This isn’t a craft blog, but I want to show off some bowls I made. I was reading Gathie Falk’s memoir Apples, etc., admiring her paper mache dresses, remembering I’d once played with paper mache — didn’t we all? — and my fingers itched to try again. Something easy, like a bowl or two.

Is there, in fact, an object as lovely as a bowl? Both in its usefulness (real or implied) and its shape? In what it signifies — receiving, holding?

My bowls are thin (about three layers) and — in terms of bowlishness — a little wonky. Nevertheless, they gave me pleasure, making them. Still do, looking at them. For the three below, I used tissue paper: purple, white, yellow. I painted the inside of the white one and glued on pressed hydrangea flowerets. The story bowl is sturdier, because it’s made from book paper. (From Alice Munro’s story “The Progress of Love” – I had a paperback edition, in addition to a hardcover copy, so felt the former could be sacrificed to scissors and a bowl!)

I like to read — and write — stories that are strong enough to hold meaning without being airtight. As for my self, there are certainly days I feel as flimsy as tissue. Lopsided from too many concerns perhaps. Then again, there are days when I manage to hold what I need to hold, keeping it light, and keeping myself open for gratitude.

Just for example, a day last week. I got a note from someone who accepted an apology I’d sent via a third party three years earlier, and it was so warm, the air suddenly felt sweet. (I’ve forgotten the details, except that it involved a discussion that turned passionate and there was rudeness on my part, but not having last name and contact info I had to involve someone else, which is how, as things can happen, it took three years to land.) Same day, I dropped off some stuff at the thrift store when I spotted a fold-flat lawn chair, exactly what we needed because one of the two we carry in the car (in case of an unexpected picnic?) had finally succumbed, even after duct tape repair. Since I was inside paying for the chair, why not take a quick peek at the books? And there, a collection of “new and selected” by Billy Collins, whose poems I love. Three surprises, nothing major I suppose, but they filled the bowl of me with happiness.



H. and I enjoyed a short getaway last week: two nights and three days in the Chilliwack area, at the Fraser River’s Edge B & B, about an hour-and-a-half away. We filled up on a gorgeous view of the river, the warm hospitality (with full pandemic protocols), delicious breakfasts, and restful ambience of the lodge. If the continuing Covid season made a change of scene seem urgent, it also made this particular spot possible, for, as co-owner Adriana told us, they’re normally fully booked by out-of-country guests who come for fishing adventures.

We let the other two couples at the lodge wrestle with fish (a nine foot sturgeon, we heard, which beat the humans after more than an hour’s effort) while we explored the river’s edge, Chilliwack Mountain, and the Vedder River trail; bought and ate the best corn of the summer from a local stand; and found my grandparents graves in the Chilliwack cemetery. We’d roamed about in that cemetery some years ago, looking without finding, but this time I’d phoned ahead to get the exact location, and thus we successfully completed the earlier quest.

I wondered later what suddenly compelled us to find somewhere else to go, what besides trying to plug the sad hole a visit to our Toronto children would have filled in other times. I remembered efforts we sometimes made when newly married to get out and do things on weekends, when we would just as soon have stayed home after a week of work. Partially at least, I think, it was to prove to colleagues Monday morning that we too “had a life.” (Lingering shades of high school, I suppose.) The need to impress about socializing is past, but perhaps a remnant of that effort had emerged now in reference to ourselves. Maybe we needed to prove to ourselves that, in spite of the strangeness affecting us all, we still have a life. To prove that we could still — sort of — get away.

P.S. When we returned, nourished by Away, our balcony petunias were overflowing their planter banks in welcome! IMG_7517

Aunts, in particular & as beloved category

Susie Harder Loewen

My mother’s youngest sister died this week, at 91. So I’ve been thinking about her, my Aunt Susie, and gratitude swells as the memories gather. Her qualities of competence and hospitality and commitment to family. Memories of being junior bridesmaid at her wedding (though I mostly remember my dress), her hosting the gift-opening after my own wedding, and her house — of course — being the place we could drop our first child while rushing to the hospital for the birth of the second. It was Aunt Susie, not Mom, who taught me to sew, and I remember that week with them in their Winnipeg house, how patient and wise she was with her little girls. There was a sense of welcome about her, and as far as I was concerned, every expectation that the welcome should be there. Taking it for granted, I suppose. She was my aunt, after all.


Harder family (late 1930s?). My mother, Tina, standing far right; Aunt Susie seated beside their father.

She’s the last of them on my mother’s side — the last of The Aunts, I mean, a category all its own. (Mom, 98, the only one of her family still alive.) My mother had four sisters, thus we had the four aunts. As we got older and had families of our own, my siblings and I sometimes discussed and compared them, for The Aunts — the Harder aunts — seemed formidable women, strong was the word, and each in her own way, opinionated too.

I’ve noticed the role of aunts in fiction. Their usefulness as foil, as rescue. Just recently, for example, I read Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life, with its unconventional Aunt Izzy as contrast to Ursula’s traditional mother Sylvie. And in real life too — and I’m speaking generally here — aunts fill gaps mothers may not fill, provide near-hand models of other personalities to watch, perhaps emulate. Their faults become instructive as well, perhaps arouse appreciation for the mother one landed to. They belong to us, that’s the thing, they’re our heritage, but by virtue of connection plus difference, enlarge that heritage. Sharpen or soften it. Round it out. Sometimes, if they’re single professional women, they may tip a bit of money our way, which when we’re young and beginning, feels enormous. If we’re fortunate, they root for us, encourage, offer advice sought or unsought, in other words, freely help themselves to our lives, as we to theirs, and as a bonus, are interested in and involved with our children, and all this with less thanks in return than they deserve. Blessed be The Aunts!