In Praise of Small Towns

In our small town, a local business owner and resident dolled-up the old Ford garage for us to enjoy.

Wouldn’t it be great to live in an affordable home with a huge backyard and with sweeping views of a pristine valley in which deer graze at sunset? When you’re exhausted at the end of the day from work, doesn’t it sound ideal to avoid the traffic of your lengthy commute and instead walk up the hill to your cozy home? Do you dream of falling asleep to the coyote’s call and waking to bird song? Especially now that remote work is more acceptable and logistically easier to do, moving to a small town makes sense.

Listen to this post:

I love small towns. When on a road trip, I really enjoy pulling off the highway and exploring prairie towns. I search for churches, cemeteries, local museums, and history. I am rarely disappointed by what I find.  As I drive the quiet streets beneath spreading tree branches and admire the spacious residential lots, I can’t understand why people want to live in increasingly populated areas. Especially during this time of the coronavirus pandemic, we think differently about the perils of being crammed together and we consider the perks of fresh air, a big backyard, and a vegetable garden.

Along the railway tracks. Lots of large green spaces in a small town.

I do understand that it’s more convenient for financial institutions, large retailers, and government to have the residents of our vast land centralized and clustered together. This way, all three can streamline (cut) the services they provide and still have us clients, customers, and taxpayers nicely within reach. Density benefits those who provide goods and services because it’s less convenient and more expensive to provide services to a scattered population. Services are often retracted to discourage people from living in rural areas and conducting business there. Our Credit Union has cut its five-day-a-week service down to two days in the hopes it can Servus better by fading away.

A Common Criticism of Small Towns

Small towns are criticized because of their intimacy. “Everyone knows what everyone else is doing.” In these days of increasing isolation, that can still be true but it’s not always a negative. It’s reassuring to know that if you get sick, your neighbours will help you out. People shovel each other’s walks in a small town and keep an eye on one another’s property while one household is away. So, yes, when someone drives by on a skidoo or with a wagon pulled by a matching team of horses, I’ll look and wave and maybe even take a picture. That’s small towns for you.

Other criticisms, valid ones, include the difficulties between people, the gossip, and the resistance to change found in small communities. But isn’t this the nature of human relationships no matter where we live and no matter the size of our community? Aren’t all interactions subject to misunderstandings and pettiness, and can’t they all (ideally) be repaired by patience and forgiveness? Change is hard and gossip is toxic. These facts remain the same whether you live in a city or in a village. The only way to avoid cruel deeds and words, our own and others’, is by living high up in the mountains in a cave alone. Some days, that does seem like an appealing option but it’s no way to build community.

Like photography? Bring your camera and capture some stunning rural views.

In small towns, we’re more familiar with one another and so the stories are closer to us and our families, and sometimes they directly involve us. Human relationships unfold and unravel everywhere in the world, but in a small town we have a front row seat to this constant evolution. It isn’t always pleasant but it’s not often dull.

The Best Stories Come Out of Small Towns

It’s that close up, in-your-face human drama that makes many writers set their stories in small towns. Big events happen in large cities and everyone watches, but in a small town everyone is a part of most events because we know the people involved or we are the people involved. Authors weave stories about the people in small towns and create characters from the relationships formed within the context of smaller places.

I think of the 2004 Leacock Medal for Humour Award Winner, Ian Ferguson’s semi-autobiographical book Village of the Small Houses, set in the remote northern Alberta community of Fort Vermilion. Only this place and the set of circumstances it provided could give rise to these stories. Luckily, this gifted and funny storyteller was born and raised there to write the tales down.

Another great storyteller uses the small Minnesota town setting of fictional Lake Wobegon and its characters around which he has woven several novels. You see, it’s the soil of those close personal interactions within a small group of people who know each other well and know their surroundings into which writers plant their story seeds. The stories are dependent on a small town back drop and small town characters to come to life. These tales depend on closeness and relationships, and on Garrison Keillor to present as hysterical that which small town residents find, at best, annoying.

As a writer – and here I do not compare my skills to those of Mr. Ferguson or Mr. Keillor – I write stories set in small towns and about small town history. Little places on the prairies are stuffed to bursting with stories. There’s murder, suicide, betrayal, sorrow, and lust. Think of that next time you’re gliding down the highway. Depress that brake pedal and swing into that small town. Who knows? You might decide to never leave.

This is a photo of a sharp shinned hawk in my front yard. There are lots of chances to view wildlife in a small town.

Flowers and Berries in My Backyard

No better way is there to learn to love Nature than to understand Art. It dignifies every flower of the field. And, the boy who sees the thing of beauty which a bird on the wing becomes when transferred to wood or canvas will probably not throw the customary stone.

Oscar Wilde

When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for the moment. I want to give that world to someone else. Most people in the city rush around so, they have no time to look at a flower. I want them to see it whether they want to or not.

Georgia O’Keeffe

To see a world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower, hold infinity in the palm of your hand and eternity in an hour.

William Blake

The Amen of nature is always a flower.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

Before They’re Gone

Here’s an article I wrote last summer. Since then my husband and I have each lost a dear auntie and uncle. The auntie in the story below has turned 90, though, and is still chugging along! Time passes quickly. It’s hard to imagine that there might not be another tomorrow to spend with the people we love, but that might be the case. Spend your time now.

Take care, dear readers, and have a good, healthy week ahead. ~ Lori

My IMG_7016message here today is simple: visit your old folks while you still can. Time is tricky and days all run together so closely resembling one another and moving us ever forward. Before we know it, time has passed and so have the people we love.

 Why would I use a dating service? I’m 89!

Last Monday, we had the best visit with my husband’s auntie. She told us that a credit card company contacted her because some suspicious purchases had been made on her credit account.

“What kind of suspicious purchases?” she asked the company representative.

“Well, there are several charges for a dating service.”

My husband’s auntie shook her head and told us, “That was the best laugh I’d had in a long time! A dating service. I’m 89 years old. What do I want with a dating service?”

Her outrage at the idea of her needing a dating service was so fun! Auntie has been a widow now for decades and enjoys independence in her own home that she shares with a huge, orange cat. The credit card company refunded all her money, had her cut up her old card, and sent her a new one. All’s well that ends well.

IMG_7044
This is a random photo of me at the Bar U Ranch posing as a calf.

She knew we were coming to visit so she’d made ginger snap cookies, cheese biscuits, and fresh coffee for us. There were also fresh pickles from cucumbers right out of her garden to sample. They were crunchy and made my lips pucker. We brought a jar of them home. When we were done eating, we toured her garden and she talked about the strength she’d built up in her arms this seasoning by watering her garden pots using buckets of rain water.

She told us, “I use my mother’s wagon to haul those water buckets. She watered her garden the same way when she got old.” My husband’s auntie’s eyes filled with tears. It just goes to show that no matter how old we get, we all miss our mothers when they’re gone.

I have a passion for recording stories.

It’s one of my favourite things, visiting with the older people in my life. I’m a lover of stories and old folks often have great stories to tell. I do know some older folk who don’t care to talk about the past. They live in the now and prefer not to reminisce. That’s just fine, too, but I really like the old stories. That’s why I’m passionate about helping people to get those colourful memories recorded before the colourful storytellers are gone.

Time is a sort of river of passing events, and strong is its current; no sooner is a thing brought to right than it is swept by and another takes its place, and this too will be swept away.

~ Marcus Aurelius

If you’d like to record your family history in its entirety or to simply write down some of those good old stories, please get in touch. I can help with everything from writing to editing to publishing. It would be my pleasure.

 

A Collage of Photos and Thoughts

Hello everyone! I hope you’ve had a great week. This piece is my excuse to post a few of my favourite thoughts, quotes, and images. Have a good weekend and thanks for stopping by. ~ Lori

Divested – A Poem

Invested:

IMG_5649
Country cemetery near Madison, Saskatchewan.

Dig a hole,
Build a house,
Or buy a house.
Big screen TV,
Recreational vehicle,
a boat to tow behind.

Renovate:

New cupboards,
New floors.
Fix up the bathroom,
Replace the light fixtures.
New dishes,

IMG_7183 (2)
Autumn landscape off into the distance.

New furniture,
And carpets to match.

 

 

Eliminate:

First a garage sale,
Then the house sale.

Smaller place:

A condominium,
Or assisted-living.
Another sale,
Adult children post
accumulation on Kijiji.

20190929_164949 (1)
Into the woods.

Much smaller place:

 

Cremation or casket?
Dig a hole.
Divested.

DIGITAL CAMERA
An autumn road near home.

MarkTwain ALie

Don_t Come To My Funeral(My Bad Poem That Makes a Good Point)Don_t come to my funeral,I won_t care.Don_t come to my funeral,I won_t be there.But when I invite you to A barbeque

Not Young Enough

Don’t Assume There’s a Later

After dying in a car crash, three friends go to Heaven for orientation. They are all asked this question: “When you are in your casket, with friends and family mourning for you, what would you like to hear them say about you?”

The first guy immediately responds, “I would like to hear them say that I was one of the great doctors of my time and a great family man.”

The second guy says, “I would like to hear that I was a wonderful husband and school teacher who made a huge difference to our children of tomorrow.”

The last guy thinks for a minute then replies, “I’d like to hear them say ‘LOOK, HE’S MOVING!’”


Before beginning this piece I deliberated for a long while because I don’t know if you’ll be interested in reading about this experience or not. Why did I hesitate and why am I still wondering if this will be a suitable topic? As you know, dear reader, I tend to write quite a bit about death and, compared to the other lighter, funny topics I touch on, the death-themed blogs, strangely enough, aren’t as popular. Go figure.

In my experience, people generally don’t like to think about dying. As I’ve expressed before, though, death is one of those big things we all have in common and the greatest fact that makes me appreciate life. I would go so far as to say that death gives my life meaning. Why should I live fully, take chances, eat good food and drink good wine? Because I’m going to die, that’s why. I can’t think of a better reason or a more solid truth than that. Death has given me a deep respect for life. I’m not suggesting that mortality should be the centre of your thoughts; I’m only stating that considering my own mortality has benefited my living.

About thirteen years ago now, I devoured the DVD boxset of the HBO drama Six Feet Under. The five-year-long series told the story of the Fisher family, of their friends and the people they meet along the way, and of their Los Angeles funeral home business. The show’s finale reveals how each main character reaches the end of the line, and by the time I’d finished watching this final episode, I knew what I was going to do.

Within a few months, I had made an appointment with a lawyer to get a will created, purchased a cemetery plot outside of town and wrote the script for my own funeral. Should I get taken out by a semi on the way to work one morning, everything is ready to go in a tidy manila file folder. I’m certain I’m going to die and uncertain about when, so it seemed most considerate to those who will have to deal with my departure that I prepared for it.

More than mere consideration for those left living prompted me to undergo this process. Writing my own funeral, standing atop that tiny prairie plot and discussing my last will and testament made death very real to me. It was no longer an event that was going to happen sometime. It became an event that could happen anytime. This new, sharper perspective brought to my life a kind of gentle urgency that whispers in my ear, “What’s most important? Do it now. Don’t assume there’s a later.”

Do I still go on autopilot several times throughout the day? Do I forget that each moment is unique and precious, never to be experienced again? Do I fail to remember that tomorrow may never come? You bet. But remembering death’s inevitability is the quickest way to swing my intentions back around to what matters most to me right here and right now. That’s the gift death has given me.

 

Frost: A Boxing Day Photo Blog

The other day I took my camera out and photographed the old Pearson School (1920-1946) while family was visiting. We were taking them on a tour of some of the landmarks. Our guests seemed a bit underwhelmed by what passes for site seeing around here, but I really enjoyed it!

It wasn’t as frosty today, Boxing Day, but the sky was a vibrant blue and the whole wintry world just shone.

And here are a couple pictures of me in the frost feeling a bit frosty.

Thanks for joining me on this snowy adventure. I hope you’re having a very nice holiday season wherever you may be, mountains or desert, sand or snow. Take care and enjoy!

~ Lori

Goodbye, Summer – A Photo Blog

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

IMG_7154 (2)IMG_7182 (3)IMG_7183 (2)

Light and White

 

 

About to Take Flight

IMG_7135 (3)

Stopping by Woods

 

 

Weeds or Flowers?

 

 

Mystery Solved!

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.

~ Lori

Before They’re Gone

My IMG_7016message here today is simple: visit your old folks while you still can. Time is tricky and days all run together so closely resembling one another and moving us ever forward. Before we know it, time has passed and so have the people we love.

 Why would I use a dating service? I’m 89!

Last Monday, we had the best visit with my husband’s auntie. She told us that a credit card company contacted her because some suspicious purchases had been made on her credit account.

“What kind of suspicious purchases?” she asked the company representative.

“Well, there are several charges for a dating service.”

My husband’s auntie shook her head and told us, “That was the best laugh I’d had in a long time! A dating service. I’m 89 years old. What do I want with a dating service?”

Her outrage at the idea of her needing a dating service was so fun! Auntie has been a widow now for decades and enjoys independence in her own home that she shares with a huge, orange cat. The credit card company refunded all her money, had her cut up her old card, and sent her a new one. All’s well that ends well.

IMG_7044
This is a random photo of me at the Bar U Ranch posing as a calf.

She knew we were coming to visit so she’d made ginger snap cookies, cheese biscuits, and fresh coffee for us. There were also fresh pickles from cucumbers right out of her garden to sample. They were crunchy and made my lips pucker. We brought a jar of them home. When we were done eating, we toured her garden and she talked about the strength she’d built up in her arms this seasoning by watering her garden pots using buckets of rain water.

She told us, “I use my mother’s wagon to haul those water buckets. She watered her garden the same way when she got old.” My husband’s auntie’s eyes filled with tears. It just goes to show that no matter how old we get, we all miss our mothers when they’re gone.

I have a passion for recording stories.

It’s one of my favourite things, visiting with the older people in my life. I’m a lover of stories and old folks often have great stories to tell. I do know some older folk who don’t care to talk about the past. They live in the now and prefer not to reminisce. That’s just fine, too, but I really like the old stories. That’s why I’m passionate about helping people to get those colourful memories recorded before the colourful storytellers are gone.

Time is a sort of river of passing events, and strong is its current; no sooner is a thing brought to right than it is swept by and another takes its place, and this too will be swept away.

~ Marcus Aurelius

If you’d like to record your family history in its entirety or to simply write down some of those good old stories, please get in touch. I can help with everything from writing to editing to publishing. It would be my pleasure.

Thanks for being here with me today. Take care and have a very happy week!

~ Lori

 

Flowers in the Ditch, Clouds in the Sky

This summer I’m relaxed and happy, and there’s beauty all around. Sure, there’s some clutter in my mind and a few things weighing me down, but all in all, I’m lighter and freer than I’ve been for years. I’ll take it!

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The Miracle of Resurrection

TwoCrocuses

Yesterday morning and the evening before, I went for a walk and brought my camera with me so that I could share with you the miracle of resurrection here in the parkland region of east-central Alberta.

Listen to me read this post:

Crocuses Galore!

Crocus2April2019
A crocus on Crocus Hill.

I didn’t even notice them at first, and I sure wasn’t looking for them because there’s never been this abundance of crocuses in the thirteen years we’ve lived here. Then, as I walked along, I glanced to my left and into the unbroken pasture there on the other side of the barbed wire fence. The brown prairie grass was dotted with the little purple flowers. It was spattered with those and lots of cow poop which may have contributed to the successful crop of crocuses. I don’t know what the perfect growing conditions for this early prairie flower are, but this April those tiny, fuzzy flowers must be getting exactly what they need.

 

Earlier on in the week, my auntie and I drove south and visited Crocus Hill. Over the years, she’d talked about the place where the prairie soil had never been tilled, and where crocuses grew amid the ancient stones of the tipi rings there along the valley. I’d never been there before and was so fortunate to see it during a spring like this one. There were flowers everywhere, but they grew especially thick on the southern-exposed hillsides.

Spring Courting

IMG_4909

Who wouldn’t want to mate with this guy?

A robin’s song is never so sweet as when he is looking for a mate. I guess those birds are like the rest of us when we’re seeking someone to pair up with. We work out, get our hair cut, buy some new clothes, and try to look our best. After the mate’s been secured, well, our beauty regimen can go in any direction. Often, though not always, that direction is down.

The robin’s song as he sat perched at the very top of the tree was clear and enticing. I spotted him up there last evening, trilling away, but I didn’t have my camera. That morning I couldn’t see the robin through the branches, but I got some very good recordings of his mating song.

Frogs are the same way, singing their loudest song and hoping to attract other frogs. I didn’t see any of those amorous little guys either but I captured their voices.

New Life

The earth is resilient. We beat it up and dominate it, but it just keeps on keeping on. Along the road I walked, green grasses pushed their stubborn way up through the already-dry earth and the layer of last year’s dead grass that covers it. Here and there a gopher popped up, too. There are fewer gophers this season. Last year, the deep snow didn’t melt until the beginning of May. Maybe litters of baby gophers didn’t survive and if they did, the increased numbers of birds of prey in this area were happy to eat them. Still, I’ve seen a couple of gophers here and there this spring. They are more evidence for the miracle of resurrection.

IMG_6758
This old barn from along the road I walk will likely never be resurrected.

 

I hope you all had a nice weekend. If you celebrate Easter, I hope it was a rejuvenating and uplifting holiday for you this time around.

Thanks for dropping by to read and listen. Please consider following me here on WordPress. I’m on social media less and less these days but would love to keep in touch. Follow me here if you’d like to stay connected. Also, please consider sharing this post to your own social media feed. That would be great! You can share my videos too.

Take care and enjoy the miracle of resurrection that spring brings!

~ Lori