Saturday, July 18, 2009

Prairie Roses

Last week we drove to Saskatchewan to celebrate my parent's fiftieth wedding anniversary. As the eldest, I had to give The Speech. All mom told me was that she didn't want it to be too long. Well, here it is folks, from the heart.

There's something in a marriage that wants to grow, blossom, and bear fruit, and that's exactly what my parents' marriage has done. There are many stories I could tell about our family over the years, but most of you have probably heard them already. A few times. Not to say stories aren't worth repeating over and over and over again as they knit into the skin and bones of our lives, but tonight I am going to talk about something a bit different. I'm going to talk about the values that my parents taught us through the examples of their lives.

Loyalty, Dedication, and Hard Work

As Alice Walker writes, "The nature of This Flower is to bloom," but as we know, growing a garden on what Palliser called The Great Desert of the Prairie is not easy. Today I hear a lot of talk in the media about how hard marriage is, how much time, energy, and thought goes into a marriage, not to mention the emotional risk and personal sacrifice. Yes it may be "hard work" requiring loyalty, trust, and dedication, but what my parents showed us is that marriage is also natural. It's natural for two people to grow together in love and mutual respect for one another. Life is prickly, but the cactus blooms.

Friendship and Generosity

Our son Ullie opened a fortune cookie the other day that said "Friends are more important than money." He rolled his eyes and said, "Well, I already knew that." Here in the place where we grew up the line was blurred between family and friends. Once we had left home my mom's phone calls to my sister and I were kept updated on who had married, given birth, or died, not just as a matter of gossip, but because the community was our extended family. In the Weidenhammer family business, customers were also friends. Our grandfather Walter was a legendary businessman. They said he said he could sell anything. My father was a different kind of businessman. I think he'd have rather given everything away.

Ecology and Curiosity about the Natural World

People ask me what I did all day growing up in the middle of "nowhere." I lived in nature. I collected and identified rocks, wildflowers, and pond life. My sister and I did some cloud gazing, star gazing, and watched flocks of cranes, ducks, and geese pass over our heads in the spring and the fall. If we were really lucky dad would tell us to hop in the car and we'd go hunt for arrow heads, explore abandoned houses or go on some other kind of adventure. My parents taught us to be life-long learners and defendants of the natural prairie. They mourned the loss of each patch of tall grass as if it was a piece of their own hearts. There's something in a wild rose that wants to bloom.

Hope, Tolerance and Spirituality

We have had our share of family tragedies--my grandfather's stroke brought great sadness into our lives, and it was very hard when mom lost her sister Muriel. Having to close down the general store was another loss mom and dad had to cope with together. We lost a house, my sister's beloved rabbit, and a few dogs, but we still had a family and a strong belief that things would get better. Even after a long hard winter, there's something in a crocus that wants to bloom.

When I teach children about bees, I tell them that some people believe in an invisible world, a world beyond this earth where the spirits and ancestors live. In some traditions bees are thought to be the messengers to the spirit world. We grew up in a place where people were mostly Protestant or Catholic. I went to a Catholic school for ten years and I will never forget that in grade two I was not allowed to play a nun in the class play because I was Protestant. Not that I'm bitter or anything. Some day I'll play a nun, maybe even a flying one. Now I live in Vancouver--a city with an incredibly diverse variety of spiritual traditions. You name it, we have it.

When my mom came to Cactus Lake to teach in the one room school house, the local priest was upset that she was Protestant, and to make it worse, she wasn't even Lutheran. The priest happened to be a friend of my grandfather's and word got back to him to leave Joan alone because she was Bernie's girlfriend. We move towards tolerance of difference because we grow in wisdom and understanding as we age. We see how the invisible world just means different things to different souls, but that there's something in every soul that wants to bloom, grow, and bear fruit. Here's to fifty years of growing together. Thanks again mom and dad for everything you've taught us--how to blossom, bear fruit, and set seed for the future.

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