#88 – Seizing the Day?

When it’s sunny and we don’t have much going, we tend to “seize the day” with a drive some distance through familiar countryside. We’ve enjoyed at least five such drives since mid-November, taking advantage of the relative warmth and lack of snow.  We attached a “purpose” – however flimsy – to each one of the drives.

Artists-Coop

Owen Sound Artists’ Co-op

Trip #1 – Owen Sound Artists’ Co-op.  We visit this beautiful space in downtown Owen Sound at least twice a year.  This time the purpose was for Sam to choose a Bruce County photo as a Christmas present from me. He started looking at the framed photos while I wandered off to the beeswax candles and the art cards. He chose so quickly I barely got to glance at the photo before it was securely wrapped by the clerk! So it will be a surprise for me  on Christmas Eve day.

The landscape along Hwy. 6 on the way north looked wonderful. We saw just enough snow to cover the gently rolling hills – and none on the road. We stopped for lunch at Pebbles, a Mennonite buffet at Varney, just south of Durham, where I know some of the food agrees with me.

Trip #2 – Simcoe. The following week, we drove south to Simcoe on a promising  day to deliver a couple books which a friend ordered.  Why put them in the uncertain mail, we wondered, when it’s such lovely day?  Plus I got to see my friend briefly! Lunch that day was a Subway sandwich, an occasional treat for both of us.

Again, we drove in sunshine, with just a little snow covering the rolling hills. The drive reminded me of my reflection time on the road during the years I had a spiritual director in the Simcoe area. I used to love the rural drive for three seasons of the year, not including winter.

Trip # 3 – St. John’s Convent.  One Wednesday we traveled much less serenely on the 401, the 407 and Yonge Street in Toronto. We had been determined to find a compatible date for spending an overnight at the convent before Christmas, and this was it.  We are always so pleased to get off the expressway and Yonge St., arrive at the very sheltered  convent, and then go walking in what is actually a quiet residential neighborhood.

The next day, on the way home, we had coffee with a friend at a restaurant near the Yonge St. entrance to the 407. Steeped in the peace of the convent, I really didn’t think about the upcoming drive home during the afternoon commute!

CandlesTrip #4 – Burning Hanukkah Candles. This time we drove west, picking up an old friend at the retirement home where he lives north of Stratford. Again, we drove through lovely countryside to get there.  An added bonus was going into Stratford to a place which permitted us to burn Hanukkah candles. I was pleased to find a way for the three of us to revive our thirty-year tradition of setting up a menorah and watching the dancing coloured candles in darkness for 45 minutes or more before they burned themselves out.

Farm-near-Glen-Allan

Farm near Glen Allan, Ontario

Trip #5 – To Dorking and the Country Sisters. One Saturday, we delivered a book in Elmira, then headed west on the old Hwy. 86.  We had passed Dorking Groceries & Home Baking, run by Markham Mennonites, many times when it wasn’t open, and had determined to stop in when it was open. We bought some Christmas cookies from a good saleswoman who would have sold us the whole store! We also ate a very basic lunch at Country Sisters just up the road, and could also have reveled in lots of their yummy-looking Christmas baking.

Looking back on these drives, I think they were not so much about “seizing the day” as about “graciously receiving the day”. For they included Advent time seeing old friends, viewing beautiful artwork and going on retreat, as well as  driving through the sunny  southwestern Ontario countryside.  “Seizing the day” sounds too forceful – violent even- for our gentle endeavors.

Christmas blessings to all as you visit with family and friends. And, if you’re driving in the countryside in daylight (especially in sunshine!), take a moment to let your eyes and your spirit graciously receive what you see…

Question for Reflection:

What’s the difference for you between “seizing the day” and “graciously receiving the day”?  Which stance beckons you as Christmas nears?

Next week: A new year beckons….

#8 – Sunday Afternoon Drives

1939-SpecialI was embarrassed by my Dad’s 1939 Buick,  inherited from his father. My friends drove around in normal cars with big fins, or in station wagons.  Nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed those Sunday afternoon drives through the countryside north and west of Souderton, Pennsylvania.

Lester grillingSometimes a couple of my parents’ friends or one of my girlfriends accompanied us.  At other times, Dad, Mom and I toured the countryside by ourselves. Often the ostensible purpose was to look at an especially lovely field of wheat or barley which Dad the feed man had heard about.  But I loved those drives for their own sake. I loved them also because my Dad was at his most relaxed.

Sometimes we took along a picnic lunch and  Dad’s portable grill.  We’d find a roadside table and I’d sit there reading a book while he heated up the charcoal and grilled the burgers. We ate them with Mom’s wonderful potato salad, “her own” applesauce, and a piece (or two) of shoofly pie or funny cake….

Tree SilouetteNow on many Sunday afternoons after the Jays game is over, Sam and I head northwest out of Kitchener-Waterloo into rural Woolwich and Wellesley townships – our own version of the Sunday afternoon drive.

Those drives calm my spirit and help me hone the spiritual practice of paying attention.

In springtime I notice a solitary tree with leaves partly unfurled, standing tall against the huge blue sky. I take in the intense greenness of pastures and trees.

I look for changes from week to week, as we usually follow a similar route. One week I can barely see the tiny blossoms on the apple trees at Martin’s Family Fruit; by the next week they’re in full bloom. One week I look at bare fields and smell manure, obviously spread recently.  By the next week, green shoots appear.

I search for the flock of sheep just past the buggy bridge by the St.Jacob’s dam.  Will they be in the pasture on the river flats this week, or rather on the steep green hill on the other side of the road? Are the Old Order youth still playing baseball at the schoolhouse up the road, or have they gone home by now to do the chores?

AlpacasI’m astonished to come across a pasture of lounging alpacas, having never seen any locally before. I assure myself I wasn’t dreaming when we look for them again the next week, and behold, there they are.

 

Laneway signsI take in the signs for maple syrup and greenhouse plants at the end of farm lanes, and anticipate choosing gladiolas in a riot of colours at “3 stems for a dollar” later in the season.

Our drives these past weeks whisper springtime wisdom and wonder to me. They show me the natural order of the universe.

How, I wonder, do those leaves “know” when to unfurl? What gives the apple trees the energy to blossom?  What makes grazing sheep and alpaca take full advantage of that intensely green grass? And why is it that Old Order Mennonites grasp better than I do the need for a pause day, with “No Sunday sales”?

In the midst of all this musing, suppertime creeps up on Sam and me.  Alas, we don’t have a charcoal grill. There are no roadside tables on our route. And even if there were, I wouldn’t have the patience to sit there and wait for my supper.

However we do sometimes look for an ice cream cone on the way home to our leftovers….

Questions for Reflection:

  1. In what way (if at all) does driving or biking through the countryside calm your spirit?
  2. In what way (if at all) does being in natural settings help you hone the practice of paying attention?

Next week: Welcoming the Dawn