Definition of a Church

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God.” – 1 John 4: 7

There are many ways to define a church, but this verse from John distils the many into one that works for me. A church is a community of friends, loving one another, able to do so because of God’s original out-pouring of love.

It’s perilously easy for Christians like me, long-term believers attending a traditional church, to ignore the good that happens and focus on the bad… the weekly, daily, and hourly ways we fail each other in our interactions as “church”.  We know our own church members so well. Our shared history means that we have experienced each other’s faults and weaknesses often.  We are sinners still.

I have been guilty of exercising that roving critical eye. I could fill any number of blog posts with the crud that clings like gnarled barnacles to my own church family. That’s not what a God of love calls me to do, though. God calls me as a Christian to repeatedly re-focus and adjust my vision so that I see the love around me. Like a snapshot, I need to frame it, keeping it front and centre. And I need to share it. By the very act of seeing and tellling, I am shaping the love and sending it forth again.

That’s why I want to tell you about all the things I noticed in my own church over the past three days. When I went to church on Friday, to run off the bulletin, one of the first things I noticed in the sanctuary was a new set of Advent candles. In contrast to the skinny wax candles from the dollar store we used in the past, these shimmering metallic pink and purple pillars, and the white Christ-candle embossed with the Chi-ro symbol, were regal and elegant. A generous anonymous gift, the pastor informed me, when I asked where they came from. Now I don’t think for a minute that the Saviour was offended by our former puny candles, if our worship was pure, but these new candles were like anointing perfume … evidence of love for our church, for Christ himself.     


Only a few moments later, as I was still doing my bulletin tasks, folks started arriving to set up for a dinner that night. This was a Seniors and Singles’ dinner held periodically as a fun social event. A superb home-cooked meal is prepared and served by volunteers from our congregation and the nominal cost of the supper goes to a special fund for church projects. Conversation and games abound. This evening is a highlight for many in our church family who are in need of fellowship for various reasons …the loss of a spouse, mobility issues, lack of transportation, financial hardship. It’s a love ministry, mandated simply by need and by the success it enjoys.

I bring the bulletin to my mom and stepfather who do the collating and folding. Another snapshot of love. Then I bring a meal of stuffed manicotti I have prepared to a church member who recently had back surgery. She shows me her massive scar. We chat about her recovery. She and her husband express appreciation for the caring and practical help from the church. Of course, behind the scenes was a care group leader who had arranged this meal delivery several days earlier. Still another love vignette.

On Saturday, I deliver the folded bulletins to the church. A delicious aroma wafts upstairs. I go down to the kitchen to investigate. There are the Gems Counsellors, along with some GEMS, ready to serve a hot lunch to eighteen Habitat for Humanity volunteers who are building a home in our community. The Counsellors are wearing smiles along with their cheerful pink scarves. I compliment them on their “visible serving”. Of course, I know that our pastor has already been involved, too, leading devotions at the job site early that morning.

As I walk through the sanctuary, I notice that the Christmas decorations have been hauled out of storage and put up. A Christmas tree decorated with white chrismons, or symbols for Christ. Wreaths, garlands, candles. Two handcrafted banners to inaugurate the Advent season.  I saw Ron’s van in the parking lot and he was carrying a ladder. No doubt he and his wife put up the decorations for the first Sunday of Advent tomorrow.

I wanted to photocopy a couple of large-sized bulletins, but the photocopier was in use. A member of the Safe Church Team was photocopying the finalized policy for distribution to all teachers and leaders. It was good to see the project in a finished state. I postponed my job until the next morning.

Sunday brought more busyness. Sunday School students and teachers were piling into vehicles and heading to Meadowview Nursing Home, to join in a worship service there organized by members of our church. The children would be singing Christmas songs and playing handbells. A couple of grandpas there would be so thrilled to have their grandchildren join them in worship. Our Sunday School superintendant was bustling around still photocopying some colouring pages for the three and four year old classes who would not be heading to the nursing home.

Lots of visitors were entering the foyer. These were our Friendship students. Today the Friendship Ministry of our church was celebrating its 25th Anniversary with special participation in the service and cake afterwards. I counted at least fifteen adult volunteer teachers standing at the front singing with their students and even more special “friends” who are bussed in every Wednesday evening for a Bible lesson, fellowship, and fun. It was a blessed moment to see our pastor assist one of our friends in lighting the Hope candle.

After the service I chatted with a friend. She asked about my blogging and encouraged my writing aspirations. I asked about her studies and encouraged her in her efforts to obtain a Masters degree in business. I met her sister and learned about her mid-life change of career. She left a satisfying job to go study at Harvard and follow her passion for building bridges of healing and creating societal change. We shook hands and wished each other well.

This is a church. An abundance of love. Serving, sharing, connecting, And I haven’t even mentioned the regulars. You know, the ushers, musicians, nursery attendants, elders and deacons. The powerpoint guy who showed a Christian Reformed World Missions slideshow during the offertory. Church – where God is present and where he is glorified.

Now I am not saying that our church is perfect. I’ve already alluded to our ugly underside. I am not naively putting on rose-coloured glasses.  Undoubtedly there was grumbling here and there. There was annoyance with someone who forgot a bulletin announcement. There was probably some foot-dragging and elbow-twisting to get some of this love stuff done.

But the miracle is that it does get done. The Saviour is re-incarnated over and over again in selfless acts of service in churches full of sinners. Like mine. I have seen and testify.


An Epiphany for Epiphany

(I wrote this last January ~2009~ and shared it on a listserve.)

Thought I would share this true story.

As many of you know, my husband does not attend church. He is not what most Christians would call a believer (although in God’s own infinitesimal time, little things happen that I consider hopeful….). So for the past, hmmm, 30 years or so, I have attended my rural CRC church alone. When my children were young, it was sometimes challenging to make two Sunday services with all three of them in tow and clean, but I persevered. There was an embarrassingly long period of time where I indulged in constant envy of the handsome and whole families who shared a pew together, where I stoked my anger at God for not changing Mark’s heart for my convenience (and his good), where I nursed resentment that God hadn’t made my children more compliant. It was exhausting pushing the wheelbarrow of self-pity to church with me every week while simultaneously pasting a smile on my face!

Time passed. Children grew up. I grew up. I got used to attending church alone. The church got used to my attending church alone. In his own time, God relieved me of some burdens and enabled me to carry others with a smaller bucket of self-pity and a more genuine smile.

Two weeks ago an older lady drew me aside after the afternoon service. She and her husband have been members for a few years now. I don’t know her well, but we have shared a casual conversation or two during coffee fellowship. Anyway, as she gave me a quick hug, here’s what she said: “I am so encouraged when I see you coming to church twice every Sunday. It must be hard to come alone, but you come so faithfully.” For an instant I was gobsmacked. It had been so long since I had thought of church attendance as a hardship. I thanked her and told her it was hard once upon a time, but now I have a lot more peace. I enjoy church, I told her, and my husband is generally supportive of my desire to worship and to live a Christian life.

It wasn’t a long conversation, but one that has since stayed with me. Here’s the epiphany. What if all those unanswered prayers of mine for my church attendance to be fulfilling and perfect according to my perceived needs were actually heard… but shelved for this woman’s need of encouragement at this time in her life? Initially that thought brings a surge of protest. Thirty years of disappointment and unrealized hopes and dreams for someone else’s spiritual encouragement? Would that be fair of God to use my life in that way? Is that manipulative or wondrous? Or indeed a wondrous manipulation? Can I open my eyes like Simeon to see a light for revelation? And what if my fellow parishioner knew how often I went to church mad, sad, and pouty? We pray that God will use us, that he will use our half-hearted and grumbling bits of service to his glory. Can we recognize and believe it when he does?

On the other hand, perhaps she was seeking to encourage me, and her comment was a gift, a God-moment, a word of divine affirmation from one sin-stained saint to another.  Perhaps this was the day and the way God chose to show me how much he has changed me.  Or was it both?  An ordinary reminder of providence in an ordinary setting, that our lives are linked and we are the communion of saints; an ordinary reminder that faith grows, that the Spirit’s work and the Word of God do not return void.

That moment lit my world like a haloed encounter. We confess that God works all things for our salvation. So often doubt nibbles at my faith, but thanks be to God, today my eyes have seen.

Star of wonder, star of might, guide me to thy perfect light!

Why Blog?

Ginger, a friend on a listserve, asked a legitimate question:


Your writing is very good, but I don’t see

the point of blogging. Is it journaling?

Everybody and his brother and sister

seems to be blogging now? Why? And

how do you find time to blog, plus read and follow Face Book?

 I must be slow. Where do you find the time?”

I’m happy that she thinks my writing is good! Answering her questions helped me clarify some of the reasons why I am blogging. I don’t see blogging and journaling as the same thing. I do keep a journal, very personal and private, where I write all kinds of things, including bits and pieces of reflection, anecdotes, dreams, and ideas. It’s also where I cry out at God sometimes. I remind my husband, Mark, once in a while to be sure to delete it if I die (seriously). 
I have the time because I am retired now. After a busy thirty years or so of teaching and raising a family, I am allowing myself this time to pursue my own interests. That is not as easy to do as you might think. I have been retired for three years now and many things have intruded on my time. All legitimate. Family stuff, church stuff, volunteering, choir. It goes against the grain for a woman, a wife, mom, and grandma, and especially a Christian, to determine to do something for herself. I struggle with that apparent “selfishness” all the time. What right do I have to spend so much time on my own interests when there is so much work to be done? So many needs all around me?

There are many things I just don’t do and not doing them helps to free up time. I rarely invite people to my house, not because I am unfriendly, but because I don’t enjoy cooking and Mark doesn’t like a lot of company. He works long hours and deserves his quiet weekends. Quiet weekends also give me writing time. When I make a meal, I always make double, so we can eat leftovers the next night. That kind of meal planning might be boring to foodies. Thankfully, Mark is OK with leftovers, and so I gain some more writing time. Fortunately for me, he is not a high-maintenance kind of husband. He likes to do his own thing … golf, golf, and then maybe a bit more golf.  His independence offers me independence, too.

Equally fortunate for me, he values that independence. Not all husbands do. He bought me a laptop so that I could have my own computer access all the time. He also bought me a computer chair because I was sitting on a stool that was not good for my back. He is supportive, but rarely reads what I write. I used to babysit my grandkids almost every day, but they have moved an hour away. That, too, has resulted in a sense that the time is right for blogging.

The “Why blog?” is harder to answer. Some people use their blogs as journal. I am hoping to achieve a presentation that is a tad more polished and professional than a journal, something more like a home-grown editorial column. I see it as a kind of  “practice ritual” like playing scales and drills on the piano. I want to hone my skills, so I need to use them, and I need an audience and feedback. A blog offers a place where I can work towards creating a local readership.
One of the hardest things to do is to believe in your own gifts. Even Ginger’s comment here, though prefaced with a compliment, makes me second-guess myself as a writer. Sure, I write well. As an English teacher, I should be able to do that. Do I write well enough to grab and keep your attention? Do I have sufficient insight and wisdom or enough humour and surprise to make you come back for more? I don’t know. I won’t know until I try.
Every time I read Frederick Buechner or Marilynne Robinson or Annie Dillard, I am confronted with how ludicrous it is that I would have the temerity to call myself a “writer”. Titans live at my house! I am more comfortable with calling myself a blogger than a writer. But even Buechner, my writing hero, encourages his readers to make the attempt:”…it seems to me that no matter how eloquent or otherwise, if you tell your own story with sufficient candor and concreteness, it will be an interesting story and in some sense a universal story. I do it also in the hope of encouraging others to do the same – at least to look back over their own lives, as I have looked back over mine, for certain themes and patterns and signals that are so easy to miss when you’re caught up in the process of living them.” (Now and Then)  If I try to be objective and take my insecure self out of the equation, it seems clear that we need preachers, even if they aren’t all Billy Grahams or Tim Kellers, we need teachers, even if they don’t all win “National Teacher of the Year” awards, we need choir members, even if they aren’t all opera divas. So, maybe we need writers, even if they don’t all merit Pulitzers. 

Many friends and family have been encouraging. Four people stand out for me. One is the late Harry DerNederlanden, former editor of the Christian Courier, who published a couple of my stories and articles and praised my efforts. Another is Hugh Cook, whose work I love, and who has been a role-model and occasional sounding board. Hugh was a judge of a writing contest in Ontario and awarded one of my stories a first-place. He didn’t know it was my story. That meant a lot.
The third person is someone whose name I don’t remember. I met her briefly at the Faith & Writing Conference two years ago. She was seated beside me and after the workshop, we chatted for a few moments. She was a young woman with long auburn hair and a British accent. She introduced herself as the partner of Yann Martel, who wrote Life of Pi, and who was the keynote speaker for the whole conference. She had published a novel as well, not one I had ever heard about. Somehow in the conversation, I confessed to that old bugaboo, my insecurity, the constant awareness of how painfully amateurish my efforts are in light of some of the outstanding work I read daily. She was sympathetic, but direct: “No one else can tell your stories. Only you.” That was familiar advice I’d heard before; but now I was hearing it from a woman who was living my very hang-up. Yann Martel’s book had brought him meteoric Canadian stardom and international recognition, but it wasn’t holding her back from pursuing her own writing career. She had different things to say, different interests, and she was tending to them. I think her book title was Life on the Refrigerator Door. I want to track it down and read it sometime. This chance encounter felt freighted, and has certainly stayed with me. God poking me?
The last person who has really influenced me is a local artist, formerly a Christian school teacher. Her name is Mary Abma. She is a hugely accomplished person who has shown perseverance in pursuing her artistic career. Her dedication to her art has come at a cost, not the least of which was her teaching. I’ve chatted with her on many occasions. I know that she has been much more intentional than I about improving her craft and also much more confident about calling herself an artist. She is ruthless about excising extraneous demands from her life as she focuses on her work.That comes from believing not only in her talent and her vision, but also from her conviction that it is her Christian duty to produce art. So, part of the “Why blog?” answer is to assert in a concrete way, even if only to myself, that writing can be a God-blessed endeavour, a way to serve.
But the bottom line is that I enjoy writing. It’s fun. I blush to think that it might merely be a pre-occupation with myself and what I think and a kind of self-indulgent narcissism, but there it is. I can’t stop thinking about stuff until I write it down and get it out of my system.

The very day after I fought through another bout of self-doubt and defeatism, another friend, Judy, wrote this encouraging note to me about my first blog entry: 

“What a good use of your writing ability to witness to the sacred that peeks through nature and art to those with eyes to see.  Thank you for sharing the opening entry in your blog with us.  Your observations reminded me of some lines of William Shakespeare:

Sweet are the uses of adversity,

Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous,

Wears yet a precious jewel in his head;

And this our life exempt from public haunt

Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,

Sermons in stones and good in everything.

                                 “As You Like It,” Act II, Scene I

No greater motivation than that… to remind a reader of Shakespeare!  OK, I know that’s not quite what she said….   🙂

“Freedom Is Not Free”

IMG_6573                      IMG_6558

This past week, as I prepared our church bulletin, I included a couple of photos I had taken at Holten Cemetery in The Netherlands. Many of our seniors were born in Holland and have personal memories of the Liberation. They would appreciate the homage to Remembrance Day. But I also hoped the photos would catch the attention of the kids in the congregation, a visual catalyst for a teachable moment. One picture highlights a single stunning yellow rose at the foot of a white headstone. If you look carefully, the partially-hidden inscription says, “At the going down of the sun… we will remember them.” The other photo is a wide-angled shot of several rows of white headstones, each with a maple leaf prominently displayed in the centre of a circle. Vibrant red roses wave their billowy colour in the foreground offering a perpetual salute to the fallen.

I needed a caption, so I typed: “Freedom is not free”.  I had to think for a moment where the phrase originated. Then I remembered – The Korean Veterans War Memorial in Washington, DC.  Mark and I toured the National Mall last year and spent some time viewing the War Memorials there. The WWII Memorial is a pristine white circle, appropriately symbolic of its global impact. The Freedom Wall within the Memorial is embedded with 4048 gold stars, each one representing 100 American service personnel who died in WWII or are listed as missing. The Memorial has a classical elegance with the bubbly sounds of the spraying fountain muting extraneous noises.  

07-19 (10)                    07-19 (38)                                                          

 The Viet Nam Memorial evokes a sombre mood with its sinuous low profile and dark polish. A hushed respect was palpable as you moved closer to this monument.  The bits and pieces of ribbon, medals, and notes left on the ground were telling… this conflict was not so long ago.                      

            07-19 (39)           07-19 (41)     

The Korean War Memorial was the one that has stayed with me, though. I didn’t even know it existed. No preconceptions meant I was completely open to its power. My first sight of the memorial was a low wall of shimmering stone with the words “Freedom Is Not Free” strongly cut and visible from a distance. Sunlight reflected from a pool of water beside the wall. The curt truth seemed lit from all angles.     

     07-19 (18)                        07-19 EA (49)       

As you walk closer to the Memorial, mature trees both screen and enclose a mound. You enter the space and suddenly you are on a small rise of land in Korea. Your comrades are with you, leaning forward, moving grimly up the hill. The nineteen statues are life-sized and the faces are exquisitely rendered with fatigue, determination, and courage. One of the soldiers is positioned so that he looks directly at you, willing you to go on with him, wordlessly promising that he will be at your side.   

                    07-19 (21)                       07-19 (22)

The Memorial also features a second glossy granite wall with faces shimmering on the surface. I have absolutely no idea how the artist achieved this stunning holographic effect.  As you look at the wall, hundreds of faces seem to rise up out of the stone, and look directly at you. As you look at the faces, it suddenly dawns on you again that you are there, too, with them. Your own face is reflected back at you, and blends in, just one of the many. 

The genius of that particular memorial was the way it pulled you into that time and place so effortlessly. I was on the battlefield. I was forging ahead with my comrades.  I was one of the many whose lives were jettisoned out of the ordinary into war. For the briefest moment the cost of freedom was personal. I was there.

A concrete retaining wall encircles the Korean War Memorial inscribed with the names of countries who offered their soldiers and their hearts to the cause of freedom. Even that unassuming wall of bricks touched me. Countries like Canada and Belgium and Australia banded together, not one greater than another, each name uniformly engraved with the same size and lettering. On another stone these words: “Our nation honours her sons and daughters who answered the call to defend a country they never knew and a people they never met.  1950 -1953.”

Fast forward to the present. Like so many churches in communities everywhere, our local church has a sign which seeks to reach out with a pithy comment to passing motorists. My mom and stepfather are the volunteers in charge of the sign. When my mom asked me if I had any suggestion for Remembrance Day, my response was immediate: “Freedom Is Not Free.”

On a church sign, doubly profound.

Courage: The Mark of a True Gardener


Courage: The Mark of a True Gardener  (Spring 2009)

It’s spring again.  Time for the timid gardener, namely, me, to put on my game face, strap on some courage, and sally forth to my beds.  What’s so scary about gardening, you ask?

Well, for starters, let’s talk about the wildlife.  Due to an unfortunate exposure at the tender age of eleven to Hitchcock’s The Birds, a traumatic event in my life where my mom found it necessary to slap my face to stop my idiotic gibbering and then further decree that a glass of wine, my first, was needed to sedate me, I have a nervous respect for birds.  That apprehension morphed into serious phobia at Busch Gardens a few years ago when a seagull mistook my out held gingerly-balanced pastry as a peace offering of sorts, swooped down inches from my stunned and gaping mien, and knocked the lovely almond-coated Belgian mocha treat right off my plate.  As it landed in a delectable mess at my feet, his platoon mates joined the attack en masse.  I was left blubbering in abject horror in the midst of a dozen flapping wings.  My husband had to rescue me, and lead me away gently by the hand, adding to my public humiliation. 

 So that’s Florida, you may say, a foreign country, where tourists pay the price for their naiveté, but I hasten to add my local combat stories.   Last year a mourning dove elected to nest in the hanging basket just outside my patio door, and when I emerged, completely unaware, the dove took flight with such a  frantic commotion above my head that I nearly fainted on the spot.  Until my husband safely removed the still-empty nest, I had to exit my back door brandishing a hockey stick to flush the enemy.  Those devious doves also like to roost in my sunny back garden, camouflaged in the warm soil under my weigelas.   I’d casually stoop to do some deadheading,  and suddenly be bombarded by avian shock and awe.  The doves would lift off wildly in their heavy and awkward way, raising plumes of dust, and leave me stricken, gasping for breath, moaning weakly for a paramedic.  Then there was the spring I was removing leaves from my front garden and almost touched a decaying bird buried underneath the debris!  Now my long-suffering husband is pressed into duty each March to perform a careful reconnaissance around the yard and secure the terrain.

And birds aren’t the only wildlife that can scare the heebie-jeebies out of you.  I’ve had toads hop at my nose, snakes slither away only centimetres from my fingers, and a vole, or some equally disgusting furry facsimile, dart past my trowel.   A transient bunny finds it amusing to bolt out from under my daylilies now and then, just to spike my blood pressure.  Hordes of bees bivouac on my sedums in August, forcing me to wait until sundown to water the bed.  As you can imagine, gardening under such duress causes me to be a little tense.  I’ve been known to leap several feet in the air if a branch accidently brushes my back as I’m digging in the dirt.  I wonder what  the neighbours think as I hurl myself skyward and yelp in fright!  Dial 911, it’s The Day of the Triffids?

Oh yeah, the neighbours.  Another reason for courage.   As a rookie gardener, I live in fear of their judgment on my efforts.  For example, I’ll admit to a rather anal compulsion to keep my gardens tidy.  What  do they think when they see me obsessively picking out pebbles and twigs from the soil?   Then there’s the bothersome complication of gardening at a 45 degree angle at all times so the neighbours aren’t hit with a broad backside view while I’m planting!  Yes, gardening is truly fraught with anxiety!

Here’s yet another example.  During the summer months, I like to wander around the yard in the early morning and look at my flowers and shrubs.  I also like to wander around the yard at lunchtime and look at the same flowers and shrubs.  And then, you guessed it, in the evening, I like to wander around the yard and see how those flowers and shrubs look with the spotlights on them.  What do the neighbours think?   Gee, lady, get a life!  Get a job! 

Thus I maintain: gardening is not for wimps.  But, as every gardener knows, there is something so miraculous and so victorious about gardening –  the green stuff coming back from the dead, those delicate pastel Iceland poppies dancing in the slightest breeze, the crimson Asiatic lilies trumpeting glory – that every spring I am compelled to gird my loins, narrow my eyes with Clint Eastwood defiance at the birds, hoist my hockey stick, and join the charge.   Huzzah!


The Nose In My Bathroom Tile

A bathroom reno is what every woman wants. My bathroom has just undergone its third transformation in twenty-two years. My husband, Mark, is a carpenter, and we are on a budget, so it was a DIY project, not quite the luxurious “spa” bath you might see in House & Home or Style at Home.  But it sure beats what we had before. I’ve got the plush white towels, a gleaming chrome faucet perched proudly on a new white ceramic sink, and fresh “Manhattan Mist” on the walls.

The porcelain tile flooring seems to get everyone’s vote for the best new feature in the bathroom. The mottled mix of grey tones and spice brown veining is supposed to emulate the markings of natural stone. I’m not quite sure which natural stone. No matter. The desired effect is there and the tiles were in the right price range. Of course, Mark had to be reminded to alternate the placement of the tiles so they looked “irregular”. Happily only three of them are in a row with exactly the same pattern and orientation, glued in place before I could intervene. Still, if you don’t look too closely, you can hardly tell that the tiles are mass produced, so I’m not complaining.

 The thing that kind of gets me is that when I sit on my new toilet, a lovely environmentally-responsible model designed for the more mature posterior, appropriately high and sturdy, directly in my line of sight is a nose. A nose in the floor tile. A long nose that starts with a skinny bridge but extends into quite the formidable proboscis. The variations of grey and brown streaks create two very obvious nostrils, slightly flared. Receded behind the bridge are two charcoal-coloured horizontal lines which appear to be eyes slanted in a rather menacing expression. My dear spouse does not see the nose in the tile. Nor the narrowed eyes.

But then he didn’t see the animals in the sponge-painted walls, either. The previous decor consisted of my own sponge-painting. Another DIY. Minty-green spirals and peachy whorls adorned the entire bathroom in a pattern that I thought simulated high-end wallpaper. I was mistaken. It was ghastly. However, the point is that I could clearly see an alert and cute husky pup in the abstract design. It had perky pointed ears, and button eyes. I also saw a turtle. And a duck. And other things. And no, I don’t hear voices. I just see things that others don’t seem to see.

So, here I am blogging. I want to write about the things I see. Mostly because they seem to be demanding my attention. Embedded designs. Anomalies and quirks in the fabric of my life. Something or someone behind the curtain that I have to check out, like Toto in the Wizard of Oz.

I’m a Christian, so I am saying that it’s God. In my peripheral vision, I see him working. Just oblique glimpses, as if his back is turned towards me, so I just can’t be certain always as to what he is doing. There’s swirling smoke and haze. Sometimes he drifts out of sight entirely. It seems he’s a smith (too), muscled and strong, sweating in a sooty shed, smiting and refining with powerful arms and skilful craft. Sparks fly, and metal clashes. He’s trying to get my attention, I think, calling me to look again, to look more intently, to notice that he is here, busy.