Tuesday, May 21, 2019

We All Need A Place To Go

"Life comes in spits and spurts, ebbing and flowing, rising and setting....etc.  We believe we are permanent somehow, even though we watch everything around us go through the stages of life  - birth, existence and finally death." ~Trish Shields ( trish-shields )

I consider myself a fairly accomplished photographer and usually  don't have too much difficulty finding the words to convey my feelings. But today I needed a stunning photo of Goose Spit and I didn't have one so I entered the amazing world of Google.  There I found this image that sums up everything going on inside of me; a bit  of magical light, some dark, overbearing clouds, a few bits of silence and at the same time, some never-ending movement creating a sense of rhythm that matches my heart.  This photo was taken by Trish Shields and she deserves full credit!  It turns out that Trish Shields is also a very accomplished poet and her words were the exact ones I was looking for inside of myself.  I love that about writing (and art in general) that there can be connections, words spoken and images created by another that simply speak to you as if the artist had known all along exactly what you needed, at exactly the right moment.

Trish Shields would not know that Goose Spit has been my go-to place since I was 14.  Even now, from far away, when I close my eyes and pull up the vision my pulse slows, my breathing regulates and a sense of calm overcomes me. It is as if I am actually there in every sense; sight, sound, smell, taste and touch.  As I lean up against the breakwater I scootch my butt around making a perfect indent into the gritty sand.  I bring my knees up, dig my feet around until the sand holds them firm and then I lean back into the bumpy logs looking for the right fit, close my eyes and soak in every single sound I can hear, every single smell I can smell and every breath of wind I can feel. I am not actually there, yet I am. I can feel the warmth of the light on my face at the same time I can feel the chill in the breeze coming off of the water.  When we were younger we used to go from the ocean side of the spit over to the bay side in order to cool off or warm up.  There is not a more perfect place on earth!

Today I need the spit.  Today I need a few moments to centre myself in order to carry on with life.  This is a challenging thing to do on the heels of death.  Many of my friends know exactly how this feels as we reach that age where new life is all around us while at the same time death is knocking at the doors of many we know and love.  The stages of life.  There has been no other time in my life where I have experienced the newness of life in such abundance.  Seven grandchildren ranging in age from 1 year to 14 years - these last fourteen years have been full of new baby loving, toddler snuggles and teenage hugs.  There has also been no other time in life where I have experienced the never ending sense of loss.  We have already lost many friends from our teen years and many of our relatives are writing their final chapters. There is a constantness in hearing these same stories from our friends.  The stages of life. They are all around us.

The busy-ness of life has subsided in these later years but it has been replaced by the "ebbing and flowing, [the] rising and setting". I am working hard to embrace it all and accept the stages as they come and go.  But it is hard. Especially today.

Monday, May 20, 2019


You may wonder why I'd start a blog about Nanny wth a picture of Papa.  Well, it seems to me over the years that news of Papa, articles on Papa, blogs on Papa and pictures and memories of Papa have been constant, as they should be. When we think of Papa we think of teacher, principal, athlete, outdoorsman, community leader and family man.  When we think of Nanny, we think of 'mother', 'homemaker (in every sense of the word) and 'wife'.  Not too many people celebrated or wrote about what some would define as the most important 'job' on earth.  Nanny is the poster girl for motherhood.  She took this role seriously and fulfilled every aspect of it, from beginning to end.

In my mind, this picture probably reflects the happiest years of her life.  She is surrounded by her family and I don't doubt for a second that this family brought her more pride, joy and contentment than anything else she had experienced in her life.

I am not the one to tell her life story but I can tell you a few of the bits I know.  Irene Howard met Henry Watson during the war in England.  She had lost a fiancĂ©  and he had lost a wife.  All of her friends believed she had met the most handsome Canadian abroad (and they were probably right).  Henry fell in love with Irene and found out too late in love that she was 12 years his junior.  It was the beginning of a legacy I don't imagine they ever saw coming.  They married and their first child, Brian, was born in a castle in Ireland during the war.  Henry returned to Canada and months later Irene and Brian boarded a ship and then a train to come from Hastings, England, all the way across Canada, across the Georgia Strait and up-island to the tiny town of Cumberland.  I can't even begin to imagine how difficult it was for her (an only child) to leave her doting parents behind and make the trek to a small coal-mining town on the other side of the the ocean and the country.

What a way to start a new life.  So many unknowns, such a long journey away from her roots.   So many of us describe our lives as 'ordinary' and I am sure Irene would have used this word if you had asked her about her life.  An ordinary woman does not leave her mark on the world the way Irene has.  Just ask her children about all their mother gave them in life - motherhood was her niche, her super power, her gift.  Just ask her grandchildren how she made them feel.  So much love does not come form an ordinary woman.  Irene, we will miss the 'just one more' passing of the dessert tray, the gentle touch of your hands on our wee ones, the oh-so-special shortbread and apple tarts that only Nanny could make.  Without saying a word you taught us life lessons that we will never forget.  Most of all we will miss the gentle, overflowing sense of love you gave us all.  You will be forever missed and forever remembered!  This picture below is how I will always remember. you, that gentle touch only you had and always at your best with a baby in your arms.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Your Home Town.

Happy Anniversary, Bob!

As I sit and contemplate the years that have passed and dream about the ones still yet to come I think of one word; grateful.  Anyone who is married knows that every moment over 46 years is not perfect.  But the fact remains, we got through the imperfect moments to create a perfect life together.  As we have been back and forth to the island a bit more recently it has brought back memories, especially the ones you have shared with me.   This one's for you, Bob:

Your Home Town:

We saunter up and down Main Street.
Its real name is Dunsmuir, but no one calls it that
And maybe the only reason I know this
Is because this is the street you grew up on.

I can almost feel the pain in my butt
from the dog that jumped the fence
bit you
and then hopped right back over
while you delivered papers.

I can smell the smells of Frelone's grocery store
on a Saturday morning,
as you use that hard earned cash from your paper route
To buy the potato chips with the football coin inside.

I know it always makes you smile
when you tell the story
of leaving the church for your paper route
Capitalism over-taking religion.

I know from the stories and the pictures
of your many basketball victories
hard won in the old hall
made that much more precious because your dad was the coach.

You never got the chance to play hockey
but you played a mean game of football down at the park
Kicking, passing, running
playing offence and defence
sometimes all by yourself.

I know of the time you sat on the dock
at the family cabin
fishing rod out,
waiting for the big one
And when you saw it swim by
you yanked the lure out
not sure about what you'd do
if you actually caught it

I know the route you took to school
and the names of your childhood friends
I know they too could shoot
from downtown (although not quite as well as you).

Because of you
I know my way to Camp,
Allen's Lake
and Mr. Peck's
the best candy store EVER.
I know where you were when JFK was shot
and when Paul Henderson scored that famous goal.

I wasn't around for most of these memories
but I've walked these streets with you
hand in hand
listening to you remember the stories of your boyhood
watching the changing expressions
on your face as each memory is recited

Sometimes I even feel like I WAS there.

This is just one of the gifts you have
given me over the years
the gift of your sharing it all with me
your own real "Home" town.
full of happy growing up years
the kind you can only have if your roots run deep.

And I thank you for this
and for all the years between
then and now where we have shared
our own home town and our own growing up years.

Thank you.

Sunday, March 31, 2019


Behind the lens
Images reveal themselves
Light, colour, texture and composition
I was unaware existed

A process of breathing and seeing. . . 
Patience . . 
What is it that catches my eye?
Lean in . . . 
Zero in . . .
Depth of field?
Check the edges
Shutter speed and aperture
Breathe in and really SEE


~Roxanne Watson – October, 2018


I spent the early years of my life as an Armed Forces child.  I moved several times without suffering the trauma some children associate with having no childhood "home".  We settled in the Comox Valley for a longer stay after my grade 8 year.  I was angry at my parents for moving us from the city life in Edmonton to the outback of Comox.  I didn't stay angry for long.  From the city streets to the pebbly beaches.  From buses to bicycles.  From winter blizzards to sun-kissed, carefree summers.  The move embedded the sounds and smells of the ocean into my soul.  The Comox spit was where I learned to look inside of myself for answers rather than to others.  I learned to comtemplate life and to be still.  I learned that sometimes just breathing solves all of life's problems.  It is still the place I go in my mind and my soul when the pace of life becomes too much.  Deep in my soul I long to go "home".  I long to sit on the beach and listen to the water lap against the sand and the driftwood.  I long to ride my bike along Point Holmes road listening to the seagulls and the many armed forces planes that interrupt the sounds of nature.  I long to go down the winding road to Kye Bay where the smell of seaweed assaults my nostrils.  For whatever reasons the moment I get off the ferry and start the drive up the old Island Highway I feel the tension seeping out of my body.  It jut feels like "home".

So why don't I just go home?  Well, "home" is not always about a place.  Sometimes it is about people.  When I first got married "home" was wherever we needed to be in order for my husband to complete his university degree.  So, summers were spent in Gold River, falls, winters and springs were spent in Victoria.  We lived in a variety of apartments, none of which felt like "home" except for the fact that we were all there together.  When my husband got his first teaching job in Agassiz it became "home" for 32 years.  We settled into our first "home" in 1978 and stayed there for 10 years.  We built our second "home" when I started teaching in 1988.  This is the home where our children grew, where we called across the street to the neighbors and watched our kids grow up in the cul-de-sac with the neighbor kids playing road hockey, basketball or whatever game the neighborhood kids put together.  It was a wonderful time in our lives and truly was a "home" to all of us for many years.    As our children grew and left our small town my thoughts turned again (really, honestly, they never left) to the possibility of really going "home" -- to the island.

This is where it all gets so complicated.  Our children are grown and have children of their own.  They are all the most amazing people you could imagine.  We are not sure how we did so well in the children lottery and then again in the grandchild lottery.  They all live close by.  We see them regularly and it is the greatest pleasure of our lives, knowing we can see them whenever we need or want to.  We are settled here, they are settled here, and yet, there will always be a place in my heart that longs for the sights, sounds and smells of that other 'home'.
I know many people aren't comfortable thinking about death but this has never been an issue for me.  It calms me to know that my final resting place will be where that small piece of my heart has always longed to be.  For eternity I will float (or sink?) through the sunny, warm, sea-weedy smelling days of summer right through the stormy, windy, wave-crashing days of the winter.  I will rise and fall with the tides that tug at my soul.  I will go back to the water when my time comes and this fills me with a sense of peace.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Pure Joy

This is the face of my grandson
The one who knows that
When you draw a person
You start with the heart
"Because everyone needs a heart,
Right Gramma?"
Yes Nico, everyone needs a heart,
a kind and loving heart,
just like yours!

This is the face of my grandson, 
The one who said, "My heart hurts, Mama"
When she asked why, he said, 
"Because I keep thinking of Great Papa
And how much he loved basketball 
And it makes me sad that
He's not here to play with me 
and to watch me play."

This is the face of my grandson
The one who is so full of life and ideas and words and action
The one who can figure out any problem
As long as he is able to move
The one who is the first to ask,
"Are you okay?" when his team mates go down
The one who creates
art and poetry that show
Red really IS like a volcano
erupting for the first time!

This is the face of my granddaughter,
The one who spends most of her days
upside down.
The one who shares all of her heart
in all she does
 and radiates enthusiasm from every pore.
The one who needs just the right amount of
fierce independence
balanced with,"I need my blankie,"
night time music with Daddy,
And make -me-better hugs from Mommy.

This is the face of my grandson.
The daring one who wants to know,
"Will you play with me?"
The one who loves chocolate anything 
(just like his Gramma) but won't eat vegetables,
The one who adores his big sister so much
but will knock down her carefully created tower
in the blink of an eye with a smile on his face
The one who gazes at his little sister with love
and says, "Hewwo, wittle, Waywa!"

This is the face of my granddaughter,
the one who first taught us
about the magic a grandchild can bring to your life.
The one who was born an old soul,
diplomatic, kind and caring, right from the start.
The one who knows her way around
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
And dreams of travelling the world.

This is the face of my granddaughter
the one they say looks just like me (lucky me!).
The one we all hug and snuggle
and do crazy things for, just to make her smile.
The one who has been so mellow
but is showing signs of becoming
a strong girl with a voice of her own
The one we are surrounding 
with all of our love
curious to see who she will grow in to.

These are the faces of my grandchildren,
They bless us with their laughter
and curiosity, their temper tantrums
and their make-up squeezie hugs,
their crazy senses of humour and the
kind of pure, loving words
that can only come from a child.
These are my grandchildren.
Lucky me!