Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: summer

Grasshoppers, girls and family gatherings

grasshoppers-1195909_1280Grasshoppers were everywhere that summer. Those of us who wore pants learned to be careful about where we walked, but I think we all still had the experience of trying to discreetly deal with a grasshopper who had flown up inside the leg of our pants. Those who wore skirts were even more circumspect and didn’t spend much time outside of a motor vehicle or a house. Of course, grasshoppers had ways of getting into those places as well.

Ladies didn’t have much reason for spending time outdoors, anyway. Grasshoppers had stripped gardens of all that had been green. One could only wait for fall and hope there might be some potatoes or carrots in the ground. As for lawns, they could disappear in an afternoon, eaten right down to the ground.

The annual family gathering at grandpa and grandma’s farm was still on. As we drove in the tree lined driveway I looked at the sheltered area where we usually gathered to eat and visit. Wood was neatly stacked beside the fire pit, but I doubted that we would be eating on the picnic benches this year.

I saw some of my younger cousins just outside the house, boys who lived in far away cities. Lisa, who lived on the farm just across the road from Grandpa’s place was just pedaling her bike down the driveway. Lisa was a farm girl, she didn’t like grasshoppers but she wasn’t going to let them spoil her summer.

The boys, having never seen grasshoppers before, were both enthralled and apprehensive.  Jared had brought a paper coffee cup from the house. He timidly held it on its side on the ground and used its cover to try and coax a grasshopper into it. Apparently he succeeded, as he stood up triumphantly, putting the lid on the cup.

Seeing Lisa just getting off her bike, he walked over and said, “I’ve got something to show you.” He held the coffee cup out to her as he removed the lid, then leaned over to look into it himself. That was a mistake. The grasshopper, seeing light above him, flew straight up and bounced off Jared’s forehead. Cup and lid tumbled to the ground as Jared jumped back, his eyes wide.

The grasshopper just sat there on the ground beside the cup, perhaps stunned from the collision with Jared’s forehead. Lisa stooped down, picked up the cup in one hand, picked up the grasshopper with the other and put it back in the cup. After replacing the lid on the cup she tried to hand it back to Jared. He backed up a couple more steps, then turned around and headed into the house.

As Lisa tossed the cup in a nearby garbage can, she looked at me and asked “Why do boys always have to be such show-offs?” I didn’t have an answer, not being all that many years removed from Jared’s age myself.

Lisa went on into the house and headed for the kitchen. I followed to look for cousins more my age and saw the young boys clustered by the basement stairs, probably trying to scheme up some excitement that wouldn’t involve grasshoppers. As I walked by them, Jared looked up and asked “Why do girls always have to be such show-offs?”

Summer hibernation

Two weeks ago, we still occasionally ran the air conditioner to make the house comfortable. Now we use heaters in the morning to make it comfortable. We haven’t seen hummingbirds at our feeder for four days now. Blackbirds are gathering by the hundreds, sometimes perched all along the wires of the power lines. We hear a few sandhill cranes in the air as they fly down from their northern breeding areas. Combines can be heard from the grain fields all around us. The signs of the changing season are all around us.

Yet we are facing the coming of fall with more enthusiasm than we have for many years. You see, my wife had her last chemotherapy treatment just two days ago. Now the recovery can begin. The doctors have told us her leukemia has been beaten back, there are no remaining symptoms. All that remains is to recover from the drugs.

We went to Boston Pizza for dinner after her last treatment on Thursday, before the drugs began to distort her taste. She will have a few days of weariness, maybe a couple of weeks when things don’t taste right, some inflammation of the blood veins where the drugs were administered, plus the hidden danger of a weakened immune system.

Nevertheless, her energy level has increased towards the end of the last two cycles of treatment. She was going for two days of treatment at four-week intervals. She never felt seriously ill after the treatments, but the first two weeks after the treatments she did not have a lot of energy. Then the energy and enthusiasm would begin to increase up to the time of the next two days of treatments. Now there are no next treatments ahead of us.

It feels like we have spent spring and summer in hibernation. Now that fall and winter are ahead of us, we can wake up and learn to enjoy life once more. Rejoice with us!

The sound of not so distant thunder

We are into the gloriously long days of a Saskatchewan summer, where the sun rises before 5:00 a.m. and doesn’t set until 9:30 p.m. Since we live on the flat, open prairie we have an extra three quarters of an hour of full daylight before sunrise and the same after sunset, giving us 18 hours of daylight. All living things thrive in a Saskatchewan summer – providing we get enough rain.

There has been sufficient rainfall this year, but not an abundance. It was time that a good shower would be refreshing, and the forecast has been promising rain for today. Earlier in the week there was mention of 30 – 45 mm. As the week went on that number diminished to 10 – 15. That would still have kept everything growthie and green, but we would have been hoping there would soon be another shower.

There were dark clouds rolling in this morning, with faint rumbles of distant thunder. At 9:00 the skies opened up and down came heavy rain, accompanied at first by pea-size hail. That first shower didn’t last long, but brought over 10 mm of rain. Some of my wife’s flowers look a little bedraggled from the hail, but no major damage was done and I expect they will look fine in a day or two.

The thunder and rain continued off and on for the remainder of the day. At one point, I was sitting here by the computer and I heard the snap of an electrical arc in the office, followed immediately by thunder outside. My wife was in the kitchen and heard the same sound in the living room, accompanied by a flash of light. Everything appears to be all right, but that is the closest we have been to a lightning strike for many years. We have had 23 mm so far and there may be a little yet to come.

Here on the flatlands we take the rain as it comes. God sends the rain on the just and the unjust. Sometimes we all have too much, sometimes not enough. People from elsewhere, and we have lived in many other places, may think this a harsh and barren land. Yet it is bursting with life, plant life, bird life, wildlife and human life.

On a different note, my wife and I began hearing the distant thunder of Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia a few years ago. As time passed it became louder and louder. Chris began taking chemotherapy treatments a few months ago and two days ago the oncologist told us that she is now basically cancer free. The drugs have beaten the disease into remission.

Nevertheless, they want to continue the chemotherapy for three more rounds. The doctor explained it to us this way. If one in ten thousand of her white cells is a leukemia cell she will be well for a year or so. If they continue the treatments and knock that down to one cancer cell in a million she should have five or more years of good health.

Chris still has those remaining treatments to face, but she is feeling more energetic already and the threatening thunder of CLL has faded into the distance. You can read her side of the story here:  The ups and downs of life

Things I am thankful for

Our son-in-law

My wife got up early yesterday morning and had three loads of laundry done before I had my shower, and I still had hot water for my shower.  I was away until mid afternoon and when I came home my wife informed me that we had no hot water.

I checked things out, just like I knew what I was doing. The breaker hadn’t tripped, so I took the outer panel off the water heater to look at the wiring. There was a red thing that said reset so I pushed it. Nothing happened. So I texted our son-in-law, who was at a meeting. He came over this morning, looked things over, pushed the reset button — it clicked and the water heater started working again.

Well, I thought I had pushed it.

Our oldest grandson

I took our oldest grandson into Saskatoon today for a session at Sylvan Learning, then did some shopping while he was there. We had lunch, then came home. Along the way, we saw lots of big equipment working at twinning the highway we were using. We saw all kinds of highly specialized machinery working on the railway on the other side of the highway. They are replacing ties, levelling the rails and who knows what else. We stopped at the work site where his dad’s crew is building a road for some industrial lots in a town along the way. Nathan is much more knowledgeable about this sort of stuff than I am and enjoys explaining it. I enjoyed the time with him.

Honda engines

It takes me about two hours with a riding mower to trim the grass on our yard. I have a smaller mower that I used to use for closer trimming around buildings and trees. About this time last summer the cable to the safety bar broke. I got cable to fix it, but the job never got done before winter. I finally did it today. It had sat for a year with a little gas in it. I didn’t check the oil, the air filter, the spark plug or anything. I just pulled the starter cord and it started on the second pull. Then I checked the oil, which still looked pretty good, not having seen much use last year.  I have a replacement air filter and want to do a little more service before I use it much.

I know other engines are better than they used to be, but I am thankful to have a Honda on this little mower.

All of a sudden it’s spring!

In books the scenario goes like this: the trapper / prospector / homesteader (choose one) is shut up in his isolated cabin in the north country. The snow gets deeper and deeper, the temperature gets colder and colder, the wood pile gets smaller and smaller, his winter supply of food is almost gone. The days are getting longer, but the snowstorms are more frequent, there is no hope of getting out for more supplies. Hope is almost gone when he wakes up one morning to a different sound in the treetops. There is a gentle breeze blowing from the southwest, the clouds are gone and the sun is shining brightly. The snow begins to melt and in a few days there is open ground, open water, and he is a free man once again.

That’s how it reads in story books. Real life is not like that — the sun shines one day with a promise of spring, followed by another blizzard the next day, or at least by bitterly cold temperatures and sharp winds that lash your face with ice crystals and make it difficult to find your way. Warm days alternate with cold days until the warm finally prevails and we have spring.

Except that from time to time it does happen exactly as the story books describe. We had bitterly cold temperatures last week, up to and including Thursday. Friday the sun shone, the wind came from the southwest, the temperature went above zero and the snow began to melt. This is the fourth day and bare  patches are showing up on our lawn. If this continues, as it is forecast to do, there won’t be much snow left after the coming weekend.

(Here’s a primer on the Celsius scale for those still addicted to Fahrenheit: 0° Celsius is the freezing point; -18° Celsius equals 0° Fahrenheit; each degree on the Celsius scale equals 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit. Thus today’s temperature of 5° would be 41° F and Saturdays forecast high of 15° would be 59° F.)

Whether it comes slowly or quickly, spring on the Canadian prairies is a dramatic event. The increased hours of sunshine have already boosted our energy level. Even our cats have spring fever. Soon the robins will be here, followed by Canada Geese, meadowlarks and all the birds of summer. The first native flower to bloom will be the prairie crocus, usually appearing before the snow is completely gone.

A friend asked me recently, “Why are we living here?” That is not so easy to answer during winter when the days are short, the nights long and a snowstorm just made our driveway impassible again. But spring reminds us of the life and beauty that teems all around us when winter is past, and of those long, long, glorious days of summer.

While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease (Genesis 8:22).

Summer in sunny Saskatchewan

I hope everybody had a chuckle over the mistake in my last post. Two millimetres a year would come to two hundred millimetres in a century, or twenty centimetres, not two metres. If you look at the post now, you will see that I have corrected the error.

Warm weather was late in arriving this year, but when it came the appearance, and sound, of our yard changed almost overnight. The trees between us and the farm yard next to us have become a dense forest, obscuring any hint that there might be another house and other buildings a short distance from us.  All the birds are back, singing happily in the cool of the morning and evening.

Tuesday morning I heard a loud humming from the caragana trees south of our house. Walking closer to see the source of the sound, I found bees busily collecting nectar from the yellow blossoms which cover the trees. They buzzed around me, but didn’t bother me.

As I walked down the road a marbled godwit circled overhead, loudly announcing my presence. There were ducks on the ponds on either side of the road, frogs conversing loudly, blackbirds singing on the fenceposts and from somewhere I heard a willet and what I think was a grasshopper sparrow.

There are swallows and wrens nesting in the nestboxes in our yard. Godlfinches come to our birdfeeder and sometimes we see a brown thrasher underneath the feeder. Meadowlarks and robins make themselves heard, we think we got a glimpse of a catbird one day. The lilacs are starting to bloom, the strawberry plants are full of blossoms. In short, the beautiful days of summer are here.

There is another aspect of Saskatchewan weather that makes itself felt in summer as well as in the other seasons − the wind. A book published twenty years ago, If you’re not from the prairie . . .*, contains these lines:

If you’re not from the prairie,
You don’t know the wind,
You can’t know the wind.

Our cold winds of winter cut right to the core,
Hot summer wind devils can blow down the door.
As children we know when we play any game,
The wind will be there, yet we play just the same.

We had such a wind yesterday, and not being children anymore we didn’t feel much like going out to play.

*If you’re not from the prairie . . . © 1993 by David Bouchard for th poetry and © 1993 by Henry Ripplinger for the illustrations. Published by Raincoast Books.

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