Tag Archives: Arlene Somerton Smith

Flow: Clogs, floods, parables and Justin Bieber

The main pipe that takes water waste away from our house clogged.

For a twenty-four hour period while we waited for the friendly rooter person to come and clear out the gunk, we couldn’t wash dishes, shower or do laundry for fear of back-up and damage.

Before the clog, I thought of water in terms of supply. That is, how important it is to have water flowing to my house. It also should be a world priority to have water flowing to people no matter where they live. After the clog I realized that water flowing from my house is equally important.

While water was backing up in our pipes, it was flowing wildly in the Ottawa River. Two years after a disastrous flood—one that was supposed to be a “hundred-year flood”—another one came to us, and this one was worse.

The flooding damaged homes, cottages and businesses along the shoreline. Even though the force of the water through one of our bridges was three times that of Niagara Falls, the volume of water flowing to us exceeded its ability to flow from us. Flooding and damage resulted, and that bridge will be closed for weeks because the force of the water could undermine the integrity of the structures.

Still shot from local news - Niagara - 2400 m cubed per second of water, the Chaudiere Bridge, 7497 m cubed per second.
Matt Skube on CJOH News Ottawa with graphics showing the force of water through the Chaudière Bridge.

We experienced what I call the “Justin Bieber effect.” (More on that later.) The community pulled together to fill sandbags and clear up damages. The community will continue that work for weeks and months to come

While all this was happening, I was participating in a series of group discussions about the parables in the Bible. Those stories have been studied, analyzed and dissected for centuries and people still can’t agree what they’re all about. The same story can mean two different things to the same person at different times in their lives.

For me, right now, the parables remind me of flow. They teach me two lessons: (1) There is enough and more where that came from flowing to us, and (2) we’d better share or there will be damage, and everyone is worthy of receiving the flow from us. The loaves and the fishes, for example, can be interpreted as saying, “Never think there’s not enough. There’s enough and more where that came from, and everyone is worthy of receiving it.”

Which brings me to Justin Bieber. As I stood by the banks of the Ottawa River watching the level continue to rise even though there was nowhere else for the water to go, I started to think about flow in terms of abundance and money.

Justin Bieber was a simple kid from Stratford, Ontario. He was adorable, but not well-known, and there was no excess of money in his household when he was a child. Then he got noticed on YouTube. Then important people noticed him on YouTube. Then there was a torrent of wealth and fame that descended upon him, and it was TOO MUCH all at once. The volume flowing tohim was more than the flow from him could handle. The flooding caused damage and the force threatened the structures

Justin needed some sandbags and some clean-up help from community.

This spring of clogs and floods reminds to allow the flow, to trust the flow to provide for my necessities and maybe some fun too, and that if sandbags are needed, community is there.

Here is a video of fun in the flow.

What I learned from my aunt

In honour of my aunt’s 80th birthday, I’m re-posting a piece from a few years ago. Blessings to her again!

A woman on guitar beside a toddler on piano
Aunt Erma and my daughter entertain – 1997

My Aunt Erma celebrates a birthday today. She is a strong woman in a family of strong women. I’m proud to say that when the women in our family have an idea or a purpose, stand back.

From her I learned:

  • How to be authentic – You might not agree with my Aunt Erma’s opinions on any given matter, but you can be certain to know what they are. She never puts on airs or hides her true feelings behind a façade of false politeness. I admire her forthright approach to life and the authentic soul I see because of it.
  • How to tell a tale – My aunt has had many stories published in the local paper, and her writing group—The Henscratchers—published a book. I appreciate her ability to capture life in a story or a poem.
  • How to weather a storm – She has had more than her share of uncommon heartbreaking events in her life—the kind that knock you off your feet for more than a few days. I respect her strength and resilience in bouncing back, picking herself up and carrying on.
  • How to entertain a whole room – Give my Aunt Erma a guitar and some elbow room, and she’ll happily provide the songs for the night. She and her sisters (including my mother) have sung together at community events. I envy her enthusiastic ability to sing out without inhibition.
  • How to teach with calm assurance – My aunt was the kind of teacher who kept order in the classroom and expected the best from her students. She’s petite, so her authority came from her manner, not her stature.

There’s a whole lot of power packed into a diminutive woman in my Aunt Erma. I would say that she’s like her mother in that regard (my grandmother), but I’m not sure she’d like that. .

Like all strong women, she might have ruffled some feathers over the years. More than one person might have shaken their head and said, “Oh, that Erma . . .”

If I can live authentically, inspire with calm assurance, weather life’s storms with strength, live to tell the tale and entertain a whole room with songs, then I will be happy to ruffle a few feathers along my own way.

Book Cover for Pick of the Crop by the Henscratchers
The book published by her writing group.

Teenager creativity: Poetry month

The public library where I work is attached to a high school. The students come and go around us every day.

Today’s teenagers are something else. They are open and honest about aspects of life I either didn’t understand when I was their age, or wouldn’t have talked about with anyone. Sometimes I need to hold on to something to regain my balance when I catch some of their conversations.

They’re also freely creative. For poetry month, we set up a poetry station.

I love the art they created—en anglais et en français in Ottawa, Canada.

This one is good advice for anyone, most days.

Poem: May you should chill out.

Because Poetry Month . . . God Kin

From one of my favourite books: The Gift,with poems by Hafiz, translated by Daniel Ladinsky. You can see that I have sticky notes on many pages.

Book cover of The Gift

I GOT KIN

Plant 
So that your own heart
Will grow.

Love
So God will think,

“Ahhhhh,
I got kin in that body!
I should start inviting that soul over
For coffee and 
Rolls.”

Sing
Because this is a food
Our starving world
Needs.

Laugh 
Because that is the purest
Sound.

Maggie’s birthday, and the Montreal Expos

This morning I checked the date and thought, “It’s Maggie’s birthday!”

I laughed at myself then, because Maggie isn’t real. Well, that’s not true. She’s real to me.

She’s a character in a novel I’m writing. She was born in Shea Stadium on the day the Montreal Expos played their first game—fifty years ago today, April 8, 1969. The place and time of her birth determine her destiny: She is the female entrepreneur who brings back the Montreal Expos.

Some people say baseball is life, and I would agree. That’s why so many of our day-to-day expressions (clichés) come from the game: step up to the plate, go down swinging, cover all the bases, throw a curve ball, swing for the fences, or better yet, knock it out of the park. I’m just spitballing here, and maybe you think it’s a screwball idea coming out of left field and that I’m way off base—you can touch base with me about that later—but if you’re a heavy hitter who plays hardball, even if you occasionally strike out, soon it’s a whole new ball game.

I could go on.

Life Lessons from Dead Women (working title) is about baseball and life. Some of Maggie’s life lessons include:

Hot dog buns make excellent pillows.

Damage helps us get a grip.

Wrong is right and right is wrong, but it’s all right.

Curious . . .? I hope so.

Expos baseball cap and jersey with number 8
My Gary Carter jersey. Gary Carter’s birthday was also April 8.

I was alive at the time the Expos played that first game against the New York Mets, but I don’t remember it. I know that my father would have had his nose up to the TV. He was a baseball fan in general and an Expos fan in particular. He taught all of us the game, and led us on trips to Jarry Park to watch them play. I have a vivid memory of sitting in the bleachers and watching the great Rusty Staub warm up.

I don’t remember the game, but I’ll have a chance to listen to it. TSN 690 Radio in Montreal is replaying the original broadcast at 7:00 p.m. EDT, April 8.

https://www.tsn.ca/radio/montreal-690/schedule

Boy at bat
My favourite Expos player: My son, Ben, age 8, during his first trip to the plate.
Steve Rogers signed baseball
Steve Rogers was pretty good too.

Happy 50th birthday, Montreal Expos. And Maggie.

On being Mrs. McGregor: Bunnies

This bunny hopped into my backyard early Saturday morning.

small bunny on the snow
March Hare?

Cute bunny, right? But my reaction to the furry friend was not charitable, because last year this bunny, or one just like her, ate the tops off all my tulips. My Canada 150 tulips, no less. I was not impressed.

close-up of the leaf shape in the centre of the Canada 150 tulip
Canada 150 tulip – 2017

And my front garden has become her favourite place to poop. Yuck.

bunny poop in the garden
Bunnies poop is cute, but still . . .

As my tulips come into bloom this year I will be keeping a close eye on bunnies. My red and white blooms will be guarded, and I posted a comment to that effect on my Facebook feed. One of my friends commented: “Okay, Mr(s). McGregor.”

I laughed out loud, because I did sound like Mr. McGregor chasing Peter Rabbit about the garden.

cover of The Tale of Peter Rabbit

I laugh.

But, I love my tulips.

Bunny, I’ve got eyes on you. And I’m not afraid of being called Mrs. McGregor.