NotesFromIsolationWard #HumansSocialBeings #LivingInCommunity #Contemplation #Meditation #COVID

Musings on a Chance Encounter

He swaggered across the parking lot, a swagger enhanced by a pronounced limp. He was dressed in black from head to toe: black leather stetson with a star badge on the crown, black trousers and shirt, a black leather belt fastened with a large shiny oval buckle, and a long black leather drover’s coat that flapped around his black cowboy boots. All he was missing was the six-shooter on his hip and a Winchester rifle. Instead, he carried, and used, a heavy wooden walking stick. I could almost hear the theme from “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly”: toodle-loodle-loo, too-loo-loooooo.

He opened the store’s glass door and stopped, shocked to see me standing there. “Sorry, ma’am, I didn’t see you.” He bowed low and swept his arm out as an invitation for me to exit.

I smiled and shook my head. “That’s okay. I’m waiting for my ride.”

He smiled, whipped off his black sunglasses – one eye was covered with a patch – “Morning, ma’am,” and entered the store. Clerks greeted him by name; he was obviously a regular customer. They laughed and joked. He found what he was looking for, paid for it, then walked to the door.

* * *

Who was this Gentleman Gambler type? The limp, the patched eye suggested a veteran. Perhaps he had fought in Bosnia or Afghanistan, or one of the Gulf wars – he was too young to have fought in Viet Nam. But if he had, how could he be so cheery? War is a messy business. Your comrades die horrible deaths, or survive to live horrible lives, as do you, wounded in both body and soul. How had this man, if he had been a soldier, risen above despair and depression? He had obviously found something that made life worth living, and worth living well.

Or perhaps he had been a bull rider. That would explain the western garb, the big shiny belt buckle, the swagger, the limp. Bull riders are the king of the rodeo circuit. Anyone who would willingly sit on the back of a ton or more of an animal whose only intent is to throw you off its back and then gore you – well, that person is either supremely confident or insane. Probably insane. But also respected. Eventually, he decided he was too old for that contest of wills and for the bodily punishment that ensued. He retired happily – he had his earnings, his injuries and his belt buckle to prove his success in the arena. He had stories to tell over coffee or beer or whatever he and his friends gathered over. He had survived; no wonder he was happy.

* * *

I was still standing by the door, waiting for my ride to appear. As he left the till, I walked outside and held the door open for him. He tipped his hat. “Thank you, ma’am. Bless you and good morning.” I watched him swagger back across the parking lot. He was whistling.

And the tune he was whistling? The theme from “Rawhide.”

 

(Wars and bulls result in stories either funny or sad. Two such stories are in my book, “Our Bull’s Loose in Town!” Tales from the Homestead, available in both paperback and e-book. Like the story above, they are — as Hollywood claims — based on true events.)

 

#WesternCowboy #BullRider #Soldier #Contemplation #Attitude #Courage #Happiness #MargaretGHanna #OurBullsLooseInTown #BWLAuthor

Regrets

Every afternoon, as I walked to work, I saw the old woman sitting on the park bench, feeding pigeons. Then, one day, she wasn’t. I stopped, startled.

Questions: Where was she? Was she sick? Dead?

Who was she? Perhaps a renowned scientist, a poet, a successful businesswoman. Was she a beloved grandmother? Mother? Sister?

The question that truly burned: Why could I notice her in her absence when I couldn’t take the time to notice her when present? Why didn’t I smile, say hello?

Regret filled me. I should have stopped. What memories did I miss by ignoring her?

(my response to the 99-word challenge to write about a park bench)

#Regret #MissedOpportunity #Meditation #Fiction #99WordChallenge #MargaretGHanna #BWLAuthor

After the Storm

You were always fascinated with storms. Even as a toddler, you were never afraid of lightning and thunder. It wasn’t enough just to watch from the safety of the house. You wanted to feel the rumble in your very bones, to breath the rain into your soul. After the storm, you stood in awe at the sight of the rainbow. A gift from the storm, you called it.

Then came the day of the hail. You watched in horror as it pounded everything into the ground. You cried when you saw the leaves stripped off your favourite tree, the tree that had been your friend since, well, since forever.

The first time you were “lost” I searched for you everywhere and finally found you asleep in its shade, curled up against its trunk. You loved that tree. You climbed it, hugged it, counted birds’ nests, sighed as leaves fell in autumn, rejoiced as new leaves sprang forth in springtime.

After the hail storm – THAT hail storm – you panicked every time dark clouds loomed. You worried and fretted, cried and hid your face, prayed that this time your friend the tree would be spared. I had to remind you that the tree had survived that storm, that it regrew leaves, that it continued to flourish and grow and provide the shade and friendship that you so loved.

You’re a young woman now, weathering a storm of your own. As you look out at the tree, you know these storm clouds will pass; that, like your tree, you will survive and flourish, you will provide shade and comfort and friendship to those whom you love, to those you love you in return. You only have to wait.

The gift of the rainbow is coming.

(inspired by “After the Storm,” painting by Loreen Feser, Airdrie artist and participant in Voice and Vision 2019)

#Resilience #Hope #Faith #Courage #VoiceAndVision #MargaretGHanna #BWLAuthor

Christmas Eve

‘Tis midnight. Now the witching hour begins
When mysteries are revealed; when angels sing;
When snowmen, wearing magic hats, will dance;
When flying reindeer land on roofs and prance.

‘Tis midnight, time of endings and beginnings,
When past and future meet, and in that meeting
Demand that we mere mortals must decide
To stay the course or dare to take the tide.

‘Tis midnight, darkest time of all the year
When doubt and disappointment nurture fear.
But even as darkest night gives way to morn,
So even in darkest hour new hope is born.

So let us live in hope and not despair
And work in faith to birth new day most fair.

 

#ChristmasEve #Meditation #Sonnet #Poem #Hope #Faith #MargaretGHanna #BWLAuthor

How I learned you can’t go home again

Part 2: The Farm

My brother and I drove to the farm last year. We knew the house was no longer there; a year or so after GD bought the farm, he sold the house which now sits on a wind-swept hill east of Swift Current.

We weren’t prepared for the other changes.

ChangesInFarmOf the original buildings, only the barn, the hen house and the garage still stood. Everything else – the old wooden granaries, the shop, the implement shed, the sidewalks that once bordered the house – were all gone. Grass had taken over what had been Mom’s prized flower garden. It had invaded what had been our vegetable garden. Even the old basement was gone. GD had filled it in and built a new home in the garden north of where our house had stood. All the trees, lilac bushes, and peonies that once grew there were gone.

My brother and I stood in the yard, disoriented, confused.

We found the concrete patio that marked the southwest corner of the house. We traced where the sidewalk along the south side of the house used to be. We stood where the east-facing kitchen window used to be, where if winter atmospheric conditions were just right, we could see Lafleche (13 miles distant) float above the little valley in which it sat.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe found the two trees where our swing used to hang, and the tree we used to climb. We wandered into the barn. Even though no cow had been in it for almost 50 years, the huge old-growth fir beams still retained vestigial smells of cow and horse and manure and straw. We found remnants of the old pump for watering the livestock, overgrown with grass.

Our home had all but disappeared.

 

The farm was more than where we lived. It was where we became who we are today.

Here, we learned the value of hard work, perseverance, determination, even stubbornness; the prairies are, after all, “Next Year” country. We learned to respect and care for the land from which we earned our living.

Here, we learned that failure is not the end; it is merely a lesson to be learned. There is life after failure.

Here, we learned to roll with the punches because there are always forces (weather) and circumstances (e.g., international markets) beyond our control.

Here, we learned that death is part of life. The animals we fed, watered and cared for eventually ended up on our dinner plate.

And here, from our parents, we learned the value of community and of working for justice. Our parents were involved in many organizations, both religious and secular, as members and as leaders, always striving to improve life for their children and for others.

We learned the sense of satisfaction that comes from having accomplished a day’s hard work, be it getting the harvest in the bin before the threatened snow arrived, or seeing 90 quarts of pickles sitting on the kitchen table.

We learned the value of education, that learning never stops. Our parents made great sacrifices so that we could get a good education. They, themselves, never stopped learning.

We also had unparalleled freedom. No helicopter parents hovered. We walked unaccompanied into Meyronne to play in the school yard, to visit Grandma or to play with friends. We ran about and played, occasionally in places deemed dangerous – we climbed trees and jumped off the roofs of granaries. We rode the calves (a forbidden pastime) when Dad was away. In exercising that freedom, we learned that actions have consequences, and we had better be prepared to live with those consequences. We also learned to assess risk vs. reward.

We learned to imagine. The inside of the threshing machine (another forbidden place) became a cave. Trees were the masts of sailing ships and we were pirates sailing the high seas in search of treasure.

We learned responsibility. Long before we were legally able to drive, Dad taught us to drive the truck and machinery, and we learned that power meant danger and must be treated with care and respect.

In time, the farm became my refuge from the stress of my work. There was something healing about weeding the garden, or sitting in the garden swing, or listening to birds greet the early summer dawn.

As my brother and I stood there in the yard last fall, it became obvious the home we had once known was gone forever. At the same time, I realized “Home” was no longer a physical place. “Home” was who I had become. It was embedded in my values, my priorities, my expectations, my worldview.

“Home” will always be with me.

 

#MeyronneHistory #HannaFamilyHistory #Memories #RuralHistory #Contemplations MargaretGHanna #VillageLife #Nostalgia #RememberingThePast #NonFiction

In the beginning . . .

Cosmos2_1
Cindy Zampa: Cosmos 2 (used with permission)

In the beginning
chaos and confusion reigned

I did not speak.

The miasma of elements and energy swirled
drifted to and fro
pulsing
pulsing
pulsing.

I did not speak.

The unspoken word is formless, shapeless,
full of potential, opportunity, future, hope

The spoken word takes flesh and form,
is solid, fixed.
takes its own course with consequences
unimagined and unimaginable.

What is spoken cannot be unspoken
what is done cannot be undone

And thus I dared not speak.

But then you took my hand in yours.
I looked into your face,
saw Wisdom in your eyes,
heard you say, “You are not alone,”

And then We spoke.

(Inspired by Cindy Zampa’s Voice and Vision 2019 painting Cosmos 2. The poem combines elements of two Judeo-Christian creation stories: the first chapter of the Book of Genesis and the creation story as narrated by Wisdom (a woman) in Chapter 8 of the Book of Proverbs.)

You can see more of Cindy’s art here.

#VoiceAndVision2019 #Creation #Poetry #SpokenWord #CindyZampa #MargaretGHanna #Meditation

Consider the Trees . . .

LeafInHandI stand in a cathedral of aspens among grey-green trunks that glisten silvery in the sunlight. A hint of a passing breeze sends down a shower of golden confetti to cover the ground. I walk on a carpet of jewels – gold and garnet, emerald and citrine – that shimmers underfoot.

A single leaf nestles in my outstretched hand. Its red-gold beauty whispers, “Do not fade away. Go out in a blaze of glory.”

* * *

Never mind the lilies of the field. Consider the trees. They don’t fade away into a dirty brown or grey. No, come autumn, they paint the hillsides with amazing hues – yellow, gold, red, orange, even purple. The sight of them gives us thrills. We gasp in awe and amazement, exclaim, “Oh wow! Look at that!” We glory in their beauty. Perhaps they survive the summer just to be able to sport their autumn colours in their last days.

There’s no reason for us to wait for our final days before we show our colours. Why wait to be a grandmother to be a Raging Granny? Or an old woman who wears “purple/ With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me” (per Jenny Joseph)? Take your cue from e. e. cummings who maintained there are two kinds of people: those who are truly alive and those who are merely not-dead.

Neither is there any reason to fade away as we age.  Robert Browning reminds us that “The best is yet to be,/ The last of life, for which the first was made.” Every one of us must know some feisty, so-called “old” person who just will not slow down, who is still opinionated (and doesn’t hesitate to share those opinions), and who can run circles – mentally if not physically – around us so-called younger folk. Who still sports his/her colours with pride and passion.

It’s not easy to strut your colours. It takes courage, chutzpah, perhaps even a bit of egotism. What is really essential is faith in yourself — that who you are and what you do and say will bring colour into someone else’s life. When we show our colours, we give others hope and joy, and perhaps even the courage to show their own colours.

Down with drab. Let’s colour the world. Let’s be truly alive.

 

#Meditation #OldAge #Contemplation #Autumn #GoldenYears #LessonsFromTrees #MargaretGHanna