As dusk fell gently over the green and gold patchwork of fields ripening for harvest, I counted down the kilometres to my destination, the farm in Norfolk County, where the mother of a friend lived. I had seen Lois once or twice from a distance at functions and talked to her over the phone a few times. Although she lives quite distant from me, our relationship is one of a shared affection for her daughter. On this July Saturday, I had been visiting my daughter who lives just an hour from her farm and realised that being so relatively close to Lois's home was an opportunity too excellent to miss. I drove with a sense of adventure, following the disembodied voice of a GPS app to a place I'd never been before.
I called the day before to make plans with Lois, saying that I would get there in the evening, on my way home from the town of St. Mary's and she graciously consented to my dropping by with the latest news of the person that connected us. My secret motivation was the chance to encourage her face to face.
I set out from St. Mary's, anxious to be on my way before it got dark. It was just after 7.00 when the address showed ever closer on my GPS until there it was, the farmhouse, with lights glowing a welcome from its windows.
Lois had been waiting for me, for the porch light clicked on the instant I turned off my car engine, and a, "Hellooo!" beckoned me from the kitchen door, a harbinger of the warm welcome that awaited me within.
I gazed around the farm kitchen with its honey-coloured panelled wood walls and robins-egg-blue cupboards. A hand embroidered freshly ironed tablecloth covered the wooden table in the centre--everything neat as a pin. Lois wore a soft mauve T-shirt and green pants. Her bobbed salt and pepper hair framed a kind face, and eyes that shone with pleasure at a visitor.
Egg drop soup warmed on the stove for us, but first, she said, we had to get some rhubarb for me to take home. Brandishing a kitchen knife, she led the way behind the house to the garden and a flourishing patch of rhubarb longer than any I had seen before! Soon we worked out a rhythm, one of us pulling out the rhubarb and holding it while the other chopped off the large elephant ear-shaped leaves and tossed them into a pile. In no time we had a bag filled with more rhubarb than I have ever seen at one go, a precious gift for a pie maker! And she added two bright green lettuces that she pulled from a neat row in her vegetable garden.
Inside again she set the table, and we sat down to enjoy the tasty soup, followed by some chocolate zucchini bread for her, and some home-canned peaches from a jar in her fridge, for me. As we ate, we talked, and I caught her up on the news I had to share, so happy to do it in person this time. Lois is a great story-teller, and at a little over 80, she has many to tell. I enjoyed listening to all she shared, imagining my friend right in the middle of them.
When she pointed out her crafts on the wall, the seashell decorated frames and the lampstands she had made, I confessed my secret stone collection at home, a rival to her box of shells inherited from a neighbour who knew that she loved them. Two hearts bonded with childlike joy over nature's pure beauty.
Once we had eaten, Lois showed me the dining room and spacious living room, with a rocking chair and piano in pride of place. I was tempted to ask her to play, but she said she hadn't practised lately, although she's playing for a wedding in August.
As we headed back to the kitchen, she said, "You know when I was young and taking lessons, there was a young man so gifted in playing the piano. With chords, he made music so effortlessly that I asked a friend why I had to work so hard at my playing." She said that her friend had said, seriously, "Lois, our only responsibility is to polish and steward our gifts." Lois took that advice to heart because she went on to play the piano at Scotland Baptist Church for approximately 70 years.
Lois didn't know it, but I heard God's voice speaking. How often I have belittled my gift, which is writing, because:
1) I compare it to the writing of others who are more skilled.
2 I haven't disciplined myself to develop the skill I have or even to write.
Two hours had flown by, and dark had fallen. I had a two-hour drive home ahead, so I gathered up my bounty of rhubarb, lettuce, frozen grapes for the grape pie that Lois said is most delicious, a posy of flowers that were on her table, as well as a recipe in her signature minuscule script, for the egg-drop soup I had so enjoyed. I walked out to my car and was awestruck by the vivid sunset to the west, directly across the road from the farm.
Lois stood at the kitchen door to wave me off. I think that both of us felt encouraged by our time together, and I left with a grateful heart and riches of many kinds to carry away. I made a promise to myself not to neglect writing and to do it while I can. God gives inspiration, and all he asks is that I use it, work at it, write what he tells me to, and leave the rest with him. That was Lois's parting gift.