Category Archives: Personal

Does the First World War belong to me?

The first question Susan Sanford Blades asked me in an e-mail interview about “Mask” was, Was this story informed at all by any of your personal experience (via family etc.) with the war? (“Mask,” which will appear in The Malahat Review this summer, concerns the repercussions of an English soldier’s facial injury in the First World War.) A perfectly appropriate question, perfectly innocent, about the story’s origin. When I read it, however, I reacted with an inner gasp of panic. Does the First World War actually belong to me? 

It had never occurred to me to me that it didn’t, but in that moment, before I went on to answer Susan, it loomed large. Did it belong enough, that is, for me to use it in a story?    Continue reading

7 Comments

Filed under Personal, Writing

A bow to the past in Kansas

In the spirit of the rather fitful reporting to which this blog has devolved, I’m here this Monday afternoon to say that I was away four days in Kansas, hanging out with historians and archivists. (I believe I’ve mentioned before that these are some of my favorite people.) I’m on the Historical Commission of the Mennonite Brethren (MB) denomination, which meets once a year, rotating between the four archival centers in Kansas, California, B.C., and Manitoba. We hear reports from the centers, undertake various publishing projects (including both scholarly and popular history–last year’s was the fascinating mystery-biography, It Happened in Moscow by Maureen Klassen, which has sold astonishingly well), sponsor research grants and an archival internship, and occasionally plan symposiums, all to foster the preservation of, study of, and reflection on our history. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under History, Mennnonite Brethren, Personal

The strong memory of places

House on Kildonan Drive, Jane's Walk 2014

House on Kildonan Drive, Jane’s Walk 2014

H. and I participated in one of Winnipeg’s 24 Jane’s Walks* this weekend: the one along Kildonan Drive North.  It was a chilly, rather overcast day, but a large group of us gathered to wander along a river street associated with North Kildonan’s rich or famous—names familiar to the Mennonite settlement here like Henry Redekop, A.A. DeFehr, George Janzen, Henry Krahn, and  those connected to pioneering and municipal leadership like J.M. Morton and Angus Matheson McKay. Continue reading

4 Comments

Filed under Daily life, Personal

A baby, a novella

20140411-IMG_5769A second set of sticky notes about books is nearly ready to post, as promised, but I’m going to interrupt that brief series with two recent happenings in my life.

First was the birth of another granddaughter! I visited the family in B.C. for ten days, to help as best I could in a busy household with a new baby and returned with warm memories of the lovely child (who bears the distinguished name Honor) and many memories of the other children as well. Choice sayings by the nearly-three-year-old, for example, moments of closeness initiated by a child who tends to self-containment, and so on. Things a grandparent gathers and chuckles over or ponders upon. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Personal, Writing

Tis the season to be listing

That time again, lists taking over like dandelions. The best or most important in news, people, books, movies, fashion. Experts summoned for the top picks of whatever they’re experts about.

For the most part I enjoy reading these retrospectives, if only to refresh my memory or compare “their” favorites with mine or be alerted to all that I missed. I often feel somewhat lethargic and retrospective myself just before the new year breaks and find myself paging through the past year’s diary/journal.

For me, less voluminous note-keeping is definitely trending (one of the words I see on lists of words to abandon in 2014), so a year takes less time to review than it used to. 2013, in fact, has been quite nicely contained in one relatively thin Moleskin-knockoff, written on only one side of the page no less. Here’s a bit of a list of what I discovered when paging back. Continue reading

14 Comments

Filed under Personal

Delivered!

She was unloaded and delivered to us, glory be!
Unloaded from her mother, the little one, delivered,
And we all say Glory Be!
(Inuit birth song)

Good news early this morning! Our seventh grandchild — a girl — arrived safely into the world. And for the seventh time, my heart wells up in the words of the song above: Glory Be! So, I write her name in my journal, ponder who she is and will be, mull over the word delivered, which comes from Old French and Latin roots meaning “set free.” (Which reminds me of one fictional newly-hatched chick saying to another: “See, I told you there was life after birth!”) The meaning of the word developed through “set free” to “give up, surrender,” and finally “hand over to someone else.” All rich connotations for the delivery of a baby and the life ahead of her, and for the Christmas season, all about a baby’s birth as well. — Glory Be!

10 Comments

Filed under Personal

Does she need a second word for dress?

Recent visits to see our grandchildren, both east and west, impressed on me again that most miraculous and mysterious of matters: children acquiring language. How in the world do they process vocabulary and grammar and everything else in those little brains of theirs? It’s a delight to watch and participate in, to read aloud to them and hear the nursery rhymes and songs learned so effortlessly, it seems.

The adult reader realizes that the little Miss being read to can’t possibly know all those words yet. Gown, for example, in a story about a girl who delivers a dress through a snow storm. But set into the story, which charms her for any number of reasons, and heard numerous times,  gown, which is another word for dress will probably stick. Does she need a second word for dress? Well, yes of course she does. The two are slightly different, and she will need a lot of words for everything. Differences, nuance, precision, sounds of various kinds enrich our lives. Continue reading

9 Comments

Filed under Family, Personal

Running on Repeat: the death of JFK

It being the 50th anniversary of John F Kennedy’s death, we’re bombarded with retrospectives of various kinds. I’ve been tuning in to many of them. I don’t know why I’m drawn back so intensely. Perhaps I’m reaching for a time I lived through, unbelievably half a century ago already, and to a 13-year-old Me.

John F. and Jacqueline Kennedy

John F. and Jacqueline Kennedy

Last evening, for example, I watched “Letters to Jackie: Remembering President Kennedy.” The assassination happened Friday and by Monday some 45,000 letters had arrived to Mrs. Kennedy at the White House. Over the next two months, the number reached 800,000. Among them was a letter from me. Handwritten. In green ink as I recall. Continue reading

7 Comments

Filed under Current events, Personal

In defence of what you’re trying to do

Before I get completely submerged under the ripe tomatoes, ditto the grapes and the five-gallon pail of apples, plus the story I’m writing, I want to say something about last week.

I spent it at the Banff Centre in an intensive focus on short fiction led by Alexander MacLeod, literature professor and author of the Giller short-listed collection Light Lifting. I’ve never taken a writing retreat or week-long writing course, so I’m still feeling like a girl on her first trip to Disney. It’s a bit of a wonderful bubble one goes into, for sure. But the Disney analogy ends now: there’s nothing Minnie Mouse about carefully, brutally workshopping others’ writing (that is, learning to read), or being workshopped just as carefully and brutally. We all knew, of course, and tried to remember, this was where the benefit (a.k.a love) lay. Continue reading

9 Comments

Filed under Personal, Writing

Catch-up, camping, Coetzee

Oh friends, I’d so hoped to be a regular blogger all summer, emphasis on regular, and I didn’t do so badly there for a week or two. And through the lovely days, things gathered in my head that I wished to tell you, but I didn’t get them spoken after all! Not that this is a tragedy of any proportion whatsoever, not for you or me; there are words enough swimming into everyone’s daily net and the ones that get away are rarely missed! A good thing, that. Continue reading

9 Comments

Filed under Books, Personal