Thursday, December 24, 2009

The World Of The Skin Horse


The Skin Horse had lived longer in the nursery than any of the others.  He was so old that his brown coat was bald in patches and showed the seams underneath, and most of the hairs in his tail had been pulled out to string bead necklaces.  He was wise, for he had seen a long succession of mechanical toys  arrive to boast and swagger, and by-and-by break their mainsprings and pass away, and he knew that they were only toys, and would never turn into anything else.  For nursery magic is very strange and wonderful, and only those playthings that are old and wise and experienced like the Skin Horse understand all about it.

“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came into tidy the room.  “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse.  “It’s  a thing that happens to you.  When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt:” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful.  “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up.” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse.  “You become.  It takes a long time.  That’s why it doesn’t happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges or people who have to be carefully kept.  Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby.  But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”


                                                                             The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams

To my friends and family who still believe in nursery magic…Christmas Blessing.







Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The World of Peter Rabbit

Once again, I have entered into the insanity of buying too many Christmas presents.  When the children were young,  it was an exciting moment as the UPS man  arrived at our door, a few days before Christmas with several boxes of toys, carefully chosen from catalogues.  They would be stuffed away in closets until the children had gone to bed where upon I would unpack and examine and touch every toy with such delight and then carefully rewrap them in the theme paper of that year.  Some were beautiful and perfect and some were enjoyed briefly but never fully appreciated.  Some remain tucked away in boxes…. waiting.

This year for Christmas, I had decided I would give  my granddaughter-  a  Peter Rabbit tea set, similar to the set my daughters played with when they were young -only Wedgewood no longer makes such a set.  So I hunted on ebay and was thrilled when I found not only one set but a huge assortment of serving dishes to go with the tea set.  It could not have been more perfect… so I made my bid and with a cup of tea and kitty on my lap, I sat and waited.  Someone countered  and so did I.  All was fine until the last sixty seconds when a bid appeared and with kitty and a cup of tea in hand, I scrambled to  send out one final last bid  but it never reached there in time.  I felt violated.  Someone stole my Peter Rabbit tea set  that Kennedy and I were going to play with.  So I settled for an plastic farm set with singing chickens.

Perhaps today, the modern educated mother looks for toys for her children that will stimulate and educate them.  I always chose toys for my children that I hoped  would become a part of their world and they would enter into the toy’s world, in a magical way that only children can do.  And in doing so, they felt what it was like… to belong.

It was my delight and surprise  when as an adult, I discovered that there remains a magical but very real place where we can go to and belong… that lifts us out of our sometimes disappointing times. It may take a long time to get there but once there, one cannot imagine life any other way.

What is your only comfort in life and in death?

That I am not my own but belong

body and soul…

in life and in death…

to my faithful saviour Jesus Christ.

                                                 Heidelberg Catechism

Saturday, December 19, 2009

There Is A New Visitor In The Woods

Transitions come slowly…day by day…month by month…year by year.  The seasons merge as do the years, one into another.

The woods are quiet now and throughout  the woods, vacant nests sit lonely on barren branches.  The newly arrived winter visitors  take up residence in some of these abandoned nests.

Several weeks ago at dusk, I was pleased to meet a new visitor to the woods,  as he swooped down silently  through the trees.  The Great Horned Owl arrives in our woods shortly after the migrating hawks leave  and takes up residence in the empty nest  of the Red Tail Hawk.  Little refurbishment is done other than an accidently placed feather or two, and it is touch and go as to whether the dilapidated house will survive the winter winds.  It certainly will not be  acceptable to the returning Red Tail come April, without major spring renovations. 

Promises and times of preparation come early in life but fade with the coming years.  One finds that which we loved in our youth,  is forgotten.  What we believed to be the only way…we are not so sure about anymore.  We wish our lost passions could stir us up again.  What surprises come along, are most welcome; they are like treasures and we savour them.  Our beliefs become simpler but deeper…filling.

A young, greatly gifted  and passionate Joni Mitchell sings:

Rows and flows of angel hair

And ice cream castles in the air

And feathered canyons everywhere.

I’ve looked at clouds that way.

But now they only block the sun

And they rain and they snow on everyone.

So many things I would have done

But clouds got in my way.

I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now

From up and down, still somehow

It’s cloud illusions I recall

I really don’t know clouds at all…



Thirty years later she sings the same song after so much living, with ups and downs,

give and take, win and lose…with so much deepness that only comes with time. 


Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Nightingale Sings

At the end of November, seeing trucks of silver, black, blue, and red  sitting empty and waiting along the country lanes, I am reminded that  this is the final week of deer season for the hunters in our area.  It is during this week, my husband always warns me to stay out of the woods in the mornings and evenings and I usually heed this warning.  Hank, my dog, is also quite aware that something goes on in the woods during this week as  each day he would look to the woods, sniffing the air.  But on this final day with a frosty chill in the air,  he knew he could not be content just to smell...he bounded like a deer across the field, over the stream and through the woods. Despite the fact it was early morning and I was in my pink housecoat and shoes, I followed,  yelling at the top of my lungs-“That’ll do Hank!!!”  As I headed down to the stream, I caught a glimpse of him turning left in the direction of the road.  I circled the woods in my pink housecoat, knowing full well, there were several hunters sitting in their tree stands shaking their heads at me.  Stopping to listen, I could hear no sound of a bounding dog.  I was strangely calm (unlike me) as I thought- I have done everything I could do for that dog and still come up short. Yes… he is my constant companion and often travels with me.  We are good friends but  I have yet to capture his heart.  He hears a different voice from within sometimes that stops us from doing great things. I finally gave up and went home with soggy feet.

  Peter Kreeft in his book, Heaven, the Heart’s Deepest Longing, writes of the voice of the little Nightingale that calls  from deep within us.  We must listen well to hear that still small voice as there are other voices too.  Our bounding from place to place will keep us from hearing.  We  appear to be happy, busy, our days filled with important things to do.  Who has time to listen?  The little Nightingale is most unwelcome.  It is why we are never truly happy with ourselves, and what others have to offer us but we pretend to be. I think the voice is lost in the expectations of our youth and as we journey on, and as our paths wander through lonely times, we begin to hear that voice again. I have heard it for many years.  It is not our conscience. It is not our kinder self. It is not beauty. It is not wisdom. It is not in the drama.  It is what takes us beyond those.

    “I have always...had a kind of longing for death.”
    “Ah, Psyche.” I said, “have I made you  so little happy  as that?”
     “No, no, no.” she said.  “ you don’t understand. Not that kind of longing. It was when I was happiest that I longed most.  It was on happy days when we were up there on the hills, the three of us, with the wind and the sunshine...And because it was so beautiful, it set me  longing, always longing...Everything seemed to be saying, Psyche come!  But I couldn’t (not yet) come and I didn’t know where I was to come to.  It almost hurt me. I felt like a bird in  a cage when the other birds of its kind are flying.
 C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces.

I have not heard the European Nightingale but I have heard the Hermit Thrush, often called the American Nightingale.  Dressed in colours of drab browns and rust, he inhabits the lonely forests of North America.  He is considered the sweetest singer of the thrush family. Although most of the time he remains silent,  he begins and finishes each day with a haunting melody that sounds simple to us but is complex enough that we fail to hear  each note than is sung.  Our ears are not able to discern its full song as he calls out. Yet the complexity of his song allows him to call his mate so that he is recognized and welcomed.


Hank finally did come home and I, like a silly old gal,  once again shed a few tears of gratitude and welcome.