Sunday, November 11, 2018

Theatre Highlights - 2018

Trace,  Canstage, November 9
Red Sky Performance

Trace is a sumptuous new dance and music creation that explores Indigenous connections to ancestral beginnings. Inspired by Anishinaabe cosmology - our star and sky stories - Trace maps our history and future evolution. We are traceable to the beginnings of the universe, our ancestral origins stretching across the Milky Way to the very atoms burning inside of us here on earth. Red Sky

This was so hypnotic. The Berkeley stage is big enough for a company of dancers and a trio of musicians, yet still small enough to feel intimate.

Many profound truths were enlivened by the dancers as visuals were projected behind them and live musicians sculpted sound. Beautifully choreographed. Memorable scenes: seeds struggle to open; star dust gives birth to human form; text from the Indian Act in 1921 strongly forbidding dance crumbles behind the dancers as their defiance grows stronger; human forms rise on the shoulders of those who have gone before; human sighs draw new constellations. Truly amazing! I am now a fan of artistic director Sandra Laronde and will watch for any new productions.

The Children, Canstage, October 13

There’s nothing better than watching the best actors strut their stuff. Actually, there is: wonderful actors performing in a superb play. Lucy Kirkwood’s The Children takes place at a cottage in England, near a nuclear power plant where there has been a catastrophic accident complicated by a tsunami – echoes of the 2011 disaster in Japan. Physicist Rose (Fiona Reid) is making a surprise visit to her former colleagues Hazel (Laurie Paton) and her husband Robin (Geordie Johnson), with whom she consulted on the plant’s construction decades ago. As the action unfolds, the true nature of the relationships become crystallized, the extent of the environmental disaster emerges and Rose makes a stunning proposal to the couple. (Toronto Star)

I puzzled a bit over the characters on stage. They were drawn so jaggedly it must have been intentional fragmentation. Appearing internally inconsistent they became predictably unpredictable, as though the playwright might have consciously modelled them do the opposite of their instinct.

Exploring the theme of what one generation owes the next, the mother stays to take care of her adult child; the childless woman braves a return to a broken nuclear plant to save future generations; the father makes an entrance with a tricycle, a Peter Pan who hasn't really grown up and likely never will. Three outstanding actors bring new definition to the meaning of character.

Portia's Julius Caesar, Shakespeare in the Ruff, August 28
Shakespeare in the Park

Outdoor summer theatre at Withrow Park. Shakespeare's Julius Caesar reimagined through the eyes of Portia and other female characters. Engaging and interesting but waaaay too long. Uneven performances in the sense that some were extremely one note (shouting every line), while others were delivered with more emotional complexity. Saw this near the end of the run, so maybe a few were a bit tired and ready to move along. Still, a wonderful way to spend a summer evening.

Midsummer Night's Dream, Canstage, July 19
Shakespeare in the Park

Outdoor summer theatre in the almost-round at High Park. This was a rather bawdy version with florescent coloured dildos being waved about. They could also pass for brightly coloured balloons to the kids in the audience. All the actors played several parts which led to some quick costume changes, especially for the actors playing Bottom/Oberon and Duke/Francis Flute. It wasn't until the cast took a final bow that I knew for sure they'd done double-duty.

Dead Talks, Fringe Festival, Tarragon Theatre, July 11
Original and in development

Interesting premise and lots of future potential for this play. I was intrigued when a talk-show angel welcomed the audience and announced we were all dead. This was just after the opening scene which has sadly become a bit cliche, where an older male publisher is plying a young female author with alcohol and starts coming on to her in his apartment. Cut to purgatory, where neither has a memory of the event until it eventually rises. I found the ending gratuitous, where the rape scene is re-enacted, because it was stuck so harshly and abruptly without a denoument.

Restless Spirit, Fringe Festival, Theatre Passe Muraille, July 10
Original and in development

A historical piece about a girl with a genuine gift for communicating with with the dead, around the time that spiritualism was finding an audience. Alex' longtime friend Dylan played the opportunistic villain, and did so alarmingly well.

Plays in Cafes, Fringe Festival, Poetry Jazz Cafe, July 5
Little theatre

This play was staged in Kensington Market, in a very small venue with a company playing to an audience of less than fifty. It was a fun concept, in that the audience could order moods off the menu, while the cast performed within the same small space. I got a chance to chat with the artistic director before the show started, and learned a little about how companies are guided through the production cycle by the Fringe festival, while volunteers and non-union staff help to keep the ticket prices so affordable.

Come From Away, Royal Alexandra Theatre, May 16
Just because it's popular doesn't mean it isn't fantastic

Why had I been avoiding this? A Canadian play with a triumphant Broadway debut returning to Toronto for sold out shows.

We finally went and it really was fantastic! More than a love story, thankfully. Yes, a "feel good" play, but in this world, these days, we probably need stories that remind us we can make a big difference in each other's lives that ripple out beyond islands.

The Overcoat, Can Stage, Bluma Appel, April 8
Do clothes make the man?

One of my favourite Russian short stories turned into an opera. Sur titles were appreciated, even though everything was sung in English. World premiere.

Akaky Akakievich struggles in his civil service job, with barely enough money to buy decent food and pay his rent. When his winter coat falls apart he finds a way to buy a new one - so beautiful it opens doors to parties and conversations with beautiful women and even talk of a promotion. Until, walking home from a party he is mugged for his coat. The police refuse to help and Akaky finds himself in dire straights. A straight jacket, in fact, in a madhouse. Gogol's story is as relevant today as when it was published in 1842.

Cottagers and Indians, Tarragon Theatre March 22
Cottagers and Indians takes a sincere and pragmatic look at the current conflicts between First Nations traditional water usage and property owners in cottage country who are looking to enjoy an undisturbed summer getaway.

Drew Hayden Taylor—a pioneer of Native comedy—turned to humour to better express his culture in the theatre. After hearing an interview with this playwright on the radio, we decided to check out the play.

Wild rice is being planted and harvested along the cottage shoreline. The story is based on actual events.

Love the Tarragon theatre space and we sat right up front. The performance we attended had a bonus treat of Q&A with the playwright and actors - we stuck around to hear a personal take. The performers talked about how every night is different, as different audiences laugh or gasp in different spots; they adjust lines and delivery accordingly.

The author repeated a line we heard on his radio interview, "humour is the WD40 of healing."

The Humans, Can Stage, Bluma Appel February 17
"Breaking with tradition, Erik Blake has brought his family to celebrate Thanksgiving at his daughter's lower Manhattan apartment. As darkness falls, tensions reach a boiling point, and the unspoken pressures facing the Blake clan simmer to the surface. Winner of four 2016 Tony Awards, including Best New Play, Stephen Karam's breakthrough comedy-drama is a scorchingly funny and frighteningly timely snapshot of a family caught in the wake of a changing nation."

Job loss, unemployment, underemployment, health issues, affairs, break-ups, 911, lights flickering on and off - everything falling apart. It all seemed pretty dark to me. Black humour provided minimal comic relief. 

At the very end of the play, Eric stumbles in darkness and finally finds the door to the hallway, confronting the dark tunnel of his nightmares. He has no choice but to enter the darkness if he is to leave the apartment to join the rest of his family and journey home. There is an interminable wait at the threshold while he screws up his courage, a small pool of light spilling on the floor. I had to fight back the urge to holler, "leave already!!"

The stage was a life-sized dollhouse of a Manhattan apartment, complete with spiral staircase, bars on the window, a bathroom inconveniently (and brilliantly) located. Brilliantly because placing it there meant when characters had to leave the main gathering, they could be and would be talked about, providing interesting portraits of family dynamics.

King Lear, Groundlings Theatre Company, Harbourfront Theatre Centre January 27

"Widely considered Shakespeare’s masterpiece, Lear tells the story of an aging monarch’s loosening grip on the reigns of power and the slow, lonely descent into madness that follows. The Dora award winning Groundling Theatre Company follows their celebrated productions of The Winter’s Tale and Measure for Measure with an intimate and provocative Lear at the Harbourfront Centre Theatre. Starring one of Canada’s most celebrated actresses, Seana McKenna, in the title role, this production promises to bring new life to Shakespeare’s classic tale, challenging our assumptions about familial loyalty and the fragile balance of sanity and chaos that exists within us all."

Casting a female lead may not change the overall story but it surfaces new dimensions, especially with the relationships between parent and daughters. Mother/daughter vs. father/daughter - is it becomes somehow more personal and less political? Why does the betrayal seem to cut so much more deeply, and the grief more physical? 

The stage was spare - 7 or 8 wooden boxes shifted around by players to suggest a changing landscape. A large drum half-concealed behind the curtain creating the sound of battle and storm. 

Monday, November 5, 2018

Writing Wild

I reconnected with an old friend this past summer via Linked In. Janine lives in Waterloo and while staying with my mother I popped by a few times to catch up.

We were high school poets and won some awards and recognition in our senior year, however we've both gone on to different careers to earn our living. I still love words, but haven't been doing much creative writing over these last decades.

So when Janine suggested we attend the Wild Writers festival, I thought it would be the kick in the pants I needed to write a few pieces, and bring them to the festival as works in progress.

I creatively avoided doing any creative writing and although I didn't have any works in progress, I was still happy to attend the festival as a poser.

Janine's invitation included a weekend stay at her condo, just a short walk away from the festival location, the Centre for International Governance and Innovation. CIGI is a great venue space, with a fantastic stage and lots of boardrooms and lecture halls for discussion and exploration.

The opening showcase  featured Sharon Bala and Rawi Hage in a panel moderated by Jael Richardson. When it turned to practical advice for new writers, both authors declined, which was a bit disappointing. However, the two workshops I attended the next day had lots of great tips for those aspiring.

The Creative Nonfiction workshop was with Jael, and she confirmed the importance of calling to all the senses to lift scenes from the page. She also shared practical advice given to her from Helen Humphries, which is to write from beginning through to the end before you start perfecting drafts. Save each draft as a separate version. Focus on just one or two things when doing your draft (dialogue or character or senses or...). Very useful.

How Research Shapes a Story was a panel with Liz Harmer, David Huebert, Pamela Mulloy, Clare Tacon, and Brent van Staalduinen. Here it was evident that there is definitely no one approach, with each author having a different take on the topic.

Writing Raw: How to Explore Personal Material that is touchy, dark, intimate, tangled, problematic, risky, taboo or downright radioactive was delivered in a very methodical way, which surprised me. First we attacked the question of what subjects made us most uncomfortable, then we listed some of the root causes, and next we read from a handout writer Mike Barnes included with some super-practical writing process tips.  Confronting fears of rejection and separation weren't neglected topics. Although surprised by the methodical approach, I really did appreciate how straightforward and demystified the process could be when deconstructed. It's true the best writing has a magical quality but sometimes we humans have a way of making things more difficult than they need to be.

Janine had signed up for the Poetry Masterclass, Writing New Poems from the Wreckage of the Old.  Participants were to bring books of their favourite poetry along with recent works. During the afternoon they explored techniques such as erasure, cento, glosa and text collages.

The next morning there was a Literary Brunch with Katherine Ashenburg (publishing her first work of fiction in her seventies), Claire Cameron (finalist for Roger's Trust Fiction Prize), and Michael Redhill (winner of last year's Giller prize).  Delicious food, writers reading from their books, and great conversation.

As a result of attending the literary festival, my reading list is now much longer! And I have renewed my interest in creative writing, too... since I don't have to earn a living at it, why not explore it as a means of self expression? The New Quarterly runs an annual contest with the winners announced at the Writing Wild festival. I think I will set a goal for myself to enter a submission in a category (or two). God knows I have enough raw material in the way of life experience.

It was also fantastic catching up with Janine and having a weekend get-together. Next time, to be held in Toronto!

Monday, October 29, 2018

Autumn garden notes

 Last April, the maple in our backyard was destroyed in an ice storm.  I loved its shade and we had done our best to tend to its health. Despite careful pruning by arborists, the tree was really struggling.

When it came down, the maple totalled the lower deck. Finally, after months of back and forth with the insurance, engineers, estimators and contractors, work has started on the rebuild. Six months! If it is done properly it will be worth the wait.

Last summer I held off any drastic changes to the back garden, not certain whether we'd get the go ahead. If we couldn't replace the deck, we'd have to rethink the entire bones - why have a winding path to nowhere?

Having the clearing in the backyard has opened up the sky, increased potential for more sun-loving plants, and helped create a feeling of lightness. There is still one corner of deep shade to retreat on the hottest of summer days.

The autumn crocus from Turkey planted last spring was a no show, and the autumn clematis I planted in early summer didn't thrive as I'd hoped.

The snakeroot has brightened the back corner with an abundance of white blossoms; the daphne has brought its scent and delicate ivory flowers right up to the end of October. There is a white rose in bud today, and I am hopeful it will be a late bloomer.

In red or deep crimson, there was coral bell, autumn sedum. Monkshood has finished blooming, it was almost a cornflower blue. The persicaria has been throwing purple plumes since September. It was so well-behaved in deep shade but has grown at an alarming rate, taking over the back corner and spilling down the hillside to such an extent I'm tempted to eradicate it from the garden entirely - and that's after trying to establish it for several years.

I love the nasturtiums, and they love all the sun they've been getting. Frost has not yet come and they are looking other-worldly, hiding bright petals under their broad leaves.


In the front yard, I spent a day or two transplanting. Moved the blood grass to where the euphorbia was, moved geraniums to where the sea holly had been, moved the sea holly behind the anemones.

The Japanese maples haven't yet turned their deep crimson colours. Last year there was no show, just a sudden deep freeze that turned the leaves brittle and brown almost overnight. We'll see what the late season may bring this year.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Thanksgiving 2018

Family Thanksgiving. Our home, Rob's family, my family.

So much to be thankful for.

Thanksgiving with my mother, brothers and sister has been celebrated a week or two after the formal event for years, allowing multiple celebrations. This year was the first holiday we celebrated without my mom. It was hard to land on a date, and even then we rescheduled with effort. I was persistent even though it was a bit like herding cats. But then, I guess it has always been a bit like that, it was my mom doing the herding. Like other years, we gathered at our childhood home, everyone brought a dish and we ate from paper plates. The groaning board, as we've come to call it, the meal-before-the-meal, was also set with everyone bringing at least one or two appetizers to lay on the table. At the end of the evenig we gathered some household mementoes as part of wrapping up the estate. My mom wasn't there - but she was there - in all of us. I miss her!

Thanksgiving with Rob's family also continued with the new tradition of going out to Lois and Mark's in Matewatchan.  This year however, we were also giving thanks for Mark's recovery, as he had a big health scare. One of the doctors in emergency pronounced terminal cancer - luckily a misdiagnosis. By Thanksgiving he was much better. There was the thanksgiving feast, a bonfire, fireworks, and breakfast the next morning. A beautiful drive in fall colours there and back. Alex and Penny drove in a separate car but we met them along the road as we stopped to take photos, pick apples and watch the salmon run in the Ganaraska.

Our own little family Thanksgiving was very non-traditional and we didn't even call it that, really. It was between the two family tree weekends. Penny's mom came by for dinner and a visit, and I made a few Indian dishes. Alex and Penny helped with rolling chapati. Rob picked up a tasty lemon cake,  Ameeta made chai. She also gifted me with a beautiful sari.

Lots of food! Turkey, ham, dal, fancy plates, paper plates, no plates. Abundance. Gratitude.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Full Hunter's Moon - October

Driving back from Kitchener I got an eyeful of the rising moon, big and gorgeous in the sky.  An unobstructed view that lasted at least ten minutes. My rearview mirror a scorching red sunset. Didn't mind at all being stuck in slow moving traffic on the expressway.

The moon is officially full Oct 24, 12:45 pm

Monday, October 8, 2018

Timely reminder

"Mindfulness is simple but not easy." (John Kabot-Zin)

One Harvard study showed we spend almost half our waking hours with a wandering mind, and that wandering mind is not a happy one.

The importance of a mindfulness practice was reinforced for me recently at a workplace presentation, part of a speaker series on mental health and wellness. How fortunate I am that my employer recognizes the importance of this topic and is promoting it in the workplace!

The speaker was from the Centre for Mindfulness Studies, where I took the eight-week course just last year. During the short presentation we had the opportunity to sample some of the exercises: body scan, breathing, awareness, STOP. A useful review.

Dr. Goldstein: STOP stands for Stop, Take a breath, Observe your experience (Body, Emotions, and Thoughts) and then Proceed by asking yourself what's most important to pay attention to. Choose to respond, not to react.

Also mentioned in passing was to keep a 'to be' list as well as a 'to do' list. I love the concept! To me it means not just to accomplish the tasks of daily living, but to set aside time just to be. To sit and notice life and what's going on in and around.

As a teen there was a t.v. show called 'Party Game', essentially celebrities playing charades. One of the sayings really stuck with me: "'To do is to be,' Socrates. 'To be is to do,' John Paul Sartre. 'Do be do be do,' Frank Sinatra." Now when I google this I see it is attributed to Kurt Vonnegut. I always thought this was a clever and simple take on philosophies of living, and the more I revisit, the more it resonates.

post script
Came across this just a day after publishing this post:
The German philosopher Martin Heidegger wrote that authentic living requires both keeping life and death in mind at all times... He called it "dasein," literally, human be-ing. (from Overwhelmed, by Brigid Schulte)

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Too intense?

This is a photo of BKS Iyengar with Raya, providing support so he can fall back into Urdva Dhanurasana. Raya was at Yoga Centre Toronto in honour of BKS 100th birthday, as well as the official opening of the new Centre. He studied with BKS from the age of 10, and continues to teach at Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute (RIMYI) located in Pune, Maharashtra. Students come from all over the world to take classes at RIMYI, and Raya also travels the world to share the teachings of his guruji.

This morning I watched Raya demonstrate similar support to teachers and teachers in training at the YCT workshop I was attending. To help them into the pose, and help them understand how to help others into the pose.

The last three days, in fact, I spent in a workshop with Raya. However, if I could have gotten someone to take my place at the beginning of this yoga intensive this weekend I surely would have. I have been in a bit of a fog since my mom died at the end of August. I wasn't sure if I was up to an intensive, but having paid the price of admission last July, I pushed myself to attend.

This was not my first workshop with Raya, I also attended in 2014. This time the workshop was very different, indeed. It seemed as if there were no lesson plan, it was improvised on the spot. Influenced by the students' and teachers' needs and conundrums as they presented themselves.

Friday night was probably the most intense, with Raya admitting it is to the teacher's advantage to tire everyone from the very beginning. I certainly tired. What the hell am I doing here? I don't belong here. Why am I doing this or trying to do this to my body? O my god I can't believe how much I'm sweating. Is Raya teaching to only the top 2% in the room? What the hell is he doing to us? Someone is going to get hurt! I slept well that night, in fact overslept and was late the next morning.

Raya was honest, saying he could teach us nothing in three days, not really knowing us or our abilities, he could only show and share some of the things he had learned from his teacher. Yoga isn't only theoretical, it must be learned by doing.

Saturday morning was also physically demanding. Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning there was a lot more talk, of teaching, of the structure of advanced flow designed and shared by Iyengar in Light on Yoga.

Extend your expansions and expand your extensions.
Find the breathability of the pose.
Balance stability and comfort (Sthira Sukham Asanam).
Don't just focus on opening up the chest - so much more needs to happen in a pose.
There are lessons to be learned when holding the pose past the point of tiring.
Don't rely too much on timers, use them, but judiciously. (Or you will have an alarming practice)

Uttanna = intense. Take it to your limit. Pick a pose and meet it daily and often over a period of months, for true improvement.

As I was watching this man in his prime demonstrate sequences I was in awe. However, his practise is not my practise.

I have never aspired to falling backwards into full wheel, or knotting my body, or practising for three or four hours every day. I don't even aspire to teach. But I do love yoga for the richness and insights it continues to bring to my life.

If I took anything from this weekend intensive it is the importance to continue to practise and learn, as well as remember insights gained previously. Perhaps the biggest insight I am taking away this weekend is that as I grow older I need not necessarily put limits on myself, but I also need to be wise about how I sustain and evolve my practise.

postscript And I am being reminded of these lesson! Somewhere along the way I threw myself out of alignment and a week later I am still aching.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

September Harvest Moon

Well, the moon was full 2 nights ago, and I missed it! What on earth was I thinking?? I am definitely in a bit of a daze these days.

First time in many years I am celebrating a Harvest Moon while it is on the wane.

The first full moon of autumn in the northern hemisphere. What was I doing on Monday night anyway? I was at a work function, a QCC AGM, and came home when it was dark. Must have been cloudy that night or I would have caught a glimpse, I'm sure.

Ah well, it's still beautiful and high in the sky this evening, and shining so bright it is casting moon shadows.

Which brings to mind the lovely song, Moonshadow, and the lyrics by Cat Stevens.  I found a great uke tutorial for the song here. Should keep me busy for awhile!

Oh, I'm bein' followed by a moonshadow, moon shadow, moonshadow---
Leapin and hoppin' on a moonshadow, moonshadow, moonshadow---
And if I ever lose my hands, lose my plough, lose my land,
Oh if I ever lose my hands, Oh if I won't have to work no more.
And if I ever lose my eyes, if my colours all run dry,
Yes if I ever lose my eyes, Oh if I won't have to cry no more.
Oh, I'm bein' followed by a moonshadow, moon shadow, moonshadow---
Leapin and hoppin' on a moonshadow, moonshadow, moonshadow---
And if I ever lose my legs, I won't moan, and I won't beg,
Yes if I ever lose my legs, Oh if I won't have to walk no more.
And if I ever lose my mouth, all my teeth, north and south,
Yes if I ever lose my mouth, Oh if I won't have to talk...
Did it take long to find me? I asked the faithful light.
Did it take long to find me? And are you gonna stay the night?
Moonshadow, moonshadow, moonshadow, moonshadow.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Home spa

For awhile I'd been stashing a bottle of olive oil on my bathroom shelf,  but it was very bulky. Or I would run down to the kitchen if I wanted a dab of honey.

I was glad to see such pretty refillable bottles available from Muji. They look so pretty on the bathroom shelf. Pump and spray options are available, so the remedies are easily in reach and even easier to apply.

Rosewater - spritz on for natural toner
Olive oil - night time body moisturizer
Honey - for blemishes & cuticle moisturizer
Apple Cider Vinegar  - spray on sunburn or bug bites
Brown sugar - mix with olive oil or honey for lip scrub

Now on the hunt for some essential lavender oil!

Monday, September 17, 2018

Yoga Camp Weekend

Just the balm I needed!

This is the second year I've made it to the Queen Elizabeth Yoga Camp weekend. It sells out quickly so we signed up as soon as the notice came out in April.

I shared a no-frills cabin with Liz and Denise, just a short walk to the outhouse and water station, with just a few more steps to the Big Camp. Chris was there too, bunking in a cabin with Campbell.

Delicious meals appeared without having to think about their preparation or clean-up. What a treat! As was sharing the table with friends.

There were so many different activities offered: yoga, qigong, hikes, meditation, rustic spa, massage, crafts, open waterfront. It was often hard to choose. 

Each morning I enjoyed qigong with the morning sunrise, followed by guided meditation on the rocks. I have been reading Thich Nhat Hanh on the topic of inter-being, so in seated meditation with my eyes softly focused I could wonder at how the rocks gracefully submerged under the water, the reflection of clouds above. A wonderful becoming.

I also relaxed with candlelight yoga, gentle yoga, yin yoga for neck and shoulders. I even fit in a short vigorous practice before a massage.

Even though it was mid-September the days were hot. Breezes were cool. The lake was the perfect temperature for swimming.

Rustic sauna
This is the first time I tried a "rustic spa" sauna. Fun! Slather warm oatmeal all over your body, smear olive oil and brown sugar on your lips and let it all dry. Then you need two buckets: one steel bucket to put rocks hot from a fire and the second for a bucket of water. Gather at least four friends and huddle yourselves underneath a tarp. Add water to the rocks - and presto  - rustic sauna! Sweat until you've had enough and then jump into lake to remove the oatmeal and feed the fish.

 The craft this year was making  holiday ornaments. Everything was supplied and all the wood was sliced and ready to go, just waiting for embellishment. Little momentos of a summer's day, set aside for the winter ahead.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

One remarkable woman

My mom was a remarkable woman who accomplished so much in her life. 

My grandparents were rightly proud of their intelligent and talented daughter, an excellent and well-rounded student who accepted the honour and duties of being the valedictorian for her high school graduating class. 

Marion met James Patrick -, fell head over heels, and married the love of her life not long out of high school.

As an only child, family was always important to Marion, and she would go on to be a mother to six, grandmother to 13, and great-grandmother to 8 (and counting). She loved us all, and did her best to be there for each of us. She even put aside funds for grandkids to help prepare them for the future and get them all off to a good start. She never forgot a birthday, and made sure every Christmas and Thanksgiving were special.

She made it a practice for us to try to focus on the positive. As kids growing up we said grace before our meals and nightly bedtime prayers. I remember we would often be called on to talk about what had gone well during the day, and what we had to be grateful for. When someone might have the audacity to say “nothing went well” my mom would say, “Come on, no one can live on God’s good green earth without at least one good thing happening to them during the day.” So she helped us to see the good each day could bring.

In addition to being a homemaker, Marion held lots of different paid jobs over the years: window dresser, graphic designer, advertising coordinator. She turned her creativity and dexterity to knitting and crochet and her designs were published in craft magazines. She worked as a child care provider for the Region, as a training specialist for Junior Achievement, worked for the Red Cross and St. John’s Ambulance, and later as a provider at Home Instead Senior Care. Many of these positions called on her compassion, patience, creativity and diligence.

Always a spiritual person, she was also a valued and active member of the Catholic church community here in K-W. 

She made lasting contributions as a volunteer and said the years spent with the St. Vincent de Paul Society introduced her to one very large group of caring and committed Christians, who were concerned with the plight of the hungry and homeless, and willing to give above and beyond ordinary efforts. She recalled the seven years spent building and establishing Marillac Place as eventful, exciting, and exhilarating.

Life brings challenges to us all and Marion faced hers with courage and fortitude, whether it was the sudden death of her beloved husband, the loss of her good friend Lou,  the trials and tribulations of her family, or her own personal struggles with health.

Last November my brothers and sister accompanied our Mom to the hospital, where was told she had an aggressive form of lung cancer that, left untreated, could mean she had as little as eight weeks' time remaining. We were all devastated. 

The medical system kicked in and soon she received medical appointments and advice, personal service worker visits, pain medication, water pills, heart pills, chemotherapy, pleurisy treatments, MRIs, CT scans, and more. 

Mom chose Expected Death in the Home, or EDITH, as the local health integrated network describes it. She knew it would not be easy but also made a conscious choice to make the best of her remaining days.

Some days were easier than others, as she struggled with breathing and painful symptoms, confronting the daily conditions of living with a terminal illness. The diagnosis was both a blessing and a curse, because we knew her death was coming we were able to make special occasions even more special this past year.

We weren’t sure how much time we would have left with her, so our family celebrated Christmas in early December, and again on Christmas day. We got together again for New Years. In January, we celebrated her birthday. We gathered together at Easter, and again on Mother’s Day. A feast and groaning boards at every occasion. 

Mom had a voracious appetite and enjoyed her food, sampling most everything and savouring each morsel. 

Day to day she continued preparing meals for herself and others. As the weather got warmer she would sit in the carport and visit with family and friends, taking in the fresh air and view of the flower garden. 

She wanted her children, her grandchildren, great-grand-children and their partners to know she loved them, and told us often.

She was always happy to have family, friends and neighbours stop by. 

Regular visits from the St. Aloysius community meant the world to her, as she received Communion and was anointed with last rights. Also very much appreciated were the visits from associates from Marallac and St. Vincent de Paul Society.

These last few months I came to know my mom better, and understand the depth of her love and compassion. 

As she was reflecting on her life she wrote, “Life has taught me that we are all in this together and the Golden Rule of ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ is the rule that matters.”

She is an inspiration to all who knew her. Those that touch our lives .... stay in our hearts forever.

Mom, Grandma, Great-Grandma, Marian. Thank you. Your love will light our way.  Your memory will forever be with us.


Bickers, Marion,
Only daughter of John & Ada Schlachter, died on August 21, 2018. She will be fondly remembered by her children and their families; her daughter Diane and her husband Rob Cowan; daughter Kathy and her late husband Dan Emery; her sons David and his wife Therese; Michael and his wife Karen; Alex and his partner Sue Taylor-Binsted; and her son Patrick. As well as by her 13 grandchildren: Daniel, John, Alex, Eric, Christopher, Sarah, Leo, Jessica, Robin, Emma, Olivia, Luke and Jared and 8 great-grandchildren Nicholas, Destiny, Terry, Mercedes, John Jr., William, Autumn and Araya. Predeceased by her husband James and her parents.
Marion's family will receive relatives and friends at Henry Walser Funeral Home, 507 Frederick Street, Kitchener, 519-749-8467 on Sunday, August 26, 2018 from 2:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m. Prayers Sunday 4:30 p.m. at the funeral home. A funeral mass will take place at St. Aloysius R.C. Church, 11 Traynor Ave., Kitchener, on Monday, August 27, 2018 at 10:00 a.m. Reception to follow in the parish hall. Private cremation to take place. 
As expressions of sympathy, donations to St. Aloysius Church - Food Pantry or Marillac Place would be appreciated by the family (cards available at the funeral home).

August Full Moon

The moon is full August 26, 7:56 a.m.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Sailing Vacation!

Yondering leaving Stella
Long awaited holiday on the lake! Three weeks!

A palette of blues. Big sky, open water. Uncluttered horizon. Change of perspective.

The cruising portion of the holiday lasted 17 nights, with most of the time spent at anchor (12 nights!).  I love being at anchor, just swinging with the wind and a nice breeze going through the boat. 

Dockside at Newcastle and the tiny municipal docks at Brighton, and marinas in Clayton and Belleville. Anchored at Cobourg, Half Moon Bay (2 nights), Waupoos Island (3 nights) and Stella (2 nights), CFB Kingston (2 nights),  Glenn Island (1 night), and again at Cobourg. Then it was home to Bluffers for a couple of days before a short stay on Toronto Island.

We managed to visit some new spots along the lake and returned to others we haven't visited in years. This was also the first time we travelled ‘outside’ from Brighton docks straight to Waupoos. Usually if we are travelling on the north shore we meander the Bay of Quinte, and it takes us 5 days - this route brought us to Waupoos in 3 (Newcastle, Cobourg, Brighton). Conditions were favourable, light winds and a flat lake. 

sunset views in Cobourg
We started out the trip in tandem with Caroline who was single-handed, and dropped anchor with other Bluffers as we coddiwompled about the lake.

An afternoon visit to Picton with Lynn and Mike to provision. They had a car in Waupoos, so we were also able to lunch at the Waupoos Cidery and stop at Black Creek for ice cream. And in Stella, we enjoyed another tasty meal with them at the ‘Back Kitchen,’ a non-profit enterprise on Amherst Island that is run by volunteers and staffed by paid students-in-training.

After Waupoos we crossed over to Clayton USA and began the trek back again. 

One of the highlights was definitely the visit to Clayton and the Antique Boat Museum, along with Boldt castle and the tour of the 1000 Islands. La Duchesse was Boldt's houseboat, acquired by the Lifesaver King and then became the Rand McNalley's summer home. So light, airy and breezy! They would tie La Duchesse up in front of their palatial island property and spend most of their time on board.

The only downside to the Clayton visit was the having to tie up. In sweltering heat there was no breeze and the view was a bit industrial from the transient boat dock. Otherwise the historic town itself was quite picturesque, with lots of great restaurants and restored homes.

We also returned to CFB Kingston and moored there. A short swim to the beach on shore and what a lovely view.

Jumping in the lake at least once or twice a day, floating in the chair or noodling about. The water in the Bay of Quinte / Glenn Island was a bit weedy and green, but otherwise the water was clear and refreshing. 
Clear sailing (or motorsailing) most days. The engine conked out on the way in to Belleville and Bill came to give us a tow into Crates marina (great service at the marina!). We went out to the Boat House restaurant there and enjoyed a nice meal that evening. Next morning,  the engine was a quick fix - nothing that a full tank of gas and proper fuel conditioning didn't solve. Another Catalina 30 was towed in that morning and not so lucky - their engine totally blew.

Then back to home waters again, from Belleville to Cobourg to Bluffers to Toronto Island.

On Toronto Island, we tied up to the wall so we could easily take our bikes ashore. Cycling is always a pleasure, checking out the beaches, pier, boardwalk, city and home gardens, lunch at the Rectory. 

We've had our summer vacations on the lake since 2005 when we got our first boat. Chatting with Mais Lis and Don back at our dock, she said sailing was 80% bliss. It's true, there are definitely moments of frustration and irritability and danger, but overall I can't imagine a summer without a sailboat now. 

We may do some renovations on Yondering to prepare for summers ahead. Ice isn’t lasting very long in the cooler which has us considering adding refrigeration to the boat. We wouldn’t be so dependent on replenishing and could stay longer without a visit to shore. The list of renovations grew on this trip: new upholstery, new deck seating, potential paint job, propane, some solar panels… 

Friday, July 27, 2018

Thunder Moon Moon 2018

There  has been plenty of thunder this week, with summer storms and torrents of rain. 

Hopefully this will clear the atmosphere as we  head out on our sailing vacation and want to avoid any bad weather on the lake. 

Provisioning the galley, packing, stocking up the library. Three weeks!

Rob and I will be traveling in tandem with Caroline who is sailing single-handed.
Heading east? south? west? 


"Full Buck Moon"–Algonquin
“Ripe Corn Moon” –Cherokee 
“Middle of Summer Moon” –Ponca
“Moon When Limbs of Trees Are Broken by Fruit” –Zuni
Full Moon: July 27, 4:20 P.M.

Monday, July 23, 2018

More light

So much more light this year without the tree. So much more light I was wearing sunglasses at the dinner table and we were sweltering on the deck - so we brought in a sun umbrella for some added shade.

More sunlight in my micro-climate means more watering and weeding is required, along with new possibilities for growth.

Right now it is raining and I'm sitting inside with the sliding doors open, enjoying the green of the garden and listening to the rustle of leaves and raindrops.

White floribunda roses in a pot on the deck add a light fragrance, and so do the spicy geraniums.

I think I will try to overwinter the roses and replant in a pot again next summer, I like their understated elegance and constant flowering.

The bergamot is one of my favourite additions this year. I've planted it at the edge of the retaining wall where it is attracting hummingbirds and adding a dash of colour to the summer landscape. It also makes a heady mix with lavender and rose petals when tossed into a milk bath for a rejuvenating soak in the tub.


Blue bauble