Diary, Photo

Hotel Le Florimay

I arrive the long way around having taken the first exit for Montmagny I see on the highway. I get to see the exuberant displays of Christmas lights on the front lawns of locals as I come into town. I am exhausted having left my parents’ house in Guelph 12 hours earlier, driving with a fever and a sore throat. With windchill, it is minus 30 now and the fire in the lobby is welcoming. I attempt some rusty French with the friendly young woman at the desk and ask for a chambre tranquil. She thinks I am asking for 2 queens but we sort it out. She will give me a quiet room on the second floor. I go out the car and gather up knapsack, food bag, laptop, pillows, and one or two other things I don’t want to freeze in the car. The clerk is at the door to open it for me. She asks in French if I need help with my things to get to my room and I laugh and say Non! I go up and down the corridor twice looking for my room, which is out of sequence and tucked in at the end of the hall. Quiet indeed. The room has a comfortable bed with elegant bolsters, 2 leather chairs, a TV in a cabinet, a desk and a small fridge. I feel blessed when I lie down on the bed. The driving was not hard but I am grateful to be here. I call my boyfriend and we talk for a short while and then I go to bed. The room is blissfully quiet, friendly, peaceful. In the morning I shower and write 3 pages and go down for breakfast. My fever has broken and my head has cleared. My throat is sore, but I have rested. I eat cereal and whole wheat toast with peanut butter. I drink a big glass of orange juice. I exchange a few words in French with some other guests. I admire with astonishment the hibiscus in the corner, which has two luscious blooms. A television plays a sitcom or a movie that features Carla from Cheers and a Saint Bernard, which is being given a bath. The show is dubbed in French. Suddenly a song bursts out in English: I’m walking on sunshine…. I smile. I hear the birds singing out from the lobby. On the way back to the room I say hello. There are two in the wrought-iron cage — they are green and yellow. They groom each other and touch their bills together. I gather all of my things from the room and stow them in the car. I return my key cheerfully. It is a brilliant morning, very cold, very fresh. I scrape a little frost from the windows and look at the solid ice in my water bottle, which I left in the car. At 8:30, I pull out of the parking lot with the song in my head — I’m walking on sunshine…. 

View, Hotel Room

Diary, Photo

Quebec Rest Stops

After passing the turn-off for Riviere-du-Loup, rounding the bend where the highway changes, coming around to the St. Lawrence, there is the rest stop on the right. Thank goodness! Made it through the mountain road to the seaway and here is a place to pee, nap, have a snack. I love the rest stops on Route 20 going down to Montreal. They are warm, clean, bright, and safe. There are people walking their dogs, truckers pulled over for a snooze, and usually a little kiosk selling hot beverages and food during the daytime hours. They are a very quick place to take care of the body’s needs and take a mental break.

Sunday morning was gorgeous & cold. I pulled in around 8:30 to this rest stop near Saint-Hyacinthe. An older gentleman was doing the morning cleaning. Thank you, Sir, for keeping the facilities tidy! And thank you Quebec for your lovely, compact, and efficient rest stops!

How to, Photo, Writing Exercises

How to Write a Poem (#2) —from a picture source

I love devising playful procedures for writing and revising poems. Following a set of intriguing instructions often invites my unconscious to offer up a fascinating array of images & surprising connections which I can then work with through revision. Here’s a version of an exercise I made up last Sunday for our penultimate Seniors College class for poetry writing. (It yielded great results!) Try it out with any kind of image: a photograph of yourself from years ago, a family photo, an image pulled from a magazine, a painting by an artist you admire, or a doodle you find in a notebook. Let yourself relax as you put this poem together – it won’t make sense at first, perhaps, but as you work with it, it will no doubt astonish you!


Level of Difficulty = Moderate

Note: it’s best to do this by hand, not by computer.

You will need: several sheets of lined paper or a notebook, a pen or pencil, a picture, a random book, about an hour of time to experiment.

1. First, open whatever book you have chosen as your “random book” and put your finger blindly on a page. Write down the word or phrase that you have randomly “hit” on the first page of your paper. Repeat this 2 times so that you have 3 random words or phrases from your book written on your first page of lined paper.

2. Number some lines on your page from 1 to 15. Now take a look at your picture and write 15 words or phrases that describe what you SEE in your picture.

3. Now, write 3 sentences of any length that describe your picture. It’s okay to use words and phrases from your list above or to ignore your list.

4. Write a question that you have about the picture

5. Finish this sentence [about the picture]: “Looking at it makes me feel _______________________.”

6. Write, in 1 sentence of any length, what happened just before the picture was taken (or came into being).

7. Now, look at your first list of 3 random words and phrases that you took from your “random book”. Choose one of these items and write a sentence that relates the word or phrase to your picture in some way. Do this as quickly as you can without thinking too much.

8. On a new sheet of paper, look at everything you’ve written in response to the instructions so far and fashion the words, sentences, and phrases into a poem shape, using at least 1/2 of the material you’ve written. Change the order of the information, change the structure of the sentences, change whatever needs to be changed as you go along. Your mind and hand will suggest things to you as you proceed.

9. Reread what you’ve written. Now, take another sheet of paper, write a title for your poem, and write the whole thing again, changing as you go and adding or omitting whatever feels right to you.

10. Congratulations! You have a draft of a poem. You can keep going, rewriting and revising until you find the poem has come to a temporary “resting place”, or you can put it aside now for a few days before you come back to it. You will no doubt be surprised by what you’ve written!

Do you want to get started right away? Here’s an image from my collection. Let me know how it goes!

Athen, Sculpture Garden

Diary, Photo, Prince Edward Island, Recipes

the taste buds say

A snowy November Saturday afternoon in Charlottetown—what to do before going out to get groceries? Oh, the olive oil place? Yes, we did want to go there, didn’t we? Okay, let’s go now. At Liquid Gold, the friendly young woman with an elaborate, unfinished tattoo on her left arm instructs us to start with this metal cask, to taste the olive oils starting with the mild and to head toward the more robust. We take small white plastic spoons and turn the sprocket on the first cask, sip olive oil. Do you like this one? Yes, sort of, how about—oh, I don’t like this one. You see where it says it has a grassy centre? It’s very grassy—Well,  you won’t like this one either—too peppery for you. And we make our way around the shop, my stomach reacting in surprise to little dollops of olive oil landing there one after another without bread or salad. Astonished by how much I dislike some of the flavours. Around us, the gourmets with elite tastes discuss with experts which oils will complement their dinner menus. He & I taste and frown and laugh and confer. Our palates are uneducated in the ways of olive oil but we respect them—we listen to their opinions. We move onto the flavoured oils—tarragon, herbes de provence, basil. We ask about a palate cleanser and are directed to a lemon balsalmic! Its taste excites my tongue…. The meyer lemon olive oil is lovely but after many little samples, we settle on persian lime—strong yet subtle. We buy the smallest size to share—it costs eleven dollars and on impulse I buy also a balsamic to dance with it: cranberry pear. This morning, decanting the oil, I shake my head thinking comical frugal thoughts: eleven dollars for a little less than a cup of olive oil! Have I gone crazy? But the smell is heaven. And tonight, I make an abundant salad of Italian greens, English cucumber, almonds, a fresh russet apple, cheddar cheese, and raisins. I pour over it one teaspoon of persian lime olive oil and one teaspoon of cranberry pear balsamic. And a shake of salt and pepper on top. I toss the salad well in a large metal bowl then turn it out into a shallow antique dish. And when I eat this fresh lovely poem, my taste buds say Yes!

in my cupboard