Winter in my World

As March begins our ranch has completed three months of our easier days. Problems and challenges definitely arise in winter, and this winter has been no different, but since New Years the weather has been gentler than normal and mechanical and animal problems that have arisen have been possible to handle without too much stress. That has meant some easier days for Russ and I both. I am not feeling restored exactly, but some things are shifting and that is good.

This morning I pored over our phones for pictures that might remind me of what we have been up to. There are definite themes that emerge. Around Valentines Day there were many experiences that connect to “love.”

This picture was taken by one of my extended family in Nova Scotia. Sarah Barnes has been finding heart shapes in many places and made a facebook album about it that she shared. Sarah gave me permission to grab pictures from her post and use them here.

An amazing fundraiser was held in our community last month, with a Valentines Day theme. It was to support a family who are dealing with a really tricky health problem. The fundraiser was put on by a team of extended family and friends and their effort was incredible. They created a real party and raised a huge amount of money. We had so much fun. As I visited with a friend who is originally from Ontario, she told me, “this would never happen where I grew up.” Her observations made me ponder just how significant our small town loyalty and love to each other is. There is so much history, shared experience, family connection and shared vulnerability (I mean none of us live close to advanced health care, it could be any one of us needing help tomorrow), and so we pull together and an event like we attended happens. Large sums of energy and money were flowing, it was sacrificial, that is love in action.

Our friend Jen took this picture of us. I am wearing a blazer that I bought in 1993 with birthday money from my Nanny. I hold onto it for sentimental reasons and you never know when a Christmas or Valentines event will warrant pulling it out!

The first 5 weeks of our winter rest time held hard stuff. The fire in our shop on December 18th has played havoc with my sense of security. Many mornings since that scary day I have risen and the first thing I do is look out the window to look for any fire. It is not rational but its real. The fundraiser I referred to above involves a family we have connection to in multiple ways, the struggles they hold affect our hearts too. Also, a young woman from our community was involved in a crazy injury while away on her honeymoon, the random-ness of that, picturing her so debilitated, and knowing her husband and family were faced with so much, has felt like a blow. Cory is a very special person. At a young age she already has a reputation for her loving care of the elders in our community as an RN. She makes a big difference. Her injury has been unsettling for our whole community. Remarkably, her recovery is going incredibly well, a testament to the inner strength she is known for and the love and prayers of the many. I think the fire, illness and injury have had a de-stabilizing effect on me, reminders that things can “go south” very quickly. Against that troubling backdrop a vivid good thing happened. Very early in February I said to Russell, “are we going to do a Valentines card this year?” Last year we had experimented with that and had fun. We don’t do so well at Christmas cards. Russ was certain that we needed to do that. With some hesitation in me I brought my laptop to bed, went on the Mixbook site and with a cup of coffee at my side I got to creating a card. I took the morning to do it. It felt like a really creative act and allowed me to think about love and what I believe and how it plays out in our family. The process I worked through and the thought of sharing the card with people had me feeling something I realized I had not felt in a long time. I felt happy. Its sad to say that someone as blessed as I am was not really feeling happy, but there were clouds for me to reckon with that were very real. In the creation of the card, the sun shone through brightly. The first day I dumped a bunch in the box at the post office I felt like I had a miracle in my hands, our efforts were going forth and would be literally touched by people we love in many different places. How could I not smile? Canada Post was part of our team and working its magic again.

We had to work at getting the cards ready in batches. We were under time pressure if we were to have them in mailboxes by the 14th. This was an early morning work bee. I got up first and borrowed Russell’s robe. When he got up and wanted something warm to sit in he grabbed what he could see, my poncho. I love this quirky picture of him, he has an Elton John vibe going on with those fancy reading glasses he is wearing and a draping and fringy garment. He gave me permission to share this photo.
It is our tradition to eat cinnamon buns and bacon for breakfast on Valentines Day. In years past we set the table with a few special touches. With just the three of us home it was breakfast on the counter instead. Thanks to a January 4th trip to Minot, where the Valentines candy displays were up and full of such fun things, I had this twix bar set in my closet just waiting for this day! The kids and Ron and a few of our people in town got treats too.
Russell took this picture of me in the afternoon on Valentines Day. I was entertaining at one of our local nursing homes. It was really a fun time for me. I love singing, the songs were well received, old friends were there and it felt right.

The day after Valentines our neighbor Steven suffered a serious heart attack. After a few days of intensive intervention he passed. This is a shocking and deeply saddening event. He was just 60 and very beloved. I was asked to conduct the funeral. The preparations for that, the anxieties I hold about such things, dealing with the sadness in our own household, all of this… really shaped last week. The funeral was held in the same hall that we were in two weeks prior for the fundraiser. Steven was at that fundraiser. It is his grand-daughter that is so sick. This family is holding so much right now. The ties that bind us mean we are all holding many thoughts, feelings and prayers and the community spaces where we gather hold so many stories and so many memories.

This is another one of Sarah’s Nova Scotia heart images. I post this one here in honor of Steven and his huge heart. It was a privilege to speak of it at the funeral.

Russ and I headed to Brandon this week to pick up springs for our jeep. Russ is getting ready for calving season. The routines of that make his jeep one of his best friends. Also, he has been asking Jill and I to help him make his chaps more workable. They were made with solid leather to the bottom and with age were getting increasingly stiff and messing with his boots. We took heavy scissors and those chaps with us on our parts run to Brandon, I used much of my passenger time making the bottoms into fringe, which will work much better for Russ. I got a blister from my efforts. Is that not love? Meanwhile he drove terrible ice covered roads most of the way home, he kept us out of the ditch but barely. It was one of those warm and windy days where loose snow catches and freezes on the highway and we weren’t expecting it. Russ was thrilled with the chaps renovation.

The chaps

As I finish up this post I am struck by a couple things. This is a heavy post and it contains more info about other people’s stories than I am used to sharing. Maybe that is the truth about this theme, love, it is a heavy matter. We all need it. Its easy and its hard. Its costly. And how do we talk about love without realizing our connection to one another? Other people’s stories are a part of our stories when love is in the mix. (About that……I don’t believe I have shared anything about others struggles that was not already publicly shared, respecting people’s privacy is important to me.)

I have one final image to tie this up, it is one of Sarah’s pictures. Perhaps Sarah’s alertness to heart shapes in nature can be a reminder and an invitation to me, and to all of us, to be alert, on the look-out, for signs of love where they are found, sometimes in surprising places. As we capture them in our minds, our memories, clouds get pushed aside I think. As plentiful as these rocks of infinite shapes are on the beach, there is evidence of love everywhere.