Before things got a bit crazy, in that lull after Christmas and New Year's, I signed up for a Valentine-themed swap, organized by Heather of Speckled Egg. It was sweet and simple - fill a match-box with vintage-inspired goodies. I sent my parcels off in good order. And it was simple, and very fun. This morning's mail brought my first package in return from Samantha, who does not have a blog. Thank you, Samantha.
The decorated box came wrapped in fabric printed with hearts and sweet sayings. Flash cards, flowers, paper cutouts and more filled the box. All this sweetness is causing me to yearn to create pretty things instead of work on a paper about the "social organization and culture of the Germanic tribes prior to their invasion of the Roman Empire." Wouldn't YOU rather play with paper and lace and glue?
When I was growing up, we ate breakfast, lunch and supper. But on Sunday, after church in the morning, we had dinner. To me, dinner on a Sunday means around noon. However, supper has since changed its name to dinner, making for some confusion. When our son was dating his now-wife, she thought being invited for dinner meant in the evening, no matter which day of the week it was. To clear up the confusion, she came up with lunch-dinner. So today, 8 of us gathered around for lunch-dinner. How I love these family times. We laugh, talk, eat, talk, laugh, eat and talk some more.
The day was grey outside but warm inside. We lounged around the fire in the afternoon, playing Dutch Blitz and Chronology, some played on their laptops, others snoozed. But we were all together. And as the grey light of a drizzly day faded into darkness, we once again gathered around the table for faspa - a Mennonite tradition that I grew up with, consisting of a light meal of buns, cheese, cold cuts, pickles and cookies. Tea and coffee, of course.
I ran outside before dinner (lunch-dinner) to find something for the table centerpiece. Rosemary and vinca were the green and fresh so I hurriedly clipped them and plunked them into this jug. Fresh, growing things in winter are a treat. While outside I noticed that the vinca is beginning to bloom already, thanks to our mild winter.
The week ahead is a full one and this was a wonderful way to begin. Together.
Several days ago I wrote a post about the Haiti earthquake and one woman's concern for people she met there. Rebecca Sower returned from Haiti just days before the earthquake with a suitcase full of Haitian art. She opened an Etsy shop and a blog, Haiti by Hand, to showcase the work of the Haitians, with the purpose of sending 100 percent of the funds from the sale of the art back to the people who made it. Their goal is to construct a center where they can sell their products to visitors and tourists.
The Haitian art sold out quickly, but Rebecca's vision went further. She asked for donations from artists and crafters to stock the shop. Again 100 per cent of the funds go to directly to the Haitian people. The artists pay for the shipping themselves.
While praying and giving money is wonderful (and something we've done), doing something with my hands makes me feel more involved. I put one of my journals in the shop yesterday and I'm happy to say it will be shipped to its new owner today. Artwork by Charlotte Lyons and others is in the shop now and going fast. People all over the world have opened their hearts and their wallets to help the Haitians. It's moments like this, when the world comes together, that gives me a picture of the unity Christ intends for his children.
Christmas presents this year were started early - last spring. Tim made four sets of nesting tables, each set with three tables, for each of our three children, and one set for ourselves. It was all a big secret, but a pile of 48 legs lying around does raise some eyebrows. The children were told not to ask questions. I think they were surprised at the big reveal on Christmas Eve.
Two sets were built in cherry, because we slyly investigated the kind of wood each child preferred. Two sets were built of caoba, a very hard reddish wood native to Ecuador. Tim brought back several "doble piezas" or raw logs in our shipping container. He sawed, planed, jointed, glued, cut, routed, sanded and voilà, a thing of beauty. And usefulness.
The irises that were pretty just being green have suddenly shown their colours. So pretty, with yellow accents. Bright and cheery on a rainy, rainy day. Or it was until about an hour ago and now, I can see blue sky and silvery white clouds! Hooray for sunshine!
And then I noticed these outside. Snowdrops nodding their pretty heads in the garden. Sights like this cheer me up no end on days when it feels like winter will last forever. Mild as winters are here, the grey dull dreariness gets tiresome.
Aid to Haiti is slowly arriving. Our physician friend reported that they were unable to land in Port au Prince when they had hoped because of the limited runway space and priority being given to crews with search dogs. However, they are now in Haiti, relieving medical personnel that must be exhausted after working constantly since the earthquake happened.
Everyone is aware of the earthquake in Haiti and of the devastation there. Sometimes, tragedies such as these seem impersonal and distant. It takes a name and a face, a person, to make the catastrophe personal. Individuals, not nameless entities are the ones whose lives have been whirled and tumbled into disarray. Several days ago, Rebecca Sower, an artist with a heart of compassion shared about her recent trip to Haiti and about the people she met there. This was just days before the earthquake.
This is Miraclid, a young single mom. Rebecca wrote of her walking down the street, her baby under one arm, her yarn under the other, crocheting as she walked.
Louisson is a musically talented young man who won his way into Rebecca's heart. As yet, his whereabouts are unknown. (Edited to add: Louisson has been located and is fine.) I urge you to go over to Rebecca's blog and read a few posts about her take on this tragic event. And, I urge you to pray. Pray for the people who are grieving the loss of life, of homes, of family, of a life that, although full of hardship, is familiar to them. Pray that they will know God's love and peace.
We received an email this morning from Steve Nelson, a physician with HCJB Global Hands, the organization we worked with in Ecuador. Steve is the doctor who delivered our first daughter and was our family doctor during the years we were there. He, and a team from Ecuador, are heading to Haiti Thursday to provide medical relief. I wish I could go with them - I'm not a medical person, but I could translate for them. However, instead, I will pray God's blessing on them, that they would be His hands and heart showing love to a people in desperate need.
Dinner tonight provided colour on this windy, rainy, grey day. Our local grocery store flyer often has recipes - today I tried one for Mini Meatloaves with Blue Cheese Filling. Delectable! Sauteed grape tomatoes, oven sweet potato fries and broccoli rounded out the meal. Just the ticket for a wintery night. Click on the link for the recipe.
My daughter has a Bodum (French Press). She does not have a microwave and complained to me about her coffee getting cold before she could have a second cup. She hinted about a Bodum cozy. So, before Christmas one day, I went to the local Starbucks, measuring tape in hand. I got a few weird looks as I measured the French Press up, down and all around. I felted some sweaters earlier and one was really thick. A little cutting, very little stitching, a couple of buttons, and voilà! The coffee-drinking daughter says it works well. My husband thinks I need to make a French beret for the top. We'll see.
And another pot of irises, this one in the kitchen, on a pretty plate given to me by my eldest daughter (not the coffee-drinking one). Bright mandarin oranges liven it up - I'm craving some colour these days. But not too much.
The first week of a new year is a quiet one, in which the rhythms of home come to the fore. Last bits of Christmas celebrations are tucked away until December and there is a desire to clean, brighten and make pretty.
After vacuuming today I unfolded a piece of Irish linen, brought from Ireland in the early 1900s by my husband's paternal great-grandparents, spread it on the dining room table and topped it with pots of irises. Interspersed with candles and a pretty pale bird given to me by a dear friend, the flowers will soon add colour to this soft scene.
It was a day for puttering. We got up late and I made a bigger breakfast than usual - poached eggs on sauteed greens with a cheese sauce on top, a slice of ham on the side, and cream scones. I cleaned out the fridge - not my favourite job, but oh how delightful to open it and see it organized and shining. We needed a few groceries and while at the shopping centre, I wandered through a kitchen supply store and a pharmacy, touching, smelling and realizing there was nothing I needed.
Home to put a roast in the oven and to anticipate a quiet evening with the one I love.
On a recent rainy afternoon (there have been a lot of them) I puttered away at my worktable on these cards, stitching bits of felt and buttons to paper. Easy and satisfying - now to write the thank you notes!
A trip to Mayne Island seemed like a fitting end to our holiday celebrations. We took the 9:30 ferry over yesterday morning and spent the day exploring.
Cloudy skies and the occasional raindrop didn't dampen our spirits as we hiked along Halliday Ridge. Views like this one feed the soul, restoring a sense of balance and equilibrium. I always return home from hiking tired physically and rejuvenated in spirit.
The island in the distance, with the low peninsula jutting into the water, is Saturna Island. In the summer of 2008, Tim and I anchored our boat on the other side of the island, and walked across it to that low tongue of land where a beautiful vineyard nestles against the sun-warmed rocky cliff. It was quite a hike and we were glad to sit and enjoy the scenery from the outside deck. Seeing the island from this new perspective brought back the memories of that late summer's day.
Winding waterways and islands low and high, thickly forested, fill the landscape, this place I now call home. Seven years ago, it was just a place on a map. Now, I cherish the sea scent, the cushion of pine needles on the forest floor, and the fluid skies.
Every place I've lived, and to a lesser extent, the places I've visited, has become a part of me. In the grocery store, I reach for a hand of bananas, notice the Ecuador sticker on them, and am transported back to the place where my children were born and raised. I pick up an avocado and compare it to the ones I picked from our own trees. I remember the smell of lemons as we ran over them with a lawnmower. I long for really hard rains and thunder and lightning to crash around the house.
It rarely snows here in our Island city, but there are days when I long for it - for a thick blanket of white to cover the ground, for the blast of cold as I walk out the door. I think that what I'm longing for, in part, are the winters of my childhood. I want once again to feel the magic of looking up into a flurry-filled sky, to stick out my tongue and catch a snowflake, to stand by a window mesmerized by the transformation of the world outside. Another blogger who has written about the concept of home and longing uses the German word Heimat to express her feelings of aching and belonging, of memory and place. You can read her thoughts on her blog, Friko's Musings.
That was a bit of a rabbit trail. Back to Mayne Island, and our hike is almost over. We found this enormous arbutus tree, damaged, we think, by a lightning strike.
Tim easily fit into the ruptured trunk and his smile is indicative of the way we both felt - happy to be outside, tramping about God's beautiful creation, feeling restored in body and soul. A great way to begin a new year.