Tuesday, December 5, 2017

December bluez

It is now December and I am once again sitting on the same brown couch, with sun on the left side of my face.  Actually, it's also on the front of my face because as the days draw darker and closer to solstice, the sun moves more and more south for both sunrise and sunset.  Shadows get longer -- blue against the snow and the stubbly bits of golden wheat in the fields shines like a lion's mane.

I wrote last blog that I would like to write more the month of November.

And I did.

But it wasn't here.

I started a story that I have going on the lap top, and that is cool.  It is a way to process some of what has been going on inside me.

In practical terms, I spent much of November directing a play.  A heart-forward beautiful musical for the Studio Stage here in Rosebud.  I encouraged the players to be brave, honest, and mindful of ensemble.  And audiences have appreciated it a lot.

I got to design the show as well, and I find the warm vibrant colors in the set and costumes very pleasing.

I did a good job.

So why do I feel heavy?

Why do I feel a let down?

(...His eye is on the sparrow... yes, I know... )

I realize that most people around are stressed or tired or sick, or any combination of those things, and they may not have eyes to really see me.

I need to hold on to the truth of what I know about myself and let others be themselves.  I can't allow myself to be so disappointed, because whether they know it or not, I have been brave and kind.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Sensing the Sun

Hello from Rosebud

It is Sunday morning October 29 and the sun is just spilling over the hills to the east and south.

My boys are already up and filming.  Yes.  They and their friend Hadden are filmmakers.

They are putting hours into a 1 minute film so they can win a contest so they can be given cool equipment to make more movies.

They have another "big" movie in the works that they've been thinking about all year, but these smaller side endeavours keep them inspired.

So they have created an army trench, a no man's land, a rifle out of a pine plank, and have drafted actor Travis Friesen to be the subject of their story.

I got up early to make the snacks (very important) and drive them and their equipment to the neighbour's property about one minute away.

They are ambitious.

They are thriving.

They are learning to make decisions with their time, their resources, and with each other.

And I am here in my house that now smells of toasted almonds, writing a blog that I have not worked on since May.

When life is full, it can seem counter intuitive to stop and write a blog, but I have really missed doing it.

I glance back at my last couple weeks and see that I have been craving inspirational story and goodness.  When I feel alone and want encouragement in my work, I seek for communion.  I listened to two audio books while working in the kitchen making bread and lasagne: The Last Battle, and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.  Yes, both children's books by CS Lewis.  His Chronicles of Narnia have shaped my theology and understanding of God.  In September I also re-read The Great Divorce which has influenced my thinking about determinism and choice and the thought that God ultimately gives us what we most want, for better or for worse.

I've enjoyed talking through life with my group of students in my faith and art class, but lately we are on a hiatus as the main stage is in rehearsal mode.

And David is now resting since he had his last two show of The Christians in the theatre last night and went to a wrap party after that.

I look forward to having him around more.

So, all the men in our little family are engaged elsewhere or otherwise and here I am on my brown couch.  The sunlight is now bouncing off the faces of the houses across the highway to west.  I say highway, but it's nothing like a freeway.  This highway has not had one vehicle travel up or down it since I started typing.  It is after all, rural Alberta on a Sunday morning.

Now the sun is peeking over my neighbours house to the east, and dare to look right at it.  Now I see spots on my screen, but my face is glowing.  Feels nice.

I think I have an urge to write because many thoughts have been bottling up in me and not finding sufficient outlet.  I do what I can through conversation and through journalling and drawing, but...

it is time to write.

So I will endeavour to write throughout the next month.

It may not be long entries, it may not be sensational, but it will be true and reflective.

And so now, with sun on my face, and my profile making shadows on the the far wall, looking for the adventure that is my life, longing for Aslan's country, I will sign off,

In hope.


Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Always beginning again

My life is coming up to a bend in the road...

or so it seems.

I'm in my second to last week of telling the story "The Skin of Our Teeth" at Rosebud Theatre, and I can feel myself wanting to start the grieving and letting go, so I can move on afterwards.  There's a wrapping up of the old and a striking out toward the new. 

It must be because SPRING has now busted out all over Rosebud.

The lilacs have joined the throngs of birds singing and nesting and green has swept through the valley like a new carpet.  Now it's loud when the wind blows because of all the sticky new green leaves dancing in response to its breath.

Life is pulsating above and below and everyone has a stirring within to get on with living.

The show is still a privilege to be a part of, but it's been like pulling teeth to get people to come to it.  It takes work to enter this story, it's not a casual, "I'm going to snuggle in and hold my wife's hand" kind of play.  It grabs you by the neck and drags you through the ice age, the flood, a world war, and several tense and loud moments, only to keep encouraging another new beginning.

I suppose that's what's happening to me.

I'm being asked to begin again.

The character Sabina has some good hard questions of Mrs. Antrobus when Henry, the enemy of the free world, is sleeping back home in his father's chair.  "Always beginning again, -- why do we go on pretending?"  But of course, Sabina is ever the skeptic.  From the start of the story, she doesn't know why we go on living when there are so many stresses to endure.  "It's easier being dead" she says.

But Mr. Antrobus reasons it out near the end.  "God has always given us that second chance", and with the memories of our mistakes to guide us... we are learning.  It doesn't matter if we're fighting for a country, or a field, or a home... or I might add, a moment, or a kitchen table, or a tomato seedling... every good and excellent thing stands on the razor's edge of danger and must be fought for. 

If we don't fight for the good in each little thing, we will get swamped by the desire our own comfort.

This little/big war happens to me every five waking minutes.

Don't worry, I'm not being too hard on myself, just realistic.  I fail.   And I try again.  And I know I cannot earn my salvation, and I know that I often need a break to recharge and refocus.

But, if I am to begin again...

to make a good turn in this bend ahead I see sweeping before me, and stay on the road,

I need to begin to let go of what I have been holding and open my hands to grasp what is coming.

The next theatrical endeavor I embark on will, believe it or not, be even more challenging than Mrs. Antrobus,

And I take a deep breath with that thought.

More on that to come.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Putting myself to rights...

I've returned from our big beautiful trip,

I've finished teaching for the term,

My garden instincts are firing and I can hardly wait to plant and to transplant all the seedlings that are growing out of their confines in our home.  Every window sill is covered.

Spring has arrived and I am eager to join in the living.

That is, when I'm not hiding away relaxing looking at media or daydreaming.

But I have no more excuses for not blogging.

I will blog.

I will give voice to some of the things that are brewing inside me and hopefully offer something generous and helpful to the world, either through my honesty in frustration, a bit of true story, or insights into art and my own thoughts about the world.

So here I embark on Summer 2017.

A quick recap from last fall:

I am now in the final three weeks of a run of The Skin of Our Teeth by Thornton Wilder at Rosebud Theatre.

I am so privileged to play the mother of all mothers, Mrs. Antrobus.  This play has been challenging and exciting.  It takes all my mental and physical focus to stay on track and tuned to the moment.  But I love where Wilder lands us.  Everything good and worthwhile stands on the razor's edge of danger, he says, and must be fought for.  Whether it is a home, a field, or a country.  When Mrs. A is faced with a prodigal son who has been the enemy, she starts putting the house to rights.  She begins to put order into herself, her home, and her surroundings.  This is the work we have to do.  This is the basic premise to begin again, and again, and again.  It is what everyone who keeps a home going knows, she says.  And she goes on to say it's something that shouldn't have to be explained or said, because you can read it in each other's eyes.

This truth.  Putting order into the small and mundane, so you can rightly lead in bigger things, has been challenging me.

While I'm fostering these new seedlings of tomato and squash and pepper, there are other corners of my house that have gone untended.  I always gravitate toward the new.  I love to create and feel at once alive, relevant, and affirmed when I get to do so.  But creating New necessitates a clean up, a re-ordering, a time to make sense of what is right in front of me and sort out what is behind me.  I can't always create anew without putting order into what is right in front of me.  This imbalance causes me to avoid the mundane things that ask me to work hard, to make decisions about the value of my belongings and properly take care of them, or pass them on, or remake them into something else, and where to store them in the meantime.

This is basic housekeeping folks.  And I still try and skirt it to do things that are more enjoyable and life-giving in a way I can instantly feel.

God please help me to face what is right in front of me, and what is hiding behind the door, the couch, or under the bed, so I can begin to put order into my home, my self, my life.

Three recommendations:

1.  Come see The Skin of our Teeth and have a Rosebud Experience.  If you can make it to Calgary, we'll bring you the rest of the way.  www.rosebudtheatre.com

2.  My friend Heather put me on to this man, Jordan Peterson, who speaks into what I'm saying.  https://www.reddit.com/r/Maps_of_Meaning/comments/6answt/jordan_peterson_the_reason_modern_people_cant_see/

3.  We watched our DVD of  The King's Speech again last night with Donovan and Weston.  Beautiful.  In every way.  Such good story and storytelling.  Such wonderful truths and challenges.  And the resounding message of finding and using your voice.  Highly, highly recommended.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

The Snidermen and the Isle of Wight

An "Isle of Wight" interview with Weston:

David: Hi Weston. We're trying to wrap up our trip blog, and that means talking about our last few days on the Isle of Wight and then what it has been like coming back home.

Weston: The Isle of Wight was such a nice place to transition from Africa to being ready to go home.
We spent many hours along the beach (Oh, man, I want to go back to the Isle of Wight now!) and went to little shops and supermarkets. 

D: How about our time at Rosie's Cottage?

W: Yes, I loved the bed there, it was so cozy under the comforter. I slept really well. And we also got to watch movies, "The Truman Show", "Interstellar" and "Big". "Interstellar" blew my mind!

D: It was pretty fantastic getting have picnics (which for us means eating dinners like curry chicken or take out fish and chips on the floor in the living room) and watching movies.

W: I would love to go back sometime. I'm so happy to finally be home.

We've been back for almost two months now, and things are going great. The transition back to school has been awesome!

D: Wow, West, that's great! What are your favorite activities at school these days?

W: Band and P.E.

D: That's good. What are your favorite activites in those subjects?

W: Awww man. Dad, no! Don't put that! Dad (cackling with embarrassed laughter, then wrestles with his dad and tries to trick him into looking away so Weston can erase these lines)--

D: So what makes you happy being back home?

W: For one thing, it finally snowed overnight and today, and Donovan and I got to go sledding with friends.

D: Yep. And we had a special family Christmas this morning because we are flying to Oregon tomorrow.

W: Yes! Today we had our family Christmas.

D: And you got a sled that to me looks like the Monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey which we watched recently.

W: Dad, you have to tell the story!

D: Ok, well early this morning I went and got the sled and put it in the front with its shiny black backing towards our living room window. I kept the curtains closed until the right moment, then played the Main Theme from "2001" on the stereo, and had mom and I pull them open at the big musical climax.  Unfortunately, the sled had fallen down, and you said "Oh. It's the snow. Right, that is a Christmas gift."

W: I did. And the sled works great. So, now I want to say that thanks to everyone who followed our blog and wish them a Merrrry Christmas!!

David: Giving Way

I wanted us to have a peaceful, beautiful and somewhat remote place to debrief from our experiences in Africa and transition back to life at home.  It was Jeany who discovered places for us to stay on the Isle of Wight, and it proved even better than I hoped. 

From the short ferry ride across The Solent to the rickety train of old subway carriages that rocked us along the rails to the village of Sandown, we were charmed and comforted by the slow pace of the island.

Some of my favorite times were on walks along the ocean wall to the beach front that butted against high rocky cliffs.  Jeany’s post before this one shows the golden light of a sunset at low tide. Seeing Jeany, Donovan and Weston bathed in the peachy warmth felt like God was saying a gentle “Well done.” for taking the trip.

I was relaxing into the creature comforts of familiar foods, a soft bed and a townhouse appointed with many touches of hospitality.

But at the same time my spirit was getting restless and I tried to hold it off. I could already feel the loveliness and inspiration of St. John’s, Italy, Switzerland and Germany seem like long ago. I could sense the richness of the people and places we had been in Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda fading. The tropic wildness of Mbudya Island was replaced by the domesticated, sleepy neighborhood outside our window.

There was a framed picture in our place that said “A day at the beach restores the soul.” I called to God to do that for me while out on our walks along the shore. The water was talking to me of peace and gratitude, but there was also irritability, restlessness and a life-long ache close to the surface.

Back in our cozy place, I was looking out the living room window across at the huge Anglican church, and saw a street sign that said “Give Way”. The sign is for auto traffic, as the road narrows to one lane at that point and cars have to take turns for a few blocks.  At first, I thought “give way” meant give way to my anxieties and let them dislodge me from the joy and purpose in the trip. What a mean trick God! What’s with that?
    Staring distractedly at the beads of water on the diamond-shaped panes of glass in the window, it occurred to me that “Give Way” could mean to surrender to the coming transition. Letting go of the season of new experiences and perspective, trusting it would live on inside me. Letting go of the freedom of few responsibilities and re-entering the world of work and routine waiting for me back in Rosebud, rejoining the vibrant community there.  Reading it now, it sounds simplistic to me, but it did help as I continued to wrestle with conflicted thoughts and feelings.

Some restoration of the soul met me on our last day, where we hiked a well-groomed path to the tops of the white cliffs. From the top, we had a view of much of the island and the city of Portsmouth on the mainland.

The view reminded me of other high points on the trip:

The epic view we had from Signal Hill in St. John’s, looking out from one of the eastern-most places in North America to the vast blue of the Atlantic.

Being on the roof of the enormous Duomo cathedral in Milan, looking out through spires with statues of saints to the cityscape beyond.

Hiking high mountains in Switzerland near Solalex, where my spirit was quickened and stilled by the awe-inspiring expanse around me.

Standing on a large high rock outcropping with our sponsor child, David, and a group of 50 or so Ugandan relatives and community members. We could see the fertile expanse of green and brown landscape and other massive rock outcroppings in the distance near Saroti town.

Kampala: Dancing wildly with my family and friends Richard, Claire and amazing dancers at the end of a three-hour performance of traditional tribal music and dances on the night of Kampala’s 54th birthday.

Looking out from a high hill in Kampala at Lake Victoria, realizing it is the second largest lake on earth.

I was finding readiness to “give way”.

As I write this two months later, a host of other memories rises to greet me--too many to capture here before we head to a Christmas Eve service this evening and then I cram in more grading before we fly to Oregon tomorrow.

Thank you for reading these entries and supporting us in the adventures. Onward.

Three Sniders and a fourth shadow

Friday, December 9, 2016

Isle of Wight; a place between worlds; by Jeany

It was so special to come to this little island off the coast of Portsmouth.
Thankfully, we were able to hop an earlier train from Gatwick and arrive in the afternoon.
Our place was so lovely.

There was a view of the white cliffs and the sea, and a view of St. John's church across the street.
We settled into the slow pace and English language like a duck to water.
After the outdoor markets in Tabora and Dar es Salaam, walking into the little country grocery store was such a privilege.  So many options, with the price clearly marked (no bargaining), and we knew we had a kitchen waiting at our place so we could make all our meals.

We feasted.

We worked as a team preparing and cleaning up, and indulged with watching movies as we ate.
In the day time we would walk the beach or plan our next meal and we slept really, really well.
Originally in booking this in-between stop on our journey out of Africa and almost home to Canada, I had thought we would need this time as a family to debrief, decompress, and discern what we had been through.  Or perhaps prepare for our return and all our responsibilities waiting for us back home.
Instead, what we actually did,
was rest.
And play.
That's it.
Fish and chips, sticky toffee pudding, curries and spaghetti, Halloween trick-or-treaters and McVities orange chocolate sticks...
England by sea

Without the bustle of London.
We felt at home in about 10 minutes.
The weather too, was beautiful, but cool -- very Oregon familiar, and I breathed well.
I wish we could have stayed longer, but with the Southern Railway strike and an important flight from Gatwick Saturday morning, we had planned one last airbnb stay in Oxted for our final night overseas.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Tanzania part two; Donovan and David

Tanzania was vibrant!  Throughout the littered, red streets and washed-out, crumbling roadside buildings, people stared back at us.  Many people.  Their eyes glistened with tired tears, or glowed with the radiance of the smile tugging at their puffy black lips down below.  The flies would dance around every scene— show-stealers who were only in it for the sweet nectars of the fruits piled in the marketplaces.
    Everywhere we went they cried “Karibu Sana (Welcome in Swahili),” to us.  Looking back, I wish I could have sat down with each of them and shared stories without a limit of time.  In the moment I would respond with “Hapana, Asante (No, thank you),” because we had to keep moving, but each person was so alive, like they all wanted to create a whole world of friendship and share it with you.
    What was also interesting, however, was that almost every person has a mobile phone.  They say the phones improve their lives: opening up business opportunities and making social connections more frequent with communication.  During our solar-lamp-building workshop, colourful ringtones would dance through the air, bringing messages from the outside world of the hot sun into the shady little room.

 This was the place where I felt we formed the most connection with people in our time in Africa. It was our longest stay, and dedicating three days to a solar lamp workshop meant we got to know and laugh with a group of fifteen village people, and share stories!

    Their faith was inspiring.  The Tanzanian people burned like fireworks for Jesus and God’s promise, and they lived out their lives taking joy in the simplicity of what they needed to survive.  A line from a wonderful song we discovered:  “All I require for life, God has given me...”  They often lit up with song and dance, which was always an incredible treat to behold.  People are the main focus in the rural parts of east Africa, and when you base your culture on God’s love for people you create a beauty scarcely found in other parts of the world.

Mbudya Island
Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania
October 28-30, 2016

I have had a long-held wish to swim in teal-colored, crystal clear ocean water. The island of Seychelles would come up when I searched for the world’s best places on the internet. We seriously considered going there as a part of the trip, and it looks relatively close to Tanzania on a map. Then I learned it is about 1,400 miles off the east coast of Africa, and we had two days left before flying back to Europe and England to finish the trip.

Here’s the alternative I found--and it fulfilled the wish for all four of us! Mbudya Island is a 15-minute boat ride off the coast of Dar Es Salaam.  The island is a marine reserve for day use.

We stayed at an Air BnB close by, meeting our host Sekela, who was kind and generous, driving us to find an ATM for needed cash and help to learn the best boat service to use.

Getting to the Air BnB from the airport on the south end of town was a three-hour trip, but we had a kind Uber driver named Cornelio who did an admirable job navigating the “jams”.

The next morning, we got a nice breakfast at hotel, then walked down to the place to get our tickets for the day. The trip started by walking way out to the boats. It was low-tide, and we were thigh-deep in the bath-temperature Indian Ocean before climbing aboard.

Crossing to the island was exhilarating, with spray coming up over the boat, bold blue sky above, and deep blue-green water speeding by. At one point, a single dolphin popped out of the water and dove back in ahead of us.As we glided up to the shore of the island, we were welcomed with clear water, white sand, coconut trees and thatched hut shelters. Smiles all around!

A man named Julio greeted us. We found a shelter, ordered our fish and chips lunch and Jeany and the boys settled our stuff while I went to rent snorkeling gear. Soon we were all off-shore, puttering and sputtering as we figured how to use the snorkel masks.  Drifting among coral reefs, we saw many fish, star fish, and shell creatures.

From there on the day was spent in and out of the water under a blazing sun (we all wore t-shirts but were still really sunburned by the end of the day). The boys spent the most time on the shore line, letting the sea wash pummel them into the sand.

The wish-fulfillment moment for me was floating on my back in the water, carried by the swells, and feeling pretty much one with the world. The blue sky, the teal water, and heck even my t-shirt and swim trunks were a blue and green combo that fit the picture perfectly.