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Janice DePeel

Seasonal Observations

I’m amazed how quickly January passed again this year.  There was a time, not long ago, when every month seemed to hang on forever and I felt like dates I looked forward to took the longest time to arrive and were over in the blink of an eye.  Now, it seems to be the opposite.  Time seems to be on fast forward and is passing by so quickly I barely have time to comprehend everything that’s taking place.  And I’ve been under the erroneous impression that while everything else is changing, I’ve remained the same.  But then I caught a brief glance of my image in the bathroom mirror and I had to stop and look again.  It was me reflecting back yet, for a moment, I thought it was my Dad.  I’ve been wearing my hair short and it was in wild disarray, my eyes were tired and puffy but he was there and then he was gone. Meanwhile my children are growing up and maturing right before my eyes, changing every time I blink, it seems.  So I’ve been looking for ways to slow down and savour the moments in order to really appreciate them.  And then I get distracted and time goes rushing past again.  

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Are You Happy?

As I listened to my daughter fall asleep the other night I heard her breathing shift and begin to change as she fell into slumber.  And I became aware of a sound I wasn’t familiar with, not at bedtime at least.  I asked if she was awake and she grunted.  But the sound is heard continued.  I asked if she was okay. “Uhm hmm” was her reply.  No words.  That got me worried.  I asked if she was crying.  She said, “I’m laughing.  I’m having good memories.”  I continued to listen to her muffled laughter until she truly fell asleep.  A few days later, I was handed some advise; “No matter where you are in life, no matter how much money you have, remember where you come from, and then you’ll always be happy.”

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It’s a Dog’s Life

My earliest memory is of our family dog, Lawdy.  She was a beautiful Sheltie who met an untimely demise following an accident.  That’s the problem with having a truly beloved pet.  We are never ready to say goodbye.  After Lawdy, the only other dog who has made a significant impact on my childhood memories was a dog we were given when he was about eighteen months old.  His name was Smokey and he was smart as a whip.  He was a Boxer/Shepherd mix and was as loyal as he was obedient.  None of us children, or our parents, ever doubted this dog would give his life for any of us.  My brothers taught him to chase someone, catch them, then hold them to the ground until the release signal was given - all in an afternoon.  The day ended with the boys showing Smokey’s prowess at obediently following commands based on head, hand and finger signals.  It was their triumph but one they never would have realized had it not been for the loyalty and trust Smokey put in all of us.  Life wasn’t easy.  He disappeared from our yard one day.  Over the next three days we all spent time calling for him to come home, scanning up and down the street looking for him and plenty of tears were shed as I considered what life without him would be like.  Word came that someone thought they’d seen him in Meath Park - a far cry from home in Candle Lake, especially for a dog.  A trip was taken to look for him anyway.  I wasn’t supposed to know.  But the silent, grim faces and non-verbal messages passed between the older ones in the family told the story no one wanted to say.  We heard rumours of a dog matching his description in a ditch along side the highway.  Not our Smokey, I reasoned with my eight year old brain.  He was too smart to be so close to cars on the highway.  And then on the fifth day he’d been away, I saw a muddy brown body determinedly making its way up the road toward our home.  He was so dirty I didn’t recognize him but there was something in his gait, I just knew it had to be him.  “Smokey?” It seemed too good to be true.  “He’s here! He’s here!”  Somehow, even though I HAD been first in line, my brothers greeted him first.  He was tired, hungry, a mess but so happy to be home!  As he whined and cried with joy, all of us were painfully hit on our legs with his thick, solid wagging tail but we didn’t even protest.  His body was writhing in the pure joy of being back with his people, and as he moved, caked mud fell from his coat.  An hour later he was bathed, brushed, had food in his belly and was asleep with the six of us checking on him to make sure he was really home.  Smokey wasn’t perfect.  Far from it.  He liked to intimidate people so he’d put his nose in the crotch of any strangers who came to visit.  Or, if someone he didn’t know made a sudden move that he felt was confrontational, particularly against a female, Smokey would hit their hand with his nose.  He never opened his jaw.  He never crossed that line.  But for as courageous and brave as he was, he disliked when we went away.  He’d gather a personal item of clothing from each of us and make his bed with it.  He refused to come out for the dog sitter and he wouldn’t eat, the grief of our absence was so profound for him.  Whenever we had a thunderstorm, he’d huddle under the blankets seeking comfort from one of us children.  It’s the only time I ever saw him quake with fear.  Thunder bothered him but when he stood face to face with a big black bear, eventually putting the bear up a tree for fifteen minutes, he didn’t move an inch and he defiantly stood his ground.  Smokey was the best. Dog. EVER.

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Nature’s Art

Dorion, Brown, Van Gogh, Adams, Sudol, and a list of people too numerous to mention, are gifted artists whose works I both admire and draw inspiration from when I feel the need to be creative.  Their influences are not isolated to just me and my own aspirations of being an art aficionado though.  The amazing things this small list of artists I’ve mentioned can do with a brush, a piece of wood, beads, words in a song or poem, or even a camera can stir thoughts and emotions like little else can.  And as I mention the few artists I have, like me, I’m sure other names come to mind for you.  We all have our favourites.  Lately I’ve been admiring the work of someone who doesn’t often receive the acknowledgement they truly deserve.  There are even some who have become oblivious to the artistry involved and simply attribute what they see to science and a mixture of chemicals and light coming together to create amazing scenes for all of us to appreciate.  I’m not one to be quite so blasé.  And I’m certainly not one to down play some of the scenes I’ve been witness to, along with you, over the last few weeks. At the same time, it doesn’t sit well with me to simply explain away what I’m seeing as being Mother Nature either.  I know what I’m seeing is so much larger than my own existence.  The magnitude of gratitude I feel when I witness what I’m seeing is so much more than anything I can achieve as I try to create beauty and be industrious in my own life.  Nothing I can do is comparable to the things God can create for us to enjoy every day.

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Remember When…?

When my eldest son was in public school he had to read a book called The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.  In one chapter of the book the main character eats a particular candy.  I found it and when he came to that part of the story, I gifted him with a small box of the candy, Turkish Delight.  It brought me great joy to watch him nibbling on the confection as he read the story where the main character ate the same item.  I was delighted to help him make a personal connection with the story he was reading.

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