Preamble: I am doing a bit of a writing experiment for this week. It means I will post some shorter blogs daily. I will perhaps tell you about the experiment itself next week.
It has been an amazing set of days. I have been stretched and I have been filled and I feel so grateful. Last Thursday the girls and I headed to Saskatoon. Later that day Russ and Morgan came up. Friday we joined my family, it was just family, for a funeral service at the Saskatoon Funeral Home, followed by burial at Woodlawn Cemetery. I am not sure why I am so specific about these locations, maybe because they are big deals in our family story. In big cities there are many funeral homes to choose from and once your family has a link to one it becomes your family funeral home. The Kyle family has alot of history at the Saskatoon Funeral Home, including the fact that my Dad used to pop in and sing solos in services at the chapel there. He used to have a joke, “people are die-ing to hear to me sing.” Well on Friday it was my turn to be at the front, I was the minister. That meant many many things. Right off the top of my head it meant being ushered by the funeral director thru a series of doors to a back room where clergy can gather their thoughts before services began. I was invited into the inner sanctum. I find those moments interesting. It is a big deal though when you walk into the family room and it is your family sitting there. I don’t know how to be cousin and pastor both in those moments but I snapped to it when it was time to start the service. For the first time ever in my experience as a funeral presider I entered the sanctuary and I had to ask the guests to take a seat. Every guest was standing around in the chapel visiting. That happens at weddings alot, where I have to get bossy and ask people to be seated, this time was a funeral first for me but a sign of good things, even in the midst of deep sadness people were happy to see each other. I led my cousins and their families into the chapel, took my place at the pulpit and looked out to a sea of familiar faces. It was a beautiful sight and felt incredibly intimate. We honored my aunt, my Mom’s sister. It was a time I was nervous about. My Aunt was an amazing but complex person, could I capture what needed to be captured? In getting ready it felt like the hardest funeral service I had ever prepared. It probably wasn’t. It just took more than usual and that makes sense. The service was just part of a much bigger day, a day absolutely shaped by family and by love. Meals were hosted by my sisters after the service, we had time to be together, so much visiting happened and story telling. My Aunt had constructed absolutely beautiful scrapbooks of her early days and as we pored over them together so many conversations were sparked. We had cousins with us from Toronto and we drew from the bonds that began 60 years ago when our Nanny gathered us in her small bungalow and we did what families did back then and now still, we ate, we played, we shared stories, we took part in traditions. Wow, how that has paid off.
So, us ranchers headed to Saskatoon in our gravel road painted vehicles. There are a few things I could say to offer at least a partial explanation about why we showed up at a funeral in quite dirty vehicles. I won’t take you to those stories, just know that while we do some things really well we do other things not so well and obviously that bothers me because here I am talking about it. There was a line in the sermon that perhaps bears repeating here.
… there is an alternate story that offers relief, that God sees our hearts, what we are holding, what we are dropping, what we have figured out, perhaps incorrectly, in order to make life work, God sees it, sees us, and loves us still, no “doing it right” required, simply an offer to walk the journey together, finding grace and compassion in the tenderlands of the heart.
My sister Jan came from Vancouver and when asked to take pictures so that my cousins would have a record of the day she rose to the challenge better than I ever could have. Those pictures were shared and allow me to offer you a glimpse of a few of the moments.
The crew from the ranch was on the trail again this weekend. It was a very memorable one. It was really only one day of chasing, Saturday, but it was a long day, as we mostly expected, and it held lots of moments that we will be talking about for a long time. I have had a ton of pictures shared with me, the story of the day will emerge through the pictures.
The day started early, the crew was ready to leave the yard by 6:25am. Some of my family from Saskatoon were here for the weekend which made the weekend extra exciting for me. My brother in law Gary took this picture of the morning darkness.
During the day there were seven calves that needed to be caught and put in a trailer to be transported home. There were two reasons for this. As soon as we hit the trail it was discovered that we had some sick calves. Russ figures the snow and rain of earlier in the week was the reason that four of the calves had symptoms of pneumonia. We needed to rope them, push/drag/wrestle them into the trailer and then treat them. Russ had brought a small kit with usual medicines in it, just in case. This came in really handy. The next pictures show some of this action.
Now…….our cowgirl Becca took many great photos but a technological challenge meant that I just got them. I am tired. I can’t go back and tuck them in. So here is a glimpse of the day thru Becca’s lense and only just a tiny bit of captioning because you know almost everything already by this point anyways.
This picture features Emet in the foreground working the back of the herd. We are glad to see this picture, giving us the chance to say that his work on the crew has developed quickly this year. Gina tells me that twice yesterday she said to herself, “thank goodness for Emet.” Being in the right place at the right time doing the right thing is everything.
These are Becca’s kids Peyton and Matthew. They were great crew members and super cute. Their personalities made for memorable conversations, they really made us smile.
Preamble: I am struggling to get this post written and posted. I started it and almost finished it a week ago, so the contents might seem odd, timewise. I am sitting in a waiting room now, Russ is getting his eyes tested and new glasses ordered. Here is what I have ……
After Hurricane Fiona left Nova Scotia we had lots of messages go back and forth with our friends and family there. Our hearts were so heavy for them. I had the cell number for one of the family that I only just met for the first time in our recent trip. Despite not feeling super connected I wanted to check in. I knew that Gary was a very busy man with lots on his plate but I risked bugging him. It turned out that Gary is very generous with words and stories and we have been texting back and forth almost every day. His messages have given me goose bumps as he has detailed how the neighbors are looking out for each other. His family seems to have an especially tender spot for the widows who need help with generators and dealing with their isolation. It has inspired me and warmed my heart. He has also sent me many photos, including this picture of one of the blueberry fields in autumn. I find it so gorgeous.
I find one of the hard parts of having my people going through hard things is the powerless feeling I often have as they struggle. Especially when the distance between us means we can be of no practical assistance. We simply sit here and wonder and imagine what it’s like. We pray too, for their strength and their peace amid everything. In some situations, like this one, that seems to be the extent of what we can do.
I think this is why a few days ago I got a somewhat silly notion in my head. I looked at the earrings I was wearing, I had put them on the last full day we were in Nova Scotia. Russ had bought them for me at the Halifax Citadel gift shop. As I looked in the mirror I thought to myself, “its time to change your earrings Kathy!” But even as I considered that something in me was already resisting it. I got thinking, “I am not taking these off until our people all have their power back on.” Well, Monday morning the message finally came in from Gary, a New Brunswick power man had come in their yard and said, “you can turn your generator off.” (Can you just imagine how momentous those words would sound after 9+ days without power?) The washing machine was put to use almost immediately Gary told me. Later that day standing in front of the mirror I contemplated that with the Fentons, the Mannings, and all 3 Brown homes now back on it was time to change my earrings. But then figured, “no, I am not ready, not yet, my people have power but many still do not.” I decided then that I would keep them on until every person in Nova Scotia has their power back. The first thing Gary told me yesterday morning is that 8000 homes in Pictou and Colchester counties are still without. I will be wearing my Celtic knot earrings for a while yet it seems.
This is all stupid, in a way. Maybe quite boring as the main subject of a blog post. But something tells me there is something here.
Do my actions illumine just how very uncomfortable I am when I feel powerless to make a difference? Yes. Absolutely true about me. Is this common for humans? I think so.
Do my actions make any difference? No. There is no way my earring choice shifts anything for anyone.
But maybe it’s an act of solidarity. Maybe, when I really analyze the crap out of this, it says “I can’t help you, but if you are dealing with limits I can too.”
Maybe by wearing the earrings bought in Nova Scotia, representing a piece of their Celtic heritage, I am carrying a piece of them on me at all times, maybe thats a tiny form of solidarity.
Maybe it’s a reflection of the wisdom that actions speak louder than words. Maybe the wearing of the earrings and the pondering that goes with that is a form of prayer. I think about the Holy Spirit quite a bit lately. I think about how the Spirit might serve as a courier, taking the love and courage and peace I have to share, from me to those I pray for. (I then trust that God is refilling me so that I have enough for myself and more to share with others.)
That’s all I got written until today….a week later. If my understanding of the Nova Scotia Power Map is correct there are still some without power. I am still wearing the earrings.
If you look it up on Google you will find that the Celtic knot (the symbol used for my earrings) takes on many forms. It has various meanings.
One of its characteristics is that while a Celtic knot may look like it has distinct sections or parts, in fact it is made with one single strand that weaves back through itself and is not tightened, or in other words, is held loosely, it has no beginning and no end.
I really love the symbolism of this. It is a visual reminder of the connection that exists between us and the unique forms our friend and family groups take. The reality of knots that are not tight says something important too I think. Obviously sometimes tight knots are important, I am a rancher, I see this regularly. But the tie that binds friends and family together, across vast distances and through hard times can be held gently, can be a means for our prayers of love, mercy, courage and strength to flow freely.
As I wear these earrings in the days and years ahead they will be a reminder of our trip. They have become more. I am so grateful for our Nova Scotia history, our Brown family there, our Fenton and Manning friends, and the invisible and gently woven strand that connects us to them. In these post hurricane days my earrings have become a testament to love and a reminder to pray.
When I was 6 my family loaded up our tent trailer, station wagon, our stuff and my beloved Nanny and we hit the trail. Taking advantage of my Dad’s holiday from being a school principal we headed east. That meant time with family in Montreal enroute to the Maritimes. Our destination was Springhill where my Nanny had her childhood, our accommodation was 11 km away where we parked our trailer beside a small white house with a big yard at Mapleton, Nova Scotia. I remember very little about that holiday, but I remember meeting Logan. He was my Nanny’s cousin, he was 73, and he taught me how to pick beans. I really liked him.
9 years later I would take my first plane ride. Part of our family flew to Halifax where my Dad had a conference. Nanny came with us again. After Dad’s conference we headed to Mapleton where we visited Logan and his family once more.
Logan’s wife Bertha was so kind to us. I loved how I felt while there. They entertained the family from around the district and some connections were forged.
Seven years later I took French immersion on the south shore of Nova Scotia. I lived in a dorm there for five weeks. I tried poutine for the first time, it was presented as a must try Acadian dish. I was hooked ….but back to the story.
I could not leave Nova Scotia without visiting Logan and Bertha. I don’t remember how I got from Point de l’Eglise on the south shore to Mapleton but I do remember how sad I was when it was time to leave. There was no Disney level excitement happening, it was better than that. I felt so safe, so cherished, so relaxed, so cared for, so…..at home. The difference was that at this home I had a Grandpa type guy in my life, that was a novelty for me. I loved that. I loved Logan and I loved Bertha for who she was and how she welcomed me in their world. During this visit I would make a memorable connection with Norene, their daughter, 8 years older than me.
The next summer I was back. I was on tour with Up With People and our cast was in Maine. I couldn’t bear that I was so close to Bertha and Logan but couldn’t see them. I asked for special permission to leave the cast for a few days, I rented a car and headed to Mapleton. It was another special time. I needed it. My brother had been given a brain cancer diagnosis and died in the year since I had last visited. Up With People was amazing but hard hard work. Logan and Bertha were sanctuary.
It would be seven years before I saw them again. An airline strike in ’98 had the airlines scrambling to redeem their reputation and offering great deals on flights. My Mom and I were caring for my Dad at home, his dementia was advancing. We got a respite bed in a nursing home for him, I took a week off of my final year of seminary, we recruited my Mom’s sister and the three of us headed back to Mapleton. Logan was 97 by then, starting to falter, but we sat together in his pipe smoking porch and talked. Bertha wove her magic and we had another great visit, more time seeing the sights and visiting with the extended family.
Then I graduated, got ordained, moved to Gainsborough, met Russell, got married, had three kids, and started to become a rancher. There was no time or money for airplane trips. That was okay. The kids were fun and we made lots of trips back to Saskatoon. It was how it needed to be.
Last Wednesday Russ and I boarded a 5am flight in Winnipeg after a brief sleep in the airport parking lot and a 3am check-in. At 1:15pm we landed in Halifax. I am embarrassed when I think about the words that flew through my head as the wheels touched down. I said to myself, “I’m home.” It’s embarrassing because it makes no sense really, but for what it’s worth those were the spontaneous words that touchdown brought out of me.
We are on the plane home now, suspended somewhere between Toronto and Winnipeg. We had a wonderful but busy week.
Sadly, Logan and Bertha are both gone now. We got to visit their grave and drove by their beautiful home where their grandson now lives.
We drove to the Northumberland shore where Russ met cousin Norene (Logan and Bertha’s daughter) for the first time and we both met her husband Brian at their cottage. We walked the beach, talked, picked sea glass and savored the ocean.
Thru the day Norene and I got to talk about many things, including Bertha’s time of dying, it was good for me.
We drove to Parrsboro where we met my Nanny’s cousin’s daughter in law Carol for lunch. Russ and I had spent time with her and her husband Cecil in Saskatoon 21 years ago.
Thanks to Facebook Carol and I have been in close touch for years, she calls me dearie in her comments and I savor that. Carol organized extra visits for us so we met family we had never met before and got tours of the most amazing farm and the sugar woods. It wasn’t Logan and Bertha’s old sugar woods but it was close by.
A very wow moment was when I sat down directly across from Gloria, meeting her for the first time I saw a clear and striking resemblance to my Nanny. Gloria is my Nanny’s cousin’s daughter, genetics are really something.
We had four days in Nova Scotia that didn’t arise from my family connections. They hold other stories that will wait to be told.
I titled this blog “A Love Story” because I feel like somehow it captures the powerful reality of attachment to a place, the reality of family ties and shared family stories and the mysterious way that some people just put down roots in your heart and they can’t be removed, not that you would want them to be.
In a way page 1 of this particular love story happened in 1913, when Nanny first breathed the Springhill air. It got more interesting for me in 1974 when my feet first settled on Nova Scotia soil and I started to forge my own plot line. What a treat to review it all today, 35,000 feet in the air, and realize anew how blessed I am. Paul writes in the Christian Scriptures that love never ends. I believe him.
Addendum: As I polish this up and add pictures, five days after writing it, I am very aware of the turmoil in Nova Scotia right now. Hurricane Fiona has wreaked havoc, especially around the area where we visited the big farm. Over the last few days our hearts have been so tenderized by the concern we feel for our people there and what they are going through. Love never ends and it keeps our hearts on edge and maybe thats the way its supposed to be.
Come on in and have a seat, its been a whirlwind around here so if we sit at the table I will have to shake the crumbs off the tablecloth and if we sit at the counter there will be some clearing to be done before I can relax. But come on in. There is lots to tell you, but before I start, how are you?
Exciting news around here is that we got wifi hooked up this week. The Bayliss ranch is on the information superhighway at long last and it feels good. Russell loves not waiting for facebook comments to load, I love youtube videos loading with out lagging, I think the kids are enjoying some streaming shows. The best though………the day it was installed Gina phoned from Montreal. She was checking in and as has happened so much lately, our cell phone signal faltered and the inevitable started, “Mom, I didn’t catch that…..Mom, I can’t hear you…..Mom?” Then we clued in, we have wifi we could have a Messenger Video call!!!! It worked, we chatted while seeing each other’s faces and expressions, I worked in the kitchen the whole time, Gina got a glimpse of home and then Russ came in and he finished the call. It made me miss her more to see her face but at the same time, the seamless call was so very enjoyable and heartwarming. Thanks to all the facebook comments on my post a couple weeks ago that led to us learning that DMS would be able to serve us.
I had a really interesting week but it was hard too. I got to be a minister again, the dates and events kind’ve piled up on each other and it meant I was in get ready and then lead mode many times. It was practically a bit frazzling and emotionally there was a drain too, as always there were rewards.
I was asked to conduct the wedding of my singing partner’s sister which happened last Saturday. It occurred on the side of a lake in Manitoba and required special permission and arrangements with church and government in Manitoba. I am only licensed to preside in Saskatchewan. Official processes like that make me nervous, but you take the steps and do it. Now that its over its easy to discern some beautiful gifts of the whole experience. The church people in Manitoba were super easy to work with and did the hard stuff with government, the local church at Killarney was kind. That went smooth as silk, no need to be nervous. Working with the bride and groom was a total treat. There was so little anxiety about details it meant we were focused on the heart of the matter. As an added bonus Caley was one of those people with an over the top sense of humor and I basked in her presence, she brings out the goof in me. Humor like hers is a serious gift to experience. Russ and I were enfolded in the family there like we were their own. For a variety of reasons we have not had time with our families lately. It felt wonderful to be so welcomed, but more than that, to be enfolded. You don’t expect that when you say yes to doing a wedding. The way Bill and Caley had everything set up I didn’t just conduct a wedding but Russ and I had a summer experience. We slept in an air bnb beside the lake, we danced under the night sky, we went on a boat ride and enjoyed an amazing meal. Our hay situation was delayed due to a breakdown so the 24 hours that Russ stole away didn’t even cause any guilt. It was a lovely break.
By the time I got home I had 24 hours to prepare a funeral for a beautiful 101 year old woman. That created focus and pressure of course, but it was a heartwarming experience too. The highlight of that, besides dwelling with such a rich story as 101 years of love and kindness, was the teamwork. I love teamwork but I am terrible at initiating it. The accompanist, funeral director and UCW crew and I have alot of history. The work had a definite feel of “we like each other and together we got this.”
I had a couple of days off before the next funeral. Our minister was on her summer holiday and I had agreed to fill in for these. That one felt scary at times during the preparation. That funeral had been scheduled for a while and the planning meeting was 8 days before the service. With so much happening inbetween the vividness of what I had learned at the meeting was not top of mind like it usually is, so I procrastinated and felt dull. At times like that I can only find the courage I need through prayer. I feel that my prayers were answered, when I woke up on Thursday morning I had a sermon theme present itself and I had time to write it up. The woman we remembered on Thursday had a remarkable life. Her courage was crucial to her success. I had this phrase come to me in preparation, “its like she knew that what she had within her was greater than the challenge that was before her.” The sermon probed what was in her. It ended up being one of those sermons that I need for myself and I have found myself thinking back to the points within it for my own benefit.
The experience of being in front of others was not over. Russ and I joined Erin’s family for a second weekend in a row when Erin, Russ and I ventured to Kenton, Manitoba yesterday to sing at Erin’s cousin’s wedding. I should clarify, Erin and I sang, Russ shared his muscles and himself. Erin has an impressive amount of sound gear that Russell really hefted for us, Erin and I are both dealing with lifting limits. It has not been a good week for getting hay cut so it was another day when Russ was free to roam without guilt.
Its always fun to sing, Erin and I have a good harmony thing, but added to that was the goodness of being welcomed by strangers and getting to meet kind and interesting people and seeing Erin’s family again so soon. We discovered something at the wedding. There was the most amazing display of donuts, under a caption “Holy Matrimony”….it took me a while to get the connection between the sign and the donuts. The wedded couple apparently love donuts and puns. Well. People. The donuts were to die for and were made in Souris, Manitoba. Russell and I are considering a roadtrip there today just to buy some. Wait, Russ is in the hayfield again now and its Sunday, but seriously, I have never in my life eaten an apple fritter like I was gifted with last night. Just this week I learned that a friend from my Up With People cast has lived in Brandon for years and I didn’t know it. Now I find out about these donuts in Souris. I will be in Brandon, via Souris, before long, count on it!
Well, my goodness, this is long enough it seems. However, a quick check in about the ranch. Its a pretty darn good summer here so far. The only serious stress we have been reckoning with is equipment breakdown. That is hard for a variety of reasons. We are pleased with our yield, and more than that feel grateful beyond measure for the rebound we are seeing from last year. Jill and I have been making some miles as we have each driven to Redvers and Oxbow for parts several times this week. Jill has also been in charge of tending to a wound on a horse, a daily flushing treatment is her job, as well as checking the last of the calving cows, we have just one left, when William calves we are done! Morgan is not getting much of a break, he is hard at it raking hay and training horses. He is doing well. Gina is part way through her intermediate level certification in stage combat in Montreal. She is doing well.
One of the parts trips I made this week I asked Grandma Shirley if she wanted to hop in. Off to Redvers we went and got a visit in and a look at the crops. It was fun. Grandma Shirley is incredibly special to me, I was therefore excited to see her making her way to the funeral on Monday. I parked, hopped out and hurried to catch up with her. I was so moved by the sight of her being her that I grabbed this picture. I showed it to her a few days later and just called her to ask her permission to use it here. I don’t think she really gets the idea of a blog but did agree to me sharing it. The picture is a good conclusion to the blog and its threads of upholding older women, celebrating life and love and being embraced by family, even when they aren’t your own. Grandma Shirley adopted us and we her and we are thankful.
If we had to do what we do all alone, we would perish. Our ranch would fail. We would fight more battles than we already do, among our animals, with each other, with our property. We are good at many things, masters of a few, I make bread and buns I am very proud of. When Russell rides a horse I say he is like “poetry in motion”, he wears his heart on his sleeve like none other. Morgan is a witty and courageous cowboy. Jillian has hands on animal and equipment skills, many skills. Ron is capable of so many kinds of repairs, although its fence repair at the top of his list these days. These are things we excel at. And we also struggle. There is so much we can’t do. We are so needful of others. I really suck at yardwork and paperwork. Russell is not naturally handy. Morgan has not had the chance to get past the beginner stage on lots of maintenance skills. Jill has her mind on things other than the ranch. Gina is more and more shifting away from the ranch which means we are one skilled person short. We do what we do well and behind the scenes there is also a bit of chaos, things left undone, ragged edges, things needing fixing and we look at all this and feel embarassment, feel overwhelm, wonder how to tackle what needs done and then make calls and texts inviting help. Its so humbling and at the same time kindv’e exciting and rewarding. The people coming together moments create good feelings. This past weekend was a vivid case of our need creating many, many memorable moments.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch there were arrivals happening. Calves just kept being born but more importantly family from Saskatoon and Regina arrived to help Russ on the ranch, not because Jill and I were gone, but its just how things lined up. It was our Regina cousin Jen who supplied me with most of the pictures in this post.
Russell’s sister Tammy knew that Jill and I were away and called to offer to make supper for Morgan and Russ. When she learned that there were six to feed she didn’t hesitate to generously provide a hot and nourishing meal. This charged up the crew for the night ahead which was an important project.
For most of the weekend Russ and I were surrounded by others and didn’t have time to text anything other than the bare essentials. I have screenshots here of our texting. Cows who have freshly calved and talk of rain. Thats basically it.
I am fiercely independent and have a real challenge to delegate and ask for help. I don’t like to bother people. It feels terrible to be needy. ( A whole blog post about this is almost ready for the Tenderlands series.) But the bottom line……
My Dad was a memorable character in Saskatoon. He was 6’6″, a school teacher and administrator, he had a beautiful bass singing voice and a heart for underdogs. He acted in summer musicals. He served on alot of boards and committees. He was well known. I was proud to be his daughter but as a young adult making my way in life I reckoned with living within the shadow of his identity.
I was reminded of living within his shadow after I posted a video on Facebook last weekend. It was of my daughter Jillian singing “O Canada” for the opening of two big hockey games. She did a really nice job and I was proud of her.
The responses to the posted video were overwhelming to her and I. She received plentiful and beautiful affirmation. The most common refrain was “you sound so much like your Mom!”
The feedback is a wonderful thing and especially for a young woman on the verge of launching into the world. She is blessed by such supportive people. However, I found myself saying to her, “oh I’m sorry Jill.”
That’s a curious reply isn’t it? Weird. Out of place.
Here is the background. At exactly this time of year in 1994 the winter Olympics were happening. Some of you will remember the figure skater named Nancy Kerrigan. Events of those Olympics have given her name long lasting recognition in addition to the fact that she represented the U.S. as one of their top skaters.
Back to Saskatoon…..
In winter 1994 I was 25 years old and in my first year at Seminary. I was shopping at the Safeway (in Cumberland Square….if you want to picture this vividly and you are a Saskatonian). I was wearing a full length navy blue wool coat, quite a sleek look, and my hair was pulled back, also quite a sleek look. I was shopping for bananas when out of the corner of my eye I saw a woman moving towards me and settling in right beside me. She had moved with purpose. I was curious but didn’t need to be for long, she began to speak, “you must be….” In my head I finished the sentence for her “You must be….Wayne Kyle’s daughter.” But that is not what she said, instead I heard, “you must be Nancy Kerrigan’s sister!” I assured her I was not, but I am sure I remember her saying “really!?!”
That was one of the weird, random and hilarious moments of my life. I wonder if that lady had considered the likelihood of a U.S. figure skater’s family member hanging out in Saskatoon during the Olympics or whether she had just turned off her tv and whipped in for some groceries with Nancy Kerrigan’s face fresh in her mind.
Whether we even look much alike or not I took from that moment a realization. The way I finished that ladies sentence for her allowed me to see clearly that I was used to being known for who I was related to not for who I was, and I was 25 years old.
That is why I said sorry to Jill. I know what work it is to carve out your own identity, and moreso when your parents are well known. Between Russell’s history here and generous personality and my ministry and music, in this small area we have become known. I think as humans we delight in finding the connections between people, the similarities in look, mannerism or talent that move through the generations. Is it reassurance that things we value live on? It has seemed delightful for people to make the connection between my voice and Jill’s, so Jill will work out her own unique presence with this as a part of the background. It’s something to reckon with. I think maybe thats why my unthinking response was, “I’m sorry.”
How do any of us establish an identity that arises from our own unique selves and experiences? It strikes me that it starts to emerge and grow as we throw ourselves into the life that we seek and the opportunities we are able to embrace. Decision by decision, effort by effort, success by success (hopefully) we become known for that unique presence we bring to the world.
Perhaps that whole process has been turned on its head by social media, giving people a chance to be recognized far and wide for the public persona we choose to put forward. But do our ventures with social media allow us to feel truly seen and known?
Back to the Carnduff rink….
Jill was asked to sing again this past Sunday, she said yes, so for the 3rd time in 8 days she put herself out there (for a game that our Red Devils went on to win 10-1, taking the series!) Perhaps there is a shortage of willing singers that has created this set of openings for Jill. However her willingness and strong voice are giving her opportunity, the building blocks of her own identity. It won’t be easy separating herself around here from the connection of being “Russell and Kathy’s daughter.” But on the other hand it honestly feels like only a matter of time before we are known somewhere else in the world as “Jill’s parents”.
Maybe that’s the way it should be. Maybe we are strongest when our identity is a mixture of what we can do and who we belong to, and it seems amazing when those strands of belonging come from our past and extend into the future as we become a part of new generations.
Today in the background I am always Wayne and Georgie’s daughter. However, as I stand at the fruit counter at the Co-op, making my choices, it is very likely my status as Russell Bayliss’s wife that will cause someone to draw close to me out of the blue, but instead of telling me I look like an Oympian I will hear, “how are those cows doing?” I will sit in an audience soon, perhaps with tears in my eyes, absorbed with being “Gina Bayliss’s Mom”, she is thriving at theater school. I will fluff a skirt and scramble to oversee a graduation celebratory meal as my beautiful anthem singer graduates in a few months. I am watching in awe as I see in my son, Morgan Kyle Rain Bayliss, the genetic threads of two family trees come together and I know my miraculous body has allowed this opportunity. I live all this within the shelter and the challenge of knowing life as a follower of Jesus Christ. That opportunity ties all the pieces together for me, I have one job, to love and be loved.
It has been a long time since I wrote anything on the blog. I have no way of explaining that except maybe I am a little more private than I thought I was.
Without a doubt life has been ticking along here at the ranch. Our crew and our cows have persevered through some devastatingly cold conditions. Having called them devastating conditions it seems important to affirm that in fact we had no losses from the cold, except that our cows had trouble keeping weight on. We believed that we were giving them good quality feed but still they were dropping pounds. We tested for worms. That wasn’t the problem. It was just the cold and as soon as the weather shifted upwards the cows started to bounce back. There is a significant amount of stress that goes with this. One of the worries is whether feed supplies will hold out. We budgeted our bale supply for a typical winter but this winter has required more food than average due to the cold. When its cold the cows eat more to keep their inner furnace producing heat.
We got into something new this week, in response to this worry about feed lasting through the winter. We got the chance to do a little alchemy. That is a word I connect to the Muppets. When the kids were little we had a VHS tape of the Muppets recreating classic fairytales. It was really memorable when Gonzo did his thing as Rumpelstiltskin and turned straw into gold to rescue Miss Piggy, for a fee. I really loved that VHS tape back when being Gina and Jill’s Mom gave me permission to be a kid again. Anyways, the alchemy we were a part of was turning straw bales into nourishing food. If you have not had time on a farm you might not know that straw is usually used for bedding and hay is used for food. Straw is the stalks that grain grows on and hay may be comprised of a variety of grasses. Straw has bulk and roughage but not much nutrition. However, we had the chance to have a man come with a fancy machine and inject a nutritious mixture into 100 straw bales. The mixture was mostly molasses and offers 14% protein content, making them edible and somewhat nourishing. We have started introducing these bales into our feed rotation. At this point they are not a favorite item on the menu but are getting eaten and allowing the feed to last just a little longer. Surprisingly this process was not that expensive, as farm expenses go. There are years when having feed for cows is like possessing gold, this year with our severe drought its one of them, so making straw viable as a food source is a little like the fairytale alchemy I remember.
Another way we have extended our feed supply is by purchasing grain pellets for the cows. We were able to find a source for these, which was not straightforward. The place that was reccomended to us flat out refused to talk to us because we are not already customers. We did get lined up with a good option though and the price was better than we thought it might be. A load cost us $12,500 and Monday a 2nd load is being delivered. Those kinds of figures amaze me. How does a ranch sustain these kinds of extra costs? Well……part of it is strategic decision making. Like this……..We usually buy oats for our calves and get them ready for market by supplementing their feed this way. This year the price per bushel of oats has about tripled. We made a strategic decision not to feed them oats, to do some leftover grain and some barley for supplemental feed and see how they would fare on that with hay. They were not as bulked up as usual but did okay. The term that goes with this is that it didn’t “pencil out” to feed them 9$/bushel oats. So perhaps we saved a bit there. The true saving grace when having extra feed expenses is that our provincial government offered ranchers drought relief. There is lots of talk about how terrible government is. I don’t negate anyone’s position, there is a reason for everything everyone says. However our experience is that in this terribly scary and hard time of maintaining a herd of cows we have felt seen by our government. Our work creating food feels valued and our need to have sustainability affirmed. There is support that will make it possible to carry on. We are incredibly grateful.
One other big part of this season of ranch life is snow. Wow we have had snow and our entire province seems to have been blanketed with it. It has meant so much extra work but it has also translated to hope. The extra work comes from managing the snow, moving it to create paths to get feed to animals and keep yards clear. Then moving it again when the wind rearranges it. We seem to have had lots of wind. The hope comes from the knowledge that this spring there should be some run-off, we begin to envision dugouts with some water in them. This is so major. We need the hope as much as we need the water.
The deep snow and deep cold have made life hard on the nature that surrounds us. We have found ourselves hosting some species that are having a hard time getting by. Prairie Chickens, partridges and pheasants are birds that have been taking food and shelter with us. Deer are everywhere. The picture below is typical lately, I counted 35 deer in this picture, Russ says there are 160 within a mile of home, all grazing where any food source remains accessible. The coyotes have been bedding down with the cows, using their bedding and eating their manure as a food source. It seems there are many species including our own that are doing their best to survive in trying times.
When the air is deadly cold, the worries real and big and we are surrounded by snow and tricky roads what sustains us? What sustains you?
I answer my question with the word love. I think about it, in one way or another, all the time. My experiences with it help me live these days. Here are some pictures.
Ranch life in the summer is pretty steady hardworking, its just not easy to carve time away from the push and pull of it. It seems that as the years go by getting away is getting harder to do. Having said that last week we stole some time.
It started with a message received Sunday evening………
My sister sent me the text I have included above. She is good to include us in things like this invitation, even when we are so far away and usually quite busy. This captured my imagination. Could we do something rather impetuous and head north? My Vancouver sister was heading back west the day after this party, could we fit in a few hugs and a bit of visiting with her before she left?
The decision was made that the kids and I would go. As we made our final preparations it was like Russ got infected with the memory of being with our Saskatoon family. He decided that if the crop he was working on baling was still too wet, he was coming. As it turned out, his early Thursday morning trek to test the moisture got interrupted by a call that we had cows out. That meant some frustration and a delayed start as we waited for he and Morgan to get the cows back in and then send word about the state of the crop. By this point Russ was so hungry to join us he seemed ready to hunt for the signs of moisture that would shut him down. He did find that it needed more curing time, so off we went just 2.5 hours late and in two vehicles. Russ would return first thing the next morning.
Looking at the invitation I realized this was my parents anniversary, and thinking twice, I realized it would have been their 60th. I thought this was the reason for the get together. It was not the primary motive but while gathered we remembered them.
This is a pretty darn special picture. The four sisters together. On display is Mom and Dad’s wedding album, a cake Jill made, one Jan ordered and plates for serving from my Mom’s good dishes.
The kids and I had a full day Friday and thoroughly enjoyed it. There was food, conversation and fun shared with friends and family. Saturday’s pre-departure coffee and breakfast allowed maybe a bit of grief to be healed. We trekked home, back to what life holds here.
We did it. We stole some time and made some memories. No regrets.
Its Saturday morning and I have a bit of time, Saturday morning feels like a time to sit with a cup of coffee in hand for just a bit longer, in my ideal world anyways!
When life is shaped mostly by the rhythms of rural life (versus Covid rhythm) we often have people at our table that we talk to about our cows. Here is what that might sound like if you were hunkered down with a beverage, even if was just hot water, right Donna?
Our spring work is coming along and it is good to get jobs checked off. We are down to about 34 cows left to calve and most others are at their summer pastures. The most notable thing to report about the ranch is that we had a big rain last week, the kind of rain that gives us hope. Prior to that Russ described the conditions as drier than he has ever seen. Now we have hope that dugouts will maybe water cows through the summer, that hay just might grow and that pastures will hold. We shall see. Hope is a powerful thing and that rain delivered it. Calving season has been unusually successful, we have lost very few calves and had lots of twins so most Moms have a baby. Its been quite astounding. It has also meant that our bottle fed calf named “Bob” still has not got his own Mama. We are all getting quite close to our friend through our sharing of bottle duties. I would enjoy showing you this picture if you were here. A glimpse of barn life!
Sandy, you are so curious about Gina. If you were here we might forego the coffee in favor of a bottle of beer! And while here you could ask Gina in person how she has been. She is home for the summer! This was the sight last week when we picked her up from the Regina airport. She landed in a lightening storm, it was with huge relief we saw her plane taxiing up the runway! I have goosebumps writing this.
I recently had a birthday! With Gina’s plane landing late we stayed in Regina overnight and I woke up on my birthday in a hotel with all my kids near. Russ got the day rolling with the celebrating by scheming with the hotel staff to get candles and create this birthday breakfast muffin. I wish that Tara, who lives in Denver, could come for coffee, she has always impressed me with her committment to celebrating birthdays and remembering special days. I think she would be proud of Russell when the stories of this day got told.
My sister Margie has a real goofy side and knows about my enjoyment of Costco, she shares it. I would love having her for coffee and telling her about these silly moments. Maybe anyone who knows Russell can easily imagine them. Our time in Regina was short but a trip to Costco was top priority. We had not been in months and certain items are so great to have. With rain strongly in the forecast we bought a box of industrial garbage bags and bagged everything, including Gina’s luggage. The family work bee to get everything ready in the midst of very heavy winds, get the truck loaded and the carts returned was fun (we were still in the prone to giggle stage of our time away together, the prone to quarrel could have just as easily been at play as we tackled this wrap job which at times was frustrating.) The fun took some typical turns under Russell’s leadership.
We zoomed back to Carnduff and dropped the kids at the rink where all three got their vaccinations. Russ and I went home, checked the cows, put the groceries away and met back up with the kids at Grandma Shirley’s house where she hosted a Chinese Food and Carrot Cake birthday supper. If there is coffee in heaven, and I hope there is, my Mom was possibly spilling hers, out of the sheer thrill she would feel in this vaccine development, also knowing someone was making her girl a great carrot cake.
I am longing for one of those conversations where we dig around in our hearts and talk it out. My cousin and I did the phone version last week, but there is something about the in person version that is best. If you like the dig around in the heart kinds of conversation maybe we would consider the topic I started with Jodi last week. I have been struggling with a sense of doom. I think the dry conditions were a big part of that, but also this is perhaps part of the mental health toll of the pandemic and the hardship, injuries and losses that piled up over the year. I am a woman of faith so to admit that I have a sense of doom feels like a sign of weak faith. I don’t know about that. I just want to be honest. Naming it out loud is maybe part of the process of wrestling with it.
I really wish I could have my Grandma Kyle come for a cup of tea. She has really been on my mind. Russell has picked me some wild roses from the pastures a couple of times this week. Their scent is so vivid and it is has been a welcome addition to our house where dog related odors have been a bit much this week. The smell of roses reminds me of my Grandma Kyle because she loved all things rose and I quickly am reminded of being back in her home when I smell that rose scent, it was the soap in her bathroom I think. As I worked at my kitchen counter this week, thinking about her, I had something I don’t want to forget come to my mind. It was that to combat my sense of doom I need to broaden my perspective, my Grandma could be a part of that. She lost her first child in infancy, parented her next four children through infancy into teen years while WW2 waged on and then bore her sixth child in the last year of the war. I want to ask her….. What was that like? How did a sense of doom figure into her life? What came about for her after the worst had passed? From my perspective it looked like she lived a long and good life shaped by music, a growing family, much pride in her people and a strong sense of connection to her community and her faith. She had so much to look forward to even as war was waged. Thinking about her inspires me to think that there is much goodness yet to be known and lived and if she could walk through the shadows to get there I can too. Another part of the perspective I seek is my faith. I was reading my Bible that same day I was thinking about my Grandma. One of my favorite chapters invited me to consider Jesus, who endured so much opposition. It made the connection that in considering his experience of opposition, the hearer might not grow weary and not lose heart. What struck me about that was the word “consider”, in other words stop, or at least slow down, and be thoughtful, thought-filled, about those beyond you in space and time, there is more to the story Kathy, and Jesus is part of that, don’t lose heart.
I want to have someone for coffee, I don’t know who, who might talk with me about how weird life is. That on the one hand, in the inner spaces of our days we struggle with things like doom, like anxiety, like confusion and then we put on our outside faces and we go out into the world and we put forth our strong selves, and both things are true. I would tell my coffee partner about how Erin and I had the chance to sing at the farmers market in Oxbow this week. Our first gig since each of us had loss, big loss. We made mistakes, we laughed it off, we enjoyed the time to be with the community and to the outside eye noone would guess that this was a milestone of sorts. We managed to sing one of our really painful songs because Erin is brave. There is one I can’t do yet. We debuted a medley of Bee Gees songs that Erin created and brought a Beatles tune out for the 2nd time, its getting more solid. Its all alot of fun.
Gina has been home for a full week now and settled in really well. It has been great to have her home and I admire how she has made the transition from adult living her own big life in a city far away to ranch life under her parents roof. Yesterday we hauled our hot tub west of Estevan for repair (a mistake I made in the cold of January caused inner core damage). It was a road trip for Gina, Russ and I and included a few stops in Estevan. Once we got the tub dropped off it was really fun. Shopping cart antics were again in play, I think its about reclaiming a few minutes of childhood. Russell’s favorite part was when a man looked at our cart which Gina was sitting in and asked him, “what shelf do you find those on?” Russell loves to play and was glad to have someone playing along with their game. He had the chance to quickly reply including these words “my girl is home from university!” It was a good moment. I think this would be the time to have Aunt Karen over for coffee. I think she gets that as much as Russ is a big kid who can play hard, he is wired to be a Dad and bears the weight of the world on his shoulders, and this moment shows how he is keeping it all in balance. She frequently conveys her pride in Russ, she would like to have been there for these moments I think, but a re-telling over coffee would bring some laughs.
I would like to have you over for coffee Arlie, or anyone else who is wondering why I was absent from my blog for so long even when I had a plan for easy posting. After we got a cup of something poured and a bit of chit chat I would have to tell you that I confused myself but I just didn’t feel like blogging. My postcard project, as much as I enjoy it, takes me back to very tender days and I think thats why I just can’t post those as easily as I thought I could. I will get back to that. I have become obsessed with getting life better under control at home. I really mean at my desk. My yard needs lots of love yet. Adding to that my brain was not feeling creative at all, I just didn’t have content bubbling up. Really, I think this is life, things ebb and flow, circumstances shift, our emotions get unruly, we can become rather guarded. And then we wake up one morning, the sun is shining, there seems to be a bit of time, a cup of coffee is calling and you say to yourself, “I think I will go do some blogging.” Being a human is not dull.