“He is not here”

I have never tasted more delicious quiche than the church ladies served on Good Friday at the congregational breakfast. Menfolk were obviously pleased when the volunteers promised to keep making pancakes—and they did! Syrup produced in local woodlots was maple at its very best! Trays of fresh fruit or yogurt cups filled with red and blue fruits were in abundance, together with glazed slices of cinnamon rolls. Such were the gastronomical goodies served at Heidelberg Bible Fellowship—where the sound of Mennonites’ clip-clopping horses is never far away.

The table centrepieces were three weeks in the making. Afterward, young Ezra Koch asked if I would like to have the one he made. How long do you think it took me to reply?

The “Case for Christ” DVD was shown, portraying the life of former atheist and editor of the Chicago Tribune, Lee Strobel. The empty tomb—portrayed by this garden centrepiece—was the key factor in dissolving his unbelief.

This Good Friday marked 25 years since our son Daniel drowned in a canoe accident. The words spoken to Martha in Bethany, Israel, are our greatest comfort:

“Jesus said unto her,

I am the resurrection, and the life:

he that believeth in Me,

though he were dead, yet shall he live:

And whosoever liveth and believeth in Me

shall never die. 

Believest thou this?”

John 11:25-26.


Put out for adoption – 2014-10-17

Today Lloyd and I managed to get the allamanda vine in its large container into the cargo area of the Smart car – no small feat.  A potato sack containing a clump of the large cala lily plant sat beside it.

Destination?  Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory.


Their naturalist, Lucy White, previously agreed to take the plants and relocate them in  their tropical environment.

The allamanda (or golden bells) had done well in our garden during the summer of 2013, and was carefully coddled beneath a skylight over the winter.  It was obviously stressed by this year’s cold summer, with temperatures often dipping down to 10 Celcius.  The waxy-leaved vine simply could not muster the heart to form even one measly bud.

Raindrops 2 flowers & 3 buds

(Photo of golden bells in our garden in 2013)

The giant cala had thrived in the living room this winter, delighting us with its attractive leaves.  Set out into the garden, it begrudgingly produced one bloom during the whole cool summer.  Previously when fall came, I dug the cala out, shook the dirt off its roots, and let it dry out and rest in the basement.  Come March, I potted it up, and it shot forth new leaves at an incredible rate.  However, by keeping it growing throughout the winter, I thought it would be off to the races when set out in the garden . . . but it, too, longed for a warmer clime, and just sulked.

Cala Lily 1

(Photo of cala lily taken in our garden during a warmer summer)

A kindergarten class, wearing paper crowns with butterflies on them that they had coloured, were visiting the butterfly conservatory this morning.  We have never seen so many butterflies during any of our previous visits, and were delighted to see the iridescent blue morphos flitting here and there.


The resident tortoise was swimming among the large goldfish instead of napping on a rock.  We saw him snacking on a butterfly that had fallen into the pond after its brief sojourn had ended.

One of the bird of paradise plants had grown right up to the ceiling, and at first glance, looked much like a banana tree.  Beautiful hibiscus, single and double, brightened the tropical vegetation, tiny quails scooted about, birds flitted among the foliage, and one white butterfly, its large wings etched with black veins, landed right on Lloyd’s nose almost as soon as we entered!  Welcome, Lloyd!  Glad you came!

Whistling Gardens – July 15, 2014

To celebrate our wedding anniversary, Lloyd and I struck out from Kitchener for Whistling Gardens located mid-way between Brantford and Simcoe.  Set to explore some 20 acres of botanical gardens, we armed ourselves with walking canes, sun hats, comfortable shoes, and, of course, a camera.  

July 15-14-sign to Whistling-1024-Gardens

A graceful Weeping Norway Spruce welcomed us, signalling that we wouldn’t be disappointed in what we were about to see.  We were given a map, showing the location of various gardens and special features.

July 15-14-Weeping Norway-1024-Spruce

July 15-14-cottonwood-1024- poplar

Now, ‘fess up.  Doesn’t the arm of this old Cottonwood Popular  near the entrance of the gardens make you want to climb up and sit there a spell?  

Lilies I hadn’t seen before and phlox bloom next to a hedge of dwarf Weeping Norway Spruce which the owner grafted himself.  What a handsome sight!

July 15-14-Hedge of Dwarf Weeping -1024-Norway Spruce

How’s this for a splash of colour?

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Benches abound!  Walkways are wheelchair accessible, with no hills to struggle with.  Washroom facilities are available, and beverages and light snacks may be purchased as well.  

Swans are part of the tranquil atmosphere.   A tiny island set in the middle of the lake adds to the intrigue.  The good news is . . .  a large lake is about to be dug on adjacent land, sure to enhance the pleasure of a day at Whistling Gardens.

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Complimentary colours are juxtaposed everywhere with exciting effect!

July 15-14-Yellow daisies-1024-& cone flowers

Unusual specimen plants will set you back on your heels!  Which corner of the globe might this beauty be native to?

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Want to pass the time by playing some chess?

July 15-14-giant chess-1024-& stone pavement

Graceful fountains are guarded by bracket beds on four corners. Lovely life-size statuary adorn some of the gardens.

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You will take home lots of inspiration.  I simply fell in love with Queen of the Prairies, and have been scheming ever since just where such luscious flowers would be happy residents in my garden.  They need a moist location.  Below is a photo of the tall beauties, followed by a close-up of their fairy-like heads of teensy flowers:

July 15-14-Queen of the -1024-Prairies & rails

July 15-14-Queen-Prairies-1024- close-up

This sign says it all:

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Isn’t this one a honey?  I think it’s some kind of pine, and the next one looks like it might belong to the hemlock family.

July 15-14-Unusual conifers-1 of-1024-a kind in Canada

July 15-14-unusual hemlock-1024-maybe

Whistling Gardens also offer plants for sale.  I didn’t have time to even think of buying.  I was too busy looking! 

Our day was topped off with a choreographed 8-minute water display which is run twice daily Monday thru Friday, and three times on weekends.

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Rates are $13 Adults, $11 Seniors 60+, $6 Students 5-22, Four and under free. Group rates and guided tours available.  Weddings hosted.

Email:  info@whistlinggardens.ca


Phone:  519-443-5773

July 15-14-two swans in flowerbed-1024

The owner offered to draw us a map, enabling us to return to Kitchener in about 40 minutes.  He’s a speedy and accurate cartographer – just another one of his numerous talents. What he and his family have created here at Whistling Gardens is something you must experience.  Put it on your bucket list!!


Canada Day – July 1, 2014

We left Cedar Hollow for Waterloo to celebrate CANADA DAY with John, whose Father’s Day gift was a steam-engine train ride from Waterloo to Elmira on  the Waterloo Central Railway.

 All aboard!  The muggy air blew away after a quick thunderstorm, bringing refreshing breezes in through the coach’s open, unscreened windows.

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From St. Jacobs to Elmira, we enjoyed pastoral scenes of Waterloo County.

July 1-14-Mennonite-1024-country

July 1-14-add-ons-1024-to Menn

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On the return run, we stopped to give thirsty Engine No. 9 a drink of water.  I took a picture of the friendly President of the Waterloo Central Railway’s operations, run totally by volunteers.

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This man began six hours before departure time to start a fire, and get it hot enough to support the needed pressure.  He shovelled coal as we gently rocked and clickety-clacked our way along the rails, sipping on bottled water, and taking in the rural landscape, and view of the Conestoga River the pioneers arrived on from Pennsylvania.

July 1-14-Shovelled-1024-the coal

 Arriving back at the station in downtown Waterloo, John received permission to get into the engine.

July 1-14-Jn in-1024-engine of No

Can you believe that No. 9 is 91 years old, and the caboose is 100 years old?  Our hats are off to the hardworking group of volunteer men who repair and bring cars and engines back from their glory days of steam into service once again for the public’s sheer enjoyment.  Hearing the wail of the steam engine’s whistle was a nostalgic thrill, let me tell you!

Woo-oo-oo-oo-oo-oooo!!       Woo-oo-oo-oo-oo-oooo!!!!

After we disembarked by a friendly farmer’s place outside of Elmira, the train backed up, and did a drive-by so we could take photos, and then did it once again. 

Wish you could go on such an old-fashioned ride?  You absolutely can, and you don’t even need a ticket!   

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Turn on your sound, click on the excellent, brief movie John took with his brand-new S-5 cellphone!  You’ll want to share it with your friends.




A Star

Could anything possibly fascinate a child more than stars?

I’ll never forget seeing the Star of the East move across the darkened ceiling of our little country church one Christmas. Three young men in regal apparel, with shiny gifts in their hands, slowly followed that marvellous star, singing “We Three Kings.”  I felt like it was actually happening!  (Little did I know, as a youngster, that it was just the beam of a flashlight!)

Hoping to share the wonder of that night with other little people, I pulled together a similar enactment when our seniors were asked to participate in this year’s Christmas program.

The afflictions of old age narrowed the possibilities down to three candidates, and, thankfully, each of them was willing to participate. Their wives did a stunning job of wrapping their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.  The words of the Carol were affixed to the back of the gifts so they didn’t have to memorize them.

Lloyd patiently sat still while I pulled a stocking cap on his head to form the base for a turban fashioned out of flashy scarves from the thrift store.  A strand of pearls adorned one turban, and others were bejewelled with glitzy earrings and gold chains. Two of the men found housecoats at the thrift store that suited their girth, and one rounded up a pair of sandals.

A practise session was held a few evenings before the program took place.  We had a capable pianist.  A young technical man rigged up a striking star that he could move along on a cable high above the auditorium.

On the evening of the concert, the auditorium lights were dimmed.  The pianist began the introduction. The regally apparelled men sang the ancient words together as they advanced, following the dazzling star. By the time the seniors got to the front, one of them, who had a hearing impairment, could not remember which verse they were on, and wasn’t able to hear the wise man next to him, so he began singing the verse about gold all over again! The others could do nothing but follow suit.

I trust the gorgeous beaming star and the wise men’s apparel covered up the glitch somewhat, and that the children will carry the memory with them of that royal star . . . and why it shone.

Heroes of Niagara – Part I

To celebrate our 51st anniversary which was coming up, Lloyd and I headed to Niagara-on-the-Lake this past Tuesday to take in a play at the Shaw Festival, and enjoy an overnight stay in the area.  We passed miles of grape vines!

Can you imagine anything prettier than this?

Fierce battles were fought at Fort George during the War of 1812.

2012 marks the 200th anniversary.  Lloyd has just read the inscription on the marker showing the spot where Brock died on Oct. 13, 1812, at the age of 43, defending Niagara from the American invasion at Queenston Heights.

The last pronouncement of the brilliant military strategist is said to have been “Surgite!” — Latin for “Push on!” — which is Brock University’s motto.

A Chickadee Nest

This spring’s baby chickadees have flown the nest, so Lloyd went to clean out the birdhouse.

Surprise!  He removed a soft nest over an inch thick made entirely of rabbit fur and lichen.  The lichen was probably pecked off the rocks by our pond.  Can you imagine how many trips Mother and Papa Chickadee made to construct such a nest?

(Two of the rabbits that were obviously blanketed somewhere nearby under a layer of mother rabbit’s chest fur are putting my blood pressure through the roof!  They have chomped off my beans, Johnny Jump-ups, and treasured Sweat Peas!!!)

The chickadee photo was taken by our friend, George McCullagh, ofLondon.

Forest Wonder

The forester in charge of the Region of Waterloo’s woodlots is thinning out the forest behind us, which is mainly soft pine and buckthorn.  Hardwoods will be planted.  He mentioned maples . . . and some acorns!  (Patience.  Not oak saplings, but acorns!)

Today Lloyd and I watched the do-it-all machine at work, called a Fabtek, manufactured in Michigan.  It was operated by a personable young man from Princeton,Ontario.

The machine’s jaws at the top are ready to clamp onto a tree.

The saw at the bottom has cut the tree off (see stump right below it), and the machine hangs onto the tree.

Lowering tree to a horizontal position (being careful not to damage nearby trees).

To left of jaws, you can see that the branches are still on the tree.  Branches are stripped as machine moves tree quickly to the right, and cuts it into logs of desired length.  See yellow blade to right of big tree.  Zip!  Zip!  Zip!!!

Time to tidy up the branches that have fallen onto the ground by “eating” them up and spitting them out as mulch.

A Christmas Puffin

Toddling down a busy Montreal street in mid December, a veterinary technician spotted a disoriented puffin.  It was less than a year old.

How did it get more than 1,000 kilometres away from its east coast home?  Some have theorized that it might have boarded a ship in Atlantic Canada and hitched a ride.  Maybe the deck of the ship was wet, and the puffin thought it was landing on water.

Cared for at a bird rehabilitation centre in Montreal, the tiny celebrity dined on small fish.  The adorable puffin made a TV appearance which was aired over our local station!

Two days before Christmas, it was flown to St. John’s, Newfoundland, in a heated cargo hold, and will be held in the swimming pools of a rehab centre there for a week or more.

Wait till Mother Puffin hears about this!

A puffin “flew” all the way to our Ontario home today!

Opening the side door to get the newspaper out of the mailbox this morning, I found a paper cylinder dangling from the inside of the storm door by a mauve ribbon.  Carefully pulling the cylinder out of the ribbon, I felt something soft inside.  It was a dear little puffin, made out of plush fabric!


Above the coloured photo of him on the page was this note:


A little bird has told me

that you are putting your lovely painting ability to the test

of creating pictures of my relatives on “the Rock.”

I just thought that I’d drop in to see if I can be of assistance to you.

I don’t charge much for my modeling talent, just a bite of food now and again.

Needless to say, the bright-eyed little puffin got our day off to the happiest of beginnings!  I’ll let you know if I can unravel this delightful mystery.

Mom Would Never Guess!

Mom Would Never Guess!

The outrageous offer triggered the replay button on a childhood scene:

I was eight at the time. My sisters’ laughter swirled around me as I clung to the pine tree, bug-eyed, crying and screaming for Mom. “Hang on, El,” she called, hurrying from the farmhouse, ladder in hand. I couldn’t have climbed more than six feet off the ground, but it seemed like 600!

That was more than 60 years ago, and now I was faced with an offer I could not handle.

Lloyd and I spent the first quarter of 2010 helping our son, John, ready his Cambridge condo for sale, and then renovate and paint his new condo in downtown Kitchener.

As a thank you gift for our hard work, he offered us a hot air balloon ride!!

“Are you crazy?” I blurted. “You know I’m afraid of heights!”

“Mom, Ive been wanting to go on a balloon ride for ten years! I want to take you and Dad with me. You’ll be fine, Mom. I really want you to come.”

“You can take Dad, but I’m not going. No way.”

And that was that.

As often happens after a night’s sleep, I saw things more clearly the next morning. The bald truth was . . . I was letting fear deprive me of a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

A further realization dawned. A balloon ride would provide an incredible opportunity to click some unusual photos-—maybe a scene I could paint! Trust in our Heavenly Father would have to displace fear. It would have to.

John could scarcely believe his ears when I phoned to say we would take him up on his offer after all. His daughter, Rebekah, eighteen, and as frightened of heights as her Grandma, didn’t want to miss out on the family adventure. John made arrangements for the tickets before anyone changed their minds.

However, my legal background almost upset the apple cart. Sundance Balloons wanted us to sign a Waiver to the effect that they would not be held responsible for injury or death while ballooning, even if it was caused by negligence on the part of their staff. Neither we nor our heirs could sue the company.

“Why on earth would negligence be excused??” I queried.

“You either sign or you don’t go,” said my husband. “It’s as simple as that.”

Admittedly there were inherent dangers in ballooning, but didn’t daily newscasts confirm that getting into a car and driving down the road was downright dangerous?

The flight was scheduled for the last Monday evening in July, the beginning of John’s vacation, but might be postponed if the weather wasn’t suitable.

When the date finally arrived, one couldn’t have asked for more perfect weather, or a more convenient departure point: Victoria Park, Kitchener, one block from John’s condo!

Entering the park after supper, we strolled over to where the rectangular wicker basket lay on its side. Sprawled on the grass in front of it was a gigantic, rumpled mass of white and purple fabric. It was our first chance to have a close-up look at the pilot’s middle compartment with its propane burners and tanks, and the two cubicles on either side.

Balloon basket

Nearby, three other balloons were being prepared for flight. Several onlookers were gathered around.

Someone spotted a small, black balloon ascending above the tall apartment buildings on the far edge of the park. I assumed it was a party balloon that had escaped, but was told that the pilot was checking out the direction of the air currents.

Finally, the pilot confirmed that everything was GO. The flight was on!

Duly signed Waivers were collected, and a roll call taken.

Two gasoline-powered fans whirred into action, gradually giving shape to the limp mass of fabric. Without warning, a long blast of orange flames shot into the centre of the partially inflated balloon, alarming us! From where we stood, it looked like the whole thing would catch fire!

More fiery blasts. When completely inflated, the humongous CHYM FM balloon held ten tons of air!

There was some urgency about getting into the basket that we had not anticipated. It was now about 7:30, and the balloon was tugging on its tether, eager to be up and away.

Two toe holes in the wicker sides of the compartment I was assigned to seemed too far apart, and the top edge seemed a mile away!

“How on earth am I going to make it?” I sputtered, sticking my left toe into the bottom hole. John, Lloyd, and the pilot pushed my 70-year old leg up . . . up some more . . . tugged, shoved, encouraged . . . until I was perched on the padded rim of the basket. The next feat was to get turned around. As I carefully lowered myself into the basket, Rebekah nimbly jumped in beside me. Nothing to it! John and Lloyd were right in front of us. Three younger people were in each of the other two compartments, making a total of ten passengers, all of us first-timers. There were sturdy rope loops inside the basket’s top edge to hold onto.

In a twinkling, we found ourselves high above the city, with friends who came to watch the launch waving far below!

One of the first pictures I clicked was of the deep excavation and construction site of the all-in-one court house being built a few blocks from Victoria Park. It will replace the three separate court houses (which I had worked in before retiring).

Identifying buildings, agreeing on names of roads and malls, absorbed our total attention, or almost. There were pictures to be taken; lots of them! I was also trying to shush Rebekah, who was chattering like a magpie about how nervous she was!

Unbelievably, neither my husband nor I experienced any fear. There were so many wonderful things to see that I honestly didn’t remember that I was afraid of heights!

The balloon floated along in a south-easterly direction. Mark, our genial pilot, opened some flaps from time to time when he wanted to lower the balloon.

Cameras clicked and jaws dropped as we glimpsed the mammoth homes in Hidden Valley nestled above a curve in the Grand River. We peered into attractively landscaped yards in Deer Ridge, some with bean-shaped pools.

Grand River in Kitchener

Sculpted golf courses bordered the Grand. Some areas of their manicured turf looked like checkerboards. The lawn had been cut in one direction, and then cut again at right angles.

Drifting low over one of the golf courses, a golfer responded to a passenger’s playful request for a golf ball, and hurled one skyward! No one was able to catch it, but someone saw it touch our balloon!

The pilot, whose Irish accent pleased everyone, announced: “Now for some souvenirs,” pointing toward a group of trees, and heading straight for them!!

Squeals of childlike glee pealed out as our basket literally swished through the treetops! Hands reached out in all directions, yanking, grabbing, ripping off leaves.

Freeport bridge over the Grand River

No one dawned their jackets during the flight as heat from the frequent bursts of flame kept us warm.

I believe it was to thrill John, who was enjoying every single moment to the max, that our pilot playfully announced that he would try to skim the surface of the Grand River! Oh my. The front edge of the basket dipped lower than the back, and my husband’s feet got soaked!

A palpable sense of privilege prevailed. We felt we were having a ride like no other!! The pilot was pulling out all the stops!The tall, white pillars of the exclusive Langdon Hall Inn came closer. The chef’s classically designed herb and vegetable gardens were laid out like sections of the British flag. Neatly mowed grass pathways separated them. We were surprised to see the shell of a large building taking shape behind the main manor house. It had bowed and winged lines, and would soon be open to welcome more well-heeled guests.

Langdon Hall in Cambridge

As we sailed along, John pointed out the bald eagles’ scraggly nest atop a platform on two hydro poles. My husband whipped out his binoculars. John captured a few shots before one of the eagles soared off.

Onward over woodlands, over breathtaking views of the Grand River as it wound through pastures, thick forests, and huge fields of corn. Whoever planted the corn would take first prize at any ploughing match! Not a wiggle or woggle anywhere!

John and Lloyd

“Look! Deer!” shouted one of the ballooners. Two or three white-tails bobbed near the edge of the woods but quickly fled back into its sanctuary. In a few moments, I was clicking repeatedly, and managed to get a good shot of a lone deer bouncing rythmically through the corn!

Several vast gravel pits became visible, mute scars attesting to Waterloo Region’s enviable building boom in spite of the economic downturn experienced in other parts of Canada.

Stately stone buildings of Galt Collegiate, which Rebekah attended, loomed ahead. Rebekah, who until now declared she was too frightened to take pictures, began clicking in earnest. Her fears, it seemed, had seeped through the wicker!

At last, the pilot began searching for a favourable landing spot.

My husband and I previously thought that he would simply let the balloon settle gently onto the ground. Not so! A hot air balloon keeps on moving!!! Oh dear.

Landing was the part of the trip that Rebekah had definitely dreaded.

“Stand in a crouched position, face towards the back, and hang onto the rope grips. Remove any straps from around your neck.” The last instruction sounded ominous.

My eyes met Rebekah’s and held.

“I hope we don’t tip over,” she moaned.

“BAM!!” Bump number one. We were still moving.

“Hang on, Grandma,” encouraged Rebekah with a brave grimace.

“SCRUB-B-B!!” Bump number two. The basket began to tip! We gasped! The basket was still moving.

“DRAG-G-G-G!” The basket tipped further . . . but stopped. We were down, down safe and sound in a hay field, and standing upright in the basket!

Loud cheers went up!

“Stay in the basket until I tell you to exit,” instructed the pilot. (He needed our weight to hold the balloon down.)

Mark phoned the chaser: “We’re in a field behind new construction on Kent Street near Salisbury.”

Meanwhile, he continued to shoot fire into the balloon, keeping it inflated so the chase vehicle could spot us.

Children from nearby houses ran out, enchanted by the fairytale balloon that had landed in their very backyard! Won’t they have something for show and tell this September!

Dusk was beginning to settle around us. The chase vehicle arrived in ten minutes, and almost got stuck in fresh dirt at the edge of the field. The driver reversed a bit, gunned the motor, and bounced toward us over the rough terrain.

The balloon was slowly deflating, while staff tugged it away from us with ropes.

Ballooners began to scramble up and out of the basket. Rebekah made sure she had her souvenir branch.

“Let me help you,” said the pilot, who entered my compartment. He squatted down, and instructed me to stand on his knees. John and Lloyd tried to help. With a push from here and a shove from there, a grunt from yours truly, I managed to exit the basket!

The pilot inquired if some were celebrating a birthday or anniversary, and offered a choice of champagne or soft drinks to everyone.

Meanwhile, his crew was busy rolling the crumpled mass of fabric into a long sausage. One of the little neighbourhood girls asked if she could help! Soon it was stuffed into a large canvas bucket, and heaved into the trailer.

Seated at last in the large chase van, glad to be off our feet, Mark drove us through Cambridge, and soon deposited us back in Victoria Park, Kitchener.

Several hand shakes with the Sundance pilot contained appreciative tips for a TREMENDOUS experience in the skies over Waterloo Region!

Although she is gone now, my mother would never guess that the little girl she rescued from the pine tree would one day ride in a hot air balloon – far above the tree tops – without one iota of fear!

Thank you, Heavenly Father! Thank you, Sundance! Thank you, John!