Here’s a piece I wrote a while back about what we miss when we don’t get outside and look up at the night sky. A friend recently told me the story of their friends who came to visit from Calgary. They were staying with my friends on their farm in northern Alberta.
Before they went to bed, the guests from the city told their hosts, “If there are northern lights tonight, please wake us up no matter what time.”
My friend, Aline, woke up at 3:00 a.m. and glanced out her bedroom window. In the sky above the coulee danced bright green lights, extending upwards like glowing stairways to heaven. Quietly, she crept down the hall and stood outside her visitors bedroom door. She deliberated a long time before finally gently knocking.
As if awaiting the news, the enthusiastic city folk were wide awake. They donned their robes, my friends grabbed some blankets, and the four of them sat outside in lawnchairs for a couple hours to watch anything better than television has to offer.
On a Sunday evening last week, I stood out on my front lawn with binoculars and my camera watching that beautiful, white moon grow slimmer and slimmer until, instead of fading away, she turned red before my eyes and camera lens. As I stood there shivering with wonder and from the night chill I thought, “Why don’t I look at the night sky more often?”
Then last Friday night a friend and I were enjoying a glass of wine on my front step. As we visited in the cool dark of evening, the stars twinkled above us against their inky purple backdrop. With the sky right there and unobscured by ceiling and roof, our conversation grew softer, more intimate. It felt like our words now had the attention of the night sky, and so those syllables better be sweet and worth speaking.
Hear me read this post:
After my friend left, I asked my husband to go for a nighttime walk. Yes, I realized it was cool, but sometimes – not often – I walk in 20 below temperatures. I reminded him gently that snow is just around the corner and that opportunities like this one are fleeting. The sky was blacker than it had been during my front step visit, and as we walked out of reach of the street lights’ glow, the sky grew darker and larger still.
We stopped for a moment along the railway tracks and under the spreading boughs of a row of old trees. We listened as the breeze moved the dying leaves, making them brush up against one another, to jostle and drift down to the asphalt. Autumn sounds. Halloween sounds, like the slow dance of skeletons. These sounds were precious, ones that I would’ve missed out on during time spent in front of the television.
It seems improbable, I know, but I think until that night when I saw it again, I had completely forgotten about the Milky Way! How sad. It’s worth considering that perhaps I’ve been spending way too many of my evenings in the basement on my elliptical trainer and not nearly enough out walking with the sky looking down on my progress, unhurried and refreshingly aimless. “Where are you going?” the moon might ask. I’d tell her, “Nowhere in particular.” The moon might smile and think, “How nice.”
The vastness of the night sky makes me feel insignificant in the most comforting way. I’m lucky to live in a village where there is very little light pollution to keep me from admiring the night sky. And yet, I don’t spend much time outside at night just enjoying the experience of night, the experience of being so small, a blonde bump on the earth’s surface. From the perspective of the stars, my problems are tiny and short-lived; my life, a breath; my existence, neither here nor there, but just maybe, in a way, everywhere.
Although I’m not one for resolving to act in any certain way, preferring to remain flexible, I think I’ll make a conscious effort to spend a bit more time under the stars and a little less under the glare of the pot lights recessed in my basement ceiling. This effort might just be worth it. After all, I’ve got nothing to lose, and the stars and the moon to gain.
Thanks for joining me tonight! Did you like what you read here? Consider following my blog so you don’t miss a post. It’s always good to spend time with you. ~ Lori
Hi there! Thanks for joining me today. Come and read my happy, heartwrenching story about the neighbour’s cat whom I love.
Ever since I returned home from a trip to Puerto Vallarta last May, I’ve been a little blue. Before we left on our vacation, my feline friend, George, was helping me in the garden. I really enjoyed his company. In fact, I enjoyed him even more than when he came to assist me the spring before. That’s when George first came to live in our neighbourhood. Since his arrival I’ve grown quite attached to that cat.
How did he get to my neck of the woods? I suspect he was born locally as so many cats are. We don’t need to import them. There are an abundance of cats produced right here. Then, when he was sick and still only a few weeks old, someone left him on my neighbour’s back step, thin and wrapped in a blanket.
My neighbour has a really soft heart for animals. I think the dropper-off-er knew this and that’s why she was selected as the lucky winner of the Who Wants a Cat? draw.
Compassionately, my neighbour drove the cat to the veterinarian clinic where he was hooked up to an IV for a couple of days to ward off dehydration and infection. That fluffy kitten survived, was christened “George”, and then, when he was old enough, George came to my backyard to get to know me.
A Stealthy Hunter
George is a stealthy hunter of birds and a clever remover of belled collars. The afternoon I saw George up in the next door neighbour’s tree and lying on the roof of the birdhouse mounted there and waiting patiently for a feathered head to emerge, I called George’s owner.
“George is quite a hunter,” I told her and gently suggested, “Maybe he needs a bell on his collar to give the birds a fighting chance.”
The next day, George strolled into my yard sporting a collar with a bell. By suppertime, George had rubbed that collar right off.
But, the following day, he wore a brand new collar, a blue one with a larger bell. This, too, soon disappeared.
And in May, when I returned from Mexico, George had disappeared, as well. The backyard was a lonely place all summer and on into the fall. My heart felt heavy every time George crossed my mind.
The other day, my husband and I were working in our backyard. George’s owner swung into the back alley, jumped out of her car, and told us, “George came back!”
“When? How?” I wanted to know.
My neighbour explained that as she was doing dishes that Saturday evening, suddenly something started ramming her locked cat door, pushing on it hard from the outside. She undid the latch (something I might not have done as we have muskrats and skunks in the neighbourhood, and sometimes feral cats, too) and in came George!
The poor little guy was worse for wear. He had been shot several times with BB pellets and he was starving. Before my neighbour began removing the pellets she could get at, she fed George. He gobbled the food and then began eating the plastic dish before my neighbour took it away. Then he threw up what he’d eaten.
When Thanksgiving weekend was over, my neighbour took George to the vet’s. He stayed there again on an IV drip to sustain him and the veterinarian dug out the remaining shotgun pellets from George’s skinny body.
“He doesn’t want to go outside now,” the neighbour confided. “He sleeps in his carrier and hasn’t moved around much. My husband’s going to build an outdoor run for him.”
I thought that was a really good idea. My heart is glad that George is back and, at the same time, it is sorrowful that the world is so darn hard on the creatures who roam it.
Thanks for reading! Drop by my site anytime. It’s nice having you here with me. ~ Lori
“The Cat Came Back” is a comic song written by Harry S. Miller in 1893. This short film is from Canada’s own National Film Board. It’s pretty dark! Give it a view.
It was so funny glancing over this post I wrote last year. It’s funny because I think I’ve changed so much and I’m experiencing a whole bunch of new things. And yet, as I read this, I realized that I’m pretty much the same as I was last year when I wrote this! I’m still contemplating work and aging and the benefits of mean people. There’s less new than I thought.
When it comes to pain, though, I have much less since we now have a little hot tub out on our deck. This has changed everything! If you have minor aches and pains, and enjoy soaking in a hot tub, check out this reasonably-priced, resin tub from Costco. If I can set it up and maintain it, you can!
As Canadian Thanksgiving approaches, I’ve been thinking about the things that bug the heck out of me. This brooding gets pretty old pretty fast. So I thought about how I could turn these irritants into little nuggets of golden gratefulness. I came up with these three unconventional things to be thankful for.
Mean, Miserable People
What is there to be thankful for in the mean words and cutting actions of others? I mean, they’re irritating, right? But these folks in their meanness and miserableness remind me of the times when I’ve been mean and miserable. I get ready to either mount my high horse or play the victim, and then I take a long look in the mirror. Oh yeah, I’ve been that person! I will try not to be that person, but the chances are very good that I will be either mean or miserable or both again, and probably it will be soon.
Listen to me read this post:
Mean people (or more accurately mean actions) also remind me of the power and the importance of love and kindness. Cruelty is so easily destructive and sharp criticism can build walls of mistrust and misunderstanding. Love alone can tear those barriers down.
How can I be grateful for my rapidly disappearing life and my deteriorating body? Well, getting older sure beats being dead. For some reason, each morning when I wake up and each night before I fall asleep, I think about how old I am. For a long time, I’ve identified myself by my age and judged my success or failure in life by what I have or haven’t accomplished by certain ages. It’s true and it’s stupid. I’m sick of primarily thinking of myself as a person of a certain age. I don’t want to worry about it anymore. I’m tired of judging myself.
Lately I’ve recognized all the great gifts that aging has given me. I love my more peaceful life. When I was a youth, I remember always needing to have music on or needing to be in conversation with someone. I bathed my brain in racket. Nowadays, I spend a lot of time alone and in silence. Nowadays, I bathe my mind in quiet.
I love the patience I’ve fostered over the years. Without the passing of time, I could’ve never become so patient. I used to push myself so hard, to do this and to do that. And now I work slowly and steadily and with no hope of an outcome. I always get somewhere working this way just as surely as I would by pressuring myself with goals I may never achieve. For me, this steady pace is one of the best things about being older.
Yes, with aging have come aches and pains. That’s how it goes. What is there about pain to make me feel thankful? It’s kind of like the old joke:
Why are you banging your head against that wall?
Because it feels so good when I stop.
Those pain-free moments are blissful. Pain also reminds me of all the miles I’ve walked and all those years I’ve had the opportunity to be active. I didn’t have a physical disability or disease that kept me from moving. Thank goodness because I really enjoy activity. Because of this, my hips and knees are wearing out, but I’m confident I’ve got quite a few miles left in them yet.
Perception is My Choice
This October and at this age, I can focus on the mean words of others and use that as my excuse to be cruel and angry, too. Or I can remember to be kind and to change the world that way.
As another fall sets in, I can choose to feel down about my aging body or, instead, I can feel grateful that I’m as healthy and active as I am.
When pain comes to visit, I can curse it and wish that I had no pain at all or I can choose to remember that this mild pain means that I’ve moved and I’ve lived and that I am still gratefully alive. Happy Thanksgiving!
Below I’ve posted some recent autumnal photos from our fall travels. Thanks for reading and listening. If you like this post, share it on Facebook. You can’t believe how many more people read it when you do that. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving! ~ Lori
Hello everyone! This reblog is a short reflection on the necessity of coffee. I hope you’re have a great Sunday! It’s beautiful here and I might wander out into the yard and do a little cleaning up in the garden. See you soon. ~ Lori
I wake up disoriented and disappointed by the day of the week. It’s not, as I’d hoped, the weekend. It is, as I suspected, a workday. My mind immediately begins to seek out a good reason to be optimistic, a good reason to get out of bed, something small to look forward to.
There it is, that smell. Rich and familiar, it drifts down the short hallway from the kitchen. Freshly ground the night before in anticipation of the inevitable morning, placed in the basket of my drip coffeemaker, and set to brew at 5:45 am.
Hear me read this post:
My feet reluctantly feel for the floor as I pry my body from the depths of the too-soft mattress and into an upright position. More dead than alive, more zombie than human, I move like a plant towards the sun in the direction of the aroma that promises energy and goodwill toward humankind.
I take a mug down from the cupboard, barely able to feel the handle through the fog of weariness. I set the cup on the counter and slowly, deliberately fill it with hot coffee. Black as Satan’s soul, strong as lighter fluid, essential as mother’s milk. Rocket fuel. That’s the stuff.
A few sips and the haze lifts. Objects come into sharper focus, and both my mood and my memory start to improve. I remember my name, my vocation, my place of residence. Now I can feel the floor beneath my slippers and the mug clutched in my grateful hands. Within a few minutes, I am completely restored to my old living self.
Lists of what needs to be done form themselves in my head. Powered by caffeine, I can’t wait to commence checking items off. The life that looked dreary from the vantage point of my bed now shines with opportunity when viewed through coffee-enhanced retinas. What a change! What a chance to begin again.
If the world enjoys my participation in it even a bit, most mornings it owes any of its gratitude to coffee without which I wouldn’t make it out of my cocoon. Or maybe I would. It’s just difficult to imagine life without coffee. I’d rather not.
Hello! Thanks for joining me. I went out for a walk this morning with my camera and played around with its settings until I was able to capture some close-ups and distant shots of summer’s waning.
Shades of Red
Off in the Distance
Light and White
About to Take Flight
Stopping by Woods
Weeds or Flowers?
For years now, I wondered each fall who was making that chirping sound outside under my bedroom window. It’s these black beetles preparing to hibernate. Who know? Not me until this morning when I heard the chirping and followed it down into the ditch. Here’s what I heard and saw:
It was nice to spend some time with you! Thanks for dropping by.
Hi! This is a reblog of the post I created (with the help of others) for the Amisk-Hughenden Historical Society. It’s all about the stone house that Ed Carson refurbished after it had been abandoned and stood empty for about 40 years.
I recall Ed telling me about starting work on this huge project: “The entire floor was covered in two feet of pigeon sh*t when I first got started.”
So I asked him, “Ed, how did you clean it all out?”
“I shovelled a spot every day. I didn’t think about how much pigeon poop there was. I just thought about the work I’d accomplished that day.”
“Where did you learn to work like that?” I wanted to know. “I would’ve been overwhelmed by the task ahead.”
“My dad,” Ed said, “He always told me that when you first start a big job, break it up into smaller jobs and, at the end of the day, look at what you got done, not at what’s left to do. It was some of the best advice I’d ever got.”
Here’s the link to the article at the Amisk-Hughenden Historical Society’s website. If you’re interested in history, please consider giving us a follow. Also, let others who might enjoy this know about it. The internet’s a crowded place and we don’t want interested folks to miss out on our content just because they didn’t know it existed.
Old Stone House blog post link: The Old Stone House
If you’re local to my area and would like to see a history story written about, send me your idea via this website or in the comments of the historical society website. I’m always looking for new things to write about.
Thanks for reading! I’ll see you again soon.
Hello everyone! This has been far and away the laziest, least productive summer I’ve had in years. It’s been delicious! Early on in the season, we traveled to Mexico twice. The first time was to Puerto Vallarta where we stayed right downtown. We made this decision based on the fact that whenever we go to that Vallarta area, we end up hopping on a bus and trying to get downtown. It took us several visits to realize that we could just stay downtown…
When we returned home, we discovered that the neighbour’s cat, George, had gone missing. I’m still sad! George treated us like family and really liked to “help” me out around the yard.
After being home for two weeks, we headed off to San Jose del Cabo. This is a trip we’d scheduled earlier in the year with my brother and sister-in-law. We loved exploring a new part of Mexico.
Don’t look too closely at any of the photos of me or you’ll soon notice that I wear the same clothes over and over again. I pack very lightly when we travel so clothing repeats are nearly impossible to avoid. If it’s a good traveling outfit, you’ll see it again and again!
We spent a lot of July at home doing some projects and just enjoying life. At the end of July we headed out to British Columbia where we visited my dad for his birthday and stayed in our first B&B.
From BC, we drove down into Washington and flew from Seattle to Las Vegas where we had discounted rooms for the small price of attending a two-hour time share presentation. No. We did not buy a time share, but I did enjoy the room. I also enjoyed meeting the showgirls on Freemont Street in downtown Vegas.
We traveled back through Washington and up to BC, seeing Dad again on the way back. After leaving BC and returning to Alberta, we also had a chance to visit a place I’ve wanted to see forever: the Historic Bar U Ranch in southern Alberta.
When we got home from this jaunt, I spent a little time buidling a WordPress website for our local historical society. It would be great if you’d check it out and consider giving us a follow there.
Thanks for joining me on this short journey down a very recent memory lane! It was nice to remember it with someone. Have a great weekend, as lazy or productive as you want it to be.
Hello everyone! I hope you’re having a great weekend. I spent the day visiting some old friends. We ate freshly-baked chocolate zucchini cake and had a good chat. Here’s a post I wrote a few years back. It’s about a former student and how a dying butterfly got us talking about life and death.
The other day, a child brought me a butterfly. He held out his hands and gently opened them to reveal a very cold butterfly indeed. The boy told me, “Ms. K., I found this butterfly.” I could tell that he believed that I would know what to do with this delicate creature suspended somewhere between life and death – as if I know anything about life and death. But there he stood, waiting for an answer and, in a way, I was honoured that he sought it from me.
Listen to me read this post:
It was obvious that the butterfly was on its last legs and so I suggested a solution that would benefit as many creatures as possible. “Would you like me to take it back outside and set it somewhere safe? Then the butterfly will fly away or will be food for a hungry bird that needs it.” The student thought this was acceptable, and off he went to unpack his backpack as I headed out the front doors to find a sheltered spot in which to leave the butterfly.
Who ever knows the best course of action when faced with life’s big questions, especially those questions about life and death? Are there right or wrong answers? I suspect that there aren’t any, and that’s why, in this case, I tried to look beyond the limited life span of the tiny, winged creature and into the larger world. If the boy and I had merrily tossed the butterfly to the classroom floor, stomped on it and flung it into the garbage can, what a waste it would have been!
The butterfly is likely dead by now and, I hope, has provided some fuel for a migratory journey. That, surely, is the best outcome. I think. But when it comes to the fact of mortality, I don’t feel very certain at all. I suppose all we can do in the face of death is to accept it and live until we die with the aim of providing the most benefit as possible while we are on the earth.
If you like what you read and heard here, consider following me. That would be great! Thanks for reading and listening. ~ Lori
Hello everyone! Today I’m preparing to host a garage sale this Friday afternoon and Saturday morning. How can one household accumulate so much stuff…?
As I was scrolling through some of my older posts, I ran across this one. I like it, and it still rings true. It’s opinions that have turned me off social media use. Don’t misunderstand me. There are tons of things I enjoy about social media. I like sharing jokes and sharing music. I like “meeting” people from all over the world, folks I would never connect with otherwise. (Hi Firdaus!)
Social media can be fun and informative. It’s also great for advertising. In fact, I had a friend (Thanks Sandra!) post my garage sale ads all over Facebook. If I ever return to Facebook and give up that wee part of my soul again, it will be because of that platform’s advertising reach.
I hope that you all have a great Tuesday. It’s sunny here and a good day to do organizing-type chores. Stay well and be happy!
You can listen to me read this here or read it yourself below. The choice is yours!
Over the years, I’ve found that expressing my opinion loudly is the best way to convince others of my point of view. It feels great to scream out what I believe into the faces of those who previously held a contrary belief. It’s delightful to see their faces light up with understanding as I bellow my truth.
When the exchange is over, I often think, “If only I’d loudly expressed my opinion sooner we would’ve seen eye-to-eye earlier.”
What? You’ve had a different experience upon expressing your opinion? It didn’t change minds? It irritated friends and family? Hmm. That’s strange. People love it when I express my opinion.
They say, “Tell us what you think, Lori, especially about religion and politics. You are so wise and we can’t get enough! And when you’re done that, would you please give us some unsolicited advice?”
Preaching to the converted is rewarding.
Even better than changing minds is sharing my truth with those who already accept it. They cheer without hesitating, nodding in agreement and spurring me on. I appreciate the reinforcement of my truth by the folks who are already as smart as me.
It’s great to meet people who think exactly what I think. I sure like them better than the folks who think differently than me. They’re much easier to relate with and I don’t have to go through the work of listening to what they say or trying to see their point of view.
Heck, we’re so similar that we don’t even have to really listen to each other. This makes me feel comfortable and it makes me feel right.
Opinions don’t convince. Opinions annoy.
In reality, I’ve only ever annoyed others with my opinions unless they happen to share my exact opinions. This doesn’t happen very often. Like never.
We’re complex beings with complex minds. We have our own ideas and our own life experiences. We are not going to agree on everything. Start with that premise.
Opinions are divisive.
Strongly-held opinions divide us as solidly as brick walls. This may feel good sometimes. Opinions can help us establish an identity, a belonging to a certain group. It’s nice to belong. It feels good to feel welcomed. We all want to be accepted.
But too close an association with one group can be limiting and stifling. And what if you develop a new opinion, a point of view that differs from the group’s view? Then shut up or get out. You’ve found a safe place within those walls. Don’t mess it up by thinking too much.
Talking is easy. Listening is hard.
I enjoy talking. It’s fun to sit around and chat about myself, what I think, what I’ve done and what I want to do. Just as I get going, though, someone else wants to talk about what they think, what they’ve done and what they want to do.
That’s fine. Their talking gives me a chance to decide what I’ll say next about myself. I’ll keep nodding and they’ll keep talking. When they stop, I’ll resume the important work of telling them about me.
Listening is difficult and it’s not natural. It takes intention and practice. We have to choose to listen and then work to do it. Where’s the fun in that?
I know there are drawbacks to social media and emails, but here’s a plus. Typing to others makes us slow down and read what they have to say – just like letters used to do. It’s the same idea.
In conversation, though, we’re not often focused on that moving stream of words. With our own ideas flowing through our minds it’s hard to concentrate on someone else’s thoughts. Listening is hard, but it’s one of the only things that can bring us closer.
Listening is powerful.
Listening can change the world. Hearing what others have to say isn’t necessarily agreeing with what others believe. It can be, but more importantly, listening opens the door to understanding.
“Oh, so that’s where she’s coming from! Her experience formed her opinion. I sure don’t agree with her perception, but I can see why she thinks that way. If I’d had that same experience, maybe I’d hold that opinion, too.”
Reaching an understanding about why people believe what they believe is a very good start to mending our differences. The only way to get there is through listening.
Spout tales, not opinions.
If we want people to listen, let’s say something worth listening to. Storytelling is engaging. That’s why all the best teachers throughout time have used storytelling to convey their messages.
Jesus and Buddha and Gandhi and Mother Teresa and Einstein did their best teaching through telling stories and by walking the walk. They gave us information based on their experience, and they gave us stories to help us understand those experiences.
I’m sure they all had opinions. We all have opinions and that’s okay. But opinions aren’t what these teachers used to change the world. Opinions would’ve slammed the door on our learning and they knew that. Opinions don’t change the world. They divide it.
The listening challenge:
I don’t think I’m up to changing my opinions this week, but I think I’m ready to sharpen my listening skills. I’ll take these baby steps:
- When someone’s talking, I’ll try not to think of what to say next.
- I’ll try to focus on the speaker’s words.
- I’ll make an effort to understand the intention behind the words I’m hearing.
- I’ll try to honour different life experiences and different backgrounds.
If you want to join me on this listening challenge, let me know how it goes for you. We can share our stories about how darn difficult it is to really listen. And on that, we can definitely agree!
If you enjoyed reading and listening to this re-post, please consider following me here on WordPress. That would be great.