she sees whales

Quite some time ago, I vowed to write about play. Play as antidote to fear. Play as means of coping, even thriving in a quickly changing world.


After I wrote this an event happened that stalled my writing, halted my sure and steady movement through my well planned days,

and once again brought uncertainty into the picture.

My step-mother died very suddenly of a brain aneurysm.


In a moment everything changed.

I remember a teacher colleague once saying, many years ago, that it is not usually the anticipated events that rock our worlds, rather it is that unexpected phone call on a Monday afternoon.


The day it happened ~

I had just had coffee and a slice of chocolate cake with a dear friend, a great inspiring visit actually full of good laughs and exciting future plans, and then as I  left the cafe and  walked towards my vehicle I checked my phone.


Three calls from Dan.


When I called him back he said right away,

‘Where are you? I don’t want to tell you over the phone what I need to tell you. I want to come and talk to you in person’.

My heart pounding,  ‘No, tell me now. Please just say it.’

In our most secret unspeakable depths, we all prepare for those calls, don’t we?


That Monday afternoon call that will force us to put everything we thought was important on hold for weeks perhaps, and then re-calibrate our entire perceptions of the world, our very place in it.


Once again.


After we hung up I cried out openly, there on the street, in agony for my dad and for this new loss that he was forced to bear. I stood there tears streaming, waiting for Dan, and looking everywhere for my friend who had already gotten in his truck, already gone.


Feeling so alone.


Wanting to call my friend back so that he could reassure me that things would be ok.

Wanting somebody, anybody, to tell me that we would get through this one.

On that street corner all by myself waiting for Dan who was coming because he was worried for me, I realized that every maternal figure I have ever had is gone ~my mentor, my grandmothers, my step-mother now,

and my mother.


It is just me.


Even my friend had gotten in his truck and driven away.



Over Easter,

after the hospital and the funeral and the tears and the big conversations and the grief and the family everywhere and all the missed school and work and the beginning of finding a way forward for my dad,


we went whale watching in Victoria.


We had gathered there as a family over the break and we spontaneously booked a tour on our first morning. We had always promised George we would go on a whale adventure, but then had always found reasons not to.  That day,  however,  the weather seemed particularly good, we had nothing else planned, and I can tell you honestly that I knew, absolutely knew, that we would see whales that day if we went.


We had to go out fairly far, but it ended up being what they call a T-party of whales. Whales in every direction. Not even knowing which way to look because as one would surface, there would suddenly be another sighting on the other side of the boat.

Families of whales. Young whales pressed against their mother as they swam. An independent male on his own  surfacing then going under as we all watched with anticipation, wondering where he would pop up next.



All around us, a whole pod, a matrilineal community of interrelated magnificent communicating, beautiful orcas.

Orcas that have visited me in my dreams since I was a child. Magical dreams where I watch them, down from a cliff at night or my face pressed up against the glass of a huge aquarium,

half of me afraid of their power and strength while the other half is delighted, transfixed, comforted and healed.


Orcas drawing by George

A show that day that just went on and on. Our kind tour guides were willing to stay on past the allotted time because the day was perfect and the whales just weren’t leaving.

And then finally not being able to linger any longer, we reluctantly turned back towards the mainland.

The orcas swam back with us in the same direction, stealth-like and fast, underwater, towards a cropping of rocks covered in lounging elephant seals.



Such dramatic suspense.


Our captain stopped the boat for us to watch the hunt unfold; the orcas surfaced at the rocks and surprised their prey who were by no means helpless, fighting back with vigor. It was over quickly, and the whales were again moving on, having been rewarded with one unlucky seal.


A nature documentary in real time.


Continuing on, bathed in glowing late afternoon sunshine, the whales headed towards the shore and swam right up against a cliff nestled on top of which was a park where families often recreate. From the boat we watched as children ran along the cliff following the orcas, screeching with delight.


I truly don’t know if I have ever had the pleasure of witnessing such a perfect moment of spontaneous play, natural and true, uncomplicated and wild.




It is never just me. It is Dan and I, the kids and I, us. It is this beautiful extended family that I love so much that were gathered for Easter fun. It is my dad and I. My friends.       My wonderful neighbours. It is new acquaintances and the grocery store cashier that I exchange friendly words with ~

It is all those I have lost, living in me with every heartbeat.


It is all of us…


navigating the heartache and the uncertainty yet still forging creative ways to joyfully be in this brave and beautiful new world.


And it is whales, meeting me at sunset after a lifetime of knowing each other in dreams. The promise is the same. It’s going to be ok.




Summer’s end, our girls, and a haircut

Summer’s End

I have been back in the city this week, preparing my kids for the school year to come,  formulating future projects,

and working through the loads of paperwork piled high on my dining room table.

As I write this, it is also pouring rain outside and inspiration, to be honest, is eluding me.

So I sit here, not quite knowing what to say next,

which can feel harder as the weeks pass and this blog builds and I know that more of you are reading my words. Thank you, by the way, to everyone who has reached out to me with heartfelt expressions of support and encouragement. You do make my days.

Suddenly, though, I feel a self-imposed pressure to inspire and move, even on a day when I am not feeling particularly inspired or moved myself.

And so here I sit today, writing about, writing through, the greyer times,

because they are very real too.

When the rain is falling, when I am not at all sure of my next move, and when I have heard too many personal stories of loss and heartache in a week to maintain a steady grip,

there is still so much to say.


Peace, I know, is not a holiday destination. It does not solely live on a gorgeous white sandy beach as the ocean waves crash and lull,

or in Waterton,

amidst the wildflowers and the mountains or under a spectacular sky –

though it can certainly feel so much more accessible in those kinds of places.

It is here, too, within my steaming cup of black tea as I tap away on my computer, planning and paying bills, and writing emails.


For if it does not live here, it can’t be found there either, no matter how beautiful the surroundings.

Wherever you go, there you are.          (Jon Kabat-Zinn)

The trees are beginning to change in this land where our summers are so short,

and our back lawn is already speckled with fallen leaves.

Friends are asking me what I have registered my kids in this fall and my September calendar is almost filled up.

Fall. Beautiful fall. You are almost here. You are here.

As a wise mentor once reassured me,

‘As long as you are living and experiencing, there will always be new things to say, new material,

and so this ever-changing peace project will continue into another season because, for me, it still feels like the worthiest of journeys,

and so I welcome fall with open and waiting arms,

ready for her gifts.

Our Girls


Here it is ~ My  favourite photo from our block party this past weekend,

from a night when I took very few photos.

It was the loveliest of evenings on our street. The afternoon began with heavy rain and we were late to begin, but then a calm happiness gently descended on us all.

For the past nine years on the night of the block party, I have filled my house and steps and front yard with outside friends and family, food and much hoopla,

but this year I did not.

If you felt left out, please accept my apologies and know that I love you but also understand that I desperately needed to just keep it quieter this year and re-acquaint myself with my neighbours, new and old,  and re-discover, quite simply, why we are here,

why I am here.

This photo is why.

It is the snapshot that I wanted to freeze and store forever because in the very witnessing of it my heart was full…

A line-up of girls from our street, performing ‘the cup song’.

All different ages,

girls that I have known and watched from their childhoods now becoming such strong and interesting young women – peaceful rising forces of good and beauty in our world,

singing and playing with their younger neighbours who so look up to them,

and caring and looking out for them in turn ~

modeling strength of character and individuality

when powerful and inevitable peer pressures impose on them from everywhere else.

On this street they/we are all safe and loved and understood, young and old,

as we take care of one another, affirming our interconnectedness.

This is why we are here,

this is why we are ALL here.


And the other best part….

being able to trick scooter down a closed down street with a friendly and captive audience.



George, too, is transitioning into a new grade with a new teacher and, this week,

he suddenly decided that he wanted his hair cut short.

For almost all of his life, his hair has been longer.


Doctor Westwood

I even used to call him my Little Lord Fauntleroy, because he reminded me of that main character in one of my favourite childhood books,

with his long blonde locks and blue eyes.

My beautiful baby boy ~

I read once, though, that we must be careful to convey to our kids that we enjoy watching them grow up and change,

rather than constantly telling them that we wish that we could keep them little and bottle that cuteness,

and oh my goodness, he was cute.

So when George asked me if I thought it was a good idea if he cut off his hair, I replied, ‘Go for it!’

My smart, kind, wonderful nine year old boy is blossoming into the wondrousness of all that he will decide to become,

and I am a firm supporter of the idea that a little re-invention

is always good for anybody’s soul.


Whac that mole!










On Robin Williams, a goodbye and our block party

Robin Williams

It may seem that some people have such a strong and vibrant life force that the world can only sustain their blinding brightness for so long.

Consequently, when we suddenly find them gone, too young,
their absence is palpable
so deeply felt was their presence.

When Robin Williams died earlier this week, didn’t the world suddenly feel a little emptier, a little more hollow,
as the hole he left
gaped open?

Robin Williams was known for his comic genius, his unparalleled ability to improvise and his endless and unbounded wit and zaniness.

Yet, one of my favorite movies of all time featured him in a more serious role,
‘What Dreams May Come’. I have actually written about this movie in a previous post.

After news of Williams death, it was easy to imagine him,

wish him into a state of frolicking in a heaven of his own making, as that movie depicts –

completely, wildly, ecstatically and finally free.

Certainly, there is so much to be addressed about mental illness and thankfully this important conversation has been re-opened. My friend Lyndon, for example, has written very eloquently on the topic this week as have so many others.

The new revelation of Williams having been recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease is personally heart-wrenching too, as I watched my maternal grandfather struggle with this disease for all of my childhood.

Every time, though, that my thoughts take me back to Williams’ death, and I have pondered speaking to it,
it’s not so much the subject of mental illness that asks for my pen,

it’s laughter.

Robin Williams lived to make people laugh.

In death, I think, he would like nothing better than to be able to remind us to laugh…
Big, consuming, tears-streaming, right from the belly, pure and good, healing beautiful laughter –

wherever and whenever it can be found.

Many of us have read the quote, by French poet Antoine De Saint-Exupery, tweeted by Williams daughter, Zelda, right after his death.
“You – you alone will have the stars as no one else has them … In one of the stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing, when you look at the sky at night … You – only you – will have stars that can laugh.”

And then later she wrote,

‘To those he touched who are sending kind words, know that one of his favorite things in the world was to make you all laugh. As for those who are sending negativity, know that some small, giggling part of him is sending a flock of pigeons to your house to poop on your car. Right after you’ve had it washed. After all, he loved to laugh too.’

And so it is then, his death on one hand a booming call to take care of our hurting brothers and sisters, and to carefully tend to our own pain too,

and on another a reminder to play and laugh and abandon inhibitions.

Could we expect anything less from such a man who was able to take on the most serious of roles but then could effortlessly slip into the shoes of a genie or a nanny,

encompassing the wide spectrum of life~

One who seemed to bear the pain of the world,

but then could just as easily make the very stars laugh.

This beautiful humanity and heart-breaking vulnerability…

It’s in every single one of us.


A Goodbye

Last night we said goodbye to a family that, for the past 5 weeks, has melded into ours.

For a little while, my kids were her kids and hers were mine.

Both our families have been in Waterton together for the last three summers and with each year the kids’ connection deepens as does our adult friendships.

For our combined brood, It has been the sort of play that can only happen within the freedom of summer.

Suppers of noodles or cereal at 10pm after one last bike ride. Hours of Rainbow Looming. Countless trips to the yogurt place and the gas station for penny candy. Racing to the frigid lake for a quick dunk.

This, to me, has always been why we chose Waterton.

After our friends drove away back to their ‘real’ lives and home, my two burst into tears,

feeling the immediate grief of their departure,

as well as the anxiety regarding the looming school year and the tightly packed schedule to come.

Next year we will meet again, of course, but we all will be one year older,

the same, but different too, as much will have changed.

It always does.

I suggested a walk to cheer my kids up and promised George frozen yogurt smothered with his choice of candy. On our way back to the cabin, they wanted to jump off the dock. They did this wildly and enthusiastically, recovering quickly from their sadness as kids tend to do. It is still summer and they are still free.



We will miss you, beautiful Howeth family.

Our Block Party

This year marks ten years of block parties on our street. This party has strengthened community bonds in our pretty little neighbourhood like nothing else could have.

Let this be my expression of deep gratitude for this collaborative venture that has proven to all of us here that there is such beauty in this world to be created and found.

This year we have decided to celebrate in a more quiet and intimate way,

and take a year to get to know new neighbours and quietly but surely rejuvenate.




On Superpowers, Spring, and my Chocolate Fix

Every week I am going to speak to three topics: anecdotes, books, ideas, products, or innovations that I believe are peace-building, heart-opening, community-celebrating, love-spreading vehicles. Complaining and criticizing are easy traps to fall into, but I am convinced that building up holds far more power and transformative energy.

So, my sweet friends, here goes…Our world is a beautiful village and peace does begin at home.

What I am thinking about / loving this week….


A recent art journaling activity from the online Brene Brown course I am taking asked participants to ‘identify their superpower’. Another article I came across this week also concidentally talked about the value of tapping into and acknowledging the idea of your ‘superpower’,

in other words that one shiniest part of you that comes utterly naturally.

An intriguing question….one that, to be honest,

left me sitting there not sure how to move forward with the assignment,

because this question was actually asking me to delve far deeper than simply identifying what I am good at, or where my talents and strengths lie.

What is my –


What is that thing, that most in-the-groove part of me, that comes easily and truly and freely, and always has. To delve deeper, it’s not even really about something that I ‘do’, though it partly is. It’s also about who I am

Spiderman, after all, just is Spiderman.

Take Alex’s boyfriend fiance (more about that next week!), Ryland.

He is a brilliant songwriter..


The lyrics he writes that pour out of him astonish us,

every time.

The wisdom and beauty and clarity that he is able to convey and encapsulate through his story and song are nothing less than inspired gifts.

But here’s the thing. His superpower isn’t necessarily singing and songwriting, though these are certainly wonderful and natural byproducts of his superpower.

His superpower is his ‘voice’, his need for and his abilities around,


Not being quite sure what my superpower was, I asked my family members what they thought.

What ensued was the greatest discussion about not only my superpowers, but also identifying everybody’s superpowers.

It can be a beautiful and uplifting thing to hone in on someone’s superpower. It’s also surprisingly simple, because it all just seems so obvious when you are looking at another, especially someone you know and love.

It’s not that people can be simply summed up, because of course they can’t, and perhaps who we are even changes over time,

but it is still easier than you might think to speak to the unique essence of a person…

their loveliest, who-they-are and what-they-have-to-offer-the-world part.

Olivia needs to move creatively.

George is deeply curious and concerned about the natural world.

Alex is incredibly perceptive and brings clarity.

Dan is sensitive to his environment.

These individual ways of being are so unique and deeply rooted that they are also our ‘Kryptonite’, as Brene Brown would put it. Our deepest challenges are often part and parcel of our superpower journeys,

that ultimately can’t be denied,

and there is such precious empowerment in owning our fullest best versions of ourselves.

oh, how I love this stuff.


Spring on our street

Something really special happens every year on our street around May,

in this part of the world where much of our year is so cold and daunting.

Our street is a one-way, and so it is narrow. Also, there are not a lot of garages out front as the houses are older. Our boulevards, then, are close and inviting and traffic is limited.

So when the weather starts to warm up, people slowly and surely start to emerge from their houses.

The kids, of course, are first. They fling out of the houses and knock on each others’ front doors, chasing each other, chatting, skateboarding and scooting down the sidewalk.

The family next door has just set up a trampoline, so the sounds are also of screeching and jumping,


The adults follow, less uninhibited and busier, but still happier to spend more lingering minutes visiting in the sunshine.

We are often walking now in the evenings too.

Last week we met the toddler grandson of the neighbours down the street, and he and his grandpa followed us all the way to the park

and back.

For days, Olivia and George relayed the hilarious things this little boy had said and remembered him wildly jumping in the puddle.

It also seems inviting, now, to sit on my steps as I talk on the phone and watch the springtime action,

the leaves that are finally greening this very week,

and feel the warmth of the sun.

These are little things, it seems, but really not so little –

they speak to the annual re-building, re-birthing, and re-affirming of this peaceful community of neighbours.



My Chocolate Fix

I never really set out to write about food. After all, does the Internet really need one more person commenting on food,

and posting recipes and pictures of what they just ate?

Probably not, but alas here I sit unable to resist adding my bit to the masses.

To be honest, I have always felt that making and sharing meals is possibly our most meaningful and celebratory social activity.

This week, however, I made something that I didn’t share with anyone.

I was tired this week. Maybe I was fighting off a virus, but I just could not sustain any reasonable level of momentum or energy.

So, I did what any sane woman in my situation would do as she was trying to get through an afternoon or two of writing, book-keeping, and emails before her embarkment on the after-school weekday driving to and from activities shift….

I looked for quick and easy avenues to  good quality chocolate.

Though I was low on energy,

I did have in my kitchen reserves some soft speckled bananas, ripe avocados, and a container of fine dark cocoa that Patricia at Umami introduced me to. I blended all three in my treasured Vitamix and



This is the rich beautiful chocolatey ‘healthier’ deliciousness that magically resulted.

I have tried several versions of this pudding, but this recipe was the easiest and creamiest. If your bananas are over-ripe you really don’t need any kind of sweetener at all and you will be meeting your craving in less than five minutes.

Totally satisfying.

Here is the link to the recipe I used, from All Recipes.

Eat whilst drinking a cup of of lovely green tea, and you will get through your afternoon. You will.