Cabin Stories 2020: the lake

March 31, Hamilton, Ontario

As I drive through the rain from there to here I see rainbow auras over everything – trees, fields, barns, mailboxes, road. It’s good to be out, to be in that odd state of stillness and movement that is distance driving. The trip north does its work – gets me out of the loop of statistics and analyses – death curves, stock market dives, lists of and check-ins with people I love, scrabble with strangers who can’t sleep, either.

I’m glad I have a chainsaw, though using it exhausts me. I have named her Catharsis.

Glad I have a woodstove too, that the cabin is small enough to heat in a moment, that there’s hardly any wifi there to speak of.

In the new day there I am content to go down and open up the bothy (without touching anything but the door handle, which I clean) for family to use when they come, in ones and twos. I sit on a rock and throw other rocks back into the lake that pushed them onto the deck, into the firepit, over the stone steps down. One rock at a time, each of them different.

This one, I keep.

I’m not the same size or shape as the woman who lived in the cabin for six months, twenty months ago, and I feel the truth of this through my evening read. My work, that shifts and changes as the world does, calls me to shift and change with it, though I don’t yet know what shape it will take. So many of us, in this place of not yet knowing.

I sleep two nights in the lullaby of waves on shore and spring warblers, then leave through the morning thunderstorm. The deep healing balm of fire and ice and water and air and rock. The friendship of trees who know me well. These I bring away with me. I leave nuts for the critters.

Hamilton now, in another wet morning.

A radical re-write my Canada Council grant before the deadline next week. Studio work, albeit at a snail’s pace as I adjust to the tectonic shifts. Cards drawn and mailed to those I love, and those loved by others who have requested I write. Furniture shifted around to make this lovely rented place more work savvy.

In week three of self-isolation I’ve connected with people I know and love from each of my 5.5 decades of life – SUCH a joy. Our lives have shrunk to just US in our spaces, together while apart. It strikes me that we are all suddenly in the business of attending to what home is, and who we are, in it. And who we are not. It’s a rather tough lesson in trust. Faith, too.

Must be hell on the narcissists.

The Stories come seeking

Stories that want to be told come in through the eastern window in the morning, or sometimes down onto the roof with the rain.

There’s a beautiful one that follows me everywhere I go now, about the water that washes the eastern shore on Georgian Bay and how that is like, and also not like the ocean that kisses and smashes and chortles the eastern shores of the Shetland Islands. This story is long like a river that runs deep then dives deeper, to run beneath the desert.

There’s another about trumpeter Swans who were many, then few, then gone for a hundred years, hunted into oblivion by europeans. Now the imprint of those wild ones on the land teaches the new, tame ones how to be who they are. The tame ones teach the humans to be …better.

There are the stories a Mother Tree whispers to me – the one that once grew right here, the beating heart of the great breathing forest that lived – lives! she says – along the flanks of Lake Ontario, sheltered by the arms of the limestone escarpment.

They come in the window and through the roof with pictures and sounds to show me. Listen. Can you hear this? Can you see how this is, how it connects with that? Look at this marvel! Listen.

And so I get to work, and write. Draw containments for these, paint them, sing them, play them.

I’ve just sent two applications in to Banff Centre for the Arts for month long residencies this year, timed after my commission work has been completed and distributed with love.

What I’ll build at the Banff residency is a visual language that matches the stories that come in, asking to be told. I’ll work with colour, water, gravity, resist, paper and time. The musical language will develop too – downstairs in the room I’ve made for it, in car rides between here and my cabin, and on the road between here and Banff this summer and early fall.

That Banff Centre will of course choose to invite me or not; I’ll know by May. If not Banff, then from a back yard studio in Vernon, or a cabin on Lake Superior. From the blue artist’s studio at the edge of the ocean in the Shetland Islands. Either way, the stories will be told, and I will find a visual and musical language for them. This is the road I’ve chosen.

I will need help. I can’t tell the stories the way they’re asking to be told, without readers, without input, without research and connection, without funding assistance. Without performance venues, walls to hang the work on, other artists to work with and pay with respect, audiences to sing the music with. Without a family of collaborators.

Become a Patron

This is a link to my Patreon site, where you’ll find some options for collaboration with me and these stories. Benefits, too, as sincere tokens of my appreciation and love. If you join me as a patron, I will take you with me on the road, into the studio, the residencies, the water, the forests. Your story will mingle and connect with these ones, and you will be included in the books, songs and paintings that will be made. You will have my rich and enduring gratitude and love.

Most of the content on this website will continue to be free. I’ve been writing here for ten years and many life changes, and I love the connection it provides. Please consider, though, that this space takes great time and effort to build, develop, evolve, enrich. If you feel inclined to support this, even for the cost of a good coffee every month, the space and the work I do will only get better.

I am and will continue to be eternally grateful for your collaboration and support. Nothing in this world happens in isolation; we’re all in this together.

In the days after Valentine’s

I feel something soft about the morning. I can see it in the pastel sky, hear it in the slow wash of tires on the wet street below. Sunday. Two crows barking.


A wave of consumer propulsion towards all things pink, red and heart-shaped began last week and crested on Thursday and Friday when even the grocery store designated one person to wrap the flowers held by a long line of men. Some of them still in reflector suits from road work, some in steel toe or galoshes, others bearded and toqued or in natty winter coats, all of them jovial, joking amongst themselves, glowing. They carried their bouquets gently in that line, respectfully.

It was a wonder, all that masculine flower action in East End Hamilton.


I bought a vase full of brilliant yellow roses and spikes of eucalyptus, in celebration of the line of smiling men, in celebration of all of us. Picket line teachers, impatient Ford 150 drivers, control freak Tim Horton’s managers and people who throw emotion around like bullets from an AK47: all of us. And me too, tucked away in my echo chamber studio, deliberately making mistake after mistake and learning from every one of them. Some of the mistakes I’m making are quite stunningly beautiful, which is a lesson in itself.

My world expands and not all is comfortable; I celebrate the gifts of that.


Has our idea of love shifted I wonder. From the hard angles of claiming and owning and obedience to something softer and simpler: you are beautiful and valuable, to me. You. In the midst of all this impossibility and stress and pressure, the mess and the fear and the rage, I can stop and hold a long moment for this deep deep truth. I can put it in these flowers I bought and stood in line with to have wrapped, for you.


I think of all the loves of my life so far – HA! in some ways much like my time in the studio now.  Some not at all comfortable, all insistent that I learn and stretch beyond what I can imagine. All gifts – to feel my my heart open wide, and also to feel it close again, calloused so I can heal. Through all of this it grows and beats and connects with living breathing beings; I am okay, I always have been, and will always be.


The yellow roses light up my living room. I’ll use the vase to put others in when I need to hold a long deep moment and remind myself of the long, enduring song of Love.

My Love for Us. All of us. Which is the same huge, eternal, glorious, simple thing as my Love from myself to me.