Late summer wine.

Tomorrow Brendan heads back to Edmonton where he will teach math at the University of Alberta;  and the day after that, John and I will go up to the Nicola Valley with Forrest and Manon for a few days before they fly back to Ottawa and their jobs with the Canadian Heraldic Authority. They’d all come out to the coast to join my family near Tofino to send my parents off in a grand way. Cristen and Angelica came up from Victoria for the occasion and it was great to have us all in one house, eating well and telling jokes, walking together…

Tonight John brought out a bottle of Desert Hills Mirage 2006 to drink with dinner. What a wonderful wine! Plums and other dark fruit, chocolate, deep colour – we swirled our glasses and drank deeply, exclaiming that it might even be the best wine we’d ever had. Ideal with lamb or beef, I thought, though we were drinking it with barbequed pork rubbed with garlic and ancho chillies, which actually matched the wine quite well. We love the Desert Hills Gamay and generally have some bottles on hand but this Mirage is extraordinary. We intend to visit the winery in late September and hope to buy a case or two of excellent reds to see us through the winter.

As I write, the others are crowded around a small fire by the garden, sipping brandy and roasting marshmallows for s’mores. The older we get, the more seductive the flavours of childhood, and I hope also the location where childhood happened: these 8 ½ acres with familiar trees, beloved corners (a dry bluff overlooking the orchard, the upper deck with shady reading areas by the grape vines), the predictable hills to the west where the sun sets in a last bloom of red and orange.

Here is where we said goodbye.

Here is where we said goodbye.


One of those grand family gatherings, two of my brothers (the third brother fell and smashed his knee to bits the night before he was to leave home to meet us) and their extended families, our children and their partners. A picnic on a long west coast beach, then small groups taking a bucket of our parents’ remains to the edge of the sea to say their private farewells.

There was time for hikes to the more remote beaches, including this one where our children met the waves and saw a whale not far off-shore.


And this one where an emaciated sea lion was waiting for its own death on the sand.

Consider the lilies

Every year I plant a few lilies to supplement what I already have growing in pots on the decks. Sometimes I buy an unnamed assortment package and then watch an unexpected exuberance of red or orange or yellow as the buds open on warm summer mornings. My favourite lilies are “Casablanca”, a pure white Oriental, with a beautiful fragrance. I thought that was what I’d planted in the southwest corner of the deck where we eat our dinner most evenings. There are sweet peas growing along the rails and I knew the white lilies would look very lovely against the tangle of green vines and rich red and purple sweet peas. Oh, and I anticipated the smell of the lilies as we ate at the table under the wisteria and grapes, a blue bowl of sweet peas on the French cloth.

Well, what a surprise to discover that the Casablancas are something else: sturdy white flowers, still smelling like the winds of heaven, but doubles. And some of them are pale pink, like apple blossom. Obviously I didn’t look carefully at what I was buying in early spring or else there was a mistake in the packaging. I’m not complaining. That corner of the deck is lovely and I do like surprises. I’m re-reading Mrs. Dalloway and came to this passage with a kind of delighted recognition: “…all the sweet peas spreading in their bowls, tinged violet, snow white, pale – as if it were the evening and girls in muslin frocks came out to pick sweet peas and roses after the superb summer’s day, with its almost blue-black sky, its delphiniums, its carnations, its arum lilies was over; and it was the moment between six and seven when every flower – roses, carnations, irises, lilac – glows; white, violet, red, deep orange; every flower seems to burn by itself…” I’ll remember this when we have dinner this evening, the gift of double white lilies against the dark trees.