End of a drought

Nothing has escaped the pen, the keyboard, the soft yielding lead of the pencil for a long time. It has been about three months since I was able to write anything. No sitting at the table before a blank paper, no jotting things down, no type and backspace – just a horror of writing anything at all. In desperation I went to a poetry workshop led by a wonderful teacher. Larissa Andrusyshyn is a very talented teacher, prodder, encourager, with many a trick up her sleeve. Did you know, for instance, that the little paint color cards you pick up in hardware stores when you are agonizing over whether your living room wall should be black or morning cloud are blessed with the most wonderful names? ” Barely banana” ” shy meadow” ” storm cloud” ” trumpet voluntary” How could you not slip one of these wonderful phrases into a poem? I’m off to Canadian Tire to get my own pack this morning.

It is such a relief to feel the first little trickle of life come back to an activity I love, one I love to share with readers. I’m not going to church today. I’m going to work on two pieces Larissa evoked, coaxed, simply expected me to write yesterday. The long sheets of white embraced my lists, my sentences, my rhymes, my crossing out, my arrows. Something emerged, something a little rough, a little flowing, opening up just at the end.

They say when you fall off a horse you should get right back on. I had to chase my poney over hill and dale for many sad weeks but, oh, how good that warm steady movement feels now.I’ll post the poem when  I think it’s ready.

Your cue – I flip the calendar






Spring, like a well-loved old movie star is making her appearance a little too soon.  Of course we adore her and welcome her with open arms, but….I get a little uneasy when I see maple syrup buckets out at the end of February.  This is mid Ontario, for heaven’s sake!  We are not supposed to have torrents of rain at this time of year.  That was supposed to be a blizzard we could brag about to our grandchildren.  I never thought I would see the day I’d be happy to see a little “correction” in the weather forecast with a low tonight of minus 20.  We’ve gotten into the habit of letting the fire die down in the stove late in the evening and not putting a log on for the night.  In February and March!  The wonderful Spring light is encouraging, of course.  This house is built on a big stretch of rock that heats up fast and already the snow melts away revealing that rather steep dark curve down to the driveway.  I imagined it might be slippery considering the rain and ice storms we’ve had but no, somehow it allows our boots to grip the surface very well so that no unexpected shocks occur.  That rock is like an old benign grandmother that just holds everything up and would never betray us by being slippery.

I wonder who thought of boiling maple sap to make syrup.  She must have been a very persistent person. You have to boil down forty gallons of sap to make one of maple syrup and that’s a lot of fuel to expend when you’re not quite sure what the result will be.  I love maple syrup and I am looking forward to trying birch syrup this spring too. That is not boiled but rather drunk right from the tree.  The tree is tapped in the same way as maple trees and this is a traditional drink common in Russia, Poland and other parts of Eastern Europe.  I was surprised to read (good old Wikipedia ) that it was traditionally given as a first food to newborns in Scotland.  Can’t imagine that in Glasgow!  I thought it was fried Mars bars up there. It says birch sap is good for the hair so I’m surprised more men who worry about such things don’t rush out to the woods to rub it into their scalps.  Spare us from commercial exploitation or there won’t be one graceful birch untouched.

There is something wonderful about embracing trees in early Spring and drinking the sap from these faithful ones who have endured the bitter winter.  Is it a magic idea that the strength and life affirming liquid of the trees can help us carry on too?  I shouldn’t even be thinking about these things yet though. It’s a little too soon. If our sweet old dowager Spring can just hold on for a month or so I’ll be the first to roll out the green carpet.

December light





Some some kind friends got together and gave me this book as a thank you gift quite a while ago. Heaven knows, I had done little enough for them.  They are women of great intelligence and energy who were quite able to become better museum guides than I will ever be.  Is that false modesty?  Of course, when we say better we have to look at scholarship, interest, ability to work in a group, memory, delivery , humour, interest in the visitors. . . Oh, I can hear them now. ” But she left out. . . ” so we all became good guides and the ” better” is nonsense.

The book is a brainstorming tool.  I read what I had written on one of the pages his morning and found just one phrase, just one phrase to use in something I am writing now and I wanted to say thank you to those women who gave me something that was really thoughtful.  I don’t see you very often and I will make an effort to do better.


It it is such a dark morning today.  I left the Christmas lights on for the little ones going by on the bus this morning.  But soon it will get sunnier and lighter.  In the meantime we have to be illuminated from within.  Those women lit a light within with this gift.  Thanks to them.