Thursday, July 31, 2014

A presentation by France sets me thinking...

Sometimes I wonder why I love fireworks. It's a fact though. I can't help it. I do.

And really, with all that's going on in the world, I wonder whether I'd feel the same way about all that fire and noise if I lived someplace else, where the sounds of rockets flying through the air might mean imminent destruction or even death. Even though I love them, fireworks may me think this way.

This has been the week for observing 100 years since the start of World War One, a war once thought of as the 'war to end all wars'. Sadly, we know that hasn't been the case. In fact, some now think that WWI might have been the war that started a whole new round of wars -- that without it, and the divisions of lands it caused, World War Two might have never happened -- and with it, the countless other disputes, so many of which continue.

For someone who dreams of peace, the idea of loving fireworks might seem contradictory. Still, standing as part of a throng of nearly half a million people, watching the Celebration of Light beside the Pacific Ocean on a warm summer night is something that stirs me. And really, for a show that's free to watch, is pretty darn hard to beat.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Happy birthday, Amelia Earhart

When I was in Newfoundland, I took the time to visit Harbour Grace, the place where Amelia Earhart took off on her first solo trans-Atlantic flight on May 20, 1932.

The field there looked too tiny to be an airstrip, more of a place for launching kites than planes.

Her intended goal was Paris, but weather forced her to cut the trip short. Luckily, Ireland intervened. The story goes that she landed in a pasture near a small village in Northern Ireland, and didn't even know that she wasn't someplace in France.

So, why am I thinking about her today? It's her birthday, a day observed by some as 'Amelia Earhart Day'. She liked the colour yellow, so when I visited her statue in Harbour Grace, I stuffed a bouquet of fresh dandelions into her hand, an early birthday present.

Earlier this month, July 3rd, was the anniversary of her disappearance, a mystery that lingers, with occasional reports of evidence (often less-than-reliable) of what her fate might have been.

But I'm not the only one who still thinks about her. A woman named Amelia Rose Earhart recently completed the round-the-world flight path Amelia intended to make. Yet I doubt that even this will be the end of the news about this object-of-my-fascination, Amelia.

And oh yes, those feet of mine are standing on a rock in the field at Harbour Grace. I couldn't help but think that on that May morning in 1932, Amelia may well have thought to 'ground herself' for a moment before climbing into her plane, and that she may have paused for a few seconds, standing on this very same stone.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Melting points

In Fahrenheit, the melting point of ice is apparently 33 degrees (or, for those who are pickier, 32.1, and even that depends on your elevation above sea level). To make it simple, you can think about ice's melting point as just above the freezing point of water.

Apparently, the melting point for me is just about the same number -- 33, but in Celsius. This weekend, that's what it got up to, and not just on our thermometer. And no, I didn't melt, but taking a walk down the sun-filled streets, I felt as if I might!

This is hotter than it usually gets around here, but at least our house, tucked in behind our big trees, stays a few degrees cooler. 

If it's hot where you are, it might help to gaze at my artist-friend Marilyn's fountain in the photo above. Take a break and as they say, Chill...

Monday, July 07, 2014

The heart of summer

If you've visited this blog during summers past, you'll know that berry-picking is one of my favourite summertime activities.

This summer's no different. Most of the strawberries have now been eaten, save for two tiny babies
that live in a pot in the backyard. Those that might have not gone into our mouths have been frozen for winter use or made into jars of jam which will mostly serve as Christmasy gifts. I couldn't help but think that my big bowl of soon-to-be-jam strawberries (above) looked a lot like little hearts.

The other day, picking raspberries, I noticed how much easier it is to pick rasps than strawbs. Strawberries, sweet though they are, require all that bending, squatting or kneeling. They mean sometimes getting mud in your fingers, as you look for berries hiding out in the low-to-the-ground leaves.

Nature seems kind in this respect. We start the season having to work for our (straw)berries. By July, we get to stand, only needing to bend now and then, as we
seek and pick the red ones interspersed along the tall spikes where they grow. Later this month and into August, we'll go after the even easier ones, blueberries. Picking those can often be a matter of simply holding the bucket beneath a branch and rolling the berries off, gently 'milking' the berries into the waiting container.

This all makes sense in an odd sort of consider-the-land way. In a world more guided by the changing seasons, August might see us getting complacent about laying in supplies for the cold months ahead when fresh fruit might be lacking. Could that be a reason the last major fruit of the summer should be the one that practically picks itself? Just one more thing to think about, I suppose, next time I'm out picking.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Canada Day

The weather is perfect -- clear and sunny. The flag is a little bit wrinkled, but hopeful as ever. Hmmm. I suppose some may apply the same descriptors to me.

A day to be lazy, maybe turn pages while I lie about in my outdoor 'reading room'.

Happy 147th birthday, Canada!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Cooler than cool

We'd heard that it was a good year for icebergs. This one was hanging around Cape Spear, the most eastern point in North America. Plenty of people, both tourists and locals, were hanging around too, all to get a glimpse of the ice. Those chunks floating closer to shore are smaller bergs, broken off as the ice has travelled down the coast from Greenland. That iceberg on the horizon is the subject of a short video posted by CBC. It's taken by a drone, and after a few passes, it scoots through the ice arch. Pretty darn cool.

But it wasn't just Cape Spear that had visiting icebergs. They seemed to be everywhere, floating off the coasts of Newfoundland. Travelling around in my little rental car, I'd come around a bend in the road, and there below me would be a bay full of what looked like a fleet of white boats. Only they weren't boats, they were icebergs. This is the 'ice flotilla' in Hant's Harbour.

The video below (shaky, I apologize) is how one iceberg (the biggest one, the one on the right) looked just after it 'foundered'. While I didn't catch that part of the action, at least you can see how quickly the chunks of ice dispersed from the bigger berg once it broke. Pieces of ice are streaming away from the berg, rippling the water, almost as if someone had picked up the iceberg and dropped it (which is pretty much what it looked like as it happened). One of the women watching from the same vantage point said it was a very lucky thing to see -- and that this was only the second time she'd ever witnessed such an event. Lucky especially for 'from away' me.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

O.P.P. notes

If you’ve ever lived in Ontario, you’re probably thinking this post is about the Ontario Provincial Police. But no, the O.P.P. in question here is ‘Other People’s Poetry’.

On Monday, I hosted an event that featured the work of the five poets who wrote the books in the photo above. Those titles were the finalists for this year’s Dorothy Livesay Award, the poetry component of our province’s BC Book Prizes. You can read more about them here (scroll down past fiction and non-fiction to the Livesay finalists). But they’re not the primary focus of today’s rather long post.

Not long ago, Cristy Watson, a writer friend in my community, invited me to participate in something called a Blog-Hop. That idea came from writer and blogger, Kristin Butcher. To see Cristy’s blog (worth looking at, whether you write poetry or fiction), click here. And while you’re clicking, check out Kristin’s too, as she’s the brains behind this whole Blog-Hop dance. 

The Blog-Hop process requires me to answer four questions, which I’ve done, below. But more importantly, the Blog-Hop gives me the opportunity to point you in the direction of three other blogs, each of them by other poets – in other words, they’re places where you’ll find out more about ‘other people’s poetry’ (O.P.P.)

Since I’d prefer to deal with introductions first, may I please tell you about Linda Crosfield. She describes herself modestly, mentioning several journals where her poems have appeared: The Minnesota Review, Labor, and The Antigonish Review. She adds that one of her poems became a miniature accordion book by UpDown Press, and that she produced a chapbook for George Bowering through her imprint, NIB Publishing. She acknowledges a few places where she’s read, including in 2013 at Nelson(BC)’s Elephant Mountain Literary Festival, but fails to mention that she was nearly the hit of the weekend at the recent CascadiaPoetry Festival in Seattle with her hilariously true poem, ‘Nobody Smokes Anymore’. She blogs at in Ootischenia, BC.

Another poet you'll want to meet is Mary Ann Moore. She's based in Nanaimo, BC. Her book of poetry, Fishing for Mermaids, was published by Leaf Press in April 2014. But she does a lot more than write poems. Mary Ann offers a mentoring program called Writing Home: A Whole Life Practice and a weekly women's writing circle as well as monthly poetry circles called Poetry as a Doorway In . . . and a Welcome Home. She writes a blog at and also writes books. It wasn't long ago that she and I shared a page in The Vancouver Sun, with comments each of us were making on new BC books.

The third poet (with blog) I'm introducing is Janet Vickers. A few years ago, she and her husband packed up house and moved to the lovely (though somewhat tricky-to-reach) Gabriola Island. She is a member of Poetry Gabriola and helps organize readings on the island, including one I participated in during National Poetry Month (April). Her first trade book, Impermanence, was published by Ekstasis Editions in 2012. She has long been active in the peace movement and has also been dedicated to other social justice causes. Janet is the publisher of Lipstick Press, which she claims is in the process of re-inventing itself -- very slowly. You can keep track of what those changes might be at the Lipstick Press blog. 

And now, down to my answers to the four questions – the same questions Cristy answered on her blog, and ones you’ll soon see responses to on the blogs of Janet, Mary Ann and Linda.

What am I working on? I’ve mostly been working on everything but writing – a state of being that makes me almost itchy. A week-long trip to Newfoundland saw me involved in networking with friends and colleagues, as the heart of the trip was The Writers Union of Canada’s AGM. (St. John’s – what a place!) I can’t wait to go back. And truthfully, while I was there – in fact, in the midst of the celebratory banquet, no less – came words for a poem about ‘home’. Not finished, still mostly scribbles in a notebook, but then what poem ever is truly finished?

How does my work differ from others of its genre? One of the ways my work differs from others of its genre (and here I’m speaking only of poems) is that I don’t seem to have ever caught on to being able to write to a particular project. The only exception to this would be A: The Amelia Poems, a chapbook published by Lipstick Press (to see more on this press, click on the link for Janet Vickers, above). This ‘poem-here, poem-there’ pattern of mine does not lend itself well towards organizing a manuscript, especially as it seems pretty well all poetry books published in the last decade place their focus on some particular event or at least subject or theme.

Why do I write what I do? I write what I do because those are the words/phrases/lines that I hear in my head. I nearly always start with a scrap of something I’ve ‘heard’ (please don’t call the men in white coats) and then – provided I can later find the physical scrap of paper I’ve likely scribbled it on – I use it as the basis of something longer. The 'heard' line or phrase isn’t always the first line, nor is it the last; often it’s something that turns out to be in the middle. And sometimes, that ‘scrap’ ends up being the title of the poem.

How does my writing process work? Oops. I think I just answered that in the previous response. But then, maybe that just serves to demonstrate that it really is the bit of inspiration that leads me into the actual work of the writing, rewriting and then rewriting some more. Sometimes I think we shouldn’t bother calling ourselves writers, because really, so much of what we do isn’t writing, but re-writing. Maybe I’ll change my business card to Heidi Greco, ReWriter.