Showing posts from 2012

2012 Winter Greetings


In 2012 we have been blessed with the white stuff before the Winter Solstice (which is not always the case here in Hope, BC, Canada.) Everything looks so "embellished" and the quality of the light changes. The wood stove is working overtime and the goodies everywhere are so tempting.

It has been another good year of abundance, visitors, travels, and friends meeting over coffee and Scrabble.

If we do not see you, you are in our hearts. All the best to you and yours. Have a Happy New Year.


The Joys of Collecting Rocks - Why Collect?


Maybe a casual remark tossed off by David Spade on George the other night got me started thinking about this. Spade said that, as a child, he was so poor that he collected rocks. Poor? I had never associated a rock collection with poverty. Inexpensive, yes. But collecting rocks was part of the joy of rural living, for sure. We had the freedom to explore without fear or anxiety. Although it is probably true that most of our acquisitions are gathered free of charge, at least until collectors expand into cutting, polishing, and lapidary.

Independence. Another part of rural living was often an absence of other children your own age close by. Yet in our home, the word "bored" was not allowed. "Only boring people get bored," we were assured. The point being, we were expected to learn ways to amuse ourselves when there were no other people around. We were expected to be independent.

Responsibility. Moreover, it was our responsibility, part of our duty as we gr…

The Joys of Collecting Rocks - The Benefits


Collectors are Keepers. Once you become known as a collector, people will have a better idea of what gives you joy, of the kind of things you like to keep. They will give you rocks as gifts. My cousin once gave me a dinosaur bone he brought from Alberta. A neighbour gave me a "Gulf of Mexico rose" which looks like a collection of sea shells embedded in petrified sand. A boss gave me a lump of fossilized seashells. Friends took me on a collecting expedition up a high mountain road where we found moulds and casts of sea creatures millions of years old. That same friend gave me a cluster of aragonite crystals, a pale peach colour. Another gave me a bunch of obsidian from Oregon; you can see the conchoidal fracture which makes it so good for chipping to a sharp edge. In some, you can see the fire petrified inside. One of my brothers gave me a massive purple lump of square crystals as a house-warming present. I lost the name, but love it still. It's the colour. And a …

The Joys of Collecting Rocks - Connections


I love the variety, and the beauty, but the connections I associate with the rocks I collect add meaning both to the rocks and to my life. I treasure a piece of flint from Stonehenge and copper ore specimens I lugged home from Whitehorse. Each rock has a connection to a place or a person or a story. The ancient creatures from the sea floor now on top of the mountains, plant leaves from the age of dinosaurs, river rocks set in lava. I can look at a rock and see, read, a story. How these water-rounded granite pebbles must have sizzled when the green andesite lava engulfed them. How cataclysmic the explosion must have been before these sharp-edged quartz clasts were shattered and then sopped up by the lava flowing over, surrounding them. I think I am most attracted to the igneous rocks -- offspring of the dance of earth and fire. It's something about being an earth lover with a fire sign.

The stories the rocks themselves tell are of igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic ac…

Book Club Conflict I - The Push/Pull

I've always been conflicted about book clubs. Pulled by the desire to share a passion. Repelled by the fear that precious time will be taken up reading titles chosen by others, titles far down on my own "Must Read" list. Repelled also by the fear of negativity, the depressing spectre of having to listen to books and their writers (who come to seem like friends) being trashed by other readers. Or worse yet, trashed by readers who have not read them, but insist on talking, about how such-and-such is superior. Or about the movie version. Whatever happened to that open-ended question: What is it about this book that makes it worth writing, publishing, reading? What might I have missed?

In the Book Club push and pull, will I be moved by love or fear? Will I stay home or will I go?

Book Club Conflict II - Pre-Reading

Last month's Book Club book was Wayson Choy's Not Yet: A Memoir of Living and Almost Dying.

I begin, as I've been taught, with Pre-reading. What is the book about? Illness and recovery, not a topic which interests me in general. However, the title says "living," "dying," and "memoir," three subjects in which I do have an interest. What do I know of this writer? Wayson Choy is Canadian. A fellow British Columbian. He grew up in Vancouver's Chinatown (described in his memoir Paper Shadows.) To his friends and former professors at UBC, he is known as Sonny. (I know this because I play Scrabble with a daughter of one of his professors.) Wayson was "discovered" in a Carol Shields writing class. His first novel, The Jade Peony, was a One Book Vancouver selection among its other achievements. His second novel All That Matters was nominated for the Giller. I know because I went to his presentation at the StanleyTheatre in Vancouver, when…

Book Club Conflict III - Reading Not Yet

I save it until I have time to enjoy it undisturbed, and read it not too far ahead of the meeting night, so that I will not have to make notes or re-read before the discussion. Every time I am interrupted, I long to get back to reading Not Yet. I finish it easily in less than three days. It is a short book with an accessible style. It keeps my interest, engages me.

He speaks about going to China to film a documentary, Searching for Confucius, and I remember vaguely seeing that film on Knowledge Network or Vision a few years ago. I find a trailer on YouTube:

He also speaks of his teaching at Humber College (where I attended his presentation but refused to stand in line to greet him.)

The one thing I hate about reading borrowed books (in this case, a Book Club copy supplied in bulk through the local library) is not possessing my own copy to refer back to and to make notations in. So I make sure to go uptown and photocopy my favourite passage, ju…

Book Club Conflict IV - Post-Op - The Group Response

Our library Book Club is very informal. We have no "official" group leader other that the volunteers who coordinate ordering. We are scheduled to start at 6:30 pm, the third Tuesday of every month, and people generally arrive between 6:30 and 7:00. We start by going around the circle, with each person answering: Did you read the book? Did you like the book? Sometimes the answers include Why?

For Not Yet, nine readers show up. Two have not read the book and hope perhaps that the discussion will help them decide whether to read it or not. Two people do not like the book. Three people love the book. Two are ambivalent. Messages are received from three absent readers. One could not read the book as she had just lost her spouse under very similar circumstances. One sends one word, "Boring." The third says she liked it.

Then we go around again. People object to: the narrator's selfishness, self-centredness; the waste of taxpayer money treating someone who doesn't …

Book Club Conflict V - Afterthoughts

In a book club, you learn a lot about other people and their reading habits. About "talkers" and "listeners." About words "striking a chord." About diversity and tolerance.

We are so Canadian. So polite. We tend not to respond to what other people say, even if they sound outrageous, self-centred, bigoted, judgmental, abusive. For example, I hate it when a female character with a sex life is referred to in the discussion as a "slut." In this day and age! Women trashing the choices other women dare to make? Yet I say nothing. We just nod. Yes, try to focus on the words, the ideas, not on the person who says them, for sure. Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion (even if they are wrong, we think to ourselves.) "Ingenious, but wrong," a professor used to write on our essays. "But how can any opinion be wrong?" we asked in surprise, in disgust. "It's my opinion, whatever it is." It is wrong if it is not suppo…

Book Club Conflict VI - PostScript

So as I am writing this, the telephone rings. One of the readers who had yet to read the book is calling to say my words inspired her. She read Not Yet. She found it exquisite.

Next month, Emma Donoghue's Room. For this one too, I will go.

Foul Play

Foul Play

For my summer holiday, I went to the city. My twin best friends, Lydia and Leah, had moved to Brandon and invited me to visit. 1060 12th Street. Near the railroad tracks. The fairgrounds. The swimming pool behind the Tyndall wall.

In Brandon, the town fathers do not allow women to wear shorts in public places. We dressed u to go downtown. We wore gloves and matching pumps; we carried our vinyl purses like the Queen. We experimented with nail polish for fingers and toes, backcombed and peroxided our hair. We tried cherry-flavoured gloss and siren red lipstick at Woolworth's cosmetics counter, popping and blotting our pouts in the mirrors. We fingered the satin and lace in the lingerie department, longing for boyfriends and breasts. We crowded into one curtained booth and mugged for the camera--four shots for a quarter. We bought two-piece bathing suits and suntanned on the dry summer grass. We played games with our shadows, imagining what we will look like with curves.

We us…

New Reviews

New reviews are posted at the Prairie Fire Review of Books site.
Click or copy this link:

Scroll down to Prairie Fire Review of Books.
Click on current issue.
Scroll down the table of contents, and click on PDF to bring up each review separately.
Crossings by Betty Lambert.
Shrinking Violets by Heidi Greco

The Quest


New Reviews


New Reviews My latest book reviews are posted on the Prairie Fire Review of Books website.

Emma LaRocque: When the Other Is Me
Lyall Powers: Alien Heart
Christian Riegel: Writing Grief Eden Robinson: The Sasquatch at Home Paul Seesequasis: Tobacco Wars