First Ever Guest Blog!

My dear friend, Lyndon Penner, and I are each guest-blogging for each other this week. Lyndon has written on the subject of peace, and I have written a piece for his blog, ‘Jadecypress: One Voice Calling out from the Garden’  that fits within his subject matter of nature and gardening. Please visit to find more of Lyndon’s beautiful writings as well as my contribution. Lyndon Penner is a gardener, CBC columnist, environmentalist, author and teacher. It was a both an honour and a joy to collaborate with someone I deeply admire, and whose friendship I treasure.

What could be a better way to build bridges and peace in the world than for two writers who respect and admire each other to come together and collaborate? I am reminded of how CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien used to get together and compare writings and possibilities, and while I wouldn’t dream of comparing myself to these two giants of literature, I like the idea that through the ages, writers have been encouraging and inspiring and supporting one another.
Karen is a dear friend of mine, and I asked her to write a guest post for my blog. To my delight, she agreed and asked if I would write one for hers! I was thrilled to be able to do so for her, but also a little intimidated. Karen’s audience is different than my audience, and could I really write something that would appeal to her followers? I am not a flavor everyone enjoys, and that’s fine with me, but it’s also good for me to get out of my box and write something for a different group of people.
I think it’s so important that whatever we do in life, we encourage and help each other. I am always so happy to see groups of people working together for a common good, rather than to see people with a common dream at odds with one another, which is too often the case.
If you are an artist, and you paint, I think you should find other artists and encourage them in their painting. Talk about your work together. Support and build one another up. If you sing, find other singers and see what you can do together. The same for musicians. Or sculptors. Or ceramic artists. If we all worked together in our respective fields, wouldn’t the world be a better place? I have a friend named Cheryl who does the same thing for a living that I do. We are quite equally matched in terms of skills and expertise, and when I was really down and out Cheryl went through her contacts and found some extra work for me at a time when I really needed it. This is unheard of in many other professions. Chefs do not share recipes. Graphic designers do not share ideas. Yet gardeners often come together to help each other out. I know someone else who does the same work that I do, and she sees me as a threat. She is nice to me in person, but behind my back she would do anything she could to sell me up the river. I feel sorry for this woman and how insecure she is. How much better would life in our world be if we combined our collective talents rather than try to stamp out anyone who might be better than we are?

Winter is a hard time for many of us. Especially prairie dwellers. Even those of us who grew up here in 30 below and are accustomed to the cold do not necessarily enjoy it. There are different kinds of winter souls. There are some who purchase snowmobiles or cross country skis or toboggans or snowboards and just make the most of every minute. I have friends who long for snow so they can get out there and do winter sports. I am not one of those people, but I am envious of them. How, in the long, dark days of January and February (and often into March and April) can we keep the faith and go bravely forward? It is cold outside; often too cold to be outdoors, and many of us begin to feel the effects of short day light and cabin fever. It takes a stalwart and hardy person to live here. As a gardener, winter is especially hard for me because my income is severely reduced and I am usually stressing about money, but never mind that. Winter is hard because we live in a harsh land; a fact often overlooked when we consider the conveniences of “modern living”. Having gardened in the tropics, I now understand the value of winter. Winter gives my soul a period of rest. There are no weeds to pull in February. There is no grass to mow and no harvesting to be done and no insects to contend with. The trees cast long shadows as I sit by the window and at night I can hear their twiggy fingers tapping against the glass. The garden in winter is at rest. The snow is beautiful. It is peaceful. There are so many on the globe who have never seen snow. Here, we see it for so much of the year we take it for granted. The snow covers the ground, and beneath it the perennials and the small creatures are all resting, all asleep and tucked away, waiting the return of spring. Sometimes, I sense their peacefulness as they dwell in their grottoes beneath the snow and earth, and sometimes I am sure I can feel the spirits of bears and skunks and bats as they slumber in forgotten caves and tunnels in the mountain. How full and beautiful our year is because of the rest that winter brings. We have so glorified “busy” in our society that we have forgotten to rest, to be peaceful, to lie down and let the gales sweep over us. Winter reminds us to be still and to await the return of longer days and songbirds, and winter is a good teacher if we allow it to be.

Finally, the last thing I would like to remark upon is how beautiful the world is. It is so very easy to become despairing, to lose hope, to feel lost. With climate change and the tar sands and the corruption of our government (among other things), it can become so tempting to throw in the towel and feel like there is no point in even bothering with trying to make the world a better place. The world is still very much a worthwhile place to be. There are so many reasons to hope. When I speak at universities or gardening conferences, people are always asking me about native plant restoration and things they can do to help the bees. I see young people give up their seat on the bus for an elderly person. I have seen young men gallantly hold open the door for women, and I have seen strangers offer up radiant smiles to me for no other reason than we are passing each other on the street. The sun still rises, and it is lovely. The full moon is as gorgeous as it has ever been, and the stars still shine on. The ocean still offers us the songs of whales and the forests still offer us moss covered rocks to ponder and contemplate. The world is a beautiful and hopeful place, if we want it to be. As you go through your journey this week and this winter, I wish you hope and beauty. I wish you peace and collaborations, and I wish for you the knowledge that you can make a tremendous difference in this world.



On forgiveness, letters new and old, and no more single digits

On Forgiveness

‘The practice of forgiveness is our most important contribution to the healing of the world’                  Marianne Williamson


Of course.

If everyone from ex-spouses to kids on playgrounds to leaders of states and religions found it in themselves to forgive each other,

the world would suddenly look very different.


I know,

far easier said than done.

The roots of conflicts are long, twisted and deep,

and it can feel impossibly difficult to get past unimaginable betrayals and hurts of all kinds.


forgiveness has been on my mind as of late.


Richard Holloway, a Scottish writer, wrote

‘When true forgiveness happens it is one of the most astonishing and liberating of the human experiences’.


I get it because

I had a moment like that once. A moment of forgiveness that was utterly astonishing and liberating that caught me completely by surprise.

I am not ready to write about it yet, but in due time, I will.


One day over the Christmas holidays however, I did experience an afternoon of


I don’t even know what else to call it.

It was a very hushed and thoughtful sort of afternoon in Waterton. The weather was frigid and we were hanging out in our cottage, each of us doing our own thing.

Random long-ago events and people kept popping into my mind,

distasteful little snippets of memories that I didn’t even realize were weighing on me…


The teacher that made fun of me in grade school because I wrote too much,

the old boyfriend whose stinging, guilt-inducing words I can still hear,

the friend who lied to me,

the time I lied.



as I remembered the old hurts,

based on my distorted and fuzzy memories,

I did what felt right and quietly and gently just let each one go.


They didn’t know any better and I didn’t know any better.


Binding layers slowly drifting away, fragments of forgiveness released

to dissipate,


a seemingly insignificant exercise but not,


one afternoon’s humble contribution towards the healing of our world.

Letters new and old

Now that I am in the business of card creation and retail,

I have been thinking a lot about the wider context of sending and receiving letters, cards and messages,

especially given that I am also a writer.


My dear friend Charlotte and I used to laugh over the memory that when we were kids I could spend hours in office and stationery stores, whilst she was enamored with drugstores.

Hence, she is now a physician and I am…..well, still smitten with words and paper.

Preparing to write this piece, I looked through just one of the boxes I have that is full to the brim with cards, letters, and notes that I have received over the years,

identifiable scripts of family and friends, pictures the kids have drawn,

even doodles, quotes, and bits and scraps of paper that have for one reason or another captured my attention,

my stashes of paper love,


my inspiration.


This is the recent stuff,

I could dig much deeper to the time of

pre-Dan, pre-kids, pre-this-life-now,

but those particular collections I keep hidden farther away but still kept to be found one day,

when my kids are ready to know the fullness of who I was before them.


For now, though,  I am far more captivated by the more recent bits,



these are the stories of me and us,

the love-filled evidence that both makes up and fills up my heart.


There is, I believe, such tremendous power in telling people how we feel about them,

and an even greater power in actually taking the time and energy to write our feelings down and let people hold onto and savor our messages,

tangible reminders of support and love.

I am so delighting in this path that I am now on, and I look forward to talking  in more expansive ways about the possibilities around sending and receiving all sorts of messages of love and peace,

because I am certain that there’s something in all of that that’s a little more sacred and precious

than we even realize.

No more single digits

This week our George turned 10.


We are undeniably leaving the world of young children and entering the more complicated realms of tweendom and teenager-hood,

and even wedding planning and such!

I am, however, ready for the wild ride.

Truth be told, even despite the more trying days (and there are trying days),

I have never quite gotten over the feeling that

I am the lucky one that gets to mother these three and witness the unfolding of their beautiful lives.

I suspect that I have just as much to learn from them as they do from me.

maybe more.


Mom, today would be your birthday too.

You would be 68.

and I wish, as I have wished a hundred thousand times before, that you were here to guide us and enjoy these kids, as you would have done ever so completely,

but the truth that I have always trusted and known

is that you are.



On balance, gathering, and weathering the cold


At Dan’s staff party this year, we dined at an Italian restaurant where the champagne flowed freely and endlessly. It was the kind of winter’s evening where the ambiance was dark and intimate, the conversation bubbly and enticing, and the hours lost their definition.


The next morning, however, I woke up with an excruciating headache.

This is something that rarely happens to me anymore,

I am too old for it, I have far too much to do, and it’s simply not worth the toll that it takes on my body.

However, I was able to look at my situation from two angles that felt utterly refreshing,

one being the decision that I would not waste a minute feeling angry at myself or regretful (what’s the point),

and secondly,

I was able to immediately recognize that I had understandably lost my balance,

my footing.

This festive evening had followed a few weeks of relentless work and preparations for Christmas, my business, and events we were hosting. I had often sat at my computer until 11pm and neglected my walking, my yoga, my meditation, regular meals, my peace,

in favor of emails and determinedly charging through my to-do list.

No wonder I had been driven to excess,

to the point where my body severely jolted me back to sanity and the much needed stillness of a day on the couch.


Balance, it seems, has been my lifelong lesson

and my worthiest of pursuits.

When I am comfortably in the flow, everything feels quite smooth and right.

I spend time with my family and friends and regroup with time on my own. I get restorative sleeps and spend enough time moving my body. I eat well but allow myself occasional treats. I work hard but leave time for play. I spend time creating and planning, but also get through the more mundane details of my work. I read and I write, I cook, and I play with my paints and felts. I listen to music and relish in quiet. I give but allow myself to receive. I dream but stay grounded. I am energized by the stimulation of people and culture, coffee shops and bookstores, but then I happily retreat to the hushed quiet of nature. I visit and share, brainstorm and question, but also trust and

I breathe and I breathe and I breathe.



My  New Year’s wish for you is the manifestation of your own sort of balance, however that may look,

not necessarily found in each hour or day, but in the more general stream of things,


and then loving gentleness with yourself, too, when you inevitably falter,


and begin again.


‘I was thinking back to the first night when we were all cuddled up with the fire going, getting ready to watch a movie and I had such a warm and secure feeling, like you do when you are a child and you are surrounded by people you love. It was such a lovely moment.’

This is an excerpt from the message my aunt wrote me to after our little holiday family reunion in Waterton this week.

Judy summed it up beautifully.

Family in its highest expression is finding that place where we feel safe and nurtured and awash in unconditional love.

My New Year’s wish for you

is that you may find yourself enveloped in moments such as these this year,

held in the very bosom of your tribes,


and beautifully aware of the magical perfection of these times.

I am increasingly convinced that these sorts of gatherings will ultimately be looked upon as the most precious treasures of our lives.

Weathering the Cold

I am NOT a fan of the cold. I have lived in this great white north all of my 42 years, but still I rail against its winters. I curse the biting air, and resent my frozen extremities. I say again and again to Dan, ‘this is not the climate I was meant for.’ I force myself out into the weather, dressed in a ridiculous multitude of layers but I am still not warm.


Dan calls this one, ‘Karen is frozen stiff’


I often will sink into my steaming hot bathtub up to 3 times on particularly frigid days, even just for a few minutes to warm up,

for the day, for the afternoon, for bed.



this is where I live,

and there is undeniable beauty in the frost, in the icicles, in the stillness, in the blue tinge, in the low winter’s light that is almost mystical.


And so,

I carefully bundle up once again and head out down the streets and sidewalks as my feet rip-rip-rip on the snow,

and sometimes I am not annoyed,

but am rather captivated and even delighted by the magic of this winter wonderland that many in our world will never get to know.


this third and last New Year’s wish for you is that you may be brave and resilient and tenacious enough to withstand

the snow, the harsh storms, the pounding wind,

and the dark times when hope and comfort falter,

and that you are also able to find the beauty in wherever you are,

and that above all you have a home, a fire, a cup of tea, a soft blanket, a warm meal that eventually and surely

calls you in from the cold to bring you comfort and warm your toes.


Happy, happy New Year my inspiring friends.

The best is yet to come.