After a long time away from living on a small island I have found myself back and it feels strange. It is strange to recognize so many familiar faces everywhere I turn. I feel like I am in Brigadoon, this little town has stayed the same—stopped in time, if you will. On the ferry, there is the same man who steals your newspaper right out of your hands, the same man delivering a truck of water in the dry season, the same person selling you meat from the deli. And I swear there is that same spider hanging out in the same corner of the ceiling.

The ferry line up is long and the tourists are fun to watch and listen to on the long waits. They are easy to spot, expensive sunglasses and fancy sandals, standing in the front of the ferry, faces in the wind looking expectantly to the island, anticipation of a holiday in their eyes. They take shamelessly happy looking selfies with the mountains and the sea in the background and I think, yes come and enjoy the island, where nothing ever changes.  And while it is comforting to know everyone’s name, I still enjoy the animosity of a new car ( new to people here anyways), where I can drive down the winding tree lined roads without anyone recognizing me at least for a brief time— I don’t have to wave at anyone.

Although it feels that time has stopped, it really hasn’t. Some people look a lot older, classic older men with long white beards Rip Van Winkle-esk… walking in their faded tie dye. Some have packed up and moved away- as we did, to try and find better jobs in the city.

Some have died.

Time has a different meaning on this small island. I have to shake off my impatience as people stop in the middle of the narrow two lane road that winds around the island, to stop and chat —-holding up the people behind them. I have to learn that long waits are the norm, at the ferry.  You learn to make your own ice cream, your own pot stickers. Now I have to learn to make Pho and give up going to the movies… just to not have to take the dreaded ferry. It is fun to get people riled up here, all you have to do is say BC Ferries! and you can get a reaction. They have been overloaded all month! 45 minutes late each time! Is the lament that I keep hearing.

But I think an island like this should be kept the same- it is beneficial to keep the outside world from transforming us too much—we have to realize, it really is that dreaded ferry that is keeping this little island at bay from too much rapid change. Like that spell on Brigadoon.

And like Gene Kelly who returns to New York after leaving,  he just can’t get Brigadoon out of his mind. Gabriola too will keep you under its spell, and if you leave, you may have to return. Even if Cyd Charisse isn’t here dancing around Drumbeg Park with her long legs and her Scottish accent.


 Note from the author: I am taking great liberties with my memory of this old movie…. it has been awhile since I have watched this film and I am filling in the holes with my imagination.





Don’t Judge a Book By its Cover

Don’t judge a book by its cover. I made this mistake when once, bringing out an array of world language books for a library presentation, I picked out a few novels off of the library shelf. I tried to choose books with pretty covers. I knew the Korean book was about sewing children’s clothes but the Chinese fiction was harder to guess at. It was a soft covered book, on the larger size and covered with brilliant flower images.I was hoping it was something that might draw someone’s attention and it did. I saw a young woman pick up the book to look at it and I was pleased, I said-

Is this a good book? Have you read it?  And slowly and gently she tried to explain what it was about.

No, I have not read this book.

What is it about? I inquired.

Oh, it is about a girl, she said hesitantly.

Hmmn, I said,—you mean it is about friends?

No no, she replied, it is about a lady, how do I say it—  she is a bad girl— she is a lady of the night.


Oh really?  I said, feeling silly that I displayed it….this was an outreach in a local church after all. She continued to read the back jacket to me, well—eventually she becomes good.

I believe she was trying to ease my mind that I had chosen a really trashy novel. I was aghast! How did I choose a seemingly innocent book off of our shelves? I was aiming for gentle ( flowery) fiction and was far off the mark! In my defense, there were no pictures of handsome men or half-clad women on the front, only flowers!

And so— my lesson of the day;

Do not judge a book by its cover– although I often can’t help myself if it is really pretty.




There’s a Moon in the Sky- It’s called the moon

There’s a Moon in the Sky- It’s called the moon

Trying to get ahold of my worrying mind, I search around the emergency waiting room for something that is positive. I didn’t want to see men holding bloodied bandaged fingers or elderly ladies wincing in pain in their giant chairs with wheels. I didn’t want to hear the bored and whining child or watch the children’s television that gruesomely showed someone cutting out an eye of a pumpkin. I was waiting to see if my husband’s eye would be okay after a weed whacking incident, I did not want to be reminded of eyeballs being cut out. And so I looked up from my book…. I was the only one reading a book, which seemed odd as I heard the waiting time was 3 hours at least or maybe the whole day if you weren’t in excruciating pain. But I digress. I looked up through the large windows and saw a painting inspired image of a crow clasping the metal something-or-other and the moon with all its intrinsic patterns. My photo doesn’t do it justice.

And so, on what would be considered a bad day trip to Nanaimo to go to emergency…. on a long weekend, unsure if we would make the last ferry, I found a sliver of beauty.I began to relax and listened intently to people who became chummy and bonded over the long wait times. I learned that the elderly lady on the far right was pushed into the side of a slide by her great- grandson. It was worth the small injury on her wrist for sure and a great tale to boot. Seeing the moon reminded me of the song by the B52’s- There’s a Moon in the Sky, it became lodged in my head and I sang it quietly in my mind on the trip back.

His eye is intact.

We made the last ferry.

All is good.

Here is a great song on youtube…


Packin’ Up and Saying Goodbye

Packin’ Up and Saying Goodbye

photo courtesy of imgur

Well, our bags are packed and we’re madly dashing around doing last minute chores before leaving the big city of Calgary.

Here are some of the things I will miss the most;

  • Nose Hill Park, the wildflowers that I walk by every day always amazes me. And how fun to walk by gaggles of children out on a field trip singing,”Down by the Bay, where the watermelons grow”, ad naseum, just like we used to do a million years ago.
  • I will miss the wild winds and the way they move the grasses on the hillsides… I always think of ghosts running up the hill whenever I see those stalks wavering in the wind, quite an amazing sight.
  • I will miss the bright blue colour of the cold river waters and watching surfers tackling the waves in the middle of the city.
  • I will miss walking through Kensington, enjoying Oolong tea with my family and running to an afternoon movie at a local theater just minutes away.
  • I will miss Shakespeare on the Bow and the beautiful setting of the Cochrane market.

But most of all— I will miss the people that I have met here. Really good people, kind and funny and full of life! How lucky to have met so many great and intelligent friends. Goodbye big city, you have changed me and very much for the better.


(  I meant to send this post off before we left— we have now unpacked our bags and are settling in to our new home)



Sunday Afternoon Theatre

Sunday Afternoon Theatre

What is the difference between fact and fiction? This is the question we were left with after enjoying the movie Maudie on a Sunday afternoon at the Plaza Theatre in Kensington.

We were sitting enjoying a pot of Oolong tea at a cozy tea house on a Sunday afternoon, when we realized we were only a few minutes walk away from a showing of the Canadian film, Maudie. It was on our list of movies to see so we rushed over to the old theatre, bought some reasonably priced popcorn and settled into the old red seats, well-worn from years of use with just a handful of other movie goers.(spoiler alert!)

The plot of the movie was slower than I would have liked, kind of like life sometimes I suppose– but the panoramic views of the Bay were pure eye candy. Apparently, the film was shot in Newfoundland and Labrador, not Nova Scotia. Both characters were well played, although it was difficult to watch the scene when Maudie was struck by her soon- to- be- husband.  The overall tone of the movie that we were left with was that there was love between the two. We left the Plaza feeling a wee bit sad and eager to learn more about Maud Lewis. Doing a bit of Googling, we soon learned that another biographer of Maud’s life took a completely different angle on her life, he claimed that her husband was more abusive than the movie portrayed. The demise of both characters was darker than the film revealed. For instance, Everett was murdered during an attempted robbery on his property in 1979 and  Maud may have died of malnutrition and not emphysema as the film depicted.  But who can really understand the inner workings of a marriage? Can anyone truly know what goes on in the dark recesses of a couple’s relationship? I am a romantic. And so I choose to believe she was loved, as she utters on her death bed in one of the final scenes. The separation of fact and fiction about this artist’s life is what makes the writers of history and biography true artists, they must take bits and pieces to make it into a whole narrative story that in the case of film, must follow a storyline, and in the case of Maudie, the writers and director have definitely done a good job of it.

Want to learn more about Maud’s life? Here is a link to a huge book about her.

Click on the link below for a clip from the NFB of Canada,


Tolstoy and the Purple Chair-Book Review

image from

I have just finished a great little book- about reading books, titled Tolstoy and the Purple Chair. I admit I picked it up mainly because of the title. But once I started to read this little gem, I was hooked. It is the true story of a woman who sets out to read a book a day for a year— a daunting task for a mother of four boys. So I was quite skeptical at first of how she would accomplish her quest, and actually, the big question for me was why, why would she do this?

The reading I soon learned, was to help her stand still and understand how to deal with the grief after the death of her sister. She read for hope and comfort and it was her only perceived link that she shared with her sister. She explains in one chapter that her father was put in a sanatorium to recover from TB for over a year. To her she equates her reading challenge as a kind of sanatorium that helped her heal, to get herself back together.

She began her journey with the literary gem The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery- later she recalls that from this book she learned to find “moments of beauty” whenever she could.

She at first foolishly thought she could read during the day when her kids were in school, in-between laundry and making dinner. But the author soon learns the only time available in her busy schedule is in the evening after everyone is in bed. She wisely chooses books that are only an inch in width, about 250-300 pages, but when one of her sons tells her to read Watership Down, a 500-page tome, she rises to the challenge. Each book is reviewed and posted to her website daily.

After reading Sankovitch’s book I felt inspired to read more. I have a list the length of my arm of must read books from her and one of them is called The Novel Cure by Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin.

I encourage you to read this book— you will be truly inspired.


The Birthday Suit Special

Photo courtesy of Beer Street Journal

As a child when it was my special day I would get up early on the first of June, bring my pillow still warm from my head and place it outside on the cold concrete steps of my house. I would sit on my fluffy down pillow and just listen to the frantic trilling of bird songs which I felt were singing just for me. This was before everyone was up and about. Before the demands of my mother, before my little sister was up, before tearing open my package of Carnation instant breakfast that I would stir into a cold glass of milk, lumpy and sweet, swallowed in a rush to beat the school bell for nine o’clock. Before all the neighbours were up doing their noisy grown up things, before the machines roared to life, cars whisking neighbours away to their jobs, before the high whine of the lawn mowers started by a pull string, and the sounds of the children in the schoolyard across the lane, yelling and shouting exuberantly.

This was how I liked to start my day when I was eight. And I am trying to remember that child. In her honour, I will sit quietly listening to the sounds of nature that are still here despite the traffic, despite the urban sprawl, despite the noise of airplanes and the potent smell of pesticides sprayed from trucks with hoses.

Walking my favourite path at Nose Hill the other day I noticed a coyote walk by me at the top of a ridge. We both stopped to look at each other. But, after noting that I wasn’t threatening—it just went on its way, joyful that winter was over, ( I imagined this thought of course). It pounced on something playfully with its large paws, perhaps it was a nervous mouse trapped under its claws. It didn’t occur to me to be afraid, it was a wild animal, after all, the size of a large dog. Every day I see hawks sitting on the tips of the tallest lampposts along Shaganappi and think, despite us, despite the city, the animals remain, and I am grateful.

I will think of this as I sit quietly— grateful for the sounds of nature, my gift to myself on my special day.  (But I no longer need a pillow for padding. )The birds are still here doing their frenzied thing!

Lucky me.