Call of spring

It’s been a while since we stopped to smell the roses, as it were. But a few weeks ago, just relaxing on our back porch, my wife and I sighed simultaneously. Aloud we recognized, despite the abundance of rain and the not-so-warm temperatures, and its rather clumsy entrance, that spring had finally, thankfully and delightfully arrived. But Jayne noted something I hadn’t noticed.

“It’s awfully quiet this year,” she said. “The sounds of birds aren’t there like usual.”

Harvest record

249 combines, 300 acres and seven minutes to a Guinness World Record. Courtesy Dennis Fisher.

We don’t very often get the chance to witness a world’s record. Oh, in the Toronto area, we used to be able to walk by the world’s tallest freestanding structure, the CN Tower, until they built one taller in Dubai a couple of years ago. I once stood within a metre of the world’s biggest gem, the Hope diamond, at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. And I’ve personally witnessed a bunch of The Great One’s goal-scoring feats, some of which are world’s records I guess (the 50 goals in 39 games, for example). But I’ve rarely associated the province of Saskatchewan (where I lived for a while) with any world’s records. Then, this week, I got a note from an old friend, Dennis Fisher, in Saskatoon.

“We watched 249 combines harvest a [half] section of land in seven minutes,” he wrote me. “It was a Guinness World Record.”

The reach to write

A spiritual experience for some, the Sage Hill Writing Experience takes place each year at St. Michael's monastery at Lumsden, Sask.
A spiritual experience for some, the Sage Hill Writing Experience takes place each year at St. Michael's monastery at Lumsden, Sask.

Whenever I talk with writers, there are plenty of taboos. They don’t often speak about how much money they make. Not many writers will divulge the nature of any publishing contracts they’re negotiating. And some are even superstitious about not revealing either the title or the content of a new book they’re working on. But you can always tell a group of writers is really getting into a heavy discussion when one warns:

“No, no. Don’t use the ‘M’ word!”

A rearranged life

The rearrangement of my life at home began last spring when we knocked down the old garage. The next phase began last week when my sister-in-law arrived from Saskatchewan.
The rearrangement of my life at home began last spring when we knocked down the old garage. The next phase began last week when my sister-in-law arrived from Saskatchewan.

My wife’s sister has been visiting from Saskatchewan the past two weeks. Unlike that cliché that a husband loathes spending time with his in-laws, I have always enjoyed time spent with Pat, as I did with the sisters’ parents. There is generally one time during Pat’s visits, however, when I sense I’d better butt out. That’s when I hear either my wife Jayne or Pat say:

“OK, let’s do some rearranging around the house.”

The spirit of writing

It was a reverent moment. Our host entered. We had all enjoyed our first meal in the dining hall together, while on the wall over our shoulders a painting depicted Christ and the apostles at The Last Supper. Our host – a middle-aged monk – apologized that not all seven Franciscans normally resident there could be present; two of them – men in their late 80s – had recently been moved to hospital for elder care, he said. Nevertheless a younger 70-ish Brother Dominic bid us welcome.

Brother Dominic
Brother Dominic

“We are brothers of prayer,” he said. “But we welcome you here to St. Michael’s, your home away from home.”

A voice of unity

He helped save Canada.

Aside from times during the two world wars, I think some of this country’s darkest days occurred in the years immediately following the Centennial in 1967. First with the St-Jean-Baptiste riots and bombings in Montreal (1968), then during the October crisis (1970), when the FLQ kidnapped and killed cabinet minister Pierre Laporte in Quebec City, hope for maintaining a united Canada seemed bleakest in those early 1970s.

Then, in November 1976, the Parti Quebecois came to power on a platform that included Quebec’s separation from Canada. I worked as a radio producer/host for CFQC in Saskatoon in those years. Our morning program was heard all over the three Prairie provinces. And I remember our station manager, Dennis Fisher, calling us together soon after the PQ’s historic victory that autumn.

“The nation has never been so threatened,” he said. “It’s up to us to do something.”

Just give it time

WATCHFACE-smallWe played the part of the cavalry last Friday night. You know, charging in at the last moment to save the day. Well, maybe it wasn’t quite that dramatic. But my wife and I provided our tag-team babysitting service to our daughter and son-in-law that evening. Of course, for us, the assignment was anything but a hardship. We revelled in the chance for quality time with our two-year-old granddaughter and nine-month-old grandson. And it turns out that’s exactly what our adult kids needed too.

“It was nice to have some time to ourselves,” our daughter has said on occasions such as that.

Dot.coms bearing gifts

There’s a story I learned back at school. It tells the tale of an extraordinary deception. Two civilizations, the story goes, were at war – one inside a fortified area, the other outside it. The siege between the two had gone for years, without a victor. Then, those outside the walls withdrew, leaving behind a relic of war – a wooden horse. Rejoicing at their apparent victory, the people inside the walls, pulled the relic into their midst. That night, spies hidden inside the wooden horse crept out, opened the gates and allowed the outside army inside the walls.

“Trust not their presents,” the Trojan priest Laocoon had cried. “Is surely designed by fraud.” But his countrymen had ignored him. And victory belonged to the Greek outsiders.