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Showing posts from 2016

There's Always More Ink

December 31st...a day to look back before looking ahead; at where I didn't do as well as hoped, and where I have changed for the better (in my experience, with God's help.) 

I opened the small pink patterned note book in which I chronicled this year's challenges and victories, its pages secured by a knot, promising confidences kept.

I found on the fly-leaf, a conversation I recorded because it encouraged me, and I share it here because it is perfect for this day above all:

It was September, and our granddaughter Tippy was living out her dream--an art student at Sheridan College. She and her class-mates were instructed to draw a picture that represented themselves. Then, anonymously, the drawings were made into a slideshow for the class to view and analyse. 

When Tippy's drawing came up, some of the students commented on the strokes, saying that they indicated that the artist was confident and strong.

As Tippy recounted this to our daughter Brenda later, she said, "Mom,…

The Mittens

About two weeks before Christmas, a call for help came from Daisy, a friend and respected member of the community of Mishkeegogamang, a reserve 2000 kilometers north west of Toronto. She told us that many of the 200 children who attend Missabay School in the growing community, needed mittens. Since the temperature up there that day was -27 F, the need was obvious.

As soon as the need was made known, initially via Facebook, the response was swift. People's hearts were touched by the need and bags of mittens and other donations began to be dropped off for the children. 

The next thing was getting the items to the faraway community. Our friends Holly McCleary and Susan Stewart decided that they would drive the precious cargo themselves between Christmas and New Years. They set out early the Thursday morning after Christmas and made the distance in an unbelievably short length of time, driving in shifts through the night--2,000 kilometers north, arriving on Friday! Bags and bags of warm…

The Christmas Gift

I read the story over lunch a few days before Christmas, and laughed out loud alone in my kitchen, as it brought to colourful life in my imagination, the hilarious scenario played out on the page in black on white.

A day or so later, I was talking to my son, and I said, "Pete, I have a gift I'd love from you this Christmas."

"Oh?" he said, surprised, I suppose, at my unusual boldness in asking. "What is it?"

"It's a story," I said, "And the gift would be that you would read it for me and the rest of the family, when we all get together for Christmas." 

He agreed. asking only if he might get the story ahead of time to practice.

In the end, with all of the busyness before Christmas, he never did pick up the story to ahead of time, but on Boxing Day, when we all assembled to celebrate what was for some family members, "Christmas Version # 3," the bright-yellow-covered book with its coffee-stained pages was near at hand.

The ho…

So Many Little Ones

That first Sunday in Mish, we worked on posters about the activities going on during the week. The outlying hamlets of Ace Lake, Eric Lake and Ten Houses were invited by email. It is harder for the people in these smaller communities to get to activities on the main reserve, so we wanted to reach out and include the children there, and the band kindly provided us with a school bus and driver for the week.

On Monday morning the children arrived--bright eyed, excited, full of anticipation. They poured from the bus and cars that had gone to pick them up--all ages, heights and sizes--about 100 children.

I was at the dining table when they arrived, editing some photos on my laptop. Susan had given me the grand sounding title of "Writer and Photographer in Residence," on this team.  On my last trip I had worked in the kitchen--hospitality, writing and photography are my comfort zone. I feel inexplicably shy and awkward around children so the task I'd been assigned this time was …

Foundational Things

I felt beneath my pillow for my iPod to check the time, which read 6.00 a.m., although it was actually 5.00 a.m.. It hadn't automatically adjusted to the correct time for Mish, but I thought that it being an hour ahead might serve as an advantage for the week, as long as I bore it in mind.

Surrounding me lay 8 air mattresses and their cargo--a sea of people in sleeping bags scattered over the floor of the large, empty classroom. I rolled over and got up as gracefully as a seal waddling from the sea.

In the dim morning light, I gripped my orange backpack filled with toiletries, and negotiated my way to the door of the classroom, trying not to disturb my friends. I left their soft breathing, and gentle stirrings behind as I gripped the handle of the classroom door and exited, as careful as a burglar.


I had found a small desk the night before, in a secluded corner of an adjoining classroom--the perfect place to have a quiet hour before each day began. Throughout the following week I clu…

First Things

The evening's priorities were taken care of: inflating 15 air mattresses and setting up the kitchen--sleep and food being among the essentials of life, after all. But the first priority for some of us was finding out the wifi password. Our friend Kendra gave sobering news--the internet at the school had been turned off for the summer. It was a moment of some adjustment to discover that fact. That is a bit of an understatement.

Paul was so exhausted by the preparations and journey that he sank onto his air-mattress the moment it was blown up and was not heard from until the next morning, but Susan pulled the rest of us together around the yellow oil-cloth covered dining table, for an initial meeting. 

First we talked about about our group's approach. This is our 12th year of connection with Mish. We go with an agenda to befriend, support and show love to the community in any way we can, sometimes responding to specific needs they mention. Our discipline is to show our faith rathe…

So Many Eyes

As I continue my stories about our trip to Mishkeegogang this August, I feel it important to say that these reflections are limited to my point of view. There were 15 pairs of eyes on this trip, each with a unique perspective. Seven belonged to young people, eyes wide open, some belonged to adults who had never been on a First Nations reserve before, and some of us came with history and learning under our belts, but always learning more.

I am sure that each person could share their own interesting impressions and epiphanies and I wish you could read a broader cross section of these perspectives here. For now, though, it's my personal viewpoint and not the definitive story of the Mish trip. In visiting Mish on the web, I just discovered a fact that I did not know, and that is that it is halfway between two oceans, which you can see at the bottom of the page reached by clicking here!

About 12 hours after the journey began for those of us who flew, the long grey road from Ignace led us…

Traffic Signs

The wipers kept a rhythmic beat against the September rain that gathered relentlessly on my windshield. The rain didn't bother me, though--I was grateful for the more leisurely pace of a Saturday morning as I drove down Highway 400 towards the city.  Casually I glanced over to my right, and noticed with curiosity a silver van whose license plate had only three letters: N-U-H.  "NUH," I thought to myself, turning the letters over in my mind, while considering their possible significance. A friend to whom I was telling this story later, guessed at, "Nothing Under Heaven;"  someone else might think they represented:   , but to me at that moment, they rhymed with Gnu, a slope-backed type of antelope, and therefore were pronounced, "New."



"New," I said to myself..."I'm new," or "I'm new here," trying out various possibilities. 

It made me think of my own life, and how new I am in some ways lately--"new" because I…

The True North Strong and Free

We left for the flight from Toronto Pearson Airport to Thunder Bay, early on Saturday morning. Finally being on the way at last felt good. It was time to let go of preparing and focus forward. 

Below us, the city of Toronto, and then its suburbs, fell away, and we glimpsed fields and farming communities as the plane's powerful engines lifted us high above the clouds. 

In less than two hours we were descending again, and looking down on a beautifully rugged landscape. A river shimmered silver in the sunlight, reflecting the clouds above as it snaked its way through the green and forested landscape.

I was excited at the thought of reconnecting with the rest of the team, but was also looking forward to seeing Harriet Visitor, the grade 8 teacher whom we got to know when she brought her graduates from Mish to visit the south for a week in June. Harriet was going to be away on vacation when we'd be in Mish, and we were disappointed that we wouldn't see her, but the week before we …