Dear Billy Collins

By now, I expect Billy Collins’ agent in California has received my fan letter. In another week, the letter and accompanying poem could be in Mr. Collins’ hands. Or perhaps it will drop into the former US poet laureate’s email as a scanned attachment with a message from the agent: “Another crack-pot fan letter for you.” Continue reading

Surprise Visitor

Past the snow-covered fallow fields, I drove towards home carrying the last Christmas present for a family member on the seat beside me. The curve of slate-coloured Hunt Club Road twined with the white fields under a spilled milk sky.

It was 9:30 in the morning and not many vehicles were on the road yet. A car length ahead in the lane beside me rolled a huge shiny black truck with gleaming silver hubcaps. The driver was lost in its vast cab except for a bright yellow watch cap hugging his head. Passing a load of judgement, I grumbled to the dashboard. Continue reading

What Can I Say?


I’ve struggled trying to think of something to talk about here, with you. Maybe you haven’t noticed my silent self sitting in your living room at the end of your sofa with a pillow tucked behind my achy back listening to your stories. You’re always so fascinating. I start to open my mouth and then clamp it shut suddenly shy and reluctant to share. Even a full-bodied glass of red wine can’t coax me to speak. Continue reading

Culture Encounter

We buckled ourselves into a small electric vehicle that looked like a motorized pedi-cab parked outside our Lisbon hotel. Joel, our driver and guide, expertly pulled into the traffic while our companions on the tour, Eric and Heidi – fellow Canadians – introduced themselves.

“We’re from T’rono. I’m a sports guy,” Eric said. “I go to Buffalo, New York regularly to see the Leafs play. Games are always sold out in Toronto. I travel all over the States following my favourite sports teams.”

The heavy traffic made it challenging to talk, for which I was grateful. I didn’t want to hear Eric list how many cities he’d been to on his tour de NHL/NFL/NBA*. I wanted to listen to Joel. But Eric and Heidi’s presence gave weight to a curious feeling I sometimes have when traveling – that of bouncing along in a tourist bubble where I know I’m in a foreign country but there are frequent reminders of home. Joel’s flawless English added to that sense. Was I really in Lisbon or was this a Disneyland ride? Maybe the tuk-tuk’s clear roof also contributed to my impression of floating through Lisbon, in the city but removed at the same time. Continue reading

Guilt Grout


Morning at Murphy’s Point Provincial Park

“When did we ever lock our tent?” said my husband as we unrolled our sleeping bags on the sturdy pine bed.

True, I thought, but our tent didn’t have a door with a latch and the yurt we’d rented at Murphy’s Point Provincial Park did.

“Doors should be locked,” my city-girl brain reasoned, but I nodded.

We had returned alone to this campground after 14 years absence. The last time, our daughters were with us, then 6, 9 and 12 years old. That outing ended at dinner time in rain with a sputtering campfire and stone-cold, tinfoil wrapped potatoes. Continue reading

Wisdom Wednesday

Getting old has a pretty bad rap, hasn’t it? It seemed the best anyone could ever say about it was getting old is better than death but not by much. But you know, turns out that’s not true. I mean, it’s been wonderful to be an older woman because as an older woman you get the opportunity to stop always straining to be the object of somebody else’s desire and you finally, finally get the chance to become the subject of your own life. And that’s when you can really, REALLY, start to live.

Mary Walsh, Canadian actress and comedian, March 31, 2019 Canadian Screen Awards

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Party Time

You know the type. The neighbours who throw a party that starts inside and eventually spills onto their backyard deck. It starts with the pop of beer bottle caps and the trill of merry laughter. Slowly, the music, which commenced with pleasant retro 90’s tunes – a bit of Ricky Martin singing “La Vida Loca” followed by a few numbers from Bryan Adams Waking Up the Neighbours album and everyone sings “Everything I Do” together. When they crank Shania Twain you think maybe you can go over, pour a hefty Jack Daniels and Coke with lots of ice so you too can shout at the top of your lungs “Man, I Feel Like a Woman”. Continue reading

Not in My Lane

Image result for old woman swimming laps

I stood on the pool deck, without my glasses, squinting at the four lanes marked leisure, slow, medium, and fast. A man powered through the water in the fast section, performed a swimmer’s flip at the deep end wall, and motored back in a long, smooth front crawl.

“Nope, definitely not going in that lane,” I thought, slightly intimidated. Continue reading

152 Reasons Why

152 reasons I love Canada, in no particular order.

Universal health care (Okay, already I lied. This is the best reason for loving Canada.)
Gun laws (A tie for first. And now the rest in no particular order.)
Jody Wilson-Raybould, PC, MP – for speaking truth to power. Canadian politics.
Jane Philpott, PC, MP – for speaking truth to power. Canadian politics
The Toronto Star – for seeking the truth and counting lies
The Toronto Globe and Mail – for giving a voice to memoir writers via “First Person”, a column of personal essays
The New Quarterly – My favourite Canadian lit mag
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, also known as CBC – The lefties we love to hate and love anyway.
Shelagh Rodgers – She makes reading fun.
Fishhook restaurant in Victoria, BC – Best fucking fish chowder ANYWHERE.
Oso Negro Coffee Shop, Nelson, BC – I defy you to find a funkier place to have a cuppa joe anywhere in the world.
Saskatoon berries
Salmon berries
Blackberries from Vancouver Island – slightly salted by the breezes from the Strait of Georgia
Logy Bay blueberry thing – my sister’s recipe, best served with family from coast to coast
Bay Bulls Whale Watching – Love the rock and roll of Witless Bay
Cape St Mary’s Ecological Reserve – finest kind of sea birds in North America
Great Big Sea – “Ordinary Day”
The Rankin Family – “We Rise Again”
Gordon Lightfoot – “Canadian Railroad Trilogy”
Blue Rodeo – Jim Cuddy singing “Try” – *sigh*
Donovan Woods – because oldest daughter loves him
Justin Bieber – because youngest daughter loves him
Whitehorse – because middle daughter loves them
Cirque du Soleil – “Bend me, shape me, any way you want me….”
Hannah Georgas – because I fucking love this song.
Burton Cummings – Best Canadian rock voice. Period. “These Eyes”
Leonard Cohen – “Suzanne”. Thank you, Lenny.
kd Lang – singing Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”
Alex Colville
Mary Pratt
Emily Carr
The Group of Seven
Ron Hynes – “Sonny’s Dream”
Chess’ Fish and Chips, St. John’s, NL – not the best fish and chips but where else do you get fries with stuffing and gravy?
The Ship – St. John’s, NL, folk music mecca
Bruce Cockburn – Ottawa’s own – “Lover’s In a Dangerous Time” writer
The Barenaked Ladies – best version of “Lovers in a Dangerous Time”
Sandra Oh – Ottawa’s own – Grey’s Anatomy and Killing Eve
The Rideau Canal skateway – no where better to be in January in -20
Beavertails – Grant Hooker’s – another Ottawa boy – creation. Hot fried dough with sugar, cinnamon and lemon eaten after skating all 7 km of the Rideau Canal in -20.
The Raptors – Woo Hoo! Winners!
The Ottawa Senators hockey team  – Losers but we love them anyway despite Eugene Melnyck.
K-os – Crabbuckit
Montreal’s rue St-Laurent, Just for Laughs Comedy Festival, Atwater Market, Walensky’s.
Quebec City – Mon dieu! Je t’adore!
Margaret Atwood -The Handmaid’s Tale
Alice Munro – Lives of Girls and Women
Mavis Gallant – The Pegnitz Junction
Margaret Laurence – The Diviners
Eden Robinson – Son of a Trickster
David Adams Richards – Mercy Among the Children
Wayne Johnston – The Story of Bobby O’Malley
Mr. Dressup
The Friendly Giant
Jim Carrey
Catherine O’Hara
Mary Walsh – funniest woman in Canada
Lorne Michaels – Saturday Night Live producer
Alex Trebek – Jeopardy! host
Donna Strickland, winner of 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics from the University of Waterloo, a publicly funded university.
James Naismith, inventor of basketball
Buffy St. Marie
Douglas Cardinal, architect
Tommy Douglas, father of universal healthcare
Kiefer Sutherland, Tommy Douglas’ grandson
The Peace Tower on Parliament Hill
The Horseshoe Bay Ferry Terminal in West Vancouver – Taking the ferry home.
The Goose Spit in Comox on Vancouver Island – for the beach parties of my youth
Kye Bay on Vancouver Island – for the stinky low tide
Ainsworth Hot Springs, Nelson BC
Swimming in Meech Lake
Kayaking on the Rideau River in Ottawa
Cross country skiing in Gatineau Park’s 300 km of groomed trails
Canada Day celebrations on Parliament Hill in Ottawa
Fall fairs in the Ottawa valley, especially the zucchini carving contest
Sunday Bike Days in Ottawa – when the city closes the parkway streets for 5 hours of traffic free cycling every Sunday in the summer.
The Grouse Mountain Gondola ride in North Vancouver
Kayaking in Deep Cove, Vancouver
Sea to Sky Highway between Vancouver and Whistler
The ferry ride from Horseshoe Bay to Gibson’s Landing on the Sunshine Coast
Lawrencetown Beach, Nova Scotia  – for the surfing
Baddeck, Nova Scotia, for the ceilidhs
Drumheller, Alberta – Badlands and dinosaur museum. Sage scented air. Sagebrush. Cactuses. Canyons and hoodoos. You. Gotta. Go.
The Redneck Cafe, Cranbrook, BC – Best peach pie.
Butter tarts from Doo Doo’s in Bailieboro, Ontario. Orgasms with pastry.
The Winnipeg Folk Festival
Aust’s General Store, Big Beaver, Saskatchewan. My husband says he’s never seen anything like it.
The twisty road from Nanaimo to Ucluelet
Dundarave Pier, West Vancouver – where to watch fireworks and sunsets
Signal Hill, St. John’s for iceberg spotting and sunrises
Centre Island, Toronto for its kiddie amusement park
Rick Mercer – maybe Canada’s best political satirist
Stella Luna ice cream, Bank Street, Ottawa – frozen orgasms
“Sorry” is our national word.
Eh is for Canada.
Samantha Bee – Yep. She’s ours too.
Ryan Gosling
Shania Twain
Banting and Best, discoverers of insulin
Labrador Retrievers
Newfoundland Dogs
Nova Scotia Duck Tollers
Our two official languages – French and English
Roch Carrier – The Hockey Sweater
Emma Donoghue – Room
The Stanley Cup
The Grey Cup
Hayley Wickenheiser
Ketchup potato chips
John Fluevog shoes

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Fluevog Shoes

The weather – you gotta want to live here!
Canada Dry Ginger Ale
Nanaimo Bars
Poutine – Fries, cheese curds and spicy gravy – mmm good
The snowmobile – invented by Joseph Armand Bombardier
Muskoka chairs – I know you think they’re Adirondack chairs but you’re wrong. Sorry.
Lucy Maud Montgomery – Anne of Green Gables
The Tragically Hip – Ahead by a Century
Stephen Leacock – Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town
Joni Mitchell – for me an acquired taste, like coffee, but now I can’t live without her
David Foote – Canadian demographer, writer of “Boom, Bust, and Echo”
Tessa and Scott – 2018 Olympic ice dance gold medalists
Toller Cranston
Elvis Stojko
Sydney Crosby
Wayne Gretsky
Gordie Howe
Bobby Orr
Dr. Roberta Bondar, Canada’s first woman astronaut
Rt. Hon. Kim Campbell, PC, MP, Canada’s first woman prime minister
Maple syrup – liquid gold.
Tim Horton’s double double – If you have to ask, you’re not Canadian.
Montreal style bagels from St. Viateur or Fairmount Bagels. So worth the two hour drive.
Montreal smoked meat sandwiches from Schwartz’s on Rue St-Laurent
Giant Tiger – Canada’s discount chain commonly called GT Boutique.
Canadian Tire hardware stores. Because. The name.
Caesar cocktail – Clamato juice and vodka. Protein meets a Russian in Canada and makes a baby with a stick of celery. Only in Canada, eh?
Jos Louis cakes – I didn’t know what I was missing until I moved to Ottawa.
Hawkins Cheezies
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Abhkazi Garden, Victoria, BC
Banff, Alberta – sweetest air in Canada
Stompin’ Tom Connors – The Hockey Song
Ann Murray – Snowbird (Ronald Reagan loved her.)
Canada was the first country to celebrate Labour Day.
Robertson Davies – Fifth Business
Barbara Gowdy – Little Sister
Carol Shields – The Stone Diaries
Elizabeth Hay – His Whole Life
Frances Itani –  Tell

Oh, Canada!
Happy 152nd Canada Day.





Alfie at the Central Experimental Farm – Ottawa, Canada

When Alfie arrived after eight years of pleading for a dog by our youngest daughter, he refused to join us when we occasionally watched t.v. in the basement. He would sit on the first landing – seven steps away – and watch us. His reluctance convinced our youngest daughter a ghost lived in the basement. Continue reading