at the train station


The five year old whose dad says “Stay here, I’ll be back in a minute,”  and leaves his kid kneeling on a bench surrounded by backpacks and bags and the kid stares in the direction of the washrooms like a puppy until he comes back.

The teenage boys who fist pump goodbye like it’s nothing. The face on the one that stays.


The lads that take pictures with real cameras with real lenses.

dsc08769The three young women whose minds explode when they see each other. Their smiles.


i drove to barrie

I’ve never been to Barrie before.

dsc08000I’d heard there was a nice waterfront.

It’s true.

dsc08006dsc08008But I didn’t go for the waterfront. That was simply a bonus, a nice way to spend the hour before sunset.

dsc08010 dsc08014At 7 p.m. I was in the living room of people I’d never met, about to be entertained by one of my favourite musicians, Laura Smith.

And Paul Mills.

A house concert, my first.

dsc08015 dsc08016And I really can’t even begin to describe how extraordinary it is to hear a concert quality performance in the comfort of a private home.

dsc08036And Laura Smith’s voice… well, if you’ve ever heard it, you might understand the mind-boggling effect of hearing it up close. If you’ve never heard it, listen to this…  And more, here.

It was Laura’s voice on a couple of CD’s that kept me company as I drove back, solo, from Prince Edward Island last year. For me, her voice and driving, travelling, looking and seeing and finding new things… are all connected.

I’ve also been known to dance in my own living room to her tunes.

I did not dance in the living room of strangers, though I suspect they might not have minded.

dsc08048I must have had the feeling I wouldn’t be able to describe anything and so I scribbled down lines throughout the evening… some from stories Laura told about the origins of the songs, why and how she wrote them; others from the songs themselves. This is a sliver of things, my concert mash up…


I Drove to Barrie to Hear Laura Smith

I was never safer
because of my smart dog
—the hardest part was starting.
Only an echo will answer my name;
I look into your eyes and see stories
that will never get told, like a father
and a daughter—love to have you here
havin’ a beer, right about now, steamin’
with toil, with the seagulls around me
and crows on the plough; you are loved
and you are loved always, you’re home.
I hear voices in the salt spray, the last
light of the sun going down; I sit in the
same chair every night, Jordy—
a bad hair day in a cheap motel—I’m a
beauty. I’m a beauty.


Nothing else to say.

Except, thanks. It was the best…

life’s a beach (aka: accidental seaweed)

One of my favourite books is Drinking the Rain,  by Alix Kates Shulman.

beach-8It’s about how, at the age of fifty, Shulman runs away for the summer to a rustic cabin on an island off the coast of Maine and has all kinds of little epiphanies, mostly about her relationship to nature. Having grown up and lived her whole life in New York City, it has never occurred to her that nature is especially significant except as a nice place to visit now and then.

beach-7 beach beachbeach-8 beach-2beach-5She returns to the cabin every summer for years, each time trying to bring the feeling of these epiphanies back with her to NYC in the form of shells and bits of seaweed and eating the way she did on the island, but apparently it’s hard to forage in Manhattan. So it never feels quite the same, it feels ridiculous in fact, this tree-huggy approach to life once her feet are firmly back on pavement. And it bothers her, initially, that she has to divide herself between this new sense of exhilaration and freedom as the island person and the reality of living most of the year in the city.

beach-9 beach-9 beach-11 beach-2The book is about finding her way to being both sides of herself, regardless of where she is.


But this post is about PEI, my personal choice of islands to run away to.

beach beach-3 beach-2There is magic there, and when you feel it you understand why islanders want so very much to protect it. The first post I did in this Week of PEI  was one called ‘Home and Away’… I get it. I’m grateful there’s so much love of place from those who call it home.

beach-12 beach-6 beach-7The island’s magic is in good hands.

beach-10I also get what Shulman says about the island vibe and how you can’t bring that back to wherever you live, but what happens is maybe even better because if you embrace that feeling, gather the moments, the essence of the place, like stones on a beach, and tuck them inside yourself… a kind of alchemy happens… those moments hold bits of energy that change who you are, wherever you are.

beach-3 beach-2 beach-3beach-4I bring back stones. And shells. And sometimes accidental seaweed.

beach-4Reminders of magic.


today’s colour(s) — tiny island version

dsc00319Hanging out with the buoys.


dsc00310Street address as sculpture.




dsc00318French River.


dsc07367Too bad my suitcase wasn’t big enough.


dsc00256There is no reason NOT to paint your doorways green and purple.


dsc07366Hard to say goodbye to old friends with cute red wheels.


dsc07427Cabin art.


dsc00234Enlarge this to really revel in that blue blue…


dsc07369Again with the purple and green. An island thing? Can anyone explain?


dsc00313I don’t know that it’s possible to have lime green doors and be a pessimist, or even uncheerful.


dsc00255They could have painted this white but, cleverly, didn’t.


dsc00306Tables with view of post office. (Actually this is right next to the sweetest bookshop/cafe/bike shop just outside St. Peter’s.)


dsc00303Is laundry on a line not a thing to be besotted with?


dsc00316Too late. All gone.

More island colour here.

just a site…

In Cavendish, PEI, heart of Green Gables country, with its bus tours, souvenir red braids, Anne Shirley motels and carriage rides with Matthew Cuthbert himself, there’s a scruffy little path off an unassuming parking lot with a simple sign telling you the path leads to the site of the house that Lucy Maud Montgomery grew up in and lived for most of her time on the island. Where she wrote her earliest books. It’s where Anne of Green Gables was rejected a number of times and the only reason Montgomery didn’t give up submitting was because the post office was very near by.

A gem of a place.

dsc00232The path, all brambles and apple trees, leads to a garden and the foundation of the old farmhouse. Montgomery has written, in her journals or letters, about coming around this very corner, seeing the lights on in the kitchen and the feeling of comfort that gave her.

dsc00228 dsc00216-copyThere’s no hoopla. No Matthew, no Lake of Shining Waters.

What there is is a small humble building, part bookstore (thankfully no gift shop) with an excellent selection of Montgomery’s work, and others, mostly about PEI… and part collection of things to look at, photos and letters, etc., that belonged to Montgomery. And there’s a woman named Jennie Macneill who’s eighty something and whose husband is related to the grandparents who raised Lucy Maud. He grew up on this acreage and together they’ve preserved the site and put up signs and built the bookstore and Jennie gives brilliant and heartfelt talks on Montgomery’s life here.

She does this as a labour of love. She’s Montgomery’s biggest fan.

dsc00218-copyNot a whiff of faux Avonlea. No green gables. This is the real deal.

dsc00207-copydsc00205-copyAnd it’s this realness that may be why there are no crowds here. A few people wander in and then out again… One young woman even walks away from Jennie’s talk claiming she’s a fan of Anne Shirley, not the author. There’s a sense of wanting entertainment or to be whisked from one thing to another.

The faux Avonlea a few minutes drive away is busy; I saw it coming in. A bus tour was disembarking.

dsc00221dsc00204-copyNearby are woodland trails Montgomery walked to school, to the post office, to hang out with friends. Only a few people bother to walk them and those that do, speed through. One couple asks me if there’s anything to see up ahead. When I say, well, forest… they turn around and say they’ve already seen enough of that.

But first they ask me to take a picture of them smiling big, hugging. Then they hightail it out of there.

dsc00203-copydsc00202-copy dsc00196-copyJennie says that one of the apple trees is over a hundred years old, that it would have been around in Montgomery’s day. It’s still producing a few apples. She thinks that maybe its enduring nature is because the tree approves of what they’re doing here, that it feels their heart.

dsc00231 dsc00215-copyOn the way out I overhear a woman complaining that there’s nothing here, that it’s just a site… and I wonder what she’s looking for.

I’m sorry I didn’t ask.

yin yang, summer hols version


Allow me to use these ancient principles to illustrate the way that just when something annoying happens and just as you’re in the middle of being annoyed, poof!  the yin yang thing kicks in and makes lemonade.

(No metaphors were [unduly] harmed in making the above sentence.)

Maybe everything is yin yangly but it seemed even more so on a recent getaway, which begins early early in the morning at Toronto’s Pearson Airport where the two people sitting behind me cannot shut up about how there is no smoking area inside the airport and how they don’t feel like walking all the way outside even though the entire return trek might take 20 minutes. They’d prefer to spend an hour moaning about it instead. Also everything is apparently the government’s fault. Everything. Then I overhear one of them say something that tells me they’re on our flight. Yay. Always nice to be in the company of conversational wizards in nicotine withdrawal. = ↓

But… they don’t sit anywhere near me on the plane. ↑

dsc06988↓ Rental trailer not ready on arrival. Will be 45 minutes to clean.

↑  It’s a blue sky day and we’ve been on a Rouge  plane for hours and are therefore starving and possibly semi permanently scrunched up (thank you inch and a half of Rouge  leg room!) so decide on a walk, maybe find a bite to eat.

dsc06996↓ The only place, we’re told, is a Timmy’s just up the road, through the industrial park, next to a gas station.

We head in that direction but, before getting to Timmy’s, we discover another place and wonder why no one mentioned this oasis of deli with ten thousand options for the best snacks ever. AND a patio overlooking a zen garden of smiling bees and giant purple sage.

dsc07007 dsc07008 dsc07013↓ Is this our trailer???

dsc07015↑  Uh, no.

↓  The place where we get our fruit and veggies is out of garlic because we are told the farmers are asking too much for it. Too much?  How much is too much? And why is everybody willing to pay ridiculous prices for green tea coconut milk lattes but not locally grown garlic? Here’s the thing:  if you can, please pay farmers whatever they want for decent food decently grown so that they too may have a decent life. (And the answer to the coconut milk latte is *because they are frigging delicious*.)

↑  They do have lovely onions. Also pears.

dsc07019↓  The place we get our happy ethical meat and eggs from has moved and is now impossible to find even though we have the address.

↑  After a kind of Laurel and Hardy show involving calling the place three times because I refuse to use GPS, we find it. We buy ethical chicken wings and other delights then drive to our favourite IGA for staples like olive oil. Our camping rule is that we shop once. Whatever we run out of, tough. It’s an iron man camping challenge to use only what we have and to not buy more or have leftovers. It’s not possible to express how much I love this part of camping. Or this IGA.

dsc07086↓ The pub we always stop at for lunch is closed. As in forever. We aren’t surprised. The guy was a bit of a schmuck. And the patio was always closed.

We start a new schmuckless tradition.

dsc07023 dsc07028↓  At our remote campsite there is a copse of chokecherries. Also a mother bear and two cubs feeding on them.

↑  We move to a very nice trailer park.

dsc07035↓  We are warned about rattlesnakes in the area. Oh sure, we say. Pull the other one, hahaha! But on a walk we hear what sounds like a rattle. We don’t stick around poking shrubs and rocks to see what it is.

↑  We feel wise to not care to see what it is.

dsc07121dsc07131↓  The lake we are on is freezing cold.

↑  It’s also clear and sandy bottomed and shallow and the sun comes up over the hills that surround it. And the moon too. I swim every day.

dsc00042_1 dsc07137↓  We go to lunch at a swanky place but the sun is so hot  on the patio….

↑  Oh suck it up already.

dsc07168↓  I’m lost trying to find a road around the lake.

↑  The nicest people work at the Carmi Motor Inn. And they know directions.

dsc07081dsc07083↓  I go to a small town tourist info place and ask what there is to see. “Not much,” the guy tells me. He’s 81, he says, and has lived there for thirty something years and not much goes on and that’s the way he likes it.

↑  In the same town I find a small museum which is really just some pioneery things in an old house. My favourite thing is an old journal from the area that reads: “March 16th Not much to do all day… March 17th… Not much doing all day, not even basketball after school…  About a week ago I heard a meadowlark but haven’t heard one since… March 18th… A fine day but not much to do…”

dsc07095↓  The Honey BooBoo family moves in to the camp site next to ours. The children throw stones at ducks and are so addle minded that their poor addle minded mother must yell at them constantly to do the simplest things, like not fall into the fire, etc. When we suggest they do not use ducks as target practice the mother chimes in with YES!!! RILEY AND DAYTON!!! THAT’S VERY INAPPROPRIATE BEHAVIOUR!!!!  Everything they say is at a strange heightened volume as if perhaps they are used to living many kilometres apart and must communicate via open doorways and wind currents.

↑  When we ask if there’s another site we can move to, not only is there one, it happens to be the nicest site in the whole place. Thank you, Honey BooBoo.

dsc00052 dsc00022_1 dsc00013 dsc07117-copy dsc07071 dsc07067 dsc07077↓  We run out of olive oil. (And, in keeping with iron man rules, are not allowed to buy more.)

↑  My honey picks me a consolation bloom.

dsc00047_1↓  We run out of chips.

↑  We buy more at the canteen. Chips are the exception to the iron man rule.

↑  Then we find a little house in the woods that sells homemade perogies and once again break the iron man rule.

↓  We are punished by the perogies overcooking themselves into inedible mush. We are grateful for chips.

dsc00015_1dsc07135↑↓  On our last morning, the fridge is almost bare. (This is both good and not good.)

↓   The chips are gone.

↔  Our remaining iron man ingredients are lemons, coriander, two eggs. two slices of bread, a tiny crumble of blue cheese, onions, a few spoonfuls of yoghurt, one perfect pear.

↑  Breakfast, just before leaving — lemony eggs benedict without the hollandaise or the peameal. And a fruit cup.

dsc00050 dsc00055

Embrace the yin yang.