First fires then a pandemic and now floods. Please tell me this is it

Its been a rough few days. It’s only Thursday but it feels like forever since the Athabasca river overflowed and came inland. On Monday the ice jam was 25km long, it is now 13km long. That’s a lot of ice! But it is dissolving slowly and the waters are receding, so that’s good news. The bad news is that many people who had finally moved into newly rebuilt homes that they lost to the fires have lost them again to the flood. It puts things into perspective. Hubby and I have been inconvenienced. We have to make the three hour drive out of town for his dialysis, but we still have a home. Unfortunately this situation may last another week. Yet we are able to rent a motel room in this lovely little community of Lac La Biche and it’s a very comfortable room. My brother continues to wait for news concerning his house and whether or not it sustained damage. The whole downtown core was flooded out. Around 13 thousand people had to be evacuate. My daughter and her boyfriend were also among them. And the adventures continue.

The biggest challenge has been maintaining social distancing and isolation. My brother and sister in law had to go stay with a granddaughter, whom they had not spent time with since the lockdown. I imagine there are many in similar situations.

And so I am asking for prayers for our city as we continue to cope with these often overwhelming challenges.

More trials and tribulations for Fort Mac

Every year in Fort McMurray the ice breaks on the rivers that criss-cross the city. Most years it’s not a problem. Unfortunately this year it’s a problem – a big problem. The Mayor has asked the federal government to send in the military to help. Scenes of flooded streets and news of mandatory evacuations have filled my social media feeds. We live in an area of town that is not affected by this newest dilemma. Unfortunately my daughter as well as my brother and his family live downtown where the flooding is bad. Certain low-lying areas have already been evacuated. My family members have bags packed in preparation, just to be on the safe side. I hope it doesn’t come to that, but there is a distinct possibility. Pictures my daughter sent me show water encroaching on her street. It’s a worry. We cannot get to her as the highway that leads downtown has been temporarily closed to traffic.

I had been wondering about this. As spring gets underway so too does the annual natural disaster season. Tornadoes in the south, and flooding everywhere on the continent are not unusual fare at this time of year. As if the pandemic wasn’t enough of a challenge in and of itself! Below is a video of the flooding, it really is amazing what water can do.

There are five rivers that flow through the city. They are the Athabasca, Clearwater, Horse, Christina, and Hangingstone Rivers. There is also a waterway called The Syne which is used for float plane take offs and landings amongst other things.

The city has been facing the challenges of the pandemic as well as being hit hard by the downturn in the oil industry, which has hit the town hard economically. And now this. So, I ask for prayers and positive thoughts for this city I call home.

Entrusted, Enabled

“God sent each person into the world with a special message to deliver, a special song to sing, and a special act of love to bestow. No one else can speak my message or sing my song, or offer my love…..these are entrusted to me” – Author unknown

Cedar Waxwings taken June 2019 Photo by Carol Hopkins

What song is resonating with you today? Is it a hopeful tune? Is it a mournful ballad? I have been vacillating between hope and despair. I am doing my best to trust in a higher power that we will be okay. It’s hard though, very challenging. I wonder sometimes if this is some kind of supreme test. I am sure that past people in history who lived through the Black Plague or the Spanish Flu and the like must also have felt hopeless at times. Yet the human race survived and we will survive this as well. We are such fragile life forms – all of life is fragile. Yet, it is also resilient and courageous. I am praying for all the world’s peoples today and giving thanks for the silver linings such as the severely reduced amount of chemicals being released into the air, allowing the earth to breathe more deeply, to heal.

May we all be healed of toxic anxiety and fear that serves no one well. Be safe my friends, and stay as healthy as humanly possible.

Horseback Riding: The trial

It’s ridiculous, I know, but an incident that happened when I was young continues to keep me from climbing onto a horse’s back. I love horses. I love watching them – from a distance. I love their natural grace and beauty, their soulful eyes and flowing manes. I love watching them gallop or munching on tender grass.

When I was little my father taught me how to feed a horse an apple. There was a neighbor who would turn his horses loose in the field next to ours. (We lived in rural Newfoundland and kept chickens and a cow, but never once did we own a horse.) Anyway, I digress. The horses were beautiful but I was nervous because they seemed so big to me – I was just a bit of a child at the time. But I remember the delight I took in feeding one an apple. Sadly, this occasion was one of very few, so I never really learned much about these magnificent animals.

Fast forward ten years or so. I was about eleven years old at the time. Dad had moved the family to Ontario. We had gone to a park one weekend, which happened to be located next to a ranch. Dad, bless his heart, thought we’d enjoy a pony ride, and forked over the money so my sister and brother and I could ride. I had never been on a horse in my life but the operator felt I was too big for the ponies. There were quite a few people there wanting to ride. Among them were some young men from Manitoba.

The handlers were rushing about saddling up the horses for a trail ride. Dad told them we were new and had never ridden before. I guess they were in too big a hurry because my mount was not saddled properly. Perhaps my ride sensed my nerves because even as I clutched the reins and kicked trying to get my colt to walk, the animal resolutely refused to move. That was when one of the young Manitobans had his horse rear up on the hind quarters of my steed. Oh, then it moved, it began to trot very quickly. I was not ready at all. As my horse lurched forward, I became frightened. And then lost the reins which fell to one side of its head. As we gained momentum the saddle slipped sideways and I was hanging onto the saddle horn for dear life!

We were riding on a trail through the woods, which only allowed for single file. I bumped along hanging onto the side of the poor animal – I am sure it was no more impressed than I was – what an introduction to horseback riding! I remember crying I was so scared. I really believed I would fall off and be trampled by all the horses following us. When we reached the half-way point, I dropped from the saddle and refused to get back on. I walked back on my own two feet.

A few years later I was spending the weekend with my friend and her family. She was an avid horse lover and often went riding. She convinced me to try it one more time. The mare the handler chose for me was exceedingly gentle, but very tall. She was pure white and beautiful, but once I was in the saddle I started to shake and the tears began to flow. I simply couldn’t do it – the fear was too strong and kept me immobilized.

It’s on my bucket list. To mount and actually ride a horse one day. Perhaps enough time has passed and I will finally be able to put this particular fear to rest.

Everybody has a story

I have been fortunate to meet many people from many places around the world. My job has blessed me with this opportunity. I work at the local library, which is a double blessing because I love books.  I like to read stories about people and places I may never get to visit. I love stories that tell the tales about the indomitable human spirit; about tragedies transformed into beautiful lessons that individuals bravely share; stories about conquering the walls that are built; stories that help me learn something new and precious about the innate goodness of humanity.

Someone asked me once why I write. I write because I must – not unlike the need to breathe. And I write blog posts hoping to share a little bit of what I have learned. I write because I cannot contain the wonder and the awe of the many and varied and wonderful things about people and the world we live in. I write in an attempt to express feelings. Some stories are enough to tear the heart out of me with their sheer sadness and horror. Some make me so angry I am consumed by rage. Others fill me with wonder and joy and contentment. Many inspire me to keep getting up and showing up day by day.

Perhaps author and story teller Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie says it best in a Ted talk. Here is the link to her take on stories:

On the road to redemption


On the road to redemption

You may experience pain like –

Like falling on an upturned glass bottle that is broken and jagged,

That gashes deep into your skin and bone

Tearing tendons and ripping away sinew


On the road to redemption

You may be rejected, vilified, and tormented

And that will hurt you, rob you of much-needed rest

As your thoughts tumble one after another

Like a cascade of frothing water

And you may feel unable to stop the leak

That drips incessantly and poisons your days

Like a dam full of holes

You may feel like you’re drowning – but you won’t


On the road to redemption

You may experience loss and grief

A death perhaps, or the tearing away of a life you thought was assured

A change that forces you to re-examine all you once held dear

And leaves you questioning your sanity

And your equilibrium

As your life spins out of control on some kind of crazy tilted axle

Until you barely know which way is up or which is down


On the road to redemption

You will be tested, time and time again

Your character will be formed as lessons are learned

As you are baptized in fire –

A fire that you think will consume you – but it won’t


On the road to redemption

You may be tortured by life, but –

Look for the helpers and they will appear

They will pour sweet balm upon your soul

And plant peace deep within your heart and mind

A peace that leaves you rested and healed

A peace ‘beyond understanding’

On the road to redemption