Christmas Letter '14

Nadolig Llawen!                      Merry Christmas!                      Buon Natale!

Christmas 2014.

From our home to yours, dear Family and Friends,

It’s a pleasure to share a little bit of our lives over the past year at this very special time of year.  We hope you are enjoying a full and restful Christmas/New Year season.  2014 has been very much a typical year for us, a happy year with very ordinary challenges.

Tina enjoys her retirement but still takes the occasional casual shift, nursing at VGH.  She continues to enjoy cello lessons at the Delta Community Music School (http://www.dcms.ca) under the tutelage of Bo Peng, cellist with Borealis String Quartet (http://www.borealisstringquartet.com).  Late in the spring and through the summer, Tina added to her musical repertoire by taking up harp lessons from Lori Papajohn, harpist and Musical Director of Winter Harp http://www.winterharp.com), an ensemble whose concerts have become one of our favourite Christmas traditions.  Tina attended these lessons in Lori's own home, delightfully filled with harps all over the house.

Ted's health continues as stable, with only occasional colds.  He continues to alternate 3 days of swimming (2000 m. in roughly 40 min.) with 3 days of cycling (nearly 14 km. in roughly 40 min.), sometimes substituting a good stiff walk (a little over 4 km. in the same 40 min.), with this exercise and prescribed medication, Ted remains well.  For the 2014/15 orchestral year, Ted continues to serve as immediate Past President of the Delta Symphony Society, the sponsor of the Richmond Delta Youth Orchestra.

Angela keeps contact with her friends in the Dusty Babes Collective as they continue to strive to find their place among British Columbia ceramic artists.  In the mean time, Angela has taken part-time work at Spawts (http://spawts.com), a ceramic studio that specializes in ceramic family pet paw print impressions.  She enjoys this work with the very small staff that includes one of her friends from ECUAD.  Being employed, Angela has to spend less time in her own studio here at home and at the Delta Potter’s Association studio.

Tina and Ted felt touched and blessed when David chose to confirm his infant baptism and informally joined the congregation at Ladner United Church.  During the year, our congregation completed major renovation of our aging church building and returned from temporary accommodation in the fall.

David continued his mathematical studies at Simon Fraser University through the spring and summer semesters. He does well with pure Mathematics.  In the spring, he received a surprise invitation to become a founding student in the new strings music program within the Music Department of Kwantlen Polytechnic University, at their Langley campus.  This university had brought the Borealis String Quartet onto its faculty to create this program and the quartet identified selected students to invite.  David took the invitation up and has been studying music, with focus on his viola, full time since September, really enjoying the fall term.  He is currently one of just two students taking this new program.  This means that no large ensemble (required by the Kwantlen Music Department) exists, so the university sent him and the violin student to play with the Trinity Western University Orchestra. Kwantlen and also requires music students to participate in small ensembles and we enjoyed the end-of-term recital and concert performances by David's string trio (David, the violin student, and a piano student from Kwantlen Music’s piano program).  He will continue with these musical studies for the spring term, likely returning to Simon Fraser University in the summer for Mathematics while Kwantlen Music is idle.

Although studying music at Kwanten, David continues private study on clarinet and piano, here at the Delta Community Music school.  He also continues to play with the adult Richmond Orchestra (http://www.roca.ca) but was disappointed when that orchestra’s major concert this fall conflicted with Trinity Western University Orchestra’s major concert (http://twu.ca/academics/samc/events/2014-2015-events/band-orchestra-fall.html).

Our year brought significant life events for us to mark.  Tina lost her uncle Sisto in the spring and we shared with his wife Gloria at his funeral.  Then, in early summer we lost a very dear family friend from David’s years with the Delta Youth Orchestra, Sherri Plewes.  They rest, treasured, in our memories.  Summer brought the excitement of Ted’s brother Norman’s son Gareth’s wedding with Zoë Stopher, whom he had met early in his doctoral studies at Utah State University and who has enthusiastically assisted him with his newt research.  This was a beautiful wedding in a beautiful setting. 

That wedding occurred on a beach near Gold River, Oregon, and brought us our major getaway for this year as we travelled the remarkable Oregon coast.  We were pleased to accept the kind invitation of one of Ted's former secondary school classmates, Heather (Granger) Kirkwood and her husband Jack, to stop at their home in Seattle for our first night on the road.  They are wonderful, welcoming, hosts.  One highlight of that trip occurred as we reached the mouth of the Columbia River before crossing the Astoria Bridge and discovered pelicans in large numbers fishing and flying around.  All along the Washington and Oregon coasts we found spectacular scenery, both similar to yet also different from our own British Columbia scenery, replacing the deep inlets with long beaches directly facing the open Pacific, punctuated here and there by great rocks on the beaches or just offshore in the sea.

Earlier in the summer, our other get away was a very special trip to Oliver for the fifty year reunion of Ted’s formers schoolmates.  Imagine that, a half-century since graduating secondary school.  Ted enjoyed reconnecting with classmates and introducing Tina and David to his old friends.  Southern Okanagan Secondary School is newly rebuilt and we enjoyed exploring around outside the beautiful building, suggestive more of a fine community college than of a secondary school, while reminiscing about the school Ted knew.

Catinka remains very much queen of our house, while Angela’s ducks continue to hold authority over our back yard.  Jemima and Rebeccah have slowed their egg production with the new year and stopped completely when they molted last summer.  We await egg laying resume.  Tango still remains convinced that he should not let any of us exit the back yard from January to August.  At the end of November Angela added a new pet to our menagerie bringing home Adam, a red haired standard poodle puppy. He quickly endeared himself to us all.

Ted continues to seek players to experiment with his invented team sports of Two Ball and Delta.  Lacking sufficient contact of his own among sports minded youth, he continued to approach schools as their Physical Education and intramural sport programs likely offer the best chance of drawing sufficiently large groups of players together.  This remains disappointing as no schools have taken up either game yet.  Ted also kept up a web presence for the games at http://twoballanddelta.org (although the site is currently down as he develops major revisions) and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/TwoBallAndDelta.  These continued to catch attention world-wide, but he still awaits word of anyone actually playing either game.  You are most welcome to have a look and draw the games to the attention of sport minded people you may know.

And now we look forward to 2015.  Recent weeks, of course, have filled us with Christmas preparations.  We hope yours have gone well and we wish you a Merry and Blessed Christmas and all happiness in the New Year.

With our love,
Ted, Tina, David, and Angela.

P. S. That this letter arrives on Christmas Eve is entirely deliberate.

Blwyddyn Newydd Dda!              Happy New Year!                 Felice Nuovo Anno!


Biting the Sun

Rain and clouds gave me limited opportunity to view the partial solar eclipse yesterday, but the clouds did clear at the right place in the sky to permit me to follow part of the eclipse progress.  As impressive as the eclipse itself that large sunspot group also took my attention.  Hand held video camera and hand held projection screen limit the quality of my recording.


Snow Geese Return to Westham Island 2014

Just for the wonder of our Snow Geese, this is one of nature's great spectaculars right here in our "backyard."


For the Love of Peanuts

For some time we have had Steller's Jays fly across our back yard.  They are resident in the neighbourhood and we often see them at a large hedge on 44th Avenue, just the other side of Ladner Elementary School.  Occasionally they would stop at our feeder and help themselves to a few sunflower seeds, but mostly they just ignored it.  Last year I put a few peanuts out on the deck rail and immediately got the jays' attention.  Ever since we have allowed the jays to entertain us with their enthusiasm for peanuts.

They will watch and wait for me to put the peanuts out.  I think they even know our car; often when I drive home along 44th Avenue, park the car in our garage, and come upstairs to the kitchen I find a jay on the bird feeder bar, expectantly waiting.  If not present when I put peanuts out they arrive within seconds after I leave the deck.  If they are already there, they'll come as close as a metre away from me, but never take a nut out of hand.

Lately. I have clipped the peanuts onto strings hanging from overhead.  This puzzled them at first and only one would attempt to pluck any off the strings.  This one soon got the knack of jumping and flying at the selected peanut with head turned just so to successfully pull it off the string.  For about a week it appeared that only one bird could do this as the rest contented themselves with the loose nuts on the deck rail, then others started catching on after observing.  Now, most of the jays do it, some more expertly than others.  The birds who are more adept at plucking peanuts off the strings may even ignore the easy pickings lying on the deck rail in preference for the challenges on the strings.  Some even choose peanuts higher up the strings over the easy to reach ones at the ends.  Now more jays than ever come to participate in our peanut challenge.


Encounters with Three People

The first person was my own Father.  Dad was an active Christian all his life who raised me in our local United Church of Canada and sang in the choir of every congregation to which he belonged.  After I had grown and left the family home his involvement attained the chairmanship of our church’s Board of Session while Mum chaired the Board of Stewards.  Anyhow when I was a very small boy, I used to hear Dad comment on selfish behaviour by others, “Why don't they hear Jesus’ words, ‘Deny thyself.’”
Later, when I learned the Easter story in Sunday School, I took note of the part following Jesus’ arrest when Peter denied Jesus.  In my private pondering of what I had learned, I put this lesson together with Dad’s earlier comment and determined that I should endeavour to avoid denying Jesus, but rather deny my own self.  Whether successfully or not so successfully, I do try to reduce and limit the realm of my own self-interest.
Throughout my life since then, I have experienced times when I have had a real sense of God close with me and other times when God seemed distant or even non-existent.  What seems really strange is that it is precisely on those few times when I most successfully deny myself that God seems most remote.

The second person was an older medical doctor who befriended me, a stalwart in his community and the United Church I attended at the time.  When I knew him, he was of an age to have active memories of the period of active temperance organizations and alcohol prohibition in the United States.
On one occasion, as we visited, he got into considering the familiar saying, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”  My doctor friend stopped and suggested that this means more than commonly accepted, good intentions not carried out.  Rather, carrying out “good” intentions, free from any self-interest, themselves could pave the road to some form of hell.
He gave the example of the temperance movement and alcohol prohibition.  He recalled the active movers and shakers within the temperance movement as involved Christians with strong “good” intentions to save their neighbours from the ravages of alcoholism.  They had nothing to gain for themselves from prohibition and approached the issue with true Christian nothing-in-it-for-themselves unselfishness.  They succeeded in their “good” intentions and brought complete alcohol prohibition to the United States and wrought the hell of a sharp rise in criminality and gangsterism within that country from which it has never fully recovered.
Intelligent and well educated as he was, my doctor friend did not resolve this contradiction.

The third person is actually an amalgamation of several people I have encountered whom I will present as a single individual who would “never trust any person for whom that person’s own self-interest in a matter was not readily apparent," and would "be offended if you sacrificed what is in your own rational self-interest in order to do for me, but be welcoming of anything you do with me out of your own self-interest.”
As an active non-believer, she contended, “Your St. Paul got it all wrong when he wrote, ‘Love is never selfish.’ In fact, love is always and entirely selfish and rational self-interest is good, not the evil you Christians project it as being.”  She argued, “You Christians regard love as existing when the well-being of the one loved is viewed as more important than the wellbeing of the one loving, the thinking of the slave and the altruistic victimized,” and went on to claim, “Love exists when the well-being of the one loved is recognized as necessary to the well-being of the one loving, the rational and wholly selfish thinking of a truly free person within a community.”  I have never felt confident in answering this challenge.
The odd fact is, this non-believer is actually among the kindest and most generous people with whom I have crossed paths.  When questioned about her kindness and generosity, she always came back with a highly rational explanation as to how that kindness and generous action fit entirely within the realm of her own self-interest.