Heartwood: Poems For The Love Of Trees

As dawn rises I look out of my window; am constantly appreciative of the trees that surround me. Their dark silhouettes like many arms reach out to embrace, ask little, and yet their presence nets me in a continuum. I am held within a complex system, supported by their life-giving essence.

This connection is honoured in The League of Canadian Poets’ Anthology, ‘Heartwood: For The Love Of Trees.’ The very title speaks to this place. Heartwood at its most basic level is in the centre providing adequate support for the tree. Just as our organ transports life nutrients, trees are crucial to our well being and survival.

Leslie Strutt, editor of this anthology, feels passionately about the place trees hold. This sparked her vision to call forward poets from every province and territory, as Amazon states, “to celebrate the immeasurable value trees have for the environment and the soul.”

“Trees matter,” wrote Strutt from the 288-page anthology, “and we have written about them with the windows of our hearts open, breathing in the good air that the forests provide.”

Diana Beresford-Kroeger from her forward writes “The entire music of the universe is held in the trees. It is amplified again, again, and again within the forest. To listen to this music is to meditate. Taken alone, this is sufficient reason to make all forests sacred. And us accountable.”

I was therefore thrilled to have one of my poems selected for the anthology, which joined local poet Norma Kerby with her poem ‘Punk tree’ and Harold Feddersen.  The anthology was announced at the recent Rural Writers Retreat, where Harold read his poem, “Windfall.”

My own poem, ‘Survival’ was in conversation with local artist/writer/creative soul Noreen Spence whose work continues to inspire our northern town. Her mural, in collaboration with other artists, speaks to the place trees hold for us.

I am lucky enough to have one of her works in my reading nook titled, ‘The Myth of Skin.’ Noreen quotes Audrey Grescoe,  “The roots of coast redwood trees extend four to six feet down and 125 feet out from the tree….In one experiment, marked water put into one redwood was detected in another 500 feet away.” With this information Noreen provocs us with the question, “Where do you end off and I begin” in the relationship we have with our autonomy.  I leave you with this inquiry. We are not separate. We need to take care of our trees as if our life depends on it, which it does.



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Earth Element: A Time of Abundance

Once again, I share in the explorations of the Five Element Theory with acupuncturist  Cheri Reidy.  I learn that late summer is the Earth element, a time to harvest the abundance of what is provided. The Earth element is closely associated with the archetype of the Mother, or Mother Earth. It is the mother who feeds and sustains us.

I grow to understand that when I am balanced in the Earth element I feel secure in knowing that I have enough. I can stand in the center and comfortably hold all that is going on around me with a recognition that life is bountiful.

Trusting that I have enough, or am enough, is an ongoing practice.  It is no simple task for me to be stay away from fearful walls built from  feelings of scarcity. With trust I can keep grounded and am more able to support and nurture myself, then I can also give more easily to others.


The color of the Earth element is yellow. The odor associated with Earth is fragrant, while the sound is singing, and the emotion is sympathy.





Earth energy is also a time for community building and connecting with others. It was an amazing gift to be able to come together in the glorious heat of late summer to do our creative explorations. I hold this close to my heart, and will lean into the memory of this experience during times when I need to acknowledge that the harvest is rich.

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Leaving Your Mark

‘How humbled I am to live in the north. Witness black bears gorge on first feedings of skunk cabbage. Feed bold Grey Jays where I’ve hiked steep terrains. Even though I have lived here for 35 years I am still a new comer. My hope- if I slow to the ancient rhythms of this powerful region- is that I will see with clearer eyes. Know where my responsibilities lie. Pen in hand, I mark my way in my own small way.’

This is the last paragraph in an article that I wrote for Thimbleberry‘s second edition.

How aware am I of my imprint is a question that I continually ask myself? I understand that we leave our mark whether it be intentional or not and so it can be easy to feel weighed down by the blundering of being human.
The answer seems to coincide with the question, how do I see what is before me, be sensitive to the land and find my place in this complex interconnecting system? It is mostly when I shift a feeling of separation, that I better know how to be and then know what I can offer.


I leave you with images from local photographer Jeanine Philippe  who’s passion for the north is evident in all of her images. She is attuned to the wildness, and to the magic of where we live.

Image may contain: sky, cloud, mountain, tree, outdoor and natureImage may contain: sky, night, mountain, nature and outdoorImage may contain: sky, plant, flower, cloud, outdoor and natureImage may contain: tree, plant, outdoor and natureImage may contain: sky, tree, outdoor and nature

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Fire Element: Opening the Heart

I learn through my collaborations with acupuncturist Cheri Reidy that Fire is the energy of early summer and like Fire we are infused with the ability to stretch to our full potential. In the Five Element Theory, the emotion associated with Fire is joy, which, when in balance, represents an overflowing enthusiasm for life. The color associated with Fire is red; the climate is hot; and the sound connected with Fire is the sound of laughter

Fire is the energy of the Heart Meridian – the King or Queen of the body’s Kingdom. Through Cheri’s instruction we learn that the Heart has but one desire and one filter setting, Love. Thirteenth Century poet, Rumi, writes, ‘ Of all the offerings on the table of Life how can I drink only from the cup of Love and how can I share of this cup with others?’ Much of Rumi’s poetry was believed to have been composed in a state of ecstasy, induced by the music of the flute or drums.  He often accompanied his verses by a whirling dance, and so many of his poems were composed to be sung in Sufi musical gatherings; much like Fire, they were infused with divine love.

Several years ago, I had the opportunity to hear, ‘One Hundred Ways To Kiss The Ground’ – Renowned Rumi interpreter Coleman Barks & master musicians perform at St. Andrew’s-Wesley Church in Vancouver. To be able to attend was nothing less than pure magical synchronicity as it was a time of deep loss in my life. While I sat in the church surrounded by so many offerings of beauty from the table of life, the effect of Rumi’s poems, the accompanying musicians and whirling dervishes, split me open. Long after the performance was over, I was unable to leave. My heart was painfully wide open, my grief so at the surface of my being, I could not deny the intensity of that burning fire of love. 

 And so, I leave you with my collage which has Rumi’s poem written on it

May your heart open in love

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing

and rightdoing there is a field.

I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass

the world is too full to talk about.”



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All Things Poetry, April 26th

Imagine for a moment living in a society where poetry is a part of the mainstream rather than residing with an obscure artistic subculture. Where it would not be unusual to find street poets reading on  corners, in front of supermarkets, or at local fairs. If you could regularly hear spoken word poets in coffee shops, perhaps alongside musicians to help create a deeper atmosphere. See more frequently poems combined with images  in photography, or collage. Poems exhibited alongside paintings in art galleries.

After all, poetry is strong stuff. It can make you laugh, cry, cause people to throw their arms around you in appreciation.Why then do we not work harder to have fun with poetry, to make it more accessible.

This is the spirit of Poem in Your Pocket on April 26th. The message for this day is beautiful: keep it simple! It can be as easy as selecting a poem, carrying it with you, and sharing it with others. The League of Canadian Poets has many creative ideas on how to celebrate this event.

I am thrilled to have one of my poems selected for the League’s 2018 booklet. Here is my offering:

Joans poem in pocket

Swamp Zone” by Joan Conway
from the 2018 Poem in Your Pocket Day booklet

That summer the swamp was our world
I rowed with my sister
among bulrushes and pond lilies
waxy cups, a floating garden
flat disk of leaves
platforms for dragonflies
black veined wings
iridescent in sunlight.

That summer my uncle fried up frog legs.
‘Just like chicken’ he declared
them sitting on a plate coated in flour
at night I dream of slippery bodies surrounding the cabin
throat pouch ballooning taught
vociferous croaking call missing partners.

My mother would stretch out
on smooth curved rocks
sunning herself
rubbing lotion on her creamy white thighs
wet and slippery
my uncle massaging oil onto her back
laughing down at her
and told us kids to go play.

In the swamp zone searching for frogs
how they would lie perfectly still
if you stroked their belly
legs dangling open in some private rapture.

Where I crouched
stranded amongst the reeds
long taper of leaves surrounding me,
closer to shore
roots left high and dry
by the end of that summer.

Let’s imagine that we can bring poetry to the forefront of our society. Lets keep it real.

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Wendy Morton: In Celebration of National Poetry Month

‘A poem is the shortest distance between two hearts.’ These are the words of Wendy Morton in response to her passion for sharing and encouraging poetry on all fronts. These words also encapsulate the spirit of National Poetry Month; a time when poets, lovers of poetry, or those who want to explore more, are encouraged to celebrate this rich literary form.
Photo: Left: poet Wendy Morton, Right: Northern Representative for the Federation of BC Writers Norma Kerby

It was therefore a great pleasure to meet Wendy at a poetry reading in the studio earlier in April. I would describe her as a women with incredible passion and chutzpah when it comes to her approach to writing. With twinkling eyes and a ready chuckle, she told stories of calling up WestJet Airlines, suggesting that she read poems for the passengers and write poems for them in exchange for flights. After some enthusiastic urging,  she became WestJet’s Poet of the Skies.  As well, her poem “If I had a name like Rosie Fernanez” appears on the label of Southbrook Wines as part of their Poetica series. She has turned her poems into  currency in many other ways, which simply exemplify her belief in the power of poetry.

Wendy’s first 5 books of poetry, based on her work as a private investigator, took a transformative turn when she was asked to contribute something for the 150th anniversary of the Alberni Valley in 2008. Morton agreed, and wrote poems for the  archival photographs and journals, which were displayed at the museum.
Inspired and touched by what she had learned, Morton met with many residents of the valley. With the creation of “What Were Their Dreams?” Morton came to understand for the first time the reality of residential schools and how much was taken from First Nations children.

This changed her life.  She began working with students, training them to capture cultural narratives by empowering them to write poems and publish them in a chapbook. This is how  The Elder Project, was created. The Federation of BC Writers is one of the partners that sponsors Wendy to continue with this vision. This reading was a short stop on her way up to the Nass Valley where high school students in New Aiyansh excitedly awaited her. She spoke of the importance of giving young people a sense of accomplishment and a sense of self when they see themselves in book form. As well, Wendy witnesses how deeply elders are rewarded when young people actively express interest in what they have to say.

Wendy has created 19 chapbooks through her work with  First Nations, Metis and Inuit students and their Elders.
Her accomplishments, innovation, commitment, and community partnerships are recognized both provincially and federally. In 2018 the Federation of BC writers granted her the Honorary Ambassador Award. In 2017 she received the Meritorious Service Award from the Governor General and the Order of British Columbia for her work.

Along with the inspiring details of her many projects, Morton continues to embody a sense of pure delight in writing poems. Wearing a bracelet made of scrabble pieces saying ‘ALWAYS POEM,’ she handed out photographs with her writing attached. This was how she conducted the reading part of the event. Always fresh, always generous, and always with the spirit of creating random acts of poetry. I cannot think of a better way to celebrate National Poetry Month.

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Spring Collage: Releasing the Warrior

In Traditional Chinese medicine and particularly the Five Element Theory I learn from Acupuncturist  Cheri Reidy that spring is the wood element. Much like green shoots coming through the slumber of winter, it is a time for new beginnings, exuberant growth and increased activity. One of the archetypes associated with the wood element is the warrior and when balanced it is best interpreted as a guardian of peace. The warrior operates from a sense of integrity, knows when to fight and what is important to fight for.  The use of compassion and forgiveness is important so as not to be enslaved by anger, an emotion prevalent with this element.
For me, the warrior posture in yoga is a true symbol for this element. It challenges and tests us but in doing so bring us strength, focus, confidence and courage.

This collage is deeply meaningful as I’ve recently re-embraced my yoga practice, and like many things, it came from a place of necessity as I was feeling very much out of balance in my life. As I attune to the postures I grow in the understanding of what it means to breath in a connection to my body with a clearer sense of purpose and trust.
Trust does not always come easily, even now I question whether spring will come. I am feverish for clearer signs. Look forward to the fragrance of buds from cottonwood trees. Anticipate the fresh greens of nettle and fiddleheads. And then I remember to breath in and be patient. The birds are arriving with their myriad of songs as they find their way  home to the woods, back to their own busy activities of creation. I need only look and listen a little deeper.

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