On Waterton, a boys’ reconciliation, and mandalalalas


We are so blessed to have a little cottage nestled in what is surely one of the wildest and untamed of places,

Waterton Lakes National Park.

Not a day goes by here when I, we, are not bowled over by an immense sense of gratitude for our luck in somehow landing in this part of the world.

As I write this, by the way,

the wind is absolutely howling,
gusts up to 100 km/h,
and there is driving rain. About an hour ago, George and I ran outside because we were both fairly certain that the rain had changed to snow.

Have I mentioned that it is July 24th?


And when I make  statements such as ‘we are so blessed to have the opportunity to get to know this part of the world’,
I add a caveat.

I don’t actually believe that this place is entirely knowable.

Our wonderful friend Lyndon was visiting us this last weekend and him and I found ourselves having the conversation that we have had before,

whereby we sit and sing the praises of these glorious surroundings.

I reminded him of the time when he likened Waterton to a portal.

There is, after all, such mystery to this place. One might think, if one was the kind of person to think on these sorts of things,

that if there existed a veil between worlds, Waterton would be the seat of that transitional dimension,

There is a feeling though that we are only allowed to touch the surface of understanding it,

yet, at the same time, the answers to life’s biggest questions might just almost be within grasp here.


It is, after all, a land of dramatic extremes and contrasts.

Today’s pounding wind and rain may very well give way tomorrow to the ideal and calm heat of a perfect summer’s day,


and a lake of glass.


The stretching golden flatness of the prairies suddenly falls into the great depths of Waterton lake and rises up the steep Rocky Mountains.

This town is small, and the number of visitors cannot even begin to compare to the tourists that flood into the villages of other North American national parks, as we are out-of-the-way,

hidden in an unused corner.

And the wildlife here abounds in a way that continues to astound,

even those who have known this place for a lifetime are in careful awe of the raw power and beauty of the magnificent animals that inhabit these forests,

grizzlies, cougars, black bears, wolves,

foxes, lynx, wolverines.

The winters here are long and difficult, and I am not at all convinced that I could stand the loneliness and isolation, never mind the brutal weather, of a sustained stay through that season.

Yet, when Spring finally comes, the wildflowers that suddenly abound are unparalleled in abundance and variety to most places in the world.

It is rare for me to write such homages to landscapes and geography,

but this piece so wanted to be written.

She is my refuge, my inspiration and my creative cozy den, my safe source of comfort,

the place where our family gathers,

she is at once adventure and calm,

and in the midst of a busy life,

a continued and certain source of spirit, peace, renewal.


A Boy’s Reconciliation

As will happen, George and his friend had a falling-out this week.

It was a passionate and volatile argument that occurred at the end of a two-day playdate.

The boys both, it turned out, wanted fiercely and desperately, to be the banker in their game of monopoly.

So much so,

that the game dramatically dissolved into harsh words from both sides, tears, a throwing down of the money and an abrupt parting of ways.

Though my first inclination is to always mend and encourage reconciliation,

I knew they were tired and needed time apart.

So we all rested, read, watched a movie, slept.

The next morning, there was a soft tap on our screen door.

George ran to open it,

the two boys stood and looked at each other for a moment and so I asked them what needed to happen next.

They both quickly said, ‘I’m sorry’, bumped tummies (their version of a hug)

and then ran to the living room to continue their game, this time sharing the role of banker.

I texted an update to my dear friend, the mom of George’s friend, in awe of the absolute simplicity of it all.

No drawn out conversation, resentments, or rehashments~

Just over,

done with, tummies bumped,

and upward and onward with new play.



For years and years and years,

I have been obsessed with the gorgeousness of mandalas,

and the creative, therapeutic, and meditative potential of exploring these circular patterns.

Finally giving myself permission to delve into the things that make my heart sing, I have begun working with them in true but playful seriousness.

More on this topic to come, but for now,

here are the beginnings of possibilities…. 🙂










On my husband, beans in brownies, and lake life

My husband

13 years ago this weekend Dan and I were married in our backyard.

I was 28, he was 40, and it was a second marriage for us both.

Dan’s brother, David, performed the ceremony in our backyard,

marriage commissioner for a day.

Ours was a whirlwind of a courtship.

By our second date we had determined that we were getting married, which was a complete surprise to us both given that neither of us were convinced that marriage was a direction in which we wanted to head again.

However, I found myself quite suddenly smitten with this man who did terribly romantic things

like leaving a new duvet for me to find in my entry when I came home from work, because I had said that my apartment was cold at night,

and he wined and dined me to no end.

Our first Christmas together, Dan took me to Paris which was where he officially proposed . He had planned to find some romantic venue (Paris has a few),

but he was so excited to pop the big question that it spilled out of him as soon as we arrived at our hotel.

It wasn’t, however, those grand sweeping gestures that won me over (though they are wonderful memories),
rather what I fell in love with were things such as,

the first time we spoke on the phone Dan told me within the first five minutes that he had an 8-year-old daughter that meant the world to him,

he often phoned my mom in the evening to share with her news from his day,

he was still great friends with his ex-wife and her parents,

he was passionate about art, beauty, our world,

and was deeply committed to always being and doing better…..

These things convinced me of his character,
and I felt assured that our life together would be an adventure, a mutual journey of learning, discovery, play, love,


It has not always been easy.

We have needed to learn about building a healthy relationship, and we have already been through so much,

but how lucky am I,
to have someone who believes in me, cheers me on and cherishes me completely?

We have our moments, but with every big decision we are on the same page.

With you, my dear, there is never a dull moment, or lack of expression.
You know how to play and dream, your generosity is limitless, and your talents still move me.
Happy Anniversary to the man who loves me as much a woman can be loved,

is a wonderful father to our kids,

and who taught me that lighting is everything.



After a couple of weeks of eating a ton of junk food,

I decided that our summer could not be entirely comprised of chips, pop, candy and such.

I pulled out my healthier eating cookbooks, made a big shopping list and headed back to the city to stock up on groceries galore.

Back in Waterton, I started experimenting with healthier recipes again.

I made ‘Trail Mix Cookies’ from Joyous Health by Joy McCarthy to start with (positively delicious!), Creamy Avocado Potato Salad from Oh She Glows by Angela Liddon (also fabulous) and successfully offered my family fresh berries with whipped coconut milk for desserts (omg, have you tried this!?)




However, things fell apart when I made ‘Black Bean Chia Brownies’ (Joyous Health) the other day and George said to me once they were ready,

‘You didn’t put anything stupid in these brownies, did you?’

‘I have no idea what you are talking about, and that’s not a nice word to be using to talk about my food,’ I replied.

I knew that my game was up, though, when the kids and their friends all bit into the said brownies. Olivia’s friend Georgia politely tried to tell me that they were fine, but my own two were gagging dramatically. Piper, the oldest in the group, said,

‘Karen, are there beans in these brownies?’

My reply was my fit of laughter. You can imagine how my children responded.

Oh well, I think the brownies are quite sophisticated and chocolately and black beany-delicious, and my kids can always stand to have their taste buds broadened,

much to their dismay.

Peace in the kitchen is a process,

and food exploration unapologetically delights me.

Lake Life

We have been blessed these last few weeks with spectacular weather. All is still, hot, and gorgeous.

It has been the kind of weather that wants to be held onto, savoured, and absorbed into every pore.

We have spent more time at the lake,

and as I watch my kids swim, boat, skip rocks, climb the boulders and cliffs, and lie on the beach,

I remember my own similar childhood experiences from summer holidays and camping trips.

I am so grateful that my kids get to experience nature, too, in ways that I did,

as I now know there are few and rare moments in life that are so free, real, and precious.







On ‘Peace at Home’, summer play, and writing.

Peace at Home

Recently, I read an article that spoke to the power of passwords.

Over the following months, Estrella used this technique successfully in other realms of his life,

such as: Quit@smoking4ever, Save4trip@thailand, and Sleep@before12.

Believe what you want about the correlation of the changes in this man’s life and the passwords he chose, but this article resonated for me as

I will sometimes labour over passwords as if I am creating a spell to invoke luck or love or health,

as I have always secretly believed in the magical powers of language.

A few days ago I came across this quote,

‘It is not enough to just think on things. It is important to write it all down, or at least say it out loud. Writing and speaking are actions – they bring ideas into the physical world and open us to change…’  Gill Edwards

When we renovated our home 11 years ago we had these words imprinted into the cement of our planters, ‘Peace at Home.’ We also had these letter forms fixed to the archway in our dining room.

I had been inspired by a trip to Guanajuato Mexico where we visited a beautiful old villa with those same words written on a wall in the gardens, Casa de Paz.

This was all during a time where I didn’t feel particularly peaceful, nor could I have known of heartaches that were to come,

but I did know that I wanted peace. I had always known that.

Nor did I completely understand that although peace at home is an admirable and important goal, it would only remain a far off dream until I did the real work of nurturing peace in my own heart.

And that is an intimate journey that never ends,

As for our casa, there are no masters of peace or enlightenment here,

we are simply on a journey together,

hoping to continue to choose love at the end of the day,

Peace at Home is the password.


Summer Play

Though getting kids off their screens can sometimes feel difficult and frustrating I am still convinced that kids for the most part are masters at play.

Sometimes, though, they need a little nudge to do what comes naturally.

The other day I said to my kids and their friends,

‘Let’s make an art show at the end of the summer. We’ll take all of the pieces you create all summer long and host a show. We will pin up your art, have snacks and drinks and invite people’

Whether or not our idea actually makes it that far, the next hour was taken up by George and his friend Kelly very avidly sketching their favorite stuffies for the exhibition.


And when we came up with the idea of adding works to our painted rock garden when our friends came to stay with us this week, I set out my  Zen Doodling book by Carolyn Scrace out along with all of the felts,

It didn’t take long for Olivia to produce this beauty.


With much tighter limits set on allowed gaming time,

today George and Kelly decided to list the criteria required to become a ‘Crazy Club Member.’ (inspired by their own ‘Concussion Club’ that they had  formed earlier on in the week as a result of last week’s events)

Items on the their extensive list included:

‘Go on all biking hills that do not have a chance of death.’

‘See 5 or more foxes.’

‘Build a fort in the mini-forest.’

‘Dunk in the lake in your clothes.’


‘Dye your hair with Kool-aid.’

Yes! This is what I’m talking about!

Isn’t life grand when these are the kinds of things that summer asks of you?


In her wonderful book, A Year of Writing Dangerously, Barbara Abercombie writes about the ways that we sabotage ourselves as writers.

Never mind the things we commonly tell ourselves such as, ‘I have nothing original to say,’ or ‘I haven’t got the time as this stage of my life,’

writing can sometimes just feel like as if it takes way too much energy and effort in a world that already requires so much of us.

Our world, as well, is a highly addictive place and checking Facebook and emails is an easy place to default to ~

Even laundry or unloading the dishwasher can suddenly seem more appealing than finally sitting down to write.

Yet, it’s always so worth it.

Once I am engaged in my writing,

it’s cathartic, invigorating,

and deeply rewarding.

So, may writers write and may kids spend their summer days at play. May we all create time and space for the things that fill our hearts and bring joy and meaning to our days.

What could be more peaceful than that?







On dangers, our Canada, and bear grass….


The other night I had a dream that hundreds of little black birds were swarming around me, pecking at me, pursuing me. I felt the relentlessness of their pursuit but I wasn’t completely terrified, rather I felt a sense of just giving in and giving up.

When I woke, the dream felt heavy and ominous. I am, after all, a woman who looks for signs in everything.

Hundreds of little blackbirds trying to attack me… How can that be good?

This dream came after several days of holidays with Dan’s family. We all reunited in Waterton over the Canada Day long weekend and then drove together to Montana, where Dan’s brother and his wife have a holiday house.

Life has been simpler and more relaxed this week…..big dinners, sleep-ins, family walks and games, swims,

all surrounded by the gorgeous bounties of summer,

seasonal fruits and berries, wildflowers in full bloom, and warm days and evenings.

Last night, however, my summer reverie was violently disturbed when George crashed his head into a signpost while playing tag with his cousins after dinner.

It was, ironically, the loveliest of evenings. We had just finished a wonderful meal celebrating Dan’s parents’ anniversary and were all meandering through the park.

Suddenly, though, I found myself cradling my sweet crying boy in my arms, panicking inwardly about how severely he had been hurt. He seemed to recover but at 2am Dan and I made the decision to go into emergency as George had started vomiting.

12 hours later we still had not slept and had made yet another trip to emergency to have it finally determined that George had in fact suffered a mild concussion but would be okay.

These are the very worst kinds of hours as a mother.

They are the long hours when I try to hard to appear brave and calm, but am terrified.

These are the long hours when I talk to my mom in my mind non-stop, asking for support and strength.

These are the long hours when I know for sure that nothing matters more to me in the world than the health and well-being of these precious beings, our children.

Hundreds of blackbirds swarming…..perils dive-bombing me from every direction and I am so so desperately and completely powerless and vulnerable.

On a family hike earlier this week a few of us were talking about how it’s not usually the dangers that we work to protect ourselves from that end up being the problem. At the outset of the hike we were alerted by a warning that bears had been hanging out in the area,

but our most dangerous moment was when we all sat down to rest for a few minutes beside a hill and inadvertently triggered a mini avalanche of rocks.

And on the day of George’s head injury we had taken the kids to the skateboard park in the morning and watched them repeatedly zoom down ramps of steep cement,


It was a sign on the sidewalk that evening that ended up changing our course.

Driving to the hospital this afternoon, however, I made my peace with it all…the kind of peace that I have to make over and over and over,

because my gentle covenant with this life is constantly forgotten,

I am not in control. I surrender. It is too hard to hold so tightly onto my fears and anxiety and panic. I just can’t do it.

I cannot stop this swarm, nor can I predict which one will end up scarring me and unfolding more pain or more of life’s dark bits.

However, beyond and higher is the vast blue sky, billowing clouds, the sun,

a safety and trust and a broader perspective that I have to believe is sustainable and true and real,


All is well. All will be well.

Our Canada

What a joy it was again to celebrate Canada Day in Waterton. The bike parade in the morning was an absolute delight,

a spectacle of kindness, laughter, joy, innocence and fun,

with the Rockies sparkling in the background.

Our Canada. My goodness we are blessed.


Canada Day Bike Parade at Waterton Lakes National Park

 Bear grass

Oh yes, and speaking of wildflowers…. the stunning beautiful bear grass is in bloom, a flower I get so excited about.


‘you belong among the wildflowers, you belong somewhere you feel free’  Tom Petty