Cardinal in the lilacs

I know you can’t see him. She appeared too, a moment later sitting right in the middle of the gate for just that moment before I got the iPad ready. You’ll have to take my word for it. The other picture  is just to show off my pink lilac bush. I took the last bunch of lilac as a hostess gift last night. They are finished now, the mauve ones drying off into little brown annoyances and the pink fading away. For their annual two weeks of glory they were intoxicating but this week they will revert to their tree-weed status. 

The garden is poor. For the first time I am plagued with squirrels. I will ask my grandchildren for a surplus water pistol. I have no pity or mercy upon them. The birds are wonderful this year, probably fattening up on the many snails that have appeared. 

I count on the peonies that are almost there and the irises who never let me down. They are of a watery blue, an ink blue and a deep almost black. My indigo plant is growing inches every day and the clematis doing its best to recover from some O’Henry type pruning. You know, The Gift….look what a disaster I have wrought, my love, for you. 

If anyone knows of a way to make hydrangea bloom please tell me. Having inflicted coffee grounds, egg shells and ground up banana peels on my little darlings ( and subsequently learned these things do nothing to help) I really want to help this faithful climber to put forth a bloom or two! It’s been growing vigorously for about five years and last year there was one flower!

This was meant to be about consolations. Those birds? Bustling around and calling or fluttering excitedly early in the day is a beautiful beginning. They don’t care about anything except what their own natures call them to do. Their single-minded purpose is a good point of meditation. 


  Sometimes it seems to me that Spring blossoms give off light. This little Saskatoon berry bush in the city lane outside my garden gate is glowing in the light of evening. The winter was harsh and the tulips late and sparse but this is a consolation

Real Perfection

Spring has been a very long time coming in this town. All of April was cold, cloudy, snowy, rainy, generally miserable. We’re well into May and it’s not much better yet. We had torrential rain today followed by one of those exasperating beautiful and weird sunsets that consist of a brilliant strip of sky at the edge of a heavy dark sky. Clearing up just in time for night! 

I went out for a walk and ended up in the grocery store. I was buying limes for a yoghurt cake I plan on making tomorrow. Three teenage boys come to my house quite often and cake must always be in the house. Spring flowers were on display. There were some spectacular hyacinths carrying their heavy scent out over the flower pots and garden ornaments. An employee hurried by and saw me admiring them although daffodils are my favorites. For me that scent of sap, of Spring enchants me even more than the drowning perfume of the pink and blue hyacinths. 

She stopped for a moment, sharing the wonder with me, touching the tiny bells on their firm stems. “Look, they’re so perfect. They look like they’re  plastic, right? They’re perfect enough to be fake, eh?” And so we stopped sharing and I went away from the flower stand.

This is what is in my garden now. Growing out of the dead leaves of last year, through the ugly fence. So wonderful in their neglected blooming, so domestic and uncared for. 

They say we might have a little sun tomorrow. Oh, and on the way home two of the three boys were on the other side of the wide mains street, calling and calling , ” Granny, Granny” and they were’nt even my grand-kids! So that was my consolation.

Good Friday


At last night’s Good Friday service we sang for a long time. Orthodox Christians sing what are called the Lamentations of the Virgin and also the Cannon which show the many Old Testament references to Christ’s burial in the tomb. ( think Jonah in the whale). I must say my faith is very clouded and in some ways I envy people who entertain no doubts about their faith whatever it may be. I even envy confirmed atheists for their conviction. Anyway, I still love  to sing these long and profound services. Last night after it was over, one of the choir members began to sing by himself in that dark chapel  I understood it was the many verses of the Lamentations. He was singing in Romanian in a melody that was not familiar to me. It happened that during this Holy Week the daughter of a couple who have attended our church for many years died. I went to sing at the funeral on Thursday. Last night that single voice brought home to me the reality of all the parents who lose children. The idea of God suffering and dying as a human was in that music. The world and the human spirit can be very beautiful in spite of tragedy. 

It is very cold for Pascha this year. In the cemetary I was amazed to see snow melting and running away in a beautiful little stream in spite of the bitter wind. The bright sun was strong enough to do that. So Pascha brings in hope for better days.  


At Last


Hello pale blossom.
Hello damp cool green beauty
so frail, so delicate
forcing your frail delicate way up through
dark dense earth.
Hello faint hope, hello rebirth
hello vanquisher of winter,
pale bell that heralds all the rest.
Golden trumpets and scarlet or dark frilled tulips
and later roses, lilies , dahlias and exuberant vines.
You, small and modest are first.
Herald of change, of relief from cold and dark.
Hello snowdrop and welcome.

Sights for St. Valentine’s Day

imageThese are white goats, not sheep. The rams had long grey horns, not tightly curled but twisted close to the head and then jutting out. We saw them just outside a rather touristy sea-side town. The shepherd looked like a professor of philosophy with his grey beard and stick. He nodded gravely when we asked if we could take a picture of his flock but his black and white border collie fixed us with his steady eye as if to say, “Take your silly picture, but if you go near even one of them, you’ll have me to deal with!”

The other wonderful thing we saw yesterday was a hoopoe, quite close up. I have learned not to fumble for a camera when a bird or a fox or anything that might take flight is the wonder of the moment. I just look and look and afterwards I can find a picture and read all about it. How I remembered this was a hoopoe, I cannot tell. Please take a moment to look for a picture and you will see why I was so enchanted. This pinky/brown bird, about the size of a small pigeon sat beside our car and he very politely unfurled his crest of black and white and then flew off as we gasped at the beautiful patterns of his wing and back feathers. Wikipedia says he was the messenger to King  Solomon about the Queen of Sheba so seeing him was a fitting end to Valentine’s Day.

To Cordoba!

Some cities strike me as being a good fit for human beings. Cordoba is one of these. It is easy and pleasant to walk about the old city, for so long the capital of Spain. It’s famous “patios” or courtyards constantly surprise with tempting glimpses into the colourful flower-filled lives of residents.

How wonderful it is to walk along the boulevard that runs parallel to the Guadilquivir River and to look down on the wide banks, preserved as a natural habitat for many water birds. Yesterday we approached the Roman Bridge to walk over into the Old City. We were puzzled by the sound of intermittent bells. When we peered over the parapet we saw a large flock of sheep making it’s way along the bank of the river. We never saw the shepherd. How wonderful to see this in a modern European city in the 21st. Century!

The Roman Bridge is just that. Recently designated a pedestrian walkway, it is guarded by a statue of St. Raphael ( an archangel, in fact). He is the guardian of the city and in the past he was credited with saving Córdoba from the plague as well as other misfortunes. As we stepped off the bridge we faced an arch marking the walls of the city. There was a particularly tall column with another statue of St. Sebastián. No building in the Old City can stand higher than this statue! No Cordoban family is without a namesake of this patron and he is also the protector of travellers. ( read the story of Tobias in the Old Testament to see why)

Next time a little about the Great Mosque of Cordoba ( now the Cathedral). It is a truly astonishing mish-mash of architecture, art and devotion sitting in the shadow of the Jewish Quarter, birthplace of Maimonides.

Cordoba, my new city heart-throb!