On the Banks of Fun Creek – Labels

Some time ago I bought a labeler on a routine run through Walmart.   I have an ever present desire to be more organized.  Sometimes I make progress with this and I have noticed that having labels for certain things helps.  However, like many things I buy to get more organized nothing happened with my new labeller for the longest time.  It sat in a drawer in my desk, perhaps I was a bit overwhelmed by learning something new.  That tells you about my mindset.  One day this summer Jill was in my office and I pulled it out and said, “Jill, remember this?”  Where I feared to tread Jill had no hesitation.  She immediately opened the package and got it set up.  What followed has been a bit nutty, the use of that labeler did not go at all as I expected.  There has been no improvement in organization as a result of that thing coming out of its package, however, there has been more fun happening this side of the creek.

One of my first memories of the labeler in action happened the morning we had a sewer problem which saw a mini flood happen in our basement.  As we got that situation fixed up Morgan came to me and said, “Mom, did you see the alligator?”  I thought he was making some reference to animals that creep out of sewers or something like that, I honestly hardly processed what he was saying, I was a bit dismissive.   But then, I caught a good look at our dog Maddie.  She had been labelled to honor the day, “ALLIGATOR”……I laughed.

The next memorable moment happened when Jill made a label for Russ, she placed it on his forehead, where, he says, because he tries to be a good Dad, he indulged her and left it on.   It stayed on all night and he was quite aware of it.  He left for work in the morning with it on and his hat placed  over it.  It had survived a trip through the shower.  When I picked him up in the field to go to Church he wasn’t thinking about it.  As we came in he removed his hat, now well accustomed to the label he wasn’t feeling it.  But the usher was observant.  “Whats on your forehead Russell?”  He said, “Oh! Jill put a label on my head.”  “What does it say?”  “It says, ‘16 head’”  Laughter followed.  With Russell’s hair challenge Jill figured Russell had way more than a fore head, his forehead was multiples of fore/four.  She decided on 16.  We have no picture of that label.

There were various miscellaneous ways that the labeller got used for no reason in particular.

Russell reports that multiple people asked him, did he know he had a label on his sunglasses.

Then last week I was away in Saskatoon when we had some visitors in the house.   One of our visitors, by the name of Dawson, might have been inspired by the ridiculous labels he saw, he added to them and when I got home there were some things to discover. 

Regarding this sugar, some may find this label offensive, it was placed when our friend Jen was in the kitchen, she is part Dene and part Cree and didn’t take offense.  She is my thermometer on things like this.

When I came home from Saskatoon I brought the fam a new kettle.  It had three significant perks, its lit on/off switch, its red color and the price, only $14.88.   Russ was inspired.  While I slept in the next day he got busy with the labeller.  I had to spot three different labels to catch the joke.  Here are the labels.  Will you get the joke?

Yeah, the good ol saying, “that’s the pot calling the kettle black.”

While I was in Saskatoon Morgan joined our public pasture manager to work cows for several days.  He took one of Russell’s water bottles, previously labelled.  

The pasture manager spotted the label on Morgan’s bottle and Morgan tells us he was quite eager to clarify, was that the 2nd favorite water bottle or is Morgan the 2nd favorite kid?  That brought some laughs.  The bottle label fared pretty well after several days of hard core work in the sun, in and out of saddle bags, roping bulls, cows and calves.

Labels are a dicey subject in society.  They can pigeon hole people and limit options.  But they also can help us make order out of chaos.  Perhaps there is another purpose, Russ figures in our case it was that the labels helped members of our circle showcase their sense of humor.    The humor helps us navigate the stress of life and haying.  Don’t be surprised if you see us around town and glimpse a little white rectangle on us, or at the post office picking up a refill of label tape in the mail.  This doesn’t show any sign of slowing down, that first roll of tape has really lasted. 

An Unusual Braid

It was the last days of October 2020…..no time like the present to begin the process of finding new homes for Mom’s things.  As the first step in that my sisters and I took turns choosing things that meant something to us.  Among other things I chose the pair of  Willowtree figurines seen here.  I thought I remembered my Mom saying they represent her and her remaining sister.  I am very close with her sisters daughter, my cousin Jodi, so I took “the girls” home to the ranch, for me they were to be about the bond in our generation. 
I enjoyed taking pictures of “the girls” and sending them to Jodi.
During the April storm I took them to the dog room and set them up.  I was working on a cold, wet calf.  I sent the pic to Jodi, “working on saving a life, thinking of you.”
The cat knocked them over, Morgan set them up again like this.  I took a picture and sent it to Jodi, “looks like the girls have had a fight.”
I enjoyed taking the girls with me to check cows.
When they got back from the pasture the girls fell into a deep conversation.  Jodi suggested they were discussing the goodness of grass fed beef.
This past week they came to the chute for an afternoon. 
At one point Russ asked me to pack up my girls and go on an adventure.  It was just a little ways away to the gate where the cows and calves met up, like the door to a waiting room at the dentist office.  The calves needed a bit of urging to make their way out among the large number of waiting cows.  The girls were busy talking to each other and missed watching me.
This is my favorite shot from the afternoon.  It seems they are watching over things and applauding.
And that applauding image put me in mind of one of my favorite Bible verses.  This one here….it affirms that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, those that have gone before us, who somehow have a nearness that allows them still to be our cheerleaders. 
As I looked further for images of the Cloud of Witnesses this collage came up, the images have so many faces to ponder.  The poem in small print, written by Joseph R. Veneroso goes like this.
We do not run the race alone
Nor go into exile by ourselves
For we journey along the Way
Made smooth by those who’ve gone before.

And though invisible to the eye
They are with us still, forebears in faith,
Whose example, wisdom and yes, prayers
Inspire, encourage and guide us
Through the valleys and mountains of life.

And in the silence of the night
Listen for the soft whisper of
Ancestors, relatives and friends
Who, though gone, from the sidelines
Still cheer us on and
Whose love and countless kindnesses
Brought us to this very day.

Alone no longer
(as if we ever were)
We are part of a vast, unending
Procession of love and life
Past, present and to come
Where memory and meaning mingle
To create an eternal, dynamic
Community of souls and
Communion of saints.

The notion of taking comfort and strength from those not physically with us has been on my mind in a very particular way lately.  I have been listening to alot of Maya Angelou interviews.   Several times I have heard her say “I take my people with me” when doing something scary or challenging.  I like that, but, besides packing up my figurines I can’t quite figure out how it works.  But then this morning she said this, “I come as one, but I stand as 10,000.” That clicked.  I like that it affirms my individuality and competence as I come to a hard thing but it doesn’t leave me on my own.  It links me to all that has come before and those who have faced the challenges and prevailed.  It invites me to think about the names and faces I know and find strength from, those who have walked this walk too. In the realm of women ranching with their husbands I think of Marlene, Kay, Carol, Donalee, Sheila, Lyla, Melissa, Bonnie, Donna, Molly, Georgie and Gail. Those are the names I know, but I stand in a long line and a wide circle of women doing this life. I come as one but I stand as many.

The “Cloud of Witnesses” mural was painted in 2012 by Jon McDonald, an artist at Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University. The “witnesses” featured in the clouds comprise a small but diverse collection of individuals who sacrificed their lives during the Civil Rights Era. In their own, unique ways, these individuals paid the ultimate price on the long, difficult path to making the United States a more democratic and egalitarian society.

This mural and the write up about it I took from a page on the internet. Its another illustration of a great cloud of witnesses and I like that it illumines some of those witnesses Maya Angelou brought with her to her life stage. She spoke of friendships with Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, they are here.

I am in the midst of setting up a new desk location for myself in our home. I am almost there. One of the last jobs is to hang some beautiful portraits of my Mom and Dad. There were terrific encouragers and I want their faces near to remind me to persevere when I am scared or daunted or tired.

This post has been for me an unusual braid…..the utter ridiculousness of hauling figurines around the ranch and telling you about it, woven together with Holy Scripture, poetry, art and song and then the ongoing story of finding my courage, healing and strength in the midst of all that life holds. Some people think of braids as something to do with hair, but we do alot of braiding here lately as part of ropes and lead shanks and halters. They hold alot of weight and provide alot of security. The same might be said of the clouds of witnesses that exist for you and for me.

If you have a minute, look through the lyrics to this Carolyn Arends song. They are so vivid and thought provoking for me. Here is a link to the song as Carolyn performs it.

I was just four, my grandmother’s place
I knelt by her sofa and started this race
And now I’ve been running for such a long while
I’ve kind of lost track of the miles
Sometimes I press on, sometimes I look back
Sometimes I just lay in the road on my back
When I’ve got to get up and I don’t know how
I hear in the distance the roar of a crowd

It’s the great cloud of witnesses
Cheering me on each step that I go
It’s the great cloud of witnesses
They say the finish is worth every inch of the road

Moses is there, up in his seat
With my Grandad Wilfred, my Nana Bernice
There’s Abraham, Isaac and my buddy Rich
And I think they’re shouting “don’t quit”

So if you are tired, and your back is sore
If you’re not so sure you can run anymore
Then just take a moment and listen real close
Do you hear a sound like a heavenly host?

It’s the great cloud of witnesses
Cheering us on each step that we go
It’s the great cloud of witnesses
They say the finish is worth every inch of the road

It’s friends and relations and each generation of saints who believed
And received The Prize
They have looked into His eyes

It’s the great cloud of witnesses …