Write in Community

Want to Write? Need Inspiration?  Join a weekly creative writing group!

Maybe you want to write, but are not sure how to start. Or perhaps you’ve been writing, but want to deepen the experience and explore new techniques. Join a casual weekly writing group in Albert County and experience the inspiration of writing in community with others.

We are meeting on Tuesdays, from 6:00-8:00 PM at the W. H. Steeves House Museum, 40 Mill Street, Hillsborough, NB.  Newcomers welcome. Cost: $10/session. Bring a pen/paper.

Email info@natureofwords.com for additional information.

Categories: All Workshop & Book Events, writing | Leave a comment

On leaving

A number of people in my life are experiencing profound life-changes.  A few have lost people they love; some without warning, while others bear witness to the slow agonizing process of letting go.

Some have left places — and pieces of their heart — behind.

Still others have lost jobs or ended relationships or felt family units scatter.  Some have watched plans or dreams or health disintegrate.

A few have been tossed in the eye of the storm.

All involve loss of control.  Letting go of the familiar and safe — our solid, known ground — and leaping a chasm, hoping to find something to cling to on the other side.

Then scrambling for a new grip. A new acceptance and shape…a way of standing alone or being in the company of others. None of it is easy.

Months ago, when I was leaping this chasm myself, a friend who knows something about finding peace in the leaving sent me this poem inspired by the gentle teaching of a hummingbird.

I’d like to share her graceful words with you. In particular, they are for all those who are navigating the leaving…in one way or another.

 

I like to watch leaving
leave with gladness
as it so often does

on the slender-sloped back of the broadtail,


 

glistening with suddenly
at the edge of goodbye.

 

 

There aren’t many things here we can hold on to
because the truth of it is
everything was made for leaving.  But…


 

we can close our eyes like a net
around what we love

and we can remember.

© 2011 L. A. Krueger.  All rights reserved.
(used with permission)

 

Categories: change, courage, memories | Tags: , , , , | 9 Comments

The Shorebirds of Mary’s Point

Excerpt from Sanctuary: The Story of Naturalist Mary Majka by Deborah Carr


The tide is on its ebb flow.

At water’s edge, a woman lies on her back, arms outstretched, palms skyward, feet pointed to the sea. Mud pillows her head and shoulders as the water swirls around her, lifting strands of her hair, tickling the shadowed crannies of her ears. Sunlight warms her tanned and lined face, gravity smoothing its creases. Her body wavers with the rhythm of the tide, arms and legs briefly buoyant. Suspended between the elements, she is a creature of both, carrying the solidity of land and the fluidity of sea.

She is in and of the world, in communion with the bay, imagining cones of light penetrating her skin, reflecting as rays filter through water. She feels the familiar cadence of the tide as if it had been there all along, rocking in her soul. From birth, she’d always found comfort in water.

 

 

She has been shaped by many places, but she belongs here at Mary’s Point. There are those who assume the point was named after her, and this pleases her, but the scythe-shaped hook of land jutting into the Bay of Fundy was named for a different Mary: an Acadian Mi’kmaq outcast who bridged cultures and danced to her own music. A woman who, long ago, found sanctuary at Mary’s Point and then death on the Fundy tides.

 

As the tide pulls back from the shore, the woman is left behind, like a piece of driftwood. The breeze cools her skin, drying the warm, briny water to a fine residue. She lies motionless, eyes closed, giving herself to sensation and sound.

Presently, her hearing sharpens, perceiving murmurs of life. Exposed mud crackles as millions of minute mud shrimp the size of a fingernail clipping emerge from flooded burrows to feed on algae left behind by the retreating tide. She feels the subtle movement of their activity beneath her resting fingertips.

She lies quiet . . . waiting, anticipating. Within moments, sound rolls over her like a wave and she is surrounded.

Tens of thousands of migratory sandpipers and plovers flood the glistening flats, long beaks bobbing up and down, collecting the tiny shrimp. The large flocks had been resting on the sand and pebbled beach throughout high tide, waiting. Their gentle peeps and the patter of so many tri-pronged feet slapping the silt swells to a crescendo. She slowly turns her face sideways, opening her eyes to watch.

Everything in the world suddenly funnels down into the perfection and intensity of this moment. There is only the woman, the mud, the tide; the tiny shrimp beneath her fingertips, the sandpipers close enough to touch. Tears form at the outer corners of her eyes and overflow, rolling past her ears, down the curve of her neck, to drop onto the mud, mingling with the salty puddles left behind by the tide.

© copyright 2010 Deborah Carr (excerpt from Sanctuary: The Story of Naturalist Mary Majka)

 

It’s the shorebird migration on the Bay of Fundy.

Come watch.

Categories: Bay of Fundy, birds, books, connection to place, nature, ordinary miracles, Sanctuary, writing | Tags: , , , | 7 Comments

You can’t change your feet

When I was little, I loved to balance on the hump in the back of the car (before seat belt laws and child-seats), lean over the seat between my parents, and biff out songs at the top of my skinny voice, imagining myself on the radio someday.

Unfortunately, my pitch was as wobbly as a dug-out on the open sea. But I didn’t know that. So I kept singing.

I joined the choir in church. I even sang with a trio (shudder).  I can only imagine my parents, cringing and enduring the sympathetic, indulgent smiles sliding across the pews as blithely, I warbled on.

I was 12 when I realized my dreams of stardom would be an elusive thing and regretfully donned shin-high white plastic boots to become a go-go dancer for the neighbourhood garage band (cardboard gee-tars, box drums, sandpaper blocks and a cowbell). I’m not sure I did any better with the dance thing. Later I stumbled through a few dance lessons, before my clumsy feet mortified me into quitting.

A friend of mine is a professional ballet instructor and she tells me that there are many talented ballerinas; dancers who give themselves entirely to this disciplined life, but if they do not have the right feet and body type, they will never quite make it to the top.

You can’t change your feet, no matter how hard you try. (Believe me, if I could have, I would have.  My feet and I have not enjoyed a loving relationship. They were infamous in high school. Ask my friends.)

I see so many people in single-minded pursuit of a dream; and some of them always battling some obstacle or roadblock. Sometimes I watch other elements of their life dwindle away because of their commitment to This Dream. It causes me to think about the nature of the dreams we carry with us.

I’ve never been a really big dreamer, but have had many small dreams through my life…skills or talents or achievements or material things I longed for with all of my heart, but that no amount of wishing or learning or working or manipulating would bring to reality. Perhaps I gave up too easily, but often these pursuits were heartbreaking, discouraging, demoralizing, and I carried those failures forward with me.

I wonder if dreams are meant to be so heavy.

“The passionate pursuit of dreams sets your soul soaring; expectations that measure the dream’s success tie stones around your soul.” Sarah Ban Breathnach

I’m not saying that dreams are not worth fighting for — certainly the purpose of a dream is to pull us beyond our boundaries — but maybe it’s worth examining why This Dream is so damn important. I think sometimes you have to pick that old heavy rock of a Dream up, turn it over and look beneath to see what is really there. Is it money, recognition, status, power, ambition, security, envy?

Or is it someone else’s Dream?

Maybe it’s not even your own feet that want to dance. Or your voice that wants to sing.  Maybe you just want to be seen or heard. Maybe – just maybe – it’s the shape of the Dream that is all wrong.

I was sitting on the sofa one evening, watching one of those musical performances that brings an ache to every cell in your body. My old feelings of  singing-envy rose to the surface. “Why couldn’t I have a voice like that?’ I whispered as the soloist finished, tears brimming my eyes.

My husband turned to me and, in one of those inspired moments when he found exactly the right words, he said,  “You do,” he said, “but your voice is on the page.”

At times such as this, my love for him becomes too big for words.

I think that sometimes you just have to be brutally honest with yourself and admit…This Dream – as lovely as it is – is simply not what I was made for.

I think most of us have laboured for such a Dream and spent so much energy trying to achieve it, swimming against the current that is our own internal rhythm and rhyme, determined to succeed, when hidden beneath that Dream is a need no achievement or acquisition or success can ever fill.

And that in this Dream’s dismantling — in its shadow — we may find the path to an incredible destiny that has lain dormant and wasted. A destiny that we are perfectly suited for,  with all our inherent and learned talents and abilities, just waiting to be realized and recognized.

I cannot change my feet – or my voice – but I can choose how I use them to dream.

 

“It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living,
part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone.”

~ Eph 1:11-12 The Message

Categories: courage, dreams, faith, hope, Matters of the Heart, writing | 18 Comments

Raspberry Claflouti

Must confess, I’ve become quite addicted to raspberries this season. It’s been the best summer for them, with so much sunshine and heat.

Like Forrest Gump’s shrimp pal, Bubba, I’ve been making raspberry spinach salad, raspberry smoothies, raspberry yogurt, raspberry vinaigrette, raspberry crisp, flambéed raspberries (with rum) over ice cream, and raspberry sour cream pie (I’ve made two!).

And then, of course, raspberries (and blueberries from my own property) have graced my cereal….

I’ve even started a Rumtopf for next Christmas.

But for now, I’ve discovered what must be the perfect boost to my day: Raspberry Claflouti.

Perhaps not typically thought of as the breakfast food of champions, it does have all the key ingredients: fruit, milk, eggs. And it’s a snap to make.  What’s not to like?

Spread 3 cups of fresh berries in a quiche pan, then in a separate bowl, whisked 3 large farm fresh eggs with 3 tablespoons melted butter, some lemon zest and 1/4 cup of milk (I used plain yogurt) until well blended.

Then I blended in 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, 1/4 cup sugar and a wee pit of salt until smooth and poured over the berries. You don’t even need to make crust, just butter the pan well first.

Bake 350° until set (about 30 minutes). Dust with icing sugar, if desired, then enjoy. Couldn’t be easier.

Sweet and talented Gina over at 513eats.com (who does a far better job than me with ‘food styling’) sent me a recipe for a Celebratory Clafouti, which would be decadent for dessert, as it uses whipped cream instead of milk and ground almonds instead of flour.  Thanks Gina.

Do you have a favourite raspberry recipe?

Categories: favourite foods, Healthy Lifestyle, summer | Tags: , | 7 Comments

Raspberry pickin’

One of my favourite summertime activities is a visit to Harper’s U-Pick in Hillsborough, NB when the raspberries are ripe.

It’s not far from my home, so after my morning coffee, I may head down for a few bowls of berries before the sun rises too high.  The difficult part is to only pick enough for a few days of eating…so I can come back again later for more.

The land, a long gently sloping strip that floats out on the marshes towards the Petitcodiac River belonged to Gerry Harper’s grandfather, who ran a market garden.  “I used to spend summers out here when I was a boy,” Gerry told me.  He loves this land, the flow of it, the feel of the earth in his hands, the way it dances after dark.

“If you walk out here at night,” he says, “the marsh is alive with fireflies.”

He enjoys experimenting with different kinds of fruit…gooseberries, elderberries, black currents, more raspberry varieties. As we walked between the test rows in the lower field, we talked about irrigation and drainage, insect control, pruning, the hard work of raspberry farming that culminates in these few short weeks out of the year.

I decided it has to be love that drives a farmer.

The family restored a comfortable old country store dating from the days of wooden sailing ships many years ago, and filled it with old tin cans and antique farm tools and other memorabilia, rocking chairs, a wood stove…

With its bright windows and weathered plank floor, it’s the kind of place where people like to hang out.

Frank handles the money and coffee pot so Gerry can direct visitors in the fields. Frank is a retired fellow –  sort of a fixture here (that’s him on the right below).  He helps out with the business and keeps a small garden in the lower field. Last year, he built a pergola as a shady resting place for visitors and it is already hanging with grapevines.

Alongside the store the washroom facilities…an ‘outhouse’ and the prettiest hand washing sink I’ve seen.

To be perfectly honest, though, it’s not so much about the raspberries – they are certainly not my favourite fruit – but it’s the act of picking them that really appeals to me.

I look forward to the quiet light of the morning, the songs of birds, the long neat rows, the warm smell of damp earth rising, the greyed and weathered crosses that hold the plants upright. There is orderliness juxtaposed against the unruly nature of the berry stalks.

Raspberry picking is an act of patience. It cannot be hurried or one will end up with more slivers and scratches than berries.  The branches must be parted carefully, as the best berries are often the hidden ones.

It is an act of feeling, as well…a perfectly ripe berry will have a slight plump give to it, whereas one that may be a day away from ripeness will offer resistance when gently pressed. They are quite beautiful, with pillowed ridges to catch the light.

It is an act of friendship and family and community…I overheard many wonderful conversations, quietly shared across the berry branches. I watched a grandfather picking with his grandson, young children with their parents. I know that a few boxes of my morning’s harvest will end up with neighbours and seniors.

It is an act of peace…as the body becomes accustomed to the listening, touching, seeking, choosing, the mind has a chance to drift.

Today, I thought about my grandson Colin, and how I wanted to bring him here someday. How I would show him these things I know…how he would learn that picking raspberries can be good for the soul.

Categories: community, nature, seasons, summer, writing | 14 Comments

Made for this

 

How divine she was; trés élégant really.

Tall and thin, alert eyes rimmed in white mascara and gleaming, her breast shimmering, catching the afternoon light like a pillow of ruddy silk…her heart turned inside out. I watched through the binoculars, delighted with her economy of motion, her intensity and focus. Her perkiness.

I’ve never found robins to be particularly beautiful – quite common, actually – but on this day, in this light, on this mission, she enthralled me.

American Robin (c) Brigitte Noel

She’d scurry through the grass a few steps, then stop, stretching herself upright in one swift movement, back straight, head high, tail feathers outright.  Her body seemed to elongate, as she sought the tallest vantage. Then she’d dip her head, sally forth, then bolt upright again, like a long-waisted groundhog peering above the grass.

She was in her glory.

As I watched, she filled her bill with dragonflies, worms, insects.  Occasionally, she stretched her neck and bobbed her head, opening her bill just enough to shuffle the feast, getting better purchase. I watched her gathering a varied harvest for her brood and shortly, filled to capacity, she flew into the trees.

Moments later, she was back, foraging again.

How I envied her easy assurance.

As many hours as I’ve spent, steadily paring down the excess and clutter – the diversions of life – to reach into the real heart of me, I still have days when I grasp for the sense of peace that comes from knowing I am in the real, honest, gushing current of what I do best.  Then I pine for one of those moments that come quickly, without warning, elevating the common to sublime. Rare gifts of kindness, they are; a glimpse of another horizon to acknowledge I am on the right path.

In her book, Sacred Rhythms, Ruth Haley Barton writes of one a moment, saying …

This is my best self. This is who I want to be more and more, by God’s grace. These are the moments I will remember on my deathbed and say, “That was what I was meant for.”

Much later, as afternoon waned, I heard the robin’s satisfying song bursting forth from the shelter of trees, a complex melody larger than she, notes carried on currents unseen, but trusted; a song birthed in her very soul, a song she was born knowing.

In that moment, she was joy:  joy of living, of providing, of fulfilling…joy of simply being.

She was made for this.

With your very own hands you formed me;
now breathe your wisdom over me so I can understand you.
~Psalm 119:73 The Message

(Many thanks to New Brunswick photographer, Brigitte Noel, who graciously shared her image of the American Robin that I used in this post.)

Categories: birds, change, faith, Matters of the Heart, nature, writing | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments

Pass the feather, please

“Storytelling is the most ancient form of education. It is about the remembering, making, and sharing of images that bind together time, nature and people. Stories, like the sacred plants, are medicine and food come from the Earth. They remind us that we do not stand alone.  Through them, we live in the body of coyote and crow, tree and stone..In this way, we confirm our relationship with all of creation.”

~Joan Halifax

 

Last night while on my nightly walk, an unruly commotion broke out amongst crows on the other side of the pond.  My first thought was that something was being attacked or was involved in a fight.

Within minutes, the flock of a dozen or so flew overhead, to a location in the forest just beyond the tree line. They sent up a great racket – it seemed obvious something had happened and everyone was reporting on it at once. Within minutes, the air above me filled with dark shapes – like debris in a funnel cloud, they swept in from all directions.

The mosquitoes kept me from venturing into the wood to spy, so I stood still on the road and listened as more continued to gather. It seemed to be an event of great excitement. Everyone had something to say and I was reminded of the story of Pat’s grandfather, overheard muttering at a family gathering, ‘Is anyone listening?’

I must admit a fascination with the crow. We have a family of four at my place and I enjoy watching their comical antics, as they stride about in their black knickers, nattering about this or that, and cleaning up wild berries or the leftovers in the compost bin.

In her thought-provoking book, Crow Planet, Lyanda Lynn Haupt describes a number of unusual crow behaviours and observations, and points out that humans have always written or told the stories of wild things in our own way, but that “the wild beings have their own stories to tell, and in the reading of their singular alphabet – their tracks, voices, homes, scat, feathers, presence, and absence – we may find that they sometimes to object to things we have always believed to be true.”

I’m not sure what particular tale this group was telling, but sometimes the chorus found a rhythm and the voices synchronized into a steady beat, as if in agreement.  Then the notes separated again and cacophonous clamour reigned once more.  After about 10 minutes, the din began to die down, until only a few adamant complainers remained.

In the sudden quiet, first one crow spoke…then another…and another, followed by two more.  Almost as if this was a ‘passing the feather’ ritual.

It was a council of the clans, with the old wise ones finally voicing their opinion to the quieted crowd. Their voices were stern and formidable – each speaking his or her piece, but then, I’m not sure I’ve heard docile or subservient crow-speak.

Then everyone began talking again and the raucous debate resumed for another five minutes or so. Eventually, the discussion appeared to be nearing its conclusion, so I moved on, wondering what kind of wild event I had eavesdropped upon. I’ve heard of crow funerals – and my friend has encountered crows mourning a fallen comrade at roadside –  but as this gathering seemed to be taking place away from the original point of conflict, I doubted it was a show of grief.

Later I read a story about crow trials – where rebel crows are judged by their peers – and that seemed to make some sense – if a limited human can make sense of crow life at all.

What is your crow story?  Pass the feather.

(And if you, too, have a thing for crows, do pop over to Desideratum where the incredibly talented Gwen has crafted the most lovely earrings to celebrate this intelligent species..you may also see something else in her 12 new designs for 2012 to ruffle your feathers.)

Categories: birds, nature, relationships, thoughts, wild spaces | Tags: , , , | 8 Comments