30th 2011
Too Bad – a few words on the passing of Robert Kroetsch

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I wish that Robert Kroetsch had been a friend of mine. He was a virtual mentor, a writer whose talent I adored from afar. I was lucky enough to visit with him numerous times over the years, at readings or launches or those lovely, boozy post-poetry parties that are iconic of the writing world, it seems.

His passing gutted me – it felt so wrong, so unfair. Perhaps more so because we’d reconnected at the Literary Awards Gala, and he’d gone from virtual to tangible. So very much alive, larger than life, his generous spirit a magnet in that packed room. How could he be gone, when he still had so many stories to tell?

Our conversation inspired me to have faith, that my struggle to make time to write in the cracks was a worthy one. He was funny, and charming. I held his cane as he flirted with another writer and signed her book. She was also clearly in awe. His warm attention a benediction for each new admirer.

For years I’d wanted to tell him the story of how he saved my mother’s life, but each time I had the opportunity I was too shy. That night I did.

“I have a story for you,” I said, “My mother says you saved her life.”

He looked a little wary, but I took a deep breath and

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was a teenager she was very ill, in intensive care, all hooked up to machines. We didn’t think she was going to make it. And every afternoon I drove two hours to see her, and I’d read to her from your book. She lived for the next chapter! And it made us howl with laughter. We laughed so hard the nurses would come see what was going on, and then they’d laugh too, they couldn’t help it. We were giddy. So, thank you!”

Robert smiled. “That’s a good story. Usually when people tell me I changed their lives, the stories aren’t so good,” he said gently. “Which book was it?”


“Ah, Alibi! I like that one. One of my favourites.”

The magic of story. I knew I could trust his novels because in Alibi he wrote about where I lived, and his words were vivid and true.

I didn’t grow up on the prairie, but fell in love with it through his words, long before I ever saw it, and when I married my Alberta boy and followed him home to northern Alberta, the place seemed familiar and right.

May we cherish that magic. May his words continue to teach us our landscapes, and our foibles. May we aspire to pass the magic of story on, to weave spells of our own passionate words, and to believe that our stories matter.

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9th 2011
a pale blue spring

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The fat sparrow’s happy muttering is a nano decibel louder than the busy murmurs of a million Calgarians on this almost-summer evening. Thus far it is rare for us to have evenings warm enough for windows open to sound spilling in. There’s a small May tree in the front yard, young cousin to the huge old one dying with splendid grace in the backyard of Grande Prairie. The tortilla scent of its blossoms, the cloying sweetness of masa harina, meant spring had come again. The tree makes me happy every early morning that I lock the front door and walk to the train.

We are edging into this move south cautiously. Like deer in sudden clearing, we stand partly in shadow, exploring carefully, not quite sure yet if this bright, foreign ground is safe to travel. Moving at the beginning of one of the nastiest winters on record is not recommended. We felt exiled, isolated

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It takes time. That is my mantra, the one I whisper to my children as often as to myself in the pale blue depression of our loneliness.

And time is helping. We’re adjusting, venturing further afield. One thing I cherish is how this exile has helped us relearn each other. There’s been an extraordinary amount of the proverbial quality time.

So onwards. We are stepping into sunshine just in time for Stampede fever to heat up Cowtown North. Yeehaw.

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20th 2008
What’s a word’s worth??

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in communication!

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