Before and After the Fire & The Audition Song

Before the Fire – written Sept. 11

I began writing this post on the first day of school, and then was swept away by the worry of the Kenow Fire in Waterton, and the pressing need to gather a few cherished items from our place before evacuation,  and so I ended up not publishing.

This post that I began was one brimming with optimism for a new year, and even despite the events of this week, these words still ring true. We cannot control all of the external chaos swirling around us right now,  rather we are further challenged to remain steady and trusting from within -wisdom & clarity & love can and often do reign in times of turmoil.


taken on a recent hike up to Bertha Lake

Particular to this fire event,

the extensive efforts and preparation of the Park and its staff, the different levels of government and surrounding municipalities unifying, the indescribably brave work of the firefighters,

the deep passion obviously present around both honouring the welfare of nature and  preserving the townsite –

ALL of this makes me want to weep about 17 times a day.


There truly are countless people deeply invested and committed to  –

our Peace Park.


one of our favourite spots in the park

After the Fire: written Sept 12

We have a calendar hanging in our kitchen, upon which I only write the truly significant stuff….family birthdays, including the times the kids were born….


the time and date of my mom’s death- for several years I even recorded the date of her diagnosis and turning points before she died,

the anniversary of my heart surgery.

Sometimes in a New Year when I am transferring everything to a fresh calendar, I will let a particular anniversary fall away if it no longer feels relevant or important to remember….

or perhaps the healing around the event is simply                 complete.

What is certain, though, is that if an event gets written on the calendar, it’s because it was somehow powerful enough to cut time into a before and after.


a photo making the social media rounds, taken very near our cabin….credit?

Yesterday afternoon, on our kitchen calendar, I wrote down on Sept. 12, 2017,


Waterton Fire.


The Audition Song – written on Sept. 5, first day of school

I just dropped off my kids at school and now am sitting in a coffee shop eating a lunch of crackers, hummus, & nuts, and drinking iced tea. The weather is still full-on summer hot and when I asked for an iced tea, my barista actually said ‘So you want your tea iced?’ as if  I hadn’t thought to translate my order to Starbucks language (:

I have not been in this particular cafe all summer and it has been recently renovated, looking quite different but feeling the same, quite black and trendy.  I was taken aback at first by the change.


I am still processing this reality of a new year.

For the last few weeks gearing up to September, Olivia and I needed to repeat to each other about a thousand times that it all, in fact, would be all right, maybe even better than all right.

Today, we sang the ‘Audition Song’ from LaLaLand to each other as we headed towards the high school, which has become our new shared ritual of empowerment and courage,

a song all about being true to yourself, true to your dreams.


George on the other hand was fine. I acted quite shocked that he didn’t want me to come into the school.  I told him that I had planned on settling him into his desk and giving him a big goodbye kiss. But even he knows I would never actually dream of imposing this horror on him.


And so here I am now, sitting in this coffee shop, writing….feeling at once both the excitement around new beginnings and the bitter-sweetness of the years going by too quickly,

realizing for sure that I need to truly commit to myself this year, my dreams. It ends up ringing hollow to my kids when I don’t live by the same standards that I want for them,


sing with them.


play break during the wedding weekend, photo credit: Jonathan Tennant


I have not written since Easter. It was a tumultuous spring, then an action-packed, full summer. Our daughter Alex married her love, Ryland, in beloved Waterton.

It was an event that filled our hearts beyond description. I don’t even know how to write about it yet, so lovely and precious it was, but I know that it will be woven in so many stories and writings to come.


photo credit: Jonathan Tennant

So the summer flew by and my thoughts and ideas I mostly kept quiet, trusting that they needed time and space to percolate in the heat and the holidays, the celebrations and all the hoopla.  Still, in the background, I thought a lot about what’s coming up this fall, for us, for me.




The Bear Grass this summer was stunning, magical, abundant.

On our final turn into the high school, I dug deep for one last helpful thing to say to my nervous girl,  feeling as if every single possible thing to say had been completely and utterly worn out,


‘This is it. For whatever reason, here you are… in this city, in this family, in this high school. We can’t know how or why, but here you are. And so then both the great stuff and the hard stuff are meant for you. So just be you and trust.’


She looked at me as we pulled up, smiled and jumped out of the vehicle.


Olivia not so long ago


Audition Song lyrics:

My aunt used to live in Paris
I remember, she used to come home and tell us these stories about being abroad
And I remember she told us that she jumped into the river once, barefoot
She smiled
Leapt, without looking
And tumbled into the Seine
The water was freezing
She spent a month sneezing
But said she would do it again

Here’s to the ones who dream
Foolish as they may seem
Here’s to the hearts that ache
Here’s to the mess we make

She captured a feeling
Sky with no ceiling
The sunset inside a frame

She lived in her liquor
And died with a flicker
I’ll always remember the flame

Here’s to the ones who dream
Foolish as they may seem
Here’s to the hearts that ache
Here’s to the mess we make

She told me
“A bit of madness is key
To give us new colors to see
Who knows where it will lead us?
And that’s why they need us”

So bring on the rebels
The ripples from pebbles
The painters, and poets, and plays

And here’s to the fools who dream
Crazy as they may seem
Here’s to the hearts that break
Here’s to the mess we make

I trace it all back to then
Her, and the snow, and the Seine
Smiling through it
She said she’d do it again

Written by Justin Hurwitz, Benj Pasek, Justin Noble Paul • Copyright © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc







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