LILIES AND LICORICE . . fills the heart and calms the soul.

Early  morning.  I’ve gathered armfuls of  magnificent Casa Blanca Lilies,   Star-gazer Lilies,  and whispery, licorice scented fennel.

Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem fills the room with inspiring sound.        Introit et Kyrie  . . .  Offertoire . . . glorious music that fills one heart and calms the soul.  I plunge the lilies into glittering crystal vases.  They deserve nothing less.

Gorgeous, glamours lilies.

Agnus Dei

Exultation of  lilies.

Libera me

Joyous lilies.

Sanctus

The sweet perfume of fennel.

The intoxicating fragrance of garden fresh flowers.

Pie Jesu … Libera me … In paradisi.

In this moment I put aside these troubled time and journey to a place of peace and quiet.

 

MOCHA THE DOG WITH THE MAGIC EARS

 MOCHA AND HER MAGIC EARS

About ten years ago the most wonderful of dogs came into our life.    I wrote a story about Mocha for one of our grand children.  It is a magic story and it is a true story.  Mocha was loved deeply by all who had the  honour to know her.    A few days ago she passed quietly away surrounded by those she loved .  The farm is an empty place with out her.

Max is our four year old great grand-son.  He asked me “Do you have any rabbits on the farm?”  And so I told him the tale of Oswald Gentleman Rabbit and his magic red velvet coat.

“One more question”, said Max. Max always has one more wonderful question. ” Do you have any OTHER magic animals on the farm?”

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Max, my darling boy.  Let me tell you a story about our farm dog.  Her name is Mocha.  She is an enormous dog.  So big and so strong you could easily ride her – that is if you had a mind to Max.   She has the courage of a lion, a heart filled with love,  a soul overflowing with happiness, big brown eyes that sparkle with  mischief and most important Mocha has magic ears.  She hears everything.

 

 

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Mocha can hear the chatter of bugs.  She  rests her head on her paws and watches carefully as they natter and nibble their way through the grass.

 

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Mocha can hear the whisper of butterfly wings .  She bounds joyfully into the air following them through the garden while they entertain her with stories of their long journey  – flying thousands of miles to spend summer on the farm

 

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The big barn on the farm is filled with dairy cows and calves.  The cows are mooing  and Mocha listens carefully.   The cows are telling her about a coyote that has been skulking at the edge of the field.  Mocha paces back and forth – looking and listening until she spots the coyote.  Then she barks.  Loud,  loud scary barking that rolls across the field.   Angry barking that says to the coyote stay away or you will be in big trouble.

 

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Mocha’s magic ears hear everything.   She listens to Max learning to skate with his Grandfather.  She listens to brave Max deep underground caving with his Dad.   She hears Max splashing in the ocean.  Mocha listens and watches and bravely stands guard.

 

(Mocha really exists.  She is half Great Pyrenees and half Labrador.  When she is not guarding the farm she accompanies me to the garden and stands watch while I work.  There is big mound of dirt close to the garden. Mocha climbs to the top and barks letting is be known she is standing guard.

Mocha invents games to entertain herself.  Her favourite toy is a large orange pylon.  The big kind you see around construction sites.   She is so strong she easily carries it around.  Tossing  it in the air.  Catching it.  And then just because she can she puts her head inside  the pylon and plays a kind of blind man’s bluff.  She has a strange collection of toys – a few sticks to play fetch, a deflated soccer ball, a garden light.  She will gather all her toys in a pile then curl up next to them and sleep in the sun.

Mocha knows the sounds of the different vehicles that regularly travel our country road.  These she ignores.   She ignores the mailman, the person who comes to read the power and gas meter.  She pays no attention to the runners and cyclists that exercise daily on our road.    But let her hear a strange footstep or a car that she feels doesn’t belong and her barking is loud and important.   Brave and noble Mocha is doing her job.   Looking after the farm and her people.

 

 

 

 

 

CHRISTMAS GIFT WRAPPING . . . in the style of Coco Chanel

Logs in the ancient fireplace crackled .  Heavy faded velvet curtains shut out the cold and dark night.  On the old Victrola  Piaf warbled   Le Noël de la rue.  It was the top of the hour.  She opened the curtains.   The lights of the Eiffel tower filled the room.  Here in the magic of her little house in Paris she would wrap her gifts .

Plain brown paper unrolled.  Silver scissors cut.  A scattering of pearls.  An elegance of black ribbon.  A Coco Chanel wrapped Christmas gift.

Champagne chilled.   Cassoulet simmered on the ancient  La Cornue stove.   The room fragrant  with its rich welcoming aroma.  Footsteps whispered on the ancient stone stairs.  Her guests had arrived.  It was Christmas in une petite maison.   My little house in Paris is with me always.  To journey to it I have but to close my eyes and turn the key on the welcoming door.

(Dear Friends, This post of pearls and presents is a favourite.    I love the economy of wrapping with recyclable, inexpensive plain brown paper. Coloured tissue paper and metallic paper is not recyclable.  The pearls are easy stick-ons and the black ribbon is wireless.  Everything purchased in a quick trip to my favorite dollar store.  )

ALWAYS WELCOME STRANGERS FOR THEY MAY BE ANGELS

A very, very long time ago, in a place far, far away I bought a cabin.  It was built of huge logs harvested on the property.   The road a faint path grown over with years of neglect.  It stood alone quietly  facing  a small lake in Northern Saskatchewan.     The windows obscured with the dust of many years.  Velvety moss covered the stone doorstep.    Over the  door a sign ALWAYS WELCOME STRANGERS THEY MAY BE ANGELS.  I bought my cabin never stepping inside.

Later when I picked up the key I learned the history of my cabin.  It had been built in the early Twenties.  When  World War Two was declared in September l939 the son  of the owners enlisted.  He never came home.  His parents never returned to their cabin.   Twenty-Two years later I walked into a time capsule.    It was as if they had simple closed the door and gone for a stroll.   I kept the iron beds.  The “crazy ” patchwork quilts.    The  kettle for heating water.    The Union Jack to hang on the flag pole.  The tiny child’s wooden boat.   I kept the sign over the door.

Thus began my fascination with angels.    I was fascinated with the concept of entertaining angels unaware.    Their wings.  What do angels do with their wings?  Tuck them under their coats?  Hang them at the door?   The Christmas issues of my French magazines always featured angel wings in their decor.  Hanging over mirrors.  On the backs of chairs.    Now I was obsessed with finding  angel wings.  Not flimsy cartoon versions of wings, but big, white wings with feathers.

It was in July of the past summer when I walked into our Ladner Thrift Shop and discovered my angel wings.  They were hanging with children’s costumes.     Teary eyed I stroked the feathers.  They were perfect .  They were my long sought after angel wings.

They hang surrounded  by all things French .    The setting is perfect.  My angel wings catch the early morning sun and in the evening tiny fairy lights light up the night.   I remember the sign from long ago.   I live in hope remembering the cabin sign.   Welcome strangers for some have entertained angels unawares.

 

 

THE FORGOTTEN DOLL HOUSE . . . a Christmas tale of rejuvenation and delight.

The doll house had been lovingly built.  It was made of wood.  It had doors that would open and shut.  Fancy trim on the shingle roof.  Even a bow window and a front porch.  But it had fallen on hard times. And  as it is in the adult world the house was deemed “not good enough”.   The house had been replaced by a larger more spectacular mansion.  It was made of plastic, but it had a hot tub and a stair case and a chandelier in the front hall.  After all even in the doll world one must keep up appearances.

The contents were thought to be shabby.  The wall paper dated.  The pictures on the wall old-fashioned. No one wanted a hand-made wooden doll house.    The house was stored in the darkest, dreariest, farthermost corner of the garage and forgotten.  Over the years it gathered neglect and dreary dust.

The forgotten doll house sat quietly in the dark corner and remembered.   It thought of the many dolls who it made it their home.  They had tea parties and sleep-overs.    Entertainment for visiting doll friends.  The house  filled with giggles and joyful delight.  Happy memories of by gone days.  Then one day the house was taken from its  dark hiding place and put on a display in a shop that welcomed cast off toys. Time passed.   No one was interested in the shabby doll house.   The lonely house thought of its broken shutter.  The peeling wallpaper.  The scratches, dents and missing pieces.    “No one will want me.  No one will buy me. No one will love me.”

There are those who see hidden beauty in imperfection.   Who search for the unusual, the unexpected.  Who see potential where others pass by.   When she saw the doll house she thought “how absolutely wonderful”.    It just needed a little loving care; some carpentry work, lots of snow white paint and a exotic group of inhabitants.  It would be the perfect Christmas house.

The roof was repaired.  The shutters replaced.  Every inch of the house was painted the dazzling white of freshly fallen snow.  Tiny diamond bright lights adorned the house, inside and out.    The windows were cleaned.    And the house even had a chandelier.

The invited guests gathered for a Christmas party.  The dolls house was filled with excited guests.

The conversation was brilliant.

The Christmas party continued far into the night.

It was adults who lingered long.  Peering into the rooms.  Recognizing nostalgic and familiar toys from the past.  They  were swept up in the magic of this little house.    The house gave a sigh of contentment  for it was not to be forgotten.  Not to be boxed and put away for another Christmas.  It would have its place in this new home.  To be enjoyed everyday by the very young and the young at heart.  The doll house would live happily ever after.

 

Writer’s Notes:  I found the sadly neglected doll house in the Thrift Shop in  Ladner Village.  It is an amazing experience –  this shopping at the Delta Hospital Auxiliary Thrift Shop.  Everyone is a volunteer and all moneys raised support the Delta Hospital.    I am proud to be a  member of this amazing organization.

 

 

UNDERSTANDING THE RED POPPIES OF REMEMBRANCE DAY

My husband and I  lived in Amsterdam for a brief while.    This is a city and a people where the second world war is still very close and very personal. We lived on Gerrit van der Veenstraat .  Following  the war the street was renamed after the resistance fighter Gerrit van der Veen .   He was executed by the Gestapo.   On this street there is a monument honouring him.  I walked past it every day and always, always there were fresh flowers in the niche of the building.

At noon on the first Monday of every month the defence air raid siren would sound.  Pedestrians would pause.   Cyclists would dismount.  Men would take off their hats.  All were honouring those who gave their lives during the war.

To be a Canadian in Amsterdam is to be frequently thanked by strangers.  The  Dutch have not forgotten it was  the Canadians who liberated Holland.

I discovered the red poppies.  The poppies that grew in Flanders Field.  The poppies    despite the war ravaged land bravely showed their colours.    I found them in vacant lots and bits of forgotten land.  Anywhere these  glorious flower could take root.  It is understandable why these  symbolic flowers are so important.  We wear them over our hearts to show we remember.

I returned home with packages of Dutch red poppy seeds and year after year the poppies bloom in my garden.  Of all the flowers in my garden it is the red   poppy dearest to my heart.

 

NEVER SET SAIL IN A PEA-GREEN BOAT … A ROMANCE WITH AN UNHAPPY ENDING.

The silver scissors cut her hair so she could fly away.

The owl had found his own true love.

He said good bye to the pussy-cat

And gave her a ten pound note.

Invest it wisely, but not in bonds.

She left the pea-green boat in tears.

The Golden Maiden and the Two-Timing owl

Sailed away for year and a day.

The romance couldn’t last.

He never cut his nails.

(Greeting card on card-stock with images gleaned from old masters and other  secret sources.)

THE MAGIC OF GIVING BACK

Early morning.  Five o’clock.  I am alone in a small room.    I stare at the wall facing my bed.    Chipped and battered from beds being pushed in and out.  The only decoration a faded cork board and a sign advising one how to wash your hands. Nothing beautiful to look at.  Nothing to bring me up from the black abyss.  I am alone with various tubes attached to my body.  I  weep tears of utter despair. A few years ago my breast cancer returned.  The first encounter I had a right breast lumpectomy.  This time a mastectomy in the other breast.     I am alone.    Feeling so sorry for myself when my nurse enters my room with a gift  wrapped package.  Pillows!  Soft, comfortable pillows covered in a happy flowered pattern.  Pillows to give me under the arm and breast protection.    In that moment the sun came out.

I’m smiling.  I’m not alone.

The package contained  pillows hand sewn by a group of woman who are members of the Delta Hospital Auxiliary.   The hospital is located in Ladner, British Columbia.   They are post-operative pillows tailored for post mastectomy surgery.    The pillows are a gift from the Delta Hospital Auxiliary.    These amazing women known as THE PILLOW PALS  cut, sew, stuff and package these pillows.  A thoughtful card with encouraging words are enclosed with the pillows.

I am giving back.

I am a proud member of the Delta Hospital Auxiliary.   I search for wonderful fabrics to be sewn into pillows by dedicated woman known with great affection as THE PILLOW PALS.

I am giving back.

 

 

 

 

 

ZEN AND THE ART OF STRAWBERRY JAM

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She weighed the strawberries.

Measured the sugar.

The wisdom of tradition whispered to her.

This is state of mind.

This is a way of being.

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Her thoughts weighed heavy on her wrists.

She filled the jars

With the warmth of the sun.

The perfume of the crushed berries.

The  blue she had grabbed from the sky.

The music the wind across the fields.

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This alchemy of jam.

This seeing things without distortion.

She placed a flower on Buddha.

This she thought is the zen of strawberry jam.

ZEN AND THE ART OF IRONING LINEN NAPKINS

The voice of Kiri te Kanawa soars through our home.  A favorite and much loved CD … Chants d’Auvergne (songs of the Auvergne).    I’m ironing  napkins, gorgeous banquet sized antique linen damask napkins.    The final memory filled  task of Saturday’s dinner party,  a memorable evening with friends and family.

No ordinary napkins these, but heavy, large 24″ by 24″ drifts of shimmering white.   I treasure hunt for vintage linen.  Finding them in thrift shops and garage sales.  Buying  single orphans.  Incomplete sets.   Monogrammed napkin embroidered with the initials of others.

At the end of the evening  the napkins soak in cold water over night. If there is a recalcitrant stain I add a little powdered bleach.   I wash them in more cool water, gentle cycle, mild soap. I hang them to dry.

I spray them with L’Occitane’s lavender-scented Linen Water.    It’s  lovely to see the beautiful damask patterns come to life under the heat of the iron.   I fold the napkin in half and press a sharp crease, then fold and iron again.  My Mother, who was a beautiful ironer would not approve of this.  It wears the linen away.   But,  I like the sharp, crisp crease.  I do the same with my linen tablecloths (it’s the French style).

The napkins, still damp and immaculately ironed, air dry on the laundry rack.   I tie each set with with coloured ribbons and carefully tuck  them away to wait patiently for the next dinner party.

This simple act of calmly and quietly ironing, and storing them in an orderly fashion is the zen and art of ironing linen napkins.