Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas morn...

The decorations are hung...

on the tree with such care...

in hopes that Saint Nicholas...

 soon will be there...

the snowmen are ready...

the tree is all lit...

Miss Patience sits pretty

Folks arrive...this is it!

The presents are devoured..

When it's over, this girl's beat...

Thank goodness for webcams....

Christmas now is complete!
I never claimed to be a poet...
Hoping everyone has a wonderful, quiet in-between time this week...

Friday, December 24, 2010

Season for Gifts

"Make something of every gift you are given. Use it, but use it wisely and well. 
Imagine, when you awake each morning, what you will make of the new day, which is the greatest of all gifts. 

Listen closely when the gift is music. Return it abundantly when the gift is love. 
Touch it gently when the gift is fragile. Protect it fiercely when the gift is vulnerable. 


Laugh aloud when the gift is joyous. Share it, when the gift is truth. 
Use it bravely, when the gift is freedom. When the gift is money, give it away.  


Above all, do not pretend to understand why you have been chosen to receive these gifts. 

This is the mystery of life."

(Adapted from Moral Ground: Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril, eds. Kathleen Dean Moore and Michael P. Nelson, Trinity University Press, 2010.  Copyright © 2010, Kathleen Dean Moore and Michael Nelson.)

May peace and joy and encouragement be the gifts you hold in your heart throughout this season and the coming year.  And may these also be the gifts you share with others as you walk this path of life.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sudden Sisters

We didn't dance in puddles (they were frozen). But we outran the snow flurries...clambered up embankments, stepped gingerly through debris washed in by a storm, faced the wind, wallowed in mud...does all that count?  And we talked. The words bubbled up between us like two antacids in a much that...

DebOne and DebToo (me) at Mary's Point
...neither of us noticed it at first...this resemblance between DebOne and DebToo.   As we toured my home ground - the beaches and bluffs - it felt like we were playing catchup on 40+ years of separation.  How does that happen with someone you've never met before?


I guess, though, when you find a blog that draws you back, time and time again, you can rest fairly certain that you will get along fine with the author of that blog.  And certainly, I had enjoyed Deb's blog often. Her thoughtful words, astute observations, poetic phrases, stunning photos....(for Deb's photos taken this day - and the amazing sunset sundog, see her blog.)

Then, when someone asked if we were sisters, we took a closer look. Do ya' think?

But then, even before Deb arrived, I knew that we would have no problem making conversation or getting along with one another. These are things you just know

It's that knowing that convinces me that we are all part of a previously designed story, each woven in with the other in an intricate way...and that someday, when we flip to the other side, we will see a pattern beyond our wildest dreams and imagination.

I do not wish to treat friendships daintily, 
but with the roughest courage.
When they are real, they are not glass threads or frost-work, 
but the solidest thing we know.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Everyone needs a little play time

As everyone is rushing about, attending to Christmas, this spirited little elk has a lesson to teach...when the opportunity presents itself, always take time to play. I know there have been times when I wanted nothing more than to dance in the puddles...

I'm also taking time to play these days...and very excited (somewhat awed, if I can be truly honest) that fellow blogger, Deb from Talk at the Table is coming for some woman play time!

She contacted me several months ago, telling me she had ordered my book...this led to a series of back and forth emails until she learned her husband was coming to NB this month on business.  She decided to come too, so we'll be spending Thursday together, touring 'Mary World', and she can see for herself the landscape upon which the book rests.  

It's quite extraordinary, really...this decision of hers to hop on a plane and head down here on a whim to New Brunswick to meet some woman she doesn't even know...but then blogging has the power to build widespread connections, doesn't it?  People who would otherwise never known each other connect when words cross the miles to resonate with others.

What can be more spontaneous, spirited and energizing than that?

(It's been raining here for two days...maybe we can even find some puddles begging for a dance...)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Second Wind

Once upon a time, I thought the hard part about writing a book would be writing the book. I know now that this is just the beginning.

One must also be able to edit on a dime, negotiate, compromise, speak publicly, plan and write speeches, conduct interviews, sound coherent at all times of the day or night, travel, think of creative things to write at the front of books, manage time and finances, and promote, promote, promote.

This is simply not what the typical writer likes to do. We like writing because it is a quiet activity that we do in solitude.

I've been on an intensive learning curve and trying to maintain energy as I squeeze interviews, appearances, speaking engagements and book signings into my work and life schedule. It's all quite heady...While I feel energized when meeting people and attending events, I must admit the aftermath quite knocks the wind from me.

I'm used to being the interviewer.  Now, I've had to adjust to being the interviewee. I know it will get easier, but right now it's nerve-wracking, hoping I can answer without rambling, stumbling or going blank. Or saying something totally stupid (as I have a tendency to do...)

I've posted links to a number of the interviews on my Facebook site, but here is one recording of a recent radio interview - with Information Morning Nova Scotia talk host, Don Connolly. It was the only one done with 87-year-old Mary and  I think it will give you a sense of her. 

CBC Information Morning, NS Interview

Mary and I signing books.
The warm and genuine responses from people who have already read Sanctuary have both humbled and slightly dazed me. It's as if they are speaking of someone else's creation and it seems quite impossible that it actually is mine...

Perhaps it is all just the newness of the experience, but I feel a disconnect between me and the book itself, as if I am simply the front man (woman) for the true creator.

And, truth be told, this is how I feel about my best if it is birthed elsewhere and simply flows through me, picking up bits of my voice, life experiences and emotions as it moves, like flowing water nudges bits of the shoreline into its current and carries it away. Often, I look at things I have written and wonder where the words came from.

I have to say, this has all been very foreign, and challenging. I've not had time to reflect on the whole experience, or the many ways it has changed me. But events are winding down now. I have some breathing room. Time to step back and gain perspective. Time to rest and revive my spirit.  Regain some solitude. Thanks for listening.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

November 17th: Catch me if you can...

Hi Friends - if you are in the Maritime Provinces, catch me tonight on CTV Atlantic's Live at 5 news show. I'm headed to Halifax for the Nova Scotia launch of Sanctuary this morning and will be interviewed sometime between 5:00 and 6:00pm tonight. Later, at 7:30pm, Mary Majka and I will be at the Museum of Natural History for a presentation on Mary's life and the book, followed by Q&A and book signings. Then tomorrow, we will be interviewed on Information Morning radio for airing on Friday.

Wish me luck and clarity of thought. I hope you can tune in!

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Canadians gone too soon.

Afghanistan 2002-2010

   1. Allard, Matthieu
   2. Anderson, Jordan
   3. Arnal, James Hayward
   4. Arndt, Raymond
   5. Arnold, Glen
   6. Audet, Patrice
   7. Baker, Joshua Caleb
   8. Bartsch, Cole D.
   9. Bason, Colin
  10. Beauchamp, Nicolas Raymond
  11. Beerenfenger, Robbie Christopher
  12. Blais, Karine
  13. Blake, Craig
  14. Bobbitt, Christian
  15. Boneca, Anthony
  16. Bouthillier, Jack
  17. Bouzane, Stephen Frederick
  18. Boyes, Jason
  19. Boyes, Justin
  20. Braun, David
  21. Brown, Denis Raymond
  22. Bulger, Nicholas
  23. Byers, David
  24. Caswell, Darryl
  25. Chidley, Garrett William
  26. Collier, Brian
  27. Costall, Robert
  28. Courcy, Sébastien
  29. Couturier, Jonathan
  30. Crooks, Tyler
  31. Curwin, John Michael Roy
  32. Cushley, William Jonathan James
  33. Dallaire, Kevin
  34. Davis, Paul
  35. Dawe, Matthew Johnathan
  36. Diab, Marc
  37. Dinning, Matthew James
  38. Dion, Jonathan
  39. Diplaros, Demetrios
  40. Downey, Brendan Anthony
  41. Doyle, Erin
  42. Drouin, Jean-Francois
  43. Dubé, Martin
  44. Duchesne, Christian
  45. Dyer, Ainsworth
  46. Eades, Shawn
  47. Eykelenboom, Andrew James
  48. Faught, John Wayne
  49. Fitzpatrick, Darren James
  50. Fortin, Dany Olivier
  51. Francis, Jefferson Clifford
  52. Freeman, Michael
  53. Giesebrecht, Kristal
  54. Gillam, Craig Paul
  55. Girouard, Robert
  56. Goddard, Nichola
  57. Gomez, Francisco
  58. Gonthier, Étienne
  59. Good, Brian Richard
  60. Goudreault, Martin
  61. Graham, Mark Anthony
  62. Green, Richard A.
  63. Greenfield, Sean
  64. Greenslade, David Robert
  65. Grenon, Andrew
  66. Hamilton, Thomas James
  67. Hayakaze, Michael Yuki
  68. Hayes, Corey
  69. Horn, Chadwick
  70. Hornburg, Nathan
  71. Ingram, Vaughn
  72. Joannette, Martin
  73. Jones, Justin Peter
  74. Karigiannis, Christos
  75. Keating, Shane
  76. Keller, Bryce
  77. Kennedy, Kevin Vincent
  78. Klukie, Josh
  79. Klumpenhower, Anthony
  80. Kruse, Greg John
  81. Labbé, Éric
  82. Leary, Richard Steven
  83. Leger, Marc D.
  84. Levesque, Michel
  85. Longtin, Simon
  86. Lormand, Patrick
  87. Lucas, Donald
  88. Macneil, James Patrick
  89. Mansell, Myles
  90. Massouh, Hani
  91. Marshall, Steven
  92. McCormack, Zachery
  93. McCully, Matthew
  94. McKay, Kevin
  95. McLaren, Robert Mark
  96. Megeney, Kevin
  97. Mellish, Frank Robert
  98. Mendes, Michelle
  99. Mercier, Mario
 100. Miller, Andrew
 101. Miok, George
 102. Michaud, Charles-Philippe
 103. Mitchell, Robert
 104. Morley, Keith
 105. Murphy, Jamie
 106. Nolan, Richard Francis
 107. Nuttall, Andrew
 108. O'Quinn, Kenneth Chad
 109. Ouellet, Jérémie
 110. Parker, Geoff
 111. Payne, Randy
 112. Péloquin, Alexandre
 113. Pepin, Yannick
 114. Pentland, Patrick James
 115. Pinksen, Brian
 116. Poland, Brent Donald
 117. Priede, Darrell Jason
 118. Reid, Christopher
 119. Renaud, Richard
 120. Roberge, Gaétan
 121. Roberts, Joshua Brian
 122. Ruckpaul, Raymond
 123. Rudd, Larry
 124. Seggie, Michael
 125. Shipway, Scott
 126. Short, Robert
 127. Smith, Nathan
 128. Snyder, Jonathan Sutherland
 129. Stachnik, Shane
 130. Stannix, Christopher Paul
 131. Starker, Michael
 132. Stewart, Allan
 133. Stock, Stephan John
 134. Storm, Albert
 135. Street, Terry John
 136. Taylor, Kirk
 137. Tedford, Darcy Scott
 138. Todd, Tyler William
 139. Turner, William
 140. Vernelli, Scott Francis
 141. Walsh, Jeffrey
 142. Warren, Jason Patrick
 143. Wasden, Dustin Roy Robert Joseph
 144. Watkins, Lane
 145. Wiebe, Joel Vincent
 146. Williams, Aaron Edward
 147. Williamson, Blake Neil
 148. Wilmot, Colin William
 149. Wilson, Mark Andrew
 150. Wilson, Robert John
 151. Wilson, Timothy
 152. Woodfield, Braun Scott

    Wednesday, November 10, 2010


    Remember the many...too many to count...

    Menin Gate, Ypres, Belgium
     Remember the young...too young to die...

    Tyne Cot Cemetery, Belgium

    And when the many becomes to big to comprehend, remember the one.

    James Peter Robertson's resting place

    Nationality: Canadian
    Rank: Private
    Regiment/Service: Canadian Infantry (Manitoba Regiment)
    Unit Text: 27th Bn.
    Age: 35
    Date of Death: 06/11/1917
    Service No: 552665
    Awards: Victoria Cross

    While in Tyne Cot Cemetery, Belgium, I chanced upon the resting place of this young Canadian. An engine driver, born in Pictou County, NS,  J. P. Robertson was known to his buddies as "Singing Pete".  
    He was the son of Alexander and Janet Robertson.

    He died for his comrades. For Freedom.
    Last year, the town of Stellarton, Nova Scotia officially opened The James Peter Robertson Memorial Park to commemorate his sacrifice.

    An extract from "The London Gazette" No. 30471, dated 8th Jan., 1918, records the following:
    "For most conspicuous bravery and outstanding devotion to duty in attack. When his platoon was held up by uncut wire and a machine gun causing many casualties, Pte. Robertson dashed to an opening on the flank, rushed the machine gun and, after a desperate struggle with the crew, killed four and then turned the gun on the remainder, who, overcome by the fierceness of his onslaught, were running towards their own lines. 
    His gallant work enabled the platoon to advance. He inflicted many more casualties among the enemy, and then carrying the captured machine gun, he led his platoon to the final objective. He there selected an excellent position and got the gun into action, firing on the retreating enemy who by this time were quite demoralised by the fire brought to bear on them. During the consolidation Pte. Robertson's most determined use of the machine gun kept down the fire of the enemy snipers; his courage and his coolness cheered his comrades and inspired them to the finest efforts.
    Later, when two of our snipers were badly wounded in front of our trench, he went out and carried one of them in under very severe fire. He was killed just as he returned with the second man."

    Rest in Peace Singing Pete.

    Friday, November 5, 2010

    Women...wonderful women...

    After Amy's ingenious celebration of Debi over at Emma Tree, I've spent the past few evenings meeting and visiting with all the wonderful, talented, divine women who took part...women who whisper wisdom from warm hearts, true and genuine women, compassionate, women who love and cherish and play and cry, who speak with honesty, share pain and laughter, uplift and hold each other...

    ...women who have a voice...who are the voices of this land...who preserve the hope and the future of our world, who keep creativity alive, who lift up the power of love and family and sharing.  Women who give me such great and wondrous trust that all is not lost, that all is not twisting down, but spiraling up, growing and evolving and gaining strength...strength for something absolutely too wondrous to are all these women...and they are just a sample...there are so many more...are you one of them?


    Monday, November 1, 2010

    Debi Really Rocks

    So, having been a month away from blogging - and my blogging friends - the thing that brought me back to the computer, back to my creative spirit, was a note from a friend of Debi's, over at Emma Tree.

    Apparently, the ever-so-talented Debi is being featured in the November issue of Artful Blogging and I really wanted to add my congratulations to her - because she is, most certainly, a beautiful soul and an artful blogger.

    She has also just published a trio of articles on celebrating place in Somerset Life, and since our connection to place is a topic near to my heart, I thought it appropriate to express my pride in her with the image above.

    The Hopewell Rocks on the Bay of Fundy is one of my favourite places...a place that brings me peace when I'm troubled, a place that connects me to my history and a place that reminds me of the steady, comforting rhythm of natures cycles. I go there to walk, to think, to sit, to dream, to give thanks.

    To honour Debi and her penchant for turquoise - and to show that I think Debi Really Rocks - I've tinted this photo of the Rocks in her favourite shade. :-)

    Sunday, October 31, 2010

    Giving Thanks....

    Nana's boy...Sweet Baby Colin (3 months)
    September was one of those once in a lifetime sort of months.  Turning 50, getting ready to launch my book, seeing my book for the first time, preparing for the visit of our grandson, Sweet Colin (isn't he just downright gorgeous?), celebrating our 22 anniversary and planning a grand event to mark all these special occasions.

    I'm not sure where to start. My gratitude swells. 

    Most people told me that when I first laid eyes on my book, there would not be another moment like it.  I have to say, it was less a thrill and more a very quiet, very sweet, soft sort of warm pulled taffy.  (Laying eyes on Baby Colin was somewhat the same..but more on him later!)

    Pride because it had been such a long and twisted path to get here. Pride because I somehow found a way to enter Mary's story and let it flow through me to the page. Pride because it wasn't just about publishing a book, but gathering wisdom from a remarkable life and growth from my own experiences writing the story. Pride for seeing it through to the end, when I really felt like running away. Pride because it did take me seven years...that I did not compromise and try to force the story before I was ready...and that I plodded on until it was done.

    These may seem like silly things, but right from the beginning, I had to make sure my head was in the right place. I had to be sure that I wasn't writing the book to be a published author, or to gain recognition, and most certainly not for money (good thing!), but for the simple desire to share a remarkable story with a wider audience.

    Because, you see, I believe that it is never about me. It always has to be about something or someone else. It always has to be about a bigger picture than what I can see or imagine. I've passed the place in my life where I am only concerned with my own gain. This no longer suits who I am...

    And so the story also had to be about something much larger than a single life large as that life may have been.

    So, when I picked up the box of books from the post office, I took it to a special spot overlooking the Bay of Fundy - the bay that held such magic for both Mary and me. There, my husband and I sat together and ate lunch...sneaking glances at the box, but leaving it until the time was right...allowing anticipation to build, like storm clouds piling high on the horizon. Then lunch finished, he handed me his knife and I cut through the packing tape.

    When I first held the book in my hand, salt breeze on my face, marsh and bay at my back, I thought about the beautiful cover shot and the day I took the picture. It was a day when I really grasped that there is far more to life than what lies on the surface. That there are underlying threads supporting our lives, weaving them together; into a pattern we cannot possibly understand or even envision.

    Marys Point, NB

    I thought about the people who contributed to the book, the friends who supported me, the publisher who believed in me, and the editors who raised it higher than I could have on my own. I thought about the people who would read the book now and in the future. And how, years from now, the book would still be out there, sharing Mary's legacy...passed around, perhaps purchased, maybe reprinted, shared, talked about. I wondered whether people would like it or not. Would some people mark the passages they liked? Would they read it more than once? How Mary would feel, reading her life on the page?

    Mary signing books in "The Bridge",
    the sunroom where our interviews took place

    I admit to undercurrents of worry and apprehension...that maybe I  had not done a good enough job. That I would publicly fall flat on my face.

    Then the first person phoned me. Dear remarkable Joyce, a tiny octogenarian who rappels at Cape Enrage every year on her birthday. "I can't put it down," she told me. "When you describe Mary, I can see her sitting right there, clicking her feet together."  After Joyce's call, came an email, and a card, and more phone calls.  "I know it took you seven years to write it, but I read it in two days," someone wrote, apologetically.

    I'm very thankful it didn't take her as long to read, as it took me to write.

    Oh, how I appreciated all these people who took time to contact me. I can now enjoy the ride.

    Then, in October, when I stood in front of a full house at the Harvey Community Hall, an historic structure restored by Mary, I told them this:   

    "This is a book for anyone who has questioned the value of their own life...any man or woman who has looked within and thought, 'I know there is more to me than what I show'. 

    "It is for anyone who has seen something they wanted to change, then walked away from it, doing nothing. 

    "It is for anyone who has held a tiny creature in their hand and felt the transition as its struggles subsided and trust entered its bones. 

    "And it is for anyone who has walked in nature and felt the pull and power of a force beyond their own understanding."

    It is my hope that the people who read this book - whether they know of Mary or not - can gain just a small piece of the inspiration that the writing of it gave me.

    That they will see some small possibility for their own lives on the pages.

    Then, Mary's legacy truly pays it forward....

    Monday, October 4, 2010

    Needing a break....

    Must apologize for my absence. The past two weeks have been spent getting to know my new grandson, writing speeches, launching a book, speaking in public, attending a party and a luncheon, conducting various media interviews, signing books...feeling a little overwhelmed with all the fanfare and attention.

    How can I thank everyone for your touching words of encouragement and care? I'm left without words to write...they've all been considered, absorbed, spoken, spent, taken to heart...

    I have much to say when my words return. For

    Wednesday, September 22, 2010

    Just sit there and look pretty...


    Debi  at Emma Tree challenged her blogger friends to come up with their interpretation of ‘Just sit there and look pretty’… are my first thoughts:  Little girls, hair ribbons, clean frilly dresses, white anklets and black patent leather shoes. 

    The perfect little girl..she is feminine, docile, quiet and polite. Demure. Shhhh…children should be seen and not heard….

    But, wait. I never wanted to be demure. Demure doesn’t look like fun. I wanted to climb trees, pick up caterpillars, play in the mud. Make people laugh.

    “Pretty is as pretty does,” I remember my grandmother saying, reminding me that behaviour speaks louder than appearance.

    In remembrance of Nana (who, as a young mum, climbed an apple tree to rescue a bear cub), I’d rather have fun.

    Second thoughts:  Let's just sit there and look pretty…pretty damn satisfied. 

     There, that’s better…me and my new book, hot off the press. Now grinny face is better than demure any day of the week.

    Thursday, September 16, 2010

    The Back Story - Part II

    When I first asked Mary Majka if I could write her story, I thought I’d be telling the fascinating tale of a strong and dynamic woman filled with a noble sense of purpose and a plan. And, quite truthfully, I also hoped to find a wise mentor; a mentor who might, perhaps, influence or direct my own path. 

    A Polish immigrant, Mary arrived in Canada with many other Displaced Persons following World War II. She was anxious to leave behind her painful memories of loss and sorrow and embark on a new beginning. She and her husband, Mike, settled first in Ontario, then moved to rural New Brunswick in 1961. Nature had always offered solace to her, and so was something she cherished. Within a few short years, she had found her footing and was becoming known as an environmental pioneer and advocate. In addition to her television show, she taught outdoor education, founded naturalist groups, started the first nature centre for children in a national park, created interpretive programs, gave presentations, led nature tours and field trips. 

    Since then, she has also been a tourism ambassador and a protector of our past, undertaking various heritage restoration projects that did much to instill a sense of community pride, while providing employment and enjoyment for many.  She’s been written about in newspapers, magazines and books; appeared in several documentaries. She’s known as an eloquent speaker, a writer, a hostess extraordinaire.
    Old Bank Museum, Riverside-Albert (relocated and restored)

    And she provided sanctuary for all manner of wildlife, welcoming the injured and helpless into her home and into her life.  But lesser known is her heart for people.  She’s provided guidance, refuge, encouragement and support to many young people…many who have gone on to great achievements of their own.  This, perhaps, is her greatest, most lingering legacy.

    Mary and an orphaned baby squirrel

    “Mary lifted people up to her level. She not only inspired people to reach their potential, but she enabled them to pass it on to others. She gave a gift that keeps on giving.”
    Brian Dalzell (one of the young people she inspired)
    During the months and years as I collected interviews and research, I discovered a woman who really came into her own power in the middle of her life. This resonated with me in a profound way. I also discovered a woman of surprising motivations, contrasts and contradictions - a woman shaped by the experiences of her life.The resulting story was even more complicated and complex than I imagined. There was so much more to her than what I knew or expected. And none of it was purposefully planned. It just happened.

    Mary is what she is and she bends to none. She accepts her strengths and her weaknesses without apology, understanding that they are opposite sides of the same coin. But it’s the flaws and tragedies that give our lives tension, richness, colour.  They lead us to unknown places.  They create friction; with friction, comes energy.  

    Mary Majka

    “What is it that makes me the way I am?” she asked herself as a teenager. She finally decided it just happens. “When you pick a bouquet of flowers, they are all uniform, but there will be one a little taller, or a different colour, or some small difference. Perhaps this is who I am.”

    As I immersed myself in her story, it became increasingly clear to me that we have to learn to accept our shadows, our weaknesses, as the necessary backside of our light. When we allow our own authentic nature to shine and purposely allow space in our life for the things that are dear in our hearts, this is when we truly discover our own power and raison d'être.

    Sanctuary is her story. But I’m beginning to think it can also be mine. Or yours. And what if the real power of our stories is not in what each of us might achieve as individuals, but in the many collective ways we inspire each other to shine? Doesn't that make more sense?

    Friday, September 10, 2010

    Goodbye Forties

    Less than an hour left...I'm spending it with my Forties.

    We're reliving the great moments, along with the tearful goodbyes, the full-to-bursting moments, the gaping bottomless holes.  Grief. Laughter. Deep sighs. Groping blindly. The vistas and landscapes imprinted in my heart, the growings and shrinkings, striving and letting go, the serenity and jittering upheavals. I don't even know how to write about it all, the scenes fly through my mind like flickering silent film, but through it all, I know I've been moving forward, somehow stepping into nothing, but finding solid ground, pushing through dense fog and finding sunlight, swimming upward, straining, lungs bursting, thinking I can't go any further, but suddenly breaking free and gulping the wind in the leaves, sometimes tossing back and forth, clinging to branches, scared and helpless in the storm, yet still finding the strength to hang on, to look forward, to trust. Always to trust.

    Oh, what a tumultuous, tremendous decade you have been, Forty. I can honestly say,you have been the best of my life and yet, I know (somehow) that there are fireworks to come. That I am just beginning to wade into the depths that will define my life. So many thoughts and threads that are weaving into something...I know not what...yet. But I trust in my worth, my value, my destiny. Goodbye Forties. Hello Fifty. We're gonna rock and I. We're just getting warmed up.

    Wednesday, September 8, 2010

    The Back Story - Part I

    With the launch of my book fast approaching, people have been asking me how it all started...what prompted me to undertake this lengthy project. As a writer, I'm always interested in the back story and as I began thinking through the history behind this book, I realized it had its true beginnings back in 1960s New Brunswick...back when milk arrived in bottles on the front step, televisions had rabbit ears and no one had yet heard of the environmental movement.

    You see, the first time I met Mary Majka, I was a reedy and awkward seven year old, lying flat on my belly on front of the television, palms bracing my chin, skinny legs bent at the band aids and wobbling somewhere behind my head.  

    Mary on a field trip with students (photo David Christie)
    As the hostess of a locally produced weekly television show called, “Have you Seen?”, Mary  introduced me and a whole generation of children around the Maritime Provinces to the back stories of the natural world.  She showed that people and nature should live companionably, that magic really exists, and that the world speaks softly, should we choose to listen. 

    I began bringing home stray dogs and cats, injured birds.  Not that Mary created compassion in me - I think that was always there - but, through her program, she did show me that compassion expected action.  She showed me that it was not wrong to give aid to the injured or to pick up bird feathers or to let a caterpillar crawl, inch by fuzzy inch, up my arm. She taught me that I had a responsibility to the creatures with whom I shared this earth.

    White-marked Tussock Moth (I believe)
    My mother told me Mary lived in nearby Albert County, which is where my roots lie (and where I now live). Although her facial features would be considered more earthy than glamourous, I thought of her as a movie star. And for awhile, I believed if a movie star could come from Albert County, anything was possible for me.

    Mary remained in the forefront of the evolving environmental movement, most often in the news for her fervent and vocal defense of habitat or heritage or the wild creatures that share our world.  The press loved her…her Polishness, her passion, her panache.

    Mary at our 1988 wedding
    Twenty years later, I met Mary Majka again, this time in person. Her presence still commanded attention.  While she had aged, the strength of character in the prominent, hooked nose, slate blue eyes, ready smile and suntanned face remained unchanged.  When I mentioned having seen her on TV as a child, she raised her brows. “Ah!” she said with a dismissive wave of her hand, “That was so long ago!”  But she smiled, obviously pleased. 

    Shortly thereafter, I returned to my roots in Albert County and for a time, my husband and I lived on Caledonia Mountain, a largely unsettled mountain near the Bay of Fundy coast. As I explored the forests and marshes surrounding the mountain, the enjoyment of the natural world that had been shuffled to the background during my teens and twenties reemerged. It wouldn't be until much later that I discovered that Caledonia had also been the location of Mary’s first home after moving to New Brunswick.

    In the years that followed, our relationship deepened as we shared occasional afternoons in the home she restored at Mary’s Point, nearby. It was a pleasure to visit. Her home always had a menagerie of recovering creatures in residence...a purple gallinule, a pair of mourning doves, the occasional owls, squirrels, a albino raven.  Gradually, she offered the stories of her varied projects in wildlife rehabilitation, habitat protection and heritage preservation in tantalizing bits and pieces and I began to appreciate all that she had accomplished.

    Mary had sparked a yearning in me, although I didn’t recognize it as such at the time. As I approached my 40s, I began tackling those feelings of discontent and initiated the changes in my life that led me into the writing career I now enjoy. I was finally giving voice to the real me, my inborn nature was rising to the surface. Little did I know that I was about to immerse myself in a life that was - at its essence - a vibrant example of that very thing.

    Thursday, September 2, 2010

    Songs of Seals

    What’s next for you?  My friend had asked an innocent question, but her words echoed through my mind during the past month. What was next? The sun was setting on this phase in my life, a new day fast approaching.

    I had claimed the month of August for me. It was my interlude month, a break between the effort that went into the production of my book and the next phase of promoting it. 

    August was my gift to myself, a reward for accomplishing what I had set out to do. It was also a pause, a chance to dream and play and to give myself over to spontaneity. I did not make plans, but took opportunities that came my way.

    And by clearing that space, opportunities had room to surface…almost daily. My heart had been secretly missing water...and my month turned out to be rich with beach walks and swims, escapes to a secluded lake, birdwatching, a week at the seashore, re-connections with friends, a spontaneous day tour along the Fundy coast with a friend who operates a tour company. I must admit, I've had a whale of a grand time...

    Anna-Marie, of Roads to Sea Guided Tours, in action at the Hopewell Rocks.
    Then this week, a friend mentioned she was taking her boys on an overnight camp-out by the sea and asked if I might like to join them. A deserted beach, backed by dunes, warmed by an uncharacteristic heat wave…why would I refuse?
    We pitched our tents in the twilight and gathered firewood before dark. We spied a colony of grey seals bobbing in the swells a dozen yards offshore, their heads turned in our direction, watching…were they curious? I admit feeling thrilled that these large creatures of the sea deemed us worthy of their attention.

    Then, as daylight disappeared, and we gathered around the campfire to tell stories, we heard them singing, their soulful voices haunting, yet beautiful…floating across the surface of the sea. We talked about what they might be saying to each other in their seal words.

    The lonely notes of their song echoed of eternity, of mystery and of community. I marvelled to myself that this creature could be so ungainly and raucous when on land, but sing so clearly and carry such grace and poise when in its water element.

    As I lay alone in my tent that night, waiting for the moon rise and listening to the waves and soothing, ethereal quality of their voices, I thought about my own sense of eternity, the mystery of tomorrow and my community of family and friends.

    I thought of how they have gently supported me - how their encouraging words have been music to my soul - as I have come into my own element…the place - and the age - where I feel most poised and graceful.

    What is next for me?  I really don’t know yet, but I'm not worried. I know I am on the brink of a new day, one bringing a marvelous opportunity that will be perfectly suited for me and my abilities. I just have to create the time and space for it to emerge.

    For now, I wait. Quietly. Openly. Anticipating. Grateful.