This Little Light

With a couple of birthdays coming up this week, I’ve been thinking about the purpose of life.

Everything around us is born, grows and changes, then dies. Take a look at nature for a moment.

The grass in the park across the street, for example. The caretakers recently whacked it down to the roots, covered it in sand and nutrients, watered it and presto, we are witnessing the growth of fresh green shoots that are greener and stronger than before. The grass is not dead, it is alive. It has been cut down (that’s change), to stimulate new shoots (that’s growth).  This grass demonstrates the hard work of perseverance and the notion that to be pruned actually makes us stronger.

The flowering trees all around us. Right now we are witnessing an incredible show of pink flowers on massive trees all around town. These gorgeous pink blooms remind me of those from the cherry blossom tree but on a muchisimo scale. When the wind blows, these trees show their ability to change and grow by gently dropping their flowers like pink snow on the sidewalk below. These trees demonstrate the beauty of creation and the seasons of life.

The firefly (aka lightning bug). The kids found one on the floor in our house this week. It was on last legs. Every few seconds, this little bug would shine its light one last time, much to our delight. “How does that work?” the children asked. A new curiosity about insects, biology and bioluminescence was sparked. How could it be that a little bundle of cells would be designed to make light? How does it have enough energy left to shine, while it is clearly dying? This little bug reminds us of the importance of living – and dying – with the light of Christ in our heart.

Speaking of death, we have had a difficult year having lost someone we loved very much. Kary’s father Trevor left a tremendous legacy that we still honour and remember with much love and respect. Although we miss him tremendously, we have faith by his testimony on his own last legs, that he is now home. His light was bright until the very end.

One thing I’ve observed in the Mexican and Yucatecan culture is their fear of death and what happens after death.  Traditional ceremonies and customs include Day of the Dead, Dia de los Muertos, Catrina skeletons, construction of altars displaying items of dead loved ones, candlelight promenades to cemeteries, special prayers to/for the dead in appeal for entrance into heaven, family reunions and masses on death anniversaries, to name a few. I’m not going to speculate on whether all of this focus on the dead is right or wrong, but I’ll just put it out there for thought (without meaning to sound insensitive): when you’re dead, you’re dead. While you are alive, be alive. Right to your last flash.

I can hear my grandmother singing to me as a little girl, “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine”.

Light up the world little firefly.

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Orange Gold

You might be surprised to hear that I am a Floridian.

I don’t often disclose such information, especially to my die-hard Texan childhood friends or my Canadian compadres I met over the last 2 decades.

My friends here in Mexico know me as ‘the Canadian’, occasionally as “that one who is both Canadian and American’, although the later must be a bit confusing when determining where my sense of patriotism might lie.

Today, I profess to be Floridian, in tribute of mi lugar de nacimiento, Coral Gables, a suburb of Miami, almost 44 years ago.

There, my father studied for and defended his phd in Oceanography (much closer to the ocean, one might point out, relative to his current anchorage of College Station). As the story goes, somewhere in the middle of the business of grad student life, a new life was given. I have seen black and white photos of myself riding on my father’s back with a large Costco-sized diaper box as my playground. There my life began, in a small apartment with shag carpet and cinder block legged furniture, going to hotdog potluck parties on my mother’s hip.

Later I spent many Christmases and spring breaks in Winter Park with my grandparents, cousins and uncle Wary, where I have vivid memories of playing in an orange tree out front and drinking fresh squeezed orange gold from the trees out back.

In the Yucatan, the henequen plant was called green gold because it produced enormous wealth during the 1800’s in the sisal production business.

Today I joyfully celebrate some of the world’s best orange gold, found here in Yucatan, abroad in Florida, and as of this moment in time, in my tummy.

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O Amber, Amber, wherefore art thou Amber?

Amber, I miss you.

You were faithful.

You were gentle.

You were graceful in your art.

You needed not direction or guidance.

You understood your role.

You had a steady hand.

You gave me shelter from the storm.

You provided safe passage to calm anchorages.

You never met fault without apology.

You delighted to work in the shadows.

You never revealed your face.

Your eyes, like lighthouses, behind protective veil.

As if to say, you will be fine. You will not perish under my watch.

Amber, there is none other like you. I miss you. I love you dear Amber.

Please, move to Mexico.

So that you can clean my teeth next time.

Instead of her.

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Evacuate the atheists, there are bees

Living in Canada for so long, we have become accustomed to the occasional snow day, whereby classes are cancelled due to weather. Ironically, it generally requires minus 30 degrees celesius and snow banks inside the gymnasium before this occurs.

I’ve also seen the occasional emergency evacuation, perhaps due to a faulty sprinkler coming on to melt the snow in the principal’s office.

What I have never experienced is a bee evacuation.

At around 10am this morning my What’s App Mexican Mama Command Center (WAMMCC) started beeping and dinging like a flock of seagulls taking flight.

The following emergency broadcast was sent to all points:

“Buen día mamás URGENTE!!!!
Les comento que debido a un panal muy grande de abejas que cubrió la parte de la prepa del Rogers, la policía y los bomberos de la ciudad, giraron instrucciones para evacuar todas las áteas del mismo. Hay que ir por los niños en este momento porfavor.”

Which Google translates to:

“Good day moms URGENT !!!!

I commented that due to a large honeycomb that covered part of the high school of Rogers , police and firefighters in the city, issued instructions to evacuate all atheists thereof.

You should go for the children at this time please.”

I am still trying to figure out if the honeycomb is covering all or just part of the high school, and also how many of the police and firefighters are also covered in honeycomb and what they were going to do about that.

I picked up our kids as requested although my prayer tonight is that they remain theists as well as appreciative of the significant value of a bee.

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Poetry and Pink Flamingos

I haven’t taken my turn at the blog post for sometime but am feeling the urge to talk about a couple of experiences our family has had recently.

Part of my urge came when my cousin Daryl, who lives in the bustling town of Fox Creek, Alberta (pop 1800) sent me some pictures of him and his son Ryker (6 yrs old) working a family trapline and hiking to a mountain top in British Columbia in -30C weather and 2 feet of snow.  In contrast, two of our children, Rachel (9 yrs old) and Ryan (6 yrs old) were researching, memorizing and reciting poems in Spanish at the annual poetry contest at their school.  Children participating in the contest had to go up on stage in front of all of their classmates and 100 or so parents and with the help of a microphone, eye contact, hand and body gestures, and a little of God’s grace, deliver their poem as best they could.  Ryan chose Las Rosas son Rojas (Roses are Red) and Rachel chose “Ere con Ere”.  They both did amazingly well and I am so proud of their accomplishment.

While completely different, Ryker, Rachel and Ryan were all given equally amazing character, confidence and self-esteem boosting life experiences.   As a parent, the real reward is when you see your child’s face telegraphing the “I did it!” look along with their beaming smile.

A short mention on Flamingos…Today we drove to the town of Celestun, a world class flamingo estuary.  Along with a group of 4 Russians on a 2 week vacation to Mexico, we took a small boat up river to witness these graceful and delicate birds.  I confess I am not a bird lover, however watching these long legged pink birds dance on the water and gracefully land into the flock (is that what you call a group of flamingos?) was quite a sight to behold.  After draining our cameras of batteries, we then went on a narrow channel ride through a termite nesting mangrove forest followed by a quick swim in a cenote, in proximity of, but out of snapping range of a resting crocodile.  Darcy and I kept watch while Rachel and Jacqueline took a dip with our new Russian friends.  Finally it was a short Tuk Tuk (Mexico style) ride back to town.  I am really glad we chose to see the flamingos.

We really are so fortunate to be able to write this chapter in our lives.

Ryan ShakespeareDaryl and Ryker - Cranbrook B.C.Flamingos at Celestun

Belize

After spending Christmas with my parents in Merida exploring ancient Mayan ruins and haciendas, we went off to explore a different kind of ancient : the great barrier reef of Belize.  We boarded a 39′ catamaran and set sail for five days to small, pristine mounds of carbonate including South Water, Lagoon, Bread and Butter, Lark, Wiparri and Hatchet Cays. The websites and chart books delivered on the promise for amazing sailing and snorkelling, as well as the guarantee that the adventure would not be for the landlubber or novice sailor.  With thousands of submerged coral heads to dodge without any form of channel navigation, my father, Kary and I poured over the hand drawn charts for hours each day as we made what we hoped to be a safe heading to our next destination. There were many white knuckled moments as my father aptly manned the helm, Kary watched for coral off the bow and I clenched the chart book praying we would not run aground. The Belizian authorities frown on this practice and are known to fine heavily if you hit something.

By day we sailed, fished, snorkelled, and dodged coral heads, and by night we anchored, picked up moorings and hunkered down through the odd rainstorm, happy to have a dry place to sleep and recoup for the next day’s adventure.

Two of the overnight stops involved lively (and somewhat wet) dinghy rides to shore to have dinner at the tiny ‘one resort’ restaurant amongst the coconut trees and palapas. The Lionfish Grill was our favourite and allowed for the collection of important field data for next semester’s Oceanography 101 course at A&M. Other nights consisted of barbecuing and playing Uno and Wizard, anchored next to deserted islands chock full of mangroves and pelicans, without sight of another boat for miles and miles.

The stars were bright, the snorkelling was on, the fishing was not, the waves were favourable, the wind was fair, the seas were following, and somehow in the grand scheme of what could have happened, God helped us navigate the trickiest waters we have ever sailed.

It was a good journey.

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