A Time for Reflection

Planets and the sun

Yesterday, Ash Wednesday kicked off the forty days of Lent. For those who follow church time, Lent is traditionally a period to clear out the excess that clutters our days to make room for the new life that will come with Easter. It is true that the new will have a hard time finding a spot to settle in with us if all the available real estate is taken.

Without a doubt, our lives get cluttered. Objects, behaviours, ideas, activities – you name it – somehow, these things start to take up way more time, energy and space that we ever thought they would. In the best sense, Lent can be the broom that sweeps clear and helps us get back to the basics. Lent can be a time when we hone in on what really matters to us and how we might find our way to doing what we can to enact change.

Peace Crane Project, Lindale park Gardens, Minneapolis MN

Here is a list of ways to make change this Lent (by no means exhaustive and only meant to prime the pump of your own imagination):

  • Spend at least an hour outdoors every day for the next forty days – fresh air and glimpses of nature (even in the city these do abound!) are restorative.
  • Look into a micro-lending agency like Kiva. Giving a hand up is a great way to make change.
  • Resolve to grow something – anything will do. Start some seeds. Nurture a house plant. Pop the end of a green onion in a glass of water. Simply pay attention to the process and enjoy the miracle of growth.
  • How about this … don’t buy anything you don’t really need for the next forty days.
  • Tackle a de-cluttering task – break it down into small pieces and resolve to finish the job before Easter. Less stuff hanging around is always conducive to a better outlook on life. And you may just find a few things to give away.
  • Heal a broken relationship even if all it involves is letting go and forgiving yourself.
  • Reduce, reuse, recycle, repurpose – any of the R’s will do.

“Everything in life has its own time. There is time to celebrate and there is time to mourn. This is the time for reflection and transformation. Let us look within and change into what we ought to be.” (Aaron Saul)

An angel sitting with the Buddha in our garden - photo by Bruce Witzel

The Twelve Days of Christmas

Christmas mug

On the first day of Christmas, we were so sick with a cold and cough that all we could manage was opening our gifts and sitting by the fire. Got this nifty mug – someone knows me well!

Turkey dinner

On the second day of Christmas we recovered enough to cook our turkey. Yummy.

3rd day of Christmas - special breakfast

Third day of Christmas was greeted by a holiday breakfast – sausages and French toast with icing sugar and whipped cream. We’re getting into the swing of holiday food.

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On the fourth day of Christmas, I used my brand new gloves to load the stove. Gotta keep those home fires burning and as you can see from the first glove photo, I was due for a new pair. 

Garden Gargoyle

Making the coffee on the morning of the fifth day of Christmas, I stare out the kitchen window and wonder what this garden gargoyle is planning.

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Got busy on the sixth day of Christmas clearing out and shredding a bunch of paperwork from the settling of my dad’s estate. He died seven years ago, so it was time. Came across this photo. Five generations – me at barely twenty-one with my son Doug, my dad, his mom and her mom. Wow! The time really does fly.

Cinnamon Sugar Diffuser

The seventh day of Christmas saw me setting up my new Cinnamon-Sugar diffusor. My desk now smells like cookies all the time. Talk about inspiration.

Cabin on Christmas morning 2017 (sharpened version) - bruce witzel photo

The eighth day of Christmas and the first day of 2018. Happy New Year from our home to yours.


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On the ninth day of Christmas our little Wise Men approach closer to the stable. My mom made this dough-art nativity set for me way back when my kids were little. My mother was a very crafty type of person and she was constantly creating things and giving them away. Some I received with politeness and others with great joy. The nativity set was and continues to be the latter. Over the years, baby Jesus’ hands have been broken off and the donkey lost an ear but none of that seems to matter. I am inspired by my mother’s giving, creative, go-for-it spirit. Who else would have created a nativity set from dough-art?

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The tenth day of Christmas sees us enjoying green tomato mincemeat tarts. I made and froze this mincemeat in September with thoughts of New Year treats.

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On the eleventh day of Christmas I am taking some time to reacquaint myself with an ongoing project of knitting up all my scraps of yarn. What I’ll do with all the squares when I’ve emptied the craft bin, I have yet to decide.

Santa Ornament, Dec. 23-2017 - bruce witel photo

Well, the twelfth day of Christmas is upon us. We’re saying goodbye to the season. Sorry to see the end of decorations, lights, cards, gifts and yummy food. But it’s time to move on with 2018. Here’s hoping that all of you have had a joy-filled holiday. Best of everything for the new year.

All Saints Day

Saint Francis - Patron Saint of Ecology and the Poor

All Saints Day – also known as All Hallows – thus last night was All Hallows Eve!

A bit of reflection on saintliness via some literary minds is a nice way to start the month of November. This list of quotes came to my attention on Writers Write blog.

Gardening Saint

Saints should always be judged guilty until they are proved innocent. (George Orwell)

Saints - Bruce Witzel photo

If I were going to convert to any religion I would probably choose Catholicism because it at least has female saints and the Virgin Mary. (Margaret Atwood)

St. Francis in Santa Fe

Saints have no moderation, nor do poets, just exuberance. (Anne Sexton)

Blessing of the animals , downtown LA - bruce witzel photo

Kids delight in ‘magical thinking’, whether in the form of the Tooth Fairy or the saints: whether you see these as comforting lies or eternal verities, they are part of how we help kids make sense of the world. (Emma Donoghue)

Statue in Montreal - photo by Bruce Witzel

In his holy flirtation with the world, God occasionally drops a handkerchief. These handkerchiefs are called saints. (Frederick Buechner)

Gravelbourg Cemetary

Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future. (Oscar Wilde)

MosiaCanada 150–Over But Not Forgotten

The Muskoxen

(My personal favourite – Muskoxen – an offering from the Northwest Territories. I could almost feel his grassy hair blowing in the breeze.)

MosiaCanada, a signature event of Canada’s 150 celebrations in the Ottawa/Gatineau area, was our countries biggest horticultural event.

Lise Cormier, head of Mosaicultures Internationales of Montreal, instrumental in bringing this event to life, says, “Canada is space and this is really a place for imagination.” So true!

The Canadian Horse

(The Canadian Horse – New Brunswick)

I had the great pleasure to visit this installation, a tribute to our country’s history and its founding peoples, in late September when the temperature soared to the mid-30’s -uncharacteristic for that time of year.

Bill Reid's Killer Whale 2

(Bill Reid’s Killer Whale – British Columbia)

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My son, Doug, and I strolled over the bridge from downtown Ottawa to Jacques-Cartier park in Gatineau, with incredible views of Canada’s Parliament Buildings the whole way.

View of Parliament Hill

Once in the park, we marvelled at the incredible pieces of mosiculture artwork arrayed around a winding one-kilometre path through the park. Though I felt somewhat wilted due to the heat, the plants were fresh and trimmed to exquisite form with a multiple of gardeners snipping away in the shadows.

The Drum Dancer

(Another favourite – The Drum Dancer – Nunavat)

The pieces combined three different art expressions – sculpture for the structure, a palette of colour and horticulture as the medium to create a living, ever changing form. Each piece consisted entirely of annual plants, most chosen for colourful, season-long foliage instead of flowers, grown in soil sandwiched between layers of a geotextile supported by metal frames and watered by internal irrigation systems.

The Puffins

(The Puffins – Newfoundland and Labrador)

Ahead of the June 30th opening, almost 100 gardeners – some from the Chinese cities of Shanghai and Beijing, which sent pieces to celebrate Canada’s birthday – were at work installing what would total over three million plants of 80 different varieties.

Blessing of the Good Dragon

(Blessing of the Good Omen Dragon – Beijing)

A horticulture friendship between Canada with Shanghai and Beijing led to coloured works of art that delighted the eye.

Celebration of the Nine Lions

(Joyful Celebration of the Nine Lions – Shanghai)

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The biggest sculpture was a 15-metre tour-de-force – Mother Earth: The Legend of Aataentsic.

Mother Earth

Mother Earth sits in contemplation with her gentle face of silvery grey santolina and long hair of tumbling sweet potato vine and purple petunias. Water pours from her car-sized palm, where a bird alights to drink, into a shimmering pool below.

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MosiaCanada 150 closed on Oct. 15th after more than 1.3 million visitors took in the sheer delight of living mosiculture. I am so happy to count myself among those who wandered in wonder.

The Lobster Fisherman

(The Lobster Fisherman – Nova Scotia)

Home and Happy

Clematis in full bloom

Will you look at that clematis in full bloom right outside the kitchen door! Wow!

It’s been two weeks since I came home from my travels in southern Alberta. From the land of rolling fields of canola, rodeo broncs and shiny buckles, cowboy culture and prairie winds to my Vancouver Island, lakeside cabin. I had some wonderful time with kids and grandkids. Life is good.

Kristen and Me

Me and my lovely daughter, Kristen enjoying music in the park.

Canada Day Cuties

My Canada Day cuties – Emma and Brit.

High River rodeo

They’re wearing that Alberta look well – daughter – Kristen, son-in-law – Matt, and granddaughters – Emma and Brit.

So – enough of holiday antics. I thought I’d share a few highlights from the last couple of weeks at home.

Fresh Salad Greens

Fresh salad greens from the garden is a big treat! The lettuce, radishes, baby kale and chives make an attractive side dish.


Lots of work for the head gardener but it sure pays off.

Lower Garden

Vegetables aren’t the only thing in the garden these days.

Oh my, bear and Buddha

Bear and Buddha – east meets west Smile

Bear and apple tree cha, cha, cha Bear and apple tree – cha, cha, cha. For this dance the bear is definitely leading.

Bleeding Heart

The last of the Bleeding Heart in the woodland garden.

2017 Wild West Rodeo – Making Memories Alberta Style.

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Guy Weadick Days in High River, Alberta – Pro Rodeo, WPCA Chuckwagons, food trucks and … stop the presses right there. What more can you ask for?

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I lunched on pirogues smothered in caramelized onion, bacon and sour cream. Wow, oh wow!

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Rodeo and chuckwagons are an integral part of High River history and this prairie town knows how to host a bang-up event.

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Guy Weadick, the man the High River Rodeo is named for, is the father of the Stampede tradition in Canada. He came to Fort McLeod in 1904 and fell in love with the area. In 1908, with wife Florence La Due at his side, the pair came to Calgary as part of the Miller Brothers Wild West Show. Guy organized the first ever Calgary Expedition and Stampede in 1912. He went on to introduce the sport of Chuckwagon Racing to the Stampede in 1923.

Guy and Florence Weadick

Guy and Florence lived west of High River on the Stampede Ranch. They brought Hollywood to the Highwood through their friendships with Will Rogers, Hoot Gibson and Charles Russell. Guy was laid to rest in the High River Cemetery in 1953.

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All of the Pro-Rodeo events were exciting but my granddaughters and I loved the barrel racing best!

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The Chuckwagon Races have always been a big hit in High River. Since first run in 1946, the town’s enthusiasm for the heart-stopping competition has never faded. I can attest to that fact. The crowds were packed in for the Sunday running and the boot stomping excitement when those chucks rounded the last corner shook the huge grandstand.

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During a break in the rodeo action, granddaughter Brit took a fall and scraped her knee, drawing blood. A medical attendant was on the scene in moments. Like I said, a well-organized event!

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I can’t end this blog without reporting on the first event of the day – Woolie Bucks. Kids chase after sheep to snatch envelopes of prize money from their backs. Only at the rodeo, as the saying goes.

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A few last minute instructions and the race is on.

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The sheep were stiff competition but no match for these little cow pokes.

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Run like you stole that money off the back of a sheep!

We recently looked back on the one-year anniversary of the day my daughter and her family sold their home in B.C. and made their way to High River, Alberta. Trepidation was high for Bruce and I. We wondered how this change would effect all our lives. I am happy to report that things have come out as right as B.C. rain. The community of High River has been a special treat for all of us – welcoming and packed with all a young family with growing kids could want as well as special events grandparents can enjoy!

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Free Book Offer Continues

May 8th - 1st day - 5th capture

Disappearing in Plain Sight hit number 1 in the Amazon Free Store in the category of Literary Sagas today Smile 

Free book offers continues until midnight Wednesday, May 10th. Don’t miss out on a chance to read the first book in the Crater Lake Series for free.


All my chimes were ringing in celebration today.

Pick up your free copy of Disappearing in Plain Sight on Amazon.com or Amazon.ca or Amazon.co.uk. Or search for it on the Amazon site of your choice. It is free everywhere Amazon operates.

And while you’re out and about book buying, please check out the pre-release page for the 4th book in the Crater Lake Series – No Compass to Right. Available June 1st.

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