A Shadow on My Heart

September, 2012

Like so many other people my age, this year was overshadowed by change. My father, 91, was diagnosed with Alzheimers and had to go into a nursing home. As well, elderly and not-so elderly relatives, neighbours and friends passed away. Three days ago, the heart of our town, beloved old buildings on Broad Street filled with vibrant enterprises and memories, flowers and lovely gardens, burned to the ground.

I would like to share the things that brought me joy during these times when I felt a shadow on my heart.


In the winter, I was holed up in my studio over the kitchen, thrashing out the first draft of a new novel.

Sept 2012 snow and house

Then came the first greens of spring, lovely and succulent.

Sept 2012 radishes


The bok choy was planted in the greenhouse in fall, lay dormant all winter, and burst forth in April!

Sept 2012 bok choy


I finished the first draft –

Sept 2012 desk

Sept 2012 office

and had the joy of a cabin in Banff Centre for the Arts at the Leighton’s Artist’s Colony for the month of April.

Here is my cabin; a street in Banff; and the heartlifting landscape.

Sept 2012 Banff cabin

Sept 2012 Banff street

Sept 2012 Banff


And then summer was upon us.

A group of us decorated a little church with wildflowers for a country wedding.

Sept 2012 Akou wedding

Sept 2012 Akou wedding

Sept 2012 Akou wedding


I read from “The Sea Captain’s Wife” at the Port Medway’s Reader’s Festival on the south shore of Nova Scotia.

Sept 2012 Port Medway



In the gardens was fleeting beauty: poppies, nasturtiums, butterflies, spiders….

Sept 2012 arbour


Sept 2012 veg garden

Sept 2012 nasturtiums

Sept 2012 butterfly

Sept 2012 poppy

Sept 2012 yellow spider

After forty-two years on the same ground, the gardens seemed to arrive and then thrive on their own, so lush that I barely remember all the digging, planning, and planting involved!

This used to be the front lawn.

Sept 2012 house and garden

Broccoli –

Sept 2012 broccoli

the kale patch –

Sept 2012 kale


savoy cabbage and nasturtiums.

Sept 2012 savoy cabbage

And finally, a great harvest!

Sept 20121 corn

Wild blueberry crumble –

Sept 2012 blueberry crumble

“Music” garlic –

Sept 2012 garlic

Freezing chard and beans. We fill two chest freezers, our two granddaughters helping. Other vegetables are stored in the root cellar, or cluster beneath the piano (squash!), or hang in net bags (onions and garlic.)

Sept 2012 chard

Sept 2012 beans



Arch and elegant Mrs. Padmore the Leghorn came to live with us and began laying orange-yolked eggs.

Sept 2012 hen

Sept 2012 eggs


After the Broad Street Fire, Peter and went to Grand Manan, where I am now, writing to you. We always end our summer here, camping on the cliffs, listening to the fog horn, the crying of gulls, the quick, explosive breathing of seals, the sight of humpbacks breaching far out in the Gulf of Maine. We ponder the surge of life, think of passings and births, losses and growth. We return refreshed.

Sept 2012 Grand Manan

Sept 2012 Grand Manan


These things: flowers, family, innocent hens, quiet spiders and roaring seas – remind me that beauty is there for the seeing, and for the heart’s solace.

I’m off to Parry Sound, Ontario to give a reading on September 19th at the Charles W. Stockey Centre for the Performing Arts at 7:30 PM. Peter unveils his latest public commission, “Touchstone,” in Canmore, Alberta, at Elevation Place on October 13th, and I’m flying out to be with him for this exciting moment. And then….nose to the grindstone on the next draft of the novel!

With my warmest late-summer best wishes to all of you,