Caleb’s Coat

© 2006 Mollie Pearce McKibbon

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“Grandfather, tell me the story about the  wooly coat.”

Isaac looked fondly down at his little granddaughter and smiled. She was the only one that asked about about that chilly night so long ago.  Everyone else had heard the story so many times that they no longer listened. Everyone but Sara.  He smiled and nodded and she climbed upon his lap to hear it.

“It was so many years ago,” Isaac began, “when I was just a little bit older than you.  My brothers were tending sheep in the hills.  Every day I tried to follow them up with the sheep.  Every time they would get as far as the brook and then one of them would turn around and tell me to go home.”

“Why did they do that, Grandfather?  Why were they so mean?”

Isaac chuckled, “Oh Sara, they weren’t being mean.  They knew that I couldn’t keep up to them and that could be dangerous if I lagged too far behind. But, one day I was able to keep up to the flock. 

“Was that the night?  Was that the night of the beautiful star?”

“That was the night, Sara.  I remember it was very cold and Caleb gave me his wooly coat to wrap up in.  It had been a long day and I had done a lot of climbing.  I curled up by the fire and fell asleep.”

“Then Caleb started shaking you and calling, ‘Isaac , Isaac, O Isaac the star’!”

“Yes, he woke me up shouting about the star,” said Isaac.  “ I sat up with a shiver and there was light all around us and such beautiful singing, Sara, such glorious singing!”

“And the sky was filled with angels, “ continued Sara, her eyes shining into her grandfather’s. “Were you frightened?”

“Oh yes, at first we were all frightened, but the angels spoke to us in such soft voices that we just listened and listened.  The music was so sweet it almost hurt our ears.”

“What did the angels say?”  Sara knew but this was her favourite part.

“The angels told us not to be afraid, that a special baby was born in Bethlehem, a king, and that we should go and see him.”

“Did you go, Grandfather, “ asked Sara smiling.  She knew what came next.

“Yes, I went, Sara, but I couldn’t walk as quickly as my brothers and soon, I was far behind. I began to run, but I stumbled and hurt myself.  Caleb heard me cry and he came back to get me.  He put me up on his shoulders like this, “ Isaac paused to put Sara up on his old shoulders.   Sara giggled and then Isaac sat her back down beside him.  

“We walked into the town and tried to find the others.  It was very dark except where the star shone.  We followed the starlight to a stable.”

“Were your brothers there at the stable?  Was it a real stable with cows in it?”

Isaac looked down at his granddaughter.

“It was a real stable, and there were cows there, but in their manger …..”

“In the manger was a tiny little baby,” whispered Sara.

“Yes, a tiny new born baby, “ repeated Isaac.

“His hair was shining, his face was shining and he looked right up at me.”

“And what did you do then, Grandfather?” asked Sara.

“ I thought the baby looked cold.  I gave his mother Caleb’s coat,” said Isaac.

“And did she put it around the baby?” asked Sara.

“Yes, she wrapped Caleb’s wooly coat around the baby and he smiled.”

“Did you walk back up into the hills?  Weren’t you cold without the coat?”

“We walked back up to the hills and our sheep, but I wasn’t cold and Caleb didn’t mind about his coat being left for the baby.”

“Did you tell other people, Grandfather?”

Isaac didn’t answer for a moment, but then he finally said, “Yes Sara, my love, I’d telling you.”

“Did you ever see your brother’s coat again, Grandfather?” 

Isaac smiled fondly at the excited child.

“Many years later, I took your father to listen to a great teacher speaking on a hillside not far from here.  Everyone was talking about how intersting his stories were and how he could heal people’s illnesses.  There were many, many people listening to everything he said.  They were all around him, but we got up as close to him as we could,” said Isaac.  

“He was very kind and the children crowded around him too.  Some people wanted the children to go away, but he told them to come closer.  So we did too. “

“And what was the teacher sitting on, Grandfather?” laughed Sara, putting her hands around her grandfather’s neck.

“He was sitting on Caleb’s wooly coat,” answered Isaac with a big smile. “Jesus was sitting on Caleb’s coat.”

******

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Little Brown Teapot

Brown betty teapot

Little Brown Teapot

©2018  Mollie Pearce McKibbon

 

This little brown teapot,

 through the years,

has welcomed strangers, 

sopped up tears,

celebrated good friendships,

patched up fights,

calmed in stormy weather,

and lonely nights.

It’s been a staunch server

through all woes;

has heard about troubles

no one knows.

This little brown teapot,

without a doubt,

is more than a handle,

body and spout.

Fireflies

Fireflies

© 2018 Mollie Pearce McKibbon

 

fireflies-at-night-tsuneaki-hiramatsu-6

Tiny flashes light the path

Winding through the forest dark,

Minute points of silver light

From  heavenly anvil spark.

There’s wonders in the night time

That can only be perceived

By wise and curious people

Who always have believed.

The brightest beam of sunlight

Is not as welcomed or fair

As those sparkling  lanterns

And the One who placed them there.

Burgeoning May

Burgeoning May

First Crocus close-up©2018 Mollie Pearce McKibbon

Winter’s ragged blanket withdraws

Washed away by April’s tears.

Crocuses open their purple petals

To a smiling, unbroken, blue sky.

Breezes gently nudge the trumpet daffodills

While drowsy bees awaken.

Squirrels and chipmunks stretch and yawn,

Aroused in budding branches 

By the joyful serenades of robins 

And red-winged blackbirds 

Responding to the warm coaxing 

Of a burgeoning May.

 

Senior Locomotion

Senior Locomotion
© 2018 Mollie McKibbon

 

My perfume is linament
And I walk most carefully
Because at any moment
I could buckle at the knee.
Stairs are quite a challenge;
Going up I have no speed.
Going down them, I wobble,
Scaring those whom I impede.
Rising from chairs and sofas
Takes time and determined skill,
While I remember fondly
Youthful springing up at will.

elderly man wearing glasses using caneAnd dance which was so graceful
When I was young and complete,
Is more a lurch and stumble
Than light skipping of the feet.
Though my strong cane is stylish,

Carrying it can be a boregreen-turtle-hi

‘Specially when I forget it
And it clatters to the floor.

If perilous my travel

Down life’s rugged trails,
I have some good companions
Among the turtles and the snails.

The Wild World

The Wild World

©2018 Mollie Pearce McKibbon

The world is wild and full of care;
There is danger everywhere,
And yet, when I look above
I see the grandeur of God’s love.

The way through life is full of snares
Of empty pleasures, foolish dares,
But when I smell the blooming spring
I know God’s love is everything.

No manmade lights can compare
To all the twinkling stars up there.
No thrill of speed nor vain award
Can tempt me ever from my Lord.

When many years have dimmed my eyes,
And life no longer holds surprise,
My heart will yearn with keen desire
To sing in God’s celestial choir.
Continue reading

Above the Arctic Circle

All Saints Cathedral- Aklavik

This photo is of the interior of All Saints Cathedral in Aklavik, Northwest Territories, where I spent my 10th to 12th years.

Above the Arctic Circle

I was a navy “brat” and when I was ten years old, practising for my very first ballet recital, my father announced that we were posted to the Northwest Territories.    My heart sank.  I was sure I would be the next Anna Pavlova and now I would miss my debut to move 2, 592 miles away from Ottawa.  I doubt that the National Ballet missed me and for my part, I am so glad that I didn’t miss the adventure of my life above the Arctic Circle.

Our preparation to move including putting most of our belongings in storage.  Mom and Dad had received a long letter from the current commander of the northern naval facility listing all the things that we should pack to be equipped to live in Aklavik such as long underwear, lined trousers, heavy socks and warm sweaters as well as a good supply of mosquito repellant called 6/12.  Mom and Dad crated up two huge wooden boxes of our supplies that were to be shipped to Aklavik by barge.  We packed up our car and drove across Canada to Edmonton where we spent a few days with relatives and then took a Pacific Western flight on a DC3 to Inuvik (then known as East 3).

Inuvik was just being built when we got there.  The buildings all had to be raised up above the permafrost on large pillars which were pounded into the permafrost by very noisy pile drivers.  We were not able to fly immediately to Aklavik as the float plane we were to travel in had “blown up” in the harbour which probably meant that the engine had blown something mechanical.  So we had to stay in Inuvik until another plane was available.  There are only three ways to get to Aklavik (even now).  You can reach it by plane anytime (depending on the weather), by ice road in the winter (frozen river) or by barge in the summer.

Aklavik is the northwesternmost settlement in the Northwest Territories, on the Peel River Channel of the MacKenzie River delta, below the Richardson Mountain range.  At the time we were posted it had a population of about 1600 people, mostly Invialuit, Gwich’n and Metis. Aklavik was settled around a Hudson’s Bay Trading post by two founding families – Pokiak and Greenland in 1912 and grew in number due to the excellent trapping, hunting and fishing in the area.

The Federal government was concerned in 1953 that the flooding and erosion would make the settlement ultimately untenable and so decided to establish a new “model” northern town in Inuvik.  However, due to the efforts of my grade 7 teacher and principal of the Aklavik Day School (as it was known then) A. J. (Moose) Kerr, a tall red-headed determined fellow and his committee, the hamlet of Aklavik did not disappear when half the population re-located.  Due to their efforts Aklavik lives on and is thriving with a brand new school named after Moose Kerr, a Fur Factory, a crafting guild and has produced many parliamentary figures, musicians, and artists.

We finally flew to Aklavik in a six seater airplane – enough for our family of five and the pilot.  I had been horribly airsick in the DC3 which was a milk run that stopped at every airport on the way north, but I was too excited looking down over the amazing Mackenzie Delta with sparkling blue lakes as far as our eyes could see to notice the motion of the plane.  We landed in Aklavik at the beginning of June, near the closing of the school year.  The naval officer my father was replacing brought the station jeep and took us on a tour of Aklavik.  At that time Aklavik had a very rough runway, large petroleum tanks on the banks of the river, a bakery, a Hudson’s Bay Store, two residential schools one Roman Catholic school and one Anglican, an RCMP headquarters, a Royal Canadian Legion, a gift store that sold magazines and comic books as well as other things, a tourist home, two churches, a radio station CHAK (established in 1946), a Native Hall, a Northern Affairs office and a post office.  Other than a few jeeps and in winter dog sleds and enclosed snowmobiles, there  were no cars.  We did a lot of walking on the boardwalks that went around the buildings.  In the springtime the boardwalks were necessary as the mud was thick and boot-sucking.

Our new home was a small two bedroom house with the only basement in Aklavik.  In the basement was a huge water cistern and room to store the all important beer supply for the naval base.  The drinking water for the house was in a metal tank with a spigot and every day a huge block of ice was dropped into the tank to which was added a chlorine tablet.  The toilet facilities were inside but they were not flushable and were emptied once a week.  We had a refrigerator, but our meat was stored in an outside box which remained frozen in the winter.

Our family had to get used to many new ways of doing things up north.  Our bedroom windows were always covered with heavy blankets to ward out the winter cold and the summer midnight sun.  Our clothes had to be ordered by catalogue, as well as our Christmas presents and they would arrive by barge in July.  Most of our food was dried – potatoes, onions, carrots etc.  and reconstituted with water.  Any fresh fruit and vegetables arrived by plane from Nome or Anchorage, Alaska.  Milk was a daily mixture made from powdered milk which we learned to like (sort of).  In summer we all wore shoes but our mukluks were worn inside and outside in the winter.

Parkas were a necessity and so one of the very first things Mom did was take us all to the local seamstress to be measured for our parkas and mukluks.  That was an experience.  The venerable woman who measured us used a string with knots in it for each of us.  For our mukluks she simply stood us on a piece of paper and drew around our foot with a pencil.  A month or so later we all had new winter clothes.  Mom’s parka had a zipper, but we children had to take our parkas off over our heads.  When we got to school we would slip the hood of our parkas on a clothes hook and back up to take them off.  In the winter we all wore two scarves, one over our mouth and one over our forehead.  We also had heavy fur mitts on braided woollen strings that held them on over our knitted mittens.  During the winter months we walked to school in the dark and home in the dark.  There were no snow days off.

Despite the remoteness of Aklavik, we had a lot to do.  I joined the Junior Axillary of the Anglican Church, Brownies and the church choir.  I loved singing in the choir.  The younger members of the choir wore red cassocks, white surplices with ruffled white collars and small red caps. The older members wore black cassocks and white surplices.  We dressed in the church bell  tower and I remembered being fascinated at how quickly my Gwich’n and Invialuit friends could braid their long black hair and tie their braids with red ribbon.  We had choir practice once a week and I loved learning all the beautiful hymns.  In the church some were sung in the native languages and some in English.   The church was especially lovely, having  stained glass windows and the incredibly moving painting of the nativity behind the communion table.  It was painted by a woman  artist (I wish I knew her name) especially for the church and sadly photos are all that is left now, as the church burned to the ground on Palm Sunday in 1974.

One of my most treasured memories is of the spectacular Northern Lights.  I remember leaving church after the evening service and walking home under the celestial curtain of bright crimson and deep green.  It waved and crackled overhead in a light show no July 1st fire crackers display could rival.  It was magical, as so much of that amazing experience up north was.  I don’t think the thrill of  dancing in my ballet recital at the Capital Theatre in Ottawa would have compared to the thrill of watching the dancing colours of heavenly splendour almost every winter night.

Our home in Aklavik

Our Aklavik home.  Mom would type her letters home in the front porch during the summer, but in winter it was frozen solid with ice on the inside walls.