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I stole away the other afternoon…to convene with some memories made in the lighter months. I went to the home of a friend, a lover of sun and all things green that thrive in the sprinkler mist, sun showers, and morning dew.
There were none of those things there to greet me. Just a benign winter sun, giving light without heat and a breeze not to offer relief from heat. But it did deliver a chill and need to face my back to it.
And there was the walk of cobblestones with surf smoothed bits of colored glass, pebble, and shell in between. We had wandered the shore on serene afternoons with a dream and design in mind, that beckoned us to U.S. 101 and beaches to the south.

And on this day of frost and fading light…I was again wandering in brine soaked sand with the surf in my ears, and gulls hovering and singing their shoreline declarations in the steady breeze. And out of habit, I reached for that familiar hand to hold…and instead found but a memory. Ah, but such memories are so worth embracing and recalling time and again.

frosty cone

Over half way through January and the daylight gets longer with each dawn. I see through the shadows and bare branches that the crow still feeds, the squirrel sleeps, and the critters in pasture huddle near to each other. And today I stand near to the place where the spring roses go to bud, the bulbs slowly reach, and the robin seeks a place of safety to fashion a nest…but this is all months away. For now I’ll unwrap a few saved moments and memories as I stand in the midst of this slumbered and treasured place…the fond things I’ve saved up for a rainy day. It’s not quite raining yet, but those ominous clouds are sign that a stormy evening is on the way…


It’s all good and it’s alright, for I know that the green is on the way…I saw winter wheat decorating a brown field just the other day. And a hawk was on the wing, in search of company, of a meal on the run. In search of a warm breeze, should the western gorge send a sweet Chinook stirring this way…And you can be sure that I too will turn my cheek to the sun then, and let a window down enough to feel a hint of spring on a winter’s day.


And I know you’ll occasionally look upon the hoses for watering, and tools for tilling and turning and planting of starts, seeds, bulb and the promising bare stem…And like a prayer uttered, we look on longingly and fondly, and busy ourselves while we hope and wait. God will answer, and winter will always be followed with spring.


With the gathering of fog on the rivers near to here, I listen to the chorus from a V of Canada geese passing overhead.

Canada_geese_flying

And I know you rest assured by a faded rose hanging in the place near the book shelf, and over the mirror in your room. And know the gloves and watering can are eagerly awaiting your touch, as you anticipate that day as well. For now, I will wander near to the places there on a quiet afternoon, where nature and your knowing hands will soon provide me blossom, bud, gifts of new green, and heavenly scented blooms.


Matthew Landsman

 


 

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…middle of winter, thinking about June. The sun did shine a little today but at 23 degrees, I cursed the sunset and wish the day didn’t have to end so soon.  But I put extra comforters on my bed, and wished I had a fireplace to sit by and compose words of summer, tales of friends…rhymes of my old loves as the frost descends at afternoon’s end.

Walkin’ the floor, folding my clothes…longing to be able to feel warm grass on bare toes, and having a drink from a garden hose. I watched a man at work the other day, pruning the rose bushes that bloomed till November. Even the flowers that had faded and withered still held onto the breezes of late July, the summer rains, and passers by…as did I.

I thought about sunrise at four am, dreamed about an open window and a nap in the afternoon. I sighed a winter sigh and looked to the west, looked to the sunset and realized that I hadn’t had dinner yet. And I reached into my pocket to find but an empty place, so I took my hand out and reached for you there. And I did find you tucked away warm and smiling in a dusty memory, found you waiting for me as I whispered a prayer. I sang a love song softly to your faded picture there…sang a song of lost loves and solemn days. As a mournful dove joined with me in the chorus before taking wing for a warmer place to sleep away night.

Middle of winter and the music is playing low. January slipping quietly by and reminds me to not wish it away…cause even un-embraced winter days are worthy and needful, and make great memories. And I will laugh of such nights in the July afternoons, but for now, you’re all I have, and I’ll have you along with a warm pair of socks and a James Taylor tune. And I’ll sing our song there in the shower as the suds roll to the drain. And I’ll be quietly reminded, that our time ended too soon.

It’s the middle of winter, and I’m thinking about June…thinking about long shadows and the rustling of leaves, and wishing our time hadn’t ended so soon. Matthew

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Lately I have struggled and searched to join the masses in feeling the joy of the holidays. The spirit was sadly eluding me and I longed for inspiration to find me so that I might write for all of you in honor the celebration just days away.

Yesterday the spirit of the season came to me through a quiet knock on my front storm door. It was above freezing outside, just barely. A meager snow that had fallen the day before had begun to melt some and was slush on the street out front. But in the shadow of my house, the sidewalk there was still in ice and snow.

I opened my door actually expecting to see a client who was on the way to pick up a computer I had fixed for her. Instead, I was greeted by a young boy, who had recently become a neighbor. He stood silent there on my porch. He said nothing, but had a broad smile on his face and snow shovel in his hand, blade to the top. The handle had been resting on my porch, but he raised it up a bit and smiled even broader. I asked him if “he thought I should use it to clean my walk?”, but he just said no. I told him “if he did that for me, I would give him a bit of money”…He just smiled again and turned to walked down the porch steps, still having said but a word or two. And still this great young kid wore that wonderful smile that can win over the day, which was by coincidence the winter solstice.

As I heard the blade start to scrape the concrete and ice, my mind wandered back to another frozen sidewalk…Back to the north a few hundred miles and forty five long years ago. Another boy had shovel in hands, and chipped away at a hard frozen layer of ice and snow, clearing a span of sidewalk without a fee in mind.

The day before, my Momma had been walking on that walk and slipped to fall and broke several of the small bones that joined arm to hand. I felt a duty and need to go make the world a safer place for her to walk, a less hazardous place to weather the British Columbia winter.

So with shovel in hand and winter clothes over all, I set out to honor my due as a boy with a cast-wearing mom. And as I recall, it was likely the first time dealing with such a chore, and I was a scrub of a boy, winded and sweaty as I made safe passage for all that ventured there…perhaps too little too late, but my life as a protector was about to begin.

I was just seven or eight years old then…rather small and in the middle of seven kids born to my folks. It wasn’t a time of prosperity. And having to share the needs and desires of life with so many siblings often left a kid with more of a tendency to spend hours browsing through the ‘Simpsons-Sears” (the Canadian version of America’s Sears and Roebucks) winter “wish book”. And I also recall being more than envious of some of the kids of more affluent families thereabouts who often kindly shared their bounty of gifts with me at play time.

I was old enough to believe otherwise, but I still harbored close the belief in Santa, in his ability to somehow know of my wants and wishes…And perhaps it was that same year that I was again to have my belief validated. Made true in the discovery of a new red bicycle in the living room there on Christmas dawn. I had always ridden well-worn and used bikes until then. It might not have been a Schwinn with a drag slick in back and a springer front fork with a small wheel up front, and banana seat and high bars and a five speed shifter, and all that (I still want one of those)…But it was mine. It was brand new, and Santa had heard me and delivered it to the side of the tree! Whew! I get breathless just remembering.

And not only did I believe in old St Nick. I was also being given insight to the true meaning of Christmas, sent to Catechism on Wednesday evenings, attended services on Sundays there at the Catholic Church in Abbotsford…I even had my first communion during that time in the Western most Province. I was far from a saint and had more than my share of trouble inside…and I needed all the help given my parents and siblings. But I was in truth being given the tools I would need later in life.

I will share that I was a troubled soul even then. I was in fact a bit of a brat. I admit that I often felt perhaps I was less that loveable, at times undeserving of favor by Santa, of blessings by God. I can also share that I was never slighted by Santa, even when I was caught peeking at gifts under the tree and otherwise spoiled Christmas for myself. But Santa came through, and my family and God too still loved me.

And as far as God loving me, I found strong evidence of that when I was riding my shiny red bike along a busy thoroughfare, and somehow got in the way of a very large Cadillac. I was to be sent through the air quite a ways, and deposited on my little melon. But I never lost consciousness, nor did I break a bone. I was treated to a headache and a visit to the hospital directly across the street from the accident scene. And my very bent shiny red bicycle was in turn repaired by my father and put back in service in short order.

While reflecting on the events from my past as that smiling boy scraped snow and ice from my walk, I dipped into the cup in my bathroom where I keep all my change. I pulled ten quarters out of it and joined that boy on the sidewalk. I handed them to him, and told him there were ten of them in his gloved hand. I quizzed him in math by asking him how much they added up to. For a minute we reasoned and multiplied, added and figured the issue successfully. He is a pretty bright boy.

I returned to my house and waited to see if he would end his efforts now that he had been paid. I was rewarded by the resumption of the sounds of scraping and chipping by the shovel wielding boy. And I rewarded the honorable young man by returning to the sidewalk with a couple cookies. I inquired then of his age, and through a smile he replied that he was eleven. I looked at this great kid there in his sweat pants and baggy sweat coat, and mittens, with a mussed up healthy head of hair. I asked what his name was. He told me, “I’m Richard, at school the kids call me Richie, but you can call me Richard or Richie, whichever you want.”

I said, “thank you Richie…you’re a good kid”. He smiled and I went back inside. I felt a sigh while knowing I had found there on my porch in a smiling and earnest boy named Richard or Richie, the very spirit of Christmas that had been eluding me, escaping me. In a ten minute span, I was again gifted through the present and the past my belief in Santa, in family, in Christmas, in the reasons for the season, Jesus and God…and in fact; in ME.

There have been many reminders come flooding to me since those divine minutes of yesterday afternoon, and many good souls have reached out to me to reinforce the spirit of things…

But most of all, I found the young boy in me again through the boy on my porch. And I know that this year Christmas found me standing there on my porch through a boy named Richie with a shovel, a smile, an already admirable work ethic…and a spirit to remind me of what I’ve been missing so far since Thanksgiving had faded in my mind.

Thanks to Richie, to Santa, my parents, and to a generous God, I can wish you all a very Merry Christmas. I remind you to hug your folks, to embrace your family, to thank God for sending us his only Son…and to open your minds, hearts, arms, and doors…’cause you never know what you might find…

Thanks Momma and Dad. Love, Matthew Lyle…

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Come gather here, on this frosty morn. Invite lost souls, from family torn. Assemble where kettles boil, ovens roast, and fires warm. No matter, if it be a meager meal or something more, come gather around and seek a hand to touch, to warm and hold. Then offer thanks and prayers.

Get together with fond memories, of one who toiled in a kitchen over yester-years. A labor of love began in the dawn of the day, not just to cook, but to beckon, to invite, to hearken back where echoes remain…incited by scent, by laughter, sighs, and a lingering presence from a celestial place. And again I’ll spend the day with a collective blend of all such days once spent, and sigh a sigh of such fondness and sentiment that love for departed brings her to home again…and I’ll look to the dusting of flour for a simple fingerprint left, a whiff of cologne that drifts from a place beyond…and I will smile a quiet smile at just the faint wistfulness of such a divine day…

Come gather here to give retreat for the prodigal, embrace to the chilled. To offer love from thin air where yearnings thrive, and relief eludes.

Come gather here, be it just two, or twenty. And give thanks for the offering of the day, be it in retrospect or hopeful of a cache of fresh inspiration to be dipped into in later days…It is otherwise just another Thursday, but is much more. And linger there on Friday…and even a day or two more.

My heart feels a resigned twinge of the constant barrage of offerings on a Friday called black…a Friday that reminds us to gather for the later giving…but it is time and patience and compassion in need of sharing, contrary to the things one might place in box or bag. It is love, it is promise. It is a pledge to be there in the dark months ahead that should be written in IOU’s for family and friend…It is a black Friday indeed that we look beyond our door to fill what the souls truly need.

I give thanks this year for simple things that find and fill me when I close my eyes at day’s end…and a knowing that all I see behind closed eyes is what accompanies me and gives relevance to not just the day of Thanksgiving, but all the days in between.

I will seek to find you, both to give refuge, and to seek it. Come gather here around tables large and small…and bask in the fires of home, whether from hearth or heart, to chase away the chills and lonesome days.

I call out to the hearts of those close and far, be it by miles or a lack of agreement on life’s issues…I will long for a glad closure of the miles or mind.

Come gather here and offer gratitude to your version of a higher power for the blessings past, present, or in wishful days to come. Gather here and let your spirits flourish and give freely of things which can be found only in smiles and laughter, and essential faith…Come gather here.

Happy Thanksgiving and good wishes in the season ahead.

Matthew Lyle.

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Sunday afternoon…the shadows are growing long. September lingers still with its subtle reminders…and November is about to board at the station of time…Regardless of my wishful thinking, leaves will soon descend and meet me at boot level and give way to the remnants of sunny hours that dwindle as the solstice of winter waits in the wings.
It is a yearly ritual, the dance between nature and I, turning my back to the chilled breeze, my face to the midday sun. Turning my ear to the changing chorus of the winds as the branches empty and the notes of the storms fade from a low moan to an empty sad sigh…
My steps become a bit more urgent, my hands will fill pockets in search of warmth…and dusty gloves will soon be shook free of the warm month’s exile in a coat pocket or seasonal drawer. Longer sleeves soon step back into the fray after months tucked away. And before my breath can be seen in the shade, I will return again to thoughts of friends gathering there around the flames,  around the tables, around the bend where we’ll find each other…hiding behind smiles and handshakes and quiet sighs.
And I will greet the frost with gratitude, with respect and a nod…for it had the strength  to bring the fairer season to her knees, and ushered in the shades of autumn…the passing of days in dwindled hours.
And I will look to you for a warm embrace, a hand to hold, and love the sight of a cold weather tear there in your eyes…and I will tend the fires, in the hearths and hearts…and burn the midnight oils, not in wait of spring and summer, but in gratitude for the one just passed.
I’ll see you in the yard, with a rake there in your hands, and send a wave and knowing smile as we tend to the tasks and glance at the setting sun, and Canada geese on the wing, come home to graze and nest while the darker months pass…Happy autumn friend.

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fall colorsFall and October are being ushered into the Northwest on blustery wings and benign clouds here in the desert. All at once the things of summer here gave way and were added to memories of all that was before…While I rolled up my watering hoses and put sprinkler heads away yesterday, I came to realize this is the advent of my fifty fourth autumn…I was born in the time of frost and dwindling daylight in the midst of October then…
I am still able to wander out into the day in short sleeves, but she is coming once again…the chilly mistress who decorates the trees in shades of orange, brown, red and gold. She is coming, accompanied by shorter days and lengthened nights…she is coming to remind me, that time is passing, and there will soon be a change of the calendar…and a fresh new year to embrace…she is coming once again. Autumn, in all her glory…Take care with you…Matthew

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A fall garden gives thanks…till after the dark spell.

There comes an autumn night when the first dew descends and blesses the petals, leaves, blades and shrub. From the day last spring you gave fresh life to the soil with your nurturing hands, all of these have waited for a fall day to thank you for your touch, the quiet songs you sing as you tend, weed, and do the things to bring life and beauty to this corner lot of town growing old.

A show of thanks to the gardener…

From a day in early April that first saw life given you…annual volunteers and nursery flats have all known of your love…the love you give and absorb in return from shoot and stem, infant leaves still pale and taut in wait of warmer afternoons. And the feel of joy from bud and blossoms for the touch and tending from knowing hands, still lingers on in September.

Therapy by Mother Nature…

And just as you had waited for brighter noons and longer days, in quiet anticipation of the unfurling and uncurling of leaf and bloom, now the seasoned plants there can feel one last gratuitous standing ovation for you before slumber and decay coincide with warmer socks, a sweater, and brisker walks for the gardener and her friend.

For nearly six months, she has had her regular therapy gleaned from soil and sun, breeze, and fresh air there among the beds and bushes, bulbs and long stems. Convening with nature, in solitude among the crowds of flowers and songbirds, dragonflies, honey bees, and ladybugs. So even out here on her own, the gardener is never truly alone.

A place for tools to rest till spring…

Come October, even the heartier plants have to succumb under urges to yawn and slip into slumber…And the gloves and tools, save the leaf rakes, will find a place in a dark shed, a corner to lean against, or a drawer to nestle in. And there will be a solemn rolling up of hoses and draining of the ancient pump there next to the driveway under a mantle of trees. The canal will be let to run dry as the winter wheat takes root and the grape crush hopes it’s a good year and finds itself a place behind a coveted label…

The way to home in October

Life doesn’t end with the hibernation of the gardens in the lot there on Cascade Street, but the earth does rest, collect winter waters, and spent leaves that cascade back to the life giving ground in a layer of thanks.

And the gardener will tend to the stuff of the cooler and cold dark months. She will be grateful for the rest of the knees, back, and hands. And she will remember the first bloom, and the early morning autumn dew there on the leaves…the strands of gossamer giving flight to the spider after duty there is through…

Nature’s artisans…spiders and morning dew.

And she will remember how time spent with sunshine, water, and earth fed her soul for another year…and will sustain her till the dark months once more give way to the melt and lengthening of days…Matthew Landsman

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