Bird’s Nests


IMG_20180218_173137966_HDRRoast a cup of almonds.  Low heat. The nutty taste bursts on your tongue. Grind in the food processor. Big brash noise! Add organic rolled oats and flour, a cup each. Pinch of salt. Half cup coconut oil. Smells like the beach, sun and wind in the coconut palm; a barefoot Mexican boy climbs the trunk and cuts coconuts. Thud, on dry sand. Fractures. Drink the milk from the crack. Cool and fresh.

Add a half-cup maple syrup. Tastes like spring in Quebec, frosty nights, sunny days, sap runs like water from tapped trees, buckets full. Gather on foot and tip into a vast flat pan over a red-hot fire in the sugar shack. Boiling. Steam billows all day. Breathe fragrant maple. Snow crunches in the morning and melts in the sun.

Sap hauled and dumped in the pan. First boil, clear amber. Second and third, darker. Taste blooms.

Pour a half-cup syrup into the food processor. The dough lumps. Stop the noise.  Shape balls, size of an egg; indent with your thumb to make a nest. Fill with blackberry jam. Berries plucked from prickly vines in August, purple black, full of juice, sweet on the tongue, soft and slightly firm between fingers. Bucket on a string around your neck, crammed. The big bowl on the ground filled up. Carried home, pressed through a food mill to detach seeds. Purple juice boiled, thickened; bottled and processed. Jam for winter, for the birds’ nest cookies.

Bake ‘til golden and crisp. Cool. Share with friends and family.

See the whole universe in one cookie.



Fresh (found poem)

Ocean blue wizard

            star burst rain


straw-berry swirl pink


go big green


diant      dream-green




tiox     sun


                           bliss pro


            vital pro-

deep      chocolate date

                      almond swoosh


Peonies bloom

img_20180624_153211476_hdrI planted a peony when I was five. Dug the hole in the lawn about 10 feet from a giant white pine near the garden shack. I imagined pink blooms. How did I know it was pink? Where did I get the bulb? I watered it with my red can with the yellow spout. Leaves and stems thrust up as if an elf lived underground and wanted to bask in the sun. Oh, to be as smooth and green as those leaves. I circled it with round stones to keep the lawnmower at bay. Checked it daily.

It flowered once. A subtle scent. The pink bloom matched my pink pinstriped dress sewn by my aunt in California.  The pink flower flopped sideways, solitary and hopeful like me. No more blooms emerged, not one small bud. Despite water.  My mother told me to be patient. She was busy, a teacher at the local high school, no time for gardening and no inclination for growing flowers. She planted essentials—beans, carrots, onions and corn.

Did I choose that spot under the pine tree? I didn’t know that flowers needed full sun distant from acid soil. My eldest sister dug manure into the flowerbeds near the house and transplanted ferns into those beds so that something green would emerge each spring, but she was gone to university. No one else had time for perennials. My brothers and my father ploughed everything under in the fall. Why would plants overwinter at 20 below? They didn’t understand peonies or me. I searched for a bud, wanted more blooms. Nothing. But it was also my first experience growing a plant, a living thing, which emerged from a dry bulb. And I was hooked.


Why am I writing about a peony when Trump and Trudeau are at loggerheads after the G7 in Quebec? While phytoplanktons are producing less essential Omega fatty acids due to warmer ocean temperature and changes in pH, and, therefore, affecting the food chain all the way up through fish to humans. And because there is more carbon in the atmosphere, plants like rice grow well but they are less nutritious. The increased carbon changes the nutritional value – less protein and less EFA’s. Same with wheat or any cereal crops. The fish are already affected by this nutritional change. Are the billions of people in Asia already malnourished because of less folic acid, less protein in rice?

It’s the irony of the peony, the huge floppy blooms appearing in FB feed. Abundant, all shades of pink and the imagined scent. Of course, we don’t eat peonies. Does more carbon make them more beautiful and beguiling? They bring joy. The planet is suffering, the time for change is now.

(For more scientific details about how rising carbon dioxide levels are turning fish and rice into junk food, listen to:

Image may contain: flower, plant, nature and outdoor


Mothers’ Day

What is it about Mother’s Day? Spring is my favourite season but a tinge of sadness wells up as the daffodils wither and, then the tulips fade. Today the bearded irises open. Flamboyant purple. Chocolate lilies wilt in the meadow and blue camus hides in the grass.  New growth: every shade of green from lime, mint and the Douglas firs with fresh fingertips.


The smell of balsam poplars, lilacs and a hint of scent from a red peony. Its petals fold into one another like a crinoline gone wild. How can one small bud create this flounce of delicate petals?

Spring bouquet.jpg
Peony, tulips, ranunculus

In the forest, the spotted coral root orchid pops up out among the fir needles and fallen branches. Treasures held in the forest’s moist dark depths. First the fawn lilies,

Fawn Lily

then trilliums, chocolate lilies, blue camus, white death camus, calypso orchids and now this.

spotted coral root orchid.jpg
Spotted Coral Root Orchid





Mother nature, mother of all. I am small amongst this generous beauty. I  dig, compost, plant and weed to create a garden and yet when I walk out into the woods the plants appear out of nothing . No effort. No struggle. And yet I want to protect these delicate wild flowers from deer, trampling human feet and bicycle wheels.

Nine years ago Mother died at 96. She lives on through her recipes: crispie oatmeal cookies, apple pie, and rhubarb coffee cake and through her kind and gentle yet no bullshit demeanour. She wouldn’t like that word. She couldn’t understand why writers used swear words, even Alice Munro offended her.

Mother was calm, determined and hard-working. Her hands were never idle. Knitting, crocheting, mending, quilting. Always making something out of nothing. I think of her not only on mother’s day but almost every time I bake or scrub or clean some hidden corner. She was particular about using good grammar and fastidious about seeing a task all the way through to completion. This poem is from my book, The White Crow, a tribute to all mothers throughout space and time.


The steamer trunk, locked with no key

appeared at my gate, a day behind me,

shipped as freight. My mother left

directives in her notebook:

Take all the china and the crystal. Hire a U-Haul

and drive west with the Ford.

(She sold the Ford, years earlier

after she stopped driving.)


All day we packed – twelve place settings,

teapot, gravy boat and crystal. Only two days

after her internment. Sacrilegious

to pack her possessions so fast.


I pry open the lock with a screwdriver-

the smell of lavender wafts out. I press

her soft sweater against my cheek, stroke

the cover of her suede bound book.


I find the china and crystal swathed

in her clean linens, close

the lid, lock in the fragrance,

safeguarded like sorrow.


In a dream, I’m stacking her plates, the heavy

Denby stoneware alternates with the fine

bone china, one clashes on the next.

She placed the porcelain in her china cabinet,

soft dividers set between each plate.

I break all the rules.