View From The Glen

Saturday, August 15, 2015


Black-Eyed Susan's, tall clumps of them, are just starting to pop - a bouquet of sunshine tall and swaying behind the glorious deep rose crumple of yesterday's majestic peonies.

It's what I love about gardens in summer. Each gorgeous moment eclipsed by the next.

First it's the snowdrops, so tiny and perfect, and then the exquisite explosion of blossoms from  Apple and crabapple trees...the house bookended by aromatic pink and white divinity. The lilacs quickly follow, deep and perfumed in the evening air, and every open window is a delight. Bridal spirea, daffodils,  tulips and iris take their turn, and then the peonies, straight and tall and perhaps my favourite of all.

Leaving is difficult. We have loved living here in this little corner of Perfection. I bought Grace home...a 2 day old infant....and we sat under the shady boughs of Ash visiting with family. Erik and Anna, toddlers both, raced around the empty house, their tiny feet clattering across the pine floors. The family room was filled with chalk and art easels and wooden trucks and Lego. They rode bikes up the driveway (sometimes followed by one of the many orphaned lambs we raised), climbed the wide-Boughed maples, and swung in the hammock with books and laughter and songs.

Tiny clattering feet gave way to bigger ones....the days of soccer cleats and ski boots, book bags and discarded jackets strewn across the red tiled floor of the kitchen. The family room clutter receded, the serenity couch where we read stories remained. We still made bread on Mondays, and baked, and cooked, my little chefs chopping and kneading and mixing on the butcher block island.

Summer: the kids explored, chasing dragons in the enchanted forest, and going on hikes across the fields. In July we would search for berries, make pies. Winter: packing lunch, they would ski away towards the frozen line of the river....little adventurers, and me watching surreptitiously from the window. In December we would cut pine branches and bring them home in a dusky snowstorm towards the twinkly lights of the house to deck the halls.

Here there has been life. Dogs and puppies and cats and kittens. Rabbits and goats and sheep and lambs and calves. Darwin the Rooster. The miracle of birth and the inevitability of death. Jedi. Lady. Amadeus. Arthur. Tundra. Oliver. Gobbolino.

Here there has been nature. Growing Arugula, beans, peas. Checking for Potato bugs. Planting and watering and harvesting. Field to fork. Garlic scapes. Fresh rosemary sprigs. Sweet baby carrots. Early asparagus and rhubarb stalks tart and tasty.

When the children were still young, I would get up early, run up and down the driveway with the dogs; later on, I could venture further afield, getting in my 15 minutes of exercise. Come home. Clear breakfast. Walk to the school bus in a rush, a flurry. At the end of the day, walk home from bus slowly, enjoying the puddles and the flora and fauna of the ditches and driveway, matching my pace and wonder to theirs.

The meandering, dreamlike, seemingly-endless days of idyllic childhood.

But things change. Days move faster. School and work and extra-curriculars mean we spend less time here. Less time sitting on the veranda. Less time meandering the meadows and trails. Less time sitting by the stone hearth when the frosty nights draw in.

The kids no longer climb trees and follow mythical dragons. Most days I drive them to school, and we spend our evenings back in the city at karate, swimming, soccer, the gym. Hikes and snowshoe trails need to be longer, more challenging. They even mostly put their cleats away and hang up their coats.

It is time to move forward. To new adventures, new experiences, new memories.

It's what I love about life. Each gorgeous moment eclipsed by the next.

Friday, July 3, 2015


When we received an unexpected offer to purchase our house and property, we said yes.

I always knew I wanted to live in the country when the kids were young. In jest, I blame Flambards (that's a post I never got to write though I meant to-and it's a bit of an obscure reference to a book and TV show from the '70s). Truthfully, I wouldn't have wanted to live anywhere else for the past 12 years. Despite its flaws (long driveway, the scourge of poison parsnip in summer and teeth-rattling northern winds in winter, always too much to do and too little time to do it) this places has charm and personality and history, and I love it.

We are moving for a number of reasons that sort of flowed into one another. Andrew had cancer last winter. He is fine, but lucky. Out of that came the direction to avoid the outdoors. Apparently, despite his ever-present Tilley Hat, working outside is not recommended, which is a little difficult when you have 54 acres to maintain. We started by renting the land to organic farmers who were subsequently interested in buying. At that point we thought we could sell just the property, and expand the house. When they asked if we would consider selling the house too....well, we had to consider new options.

Another result of Andrew's cancer diagnosis was the inevitable questioning that one does in that situation. One of those questions related to the accumulation of "stuff" which I know is something we are not alone in struggling with. We talked about what our lives could/should/might look like if we could do anything we wanted. And consultation with the kids who at 15, 14 and 12 are quite capable of expressing an opinion (!)...that perhaps we would like to have less stuff, more experiences.

If we downsized...even just by buying a regular house instead of a country estate...we would save time and money. Andrew could afford to take unpaid vacation to allow us to do more travelling in the summer. If we lived closer to my work, I could shave 10 hours a week off my commute time...and that's a lot of books I could be reading! If we sold all the farm equipment and the boat, and one of the vehicles (living on a property means you can accumulate more stuff than normal people and justify it because it's not really in the way if it's out behind the garage), think how unencumbered our lives would be.

We discussed this all winter, even tentatively looking at houses, so when our tenant farmers threw us this opportunity to sell the whole farm....we said yes. experiences. simplifying. more time.



We are moving on Monday.

It feels strange even to say that. So strange in fact that we haven't told many people. They know of course; word gets out. Also my kids wanted to tell their friends. 

We have sold the farm to a lovely young couple of organic farmers with a growing family (two young sons and twins due this fall) who plan to farm crops and hay and hops and have a big garden and I am thrilled, utterly thrilled at the thought of their children growing up here as mine did, exploring the woods and making forts in the hedgerows, and experiencing the type of freedom that can only be found in the great outdoors.

And if I'm honest, that's also the reason I'm sad: this place has been home for 12 years, since we first moved in with a not-quite-three year old, a one year old, and a two-day old baby (Grace was actually born the day after we closed on the house). For the kids, it's the only home they have known...a stable, welcoming, solid constant in their lives. For me, this old rambling house with the clematis climbing up the kitchen window holds all the memories of childhood, all the firsts, all the scrapes, all the smiles, all the tears that are inevitable and precious.

So moving is, to put it mildly, bittersweet.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Glamorous Tomboy

"She's wearing a DRESS?"

If I heard it once, I heard it a dozen times, all with smiling, friendly incredulity that I echoed back with a nod and a shrug. "That's what she said."

Anna doesn't wear dresses. Ever. Or not since she was 6 which is when she realized she had a say in what she wore and eschewed the skirts and leggings of kindergarten for a casual Anna-sequel look of environment-sloganed tee shirts and casual pants. It's a style that suits her and that she makes look terrific.

But grade 8 grad changes a girl.

When we shopped for the dress, she tried it on in the change room, came out and said, "It doesn't look right." We identified the problem as one of stance and attitude: one does not wear a fancy dress and stand solid, grounded, and wide-legged as if ready-to-play-goaltender or spar-with-a-fellow-blackbelt (and this makes me want to segue to a whole other post about girls and sports and feminism and society-defined femininity).

It takes practice to wear a dress. Who knew?

And so on Tuesday, in the space of an hour, I went from the mom of a pony-tailed trampolining-in-the-rain-with-her-sister tomboy to the mom of a pony-tailed trampolining-in-the-rain-with-her-sister tomboy who can apparently glam it up when she wants to (with help from Great Aunt Elvina's clip on pearl earrings, and the pearl necklace her grandparents bought her years ago).

We are still working on the goalie stance...⚽️

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Graduation Day

My youngest can't possibly have graduated from grade 6. Just yesterday, I recall taking this picture at her kindergarten graduation:

But time flies, and here we are on to bigger and better things.

Congratulations, Grace. You are awesome. 

From one graduation to another....Anna's grade 8 graduation is tonight. I spent a humid afternoon decorating the hall for the ceremony and following reception. Pictures to follow, but suffice to say that while many of her friends were off getting their hair done, Anna was outside in the rain with her sister, celebrating their graduations and the end of the school year by jumping for joy.

Love these girls! Their love of life is catching!

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Fantastic Fifteen

It's not that I forgot his birthday. I didn't. But the day was a rush as he and his sister were leaving on a school band trip to Toronto to see the incredible Ben Hepner in the musical, Titanic (the kids raved about it after).

And from there we raced north for a weekend in Creemore and to take our youngest to a provincial oratorical competition in nearby Barrie.

And this week was a blur of excitement with things going on that I hope to talk about soon.

Suffice to say, that his birthday celebrations sorta got lost in the chaos. 

Oh we had birthday lemon meringue at a Great Aunt Elvina's in Toronto. And his sister and best buddy from school took hm shopping in Toronto for presents (a Darth Vadar coffee mug from Anna; a Vadar watch from John....I sense a theme here😀)

But I never really got to celebrate with him. First birthday ever I never spent with him (yeah, a little sniff there!).

He's at the age where he doesn't want me waxing poetic about him. So I won't.

Except to say this: Happy 15th birthday to my eldest. You rock!



Saturday, May 16, 2015

Buzzing Blossoms

You can hear the buzzing the second you step outside. The trees are filled with a hum deep and primal and it brings me joy cause it means the bees are back in full force.

The heady scent of apple blossom hangs thick in the air, and I open all the windows this long weekend to let those aromas inside on the wafting summery breeze.

In the gardens, I dig some weeks out to make room for the sprouting heirloom peonies we rescued from an abandoned farm long ago, cut some tender asparagus spears for dinner, and contemplate young rhubarb stalks for a desser 'fool' tomorrow, having a short conversation with a startled toad who has made his home in the raspberry canes.

At the end of the day it's cider on the veranda with a hundred songbirds providing the orchestral backdrop.

It's a short season. But oh, so beautiful.

Dark earth. Birdsong. Buzzing bees. And one fat toad.

Saturday, May 2, 2015


Oh my darling, where have the years gone?

Part of me yearns for days and years gone by. Not because you were cute and sweet and innocent and inquisitive and joyful. You were - and still are - all these things. And I wouldn't trade who you are now for who you were then. But if I could go back and do it all over again....I would. In a heartbeat. Just to have the chance to spend all that time with you once more.

The future stretches out and there is much to look forward to. And I see you. Strong. Confident. Smart. Funny. A bit sassy. Curious. Independent. 

You are going to rock this world with your computer coding, your fearlessness, your karate, your love of adventure, your vision. And I look forward to seeing what you accomplish next.

Happy birthday! 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Whovian Mom

Anna posted a picture to my Facebook page, with a comment stating that I am the #bestmomeverinthewholeoftimeandspace.

(Yes. She got Brownie Points for that.)

The point is that she posted this:

It's a fact that we are all big Doctor Who fans. And if I wore t-shirts (I really don't, except to the gym), this would be a fun one.

So I thought it was cute. And was going to post a cute but bland comment back when I realized, hey, I'm creative. I can do so much better than that.

Here's what I wrote.

Rules for Life from your Whovian Mom aka #bestmomeverinthewholeoftimeandspace: 

1) the Tardis is bigger on the inside....and so would your room be if you cleaned it
2) you can't go too far wrong having a sense of respect and wonder for the universe and everything in it (like the Doctor does)
3) if the Doctor invites you on an adventure, make sure you have one of those intergalactic cell phones so you can call home
4) control your that it doesn't end up controlling you in some massive alien takeover. (Related: have an inherent distrust of anyone telling you what to think...unless it's me; that's different!)
5) yes, I am your mummy (which makes me very happy😘)

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Challenge Accepted

Saturday last week was Maker Day, a day when I challenge kids to do something creative. Often this results in coding for Grace, writing for Anna, passive avoidance for Erik (though he did manage a humourous speech last week).

But when I am motivated to encourage them (instead of spending the day lazily with a book), there have been some cool project: a papier mâché Smaug the Dragon, stop motion video, origami wildlife diorama, and...most recently...the start of a Doctor Who episode screenplay.


Doctor Who Meets Grace

I should not be surprised, I suppose, that they turned the tables on me this week, challenging me to create a photo montage of images to show the beauty of the small things that surround us in our daily lives.

So here it is.....via SlideShare

Friday, February 27, 2015

Wide Sargasso Sea

This novel, by Jean Rhys, is one I picked up at my last shopping spree in my favourite used bookstore in Kingston, Ontario (see below for view from the snug Sir John A's Pub - the former law office of our first Prime Minister - across the road).

As a kid, I used to tell my brother scary takes of the madwoman in the attic and we used to huddle under our attic trapdoor in shivering delightful fear, so I suppose the story of Bertha in Jane Eyre has always been of interest. I've known OF this book, but have never read it until now. I think giving a voice and a backstory to Bertha is a fairly brilliant idea, and the postmodern, feminist interpretation this novel offers is both startlingly complex, and poetically simple.

A short read, but not, I think, an easy one. I'm not sure how well readers unfamiliar with Jane Eyre will understand the plot, though the deep psychological aspects are well done and unsettling even without context. Some of the language is beautifully rendered and the imagery is evocative of both time and place, and an ironic sense of being in a dream. 

I found myself pausing to investigate Creole history in the first section, and enjoying the descriptive details. The second section gave insight into her husband....and I admit I wasn't wholly sold on their relationship, and her  descent into madness...but I found the name change to Bertha both powerful and horrifying. The final section, short and direct, offered explanation and perhaps a sense of forgiveness for the woman whose final act leads to the culmination of one of the classic novels of the 19th century.

We have been talking....I have been ranting....about how Jane Eyre is thematically a 19th century version of 50 Shades. Much better written, I grant, but when I re-read Jane Eyre last year, I was horrified to discover how different it was than what I remember. Gone was Rochester as romantic hero. In his place was a lying, manipulative, demanding wealthy man who bullied and abused the innocent servant girl in his employ. I mean yeah, context of its time and all that, but essentially an imbalance of power. So reading Wide Sargasso Sea came at the right time for me.

PS: I still like Jane Eyre. And Wuthering Heights. But Rochester? Heathcliffe? How could I have been so wrong about them all these years? 

PPS: Erik enjoying the used bookstore (see below).

Wednesday, January 28, 2015


I noticed tonight, as I'm upstairs running a hot bath filled with perfumed bubbles to take away the stress of a long day at work, and chasing lazy cats off my work jacket  which I stupidly left on the bed this morning, and listening to jazz, which my rather fantastic DH left playing--along with a plate chicken and a tossed salad he made for my dinner before stoking the fire and taking kids into Montreal for scouts--I noticed the girls' bedroom doors.

They have white boards which often have things like "Grace's Room....Enter at your Peril" written, or more sweetly, a stirring quote frm a novel (The Hobbit has featured more than once). But tonight, something made me look closer,

Both girls recently achieved their black belts in karate. A proud moment to be sure, and my youngest, 11-year-old Grace has this:

My heart swelled. So happy for her.

My middle child and oldest daughter, Anna, aged 13, eschewed black belt pride for more important matters: the return of her favourite soccer team...and in particular one handsome inspirational goaltender.

They made me laugh. The day was better even before the bubble bath.


Thursday, January 1, 2015

New Year's Day

It's snowing out, the fire is blazing, and it's a perfect day to start the new year. Happy 2015.