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Photo by the very brilliant Anabel
I'm a former Snowlander and even though I've now lived in the land of alternating glorious sun and torrential rain for about 16 years, I still can't get over how stunningly beautiful our Autumns here can be.  The air is so clear and bracing, you tell yourself you very literally feel energized by it.  We live in this unique patch of land wherein you can look about and simultaneously gape at mountains, ocean, lakes, river and a whole other country (we're a stone's throw (or two) away from the USA).  There are endless things to do outside here, all of them featuring the most fantastic natural beauty you've ever dropped your jaw alongside to. 

I feel very lucky to live here.  I love being able to go out for my runs still in a tank top and thin running pants.  There's no question that it's chilly for the first ten minutes or so, but then you finish the rest of your run congratulating yourself on your tremendous insight and wisdom which have allowed you to be running still in November thus scantily clad because you were so clever as to move here to begin with. 

Right around January, I start to feel the psychological drain of what feels like incessant gray, but then along comes February.  I don't know why, but we almost always seem to have the world's most stunning February here.  Remember the Olympics? 

Our flora and fauna here are truly something to write home about.  In my own backyard, I've personally seen raccoons, black bears (two of them), deer and rabbits.  My neighbor once saw what he believed was a wolverine, early on one silent summer morning.  There are regularly cougar sightings here.  The trees I gaze upon in the forest just beyond my backyard are a cacophony of green, each vying for your attention.  There are massive cedars that look to be centuries old and these are just the grandfathers of the tree hierarchy.  They are stalwart.  They look down upon the myriad young  with a steady patience, uncompromising in their roles as overseers.  They (and our lawns) stay green all winter long, providing a heady flash of color when you find yourself in the middle of all that rain that makes a perpetual damp of our winter here.  I love it.  Barring perhaps a swift move to Maui, I can't see myself ever living anywhere else.


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And another one from Anabel's collection
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Dinner

10/28/2010

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We're not unique in this.  Families everywhere congregate to eat together at night.  I had a friend once who teasingly lambasted me for taking pictures of and then scrapbooking about ordinary blips of life.  This friend thought my penchant for doing so was the silliest thing ever.  He thought photos were for documenting the more unique events in life.  I've not changed my ways, though, as you can see.  I'm still the frantic Weirdo Mom wielding her camera at the most mundane - and sometimes inopportune - of times.  These photos show (some of) us eating a regular, old family dinner together. 

I feel a compulsion to document these ordinary days because I can see already that they are fleeting.  I know the day will come where the dinner hour won't be a noisy cacophony of extroverted people competing aggressively to share about their respective days.  The Quiet will be so sad.  And so in the meantime, I comfort myself with the taking of countless commonplace pictures.  And I laugh when Oliver triumphantly informs us all that Lola wasn't closing her eyes during prayer.

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He often reads to us as the stragglers finish up
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 I live in a warm part of this country, and so these men and women flock to our fair city, dirty coats flapping out behind them as they aimlessly meander down the streets rendered unsafe by their arrival.  They can sleep outside all night here, without shelter, and assuredly not freeze to death somewhere in the process.   They bring along with them so many social complications.  They force us to ask hard questions of ourselves.  What do we owe these people?

I feel convinced that it is not judgment they need.  I feel convinced that it is not money tossed guiltily their way that they need.  Illustrating this, I once encountered a dirty, helpless, wheelchair bound woman who seemed, too, to have special needs.  I was putting my groceries into my car when she approached me, asking for money so that she could get a special wheelchair equipped ride home.  I felt more than a simple stab of pity as I dug through my purse to give her what she needed.  My pity quickly grew to be much more complicated  as I then watched her wheel away to a perfectly clean, able-bodied young man in a flashy sports car, to whom she very servilely passed over the money I'd just given her, in exchange for what I can only assume were drugs.  The answer, if there truly is one for us while we still dwell on this earth, is no simple one.

Our city has recently had to dissemble a 'city' of sorts comprised of homeless people and their accompanying 'homes.'  I felt so sad to hear that it had to be done and yet I agreed that it needed to be.  The social aftermath for neighboring home owners just became too much for them to deal with.  The rampant theft, the used drug paraphernalia littering their lawns, the fear in their hearts for the safety of their sleeping children - all of these I have personally experienced.  We were once the chagrined owners of an SUV boldly emblazoned with a giant silver penis spray painted on with drug-induced abandon.  My station wagon was once stolen right from my own driveway as I readied the kids for school.  I came home late one night from a girls-night-out  to see a disheveled man hunched over on his expensive bike at the end of my driveway, doing goodness-knows-what to his arm.  All the while my children slept just meters away.  I had to call my husband with my cell phone to assure me safe passage to my own front door.  I have lost count of how many bicycles we've had stolen from our back yard.  I'm no armchair critic.  I've lived a life that very frequently brushes up against the social problems attendant to the plight of our homeless.  And plight it most certainly is.

I berate myself when I - in sunshiney ignorance - take on a topic like this.  I don't feel up to the task of doing it justice and yet this draft has been sitting incomplete in my drafts folder for months now.  It's either finish it up, or throw it out at this juncture.   My perfectionism isn't always very conducive to writing a blog.  I want to do things well and little recipes or quick blips about something cute one of the kids said or did make for better fodder for me while using this medium.  Not so helpful when I want to pontificate about the spiritual obligation we (Christians and perhaps non-Christians alike) have to these homeless. 

As a follower of Christ, I know that an important first step is the meeting of the physical needs I see before me.  However, I also know that that's by no means the end of what I owe the homeless.  But I know too, that the second doesn't effectively take place without the first.  Some cutting-edge young thinkers at our church recently made a documentary about our city's homeless and they talked at some length about how crucial it is that we go past the step of giving money and follow that up with ministering -  hands on - to these people's physical needs.  Evidently, our city leads charitable giving in this country with each member giving something like $620 per year.  The distant second contender (Kelowna, I believe) gives something like $350.  Ironically, though, we fall dramatically short with our volunteerism.  I guess many of us are thinking that if we throw money at the problem, that's the end of our obligation.  I find myself harbouring this attitude.  And so I feel some plaguing conviction.  I want to contribute and yet at this life stage, I'm not sure how.  I'm wary (to say the least) about bringing my children with me to an inner city church where we can tangibly help.  Unfortunately, homelessness doesn't end with mere homelessness.  Along with it come things like drug addiction, mental illness, theft, all things that make my maternal danger-0-meter clang into high gear when I ponder how my family can help.  Have any of you come up with an answer?  I think that if JoyBoy and I were empty nesters, this question would be a lot simpler.  In the meantime, I just give the cash and hope for the best.  That and I pray.