Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The view from here

photography by Lynda Norman

It happened this morning as I was caught up in my 'to do list', driving from one place to another, father-in-law Bud in tow, that I chose to take the slightly longer, more scenic drive home. And, as I headed from suburban strip mall and convenience food surroundings around the first traffic circle, then over the bridge and around the second traffic circle, the buildings became rural in their setting and character, the snow dusted mountains suddenly visible on the horizon and I breathed into my empty lungs… space, vista, and a bit of perspective.

Bud said to me, "This is a good way to go home… less traffic." and I agreed. Inspired by his words, I launched into a little sermon on the value of views, and how little they seem to be considered in planning terms these days. How the fish in the ditch are considered, the density of the buildings are planned, the curve of the road designed to fit the speed of the vehicles travelling on it for both safety and traffic flow reasons, yet the experience of the traveller seems a byproduct rather than a proactive, planned thing.

Back in University when I was studying to become a Landscape Architect, 'Visual Analysis' was an important part of the planning process. View corridors, positive and negative views, procession, scenic byways, parkways, and various other design considerations involving roadways and the experience of travelling on them, were taken into account. Any proposed development considered visual impacts as well, and while that is still true to some extent today, I wonder what happened to the planning of roads and highways?

This fall I excitedly awaited the completion of a 'Recreational Corridor' along a roadway near where we live. I anticipated the addition of trees, benches, grass, planting… things that would encourage pedestrians and cyclists to experience added value to the adjacent land uses… some rural, some recreational, some residential. My shock came when the corridor was finally complete… with black chain link fence along it's entirety, and asphalt paving from road curb to chain link fence… and not one living thing in a swath about 3 m wide and 5 km long! The experience will now be, for everyone including those travelling in vehicles, a wasteland along what used to be a picturesque section of roadway. And I have to wonder how this could have happened?

Perhaps my writing today is more of a rant than anything else, but I'm just concerned that the less tangible, less weighty things like beauty of form, open space, perspective, vernacular landscape, are the very things that are often overlooked or obliterated for reasons of function, monetary return, or politics. And it will hurt all of us in the end. If we don't stand for something, something will be lost. Somehow public policy must be changed, and the value of 'sense of place' must be held up as something to cherish, something worth saving, something worthy.

Or, we can continue to grow and change by focusing only on efficiency, productivity, function, and forget about the soul taming, grounding pursuit and choice of slowing down to smell the flowers, or enjoy the view.

Peace, out!


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Harvest… eventually

I just got in from doing a little drive-by delivery of Christmas cards… probably could have saved myself some time if I had, 1. figured out how to email graphics and text from home, or 2. used snail mail and planned far enough ahead to ensure delivery was on time.

Anyway, with our annual Christmas Caroling Party under two weeks away, I though I'd better drive the invites and cards to our friends and give them enough advance warning. Hubby says I'm too late already, and should call everyone… but that's just not the same as receiving a paper invite, I think.

As I was driving one direction along Lakeshore Road past the Cedar Creek Winery, I noticed bins in the vineyard, and it wasn't until I was returning that I noticed that there were people in the vines, bundled up in winter garb… and then I knew why. Last night the sky was clear, temperatures dove to -20 C, and that made it the perfect time to harvest the ice wine grapes! I'm sure those workers were out in the dark… maybe even all night, and what I saw was the remaining few rows of grapes still being harvested. It was a quintessential winter Okanagan scene, and it got me thinking.

Not being an expert in ice wine production, I only know a limited amount about the process. But, it's clear to me that the ice wine grapes are left on the vine long after all other wine grapes are harvested. And I'm sure as those grapes hang there through fall and into winter, they are nibbled on by birds, and the leaves fall off exposing them to the elements, and the vines get a little brittle, and the grapes themselves begin to shrivel up and become less than appealing looking. Still they hang there waiting…

And suddenly, without much warning at all, the weather changes and the temperature drops, and it's a perfect combination of time and circumstances for harvest. The call goes out to the workers… get ready… come… it's harvest time!!! And so they come.

Maybe it's this middle aged part of my life that causes me to reflect on things that would normally just pass me by… or maybe God really does speak to me through grapes and birds and flowers and my children and relationships and circumstances? But I can see in those grapes a reflection of my life.

Perhaps you too can relate to this? The days pass by, the years pass by, and many grapes are harvested, made into different varieties of award winning wine, enjoyed, and still I cling to the vine wondering when I will be useful, when I will be harvested. Protective layers of leaves fall off, and I begin to see signs of aging, withering, even shriveling, and still I wait, questioning my circumstances and purpose and worth. I cling, sometimes tentatively, to the vine… and wait.

Then, suddenly one night the temperature drops, and the vineyard owner sends out his message… come… it's harvest time… and then I finally know what it's all been about… this waiting and wondering and questioning and aging… and finally this freezing… it's about the transformation of a quite ordinary grape into something tempered and unique and sweet and wonderful!

That day, harvest day, may not be on this earth, although I hope in part that it is. For me, it might be when something is revealed that I must take a stand on because of my faith in God. Or, it could be watching what God does with my children's lives, because of seeds of faith and passion. Or, it might just be hanging onto the vine no matter what circumstances I'm faced with. Or, harvest might be when I finally get to see Jesus face to face. But I have to hope in the harvest, believe enough to keep hanging onto the true vine long enough to see the day.

Just a few thoughts as I consider the taste of ice wine… cool, smooth, sweet, lingering, and full of the flavour of eternity.


Monday, December 7, 2009

Reacting vs. responding

In a nutshell, relating to people is very very hard. There are so many dynamics involved. Words can be taken one way or another. Facial and/or body expressions can be misinterpreted. Tone of voice can evoke positive or negative reactions. Even the ability to 'understand' one another is complex.

So, what's a girl to do with all of this? Hormones aside (is that even possible) I desire to communicate well, and to convey my messages clearly. Why does it have to be so hard! Sometimes I think I'd be happier if I just stayed here, behind my computer screen, rather than trying to make my way in the real world. What a silly thing to consider. Of course I have to get 'out there', but I need a healthy dose of courage to do so.

If you are anything like me, then you too might have some of these same inter-relational challenges. Whether it's communicating with your spouse, your children, your friends, or the various people you come in contact with each day, there's an overabundance of lessons to be potentially learned about relating to one another. And I'm pretty dense sometimes when it comes to lessons. But once in a blue moon I get it right. And maybe with age and 'wisdom' I'm getting it right more often than wrong… maybe??? I can't say for sure.

Take this morning for example. We've been anticipating the arrival of our carpet for weeks. Selecting the right colour, texture, price point was a process in itself (oh, fyi, we are finally finishing our basement after 10 years of raw drywall and concrete). So, when the order was placed and the installation date set, there was much excitement in our home. The kids can hardly wait to have a little spreading out space… not just for them, but certainly a place to hang out with friends that's somewhat separate from the adult spaces upstairs. The basement (I've tried to come up with a better name than that… any suggestions?) will have that kid space plus a guest room that has been pre-booked for the entire Christmas Season.

The carpet arrived two weeks ago… the first carpet, that is. It was damaged by a forklift in transit, and sent back to the factory. We re-ordered and waited. The second carpet arrived this morning, and I knew something was wrong when John, the installer, called me downstairs to "take a look at something". The fibers were 'bent' and 'puddled' (according to John) and the result was a huge 8 foot circle of dis-coloured carpet. My heart sank.

We are making plans based upon that carpet being installed… Christmas parties, family coming to stay in the new guest room, friends coming to hang out and enjoy the new space.

All the while John and I talked about the carpet problem I focused on him and the other people involved and my relationship with them (however superficial). I could have ranted, I could have raved. But, the words of my dear friend and mentor kept coming to mind, "Are you going to react, or respond?" Well, Lesley-Anne, what's it going to be? Act like a spoiled entitled home owner who deserves a better rug than this, who paid so much money and got this, who can't believe they 'still' haven't got it right? NO! Not this time anyway. We'll wait for the third carpet… we'll treat John like a human being and wait.

My point, well… I guess it's that at the end of the day the carpet doesn't really matter. It does, but it doesn't, if you know what I mean. We survived before we had one, and we'll survive without one… for a few more days, a couple more weeks… or whatever. What matters is the people who cross my path and how I treat them. And, for today, I'm choosing to treat them like human beings who make mistakes. Just like I make mistakes… all the time!

Now if I could just translate what happened in the discourse over the carpet to the relationships closer to me, then I would be happy. This morning I had a conversation with my daughter that was definitely more about reacting than responding. And I still feel badly about that.

Falling on God's grace and the grace of those around me,



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