Wednesday, September 29, 2010


The kitchen is the centre of the home, the place where all can gather together, sharing warmth, food, and conversation. This is where the provider of nourishment serves the household and reigns supreme. The provider of nourishment is at one and the same time the servant and the monarch.

In wintertime, the kitchen is where warmth can be found; generated by baking and cooking in the oven, and boiling of kettles for tea and pots of vegetables or stew. Here, too, is where the mother figure provides generous hugs along with freshly baked treats as they appear hot from the oven.

In summertime, before the advent of air-conditioning or microwaves to keep the kitchens cool in hot, humid days, the pioneers had summer kitchens where cooking and baking could be done outside the main house—protected from rain but open to the air and cooling breezes.

Nowadays, of course, there are bakeries, super-markets, and restaurants where we can get a ready-made meal for our families without having to heat up our homes and make ourselves uncomfortable.

I bake my own bread and muffins on a regular basis. Because I am diabetic, I feel it is better for me—I know the ingredients and can avoid too much sweetener and fat. For about five years I have used a bread machine to bake my bread but recently I have had trouble with the machines. They have been breaking down too often and I wasn’t willing to put out the extra money needed to replace the poorly made machines so often.

I have gone back to mixing and kneading the ingredients by hand, a more time-consuming method of rising and baking the bread; I love the feel of the living dough beneath my hands—the trinity of turns bringing the yeast to life—and the smell of the baking bread in my kitchen.

The kitchen is the centre of the home, the place where the bread and nourishment of life is found, and the place where family, friends and guests can gather, feel at home and share the love.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Wiles, Wisdom and Beauty of Judith

I wrote the following piece under the topic, On Being a Woman, in 2009 for the Summer Writing Group in Muskoka.

Judith from the Apocrypha was a Hebrew woman after whom I was named. She was a devout woman, wise and beautiful, and not beyond using her attributes and wiles in order to stand up for what was right and to help her country. I would hope that I would be like her, if need arose. This is her story.

Judith lived in Bethulia, an Israelite town. Her husband had died from sunstroke while working in the fields and had left her a rich woman. She lived on her estate and after her husband’s death she lived in mourning, fasting and praying in a room she had built on the roof of her house. She feasted only on the Sabbath and on special Jewish holy days.

It was in the time of King Nebuchadnezzar and, like Hitler in our own day, he wanted to rule the world. The town of Bethulia was under siege by the troops of Commander Holophernes and the town citizens were running out of food and water and many were dying. The people wanted to surrender to the enemy in order to save themselves from dying but the officials persuaded them to wait five more days while they came up with a plan or until God showed them favour and saved them.

When Judith heard about this she sent for the magistrates to come to her estate and when they appeared she told them that they were wrong to bargain with God recounting all that God had done for them in the past and would do for them again, if the time was right. They asked her to pray to God to send rain to fill the cisterns so that the people would not die from lack of water. She told them that she would to more than that for she had a plan that would deliver Israel from their enemies and that she could fulfil this plan before the five days were up. All the officials had to do was to not ask her any questions and to open the gates to let her and her maid out of the city at midnight.

Judith then put off her widow’s weeds and dressed herself in her fine clothes and jewelery; she made her face look beautiful “so as to catch the eye of any man who might see her.” She and her maid left Bethulia with provisions of wine and food, which her maid carried in a bag. As they approached the enemy camp they were captured and questioned as to what they were doing. Judith told them that they were running away from her people because she didn’t agree with what they were doing. She told them that she had reliable information to give to their commander so that they could gain command of the hill country without losing any of their men. Holophernes’ men were so overwhelmed by her beauty that they took her to their commander at once.

To make a long story short, Holophernes was taken in by her story. The narrative goes, “They were amazed at her wisdom and beauty.” For the next three days she bided her time and set up the basis for her plan. Each night, with the permission of Holophernes, she and her maid went out of the camp, taking the bag of provisions with them, to purify themselves and pray to God. On the fourth night, Judith was invited into the inner tent of Holophernes where they ate and drank together. Holophernes drank so much that he fell down on his bed, dead drunk.

Judith then took down Holophernes’ sword and cut off his head and she put the head in the food bag. She and her maid then went into the night as usual taking the bag with them. They hurried and returned to Bethulia calling out, as they approached, for the gates to be opened. They let her in and she presented the head of Holophernes to the officials saying, “The Lord has struck him down by the hand of a woman!” When Holophernes’ men discovered his dead body without its head, they panicked and fled. The Israelites army followed them and slaughtered them.

Judith was highly praised and had many suitors in the years to come but she remained unmarried. She gave her maid her freedom. Judith lived to be 105 years old. And the story goes, “No one dared threaten the Israelites again in Judith’s lifetime, or for a long time after her death.

I believe that my father named me after her and, though the Methodist minister did not want to give me that name at my baptism, that is my name and Judith is my hero.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Autumn of my Days

Ah! Comest on the autumn of my days.
When glory wreathes me in rich hues—
Red and gold, yellow and bronze,
Placed on my head in victorious crown

Before the colours die and fall upon the ground.
Then winter will come and wrap me
In its blanket of white,
And I will be at peace
And sleep right through the night,

‘Til spring returns with greening rains,
And gentle breezes melt the icy rime
‘Til warming sun turns rivers’ iron core
Into fast running silver freshets.

And soon, oh yes, so very soon
Summer again will bring its fruits
And feed me with wondrous delights—
The Creator will serve me at the board.

© Judith Lawrence

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Morning Rises

Morning rises later now
As September comes;
Five o’clock no longer sees
Light of dawn appear.

Seven o’clock brings sky’s grey tinge
Yet sun stays hidden in
His chamber—curtained, ‘til he can
No longer lie abed, for shame.

Sun draws his warmth around himself
In secret; scattering only pale, cool treasures
Of light on the ground; leaving behind him
Red-gold streaks in the trees once-green.

Reflections of morning will soon lie late
On icy-white drifts of snow; while sun’s reality
Streams south with the snow birds
And northerners mourn its loss.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Turning Point

A turning point arrives, pivotal;
There is a drawing to some new depth,
I know not the depth—or height—of it.
I feel the pull, strong and urgent.
God leads on. I desire to follow—
Glory, glory. I go along his path—
Lit with lanterns of his love.

© Judith Lawrence