Friday, December 29, 2006

Tolerant but not too melodramatic

Today is one of those days in Saskatoon when you wish you had worn a toque just for the walk from the car to the house. You also wish there were some way of preventing your nose hair from freezing, but alas, this remains to be discovered. One feature of wintry Saskatoon that I had forgotten was the ruts in the un-grated roads – they’re so deep and frozen over that you don’t really need to steer, unless you want to turn, at which point you have to try to get out of the ruts. Last night on a wonderful date with Christine, she described S’toon as a place where you spend half the year tolerating or trying to survive the weather, quickly moving from one indoor place to another. Which is why she’d like to get out of here eventually. Sometimes I agree. And sometimes I like the tolerating part. It makes me feel robust and vigorous and alive and… tolerant.

Christmas this year was beautiful, with all of the elements I have come to expect and desire… attending three Christmas Eve services at church, making music in two of them with Rachel, Daniel and Chris, the peaceful feeling of looking out at a sanctuary full of people holding lit candles, a great homemade present from Don, plenty of fudge and cookies and peanut butter balls, a sleepover “under the tree” with my siblings, a lazy Christmas morning, matching sibling pajama pants, not getting dressed until very late in the day, a visit from Chris and Dan, turkey with Dad’s family, hilarious games with my younger cousins, and banana slush (my favorite Christmas food). The only thing missing was Sarah – we have to share her with her husband’s family now. So there was continuity and change this year.

I received some great gifts this year, including earrings, a Wendell Berry poetry book, an Annie Dillard book, a bag you can heat up and put around your neck, a beautiful wooden box, a banana case, some shirts, and not one, but two Damien Rice CDs. I have been thinking about Damien Rice. There is a lot I like about him. His poetry surprises me. He’s passionate. His CDs somehow make it sound like you’re sitting ten inches in front of him, like you’re intruding or invading his personal space, and I like that. It feels vulnerable. But I’ve decided that I need to be in a particularly introspective mood to fully appreciate his melodramatic, brokenhearted singing. Sometimes it seems over the top. And his new CD is slightly more… explicit. Which has got me thinking about swearing. I’ve grown more tolerant of swearing, ironically, at Bible school. I still wonder if it’s a moral issue or a societal issue. In other words, is swearing sinful, or just in poor taste? What did Jesus say when he stubbed his toe? I’m starting to think it doesn’t matter what you say, from a moral perspective, whether it’s “sick dog”, “sick monkey”, or something our society calls an expletive. I’m not talking about throwing swears into every sentence, which I consider evidence of a poor vocabulary, or swearing AT people, which is mean. I’m talking about those situations that seem to cry out for swearing. Anyway, if you have any opinions, please leave a comment.

I have one New Year’s resolution so far, and it doesn’t have to do with swearing, it has to do with cooking. Yes, roommates, listen up – I have copied down a bunch of recipes from my mom. I plan to make a master list of all possible meals we can make without the use of an oven, so we will not be stuck standing around at 7:00 PM wondering what to eat. And maybe we could eat at the table sometimes. I forgot how much I like tables. I think we need to make more homemade soup and stew. And we need to invent more recipes using Frank’s Hot Sauce.

One more week here. Every day is about appreciating home, and the people here, without becoming overly sentimental and nostalgic. And possibly starting to write that paper that’s due on the 15th… gross.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Back in Toontown

I’m home. I arrived on Saturday. (Crazy thing – on the second leg of my flight, from Edmonton to Saskatoon, I was seated right beside my best friend Jane from elementary and high school. No, Saskatoon is NOT that small.) My family was reunited for a whole weekend, since my sister Sarah was also home for a few days. I love my family and I hope I never take any of them for granted. We put up the traditional tree-with-an-overabundance-of-ornaments. It also has strings of popcorn and cranberries on it – does anyone else have this tradition?

I’m feeling the same way I felt the last time I switched cities. The four hours in a plane cross me over from one stream of life to another. When I’m in Vancouver, my home in Saskatoon seems like a faraway dreamland, a place I actively remember and think of fondly, where I long to be. Almost as soon as I arrive, this dreamland feeling switches into a fee
ling of intense normality, like I’ve never been gone. Everything is familiar, and I slip right back in again and don’t even realize it. This isn’t a bad thing – it’s good to feel like I fit in. But I don’t want to take advantage of the time; I want to appreciate every moment and live in the knowledge that these days are the ones I’ve longed for. The same thing will happen, I’m sure, when I return to Vancouver. It will be too normal.

My exams went well, I think. I’m pretty sure that after many French lit classes and a year and a half of grad school, I’ve figured out a nearly foolproof method of writing essays on final exams. Basically, you read through your notes and try to find themes that run through the whole course, and examples of where they appear. Chances are, you’ll be able to twist your ideas into at least one of the essay options. You also memorize a few key details (specific dates, names, etc.) and make every effort to include them, so that the prof knows you’ve been paying attention. And then you write it out in an organized and time-efficient way. That’s it. It’s worked for me. I’ve also figured out how to write a mean Hebrew translation test, but since far fewer (note the word choice, Chris!) people will benefit from this information, I will refrain from providing it. This was my last Hebrew class, sadly. I hope I don’t forget it all…

So, with the exception of an unfortunate Exegesis paper that I have to write over the holidays, my Master’s degree is half finished. My degree is half finished, and my savings are almost all finished! My landlords called me up the day before I left to tell me that one of my cheques bounced (due to my own stupidity, not a lack of money), but this got me to checking my budget and income/expenditure ratio, at which time I discovered that I’ll be short of money next semester. I was mostly frustrated at myself for miscalculating, but there was also a bit of worry and fear that crept up into me. This is the first time in my life I’ve been so tight with money,
and it’s going to be a learning experience. But on the same day, I had a cool reminder about God providing for me… for several months now, I’ve been looking for some rubber boots to protect me against the elements – the last missing chink in my rain armor. I had checked with friends and looked in a few stores, but I hadn’t found anything I liked or could afford. Finally, at Jacob’s Well, my friend told me there were some rubber boots on the free table. (The free table is where members of the community – both volunteers and residents - can bring things they no longer need and take things they do need). They were beautiful yellow and they fit me perfectly! So I waited, and God brought me free boots in his own way. Please pray as I learn to trust him for bigger things…

I am glad to be back in the predictable cold and snow. The recent cataclysmic weather conditions in Vancouver were starting to take their toll on me. First it was the constant rain and flooding and undrinkable water, then it was massive snowfall, and then before I left, there was a hurricane-force windstorm that uprooted enormous trees in Stanley Park. Plus everyone keeps talking about “the Big One” which is the long overdue massive earthquake that’s supposed to hit Vancouver. We’re supposed to have emergency supplies ready in case this happens. Good old Saskatoon. Yep, it’s cold and it’s snowy, but the chances of a massive, life-threatening earthquake here are slim to none.

Since I arrived home, I’ve had a sleepover with my sisters, I’ve seen my brother sing in a recital (his voice seriously blew me away), I’ve been in a near-traffic-accident due to the ice, I’ve played a great new board game Chris gave my family (Apples to Apples), I’ve caroled at the hospital, I’ve had breakfast with Jordan, I’ve attended a party at Rochelle’s house, and I’ve almost bought all of my Christmas presents. I plan to spend a lot more time with family, with Chris, with other friends, with my pillow, and with books. I’ll try to let you know how this plan works out… pictures to come...

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Studying and flamingos

Hi everyone,

Just a quick note to say that I'm almost through the semester. I have one exam today and one on Thursday, and then I'm flying home on Saturday, where I'll be for three weeks. I'm SO excited to see all of my family and Saskatoon friends again. I'm very in need of a break - in the last few days I've noticed that my prayers for grace, patience and peace have become increasingly frequent... Maybe I'll write more once I have this exam (Christianity and Science) under my belt, but for now, I must study. Instead, I'll give you some crazy pictures of Danice and I on the bus with a pink flamingo...

Saturday, December 09, 2006


Seagulls sing carols
Outside the aluminum-foil-plastered windows
The oven is on, for the heat;
I doubt she bakes.

Her eyes sink into her smile;
the rest of her hides under layers of blankets, and beside the bed
is a long-forgotten plate of chopped fruit
as shriveled as she is.
Privileged, we are the only ones she opens her door for.

Another cough racks her tiny frame
momentarily muting the perpetual TV
that tries to tell her what she should crave at this most blessed time of year
when all that glitters is cold.

We’re supposed to take her to the clinic because of her pneumonia.
She will do no such thing.
But she’d love to have some toffees and walnuts.
We can’t find any walnuts at the Army and Navy,
but when she sees the toffees
the child inside her leaps.

For hours, we are her ears;
she remembers to us a childhood on the reserve
skipping the parts that hurt
dwelling on parts that matter, like when she was seven and her father
taught her Our Father in his language.

Now, she prays it for the junkies who steal from her.

When the Kingdom breaks all the way through
and life returns to her legs
I hope the forests are greener and grander
Because I want to run with her there, get her to
teach me how to tell a salmonberry from an elderberry
show me how to rub off the prickly hazelnut skins
with the calloused soles of her feet
like she did with her sisters.

Then she will know that she was
not just another prisoner in the pretty paper-box of a poem
but one for whom I prayed.

Monday, December 04, 2006

the Christmas concert

I sang Emmanuel in your direction

I strung the arrow-notes to splinter your dark glass

I sang up an apple tree

to keep your dying faith alive

to shelter your weary bones

I sang a rose into bloom

to brighten your half-spent night

to dispel your darkness

to lighten your load

I sang a lamb

I sang an on-time God

I sang angels to tell you not to fear

I even sang a king right up onto his throne

because I knew you needed him

I sang them all for you.

I sent them all your way.

I sang them all for you, but you did not stand.