|Dahlias, Lennard Island Lightstation, October 2018. Truth & Beauty...|
|Seamus Woodward-George explains a finer point of physics to mystified parents|
|Molly Brown, sea-dog and CEO of Lennard Island Lightstation|
|Jeff George, photographer and principal lightkeeper documenting the Big Storm of 2018 which tossed logs onto our helipad|
|A wonderful collaboration with artist Carol Evans resulted in this book, published by the great folks at Harbour Publishing, September 2018|
|Carol Evans and I, aka long-lost sisters, enjoy morning coffee in Salt Spring Island mugs! Photo by the good-natured Bryn King, book tour driver, feedback provider, all-round roadie, computer whiz and paparazzi!|
When your doctor beams at you before saying a word and you know she is relieved not to be the bearer of bad news. And that my world will not be turned upside down. Some day it will be but today will not be that day. I feel every healthy cell instantly flooded with some internal bath of sweet relief. My always reliable blood pressure is even better than usual. More kudos, more mutual smiles. I float down the clinic hallway and rejoin the colour and noise and glowing lights of the world outside, stepping lightly off a low-lying cloud, a suspended fogbound world of my most dire imaginings.
Gratitude, a word derived from the French, first used in written English in the 15th century, meaning thankfulness and a warm sense of appreciation for kindness received and a desire to do something in return. OED
I am also proud, happy and grateful for perseverance all around when our child, who is no longer a boy but a grown man and a genuinely good soul, flies to a Norwegian island near the Arctic Circle for a physics course. It’s an eight day blitz but Map Boy aka Mister 3-D is flying with this rare opportunity. He’s like us and loves to travel. Unlike his math-challenged parents, he is also keen on robots which he designs with a team of brilliant students at the University of Saskatchewan and this year as well, they will be making a small satellite to fulfill a Canada Space Agency contract, one of five awarded to Canadian universities. If you’d asked me twenty years ago what this little boy might create, might become, I cannot imagine what I’d have said. A carpenter or a chef maybe? Even before he went to kindergarten, he loved making things, from stirring big batches of muffins with me to inventing elaborate castles and moats with sand and water with his dad. Entirely on his own, he enjoyed making series of vertical tunnels using empty toilet paper rolls which he’d tape to my office door. Then he’d climb up on a chair and send a ping pong ball accurately zig-zagging from the top to the bottom of the door through all his ‘tunnels’ and out onto the carpet. He was three and a half years old then, I think. But I would have hoped he’d still be a good person most of all, no matter what, a good and kind person, and despite the usual, and more than usual, life challenges he’s faced. So I have intense gratitude for all our patience and perseverance and what Buddhists call metha or loving kindness as both parents and child problem-solved and supported each other in our best efforts. My gratitude also goes out to the teachers who understood and whose helpful awareness and professional skills made all the difference.
Our thoughtful son gave me a Tim Horton’s card with a $25 credit at the start of a book tour in 2010. I still had a car then and drove hundred of kilometres to the Kootenays and the Shuswap/Okanagan, Vancouver, Victoria and Vancouver Island giving public readings and signing my books in bookstores. I had not had a trade book published since 1993 and this was the re-start of my stalled writing career with a novel I’d laboured over for the better part of twelve years in-between motherhood, renovating a circa 1900 building, opening and operating The Motherlode with my husband, a village book and toy store, busily serving on local and provincial boards and councils, teaching creative writing classes and workshops, and singing in a wonderful choir. I loved all the things I was learning and working with all sorts of bright and talented people but I despaired of ever having enough time and focus to complete the novel satisfactorily.
On tour, I live on coffee and water and apples and almonds in my car, in-between actual meals once I reach my destination. I still have that Timmy’s card my son gave me and before every book tour I make sure I have it with me, topped up and ready to pay for my large double/singles to go. Other book tour rituals pertain as well. I am grateful for the cheerful nature, lively conversation and amazing hair styling skills of Jessica Taylor at Salty Dolls in Tofino who transforms my shaggy mop into a chic hairdo before I head out to meet the public, feeling much more well-groomed and therefore, perky! I used to buy new shoes whenever I published a new book but I’ve let that ritual celebration go by the wayside. My thriftier self advises me to wait until I actually earn royalties worth spending on nifty boots or red shoes. If I ever win a real prize (nine nominations and no joy yet but who’s counting?) I’ll buy extravagant flannelette sheets AND fabulous boots and shoes, guilt-free.
But here’s the wonderful part of getting a book published after years of rewriting and coming up with fictional characters and plots and all the rest of it: meeting old friends and new readers who come out to wish me well. Some of them bring flowers or home-grown tomatoes or home-made preserves. My favourite people in this world all have that twinkle, that sense of fun and Jessica possesses that twinkle. She plays banjo, sings harmony and writes songs for her bluegrass band, Little Saturday, among other adventures in music and travel.
It may sound odd, but it won’t to many readers who work at building all kinds of things, from organizations to buildings to books, but when a project is completed, nobody is more relieved and grateful than the builder. We feel we have earned hard-won integrity in our own eyes at last by actually finishing the project (our close relatives and those patient souls who share a life with us are mightily relieved as well) and we may even allow ourselves a rest after completing this complex and challenging task. But no, rest comes later because we have to hit the road to promote the project in the case of a book or keep scheduling meetings and including bright minds and energetic do-ers, if we are building an organization to improve lives in our communities like my good friend, writer Rita Moir does with her group, building beautiful homes for seniors in rural British Columbia.
The other wonderful thing that happens when a book goes out into the world is hearing from readers, those lovely people who send me emails thanks to finding me on Facebook or finding my website, designed by Doug Cook, web wizard at Digicom. I am a reader first, a writer second and I have written less than five letters to authors to say what I liked about their books and how they were important to me in some way. Every single author responded warmly as do I when I receive a personal letter. This is not to say there aren’t the usual trolls and poison pens out there but they are immature cowards who rely on anonymity or some form of protective camouflage to spew their toxic envy. As another friend says, if the haters are out to get you, you must be doing something right. So I’m grateful to have a few of those sad sacks waddling around as well to remind me of that fact!
Finally, since this is a Thanksgiving-inspired blog, I am thankful for my family, far away in Australia, Europe and the UK, and our son on Andoya, an island near the Arctic Circle in Norway and especially my husband, and our dog. Mustn’t forget the dog, who adores us on a daily basis, … and anyone else who arrives on our island as well, let’s be honest! My 93 year old mother is, thanks largely to my sister’s ongoing work, settled in a beautiful assisted living home now after a fairly hectic move but the outcome was worth all the bother and hard labour. I am also blessed with friends from all over the world and the only way to keep them is to communicate so I am grateful, hugely grateful, for the internet which allows me to stay in touch with them and to work with editors and send out my book reviews to BC Bookworld and articles to Harrowsmith and other publications. This was truly the deal-breaker for a modern lighthouse keeper and thanks to my clever and persistent husband, we have installed a satellite dish on this green rock in the North Pacific which allows me to work, to share what I think and hope and dream in print.