Thursday, August 27, 2009


Troubled people call on hope,
Thinking nothing short of magic can help them now.

They say: ”I am the sum of my experience.”
Hope says: ”Yes, that plus your hopes for the future.”

They say: ”What if I don’t have any hopes for the future?”
Hope says: ”Then we’ll find some.”

They say: ”Where will we find them if no hopes are there?”
Hope says: “We’ll find them in your past experience added to the past experience of others, added to the future you haven’t explored yet.”

”Past experience has tied you in knots,” says Hope. ”Hold on to me as we work at the loosening.”
Then they, with surprising frequency, say: ”Okay.”
And before they have time to think about it, they are working the knots, making room for hope to perform the magic.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Let us pause to remember a summer of bugs.
The veranda sheltered two colonies of wasps.
The tomatoes are feeding an army of slugs.
Moths and grasshoppers came in to the house for a visit.
Box elder bug scouts are signaling the onslaught of more,
While match-ups and weddings and a new babe arrival
Give proof that the love bug is nesting.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Jane sent me a story by email
Though it was new to me, I had a hunch that this one had probably already found fertile growing space on the internet. Something about the hopeful tone of the story tipped me off. It was a safe hunch. I was right, and, try as I might—I spent more than two full minutes reading almost identical versions of the same story--I didn’t find the name of its original author. What I think I can say for sure is that whoever wrote it hoped to inspire. If repetition is any indicator—and it probably is, given the contagious nature of such things--that hope appears to have been achieved.
Jane and I have been talking lately about old people. It all started at lunch, when we discovered that all six of us assembled around the table were eligible to order off the seniors’ menu.
“”Seniors Grilled Cheese with a fruit cup,”” said one, when the waitress came by to take the order.
“”Seniors Chicken,”” said another.
“”Seniors omelet,”” said the next one.
When my turn came I also ordered the grilled cheese. “”Seniors Grilled Cheese,”” I said loudly. I ordered it slowly to give the waitress time to focus, trying desperately to project a sneaky look, a broad hint that I might have something to hide. In reality I had nothing to hide, except that deep inside me burned a faint but persistent hope that the waitress, upon hearing my order, would ask for government ID to prove my age. Instead, she asked if I wanted the grilled cheese on white, brown or sourdough.
Struggling with the fact that my order would go unchallenged, I focused on the task of contenting myself with the thrill of the discount, and that warm feeling of being in the company of good people. Jane and I were, to my mind, in a mixed group. Some of us are retired, some of us are not. Some of us are grandparents. Some of us are not. Some of us live in seniors’ accommodation, while others moved to a large two-story house not so long ago. The age span in the group, from oldest to youngest, is 37 years—one generation in our family, two generations in some others. That covers a lot of territory on the demographic map, and here we were, a one-category group in solidarity, ordering from the seniors’ menu.
The way I see it, the whole process of aging is a hotbed of uncertainty. We might be carefree, or encumbered with pain. We might be respected, yet can also expect—when we least expect it—to be disregarded. We might bask in a life of plenty or—possibly given economic unpredictability—find ourselves living on a tight budget. So I ask you, is it any wonder, then, that a story about the beauty and regenerative value of old barns and old people should have made it to the big time, snatched up and spread in epidemic proportion by millions who hope to be of value for a long, long time, and—in anticipation of a lengthy journey—fortify themselves with a seniors’ discount?

Monday, August 24, 2009


Hope-setting. It’s one of the things I enjoy most in the daily grind of counselling. It’s inspiring. It’s surprising. It’s mind-expanding. It gets things off to a comfortable start and focuses the work toward the future. I like it, and the files don’t lie. I really am better at it than I ever was at goal-setting.
When I think of how easy it is to organize a counselling relationship around the hopes of a client I just can’t believe that everybody doesn’t do it. I’ve been looking at hope counselling files this summer. As I look at each file I see a group of clearly documented hopes. “I hope to feel more joy and less anger.” “I hope to do things that make me proud.” ”I hope to find satisfaction in my marriage.” These are the hopes on which the work of future sessions is founded.
Hope-setting. It’s a simple process on the surface of it. You sit down with a client, have a chat, and ask for sentences that begin with I hope. Then you write them down for present discussion and future reference. When I say the process of hope-setting is easy, I guess I don’t mean REALLY EASY. Like anything worth doing, it takes a pint of commitment on the counsellor’s part, and a quart of discipline to keep doing it until it feels natural. People are skeptical when you first begin.
“Oh, I don’t think I can do that,” they say. Between us hangs the unspoken fear. If the fear could speak it would say,”My problem is so big that it’s beyond hope.” But when you press for hopes, big or small, realistic or not, you eventually get hopes.
When I say that the process of hope-setting is easy, I really mean that it is easier for me than the process of goal-setting. This is evidenced by the files which show that I do get to hopes, reliably so, and early in the process. My record on goal-setting was not as good. Looking back, I can see how I got into trouble. When I was a fledgling counsellor, intent on learning how to do it properly, I applauded the authors and teachers who advised me to set goals and objectives early in the process. I am, after all, a practical woman, and how can you expect to accomplish something if you haven’t agreed on the thing you want to accomplish? So I would set up an objective-setting conversation.
Me: ”I would like to set some objectives for our work together. It will be easier for us to get things done if we both know what we’re trying to do.”
Them: “Okay.”
Me (the you-first approach): “What would you like to accomplish?”
Them: ”I want to deal with my anger,” or ”I want to increase my sense of self-worth,” or—and this one is a real stinker—”I can’t think of anything we can accomplish unless my wife is willing to sleep with me.”
Let’s face it. Future-focussed though I wanted to be, I found that I really wasn’t very good at goal-setting. I wanted to do it early in the counselling process, and I couldn’t get it to feel right. I wasn’t exactly sure how to deal with anger, and I didn’t feel I could promised to increase anybody’s sense of self-worth. As for getting a wife to sleep with an unhappy husband, well, the best I could do was change the subject. Vowing to set goals it later, I’d wander off in other directions, only to find that once you start exploring the conversational caves, losing yourself for hours in the tunnels and blind alleys, it’s generally easier to abandon the idea of goal-setting entirely. When it came time to impress professors with student papers I’d look back at my files, desperate to find one where goals had been documented and achieved. Ultimately I’d end up disappointing myself by basing my papers on files where no clear goals had been set.
Imagine my relief when I found there was a future-focused alternative! Rather than goals, I could work with hopes. There are a few factors that make hope-setting easier and more desirable than goal-setting. You can get hopes earlier than you can get goals. What’s more, you can get more of them, and as you are getting them, you only have to hope for them. You don’t have to promise to achieve them.
There are, when you think about it, some basic and important differences between hopes and goals. Hope is an emotion, while goal is a thing. Counselling is emotional work. That is why so many people come to us seeking a cure for anger, an injection of self-worth, an antidote for unhappiness. Goals by their nature—so concrete, so tangible, so objectively measurable—have a hard time finding a comfortable place to flourish in counselling, where the talk tends to be about emotions. It is easier to start with emotions in counselling that it is to start with things.
Hopes relate to wishes, while goals relate to intention. This basic difference permits us to have more hopes than goals. We can hope to visit India some day and enjoy a flutter of pleasant feeling as we say it. But if our goal is to visit India, then we are more apt to say we plan to visit India. Once we’ve said that, we have to start working on it. This makes it easier to have India as a hope rather than a goal. It is easier to wish than to plan. Keeping the future in mind, you can set hopes sooner than you can set goals.
Hopes are imaginative while goals are action-oriented. This important difference shows itself most clearly when we get down to the work of nurturing hopes and goals. When we nurture hopes, we delve into the imagination, try to make it bigger, strive to expand the number of future possibilities. When we nurture goals, our focus is on achievement. We try to be realistic. We narrow the field of possibilities based on a concept of realism. Given the tools available to us at the early stages of a counselling relationship, combined with our limited knowledge about what is realistic for this person, it is easier to nurture the imagination than to nurture commitment to action.
One additional factor makes hope-setting a better first choice than goal-setting. Hopes prefer to take their place ahead of goals. They like to be leaers. When you express hope by saying I hope, you are pairing a feeling with a future possibility and the way you feel tends to influence the way you act. . In fact, it is best to feel hope first if you’ll need to invest a lot of energy on the hard work of achieving a goal. What kind of fool would document a goal and commit to checking on its progress without any hope of achieving it?
When I look at the hopes jotted down on the early pages of a hundred files I see that they are bigger than goals, softer than goals. Emotional and imaginative, they point toward a desirable future not entirely in the control of the hoper. In one file I read: ”I hope to be respected, not just treated as one more case file.” The hoper, as I recall was not talking directly about the relationship that was developing between him and me, but I do recall how it set the tone for the way I thought of him, the way I spoke to him. He had so many obstacles to deal with, so many decisions to make. What he hoped for was to be respected as he stumbled along the journey.
In another file I read: “I am hoping to get a job where I can be happy. ”I am hoping to get a job where I can contribute something. I am hoping to get a job where I can have positive input into situations. I am hoping to get a job where I can stay for a long time. I am hoping to get a job where I will be safe from the possibility of injury.” These hopes, I recall, were the hopes of a man who was not looking for a job at the time, and would not be in a position to do so in the near future. He had, in fact, been sent to me so that he could ”deal with his anger.” By the time I met him I was no longer worried about dealing with anger. I told him we’d get to it eventually. First, though, I was wondering if he had any hopes he’d like to share. And that’s how he got to telling me about his hopes for his next job, which is what led us on a journey of imagination, and gave us the imspiration we needed.

Friday, August 21, 2009


Not long ago a teacher whose work I follow posted a blog about one of her teachers.

When I responded with a comment about the on-going memorable influence of teachers, she said she didn’t seem to know much about the influential teachers in my life. Well, there was a challenge. Allow me to introduce you to the Eric Cardinall that I knew, junior high socials teacher at the Jericho Hill School for the Blind, 1965-68.
So often you don’t know what you didn’t know until you learn it, and even then sometimes you don’t know you didn’t know it unless it happens to be something really significant. Mr. Cardinall and I started together at the Jericho Hill School for the Blind. Before we got there I had been attending Lougheed School a thousand miles away in Lougheed Alberta, and he had been teaching half a block away at Jericho Hill School for the Deaf. Suffice it to say that the worlds we had left were light-years distant from the world we had entered. The world we had entered was comprised of tight little knots of blind students who had been learning together for many years. There were things they’d been taught, ways of being a blind student from the first day of school. I had been speaking sighted language. He had been speaking sign language. I, the only Wendy I had known in the first 12 years of my life, was joining a class of 12. Two other Wendys had been there a long time. They lived their lives by double names first and last. How else could you speak to either of them without getting the attention of neither or both? Now that there were three of us, it was the rule that I should become WendyCookson, a compound name uttered as quickly and loudly as possible to avoid further annoying confusion.
“Too confusing,” declared Mr. Cardinall, tied in a tangle of Wendys on the first day of school. “I shall call you Cooky.”
I’d never been called Cooky before. It would have been completely out of order back in Lougheed, where Cooksons were plentiful. But in this foreign landscape the name was all mine, a gift of individuality from Mr. Cardinall, a man carving out his own space as he carved out mine. He was learning Braille. This was a bit surprising to me. Having travelled so far to attend a school for my kind, I did think the teachers would know Braille. But it wasn’t required of the junior high teachers, and so the majority of them didn’t bother with it. We read Braille—or nothing if we weren’t good at Braille. They read print. Mr. Cardinall studied in the evenings and learned a little more each day. Proudly he would display his new learnings. I knew how he felt. I had learned Braille on my own a few months earlier. Every day of that heady time had seemed like Christmas.
Mr. Cardinall taught me geography—by touch. “Here,” he said, “are five balls of play dough for each of you.” We each laid down a sheet of paper and placed the balls where he said they should go. One was Saskatoon, another Regina. “Off to the left and a little way up is Edmonton—the closest we’ll come today to where Cooky lives. Place Calgary below it. Now go way down and a little to the left for Vancouver,” Walking around the room, he adjusted our blobs for more accurate relativity.
I wonder now if Mr. Cardinall knew that I had never before given consideration to the relative location of cities. Mine had been a life of guided transportation. People took me places. I got into a car, or boarded a plane. The rest of it was unimportant until I discovered that I hadn’t known it. Yesterday, as I booked a plane ticket to Saskatoon, my hands reach back through time to touch those play dough blobs. I’ll be flying a little bit down, and a little to the right.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


One time my mom and I got gobsmacked together. It was a long time ago, back before the word gobsmacked came into the popular vocabulary. We were waiting for dinner in a revolving restaurant in Honolulu, having a glass of wine while we waited. One glass of wine, you say. What difference can one glass of wine make? Well, for some it might not be much, but one glass of wine on an empty stomach was a lot of alcohol for Mom and me. We decided to visit the Ladies’ Room. All was well until we came out. And that is when we were gobsmacked. For the washroom had stayed in place, or, at least, had turned with the earth, while the restaurant tables—accelerated by an unseen motor--had moved. Heading back to our table we found that our table had disappeared. Somebody else’s table had taken its place. There we stood, Gobsmacked; utterly surprised; astonished; a little bit disoriented; a little bit speechless. the experience lingered on, not so much in fact as in feeling. It lingered long after the waitress rescued us--revolving restaurant waitresses get used to the rescue routine.
I think of it today, as I celebrate the news that my hope workshop proposal has been accepted for presentation next summer at the National Storytelling Network conference in Los Angeles. I find myself reflecting on one significant difference between a fabulous workshop and a fabulous story. A fabulous workshop educates you. It inspires you. It activates your curiosity. A fabulous story does all this and one thing more. A fabulous story leaves you gobsmacked. Is there a storyteller on earth who does not hope to create that experience for a listener?
Gobsmacked! It doesn’t happen often, but it’s been done to me a few times by a few different storytellers—Elizabeth Ellis, Donna lively, Carmen Agra Deedy. It’s left me knowing things I didn’t even hope to learn and being glad I learned them. What other word could so appropriately describe my reaction the first time I heard Tim Tingle tell a story about the Choctaw people on the trail of tears? It happened five years ago at a National Storytelling Network conference in Bellingham, and I’ve been thinking and talking about the Choctaw people ever since. Tim’s name was unfamiliar to me, but I signed up for his workshop on collecting stories. I sat down in a stuffy classroom, gave this stranger the majority of my attention and then suddenly—the workshop was over and I was gobsmacked—not so much by the workshop itself, which was educational and inspiring, but by the story inside it. Without any intention on my part to admit them, the Choctaw people had taken up a space in my heart. I exited slowly, a little bit disoriented, a little bit speechless.
You know you’ve been gobsmacked when, for a fraction of a fraction of a second, your world speeds up, or maybe it slows down. Your attention is somehow refocused. Next thing you know, your world has fallen out of line with everybody else’s world, leaving you in a different place—somewhere you didn’t expect to be. If I would be granted only one explanation to justify all the time and money I have spent pursuing master storytellers it would be this: Once you’ve been gobsmacked by a story, you tend to search for a recurrence of that experience, the way people return to casino tables, lured by the memory of their winning times while their losing times fade to the background.
Master storytellers can gobsmack you, not every time, maybe not even most of the time, but they can do it, and the feeling is fabulous when they do. They can make you laugh at things that shouldn’t be funny and dissolve you in tears when you hadn’t thought to bring a tissue. They can make you believe you’ve been to places you know you never visited. They can trick you into caring about historical events, attach you irrevocably to people whose fate you had never once pondered.
If you go to a conference or festival where master storytellers gather, there is a reasonable chance of being gobsmacked. So much goes on at such events that I usually make a few notes. I note stories that interest me—there are many, and stories I might consider telling—sometimes there is a story or two. But if a story should happen to gobsmack me, well that’s another matter. For the after affects of my engagement with that story, the reverberations from that moment of surprising disorientation will be with me for a long long time, starting a voyage of discovery I had never intended to take.
Storytellers tend to put on workshops at conferences, and sometimes even at festivals. It’s a thing they are expected to do, a forum for teaching their craft to others. So they develop workshops on collecting stories, or organizing storytelling events, or inspiring hope through story—if that is where their expertise lies. But if there’s ever been a workshop on how to gobsmack your listeners, I’ve not yet seen the advertising. Gobsmacking is most likely to occur when a skilled teller applies vivid language to interesting content. It describes a process during which the heart steps in front of the mind and takes over the listening. It happens to somebody in a crowded room, though probably not to everybody. Mostly, I think, it happens by magic.
And so, as I peer a whole year into the future, to a day when a roomful of people who have never heard my name will show up for a workshop called “Hopeful Telling from Inside Out: Audaciously Spreading Hope Through Story” I gather my tried-and-true hope materials. I know they will not let me down. Then I reach forward in a tentative gesture of hope, permitting myself to briefly wonder how one should prepare to tell a gobsmacker. Is it something you prepare for, or do you have to count on the magic?

Saturday, August 15, 2009


One day I was digging in my purse. I wanted to make a phone call. So down I plunged, past the cheque book, past the nail clipper that has no file because airport security snapped it off just after 9/11, past my thyroid pills and pain killers, past the comb I use for comb concerts and occasionally for my hair, past cough drops and gum and pens and a Braille writing slate, all the way down to the deep dark bottom where the heavy stuff sinks. When I finally drew out my cell phone a teenager sitting beside me peered at it and said, “What’s that?” That’s how old my cell phone is.
Yes, my cell phone is old, old but I still love it. Sometimes you get something that’s so good, so unbelievably good that you think maybe you ought not to mention it to anybody, in case you got it by mistake. This, for some time now, has been the case with my cell phone. And though it has never let me down, has always worked well enough, it’s not the phone that I value so much as the plan, a plan I got back in the olden days when $11.00 could buy you something nice. It’s a pay-and-talk plan. For less than $11.00 a month, or maybe it’s just a wee bit more, the company takes the money out of my account and gives me voice messaging and 25 minutes worth of air time, way more than I need. Nobody calls me to offer me more features, nobody pesters me at all. Every so often I go away from home and clear out some of the extra money that accumulates on the plan by making a long distance call.
And so, given how unbelievably good that cell phone has been, you can probably understand how distressed I was when, after several tries, it finally dawned on me that my phone would no longer make calls when I was away from home. And I simply had to face the truth, the party was over. It’s a cutthroat world, and so I knew that they had finally caught up to me and taken away a privilege. If a thing seems too good to be true, then it probably is.
I called up the phone company to explain the problem. I practiced the call for several days before I actually made it. Experience has taught me that customer service lines can make me angry very quickly, and I don’t like to hear myself screaming over the phone. The call started just as I had imagined it would, with a tour of many options, a recording, a musical interlude, assurances that my call was important. Suspicion was rising. So was my temperature. Finally I was connected to someone whose English I could barely understand. So things were just as I had expected them to be. Even hope ladies don’t seem to be able to change this!
Still, it seemed that I had to make this call. I explained the problem. He repeated my explanation. I tried to be patient. In turn the agent, once I got used to him, was patient and competent. He asked me to take the battery out of my phone. I did so. He asked me to put it back in. I tried. He was patient while I tried. He was patient while I tried again and again. He was patient while I searched for David and got him to try. He was patient while David tried again.
Then he said, “Excuse me, but we need not continue this. Your phone is very old. I can send you a new phone free of charge.”
And here it was, exactly what I expected. I wasn’t born yesterday. There is no such thing as a free phone.
“What kind of a contract will I be entering?” I asked.
“None,” he said.
“How will my monthly bill change?” I asked through gritted teeth.
“It will be exactly as it has been?”
“How much will the shipping cost?” By now I was desperate to find the loophole.
“We will ship it free,” he said. And then, “What colour do you want, black or red?”
“Which one costs more?” I knew I had him this time.
“They are both free,” he said.
So I ordered black, and then I got an email confirming the order and showing no charges.
And I still believe there is no free lunch, but I think there might possibly be a free phone—for hope ladies, and maybe for other people too. Come Christmas I will be reconsidering my theories about Santa Claus. Way to go Telus!

Friday, August 14, 2009


Once every couple of years we spend the second Saturday in August hanging out with my extended family at the Lougheed and District Agricultural Fair. When friends ask what we do there, I always say we hang out with family. It’s easiest that way. Long ago I discovered that an unjustified description of the daily events tends to leave them a little speechless. There they sit, not wanting to say the wrong thing, trying tactfully to figure out just how serious I might be about my passion for the Lougheed Fair.
We are visitors at the fair, some of the few attendees without at least one job to do—though this year we did spend half an hour keeping Dad Company on gate duty and collecting a few $5.00 admission fees. “Best entertainment $5.00 can buy,” says Dad. Free all-day horse show, free cattle show, free baseball tournament to watch, free visit to the museum and a chance to view all the prize tags affixed to the displays in the curling rink.
For a visitor the day begins at the museum with a pancake breakfast. By 10:00 you need to be standing somewhere along the parade route to be entertained by trucks with company logos, antique cars, horse riders and kids driving quads. Most of the floats throw out candy for the kids. It’s best to stand near children. Some floats throw really good chocolate bars.
By noon all the booths are open. You can get pie and coffee at the curling rink, or a cold plate at the arena. Out on the grounds you the hamburgers and frying and the hotdogs are grilling. There is ice cream and mini doughnuts, so many things to drink. There’s a beer garden too, though I’ve never been there. We who dine on parade chocolate bars usually end up spending most of the day around children.
My nieces and nephews are serving pop from a trailer, showing their horses, passing their kids back and forth, encouraging the next generation to ride. Their mom helps out in the announcer’s booth. At several points in the day we abandon the lawn chairs at the show ring and stroll through the curling rink to revisit the first prize tags on Dad’s woodwork. At one time the carpentry would have been made from new wood, but these days there are recycling categories. He has brought tables and coat racks crafted from waste wood and school desktops that gave service when he was a child. There are baked goods and jams, quilts and flower arrangements, ripe tomatoes, photography and children’s art. T
It’s all on display for us to admire. The judges were here yesterday.
And then there’s the museum, a cluster of buildings from the village and the countryside. When you think of history and exclude aboriginal history, nothing can be very old in an area that was settled in the early 20th century. But the 20th century was a time of rapid change. The museum church is the church I grew up with, the one nurtured by Granny and Mom. The pews are the ones I squirmed on, the kneelers the ones I ached on, the pump organ is the one I played at summer Bible school. One of the schools on the property—yes, there is more than one school—is the country school attended by my father and sister. There are their names on the register. That same school was the community centre of my youth. Never can I walk to the door without recalling how it felt to bite the bottom off my ice cream cone at the annual summer picnic. Why did I bite it off? Well, to understand that, you’d have to understand why I once put gum in my hair. I think I did it because somebody said not to. On fair day I step on to the platform where I performed at many a Christmas concert. I sit on the bench play the piano that is only slightly more out of tune than it was 20 years ago when Mom insisted that the school should be incorporated into the museum.
Fair day ends with a barbecue supper. Nobody can really claim hunger, but everybody lines up for supper. We are a four-generation party of 22. We might have been 23, but one teenager broke rank and ate early with a friend.
Did I mention that Lougheed has a population of 200, that the population of the countryside grows smaller every year as the farms grow larger? It’s only when you think of these numbers that you can understand what a fully participatory event the fair is. All volunteers pay the admission fee. All volunteers pay for meals. All pay entry fees to show horses or woodwork. Dad is right. The day is a bargain. But more than that, it is a commitment to a way of life.

Friday, August 07, 2009


Another thing off my bucket list! No, not the Taj Mahal, not the Eiffel Tower. Haven’t climbed Everest. But I did get to the Edmonton Folk Festival. First time ever.
The festival has been on for thirty years now, sells out every year. In some obtuse way I have always intended to go. But then somebody would tell me about getting there two hours early to lay down a tarp on a prized piece of spectator real estate, and a scorching hot weekend would persuade me that burning to a crisp was not better than listening to recordings, or I’d be cuddling up by the fire while a drenching rain poured down. All in all, when it came to reasoning, folk festing was always a little out of reach.
It was the younger generation that changed things. I am not sure how many years it might take me to get over the wonder of having our kids want to do things with us, and even be willing to pay their own way. This year the Folk Fest people pulled it together for us by putting on an extra night with Sarah McLaughlin. Ruth wanted to go, and Mark and Tracey went last year and knew how to get us some handy dandy backpacking lawn chairs with drink holders on the side. All things considered, what could we do? Tracey got the tickets. Her friend shopped for the lawnchairs.
We didn’t take a tarp. We simply shouldered our lawn chairs, tucked toques and mitts in the pockets, and smiled at the neighbours who laughed as we passed. They must have been envious, surely! Who wouldn’t smile at a backpacking family in neighbourhood transit?
The stage was already in full flourish by the time we got there. There were no spots near the stage. To get those you have to skip early evening physio.
So we climbed the hill—nearly as high as Everest. Up, up up! And there we settled, side by side, when Tracy Chapman began.
Sarah’s sweet caressing tones floated right up to the top of the universe as darkness fell. A thousand candles on the hill made you forget that there were stars behind the clouds. And as I lay back, with Mark’s blanket slung across three of us to ward off the evening chill, I thought maybe we’d try to come next year, if we can find the time.
It’s hard to work on a bucket list when there are so many things that simply have to be done again.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009


Raspberries, strawberries, ripe saskatoons;
Blackberries, blueberries, rhubarb since June.
Apricots, peaches and nectarines fine;
Green grapes and cantaloupe, plums of three kinds.

Carrots, potatoes and peas in the shell;
Green beans and radishes, spinach and kale.
Onions, tomatoes, peppers and squash;
Lettuce and parsley, beets red and posh.

I could eat every minute of each summer day,
No sleeping, no exercise, no time for play.

And I would, if there wasn’t so much to do in summer.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009


What more hopeful thing can there be
Than a new generation of people to care for our society?
Our summer table offers more than food and temperate air.

A weekend of new friends, new horizons.
One dinner guest is getting a degree in human rights.
A breakfast visitor is teaching animal welfare to aspiring veterinarians.

So all of us should sleep better
Soothed by fresh air and sunshine
And evidence that the world has friends.