Monday, March 19, 2018


In the 1980 I left my Nova Scotia home, traveling to Toronto Ontario to study Mime. It was here that I met my dear friend Kate. We were both studying Commedia dell'arte . I immediately made a connection with her, we became good friends.

It was during this time in Toronto I'd met my late husband Bill who had serious health problems, having brittle diabetes and drug induced paranoid schizophrenia, which ultimately resulted in his death at the young age of 26. Kate had kindly attended Bill's funeral as she'd gotten to know Bill. He was very fond of her, as I believe she'd felt the same about him.

I lost touch with Kate, but the short story is, many years after I found myself working a night shift with time on my hands in the North West Territories. I decided to watch a program on Vision T.V. I was suddenly riveted to the television after realizing Kate was on the T.V. screen. She was being featured on this program and was talking about this one woman play she'd produced and acted in, relating her personal struggles with mental health. I was so excited and from that point on I was determined that one day I'd find her again. Understand this was well before Facebook, so it wasn't until several years later I was able to connect with her through Facebook.

Kate along with her husband, actor and producer Bill Rogers, established the company HumourUs that promotes the benefits and the importance of humour and how much it can help us to overcome. This is something  I inherently knew as a rather troubled kid, because I always felt better when I could make myself and others laugh. Humour helps to keep us humble and reminds us of our humanity. These three tools have long helped me to lighten my load, to live a healthier and happier life, and Kate has also helped me to learn this important lesson, and I'm grateful for that.

Today Kate posted this article, written about what she does and who she is, and  I wanted to share.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Arthur Rothstein - "the power to move men's minds."

Rehabilitation client at spinning wheel, Ozark Mountains, Arkansas 1935 Photo Arthur Rothstein

The above photograph was taken by one of the premiere photo journalists  Arthur Rothstein. This photograph of the Great Walking Wheel I especially loved as I recently had the great fortune to purchase one of these magnificent antique spinning wheels. I don't know the history of my particular wheel, but if it could talk I know it would tell a compelling historical story.

Arthur Rothstein was in the same company of photographers such a Walker Evans, who co-wrote the book with James Agee Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, in 1936. Working for the Farm Security Administration (FSA) between 1935-1940, during The Great Depression, these photo journalists reflected the culture of the time within America, documenting rural life and small town America. This documentation poignantly reflected the displacement and migration of farmers and industrial workers . Even more importantly was, what Arthur Rothstein described as his prime motivation to be documentary photographer.

 “the power to move men’s minds,”  and explaining, “The aim is to move people to action, to change or prevent a situation because it may be wrong or damaging, and to support and encourage people.”

Born in 1915 Arthur Rothstein  grew up in the Bronz of New York City. He was the son of Jewish immigrants,  Isadore Rothstein and Nettie Rothstein (née Perlstein) who fled the Nazis during World War 11. Arthur Rothstein died in 1985.

Until today I'd never heard the name Arthur Rothstein. His daughter Ann Segan gave an interview today about recently discovered photographs taken by her father, when he was assigned to work in China, and that were presumed lost for 25 years. This collection of photographs were discovered with the assistance from a very unlikely source.

Arthur Rothstein in China

Thursday, March 8, 2018

International Women's Day - Quiet


Today on this 2018 International Women's Day my thoughts are of course on the strength of inner beauty, and the resilience of women today and throughout history. But I think as many women do we think about these things a lot everyday, because we are so often having to rely on our inner resources not only to survive but thrive.

Music can empower individuals and it can express so much about struggle and the resolve to rise above it and to become stronger. Throughout history there have been songs that have become symbolic anthems for the women's movement  and many come to mind when I think about women taking to the streets to protest in marches.

 I heard about this beautiful and powerful song "Quiet" that went viral during the Women's March last year on January 21st 2017 and the young woman who wrote it and why.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Darlene Strong - Sand Hill

Darlene Strong

During my formative early years I was raised in Toronto Ontario in a culturally diverse environment. Then my family moved back to Amherst. My unhappy early teen aged years were spent growing up in Amherst. I knew where Sand Hill was, as I lived on what was commonly known as "The Hill", which was the same hill to my knowledge only the residents in my neigbourhood were predominately white.

 The majority of the residents in our neighbourhood were working class folk. Reflecting back on that 15 year old girl that I was in 1969, it was upsetting to me to see how class conscious many people in this small town were and I saw this attitude from some of my own relatives. I tried not to be affected by it, and rebelled against it, in whatever way I could, but this was not easy to do, when it became immediately obvious to me there were distinct prejudices that existed based on race, financial status, what side of the tracks you came from, who your family was, what church you belonged to, and judged accordingly. As a youth I found these prejudices very repugnant and gratefully my older brother of ten years and I were never raised by our parents to think of any one less then ourselves. 

The vivid memories I have of Darlene Strong (Cook) during our high school days, was how beautiful she was. She was very well liked in school. At this time I didn't know her very well, but later on into adulthood, when I'd returned to Amherst, after going away for work and school, I had the great pleasure of getting to know Darlene. I quickly saw how very creative, gifted, talented and intelligent she was. It seemed to me her very cells exuded creativity. I loved spending time with her when ever I had the chance, sharing our thoughts about art, creativity, matters of the spirit, life, relationships, working with youth, our love of music, and our conversations were always augmented with lots of laughter between us.

Darlene's love and empathy for her fellow human being was so genuine and her exuberance and enthusiasm  for life and in particular living a creative life, was and is infectious.

I remember Darlene had come to my house when I was living with my mother. I wanted to show her this amazing Mahalia Jackson album I'd bought for 99 cents from the Amherst Salvation Army store, which then was a little hole in the wall, so many years ago.  Mahalia Jackson was then and still is my favourite Gospel singer. Darlene and I sat on the edge of my bed listening to the songs of the greatest Gospel singer in the world that day, as it played my brother's record player I inherited from him, because he now had one of those big fancy floor console models now.
 I think Darlene and I experienced a little glimpse of Heaven that day, as we listened to Mahalia's songs.

Darlene is not only a writer, she's a wonderfully expressive visual artist and is also so musically talented. She can simply sit down at a piano and begin playing spontaneously, without sheet music, the most beautiful soulful songs. She did just that, when she sat down at my mother's piano the day she came to visit, and it was something I'll never forget as I watched her and listened in amazement.

Her excellent book Sand Hill, she'd generously given to me a number of years back. I'd lent it to a neighbour last year and they'd returned it the other night. I was so glad to have the book back, as I'd forgotten I'd lent it out. Now I had an opportunity to re-read it and I found I've enjoyed it even more than the first time.

If you are from Amherst, you'll take a special interest in this wonderful read, but regardless of where you dwell or where you're from, Sand Hill is an important book to read, have on your bookshelf, and to share with others. Just be sure to get it back! You'll enjoy it even more the second time round!

The Crops - Darlene Strong - 2017

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

I'm Grateful for The Shit Parade

My week started off like this, so I knew I'd have to turn it over and have faith...

Mid-week I was beginning to feel a little like Qrplt*xk the Alien, but kept trusting that this was going to work out...

I finally had an answer to my prayers and gratefully the resolution to my potential turmoil presented itself,  and all seemed right with the world again, for today, because today is all I have.

There are mental health tools that help me in living everyday especially when the shit parade begins. and I feel like I'm on the verge of an anxiety shit attack. These three coping tools all begin with the letter "H". I need to have humility, use my sense of humour, and remember and appreciate my humanity. Now I have another tool to add to the list, that also begins with the letter "H". Hygge.

I have so much to be grateful for today, and everyday.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Arthur Black - Basic Black

In 1990 I wrote one of my favourite, and irreplaceable CBC Radio hosts, Arthur Black, a letter. All I can remember is that Arthur had done this really funny imaginary commentary about P.M. Brian Mulroney running around the Parliament building Ottawa in the buff. It was so funny, I  had to take the time to write Arthur a letter, and share my thoughts about his commentary on Brian Mulroney. I hope my letter gave him a good laugh like his commentary certainly gave me. He sent me this postcard that I treasure. I'm not sure what info Arthur sent me in the mail, but I'm sure it made me smile.

I seldom would ever miss a Basic Black episode. His show made my Saturday mornings.

I don't want to go on about how CBC Radio has changed, but it has and I'll say this. Perhaps it's due to budget cuts,(can you say re-runs ) or the change in demographics, pandering to a younger audience, but those of us who are a certain age, mainly Baby Boomers remember just how good CBC Radio programming was, and how colourful, intelligent, and humourous many of the hosts were who are sadly now gone. Oh their still are a few left, but their few and far between now. In spite of my criticism I'm still a CBC Radio head and don't have a TV. I was weaned on CBC Radio and I think it's part of my DNA and I like it that way.

And so I'm sad to here of another consummate CBC Radio host, Arthur Black has left this mortal coil for that big broadcast beyond, but I have no doubt it will be a great great show, and Arthur will keep rockin' in the free world.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Colum McCann - The Butt in the Chair

It's often been said by those who write that we all have a story to tell. I believe this to be very true. Okay  not all of us have a first book waiting to be written, but story telling is like breathing for human beings. It's the natural order of things, until for whatever reason in whatever way, we've become disconnected from story telling, and that's in itself is a story, perhaps sad one I think.

As a young person I always felt the need and desire to tell stories and write but not understanding why, and I certainly knew nothing about writing well. It was intuitive I think, and gradually morphed into a way to express my feelings, enabling me to comfort myself or work through whatever I was experiencing in my life. Fortunately I improved  with work, time and reading. I don't aspire to be a commercially published writer, I simply want to write and continue to improve. If the day comes to compile a bunch of pages I can call a book, great!

My words written on the page became the tools for me to use for personal growth and gain insight into who I am, who I've been and who I'm becoming. I've continued on with writing, more seriously so over the past twenty years, dedicating myself to the daily discipline of getting my butt in the chair to write.
This might sound odd to some but writing makes me feel more normal, completes me as a person and nurtures my creativity. It's what I feel compelled to do.

I read a number of books about learning how to write. Some of the best have been Writing Down The Bones by Natalie Goldberg, Becoming a Writer by Dorthea Brande, Julia Cameron's The Artist Way and Anne Lamott's Bird By Bird, to name a few. I know there are numerous others to read. For instance Colum McCann's book about writing I've yet to read.

Listening this morning to an interview he gave about his book Letter to a Young Writer really resonated with me, and much of what he says I think can be related to art and life generally. There's no magic formula here, other than making sure you park your butt into a chair and write, that's where the magic lies. Whether it be in the form of a book, a blog, a memoir etc., Colum McCann states, when we have the desire to write and we write, we become a writer.

"It's really a way to say to the young writer that it's about desire, it's about stamina, and it's about perseverance. It's about putting your rear end in the chair and fighting the terror of the blank page." - Colum McCann

Letter to a Young Writer

Do the things that do not compute. Be earnest. Be devoted. Be subversive of ease. Read aloud. Risk yourself. Do not be afraid of sentiment even when others call it sentimentality. Be ready to get ripped to pieces: it happens. Permit yourself anger. Fail. Take pause. Accept the rejections. Be vivified by collapse. Practice resuscitation. Have wonder. Bear your portion of the world. Find a reader you trust. They must trust you back. Be a student, not a teacher, even when you teach. Don’t bullshit yourself. If you believe the good reviews, you must believe the bad. Still, don’t hammer yourself down. Do not allow your heart to harden. Face it, the cynics have better one-liners than we do. Take heart: they can never finish their stories. Enjoy difficulty. Embrace mystery. Find the univer­sal in the local. Put your faith in language—character will follow and plot, too, will eventually emerge. Push yourself further. Do not tread water. It is possible to survive that way, but impossible to write. Never be satisfied. Transcend the personal. Have trust in the staying power of what is good. We get our voice from the voices of others. Read promiscuously. Imitate, copy, become your own voice. Write about that which you want to know. Better still, write toward that which you don’t know. The best work comes from outside yourself. Only then will it reach within. Be bold in the face of the blank sheet. Restore what has been ridiculed by others. Write beyond despair. Make justice from reality. Sing. Make vision from the dark. The con­sidered grief is so much better than the unconsid­ered. Be suspicious of that which gives you too much consolation. Hope and belief and faith will fail you often, but so what? Share your rage. Resist. Denounce. Have stamina. Have courage. Have per­severance. The quiet lines matter as much as those that make noise. Trust your blue pencil, but don’t forget the red one. Make the essential count. Allow your fear. Give yourself permission. You have some­thing to write about. Just because it’s narrow doesn’t mean it’s not universal. Don’t be didactic—nothing kills life quite so much as explanation. Make an argument for the imagined. Begin with doubt. Be an explorer, not a tourist. Go somewhere nobody else has gone. Fight for repair. Believe in detail. Unique your language. A story begins long before its first word. It ends long after its last. Make the ordinary sublime. Don’t panic. Reveal a truth that isn’t yet there. At the same time, enter­tain. Satisfy the appetite for seriousness and joy. Dilate your nostrils. Fill your lungs with language. A lot can be taken from you—even your life—but not your stories about that life. So this, then, is a word, not without love and respect, to a young writer: write.
Dear Readers, The full Letters to A Young Writer by Colum McCann will be published by Random House on April 4, 2017. Keep a lookout for it in your local bookstore!