Ear Worms

For as long as I can remember, I have loved music, the communal singing in church and school.  Although there wasn’t a lot of money for music in the budget, there were radio concerts and even a few records.  I memorized the songs from The Sound of Music record word for word.  My humming around the house drove my family to distraction (apparently incessant humming was a genetic trait inherited from a paternal great-grandmother).

When the salesman showed up at the door, I begged my parents for an accordion and lessons.  I still have it today.  The accordion was red and pearl, a beautiful instrument, but heavy.  Still we lugged it into music school and logged about five years of music lessons before high school made that instrument seem very uncool.   It would be years before I would return to making music.

In my mid-thirties,  looking for something to do one dreary Sunday afternoon, I decided to tinker with a keyboard that was lying around the house.  This led to more music lessons, and at one point even meant participating in a recital with fellow (ten-year-old or younger) students.  After years at the piano keyboard, the notes and tones have become as familiar as the keys on a typewriter in my hands, which led to improvisation and playing by ear.  Without written notes as intermediaries, it’s a soul music that calls out emotions and a deep longing.

When an acquaintance was looking for someone to join her in recorder practice, it provided a perfect opportunity to learn another instrument.  A much lighter one!  After squeaking through weeks of getting notes right, it’s been really enjoyable and calming to take out the songbook and just play the simple soprano notes.  There’s still much to learn – counting properly is an essential consideration when playing with more than one musician.  This is not the time to march to one’s own drum!

Music will also be part of a campout with a bunch of kids this summer, and I’m already looking forward to campfire songfests.  My grandchildren learned this simple French lullaby recently, and it seems a perfect song to hopefully lull campers to sleep.  In the meantime, it seems to have lodged itself in my brain, so there’s nothing for it but to properly learn the French lyrics and get it right.

Here’s to bonhomie, and music through all our days!




A Breath of Fresh Air







Sometimes I think another word for Spring could be Hope.  After months of bare branches and dormant plants, new life awakes.  Life, just biding its time until the sun’s warmth stirs it up.

Spring stirs in our blood too, a distant remembering of youth and adventure.  A sense of potential in the warming days impels us to unfold ourselves, like the seedlings in the soil, and to go exploring the outdoors again.    Day stretches itself out languidly in both directions, and invites us to bask in its extended light.

When we were children, spring and summer on the farm invited new daring as our play moved outside.  We spent hours on a steel bar stretched across two trees, hanging there like monkeys, effortlessly pulling ourselves up on it, risking a fall by walking across it, sharing sisterly confidences.  I can still feel the rough surface of the steel bar on my hands.

The pond, fringed by bulrushes, had its own murky fascination, and later the wild berries along the fence lines could be plucked with stained fingers and savoured.  The hayloft in the barn, whether empty or piled high with hay or straw, invited all kinds of forts and feats.  We were warned often to watch out for the holes in the barn floor, but never actually forbidden from roaming around in it.

These days spring means that I lift my face to the lake breeze while tracking across the sand on the shore, take a walk in the woods before the mosquitoes stake their summer claims.   Trilliums bloom between last year’s fallen leaves.  Even before that, against protected southern walls, green spikes of garden daffodils tentatively reach out.  Like our toe in the bathwater, they cautiously test their environment.  Mother Nature can be deceptive, and days of warm weather entice blossoms sometimes, only to cut them short with frost.  Tonight, the snow is flying in large flakes after several days of spring teasing.

In the greenhouse seedlings hold promise, waiting to be presented like debutantes at a spring ball.  I am grateful to be the recipient of my gardener’s green thumb talent, and look forward to appreciating the beauty of a bouquet that is presented all season long.

i thank You God for most this amazing

i thank You God for most this amazing
day for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

. . .

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

ee cummings



“Ask the former generation

    and find out what their ancestors learned

  for we were born only yesterday

and know nothing,

    and our days on earth

are but a shadow.”  Job 8:8-9


When you look through the Bible for references to ancestors,  often the word is linked to the land that God has promised his people.  In Israel, tribal allotments were to stay in the tribe, boundary lines forever marked.  The psalmist rejoiced that these lines for him had fallen in pleasant places, that he had a delightful inheritance. (Psalm 16)

After Israel once more became a country in 1948, Jewish people from all over the world came home.  Two thousand years had elapsed, multiple generations had come and gone.  The term the Israelis used for those born in this new Israel was “sabra,” a reference to the prickly cactus that’s sweet inside.

I get that.  Sometimes I think my restlessness, that  feeling of not quite being comfortable in my skin, fits this prickly description.  In our case, we have had to set down roots in soil where our ancestors had never set foot, and it isn’t always a comfortable feeling.  We have been sometimes hard to assimilate, with our tough exterior.  Once you get past that, hopefully there is a sweetness.

I would never have met my husband if our families had stayed in Holland, though it is a small country.  His family came from Andijk in North Holland, and my family from the Achterhoek, opposite ends of the Netherlands.  In the old days, people usually didn’t travel far.  Any further apart and he would have been in the North Sea, and I would have been in Germany.

When I was an eight-month-old infant, my mother, perhaps because of homesickness, traveled with me back across the ocean in a freighter that had room for a few passengers.    There are photos of a beaming child in a stroller; I am oblivious to the vastness of the Atlantic ocean beyond the guard rail. It was a long and tiring journey, but she felt compelled to take her child to her family, and her childhood home.

Although I obviously have no conscious memory of this, I count it as a blessing to have been held by my grandmother and great-grandmother in Holland.  I like to think they whispered a prayer for all their descendants, the children they would never see grow up, far away in a foreign land.




Sun and Cloud


“Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.” 
  Westminster Catechism

Southern Ontario, because of its proximity to the Great Lakes, often experiences overcast skies, sometimes for days on end.  Many times the early morning’s sunshine lasts only for a few hours before the cloud cover moves in.    This January particularly was stingy with the sun rays, with the only benefit being  (possibly) the milder weather.

The grayness of winter seems to breed discontent along with various colds and flu bugs.   When unsettling headlines make me want to avoid the news, when people try to whip up hatred politically, when bigots intentionally fuel the fires of discord, it certainly can seem that my best option is to take my prickly feelings into hibernation.

Victoria, Watercolor, Pixabay

I am called to be in the world, but not of the world.  Sometimes that seems an impossibility, because there are so many beguiling voices in technology, science, art, world view, the culture itself.

When we read the history of the nations of Israel and Judah prior to the Babylonian exile, they so often incorporated the pagan customs of the nations around them.  They forgot the God who had freed them from slavery and sustained them in a desolate wilderness, who had given them guidelines so that they could prosper in the land he gave them.  As a result, they became slaves all over again, a vassal state or dependent on precarious alliances.  Religion became an incessant need to appease wood and stone idols with imagined powers.

We think we would never be like those primitive peoples, but idolatry hasn’t conveniently gone away.   One way to identify it in our lives is to understand that whatever we put ahead of God, good and pleasurable as it seems,  is never enough.  There’s never enough money for security, never enough drugs or alcohol or sex, never enough popularity, never enough sacrifice or “religion.”  If I center my life on myself, I will never be enough.

We look for meaning and value in them, but ultimately the priority we give to  idols enslaves and desensitizes us, and we can become trapped in an addictive downward spiral.  They steal our lives with their craving, and we are eventually left with emptiness, disillusionment and regret.

When we realize it is God who gives us all we need in His love and providence, we can direct our worship truly to this amazing Creator God.   The breath of God awakens us,  our senses come fully alive to enjoy all good things in their proper place.    Our lives are lit up through the beautiful sunshine of His abundant goodness and grace.

Even in winter.

Ordinary Time


 “You do not know when the Lord will come.”   (Tom, Pixabay)

This past season was the first time many could celebrate the festive season somewhat freely with friends and family, so it felt extra special.  But there is something of a relief in being back to what the church calls “ordinary time.”  So much of our lives are lived in events as “prosaic as a hiccup,” Alice Munro would say.

My memories of the workaday world of punch clocks and turnstiles into factory and office have receded.    The years of working have yielded their reward in retirement, so life is more leisurely.  Nowadays, it’s usually seeing the school bus picking up neighbourhood children that prompts a beginning of the day’s chores.

And it is the simple stuff of our day to day existence that proves to be the real treasure.  Once you take the hurry away, even a small routine like washing breakfast dishes can be savoured.  There is time to sit down between tasks and ponder what to do next.

Even boredom has its place.  That at-loose-ends Sunday afternoon years ago led to rooting around for something to do, which led to the keyboard being unearthed from its basement shelf.  The love of music, lying dormant since childhood,  awakened new potential years later.

Annie Dillard said that “how we spend our days is of course how we spend our lives.”  2023 is still mostly a blank page.  May your life this year be blessed by all the “ordinary” things in your days.

The Power of Littles

Great events, we often find,
On little things depend;
And very small beginnings
Have oft a mighty end.

Letters joined make words
And words to books may grow.
As flake on flake descending
Form an avalanche of snow.

A single utterance may good
Or evil thought inspire;
One little spark enkindled,
May set a town on fire.

What volumes may be written
With little drops of ink?
How small a leak, unnoticed,
A mighty ship will sink?

A tiny insect’s labour
Makes the coral strand,
And mighty seas are girdled
With grains of golden sand.

A daily penny, saved
A fortune may begin.
A daily penny, squandered
May lead to vice and sin.

Our life is made entirely
Of moments multiplied,
As little streamers, joining
Form the ocean’s tide.

Our hours and days, our months and years,
Are in small moments given;
They constitute our time below –
Eternity in heaven.