Saturday, April 30, 2011

Horse Auction

In my North American travels I have yet to find farmers' markets as big and interesting as the ones in our region. Our local markets are open year-round and have become more multi-cultural over the years. But Mennonite culture is still predominate at this particular location. On the last Saturday of each month a horse auction is held at the largest market near St. Jacobs, Ontario. It is a big event for the Old Order Mennonites as they gather to buy and sell their primary mode of transportation and farm labour. I put the video together with still pictures and video taken today, a day which turned out to be one of the nicest of this soggy, cold month. 

Monday, April 25, 2011


Easter came late this year and spring also decided to wait until the end of April to let us know it would stay. It is four days since the last fresh snow fell on Maundy Thursday and cool north winds still blow our way. We walked in the woods last evening and amidst the dead leaves on the ground, Bloodroot blooms rose, their leaves a shawl of warmth against the cold. Leaves of other ephemerals poked up in a fast growth spurt, racing against the time to complete their short reproductive season.

Fuzzy Wild Ginger flowers are developing at ground level below heart-shaped leaves which have yet to unfurl.

One Blue Cohosh plant bloomed at the south end of the woodlot, where the wind was blocked by a leafy knoll and the sun shone longer each day. Nearby, a precocious Trout Lily clump stood with buds ready to open on the next bright day.

But Bloodroot bloomed here in large clumps, the flowers standing like caped sentinels facing the light, the first ephemeral flower show of this spring season.


Bloodroot in the leafless wood,
Companion of gray Solitude,
When the birds begin to sing,
Thou, frail welcomer of Spring,
Dost thy white ray’d star unfold,
With its seed heart of green gold,
And remindest us how Faith
Blooms victorious over Death.

Spring now from her slumber waketh,
And unto each lover speaketh,
Breathing through her flowers and birds
Joy too deep for human words...

Excerpt from "To a Bloodroot Flower"
 by Paul Shivell in his book Stillwater Pastorals

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Remembering the Persecuted Church

One of my patients is an elderly Iraqi lady who speaks no English. By her bedside she holds this rosary and prayer book for she is an Orthodox Christian, a descendant of one of the most ancient branches of Christianity in the Middle East. She fled her homeland in 1990 with her daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren as her grandson was of age to fight in Saddam Hussein's army during the Gulf War. They waited for a year in a refugee camp in Jordan and then came to Canada where they worked hard to build a new life from scratch. The grandmother's physical needs are great now, but she is grateful when we assist her, kissing our hands in thanks when we understand what it is she wants.

Christians in Iraq are persecuted for their faith, more so now than ever since the current invasion of Iraq. Our newspaper featured this article yesterday and it is pasted at the end of this post as the link may become obselete quickly.

Two of the children in my Sunday School class are from Eritrea.  While teaching in a Christian church in that country, their aunt was arrested and remains imprisoned at this time. Her young nephew told me today he hopes he gets to see her again. 

As we sang Easter hymns in church this morning, I wondered how many would gather for worship if our lives were at risk for the faith we proclaimed so openly on this holy day? Would I be there?

Christians remain besieged and fearful in Iraq at Easter

BAGHDAD, IRAQ — Iraqi Christians marked a restrained Easter weekend as fear of attacks kept many from openly celebrating their most sacred day of the year and church officials urged them not to give up on the country.
At Our Lady of Salvation, where gunmen and suicide bombers killed 52 worshippers and guards last October, the church was tightly locked, guarded by Iraqi police who said the doors would be opened only moments before the Saturday evening mass.
“It’s more like a museum than a church,” said one of the police officers. He said they tried to keep out those who were simply curious or, he implied, there to gather intelligence.
Only the arch and cross on the church roof were visible behind 10-foot high concrete walls like others that have turned most churches in Baghdad into miniature fortresses.
“Our churches have become like prisons,” says Monsignor Pious Casha, who arrived at Our Lady of Salvation during the siege moments after Iraqi special forces stormed the church. “The barbed wire and concrete are new. Yes they protect the churches, but they make the worshippers spiritually constrained.”
Monsignor Casha, at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in the relatively affluent neighborhood of Mansour, said the church had been packed on Palm Sunday a week ago with families doing a procession through the streets around the church.
He said, however, that of the 1,300 families that had been in his parish in 2003, only 500 remained—with a few more leaving every week—most of them to Turkey.
“It is a disease of emigration,” he said.
With traditional escape routes closing as more countries in the Middle East are engulfed by unrest, Turkey has become the default route for Christians fleeing Iraq. Of more than a million Christians in Iraq before 2003, there are believed to be only about 650,000 left. The exodus has raised fears about the future of Christianity in the region where it first took root.
Casha said his Easter Sunday sermon would urge parishioners to remain in Iraq.
“Let’s stay here and try to build our country—everything old is finished,” he said.
He said there had been no recent attacks specifically targeting Christians after a wave of them claimed by al-Qaida early this year. But there continue to be threats, he said, pulling out of his desk drawer bullets wrapped in black tape that had been placed on the doorstep of a Christian family recently as a warning.
“I think they wanted the house,” he said.
In Baghdad and in the northern city of Mosul, the site of biblical Ninevah and the burial place of the Prophet Jonah, many Christians were watching mass on television rather than risking public celebrations.
Iraq’s state-run television broadcast evening mass live from the half-filled Virgin Mary church in Karrada.
“I ask you to be patient because the coming days will not be easy,” Cardinal Emmanuel Delly, the Patriarch of Babylon, told the small congregation.
Like other minorities, Christians, because of their small numbers, have been disproportionately hit by violence in Iraq. Many blame the United States for the chaos that replaced the relative security they enjoyed under Saddam Hussein’s repressive regime.
Some who remain are a testament to resiliency.
At St. Joseph’s Church in Mansour, among the faithful trickling in was Vivienne Matti, whose husband and three children were killed four months after Saddam was toppled when American soldiers, thinking they were a threat, fired on their vehicle.
Matti’s youngest child, six years old, had been seated in her lap.
“I’ve seen death myself. I’m not afraid anymore,” she said.

 By Jane Arraf, McClatchy Newspapers -Sat Apr 23, 2011

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday

  All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.
We have left God’s paths to follow our own.
Yet the Lord laid on him
the sins of us all.
   He was oppressed and treated harshly,
yet he never said a word.
He was led like a lamb to the slaughter.
And as a sheep is silent before the shearers,
he did not open his mouth. 

Unjustly condemned,
he was led away.
No one cared that he died without descendants,
that his life was cut short in midstream.
But he was struck down
for the rebellion of my people. 

  He had done no wrong
and had never deceived anyone.
But he was buried like a criminal;
he was put in a rich man’s grave. 

Isaiah 53 NLT

Friday, April 15, 2011

Competing with the Other Woman

For the past week my husband has been telling me about a female Northern Cardinal who has spent time every day trying to get rid of the competition she sees in his truck's side mirror. Neil is the co-worker who took these shots today through the office window. He posted them on Flickr and has been kind enough to let me share them as well. The vehicles are parked here every work day so I hope she finally figures out that her mirror image is not really invading her territory.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Time to Tango

She is almost 92 years old and still has determination written on her lined face. At first she appeared cranky and demanding but after our first few sessions, it was apparent that was just her protective front. She has led a fiercely independent life since coming to Canada from Eastern Europe after the Second World War.

“I didn’t speak a word of English when I arrived”, she tells me.

She attended night school after work learning to write a new alphabet and speak a new language. She remains conscientious, arriving for her therapy sessions thirty minutes early and working diligently at her exercises. She completes her leg exercises quickly and I tell her to slow down.

1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4...

She learned to dance in secondary school in the old country and the tango was her specialty.

“If you have the right partner and the right parquet the dance is easy”, she tells me.

1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4.

“Do you think my legs will be ever be the way they used to be?” she asks.

I wonder if she means before she broke her hip on the church steps, or before her stroke a couple of years ago. Surely she is not wanting to do the tango on her next birthday.

I tell her she is one of my favourite patients and she grabs my hand, her eyes filled with tears.

“Do you really mean that?” she asks.

I assure her that I am being honest and tell her I wish she could do the tango again.

“If you have the right partner and the right parquet the dance is easy”, she says again with a smile.

1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4...

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

New Arrivals

I took one of my elderly patients to the front entrance of the hospital for a ride to an appointment by wheelchair taxi. She waited for me without a jacket or hat thinking the weather was as warm as what we experienced on the weekend. Today's bright sunshine was deceiving as a strong, cold wind blew from the north. In the past week we have had snow, rain, thunder and lightning, hail, and temperature variations of 20 C.

Eastern Phoebe

We walked through a local conservation area on Sunday afternoon. It was short-sleeve warm yet the lake was still frozen over. This is the time of year to see nesting Bluebirds and Tree Swallows, yet things were very quiet, perhaps because the weather was very unsettled. My husband has a good eye for bird movement and he noticed this Eastern Phoebe taking short flights from an old apple tree in pursuit of emerging flying insects.

Savannah Sparrow

A short distance away, Savannah Sparrows were flitting about in a ditch and an Eastern Meadowlark sang from a distant tree. A loud Northern Flicker flew by and a few Tree Swallows circled overhead along with a kettle of Turkey Vultures.

The water along the edge of the lake was open and a few Common Mergansers with a Trumpeter Swan swam beside Canada Geese and Mallards. But I wanted to see Eastern Bluebirds, a species that is generally elusive in our area.

This tree is completely surrounded by suckers growing up from the boggy soil. The habitat is ideal for many small birds and I caught sight of one Bluebird in the area. It flew off as I tried to get closer but we found it again along the roadway. What a lovely bird!

My 2011 spring count is off to a slower start than last year, but the birds will soon arrive faster than I can count them.

Eastern Bluebird

FOY Species April 9-10, 2011 

Savannah Sparrow, Eastern Bluebird, Eastern Phoebe, Eastern Meadowlark, Tree Swallow, Northern Flicker, Osprey

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Spring is sprung

After a dull, uninspiring week comes a beautiful Saturday with sun and spring-like tempuratures. We walk along muddy pathways in the park and the immediate impression is bare, monotone, brown. But look again and find colour, life and song bursting from the ground, the trees and the sky.

We walk beside a dead tree, its main branches bare and reaching V-shaped to the sky. A Red-tailed Hawk sits like a perfectly proportioned totem of wood, unmoving, a near invisible extension of the stump, watching us, watching the ground for food.

As of yesterday, the Juncos and Tree Sparrows are gone north and the summer residents of the park stake territories and build their nests. The birds who followed us for food a week ago are scarcely found and even the Chickadees have little time for visiting.

Spring came late and there is much to do now that it is here.
And what should I do first?...

Saturday, April 02, 2011

S-O-S! Signs of Spring

Ice and snow in gradual retreat

Young Mennonite boys sell maple syrup outside the grocery store

Three lambs, like all children, eat snow in the field

Paired geese on the ice wait to choose a nesting site

Flowers appear once again!
April hath put a spirit of youth in everything.  
William Shakespeare