Wednesday, December 21, 2016
Yesterday I picked up my sister in law and we went to the MCS Christmas concert. We walked up the back stairs and seated ourselves in the balcony at the Trinity church where the school kids were presenting their concert. To say what being there means to me will take awhile. I love that old church. I have gathered there with others many times over the years and every time whether a happy time like Christmas concerts and musical nights or deeply sad times like a young man's funeral or the funerals of a young mother , a beloved wife and grandmother I always feel a stirring sense of community. I have stood myself on that platform and sang. I have sat in every section and often sat in the high balcony(always hopeful that this would not be the day old construction and design would fail)I have looked out the old leaded windows across to the school and onto the road. I have led classes in through its doors for Remembrance Day services. Our Christmas concerts used to take place in the cramped music room in the school and then they were moved to the church hall where we would wait on the back stairs, every second never ending while I tried to keep my class quiet. I remember the year my class was a simmering mess of emotion and anger and I barely contained it on concert day. I had three kids in foster care and they were ready to kill each other re-directing their real issues by attacking each other. How we kept the lid on that day I do not know? Watching the teachers bring their kids in I found myself wishing I was standing down in their spot. Someone else was encouraging the grade four group and it should have been me. But those days are over. Instead I watched from above and enjoyed my vantage point. Each group it seemed held kids of friends of Zac's. I remember the first time it dawned on me that there were kids in the school whose fathers were friends of Zac's . They are everywhere I look now. I somehow find a place for that sorrow. Sunny's face lights up when she sees me and gives me a quick wave. It is what it is and will always be. I find Louisa's granddaughters, Kim's grandson and get caught up in their joy and pride. Someday I will scan the crowd for Chapin and Caleb's kids. I love the past, the present and the future of living in Kingston. I love who I am here.
Wednesday, December 14, 2016
Standing in my quiet kitchen this morning listening to the dripping of the coffee maker I also listened to an interview of a young woman in Aleppo. Can you even imagine for one second what the people of Syria are going through? Think for a moment of soldiers bursting into your home and shooting your family. Think of the fear knowing that this is happening around you. Think now of the security we take for granted. Can we even begin to realize what life must be like under such conditions? If we really could would we be so consumed with our petty concerns. Would the things we worry about have any place in such turmoil? We as a society hear instantly of terrible atrocities around the world as they are happening but are we any more moved by them than we were in the past? A follow up interview was with a Syrian family in Canada;two little girls sounding very much like my granddaughters playing a simple game together in their Canadian home;a mom awaiting the birth of her next baby;a family trying to make ends meet and create a life . As just one person I get overwhelmed knowing the terrible things in this world are out of my control. But sitting now in the comfort of my office I claim the one thing I have complete control over. I claim my gratitude , my compassion for others, my ability to hold the less fortunate in my thoughts and not take for granted the freedom and bounty of the life I have been given on this day in this place. I will look at the vast sky when I walk later and remember all that suffer under that same sky.
Monday, December 12, 2016
One of the perks of our Sunday family suppers are Monday leftovers. Today's are especially delicious so as I partake of them I will reflect on the whole Sunday family supper concept. I really do enjoy the planning and preparation for our Sunday night meal. I try to vary the menu often rotating favorites. Last night's supper of baked beans, brown bread rolls, hash brown casserole and ham is one of the favorites for sure. I really do not mind the work that goes in to it and will be pleased to do it for as long as I am able. I love that my boys show true appreciation for meals they regard as classics. I love that Bri and Ashlie are developing that attachment as well and I get a kick out of the fact that if one small part of the meal is changed from what they remember they can not help but comment. I thought I had almost gotten away with the slight change in the hash brown casserole but Chapin just couldn't help himself from mentioning it even though he waited until long after the meal was eaten. I would have been disappointed if he hadn't .I remember being as protective of my mother's tried and true recipes and the fact that I am providing that same comfort for my kids fills me with happiness. Last night after the kids left Burton said again as he does most Sunday nights" That was a great supper Mrs. White. I sure love having the kids come every Sunday night." It is unspoken how much we wish all our children could be around the table every week. I also look ahead to when our numbers increase and our gathering becomes a bit more chaotic. I say a silent prayer for that. I also say a silent prayer of thanksgiving for the bounty of food. Last night's ham was raised by Caleb and Ashlie.And such a prayer of thankfulness for the laughter , the stories , the teasing ,and the connection that makes those Sunday suppers so wonderful. And for the roof we gather under; the warmth ,the memories and the family we've created. I include a picture of our table from several years ago. Since that day there have been many changes but the constant is good food and the very best of company!
Friday, December 9, 2016
It would seem I have completely out of the blue booked flights for Burton and I to go to Meg's Christmas day. It seemed to happen in spite of me. It began with an e-mail announcing deals on flights to several places one of them being Edmonton of course. I realize the all seeing internet knows my attachment to Alberta. Add to that the picture on top of my desk I have been looking at every day. Emma and Paige's faces in their Christmas picture from last year had been working away at my vulnerability. Hearing Paige in the background of almost every phone conversation was also tugging at my heart. She is a cool cucumber when it comes to showing her emotions and she chooses to keep us at a distance unless she can have us up close. Then she is free with her affection and never fails to delight us. She especially has her grandfather wrapped around her little finger. Emma on the other hand blurts her feelings out and several times in the last few weeks has lamented that Monkey and Toad are not coming out for Christmas. So deliberate advertising and deliberate granddaughter manipulation worked together to wear me down. Once I began to entertain the idea then I started working on Grampie. He seemed stoic at first ( about three seconds ) and then I saw his resolve start to crumble. I made my classic pros and cons list and the pro list was considerably longer. The cons list was practical and held strong reasoning mainly regarding money or the lack of it but the pro list involved granddaughters and the fact that being 7 and 5 won't happen again. 'Life is too short' came up. I texted a close friend for advice and got the same arguments back that I'd been having with myself. Burton of course by that time had completely given in to the possibility of seeing the smiles on Emma and Paige's faces and feeling their arms wrap around him in a welcoming hug. Then the phone rang and I heard Emma's voice saying" Mom says you might come for Christmas, Monkey?" I was done with the debate. I pushed 'book flight' and the rest is history. We are going to Meg and Cody's for Christmas!
Saturday, December 3, 2016
Last night I sat in the dim, Christmas light illuminated St. Augustine's church and listened to words and music. Amid the bustle we get caught up in it was a lovely reprieve. Just two and a half hours of not looking at my phone is rare these days which when you really think about that, is pretty sad. But more about the words and music. Stephanie Mainville and her daughter Lydia provided the musical interludes between sections of the reading of Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol. The words were as melodious as the fiddle, the keyboard, the cello and Stephanie's beautiful voice. I have been blessed to have a deep and meaningful history with that beautiful voice. Stephanie and her mother brought Christmas music to the church I attended and the choir I was a part of. For several Christmas seasons I sat under their tutelage learning songs, alto parts and bringing together Christmas cantatas of the most professional standard. Those days hold so much for me. I was the busy mother of four growing children. I was a busy teacher and those hours of choir practise were just for me. Tears come to my eyes when I recall those wonderful Christmases. Last night Rickie joined me and the stage she finds herself in right now, teaching and raising four kids, is so much the one I was in during those choir days. Oh the joy those memories bring me and oh the sorrow. How could they have passed so quickly? For years after Zac died I could not sing in public. I could belt it out if I was alone in the car or in my house but when I found myself in church for a funeral or at a Christmas service I could not even open my mouth. I will not try to analyse this but about two years ago my mouth opened(I think it was a Christmas Eve service)and I found that I was making a sound, I was singing again. I do not know if I will ever return to a choir or any form of public singing but I am thankful to be able to join in when given the opportunity. Stephanie and Carolyn have spent their lives making and bringing music to others. I have been given the privilege of bringing words. So this morning I give thanks for words and music and the advent of this beautiful season.
Friday, November 25, 2016
The dreary November days are speeding by. This time next week will be December 1st. Yesterday I stepped back and took my bearings. In the last few days I have had the strong desire to take control of some things, my house mainly. Instead of going to my office and getting down to work Monday I cleaned and re-organized the upstairs bedrooms. I felt a strong need to touch base with my home . I guess I am nesting or hunkering down for the long winter ahead. When I finished I had a wonderful sense of gratitude for the home we have created and inhabited for almost 30 years. Perhaps as I watch the building of Chapin and Brianne's home the value of mine becomes even clearer. That is not to say I wouldn't love to step into the new construction. Just their closets alone are making me a tad envious. Imagine shelves and lights in every closet, and fresh paint , new trim, clean windows. I could go on but the truth of it is I love my lived in, less than perfect abode and would not trade it. This house has a history that warms me to the core. Along with the joy there is of course a deep sorrow embedded. All homes hold that sorrow even if it is just the absence of the now grown children and the changing times. Add to that a sorrow of a family member no longer able to walk through its doors and come home. In my attempt to get a grip on my surroundings I felt a distance from my writing. I felt a gulf that at first made me afraid I would not find my way back to it. Yesterday I stepped back and evaluated. I gave myself a good strong talking to. Dedication and discipline are great and I would not have five published books without it but sometimes I need to just let myself off the hook. I am unsure of the work I just started but so be it. I have found myself in that spot before and got past it. My editor wrote yesterday to say the edits for my next book will arrive just before or just after Christmas. I will be happy to get to them but in the meantime I can afford to let my writing simmer. Maybe next week a burst of writing energy will appear and this slump will be behind me. But if not I can certainly immerse myself in cleaning , Christmas prep and the gift of home. November's fallow earth lies waiting for Springs' new growth.
Wednesday, November 16, 2016
Yesterday I did a WISP (writers in school program)visit at Sunny Brae Middle School in Moncton. It was my first author visit this school year and I felt a bit apprehensive. Would I be able to muster my energy and gear up for a day of non stop interaction with middle school kids? On my way I heard an interview with Chris Hadfield and it was as if he was speaking right to me . He talked about fear and bravery. Now I know in the whole scheme of things talking to large groups of kids might not be the scariest thing in a world of very scary things but it does hold some peril especially when you are allowing them to see your vulnerability. So Chris gave me a pep talk and I got down to business. I presented four sessions in the gym to the entire student body. The kids were wonderful. Each presentation took on a personality of it own and even though the gym teacher was required to sit through all four he heard slightly different presentations each time. I marvel at how the audience shapes my presentations. The last group was a grade 5 crowd and they were delightful. Somehow my presentation brought me around to reading the last page of The Year Mrs. Montague Cried. I have stated many times that I would never read that passage in public. I always felt I would not be able to read it without completely breaking down. However as part of yesterday's format in a couple of the groups I asked the kids to select the reading by asking for the book and a specific page. The last request by a student in the Grade 5 group was Book 1 ,last page. I considered refusing but did not. I read it. Afterwards I told the kids I thought I couldn't do it but I had and that I deserved a round of applause for that. They generously clapped and acknowledged my efforts. I did not plan that and of all the other gifts the morning gave me that was the huge one. I then got to conduct a writing workshop with 22 great kids that were bursting with enthusiasm for writing. Thank you students of Sunny Brae and Lynn Carter for inviting me. Thank you to their librarian for such a warm welcome and her generous support of my work.
Monday, November 14, 2016
The moon and the sun are lighting mid November days and nights.This morning I am letting mid November sink in. I spent a few hours on Saturday sitting signing at Indigo and Coles, watching and listening to the sounds and sights of Christmas shopping. The day after Remembrance Day seems to unleash the Christmas season. I had a few people stop and buy Waiting For Still Water for Christmas gifts. That is nice. This weekend I will begin my Christmas shopping by going on our annual shopping trip with Brianne, Ashlie, Brianne's mom, aunts , sisters,and cousins. I am signing on Saturday afternoon in Chapters in Moncton and will take those two hours as a break and the gift it is. Tomorrow I have a middle school author visit and I am just about ready to firm up my plans for the day. I see the opportunity as a privilege and a huge responsibility. I hope to deliver a presentation that is meaningful, sincere, encouraging and thought provoking. I find this task daunting but am always rewarded greatly. I will take my books, my experience and my story and attempt to truly show up for the kids that gather in front of me. On a visit to Hampton Elementary I was gifted this jar of jellybeans . The candy is gone but I hang on to the message. Making a difference is what I try to do. Hopefully I will be given that opportunity again tomorrow in a middle school in mid November.
Monday, November 7, 2016
This past weekend I travelled to Shediac for WFNB's WordsFall. I stayed with a group of four other writers at a lovely cottage in Pointe-du-Chene. Thankyou Heather, Andrea, Rosalyn and Annette for welcoming me. It was beautiful in November so I can only imagine what a nice spot it would be in July. I particularly enjoyed a session on Saturday morning with Rebekah Chasse. Rebekah is an actor with lots of energy and enthusiasm. She conducted an excellent workshop encouraging us to find our voice. As writers we supposedly find our voice on paper. But then we must take what is on paper and bring it alive when we share it orally. Several tips she taught us stand out for me. As an exercise when I got home I randomly opened Waiting for Still Water and attempted to deliver whatever I stumbled upon . What a powerful lesson that was for me. Each passage should have power in isolation. She kept saying our work should leave questions; should leave the listener or reader wondering a whole range of things; caring about what comes next; curious to know more. This should be achieved without a preamble . What a huge lesson this was for me. Possibly she hit the nail on the head as far as good writing is concerned. As a yardstick randomly check your work and see if each passage offers an element of intrigue, a glimpse of something bigger, something important to the story. That all being said I am anxious to set my current work to this expectation. Thank you WFNB, WordsFall, Rebekah and the writing community of NB for challenging us all to be better at what we do.
Wednesday, November 2, 2016
One Sunday morning awhile ago Caleb set out to build a small shelter for new calves. It was at least five cows ago. As he headed out the door I asked him what he was going to do. When he told me I made the comment 'something from nothing'. At the end of the day he had created a sturdy little shelter. Since then we have used that line many times when Caleb sets out to add to the structures on the farm. He amazes me how focused and driven he is. This Sunday I looked out to the lower field and saw that again he was creating something from nothing. He and Chapin worked Sunday afternoon starting to build a new cow shed. Our big beautiful Tess will have a new home where hopefully she will give birth to her calf. Last week I began again to create something from nothing. I love how a book presents itself. Tuesday after finishing a rewrite of a novel I had previously written and didn't quite work I wasn't sure what was next. While swimming on Wednesday morning I let my mind go to a thought that had been percolating in my head for weeks. Thursday I sat down and let it begin. I will watch it unfold as I will watch the structure Caleb decided to build take shape. Our somethings from nothing don't actually come from nothing, they come from a thought, a vision for what can be and a first step taken to make them happen. If you look closely you can see Tess hanging around waiting for the creation to be completed. Hopefully I have readers doing the same.
Sunday, October 30, 2016
Today I experienced another wonderful book club visit. This was a offshoot of my positive book club experience in August. The hostess today was the mother of one of the August participants. They like the former group read Ten Thousand Truths and Waiting For Still Water. I have another book club possibly meeting in November or maybe not until January that plan to do the same thing. I have really enjoyed discussing the writing of both and answering questions and hearing comments and observations. Today's brunch was delightful. Not only did the hostess prepare a lovely noon meal but they showered me with gifts and money. My book club bounty included a beautiful scented candle, maple syrup, a bottle of wine, two bottles of homemade salsa, hand soap and enough money to make my drive to Belleisle more than worth while. I will not say too loudly that just the experience of having my work appreciated is payment enough. When I consider who I write for a local and supportive readership is right near the top of the list. Thank you Sue, Kathy, Jen, Rosemary , Roxanne and Jane. On my way home I stopped at a friends for a small shower she was having for her new granddaughter. The baby was precious . Congratulations Shawn and Lisa! And as a much added bonus Burton was home preparing Sunday supper. I often make the statement " Sunday supper doesn't make itself you know." He did drop that line a couple of times before serving a delicious boiled corned beef and cabbage dinner. The meal and time with Burton , Caleb, Ashlie, Brianne and Chapin was a perfect end to a very enjoyable day.
Monday, October 24, 2016
It is another Monday morning. The October sun is shining brightly. Some leaves still cling to the trees and the hills are still a range of color. Soon the starkness of November will be upon us. I look forward to the next season. After the first cover of snow I will feel like preparing for Christmas and am excited to see my boys and their loves in their new homes this Christmas. Some traditions are entrenched and some are adapted and new traditions will evolve. In our home we have Sunday night suppers. I love them. I love preparing for a meal that brings us together for a couple of hours. Sometimes I broaden the invitation and sometimes it is just us; Burton , me , Chapin , Brianne, Caleb and Ashlie. I wish of course Meg , Cody and the girls could join us and of course I wish Zac was still with us. But every Sunday we come together and eat, laugh ,catch up and play a game. Wizard seems to be our game of choice at this time. We had lots of laughs last night and I hope they serve to fortify us for the week ahead. Challenges of work and school, worries and concerns, decisions and daily duties. It occurred to me this morning as I emptied the dishwasher that last night's supper was my mother's recipe served on my grandmother's dishes. Burton and I are soon to be the elderly. Right now we sit in the middle. We offer support, some advice (although we seem to be advised quite a bit). We welcome them to a home that nurtured them and continues to give them comfort with wood heat and good food. We send them out to face the new week with love and encouragement. They bring us the gift of laughter, of memory and of the future. We see ourselves as we were at that age. Burton's mother made the best chicken in the world and we gathered together to enjoy her Sunday dinners. The years pass as quickly as the seasons. We know how quickly the years go by and changes come . So every Sunday I set the table with my grandmother's dishes and offer a meal that strengthens and connects us. Together we enjoy the present, celebrate the past and look toward our future. And as a bonus sometimes Burton does not win. Last night Brianne soundly beat us all.
Thursday, October 20, 2016
Yesterday I conducted a journaling workshop at the Saint John Free Public Library. Twelve people attended and of course brought twelve different lives and experiences along with them . They chose a new journal from the table and participated in two writing activities. The threads of their experiences show the beautiful tapestry that each life creates. Old houses boarded up, dancing and longing, childhood memories, secrets and intrigue, treasured letters, chipping out chunks of coal, pipeline concerns, anniversaries, one room school house memories, aspirations and dreams, worry and insecurity. Private, personal and universal threads of life written in short entries in ten minutes but saying so much. For two hours I imparted my love of journaling. I read snippets of my diaries and journals spanning 48 years of my life. I read an entry from my great grandfather's journal dated April 6th , 1900. I read an entry from my great Aunt Alice's mother in law's diary from 1937.I read from The Diary of A Young Girl, The Selected Journals of L.M. Montgomery and The Year Mrs. Montague Cried. I read two entries from my blog. We talked , we shared and we pondered the value of journal writing. Thank you Shirley, Gabrielle, Trent, Bonnie, Neil, Molly, Alfie, Jan, Carole, Janet, Arthur, and Sharon for letting me share the fabric of my life and letting me see the threads of yours.
Monday, October 17, 2016
This morning I took a picture that seems much sadder than the ones that proceeded it. Since June I have regularly photographed my sunflowers. As I wrote about each photograph, I predicted the next part of the plant's life. This morning's photo will be one of the last ones I expect. Perhaps I'll take another when every plant is down or when a cover of snow leaves one dead blossom sticking its head out .The sunflowers are just about done.With that thought in mind I reflect on other lives on the decline. Firstly this morning I mourn the death of my beloved Uncle Bernie. Tomorrow I will travel to Moncton and attend the celebration of his life. I will embrace my aunt Lois and my cousins Jan,Joy and Julie and reflect on Bernie's life. He was the other half of a team I could always rely on. In their presence I have always felt special and loved. They have laughed and cried with me, they have celebrated and supported all my achievements. Their home on Milroth Ave. was like a second home to me but when they moved to People's Park Tower and then Briarlea Nursing home that did not change. Coming into their presence wherever it has been was always coming home. My Uncle Bernie's smile, his teasing and his loving embrace were always available. The last time I saw him he offered that freely.He also reminisced with my dad about hunting days together and voiced his desire for Dad to put him in the car and take him to the hunting camp. Sad decline that limits the body from doing what the mind and heart still desire. I see my own parents struggling with that reality. Yesterday my brother and sister in law picked Mom and Dad up and drove them here for our belated Thanksgiving dinner. Before we ate Ken drove them down to see Chapin and Bri's new house construction. Chapin helped Mom up the stairs in the house he has labored to build for the last year. Hopefully when she returns from a winter in Florida she will again visit and they will have moved in. Her limited speech made her unable to say much but I know she felt pride in seeing the beautiful home her grandson has built. Decline and diminished ability. Change and loss. Beauty evolving and life coming to an end.
Saturday, October 15, 2016
Thursday I took a trip to McAdam. I don't think I have ever been there and before going I set out to figure how to get there. Interestingly the three ways I saw on Google maps all took approximately the same amount of time.I chose what appeared to be the middle way .It was a lovely day for the drive and I really enjoyed the fall foliage. There was a stretch of dirt road I wasn't crazy about since I am driving a new vehicle. Funny how that changes my perspective. I wasn't the least bit obsessive about my eight year old Corolla. Anyway I got there in lots of time and found the library right away. The librarian is a former student of mine. She welcomed me into the library and then across the road to her place for supper. After supper I took a short drive to have a good look at the impressive grandeur of the McAdam train station. What an architectural treasure! Thankfully local people have had the wisdom and determination to preserve and restore it .I will return sometime so that I can actually get inside and would love to go when they serve their wide selection of pies. So why did I drive all the way to McAdam? Reflecting on the trip I can come up with several good reasons. I was invited. My former student Amy recently moved to the small town to take the job of librarian at the small library. It is lovely. The small facility offers many books and resources (You Tube for a young man who comes daily)It is warm and welcoming . I read to five people including the librarian and her parents who were kind enough to drive two hours for the event. I met Sherry and Karen who were very receptive and asked lots of questions. I read four passages from Waiting For Still Water and a couple of passages from The Year Mrs. Montague Cried. Karen shared her story of loosing her son in an accident and his name was also Zachary. We talked about the common threads of our experience . It was lovely to meet her. She bought a copy of The Year Mrs. Montague Cried. Sherry bought The Memory Chair and Amy's mom bought Ten Thousand Truths. I donated a copy of Waiting For Still Water to the library. I met the young man who frequents the library daily and he shared his interests and his passion for comic books and gory stuff with me. I did not sell him on my writing but he seemed impressed that I wrote all the books displayed on the table. Amy offered her home so that I wouldn't have to drive home on unfamiliar roads and risk coming in contact with a moose. The painting of the large moose on the library wall reinforced my desire not to take my chances.I got Amy to give me a new library card as for some reason I have misplaced my old one.I think it's great that a former grade 4 student of mine is issuing her teacher a library card and encouraging her to read more. I was given a $25 Gas card as a gift for coming. I settled in quite early and began reading David Adams Richards new book ,Principles to Live By. I heard him read the first few pages at a Fog Lit event and as I started reading it I could hear the words in his voice and cadence. I hope my readers after hearing me read can say the same thing. So why would I drive all the way to a small NB town , to a small library and read to a small crowd ? Why not is more like it. As I have said before , I get my readers one reader at a time and I am thankful for each one. Thanks Amy!
Tuesday, October 11, 2016
Yesterday we travelled to Kings Landing for our 30th Thanksgiving. In the 30 years we've been going we have seen many changes, many configurations and made lots of memories. The first year we left one year old Chapin with a babysitter and took Zac and Meg. We sat in a small upstairs room at the Kings Head and had our first dinner there. Every year since we packed up the kids, sometimes grandparents joined us , sometimes aunts, uncles and cousins. Some years boyfriends and girlfriends were invited. Sometimes someone couldn't come for one reason or another. We would gather whoever was available and keep up our tradition. I don't remember why Zac didn't come with us the last year before he died. At the time it didn't seem a big deal for him to miss our trip but his absence is now always felt deeply. The last time all four kids came we got the priceless picture of them all and Burton along the footpath. I never walk that footpath without remembering the posing for that photograph. Last year Meg , Emma and Paige joined us. Cody has come with us at least once. Brianne and Ashlie are part of the tradition and now have had several thanksgivings there with us. Weather has varied as have the crowd attending. Yesterday we almost let the wind and rain stop us but I am so glad we didn't . We bundled up a bit more than usual but enjoyed the walk through the village.Bri and Chapin brought nephews Cade and Ryker. We commented on the fact that Ryker was the age Chapin was when we began the tradition. I must say I am so glad the NB government has seen fit to invest in this treasure. The sawmill has been refurbished. Some changes have been made to improve the tourist aspect. Kings Landing still holds a strong attraction for our family. It is like coming home. I only saw two people from my volunteering days but was happy to catch up with Evelyn and sit and quilt awhile at the Morehouse house with Virginia. Chapin and Burton shot the muskets, we walked through the corn maze and we sat together enjoying a delicious meal. Another wonderful visit made our Thanksgiving weekend complete. So much to remember, to look ahead to, and to be thankful for!
Tuesday, October 4, 2016
Today is Paige's 5th birthday. Oh how I wish I could see that little girl today and get caught up in her birthday excitement. Her voice still echoes here and I am thankful for the memories we made this summer and all the visits that came before. It is a frosty morning. A heavy fog rests above everything but I expect the sun will lift it soon. A beautiful morning . The landscape changes daily as fall digs in and summer leaves us. Yesterday I stored our huge crop of squash in the basement , the garden shed and the porch. My grand mother used to store her squash under her bed but I have way to much for that. I don't think she ever harvested as much as I grew this year. What seemed like a good idea when I dropped the seed seemed excessive yesterday as we made trip after trip filling each place with squash. I hope friends, family and neighbors come and get some so we can share the bounty. Last night Ashlie cooked ham and I cooked vegetables for a Sunday supper do over for my kids. The BlueJays game cut our Sunday supper short and I felt short changed. I love our Sunday suppers of catching up , laughing and playing a game of something. As I pulled carrots and beets and prepared a large squash and peeled the potatoes I let the gratitude of our home and garden sink in. I walked down to Chapin's house twice yesterday and each time saw more progress getting them closer to moving in. The leaves and the sky were stunning, the air crisp and the sun strong. Gorgeous! My sunflowers have turned their faces from me. Most of their blossoms have been stripped and their heads hang , their leaves withered, their large stalks stooping. They have a new and different beauty as does the surrounding landscape. Paige is now a five year old kindergarten girl .Happy Birthday Tiny Toad. Monkey and Toad love you!!!
Sunday, October 2, 2016
How quickly the months go by. Here we are arriving in October. Today a steady rain and a quiet Sunday morning brings a bit of reprieve from the busy days of September. I can only imagine how exhausted and ready for a break the Fog Lit organizing committee are. I watched from afar at several events as they kicked into gear to make things run smoothly always mindful of the next task. They juggled a large number of events and authors and pulled off an impressive festival. I was pleased to be involved . This morning I considered going to the city for Books and Brunch but let the lure of rest and solitude keep me in my housecoat having my coffee while finishing Riel's book and contemplating what I would do with the rest of my day. I am seriously considering going into to the closing event this afternoon. I am looking ahead at a busy October. Writing related events include a book club visit , a library reading , a workshop on journaling and four market days and some writing squeezed in. I have two appointments and my parents have appointments I will drive them to. We will make one more visit to Moncton so Mom can see her sister before they leave for what is likely to be Mom and Dad's last winter in Florida. Thanksgiving approaches and I look forward to our annual trip to Kings Landing. Outside my office window I hear the turkeys. Sadly their time is coming to an end. 'Enjoy each day' comes to mind and it seems I can not be reminded of that often enough. Caught up in the day by day I need mornings like this to allow that important lesson to sink in. Take in the beauty around , let my blessings sink in , find a place for my doubts and insecurities, treasure my loved ones, claim my sorrows , take a deep breath and move into the month ahead. Seems my relaxing quiet morning has an ambitious list . The rest of the day and the month will fall into place. Enjoy the here and now.
Monday, September 26, 2016
It is chilly. No furnace going yet but very soon I fear. My last lake swim officially took place on September 21st , the last day of summer. It was divine and I know if I forced myself I might be able to go one more time but I am accepting the truth and the change in temperature is certainly making that easier. Caleb started picking the squash yesterday and the squash patch is looking stripped and depleted, the plants no longer green and full. The dark green treasures stick out among the withered leaves and exposed vines. The long row of sunflowers are changing quickly as well. From a distance they still look tall and lovely but on closer inspection the blossoms are loosing their vibrancy. Petals are falling, seeds are being plucked and tall stems are tumbling as I predicted. I picked a few for the back veranda and they looked beautiful at first. They now look sad and wilted. Their day is almost done. As with the swimming I will accept the reality of my squash patch and my sunflowers changing with the season. An extra blanket will soon be put on the bed, shoes and socks will be worn and October will soon arrive. The trees are quickly changing color. I will begin my woods road walks as moose season is over. I look forward to reintroducing myself to the beauty of that walk to the top of the hill. As I look down and over to where I can see the top of Chapin and Brianne's house I know how much closer it is to welcoming them to move in and live the next stage of their lives together within its walls. I wait for the day I will see smoke rise from their far off chimney. Smoke will soon rise from my own as well and despite my reluctance to give up summer I welcome the beauty and comfort of fall and winter. I was given this wonderful summer and am truly thankful for its blessings. I think of the challenges that stretch ahead and ask for the courage and strength to face them and the wisdom to support my friends and family as they struggle with the challenges they have been given. Amelia's wisdom of an hour alone at the lake and Do Your part will now become an hour alone in the woods and I will continue to try to do my part.
Sunday, September 18, 2016
It is a rainy Sunday morning and I think this blog entry may take several turns. Firstly I dug out my slippers this morning. When I say dug, they were just on a shelf in my closet but I got them out. I can't remember the last time I wore them or when I stuck them in the closet. A couple of days ago I stepped out onto the veranda in my bare feet as I have been doing for the last three months and felt the cold boards under my feet. This morning before going downstairs to make the coffee I felt the need to wear slippers. You know what that means. It is possible I've been in the lake for the last time this season. I may muster the courage in the next few days to run in for the sake of claiming the last time, as I was not aware on Tuesday that my swim held that status. It should come as no surprise that slippers and giving up the lake are happening. I love our seasons and I accept the transition but I still resist the change. That brings me to the next turn. Last night we attended a 60thWedding Anniversary party. This party began with a 3:00 open house type of celebration ( for the old people perhaps) and morphed into a band playing, dancing under the stars, good old fashioned, all age house party. The hosts of this celebration Bung and Doreen are masters of those. They have a home so warm and welcoming you want them to adopt you. This amazing couple have been married for 60 years. They have suffered great loss and weathered many storms. They hold the range of joy and sorrow within the walls of their home and in their hearts. They have been through many seasons, still stocking up and preparing for the season ahead. They live in a beautiful wooded area far off the main road and look out at a gorgeous lake. After spending a few hours in their presence I came home last night so clearly grateful for my own home and my own journey. Perhaps someday Burton and I will welcome guests into our home to celebrate 60 years. I can only hope our home and our example speak as loudly of love, determination, courage, grace and hospitality as Bung and Doreen's do. So I slip on my slippers, gaze at the turning leaves from my office window and take the next season as the wonderful gift it is. My final turn takes me to thoughts of my own amazing parents who have walked their lives together for 68 years. The walk is getting difficult and I hold them in my thoughts and prayers. I can not take away their struggle and can only do my small part to support them.
Friday, September 16, 2016
It seems I am somewhat obsessed with my sunflowers. As the mornings cool and Fall approaches they speak to me loudly of the summer that was. They are impressive on so many levels. Their size, the long row each individual plant contributes to, their massive green leaves, the volume of blossoms big and small each unique and beautiful individually and stunning collectively. The optimism and hope I placed in each seed as I dropped them has more than proved itself. The plants grew tall and strong after the season of growing. I cut a few and brought them in to the house giving them a place of honour in my big green vase. I will keep that arrangement fresh as long as the sunflowers stay. The blossoms will droop. The bluebirds will come and begin their feast of the seeds from each blossom. The large stems will fall and some will uproot as they tumble. Eventually the plants will completely rot and next springs ploughing will turn the rot into the earth. Some sunflowers will pop out in random spots refusing to completely disappear. Last night Louisa and I went to the KV Library for the launch of Riel Nason's new book 'All The Things We Leave Behind'. It was well attended by Riel's family , friends and neighbors. Her kids provided excitement and entertainment as they proudly roamed the periphery.Readers and writers permeated the crowd. It was great to see some fellow authors show up to support Riel. This morning when I considered the photographs to include with my blog entry the cluster of sunflowers growing tall outside put me in mind of the crowd last night. A group coming together each unique and special in their own way. See what I mean by being obsessed with my sunflowers. All the best with the launch of your new book Riel. A wonderful way to finish the summer of 2016.
Tuesday, September 13, 2016
I don't hate spiders. I don't particularly like it when they fall on me or when I run into their sticky webs but I am not afraid of them. I am quite amazed by their webs even though usually the first thing I do every morning when I step out on my back veranda is to take the broom handle and run it along the top knocking down their night of hard work and mastery. I do feel a bit guilty doing that but I hate walking into spider webs. To be fair I leave the ones that are not in my path. I do marvel at their intricate beauty. We have big bellied spiders. Big doesn't even begin to describe them . They are huge . Sometimes they build a web and hang out in my clothes line window and I don't see them until I stick my head out to hang the laundry. I do not like that. But for the most part I leave them alone and don't think much about them until someone else draws my attention to them. Paige and Emma get a bit worked up when they see them. Burton and I try to plead the spiders case and tell the girls all the good things about spiders. Saturday night when we had our corn boil and friends sat on the back veranda in the beautiful night air, the light showcased the massive network of spider webs. Some of my friends chose not to sit outside for that reason. I am perfectly all right with the spiders. I live on a farm where very little is perfect other than the view and the feeling I get from living here. I have free range poultry that poop everywhere. I have gardens in need of a full time gardener. I have buildings that need some maintenance. I live with imperfection on every level but also know just how perfect my life is and just how much I have to be thankful for. So when I look up I choose to see the beauty and hope my friends can see it too.
Sunday, September 11, 2016
Calling it rain is a bit optimistic I guess but today so far is misty, foggy and cooler than its been. I am considering that weather as my reason to take a break and let the day be a breather. It has been a busy summer. We have had beautiful stretches of hot and sunny days filled with lots of activity. I had a dream filled night that had me wake up feeling completely drained. In the first few minutes I longed to give up , to stop holding on,to retreat to some faraway place where my mind could be turned off. Sounds scary and problematic but in reality I believe we all struggle with that . Where can we run to get away from whatever weight we carry? This is the challenge of living . I often repeat my mantra of "OK everyone, OK everybody" This inventory of the people I love is basically an inventory of my ability to handle the truth of the fact I have absolutely no control over much of anything. On this 15th anniversary of 911 when we in western society got that cruel wake up call, I choose to admit to that helplessness. But as I accept this truth I will also fight my way back to the place that sees me keeping on. How easy it can be to get bogged down with what's wrong in our lives. There are days when the imperfections and flaws , the disappointments and fear looms large. Gratitude is my first defense but I sometimes have to force my way out of the darkness of feeling sorry for myself and into the light of my blessings. But sometimes I'm just tired. I don't want to juggle it all and I just want to take a break. Today will be one of those days . I will however in the midst of whatever this day turns out to be, gaze for a minute on the long wall of sunny blossoms and know I dropped those seeds. Today, that is enough.
Monday, September 5, 2016
The first blossoms have opened and the rest will come fast and furious. September is here and harvest is in full swing. I must take stock and decide what pickles and preserves I will get done. I have been freezing vegetables and just about every meal is made up of freshly picked garden treasures. Burton has been busy getting the winter's wood piled in the field, ready to bring in to the basement. The air is cooler , the leaves have started turning and the lake presents just a bit more of a challenge to jump in to. Last night I prepared a meal for seventeen people to celebrate Chapin's 31st birthday. Earlier in the day I had driven across the river to see my parents and help them celebrate their 68th wedding anniversary. My 88 year old mother was participating in a service that had forty pianos brought in and each one was being played simultaneously throughout the service. I watched my beautiful mother who is struggling with speech completely engaged in playing all of the seventeen songs. I was very proud of her. My brother, his wife , my aunt and I joined Mom and Dad for a lovely lunch and I tried to drink in the day and the gift of still having my parents. The day holds emotion for me as well when I think that 31 years ago I had my third child;my 9 lb Chapin Daniel, who brought so much with him when he joined our family. I now look at a grown handsome man, a loving husband who for the last year has been completely engrossed in building a beautiful home for he and his wife. I am so hugely proud of him. In the midst of the chaos of the crowd getting their supper dished up all I could think of was rushing out the door and escaping to the cool and refreshing and rejuvenating water of my beloved lake. I took a quick dip got my thoughts in order and returned. Part of me wanted to linger, to keep swimming, to stay where I feel so completely at rest and at peace. I am a woman caught between generations, trying to give as much of myself to both sides that need me, while trying to keep myself well and strong and able. When I consider my parents were celebrating their 37th anniversary the day I gave birth to Chapin and Burton and I have already had our 39th anniversary, it speaks loudly to me of just how quickly life happens. I do what I have to do and seldom let myself give in to the deep emotion of it all but sometimes I just have to jump in the lake. Sometimes I just have to step back and let it sink in . I am grateful for mornings like this when I can let the tears flow , I can just be me not having to be a daughter , a mother a grandmother. I can just be the little girl that can run and jump in the lake with no responsibilities to anyone but myself. I am glad I escaped to the lake but I am glad I came back too. That is the balance I strive for.
Sunday, August 28, 2016
It is the Sunday before my back to work day. I remember the excitement and anxiety of this day when I was still teaching. That week back before the students came was always made up of the thrill and hard work of getting my classroom ready, the enjoyment of seeing fellow staff members and meeting new ones, the challenge of meetings and overstimulation of new policies , programs and might I say some bullshit. There was the burden of balancing home and school ,the sadness of giving up summer and the optimism of new strategies and new convictions(like I'll make my kids great lunches every day) Those were rewarding times and I always enjoyed them as difficult as they were. I am glad they are behind me but I do know exactly what my daughter in law and friends that are still teaching feel today. But I feel wonderful. I am excited to get back to my office. I can not wait to start writing again. I have the freedom of course to fit my fall chores like pickling and harvesting the garden in to my schedule. I can interrupt my writing with a walk or a swim. I can adjust my hours . I am completely doing what I love and am more than grateful for the opportunity to do it. For the eighth fall I get to do what I waited so many years to do. I am a writer. This morning I received two messages that reminded me of that. I got a lovely message from a reader who is a former student and also a former colleague. She was my student teacher at one time and I used her name in Waiting For Still Water.(Rachel's grade three teacher) She wrote about how much she enjoyed the book and how honored she was to have been mentioned. I also got a photograph from a friend who bought the book from me at the market yesterday, showing the book , a coffee cup and a beautiful scene in the background showing still water. What a nice gift on this day as I putter away at end of summer chores and preparation of Sunday supper with the anticipation of going back to work tomorrow. Amid the worries and heartaches and challenges of life I get the gift of making stories up in the quiet sanctuary of my imagination and my office.
Friday, August 26, 2016
As an author I love nothing more than to talk to readers about my work. I love to read my work. I love to discuss my work. I love seeing my books in the hands of others. And I love hearing others read my work. That is especially meaningful to me when the reader shows genuine emotion while reading it. Last night gave me all that and so much more. I was invited to a book club on the beautiful Belleisle. Even though it got dark soon after I arrived, sitting in the screened in veranda on the shores of the Belleisle was a summer treat. The company was wonderful. Four of the regular book club members were in attendance and because some were unable to attend the hostess buoyed the numbers by inviting her four sisters. I picked up two of the sisters on my way which made the night even more enjoyable. The Howlett sisters are very dear to me. I have often voiced my desire to be one of them. I tend to do that when I meet a large group of sisters. (The Barrys, the Fullertons the Johnstons) This is an only girl thing. I have always dreamt of having sisters but in reality have been blessed with so many good friends and sister in laws that are like sisters to me. That though is a separate topic for another blog. Book Clubs are fun for an author especially one with several teachers as members who take the structure of it quite seriously. They began with talking about the most memorable character. Whoah! That was moving for me as most of them chose Zac. I have made no secret of the fact that I fashioned the character Zac to be the man I imagine my son would be if he were still living. His back story is different but the essence of who he is comes from the essence of who my Zachary was. The qualities he has as a man are the strong qualities my son had as a young boy , a teenager and as a twenty year old before his life was cut short. Not a perfect person by any means but a strong caring, resilient and loving one ready to step up and do his best with whatever came his way. To hear readers embrace that character meant the world to me. Thank you! Then they read their favorite passages. I can not even tell you what that means to an author. Each sentence, page and chapter of a work are crafted after careful thought and scrutiny. Some of course come out as if a tap were turned on and others need wringing out or squeezing out. But once they are on paper they are etched in stone , unchangeable and you hope they work. To hear others read them and get what you intended or what you hoped for from them is a gift beyond description. Last night's book club visit gave that to me. They asked questions , I read, we discussed , we wandered off topic, we circled back. It was wonderful. Then they gave me gifts. Wine, blueberries and money. They understood that the work of an author has value. Thank you book club on the Belleisle for reading Ten Thousand Truths and Waiting For Still Water. Thank you for loving the characters and the words and thank you again for inviting the author.
Sunday, August 21, 2016
The morning after. I can only imagine what this morning is like for Gord and the other band members. How do you process what last night was for the band, for the country and for you personally? I kept thinking of Gord Downey's kids and his wife as I watched him give so much of himself last night. This morning and for the days ahead I pray he has enough left to give them. It is not very often we get to see a life lived on stage in front of us. 35 years he said. Opening performances given to 13 , 28 and 6 people. Fan bases changing and growing over the years. Songs becoming part of the country's identity. A signature voice recognized in the first few seconds of a song. Band members living each aspect of those years side by side. A final concert drawing record crowds in venues across the country, around the world and in back yards and living rooms. A final performance bringing the country and our prime minister to tears. Not a career and a legacy to take lightly. But still just a Kingston band that started with a dream in their hometown. No different really than countless other artists and creators everywhere. Words, music and putting oneself out there to bring attention to poetry, to meaning to compassion and pride in who we are. This morning as I process all that with the engrained sound of 'Ahead By a Century' still reverberating in my brain I look at my sunflowers, now almost a wall just about ready to develop their blossoms and think back to the seed. I remember the small sprouts, the double leaves, the developing stalk and let that be symbolic to writing, making music , living our lives. This impressive wall of sunflowers will die. They will tumble over, become uprooted , return to the earth. Their life has a expiry date but even knowing that does not diminish the wonder and glory and beauty of what they are right now and the miracle of their very existence. Where did you watch them and what gift did the watching give you? This morning I pray that Gord is given time with his loved ones and can leave the stage and this earth knowing he gave what he had to give and left us all better for it.
Tuesday, August 16, 2016
We have finally had some rain. The air feels fresh today and a heavy dew still lingers. After the nice steady rain of Sunday a cooler slightly overcast day yesterday with an occasional shower allowed the rain to soak in to the very dry ground and waterways. I can feel the slight hint of fall. My garden time is now mainly spent harvesting as planting and tending is behind me. I will attempt to pick my pea rows clean this afternoon so we can enjoy our summer bounty in the middle of winter. I am waiting to see the first blossoms form on the now head tall sunflowers. Just under two weeks before I return to my office and teachers (they do not like to be reminded of this) head back to their classrooms. I have much to look forward to. I have a book club visit later this month, Riel Nason's launch of All the Things We Leave Behind, a friend's daughter's wedding, and September itself which is one of my favorite months. I remember being on mat leave when Chapin was born(he will be 31 on Sept 4th) and loving being at home. I repeated that when Caleb was born(26 on Nov 6th) loving being home coordinating all the fall tasks and busy lives of my kids. The fall months still bring such beauty and splendor. I hope to see Chapin and Bri move into their new home and watch Caleb and Ashlie become increasingly settled in their new place. Harvest and blessing and Thanksgiving. I will not rush the seasons as I hope to have many more swims and enjoy the joys of summer. But like it or not seasons come to an end and the wonder of the next is always waiting.
Wednesday, August 10, 2016
August 10th is a day that sticks out in my memory. Six years ago today I got a phone call from WFNS saying that my manuscript The Year Mrs. Montague Cried had won first place in the Y/A category of the Atlantic Writing Competition. Four years before I was getting ready to take a trip across the country to visit my daughter. I was driving across with two close friends. Another friend was at home turning my youngest son's bedroom into my office. I was about to begin a deferred leave,taking the coming school year off to write the book that had been forming in my mind since the awful date of April 18th,1999. I painstakingly wrote that book in 10 months and then spent the next four years trying to find a publisher. That phone call on that August day opened the door to the publishing contract I had a few weeks later with Acorn Press. Today 25 more copies of the book I probably still sell the most of, arrived on my doorstop. As I opened the box and placed the Atlantic Book Awards Winner sticker on each cover I couldn't help but think back to that phone call. I was thrilled but as I the received the news my inner voice told me what I had known all along , 'if I took the excruciating journey to write it it would someday take shape as a book I could hold in my hands'. This book will always hold a part of my beloved son and I accept each copy and where it has taken me as a gift beyond measure. Love you Zac!
Tuesday, August 9, 2016
I was up bright and early this morning. With coffee in hand I set out to survey the farm. I love my morning walk observing the gardens and property in the morning sunshine. Another gorgeous day, a bit cooler but beautiful. I had cautiously stepped into the squash patch as there are no clear paths anymore now that the plants have set out their vines. The attack came when I was least expecting it and I had no clear route of escape. I felt the first jabs on the back of my bare legs and turned to see the rooster in full attack mode. I threw my coffee on him but he just shook his feathers and resumed his attack. The rest I am sure would make a hilarious video but there was nothing funny about it to me. I somehow got out of the patch and backed away, by this time hitting the beast with my shoe. I backed up a ways where I could grab two buckets and use them as shields. They were a more effective defense than my shoe and coffee cup. With one bucket I stunned the nasty creature and made my escape. Nothing like an early morning rooster attack to get the blood flowing. Burton came out of the house oblivious to the ordeal his wife had just been through. He walked over to check on the rooster's condition and unfortunately he was just fine. I will not make my morning walk about after this without carrying a big stick. By the way the sunflowers are now up to my chin.
Monday, August 8, 2016
Yesterday was a 'simply enjoy summer' kind of day. I always say that living where I do is like having a cottage built right in to my year round home. I know sometimes I don't get the full cottage effect because I keep too busy. Relaxing comes in small doses and I took some of those doses yesterday. I visited with a friend chatting on my back veranda. I had just been for a delightful swim and was still dripping wet. Later I stretched out on the veranda and read. I ate my lunch on the back veranda. Burton and I sat out for a long while watching the sunset and letting the coolness creep in to the evening. In between all that I mowed a bit of the lawn. I cleaned the weeds out of a long row of carrots. I picked raspberries and made a delicious raspberry dessert. Picking those raspberries brought back so many memories. We used to have a big raspberry patch until a few years ago when a blight of some kind forced us to cut them down. The spot is now cow pasture but on the edge of the pasture bushes have grown and we now have lots of raspberries for our own use. I used to pick and sell most of the month of August. Busy July days of weeding were replaced with busy August days of picking raspberries and taking them to customers. My sister in law Louisa took flats into work and sold them. In the summer of 2006 I made enough off my raspberries to pay for campsites all along the trip I took with my friends Paul and Alice. We traveled across the states and then up into Alberta. When I got back from that trip I settled down to write The Year Mrs. Montague Cried, having taken a deferred leave giving me that school year off. I knew my raspberry patch like the back of my hand. I knew exactly where the fruit hung the thickest. I very methodically picked each row. I could usually predict how many boxes I would get from each row and would watch the season ebb and flow. I would crank up the radio which was of course tuned to CBC and devote much of the day to picking those bushes clean. Sometimes the drone of voices coming from the radio would be replaced by the music of The Grateful Dead and I would know that Caleb was coming to help his mother pick (on his father's orders)I loved those hours in the raspberry patch. I had time with my youngest son , maybe a friend or family member that stopped by to pick or just time alone to think and in the end a bit of spending money for my efforts. The years come and go. So much changes but some things stay the same. August feels very different than it did when I held on to each day knowing that school would soon start and my summer would be over. I now look ahead to writing and will return to my desk when the teachers return to their classrooms. But these are still the sweet days of summer and just as the picking of raspberries turned into a delicious dessert I served after the salmon and fresh vegetables of last night's Sunday supper the memories of this one when mixed with the memories of all the summers before will taste just as sweet.
Thursday, August 4, 2016
I am avoiding the kayak this morning. My three days of paddling have caught up with me and I am sore. Yesterday's outing was challenging. I thought I had paddled to Chapin's shore the day before but realized on yesterday's outing that I had not. I had not gone near far enough and the shore I had pulled up to was a long stretch away from his actual location. Once I realized that I also realized how far and how much energy it was going to take to get there. Once I got there his shore presented more of a challenge to get the kayak tethered and to climb up the bank. There was no chair to sit on and I took off my life jacket to use as a cushion. I thought of trying to walk up the steep rise leading up to their house imagining coming out of the woods and surprising Chapin who I could hear hammering in the distance. Upon beginning the trek I realized how treacherous and how ill suited I was for that venture and thought better of it. No one even knew where I was and if I took a tumble and sprained an ankle I would be in big trouble. I sat down again and let my thoughts settle. It seemed that paddling back was going to be a daunting task. Even getting back down to the water was going to present a challenge. I relaxed and gave my situation some thought. It occurred to me that we are faced with similar challenges all through our lives. We find ourselves overwhelmed by what lies ahead. We panic and shut down with the fear that we can not face what we know we have to do. For me it was getting myself back to the shore I had started from. As I said no one even knew where I was so they would not come and get me. Finding ourselves in challenging situations first requires acceptance , coming to terms with the challenge and then beginning to make a plan. I looked the steep bank over carefully trying to see the best way down. I am extremely unsure footed. I don't seem able to put my foot down unless I am completely sure of the stability of the ground beneath me . I looked for firmly rooted small trees or shrubs to hang on to if I should misjudge my footing. I picked a path and cautiously proceeded. I got to the rocky shore. I freed my kayak and got myself situated on the seat. Something didn't feel right. I had noticed that the end of the kayak with the plug had been submersed in the water and thought the imbalance I felt might be because it had taken in too much water . I did not want to paddle out and have it tip me into this unfamiliar shoreline. I stood myself back up and proceeded to maneuver the kayak so that I could after taking out the plug, stand it upright and drain the water out. This was somewhat challenging on the cramped and rocky shore. I waited to see the last faint trickle before plugging the hole and getting back in the kayak. I began paddling . The trip back was so much easier. Once rounding the bend I focused on the prize which was in sight. I pulled up onto the shore and started dragging my kayak back along the road. I was startled by the loud sound of the garbage truck and thought briefly how terrible it would be to have made it back only to be hit by a huge truck. My outing yesterday probably didn't really hold the drama I just afforded it but the lessons it showed me are powerfully real. So this morning I will take a short jaunt and just paddle from the shore to the place I swim. I will give myself a smaller more manageable challenge and get back up on the horse so to speak.
Monday, August 1, 2016
Today on this first day of August I take a few minutes to catch my breath to reflect and look ahead. I took my kayak out this morning , paddling around the bend and pulling up on the rocky shore at the bottom of the steep incline leading up to Chapin and Brianne's new house. I disembarked, tethered my kayak and climbed the bank to sit on their shore. Amazing and just exactly what I needed to process the last few weeks and see a clear path for the month ahead. I stared at the water lilies and grasses,their reflections as vibrant as the actual plant above the surface and thought how that mirrors the concrete and the spiritual aspects of our lives. That balance is the key to our wellness and I am thankful for the moments I am given when I immerse myself in the beauty of the earth and listen to my heart. " I don't know anything better than what Amelia knew to teach us."(quote from Zac on pg. 233 in Waiting For Still Water)I am going to cut this entry short and get on with my day. Lots to do as I regroup from a busy July and accept the gifts August has to provide while I anticipate the big gift of getting back to work in September.
Friday, July 22, 2016
In the quiet moments of the morning I will write a blog entry. Paige is sleeping over at her namesake Great Aunt's house and Emma is still sound asleep. A week from tomorrow they will be packed and ready to leave later in the day. Last night we met and had supper with the woman who will fly home with them. She is the sister of one of my sister in laws and I must say at this point she is very high on my favorite list. I can not even imagine mustering the energy to fly across the country with the girls . I am just about done in. For some reason my reserves seem lower this year. Parenting and grandparenting is not for the faint of heart. Gardening is not either. The weeds are beating me . It only stands to reason that a job that would require a minimum of ten hours a day when given a tenth of that can not be done to my liking. I may have to seriously argue for smaller gardens next year but am not confident that my pleas will be heard. Oh well. Today the girls have been invited to spend the day with neighbors and I will tackle some of those weeds . Just like the uphill battle of so much in life trying counts for something. The sunflowers keep growing upward . We have a brown bunny that keeps running out of the woods nibbling here and there . The chickens seem to like my lettuce and bugs chew holes in potato and squash plants. Nothing is as easy as we would like .Children argue , they push the limits, they stubbornly develop into their own little beings and they wear you out. Complete control and perfection is not attainable and we all need a reminder of that from time to time. Who better than a seven and four year old to teach this tired old grandmother that. And what better than to watch the progress of my row of sunflowers as they grow regardless of a weed or two.
Sunday, July 17, 2016
We have reached the halfway point of the girls summer visit this year. Halfway marks are a good place to take stock. I am exhausted. When speaking to other grandparents my age they often say that after a day or two they are worn out so I guess two straight weeks with the prospect of two more can be reason enough for my weariness. bedtime this year for some reason has not been a piece of cake. I think they must still be on Alberta time as evidenced by the fact that I am writing this entry at almost ten oclock in the morning and they are both still sound asleep. I have decided not to make bedtime an issue but that being said I need to get myself to bed before midnight. However the rest of the bedtimes play out I will survive. Reading back to two summers ago in my journal this morning I recall the sense of accomplishment Emma felt when she swam under water for the first time. Now two years later she swims under and on top of the water with great ease and confidence. She made it out and back from the raft twice yesterday , taking help from Monkey and Toad to get out there but swimming back totally on her own. I expect by the end of her visit both ways will be within her comfort level. Two years ago we were toilet training Paige and needless to say that accomplishment is just a given now. I see them grow and develop every single day. What precious little people they are and my exhaustion will be forgotten and replaced very quickly with longing to see them minutes after they board the plane for home. My sunflowers are stretching up as well. They stand in a row now just a few inches off the ground but as the days and weeks go by they will reach higher and I look forward to watching that. I look forward as well to the victories and changes I will see next year in our granddaughters. The challenges will change although I expect Grampie's teasing and "bossy " ways might stay the same. So today I take a deep breath and prepare for the busy day ahead knowing that days like this one will not return and I only get the privilege of living it just this one time.
Thursday, July 7, 2016
Yesterday I weeded and hoed up the row of sunflowers and observed their progress. Just as the sunflowers continue to grow so do my granddaughters during this summer of 2016. Emma has lost baby teeth and adult teeth have replaced them. She is taller of course and can do things she couldn't do last year. One of those things is read and she takes great pleasure in reading all or part of her bedtime stories this year. Paige is a talkative delightful and very entertaining four year old. We are soaking up her sweet personality so we can remember it when she goes back home and refuses to talk to us on the phone. So as I continue to watch the sunflowers I take pleasure in watching my granddaughters. Not much time to write blog entries on these summer mornings. I must tend to the garden and to caring for our girls as they continue to grow.
Wednesday, June 22, 2016
A few days ago I mentioned the Kong Sunflowers that I had just planted and included a picture of the massive wall of sunflowers at the end of last years growing season. I often make the comparison between gardening and writing. At this time of the year I take great pleasure in watching the seeds I have dropped into the earth germinate, sprout and begin their growth to maturity. Every morning I take a walk past the gardens paying close attention to the green sprouts as they poke through and I watch their gradual and amazing transformation. At this point we have squash, beans, corn, a couple of potatoes plants and the sunflowers sticking up though the ground. Today I took a picture of the first small sign of things to come. The sunflower that will grow to be so large is just two small oval leaves now. I look forward to documenting its progress. I find the same kind of pleasure watching a book take shape. I begin with the seed of an idea, nurture it and watch it develop. Next Wednesday night the harvest of Waiting For Still Water will take place at the Kingston Parish hall. I already hold the finished work in my hands and I look forward to offering it up as friends and family gather to celebrate its existence.
Tuesday, June 21, 2016
Yesterday was the first day of the summer of 2016. This morning I wrote in my summer journal and looked back at entries from June of last year. I set my summer goals and they are similar to last summer's goals. Maintain the garden, swim, kayak, mow, enjoy the girls; all the gifts and joys of summer. My daily work changes as I set about to care for a huge vegetable garden. I have come away from my desk and my writing and as I go about my weeding and working the soil I have my work in the back of my mind. By September I will know what story will need to be told. I hold the work of the past in my heart both published and waiting for publication. The stories and characters weave together. On my walk yesterday I thought about three of the strong female characters that have found their way to the page in my writing. I love Hazel and can't wait until she is given her place on the pages of Maple Sugar Pie. Strong females that create family and place for the people in their lives. Again I have been given a summer to do just that. Five more sleeps Paige said this morning . Her excited voice echoes the love she has of place and family and this farm on the Walton Lake Road. Yesterday I drove to Fredericton and met with a McMaster student who interviewed me for a study she is undertaking on the relationship between Canadian literature and Canadian identity. I spoke about my identity and my sense of place. It was an interesting discussion. I stood in front of what used to be the Fredericton Library when I was a kid. This impressive building was a huge part of my childhood. I remember walking down the hill to this building that held volumes of possibility for a young imagination. I would select several hard covered treasures and walk back up the hill taking the characters and the places home with me. My favorite books in those years were Enid Blyton's Adventure series set in England and Lucy Maud Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables books set in Prince Edward Island. I write stories set on the Walton Lake Road and on the Saint John River. Stories of families and life set in different places but telling of experiences that are universal. Geography, landscape and climate, culture and history all thrown in and impossible to separate from the character and plot. We are who and what we have come from. We are where we are rooted or where we have ended up and are shaped by the world around us. Change is constant , is seasonal, is fluid and solid. The summer before me will be spent mainly outside letting the sun , the earth, the water and the wonder of growth fill me up allowing me to open my mind to the stories within that wait to be written .
Sunday, June 12, 2016
As I do so many nights I had a period of wakefulness last night in which I thought about a wide range of things. One thing that went through my mind for some reason was the series of places in Waiting For Still Water when characters give advice to Rachel. I thought about the relationships and the type of advice each person offered hoping as a writer I didn't make them all the same. I hope each interaction showed something true about the characters relationships, the past they shared and the trust they have developed. Rachel had Zac, Raymond, Jodie, Amelia, Kate , her father, her grandmother and Ryan all offer her gems of wisdom, advice and encouragement. This morning that train of thought led me to think of who in my life offers me that same gift. I have many and for each one I am thankful. But in thinking that and remembering back to the many times in the last few years I have relied on the wisdom and caring of those friends and family members it occurs to me that after all the words , all the deep debates, all the caring talk the getting on with things always comes right back to me , to each one of us to do what we need to do ourselves. We are blessed with relationships and support systems but the real putting our feet on the floor each day and then putting one foot in front of the other always comes right down to each one of us. No one can do the hard work for you. Others can offer advice and carry you along but the heavy lifting so to speak is done individually. Finding the way to make sure you are doing that seems to be the key. Some days I must remind myself what those things are and simply make sure I do them. Today at the top of the list I take the time to clear my head of these thoughts by writing this entry. I will then tackle the other things on my list. First I will drop seeds in the row and begin growing the huge impressive sunflowers that the Kong seeds gave me last year. Grow toward the light. Stand tall once you have put your feet on the floor. Take the gifts like sun, water and attention and let others help you along the way but find that deep faith to believe that what really matters comes from within.
Monday, June 6, 2016
The first seeds are in the ground and today rain is soaking the dry dusty earth. I am anxious to get more planting done but today I will watch the raindrops and wait for my next planting day. I look forward to another growing season. I love to watch the green sprouts force their through the ground. Weeding and hoeing will become my daily activity as I watch the plants develop. Yesterday I took a swim mid afternoon and I will be happy to settle into that routine. I have to go back up to Rolie's and get the rest of my flowers. My writing has stopped for the summer and I will let my ideas take root while the garden grows so that I will be ready to return to work in September. Another summer season with all its gifts and all the hard work is beginning.
Monday, May 30, 2016
Waiting For Still Water arrived last Wednesday. I began distributing the ten complimentary author copies to my kids and a couple of people that were instrumental in its existence. I have more of those to send out in the mail . I took some copies to WFNB's Word Spring event this weekend in the Miramichi and sold five copies so the selling has begun. I will have my launch on June 29th but in the meantime the books are out there for sale. Checking the Indigo website this morning I see that there are lots of copies in Fredericton, a few in two of the Saint John stores(not at East Point yet for some reason),lots in Halifax and some in each of the Nova Scotia and PEI stores. I did not check any other book selling websites but I know Amazon had the book on their site last week stating it was out of stock and orders could be placed. I will be at the Kingston Farmer's market on Saturday and hope to see many of the people who have been asking me in the last few weeks when the new book would be here. My first four books had the cover price of 12.95. Waiting For Still Water sells for $19.95. I am looking forward to meeting new readers and greeting old ones. This book's journey has begun and I send it out hoping it touches someone wherever it lands.
Thursday, May 26, 2016
I can not even begin to say how pleased I am to announce the arrival of book number five. As I placed it with the others between the book ends my friend Karen so fittingly gave me as it was her that got the ball rolling to see The Year Mrs. Montague Cried published ,Burton commented that we will have to get a bigger table eventually . At the launch of my first book in 2011 I stated that I planned on writing a book a year for the next twenty years. I am ahead of schedule as I just finished writing #9.Today I celebrate and applaud book number five. It is taller and thicker and gorgeous. It came into being after about five months of writing and five months of editing. It got a new name and its beautiful cover while I was on a trip to Newfoundland . I have spent hours in so called writing labour to birth this beautiful new member of my book family. I nervously and anxiously send this new book out into the world while at the same time clutching it to my chest reluctant to let it go. It holds such a huge part of me but will take on its own identity and be received by readers who will find a part of themselves in its pages.
Tuesday, May 24, 2016
May 24th is my official first swim date this year and I am thrilled to have my lake back. I have kept my eye on it mostly from the upstairs windows of Chapin and Brianne's house when I go down almost every day to see the progress. They have a beautiful view of my beloved Walton Lake. I can not see it from my own house and have to make a point of driving down during the months we are separated after my final swim of the season and I don't do that very often. Out of sight does not mean out of mind though. I am always aware that it is waiting for me, for warm days and another summer. Today I eagerly drove down determined to take the plunge. It is always the same every year. I have to talk myself into the first swim. I have to remind myself how badly I want the swimming to begin again for another year. I have to tell myself that the numbing cold will pass , that it will be worth it. I walk out to my waist still not completely sure I will do it. I remind myself how disappointed I will be if I give in to the belief that I can't do it. Then I go under. The seconds of shock are nothing when compared to the amazing feeling I get from being back in the lake. My beautiful lake waited for me and I am once more blessed with swimming and worshipping in my lake. Worshipping may sound ridiculous to some but that is exactly what the clear water and solitary swimming in Walton Lake offers me. As I submerge myself in the water I fill with thankfulness for having survived another winter, for the health that allows me to enjoy the physical activity that swimming provides, for the mindfulness of the many blessing the months that have passed since I last let the waters cover me have provided. For me the first swim of the season is a huge victory and a welcome invitation to the promise of summer.
Monday, May 23, 2016
I am just about bursting with excitement like the blossoms and buds I see when I look out my office window . Someday this week Waiting For Still Water is supposed to arrive. I can not wait to hold a copy in my hands. It is something similar to giving birth, the pain and discomfort overshadowed by the existence of a new creation. This morning I brought up the download of the interior and randomly chose a spot to start reading. It grips me and I hope it grips my readers. It occurred to me on Saturday as I stood at my market table that the books displayed hold pieces of my soul . In the writing I dig deep in the crevices of emotion and even though I create a fictional story it always comes from a place within. So when I re read the words that made the cut and finally found their way onto the page I realize the journey has been long and difficult but so rewarding. Again I can not come close to expressing how grateful I am that I have been given the opportunity to do this. I am a writer in every part of my being. A story teller and an observer of life . Every day I take the story around me and try to figure it out, to put things in perspective, to worry out the whys and wherefores and to truly see what matters. I do not always get it right and don't claim to have any magic powers but the magic is in the living. Last night my brother in law did a thing with a tape measure illustrating how much of life we have already seen and how short the tape measure or what remains of our life is. I dug through a box of photographs and treasures my parents sent home with me on Saturday and read back to 1987 when my mother wrote her daily activities in a day planner. So much of what she did during those days included me and my three kids at that time. Chapin was two , Meg was five and Zac was nine and my mother was the same age I am right now. That hit me with a powerful wallop. It made me weepy on so many levels. But most importantly it made me thankful for the past, the future and the right now. We can not go back on the tape measure of life and we can not see ahead. We can only look at where we are right now and do the best with what we're given. I want those days back. I want to pick my two year old up in my arms. I want to brush my five year old's hair. I want to hug my nine year old boy who left me way too soon. I want my 59 year old mother talking to me, baking and caring for my little family. I want it all and I still have it all right in the place that matters; in my heart and soul and in my writing. Whatever lies along the next part of the tape measure can not take that away.