Wednesday, December 21, 2016

A Sun, a Bird and a Green Glass Pickle

It’s only a few days to Christmas now, the gifts are bought. The parcel of small gifts for “the kids” in Switzerland has finally been mailed. Alas, it won’t arrive until mid-January, but that’s what comes of having -20 to -25 C daytime temperatures since the last week of November. 

I still need to wrap the very few gifts I bought for us. I even wrap the stocking stuffers, since it’s so much more fun to have a half-dozen surprises to unwrap, even if they are only a bar of hand-made soap or a tin of foot creme.  And it’s fun for me too, because once I’ve wrapped something I immediately forget what it is. Surprise!

Hobbes at eight weeks meeting Smokey
And Hallelujah! Hobbes the Ripper is four years old! (Where did the time go? Only yesterday he was this big!)  At any rate, because he is now grown and behaves minimally less like Attila the Hun I decided to try putting up the Christmas tree. He poked about in it a bit, but when I threatened him with the water bottle he shrugged and said, “It's not all that interesting anyway. Not enough to get wet for.” 

To tell the truth I unpacked the old tree, which I bought in Dec of 2006, to find the lights didn't work. It was one of those trees with fibre-optic lights. I always strung lights on it, because the fibre-optic lights were so wimpy, but I'd been stringing the lights on the stick tree I'd been using and they packed up and died last year. And when I plugged in the tree the other day, the fibre-optic lights didn't work either. I set off to buy a new string of lights and couldn't find any - all the trees these days come pre-strung with lights. I guess when a light-bulb burns out you toss the tree! Since the fibre-optic tree was 10 years old and distinctly down at heels and I couldn't find a string of lights I bought a meter (40") tall "porch" tree. It was pre-installed in a pot and had a strand of lights pre-strung. It was that or a two meter (seven foot) white tree. When I opened the box I found I had two porch trees! Since I have no room for two trees I left one in the box and put the other on the end of the big bookcase/entertainment unit. Up top you see a cloth doll, a replica of a 17th century homemade doll with a painted face, made by my late friend and doll artist Judi Thomson. Next to her is my sock monkey 'Bimbo', circa 1951, made by my greatly loved and missed sister-in-law June, who passed away in 2010. June made sock monkeys for several of us kids that Christmas. I have a picture of us, standing at attention, clutching our new dolls and sock monkeys, solemn as a row of little judges.  

When I was decorating the tree and saw that Hobbes had jumped into Tony's easy chair, rolled over onto his back and was sound asleep I felt brave enough to unpack the blown glass suns, birds and fruit. In addition to a flock of birds there are strawberries, grapes, pears and an astonishing green glass pickle. At the top, in lieu of a star, is a leaping deer, for our Deer Clan roots. 

Even with the dining room table awash in wrapping paper and ribbons and the 1st  Christmas tree up in the living room in four years, I’m still not in much of a celebratory mood. The news, here and abroad, is enough to break the stoutest heart.  

Still we must have hope that good will prevail, though darkness seems to gain ascendancy for a time. As I was checking out my groceries a couple of days ago I commented on the unique way the cashier wears her hijab. It's quite lovely, and I told her so. We chatted a minute or two and I learned she was from Persia. I told her that my father-in-law spent quite a bit of time in Persia in the 1930s, living and traveling with the Bedouins. He said they were the most wonderful, hospitable people in the world. He brought back a beautiful copper-tray table with a folding base, engraved with figures of people and with Arabic script. I described it to her and said it is a family treasure. As I left I wished her a good day and she did the same and then she thanked me, for saying her hijab was pretty, but most of all she said, 'for saying kind things about my people'. It must be difficult to come to a new country where so much suspicion is aimed at you. Most Canadians are more accepting of Muslim immigrants than are Americans, but not all. 

We continue to pour our wee drop of oil on troubled waters - and what a decidedly antithetical metaphor in these days when 'oil on water' means disaster and not peace! But we made our monthly KIVA loan (our 81st) to Martin’s Group, a cooperative of nine farmers (Martin, Kusesi, Joshwa, Keneddy, Julia, Wafwana, Richard, Philmon and Patrick) in Sirisia Kenya. Their $500 loan will allow them to buy seeds and fertilizer for their fields for this coming season. Martin's Group is part of the One Acre Fund whose clients are subsistence farmers who grow corn, beans, and other food crops to feed their families. Kenya suffered a terrible drought this past season and crops were reduced by an average of 68%. Farmers in the One Acre Fund program did, on average, much better than those not in the program. 

This is Martin, the group’s leader. He is 40 years old and has five children. He has been a farmer for 18 years and is a very hard working individual. He started working with One Acre Fund in 2011 because he wanted to increase the quality and amount of food he was able to raise. The One Acre Fund provided him with seeds, fertilizer and training in how to maximize crop yield through improved agricultural practices. Since then, Martin has been able to consistently feed his family. This year he decided to represent his group because he wanted to help other farmers.

Martin’s Group will plant a total of 4.5 acres of land this season. Additionally, some of the men in the group will be purchasing a solar light. These lights allow children to do homework since it grows dark at 6:00 pm in equatorial Africa, and it is difficult to do homework by candle light or lamplight. 

On Christmas morning I’ll sit and think about Christmases past shared with loved ones who are now far away, or gone, and think about how lucky we are in the scheme of things. Of all the important things in the world, we have what matters most, love and peace, within and without. Oh, were that true for all who walk this earth. 

May you and yours have a peaceful and blessed Christmas.