Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Two Poems Against War

The war in Afghanistan - photo from yeahisaidthat.com
People on the planet
are on the move.
Fleeing political persecution
and bombs above,
it's hard to prove
which is which,
but it all must feel the same.
It all means flight;
the faces all wear pain;
row upon row
of displaced people
huddled against
the cold of night
or walking in the rain,
holding hands and helping,
foul weather friends,
they straggle
across borders,
to line up under tarps
and wait for this
of human folly
to end.
The bombs rain down
"to keep their country safe"
the Suits all say.
But, their homes
in rubble around them,
under an exploding sky,
they can probably be forgiven
for not appreciating the "help"
or understanding why.
Three American lives
are imprisoned
and at risk
and governments mobilize
to talk,
all grave of face,
while thousand upon thousand
other human lives
are for years
the "casualties of war",
another war
to Keep Freedom Safe
but safe for who?
As if we ever knew.
How did it come to be
that dropping bombs
became the way
to peace?
Old women
weeping in the mud
on my tv,
their normal lives
for the duration,
Tomorrow a questionable part
of the equation,
a nightmare
dreamed by
an entire nation,
from which they cant
People on the planet
are on the move.
Once more
long lines of
the dispossessed
cross borders
into lands that
do not want them.
Memories of
World War Two
come back to haunt them.
It seems the more technology
we gain,
the more shared pain,
the less we understand
the sacredness
of living,
and our true purpose
which is for giving.
Across blue springtime skies
jets soar like swallows
dropping bombs
in all the hidden hollows
that on-screen
are portrayed
like video games
the Big Boys play,
that carefully do not show
the human lives
scrabbling among the rubble
down below.
From space,
we look so pretty:
blue and white,
mountain ranges and water
spread about for our delight.
The bombs,
and all the misery,
are ours.
War is Man's invention:
the Suits, in all their might,
juggling their powers,
have created
one more disaster
that can never
be made right.
From above,
the Divine Source
that gave us
life on earth
must regret
entrusting to us solely
a gift of so much worth,
must be waiting for us to
finish ourselves off
so life can start again
somewhere more holy.
Deep in the
hidden caverns
of Mother Earth
moving from place
to distressed place
are Peaceful Beings
whose soul/sole purpose
is to beam Peace
upon the Planet
keeping it in
its natural cycles
and rotations
while other men
play war games
with the population.
These Beings
focus all their
on peace
to help the centre hold
against the onslaught
of human error
that topples life
in place upon place
into distress and terror
across the embattled face
of Mother Earth,
weeping under
the crash of bombs
-peace by innuendo?-
released by young men
pushing buttons
the way that only yesterday
they played
It is all human folly,
the result of a world
gone mad
pursuing the Myth of More:
more Things,
more Land, more Power,
from a world
of finite resources.
We squeeze and squeeze:
just a little bit more,
just let me have mine
and then we'll talk
up ahead somewhere
other generations
can pull in their belts.
Just this little bit more
wont hurt,
no one will even
feel it.
The irony being
that in five minutes
the sky can rain down bombs
and we'll be forced to
hit the road
with only the clothes
on our backs,
all our Stuff
to what we can pack.
Bombs that rain so
Freedom can prevail?
Do the refugees believe?
Or do they flee the bombs
as much as they wish to be free?
Politics mere empty chatter
to the mass of humanity
that's seething
across the barren plains,
as sheer survival
boils down to
simply breathing.
The placid earth
waits silently below
for man to get a grip
and let his inner guidance flow.
For somewhere deep inside
we Know.

Monday, August 30, 2010


(Raymond Brian "Brick" Baker, my dad)

Music is part of my heritage. It's in my genes. I was conceived, marinated and raised in music, and from the time I was small, I wanted to be a singer. My father had begun as a classical violinist, but had then fallen in love with jazz. Still in his youth, he switched to alto sax and clarinet and joined a band, to the dismay of his parents. Ever after, they rued the day they bought him his first saxaphone, blaming the music scene for his subsequent alcoholism and the downhill turning of his life, which had begun so full of promise.

My dad was hugely talented, and he bitterly watched lesser musicians, with whom he had played as a young man, pass him by and rise to some measure of success and fame. He never made the connection between his drinking and his inability to hold a job for long, in the music field or out of it. He had a very hard time with the emergence of rock 'n roll, and used to sit snorting with disgust at the television. "That's not music!" When in his cups, he'd stick out his tongue at the set and make a blowing noise: "Phphphphphphphphphphphpht!" But he was too transfixed with rage to change the channel.

Because of him, and because all the other kids loved them and I wanted to be different, I didnt immediately swoon over Elvis and the Beatles. The music of the '40's serenaded my life: Pennies From Heaven, I'll Get By, Stardust, As Time Goes By. They still have the power to take me right back, to my parents' lives in Kelowna. It is the love songs of their era, not mine, that I remember best.

(My folks on the dock in Kelowna, late 40's)

My mother liked to tell how my dad taught me, at age fifteen months, to do the musician's backwards hand-clap, on the knee, to the beat: "choo-whish-te-choo, whish-te-choo", and how I had the tempo down pat. Nights when the party atmosphere had not yet degenerated into shouting and the crashing of fallen bodies in the living room, sometimes they would get me out of bed, in my ratty plaid dressing gown, to perform for the company. I'd wail winsomely "Happiness Is Just a Thing Called Joe", do a self-taught little dance routine with a big grin, then go back to bed, feeling like a star. It was only a matter of time until I'd be discovered.

I longed to play an instrument. I would stand beside friends as they played the piano, looking at the musical notes I could not decipher, with tears in my eyes. Music was a magical language and I uninitiated into its mystery. I ached with longing to sit at the keyboard and play, express all the music I felt so strongly inside me. I asked my mother for lessons. But we were poor; she said she didnt want to waste the money.

All I had was my battered little boxed record player. I would close my bedroom door, turn it on, leave the world of pain and confusion I lived in behind me, and enter a new one, filled with music, hope and the dream of a better life.

There was high excitement when my dad came home on the weekend with new albums; in those days they were 33 and a thirds. One time he bought five, a rare extravagance in our circumstances, then got drunk and sat on them, smashing them before he'd even played them all.

I was twelve when I bought my first record with my babysitting money. It was a 45: "Twilight Time". My dad hovered anxiously as I put it on the turntable. As its slow notes and pure tones sounded, he relaxed. "I guess I dont have to worry about your taste in music," he approved. High praise!

(My dad on the wharf on Okanagan Lake in Kelowna, likely in the late 40's)

Briefly, my mom did allow singing lessons when I was eleven. I was sent to an aged old nun, who sat at the keyboard resignedly plunking out the notes, bored and disinterested, as I stood in my school uniform and sang "There Was a Little Green Elf" without conviction. I even was entered into a singing competition and somehow managed to get through it without disgracing myself. Nor did I stun those assembled with an electrifying performance. I just couldnt get too worked up about a little green elf. (I can still remember that song today!) My mother and father sat in the audience, one of the only times I remember them attending an event of mine. The judges, bored, noted down my mark without enthusiasm. It was clear that this was not to be my fast track to fame. I stopped going to lessons and returned to my preferred music, about love and pain.

Also briefly, my mother enrolled me for ballroom dance lessons, to help me with the awkward passage from twelve to teen. There was one shining evening when I performed at the Stanley Park tea room, and stole the show from a roomful of adult performers. Somewhere there's a photograph of me groovin' to the beat, the instructor beaming down at me as I did the Swing, glowing and laughing into the camera.

But it was with my records, in the privacy of my room, where I unleashed my real voice, the voice of my longing, that no one but my long-suffering family ever heard.

I was in my Grandma's back room listening to the radio when I first heard Brenda Lee on the radio. I stood stock still with a shock of recognition. She was singing her big hit "I'm Sorry", and I recognized that her vocal range was exactly like mine. I could sing like her! I had to get her records! I was further excited when the announcer said she was only thirteen years old, like me: a little bitty girl with a great big voice, who was already a star.

Brenda Lee saw me through my teens. My mother called what I did up in my room "coon shouting", as I balefully sang with all the dramatic anguish of my teens. I thought a coon was an animal, and didnt get the connection. I vaguely pictured some men out in the bush, hollering for raccoons. It was only later that I realised, with a start, that it was a racial slur, intended to diminish that heartfelt singing that expressed all the pain I had no words for, all those bright dreams that one day I would lose the acute self-consciousness that prevented me from being the person I knew I was meant to be. One day I would spread my wings and fly beyond this life of pain and limitation. As long as I could sing like this in my room, the possibility existed that one day I would sing before an audience, and they would like it. They would like me. One day I would shine.

It didnt happen. My stronger need was to provide myself with the kind of home and family I hadnt yet experienced, the story book life promised by all the books and movies and the songs that fed my dreams. Marriage, babies and heartbreak claimed the next two decades of my life.

I didnt sing at all during my marriage. But after it, music once again claimed my soul and rode along with me. My children remember me singing. I sang along with Abba, with Joan Baez, with Stevie Knicks, with The Bells, the Beatles and Elton John. In my little house full of children, I sang for the joy of living, for the morning breaking, for the dream of a love that had not yet come. I sang for happiness and hope. I sang the song that was mine.

I have become a great appreciater and encourager of musicians, of anyone with talent. I want them to not be held back by what had held me back. "Go for it!" I tell them. "You're terrific! Shine on!" I encourage them to throw off all the self-consciousness I had not been able to conquer, to feel "good enough", to assume the confidence I was unable to muster. To believe in themselves as I had not been able to, and to go for their dreams. Part of my encouragement is vicarious; they can do what I did not, can live that part of the dream for me, that alternate reality, that road untaken, due to the circumstances that shaped my early world.

Years when I worked in a coffeehouse, I was the most rapt of listeners, the music inside me still aching for release, but this time flying along on the fingers and voices of others. The musicians always said they didnt need a big audience as long as they had me to listen to them :)

Music is still a passion, and I still cant play a single instrument, still am too inhibited to leap about at dances and release the beat pounding within me, to set it free. I stopped singing some years back; I lost my voice when I got ill. It is enough now to listen, to applaud others in their golden moments, to join my being with its music to the All That Is, the great song of life.

Acceptance finally comes that it is too late to be a young star rising; too late to be the youngest published author in Canada; too late to be the person I once dreamed that I would be.

But it isnt too late, it is never too late, to shine.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Our Lives

I have had a physically taxing five days with round-the-clock kids, cleaning, and a huge sorting and organizing project, in an effort to get a ton of PAPER under control and in some sort of order.

Am exhausted, and all too aware I am behind in responding to comments, to checking out the Poetry Pantry, to checking in with my group, to finishing my Project Genesis post for Wednesday and for a couple of other projects on the go................

However, I am at the end of my reserves for today. Going through my papers, though, I came across this poem I clipped and forgot about. It is a good read so I decided to post it for you to enjoy.

by Robyn Sarah
from A Day's Grace
copyright The Porcupine's Quill

It is possible that things will not get better
than they are now, or have been known to be.
It is possible that we are past the middle now.
It is possible that we have crossed the great water
without knowing it, and stand now on the other side.
Yes: I think we have crossed it now. Now
we are being given tickets, and they are not
tickets to the show we had been thinking of,
but to a different show, clearly inferior.

Check again: it is our own name on the envelope.
The tickets are to that other show.

It is possible that we will walk out of the darkened hall
without waiting for the last act: people do.
Some people do. But it is probable
that we will stay seated in our narrow seats
all through the tedious denouement
to the unsurprising end - riveted, as it were;
spellbound by our own imperfect lives
because they are lives,
and because they are ours.

Flying Free

[Image by Tofino artist Joanna Streetly to celebrate
the upcoming release of Christine Lowther's book "My Nature"]

midnight sky
beautiful sky

big Dipper
outside my window
pouring sweet dreams
down my chimney

next morning comes
and I am
on the beach -
beautiful waves
horses' manes
white-plumed and prancing
in to shore
thin fog
creeping across the sand
like a ghost-veil
through which the outline
of the distant hills
blurs and softens
but can still be seen

I walk in the fog
as in a dream
from which I cannot

four black crows
are having a party
with a bag of Reese's pieces
left unguarded
on a towel,
plucking the sweets
inside their gay
orange wrappers
with determined beaks,
like pudgy matrons
indulging in a treat
"just this once"

farther down the beach
a single crow
carrying an
hops down
onto the sand
in front of me
to have his
solitary feast

my friend
loves sweets
but soon
she will be gone

after leaving
her sickbed
I step out onto
the windy beach
once more,
gossamer clouds
as sheer as fairy wings
like a kaleidoscope
as I stand
looking up
against this
whirling backdrop

two eagles
ride the current
with outstretched wings
from underneath
I can see
how the feathers join

will she ever see
the eagles fly
like this

they represent
our two spirits
ever soaring
our circumstance

we will both
fly free

[At her funeral weeks later they played a song about the eagles,
and I remembered this day, bowed my head and cried.]

Saturday, August 28, 2010


.....on how funny it is that the cars I used to go out on dates in are now antiques,
and I'm still waiting for Mr. Right! :)



Couldnt resist taking this photo and posting it.......Jasmine, soaking up the last of the summer sun. Pup is lurking behind the bush. Note the dead and parched earth. Am hoping for fall and winter rain, to bring the earth back to itself:)

Friday, August 27, 2010

A Prayer for Morning (Mourning?)

[I have this picture hanging on my office wall, tho I borrowed this image from dailystrength.org. It is the White Buffalo Woman, painted by Lakota artist Vic Runnels. It portrays the white buffalo which transformed into a beautiful woman, appearing to two Sioux braves in South Dakota 2000 years ago. She gave their tribe a sacred bundle and told them when a white buffalo calf was born, it would be near the time when she would return to purify the world and bring back harmony and balance. The white buffalo calf Miracle was born in 1994 in Janesville, Wisconsin, and died in 2004.]

What Our Hearts Want:
for the global consciousness
to rise across the face
of this beautiful and
perilous planet.

everyone: Rise Up
and say
we want
the War Machine
to stop
the Peace Machine
to begin

rise up, rise up
strong-hearted women
and gentle-hearted men

replace the monetary
bottom line
with the sustainable-living
bottom line

instead of billion dollar
killing machines
build billion-dollar
feeding machines
to feed instead of bomb
the world's poor

Given the status quo
it's tempting to think
it is impossible

but it is Possible

It only takes
a billion wills
to make it so

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Here Comes the Rain

Response to Thursday Think Tank Prompt #12: with perfect timing,
it is raining for the first time in months :)

Here come
the first raindrops
since April,
hitting the dry and dusty earth,
as welcome as silver dollars,
as welcome as a dear friend
who's been gone too long.
Gray clouds have traveled
across the sky
and misted the mountains,
as welcome as the cycle
of the seasons,
turning and turning us
towards fall.
Within, my heart does
a boogie-shimmy,
sings a full-throated
hallelujah chorus.
I want to stamp
in the puddles
like a child,
as soon as
there are puddles.
Each blade of grass
(that's still alive)
has its head tipped back,
mouth open,
an oh-yeah-mama-come-to-meetin'
look on its face.
They are practically
rolling their shoulders
("Baby, it's been
so long!!")
The weeping willows
are doing
the Dance of the Seven Veils.
The horse trough
is drinking it in.
My wolf-dog
is lying
in the rain,
finally cool enough
inside his skin.
In the middle
of a rainforest,
we have been
for months.
So glorious
the sound
of raindrops
on the roof.

Funny World

Thoughts While Washing the Car
[written in response to Thursday Think Tank Prompt #12:
Water at Poets United]

Out in the barn
this morning,
I filled the horse's bucket
with generous dollops;
made sure the dogs
have cool buckets waiting
for the heat of the day.
Now I'm washing the car.
This all involves
water -
a bucket for cleaning,
a hose for rinsing.
Later, I will shower.

How rarely do I think
about the magnificence
of this.
I turn on the tap.
It is there,
hot or cold.
I live in a place
rich with rivers,
with lakes and lagoons.

I often seek out
the sound of the river
to quiet my soul,
when this small city
feels too noisy,
too busy.
The salmon leap
in the autumn:
fish a-plenty
from this rushing
of all life.


An hour away,
give or take,
lies the ocean,
wave upon wave,
white-capped and rushing,
like white-maned horses,
in to shore.

On the other side
of the world,
lies the other side
of this story.

My sister,
with a vessel
on her head,
walks miles
for a bucket
of this water,
with which
she teaspoons out
for her children,
a scant
sip at a time.

Some Mayan women
trying to reclaim
a desert,
came to meet us,
showing us photos
of how,
with tin cans
of precious water
they so carefully
poured each trickle
on the roots of tiny saplings
in parched, cracked earth.

Traveling here
they passed
all the lakes
and rivers
and waterfalls
all the way
the highway.
They marvelled
at so much water
our wealth,
the ease
with which
the basics of our living
come to hand.

A child asked them,
"Is there anything
you want to ask us?"
They said,
it's this:
Why do North Americans
complain so much?"
and I felt my shame
like a slap,
like a hiss.

Where is the fairness
in a world like this?


(Baby Leo and Graham )

Small puff-clouds
scoot across
the autumn sky
on the wings
of the morning.
I cross the road
to the rooster's
early cry.
From the sleepy forest
birds croak and caw,
the branches
stir and sigh.
The yard dogs
the new day in.
Horses whicker
over their apples and grain,
and the imperious marmalade cat
deigns a haughty nod
from his domain.
And I
am old enough
to be grateful for
such grace:
eyesight with which
to take this splendor in
the whole day long,
ears finely tuned
to hear
the planet's song,
legs that still carry me
though at a slower pace,
and that calm
voyager heart
that has
taken me
so far
while staying
in one place.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Big Thank You to Poets United

If you write poetry, or just enjoy reading it, check out Poets United. It is a fast-growing, on-line poetry website that the moderator, Robb Lloyd, has put a ton of work into. He offers Thursday Think Tank prompts, the Poetry Pantry, where poets can post a poem for perusal and comments, interviews with featured poets and many activities designed to help poets network, gain inspiration and encourage each other.

When I started my poetry blog, I kept looking for poets on-line without much success. Then I went to Blogger Help and someone thankfully suggested Poets United. I visited, submitted something and the community accepted me in so generously.

Immediately I had that connection with other poets I had so been missing. It is wonderful to have feedback on one's writing, and not be writing into a vacuum. It also inspires me to KEEP writing, provides some inspiration and motivation.

Many thanks to Robb for the very effective and supportive site. I so appreciate all of you whom I have met through Poets United. Thank you to every single person who has taken the time to visit my site, read something, leave encouraging comments.........I cant tell you how much I appreciate every single comment.

You can check out Poets United here:


This week I am the featured poet of the week.

If you wish, you can read my interview here:


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

God's Paintbrush

The middle of the Rocky Mountains - Jon Merk photo

This could be a painting
by Cezanne:
the layers of light,
the colors of the sky,
clouds painted on the water
by a heavenly Artist's
Or a landscape by Monet,
images softening and blurring
in the corner of the eye:
a perfection of beauty
lighting up
the land.

The light is something
out of
Dali's dreams.
And if you rounded
the soft lines enough,
where the mountain's edge
is rough and clear,
it seems
Van Gogh himself
might even
feel welcome

I am no artist
but when I view
the shape and color
of this
see the clouds
swimming in the lake,
the mountain
reaching high,
there is
so much beauty
ablaze that
even I
can surmise
what God
must have felt,
feel all
He must have
the day He
put down His
after painting

Childhood Days on Lorne Avenue

Florence and Wilfred on their 50th wedding anniversary in 1964. Behind them, left to right, are their children: Don, Audrey, Renee, Cecile and LaVergne. They were to make it past their 60th anniversary together. A good looking bunch of critters!

My mom, Renee. I cant imagine putting a baby on anything this tall and tippy!

Big brother LaVergne, with my mom, Renee, in the wagon. So cute! I wrote about LaVergne in July in Rose-Lip'd Maidens, Lightfoot Lads.

Renee - this was one of my grandma's favorite poses for photos. My mom epitomizes the innocence of childhood in this shot.

My mom was beautiful her entire life.

Cecile and Renee. I love this sequence of shots. Cecile suffered from rheumatic fever as a child, but it wasnt diagnosed. They discovered she had had it when she was an adult and began to suffer with heart problems. In those days of scarcity, visits to the doctor were rare.

This expression is classic Renee. I have a photo of her in her 60's looking exactly like this!
Big smile! Mom had such lovely long curls. At school, she was given the lead in the play Red Riding Hood because of her lovely locks. As life got busier at home, I suppose my grandmother decided that, to make life easier, she would cut off Renee's hair and she could have the old fashioned bowl-shaped haircuts the other girls had. The story goes that the nuns cried when she returned to school the day after her haircut!

Renee, seated, LaVergne standing behind her, Audrey perched on the chair arm and Cecile on the right. Audrey was always petite and had a sparkling personality all her life. She walked on tiptoe most of the time. My mom would fondly recall her tiptoing into the kitchen in the mornings, asking brightly "Everybody had their porr'dge?" If everybody had, she would proceed to lick up whatever was left.
Audrey was a reader, and would get deeply immersed in her books. Their two story house on Lorne Avenue, in Saskatoon, had a chimney pipe running up through the second story. One day, there was a chimney fire. The firemen came, dealt with the fire and left, and Audrey never budged from her seat. She was so engrossed in her book, she didnt even realize there had been a fire!

This is Don, the youngest, looking like a cherub. He came along when my grandmother was 40. My mom told me my grandma had been rather embarrassed at being pregnant at forty, in such strict Church-going times. My mom was twelve at the time, and said she helped look after Don a lot of the time, given all the work of the busy household.
One night she was putting him to bed upstairs and he was making quite a fuss, hollering and yelling.
Downstairs, Audrey looked up from her book to drolly comment, "It sounds rather like The Taming of the Shrew!"
This little lad is 80 now. It is hard to believe. He still has the same white-blonde hair. His wife, Donna, says it is frustrating that he doesnt have a single gray hair on his head!

Here he is at age five, the day of his First Communion, sitting with his Grandma Julie.

Here comes trouble! Still with the bowl haircuts, but they're getting bigger now. Left to right:
Renee, friend Grace, Cecile, friend Dot, Audrey, and LaVergne.

The other favorite pose for photos, and it looks like maybe they're putting a little Attitude into it:) LaVergne, Audrey, Renee and Cecile.
Family stories from these years are more familiar to me than my own, I heard them so often, told with such love. A family's evolutionary journey through the entire 1900's!

The Journey Continues

What a treasure trove this scrapbook is. I didnt half realize the gift my grandma was giving me at the time. But now that I'm older and so fascinated with the past, is the perfect time to be exploring it.

I am going to have to do an intervention this winter and get each page preserved before it completely falls apart.

The photo above is my grandparents in their middle years. My grandfather had been running a mail order business for herbal health products in Saskatoon - he was very much ahead of his time, but he had developed a good following by mail order. When they came to Kelowna to visit my folks and meet me, they fell in love with the town, its lake and orchards, the peace and beauty, and they moved from Saskatoon to remain in Kelowna for the rest of their lives.

They bought the little cottage above, on Christleton Avenue, where they lived through my early childhood. I spent a lot of time in that house, being cared for by my grandma. Grandpa opened the small shop called Health Products on Ellis Street.

I remember spending afternoons there with him sometimes. He would let me fill bottles with the herbal pills. I would count them carefully. When you walked in the door, you could smell all of the different herbs, which seemed like magic potions to me. Shelves lined the walls in the back room, and the medicines were kept in huge cardboard round containers.

My grandparents lived very modestly. There was no such thing as living beyond one's means. They were careful, but life was comfortable within their modest framework. They did not seem to long for more than what they had. Furniture was serviceable and purchased once, lasting forever. They re-used things, such as brown paper wrapping and string. When grandpa died, he had saved enough money to look after my grandma for the thirteen years she lived beyond him, with a bequest to the children on her death.

North America has lost the knack of living without excess. We need to relearn it. My grandparents lived through the Depression. After such desperation, waste was not in their vocabulary. Nor was "credit" or debt.

I love this photo - taken in earlier years when their kids were small. The page says the woman on the right with the hat on is my grandma and the little tot is my aunt Audrey. I suspect the boy off to the right with his back turned is my uncle LaVergne, he is the right age. They were at Waskesiu, Saskatchewan, where the family went sometimes in summer.

Collie, R.I.P., Flo and Renee's Ranch Horse - in my grandma's writing. My mom was named Renee, but there was another Renee in the family, who belonged to the horse.

This was an unexpected treasure. Without my glasses, I didnt see the writing underneath till I looked closer. Likely the only photo of my grandparents with my grandma's mother. The caption says, Wilf, Flo, Ma, R.I.P. My great-grandmother came from County Cork in Ireland. Grandma Julie. She's the one who wintered with the family and got into pillow fights and cigarette smoking with the girls :) I recognize her impish smile. I think I share it :)

My grandmother, still in Saskatoon in this photo.

After many years in the first little cottage, which I loved, business was doing well enough to support a move to a bigger house. Note that it isnt very much bigger! This house had a basement, that was the only difference, and it didnt have that cool back room where we listened to thunderstorms. But here my grandma reveled in gardening on an even bigger scale and she had blooming trees and bushes and flowers everywhere. This was on Knox Crescent. They were there for several years until my grandpa retired. Then they made a practical move, into an apartment complex, where there was less upkeep. It must have been hard to give up her garden.
My grandpa died while they were living in the apartment. My grandma stayed on there for six months or a year and then entered a nursing home herself. She was not happy with that move, and lingered for ten years in a life she no longer recognized as her own.
"I'm still here," she'd say disgustedly, as I popped my head in...."Just too damned healthy!"
I wish I had taken the time to sit with her and get the stories of every photo in this album. When one is young and busy, you have no idea how important and meaningful all of these stories will be to you one day. Thankfully I spent a lot of time with her in her final years and do have many of the stories. I must get them all down, in here, as we go along.

More to come......there are all the years when their five kids were raising a ruckus and my mom was turning my grandma's hair white!!!!!!

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Marr's~Early Days

Florence Fitzsimmons, age sixteen, on her family farm. This is the happiest photo I have ever seen of my Grandma. She was the youngest in her family, and she said her sister Dolly grumbled that she was "spoiled", and didnt have to do chores because she was the Baby. Flo was the first girl in that farming community who had her own saddle horse and rode for pleasure. She cut quite a stir when she galloped into town, pulling the reins up smartly, so her horse reared up.

"Who's THAT?" asked the dreamy-eyed young new bank manager that all the town girls were swooning over. Soon he came calling. My Grandma used to dance up a storm at the county dances too. She said the town girls were put out that he had gone courting a farm girl. He always called her "Floss". Grandma said they were engaged for two years and that it was hard to wait that long. But he was trying to get himself established.

Flo and Kentucky saddle horse Monte, whom I just found out was bought by my grandfather, so he could ride with her.

Wildred Lloyd Marr. "Wilf". On Monte. In the scrapbook, I have just found a typed note of some of my Grandma's memories of my grandfather's history, as told to my aunt and transcribed by her.
"I Remember" - Flo, as told to her daughter.
Wilf was born in Ontario, to a photographer who came from Scotland, David Lloyd George Marr. He married Kate (Kitty) Little, who was very sweet. They never had a cross word. She would meet him at the gate when he returned home, with little Wilf in tow. When Wilf was four years old, Kitty died in childbirth and the baby boy died too. Grandpaw Marr took Wilf to visit his mother's grave.
[Grandpa felt sad all his life about his mother, who was French. I have a cane, which my Grandma used until her death, that apparently belonged to Kitty. It is so treasured I dont use it. It leans against the wall in my bedroom.]
Wilf's father spoke little about her after her death, except to say he loved her very much.
Some time later he remarried and a number of children were born. Two of Wilf's half-sisters died.
Wilf joined the Union Bank when he was sixteen years old. He was transferred to Esterhazy by the bank as teller when he was 24 or 25 years of age. That is where he met Flo.
He bought a Kentucky saddle horse so he could go riding with her, since horses were her first love. After three years of coutrship, they married at St Mary's Church in Esterhazy. He was bank manager at Guernsey then, very handsome, a smart dresser and a gentleman. The notes say "There was no one quite like him either in or out of the bank."

"The second Mrs Marr didnt approve of the marriage between Wilfred and me for religious reasons and as a result, inter-family relations were pretty well terminated, though Grandpaw Marr came to visit as often as he could, and Dad would take you kids to visit him as well. He was a delightful man, and love was mutual. Just as Wilf loved Maw Fitzsimmons, I loved his father. He died suddenly in Saskatoon at 66 of a stroke, on New Year's Day."

"Your Dad went to Oregon while we lived in Brandon during the first war to seek a better paying job. He landed a position as accountant, but when he returned his company offered him a position to match the offer in Portland, so we stayed in Brandon. His various positions were Bank Manager, collector for International Harvester, before going into the IH office. At my insistence, he took a position as bank teller in the Bank of Montreal, but toward war's end returning soldiers would take up the jobs they had left. So he resigned. His family had meantime moved to Saskatoon so he returned to that city and took a position with an accounting firm, subsequently moving on to become credit manager for Cockshutt Plow.

Depression days arrived which forced staff layoffs, he being one of them.

He practiced bookkeeping for various companies and individuals and became involved in the herbal business. He was offered a position as auditor for the Workman's Compensation Board which put him on his feet so he was ultimately able to devote full time to what later became Health Products.

I Remember: Audrey (the youngest daughter, second youngest in the family of five children)
Dad wished that he could have joined the Navy at the outset of World War I but as Mother was expecting the birth of LaVergne at that time it wasnt possible. He couldnt leave her. She wouldnt let him. He wanted to serve his country.

He had a great fondness for Oregon. [I do as well.] But Mother didnt want to move there.

I remember him taking us to play around the farm machinery in the warehouse of the Cockshutt Plow where he was credit manager. Quite an adventure. The steel ball bearings were marvellous toys, but everything had to be left tidy as it was before we arrived.

I remember his unwavering love and trust.

On the back of this photo is written, perhaps by her mother : This was your wedding outfit. That's her dog, Tango, beside her. Grandma told me she sent away for this outfit, which was patterned after a New York fashion. I vaguely recall her saying it cost eighteen dollars, a fortune in those days.
Flo and Tango in front of their first home, Guernsey, Saskatchewan 1914

Flo with LaVergne, her first child. I love the soft wistful look on her young face, gazingly so wonderingly at this small creature who had suddenly appeared in her life.

I have this one out of sequence - Flo with Monte, Wilf with Punch. At least that is what the handwriten note on the photo says. So Flo must have been still on the farm when this was taken, I believe the date was 1913. And Punch was still alive. Unless the notation is incorrect.

The note on this one says "Guernsey Bank 1913" . Wilf and Flo are in the centre, and the writing says Irish is on the left and Rocky on the right.

I love this one. Underneath it in the scrapbook, it said "Bank after Hallowe'en". But when I turned the photo over, it says "Feeding eggs to the dogs at noon at Four Corners Store near Meadow Lake." The store is the size of a small cabin and there isnt a road or a corner in sight:)

Out of sequence again . Flo and ranch horse at the farm. I wish my mom was here to fill in the gaps in the history. I remember her saying she got "sent to the farm" in the summers. I assume this must be either the old family farm, or my grandmother's brother Frank's farm. Or perhaps he took over the family farm. Horrible how history disappears with each generation. Not many people left to remember all this any more.

Here is my grandma holding my mother. My mom had the same face her whole life, and a very distinctive personality. She had "star power" and was always quite dazzling.

In my grandma's writing, it says "dirty '30's" beside this photo. Life was hard in those years. It was the Depression, and they had five young children to raise. My grandpa did the books for various stores and businesses, in exchange for a sack of coal, or whatever they could offer in exchange. My grandma washed all the pinafores, dresses, leggings, smocks and sheets for five children by hand in the bathtub. She would walk for miles down to the railway tracks, to buy bruised bananas cheap, to make dessert for the family. Hard hard work. For a young girl who had been rather pampered, I wonder how she found this adjustment.
Family legend says she ruled the kids with an iron hand when they were young, and they rebelled in their teens. I knew her as a highly responsible, disciplined woman, with a high sense of propriety. But she also had a wicked sense of humor and was a source of unending comfort and care to all of the grandchildren, most of whom she spent some years looking after when we were small.

I like this photo as it is the one photograph where she isnt a mom or a grandma, but simply a woman. A young woman, in a pretty dress. My grandparents had a long marriage, of over sixty years. It was a given that they loved each other, though given the times, there was little affection shown in public.
I hope they were wild about each other. I hope they had joy.

I hope they had a blast!

Sunday, August 22, 2010


Oh my goodness! I have had the most wonderful, heart-tugging afternoon, looking through my Grandma's old tattered scrapbook, which she gave to me when she was in the nursing home. Her writing on the cover says 1933.

By now it is tattered - its worn cardboard covers have torn away, the pages are loose, the glue on the back of the photos and clippings has dried, so some of the photos were easy to scan, while others are not available without further damage to the book. But with what is available, I had a glorious time. (Scanning is just the most fun!)

I will be posting over the next few days, photos and what history I remember of those early days of my grandparents' lives. I found a photo of Punch, the little cow pony who was hit by a train in a snowstorm - I will put that photo above his story next.

But today, just quickly, I have included two newspaper articles that I had totally forgotten about. When I began writing when I was fourteen, some teachers took notice. I was asked to write a weekly school column for the local newspaper and soon the local paper offered me a job, in the form of cub reporter during summers and school holidays. All through high school, I did feature stories, straight news stories, interviews, and at times filled in for the proofreader when she was on holidays. It was a wonderful training in journalism which I could have pursued, had I not been distracted by wanting marriage, a home and children. Sadly, I turned my back on the newspaper business after a few short years in the "biz". I remember my editor throwing his pen across the room in frustration when I told him I was leaving to get married, and muttering "damn boys!" to the air. :)

I know. I could have done so much with my life, had I not so badly needed a home in this world. (Sadly, it would be years later, before my children and I would find and create our own home. But thankfully, I did keep writing, on my own, through the years.)

The top clipping is when I won third place in a province-wide contest for essays on the topic of Peace. I wish I had that essay now, but I dont and have no idea what I wrote. But my longing for world peace - and domestic peace - and personal peace - developed in me very early on:) It has been the guiding force in my life. Domestic and personal peace I have achieved. World peace is going to take a little longer:)

This other clipping is an article I wrote in twenty minutes when the editor asked me for a teen's impressions of Christmas. He was floored when I handed it to him, he read it and said "you wrote all this just now in twenty minutes?" Yup. Always a wordy lass! (I think my next challenge will have to be haiku to see if it is POSSIBLE for me to be succinct. Not too likely!) The title reads "Memory Making Events Still Part of Christmas".

It was good to find these two forgotten clippings. Maybe one day I'll type out the Christmas article for you........closer to Christmas, maybe?
It has been wonderful, sifting through all of this stuff. Stay tuned. My grandma in her wedding outfit, back in 1913..........her with her first born.......looking so young........her with her horse Monte...........an old general store about as big as a carport on "Four Corners Road" - with not a corner OR a road in sight-in the middle of the lone prairie!
I have had SUCH a fun afternoon!

The Creatures of the Woods

photo from seraknee.com
(written in winter)
Somewhere on a mountainside,
a mother bear stirs in her sleep
in her winter cave,
faintly beginning to dream
of springtime berries.
In mountain streams,
fish slowly circle, waiting
until spring
when they'll be eaten
by the bear.
And among the bare brown branches
and broken twigs of winter,
deer move
as elusively as shadows,
their mouths hungry
for the taste
of fresh green leaves.
is all man's hubbub
and commotion,
a muted roar,
as he noisily goes about
the business of getting
his daily food
called Getting More.
I sit as silent as a stone
and long for places
deep within
the forest's heart
where there is
no sound
save wind in treetops
and the soft, padding footsteps
of the creatures
of the woods.