Saturday, 1 September 2018


Yesterday was an amazing day.

In the early morning I continued to the next stage of making Damson plum jam, having the day before cooked two large pots of fruit until the Damsons were very soft and the juice covered them.  The scoring of each plum and the very slow simmering had already taken about two hours the previous day. The process of removing the stones from the cooled stewed fruit followed.  I love this step, with my hands deep in the pot, seeking them out.

Just as I love the process of preparing and cooking the fruit, so Brian loves the picking. Two days earlier he had picked 54 pounds of fruit from the wonderful farm of Norry in West Saanich.

As I slowly cooked the plums down, standing by the stove and almost constantly stirring the fruit to ensure that it wasn't sticking and thereby burning, the pleasure aspect of Damson jam-making was being challenged!

However, the finished product was worth every minute of my time.

Remember, this was jam made from a mere 15 pounds of the fruit!

Later in the morning I had a wonderful visit with Rabbi Harry. We sat in the studio-gallery talking about time alone, friendship and the mature wisdom of choosing  those people who enrich and honour us.

When I said that I was thinking more about these things as my 75th birthday neared, Harry looked at me, saying that he had always thought of me as being 60 or 65.  I laughed and said that if true, it would make him in his very early 40s!

So our conversation wandered, sharing stories of people we knew who seemed old even when fairly young, and those people who remained vital and involved even as their chronological age grew high.  Sitting in the studio, surrounded by my photographs, seemed the visual evidence of my dedication to continued growth and  expansion.

Our visit concluded with a wonderful 1/2 hour sharing our excitement and love for our individual time spent in Havana. The feelings we had each experienced of coming home to a place we had known at another time in another lifetime.

I went upstairs to watch my favourite tennis great as he played an epic 4 hour 28 minute match against Khachanov at the U.S. Open. I anguished as Nadel lost his serve, thankful as he broke back, and rode the roller coaster until its conclusion and Nadel's victory.  During the commercials, and at times I didn't dare watch, I went through packets of photographs that I discovered in our storage room.

Most of these photographs chronicled my art output from the years we spent in Duncan.  They were snapshots, usually taken outside on our deck, propped up by a chair or bench, or clipped to a rod in our studio.

Simply a record.

Brian and I were blown away!  I had forgotten about many of the paintings.  I had forgotten too how unafraid I had been and the huge creative output of those years.

I had many series of paintings on paper, painted in black and white using children's powder paint. Others, again on paper, using household enamel. When I discovered colour,  I was again totally uninhibited and painted hundreds of works on small prepared boards.

The power of seeing these works was almost overwhelming.  I realize now that I have likely sold over 300 works of art, and perhaps more than that, during those creative years.

Seeing these photographs again, I remembered  the many times I had exhibited my art in galleries on the Island and also when Cynthia showed my wire mixed- media "dolls" in her wonderful store in Duncan, Fabrications.

Dear Brian scanned about two dozen of these photographs so I will have a digital record of these early paintings.

While I long to have some of these paintings back, to look at them again and hang them in our house, I am happier that they are out in the world.

Today is our anniversary: Brian and I have been married for 37 years.

What an amazing journey we have had together:

Doing our art,
Trusting that Hilary and Sat-Sung were safe walking the 1/2 mile down our driveway to the school bus & later knowing that a bear had been walking the same route!
Growing herbs and vegetables in 90 raised beds that Brian built using huge slabs that he hauled from a lumber yard,
Having our business Harvest Herbs for several years,
Making and selling echinacea tincture, before it was "the thing",
Canning hundreds of pounds of fruit and filling hundreds of Mason jars with every kind of chutney, relish and brandied fruit and,
making blackberry wine and the less successful parsnip brew!

And, most of all, working hard and having fun!

I am truly blessed.  I wouldn't trade my life for anything.

Monday, 23 July 2018

a question

Accompanied by Sheila's two Corgis, we began our walk at 9 a.m., avoiding the forecasted heat of the day.  Just as we were settling into a comfortable pace, Sheila suddenly asked me if I considered myself old.  Gulp.  Where did that come from?  In the quiet few moments following this question, my way younger friend added...."Because I don't consider you old."

The timing of her query was interesting.  Just two evenings ago, Brian and I had been with a group of friends, all of whom were at least 10 years younger than ourselves, and a couple were almost 15 years my junior. They were sharing their birthday information -- day, month and year of their birth-- in a kind of parlour game, based on the fascinating book, The Life You Were Born to Live by Dan Milman.

When the conversation shifted, I mentioned that my first teaching job in 1964 had been in Princeton, New Jersey.  Not missing a beat, Bill wondered if Einstein had been there at this same time. Consulting his iPhone, he discovered that, in fact, he had died nearly a full decade before, at the age of 76.

Perhaps it was only me who felt I was being associated with an earlier time, as an adult during their childhoods.

Continuing to consider Sheila's query, I noticed how pleased I was at a party last evening. A woman, many years younger than me, thought we were the same age.  And, earlier this year, when my daughter told me that a friend of hers thought I was very youthful, I quietly cheered.

As I write this, I wonder if  I want to simply appear younger or actually be young.

I wonder if I am perhaps expressing a sort of ageism, in seeming to discount my true numbers.

No, I realize that this isn't what I'm doing: I can appear "youthful" in mind and body and still be my 74-year-old self.

"Writing motivates you to look closely at life
as it lurches by and tramps around."    Anne Lamott

Ursula Le Guin writes in No Time to Spare, "I've lost faith in the saying, 'You're only as old as you think you are,' ever since I got old." She continues, "It is a saying with a fine heritage.  It goes right back to the idea of The Power of Positive Thinking, which is so strong in America because it so fits with the Power of Commercial Advertising and with the Power of Wishful Thinking, aka the American Dream."  She goes on to say, "If I'm ninety and believe I'm forty-five, I'm headed for a very bad time trying to get out of the bathtub.....Even if I'm seventy and think I'm forty, I'm fooling myself to the extent of almost certainly acting like an awful fool."

A woman I talked with last evening, who seemed to be my age, had her short hair in a rainbow of colours. She told me her regime. One day a walk, the next Zumba, the following a spin class...I cut her off before she could tell me about the other four days. She said that she and her friends had walked to Nanaimo last year, a five-day jaunt. What!?@#%  Just when I was feeling proud that I had a walk planned for the following day!

I reminded myself that a few days earlier, I had struggled to remove some very root-bound horsetails from a long tin planter. With a knife, I cut the mass into the three separate plants and, up to my elbows, struggled to lift the sections one by one.  It was difficult work. Taking a needed break after extracting one plant, I muttered "What in hell am I attempting to do at my age?!" I must have spoken it aloud, because my neighbour responded, from her side of the fence, that I was able to do it at my age simply because I was continuing to do it.

I guess so.  It sure beats walking to Nanaimo.

Responding to Sheila's question, I told her I feel my age number when I imagine that I possibly won't be alive to see my beautiful grandkids fully grown up. The age I am tells me to return to Cuba this year and not to wait. To tell the people I cherish that I love them. To eat that piece of almond shortcake from Tonelli's Deli.

I feel my age number and a pain in my heart whenever I reread this quote from Like Normal People (Karen Bender),  “Ella looked out the window and tried to imagine a future without herself.  The world would not need her any more than it had needed her before she was born."

I've already outlived my mother, who died before her 70th birthday.  My father lived to be 79. Their lives were shortened considerably as they were both heavy smokers, and this greatly compromised their health.

When our walk was over and we were making tentative plans for our next excursion,  I said to Sheila,  "No, I don't consider myself old."

Find the thing in you that is different, that’s as sharp as a diamond and jagged as a razor. Hone that, because that’s the thing with which you’ll cut the world. If you try to stay a safe and soft and average, then you’re going to get lost in the sea of all those other things that look just like you. Find the things about yourself that are weird and cultivate them because, eventually, those are the things the world is going to want to reward you for and that will bring you the most happiness. When you’re young, those are the things that cause you so much pain, but it’s that pain that makes you unique. Own your scars.

Monday, 2 July 2018

expectations: notes to myself

I'm moving though a very painful week. A week when people I had considered friends threw me under the bus.  Or that's how it seems to me. And how it seems to dear friends who have comforted me.

The particular incident isn't important to write about, nor is the bruised part of me necessary to lay out for examination. What is important is to notice once again, how defeating it is to have specific expectations of people. To believe that they will act as I would have acted in the same situation.

I fall for this all the time!

Sometimes it is a small matter, other times it's big.

I did a Google search for "expectations" and immediately got a few million hits.

One of my favourites is a quote from Louise Beal who says, "Love thy neighbor as yourself, but choose your neighborhood."  William Shakespeare follows with "Expectation is the root of all heartache." 

And finally, the one that seems to resonate most today, "One of the hardest things you will ever have to do, my dear, is to grieve the loss of a person who is still alive." (My father's advice #1) 

Brian claims my pain is consistent with my present astrology transit: Saturn, the ruler of the universe, is square to my Aries moon.  This is a challenging time for me emotionally, akin to a teacher striking my knuckles with a ruler. Difficult transits are never brief, it appears-- this will hang around until December, so Brian says!

An antidote to my pain arrived at 10 a.m. this morning.  My friend, Joanna, came over for coffee and a spin through hundreds of my Cuba photographs stored on my computer.  We love the same clotheslines, broken chairs and wonderful abstractions of colour on plastered walls.  A photographic soulmate!

So, partly to push my hurt away, I started going through words and phrases that I have gathered over several years. Cut-outs from magazines relating to art and life's journey and sometimes spiced with a healthy dose of humour.

These paper scraps don't give credit to the original writer, they are simply borrowed words. Moving some paper bits around, messages appear, and, this afternoon, they seem to both calm me and make me smile.

While I love "a smoky and uproarious arena for self-criticism" and "Baby powder, dead fish, wax, and car engines", the word pictures following are my choices today.

The small clipping with orange letters above says, "So many thoughts are just space fillers."

            Since the clipping are difficult to read, I'll transcribe them
                           and/or click on any image to enlarge.

The larger newspaper clipping above says: "Whatever you are most passionate about in life, that is what you should be concentrating on now. Forget duty, forget about routine- the only thing that matters is that you free the creative side of your nature and enjoy every minute of every hour of every day."

The smaller clipping supports that. "For the soul needs more than useful things, and to supply that need, art has always existed and always will."  

And finally Picasso says, "Art washes from every soul the dust of everyday life."

The paper bit I chose last is a reminder. 

"People need someplace to go, something to do and someone to love."


Monday, 25 June 2018

revisiting old demons

It has been more than three months since my last blog entry, exactly 14 weeks tomorrow.

On several occasions I thought I would write, and each time I felt I had nothing to say.  Or rather, the only subjects that occupied my mind and my body were the horrors unfolding in the United States under the presidency of Donald Trump.

While I don't watch the news on television, there are many other ways to access the hour by hour drama.

This morning I decided that my life was suffering.

My soul needed a hug.

During June I hadn't gone on a Victoria camera walk but once.  Even in Tofino, I had taken only a half dozen photographs, soon deleted.

Before leaving for Cuba I bought a new camera,  This particular camera has its settings in front with the lens- the way I remember it on my old 35mm Canon.

Reading about it online, reviews said the auto settings gave good results, so I felt I could give myself a little time to get the feel of the camera as I gradually remembered and relearned.

I bought a macro lens because of my passion for plants and for detail.

Not so fast: I quickly saw there was serious work to do!

As planned, I took my older camera to Cuba with me- the Panasonic Lumix with its super zoom lens- My loyal friend.

A glitch.

Before returning from Cuba with 3,225 digital photographs to download, my Lumix had been letting me know that it was exhausted.  The on/off button often needed extra encouragement, and once back in Victoria it quit altogether. The cost of repair was high, considering the camera's age and the price of the newer model on sale.

So I bought the Panasonic's newer incarnation, and this is where those demons really started their rumblings.

I often say that my old stories of self-depreciation are on tape on an old recorder that I've kicked well under my couch, out of the way. Most of the time I forget it's there. Then, all of a sudden, the tape begins playing, reminding me of old beliefs from childhood.  The belief that I wasn't smart enough. That learning was hard for me. That my older sister was smarter than me.

So here I am: two new cameras and no new photographs.

I am the child who needs guidance: restrict computer time, do your homework, do the best you can because it is definitely good enough.

It's like learning a new language; difficult and filled with discovery.

Tomorrow my computer time includes a YouTube camera tutorial with Graham Houghton. Two minutes with Donald, an hour with Graham.

Oh, and a minute to kick the tape recorder back under the couch.

                                   Reprogramming takes patience.
                                                And love.

Monday, 19 March 2018


Recently I have been tossing around this concept called aging and have had some interesting dialogue with myself.  In no particular order, I will wander through some of these conversations.

Yesterday I entered Uplands park from Lansdowne, walking slowly to a stand of rust-coloured bushes that I love to photograph. I chose my marker on the main path so I wouldn't be turned around and get lost when I decided to return to my car.

I had my gum boots on because it is particularly swampy there. 

I searched for different ways I could capture the magic of these bushes, with their flowering stalks, now rust brown. Yes, I had my camera, but it was my eyes that caressed the landscape, resting first on one small area and then another before seeing the wholeness.

I can only explain the openness and peace I felt by saying, as I whispered to myself then, that I believe I had never before felt such absolute and total immersion in the earth.  That I had never before been as happy as I was at that moment.  Even as I said this yesterday, it seemed a remarkable thought and yet, a full day later, I again see these plants shimmering beneath my eyelids.

A few days ago a friend and I were discussing the difficulty an acquaintance has been experiencing since she turned seventy. Tears and depression. The woman was struggling with an imaginary plateau. Maybe she was lonely. Or disappointed.

Since I am fromtheothersideofseventy, I feel I can talk with some authority!

When I turned 70, I remember thinking, well, I won't be a marine biologist this time around.  At the same time I was aware of the 70+ year olds still working and creative, writing, making art, composing, conducting, making policy, holding important government positions, inventing and running marathons. Julia Child was still cooking, writing and doing television in her 80s.

I was determined that the age I had reached was not the plateau as the geographical definition states: "a state of little or no change.."

plateau | Definition of plateau in US English by Oxford Dictionaries

Definition of plateau in US English - an area of relatively level high ground., a state of little or no change following a period of activity or progress.

I live a life that I am grateful for. A loving husband who supports my creative growth and understands my occasional storms. Daughters and son-in-laws and grandkids who are dear to me. A sister who shares my early memories. Friends who listen. A beautiful home in a Canadian city overflowing with natural beauty. My garden. Enough money so we can live comfortably and with funds to help others who are having a tough time. Good health. Contentment.

And, a camera that has helped me see and feel more deeply than ever before.

I believe there is a ratio between contentment and the acceptance of the accumulating years.  A correlation between contentment and longevity.

I have just listened to a Ted talk by Robert Waldinger.  He is Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and directs the Harvard Study of Adult Development, one of the longest-running studies of adult life ever done. The Study tracked the lives of two groups of men for over 75 years to understand what brings happiness and how happiness affects our lives.

This study, begun in 1938, has found that quality relationships with family, friends and community keep us happier, and lead to a more fulfilling and longer life than those people who experience loneliness. As well, these findings show that quality relationships keep our brain functioning better while loneliness is toxic to brain health.

       Not money.  Not fame.  Not work.  Relationships.

So, I guess I will bring a short skirt with me when I go to Cuba in May. No black tights like I wear here, because it will be very hot there. So, if what I have written above is mostly true, and with my  growing-older-and-it's-fine-attitude, it shouldn't be such a big deal to show my sun and liver spotted legs to a bunch of strangers. Right? 


                       click on any photograph to see the larger image