Cultivate your Garden


Sitting upstairs at the Hive Emporium on Gabriola surrounded by beautiful art, I am struck by a particular painting by a new and exciting artist who just moved to Gabriola Island, Tyrrell Clarke. Somehow my eyes can’t get enough of the vibrant colours of “Flight of the Bumblebee.”

But besides dazzling my eyes, this painting makes me think of one of Voltaire’s sayings, “We must cultivate our garden.” It made me think about how one of the best things that grew from my own passion for words is that both of my daughters enjoy reading. My favourite sound in the morning over breakfast was the occasional flip of a page as we ate our breakfast and read before heading off to school. That was a garden that I didn’t even realize I was planting, but there it was—bloomed forth like Van Gough’s Irises in the springtime.

Alternately, when the kids were little I remember myself pontificating about people who do not eat healthy food and how in this day and age there was no reason people couldn’t find the resources to learn about good nutrition. Meanwhile, in between kale smoothies, I often reached for a handful of chocolate chip cookies.  I was probably chewing the cookies and dropping crumbs in my lap as I was complaining.

Now fast forward a few years later and one of my daughters made a comment while we were enjoying double-decker ice cream cones on a hot day. She said something about how poorly this person who walked by was eating – they were drinking a large two-liter bottle of coke with a bag of Fritos. It was at this moment that I realized that while I thought I was teaching my children that eating junk food was bad, all I was doing was teaching my kids to be judgemental.  I wanted to cultivate a healthy lifestyle for my kids but I wasn’t really walking the walk. I think this important lesson can be woven into all aspects of our lives. I believe cultivating a lush garden is one of the most important things we should be teaching our children.

If you don’t show your children how to cultivate joy and friendship and love in their lives, really show them, where will they get these skills?  And even if you don’t have children, don’t you wonder where you got your “gardening skills” from?

See how inspiring a good painting can be? I recommend meeting a friend at the Hive for a cup of tea and one of their very good samosas made lovingly by New Dawn Edibles that only uses locally grown ingredients, cultivated from,  you guessed it–local island gardens!

Here are the event details for The Hive’s Art Show.


December 14 – January 13 

John Poirier – Dirk Huysman – Deb Dallyn – Carolyn Bell – Tyrrell Clarke – Phillip McAdam – Stephen Cole – Graham Sheehan

Book Review- FUN HOME


I know grown women are not supposed to love graphic novels ( we should be reading Austen in the bubble bath)- but if you read Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home you would understand my love of this particular genre.  I love a good novel packed with prose and the wonderful part about this book is that it is a graphic memoir – packed with prose!

Follow Alison as a child trying to navigate the tense world of a marriage built on illusions or as the author describes her father’s perception of his family as  ”  A Still Life With Children.” She compares her family to the Addams family and develops strange OCD afflictions as a result of her parents’ unhappiness. This book deals with so many intricacies of a family’s experience- it is part coming out story,  interwoven with the myth of Icarus and the philosophy of Camus.

Bechdel deals with topics such as the absurdity of death in a family of funeral directors. She delves into the complexities of our relationships with our mothers and fathers; she wryly observes that ” the bar is lower for fathers than for mothers.”

If you love authors who use words like legerdemain – libidinal or postlapsarian melancholy and don’t mind naked cadavers – then this books for you.

Now an award-winning Broadway musical.

The Bathroom Spider

In the corner of my bathroom, a  tiny silent sentry guards the electric sideboard heater. It is my bathroom spider. I haven’t named him or her, I imagine she has her own name, after all she has a lot of thinking time to name herself. She could have 365 names, one for each day. Each new day she might wake up and say, “ Today, today my name is Ursula. And the next day I will call myself Penelope.”

I figure she is not really bothering anyone so why not let her be.  I don’t know the lifespan of a spider. I thought it would be much shorter. I am surprised that she is still alive after almost a year. I decide to google facts about spiders and I learn that they must drink water to survive. This made we wonder, does she walk over to the tub, dip in her slender toe and take a sip?


One time I vacuumed the floor aggressively, not caring if she lived or died. I am a Gemini after all, one day a lover of spiders  and the next day a lover of clean web free bathrooms. The next morning I was relieved from my perch on the toilet to see she was still alive, she survived my moment of careless vigor.


And who says you need television for amusement? Once I saw another spider encroaching upon my bathroom spider’s web. I could sense some spider angst occurring -there can’t be enough good eatin’ for two in our cramped bathroom. I am unclear how they worked it out, although I suspect one may have eaten the other. I wonder, have I type cast my spider as an evil cannibal? Perhaps they were just relatives saying hello, the other spider visiting to tell tales of his web in the kitchen skylight, the one I can’t reach, even with my long telescopic tool with a fuzzy bit on the end. Her relative may have been saying how the food is plentiful in the skylight. He might tell her how he can see the stars at night. He could be persuading his friend, sister, cousin? to move out of the slums of the bathroom. But alas, my spider remains.

I really hope she did not eat her relative.

I like to believe the best in people and apparently in spiders too. I believe that my bathroom spider is good and kind, and writes poetry in her tiny head. She appreciates my fancy toenail polish with sparkles on the big toe. I think she is grateful that I haven’t sucked her up in my Filter Queen. That is why I let her co-exist with my family.

She writes poetry in her tiny head

Plus of course – she expertly catches and eats bugs.


Penny in Your Shoe

Someone asked me why I have a penny in my shoe. I was told that it may bring prosperity.

One of the women who told me this has a very nice home with lovely art on the walls. It appeared to have worked for her. This doesn’t seem too difficult to do, I thought, I can do this. Now I have a tiny metal reminder clinking around my left toe, or sometimes it works its way down towards the side of my arch.

Sometimes I might fish around the bottom of my purse, find a penny and force unsuspecting friends to sneak one into their shoes.

Why not get all the help you can get?

Has it worked you may ask? Are you wealthy yet? I have to tell you – it is beginning to work.

Each time I grow weary of some endeavor or another the tiny tapping of the coin reminds me to keep at it. Finish this job and on to the next, because money is important. And I know those of you who have money, may interject, “No no! It is not important at all” But I believe it is important. We must have money to buy food to eat, we must pay the mortgage. That little piece of metal is my daily reminder to keep moving forward, keep learning new things.

“Keep at it,” says that bit of copper rubbing my skin.

There is a lot of interesting history on those clunky looking penny loafer shoes. They were made to store a penny in a little pocket on the top.  This money was so that teenagers would be able to call their parents from a phone booth! How quaint. First, it was a penny, then it was meant to hold a dime. Now, kids shoes would have a little opening for their expensive thousand dollar cell phones, the shoes could be called grand loafers. Inflation is tough.

Click on the link below to see more of Sonya Clark’s artwork and not just shoes made out of pennies.

I’m Gonna Fix that Rat in Mi Kitchen


Some days ya gotta just go with it. If your island is overrun with rats you have to just put on vintage ( how could that be? does that mean I’m vintage?) UB40 and rock out while your husband feeds the rat your blue cheese that was to be for your Caesar salad.  He is really a clever one. Basically, we are feeding him—numerous times a day. Each time he sneaks up steals the cheese and we reset it again. Luckily he doesn’t seem interested in our cucumbers. Phew! Although, yesterday we did catch his less clever brother Al.

Here is some UB40 to help all you farmers out there struggling with naughty vermin… and not the nice vermin like Bernard the mouse from the Rescuers who help small children either- but the kind with beady eyes and fluffy fur and a huge appetite.

This great song that should be listened to on those nights when it’s too hot to sleep and you just want to sit on your deck in your undies…after watching a fun game of baseball when the sun was so strong all you could see was a cloud of dust as they ran the bases. But the beer was cold and the hot dogs were great.

Click on the link below for this great song.

The Best We Could Do- Graphic Memoir

I managed to squeeze in a bit of reading with a very busy schedule. This is why sometimes I appreciate graphic novels- when you feel like you wish you could read more but find after very long days you may not have as much brain power as you might like.

I really enjoyed Thi Bui’s first illustrated memoir titled The Best We Could Do. I think a friend of a friend recommended it, which is sometimes the best way to find an interesting book.

There is no way to feel removed from this story, it begins with a picture of the author’s stomach as she is in labour for the first time. It explores her fears of not only being a new mother but the worry that her child might be adversely affected by  “the demons” of her families past. She explores the question, will her own child be free of all the detritus that comes from a history of loss and war?

Bui’s novel is beautiful to hold and look at, the pages and colours she has chosen make the book feel like you are looking at vintage photographs.  The author interviews her family to draw out their painful stories of what it was like to grow up during times of famine and war and what courage it took to get on a boat to escape your home country.

Thi Bui gains not only stories from Vietnam but gains empathy for her mother. A hard lesson learned for many daughters.




Pottery Love


As I sit here in the hot car waiting for a late ferry- (you must never be impatient if you live on an island)- I pull out my boxes (yes, boxes) of homemade pottery and can’t stop holding and marveling at the surfaces, the colours, the specks of gold and blues. These are mugs  that I made with my own two hands!

 I hope nobody sees me trace my finger over the tiny flower or the smudgy outline of black birds.

Why can’t I put them it because they are so beautiful? No. They are bottom heavy and dripping with too many layers of glaze. The mugs are a hodgepodge of styles from sgraffitto- a scratched in pattern that makes very striking black and white pottery- to stamped flowers, starfish ( of course) and birds.

I can’t keep my hands off of these misshapen cylinders, the mistakes hidden ( not so cleverly) beneath a glittering copper raku finish.

And yet. I turn my little- what could it be, a wooden spoon holder? A pen holder? I hold them  in my hands one by one, unable to put them down.

My teacher said on the first day of class- –that clay is honest. I think what he meant was that there is no way to cheat it… you have to be patient, weigh out your clay, work it carefully, not too wet, not too dry. And if you have ugly work, that is thick rimmed, with god awful colours it is because you are a beginner, there is no hiding this fact. All the beautiful pottery we use on a day to day basis-these pieces from potters are the ones who kept at it to make those lovely shapes, comfortable to hold and to drink from or eat our bowls of popcorn from. 

And if I get better at it, if I do carry on with it— and I think I will, because I am caught in it’s spell of wedging and molding and waiting and glazing and waiting some more… then I will get better and maybe my next load won’t have glazes that are too thick, or lumpy- each time, little by little the forms will improve.

I will let you know when I get better….. Honest.