Ashes to sawdust

Sawmill Creek got its name legitimately. Back in 1823, one of Ottawa’s earliest pioneers constructed a sawmill on the south side of the Rideau River where the creek empties. The settlement grew from the timber trade along its other river – the Ottawa – but logging, lumberjacks, and log-drivers built the communities to the south of the Rideau, too. Continue reading


The apple doll years

Apple doll

Two decades ago a social worker told me it isn’t unusual for adoptive moms to experience grief when their daughters reach puberty. She said as our kids enter their reproductive years, many adoptive moms are approaching our apple doll years. We watch their lives blossom while we become fruit leather. The wise social worker said we might grieve again our own losses all those years ago. Loss of fertility, loss of genetic continuity, loss of the child we wanted but couldn’t have. Continue reading

Bear paw suit

I’m naked under a thermal hospital gown waiting for knee surgery. The gown is called a “bear paw”. The name is not comforting. Bears are scary and their paws and claws are flesh-shredding rasps. Why would they name a hospital gown after a weapon?

Bear paws are a ready made snack, too. A pastry like thing. When the nurse tells me to slip into the bear paw I’m confused because I’m hungry after nine hours of fasting. All I can think about is food. Continue reading

Dog days at the market

Today Was a Good Day

We love farmers’ markets – the food, the dogs, the people, and in this case, the booze! What a surprise to be tasting delicious alcoholic concoctions at 10:30 in the morning. I think people brought their dogs in case they drank too much at least someone would be able to find their way home.

These photos were taken at the Comox Valley Farmers’ Market on Vancouver Island, Canada. Such zeal towards food production was energizing and satisfying, but not inexpensive. I wonder if the farmers didn’t grow their own food could they afford to buy it?


In the garden of weedin’

Our dead end street holds 14 of 72 homes in our condominium community. I know half the residents by name. One of them won’t speak to me even though we used to be friendly. I think it’s because she overhead me talking to another neighbour during which I thickly larded the conversation with the f-bomb.

Day lily
Day lilies – the dandelions of the garden.

Yesterday, I was busting up a patch of flowers impacted in an impenetrable layer of grass roots. It was impossible to pull out the frisky spikes poking through the mass so I was hatcheting it with my spade like I was chopping up a carcass. It felt great. With every chop into the matted mess, a puff of chlorophyll and earth musk hit me and I was getting stoned with the exploding scents. Endorphins added to the mix making me giddy with the joy of digging. Continue reading

Goldfish pond

Hidden at the side of the house, under a peeling arbutus tree, was an oval, moss-ringed, cement goldfish pond. In the plush winters on Vancouver Island the pond seldom froze. If it did, and I remembered, I chipped away the thin skin so the fish would live. Thinking of them frozen in the dark, suspended – dead – worried me. I say them. I don’t know how many there were – at least two. One was as big as my thumb. Continue reading

Suzanne and A Boy Named Sue

My name is Susanne and for years Leonard Cohen, Johnny Cash, and Shel Silverstein taunted me because of my name. Cohen wannabes stalked me through high school corridors mimicking his edgy baritone –

“Suzanne takes you down to her place near the river
You can hear the boats go by
You can spend the night beside her
And you know that she’s half crazy…”

I smiled and tried to look mysterious and worldly, like a woman from Montréal, Cohen’s hometown, might look. With hair like the top of a teased cotton swab, this effect was hard to achieve. Jimi Hendrix had hair like mine but it didn’t work so well on a gangly white girl with fishbowl glasses. Still, I was pleased to be thought of as that kind of Suzanne – alluring and half crazy. It sounded tragically romantic. Continue reading