Tuesday, 31 December 2013

New Year's Eve 2013

The Gate of the Year...

God Knows

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”
So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night.
And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.

So heart be still:
 What need our little life
 Our human life to know,
 If God hath comprehension?
 In all the dizzy strife
 Of things both high and low,
 God hideth His intention.

God knows. His will
 Is best. The stretch of years
 Which wind ahead, so dim
 To our imperfect vision,
 Are clear to God. Our fears
 Are premature; In Him,
 All time hath full provision.

Then rest: until
 God moves to lift the veil
 From our impatient eyes,
 When, as the sweeter features
 Of Life’s stern face we hail,
 Fair beyond all surmise
 God’s thought around His creatures
 Our mind shall fill.

Minnie Louise Haskins (1875 - 1957)

This poem is more popularly known as The Gate of the Year, but it was first published in 1908 with the title God Knows. It gained greater prominence in 1939 when King George VI spoke the opening lines in his Christmas broadcast to a British Empire plunged into World War II.

Happy New Year to all my readers and friends.

Monday, 30 December 2013

Monday Moanings - December 30, 2013

Looking back, Moving forward -
a reflection/poem by Joyce Rupp

The Old Year Runs Away from Me

the old year runs away from me.
I hang on to her sleeve
but she shakes my loose.
where does the old year go
when the new year comes?

she slips away into memories,
falls into the crevices of wishes
and ought-to-have-dones.
she waits no longer upon promises,
turns her back on the might-have-been.

the elves of the old year step in,
pack up the struggles, store the joys,
tuck them away in the bulging box
spreading out on the psyche’s floor.

it’s up to the new year now.
I bring a lot to her domain:
expectations, dreams, hopes,
and I place them all before
her strong,  abundant door.

I walk into her untamed territory,
with a meek apprehension
and a vast sense of mystery,
assured by the welcome I receive,

anxious about what is waiting
behind the drawn window shade,
curious about what I will discover
in the hidden folds of her new days.

Taken from Out of the Ordinary ©2000 by Joyce Rupp. Used by permission of Ave Maria Press. All rights reserved.

All photos from several of our annual trips to Niagara Wine Country, where the winemakers can always be counted on to make the best of any year, come what may.

Thursday, 26 December 2013

Thursday, or Thereabouts - December 26, 2013

On the Feast of Stephen...The Second Day of Christmas

The view outside my door this morning - a fresh snowfall

Time to put together the Christmas Box for all our servants and trades people on the estate and top up the alms box in the church for the poor. It's the Feast of Stephen!

What's that you say? That's not done anymore?

Our Tree Christmas Morning
Well it is true that I don't live on an estate, though my abode would be considered palatial in some parts of the world; I don't have any servants or tradespeople working for me, though this morning there is a very nice young man (my daughter's man) clearing snow off the steps and deck; and if I could find a church nearby that was open I'd be hard pressed to find the alms box. What I can find on this Boxing Day is a celebration of greed at shopping malls and big box stores -- a retail frenzy that I have absolutely zero interest in seeing or hearing about, and much less in partaking of it's lineups and chaos.

Today the joy of Christmas continues as we gather for a festive celebration of the season with my extended family. There will be noise as children, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins all come together; there will be a boxes and bags and a frenzy of torn wrapping paper as the young ones open yet another deluge Christmas presents; there will be plates piled high with food, full glasses and even fuller hearts. Memories will be made and love will be shared.
It will still be Christmas.

©2013 April Hoeller

Monday, 23 December 2013

Monday Moanings - December 23, 2013

Gracious good Monday Moaning to all!

It's been quite the weather weekend in these parts and points south (Michigan, New York State, New England), and points east (Quebec, the Maritimes), beginning Friday afternoon with a dose of ice pellets and freezing rain. This was just a little teaser, a delicate prelude to the onslaught of ice that began in earnest Saturday afternoon and plunged hundreds of thousands into darkness and cold.

This morning almost a quarter of a million people in Toronto are without power and another 100,000 or so in points north. We lost power at 3pm Sunday, but it was back on by midnight. In the rural routes where we live a loss of power means a loss of water too, because our water supply comes from a well, but we were prepared. The weather forecasters warned us and I focused my weather eye on the maps and forecast models enough to know that this storm would be bad. I filled the bathtubs and camp jugs with water, located the candles, charged up all the batteries and brought in lots of  firewood. We were warm and semi dark and QUIET, well except for the clatter and creak of trees weighed down by way too much ice.

I am grateful for the hydro crews (Ontario Power Generation) who worked and are working so hard. I am grateful for the first responders who are doing their best to keep us safe and healthy, and also the road crews. All is well.

Expectations and plans may be have to be trimmed a bit, but Christmas cannot be stopped.

Best wishes to all. Be safe.

©2013 April Hoeller

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Thursday, or Thereabouts - December 19, 2013

Into the Desert

There was nothing of captivating interest on the idiot box last night, so my love and I spent the entire evening in the desert of Saudi Arabia with Peter O'Toole. Since learning of this great actor's death last Saturday, his iconic movie had been calling to me from the DVD rack, but the movie does require commitment, a solid three hours of commitment and last night we got our chance.

 O'toole's portrayal of Lawrence of Arabia as an annoying, savvy, silly, tragic, arrogant, humble character was stunning as it was when I first saw the movie. I'm still shaking the sand out of my shoes and feeling the dry scorch of the desert.

I was taken back to our trek through the dunes outside of Abu Dhabi in 2011. The moment I set foot in the sand, that incredibly evocative theme music from Lawrence of Arabia rose to my ears and played for hours. We were in 21st century transport - Land Rovers - as we kicked up dust through tight turns and sideways slips and we paid homage to the camels. It was magical.

©2013 April Hoeller

Monday, 16 December 2013

Monday Moanings - December 16, 2013

Sounds of the Season

The cold squeak of snow protesting against car tire and every foot step.

The gritty scrape of shovels across walkways and stairs.

The throbbing chatter of a 4-stroke Briggs & Stratton snow blower engine.

The unmistakable rolling thunder and shudder of a snowplow as it heaves up great billows of white, which then deposit themselves back down at the end of a just cleared out driveway...

Yup, it's winter all right.

It's a nostril sticking -22C (-8F) this morning but it's a dry cold (lol) and the sun is shining, struggling to rise above the trees.

It's a beautiful winter's day in the neighbourhood.

©2013 April Hoeller

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Thursday, or Thereabouts - December 12, 2013

Come on Sunshine...

It's a not so tepid -14C (7F) outside my door today, a day to step lively, so I'd best get at it before I freeze solid!

Bask in these Cuban sunshine pictures:

©2013 April Hoeller

Monday, 9 December 2013

Monday Moanings - December 9, 2013

A disturbance in the force

OOOOOOkay, it's been a long morning. More than that it's been a long 7+ days.
You see, I bought a new laptop over a week ago. It's bigger yet thinner, brighter, smarter and also a third of the cost of its predecessor bought in 2006, but  it was not drivable right out of the box; not really. There were settings and devices and desires to be updated, installed, tested. Then there was the inventory of the old laptop; what stays, what goes or should have gone long ago. That took a day, a rather interesting day mind you, trolling through a forgotten treasure trove or three of absolutely must have info only to discover that most of it was indeed useless junk.

This past weekend was the great migration - moving the important stuff from the old to the new laptop. It seems to have gone well, with a few glitches - there are always glitches - so here I sit in front of the slender new, bright, snappy laptop with a lit up keyboard learning how to drive again. This may take a bit, so please be patient.

Pictures? You want pictures?  I don't know how to do that yet. What happens if I press this key...

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Thursday, or Thereabouts - December 5, 2013

A lull in the proceedings...

The hype and frenzy of Black Friday has come and gone, and so too the flash and fury of Cyber Monday. For just a moment, a brief wonderful moment, there is a lull in the proceedings; a respite in which to recover, regroup and re-tool before the next onslaught of sound and light from Advertising Central is upon us.

I am going to make the most of this most welcome interruption. I am settling into an ordinary day - no baubles, nor bells; no buzz, nor bluster; no crowds, nor carols; no baking, nor buying.



 ©2013 April Hoeller

Monday, 2 December 2013

Monday Moanings - December 2, 2013

Sitting in my wagon at the top of this week, the ride ahead looks daunting - it may be the top of the week, but I'm way down at the bottom of Christmas mountain. A 23 day climb lies ahead and it zigzags through all kinds of  hurdles: cookies to be baked, presents to be bought, decorations to be hauled out and put up, menu plans, food shopping and cleaning, lots and lots of cleaning.

Kotor, Montenegro
The Christmas Magician in me is cringing just thinking about the number of feats of prestidigitation required to reach the top - pulling Yuletide out of my ordinary, everyday hat is no small thing. Good thing I have years of experience behind me to bolster my confidence. What I don't have on this Monday is the energy but I do have a wagonload of apathy with which to begin the week.

Why bother?
December 25 is just another day, isn't it?
It's just another family feast, isn't it?
It's just another holiday hijacked by the Big Box Stores, isn't it?

In the fog and damp of today my answer is a long whiny yes. But not to worry this seasoned Wizard of Yule knows just how to turn a frown upside down. A little rest, some fragrant soothing tea with just a smackerel of something sweet, and lots and lots of great music can always coax even the most reluctant of Christmas spirits out of my woolly and tattered hat.

Catch up with you later - I'm off to find my wand. I bet it's in the kitchen...

(If you yearn, as I do, for a moment of quiet reflection along the mad dash to Christmas, check out my daily Reflections for Advent 2013)

©2013 April Hoeller

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Thursday, or Thereabouts - November 28, 2013

I love a parade!

OMG! I'm late!
I always post by 10am and it's already past Noon!
Quelle horreur!

Today is American Thanksgiving and that means only one thing - the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in
New York City. It's a tradition of sorts for me to tune in to this mega event and if you love parades as much as I do, then this is the one for you! It is nothing short of an extravaganza of  marching bands (sadly a tradition that never really caught on in Canada), eye-popping floats and those iconic flying balloons (also largely absent in Canadian parades). This parade is a stellar performance from start to finish.

Today with a temperature hovering around the zero C mark (32F) and winds high enough to get all those flags flapping but just low enough to permit the flying balloons to do what they do best - lift eyes and hearts up, way up, the parade lead off with the NYPD motorcycle troop. I looked for Tom Selleck but - oh wait, that's another TV show. The first float was a mammoth turkey, billed as the largest bird in the parade, and then Snoopy and Woodstock flew into view. Snoopy is the character with the longest history of appearances in the Macy's parade. Yay Snoopy! Some 8000 volunteers brought us the music, song and dance acts, and the myriad of floats that all lead up to the grand finale, the entrance of emerald and golden sleigh bearing the jolly old elf himself, along with Mrs. Claus. It's enough to make anyone shout, "I believe!"

And that, folks is my excuse for tardiness, but here's the point: if you can step away from the obligations and duties of your life, especially the self-imposed ones; if you can leave behind the 'shoulds' and 'oughts' for a few hours to be amused and amazed, to be a kid again eyes wide with anticipation and bodies bubbling with joy, DO IT!

A very Happy Thanksgiving to all my American family, friends and writers.

©2013 April Hoeller (except Macy's poster)

Monday, 25 November 2013

Monday Moanings - November 25, 2013


The duffle bag and laptop case have been unpacked; the dirty laundry has been dispatched to its appointed place; the papers and souvenirs of a weekend retreat lie piled atop the kitchen table waiting for the writer to return.

She's not back yet, not really.

While we all wait for her return, here are some pics from the Turning Leaves Retreat at Fern Resort - a time when it was good to be indoors, in good company, and in the write space.

Outside, a bombastic winter artist went to work...

My heartfelt thanks to Ruth E. Walker and Gwynn Scheltema for giving me and all the writers present the time and space we needed.

©2013 April Hoeller