Showing posts from 2015

That Was the Year that Was

It's time for one of those year-end, contemplative posts. So here are some bits of accumulated wisdom from 2015. Best Life-Simplifier: Buying extra underwear and socks. When you have a well, you're conscious of water. When you go from one week's worth of underwear and socks to three weeks' worth, the number of loads of laundry you do drops dramatically, your cistern stays full longer, and you don't need to buy extra water. Plus you can stop monitoring water quite so obsessively. Best Indulgence: Buying iced-tea spoons. They were not strictly necessary and have yet to be (may never be!) used for iced tea, but they were also inexpensive. And it's SO LOVELY to be able to avoid getting mayonnaise and peanut butter on my knuckles. Small pleasures are sometimes the BEST. Best Challenge:  Saying "no" more often than I was really comfortable with, all so any "yes" could be something I did with great enthusiasm. I had some great experiences la

A Year Later

My husband's heart surgery was a year ago tomorrow. The following poem has been my companion, off and on, ever since. [i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]   BY E. E. CUMMINGS       i carry your heart with me(i carry it in my heart)i am never without it(anywhere i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done by only me is your doing,my darling)                                                       i fear no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true) and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant and whatever a sun will always sing is you      here is the deepest secret nobody knows (here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows higher than soul can hope or mind can hide) and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart      i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart) For his part, my husband says he feels more like these lines:       I have not b

Another Recommendation

In a new installment from the "I don't really write book reviews but have something to say about this book" department , I recently reviewed Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants at Brevity. Spoiler alert: I really REALLY like this book. REALLY really. A LOT a lot. Here's a link to the review at the journal itself: Here's a link to the day it was featured at the blog: And here's where you can buy this wonderful book: Seriously. It's a lovely companion.

There and Back Again

I spent time recently in The Big City, doing a project. I knew it would be demanding and that I'd need something else to do--probably not a writing something, and probably not a reading something, but a something-something. What I came up with was a photography project. Insert standard disclaimer here: I'm not a photographer. I have a little digital camera because my iDevice isn't powerful enough to have a good camera. I love to take pictures of where I live--it's beautiful. I've created calendars and games and puzzles (and business cards) that feature my pics, for Christmas gifts. But I'm by no means a "real" photographer. That said, last December, when my husband and I were navigating his health issues, I found it extremely helpful to have a "photo-a-day" project to think about. So I made up one for this trip, too. I came up with a week's worth of "prompt"-type words (all sort of vaguely related to "autumn")

That Whooshing Sound...

was September, apparently. I spent the month face-down in collections of words-- * writing a novel (nearly done with the Full Draft! can't wait to type "the end" and start revisions), * writing and goofing around with new essays, * revising and submitting short stories and essays, and * reading many works by Robertson Davies and one by Milan Kundera (oof, the contrast). Plus doing other things that have rattled around on various to-do lists. Plus "just being" outdoors, while it's possible to sit on the deck and blink into the sun without wearing tons of layers. Busy, fruitful, exciting rewarding. Lots of nights with the aurora and beautiful moons and brilliant planets (Venus, was that you?). The kingfisher is still around, this morning a flock of Canada geese paraded past, Monday a merganser and loons were hanging around avoiding their close-ups, the heron stopped in (perhaps to say goodbye?) a couple of weeks ago. And yesterday, a deer swam b

Review of Best Canadian Essays 2014

A couple of weeks ago, local artist/director/activist/writer/arts-supporter Michael Sobota reviewed Best Canadian Essays 2014 for the Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal . Theoretically, the review will appear online, but who has that kind of time? It's impossible to read the whole review in the photo above, so I'll pull out some important points. "I read the entire book in two days."   (Not a trivial undertaking--16 essays on many different topics.) "The collection is full of challenging ideas, reflective memoirs, political and sociological examinations of current subjects and some really, really fine writing." He cites Naomi K. Lewis, and her reflection on anti-science policymaking in Canada, and Sarah De Leeuw's examination of film festivals as particularly relevant and engaging pieces. And yes, he says nice things about my essay, "Words," as well ("beautifully structured, vulnerable and wise"--wise? I wish!). Thanks, Mich

More Reading: Clay and At Hawthorn Time

From the “I don’t review books, but I have some things to say about these books” department. Takeaway: I really liked Clay and At Hawthorn Time . You might, too. Over the past couple of years, I’ve been doing a lot of reading about nature, the environment, and climate change. I’ve been reading mostly nonfiction, because I need to know THINGS, from policy and promises to deadlines and measurements to definitions and examples. But I also read personal essay collections—some focusing on the writer’s relationship to one plot of land or geographic region, others about a specific subject (such as trees or moss). The fact-and-policy nonfiction is interesting but often hopeless; the personal essays are lovely and helpful, even if the writer’s reality doesn’t mirror mine. Recently I’ve been thinking beyond nonfiction to fiction—specifically, about the ways writers of fiction show relationships between their characters and the natural world. From long-ago literature classes, I dimly r

Summer Reading

First, this happened. Always exciting to have something published in a journal as great as Prairie Fire , to have a respected writer like contest judge Wayne Grady say complimentary things about your writing, and to keep such exciting company. As I mentioned previously, I have picked up a houseguest and have been "on vacation," which is a stay-cation next door, at our camp. Except for showers. But before that, I had a bit of a writing retreat. It wasn't long, but it was useful. I actually started when I left here, because I "primed the pump" by reading through notes on the project, then mulled them over on the six-hour drive, and jumped right in when I arrived. Yes, I'd do it again, and for a whole weekend. I've also learned the hard way that beach read-type books aren't necessarily my preferred summer reading. I bought one with beach umbrellas on the cover because I felt as if I should, but I could predict too much of the s


So, last week month (really? a month?) when I wrote here, I was sharing the contents of my email spam folder because I had some thing to finish up. After taking on a couple more things, I did finish all the things. And we went to Toronto for a cultural writerly thing and took a break. Which was great. And now we're back, so I write today of the "writer's retreat." Many writers have a lot of success getting away from it all for a weekend to do some focused work on one particular project. Some of the people I actually know who like retreats, being the wonderful and generous people they are, are planning a writing retreat in the fall for like-minded people. The "retreat" concept is a little difficult for me. I've been a working writer for decades and freelancing for ahem also decades. Whether I was writing or editing, working for someone else or myself, I've been on a schedule and deadline. No time for inspiration when your piece is due at 4 Ea

Trash or Treasure?

You know how sometimes you LOOOOoooooooove your inbox, and then sometimes you dread clicking "send/receive" because it might only bring more things for you handle and you haven't caught up from all the previous things yet? Those "dread the inbox" times tend also to be times when it's hard to take a break--when I feel too much pressure to watch cat videos take a restorative walk or swill more coffee drink a nutritious and delicious glass of water. But the part of my email system that never fails to amuse me? The junk mail folder. I won't quote the subject lines directly because I already get a lot of mail and I don't want to encourage anyone. But they're fun to look at. Just today, people want to tell me about the destruction of 'Babylon' America (their single quotes, not mine); previously, they offered enlightenment about why the Bible says 'Obama' (again, their quotes) won't finish his term. Obama-- or so he calls him

Climate and Weather

Yesterday was sunny and warm, almost a summer day, with temperatures in the high 20s C/~80F and the right proportions of sun and clouds.  Today is chilly, cloudy, rainy, with temperatures in the 40s and 50s. Fog is rolling around out on the bay.  So, a big change in weather--the day to day moods of sun and wind. But not in climate--the view of this part of the world over time. (Setting aside, for the moment, anthropogenic climate change. I'm currently more interested in the life metaphor.) My life in 2015, so far, has had a lot of weather-like changes. Ups and downs, sunny and rainy/snowy/sleety/foggy, "yes" and "no," the occasional "maybe" and "okay" and "just fine," too.  Enough walks along leaf-strewn paths to help me get over--sort of--the significant stumble that sprained my ankle, or the pain from the book I recently dropped on that sprained ankle.  Enough chores and delights that I don't have to keep rak

Many many congratulations!

I'm just home from a lovely conference of the Creative Nonfiction Collective (Society) in Victoria, British Columbia. Many congratulations to the winner of the carte blanche/CNFC competition, Kirsten Fogg! Kirsten is an expat Canadian currently living in Australia. She's at work on a project about belonging, here:   I look forward to reading her essay, "Nana Technology," in an upcoming issue of carte blanche. It was really fun to have an essay on the shortlist and hear comments from competition judge Charlotte Gill  at the gala banquet. In fact, the whole conference was a really rewarding experience, and I also congratulate the people who organized such a successful event. It was great to spend time with people who write in the multifaceted part of the universe that is creative nonfiction. Throughout the days, I became increasingly comfortable saying to strangers, "where are you from?" or "what are you working


It's been a hectic couple of weeks. Events have followed their usual tendency to all happen at the same time. In the midst of the hubbub and hoop-de-do, Friday brought some especially nice news: carte blanche and the Creative Nonfiction Collective, by which I mean competition judge Charlotte Gill, have chosen "Schr ö dinger's Dog" for the contest short list. I think this means that in some multiverse, this essay wins! But seriously, in the particular multiverse in which I live, I also feel like a winner--grateful and happy that this work has touched readers. That's the goal! Many thanks to the contest sponsors: carte blanche and the Creative Nonfiction Collective. I know how much work it takes to run a contest, and I appreciate it very much! You can look at the official announcement here . (And remember that moose sighting? Still waiting on that million dollars.)

No Foolin'! (Sorry!)

Because of the date, I felt the title of this post was required.  I have even MORE good news that is--no joke!--extremely pleasing. Another essay, this one called "Schr√∂dinger's Dog," has been chosen for the long list for the Creative Nonfiction Collective/Carte Blanche contest! Yep, another essay about dogs. But different from   the one before .  The winner of the contest will be announced in late April at the CNFC conference in Victoria, BC. Victoria? In April? Yes, please. (Today's weather in this part of central Canada: ice fog. April's forecast for central Canada: mud.) And in other non-fooling news, today I saw a moose running across the ice. I've never seen a moose in the wild before, in spite of all the horror stories and road signs, and have said so aloud. Often. So, you know, I'm just putting this out there: I've never seen anyone come by and give me a million dollars, either! 


One of my essays--about counting dogs as a spiritual practice--appeared Sunday at Episcopal Cafe and is available by clicking here . How this essay came to appear here is a study in keeping one's ears alert--like a dog's, if you will--because I'm not a member of an Episcopal church and ordinarily wouldn't have heard about this publication. My sister is Communications Director at a large Episcopal church in Arizona and participates in several Facebook pages where people share ideas about communication strategies. The editor of Episcopal Cafe posted that they were looking for new voices for their Magazine, which features pieces about a specific topics. Meanwhile, last fall I'd written part of this essay as part of my daily writing practice, and as part of my ongoing effort to write shorter pieces. I'd submitted it to one paying market, and it had been rejected. When my sister pointed out the Episcopal Cafe opportunity, I recognized that expanding on the ex

Anthology Ahoy!

Here's where I'll be in a couple of weeks! Ten Stories High Launch  Saturday, March 21, St. Catharines Central Library, 2 PM. Refreshments, even!

Rains/Pours, or the Snow Equivalent Thereof

So much good news in 2015! I recently learned that one of my essays, "Big Ideas, Small Feet," placed third in the creative nonfiction category of Prairie Fire 's annual writing contest ! Many thanks to judge Wayne Grady and the hard-working people at Prairie Fire , who put out a great publication. I'm particularly excited because this essay came from a year (the first of many I foresee) of reading and writing about the natural world and our--humans'--relationship to it, for which I received a grant from the Ontario Arts Council. It was really fun to encounter many of the fabulous ideas at work in the world and engage with them at the level of the lives we live every day. One of my favo(u)rite books of the past year, which I consider in the essay, was Braiding Sweetgrass , by scientist and poet Robin Wall Kimmerer. I like science, and scientists, a lot. Their passion for what they do is infectious, and Kimmerer combines her scientist-self with a mother-self a

Also at the Reading...

As I have mentioned, this coming Tuesday, I'll be reading as part of the launch of a really cool program, the electronic-writer in residence program of NOWW .  Besides reading from an essay that is appearing in Best Canadian Essays 2014 , I'll also read an excerpt from a short story. A little more than three years ago, the first electronic writer in residence gave me very useful feedback on it.  And I discovered recently that this story has won an award! It placed first in the annual Ten Stories High contest sponsored by the Canadian Authors Association-Niagara Branch. The current list of winners is here . It's exciting! As I said on Facebook, I feel as if one of my favorite people has finally found some friends. I look forward to seeing the final anthology.  Many thanks to the Canadian Authors Association-Niagara Branch for running its contest! I know how much work goes on behind the scenes to create opportunities for others. Speaking of hard work, NOWW--the

Happy New Year, Indeed

I am *still* slightly bewildered about the last month or so of 2014 (and yes, still writing about it). However, both my husband and I greet 2015 with optimism, rebuilding health, and new-found energy. In fact, lots of fun stuff is on the horizon. February 2 marks the official Toronto launch of Best Canadian Essays 2014 .  Go if you can; it's a joint launch with Priscilla Uppal's much-anticipated short story collection and will feature readings by lots of great people. The unofficial Thunder Bay launch of BCE 2014 will occur the following evening, February 3, because I happen to be reading in Thunder Bay (Brodie Library, 7 p.m.) that evening and why not. I'm reading as part of the kickoff event for the Northwestern Ontario Writers Workshop's electronic- Writer in Residence program. Supported by the Ontario Arts Council's Northern Arts program, the event gives writers in the region a chance to attend workshops (in person or via livestreaming) with award-winn