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.




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.



Our old spruce, my new venture, and gratitude

Our old spruce

This week we said goodbye to the giant old spruce in front of our house.

It was a sudden decision to cut her down.

Dan had heard the tree creaking and cracking early on in the week. We consulted with two different arborists and both recommended, for safety’s sake,  taking the tree down as soon as possible.  By Friday, all that was left was a massive stump full of numerous decades of rings and a mess of sawdust on our lawn.

We may not often directly reflect upon the presence of the trees around us,

and certainly I have not spent much time over the years being that aware of our lost spruce.

Why would I?

when she has been so steady, and rooted, and constant.


Yet, nothing ever stays the same and everything has a life span. We all know that-

and on Friday morning as Alex and I looked up her for the last time,

I clearly understood that even the strongest and most powerful of trees grows old and weary.

Our friend and neighbour across the street, Lorraine, said it best,

Sad. Such an amazing tree, and it lived a great life, watching over our kids as they grew and celebrating at the block parties. Always closest to the action.

Another friend and neighbour, Judy, brought up the children’s story The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein,

and it was easy to see the connection,

as our old tree, our protectress, has given us much without ever asking for anything in return.


It is winter, and she leaves a bare and terribly noticeable vacant space,

but in the spring,

we will plant a new tree.

My new venture

Last night, I launched my new project.

To learn more, please check out my Facebook page

or my website.

I have said before that life can be likened to a trail of breadcrumbs.

We may not really know where we are going,

but each crumb, each event, each friend, each moment,

leads us to the next.

And so we ultimately find that where we are going is simply along the road.

For me, it does feel as if everything has lead to this,

and so it just expands and continues,

and I am delighted by the unfoldment.


Many of my friends and family came to see my PeaceCards last night and my new little stationery shop,

and though it was an exciting time to show what had been created and what I had to share,

all of that felt completely secondary to the joy I felt at seeing so many faces that I love.

I was reminded, again, that our relationships and connections are always what matter most,


 ‘That love is all there is, Is all we know of love.’     Emily Dickinson