reflections after the storm


Well. My first Maritime snow storm has come and gone, and I’m thankful for both the coming and the going. I have new respect for those who have long lived in this environment, capably, confidently and with such casual attitudes because, for me, it was an eye-opener to say the least. The ferocity of wind (100+kph) in combination with endless snow is quite a trip. In the past I’ve watched lesser but still exciting storms from the comfort of my house surrounded by other houses in a town or city with amenities nearby and thought about those who, for various reasons, have no such comforts. I still wonder how they survive. But I have renewed respect for them because having the power go out at a rural farmhouse in the middle of blinding wind and snow in the middle of nowhere, where roads can easily be impassable for days wakes you up pretty quickly to what’s really important. What I love is the way people here take it in stride, they’ve adapted and there’s power in that. In the days before the storm, when its approach was mentioned on the weather report, it was mostly referred to as a bit of rough weather ahead. “It’ll be a mess,” one reporter said, “and in 24 hours it’ll be over“, and of course he was right. There is no hysteria, no hand-wringing, the radio plays local tunes not storm watch reports and people know how to prepare. Meals are made ahead to freeze, bathtubs filled with water, storm chips purchased in bulk. Everyone knows where the flashlights, candles and extra blankets are. There is much more of course to the ‘knowing and doing’ and I’m learning. And I’m grateful for that because when it’s over and the world is one stunningly magnificent winter wonderland of pristine snow and all you hear about is the beauty, you realize that’s truer than true. And you are SO grateful for everything you took for granted just 24 hours before. That in itself is worth so much.

Coincidentally, during all this, I was reading Nomadland, by Jessica Bruder, the book made into the film with Frances McDormand. (Both are brilliant in my opinion.) Bruder lived in a van and travelled with the ‘nomads’ for two or three years in order to get the story of this hidden-in-plain-sight segment of society, essentially, and for the most part but not limited to, retired people who have lost all other options and are forced to live full-time, year-round, in their cars, vans, or trailers, moving across the U.S. with the good weather and various ‘nomad’ gatherings where they connect with friends and share valuable info on van-dwelling). Many of these people come to love the simplicity of the lifestyle and become new and better versions of themselves through adversity and finding independence and a sense of power on the other side. Not that it’s considered ideal by anyone, but neither are so many other situations people might find themselves in. This, they rationalize, is simply one choice.

The past few days have found me thinking ever more compassionately about the state of so many lives, Indigenous in remote communities as well as neighbours in towns and cities everywhere, who are trying to survive, literally, every day.

All of which to introduce my next repeat post, written over a decade ago after one of our annual trips to a piece of wilderness in the B.C. hills, where we liked to play at roughing it in the bush. It was definitely fun. And definitely nothing like the real thing.

[Updated January 18th to say… ‘come and go??’… hahaha!] [Apparently Maritime storms don’t ‘come and go’, they just take a wee breather.] [I’m learning.]

The following was originally published September, 2011.

Oh sure, I like a nice hotel, an inn, a B&B, a place with a real toilet and room to shower, but hot water and comfort aside (and I speak for both Thoreau and myself here), there’s really nothing so restorative as a week in the wilderness, under the Milky Way, reading and writing among jittering aspens, searching for the elusive left-handed windshifter and fixing meals to songs about trucks and beer and especiallylittle lady bugs on little yellow blanketswhich, regrettably, I can now sing along with…on the only radio station that comes in clearly: Country Something Something FM;  nothing so affirming as knowing one can survive on a small amount of fresh, local food, cooked on an open fire made with tinder and twigs and logs collected, sawed by hand (splinters removed with a sewing kit needle); the stars at night, a glass of red, a cup of tea, a handful of stones in an empty Unicorn kidney beans can to shake occasionally (due to bear warnings, not to mention the sight early one a.m. of a big black furry paw pulling at branches on the serviceberry bush outside the door—two metres from the door—of our rented trailer).

Which is exactly why I don’t do tents.

The deer were there too. This year a family of five: mommy deer—not thrilled about our big camper thing but tolerant—who tossed a few as long as you remember who was here first looks our way; twin babies, but for a torn right ear on one, who really really wanted to come closer but I worried mommy deer might have something to say about that so gave my ever-present Unicorn can a little shake (was considering wearing it on a string around my neck); papa stag, who merely followed or led or did whatever he was told to do and seemed mostly concerned with the size of his new antlers, stopping to let us have a good look at them from various angles; there was also another mid-sized adult tagging along, rather unwillingly I thought, which I took to be a visiting aunt. Numbers are significantly down, due, I suspect, to proximity of big black furry paws—only the very brave and the slightly witless linger (and deer aunts who are there under duress, possibly to attend a niece or nephew’s birthday party; all aunts know the best time to visit with nieces and nephews is NOT at birthday parties).

Then there was the bread.

Loaves of it made by a guy with a donkey that turns the grist mill that grinds the flour that is then mixed with fresh mountain spring water, sea salt. Sourdough. Toasted on the fire, buttered, with a slab of jalapeno cheese, slices of fat red onion or made into a pan-fried salami/turkey/romaine sandwich or as accompaniment to red kidney bean soup in chicken broth with chopped coriander, carrots and garlic. We had bread with eggs, bread with fruit, bread salad with yellow tomatoes and garlic bread and green salad with croutons; we had bread with bread and bread with jam and juice and by the end of the week, all that was left of the entire food supply was one tiny crust of donkey milled bread (somehow we’d managed to ration down to the last slice of shallot), which crust I packed and ate on the flight home.

As for the Milky Way—it’s usually directly and conveniently above our campsite but this time the nights were either too cloudy, too bright with the moon, or too windy dark and bear scary. So, like the serendipitous way of the world, today, on returning to emails, we find this amazing time lapse video waiting for us, sent by someone who knew nothing of our starry starry quest.

looks bad, tastes good.
I think this is roasted veg: carrots, peppers, garlic. Might be potatoes. Notice the temperature control lid/no lid technique… which we’re not sure made a blind bit of difference but we felt like coureur des bois for having thought of it.

left-handed wind shifter
our extended family

the loaf we brought home
thinking of getting a couple of these for our campsite, makes the feet look so pretty




summer postcards: conversations with trees

IMG_20190915_1154498 - Copy

Tree growing out of beach stone, a sweet surprise, the perfect gift from the sea as I consider life between the shorelines I walk and the forest I speak to each morning.

The forest is behind my new-to-me house, new-to-me trees, we’re just getting to know each other. There is shyness on both sides.

My conversations with trees go back decades, as far back as I can remember. They are marvellous listeners, offer excellent advice on fixing paragraphs, and are intuitive when it comes to consolation.

(The language is the same no matter the variety.)

Still, friendship takes time.

I don’t tell them everything.

Not yet.



summer postcards: use the good bowl


When you are a kid in yellow jeans eating popcorn out of an orange Fire King bowl in the basement watching Hitchcock’s The Birds while your mother entertains a friend in the kitchen who has just had herself fitted for dentures and has arrived (without them, as her gums are still settling) toothless and somehow generally diminished but oddly happy and you wonder: should you be eating popcorn? Is this the road to diminished toothlessness? You decide that no, that Cracker Jack may pose a danger but not buttered and salted in your Fire King bowl and so you continue eating, but with more care, not biting the kernels, for example.

And when decades later you no longer favour yellow jeans and have traded popcorn for pretzels as number one comfort food and which are best eaten directly out of the bag and when you realize the precious Fire King bowl had for… decades… been ‘preserved’ at the back of a cupboard in the house where you no longer live you give it a place of honour on the counter of your new house and let it dazzle you in the light as it collects vegetable peelings you will later dig into the garden.

hey there


I’m in no hurry to go back to shaking hands.

Hugs, yes. (Though I have some thoughts on that too.)

But the handshake I think we can maybe scrap forever.

Ugh. I’m thinking suddenly of all the hideous hands I’ve shaken and some really awful handshakes, the limp wrist affairs, the sweaty palms, the vice grips. The creepy lingering ones. Yeah, enough.

“Hello, nice to meet you” can so easily be accompanied by a nod or pirouette, a short expressive dance, a tap dance!, hand over heart, an elbow or ankle bump, a high pitched yip! or big toothy grin. It’s endless really.

Think of all the colds we’d save ourselves.

And the pleasure of meeting would be so much more pleasurable.



kindness unwrapped

My new favourite pastime is noticing the ways of kindness, what it is, how it becomes, the way people find or make their own versions of it, the sheer, sweet miracle of how the pandemic has inspired so much goodness and despite how tired everyone is there seems to be no wearying of being kind in extraordinary ways. It doesn’t feel like we are giving up on that. On the contrary, we seem to be getting better at it.

Not only in the giving and receiving, but in the recognizing.

Because it doesn’t always come as a box of cookies or slab of cheese. (Though either are entirely acceptable.)

For me, the awareness often comes as a surprise, a sudden sense of delight when I’m really not expecting delight and maybe lasting only a few moments but long enough to breathe differently, walk differently, to be in awe of how important we are to each other. Which of course is the true gift.

Possibly the very best of it is in fact wrapped up in something so ordinary that the one giving has no idea they’re giving kindness because it’s only a conversation, a compliment, a smile, a few minutes of listening, a pretzel made with sewing machine and catnip, a couple bags of potato chips (Covered Bridge brand from New Brunswick), a wayward puppet, a mouse saved, a jar of soup delivered, the title of a song that when played changes a morning, a page of typewritten text taken from a book that might make a day, a painting of peace and kayaks, a note left on a porch, a painted stone, a spontaneous book club for two, or (only) a cup of tea…

this is not a review: ‘a woman’s walks’, by lady colin campbell

The first thing I don’t like about this book is that she (Gertrude Elizabeth Blood), calls herself Lady Colin Campbell, which reminds me of the personalized stationery, little note cards on excellent stock, my mother-in-law (an otherwise intelligent and lovely woman) gave me, designed, I suppose, to obliterate any thought of whoever I used to be pre-marriage, being embossed as they were with “Mrs. (Son’s First Name)(Son’s Last Name)”. She explained that should I happen to send a card to a friend (who else would I send them to??) I was meant to strike a single line through “Mrs. (Son’s First Name)(Son’s Last Name)” and write in “Carin”. As if to say that “you (because we are friends) may call me Carin”. I still have the little copper plate that came with the box of stationery in case I ever need to replenish my supply. (hahaha) The fact that I don’t use anyone else’s name, neither first nor last (having been blessed with my own), is apparently beside the point. She, dear woman, came from an era of The Mrs.

The ‘Lady Colin Campbell’ syndrome is ridiculous. (And very different from adopting a family name, which makes a certain kind of sense in certain cases and to certain people. I do get why people do that.) But what sense can be made from using your husband’s FIRST name to identify you?

Especially, in Lady CC’s case, whose husband turns out to be an ass and they split up. Which is when she begins her worldwide wandering and writing.

But why keep the ‘Colin’???

So that was my first problem with A Woman’s Walks, by Lady Colin Campbell. Despite the rather promising cover.

The other problems relate to the privilege Lady Colin Campbell enjoys throughout her privileged life and incessantly complains about. It is a problem when a writer bores me as Lady CC does and I find it hard to plough through but I continue because I’m looking for a good walk. Unfortunately her idea of walking and mine are quite different. Hers involving much first class train travel and staff helping her get from one luxury hotel to another.

Two exceptions.

One was a stroll she took through a Venetian marketplace where she bought a captive bird, not to eat but to release. She felt very chuffed with herself about that. Her good deed for the day, which again says a lot about her and the era of that kind of privilege. Not to mention attitude towards ‘the little people’ who shop and work at markets for reasons other than amusement and who rudely eat the captive birds because they need protein and aren’t able to take a train to the next luxury hotel dining room to order their pheasant under glass.

I enjoyed seeing her hypocrisy on such magnificent display.

And of course markets always please me.

The other was a walk around Milan that ended, to her surprise, at a crematorium where she lingered, feeling comfort and solace in a way, she says, she never does in cemeteries.

Not a terrible read but not something that personally appealed overall.

The book is one of several from a London Library series: ‘Found on the Shelves’… collected essays on various subjects from “the modern cycling craze” with the invention of the bike, to dieting in the 1800’s, to trout fishing instructions for women. Etc. All of them from a time long gone and full of quirks by modern standards.

Though, really, who are we to talk of quirks…

Fun Trivia:

Turns out there’s another Lady Colin Campbell whose Colin also turned out to be a schmuck and who is not a Victorian essayist, but a contemporary writer of contemporary Royal doings.

Not only that but the modern Lady CC was originally named George William Ziadie (she had unclear genitalia at birth and her parents were advised to err on the side of male, which turned out to be wrong so at age 21 she had corrective surgery and became Georgia Arianna Ziadie). So then she marries Lord Colin Campbell who decides to sell her out to the tabloids who run untrue stories on how Lady CC was born a boy and had a sex change. So they divorce right quick. And yet… she keeps not only the whole Lady Campbell schtick, but the Colin part.

I just don’t get it.


I’m a big fan of the fine balance of nothing changing except whole worlds.

This can relate to books, art, conversations, people, places. To anything.

Sameness only looks/sounds/feels the same if you’re not paying attention.

Since the pandemic my walks have been pretty much limited to my backyard, where every winter I stamp out a labyrinth in the snow. This is the first year I’ve kept walking the labyrinth in every season. And it works just fine.

My penchant for nothing changing except everything fits well with traipsing the same paths over and over, several times a day in between reading, writing, chores. I’ve now walked these paths in rain and heat and snow and on windy days and perfect days.

Perfect being relative. Sometimes it means the weather, sometimes it means my own mood, which has me seeing beauty everywhere, swinging my arms, breathing deeply, thinking what else could I possibly want at this moment except to look at this precise shade of blueyelloworangegreenvioletcrimson.

Other times I’m walking my circles, feeling tense about one thing or another, muttering to myself about some scene I’m writing, arguing with a character who will NOT stop smoking, thus causing me to see a whole other side of her, which opens up a whole other aspect of the story. There are reasons these fictional types light up. It’s why I carry matches.

There’s comfort in the sameness then. The trees get me.

In this smallish space (larger than an average garden but not gigantic, not a park, not a meadow, not especially rambling) I’m allowed my many moods because there isn’t anyone to greet, no judgment, no bears, no coyotes, no traffic or intersections, and in the process of absolute walking freedom I always find a sliver of peace, of mind, of spirit. The things nature does best.


And in this confined space without distant horizon lines I see everything… woodpeckers, hummingbirds, doves, bluejays, the luminescent royal blueblack of the grackles and our beloved cardinal family who nested in the honeysuckle this summer, raised their kids, and who still hang out in the wisteria, like it’s their hood because, well, of course it is; and the hawk who sometimes sits at the top of a spruce until I shout and wave my arms about and it flies off (the doves audibly sigh); and goldfinches and things I can’t name, buntings or juncos, I’m really not sure. Geese fly overhead, seagulls too. And the crows crow about who knows what while the squirrels squirrel away things for me to find in spring. Or sooner. An apple in the nasturtium basket, a peanut shell on the chair were I sit to watch the sun rise.

Have I even mentioned the clouds?

Or the wild purple asters or the way virginia creeper turns scarlet and climbs to the top of the spruce tree.

Have I mentioned the last of the Queen’s Anne’s Lace, the zucchini, the green beans, the kale?


Every day my walk is the same.

And entirely different.