on a soft morning in July

Last night, as we were having a glass of wine on our deck, before dinner, Forrest called from Ottawa. The baby due in two weeks had decided to arrive a little early. So the evening calm became sharp with excitement. And a couple of hours later, Edmond Richard Labelle Pass was born.

new Edmond

He has his father’s (and brother’s) gingery hair. (Anyone who knows Forrest will recognize those eyebrows!) His mother is dark-haired, hazel-eyed.  Having something of that colouring myself, and having one dark-haired child, one ginger-haired, and one blond, two with blue eyes and one with brown, I know that genetics can lead us on twisting paths as we try to determine a child’s legacy. But Edmond has wonderful parents whatever their hair and eye colour. He will go home to a blue house on a quiet street, a joyful brother, a backyard with a leafy grapevine and a red canoe. He has French-speaking relatives and English-speaking ones. Far back he has an Algonquin family and he has tendril-y roots in Yorkshire and in two small villages in Central Europe.

We won’t meet him until later this summer but we will arrive bearing gifts. Already a poem is being considered for a birth announcement to be printed on our old Chandler and Price platen press. And in the meantime, some words from Louis Macneice for sweet Edmond, on a soft morning in July:

                   . . .provide me
With water to dandle me, grass to grow for me, trees to talk
to me, sky to sing to me, birds and a white light
in the back of my mind to guide me.

“The room was suddenly rich…”

rose hips

By my bedroom window this morning, the bright memory of summer roses, the R. canina, soft pink, faintly but sweetly scented. And looking out, I could imagine the roses on those early summer mornings, bees already at work in the pollen. It’s cold here and so soon dark——it’s 4:07 as I type and the sun is setting, fiery as gutted sockeye salmon—  but the roses will be blooming before we know it. This poem, “Snow” by Louis MacNeice, has always held the winter’s paradox in its beautiful lines.

The room was suddenly rich and the great bay-window was
Spawning snow and pink roses against it
Soundlessly collateral and incompatible:
World is suddener than we fancy it.

World is crazier and more of it than we think,
Incorrigibly plural. I peel and portion
A tangerine and spit the pips and feel
The drunkenness of things being various.

And the fire flames with a bubbling sound for world
Is more spiteful and gay than one supposes –
On the tongue on the eyes on the ears in the palms of one’s hands –
There is more than glass between the snow and the huge roses.

Sunlight in the Garden

I’ve just come in from feeding the chickadees (and hearing the elk herd crash into the woods, alas) and I was so thrilled to see sunlight on the new garden area. We’re going out to make the final box in an hour or so, once it warms up, but seeing actual sunlight was like a premonition of spring, a harbinger…

cedar board

looking northeast

And I was reminded of this beautiful poem, “The Sunlight on the Garden”, by Louis MacNeice. Read it aloud — you’ll hear its extraordinary cadence, its hidden rhymes and chimes.

The sunlight on the garden

Hardens and grows cold,

We cannot cage the minute

Within its nets of gold,

When all is told

We cannot beg for pardon.


Our freedom as free lances

Advances towards its end;

The earth compels, upon it

Sonnets and birds descend;

And soon, my friend,

We shall have no time for dances.


The sky was good for flying

Defying the church bells

And every evil iron

Siren and what it tells:

The earth compels,

We are dying, Egypt, dying


And not expecting pardon,

Hardened in heart anew,

But glad to have sat under

Thunder and rain with you,

And grateful too

For sunlight on the garden.