Heat Wave

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Here, on the west coast of Canada, we’re experiencing a heat wave. At 3:15 p.m. Monday (June 28) I took a photo of the thermometer in the shade at our front door. I read it at 43C which converts to 109.4F. That felt blistering hot for us! And because we don’t have air conditioning everything stayed warm long past the peak of the heat …surfaces, doorknobs, I felt like I was sleeping on an electrically warmed sheet and pillow.

Thermometer reading of 43C, June 28, 2021 at 3:15 p.m.

I was reminded of the poem I wrote some years ago and included in my book Family Reunion (2007).

HEAT WAVE

Yesterday’s fever
broke in the evening
This morning
cool soothing air
bathes face arms legs
the neighborhood refreshed
as if it slept
deep and exhausted
after sickness

But sun’s warm hand upon my back
warns temperature is rising
and burning heat will soon
again blister the brown grass
make bright-eyed impatiens
and roadside chicory
droop in the dazzling delirium

We will lie in darkened rooms
splayed under whirring fans
flushed fighting off sweats
ice-tinkling drinks within arm’s reach
till evening
when the fever breaks again.

© 2007 by Violet Nesdoly

Thankfully the temperatures have moderated since then. But such a weather stretch drives home our vulnerability. We humans have only a small temperature range in which we can comfortably exist. I am in awe of the complexity of creation which God has fine-tuned for plant, animal, and human flourishing!

Happy Canada Day from the clothesline.

Tomorrow, July 1st and Canada Day, always feels like the official beginning of summer to me (a holdover from years of school rhythms, I guess). I’ll be taking a break from weekly blogging during July and August. I may post occasionally but not on any schedule. I hope to be back to a weekly post in September.

Wishing everyone a Happy Canada Day and a happy, safe, and healthy summer!

“Portrait of my mother at twenty” – a poem

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Sunday is Mother’s Day—I’m sure I don’t need to remind you!

Mother’s Day reminds me of my own mother and the fact that it’s already 15 years ago that I gave her her last Mother’s Day card. She died about six weeks after Mother’s Day in 2006.

I still miss her, though signs of her are sprinkled throughout my life. I still wear a few clothes of hers that I rescued from her closet. Some of the art that she made adorns our walls and decorates our house at Christmas. Bells from her collection sit on my window ledge. And we have photos! On beginning to go through my photos a few weeks ago, I came across so many wonderful memories of things we did together—pictures of the birthday parties and family dinners we celebrated at our home and hers, camping trips on which she accompanied us, scenic walks we took around Abbotsford where she lived.

I also have a few photos of her when she was much younger. I love studying them and finding premonitions of the faces of my siblings, our children, nieces, and nephews. This week’s quote in my daily planner reminded me of one of them:

“I can’t quite see myself as a mother and I can’t quite see my own mother as anything else” – Courtney E. Martin.

Mom, at about 20 years of age

Portrait of my mother at twenty

Silky blush-tint skin

against green-toned sepia,

thick hair pulled loosely back,

brown pompadour above

high smooth forehead

declares “I am woman.”

Open-mouthed smile

sweet and eager.

Lace collar frames her neck.

Behind 30s-fashionable rimless glasses

eyes large, dark, frank,

clear, friendly

recall her words, “We were close pals.

She was my friend.”

They make me wonder,

If I had been her age

would she have smiled that way

and said those things about me?

– Violet Nesdoly  © 2020 (All rights reserved)

On my cleanup a few weeks ago I found a stash of sympathy cards we received on Mom’s death. Many of them tell memories of her. This Mother’s Day, I’m going to reread all those cards and appreciate her again for all she was to those of us blessed to have her in our lives.

Pandemic Lifestyle – a poem

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When presented, by my writing group, with the challenge to write about my experience during the pandemic, my first thought was to do it in poem form (seeing as how it’s April and National Poetry Month). “Pandemic Lifestyle” is a snapshot of some of the things that have characterized the last months for me and my husband. (The last stanza makes reference to Psalm 91 that has been a mainstay for me and many others during this time.)

Pandemic Lifestyle

We keep our social distance
intentionally move out of the way
of anyone approaching us,
take to the sidewalk’s grassy margin
the street’s parking lane
to honour a fellow-walker’s
and our own
2-metre force field.
As we pass our eyes meet
momentarily
above masks,
smile humour (This feels ridiculous)
and apology (Sorry to be treating you
like a pariah
).

We live in a bubble
cloistered behind the membranes
of doors and windows
that become transparent
during Zoom meetings,
where we see each other at kitchen counters,
lounging against headboards,
seated in front of bookshelves (looking so well-read),
or posed before waving palms and surging surf,
mute testimony to where we have been
where we would love to be again
yet relieved to be here, now,
surrounded by the familiar and the safe.

We are sheltered under a wing
covered by divine feathers
as we experience sweet family life virtually
with children and grandchildren,
brothers and sisters,
in Bible studies, prayer meetings
and streamed church services.
Here we have been hidden
from the Covid-19 pestilence
that walks in darkness,
the prowling pandemic
that lays waste at noon.
We have not been numbered
in the daily 3 o’clock count
of thousands and ten thousands
that have fallen around us,
and we are incredibly grateful.

© 2021 by Violet Nesdoly

Lent Conversation — Conclusion

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Here, on Good Friday, the last day of Lent, Laurel and I conclude our Lenten conversation with one more poem and image.

Laurel’s poem prompt, “Quicken,” articulates the restless dissatisfaction and the sense of “dare I hope that things can be different?” characteristic of us in our human state. Those feelings have only been amplified by the strangeness of the past year and its restrictions, imposed because of the pandemic.

Quicken

I’ll bring
my unsettled,
uncentered self, to you.
This week it’s all ‘the holy’ I have.
Emotions scattered,
resolves shattered,
not because of anything,
it’s just well, everything, and
I don’t want it to go back
to the way it was. Not entirely. There.
I said it. Whispered it
our into your silence.

Can this atom of, I don’t know – hope?
be enough for you to split
and quicken me back to life?

© 2021 Laurel Archer – all rights reserved

The word “split” in Laurel’s poem opened the visual door for me. I thought of the way a germinating seed splits to let out new life. But in the process it dies. Yes, that too is part of the gospel message–a part that makes this dark Friday “good.”:

“Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain” – John 12:24 NKJV.

In the end, I opted to portray a bulb instead of a grain of wheat, with a sprout that has just split open its white shroud.

“Hope” – Violet Nesdoly © 2021
Pen and watercolour on 140 lb. watercolour paper, 9×6 inches.

So, Lent is past. But stay tuned. Easter is just around the corner!

A Lent Conversation – Week 6

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We are in the season of feasts—Passover and Easter. Isn’t it wonderful that God instituted landmark feasts—meals of special food filled with the ingredients, tastes, colours, and smells that bring spiritual realities to mind?

As we’ve been reading through the Gospels at our supper table, I was moved a few weeks ago when we came to Mark 14 where Jesus told his disciples to prepare the feast (the Passover) that we now call “The Last Supper.” It made me smile to think of this assorted crew doing kitchen duty. My thought was to create a sort of still life of the supplies for the Passover meal gathered on a counter after a shopping trip. That is the inspiration for “Prepare the Feast.”

Laurel responded to my art prompt by taking it home, literally, with her poem “Do This” about the wonderful meals of remembrance that we’ve all experienced—weighty with spiritual and emotional significance. Because of pandemic restrictions, we’ll miss eating an Easter meal with our loved ones this year. It has made us appreciate such memorable occasions all the more.

A Lent Conversation – Week 5

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Is God involved in the tiniest details of our lives? I think so.

It was Laurel’s turn to start the conversation this week with a poem. When I hadn’t heard from her by last Tuesday, I emailed and asked if she had a poem for the week. It turned out she thought she had sent it, and promptly did.

When I read “Still Life,” I thought immediately that something simple, like a pencil sketch, would suit Laurel’s humble expression of faith. The thing was, I had done a couple of pencil sketches the very night before. The clincher that my sketches were the right response to her poem—she speaks of light in her poem, and one of the things I happened to sketch was a light bulb!  

I challenge you—be on the lookout to notice how God is making His presence known to you in the details of your day!

“Still Life” – poem by Laurel Archer © 2021

Light bulb, staple remover and a jar of shells and floats – sketches by Violet Nesdoly (in 5×8 inch Artist’s Loft Sketchbook) – © 2021

A Lent Conversation – Week 4

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I can hardly believe we’re already into week four of our Lent project. This week I sent Laurel the prompt–a painting I did, inspired by a photo I took on a summer holiday trip we made to Salt Spring Island some years ago.

I love her psalm-like prayer poem in response.

My painting and the Laurel’s poem are below.

Painting: “The Lookout” – Violet Nesdoly – Watercolor on 140 lb. cold press watercolor paper, 9×12 inches © 2021.

Poem: “Open-Air Prayer” – Laurel Archer © 2021

A Lent Conversation – Week 3

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The poem that Laurel sent me as an art prompt for Week 3 made me so happy. I love spring and one of its most compelling signs is the bird symphony and activity we hear and see on our daily walks on Nicomekl Trail, a footpath that follows the Nicomekl River. I love how Laurel pivoted her poem’s friskiness into a theme appropriate for Lent.

I had no problem coming up with an image for this one!

A Lent Conversation – Week 2

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This is the second instalment of a Lenten conversation between Laurel Archer, my poet friend, and me providing some art. This week I sent Laurel a painting as a prompt. She responded with a poem.

The Hellebore plant was new to me when I moved to the coast (we didn’t have it in Saskatchewan, at least not when I lived there). This beautiful perennial blooms here in early to late spring with blooms that customarily face downward. It’s a plant that, even in bloom, looks penitent. Perhaps that’s why it was given its common name “Lenten Rose.”

I’m delighted with Laurel’s poetic response that reflects her experience with this lovely spring flower and takes us deeper.

Painting: “Lenten Rose” – © 2021 by Violet Nesdoly, Watercolour on 140 lb. cold press watercolour paper, 9×12 inches

Poem: “Promises” – © 2021 by Laurel Archer

A Lent Conversation

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Do you keep Lent? Lent is a church season—a time of sober introspection in preparation for Easter—that my faith tradition mentioned only in passing. But I do love the idea of a faith calendar where one remembers and honours each season of faith at a set time each year.

In the spirit of discovering, appreciating, and “keeping” the season of Lent, a friend and I have begun a conversation about Lent in poetry and art. She began it last Tuesday with a poem that she sent to me. I responded during the week with a piece of art inspired by her poem. This is our call-and-response for Week One of Lent.

Laurel’s Poem: “Lent is Here”
My painting: “Step Aside” – Watercolour and Gouache on 140 lb. Cold Press Watercolour Paper, 9×6 Inches.

This week it’s my turn to prompt Laurel with a piece of art. I’ll let you in on the next bit of our conversation sometime early next week.

I’d be interested to know, how do you keep Lent?