Category Archives: Uncategorized

For Sue

From Righting the Mother Tongue by David Wolman (2008), and special thanks to the London Public Library and their wonderful website and book collection.

This is the theme song for the Society for Editors and Proofreaders, Great Britain:

On the twelfth day of the schedule

my client sent to me: 

Twelve sheets of briefing

Eleven text equations

Ten symbols lurking

Nine sexist pronouns

Eight footnotes missing

Seven misquotations

Six clauses dangling

Five chapters more!

Four fuzzy graphs

Three locked files

Two authors French

And a typescript all neat and tidee


Call of the Wild, really?

It’s funny what sticks in one’s mind.  There’s so much information around us that I find some of it isn’t quite what one thought after it’s been fact-checked.  Memory glitches, brain farts, stupidity, or perhaps, serendipity.

Recently I workshopped a short story about a farmer who was peeing to mark his territory against coyotes, and someone in the critique group mentioned Farley Mowat had done that, hadn’t he?  The bit of information seemed familiar, a sticky bit, and I wondered if I was referencing Mowat in the story.  I searched the library and came away with a totally different book, Call of the Wild by Jack London.  

Not the right book, not all.  Major brain fart.  But what harm could come from reading a children’s classic?  Through Buck, the dog, London develops a thesis of power and leadership that is cunning and Machiavellian, claiming it is “natural.”    What had inspired my story was a totally different way of being in the wild.   I made notes, mentally, about the way Buck went after power among his fellow dogs, how he became a leader.  I think I’ve used, and been on the receiving end, of some of the techniques.

Call of the Wild was not the book I wanted to read.  It’s a violent, Lord of the Flies classic where the wild is savage.  Yet it reminds me that there are narratives all around us about using violence to cripple others, to seize power.   In some areas of the world, the violence is physical.  Closer to home, the violence is more through withholding resources and information, character assassination, isolation.

This makes politics difficult, when it’s about power rather issues.  I can’t remember where I read this, but someone said that a campaign for justice is on the right track when the attacks become personal, when the isolating begins.  That it’s part of the cycle of change and it’s bloody.  But it’s a mark of being on the right path.  I think of Maude Barlow as being an example of this.

Another version of the wild is still stuck in my head.  It’ll be interesting to see if Never Cry Wolf is the story where the man marks his territory in the wild with his pee, and not with firearms.  I’ll be tracking the book down, circling the text, isolating the words when I find them–not to savage anything but to understand.

Parts of Canada we seldom see

My friend Charlotte and I went to the opening of the medium gallery (yes, it’s all lower case) in the Old East business district on Saturday night.  In 2011 a photographer, Johan Hallberg-Campbell, had flown into the bush of northern Ontario with the Canadian Red Cross to photograph their efforts to supply Attawapiskat with sleeping bags, heaters and winter clothing.


This poster photo is the least representative of the exhibit, a romantic, christianized image, and it was placed next to a photo of a beautiful but very sad young woman living in the crawl space beneath the floor of a house, her arms marked by cutting.

Hallberg-Cambell said, to paraphrase, that while he was in Attawapiskat, he didn’t want to traumatize the citizens there.  He found them to be gentle and kind people, and he knew the general media was using images for articles that would result in misunderstandings, or misrepresentations, that would further politicize the situation.  The images he chose for the exhibit were personal and sincere. It was well worth the visit.

Years ago I lived on another northern Cree reserve in housing that was trucked in, just as the housing is being trucked into Attawapiskat.  The 3 months I spent at the Red Earth IR have had a huge impact on me.

The newly built high school and two 4-plexes for used offices and teacher housing on the Red Earth IR, Saskatchewan.

The newly built high school and two 4-plexes for used offices and teacher housing on the Red Earth IR, Saskatchewan.  The only new buildings I saw on the reserve.

The trailer i lived in, newly trucked in and waiting for insulation and skirting.

The trailer I lived in while teaching in Red Earth, Saskatchewan, newly trucked in and waiting for insulation and skirting.

The housing I lived in was considered “new” housing on the reserve, a used trailer with frustration already punched into the walls. The gas for the stove came from a big propane tank that looked like a bomb at the edge of the clearing, beside the tree that the bear liked to maul. Our neighbour in the next trailer had a small gas explosion after he came home and lit the pilot light.  The hospital was over 80 km away, but luckily his burns weren’t severe.  And we were teachers, told that our housing was “nicer” than most of the residents.

As the seasons turned from Saskatchewan prairie summer to fall and then winter, I came to know more about the resiliency of the people who held on despite the incredible patronizing system that kept the once vibrant community dysfunctional for decades. I can relate to how Halleberg-Campbell photographed both the life-threatening poverty, the trauma and the beauty of the gentle souls in Attawapiskat.

Horses were still part of the treaty agreement, and they mostly ran in a herd fending for themselves against wolves and bears.  The Cree at Red Earth still rode them, just had to round them up first.

Horses were still part of the treaty agreement on Red Earth 29, and they mostly ran in a herd fending for themselves against wolves and bears. The Cree still rode them, just had to round them up first.

All those years ago I was shocked at discovering the biggest “secret” in the Canadian family closet.  The missionaries of my childhood church had us folding bandages and diapers, collecting school supplies and donations for Africa.  Our grannies should have have been knitting and praying for those on the reserve I worked at. I didn’t know third world conditions existed in Canada.  Our schools should have told us about contemporary “Indians.”  Our treatment of them remains appallingly political and needless to say, less than christian.  As a direct result, I became a feminist, an atheist, an activist.

The medium gallery is part of a community economic development project in the Old East area of London, Ontario, where a large percentage of the residents are also struggling with neglect, poverty, mental health, drugs and prostitution.  The anti-poverty advocacy group, Life*Spin has spear-headed this new development.  Their neighbour, Artisan Bakery, also opened on the same night.

Tagged , , ,

Dissecting style, a t-shirt intervention

There was a nice green t-shirt in my dresser drawer.  Nice, but I never wore it because … well … I didn’t like it.  An indefinable not-liking.

It became unwearable last November when I dissected it.  By picking apart the features that bothered me, I hoped to learn more about its character and nature.  The colour was great.  But not the band around the bottom and not the little gathered bit in front.  Surely there was a better way to put this garment together.

The interesting thing about dissection is that one knows it won’t go back together the same way. Ever. It’s like getting the recipe for a favourite dish a friend makes, and you have all the ingredients, but it doesn’t taste the same as your friends when you make it.  It’s like when a friend, spouse, family member shares something that’s normally hidden.  You can maintain the routines and habits, but the person is different, the relationship is different.  It’s risky to share, to look at the underside or inner workings.  I could truly wreck the t-shirt, but that was cool.  It was stuck in a drawer anyway.  Although, Goodwill or some other recycling enterprise might have found a better home for it.

So a choice had to made:  throw it out or reinvent.

And there the green tee sat on my workroom table next to a bright green and orange print fabric from already cannibalized blouse which had three really cute, tiny covered buttons.  The t-shirt sat for the whole month of December in the flurry of holiday card making and last minute sewing, flirting with the green bits in a brown print skirt, destined to be remodeled in 2013, or 2014.

Same nice t-shirt as the green with the original styling.

Same nice t-shirt as the green with the original styling.

Reinvented, and should be a bright Kelly green as you'll see from the sister tee beside it.

Reinvented, and it really is a bright Kelly green as you can see from the sister tee above.

So as the snow fell in January, the plain, proper, nice little t-shirt was reinvented into something a little different.  I will wear it now because it’s gone from nice to being fun.  It has some depth.  And if it had a voice, I could hear it praying for me to finish the brown print skirt, which was finished but also in need an intervention and became another victim of dissection by seam-ripper.  The skirt was nice, but not fun. Not flirty, or flattering … or interesting enough to wear.

Tagged , , , ,

The memory quilt from t-shirts

cutting the t-shirts

cutting the t-shirts

Like all children, my daughter has grown up.  Now, we’re always sorting out closets, deciding what can stay, what should go,  reminiscing all the while.   She came up the idea for me to make a blanket from some of her favourite and well-loved t-shirts.

I’ve made traditional quilts, and crazy quilts from blue jeans, but never worked with knits before.  Joyce’s Sewing Shop on Wortley Road had a beautiful four-way stretch fleece that looked like shearling, so I didn’t worry about stabilizing the blanket.

the layout

the layout

Planning the blanket was a challenge.  The t-shirts and their logos were different sizes. So I approached it by cutting first, planning later.  The logos were cut out with generous borders and to get a sense of how to put them together, I laid them out on the table.  Nothing matched up.  In the end, I decided to make four rows and fill in the spaces with extra t-shirt fabric AND old photos!  I didn’t tell my daughter about the photos.

joining the logos and pictures with strips

joining the logos and pictures with strips

The design was kept to rectangular and square shapes, and because I wasn’t going to be fussy about squaring the corners and a consistent grid, I sewed the top so the selvedges were showing.  I figure after a number of washings, there will be a nice rag look to the borders of each piece.

joining top and back

joining top and back

Because of the thickness of the fleece, I didn’t put a layer in between top and backing.  I finished it by tying it at regular intervals so the blankie could stretch without tearing.  If I’d stabilized it, the folks at Joyce’s could have quilted by machine for me.

And my grown girl loves it!!

Tagged , , ,

One last Christmas “hurrah!”

It’s become obvious to me over the last few months that I don’t procrastinate.  I over-commit and then have to prioritize.  There are so many interesting things going on in my workshop and no elves to work in the night. I think that’s illegal, anyway.

Christmas tree skirt, in progress

Christmas tree skirt, in progress

One project was only half-finished, although presentable, by the time December 25th rolled around.  Deadlines are good.  And because it was a skirt for the bottom of a Christmas and the giftee lives miles away, I brought it home to fancy it up with a new deadline–next Christmas.  Months to finish it, months to procrastinate.

But I couldn’t do it.  Procrastinate, that is.  I couldn’t pack up the shiny organza and stick in the back of the closet.  A vision of flounce and shine was in my head, and so the yards of organza have been gathered and stitched, the trim applied twice around, the ties added and threads trimmed.

Some things you do for the joy.

Christmas tree skirt in January

Christmas tree skirt in January

Upcycling Article / Milwaukee Journal / Mike Smith

Upcycling Article / Milwaukee Journal / Mike Smith.

Cool ideas, using what we have, including imagination 🙂

When to Retreat

It’s National Novel Writing Month and I’m supposed to be writing about 2000 words a day to make a total of 50,000 words in the month of November. That’s about 4 type-written pages a day.

Of course there are distractions.  The fridge, the neighbours, work, my studio projects, tea with long-lost friends, movies, a sudden urge to meditate or clean, pressing F1 for anything on the computer, researching family history, running out the door for any number of very important errands.  I’m distracted by everything because this writing project is new and that means anything is possible.  The canvas is a little too white.

From my room at the retreat house.

So, a writing retreat was in order and even sponsored by the London Writers’ Society.  I headed out to sunny Lake Sunova twice this month and put words on the page.  Not a lot, but some.  Some good words, I think, in my once elegant long-hand that I won’t be  able to read later.  Half the time I’m counting the words to see how well I’ve done. But truly it isn’t about the word count, is it?

Regardless, it’s been great to retreat, to leave my usual habits behind and honour the time and space to get into new writing again after a year of editing.  While this new novel comes slowly into the world, I had the space to relax.  The little lake and the house were beautiful, nourishing.

But a retreat can be lonely.  I’m used to writing amid noise and distractions, with the radio on in the background, at the market downtown, in Timmy’s or anywhere else where people gather.  These busy places help me keep me one foot in this world so that I am able retreat into the writing.

Tagged , ,

Summer break

Yes, it’s time to get out the wading pool, the camping gear, the cooler, sketch books, the camera, the novels I always wanted to read, the portable bits of thread and cloth–and escape the studio.  Summer is the perfect excuse for a procrastinator like me to put aside all plans and just follow the sun.

Friendship Bracelets; one for you, one for you …

It also means, for a while, leaving behind posting regularly through this lovely connection.  I will return, I promise you.

During the summer, I will gather more inspiration than I need.   And I look forward to hearing about your inspirations as well as sharing mine again–when it’s time to remember where I put my shoes, when the cat sleeps in again, when the droning, dripping air conditioners are silent, when school supplies go on sale and all the best pencil cases have been snatched up and Hallowe’en candy has crept out of aisle nine into the first marque display, when the basil is fragrant and tomatoes and garlic are plentiful, when the sauce is made and the body sated, sunned, exercised and renewed.



Quilts that tell a story

My first quilt was a grid of squares made from scraps of fabric we had around the house.  I was 14 years-old.  My grandmother and her sisters came over to quilt it.  I felt honoured.   Quilting, it seemed, was a tradition in my family.  I’ve taken the tradition and twisted it with needle and thread in many ways over the years, but have never done anything like the women of Wardsville, Ontario.

Louise painting a Wardsville Bicentennial barn quilt block
Photo by Dave Chidley

They have taken the story of the founder of their community and created the Wardsville Barn Quilt Trail.   Each block of the quilt tells a piece of George Ward’s story or relates to the historical context of the founding of Wardsville in 1810.  What’s really cool is that each block is painted onto plywood then put up on the side of a barn or other structure.  Who would have thought, but it’s beautiful.

I’m still working with textiles–the stretchy knits of t-shirts.  They are my daughter’s.  There’s history, or should I say, her-story, in them for sure.  She hasn’t founded a town but she’s got time.

I’ve cut the t-shirts into blocks of various sizes based on the logos.   When I lay them out on my table, I can see that it’s going to take some work to make them fit into a grid.  And like any artist, I’m looking at the empty spaces between the blocks.

First Nation Paintbrush, Delaware First Nation

The double Irish chain design from Wardsville might be an option (they have put the pattern up on their blog).  My daughter has strong Irish ties from her grandmother.  The Rising Sun block is also beautiful but it looks like I’ll have to search for that one.  You know, I like research.

Thanks to the women of Wardsville for their inspiration.



%d bloggers like this: