…and it was a good thing

xpKel5bnTr2K54PxaS%E7Q.jpgI was thinking the other day about morning routines – probably because mine has undergone another change. For most of the past two years my morning routine was to get up at six and do my writing before the busy-ness of the day took over. I felt I was at my reflective best just as the sun was rising

...and it was a good thing.

There were years before that when I would get up just as early,  put on my sneakers and go for a run before showering and heading off to teach school

….and it was a good thing.

I remember at other times starting my day with a yoga routine and a half hour’s meditation. I felt warm inside and out while this was part of what I did each morning

…and it was a good thing.

2yBL0i2GRuKh7ijpJRrumwThere were summers when I rose early to work in the gardens before the heat of the day made it too uncomfortable to be outside

…and it was a good thing.

For many years I wrote in a journal first thing in the morning. Three pages each day filled with dreams and ramblings

and it was a good thing

fullsizeoutput_a24.jpegSince March, I’ve been getting up early to practice calligraphy and brush lettering. It’s been exciting to learn a new skill and meet up virtually with others who are as passionate about hand lettering as I am

and it was a good thing.

These morning practices were all perfect at the time. They were how I needed to start my day.  And they changed as my life changed. Some I go back to from time to time, but mostly I try and stay open to the next best way to start my day.

How important is it to you to have a morning routine? If you have one, does your routine change with the seasons or does it stay pretty much the same? Just wondering…




Ginette’s Columbines

7iXzXlbXRgSMoTqoyFoz9g.jpgIt was the early seventies and we found ourselves with little money and few skills living in an old house at a fish hatchery. What we didn’t have in skills we made up for in enthusiasm. There was nothing more exciting to us at the time than growing our own food, heating with wood, and embracing a simpler life more connected to nature. We  weren’t alone. There were a whole slew of  like-minded people  looking for the same thing who found their way to this mountain valley at about the same time. Many built rustic homes or bought cheaper run down farm houses, raised bees or became carpenters. Some enterprising individuals learned to bake bread commercially and apprenticed on farms.  One couple even opened a health food store. Potters, bakers and fledgling farmers all became part of the country lifestyle revival.

Our unpaved, winding road was a scant mile from the US border. It was the rare car that passed during the week but it became busy on Friday nights and again on Sunday  when Montrealers made their weekly trek to their country homes in the mountains to the south of us. When our daughter was born, I pushed her pram on this road many days. My walk took us past the two established old farmsteads on our road that were lived in by people who were probably around the age I am now. Their own children were grown and gone by then and they had stopped raising animals but were still growing their own vegetables and cutting their own wood.

This was the first house I would pass on my way up the road.


This house belonged to Ginette and her husband Malcolm. The house had been abandoned for a number of years when this photo was taken.

We became friends the way you do when living a quieter life in the country. We would stop to chat on our walks if they were outside and would share news of the comings and goings.  They gave us tips, shared seeds, and told us stories of living here in the winter when money was scarce and times were hard. There was something very comforting to me about driving by their lit homes on a winter evening.

Fast forward forty years and my husband, now a real estate broker, had Ginette’s house for sale. I went with him one day to visit the property and noticed columbines growing under the old maples. I carefully dug up a few and relocated them to my garden about two kilometres away on another dirt road. They’re blooming now. These flowers have become the holders of the stories.  They talk of time passing, of people passing, of rural life then and now. They’ve become  the witness bearers and the time keepers…and they’re still blossoming.




Seven Things I Learned in Seven Days

People who have been following my blog since the beginning have seen a few of my Seven Things I Learned in Seven Days posts. It’s always fun to look back over a week and think about what happened and what was learned. So here goes – the newest edition of Seven in Seven.

  1. You can’t drink just one glass of Rosé. No, not possible. It’s probably something I already knew, but I rediscovered it last week when we opened a bottle on Monday evening after a particularly gruelling day. A chilled glass of rosé with an olive or two + good company = a perfect evening.2013-06-24 18.19.01 2.JPG
  2. It’s really hard to improve on Mother Nature’s flower combinations. (It doesn’t stop gardeners from trying, however.)

    Ajuga and wild strawberries.
  3. Learning to take responsibility for yourself is probably one of the most important (and hardest) life lessons. People and corporations need to become better at this. I have spent the better part of the week  insisting a major corporation accept responsibility for their defective part. It’s an ongoing saga. I’ll let you know how this turns out. It reminds me of a story from a long time ago about a country boy I knew who received a letter to appear in court. The letter started out with the words, “Person’s name vs. the Queen.”  I remember rolling with laughter when he asked me what kind of a chance I thought he had.
  4. There’s a line in calligraphy known as the universal line of beauty and is the backbone of many letters. I’ve been practicing this line for months now and still am not able to do it justice, but I just loved learning that it had such an awesome name.IMG_2256
  5. I have had this quote in front of me for the better part of a month now and thought I would share it with you. It goes like this: It’s about being fearlessly and relentlessly true to yourself.   This sounds to me like bravery and feels like truth.
  6. You can’t beat the taste or appearance of organic fruit. I paid (a lot) extra to buy organic strawberries this week and when I got them home and removed the plastic packaging (more on that later), I saw this. Just wow! And they tasted as good as they looked. There are certain fruits and vegetables that are much safer to buy organically and strawberries are one of them.IMG_2242
  7. I loved watching Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood with my kids when they were growing up. What’s not to love about a man who embodies kindness? This meme made my day. IMG_2233


Enjoy your week everyone!

Ticks, Lyme, and Changing Habits


Except for an occasional visit from a black bear or a face-off with a coyote in the woods, we live in a wilderness area with very few dangers. That is, until now. Who would have thought our biggest fear would come from an insect so tiny that it’s barely visible? There’s an “inquiétude” lurking in the air these days about being unfortunate enough to cross paths with the black footed deer tick.

IMG_2877 2

These fairly benign looking insects are the carriers of Lyme disease. People who have contracted Lyme will attest to the fact that their worlds have been turned upside down because of it. To receive a proper diagnosis and get the subsequent treatment can take years.

Lyme disease has moved into southern Canada and those of us living in rural areas are very aware of its presence here. Government protocols suggest keeping your body covered, tucking your pants into your socks, and spraying deet on any exposed skin. This might make sense if you are on a wilderness mission of sorts, but we country dwellers have gardens to plant and lives to live. That said, my husband and I and our closest neighbours have all had ticks in the last few years. We  got our little freeloaders doing everyday things around the house: weeding the gardens, mowing the lawn, trimming grasses and trees. In all but one case, they were discovered the day of and were safely removed before they could inject us with the bacteria. My husband did not discover his as quickly as the rest of us and developed the stereotypical bull’s eye rash. He was prescribed a round of antibiotics and has had no further symptoms.

So what is one to do? I think it comes down to living with a little more awareness. My husband and I frequently visit an area in Mexico where people share their space with scorpions. When we’re there we never walk in sandals except on the beach or the stone paths. We shake out our clothes and shoes before putting them on and  never reach for anything without being aware of what our hand is touching. We’ve never been stung, but it takes just one moment of inattention.

I usually dress sensibly when I am gardening or going into the woods but fairly frequently find myself wandering off path without really thinking much about it. I do wear a  baseball cap when I know I’m going to be in tall grasses or a woodland area and I always shower when I come back inside. I discovered my tick while I was in the shower. (I thought I had some earth stuck to my stomach and when soap didn’t remove it, I quickly got out to investigate.)

I’ve noticed some herbal tick spray remedies making the rounds on the internet these days.  The most popular one recommends 20 drops of lemongrass essential oil and 20 drops of eucalyptus oil ( Eucalyptus citriodora) to be combined with 4 oz. of water in a spray bottle. It is safe for humans and animals and can be sprayed on exposed skin or clothing. Last year I  purchased a pre-made bottle from our herbal store in town. It has a longer ingredient list but does contain the eucalyptus from the above recipe. The trick for me is remembering to use it.


It’s not easy to change lifelong habits when it comes to moving about outdoors. Information campaigns have made people very aware of the potential danger, but what takes time is developing new practices to keep ourselves as safe as possible. For my part, I will be making my own herbal spray, hoping it will help to act as a deterrent. It will have its place in the entranceway along with my baseball cap and sensible shoes.


Have a fun and safe summer everyone.

Long Walks, Short Walks, Walking Alone, Walking With Others

I have been procrastinating again, some might say obsessing. It happens to me when I am avoiding something – a task that I don’t want to do, an emotion that I don’t want to feel. Often it’s the combination of the two. The problem with procrastinating is that the source of the procrastination does not go away. It takes a whole lot of energy to avoid things and this blocked energy usually  always ends up somewhere in my  body screaming for attention.

This  is where walking comes into the story.  In one of my first blog posts from a year ago I wrote about taking long walks. I started it with this quote from Brenda Ueland.

I’ll tell you what I have learned myself. For me, a long five or six mile walk helps. And one must go alone and every day.

I went on to write:

I walk through all kinds of emotional landscapes. My angry walk is heavy and staccato like – each step an exclamation point. On fearful walks, I am alert to everything around me, fine tuned to all sounds and possible dangers. Sad walks are slow and watery as if I am willing the sky to descend and share the sadness with me. The road is my 3D journal. It holds the energy of my life and documents all its passages.

There is something that happens on long walks. With each footstep I come closer to something elusive that seems just out of reach. Sometimes an idea arrives on a wind current, sometimes it’s a knowing of the next right thing to do and sometimes it’s words that were stuck that spill out and have me scrambling to catch them before they disappear again.


 I’ve been walking again. It’s the very best way I know to keep the energy flowing.  I thought I’d take you with me this morning on a short walk to the mailbox.

This time of year I like to walk through the field to get to the road. You can see the naturalized daffodils on the right of the path.
The field enters the road right here. If you look up, you can see the willows and poplars are budding out. The leaves won’t be far behind.
The woods are coming to  life again. I have to stop myself from detouring into the woods to check out all the new growth.
Here we are. Not a bad view for a rural mailbox. 
Our black lab used to always stop at this swimming hole on our way back.  You can see a marsh marigold blooming in the upper left hand corner. 
Back into the field and a walk alongside the brook brings us back home.

Aah…   Feeling better now?





Life Calls

I haven’t been getting up early to write since my mother became sick and passed away. It didn’t feel right to be back to “normal” when nothing at all felt very normal.  I took care of things that had to be taken care of and I started cooking again, but there was a real reluctance to take up life as before.

That’s why looking out at the post dawn view from my writing place this morning is all the more special.  I’m being called back it seems. It happened slowly. I went for a first walk, looked up at the trees, and remembered being part of something far greater than myself. I knew I had to be outside again. And that’s how skiing has become the great healer for me.

It has helped that it has snowed almost non stop for the last week or so and conditions are just perfect on the network of trails that zig zag through the woods behind our house and beyond.


A neighbour who owns a massive tract of land has been busy clearing trails and building bridges for the last year or so. The network of trails is so extensive that I feel giddy with excitement at the prospect of exploring a new section each day. The trails are all marked with different colours of  surveyors tape.

This is the pink trail that runs closest to the back of our house.

It becomes really interesting at the places where the trails meet.


I don’t know much for certain these days, but I do know that movement and being in nature is the great healer for me. So every day I’ve been clicking my boots into the bindings and heading outside. It feels right.




Socks and Soup

Hygge: A quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being (regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture).

This first week of wintery weather has seen me getting my “hygge” on. I’ve moved a little closer to the fire and taken out my knitting needles again.

I’m not sure what it is about knitting socks. I made my first pair about three years ago and can’t seem to stop knitting them. (Maybe it’s my practical Virgo nature.) I find it impossible to imagine anyone not loving a pair of warm, wool socks to lounge around the house in when the temperatures outside dip below freezing. That said, I’m not sure anyone outside my family has the same love affair with socks, but that hasn’t stopped me from giving them as gifts. I started this pair in the summer but didn’t make any serious progress on them until last week when winter set in.


This brings me to another staple in our house during the inside months when “hygge” becomes a lifestyle in our home. Lunch is only a ladle away when there is a fresh pot of soup simmering  on the stove. I make soups at least once or twice a week during the winter months. Awhile back as I was scanning my shelves for the ingredients for my next soup, I came across the red lentils and for some reason remembered one of my favourite soups that I used to make regularly “way back in the day” but hadn’t made for years. It is one of the recipes from the cult classic Diet for a Small Planet by Frances Moore Lappé. It’s not in the small paperback original (pictured here) but in a later edition. Luckily, I had made it so many times that I was able to re-create it from memory, but just recently found it online at Food 52. They seem to think it’s just as good as I do. It is the simplest, most forgiving soup you could possibly make – raised a notch or two by the secret ingredient, a 1/4 cup of sherry added at the end.



Lentils Monastery Style

  • Servings: 4 to 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A richly flavoured lentil soup made from basic kitchen ingredients with sherry added at the end.

Credit: Diet for a Small Planet (Ballantine Books, 1991). Adapted slightly by Food 52 (and me).


  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 carrot chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 3 cups stock
  • 1 cup red lentils, rinsed
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 398 ml can of tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup dry sherry
  • 2/3 cup grated Swiss cheese


  1. Heat oil in a large pot and sauté the onions and carrot for 3 to 5 minutes, until softened and onion is translucent. Add dried herbs and sauté 1 minute. Add stock, lentils, salt, pepper, parsley, and tomatoes. Cook, covered until lentils and carrots are tender, about 35 to 40 minutes. Add sherry. Check for seasoning.
  2. To serve, ladle into bowls and add two tablespoons of cheese  on the top of each one.


*This recipe is very, very forgiving. Want more carrots? Onions? No problem. Too thick for your taste, add more stock. I always add a pinch of salt and pepper as I go along. The amount depends to a large extent on taste and the saltiness of the stock you used. Always, always check the seasoning at the end before serving.

I hope this becomes a household favourite for you too. Enjoy!

It’s That Time of Year Again

IMG_0656.JPGI always stop to greet this guy on my annual visit to the doctor.

I went for my annual doctor’s appointment with my endocrinologist yesterday. Anyone who has ever had a cancer diagnosis, and maybe even those who haven’t, know the slowly creeping tension that builds before these visits. I’ve been thinking about this lately because of something I have been experiencing but haven’t been able to put into words until just recently.

Every year around my birthday for the past while I have been experiencing a malaise, a fear, that begins slowly but gradually intensifies to the point where I have to stop and take notice. It calls to me to begin reactivating all of my self care practices. My journal pages get filled again, I take longer walks, and book that massage I’ve been meaning to have. I call in my support systems and generally ride it out.

The interesting thing is, I have noticed this pattern and have made some connections, but also usually wonder if there is something else happening as well – some new physical ailment I should be monitoring. I never fully understood it until recently. You see, it was around my birthday seven years ago that I had an operation to remove half of my thyroid gland. We knew my thyroid was displaying unusual activity but couldn’t get a clear diagnosis without removing part of it. It wasn’t good. I had a smallish cancer located inside the tissue they removed which meant two things: a) I now had a cancer diagnosis and b) a second operation had to be scheduled to remove the rest of the gland. It was not good news and rocked the world of this highly sensitive person to the core. I lived in fear through the whole thing – the second operation, the follow up treatment, and finally the recovery.

I was lucky and had good doctors and my prognosis was always very good. But it happened. And it was traumatic. Which brings me to what I learned this year which has changed things for me. My husband recently read an article about a connection between a cancer diagnosis and people experiencing PTSD because of it. Hearing this has changed everything for me. I am so much better when I can name things that I am experiencing. Maybe next year when I feel the fear creeping in again around my birthday, I can be more tender with that vulnerable side of myself that was so frightened for my survival and well being seven years ago.

I am already practicing. When I got off the elevator yesterday at the doctor’s office and felt the floor still rising and my heart beating just a little too fast, I remembered to comfort myself with these three sentences.

I’m feeling vulnerable.
That’s okay.
I’m grateful for the wonderful doctors that I found seven years ago.

Winter Lover or Hater?


If the hard frost these mornings is any indication, winter should be showing up any day now. (This line and picture were from yesterday.)

This is the scene this morning.


I’ve been thinking a lot about winter lately because as it approaches many of my friends and acquaintances are busy making plans to escape her reach. Winters here are long and cold, so this strategy is not all that surprising for people who have the time and the means to make different choices. But the pervasive attitude, for many,  is that winter is something to be endured – not embraced.

I began wondering about what the winter haters are believing about winter that is different from winter lovers. The winter haters seem to believe that winter is too long, too cold, too dark, and too limiting. It requires energy to get through a Canadian winter, so it becomes something to be endured or escaped. Winter lovers, on the other hand, are believing that winter is something to be welcomed and enjoyed. Although it feels long to some, the snow is usually here only from December to mid March. One group finds the cold and snow invigorating, the other something to hide from. It’s all a question of attitude, it seems.

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I happen to be lucky enough to live near a ski town, so I see first hand all the people who have embraced winter and are actually enjoying it. I meet them walking around town in their lightweight, brightly coloured parkas and they all look great. Their faces are flushed and beaming from the cold. They look happy and invigorated as they shop for food to be enjoyed with family and friends later in the day – by the fire, I’m imagining.

I couldn’t help but think mindset has a big influence on whether we are a winter lover or hater, so I was particularly interested in this article I read in The Atlantic titled, “The Norwegian Town Where the Sun Doesn’t Rise,” by Kari Leibowitz. She was there to research how the residents of northern Norway protect themselves from wintertime woes in the hopes that some of these findings could be used to help people who were suffering elsewhere with this issue.

lead_960Kari Leibowitz ( The Atlantic)

Tromsø, Norway is a tiny island 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle. There the Polar Night lasts from November to January and during this time the sun doesn’t rise at all.  Interestingly enough, the residents of Tromsø have lower rates of wintertime depression than would be expected.

How do the residents of Tromsø protect themselves from wintertime depression? Some gave credit to cod liver oil or lamps that simulated the sun by brightening at a specific time each morning. Others thought it had to do with community and social involvement. Most residents though just talked about the Polar Night as if it wasn’t a big deal. In fact, many didn’t consider the summer months as being the best season.

So mindset, eh? I’m crediting the people of Tromsø for supporting me in not particularly enjoying the month of July here in southern Canada. As for winter, I’m sorting through my winter clothes, dusting off my snowshoes and cross-country skis, stocking up on candles, and, oh yes, will also be buying that cod liver oil.

Do any of you have winter plans?


*You can read the complete article on Tromsø  from The Atlantic here.

*Clinical seasonal depression is not like the wintertime blues and is something that needs to be taken seriously and treated appropriately.


Me Too… and You and You and You



The #MeToo campaign has stirred the pot this week for lots of women.

On a walk a few days ago, I came across an old van at the end of our road where it meets the much busier highway. I found myself immediately slowing down, all my senses on high alert. “Was there someone in the van? If so, who? And why was he parked there?”  I also checked to see if there were cars coming and how far away the nearest house was.

When I arrived home from my walk, I decided to ask my husband some questions. “Do you ever feel anxious when unknown cars slow down when you are out walking alone?” was my first question.

His answer, “No.”

And that is the problem. I’m imagining that most women would answer quite differently. Women have become hyper-sensitized to even ordinary events like cars driving slowly or  someone following  too closely on the sidewalk at night. And for good reason. We live our lives this way because sexual harassment and sexual assault happen regularly – they are real dangers and never far from our awareness.

The poet Nayyirah Waheed writes:

all of the women

in me

are tired

I think that speaks the truth for many. However, what we’re seeing this week is the conversation being opened up in profound ways. There is a new belief being born: a belief that talking about our experiences and standing together will make a difference.

I’m imagining what life would look like without the belief that men can be dangerous and we need to be on our guard. I imagine we would all feel a freedom and spaciousness that could change the world.

And that is exactly why the talks we’re having this week are so so important.