Sunday, January 31, 2010

Surfaces: The Old Tree

I met an old man at dawn in the woods. He held a coffee cup and rested against a tree.

As I stopped, I saw his coffee had ice crystals laced across the top and there was a tattoo of a dragon etched on his arm.

He told me the raven that lives on the hill by my place brought him the shiny yellow mug. His hair was very white

and his nose was getting long.

Chickadees hopped across his shoulder. He smiled fondly at them. His eyes were so familiar. I asked him if we had met before.

He said, “Remember that snowy owl flying towards you in your headlights that night in the blizzard at Sylvan Lake? That was me.”

I remembered him then and smiled. He had been so beautiful when he was young.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Winterlight and Baba Yaga

Last night was a winter night full of mystery, magic and myth. Perhaps I shouldn't have been in the woods after dark, or perhaps this was a journey meant for me.

I met Baba Yaga in the woods last night, and escaped with my life.

It was the bridge, hung on either side with chandeliers, at the edge of the forest that drew me in.

The chandeliers tinkled with revolving layers of brass keys. Keys to what? I should have asked.

Once through the gate, two sisters appeared on the path to set me on a perilous journey to find their stepsister Vasilissa the Beautiful. Two years ago, they had sent her deep into the woods to find Baba Yaga to get a candle for their fire. Vasilissa, alas, never returned. They told me it was up to me to find Baba Yaga’s hut and bring back the candle.

It was a journey that took me deep into the night woods. I was warned I would meet three horsemen on the way. Each would have words I must abide.

When I thought the stars had abandoned the sky and darkness was complete, I met a white knight who sang to me of courage.

I took heart and carried on with the light of a late-rising moon.

The forest began to change and open up a little. I heard wings rush overhead. There I met a red horseman who warned me to stay the path.

I drank some water and resolutely stayed the path, even as it turned down into a valley filled with underbrush that scratched my face and caught my hair. Late into the night as I stumbled over fallen trees, the black horseman appeared. He offered me a choice of paths - one seemed dark and straight and one light and arching.

So I chose. At first all was quiet. Then it began to look treacherous as the crust of snow cracked behind and ahead of me. Dire warnings hung from the trees, threatening dangers ahead.

Strange shadows of forest creatures danced on the wall of the far cliff. I could hear a flute in tremolo in the distance.

The forest began to glow. The branches began to brush against each other at the tree tops.

I pushed on. The flute rose again and a hut that seemed to be made of glass appeared in a small clearing.

I went closer.

It was perched on chicken legs and the snow was freshly disturbed all around it.

All was quiet. The flute had stopped. I peered inside the door. Vasilissa the Beautiful was there, holding a light. She smiled at me. She said it was a light for the true of heart that she had won from Baba Yaga.

As I turned away, my skin prickled. Baba Yaga stood off to the side of the hut, her eyes gleamed in the dark. Although she was old and cracked and bent, there was a fierceness in her glare. I swallowed and then asked her if I could bring a candle back to Vasilissa's stepsisters.

Baba Yaga contineud to stare. Finally, she said that while I had showed courage in coming this far to seek a candle, alas, it would only burn for those who were pure of heart. Therefore the cruel stepsisters would remain in darkness.

I turned to go and the path illuminated before me. I hurried as fast as I could. As I passed the place on the path where the stepsisters waited, I explained to them what Baba Yaga said. They screeched and ran to their hut with red eyes. I hurried on.

As I left the forest I saw a golden light dancing up ahead. I went closer. Kind strangers offered a me a heated chocolate drink to warm my hands and heart.

Their light looked both old and new. I asked them what it was. They told me, it was a Winterlight. They are always here at this time of year, we just have to brave the cold to find them.


If you want to experience a winter adventure, I am sure your city has many offerings to take the chill away. Who knows what treats you will find once you are out there. :-)

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Paperwhites: Sky Searching in the Winter Light

These photos capture the emergence of the first blooms on my little vase of paperwhites.

This was a new experiment for me and so much simpler than I imagined.

They grew so fast I thought if I sat there long enough I might even see them begin to unfurl.

I was mesmerized by those long, elegant stems of purest spring green

and the cheerful little white flowers won me over.

They opened with such grace

and charmed everyone in the house with their promise of sweeter days ahead.

The flowers of late winter and early spring
occupy places in our hearts
well out of proportion to their size.

~Gertrude S. Wister

[NB: The guest visitor in the last photo is Bob. He is the quiet, sensitive one who loves music and philosophy. :-)]

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The light has flattened

[a gift from my Dad to help me start my garden]

There are no soft words for this. I can’t make it easier to say or to hear. My Dad has unexpectedly passed away. In the last few days, we have all received and made those awful phone calls, the ones that come at unusual hours. The constellation that is my large, awkward and jumbled family is gathering from distant points on the map. We are trying to pull ourselves together to honour him and find a way to move through our grief with love and grace.

I hesitated about posting anything here about this. Then I decided that in my little corner of the blogosphere I wanted to recognize his passing and honour him. I hope that doesn't make anyone uncomfortable. Please don't feel you have to say anything.

I offered to write his obituary. I didn’t know how to distill his life down to a few column inches. I couldn’t. So I would like to say some of those things here,

Dad, you are the hero-king of our little clan. Your decency, sense of justice, your defense of the vulnerable, your courage in speaking truth to power, and your quiet kindness are among your many shining attributes. Your love of music and art, your ability to quote poetry, your delight in birds, pets, nature and children; your thoughtful analysis of history and current world events; your ability to weave fascinating tales and speak on any subject have always made you a favourite at any gathering. Your unfailing belief in all your children and your support and encouragement has allowed us to become the adults we know you are proud of. Your pleasure in your grandchildren and ability to coax a giggle out of them has earned you a new generation of loyal fans. We all love you so much and feel blessed to have been loved in return by you. We thought we had so much more time to tell you.

When I was a child I received a little New Testament with a dark blue leather cover embossed with gold writing and gold on the page ends. I thought it a very precious gift. It had a line on the inside cover that somehow has risen over the years to whisper to me on some of the darker days,

Be strong and of good courage

I will do my very best.

Addendum January 16th:
Thank you to everybody who commented here. Your kind words and warm wishes were felt and appreciated. We had a service that I believe honoured my father and helped us to come together as a family and express our love for him and for each other.

I am deeply touched that you chose to share your condolences with me during this difficult time. Thank you so much. It really meant a lot.

~Ms. S