24 December 2010

Christmas poem


Greetings I bring you this December eve,
my cousins and countrymen, family and friends:
here I am again, after a yearlong reprieve
round the corner you are, or at the earth’s ends

Kingdom colleagues and students and siblings galore
who are over the Hill or across the Pond
or scattered along the curves of the globe
in cities and cabins and back of beyond

To y’all I bring my small offering of cheer
from Cochrane, Alberta (in Canada, eh?)
so put on the kettle and join me this year
as I send my 2,010 words your way

First of all, to Clement Clarke Moore, my regrets
(or Henry Livingston, his real name, perhaps?)
and give thanks ’tis but yearly I’m inspired to rhyme;
there really is more where this came from, alas

I confess: my original, drafted this year,
was sent off to cyber-space, ne’er to be mailed
“Why?” you may ask—too humbuggy; no cheer…
… no ho ho ho! joie de vivre! all wail, no wassail…

The tone was not right for this season of joy,
’twas bleak, it was dark, mid-wintry and sad
I offer the following rend’ring instead:
my hope is it brings a smile, makes your heart glad

Without further ado (which suggests some before)
I shall reminisce, gath’ring a note (maybe two)
I’ll percolate, cogitate, brainstorm for hours
Until I have something I wrote (just for you)…

… ’Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house
not a creature was stirring, just E and her mouse;
not a stocking was hung, awaiting more stuff
since both R and E owned possessions enough

The hippos were nestled, all snug in their beds
while visions of river grass danced in their heads
R in his skippies, all curled up in bed
was clamouring for Milo and cookies instead

When off in the office arose such a clatter
’tis surprising R’s teeth did not start to chatter!
At once he came running, finding paper in flight
and E, trying her best to be still in the night

Uneclipsed, the solstice moon shone on the ground
and not a sole footprint in the snow could be found
What on earth Robin’s wondering eyes did behold
but a Christmas poem finally finished in bold!

More words than a dictionary’s blinked forth from the screen
(R was just thankful most of ’em were clean)
Highlights were abundant, a mere forty revealed
the other half, for the time being, concealed

After teaching and taxes—life’s usual trends
R and E took a (solo) journey to the earth’s ends
One by one they did travel—the highlight of their year
for the chance to spend time with so many held dear
And now a quick recap, the year in review:
Jan began with a trip to the San Diego Zoo
“Pandiago”? Our operation’s code name!
Panda-monium ensued, until homeward we came

Back from California, and the sweet two-tone bears
Then a local retreat (the last for many years)
I’ve been visiting King’s Fold for my day-up-a-tree
each New Year, ever since I turned 33

Next year—the big Four Oh!—will feel somewhat strange
since I’m choosing to venture quite far from my range
I’ve booked for myself a whole week on my own
At charming Rivendell on an island called Bowen

February’s always been my favourite time
And teaching this year was no less than sublime:
my favourite course, hands-down, remains Christian lit.
From Dante to Lewis down the years we did flit

In between: three old Johns and a George we did read;
for good measure, some Shakespeare, though first I did plead!
My men were not equally yoked with each text
and wondered which dead poet would likely be next

At Easter I flew west to the Wall/Cato wedding;
two months later we found ourselves to Kelowna heading
In April I zip-lined at Camp Evergreen
and in May I flew south to a land long unseen

RSA! Cape Town! Hermanus, Onrus:
seeing old places and people was absolute bliss
For the last time, at Kidbrooke, I saw sweet Mary G,
beloved mom of my heart-sister, Eleanor C

Old and new friends: Jonny! Janine! Jordan and Yvette!
Celia from high school: we lost no time, you can bet
making up for the years that we’ve not been together;
each new visit (re)confirmed we’ll be friends forever 

And then, oh the joy! of my glorious cousins
(I confess, though in Jo’burg I later met dozens
my fair Cape cuzzies hold a special place in my heart
and we’ll share our warm fuzzies ’til death us do part)

Next stop: Glen and Willie, the Franschhoek fair Huggetts:
A family of kindreds I simply love to bits!
Then famous Simon’s Town’s Boulder’s Beach “pikkewyne”
A must-see for all, I cannot be plainer!

The raison d’être for my June trip, 2010
was to celebrate two babes—one born in 1910!
Dearest Otto U. Beck, my old friend and boypoet
deserved his big par-tay, though I’m not sure he’d know it

A humbler man I’ve not met in a while;
he’s charming and witty and has his own style
Two decades ago at Bryanston Methodist
we met before Xade—quite nearly the death of us!

Allan Adam in his Kombi via Gaberone was our chauffeur
(also nearing eighty, and as driver, no loafer!)
We certainly learned how to pray on that ride…
… how to cook over fire, and share the gospel with pride

These memories sweet of my missionary mate
sustained me as week after week I did wait
’til the day that I saw him with mine own eyes again:
and heard him (after being re-introduced) squeal, “Elaine!”

(I love you, dear Otto; God bless you, my friend
until one Day we meet at our journey’s sweet End)
Now from ends to beginnings I travel with glee:
the second birthday babe I met was Tyla Mari!

Tyla’s my niece, the firstborn of my brother,
who, with Bron and Barry, are the joy of my mother
Ouma Leach is enchanted by her grandchildren three
(who make up for my brothers and li’l sister, Mari!)

All joking aside: what a profound joy to re-visit
and catch up with my siblings; our month was exquisite
despite all the usual highs and the lows,
the word-feuds, pneumonia and (deflected) blows

I realise anew how I love my dear fam’ly
and how much they miss me, living in this far country
I know that life’s precious and not to be wasted;
’tis a gift that I feel I’ve only just tasted

Every new day, every goal, every game
throughout World Cup revelry, this was the same:
I value my homeland, its people, its sounds
(minus the vuvuzela blasts making the rounds)

Soccer City was awesome: 85,000 fans
donned their orange apparel and took to the stands
I was surrounded by a sea of supporters of Holland
All chanting in unison, “Nederland, Nederland!”

When the Joubert clan convened, in style we did dine
I am blessed beyond measure to descend from this line
and later, a smattering of Leaches did meet:
what a joy to be under the same roof to eat

Next time, dear McCubbins, KwaZulu Natal:
A Berg-Amphitheatre reunion’s vital!
That is where Robin went down on both knees,
asking me to accompany him ’cross stormy seas

And so, here we are, home sweet home once again:
after mile upon mile of discomfort and pain
First in July I parted from his family of four:
Mom, sister, brother and niece (whom we adore)

Two weeks ago, after his trip, R (de)parted for home;
now we both want to stay here and no longer roam
(he lost his mind for a bit, wanting a warmer clime,
but adjusted and went from ridiculous to sublime)

Too many more highlights can be named, trust me
hence my new book: “Nostalgia: Not What It Used To Be”
In it, I’ll outline, neatly chaptered and versed
the friends met, the moments, the country traversed

You’ll read of Bronwyn, my best friend for decades,
and how our mem’ries grow fonder, even as our mind fades
You’ll hear of … but no! it won’t do to tell all!
Watch this space, buy my book; it’ll be out next fall

I could now tell of August, and of Vernon, BC
and a week at the lake with the Fairman family
I could write of school beginning in September
and of my sweet sixteen chickens … as much as I remember

But the night’s almost o’er and I’ve sheets that need ironing;
tomorrow’s a new day with a new silver lining
Soon I’ll bid you adieu—and be sure to keep writing;
you be sure to keep reading: makes my life more exciting!

So far this letter’s been about others, you see,
but let us not forget to acknowledge the three:
three kings (more or less) from afar bearing gifts,
to worship a new King—at the thought my heart lifts!

And shepherds appeared to by the angelic host,
announcing the Babe who would redeem the lost
This new Peace-Prince, our Lord and Messiah, behold:
’tis the story that on each Christmas Eve should be told

To leave Jesus out of Christmas would be absurd
(for this you’ll just have to take His Word)
He is the reason we celebrate life in its glory
and the Author of every epic-sized story

He gave us His life, He completed His quest,
He offers salvation with one main request:
that we believe in His name as Saviour of man
and wholeheartedly follow Him, yielding to His plan

He reminds mankind at each sacred season
that His love is divine and given for a reason:
“Here I am, at the door,” I imagine His voice,
“Open up, come to Me, enter in ... and rejoice!”

So on this silent night I encourage you all:
take the time to respond to your Creator’s call ...
and now, dear beloved, may your New Year be bright;
Merry Christmas, God bless you, and to all a good night!


Winter solstice

20 December 2010

Medieval motley crew

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Medieval banquet

Thank you, one and all, for making this such a memorable event.

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11 December 2010

Picking up where we left off

Neither Alan nor I could believe it had been more than 12 years since we last spoke. From our warm greeting at Prairie Smoke (where we both enjoyed Alberta beef) to our fond farewell at minus 17ºC in the parking lot on campus, we reconnected like old friends.

(I have a renewed appreciation for the power of Facebook after tonight.)

Thanks for taking the time to stop by, old friend. I am well pleased by all we shared in so short a time (two hours felt like 20 minutes!), and my heart is "strangely warmed" and encouraged for the chapter ahead.


P.S. I'm dressed as Lady Marian in the photos--my sweet friend made me a mediaeval oufit for a Christmas function next weekend, just for fun--since RP wants to go as Robin Hood--so I decided to try it on for size tonight.

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10 December 2010

Alan R & EP at seminary banquet

BMC friend-from-the-80s-and-90s, Alan Ridgard, flew into Calgary this week for business, and drove to Banff tonight to spend some time getting more closely acquainted with our Canadian snow (there's lots
of it and it's all fresh).

Luckily for us, sleepy Cochrane is situated between the city (where we work) and the Rocky Mountains (where we play), so Alan was willing and able to pop by. I proudly dragged him up to my place of work after supper to introduce him to my kingdom colleagues and college students. I told all those assembled for our seminary Christmas banquet that Alan was responsible for leading me to Christ in high school... so many years ago. I was already attending Bedfordview Methodist Church, but during an Easter Camp where he was the speaker one weekend, I did the 180º turn and started walking in a new direction. Best decision I ever made. Applause and hearty cheers followed my announcement, and Alan assured me he was not at all embarrassed by my introducing him to my academic dean and fellow pilgrims.

(Thanks for being a good sport, Al!)


P.S. Both Robin and I have walked (and stumbled on) some rocky parts of the trail since those heady high school days of innocent passion and zeal for God... and I am indeed thankful for the Spirit's faithfulness. He keeps us on our knees, looking Up.

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09 December 2010


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Cochrane sunset

Beautiful end to a beautiful last day of teaching for the year.

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Mama Hen and two of my Little Chickens

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Last one

In years to come, I shall remember this special day of carol singing
and mutual encouragement in chapel. I am thankful you were willing to
share your original writing(s) with me...and with one another. We all
benefit when we humble ourselves as a group.

Thank you for your prayers, kind words and fellowship these past 14 weeks.

May you never forget how fearfully and wonderfully you have been made.
God has blessed each of you with special gifts: use them wisely; use
them well.


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ENG class, 2010

Dear Aaron, Aleta, Alyssa, Clayton, Elisabet, Frankie (Hyoung Jin),
Jacques, Jessie, John (Hee Jong), Joonha, Karla, Melanie, Michael,
Quentin, Regis and Soon Suk

Even in sepia, you colour my world!

Thanks for your hard work and enthusiastic participation in class this

Kingdom blessings on you all during this sacred season,

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This semester has truly inspi(red) me.

I was blessed beyond words by my sweet sixteen.

The two giggling conspirators in this photo are Jessie and Mel. :-)

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Today's last English class was certainly uplifting.

Thank you, one and all, for upholding me throughout the semester.


(MH to my LCs)

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The long (and short) of it

And that's all, folks!

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African wild dog

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...Just a-lyin' in the grass

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Lyin' in the grass...

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Let sleeping dogs lie

African wild dogs

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Tree monkey

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Gentle giant

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Up close...

...and personal.

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Pretty bird

Yes, it really is that blue.

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"Here's looking at you, kid"

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Uplifting moment

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Got any treats?

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The giraffe and Ashleigh 1

Meet our delightful East London niece, Ashleigh Dianne.

Uncle Robin and Ash spent a lovely day together, photographing animals
wild...and less wild.

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Regal and resting

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Lioness in green grass

Yes, the grass really is that green!

This is the original photo.

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Mane attraction

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Waterfowl reflection

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Water snake?

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Any guesses?

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Making waves

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Two hippos...

...and a duck.

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"I like 'em big"

"I like 'em chunky"

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O, solo mio!

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Baby and mommy

Hippo girls at Mpongo Park, RSA

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"Ah, Big Mouth"

Open wide!

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Open, says me



Feed me!

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Isn't she lovely?

Girl hippo at Mpongo Park, RSA

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Girl hippo at Mpongo Park, RSA

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Sepia hippo

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Mom and daughter

Mpongo Park hippos, RSA

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Hippos at Mpongo Park

East London, RSA

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Turtle reflection

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07 December 2010

14 Just for fun

I think this is where I remembered to send the pics here; i.e. 15
should be the first photo I posted to the blog.

Here we have my nephew Barry Leach, uncle Robin and niece Tyla Mari.

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13 Uncle Robin meets his niece for the first time

Tyla Mari wasn't sure about her uncle Peter Jackson's beard...until
Wal let her touch it. Then she was fine. :-))

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12 Funny girl!

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