Sunday, December 31, 2017

A Celebration of Life

Last New Year's Eve it was a Foodie Feast. Between 2010 and 2017, we feasted twenty times together. November 11 we were to be back at High in the Sky but it was cancelled because Dick came down with a bad flu. Within a few weeks we'd learned it was a very aggressive form of liver cancer.

Dec 30th, BPYC held a Celebration of Life for Dick, who died December 14th.

Dick was a kindred spirit. I first met him thirteen years ago when Rob and I joined BPYC. Anytime the yacht club had a function or party, you could find Dick and Maureen mixing and mingling. The last time I saw Dick we were both dressed as pirates at the Halloween party. We shared a drink and when he left, we hugged and I said "see you in a couple of weeks for the Hoe Down at High in the Sky."

I enjoyed reading his weekly blog, the views of an octogenarian, until he stopped posting in October 2016. He was a vibrant person and I could see him starting another blog when he turned ninety, publishing his the views as a nonagenarian.

His favourite point of sail was wing on wing, wind at your back, 6 knots.

He was an inspiration to me in many ways. Having learned to play guitar when he was 75 he joined the house band. He had a wonderful speaking and singing voice, which he had lately applied to learning French.

The clubhouse was filled with people for his Celebration of Life. Caroline and Wendy took charge in the kitchen and prepared a groaning board of delectable morsels for the crowd.

Rob was emcee and delivered a beautiful eulogy, followed by many people who shared their stories and memories of a life well-lived.  Grace performed a violin solo, in the style of a Scottish lament, the Ashokan Farewell. Maureen's nephew Kerry Stratton read the poem Sea Fever.  Liz Ford sang the song "I Did It My Way," acapella, (I'm not sure how she managed singing so beautifully when so many of us had difficulty just speaking so choked up). I sat beside Maureen on one side, Caroline on the other, while one hundred plus raised their glasses in a toast to Dick.  As it was one of his wishes that members learn and sing the song he wrote to commemorate the club, that is how we ended the formal ceremony, singing "There's a place down here, at the foot of the hill...."

I will think about Dick tonight at midnight when we welcome in the new year, and I know I will think about him in the year and years ahead.


Rob's eulogy:

I first met Dick Grannan when Diane and I joined BPYC 13 years ago.

I was impressed with the genuine warmth he extended in his welcome and for making the two of us feel as if we belonged. He had a sparkle in his eye, a firm handshake, and carried himself with the energy and stature of a much younger man.

If someone had told me that Dick was 75 years old at that time… I wouldn’t have believed them. And knowing Dick …I’m pretty sure he barely believed it himself.

There’s a quote by Gabriel Garcia Marquez that I believe mirrors a major theme in Dick’s philosophy on life:

‘It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old…. they grow old…. because they stop pursuing dreams.’

Dick never grew old…. He never stopped pursuing dreams…never stopped learning….never stopped loving….and never stopped challenging himself.

He refused ‘old’.

If Dick found himself slipping into ‘old’ …he would quickly admonish himself and move on. He fought a fierce battle with the concept of ‘old’. He observed it…Was fascinated by it…. Was even amused by it…. But would never embrace it.

This can be attested to in how he led his life and is reflected in his writing. And that fight to not accept, ‘old’ in his life, began many years ago.

I’d like to read from an article he wrote about skiing many years ago in Quebec:

“Returning by chair for a second run I met a man who had started down the hill a few seconds before me early that morning. In the course of our conversation he asked if I would ski with him. I had seen him going down and recognized a good skier. We ended up skiing the hill in tandem the rest of the week. One day, when I got to know him better, I asked him his age. He replied seventy-two! When I returned home to Toronto I immediately went to the nearest ski shop and purchased new skis, boots and clothing. Until I met him thought I was through and that I was enjoying my last days as a downhill skier. Because of that chance encounter I have enjoyed over forty more years of downhill skiing!”

Dick lived a very full life. A lifelong sailor… an athlete (who could have played professional hockey)….a scholar and educator …( graduate degrees in philosophy and education)…a novelist with two published books, ‘It Ain’t over Yet’, and ‘An Unintended Journey’, and a musician who learned to play the guitar at 75…and then joined a rock and roll band. And these are just a few of his life’s accomplishments.

He had an inquisitive mind, always learning, always asking and always involved.

And he used his time well… To quote from another article in his blog on what to do with time:, and I quote:

“Time to appreciate art and music, time to acquire new skills, time to enjoy the wind in your face or the colour of the late evening sky. Time once again to adjust and be open to what lies ahead, and to embrace it with all your might. Time to stay engaged. And in the words of the poem by R. Tagor “Let me pray to be sheltered from dangers, but to be fearless in facing them.”

Dick has no regrets on how he used his time. He wrote in an article while ruminating on life and aging… about a story he came across of an Australian nurse who gathered the regrets of her dying patients. Things like… regrets that they worked too hard… did not stay in touch with friends…not telling someone they loved them…or not letting themselves be happy.

Dick goes on to recollect his life choices and concludes the piece by writing what he’d say… when the time comes… if asked his regrets… and he writes:

“I don’t have any regrets about the path I have travelled, just sadness that there are so many questions that will never be answered for me”

Dick passed away at the age of 88. Not at the ripe ‘old’ age of 88, but passed away at 88, as a fighter who lost a battle to cancer.

We’ll greatly miss Dick Grannan at Bluffers Park Yacht club. He has been a cornerstone to our foundation, an integral part of the community, and some would say the face of our club. But as great as the loss is to the membership, and to those who knew Dick, it pales Maureen in comparison to your loss of a man, a husband of over forty years who deeply loved you. However… take comfort in knowing that Dick will always be in our hearts, a role model for fellow members, and will be remembered for many years to come.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Absinthe Tasting - Winter Solstice Celebration

It is the ritual of absinthe that drew me. That, and the attraction of writers and painters through the centuries... Baudelaire, Van Gogh, Degas, Hemingway.

Earlier in the year, Kaarina had gifted me with an absinthe spoon she picked up in Paris. I thought it would be fun to use it to prepare green fairies using the ritual of ice water, fire, and sugar cubes.

Then Rob gave me my Christmas gift early. An absinthe fountain!

The fountain became the centrepiece for the party.

To make a green fairy, place the sugar cube on the spoon, on top of the glass, and drip the absinthe slowly. If done with patience, the absinthe itself can melt the sugar into the glass. Then ignite the sugar cube and watch it carmelize. Swish the sugar into the glass and then slowly drip in the ice water to dilute the absinthe two to five times. Doing this slowly helps activate the essential oils and allows the aroma to develop. The anticipation flavours the drink as much as any ingredient.

The ritual has all the elements - fire, water, earth, air. It appeals to all the senses - touch as you make the drink, smell as you release the aroma, sight as you watch the cloudy louche develop, sound as you hear the drips, and taste when you sample the dose.

It is also a drink of contrasts - sweet and bitter - freezing and burning.

A powerful concoction.

I greeted guests with Death in the Afternoon, an absinthe cocktail invented by Hemingway: 1.5 oz of absinthe + 4 oz of champagne + lemon twist.

Later, we drank corpse revivors, equal parts gin, cointreau, lillet, lemon juice and a dash of absinthe.

Sushi was the perfect food accompaniment.

The licorice flavour fit the winter holidays, but I think I'd like to repeat the menu in the summertime, in the garden, and see whether any real green fairies appear.

At this year's tasting: Kaarina, Liz, Laura, Virginia, Nicki, Nicolette, Irene.

Loved reading about the history of absinthe at Absinthe Fever and the preparation at Absinthe Spoon.

L'Absinthe / Degas

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Long Night Moon - December 2017






          for the world.
Long nights, indeed. November was a challenging month at work and home and also brought so many pleasures.

Yoga intensives and silent retreats helped feed my spirit, and visits to the art gallery ignited energy as I absorbed the colours and beauty.

Food to nourish and satisfy. I prepared a feast for Alex' birthday and later indulged myself with a 5 course, curated dinner, enjoying Painting Poetry.

The splendour of Niagara Falls at night, under an almost full moon, brought calm and wonder.

Gratitude for it all.

The moon was full December 3, 10:47 am

Sunday, November 26, 2017


Black and blue and grey yarn twist in a frayed bracelet on my wrist.

It has been two weeks since the last night of the mindfulness studies course, when we each wrapped the yarn three times and claimed three words to carry forward, then tossed the ball to the next someone. The end result a spiderweb of connectedness in a room of eighteen souls.

Equanimity. Compassion. Kindness. 

Were the words I chose to speak aloud.

The course was eight weeks long, spread over ten weeks. My motivation for signing up was to deepen my own daily practise and learn new tools for resiliency. It wasn't exactly what I expected, but I would definitely take it again. Listening to similar struggles others endure to stay in the moment helped me feel more compassion for others, and for my own monkey mind.

Searching for images of connected threads I came across this beautiful short video: We are all connected

Monday, November 13, 2017

An Event-Full Month

My latest work assignment is with a unique volunteer organization within the provincial government. I am privileged to be the one full-time staff for Central Region. There are three other full time advisors, one each in the North, East and West. Although we are highly supportive of each other, we focus primarily on delivering within our regions and portfolios. Within each region, we work with volunteer colleagues who have demanding management positions and aren't always able to dedicate full attention as they work off the side of their desks on volunteer tasks. Each region has different challenges. In Central we have over half of the membership (3,000+) and easier access to senior executives.

The position is not solely focused on delivering events however this month alone I will be delivering five events to more than 800 people.

I'm learning so much about designing programs and agendas, working with volunteers, preparing presenters, managing technology and venues, promotion and marketing, managing attendance, evaluating results and outcomes, and coming up with ways to continue momentum once the events have finished.

So far this month, three events have been successfully completed with two more on the horizon. It has been extremely demanding and a wonderful learning opportunity. I've been able to grow not just my leadership and technical skills but have been able to work with rich and  extremely interesting content. Perhaps even more important are continuing lessons on how to restore and replenish energy and focus, and keeping things in perspective when they don't go necessarily as planned.

Moments Matter
The first was a milestone celebration for 100+ staff. These are held every year, and I was pleased the theme I proposed, "Moments Matter" would be adopted across the province. Rose Kennedy's quote had been on my mind and was shared at each of five events.

Dr. Elaine Dembe delivered the keynote address at all celebrations, and I thoroughly enjoyed her presentation about Passionate Longevity.

Unfortunately our chosen venue had challenges with their A/V system, which led to last minute scrambling in morning set up and again in the afternoon when we switched to the doctor's laptop. She held her composure while we both insisted staff try an alternate projector set-up. Thankfully we were able to proceed after the fuss. Although the speaker could have managed without the powerpoint, having the visuals there enriched the experience.

Mental Health Awareness
I was the main lead on this event and involved in every aspect, from designing the agenda to follow-up survey evaluations. As the months went on, I grew a team of leads and close to 50 volunteers to help with execution, and was thankful for every person who became involved.

We used technology to broadcast to 19 satellite locations and webcast the event, so in addition to the 120 in-person attendees, we had more than double participating at remote locations. Video  and presentations will be available online for the next year, extending reach even further.

The Chairs and I approached potential presenters and pitched the approach, getting input from senior executives as we finalized the agenda. It was very rewarding to curate content and flow for the full day. The topic was certainly a meaningful one, with the goal to raise awareness about mental health issues and the tools managers can use to build a culture of support and resilience. Most rewarding, evaluations now confirm we met our objective.

Careers in Operations
Two events - one in downtown Toronto and the other in Downsview, for 120 and 80 attendees respectively. Speed networking, ADM panels, a trade show element... Lots of fun, laughter and learning  - always a good combination!

Here I was part of the team to deliver and didn't need to take on the overall leadership of the events - a good thing, as the first event was held only days following the Mental Health Awareness conference.

When tickets went on sale for these events back in the summer, they sold out within days. The waitlists were as large as their capacity. Yet there were high rates of cancellation and an even higher percentage of no-shows, leaving several seats empty. There will be strategies in future to help ensure people who want to attend don't miss the opportunity.

Art of Leadership
This conference series is popular in Toronto, and working with the organizers I negotiated a deal for our members to receive a networking suite, seating at the event, and boxed lunches. The goal was for 100 to sign up and hear best selling authors, including Vice-President of the US Joe Biden, Amanda Lang, Welby Altidor, Dr. Tasha Eurich and Vince Molinaro. Now two weeks away we have revised our target to 80 and are currently at 63... more communications and marketing required. Who could resist such an inspiring line-up?

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Full Beaver Moon - November 2017

I looked up at the moon in the sky last night and by some optical trick it looked oblong. I wondered how it could be so full again, so soon... aren't there 28 days between each moon?

I've been busy as a beaver this last month. Courses, work, personal milestones, it has truly been a whirl.

The Mindfulness Studies and Drawing courses have been great diversions, but I've missed more than a few Uke Jams and two Heliconian lectures. I'm looking forward to returning to my regular schedule in a few weeks.

On the work front, it will truly be an eventful month. Although I am not an event planner by trade, by the end of November I will have earned the credentials! Five events for almost 800 people. This past week I executed the first two. One a milestone celebration for 100+ staff, the other a mental health awareness event for almost 400 managers. I've been planning and organizing both for months. Three more events from now to the end of November, thankfully with major preparations done.

Last weekend I did a yoga workshop on Saturday and a silent retreat on Sunday. Much needed! There have been a lot of long days and sleep interrupted by waking up in the middle of the night to add new tasks to the 'to do' list.

Evenings have also been full!

Monday was the Drawing course.

Tuesday night Rob and I popped over to Alex and Penny's house for Halloween - just the day after they got their keys.  The wallpaper was already stripped and lying on the floor, holes in the walls being poly-filled. So much work ahead of them, and so much potential!

Wednesday night we saw Yasmin Levy and the Klezmatics at Koerner hall. The Middle Eastern sounds made me feel as though I'd travelled elsewhere for the evening.

Thursday night I had the sense to keep free as I ended up working until 8 pm to get everything ready for the big work event the next day.

Friday night we went to see a movie at the Fox and within 3 minutes I had fallen into a deep sleep, waking up just before the end credits rolled.

The moon was full today at 1:23 a.m. and I was sleeping deeply, right through the night and late into the morning. Woke up, cleaned the house, planted some bulbs in the garden, and then had a well-deserved massage. Now upstairs for a long bubble bath!

Tonight the clocks push back and we get an extra hour... I will be using it to catch up on my sleep!

Monday, October 9, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving

Much to be thankful for on this beautiful Thanksgiving Day.

The orange dahlias and begonias in the back a teaser for showier autumn foliage on its way. Right now the maple is only beginning to redden, only a few fallen laves on the stone.

I'm finalizing the dinner menu: Prime Rib, mushroom gravy, Yorkshire puddings, brussels sprouts with chestnuts. Choosing the wine: a 2007 Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano that has been waiting too many years on the shelf for a special occasion...

Alex and Penny will be joining us for dinner. In a few weeks they will be moving into their first house! I can't believe my son has bought a house in this crazy market. Of course I shared the story of how when we bought this house, it dropped 20% in value before we even moved in. Our town is overdue a market correction, but the two of them have wanted to buy for awhile and jumped in as the prices became a bit more affordable. I am both happy and apprehensive for them, but they are in for the long game.

Long game, indeed. Almost 30 years at this address, house poor for more than half of them, Rob and I taking turns at being unemployed throughout the 90's. Time and meals spent at home together, camping vacations, working hard, making do. If it all came easy, would we have enjoyed things as much?

Now in the autumn of our lives, a harvest of life's pleasures.

Beautiful finish

Over to the island and back again. Overnite the boat was actually heeling in the wind as we were tied tightly at Hanlon's wall.

Sunday morning there were  8 kite surfers flying in the strong winds, graceful sails arcing in the sky. We watched on the beach to the sounds of waves, debating whether to stay another night or go.

The Environment Canada marine map had coloured all the bodies of water red, due to a tropical storm effect. The forecast indicated rain and stronger winds the next day, so although we'd pre-paid at the wall for two nights, we headed back to the club with a credit for next year noted on our account.

The trip back was spectacular, sailing by the jib in the autumn sun with  dazzle on the water. I was more than a bit melancholy, knowing it the last trip of the season.

We docked and stripped the jib and main, laying the white canvas on the grey gravel in the parking lot, tucking the sails away for winter.

A beautiful sunset at the end of the day offered some solace.

Yes, I am thankful for the season but greedy for more!

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Full Hunter's Moon - October 2017

Alex and Penny are coming for a mid-week supper tonight and I've been staring at the light in the back garden. Life is good.

September and October have been busy. Courses (Mindfulness Studies and Drawing for People Who Can't Draw), busy with work (SIX events in November).

Still picking up my uke a couple of times a week, and lately playing  Don't Fence Me In.
Love this line in particular:  I want to.... gaze at the moon until I lose my senses...

The moon is full today, 2:41 pm
(Image: Photo by Colin Lane, Manchester)

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Yoga Camp!

A weekend get-away with Liz, Anita, Denise and Chris to the Queen Elizabeth Y in Honey Harbour. Nicki was there, too, with a separate group of friends.

A few weekends a year the YMCA welcomes adults. We signed up months ago to the camp, and I'd been looking forward to it but didn't know quite what to expect.

Yes there were yoga classes, but it was just as much about the yoga of connecting with friends, walking on pink rocks, paddling at sunset, meditating at sunrise, trying Qi-Gong, going on nature hikes, eating great food, forest-bathing, swimming, standing on my head on a paddle board and tumbling into the water, trying archery for the first time, singing at a campfire, going kayaking, crafts, lichen-looking, stargazing, birdwatching...

Being a sailor it has been many years since I've spend a summer weekend with such fabulous weather in a cabin on land. So lovely! We stayed in the same bunks the kids would sleep in, narrow beds with plastic mattresses. A trough outside to wash up and brush your teeth, a separate building for toilets, the main cabin for meals.

It sounds funny but I felt busy dawn to dusk. There were scheduled activities throughout the day, with meals served at designated times. No dishes, no cooking!

One sunset we took the war canoe out for a paddle. There must have been twenty of us out for a leisurely tour, enjoying the sound of the water licking the side of the boat and the beautiful colours of the sky.

I love the pink rocks of the Canadian Shield! Sculptured by the wind. Smooth and hard. In the morning we did Qi Gong on the rocks, followed by meditation.

On the nature walks, I couldn't believe people were walking so quickly past the moss and lichen. I had brought a magnifying glass in my pocket so I could see it up close, and even tugged a field microscope along. The microscope went unused but the magnifying glass opened a window to a miniature world.

On the nature hike, I did learn how to recognize the call of a phoebe and got a good view of a millipede. Too short a walk though, and too many people scared away a lot of the creatures. On another walk, they came across a rattler and a hognose snake. There were sightings of porcupine and fox, but not by me.

The weather was unseasonably warm, so I finally got to jump in the lake. I tried standing on my head on a makeshift paddle board - didn't last very long but it's something I've always wanted to try. A few other firsts as well - archery, kayaking.

So much fun! Hope to go again next year with the same group of gals.

Sailing holidays 2017

For so many years we have been sailing east to Waupoos for our holidays, but this year was different. Due to high water levels, some of the eastern reciprocals were unpredictable. So we went West, stopping for a few days at Toronto Island before tugging on mooring balls at Smuggler's Cove, Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Lots of great sailing, and plenty of summer storms to keep our eyes turned up to billowing storm clouds. No swimming for me this year, the water was too cold when it was clean and too high with e-coli when it was warm.

Weekend get-aways were often literally just around the corner, admiring the chalky bluffs..

Hope to get in at least one more sail before the end of the season!


First time we ever stayed at Smugglers Cove. The US border was close enough to swim - but the current way too strong. The little clubhouse is actually a trailer on a dock - so charming, and the members welcoming. Wineries and plays at the top of the hill. This year we saw The Madness of King George, and tasted wine at Reif Estates and Two Sisters. A great holiday, only 5 or 6 hours away.
I always admire the Bluffs, but often as we are passing by on our way to somewhere else. High waters meant we felt more confident bringing our keel boat closer to the bottom of the Bluffs, but we also used the dinghy to get closer to explore.  Less than a half hour away from the dock!

It still blows me away, coming into Toronto Harbour at sunset, with the tall glass and metal on one side and a natural green haven on the other. A place like no other.

Stormy weather is always a source of entertainment, especially when safely tucked into our slip. In August we moved to L dock, a whole different view.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Full Harvest Moon - September

Late summer days, sudden storms. 

Such abundance - bursting red field tomatoes, nubby dark green cucumbers, peaches the colour of a sunrise, bright yellow corn.

officially full September 6, 3:04
Harvest Moon, Painting by Samuel Palmer

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Nova Scotia

We traveled to Nova Scotia the first week of August for a family reunion on Rob's side.

Most of the time we spent in Halifax, a short walk from the harbour.

Tall ships were in! We managed to visit these gorgeous boats four straight days, including the parade the day of their departure. What a view! The layout of the harbour meant we were only a few hundred metres from the ships under sail, as they dipped their flags and shot cannons. More than 25 vessels took part in the regatta. Favourites were the German Alexander Von Humboldt II (3 mast bark), Spanish El Galeon (galleon), American Eagle (cutter), and of course the Canadian Bluenose (schooner). One of the highlights was being on board the U.S. Coast Guard training vessel 'The Eagle' just as they were orienting young recruits: expectant, hopeful, scared, confident expressions in a sea of faces.

The Bank of Nova Scotia on Hollis was impressive, with massive gates, bronze embellishments and a soaring ceiling. We never did manage to get inside during banking hours, but it's still open for business.

The Maritime Museum was full of exhibits. A major portion of the space was given to the Halifax Explosion that occurred in 1917. I stood for a long while in front of a window with a small telegraph key. Vince Coleman died as he was using it to warn a coming train of the pending explosion, "Hold up the train. Ammunition ship afire in harbor making for Pier 6 and will explode. Guess this will be my last message. Good-bye boys."[6]  Exhibits of wrecks at sea were fascinating.

The works of Maud Lewis were on display at the gallery, including the tiny house she lived in while she produced her work. Her paintings wallpaper the tiny room. It took hours of effort to remove the layers of wood smoke, nicotine and grime to return them to the surface. Such bright colours and cheerful subjects, painted by someone in pain, poverty and an abusive relationship. How she managed is truly an inspiration.

Downtown Halifax, there was construction everywhere and it wasn't easy to drive around, so we walked. Not much luck with restaurants. When I asked one server how long we would need to wait for a table, they said, "How should I know?" and I suggested they might be able to tell by whether the customer had been served or started their meal. At another place they had us wait more than a half hour for the fish and chips, but forgot one of the four orders; the batter was chewy and fish was mushy. Uggh. Best meals were at Murphy's the Cable Wharf Restaurant, where I had lobster and on another visit, bacon wrapped scallops. The Chickenburger, outside Halifax in Bedford was probably the most fun to visit, with its retro diner feel and neon chicken blazing on the roof.

There were fireworks every night we were there as part of Canada 150 celebrations, and we saw one of the best shows ever, that lasted more than twenty minutes and filled the night sky with smoke and colour.

We managed a day trip to Peggy's Cove. The further you got from the parking lot, the fewer the number of tourists. We spent at least an hour on the rocks gazing at the sea, and watching the waves crash and white foam froth. We also joined a small boat tour for a bumpy ride along the coast.

Lunenburg was lovely and not too busy during our visit. Colourful houses, quirky galleries, and a row of restaurants facing the sea. The Bluenose II wasn't in port though, she was in Halifax Harbour. We returned to the capital in time to watch the schooner sail out to return with the entire fleet  to Lunenburg.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Finding inspiration

I've been book binging on self-help & mindfulness books. While very informative, I am going to cut waaaaay back and stick to one or two chapters of a book a week.

More digestible that way, and probably more productive in the long run!

In the last month I've read or dipped into:
- The Beauty of Discomfort (Amanda Lang)
- The Ripple Effect (Geoff Wells)
- When Things Fall Apart, Heart Advice for Difficult Times (Pema Chodron)
- The Okinawa Program (Wilcox)
- Unplug (Schwatz)
- Savour (Thich Nhat Hanh)
- How to See Yourself as you Really Are (Dalai Lama)

As I was searching for the photo to go along with this post, funnily enough I came across this study "Reading Self-Help Books Can Make You Feel Worse." The research put self-help into two categories and found problem-focused self-help books often have the opposite of their intended effect. The books I've been devouring are focused on nutrition, mindfulness, and positive thinking and fall into the growth-oriented and inspirational category. Good books, good advice, and good reinforcement.


Turning to self-help books for guidance might seem like a good idea when you’re feeling down about life. But a new study suggests it probably won’t make you feel a whole lot better — and it could even leave you feeling worse.
The research, conducted by a team of psychologists at the University of Montreal, found that people who read self-help books show more depressive symptoms and higher sensitivity to stress than those who don’t read such literature.
For the small pilot study, the researchers tested 30 people for personality and mental health traits such as stress reactivity (the tendency to respond to a stressor, measured by stress hormone levels present in saliva), openness, self-discipline, extraversion, compassion, emotional stability, self-esteem, and depressive symptoms.
Half of the participants said that they read self-help books and half did not. The self-help consumers were divided into two categories based on which of two broad classes of such books they read: 1) problem-oriented books that discuss the nature of personal challenges, such as divorce, as well as means of addressing these challenges, and 2) growth-oriented books that promote “inspirational messages about life and happiness.”
The results, which appear in the journal Neural Plasticity, show that readers of problem-focused self-help books had significantly elevated depressive symptoms, while those who read growth-oriented material had greater stress reactivity than non-readers.
However, as the authors note, there’s a big “chicken or egg” problem here. In other words, we don’t know whether high stress reactivity and a tendency towards depression lead people to read self-help books, or, alternatively, if reading self-help books makes people more stressed out and depressed.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Gardening is a fine teacher

The maple tree was here when we moved in 26 years ago, and it has tripled in height. I love looking at its branches and leaves as the seasons change.

For the last couple years those leaves have been browning. Closer inspection proved a major branch would need to be removed. Better to have an arborist do it than to have it fall onto the house.

Still, I can't quite get used to the sight, it makes me wince a little every time I see the raw cut. Even with the one limb removed, we will likely need to take another. And next year, another, and eventually none of the branches will be left. Just a standing trunk. What to do through these next few years of transition? Maybe a few sculptures or birdhouses would help things not look quite so savaged.

As the crew took down the branch, they ended up also trampling the nasturtiums by the pond and quite a few favourites in the native corner (ferns, blood root and the Jack-in-the-Pulpit).

My shady backyard won't be so shady anymore, so some plantings will need to be re-thought.

And just when I was getting to the point of enjoying the garden and not thinking it needed any major changes...

Monday, August 7, 2017

Full Sturgeon Moon - August

Cloudy skies have hidden the glow, but the moon looked full even two nights ago.

August 7, 2:11 pm, the moon was full, and we were coming through fog on the lake back to BPYC from the island. A passing ship suddenly emerged through the cloud, just a hundred feet or so in front of us, a ghostly visit in the afternoon.

August 8 we anchored in "Little Baja" and watched the sun set and the moon rise. We were the only boat, a rare occurrence. Cool weather is keeping most boats in their slips but we are on holiday and making the most of it.

Saturday, July 22, 2017


Pema Chodrin touched on the meditation practice of tonglen in When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times, and I've tried it at moments throughout the day when I find myself facing the chronic and quotidian.

Jealousy, anger, aggression.... breathe it in, acknowledge it and then breathe out peace and compassion.

Here she is with a lesson on You Tube

Monday, July 17, 2017


 A fantastic holiday and total refresh.

A weekend getaway with Rob in Stratford enjoying theatre (HMS Pinnafore + 12th Night).Yoga in the Heart of the City in the mornings from 8-12. TBG Garden Party I saw my old boss Tony Gagliano, said "hello" and "thanks for Luminato!" Summerlicious  Cibo Wine Bar + La Societie + Indian Street Food Co + Tabule. Fox Theatre Film Noir Double Indemnity  Fringe Festival. Am I Pretty Now  ROM Blue Whale Tale. Art Gallery Georgia O'Keefe! Gardening Managed a lot of transplanting and digging and dirt under my nails Pampering Bubble baths and mani-pedi and massage Sailing An incredible sail over to Toronto Island, heeled at 20 degrees and me at the wheel for a couple of hours. Exhilarating! Stayed overnite, watching the night herons fishing, without any other boats for company Dinner at Alex' and Penny's with Alex cooking chicken korma and Penny making raita and Rob mixing mojitos... a nice finish to a wonderful week...

Friday, July 7, 2017

Thunder Moon! July

The Thunder Moon is officially full July 9, early Sunday morning, but we watched a fantastic storm on the lake from the safety of the dock on Yondering this Friday night, and then came home to wonder at the full moon overhead.

I love a good summer storm!

On the way up the hill a deer popped into view... a lovely coincidence for what is also known as the Buck Moon.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Happy Canada Day!

A party at BPYC on Canada Day, with clubs from the basin joining in the festivities. Dancing with Linda D. on the deck to the band Greystone (Mike P. on percussion and harmonica). Fireworks in the night sky and a campfire sing along on the spit. Happy 150!

Sunday we were out with Kaarina and Mike for a shake-down sail. Finally! July 2nd may be our latest date ever. A giddy afternoon.

Monday Rob and I had a fantastic sail over to Toronto Harbour Our mission was to see the giant duck that is taking a tour of Ontario during this milestone year. I'm not certain of the connection, but it definitely makes the skyline playful.

After a month at the marina, we cautiously returned to our home slip. The docks are still covered several inches in water, and I wasn't sure how we would navigate. We had friendly neighbours to greet us, and fortunately winds were light. I stood starboard with a stick to grab onto the dock for purchase. Rob jumped off and tied the lines. Home again, home again.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Book Babes AGM 2017

What a fantastic AGM! The first time Nicki hosted was 2007. Early days there were many late nights, and way too much food and drink. As we grow older we are more relaxed and there is a bit less excess. This year we went in June instead of May, so the trilliums weren't out yet, but the lake was warm and we were able to take a plunge under blue skies.

Great food! A lovely brunch at Louise's and dinner that included Liz' Morrocan Chicken with spices from Marakesh, and Laura's home baked bread and dessert. 

I drove up this year as my intent was to leave early for a Wang Dang Doodle Ukulele meet-up on Toronto Island. Unfortunately a flat tire delayed my departure. My "donut" spare is only good up to speeds of 80 km, so I took backroads all the back from Haliburton. It was mostly an enjoyable drive, very scenic. I also led a few parades, and there was lots of honking!! Those stuck behind me really seemed to appreciate the fact I was protecting them from any speed traps that may lay ahead.

Book Babes Booklist 2017-2018

Sept: Are you somebody? The Accidental Memoir of a Dublin Woman by Nuala O'Faolian (Virginia)
October: The Nutshell by Ian McEwan (Laura)
November: Martin Sloan by Michael Redhill (Nicki)
December: Are we Smart Enough to Know how Smart Animals are? by Frans deWaal (Nicolette)
January: The Wilds Oats Project, by Robin Ronaldo (Liz)
February: Poetry night (Pat)
March: Seven Stones to Stand or Fall... Short stories by Diana Gabaldon (Debra)
April: Canada Reads choices (Diane)
May: American Gods by Neil Gaiman (Miriam)
June: Still Life by Louise Penny (Louise)

Honourable Mentions
  • Crooked letter, Crooked letter by Tom Franklin 
  • The Children's Act by Ian McEwan 
  • The Evening Chorus by Helen Humphries 
  • Slouching towards Bethlehem - Collection by Joan Didion 
  • The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate Discoveries from a Secret World by Peter Wohlleben 
  • The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See 
  • Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

Saturday, June 10, 2017

The Griffin Poetry Prize

Liz and I went to the readings of the shortlisted poets this year and heard seven of the world's best. The voice that I most connected with was Alice Oswald's - both for content and timbre. When the winners were announced the following evening, she had captured the International category.

This is one of the poems she read:

A Short Story of Falling

Related Poem Content Details

It is the story of the falling rain
to turn into a leaf and fall again

it is the secret of a summer shower
to steal the light and hide it in a flower

and every flower a tiny tributary
that from the ground flows green and momentary

is one of water's wishes and this tale
hangs in a seed-head smaller than my thumbnail

if only I a passerby could pass
as clear as water through a plume of grass

to find the sunlight hidden at the tip
turning to seed a kind of lifting rain drip

then I might know like water how to balance
the weight of hope against the light of patience

water which is so raw so earthy-strong
and lurks in cast-iron tanks and leaks along

drawn under gravity towards my tongue
to cool and fill the pipe-work of this song

which is the story of the falling rain
that rises to the light and falls again