Leah Perrault

Leah Perrault

Perrault works in Catholic health care in Saskatoon and writes and speaks about faith. Her website is leahperrault.com. Her Register column will appear monthly.

Gratitude is our invitation at Thanksgiving, a feast to celebrate the work and gifts of harvest. In my corner of the world, it was the second consecutive year of drought for many farming families. My garden was well watered by the sprinklers, but I crowded the space. The pumpkins and tomatoes took over so the potatoes, carrots and beets were pretty sparse. Season to season, the abundance of harvest is not always the same. Thanksgiving comes anyway.

Human hearts are miracles. Pumps made of solid muscle to move blood and oxygen to the rest of the body. And our spiritual hearts are the core of our emotional, social  and spiritual selves. Strong and vulnerable miracles at the core of who we are. And God invites us to receive and maintain “hearts of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26).

Steps have featured prominently on my social media feeds in the last week, as back to school pictures get posted. I love the glimpse into the lives of all the kids and teens, eager and annoyed, performing and resisting the annual tradition. I love the schools and the streets, busses and front steps in the background. There are so many stories behind the photos; I can feel the courage and hope that lives under the images.

Every summer, I wait and hope for our plans to cooperate with the weather and give us a day or two on the lake with my parents’ beautiful boat. We need the sunshine to keep us warm enough and the wind to stay mild enough that we can pull the tube behind the boat. The driver and the wind work together to make waves, and the riders delight at the efforts to stay on or fall in. On these rare and perfect days, I might be the biggest kid of all.

June has been swirling its way through the world with an unbridled intensity in my world. Band concerts and ball games, kindergarten orientation and musicals, appointments that must be completed before school gives way to summer holidays. National Indigenous Peoples’ Day is offering more opportunities for building relationships, Pride flags are flying, and Juneteeth celebrates African-American emancipation from slavery.

It was quiet Saturday morning at home after several full weekends in a row. I had hoped to sleep in but the youngest was up early counting down the minutes until I got out of bed. The sun was shining in spite of a forecast for rain, and my head was an inexplicable cloud of shame. I have been practising living with joy, and so I committed to look patiently at the cloud with love.

I love the first walk out with the kids when the snow melts. Pressing on thin ice till it breaks. Wading into puddles. Dropping snow into running water to see how long it takes to break through. I love the way that spring breaks through the winter, and we feel renewed by fresh air. Mostly, I love how easy it is to taste joy on that first spring walk.

Several weeks ago, Eliot brought home a note for his school ski trip and asked if I would like to come as a chaperone. I know these requests could stop coming and I love being out on the hill, so I planned to go. I have been a snowboarder since my teens, which was surprising even two and a half decades before I could be called middle-aged. I went to be with him and his friends, and I went (without smaller children in tow) to test out if it is time for me to trade my snowboard in for skis. It is getting dangerous to risk a fall.

When I first encountered 12 step spirituality in a room of anonymous strangers, I was introduced to “the God of our own understanding.” The concept felt foreign to me, and a little bit dangerous. What would all these people do to God with their own understanding, I worried. 

There’s a strange tenderness in harsh Prairie winters. In the midst of deep fog, the temperature swings slowly, visibility declines, ice and frost coat the roads and the windows, and the hoar frost wraps the power lines and the trees. We can easily get lost in fog, and our movement through it is reduced to wandering one miniscule and tentative step at a time, our senses attuned to the tiniest and most immediate signals of our place in space and time.