A Humbling Encounter (reprise)

Earlier today I came across a post on Facebook from Chris Hadfield:

“46 years ago today we walked on the Moon. Neil, Mike and Buzz inspired me to do something different with my life. I cannot thank them enough for the gift they gave us all.”

I wonder if they thought of their accomplishment as “a gift”. I wonder if they had any idea it would impact generations to come, well beyond the historic and scientific milestone it was.

I recall Robert Thirsk telling me about having his love of Mathematics and Science instilled while in my Grade One classroom, and his passion for space exploration fostered by a Grade Three teacher who brought a radio to class so he and his fellow students could listen to the historic ‘walk on the moon’ moment as it happened. Teachers may never know the value of what they do, but they believe in the importance of nurturing young minds.

On this 46th anniversary I thought it would be timely to share this post from my 2009 archives…

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Throughout my life I have encountered a great many people but I’ve rarely stopped to consider the possible effects of those encounters. Today I am reminiscing about one of them.

On April 1, 1996 I received a letter that would have been easy to disregard as an April Fool’s joke. It began, “I was a student in your grade one class at Glenayre Elementary School in 1959-1960. Although it is unlikely that you remember me, I do remember you… I am writing this letter to you so that you won’t be bewildered when you receive an invitation in the next week or so from NASA inviting you to a Shuttle launch. I am now an astronaut with the Canadian Space Agency….” The letter was signed by Bob Thirsk and it was no joke.

Thus began one of the most humbling experiences of my life. I met with Bob and was interviewed by magazine and newspaper reporters. A headline in the Vancouver Sun on December 7, 1996 proclaimed, “Teacher helped propel astronaut’s dream: Robert Thirsk returns to his Grade One classroom in Port Moody for a reunion with his first math teacher.”  Who, me?  It was, and still is, mind-boggling.

Carol Garvin & Robert Thirsk

Carol Garvin & Robert Thirsk

[On May 27, 2009] he blasted off again, this time from Kazakhstan aboard a Soyuz rocket bound for the International Space Station. Expedition 20/21 was another history-making mission taking Robert Thirsk on the first Canadian long-duration flight where he would live and work on board the ISS for six months. “It will also be the first time all five international space agencies — NASA, Russia’s Roskosmos, Japan’s JAXA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency — are represented at the station simultaneously.”

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My link with this history-making event was miniscule, but it is a reminder that we can never be sure what purpose God has for us.  Our task is simply to turn up each day and live our lives to the best of our ability, always depending on God’s guidance and giving him all praise and glory.

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Information Overload

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It’s just a truck — this single vehicle that replaces all our other ones. Granted, it’s new, and we expected there would be some changes since years ago when we acquired our previous one, but things like a ‘Centre Stack‘ command module with touchscreen computer wasn’t one of them.

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And yet there it is, front and centre, almost as big as an iPad, telling us everything we need to know, and a lot we don’t. Bluetooth wireless connectivity wherever we go. Sheesh! It takes more programming than our home computers! Thankfully it came with a manual.

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The problem is, we can only read so much before our heads begin to swim with information overload. We forget which feature requires that we touch the icon for more than two seconds until a beep sounds indicating the setting has been saved, and which one will shoot past all the settings if you do more than touch it once lightly.

We’re learning that it’s best to deal with one feature at a time, on a priority need-to-know basis. We sit in the truck with the manual in hand and work through the necessary steps. At this rate, however, it might take until it’s time to trade it in again before we figure out everything.

I recall when some of my writing attempts made me feel equally uncertain. I read so many books on how to write, that when faced with a blank screen I wasn’t sure how I should proceed. Too much information had overwhelmed me and confused the process.

Now I just write. I do it while hoping that I’ve absorbed the most useful techniques enough to use them automatically, but knowing any necessary repairs will happen in stages during a later revision process. I’ll read the finished manuscript through multiple times, looking for specific shortcomings to correct each time. When I’m done, I’ve come to accept it still won’t be perfect, but it will be ready to face the scrutiny of my critique partners, who will undoubtedly offer additional advice for polishing.

I wonder if I could convince my critique group to meet in the truck for one session. They could browse the manual and offer suggestions for programming the Centre Stack display. I’d love some help in finding and setting my favourite radio stations from Sirius satellite’s choice of one hundred and twenty!

How do you deal with the ‘information overload’ syndrome?

~  ~  ~

Simple Things

Old fashioned Oxeye daisies can be found just about anywhere. We see patches of their sweetly nodding heads scattered along mile after mile of dusty roadsides, and liberally sprinkled through wild meadows.

There’s an attractive, wholesome aura about them, but they’re considered an invasive species and of major concern in some areas of British Columbia — a relatively short-lived perennial  “that decreases forage for wildlife, decreases local plant biodiversity, and may compromise vegetative ground cover due to its growth form that results in exposed soil.”

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Fortunately there’s an equally delightful-looking alternative available, the Shasta daisy. For a few years I searched the local nurseries in vain for them. I discovered the variety I sought wasn’t the only kind, but I finally located what I wanted, and  blogged about it here.

Their chaste, sunny little faces are such a joy, brightening the often-shady, mostly green places of our yard. There’s something about these ordinary, simple flowers that also lightens my heart. I associate them with my grandmother’s garden, with daisy-chains, and straggly bouquets gathered and clutched in grimy hands. There’s a nostalgia when I recall fields adrift with them in the ‘Little House on the Prairie’ television series that the girls and I watched faithfully.

They make me want to break out in song…

… but, of course, I won’t. Believe me, you wouldn’t want to hear that! (Although the video’s worth watching since there’s a little face near the end that could be considered a clue to something else that is soon coming to brighten our days and lighten our hearts.) ;)

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Simple things are appealing, and I don’t mean just daisies. Most of the characters in my current novels seem to prefer a pared down lifestyle. They don’t live in mansions, do elaborate dinner parties, or take exotic vacations. Are they reflecting my own preferences? Probably so, although I don’t intend to impose such limitations in all future stories. I suspect many readers enjoy the escape provided by more complex settings.

What’s your preference as a reader? or as a writer? Do you lean towards the austere or the more complex when it comes to a story’s setting and the characters’ lifestyles?

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Discoveries and Ideas

We like to meander along unfamiliar roads and pathways. While we were travelling on the Sunshine Coast a week ago, we followed this country road until it finally ended at a private residence overlooking Jervis Inlet. Along the way there wasn’t much to see thanks to all the overhanging trees, but while we retraced the trip in the opposite direction we looked closer, and there were plenty of discoveries.

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Maple Road on the Lower Sunshine Coast

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Tall spikes of Foxgloves (Digitalis purpurea)

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A Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) on the lookout for lunch

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A patch of Oriental Poppies (Papaver orientale)

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An American Robin (Turdus migratorius) enjoying the dappled sunshine

We wouldn’t have noticed any of these delights if we hadn’t been looking for something. It’s not that we were specifically looking for any of them, but simply keeping our eyes open, watching with expectation.

One of the most common questions a writer is asked is where do our ideas come from. The best answer I can come up with is “everywhere in general and nowhere in particular.” Everything has potential as story material. Whenever my hubby sees something interesting or unusual, his first response is usually, “How can I turn that into a children’s story?” Mine is, “Surely I must be able to get a writing application out of that!”

The trick is not to just move through our daily existence, but to experience each moment of it with expectation. So much is there, just waiting to be discovered!

Did you discover anything new or especially interesting last week?

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“But blessed are your eyes because they see,
and your ears because they hear.”

[Matthew 13:16]

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Simmering Down and Summertime Planning

Friday again. But not just any Friday … the last Friday of springtime. Grandchildren are finishing school for the summer season that starts this weekend, and all the mid-week meetings and organizations are beginning to simmer down.

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For those of us who don’t hold full-time jobs, summer is ‘me’ time, when there’s breathing room in daily schedules and freedom to savour an extra cup of coffee in the mornings.

Summer is when I always assume I’ll have time to do all the things that fell to the wayside during ‘the busy seasons’. Unfortunately, it rarely happens that way.  Either I slow my pace to the point that everything takes longer, or I fill the days with unanticipated pursuits that squeeze out time for anything else. Suddenly September arrives and I’m moaning about the lost summer.

This summer I want to be aware of each day and of how my time is spent, whether it’s in a specific activity or doing nothing at all.

I have unimpressive goals which include some writing projects, lots of reading, a little scrapbooking, periods of puppy training (yes, there’s a new puppy on our horizon), bits of gardening and the least amount of housework possible. I’m planning ample time for gatherings with family and friends, and lazy lakeside hours with extended opportunities for meditation and intentional thankfulness. In some ways it doesn’t sound much different from other summers, except that I’m planning ahead so it won’t disappear without opportunities to acknowledge its existence.

When summer arrives this Sunday (on Father’s Day!) what will it herald for you? Are you making any specific plans for how you’ll spend its days?

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A weekend like none other

Despite the more than 350 photos I took this past weekend, it was impossible to capture everything — the emotions of the occasion, the beauty of its location and the significance of being included. In the interest of privacy, I won’t give you all the details, but here are a few photos. (Consider clicking on each to enlarge.)

There was a destination wedding...

There was a destination wedding…

...with this fabulous view as a backdrop.

…with this fabulous view as a backdrop.

A gathering of friends...

A gathering of friends…

...at the West Coast Wilderness Lodge on BC's Sunshine Coast.

…at the West Coast Wilderness Lodge on BC’s Sunshine Coast.

Wedding-gate

Elegance in a rustic, very private setting...

Elegance in a rustic, very private setting…

...on a bluff overlooking Sechelt Inlet.

…on a bluff overlooking Sechelt Inlet.

The special couple -- beautiful inside and out.

The special couple — beautiful inside and out.

A glorious ending...

A glorious day…

...to an absolutely perfect day!

…with a perfect ending!

These are only ten of my 350 photos, but you get the idea. It was a very special occasion in a beautiful wilderness setting. My hubby participated in the ceremony with our current minister, and we stayed in one of the resort’s forest cabins Friday through Sunday.

Now that we’re home, I must admit this morning’s two pieces of buttered toast were a bit of a let down compared to yesterday’s breakfast of french toast topped with apples and pecans simmered in a maple sauce. :)

So many good memories to cherish, big and little! One the special joys was sharing in the marriage of two young people of deep faith who have known each other for eight-and-a-half years while growing up in our congregation. Their wedding unites two of our church families that we’ve known for over twenty years.

In this traditional month of weddings this was a precious weekend indeed!

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Be completely humble and gentle;
be patient, bearing with one another in love.

[Ephesians 4:2]

And now these three remain:
faith, hope and love.
But the greatest of these is love.

[1 Corinthians 13:13]

And over all these virtues put on love,
which binds them all together in perfect unity.

[Colossians 3:14]

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