On occasion, I am awake as early as 4:30 am, I wander to the toilet—the reason I am awake. On my way back to bed, I look out my window and often see the most glorious sunrise. The sky is blazing from the red sun peeking over the dark line of night as it makes its way into the dawn. From an orb burning itself into memory I watch it rise and change colour as it stretches to reach its zenith. From red to orange through to white it goes higher and higher over the horizon.

Photo: Rena Flannigan

As the day passes, I will see it fade away, often to be replaced by the moon as it continues its cycle illuminating the earth. From the pitch dark of the sky, I will see it transform into a sliver of a moon until it finally becomes a full moon as the month changes, day by day, when it begins to fade again.
Eventually it too will disappear from the horizon and a velvety black sky will take its place. On the darkest of nights, I see stars twinkling above. These are not always visible; too often, there is a lot of cloud-cover, hiding the sparkling gems. Clouds are interesting to watch overhead, seeing the shapes formed as the breeze moves them along. White as the driven snow to dark grey, sombre colours, clouds with tints of pink edges in a variety of shapes and sizes. After a cloudburst, rainbows may appear, though not always, only one at a time, and often doubles. I debate, are they there for me to follow in the hope of finding that elusive pot of gold? If there are Leprechauns guarding the gold they need not worry, the pot and their gold are safe. Living on the seventh floor makes it difficult to reach the pot quickly. By the time I would get downstairs the rainbows have moved on and taken the gold with them to torment another person observing their attractive colours.
The climate is changing so much we unfortunately don’t always see bright blue skies. Blue is such a changeable colour, from icy blue to warm blue, the sky has all the variations. If no clouds mar it, I can see a clear horizon stretching away into limbo. When the temperature cooperates, it is pleasant to sit in the garden or park enjoying it all. This is when I reflect on how much I previously enjoyed my little garden patch before I sold my lovely house to move into a condominium. I hated losing my house but not the work attached to it. Now everything is taken care of, and all I must do is enjoy what I can see outside. Nature is so magnificent; we don’t appreciate it as much as we should. Mine comes with a hefty price-tag unfortunately.
Having only recently gone through a stiflingly hot period, the air is cooling now. The grass is parched and the farmers need moisture for the crops to survive. Nature works her wonders again, I hear thunder in the distance, it might come closer as it seems to rumble right outside my window. Now the clouds are an ominous dark grey and, here it comes, rain in a torrential downpour accompanied with another brilliant show of lightning. To watch the lightning as it streaks across the sky, or in stabbing zigzag lines hitting the earth below is fascinating, even the best technicians could not produce an exhibition in the way Nature does. Magnificent. From the window, I see beautiful firework displays on occasion, even the best of them cannot compare.
Concern starts up again, from so much heat to sudden heavy rain which probably will not do much good because the earth is like a rock, hard and dry. The rain will only land and not saturate the land for some time. It will overflow the creek below, almost reaching the road. One shower of rain was so fierce I could not see across the road below me. The water hung in the air like a fine drape, blocking any view outside. Sometimes a storm will arrive, doing damage in some areas and set off on its way, again. Too often, the short wild spell can uproot lovely old trees. Or, as only a few minutes ago, a short burst of rain and dark clouds resulted in a full crescent rainbow displaying all its colours. Stunning, and just outside my window, it was smart of me to look and take a picture of it.
A main road with a lot of traffic intersects the trees but they deaden any sound emanating from the vehicles below, apart from police cars or ambulances when their sirens are howling as they respond to some emergency. I look over the treetops, there are so many stretching as far as the eye can see, it is almost as though a forest surrounds me. I see them in the glorious Fall when the colours are so incredible. I see them with a touch of snow, heralding winter, and bitter weather. Not the most pleasant time for outdoors or drivers unless you are a winter sport person. My days for those are long gone, I can only be happy others are able to enjoy the outdoors as I once did. I become jealous of them because I can no longer participate in my own winter sports, skating and skiing.
Spring arrives and the buds appear on the trees bringing the various shades of green and leaf sizes to gaze upon from my window. I love spring because it signifies new life as the leaves open and flowers bloom again. It is so sweet to hear the chorus of birdsong from the hideouts in the thick depths of the foliage. Summer arrives with the heat and humidity, solace for those who cannot bear the cold, who love spring but it is gone too soon. Once more, it is again glorious autumn, with the reds, gold and dark brown dying leaves. Fall tells another story as nature once more starts to steal the beautiful leaves and there are only bare branches to observe. Occasionally we can observe the bird and squirrel nests hidden from sight all summer. I often wonder how the animals can bear the snow and rain falling into their homes. The cycle of nature has begun and ended for another year.
The trees are so still, there is no breeze to set them waving, or to set a gentle rustle through the treetops as the wind blows in and out of the branches. When Mother Nature decides it is time to create a bit of havoc, she blows these same beautiful trees so hard they bend and twist so much it is a wonder they are not uprooted. Many of them are, unfortunately. In the area where I live some trees are quite old and the earth holding them is not always deep enough to secure the roots. Today the leaves are dancing gently in the breeze, turning the leaves here and there to show the underside of their colour. On quieter days, it is pleasant to sit by the gazebo watching the squirrels romping about. On occasion, there are rabbits bouncing along the grass verges too. How nice it is to hear the birds chirping away to their hearts content, such a variety of birdsong around the colourful garden. When I was on my way home late one evening, I saw a deer in the middle of the road. The animal’s eyes shone so brightly in my headlamps; it did not move right away so I got a good look at it as it headed into the ravine below my condominium window. I had no idea I was living so close to nature until then.
The world has apparently turned inside out, upside down and is on a spiral we cannot begin to imagine with the climate changing constantly—where or when will it stop? I live close to Canada’s major airport, Lester B. Pearson. I can watch planes departing, taking people to far away destinations. I think, lucky them, off to some favourite place or heading to explore new destinations. Reuniting with family or friends or returning home to the country of their birth to say a sad goodbye to a member of their family or friends who have died. Flights come and go mostly in the evening, so it makes for a busy sky. They fly hither and thither, and I wonder where they have been or are going to. I hope their journey brings them happy memories, so vital to the human spirit. These were my thoughts on many occasions.
For those who remember a bitter time in our lifetime you may recall, and may you never forget, 9/11. So many days later, the sky was silent—no planes to be seen anywhere. An eerie feeling to look out my window and see only sky and trees, even they looked shocked and sad. The birds and Canada Geese flying around, appeared lost and may have wondered where all the traffic had gone.
Slowly, action took place again with flights coming and going to Pearson airport. I saw them day and night, which was reassuring on an extremely busy horizon. Life was back to normal, it seemed. Normal did not last long. At the start of 2020 disaster struck again. Not only to our part of the world, but for the whole world this time. Not a terrorist disaster but far more ominous, no one was safe from the Corona Virus, renamed Covid-19 which, supposedly started in China, and spread like wildfire throughout the world, almost overnight. Immediately, we went into lockdown, isolated in our homes with only essential outings allowed. Currently—for nearly two years the number of people affected by the virus is still rising, there is no visiting family or loved ones in hospital or nursing homes allowed.
My building was like a morgue, there was no movement in the halls, no voices of people chatting with each other on the elevator. We could only use them alone or with no more than two family members at a time. Wearing a mask became mandatory everywhere. I felt as if I was suffocating wearing a mask, but I did it, not only for my own sake but for those I may encounter if I had to leave my home.
Our world changed once again. As I gaze through my window there is so little activity in the street, and next to no air traffic to wonder about where their next destination is for the travellers aboard them. People can scarcely fly anywhere or escape the situation. We are trapped by the virus and government regulations trying to keep us safe. No vacations in warm places, particularly for the snowbirds, as seniors are jokingly referred to, in Canada’s upcoming cold weather.
My consolation will be seeing the light-snow falling and creating a picture of beauty—until the light fluffy snow becomes a nightmare for drivers but an income for snow removal companies. Another aspect of the terrible pandemic year of 2020 was when businesses closed, schools closed, stores closed and went into bankruptcy, no meals in restaurants but booming for food being delivered to homes, the world, literally closed.
With so many restrictions, looking out my window gave me much time to reflect on what I saw, on what had happened to life for everyone. Now with autumn here I see the colour changes all around me in ‘my’ forest below and in front of my eyes across the way. The beauty is fading as the days fly by and who knows how long it will be before life begins to be a semblance of how it was in the past. If ever. My consolation in all of it—I will see winter arrive followed by spring with a hope in my heart that I can once again enjoy these days outdoors and not only from my window.
It is so difficult to put the unrest and illness ravaging the world out of mind until, again, I look out of my window and know that no matter what the human does to our world, Mother Nature will see it right in her own way and time. The falling leaves drifted outside my window on the world this morning like hordes of butterflies preparing to head south to the warmth of other places. The trees are almost bare of leaves, skeletons of themselves for the next few months, waiting for the sun to brighten the days and say ‘Wake up’ after the dark of winter.
With luck I will see many more moons rising and passing my window, I will see beautiful rainbows, and sunrises on the horizon as I did before. The Master will paint the skies with many hues and shades from his palette. The birds will sing and the squirrels will again forage for nuts among the trees. Planes will fly, transporting happy people once more, and the world will be free of COVD-19, allowing us to appreciate a normal life where we can join friends and family and share those longed for hugs with them again. We will not forget those who did not make it but will appreciate it ourselves while thinking about the others.
I will continue seeing the world from my window and think how fortunate I am that I can do so. Today is a good example. It brightened my mood and gave me hope things will soon improve for the world. The Master Painter caused me to feel a bit more upbeat than I have been for a few days due to the lockdown we are all participating in. The grey skies are so depressing day after day, seeing some blue among the clouds and finally sunshine reflecting on the tall buildings I see daily gave a lift to my spirits. Some days I allow my imagination to go tripping to other lands where there are castles galore. The tall buildings I see, in my imagination, are also castles, only of a different kind. They are not of course, still, this is my story and if I want those condominium buildings as castles, to transfer me to places with wonderful memories, why can’t this be how I get there? It is the only way I can travel anywhere now. My travelling shoes and suitcases are near at hand in the hope to be used again some day.

WILL SANTA COME? Story by Rena Flannigan

by Rena Flannigan

Have you been Naughty or Nice all year?  This is what Santa might ask if he was able to speak with you. You should be asleep when he arrives, no spying. He won’t have time to stop in any case, only long enough to drink the milk you left out for him and eat the cookie mummy or daddy baked specially for the occasion. Santa is lucky; he gets to taste them before anyone else.

Dressed in his red suit, his long white beard flying in the wind, as Rudolf and the other reindeer pull Santa and his sleigh over rooftops, high buildings and trees around the world, just to get to your chimney. You must have been good for him to do this. Not only is it a very long night for Santa delivering the gifts but imagine him trying to get down the chimney!  Good that most buildings don’t have chimneys nowadays. It is easier for Santa and he doesn’t get black from the soot. That in turn means Mrs. Claus won’t have a tough time cleaning up his suit for next Christmas when Santa and his reindeer do the flight all over again.

 Rudolf loves to pull Santa’s sleigh, to see all the places The Jolly Man with the round tummy delivers presents to. Delivering presents for deserving children. Do you honestly think you deserve presents? Have you been a good student, done all your homework from school and even helped mummy at home? Do you know that Rudolf became the lead reindeer for Santa’s sleigh after being bullied by the other reindeer? Did you bully anyone at school or did anyone bully you? That is definitely not nice. Rudolf is different from the other reindeer who normally pull the sleigh, he has a red nose. The others laughed at him and teased him so much. Santa thought with his red nose Rudolf was the perfect animal to lead the sleigh, his red nose would light the way in the dark as they flew from country to country. Rudolf was very happy and proud to be such a help to Santa.

Probably you live in a house where there is central heating and no chimney but years ago, homes had many chimneys on the rooftops. Smoke would belch out of them from coal burning in the fireplace. This coal was very dirty and heavy; it had to be brought to the fireside in a coalscuttle to keep the fire stoked and generating heat. While it was burning, the smoke was overpowering the clean air outside we are so concerned about today. People did not understand pollution in days past. Some chimneys were so big that little boys were sent up inside to clean the soot accumulated there. Boys as young as ten years old.  Can you imagine doing such a job and being paid next to nothing for it?  Can you imagine how many children died from infections in their lungs from the soot.  Soot is a black powdery substance that made the men, who worked in deep mines to get the coal, and children who climbed inside the chimneys to clean them, sick.  If the soot was not cleaned out, many chimneys had fires inside them; sometimes houses would be burned. It was a worrisome time to live and try to keep warm. 

Do you wonder where the coal came from? Men, and boys around the age of ten, went down under the earth to dig in mines in what was known as mine shafts to get the coal. A very dangerous job where, if the walls of the shaft fell down, the miners could get trapped and often be killed. Flooding was another terrible fear so deep underground. Canary birds were taken into the shafts to sense any poisonous gases down there. When you go to the seaside and see large bodies of water for swimming, can you imagine that under all that water, men used to dig further and further out for more loads of coal? Miners wore funny little lanterns on their hats; they were filled with a substance called carbide to light the way. They were not very effective in the deep dark underground.

Christmas in the past was not nearly as good for children or families as it is today. So many families were very poor so the children got very little at Christmas. Churches were busy in those times; the faithful would go to Midnight Mass and pray for better times in their lives.  Inevitably, no matter how poor they were they always made donations for children even poorer than themselves. Toys were not the first thing they wished for, instead, they would pray for good health, not to have their father or uncles killed in the mines and so on. The mothers tried to save a few coins to give the children an orange or an apple, a penny, perhaps even a few nuts in the stockings they hung by the fireside. With luck some children might get chocolate if the family could afford it. The custom was that a child would write a wish list for Santa, burn it by sending it up the chimney in the hope the wind carried the message to where Santa was in the world, that he would receive it before reaching their home. In days past it was not how much you would get under the tree but to remember the meaning of Christmas, the birth of Christ. 

The true meaning of Christmas recedes more and more each year, lost in so much commercialism. It is a lovely time of year with the many decorations around homes, trees covered with bright lights and baubles and high hopes of boxes wrapped in fancy coloured paper under the tree. All colourful to observe, but with so little thought to how it was in the past. Even less thought for so many people in this world who barely have food or water all year and have no idea what presents the modern child takes for granted is about. Christmas wish lists are all about computers, the latest cell phones, enormous television sets and all modern technical things. The beauty of sharing time with their family by talking to each other is lost. Today it is texting, few people play family games or sing carols as they used to. So little contact verbally even sitting in the same room as each other. 

How can they really understand life when they participate in so little of it. What memories will they have or leave for those who come after them? Times in the past were dreadful but it left so many stories, songs and laughter despite hardships. The presents Santa brings will never leave such wonderful memories; things are disposable and outdated almost as fast as they are received. What a pity, some children, will never know the happiness Christmas can bring in sharing with each other or giving to someone less fortunate. OR, remembering the true meaning of CHRISTmas.

I wish you and your family a MERRY CHRISTMAS and I hope the NEW YEAR will be good to you, as I am sure you will be good to others.  Remember, you must know the past to appreciate the present.


Rena Flannigan: Poet/ Writer Her Profile

Rena Flannigan was born in Scotland and many years ago moved to fill her childhood dream to live in Canada.  Her biggest success was becoming the speed skating champion of Scotland and Great Britain.  She became the Canadian Champion at Kempenfeldt Bay, Barrie in 1964.  Always athletic, she was a good tennis player and skier. Later, she found her niche on the dance floor winning trophies for Latin and Ballroom dancing.  Rena was a tailoress, a teacher of Fashion and Design, and she became the Vice-Principal of a private designing school.  These were followed by a career as a Tour Guide and Manager, her all-time favourite occupation.  Now she is learning how to use a computer and wants to be a writer of various genres.

Rena has contributed several pieces of her writing to this Blog.

She’s currently working on a collection of pieces to be published by in 2022