I have miles to go…


(Consider clicking on photos for a larger view.)

In round numbers, we drove about 500 miles on a weekend in mid-July, then 600 more on a round trip to our Cariboo cabin in early August, and another 1000 to the Kootenays and back in the past couple weeks. I am always awestruck by the seemingly endless miles of wilderness in our province, and how long it takes to get anywhere.


Although he was speaking of a winter landscape, Robert Frost said it well:

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   
But I have promises to keep,   
And miles to go before I sleep, 
And miles to go before I sleep.
It takes time and effort to travel any major distance, whether it’s a journey by car or by pen. Wherever we’re going, we must stay the course or we’ll never reach our destination.
A novel of 90,000 words may take one writer only a few weeks, and another, several years. The speed doesn’t matter as much as the consistency of effort. (There’s a lesson for all of us in the story of the tortoise and the hare.)
As mentioned in my previous post, I abandoned the journey on a short story this month, not so much because I wasn’t enjoying the writing, but more because the effort lacked purpose. Not to say I won’t ever finish the story. One day I might, but I’ll need a better reason than to meet the deadline for a contest of dubious value to me.
I want to feel passion for a story — a yearning to record and share its characters and their message. I want to immerse myself in the creation of words that will transport me into and through their world. A novel-in-progress is beckoning me to put aside less challenging distractions and get back to work.
A journey awaits.
I’m curious. What motivates you to write?
~  ~  ~

Is it Discipline or Discouragement?


When used correctly, crates and exercise pens are very handy tools for dog training. Like a child’s playpen, they can be overused, or used for the wrong reasons, but they are invaluable when it comes to having a safe place to contain a puppy and avoid the havoc he could wreak when left untended.


Yes, he’d rather be outside romping with the children, tromping unfettered through the gardens, or chasing birds through the meadow and scampering down the driveway to the road, but for his safety and my sanity he can’t be allowed that kind of freedom.

As wistful as he may look in these photos, he doesn’t spend all of his confinement grumbling about it.


He snoozes, plays, and observes what’s going on — and dances with anticipation when one of us approaches with his leash. That means there’s a training time coming, complete with praise and snacks, and followed by a walk with opportunities for lots of exploration. It’s all part of the discipline associated with a puppy’s education (and in the early stages, of housebreaking).

I was writing a short story the afternoon I stopped to take these inside photos of our new puppy. When I later reviewed one of the shots, his expression seemed like one of reprimand. “How come you won’t take me outside if you’re not really working?”


Why was I so easily distracted? Was it lack of discipline or something else? I have to admit it was more a matter of discouragement. I have three pieces to write this summer, each with a deadline. The one with the closest deadline is for a contest I enter every year, and it’s giving me the most trouble.

I’ve had a breakthrough, though. I recalled the definition of insanity attributed to Albert Einstein — that it’s doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results. While my early entries in this particular contest were shortlisted a few times, they never won, and more recently they haven’t caught anyone’s attention. The same two people have been judging the fiction category every year for more than a decade, and I’ve realized that if they haven’t rewarded my writing before, it’s probably ‘insane’ to think they ever will. The contest is sponsored by a very reputable group and there’s great prize money, but no feedback is provided, no critique. You either win, or you don’t. I don’t, and I’ve finally concluded I’m wasting my time, energy and entry fees!

The revelation is freeing. I finished a different article and submitted it today, well ahead of when I’d planned. The remaining one is drafted and I have a month to work on its edits. I have time to go romp with the dog! Woo hoo! So much for my self-discipline. :)


How do you view writing contests? Do you enter many? Have you ever won?

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Labouring on Labour Day

The internet reminds us that traditionally, “Labour Day was an occasion to campaign for and celebrate workers’ rights during parades and picnics organized by trade unions.”

At my daughter’s home, however, there’s been a whole week of labouring. A new wood stove was installed, a fence is under construction, there was painting to do, and firewood to cut.


Labour Day itself became a time to labour in her garden.


The existing much-too-narrow fifteen inch strip of flower bed that edged a stepping-stone-and-ornamental-gravel path beside the garage was an annoyance. Most plants didn’t do well in the limited space against the foundation, and those that survived spilled over into the walkway.

We put our imaginations to work and decided that the cement stepping stones would be better sunk into the adjacent grass. Then one set of the wide wooden beams could be removed, leaving space for a generous garden bed.


Initially it sounded like a relatively simple task, but my hubby is quick to point out that every job I think up for him ends up requiring more time, energy and money than we expect. This one became a major endeavour. Since there were no existing evergreen shrubs, all the plants were removed in favour of a more seasonally balanced design, and the ornamental rock was raked out and collected for use in a different location.

The various aspects of the job took the combined effort of four of us! My hubby relocated the pavers; our son-in-law used his chain saw on the discarded wooden ties to cut them down into end pieces for the new bed; and both men worked for hours to lever huge rocks out, one of which was retained for decorative use in the final landscape.


Then it was time to haul in a truck-‘n-trailer load of topsoil and shovel it into the new bed, and make another side trip with quad and garden trailer to add a load of compost — both to be mixed together with a rototiller and raked smooth. And finally it was time for daughter and I to make a trip to the nursery to select suitable plants for this Hardiness Zone 3 location, followed by an afternoon of planting. There is still a top dressing of bark mulch to be added.


I suppose I should have expected the job to be more than a quick dig-and-plant event, but as a minimally knowledgeable gardener, I think I approached it in much the same way as a novice writer tackles a first novel. On the surface it sounds easy — just find an idea, do a bit of planning and plunk the words on a page until the job is done.

Some people may be ‘natural’ gardeners or storytellers, but I now have much more respect for the professionals who work full time to make a successful career with what they do.

My Labour Day job isn’t done yet. Excuse me while I go water the new plants. Then I’ll be heading for the bottle of Tylenol. :)


Do you enjoy planning and planting a landscape, or are you more of a plunk and putter kind of gardener?

~  ~  ~

A Smoky Start to September

Ann Voskamp’s ‘Joy Dare’ prompt for September first is to count three things related to summer. The first thing that comes to mind is s-m-o-k-e, and it’s hard to be thankful for the thick greyness of the hard-to-breathe air that’s been a byproduct of the abundant wildfires in British Columbia and Washington this summer.


We drove to Cranbrook on Hwy #3 during the height of the Stickpin and Paulson Pass forest fires last week, and passed through some very eery landscapes.


(Near Grand Forkes, BC)


(View towards Paulson Bridge, BC)


(Looking back at the city of Osoyoos, BC from the lower switchbacks.)

There is always something to be thankful for, even in the worst of times.

For instance, there is thanks attached to the wild wind and rain storm that struck southern British Columbia last weekend because, despite all the devastation and power outages, the rain and cooler temperatures have helped firefighters. (Still, the Stickpin fire remains only 20% contained at 21,638 hectares in size.)

There is thanks to give in that the evacuation alert has been lifted in Grand Forkes and Christina Lake — the two cities that have been most seriously threatened by the fire that rages less than five kilometres south of the Canadian border.

There is thankfulness for the neighbourliness that is emerging as firefighters on both sides of the border work together, and as communities ‘prepare for the worst and hope for the best’.

So yes, I can find at least three things to add to my ‘Joy Dare’ notes today. :)


My August hiatus didn’t see me accomplishing as much as I had originally intended, but it’s been refreshing. When September arrives and fall routines get underway, it’s sometimes hard to remember that summer isn’t over quite yet, but it isn’t, and I’m thankful for that, too!

How did you spend your August days?


(The early evening sun in Cranbrook, BC)

~  ~  ~


Time to tend the daisies

Always have something beautiful in sight,
even if it’s just a daisy in a jelly glass.

[H. Jackson Brown, Jr.]



No daisies in jelly glasses adorn my desk, but there are several clumps in the garden, braving a renewed blast of summery heat.

On this last day of July I’m balanced on tiptoe, peering into August and realizing that summer is slipping away and there’s still so much I want to fit into my days before fall schedules resume. There’s writing to do and reading to catch up on, a puppy to play with (I’ve renamed him ‘Wild Child’!), and family gatherings to enjoy.

I’m devoting all of August to such things, so you won’t see me here on the blog or on Facebook very often. I’ll be picking lots of daisies and smelling the roses. :)

However you’re spending your summer, I hope it’s doing the things you like best — and don’t forget to always keep something beautiful in sight!


Daisies are like sunshine to the ground.”

[Drew Barrymore]

~  ~  ~

Resilience – in gardening and writing


If you’re a gardener, ‘Lacecaps’ and ‘Mopheads’ will likely be familiar terms. They describe the two main groups of hydrangeas within which there are several different species and varieties. And that’s just about all I know about hydrangeas!

DSC05937On second thought, that’s not entirely true. I know that many of the varieties are sensitive to soil pH and the colour of the blooms reflect that. In acidic soils like ours, even when I plant pink varieties, the flowers usually revert to blue. In alkaline soils they’re more likely to stay pink. If you prefer the blue you can add soil sulfur, or to encourage the pink colour you can add lime.

I also know my hydrangeas prefer more shade than sunshine, and they would like more water than I give them.

Blowsy blossoms explode their summery colours in many gardens, and most look much better kempt than mine. It hasn’t helped that the bears romped through the garden bed this spring and broke branches on one of the blue bushes. It now has a decidedly bedraggled and lopsided look … but it’s blooming.

The thing about hydrangeas is that they’re survivors. Despite all the neglect and abuse, every summer they put renewed effort into providing colour. Even if their branches die, I can cut the plants down to the ground and so far they’ve always come back. That says a lot about their resilience … and their persistence.

I think that makes them a suitable floral emblem for writers. No matter the treatment, the rejections and resulting discouragement, we can always pare down to the essentials and start again. Given time, the regrowth may even turn out better than the original.

DSC05936 - Version 2

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A Humbling Encounter (reprise)

Earlier today I came across a post on Facebook from Chris Hadfield:

“46 years ago today we walked on the Moon. Neil, Mike and Buzz inspired me to do something different with my life. I cannot thank them enough for the gift they gave us all.”

I wonder if they thought of their accomplishment as “a gift”. I wonder if they had any idea it would impact generations to come, well beyond the historic and scientific milestone it was.

I recall Robert Thirsk telling me about having his love of Mathematics and Science instilled while in my Grade One classroom, and his passion for space exploration fostered by a Grade Three teacher who brought a radio to class so he and his fellow students could listen to the historic ‘walk on the moon’ moment as it happened. Teachers may never know the value of what they do, but they believe in the importance of nurturing young minds.

On this 46th anniversary I thought it would be timely to share this post from my 2009 archives…


Throughout my life I have encountered a great many people but I’ve rarely stopped to consider the possible effects of those encounters. Today I am reminiscing about one of them.

On April 1, 1996 I received a letter that would have been easy to disregard as an April Fool’s joke. It began, “I was a student in your grade one class at Glenayre Elementary School in 1959-1960. Although it is unlikely that you remember me, I do remember you… I am writing this letter to you so that you won’t be bewildered when you receive an invitation in the next week or so from NASA inviting you to a Shuttle launch. I am now an astronaut with the Canadian Space Agency….” The letter was signed by Bob Thirsk and it was no joke.

Thus began one of the most humbling experiences of my life. I met with Bob and was interviewed by magazine and newspaper reporters. A headline in the Vancouver Sun on December 7, 1996 proclaimed, “Teacher helped propel astronaut’s dream: Robert Thirsk returns to his Grade One classroom in Port Moody for a reunion with his first math teacher.”  Who, me?  It was, and still is, mind-boggling.

Carol Garvin & Robert Thirsk

Carol Garvin & Robert Thirsk

[On May 27, 2009] he blasted off again, this time from Kazakhstan aboard a Soyuz rocket bound for the International Space Station. Expedition 20/21 was another history-making mission taking Robert Thirsk on the first Canadian long-duration flight where he would live and work on board the ISS for six months. “It will also be the first time all five international space agencies — NASA, Russia’s Roskosmos, Japan’s JAXA, the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency — are represented at the station simultaneously.”


My link with this history-making event was miniscule, but it is a reminder that we can never be sure what purpose God has for us.  Our task is simply to turn up each day and live our lives to the best of our ability, always depending on God’s guidance and giving him all praise and glory.

~  ~  ~