Full Circle at the Fringe Festival

Coming full circle.

When my younger sister Gretchen was born in the 1950’s, her complex multiple disabilities meant that she would be institutionalized at the age of 4. My mother was devastated and her resulting depression along with the absence of my sister created a lot of sadness in our family that reverberated through the years and impacted on every relationship in the family.

Fast forward to the late 90’s when the institutions were closed and Gretchen came to live in a cul de sac group home in Toronto where she currently lives in a truly supportive environment.

Last year I spoke online with 2 women who also lost close family members to institutions. It was the first time in my life that I’d talked with others who really understood the family impact of loosing a sibling. One of those women, Victoria Freeman, is involved with creating a play about the impact of those places on both the residents and their families. Now that play is part of the Toronto Fringe Festival and today Gretchen will attend with one of her caregivers.
Part of the performance will be the reading of a poignant poem my mother wrote about her deep sorrow at placing Gretchen in a place that turned out to be so harmful to her and thousands of others in every way possible. I have bolded the section of the poem that will be used.

On a Lost Child
 by Sandy McConnell-Doehler

It did not matter when the learned prose,
with one-by-one and minus-two, foretold
the fearful question passing time would pose,
the dreaded day unfold.

It did not slow me when, through every door
we passed, we came as wise without again,
when down the same dim hallways as before,
we pressed our way in vain.

Ah, but the shadow lengthened as we went-
the spectre of that death without a grave,
when neither rite, nor prayer, nor sacrament,
nor mourners’ tears we gave.

I took your little velvet hand in mine
and down a hallway longer than the rest
I led you from your home and gave no sign-
it was “all for the best.”

Now all your needs are filled, or so they say;
kind, unknown hands that change each day, will guide
you in your everlasting childhood play,
the tower walls inside.

You will not miss the varied, lovely scents
of freedom; of fish-laden winds that blow
from the sea; of stained books, rained-on pavements-
they say you will not know.

You will not know how I remember eyes
blue as the hyacinth in a market square,
and listen still for your mourning dove cries
on the silent night air,

and search for something heavy I can hold
sometimes, to fill my empty arms again-
warm, my child, for you were never cold,
as in them you have lain.

So I put down my load.  Now starts the pain.
What can appease the fire within, once lit?
A little pass at fate is like soft rain
fallen in Hades’ pit.

A child in want or fear, or in distress,
that in my vacant path cries to be free,
just for a moment gives, in my redress,
my lost child back to me.

I know my mother would be happy to know that Gretchen has found a better life living at  Montage. And she would be glad to share her poem to help others in their healing processes.

Gretchen  and Larry and me at the Egyptian Gallery of the Royal Ontario Museum, 2016.

Bear River’s Snowfall in 2015

This winter has been balmy and I see my lilies poking out of the ground. But 3 years ago we had the winter with the heaviest snowfall….which led to a gorgeous show of lush, spring flowers.  But let’s look at some photos from 2015 as a comparison.

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Moving Day…..maybe.

Eight years ago this week, we moved into our lovely house. Today Larry and a friend are on scaffolding and ladders with electric sanders prepping the outside of the house for its long-overdue paint job. House jobs are really never finished.
We love the sense of history of our 150ish year old house and are glad to caretake it so that it lasts for another century or two.
This is an eight year old blog about moving in.
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Give Me One Reason to Stay Here…and I’ll turn right back around

I wrote this post 5 years ago. We’re very happy with our place in the universe – Bear River. – Flora
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Warm Red Cabbage, Red Onion and Apple Slaw

I can’t resist picking up a purple cabbage at the grocery store. Oh the colour is so rich and the slicing reveals the most intricate patterns. I noticed that the line from the middle spiral outwards. Is everything in creation a series of spirals?cabbage3

I came across this totally easy and VERY TASTY recipe called Warm Red Cabbage, Red Onion and Apple Slaw. Even the title is visually appealing.

I use apple cider vinegar instead of balsamic, but I’m sure both are delicious. I also add a handful of walnuts. AND, I keep it on the stove until the cabbage is soft. That means putting a lid on it at the end.


The book Vegetarian by Joanne Weir is out of print, but here’s a link to it.

It’s snowing outside, the washing machine is washing,  and the kitchen is filled with a sweet and sour fragrance. The cat is curled up by the fire. Larry is upstairs creating an ad for this season’s Bear River Artworks Gallery.
Reminder to self:  the studio calls.



Snow Storm Latte, Art, Tides and Bear River Hills

Bear River snow.

Snow storms are very OK if you don’t have to drive anywhere. But even better is having a walking destination that leads to:

  • a delicious Sissiboo Coffee latte that I could never emulate at home
  • a place with wonderful art
  • somewhere with just the right music
  • friendly folks

So Larry and I bundle up and slip and slide down the hill.

Bear River snow.
Sliding down the hill to the village.

Then over the little bridge from the Digby County to Annapolis County side.

Then into Sissiboo Coffee Bar and Gallery for a treat and to enjoy the art.

See more of Penny’s stitching, dyeing and fibre story-telling at her blog 

I’ve left out the conversations about the recent local Herring Deaths, the Trump stories, the agony of aging parents, the state of the world, heating systems, fostering creativity, music concerts and lost cats.

I’ve left out the Bob Dylan, John Prine and similar sounds in the cafe.

I’ve left out the stop at the post office.

An advantage of living in a small town

And finally, the walk home……

And then a peek into the studio at my newest creation. A need to add some colour to this beautiful, monochromatic world.

And finally for you, dear reader, a little puzzle.

Can you spot and count the crows at the compost?