Blue Beggars

On the morning of the first day of March, greedy jays are at the feeder, first to find the crumbs from the master’s table. Persistent little beggars, these blue crested squawkers. Alarm bells of the forest, cocky in their chinstraps, flashing into everyone’s business. Subtlety is not their colour.

They are almost too gaudy for my liking.
Too pushy.
Too blue.

As if reading my thoughts, one starts to scold me through the window.

I can’t help it, I shrug back. I didn’t grow up with blue jays in my neck of the northern woods. They were more like a cartoon character in my mind.

When I go downstairs, the kitchen is hopping with my own little birds, eager for their breakfast. Brew the coffee, slice the bread, pour the milk, wipe the sticky fingers. Squawk!

On the fridge door hangs a calendar, one of those freebies the insurance company sends in the mail, with reminders to clean the chimney and change the smoke alarm batteries. I’ve always loved the swoosh of flipping up the new month’s page.

And what symbol of our fair isle should greet me this particular March? Three guesses, and the first two don’t count.

There he sits, perched on an ice covered branch, shiny eye turned into the kitchen, daring me to ignore him.

Persistent little beggars.

I’ve learned to pay attention to the things that reappear in my field of vision. So I stare back.

And I’m reminded of others who were praised for their persistence, and even audacity. A Canaanite woman, out of her league, begging for a daughter in the grip of darkness. A man whose cupboards are bare, banging down his neighbour’s door at midnight. A chronically ill woman, mustering just enough faith to reach for Jesus’ dusty hem.*

They get what they need because of their persistence. Bold in their hunger. Like blue on white, they show up and won’t shut up till they get what they’ve come for.

Sometimes life is a matter of timing. There’s a time to hibernate, and a time to make your presence known. A time to wait, and a time to reach. A time to ask, seek, knock, defiant of winter’s scarcity.

I sit down with my toast at the dining room table, looking out to where the feeder hangs. All is grey and brown, save for dashes of jaunty blue. I’ll keep my eye on them.

Maybe I’ll learn to love these flashy creatures after all.

*Matt. 15:22-28; Luke 11:5-10; Mark 5:24-34. 





Image copyright info: By Mdf (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

In the woods

I took myself to the woods today. My head was pounding, the walls of my brain squeezing in, trapping all that pressure behind my eyes. I needed to breathe.

It was a sharp winter day, so I put on wooly socks, snowpants, parka, boots, hat and mitts. I forced myself out the door, over the crusted snow of the backyard, down the icy stone steps to the track of the old road. With a brilliant blue overhead, and a smooth white canvas before me, I began to break a trail.

Past the abandoned house, the chicken shed, the low hanging limbs of the ancient apple trees, looking for the secret path to the big pines at the edge of our property. I wrestled with branches felled in the winter storms, breaking my way through the brittle debris, till I came to the open air beneath the evergreens.

There is a spacious silence at the feet of these wizened sentinels. I found the low hanging crook of some deciduous tree, snuggled next to one of the pines, and climbed up, bracing myself between the two trees. I could hear my breath in the hood of my parka, heavy and ragged.

I lay on my back and looked to the sky.

Be still.

The branch underneath became my spine, and my heartbeat settled. Slowly, my lungs found a rhythm. Without the pounding in my ears, I began to hear the soundtrack of the forest.

A squirrel scolding a few trees over. A crow across the river, downstream. A lone chickadee’s chirp far to the east. The tide-like motion of the great swaying branches. The crackling and popping of the river ice. And like a pulse beneath it all, the breath of the river.

Rooted, yet suspended, the weight I had been carrying melted away. Something bigger is holding me. 

Half a dozen pine trees, a handful of birches, and a mess of willows. Not much of a woods, all things considered. Not much of the wild. But enough. Enough to recalibrate my brain, enough to infuse my body with an “other” energy.

Perhaps one tree is all I need to uproot my perspective. A single determination to get out of my own head and find new oxygen. There is something bigger, thank God. The wild is closer than I think.




Letters to Arden – February 3, 2018

Dear Arden,

I saw a picture of you yesterday from three years ago. You were dressed in a pink bodysuit, pink tights, pink tutu, and pink slippers, ready for your very first ballet class. If I do the math, you were only four years old. Your smile showed excitement, and just a hint of uncertainty. You were about to step into something new.

Looking back, you seem so small. I remember someone telling me at that age, to step back and remember just how little “four” is. I’m not sure I saw it then. Not sure I could have seen it. You were the firstborn, the big sister, the first to grow into everything. I remember some of the struggles we had. I remember not knowing what to do. I remember feeling small and unsure. Most of the growing pains were mine.

And I’m sorry, little girl, if I handed you some of my burdens. If I put all the expectations for the success of my parenting on your behaviour. If I tried to mould you, like a lump of clay, into some image in my mind’s eye.

I see your four year old face looking back, or is it forward, at me, and my heart melts a little for all the ways I’m sure I failed you. Forgive me daughter, I knew not what I was doing.

And now you are seven, going on eight. You’ve changed your ballet slippers for shoes with metal soles, and you are tapping and stomping your way through the world. I still don’t know what I’m doing. You are still the first, and everything is new for us!

But maybe I can remember how little you are, even now. I pray I can step back and see you for who you are. I pray I can see the smallness, and enjoy it for all that it is.

And maybe I can drop the burden, and stop using you as a measurement of myself. Maybe I can release the muddy hold, and give you to the hands of the skilled Potter. Maybe we can learn together from our Father what it means to grow, yet keep our childlike hearts.

Let’s dance together, little girl. Let me see you smile.

love Mom


It could be I’m in hibernation. Maybe I’m a toad, buried deep in the mud at the bottom of the river, insides turned to antifreeze, waiting out the winter. My eyes are closed and my body is cold, and I’m just trusting the mud to hold me here till it’s time. I don’t understand everything that’s going on above me, beyond the layers of silt and the sluggish waters and crust of ice. But the river is still life. Even now, when all awareness has drained from my synapses, there is life flowing over me, singing the song of my winter lullaby. It flows and carries me in the season of silence. Now I am but a hidden lump of clay. All I can do is wait, and trust the stilling of my soul in the hollow of the river’s hand.




A fresh snow

I woke up this morning and things seemed lighter. The sun had not yet risen this midwinter Monday. But the windows had a bluish glow to them. It took me a few minutes sipping my coffee by the fire to realize why.

A fresh snow.

When the sun had been snuffed out last night, the ground was a dreary landscape of ice and brown, the wake of the last storm. Now there was a soft white over the still earth, over the maple’s branches, and dusting the evergreens by the river’s edge. The snow took what little light there was in this predawn, kissed it, and released it back as a hopeful radiance.

The snow of the ancient near east was a little more rare than what falls on my cold Canadian island. But how could divine revelation ignore its dazzling whiteness? For God’s hexagonal thoughts were from the foundations of the world made to crystallize upon a seed of mercy.

“Come now, let us reason together. Though your sins are as scarlet, they shall be white as snow,” writes the prophet Isaiah, messenger of the Most High.

Imagine being called before a judge to reason out your pathetic case, only for him to quote poetry at your offences, the crimson fury of Sinai’s fire extinguished by a mantle of snow.

And in one of the most lavish of all the Sovereign’s invitations, snow is the Word of God itself, irrevocable in its purpose to quench the thirst of the earth and summon life from its soil.

In the wisdom of Providence weaving the narrative, Isaiah must have known the wonder of snow. Did the LORD delight to surprise him as a boy with a morning such as this? A strange light from without, before the lamps were lit? Did he hear the flakes falling as whispers of an unusual grace?

God’s lovingkindness cannot be thwarted by the darkest stain in the most famished heart. Snow upon snow, the windswept ugliness of barren ground is covered, till the sun turns the gift of heaven into water for its renewal.

The flakes keep falling, falling falling. The morning is ever lightening, and the world about to sparkle with the rising glory. “Come, come!”