Snow Feathers – poetry celebrating winter

On this Winter Solstice, I recall how I fell in love with the north. It wasn’t the local joke that captures many people to this area; that particular summer where we have an Okanagan experience when it rarely rains and the mountains, lakes, and rivers open to us unimpeded by days of grey or cold. No, I was entranced by a different season. My first winter I moved in with my sister who was renting a house on the lake. That year the winter was one of perfection, at least in my mind it plays itself out that way. After arriving from several years of living in Vancouver, a place where I felt unconnected and could not truly find my place in the business, that first winter with its brilliant clear skies, abundance of snow, and a lake that offered herself to me was a truly magical bond.  I was hooked!

This experience is one of the poems I wrote about in our chapbook ‘Snow Feathers,’ which our writers group launched earlier in December. I especially love this little collection. As expressed in the preface, ‘Winter, of all the seasons, captures the northern experience. Its rugged spirit is, at times, on the edge of the untamed. Northerners require and insist upon a spaciousness that is born from our attempts to befriend the unpredictable nature of our environment. The weather, the sense of isolation, and the increasing darkness are intense and so in turn we are challenged to invent creative ways where we are not just enduring but are in accompaniment with the powerful forces that surround us.’

Winter as well offers us the opportunity to journey inward, to slow our steps down and attune to our deeper stories. This is an invitation that I offer to you as well. Take the time to appreciate all of the magic this time of year provides.  Let it be as a frosted window into your own inner landscape, filled with marvel and depth. Let it bring to you a deepening appreciation of your own light as well as a richer connection to place. Happy Solstice!



 That first winter Lakelse lake froze
A glistening sheath encasing her black body
in secret realms where reeds and trout dream below
and I in my worn skates scritch scratch
across the surface
with cold biting my cheeks in dusky light.
Sky, a cape of pinks and mauves
gathers me in an icy embrace
pushing me forward.

It was then she moaned
a prehistoric choir song
as though reciting an ancient language
encrypted in the black ink below.
A wildness that threw me to my knees
with bloodless lips I could not answer,
instead search with trembling hands
for the thin white line of my tracks
as though I could ever leave this place

as though there was another
I could call home.


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Aging’s Fragile Quilt

I just brought home my Paper Quilt that hung in The Terrace Art Gallery’s Member’s Show for the month of August. This project began in the spring during a workshop I led on paper making. It was inspired by a discussion with friends on Aging. This piece is the size of a baby quilt, somehow an appropriate metaphor. Just as we enter the world and need comfort and nurturance, this follows suit as our time diminishes and we become more brittle and fragile. It is a tender time often fraught with ambiguity of what’s to come. How do we traverse this next passage with some measure of dignity when our bodies and brains are continually changing?  As we and our loved ones navigate this terrain, my wish is that all have the support to feel safe, warm and loved.

Front of Quilt: pressed leaves in homemade paper squares glued and sewn together

Paper quilt front outsidepaper quilt back









Back of Quilt
Burlap and lace
with poem attached


Paper Making

in a water bath shredded memories
former letters   discarded envelopes
to do lists half completed

pressed into liquid pulp
skeletal leaves reveal
transparent veins

only yesterday thin filaments
picked beside a well trodden path
misguided steps could disintegrate into ash

do they remember the moment
released from Maple limbs fiery blaze
scarlet skirt circling gnarled trunk

creaking bones scrubbed clean
with winters white attire
trembling fingers still wanting to hold on

paper quilt 1









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Visit to an “Intimate Garden” : Photos by Leslie Barnwell

There is a hush that enters the body when we respond to beauty. It quiets the noise of everyday life, we can set aside some of the troubling realities of being human and arrive at a place where we feel totally present. The magic of beauty offers the gifts of opening to what is before us with a sense of celebration and delight.
That is what I experienced when I visited Leslie Barnwell during her exhibition at the Smithers Art Gallery. It is evident that Leslie’s life as a professional artist shows itself with her sharp eye for contrasting shapes and rich colours, whether it be the hidden circuitry of veins on petals, the fuzz of surrounding stamens, or water droplets cupped in the curves of a leaf, her sensitivity for detail emerges. But there is much more.leslie alone

leslies signLeslie’s offerings ask us to “come face to face with the heart of a flower – its essence.” In order to do this we must stop and truly look beyond how they appear in mass groupings of colour or how they combine with other flowers. This takes paying attention.

Leslie does not take our ease within the techno savvy world lightly. She writes that “the ability to easily enlarge things in an act of exposure. As we draw closer to bring their beauty, their strength and vulnerability in detail, this is an act of opening to the intimate.” leslies art 5As she speaks of respecting the secret life of flowers, I am left with the depth of her offering. She is inviting us to look deeply into the heart of all things. The art of seeing is possible and relevant to how we witness not just the natural world but our own relationship within that. How we respond to life that continually opens itself, where we must slow down to appreciate the depth of what is before us is the deeper truth. In doing so we allow a space where beauty can emerge and shine forward in increasingly surprising and unsuspecting ways. Thank-you Leslie for these beauties.

leslies art revised 7


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A Conversation: exploring in relationship

Magnetic poetry was the warming up exercise. ‘Think of it as getting the imagination flowing, just like stretching before a run or throwing the ball around close to a game,” I explained to the group of Grade 9 students, newly arrived in the studio for a creativity workshop I was leading. “Explore putting words together that surprise you, there is no right or wrong. Add to your friends lines, and let go of wondering if it makes sense.”
This group from Nisga Secondary was a part of Martha Swinn‘s Creative Writing group so it didn’t take long before they were leaving their chairs to post words onto the metal bed frame I had resting against the wall. Some  giggled as they leaned over each other, others were quietly intent as they added their lines; everyone was thoroughly engaged in the process.

We moved outside for an exercise called, ‘Inside a Moment: being specific’ where the youth found a spot to engage all of their senses. ‘Write details; the smell of the lilacs, the touch of the cottonwood bark, look up at the patch of sky above the alder trees,” I invited before we moved back into the studio to take some of the words and create a collage on canvas from a wide range of  materials I had available. Three hours disappeared and when the bus driver arrived to take the students back to Aiyansh we were all reluctant to end the afternoon. Martha asked me to put the frame in the garden and send a picture so I am now, several weeks later, responding to her request and revisiting that precious time with her students.

magnetic poetry 1

The bedframe holding their words is still speaking to me, inviting me in for a further conversation.  magnetic poetry 2

And so I chose one of the lines from this collection of evocative expressions to inspire my own response; after all we are all students in relationship with each other, continually  learning and expanding.

magnetic poetry 4

Wild boy explore the translucent ocean and linger there
spread apart with reptilian instincts the tender openings
deep crevices dissolving scripts written for you
invite instead those liquid invitations you already know
speak deep words, change life.





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Poem for Callie, “Naming”

callie 2 Today is Mother’s Day, a day to acknowledge what is already so closely knit into my heart through the thread of generations. My own Mother’s loving soul, the birth of my children and the astonishment of them now, such lovely young men, older than myself at that time when they entered this earth. To complete the cycle, my son and his wife are gifted with their second child, a baby girl,  whom I recently held in my arms.  This poem came in the interlude of no time, waiting at the airport, Callie’s precious little body still imprinted in me, my heart wide open to the calliemysterious nature of rhythms. One cannot foresee the potential always for new life, healing, and the ultimate power of love.


Yesterday your name was Dream Whisperer.
Breathed through rustling aspen leaves
announcing your arrival.
Did you hear the soft blow of your calling
echoed in robins caroling before the first light?
Did you see it reflected in new blades of grass
anchored by the garden path,
glimmering in a spider’s web shiny with dew?

Today your name is Callie,
Gaelic for ‘of the forest’
(even though your mother remembers a different story.)
Network of birch groves and cedar stands,
roots growing towards each other.
When you press your body against my heart
I am not sure where you begin and I end,
knees tucked in, the fuzz of your hair line.

Perhaps your name is ‘Opening Fern.’
A perfect frond loosening your grip
from the land of imagination
where we wonder how you will unfurl
hinted by the frown of an eyebrow, the twitch of a smile
eyes flutter open like bluebells, confirmed in morning sky.
Your outstretched fingers reaching up,
they have not forgotten the pathway
through firmament.

Then I will call you ‘Winged Traveller.’
A name punctuated by plucky crows
their sharp beaks breaking lilac twigs to rebuild nests,
a community to watch over you,
ready to rally together in a moments notice.
Your name thrummed by wings of a hummingbird
phosphorescent glow exotic as batik saris,
thatched huts, white sand beaches capturing the curl of surf
lithe bodies riding waves that meld into atmosphere.

I will name you ‘Azure Skylight.’
A container spilling upward punctuated by soft clouds
at times breaking with restless cries,
a container holding the company of stars, points of light
like invisible rays knowing your place.
Perhaps you will find Polaris, true north
the guiding one anchored in your heart
filled with intention, a flag of celebration
announcing your home!




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Broken Open: An Invitation to “Random Acts of Mindfulness”

How is it when we become undone. When the container that holds perceptions glass bottleof who we are and how we fit into the world is broken, all that is left are sharp edges that no longer seem to fit. Do we pick up the shards and try to rearrange them in new order, finding the courage to redefine ourselves again or is the shattering complete and unrecognizable.

This is my contemplation as I appreciate the glass mosaics that were created in a workshop I lead, which was provided through the support of the Terrace Mental Health & Addictions Advisory Committee (MHAAC). This workshop was one in a series which will culminate in ‘Random Acts of Mindfulness’ – an exhibit at the Terrace Art Gallery in October of 2016. The exhibit will coincide with Mental Illness Awareness Week, a national event which focuses attention on mental disorders.  During that month the MHAAC will host a series of educational/public awareness events at the Gallery exploring Stigma and Mental 6 glass pieces

We as individuals and as a society are continually challenged to ‘be mindful of thoughts, beliefs, and behaviours towards individuals with mental illness.’ This is the main premise of the exhibition. Not one of us walks a path, whether it be in our own life or with a loved one, where we are not touched by the struggling soul trying to make sense and find a place in this challenging world. Despite this, the stigma against mental illness is a real barrier for individuals to feel accepted and appreciated for the gifts we all inherently 2 glass 5

Just as we gingerly pick each piece of glass, find a new place, rearrange it according to its own unique beauty, so too can we create a new way of walking in the world. We cannot do this without the support of our loved ones, our communities and the institutions that surround us.

Become involved in your local Mental Health initiatives. Pay attention to thoughts and actions when you feel limiting reactions when confronted with people or ideas on mental illness.  Our creativity is one of the ways where we can redefine who we are and how we want to be.

Thank-you to all who came out to create and especially for the vision of the MHAAC.

glass 3 glass 4


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“Wild Geese” for April-National Poetry Month

Mary Oliver in “A Poetry Handbook” says that “you would learn very little in the world if you were not allowed to imitate.” That line gave me permission to consciously follow Mary’s style of poetry, not just as an exercise but as an opportunity to capture the arrival of spring with a soulful connection to the awakening earth.  Thank-you Mary, in this month of celebrating poetry, for offering such sensitive works which pierce through the everyday indifference to the land that supports and nurtures us.

Wild Geesecanada geese

Awakened to the wild geese broadcasting their arrival.
First a distant wave rolling in,
flight calls echoed
in short blasts, flapping wings,
honks cavorting, building
to a nonsensical rhapsody
squelching all other sounds as they pass

pulling me from the dark curvature of sleep.
My imagination stretching up to the still darkened sky,
seeing their V shaped arrowhead staying true to its path
with deep knowing,  lifetimes old
of when to begin this arduous journey
where towering mountain peak, nor watery expanse
seems absolute.

And in this early hour,
skin shivering in naked wonderment
I recall the porous line
marking the thread between the visible and invisible
as a remembered chorus,
reawakening my wild bird song
claiming a space with no uncertainty,
reckless in my yearning
move over, make room for me.


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