From a few seeds

Now summer is really over. It turns out fall is somehow better than summer – sunny, warm, and sometimes the wonderful fall wind springs up.  Beautiful leaves are tugged off the trees.  The grass is a magical green because of all the rain we had.  The garden was mixed.  Kale a great success, potatoes not bad, the novelty of the blue ones adding an exotic note.  The tomatoes were a disaster.  Swollen and tasteless with rain, sometimes rotting on the vine. There were only a few peppers, onions not bad. The garlic simply disappeared but the onions were fairly good.

And here are these wonders.  Great sunflowers grown on a whim from a few seeds found in an old package that had been shoved into the back of a drawer.  Strong thick stems are still not equal to the task of holding up these great heads.  We stuck one up into a small evergreen as a makeshift bird feeder.  The others, their heads hanging down wait for the first frost.

I love the mysterious geometry of the pattern of the seeds. Look how they spiral around perfectly.  I don’t know why but it reminds me of the complexity of quilting or embroidery.  So much effort in our worlds to create such a pattern.  So effortless in nature.


How do I love my Country


Broad and generous

when she changes from

thick dense greenery

to brilliant hues of crimson, of pink

of unlikely yellow and brown.

when her sunsets make me raise my head

from the sink where I wash dishes

or chop vegetables.

The sound of leaves scudding along the country road

or the cry of wild geese wondering if they should leave.

Wild turkeys shy, grouped together and hurrying away

at the slightest noise

leaving behind a single bronze leaf.

How do I love you, my country

with no great patriotic songs sung to you,

a few poems praise you

but carried in the hearts of those

in the little town, close by

a certainty, a solid bed-rock of caring.

In the Canadian Tire Shop, in the Tim Hortons

now wearing camouflage hunting gear,

sit the coffee drinkers.  No poets, no politicians here.

Those who walk their dogs in the back roads,

those who go to the Thanksgiving Turkey Dinner

benefit for the Anglican Church.  Those who close up

the cottage, pull up the dock or those who stay all year long.

How do I love you, my country?  In these back roads,

in these woods, in these countless lakes,

in these leaves, changing, blazing, burning out

as I am changing, blazing, burning out.

How do I love you, my country?  As my mother,

as the cells of my body.  So do I love you.



Sky mirror


This wonderful white gladiolus flower appeared suddenly this month.  I had planted bulbs at the end of each vegetable row and they all came up, red-orange and beautiful.  Then when all were completely finished blooming, this white one appeared.  A mystery which seemed to be reflected in yesterday’s sky.

beauty overshadowed


Sometimes I feel that beauty has gone out of fashion.  All around us beauty sits waiting to be discovered, to be noticed, to be appreciated.  We are busy getting annoyed at some political wrangle, getting frightened over threats beyond our control, getting apathetic because we are overwhelmed.  Beauty sits waiting for a glance and in return she lifts us up, makes us draw a quick breath of joyful surprise. So, even if she is out of fashion, I present her today in two forms.  One is the just opening flower…plumeria or frangipani or as I sometimes call her ” Hawaiian girl’s ear flower” .  She smells like vanilla and as you see, she has kept me waiting all summer in hopes of this cluster of blooms.  The flowers are formed as twists and they slowly unfurl in hot humid weather.

The other picture is of a sunset over Georgian Bay.  I have never seen one quite like it.

Woody Woodpecker


Ladies and gentlemen… here he is, fresh from Hollywood, just as raucous, cheeky and impudent as ever… your favorite and mine, Woody Woodpecker! It is very hot and sunny in Muskoka.  Confused birch trees are gently dropping their small brown leaves in the still air. Not a breath of wind disturbs the bees as they gather the last of clover nectar.   All is tranquil until Woody appears on the scene.  With a series of screeches he flaps around the property, examining the bark of various trees.  After a few half-hearted pecks he immerses himself in the leaves and branches of a choke cherry tree and makes a feast of the ripe fruit.  He hangs upside down, his red poll conspicuous in the leaves.  With a squawk he flies off to the next fruit tree, cackling as he goes,.  He flies very low from one tree to another so that I sometimes get the impression he is dive bombing me. The white underside of his wings make a show as he flaps around from one tree to another.

I always loved  cartoon Woody Woodpecker for his naughty ways and loud voice.  Well, here he is in the flesh and feathers! He hung out in our back lot all afternoon and probably went off to scare up a little feminine companionship with his cackling laugh and pesky ways.  Never a dull moment with Woody!

Absent and Present

On July 1st I started a leave of absence from my volunteer work as a docent at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.  It’s been a full month since I walked into the Museum, checked out who is taking tickets today, looked around to see if any of my particular friends are guiding, or researching, walked in with the particular little satisfaction that comes with wearing an ID badge.  Have I missed it?  Have I missed that feeling of being part of what no one can deny is a “status” institution?  Not yet.  The only moment I had a pang was,the other night when I guessed wrong about an item on Antiques Road Show.  I am a bit weak in Chinese ceramics and porcelain and am inclined to arrange my tours in Cultures of the World so that I don’t have to plumb the depth of my ignorance on those items.  

I have great admiration for my fellow guides who study like mad and have all the facts at their finger tips and their tongue tips too.  Montreal is a city where French and English are heard and spoken everywhere. The guides are trained and guide in one or other of the languages although there is a movement to encourage bilingual guides to offer tours in either language.  I think this is a wonderful thing and I hope one day to be one of that group.  I note among my French speaking colleagues a wonderful scholarship and a devotion to study, to the acquiring of knowledge.  I put this down to the old Quebec education system.  I was taught French grammar by nuns of the Congregatin of Notre Dame and most of it stuck.  I remember an absolute devotion to correctness, to exactitude, to perfection.  I think this approach carries over to all fields. Of course many of my French colleagues are much younger than me and so were exposed to a different educational system.  Also, many of the English speaking guides are founts of knowledge and very erudite. 

Of course, I study like mad for the temporary exhibitions.  The one on Venice a few years ago was terrifying.  We had to learn the paintings and painters, of course but there was so much about history, politics, religion and music ( think Vivaldi) that my head was in a whirl by the time I gulped hard and started my first tour. How much of it sticks in my head?  Certainly some of it and frankly I rather like the feeling of having my head in a whirl over new ideas.  It’s a bit like the moment before you enter the examination room when you know you’ve prepared pretty well but you hope there won’t be a horrid surprise question.  

But it’s not an exam, is it?  I know I’ll never be quite as aware of all the facts as I should be but I think the real secret to a good museum tour is to connect with the visitors and make sure they have an enjoyable time.  Helping people to look and to see is important too.  Things these days are very fast and fluid so that it’s a novel experience  to stand in front of a work of art and look at it, see details in it, talk about it, understand it.  

I’ve been in the country for almost all the month of July, looking at other things.  How many different kinds of grass there are!  How many different shades of green.  I’m in Group of Seven country and it’s a good thing for a guide to get in a canoe or to swim in a Muskoka lake.  I’m dong my writing and that’s very important.  Every kind of creation can be art.  Making a meal or a garden or writing a report can be artful and graceful.  So, it’s good to step away sometimes to see and to understand more clearly.

The photo?  Just before I left I was given this certificate for having guided over 500 tours.

PS I got published in the August edition of “The Lake”.  It’s an on line magazine out of the U.K. Check it out.  One of the advantages of having a last name that starts with “C” is that I got to head the contributions.  Certainly I am in good company as other poets are well known and awarded!