Thursday, December 13, 2018


Eaton's Shopping Centre, Toronto, Ontario, 1972.

Compared to the annual photos with Santa that parents do today, I have only two photos of me with Santa - and the second one I did myself. Remember when we had stand-alone photography stores where you dropped off your film then picked up the pictures two weeks later? You could buy film and cameras and all sorts of accessories? There was one of those three doors down from, and on the same block as our funeral home in Cobourg so I walked down one afternoon and had my photo taken with Santa.
Two weeks later, my parents received a call saying my photo was ready!
Santa has always been my guy. Before Daddy, before Ricky Ainsworth in Grade Two, before Alec Maclean who used to get into trouble for reading past reading time in Grade Six (be still my heart!), there was Santa Claus.

You've seen my mantle in a previous post covered in my Santa collection. Well, now I can let my love and admiration for Santa full expression because...

...I get to edit an anthology of stories about Santa.
The idea came up a few weeks ago in conversation with an editor at Nimbus Publishing and I'm lucky they were able to come to a decision so quickly, and while I still have a chance to plant a seed in writers' imagination during this Christmas season. We're publishing it in the Fall of 2020, and I will have a story in it (I'll have to restrain myself as it seems I've written several stories, both fiction and non-fiction, about Santa Claus).

So now Dwayne has just under two years to grow his goatee into a proper beard and be my Santa guy. And now I can totally justify shopping for more Santas. I'm going to need a bigger mantel... and a bigger Santa inflatable!

Friday, December 07, 2018

Driving Alone

Homeward bound: Route Six in Truemanville.

I don't get many opportunities to drive by myself these days. My husband often drives me in his big, comfortable truck and my mother is always up for a shopping trip so time alone in the car, alone with my thoughts, is a rare occurrence.

Yet twice this week, I've driven by myself. It's been such a busy week, I only had time this morning to write about it, and I'm afraid those thoughts from the road on Monday evening as I returned from a quick but necessary trip to the chiropractor are lost.
But what I remember is this: I wanted to write about how therapeutic it was to have time alone. Most of us live with others and lead very busy lives. There aren't a lot of moments, let alone hours, when someone isn't talking to you. I wanted to write about how driving in the dark on a country closes you in, cocoons you, narrows your focus. Brings you back to yourself. Allows you to breathe, and feel your heartbeat.
Until you crank the tunes and lift your spirits with a good ol' Tom Petty tune. We were runnin' down a dream at just the right time.

Be careful what you wish for: I'm not dreaming about living alone. Monday in the car simply reminded me how rarely I get drive by myself, and how much I miss that.

Spending time alone, whether it's walking the dog or driving in the car, is necessary. There are people who claim they hate to be alone, but it's necessary. Even if for thirty minutes. Alone with one's thoughts. Alone with one's breath.
Deep inhale to a count of eight. Long exhale to a count of ten. That's what got me to town in one piece. Breathing exercises and cruise control.
Sometimes, though, at the end of a shitty day, one doesn't need conversation or time alone with thoughts. One needs familiar songs at a loud volume.
The "Eighties Drive Home" took me back down the road. The way you  make me feel, Michael. 

I used to do a lot of driving by myself. Heck, I drove across Canada by myself; I remember my father wanting to fly out to Vancouver in order to drive home to Ontario with me but I really wanted, really needed to do the trip by myself. Alone with my thoughts. Alone with my music.
The tears only last a hour that first morning. The rest of the trip was an amazing experience I shared with my canine companion.
In Ontario, I drove all over visiting friends. I drove myself, and the dogs, to and from Pugwash, Nova Scotia, every summer and fall.
I love a road trip.

Yet last May, when I headed to Ontario by myself, I knew I couldn't be alone with my thoughts. There is so much uncertainty in a freelance writer's life (technically, I'm a freelance worker with no job security) that the anxiety tends to build up, and I knew being alone with my thoughts for two days would reduce me to a quivering ball of doubt and despair by the time I reached my aunt and uncle's house. So I listened to books and made it there and back without a mental breakdown.

Know thyself. Sometimes the worst place to be alone is inside your head.

Theologian Paul Tillich wrote, "Our language has wisely sensed the two sides of being alone. It has created the word 'loneliness' to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word 'solitude' to express the glory of being alone."

The pain and the glory.

Yesterday, I drove to Pictou and back for a lunch meeting with an editor; that's ninety minutes each way. On the way down, I chewed away at stuff that was bothering me, and I listened to my go-to CD for angst and frustration and havoc. Being alone in the car meant I could talk to myself, I could listen to my music, I could even talk to people who aren't there -- and say what I want to say without any interruptions!
On the way home, there was no music that suited my mood so I drove in silence, not really thinking about anything, just gazing out the windshield and enjoying the peace of being alone in the car.
Inhale peace.
Exhale calm.
Runnin' down the dream.

Homeward bound: Hwy 104 near Mount Thom.

Saturday, December 01, 2018

Here Come A Lot of Santa Clauses

My collection of Santas has grown so big, I decided to try decorating the fireplace we don't use with them.
It's seems a bit cluttery but it certainly puts them all in one spot, and makes the collection look bigger than it seemed in the dining room. I miss the "Christmas woodland" scene I normally put up there but I haven't yet replaced the two wool sheep that Remi tore to pieces a couple of years ago. I do worry that the cats will try and jump up on the mantle -- they've done it in the past, for a wander through the trees and deer -- and pull off the white fluffy stuff, along with all the ornaments. The Santa mug my great-aunt Mary Pickens made back in the 70's was removed just in case.

Speaking of the cats and the woodland scene, the following "Facebook Memory" popped up in my timeline today. This is a conversation between Dwayne and I from three years ago (I don't think our communication skills have improved since then):

(Me) "I'm collecting branches in your garage, in case you come across a pile of them."
"Why do you want to do that?"
"To put on the mantle."
"What happened to the deer and stuff?"
"I think the cats will knock them down so I'm going for something simpler this year."
Dwayne stared at me.
"I just can't figure out why you are collecting wrenches in my garage to put on the mantle."

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

November Memory

2012 - Dwayne, Stella, me and Abby
It's been seven years since we picked up puppy Abby. I love looking at the photos of bringing her home because I get to see Stella. I think of my old girl a lot, and actually miss her, even though our relationship was so fraught. She was who she was, and she remains my soul dog.

Abby and I went for a long walk along the TransCanada Trail (now the Great Trail, which I don't like because it doesn't say exactly what it is) early on Sunday morning, and I have to admit, it's nice to walk a dog -- Abby -- who stays with me and doesn't disappear deep into the woods for ages.

It was a peaceful walk and allowed me to work out a story I've been seeing in my head but didn't have an outline for. So many ideas these days! My mother thinks we should start our own publishing company and you know, I'm tempted... She even has the name picked out.
But remember: I'm an ideas person. Who's going to do all the work?!

Friday, November 23, 2018

When the Moon Comes in November

I'm so excited about this book that I read it twice to the Grade Six classes I subbed with today. That also means my brain is exhausted and I can't think of anything original to write, so this is what I posted on my Facebook author page yesterday as the full moon of November loomed...
I couldn't have said it any better today.

"November’s full moon, which appears this evening (technically 12:39 am Friday, November 23) was referred to as the Beaver Moon by many Indigenous peoples because this was the month to set beaver traps before the swamps froze, to ensure a supply of warm winter furs.
In honour of tonight's full moon, I wanted to tell you about my current book obsession:
"When the Moon Comes" is written by Paul Harbridge and illustrated by Matt James. It's recommended by Emily, my editor at Nimbus, who told me it reminds her of my Moon Tide story (the one about snowmobiling on the River Philip during a full moon, that appears in the anthology, Winter).
I picked up this beautiful book yesterday and I can't stop reading it. Inspired by the Muskoka area of Ontario, where I spent a winter at my first job in radio, it sounds so much like Nova Scotia. It's a story about rural life in the winter, and it's also a hockey story.
How many of you remember skating on a frozen pond? I know my husband does.
I don't know why this book is shelved in the Ages 3-5 section because it's perfect for older children (and adults), and if you know someone who collect children's books as works of art, this is definitely a perfect gift."

The Full Beaver Moon this morning, hanging low over the field. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Early Morning Snow

Snow day.
School cancelled so no substitute teaching for me. I get up early every morning to do yoga in my living room, and since the cancellation notice goes out at six o'clock, I knew before my chair tea was steeped that there was no reason to rush or watch the clock.
I tell time by the breakfast seekers: the little birds appear at seven o'clock looking for seeds on the ground, and the cats start to gather 'round shortly after, looking asleep but ready to leap off the couch as soon as I roll up the mat.

This was my view of our front yard early this morning as I stretched into tree pose.
Cat, Tree, Warrior, Eagle, Crow, Down Dog. The poses of my life's companions, each invoking in me, as I stretch through them, strength and hope, encouragement and calm. Quieting the anxious voice inside my head that wonders if anything will ever work out the way I want it to.
Breathe in peace, breathe out calm.
Ready to face the day: feed the birds, feed the cats and the dog, feed myself. Coffee and oatmeal.
Preparing my mind and body for the work of the day.
A day in the life. A morning caught in the stillness before the work begins.

Friday, November 16, 2018

The Tree For Boston

 Since 1971, the province of Nova Scotia has shipped a Christmas tree to the City of Boston as a "thank you" for that city's help in the aftermath of the Halifax Explosion on December 6, 1917.

For the first time, the tree comes from Cumberland County -- from a backyard in Oxford, no less. What a great day we had to celebrate what this coniferous gift represents.
Since I moved to Nova Scotia twelve years ago, I've only seen this whole "tree for Boston" rigmarole on the television; experiencing it in person is a completely different experience, especially since I've been reading about the Halifax Explosion for the last couple of years (last December marked the 100th anniversary).

Imagine -- the Halifax Explosion is not a HUGE part of Canada's history. This was a major event for our eastern port city; the stories are of both devastation and death, and courage and heroism. Every child in this country should know this story. Outside of a "heritage minute" commercial on the television, and Hugh McLellan's 1941 novel, Barometer Rising, that I read in Grade Nine (and didn't leave a last impression on me vis-a-vis the explosion, I didn't know anything about this event. Thankfully, now there are many well-written books of fiction and non-fiction that we can sink our teeth into -- both adults and children -- stories that really bring to life the Halifax Explosion, and what happened afterwards (I mean, honestly -- a big snowstorm hit the day after half the city was levelled by an ammunitions ship exploding in the harbour).

Right off the top of my head, I can recommend five books:

Non-fiction: "The Great Halifax Explosion", by John U. Bacon (William Morrow)

Fiction: "The Blue Tattoo", by Steven Laffoley (Pottersfield Press); and "Tides of Honour", by Genevieve Graham (Simon Schuster) *Nova Scotia authors

Children's: "Explosion Newsie", by Jaqueline Halsey, (Formac) and "The Little Tree by the Sea", by John DeMont and Belle DeMont (MacIntyre Purcell). *Nova Scotia authors

For more, simply put "books about the Halifax Explosion" into your search bar and you'll find lots to choose from.