Smoke in the Peace

On Sunday we drove to Wanham, Alberta to attend the retirement potluck picnic for a colleague.  It had the potential for a beautiful drive, but smoke from forest fires in Northern Alberta has blanketed the region.  The canola fields are blooming in full glory, some places it give the impression of descending into an ocean of yellow, with copses of aspen floating as green islands.

The smoke was pushed by winds from Mackenzie County, which is more than 900 kilometres to the north of Edmonton, or roughly the same distance from Edmonton as Seattle. There are a dozen wildfires brining out of control in Mackenzie County, including one near Zama City that has consumed 155,000 hectares since it was spawned by a lightning strike June 21.

Last night we were spellbound by a lightning show illuminating and backlighting huge columns of clouds to the north of us.  It was so intense that the even was referred to during the weather forecast on Global News this morning.  I expect there may well be new fires as a result.  We did get some rain over night and are expecting more today, via thunderstorms.  We really need the moisture, hopefully there will be no hail with it as the crops have great potential this year.

(Photo courtesy of Wikibooks, High School Earth Science – Weather and Atmospheric Water)

Droopy Bells


The waxy little flower of the Lily of the Valley is a beauty, surpassed only by its intoxicating scent.  The garden was a little thin on these shy and unassuming posies, to the extent that I was unable to collect enough of them for a bouquet.  They spread through rhizomes and can penetrate garden cloth to form large colonies.  Shade loving they are popular garden plants in areas of little or no sunlight, but can be a bit of a nuisance, spreading into the grass and coming up between the cracks in the concrete.  I’m confident they will return to their dominating selves by next year.  It is a poisonous plant, particularly the bright red berries that form once the flowers are finished.  It has received the Royal Horticulture Society’s Award of Merit.

The flower is also known as Our Lady’s tears or Mary’s tears from Christian legends that it sprang from the weeping of the Virgin Mary during the crucifixion of Jesus. Other etiologies its coming into being from Eve’s tears after she was driven with Adam from the Garden of Eden or from the blood shed by Saint Leonard of Noblac during his battles with a dragon.

The name “lily of the valley” is used in some English translations of the Bible in Song of Songs 2:1, but the Hebrew phrase “shoshannat-ha-amaqim” in the original text (literally “lily of the valleys“) doesn’t refer to this plant.  It’s possible, though, that the biblical phrase may have had something to do with the origin or development of the modern plant-name.

It is a symbol of humility in religious painting.  Lily of the valley is considered the sign of Christ’s second coming.  The power of humanity to envision a better world was also attributed to the lily of the valley.

Lily of the valley was the floral emblem of Yugoslavia and it also became the national flower of Finland in 1967.

To the curious eye
A little monitor presents her page
Of choice instruction, with her snowy bells,
The lily of the vale.  She nor affects
The public walk, nor gaze of mid-day sun:
She to no state or dignity aspires,
But silent and alone puts on her suit,
And sheds a lasting perfume, but for which
We had not known there was a thing so sweet
Hid in the gloomy shade.  So, when the blast
Her sister tribes confounds, and to the earth
Stoops their high heads that vainly were exposed,
She feels it not but flourishes anew,
Still shelter’d and secure.  And as the storm,
That makes the high elm couch, and rends the oak,
The humble lily spares, — a thousand blows
That shake the lofty monarch on his throne,
We lesser folk feel not.  Keen are the pains
Advancement often brings.  To be secure,
Be humble; to be happy, be content.

James Hurdis 1763-1803

File:1 of May, 1851.jpgThe First Day of May 1851

Artist: Franz Xaver Winterhalter 1805-1873

The Duke of Wellington offering a gift to Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and Prince Arthur, in a scene resembling the Adoration of the Magi. The painting was commissioned by Queen Victoria to commemorate the 1st of May 1851, which held a threefold significance: it was the first birthday of Prince Arthur, the eighty-second birthday of prince’s godfather the Duke of Wellington, and the opening day of the Great Exhibition. Prince Arthur holds Lily-of-the-valley, a traditional 1st of May gift said to bring good luck. The Crystal Palace can be seen in the background.

Medium oil on canvas                 Height: 107 cm (42.1 in) Width: 130 cm (51.2 in)             Royal Collection – London

Of Fish and Justice

I apologize in advance for the use of non-inclusive language.

“Give a man a fish, feed him for a day.  Teach a man to fish, and  you feed him for his life.”

Well, maybe.  What if you teach fishing and then deny the use of your pond?   What if you teach a person a skill and then refuse them the opportunity to use that skill to sustain life because they were once in prison, or are an immigrant, or have physical disabilities, or are the ‘wrong’ gender?

Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states

  • (1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
  • (2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.

Further – Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights states that

1. The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing and housing, and to the continuous improvement of living conditions. The States Parties will take appropriate steps to ensure the realization of this right, recognizing to this effect the essential importance of international co-operation based on free consent.

2. The States Parties to the present Covenant, recognizing the fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger, shall take, individually and through international co-operation, the measures, including specific programmes, which are needed:

  • (a) To improve methods of production, conservation and distribution of food by making full use of technical and scientific knowledge, by disseminating knowledge of the principles of nutrition and by developing or reforming agrarian systems in such a way as to achieve the most efficient development and utilization of natural resources;
  • (b) Taking into account the problems of both food-importing and food-exporting countries, to ensure an equitable distribution of world food supplies in relation to need.

156 countries are signatories to the latter, Canada being one.   It saddens me that hunger is still a reality for 925 million people, that is one in seven people.  19% of that number live in developed countries!

Support the Canadian Food Grains Bank  They do amazing work through micro loans, education on nutrition, improving food security, and provide food assistance to people with immediate needs.  Also they attempt to influence public policies with the goal of ending hunger.  Often your contribution can be matched up to four times by the Canadian government and other organizations.  It is a way you, as an individual, can give someone a fish, teach someone to fish, and ensure access to fish!

1 John 3:17   How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?

Ezekiel 18:5,7-9  5 If a man is righteous and does what is lawful and right — 7 does not oppress anyone, but restores to the debtor his pledge, commits no robbery, gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a garment,  8 does not take advance or accrued interest, withholds his hand from iniquity, executes true justice between contending parties,  9 follows my statutes, and is careful to observe my ordinances, acting faithfully — such a one is righteous; he shall surely live, says the Lord GOD.

Statistics on world hunger obtained from

(I don’t know where I came across the images, I believe them to be tattoo designs.  If you know or if it is yours, please let me know so I can properly attribute ownership.  Thank you.)


Pretty in Pink

The peonies are blooming in resplendent glory, so weighty that their faces are surveying the ground.  They are wonderfully fragrant, their perfume wafting through the garden, sweet greetings as soon as one exits through the garage door into the back yard.  I have two plants, both pink.  I prefer the scent of the white variety.  I purchases a white one this spring.  Mischievous nymphs were said to hide in the petals of the Peony, giving it the meaning of Shame or Bashfulness in the Language of Flowers. While the peony takes several years to re-establish itself when moved, it blooms annually for decades once it has done so.

“Ode on Melancholy”

…  But when the melancholy fit shall fall
Sudden from heaven like a weeping cloud,
That fosters the droop-headed flowers all,
And hides the green hill in an April shroud;
Then glut thy sorrow on a morning rose,
Or on the rainbow of the salt sand-wave,
Or on the wealth of globèd peonies;
Or if thy mistress some rich anger shows,
Emprison her soft hand, and let her rave,
And feed deep, deep upon her peerless eyes. …

–John Keats (1795-1821)

The peony is named after Paeon (also spelled Paean), a student of Asclepius, the Greek god of medicine and healing.  Asclepius became jealous of his pupil; Zeus saved Paeon from the wrath of Asclepius by turning him into the peony flower.

Frédéric Bazille (artist)
French, 1841 – 1870
Young Woman with Peonies, 1870
oil on canvas
overall: 60 x 75 cm (23 5/8 x 29 1/2 in.) framed: 83.8 x 99.4 x 7.6 cm (33 x 39 1/8 x 3 in.)
Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon

Rhubarb Coffee Cake

We were blessed with an abundance of rhubarb this year.  In the search for recipes to use it up I was asked to share one of my favourites, so here it is.  (Pictures to follow)

Rhubarb Coffee Cake

350 F for 1 hour          Grease and flour a 9×6 pan (This recipe doubles well, if doubling use 9×12 pan)

  • 1/2 cup Sour Cream
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil     Blend first three ingredients and set aside.
  • 1 1/3 cups flour
  • 1 cup diced rhubarb
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt          Toss next five ingredients together well.  Add to sour cream mixture.  Pour into greased floured pan.
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds (may substitute with personal favourite sliced nut)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinamon
  • 2 teaspoons butter      Melt butter in small sauce pan, add sugar, nuts and cinamon.  Drizzle over the top of cake batter.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 1 hour.