Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The trees were holding out on me.

Thank you to those who contributed to my survey in the last post... interesting data, indeed! Feel free to add a comment, if you haven't yet, and I will let you know when I draw conclusions.

It's amazing how much Vancouver can change in a week and a half! As I walk the route from my bus stop to my house, I am reminded that I do not know the trees at all. I do not know the flowers at all. I thought I did, because I've walked that same route for three years now, with one important exception: I've missed a crucial 4-month period every year. Yes, this is my first Vancouver summer. This is my first Vancouver month of May.

Familiar trees that I know by heart in September and March are now unrecognizable, covered in unexpected blossoms or fresh leaves. There are strange and beautiful orange flowers growing by the front steps that I have never seen before. I am enjoying being taken by surprise. Trees and bushes
I scarcely noticed before are springing to my attention, like when one instrument suddenly stands out in the orchestra.

Let me give you an example. There's a scraggly tree on Alma &3rd, he's a chaotic mess of thin branches growing in all directions from a thick stump. He's a species I've never seen before, and I've never been able to identify him. He grows in the yard of a man who collects other people's junk. He's not an immediately lovable tree, but I've grown to love him for his scraggliness, just like I've grown a secret affection for this little long-haired junk-collecting man I've seen but never actually talked to. The other day, as I approached the tree on my walk home, instead of scraggly branches, I saw what looked like soft pink dreadlocks.
Every branch was covered with the tiniest pink flowers, bringing out a softer side of him I'd never seen. He reminded me of something out of a Dr. Seuss book! Or perhaps Sideshow Bob's hair, if it were pink (for the Simpsons fans out there). I felt a sense of pride in this tree I'd grown to love over three autumns and winters and springs. He had been holding out on me! Actually, I had been missing out on him. I imagined everyone looking at him and enjoying him a little more than usual. I also wanted people to know that I loved him before I knew he was beautiful.

This whole experience of Vancouver flora in May reminds me of similar experiences with people. I don't know if anyone else is reminded of people when they look at plants... it may be a weird side effect of being both a biologist and a pastor-in-training.... Anyway, I am being reminded of times when people I love reveal some gift or talent I never knew they had. Like when I returned home from Belgium, and my brother could suddenly play saxophone. Or when I heard Chris sing for the first time. Or the first time I saw Danice interact with her youth. It's such a great feeling, because you already love the person, but it gives you one more reason to love them, one more dimension to that love. It also reminds me that even when I think I know someone, I don't know all of them. This is something God's been teaching me for a few years - people are rarely as good or as bad as I think they are. There are beautiful and ugly sides to people I rarely see. Which is great motivation to pay closer attention in all seasons, and love them in all seasons.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Home life

I'm at my family home in Saskatoon. I just swept the kitchen and the three bathrooms and both entrances. My mom is exploiting my love for sweeping the floor. I really do love sweeping the floor. She never forgets that. I enjoyed getting in her way in the kitchen tonight while she made meatballs. They're very easy. I could make them back in Vancouver.

My dad just walked in. He's wearing his greasy mechanic one-piece outfit and holding some rusty car part from Rachel's car. Hopefully the part that's making it hard to start the car. Yep, he just confirmed it, it's the starter. He's a pastor, but he looks very at home as an engineer.

It's great being home and settling into a different rhythm, even though it's only for a while. I have enjoyed the simple things - picking dandelions out of the grass, having a drink at the coffee shop where Rachel works, watching the crabapple blossoms bloom on the tree, and laying on the backyard lawn in the sun. My family is awesome.

It was fun being at the Webbers, too, for our yearly gathering of four families. Sam, Cindie and Danice were the newbies this year, and they all live in Vancouver, so it was a strange meeting of two worlds for me. Lots of laughs, theological discussions, visits to cattle ranches, rides in the back of pick-up trucks, gopher shooting (I didn't participate), and eating. Some pictures of Danice experiencing the prairies:

Oh yeah, I'm also doing a survey right now. It's a dialectical geographical survey, and you can participate. It's very important. Here's the question - please leave your answer as a comment, and state where you live: What do you call the game where you knock on people's doors or ring their doorbells, and then you run away before they open it?

Please answer. Vancouver, I'll see you in a couple days.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Thomas Merton rocks

The rain has stopped. The afternoon sun slants through the pine trees: and how those useless needles smell in the clean air! A dandelion, long out of season, has pushed itself into bloom between the smashed leaves of last summer’s day lilies. The valley resounds with totally uninformative talk of creeks and wild water. Then the quails begin their sweet whistling in the wet bushes.

Their noise is absolutely useless, and so is the delight I take in it.
There is nothing I would rather hear, not because it is a better noise than other noises, but because it is the voice of the present moment, the present festival.

(Thomas Merton - "When the Trees Say Nothing")

Friday, May 09, 2008


I was thinking about how it takes me so long to digest things - information and art, especially.

For example, when I read a book, I usually underline or mark passages in it that I like. When I get to the end of the book, I don't feel like I've really "got" it unless I go back through it again. Otherwise, nothing sticks - it's all gone. So I usually flip through it and type out the parts that I like, and remind myself of the structure of it, and the point of it. It takes twice as long for me to read books as it takes a lot of other people.

And in order to actually feel like I have a handle on a song or a band, I have to sit and listen intently to the music while looking at the lyrics and concentrating on the song as a whole - I can't just have it in the background. Lately this has taken up a lot of my time, because I've been "getting into" a few different artists (U2, obviously, as well as Ani DiFranco and Death Cab for Cutie). All of them have been around for a while, so it takes time to sit and really get my head around their body of work - in each case, I have a lot of catching up to do. I need to start getting interested in brand-new artists so that this catch-up takes less time!

I guess this is ok. I'd rather know what I know and know it well. I'd rather really appreciate a few things, instead of spreading a broad and shallow net. Next things to dive into: Brothers Karamazov and Radiohead.

So what's been going on my life lately... I'm looking and looking for a 3-bedroom house to rent with Danice and Lindsey, preferably further east in this lovely city, but so far, the search is fruitless. I have started working full-time at Jacob's Well. I got two TA jobs for the fall 2008 semester (Iain and Darrell), so I will not have time to take many classes come September! I just played guitar at a pastor's conference at Regent, where I got to listen to and meet Marva Dawn, who is an amazing writer and a hero of mine. I finished watching Season 2 of "Lost" with Danice, on to Season 3. I'm playing piano at Tora and Jordan's wedding tomorrow. The cherry blossoms are almost all gone, but there are a lot of other things blooming here that I've never seen before (because I've always been in Saskatoon by May!). I'm going to Homowebmape in a week, and I'm bringing Danice with me. After that, I'm spending a week in Saskatoon, so Saskatoon friends... let's do coffee, between the 19th and the 25th of this month.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Women, let's talk.

Disclaimer: This blog is about... menstruation. Many men (and probably some women) will likely not want to read on. I, myself, am not very comfortable talking about this, as Danice would attest, and I am even less comfortable writing about it for the masses of people who read my blog. But I'm writing as an effort to get rid of some of that awkwardness, as I will explain below.

I made a decision about menstrual products last year, and it was probably one of my best choices all year (you know, next to deciding to become a pastor!). Since it was my sister who inspired me to do this, I'd love to inspire more women to follow suit. Also,I want to brag about how hard core I am, because I'm proud of it, and I don't exactly drop it into casual conversation.

This is what I did: I stopped buying tampons and pads, and instead, I bought two reusable products: the DivaCup , and Lunapads (designed and produced locally in Vancouver). Both can be ordered online.

Together, these cost me about $70, and will likely last me several years. My wallet is happy!

I am no longer contributing any menstrual products to landfills (an average woman throws away 12 000 pads and tampons in her lifetime, not to mention the packaging). The planet is happy!

I don't know much about the health risks of tampons and the bleaching and all that, but I'm kind of glad to not have to worry about that now, too. Bonus advantage: you can't feel the DivaCup, and Lunapads are much, much more soft and comfortable than plastic pads. My body is happy!

So... good for the environment, good for my body, good for my budget. All I had to do was to get comfortable with seeing my own blood. Which was easy, once I reminded myself that the people making me think it was dirty and embarrassing (maybe even shameful), in need of sanitizing, bleaching and immediate disposal were... drumroll please... the producers of the tampons and pads! How convenient for them. They're so embarrassed for me that they use a strange blue liquid to substitute for blood in their little scientific demonstrations on their commercials, and tell me I need "protection" from something that comes from my own body! An interesting article I read online (read it!) talked about how disposable pads (Kotex brand) were invented in 1921, after WWI, from an absorbent wadding used to bandage wounds in the war. The part about advertising is fascinating:

"...the menstrual product industry has employed a three-fold marketing strategy that remains remarkably unchanged almost 100 years later, though its methods may vary: medicalize menstruation as a problematic bodily function; emphasize the importance of hygiene (menstruation as "dirty"); and stress the potential for embarrassment ostensibly inherent in menstruation itself. In these ways, menstruation is itself constructed by the marketing of the product. In conjunction, these strategies effectively instruct women to be silent on the subject."

So I'm trying to break the silence, and change my own perceptions about my body and the way God made it to function. But I won't say much more - you can check out the product websites. (I will warn you that the DivaCup takes some practice and you have to be ready to give it several tries. Before starting with it, I used "ob" brand tampons, without applicators, and I think that was a good intermediate step.)

Feel free to ask me more questions about this, if you want... it might help me become less awkward talking about it.