Christian Courier recently asked for responses online using the hash tag #PreserveThis. The idea was to elicit stories and photos that show how our CC readers make use of God’s good creation in their daily lives. We’re thrilled to showcase some of your beautiful images in this issue, along with stories of community, food, gardening, and creating art and sculpture. During this month of harvest, of celebrating the abundance of God’s good provision, and giving thanks, we hope these stories about making use of this abundance inspires you to do the same.
My mother didn't have time for a vegetable garden while working and raising three children on her own. Yet we frequently spent Saturdays readying food for the chest freezer in order to stretch our limited food budget. Blanching bushels of green beans, turning u-pick strawberries into jam, pureeing windfall apples, or cleaning the smelts my uncle caught. I can still see the little fish bladders floating in the sink.
There is growing concern around the untenable methods of industrial food production. This discomfort I feel with the status quo drives an ambition to recover the skills and knowledge my grandparents had surrounding food.
I planted a vegetable garden two years ago and I discovered I have so much to learn. In contrast to the way knowledge is traditionally passed on, our compartmentalized, modern lives often fail to provide the opportunity for active, practical learning. How much can one person learn alone? I struggled, and it felt as if each answer I found led to further questions. I needed to connect and depend on the knowledge and skills of other people within my immediate community.
As an outgrowth of reaching out I have learned that there are many caring people who have a passion to support others in their efforts to do better, no matter how small these efforts may seem. There is a collective interest in making a difference for the sake of our immediate community and surrounding land. It’s not each of us hunkered down in a cold, disconnected, dystopian nightmare. We can pick up new ideas and nurture them in fragments at our own speed while relishing the process. In turn I have new knowledge to contribute, food to share, and love to give to others. My grandparents would be proud.
Wonders with Wood
Now that I am retired, for more than a dozen years already, I can spend more time working with and making things out of wood. Before leaving my work life behind, I managed to find the time to make the occasional piece of furniture, but now, with so much more time on my hands, I find myself scratching an itch to be more creative.
The medium has remained wood, mainly the hardwoods, because I like the natural feel and look of it, working with its grain and envisioning what the wood has to offer. In working the wood the only tools I use are a hammer and half-inch chisel, and two or three wood files. I finish with sanding and a rubbing with teak oil until my creation is smooth and gleaming. Because of the few tools I use, I prefer to use the term woodworking, rather than carving.
I’m not after detail in most of my subjects – usually animals of the northern forests (water fowl, otter, bear, moose, wolf) – being more interested in their form and proportion in order to bring out their essential being and characteristics. In doing this I find myself reconnecting with my past; remembering encounters with these animals over the course of the geologic exploration work I did during the first part of my work life.
This being said, my favourite piece is not about animals, but about the human condition; about being very much in need of God’s grace. As such, it is my confession of faith in wood. This special piece is inscribed on one side with the words, “Nothing I Bring” and on the other side with, “My Grace is Sufficient.” It is a constant reminder of our need for God’s love and mercy.
|Photo: Kristine O’Brien|
At Crieff Hills Retreat and Conference Centre near Guelph, Ont., guests consistently tell us that they love visiting because they get to immerse themselves in God’s creation. They hike the trails, walk the labyrinth or just sit and listen to the birds. It’s a quiet, expansive green space where they reconnect with earth and sky, which is increasingly important in our busy, wired world. (Studies link time spent in nature to lower levels of stress, improved short-term memory, focus and mental health, and even increased lifespan.)
That’s why I love working here, too. Every day I come to a place where the cook can pick fresh vegetables and herbs for supper. Volunteers work with bees to put honey in jars. Even walking from the parking lot to the office gives me a chance to notice that it’s rainy or windy, that the leaves have started to turn colour, or that crickets are singing their song again. I love being connected to the earth because it gives me perspective. Comfort. Awe. Gratitude.