Drainage Dyke



Suthern Ontario is superb farming country.  I am staying a little North of the farm belt just on the Canadian Shield.  There are still large swaths of farmland too.  I got something of an object lesson in how land is claimed from nature.  It is all very well for me to rapturize about a beautiful field of pale green hay bordered by tall dark trees.  At one time, not so long ago, the whole field was covered with trees and patches of swampy wet land sat hidden in the forest.  My host showed me a large stump that he is burning out. When one has no back-hoe or team of horses to pull it out, that is the time honoured  way of getting rid of an unslightly stump in the middle of a stretch of grass.

What about the wet, marshy patches?  Well, here in pictures, is what you do.  Set a five inch plastic pipe from the source of the wet to a stream or roadside ditch, cover it up and presto….the land dries out.  Hmm….” Set the pipe” means dig a trench with a pick, a scraper and a hoe to remove the earth, grass roots and stones.  Covering it up means hauling slurry from the creek  and a bit of grass seed is a good idea to help the scar heal too.

The whole process involves thought, sweat, persistence and satisfaction.  It’s manipulating the land for human use.  In the adjoining field, the farmer was mowing hay for his animals.  The smell of sunshine wafted over as we worked on the drainage pipe.  I liked this way of spending a summer afternoon.


Treasure at the Side of the Road



Walking today through a shady trail and then along  the side of a country road to return home I was struck by the variety and beauty of what was growing in the strip between the asphalt and the ditch.  Cornflowers blue and white daisies, a tiny sort of snapdragon of acid yellow and clover and speedwell  and a tall species of dandilion  just going to seed.  There were so many types of grasses to admire.  Some were a sort of wheat judging from the shape and others a trembly fan of seeds spread out.  I saw tight cones on the end of tall stems and others with a frill of yellow pollen around the seed head.  There were some plants I could not identify  –  all so beautiful and growing along quite happily without fertilizer or regular watering.  It was perhaps fitting to see this wonder after the text of yesterday from Matthew. ( chapter 6 verse 22 and keep on reading) You can look it up yourself if you are interested.  So pertinent and so true.

A Church


Going to church is a strange thing when you consider it. What makes it holy, special, the sort of place that brings me to the spirit world?  This morning I gave a tour at the Museum of the Tiffany windows in the concert hall.  That used to be a church but it was ” deconsecrated “.  How did they make it not holy any more?  Isn’t every place in the world holy?  Is a Walmart store holy? A bordello? A torture chamber?  Maybe not.  Still, those places are built on the sacred earth.  The earth is sacred all over.  The windows depict scenes from scripture but I only talk about the glass-making technique, the business genius of Tiffany, the social class of the people who made up the congregation. Nothing sacred in that discourse.

Then, when the tour was over, I went to St. Joseph’s Oratory.  That church is famous here in Montreal.  It’s a place of pilgrimage and loads of crutches and sticks are hung up as proof of miraculous cures.  They all date from the last century.  Don’t miraculous cures take place any more?  Tourists come by the bus-load but believers come too.  There were many Asian people there today.  I wandered around and lit a candle as a thank you for a wonderful thing that happened.  Like many people I pray in secret for things to happen.  When they do  it feels like good manners to say thank you somehow.  Nothing is “forever”. Even Lazarus had to die a second time.  However, sometimes I feel like I get a really big blessing, a gift from the universe, from the spirit of all life.

The Oratory is a sort of complex of churches and chapels and a garden and a gift shop and the heart of a saint on display and a museum. It’s quite a place.  The part I like best is a sort of hall with altars to the attributes of St. Joseph where I lit my candle among the hundreds of others.  It’s hot and dark in there and people are talking and taking pictures.  It puts me in mind of people struggling and asking the saint for help. From there I went into a chapel where Mass was being said.  The priest was a young man from South India or Siri Lanka.  He had a wonderful voice and a rather charismatic way with him.  Many people went to Holy Communion and I was surprised after Mass to see many people lined up to put their hands on the feet of the figure of Jesus on a large crucifix.  I got the impression most of,them were asking for something.

I don’t understand what church really is.  What are these buildings, and pictures and objects that mean something, some sort of blind searching?  Today I had to go to a place that was still ” consecrated” on a special mission to catch that little flame on the taper and light up a candle in a glass cup.  Beside the  flame there were tears of gratitude too for being alive and being happy.

People were there with their cameras, their best clothes, saris, beautiful African turbans and Sikh turbans too and Vietnamese speech, bewildered American tourists, and the beautiful voice of a Chinese girl who sang the responses.  I liked being in the midst of all these people.  I had my place in there too.

The church is a place to honour the Spirit and to ask for what we need and to thank when we get it and to wonder and wonder what is the whole heart of this existence.

At the Heart of Things


That searching for the heart of things.

What does it mean, after all and where does it spring from?

And what is it, exactly, or even vaguely?

Too perplexing or taxing to examine?  Too frightening?

Well, there’s always shopping or cleaning the house.

Important things to tick tick the clock – like a career

or planning a vacation.  What would be the perfect pair of shoes

for someone else’s wedding?

There’s always someone else’s book to read.

There’s always another early summer iris to look at…always.

Garden Angels



Guardian angels?  This is Blackie, whom I have known from a kitten.  I know him by his crooked tail, stumpy and blunt.  He is a feral cat who has lived down our jungly lane for about four years.  I used to have quite a following among the strays around here.  Ah, I put out food and water.  I always think they must get thirsty.  This morning when he sat quietly in front of me and licked his lips I was sure he was thirsty and, as I hauled garbage to the curb, he lapped up a little water from an old ash tray I put out.  I even found some stale cat food under the sink, but he turned up his street-wise nose at that.  The old folks in the big block that shades my garden  in the afternoon drop down tastier morsels from the balconies.  When he showed signs of pissing on my flower pots, I clapped my hands and chased him out.  I will be nice to you, Blackie, on my terms.  As he turned to jump through a weed patch close to my rose bush, I noticed how broad his head has become.  He now resembles the venerable tom who fathered him and is no more to be seen.

The little blue angel with one wing always behaves herself and presides over the day and night comings and goings  in the garden