Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Dog for a Day

A dog for one day…that’s all! For only twenty-four hours, when I was just twelve years old, our family got a dog. We were acquainted with a family who lived near my grandparents who were moving away and needed to get rid of their two Scottish terriers – Holly and Beebee. We were chosen to take “Holly”, a pure white, eight year old Scottie.
Holly came to our family on a warm June Saturday morning. She came to a family of three pet-starved children. Three grasping, mauling children. Our grubby hands reached for her, fought for her, nearly squeezed life from her. Poor baby was smothered and completely nonplussed. In her confused state, she refused the food treats we shoved at her. She ran from room to room, hiding briefly behind shelves and under beds till little footsteps would be heard and she’d be dragged shaking into our arms once again. We LOVED her.
Eventually she found what she could only hope for – a momentary lapse in our ministrations…the porch door was left ajar. She was out in a flash. Holly headed for the hills!
The neighborhood was set on high alert. The new dog was footloose. Volunteers of all ages dropped other responsibilities to search for our new family member. Holly’s former owners were forewarned that she might try to find her old neighborhood. Her name was heard ringing through the streets. One by one, children were called in, darkness fell and only my forlorn father was left to search.

When we awoke the next morning, Holly was back. Our joy was quickly turned to sobbing, as we heard our parent’s decision…. this just wasn’t going to work. Holly was too old a dog, (56 in dog years) to “learn new tricks” as the saying goes, so her previous owners decided to take her back. Perhaps she missed Beebee way too much.
          As kids, we just didn’t get it. We were sad for days. But within a couple of weeks, a new pet was brought home…a milk white budgie, safely in her cage, who we promptly named “Penny.” She was our new companion and our intense love for Holly was set aside.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Two Choices

        Last week was one that will go down in my own personal history as one of showing off my shortcomings, limping along with one foot placed firmly in my own mouth. One of those weeks, where it seemed that more negative came out of my mouth than positive, where emotions ran high and verbal responses were often melodramatic at best and outright inappropriate at worst. Minor situations became the proverbial mountains of over-reaction. And a number of people, I'm sure, ducked into safe zones at my approach. What happens to us when we have moments, days, weeks like that?
       Personally, I find there are two distinct choices. Number one: Hole up, eat a lot, watch movies and spend quality couch time with intimate friend, Self Pity. That one comes easy, but with a price. That's the one that continues the downward spiral.
       Then there is the other choice: Get up, get moving, take a stand against self absorbed melancholia and pray! Forgive who you need to, apologize to anyone and everyone who needs to hear it and move forward. This progression in the right direction can only be accomplished as we trust in our gracious God to forgive us, hope that others will follow His lead, and forgive ourselves. That was the step it took me a week to come to: Door number two. And having received liberal grace and mercy from those I approached, I was set free to start anew. What a wonderful gift, forgiveness...it opens the cage door, unlocks the ball and chain and gives the heart a new place to start.
The Bible says in:

Lamentations 3:22-23 (NIV)

 22 Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.
23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

I am so grateful that God is compassionate and forgiving and that every day I can start anew!

Sunday, November 13, 2011


        It’s always been a mystery to me what people will hang on their walls and live with. I’ve seen paired paint-by-numbers of ducks in marshes, hanging a foot from the ceiling on living room walls. I’ve seen stamped out mall paintings arranged in diagonal groupings. And when I was only 11 years old, I visited my friend Carla at her house for a birthday party. There, in the middle of the wall, hanging over the couch, was the worst thing I’ve ever seen - a large black and white framed photo of a young girl in a coffin. (This was actually Carla’s little sister, who died tragically. Mrs. Sheerholtz thought it was crucial to remember her daily as the family walked through the house. Carla didn’t often have kids over and that day that mystery was solved.)
        Interesting choices, those, but are they art?
        Thanks to a gifted high school art teacher, I became a lover of art history.   By grade 12,  I was tearing apart Impressionist calendars and ripping out reproductions of Turner and Constable from old art history texts to frame. In university, it was the age of posters, and there wasn’t an art representation you couldn’t purchase. My walls were covered with thumb tack holes from pinning up Mary Cassatt, Winslow Homer and A.J. Casson. In my spare time, I’d copy these works, trying to duplicate the skill of these masters of colour.

"Glenn Williams" by A.J.Casson

       Art delighted me and still does. We don’t have a great number of works hanging in our house, but mostly because there is a fear of holes in the walls. (I can't explain this. I won't try. Holes seem to indicate a commitment to a certain work of art, and we like to rotate ours.) Our art leans. There are two paintings we rotate on the fireplace mantle. Right now, A.J. Casson’s “Glen Williams” shows the glories of fall in a small Ontario town. (My delight is that this print is actually signed by Casson - a treasured gift from my husband a few Christmases ago.) Soon, the weather will turn brisk and I will put A.J. away for a bit and bring out an original oil by a man named Ole Pii. Ole was an 80 year old artist in a community we lived in up the west coast of BC. He was a master of colour. This particular painting is austere and cold, a painting he did from the side of a van on a brilliant day in Prince George in the seventies. I never tire of the range of colours in the snow in this painting.
          We have another of Ole’s paintings, of two old folks staring at their garden, as their flowers form the sky. This painting makes my heart sing as it carries a huge personal significance for my husband and I.
          And wonderfully, I have three oil paintings by our good friend Reijo. All three transport me to riversides. Just a couple of weeks ago, Reijo, out of the kindness of his heart, sent along this latest painting. I have admired it since the day I first laid eyes on it. It depicts the underside of a river bank, and it is so familiar to me. There is a small stream off of Lochlin Road up in the Haliburton Highlands that could be the subject of this work. On those coming dark and bleary winter days, I will look at it and it will take me right to the river! I know that there are fish there, just under the surface, waiting in the pools for juicy bait. I can smell the earthy underslope and feel a bit of slippery green algae underfoot on the river stones.

          And really, isn't this what art is all about? Good art, no matter the form, causes the heart to sing with a deep connection. It takes us somewhere familiar, it appeals at a heart level. So, I ask you, what is on your walls?

God bless Reijo for this precious gift!