What does a woman write when she turns 65 and feels rebellious about being labeled “senior”? When she creates a website to help launch her next book, saying to herself and the world, “Here is my roller coaster life so far...stay tuned!”--? When she, as so often, asks, “Now what, what next, oh Universe, oh Mystery?”

What does a woman write who as often as not procrastinates, spills words of discouragement into her journal, calls a friend to confess both her slowness and the hopelessness that overwhelms, then revives, crafts a haiku and goes off to walk a labyrinth or do contra dancing?

She writes, “Hello! Greetings on this sunny or stormy day! I am glad to meet you on these pages, in the midst of the great stream of life.” She remembers how pivotal it is to be grateful, gives thanks to her website designer and photographer, and writes further, “Thank YOU for browsing here, and blessings on your journey . . .”


Jul 12 2016

May is certainly the month of exploding gardens in Ottawa! Everything grew so fast, even though I took photographs to record my delight, I didn’t have time to post them! Here are some highlights, however, at the end of the month of May:IMG_1976
Crown Imperial
Alliums (in the photo)
Sprouting seeds of various salad greens
Lillies of the valley
I even fashioned a homemade bird bath, and now clean it regularly, though have yet to see the birds frolic there….
And June continued full of both garden and other delights, so there have been poppies, peonies, petunias, and my beans are climbing their trellis like mad, as well as tomato plants.
— So when is there time for working on new (or old!) writing projects, my friends ask…? Well, I did create a new haiku or two in the midst of all my garden work; here are some samples –based in my nearby Mud Lake conservation area, not exactly my back yard:
Sweet honeysuckle 
Clothes green ranges woodlands;
Companions birdsong.

Pale pink-white tea cups

set on green plates, blue water:

Mud Lake tea party!
July is — so far — a month of watering, trusting there will be rain, and continued new flowers and growth (despite some hungry rabbit habitants).  Tomatoes are setting, beans and clover are blooming, roses are finished, herbs are additions to my food every day.  My garden/yard is very shady, and even on hot days it always has a peaceful retreat feeling. What a blessing, to just wander, water, weed… Dig, sit, prune, tune in to the spirit of green growth…

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My Roller Coaster Life!

Apr 21 2016

The roller coaster life, even though mine is actually the bus-and-bike version, is so omnipresent and delight-full that I have not found time to write here in the past several months….but life IS good in Ottawa, AND being retired does mean less formal work, although understandably LOTS more informal ways to be involved in the well-being of my-and-our world.
It does take me more minutes to move my body around from place to place without a car, but I am much more savvy now than before the winter about the bus system, and SO excited to be getting back on my bike — first photo shows it after a late spring snowfall three weeks ago, and if I took one today, you’d see my magnificent budding magnolia and a patch of blue scillas (tech problems/time mean the bike even LOOKS like a roller coaster)!
I could make a series of paragraphs about what now claims my attention, and all the different “irons in the fire” I have, but more importantly I want to lift up the significance of both NATURE and rest in this hurly burly life, and to say yes, I am busy, but I also take a NAP almost every day in my retired-yet-whirling world!  
Plus I have found time to make a few collages at Centre 510, a drop-in for homeless First Nations folks where I volunteer to help with lunch (and now a small piece of programming).  And I do not stop writing/sending out my haiku.  What a satisfying habit of mind and spirit!  This one is for April in Ontario:
No daffodils —
Osier dogwood just flags spring
With its scarlet stems!
red oosier






(will this osier dogwood image get “rolled over”? Stay tuned!)


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Travel gifts and Gemütlichkeit

Dec 02 2015

Last summer I was blessed with the offer of the “other half” of a friend’s double occupancy booking on an 8 day Danube cruise featuring the region’s Christmas markets — worrying about my retirement finances, it took ages to decide I would say yes to her generosity.  Finally, the spirit of  carpe diem prevailed!

So, in late November I flew to the UK to catch up with jet lag while I visited an old friend in Oxford and my nephew and family in Reading.  From there I excitedly took the Eurostar to Nuremberg, Germany, met my friend and set off down the Main-Danube canal.

xmasmarketsWe had grey weather, but three enchanting day tours of German medieval towns, which yielded some new haiku as well as photos.  This morning we explored the Benedictine abbey at Melk in Austria, before following the Danube through castles and vineyards towards Vienna.  Who knows what adventures we’ll find tomorrow?

We heard our former Benedictine monk-turned-tour-guide remind us of how travel can refresh us — so true!  He feels that after three days of a different place, even the most weary of us can feel our souls being restored. The Benedictine rule is that we must “listen with the ears of our heart.”. I truly heard HIM, and I offer YOU the gifts of these small haiku here….

Dusk descends over

Flickering prayer candles: 

Passau Cathedral.


Christmas markets glow:

Gluhwein, stars, candles —

Everyone longing for light!

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Post book etc event AND new contact info

Nov 18 2015

My book promo event on Nov 16 here in Ottawa went well, and I loved being able to share some of my favorite sections of The Heron Spirals, as well as singing some songs or snatches of songs, and telling many stories about the gestation and now independent life of this creation of mine.  A favorite moment was having my five year old friend Raffi hold his flashlight so I could have more light to read some pages he enjoyed, about my own boy when he was young and we got a dog…. I really liked the cafe ambiance, especially its space for a number of my collages, and I may try to do something similar in the new year.


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Moved, retired and turned 70!

Nov 05 2015

RawSugar_heronSpirals_posterWell, it has taken about six months, but finally I feel as if my big transition has fully settled into a sense of belonging back in Britannia, my corner of Ottawa.  I feel more and more rooted, grounded here for now, and I am glad of each day’s nuances of colour, skies, people, unprogrammed or quite scheduled times.  So I rejoice!

Not only that, but at last I am back into some satisfying creative writing, like this haiku this week:

Clocks changed!  Dusk so soon —
squirrels, walkers, overcome
with longing for light!

I have also written a memorial minute for my 102 year old Quaker friend Janet Martin who died in July, and some other official reports or personal long letters; currently I am working on both my Harvard 50th reunion report AND a book promo event that requires me to create a poster and get it distributed everywhere, including here!  (And I need to get to bed, so tomorrow will be a flowing, not struggling, day…. I am also taking better care of myself!)

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collages feed my soul

Apr 26 2015

search inboxes4SelfFor  more than seven weeks now I have had the great satisfaction of seeing twenty eight of my collages  hung in one place, the Stairwell Art Gallery at the Unitarian Church of Montreal, where I work part time.  I go up and down that stairwell many times a week, and am repeatedly delighted to see the range and variety of these carefully crafted collages on those walls — arranged in a way that is like a patchwork quilt, almost a collage, in itself!  The collages I have assembled for this solo show are all related to the idea of the “Search for Self” or a sense of inner wholeness and direction.

The one shown here is titled “Searching in Boxes for the Self” and was the college that spurred my initial thinking about a theme for my exhibit, because it literally shows several figures peering through binoculars out of what look like wooden boxes.  I added other wooden elements –some visual planks and temple carvings that create interesting depth of field.  To me, the total effect is one of people being too tightly contained, and of looking for a way out…or in!

Although I was first and still am a poet who loves to play with words, in recent years I have come to love playfully working with images like these  and with what seem like my inner leadings (and very explicitly NOT with words).  For my collages, I gather materials and settle into a period of intuitive, healing arranging:  colours, shapes, lines, and visual images are often accompanied by quiet, meditative music. These times are deeply restorative, and I emerge, sometimes hours later, feeling profoundly refreshed.

When I was contemplating the volume of collages I have completed, I realized that. since taking an initial course called “Tending the Soul with Collage” at Friends General Conference Gathering in 2006, I had been steadily creating new work. When I completed the weeklong course, I was so hooked I immediately began sharing the processes I had begun to learn with other interested people, and soon started a collage-making group at the First UU Church of Columbus, Ohio, where I then worked.  Once I moved to my current position in Montreal, I led some introductory sessions that resulted in a mailing list and a loose group of collage-ers who gather to work and talk a little bit about our creations, approximately once a month during the colder months.  Back in February I counted up at least thirty out of some 130 finished collages that would cluster around my self-proposed theme.

green man collage

Then I debated my choices, and moved them around, clustering some together, putting some aside, finding new frames for some, cleaning up others. Finally the show was hung in the Gallery in early March, with a vernissage on the 6th.  Now it is the end of April, and I have sold ten of the 28 displayed, but will shortly pack the remainder away, ready for moving back to Ottawa when I retire in June.  I will miss their visual companionship at work, but am already looking forward to a new place and more time to create more, once I re-settle in Ottawa –and perhaps to further exhibits!  In the meantime, you can see several more images on the visuals page of this website; the one here is “Variations on the Green Man;” the one below is called “Tree People Searching.”

tree people











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Whew, Labour Day and many labours approach for me!

Sep 01 2014

imageHere I am with a friend, both breathless after finding one another on the last day of our busy summers, getting ready to watch the Arcade Fire concert on Montreal on the 30th! I do love my work at the Unitarian Church of Montreal, but going back to the office tomorrow is coming too soon –there’s still so much of my summer to digest, photos to pore over, songs to sing, and written records of one kind or another (ideas, letters, talks, books read, etc) to ponder . . . So I decided I would do something visual, and go work on collages for a few hours to ease the transition. Meantime, I have also posted ONE of many different snatches from my summer travels. How I have enjoyed them all, though I had to calmly accept my life as a yo-yo was the summer reality!

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Some views — of many — from a suitcase summer

Sep 01 2014

Train out of Milano, speeding too fast through Lombardy to read station names, though I want to. On my way back to London after my various Italian adventures, glad to be able to look at all we pass, not just fly over it.
Flat green fields, flat crops I don’t recognize, flat puddles and straight irrigation ditches, a few flat but full rivers; pretty big fields. I so enjoy gazing out and watching the landscape.

So far, two (then three) white egrets standing, and one I think in flight, now another (then a third, fourth) slow-flapping over the little humped lines of hedge or weed or earth dividing the fields.
Above the flat landscape and the town buildings, the blocks of flats or slightly-slope-roof houses, looms an occasional dome or the clock tower of an Italian church building (sometimes a communications tower!)
Along the margins, wild flowers I mostly recognize.
So far, no wild places, no woods or even copses; plenty of trees in the towns, but only a few dot the field lines.
Slowly some mountains are emerging from the blue grey morning in the distance — west and north.
Tile roofs, always terra cotta; a yellow field; a brown field.
Now some substantial clumps of trees, some clearly plantations; mountains looming bigger, trees along their ridge lines, then they are behind us. We are approaching the Alps!

DSC07401Now out of Torino, and we just went through a gap in some huge mountains on both sides, massive rock faces rising up almost directly from the plain with BIG trees, small flanking fields, and a castle way way up at the top – how would any army assault such a high fortress? Clouds on the mountaintops; a few poppies beside a highway cutting; plum trees in the little gardens… Tiny corn plants here, then medium height plants; the valley is wider… A different, lower down castle comes into view, seems a more reasonable point of command… A ripe field of wheat or barley, then some grape vines, and now a tunnel. A long one, through those Alps!

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In praise of doing what we love…

Apr 07 2014

imageI am back in the Westmount conservatory/greenhouses; there is STILL snow everywhere, and it is April, but the spring bulbs are flaunting their poignant smells indoors and outside the air is bright and fresh, the sunlight’s intensity heightened by the reflecting snow.  I know snowdrops will raise their bell-like heads any day now — fancifully, I hope they ring in celebration of this long awaited change of season!

I have had a very full March and am reflecting on — not snow, though I could say there has been an awful lot of it! — but on how I handle challenges and what feels like the need to Remember to Take Care of Everything.  To exemplify these thoughts, let me tell you about leading a lovely workshop with relatively little anxiety one night last week in Ottawa, and the next night being half of a sing-along concert where I was more inwardly nervous than I had any idea I was or would be.

The first night/event was not one with a predictable audience, and it evolved into a different kind of session than I had ever led before.  I was presenting as a part of the new Spirit Art Studio programs being offered in Sandy Hill (www.spiritartprogram.ca).  There was time to centre in quiet meditation, then to play my dulcimer and sing, talk about my Heron Spirals book and share some of the springs of creativity with a small group. I had vaguely planned what I might sing and a poetry-writing exercise we might do, but I was totally open to what unfolded and how I instinctively felt led to orchestrate our activities.  The end result was satisfying, creative and much appreciated — and I felt confident it had gone well.

IMG_2599The second evening’s event was held at the Abbotsford Community Centre, also in Ottawa, where my song circle friend Maura (www.mauravolante.com) runs a coffeehouse called the Log Drive Cafe.  In contrast to my Spirit Art group of eight, this program was much more planned in advance, and there were maybe 40 or 50 people gathered there.

Now I not only love to sing, especially chorus songs with a group of willing singers, but I also relished the chance to regale my audience with some favourite songs I don’t often perform. Yet I was tense about the opportunity, after so many years of not doing school or library concerts as I once did, anxious about my voice being strong enough for long enough, and worried that my memory is definitely not as good as it once was (though those songs I learned back in my 20s and 30s are pretty indelible).  So I knew I was excited yet tense, and yet perhaps i did not realize how much I had invested in the singing going well.

Also I found it oddly unnerving that my singing partner for the night, David Baril, a lovely baritone-voiced man who treasures the old songs as I do, has the same first name as my late husband David Parry.  Somehow the concert was more redolent of the old days when my David and I lived and sang together than I had anticipated, and in its way that was also stressful.

When the current David and I finished our two sets, I was surprised at how little of the evening I could remember — AND surprised that I couldn’t think of anything else to sing at a pub afterwards, where many of the cafe audience gathered for beer, good cheer and more songs. In the past I could always think of another song, but here, this time, inner buttons were “pushed” and my memory went blank.

Now, over a week later, I am still singing a lot of that evening’s repertoire internally, and thankful for what was truly a joyful, harmonious night, but aware that somehow I didn’t have the confidence I had enjoyed at the Spirit Art workshop.  Was it perhaps because I was too fixed on it all going just as we planned, on the words all coming to mind exactly right, and my voice being “perfect”?  With the perspective gained after everything’s over, and after several restorative nights of sleep, I’m glad I had the chance to sing!  Additionally, perhaps I’m wary of big audiences, and certainly aware of of aging, which I do want to accept as integral to the spiral of my life, even as I protest the process!

After coming home from the spring-filled conservatory and a couple more days of my life, I heard that singer-songwriter Jesse Winchester had died, and though I never really followed him, these words from his song “Do It” touched me.  Don’t they make a good coda here?

If the wheel is fixed, I would still take a chance/
If we’re treading on thin ice, then we might as well dance.
So I play the fool, but I can’t sit still/
Let me get this rock to the top of this hill.

Do it, til you’re sick of it.
Do it, til you can’t do it no more.

If you want to hear this little snatch of wisdom, I found it here:   http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-04-07/american-singer-jesse-winchester-dies/5373568?section=entertainment

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Well into 2014, may we grow well . . .

Feb 21 2014

201402061935Oh readers near and far, my warm greetings for this new year ARE indeed that, whenever you see this. Epiphany and “Old Christmas,” Chinese New Year and Candlemas/Groundhogs Day are long past; now I’m later than Valentines [these are large sculptured hearts outside the Museum of Fine Arts  in Montreal]….and we’re approaching our Canadian RRSP “special day” deadline, next on the calendar! Still, as the days grow into months in this new year, I wish you — and myself — a sense of y/our place and meaning in y/our life, wish us inner growth.
I’m not sure whether I’ve been slow in posting here simply because I’m aging and unable to do as much as I want/ed, or because the world is just going faster, getting fuller/more complex and taking more time to experience….In any case, here I offer my deep wishes for your flourishing, wherever you are in the world or the life cycle.

As I write, Montreal is having another spell of deep cold, and I’m sitting in the Westmount public greenhouses, enjoying the growth of bright flowers and green foliage indoors. I postponed writing this for too long, even as I also scrambled to make Seville marmalade one special-day-for-kitchen-joys, but here I am, wishing you well . . .

IMG_2563Tangy peels, soft pulp,
boil to clear jell, bittersweet: marmalade, like life!








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