Saturday, August 20, 2005

Life Is Too Short

"Life is too short." This was one of my father's favourite sayings. Plus, "Do it now," and "She who hesitates is lost." The message was: procrastination leads to regret, and ultimately ruin!! Late in life, when asked if he had regrets, he said: "I wish I had gotten out to work sooner." In the 1930's young people worked to help support the family. Petted youngest of five, my father was offered university. (He got around to fulfilling his parents' dream in the 1960's.) But as a kid, he wanted to get his hands dirty. Contribute. Like his brothers and sisters. And as an old man, he wished he had started sooner!!! This from someone who worked harder than most any other two men I have ever known.

Obsessed with the brevity of time. Beneath an engraving of one of his handmade clocks, his gravestone reads, "So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom." Ps. 90:12 KJV My brother wanted us to put, "Life is too short." Funny. True. We balked at irreverent.

I'm numbering my days. Just attended a thirty year reunion of the booming Sunday School of our first pastorate. Met again the eager twelve year old, now a vigorous, greying, prosperous forty-two. And a man who finished his week of long distance trucking with a stint in one of the blue buses. He's retired, a widower, softer now, gentled down by time and sorrow. A Sunday School mom brought nearly grown grandchildren to the reunion. Her soft-featured metis face was beautiful as ever under snow white hair. Life is short.

I'm numbering days. The never ending purge of Dawsonwood continues. Sorting. Tossing. Keeping. Giving away. Going through old photos. Making up keepsake boxes for my parents' five grandchildren. Wasn't it only yesterday my parents were my age? There they are. Young looking. Taking trips to the Middle East and China. Here's Pavarotti, who they met somewhat incongruously in Beijing. Here are shards from that dig in the Middle East. Who gets that pen stand my father fashioned to display an ancient clay pot handle?? That shard is centuries older than any of us will ever be. Life is short.

Numbering days. Here are the incarnations of Dawsonwood Cottage in black and white and living colour. The house buried under snow. The garden with mini trees dug up from the wild and planted in their infancy. They are giants now. And the kitchen. Yellow. Aqua. French cafe mural. Red check curtains. Peach and green with subtle wallpaper. Infamous cluttered green plaid. It will be French again soon. French Country this time. If life isn't too short.

Days. Wasn't it only yesterday the children were small, fishing off the dock, paddling upstream? There's Rob. Supervising swimming. Playing guitar at campfire. A boy-man thin as a stick. Our girls, wee tots beneath blankets. Could it possibly have been raining? Were we singing in the rain? And here's my brother, young and handsome. Has he always worn that tidy beard? Nearly forever. Here's Dawsonwood buried in snow. Len's on the roof, shovelling. Drifts from the roof meet drifts on the ground. Life is too short.

I'm numbering my days. Perhaps that is why I stay up half the night. Redeeming the time. Reviewing my life for signs of wisdom. Finding beauty even in pictures of me. What's that father? "Too soon old, too late smart." Right.

Spent some time recently with a visitor who wondered why we only know what we know late in life. It seems to take for ever to be wise. No regrets. It is a process. The child who visioned the light of God at six, has walked in that light even when she thought it was darkness.

Teach us to number our days aright,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Ps. 90:12 NIV

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Sleep Deprivation

This 'poem' was inspired by Cindy's post of July 15, 2005 (click on title for link). Yes, I am that far behind. Part of the reason is that I am staying up all night to read, and clean out closets as well as stargaze. One night I listened to a neighbourhood orgy downriver, an unusual thing in these parts. I called the police, talked to the police and my three year old grandson was up then, thinking the police had come to the house because he had fallen out of bed. Then, of course, we were all awake and had to stay up longer to see how the cops would handle the violence. It took them several hours to set up their intervention. All has been quiet since. Not a light is showing from across the river after dark. But the habit of late hours is about it:

Hunger for quietness
can be addictive.
The house at rest,
deep darkness,
wee hours
stolen from
the abyss of sleep,
Staying up all night
is habit forming.

Lunacy feasts
on too much dewy grass,
sips of silken summer air,
bites of coming frost,
the flavour of northern lights,
starsong and moonset.
Finally it renders a giant belch of
overindulgence in solitude and nightcraft.

Hangover the next morning.
Moderation in everything.
Excess in nothing.
Creativity exists in balanced appetites,
cravings held in check,
a strict diet of sleep and wakefulness
in healthful portions.

Sweet Dreams, all.

Constance 08/05

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Lost in the Ether

Until I began to use internet, the word 'ether' was otherworldly. Speaking of sky, life, mystery and myth. It was a spacious word, timeless. It harked back to Greek gods and forward to intergalactic travel. Grander than mere air. Poetic. Ethereal.

Oh yes, and it also reminded me of the terrible smell which preceded my tonsil operation at age six, and the lonely, terrifying hospital stay which followed. It is this ether which sticks in my nostrils today...AND THE FACT THAT WE HAVE HAD THE MOST OPPRESSING COMPUTER PROBLEMS FOR SEVERAL WEEKS. EVERY SIMPLE TASK IS A SLOW swallowing after that dreadful surgery.

I am back up but lost my emails, my addresses, my favourites and my capacity to post pictures. Thanks to those who placed comments while I was gone. I do appreciate the encouragement to keep writing and am honoured that any of you think this space is an entertaining or inspirational place to visit.

Cindy, I hope I find your address. I haven't forgotten that stimulating list of questions.

Friday, August 05, 2005

In-laws and Outlaws

The Harris family has moved back home. They are officially 'out' of Dawsonwood. Their house is looking wonderful. There are a few more things to do. But the basic things: Robbie's room, the downstairs painting and flooring, the bathrooms are done. And who would have thought that underneath that mangy orange carpet was a gorgeous pine staircase, now stained and painted and shining like new?!!!

I had thought to write something funny about this experience, but find that it really hasn't reached the "funny stage" yet. My computer is lagging behind my fingers which reminds me that I, too, am tired. There are about ten loads of wash to finish downstairs and Dawsonwood guests arrive tomorrow.

But I want to say a word about my son-in-law Dylan. He has put up with whatever design or decorating ideas Barb or I have hatched...put up with our moodswings, our alternate despair and excitement, uncomplainingly (at least in front of me). He has slaved unstintingly from 6 a.m. to midnight in exhausting heat. He has put furniture together!!! I need say no more. But I will. He actually made that laminate flooring come right, matching kitchen, dining room, living room and hallways in one seamless gleam of perfection. (It looks easy on the decorating shows, folks. It is not.)

Living together is not always easy. I want to thank my daughter Barbara for all the times she bit her tongue before biting off my head. I appreciate the fact that she took my unnecessary reminders, suggestions and nudges in good spirit. Her decision to do wainscoating in the powder-room was genius. Her courage in purging and her daring in holding a garage sale right in the middle of the reno were admirable and rewarding. And she continued to pull occasional night shifts, endured the bomb scare at the nursing home, and care for her sick baby.

We grandparents did our best with child care...but we WOULD forget to take along the puffer. We let the kids stay up too late, and generally wrecked any semblance of routine they had formerly known. So now that Barb is left with the little finicky bits to finish and the new asthma routine to establish, I pray she'll continue to have the strength to do what needs to be done and joy in doing it.