From the desk of...

Love and Christmas (Neighbours…)

The fourth and final week of advent begins on the Sunday before Christmas. Depending on where in the week Christmas falls, the fourth week can be the shortest week of all.  This year it was as long as it could possibly be – a full week to reflect on the theme of love – made (seemingly) longer by the “gift” of snow received at the very beginning of the week.  After three other city-paralyzing snow storms in just a two-week period, the snow was really starting to pile up…


…and when life gives you snow, on top of snow, on top of snow… you shovel.  We headed out on that snowy Monday morning with shovels in hand to discover another great gift of snow: neighbours.  Six families from our tiny cul-de-sac came out in force to work together that morning, including one dad who was just moving in that very day.  Really.


I shovelled my heart out, starting in on one neighbour’s driveway while he helped to fix the snow blower of another.  Across the street a dad worked to clear the outdoor ice rink he has built for the kids to play on, and another friend pitched in for hours to clear the common areas even though he his own driveway was not affected.  Neighbours.

“Love your neighbour as yourself.” (Mark 12:31)


Where would we be without the kindness of neighbours?  The simple gestures, the unplanned acts, the selfless thoughtfulness that happens every day in tiny unseen ways – that is real love.  The easiest way to have love, the greatest way to give love, the only way to create love is with kindness.  Shovelling for hours, thinking these thoughts, I laughed a little bit to myself at a connection that was foreshadowing at its finest.  This year, for our annual Christmas card, Mr. Martini selected this quote:

“Kindness is like snow: it beautifies everything it covers.” (Kahlil Gibran)


Those of you who live locally and have been shovelling out there just as much may not be laughing, but in a very real way the snow (and the many littles kindnesses that it sparked) has brought some of us together. Kindness is love, and in the week before Christmas I saw it flourish all around me in many little ways.  Now that Christmas has come and gone (ushered out on Boxing Day with another snowfall) I am still thinking about the love and kindness that has meant a great deal to me this year.  Through all of the challenges and loss there has been kindness, and that has made all the difference…

“There are three things in human life that are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.” (Henry James)

(I have read that Henry James spoke these words in response to a question from his brother William’s son, but my own son tells me that this quote is from Mother Teresa… thoughts?)


Love and kindness are discussed at length here at the Martini house, and often philosophically, as Miss G. approaches the “Age of Enlightenment”. She asks insightful and deeply empathetic questions about human relationships and our place in the world, and challenges the adults around her especially to be better people every day.  In response to her deep and thoughtful questions, she received this letter from a guest in our house on Christmas Eve:

“Love is very important to me, to my work, and most of all to our world.  This love, in giving and sharing, has created a special kind of magic that indeed is very real.  It comes from the hearts of people who love and care for others, and casts a glow in the world wherever it is needed most.  When people feel the love of Christmas magic at work in their lives they are able to do better for themselves and for others.” (Mr. C.)


Love.  It is the simplest and purest way to express the best of our own self, and to care for others at their most human.  And really, it is the essence of Christmas: divine love comes to earth in vulnerable human form.  It is protected and nurtured by family and friends, and eventually rises above human jealousy, cynicism, anger… but that part of the story comes later.  For now, we will think about love and the place it has in our own lives as we go about our daily work of weathering the storm…

“It is love that fashions us into the fullness of our being: who we love, how we love, why we love, and that we love which ultimately shapes us.  It is love, before all and after all, in the beginning and the end, that creates us.  Today, remembering this, let yourself acknowledge and remember the moments, events, and people who bring you, even momentarily, into a true experience of love, and allow the rest, the inescapable mundanities of life, like a cloud, to very quietly drift away.” (Daphne Rose Kingma, read from our book of daily gratitude in the week of love…)

Just… love.

Advertisements
Standard
From the desk of...

Hope

Here we are again in the first week of advent.  A new beginning; a chance to think about the changing seasons, the year behind us, and to learn from what was, what is or what may be…


Our family tradition is to light a candle for each week of advent, and for me the first candle has always represented hope.  One year ago, when we lit the candle of hope, we were hoping for so many things.  One year later, in a different time and a different place, we have a new perspective on what hope means for our family.  Over the year, as the seasons have shifted, we have thought a lot about hope… for ourselves, for our loved ones, and for the world we live in every day.

“All human wisdom is summed up in two words: wait and hope.” (Alexandre Dumas)

It has been a challenging year for us, for many reasons, and I know we are not alone in this.  And yet, through all the challenges, there is hope.  On Sunday evening, when we lit the first advent candle, I thought of the hopes that have sustained me and now I hope to share them with you…


My hope from the past is to carry forward the spirit of the women who inspire me with their lives and passion, who died knowing they lived their own best lives, who passed the torch of creativity, love and light, and who live in my heart everyday.  I’m grateful that they shared their gifts with me, and love that I can pass that legacy on to others.

My hope in the present comes from my children, who fill my days with questions and curiosity.  They live for joy in every season – laughing, growing, bubbling wonder and awe – and have carried my tired spirit through this year in particular.  Miss G, who read Anne Frank’s diary just last Spring, has a gift for being insightful and for respecting others.  Her ability to bring empathy and compassion with her every single day makes my heart sing.  G. Jr., only in the first grade, has charmed his way into the hearts of everyone he meets.  His happiness at the little things is completely contagious – spiders, bottle caps, interesting clouds – through his eyes the whole wide world is one hopeful opportunity after another.

img_1757

My hope for the future feels more uncertain, but I imagine it is similar to many of yours: for kindness, empathy, understanding and compassion to reach further than skepticism, criticism, negativity and fear.  Just like the light of that first candle dispels some of the late fall gloom, hope can shine through the darkness that sometimes obscures the better parts of humanity.  Don’t let darkness convince you that you are lost or alone – so many of us are waiting with hope inside.  Whatever it is that brings you hope – hold on tight.

img_1762

“Where there’s hope, there’s life.  It fills us with fresh courage and makes us strong again.” (Anne Frank)

 

 

Standard
From the art room..., From the desk of...

Falling…

Last year, just about this time, I wrote about my new route to school each day and the beauty in the colours around me as the leaves changed to richer and more complex combinations day by day.  Sometimes a change in routine (or route) is just the right thing; “a change is as good as a rest” my grandmother said…

This year has brought a great deal of change to the Martini family home – some of it slowly and some of it fast,  some of it welcome and some of it worrying, but we are learning to live through the changes as they come and to accept the beauty of each moment.

“Life belongs to the living, and he who lives must be prepared for changes.” (Wolfgang von Goethe)

If you have been reading along with me for awhile you will know that the hardest change has been the death of one particularly wonderful friend.  She loved the autumn leaves (and wore their colours brilliantly), using the inspiration of the changing season to add colour to the lives and homes of her students and clients…


I miss her everyday, as does everyone who knew her, and especially the easy way she made us all feel important and welcome in her world. She lived through so many difficulties, but never let them change the way she shared so much of herself and her life with others. 

As I have been driving the winding way to work and back each day this month I have been watching the gradual colour change with mixed emotions. This autumn, the first one that she won’t witness with us, seems like a gift from her directly. In her absence I am looking for her in the colour and feelings of the fall all around me.

The trees are so lovely in their ever changing coppers, rusts and golds. They stand like torches against the darkening fall skies, lighting the horizon and  their impending change with courage and resilience.  

These colours are a gift to us. The leaves, in their final days, are fuller and more beautiful than they ever were in spring and summer greens. And the trees are not afraid to let go of what is ready to return to the earth. 

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” (Dan Millman)

It’s time to change. It’s time to let go. It’s time to let the season lead us to renewal and regeneration. In order to open ourselves to the possibility and newness of spring we need to let go and trust that the fall has a purpose. 

Letting go is scary. No anchor, no port, no steady branch to lean against – but trusting in the cycle of change gives us the freedom to become what we are supposed to be. The leaves are lighting the way. Their bold colours are a banner of bravery in the face of the unknown…

“There is freedom waiting for you, on the breezes of the sky, and you ask “What if I fall?” Oh but my darling, what if you fly?” (quote by Erin Hanson, but she might have been channeling Margaret, who always called me darling and who championed a life of bravery, choice, passion and adventure…)

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.” (Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8)

Fly, lovely leaves, fly…
(Art by Miss G. & Gr.5…)

Standard
From the desk of...

Welcome Home…

  “Do you ever stop feeling sad when someone dies?”

Miss G. asked this question of me not long ago, and in doing so she opened up feelings that I hadn’t realized I was trying not to share. As she often does, she sensed something deeper than words and too complicated for her age , but her question made me think a lot about how we share our experiences of loss and sadness…

  

So many of us have lived through the death of a friend or family member and felt irreversibly changed by the experience. Four months ago, faced with the loss of a great and inspiring friend, I knew that life would not be the same for me. The feelings of shock and emptiness have weighed heavily on my thoughts and actions, and even regular tasks have taken more effort than they should…

I miss her every single day. I miss her laugh, her advice, her creativity, her enthusiasm, her style and optimism and certainty about things…

And yet. The sadness of missing, the inactivity of mourning would have made my amazing friend crazy. That girl was a do-er. She set her mind on following and fulfilling her dreams, and in doing so shared passion and joy for living everywhere she went.

When she wasn’t inspiring learning in the the littlest people she was designing welcoming places for all the rest – creating spaces for people to be themselves, to live their own dreams, to love their families and to build their own futures…

“Just Home and Love! the words are small

Four little letters unto each;

And yet you will not find in all

The wide and gracious range of speech

Two more so tenderly complete:

When angels talk in Heaven above,

I’m sure they have no words more sweet

Than Home and Love.”

(Robert W. Service)

 

Home is the people or places that bring you love and comfort, and help you bring love and comfort to others.  Whatever it looks like for you, wherever home is for you, you can fill it with the kind of welcome you want the world to be full of.

“We leave something of ourselves behind when we leave a place, we stay there, even though we go away. And there are things in us that we can find again only by going back there.”
(Pascal Mercier, Night Train to Lisbon)

  

It was her mission to create places where people would be comfortable and inspired. For those of us left behind, we have that mission to carry on – I can let the shock and emptiness weigh me down, or I can spend my energy on making something out of it – wherever and whoever is home to you, you can do it too. Make yourself welcome, open yourself to others, and build…

She would be proud.

Standard
Love Letters

Feeding Love…

One of my friends has been grieving the loss of her mother for the last fourteen months. I can only begin to imagine the depth of her feelings; I have shared in her stories (happy and sad) as she travels this new road of life without her Ma.  I am in awe at the love that is not only woven through vivid memory, but living still in word and action every day…

Two months ago, on the difficult first anniversary of losing her Ma, my friend marked the moment with a heartfelt tribute.  What started out as a way to honour one woman’s amazing and generous spirit has quickly become something so much more. One act of love, in memory of a woman who’s life was love in action, is beginning to multiply like the loaves and fishes.  With her blessing I will share it with you, so that you in turn can pass the love along…

 It started with this little container, and a story. 

  

  

In honour of “Auntie” Anita’s great gift for sharing we were charged with this task: share the love, fill the container, pass it on. I was in awe. 

The container sat, empty, on my kitchen counter for some time. Here was a token from a generous and loving heart – a woman I never met – that represented so much.  Every time it caught my eye I thought about the life of this woman and the many lives she influenced. I relished sharing in the spirit of her generosity, which filled me up like food for the soul. Auntie Anita lived in my heart and kitchen alongside her container until I knew just what to do… I began to bake. 

As always, when baking takes place here at the Martini house there is a purposeful abundance to share. Like Auntie we have a collection of containers saved to fill and distribute amongst friends, teachers, and co-workers in gratitude for the many ways that they share in our lives. This container, though, was special. It needed to go to a special home. I packed it full of chocolate pumpkin spice cake…

    

…and included the story of Auntie with my note. 

I knew exactly who it should go to; another friend of mine, experiencing her own struggles, was in need of something special in her life. 
  

I left this little package on her desk coincidentally on a day that had been a huge challenge for both of us – turning tears of frustration into tears of love and laughter.  

  

One tiny moment leads to another. One tiny token begins to spread. One gesture, one smile, one act of kindness multiplies across the universe. Now when I think of all those containers piled up waiting to give I think of how much love can be shared. As my wonderful friend wrote recently  about her Ma: “perhaps feeding others fills you up too…”

” If I can stop one heart from breaking,

I shall not live in vain;

If I can ease one life the aching,

Or cool one pain,

Or help one fainting robin

Unto his nest again,

I shall not live in vain. ”

(Emily Dickinson)

Standard