the season is late

by the door

I don’t keep really careful or accurate weather records but I do remember that the earliest I’ve seen salmonberry blossoms is February 6. (That was in 2005.) I’ve been watching for them this year but haven’t yet seen a single one. I’ve just come in from a little walk around the trees and garden and it looks like winter. There was even a tiny bit of ice on the bathtub pool where the tree frogs lay their eggs. On Saturday I was digging in the vegetable garden and I heard a tree frog chirping somewhere nearby. It’s too early, I told it. Stay hidden. The snow is still low on the mountain.

But on Saturday when I forked over the compost, there were nests of worms quite close to the surface:


Last week’s full moon is sometimes called the Full Worm Moon and when I was digging the beds I call Wave and Long Eye, the fork unearthed huge worms, doing their work in the cold soil.  So the season is late but there are signs of spring. The 50 daffodils I planted with my granddaughter in November are all up and looking happy in their nests of moss. The fennel is green and feathery. Garlic looks strong. A couple of tiny plants of corn salad. Even a small digging of last year’s red potatoes in Long Eye (and those volunteers to begin with). One morning we’ll wake and the sun will be climbing in a blue sky and we’ll know that the season has truly turned. I found this little chart to show how there is less energy coming from the sun in the form of electromagnetic radiation impinging on the land during winter.


Like rivers? Or tides?

But I also like winter for the time inside, for writing (I completed two long essays during the dark season and am moving towards finishing a novella that has been patiently waiting for attention). The stacks of books at the top of the stairs, waiting to be shelved (oh, such optimism), the nearly-completed indigo quilt, tell me I’ve spent the hours productively.

And good things have happened. Are happening. A new grandchild begun, a trip to Ukraine in September dreamed about and in the planning stages. A box of Courtepointes opened in great excitement (and followed by a terrific review in Le Devoir). A wonderful and generous review of Euclid’s Orchard in the Ormsby Review (the online review section of B.C. BookWorld):

This morning our young cat Winter jumped onto my stomach before 6:30, encouraged by the light to ask for his breakfast. So he knows something is in the air. It might be time to check on the salmonberries again. Just in case.

long eye




Courtepointe, on Mona’s counter


Very excited to receive this photograph of the French translation of PatrinCourtepointe—newly arrived in my (English-language) publisher Mona Fertig’s kitchen! The whole experience, from the interest shown by Mélanie Vincelette at Marchand de Feuilles, to a wonderful photography session with Alexandra Bolduc, has been lovely. I look forward to reading my novella in Annie Pronovost’s translation! And of course we toasted this new book just now but I wish we’d had some of the Czech wine Patrin (and her creator) love: Veltlínské Zelené.

“the house hidden in dense fog”


The fog that hangs in the air these December days seems fitting, somehow. Everything is muted and quiet. And how beautiful to see a light in a window, a candle. Our fall was filled with unexpected events, changes. A small medical procedure for John gone rogue and that led to a surgery a month later. Which meant cancelling our plans to fly to Ottawa for a week. He’s feeling much better though and stronger every day so on Wednesday we went to Vancouver to see the Arts Club production of Onegin. It was truly wonderful, transporting in the way that good theatre can be. We saw a matinee and afterwards planned to have dinner at our hotel, also on Granville Island. Wandering back from a shopping expedition to buy indigo at Maiwa, I passed the Liberty Distillery and looked in its windows to see a lovely room lit by small fairy lights. I brought John back so we could have a cocktail in that room with its long antique bar. We are not much for cocktails. We like wine, beer when the moment is right, a dram of good single-malt sometimes, but cocktails, gin particularly, have always struck me as mother’s ruin. The delicious taste of botanicals can seduce one (me, anyway) into thinking I’m drinking something harmless, benign! But I had a gorgeous concoction of pink gin flavoured with rose-petals and rosehips and John had something with vodka, I think, well-fortified with ginger. I was offered a choice of tonics and I asked for the regular one, not wanting anything to detract from the rose-petals and hips; but what would the elderflower tonic have tasted like? We’ll have to return to Liberty Distillery to find out.

I spent the next morning with a young photographer, Alexandra Bolduc. The Montreal publisher bringing out a French language edition of Patrin in 2018 wanted a current photograph of me for the press’s website. (This is Marchand de Feuilles.) And somehow the fog, the bare trees, the glimpses of water seemed right for my book and its atmospheres.

This morning it’s still foggy and somehow a little sombre. Like so many other people I know, I’m finding the current political climate, the global one made loud and ugly by that vulgar and dangerous president to the south, anyway, I’m finding it troubling beyond words. I’ve been sending letters to our Provincial Government, asking them to suspend work on the Site C Dam on the Peace River. I dream of flattened landscapes, of fire, of violence. And yet Christmas approaches. Ours will be quiet. Angelica is coming for a few days and I think I will roast a duck this year for the three of us. (Turkey is great when you want lots of leftovers but do we?) I made gingerbread boys* to include in the parcels that have already been mailed to Edmonton and Ottawa. I am thinking about fruitcake, the white chocolate one I make with tawny fruits and rum. There are a couple of parties in the next week and it will be good to hear the old songs, eat some festive food. I brought a bottle of Liberty Distillery gin home with me and who knows, maybe one of those cocktails will occasionally replace the customary glass of wine by the fire before it’s time to cook dinner.

And in the meantime, I’ve begun quilting the big length of rough linen dyed in October. I didn’t even wonder about what to do with it, simply begin stitching a spiral. It’s a way of thinking for me, thinking with my hands, finding a way to make sense of things. Holding the weight of a quilt-in-process on my lap, finding the best way to hold its layers together for warmth and beauty, the house hidden in dense fog, its lights glowing.

*I have tried for gender diversity with the gingerbread shapes. I bought a girl cutter, for instance, but somehow the dough doesn’t like to be cut with that one. I can’t get the dough to let go of the metal. An angel? Same thing. So boys it is, with Smartie buttons and dragée eyes. And also coyotes howling at the moon, fish, stars, lobsters (though those shapes are also difficult to use), pigs, trees, stars…