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December 9, 2016

A Little Bit Of Sacred

By Maryanna Gabriel

"The wonder is that we can see these trees and not wonder more."
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Using trees and decorating with evergreen is a centuries old tradition as we light up in the darkness of December and celebrate this special time. Not long ago I wrote a post on The 
Golden Spruce wherein the author, Jon Vaillant, recounts the strange and mysterious tale of the tree's passing. The beautiful Golden Spruce is revered by the Haida in the Queen Charlotte Islands. Recently I cruised a nursery and found a chip off of the old block. I pined. It took a bit of time but I saved to buy it. Recently I got all spruced up and reverently planted it. I immediately felt like I had done something sacred for the forest I live in. It felt like a counter measure in a world that often calls for one. I am routing for the little thing. Funny, it does not look gold, it looks to be a soft brushed green but the label very clearly demarcates that it is from Haida Gwaii and the great mother which is now so famous. I am kind of hoping it will dig in and spread its little roots. A fresh blanket of snow has fallen overnight. The forest looks so peaceful. I am hoping the little tree is managing. Wishing you all peace amid your boughs and a little bit of sacred. 

December 2, 2016

Brilliantly Bad

By Maryanna Gabriel
"The pen is mightier than the sword."
                               - Edward Bulwer-Lytton

My father always used to say this as he was joking, "It was a dark and stormy night" and we would all laugh with him. Did you know this was actually the topic sentence for a novel written by Edward Bulwer-Lytton in 1830? I didn't. This author was widely known in his day. This famous sentence is the inspiration for an actual award for authors and the winners are posted annually. I am taking a writing course and we were recently assigned the challenge of writing the worst opening sentence we could think of, the thesis being that one has to know how to write badly in order to break the rules. What fun. I enthusiastically composed my sentence with cliche, vile punning, and outworn metaphor in mind.

    "I wavered in a squirming state of nausea at the hospital entrance under a naked street lamp, the wafting smell of his cigar bringing to mind that abortion really brings the kid out of you." 

I was rewarded for my effort with praise by my teacher who is a published novelist. "Maryanna, this is brilliant," he wrote. I was excited. It was very encouraging. There is something fulfilling about doing the worst possible composition. Not sure how my class mates will vote. The winner of this award for one of the grand prizes wrote this lovely sentence which is widely published.

    "She resolved to end her love affair with Ramon tonight.... summarily, like Martha Stewart ripping the sand vein out of a shrimp's tail... though the term love affair now struck her as a ridiculous euphemism... not unlike 'sand vein' which is after all an intestine, not a vein... and that tarry substance inside isn't sand... and that brought her back to Ramon."
                                                                                                       -Dave Zobel BLFC Grand Prize 2004

Arno Rafael Minkinnen

November 21, 2016

Say Cheese

By Maryanna Gabriel

Colby Cheese - Waxing For Aging

It is getting to be the time of year where the clouds set in as an oppressive weight on the matter. I am realizing if I am to meet the current standards of mental health and what constitutes a natural vitamin D dosage I need to drop everything when the sun comes out and rush to stand in it, wildly baring my arms in order to fully absorb the rays. Maybe it is the year coming to a close, and this being on my wish list for far too long, but for some reason I have been madly making Colby Cheese. This achievement is gargantuan. If I were to read the directions to you I think you would agree. "Stir for one hour at 40 degrees and then lower the temperature and stir for another fifteen minutes." For some reason that particular instruction had me stumped until I rotated the television towards the kitchen and managed to cook dinner at the same time whilst simultaneously tap dancing and patting my head. Okay maybe not the last part. The result has me feeling a little nervous. After processing four liters of milk and weighing it all down with a jar of honey (okay that wasn't in the recipe either) I have a rather small accomplishment for my efforts that at this point tastes a bit like feta. I am kind of hoping the aging process takes me into more exciting gastronomic realms.

November 12, 2016


By Maryanna Gabriel 

It has been the question in conversation – where were you when President Kennedy was shot? Off the conversation would go to our varying memories of 1964. (It was announced over the school PA and I was walking down the hallway.) Where were you when you found out the news of the 2016 American election? That stunner would also qualify as an outstanding moment in time and I am surmising in the decades ahead we will be having the same conversation. I have taken to drinking hot chocolate laced with ground pepper, cardamom and a hint of chili. Very soothing. Getting cosy as the weather gets colder is a lovely way to tuck into home. I could snorf my chai recipe down by the gallon. Memento: A Coastal Recipe Treasure, the cookbook I have published, was recently reviewed again this fall which was awfully nice.  I always need to look the chai recipe up in the book as I can never remember it. It is soothing and comforting, wonderful when wearing pajamas or especially helpful when having a pajama day.

2  c. water
1 c. milk
2 teabags
cinnamon stick
4 cardamom pods with seeds only
6 cloves
6 peppercorns
1 tsp sliced fresh ginger
honey to taste

Add water to a small sauce pan. Gently grind spices (whole works as well). Simmer in the water. Add honey, milk, and tea. When steeped strain into cups and serve. 

November 4, 2016

The Tea Leaf Reader

By Maryanna Gabriel 

"It's no use to go back to yesterday
because I was a different person then."

- Alice In Wonderland by CS Lewis

(Artist Unknown)

I sat for my tea leaf reading in a Victorian setting. I was at once reassured as I found myself before a twinkly, white-haired, Welsh woman. She seems kindly as she tells me that as a child she used to sit under the tea table and listen to her grandmother and mother do readings. Even better, I think. An array of cups surround her and I was to choose one. It was at once immediately clear. It had little roses on it.

       She pours the tea and after a time I drink and turn the cup over for her. There is a shift in energy as she contemplates the cup. She said she saw spots on a vast plane. Puzzled, she corrected herself. “I am being shown a map, these are not spots, these are places,” she murmured. “You travel to lots of places and write about them.” I nod but she is not looking at me. Her eyes are closed. She is somewhere else.

        I feel myself being drawn into a dreamscape with  her as the room seems to recede. She picked up the cup and turned the troubles out, the grievances, the heartaches, like so many tiny droplets, seemingly such small matters in a great vastness. Like a giant, friendly, fairy goddess grandmother, the slight wave of her wrist vanquished all troubles into an infinite and benevolent universal sea. She talked on. Her words were spoken in metaphor, of symbols, a landscape of people like puppets moving across an enormous cosmic stage masquerading in varying roles. Slowly the outer garments were revealed as if what lay beneath the mask shown to the outer world was a much unpleasanter vista in a realm where all is known. Without her saying very much directly I knew exactly what she meant. After a time and filled with wonder, I found myself in my seat again, the murmurings of the shop surrounding us as the older woman’s eyes opened. “You have chosen the tea cup of happiness my dear,” she said. I laughed with delight. This is very, very, good. But then I already knew that. 

October 9, 2016

Date With A Bathtub

By Maryanna Gabriel

"There are times when my spirit, weary and worn,
Longs for the peace of a dry canyon morn,
To rise from my sleep, dreamless and deep,
To the canyon wrens song."
              - Bright Angel by Susan Osborn

Date with an outdoor bath tub. 
I found myself in desert canyon country, not quite lunar, but close. It was extremely hot and tumbleweeds and sage brush decorated the roadside. I was by the Thompson River in Spence's Bridge, population 150, and have just slowed for a big horned sheep. I was happily renting a house for the night that had been built in the 1800's and where British ethnobotanist James Teit lived. This man recorded much of the local indigenous Thompson culture and was a part of land negotiations during British colonization. It seemed the perfect segue. There is a
Kettle Valley
heat here that is wilting and I have gratefully retreated to the cooler recesses of the house. Apparently the trout are running. The trout are running? That is what she said. I tried to be polite as my hostess informed me that I should check the tree outside for black bears before I depart in the morning. "Oh," I mouthed silently as I mentally moved my schedule up for my bath from starlight to twilight. I went outside and 
nervously looking around I tried to destress from the day's drive as I gratefully inserted myself into the hot water and examined the trees. A train came by. Whoo whoo. The geography seemed to vibrate. I suppose one gets used to it. I noted the different whistles and variations in the way a conductor could make the sound. I was happy our commerce was so viable, apparently the country is moving a lot of goods. That's good, right? Do people really sleep through all of this? At least I never lived here. Hmmm. Could I? So there you have it. And I was not torn limb from limb although she really had me going. Apparently I have not gotten over the bear that ripped the tent apart when I was doing archaeology up north. Much later, after visiting my family in Alberta, I meandered west through the Kettle Valley and caught up with a pumpkin patch. Nope. I never lived in the Kettle Valley either. I was glad to catch the ferry to the Gulf Islands and home. Enough meandering. I had revisited some of my past. Time for a glass of wine and a good book by the fire. 

October 7, 2016

Gibbs Creek

By Maryanna Gabriel

My mother did a sketch of our camp at Gibbs Creek.

Our crew. I am center.
Cooking dinner on bed-springs. I am right. 
I was headed up the Fraser to a creek where we had all made camp and from where we did our surveillance and excavations. Once I assisted on a burial. Another time I was selected to accompany a palynologist to a lake that was high up. We bored for samples and he talked to me about what he was thinking he was going to find as a means for assisting with the dating of the occupations we were researching. We used carbon dating as well. For awhile I thought I would be a palynologist but I changed my mind thinking there might not be a high demand for work. I thought a lot about the creek that we camped by. It seemed to accompany the memory, the rushing sound of water we slept to and where we washed and swam.

I dove past Fountain and it was this Band that owned the land and from whom we had obtained permission to excavate. I remembered a most awful story. A woman in Fountain had fought off a cougar protecting children and in a most dreadful drama she saved them but not before the cougar ripped her apart. I shivered. This was also rattlesnake country although I had never seen one of those. I do remember a local telling me that he had decided there was no gold in them thar' holes that we were excavating. He had driven his bulldozer through a site looking. Nope. Not one speck of gold. The doctorate in charge of the research was bowled over with that one. It was a bit hard to take in and more than a little overwhelming as to how to respond to that besides the fact it is illegal. I hesitated by the road where we had all been and not a soul was in sight. I wanted to explore but it was private property and I did not have permission. It was an interesting and exciting time with lots of camaraderie and fun in addition to the high learning curve. I turned away, curious about the country I was driving through. I had a date with a bath tub and I needed to keep it before it got too dark for me to find my way. 

October 5, 2016


By Maryanna Gabriel

The "Bud Car" still runs from
Lillooet to Seton Lake. 
The first time I saw Seton Lake I said to myself that I wanted to live here. My wish was granted. For a short time I perched myself in a small white house on the lake drinking in the beauty of it. I had worked by the lake after all. I was part of a team of archaeologists that did research at the head of the lake at what was an extremely rich cultural deposit. It was an amazing experience and hugely rewarding. I was wondering what I was going to find as I drove down the new descent to where so much of my past lay. I got out. I was relieved to see that it was relatively pristine. No condo's or hotels. In fact, it seemed to be commandeered by BC Hydro. A road switch-backed through what was the site. Access to the lake was controlled by a gate and a brick BC Hydro Building stood where I knew we had excavated. Hmmm. Being out of the archaeology business I imagined they paid their due diligence. Sage brush and pine trees surrounded me as I remembered the people that I shared this experience with. One of those people eventually became my husband. I sighed as I observed a complicated canal connecting the lake to the town of Lillooet.
Recording petroglyphs on the Fraser River. 
The town is on a dusty plateau that overlooks the Fraser River. I remember back in the day that the local pub had two entrances, one for the whites, one for the First Nations people. The memory was so Alabama. I remembered characters of the town I had made friends with. We had to do a lot of interviewing at times as we researched. One of the projects was working for PhD candidate, Doris Lundy, and our job was to record the petrogylphs that were incredibly prolific. It was such a lovely job. I pulled myself out of my reverie. It was time to leave Seton and I got back into the car. 

October 2, 2016

Duffy Lake Road

By Maryanna Gabriel

We all remember our first car and mine was a blue Volkswagen. I think it cost $200. The windshield wiper fell off. I drove the Duffy Lake Road once in the pouring rain with my hand stuck out of the window as I manually cleared the window. Oh boy. It was a dirt road then of course and impassible for half of the year. The joys and folly of youth. I used to take the "Bud Car" through here as well. It was a three car train that would leave the north shore and go to Lillooet for a nominal amount. Comfortably one could eye the rushing rivers, sparkling lakes, and snow capped mountains. It really is a beautiful area. On this day as I drove, playing with memories, I noted lots of new parks. I was surprised by how nice the road was. It made the TransCanada look like a cattle trail. Old barns were down which always makes me feel a bit sad. I wound my way up switchbacks carefully noting picnic spots. The car came to a halt. An astonishingly long line of traffic lay ahead. I was not alone on the road after all. The cars were lined up for miles. We were not moving. I was hoping it was road work. Undaunted I pulled out my picnic basket. I am a picnic pro and I was prepared. Relaxing I enjoyed the sun hoping for the best. After a very long time a black helicopter flew over us. Oh oh. It was followed by police, an ambulance, more police, and a motor cavalcade. We slowly inched forward. Sorry someone was hurt and disgusted by the congestion I pulled over. So much for a wilderness adventure. I might as well be in a shopping mall in Richmond. I nibble on cookies and slowly sip tea from my thermos while inhaling the pungent smell of mountain fir. At least the road was uninhabited. That was something. A tour bus goes by. Tour bus? Then another. Disgusted,  I start to count. By the time I get to six I had arrived at a place I dearly remembered and loved, beautiful Seton Lake. 

Beautiful Seton Lake

October 1, 2016


By Maryanna Gabriel

The road to Whistler has always given me the jitters. When I was in high school a huge
Green Lake & Wedge Mountain
boulder came through the roof of a moving car and killed a class mate. I tend to drive the highway a little on the fast side fending off a head ache. It was a beautiful day though and the new highway was a breeze. I am always a little startled by Whistler. We came here to ski as a family when I was young and after high school I lived here for a time working at a local restaurant and also at the top of the mountain in the cafeteria. I loved the ski down the mountain, five solitary wondrous miles, that came out at the garbage dump. It was a big deal when a portable arrived that was the liquor store. It meant we no longer had to drive to Squamish for a bottle of wine. Trying not to feel like an old gaffer, the Whistler I see before me astounds me. A Fairmont Hotel flanked by exclusive shops exist where the old garbage dump was. A traffic light governs the turn off to our old house and I see they have named it Zeppo Lane. Zeppo was our next door neighbour. He was Finnish, I think. He was a tall strong man with a thick crew cut and a heavy accent. I remember how he swung his ax and parted vast piles of wood like butter. 
One day he drove home late at night, parked his car, passed out we think, and froze to death. I sigh and turn down a street that is suddenly four lanes and realize I am on the wrong side of the road. I am caught as there is a huge concrete divide preventing me from moving over. I try not to panic. Cars honk and people yell. Very relaxing. I take it as a sign. It is time to get out of town... and what is the average price of homes here, I wonder to myself as my heart beat slowly returns to normalcy. Development that used to peter out three miles past the gondola seems to go on and on with expensive homes and condos. I stop at Green Lake and admire beautiful Wedge Mountain, one of my father's favourites. I was curious about the drive ahead. I had not been on the old Duffy Lake Road for decades. It was since before I was married in fact. What was I to discover I wondered? 

September 24, 2016

Old Haunts

By Maryanna Gabriel 

Heading back to one's past is always a tricky business and here I was going to it. It is always a sense of coming home when I look at the mountains of Vancouver. On the north shore where I lived I feel like everything is miniaturized somehow. I have grown larger or it has become diminutive and feeling much like Alice In Wonderland, scale and perspective are all askew as I take it all in. 

My spirits soaring, I skip in the sunshine by the sparkling waters of Burrard Inlet. Happy childhood memories return to me as doggies amble by and seagulls swoop in circles. I stop for awhile and watch 
a fisherman cast a circular net then admire the tasteful and subdued rock formations placed as natural sculptures by oceans edge. Lovely wave-shaped wooden benches curl beside bundles of grasses as running water pools and splashes into gushing fountains. 
I deliver the painting that had been commissioned and visit with my friend who is always wonderful to see. We eat crab cakes and gossip happily. Housing prices here average three million and it is always nice to think - if only... but it is time to go. Later I mused that this was the first time I have visited and not returned to the old family home. I take this as a good sign. I point the car north. 

September 8, 2016

Author's Tea

By Maryanna Gabriel

All of that roaring about in the night paddling my heart out seems long ago. Now I do things like the Author's Tea. The invitation was an unusual one. It was from the local library. Would I wish to join local author's for a formal tea being one myself? Why, yes, I replied. I would. It felt all very L.M. Montgomeryish. I was in a tizzy.

I wore my purple dress. Somehow that seemed important. Were the cups going to be nice, I wondered? Should I carry a handbag? How was I to hold forth and so on.  As it was, it was very nice. A woman sat next to me, also in a purple dress which somehow seemed significant. I read her name tag. I murmured faintly, "You didn't review my book." She blinked. I grew bolder. "I sent Owen's Grandmother And The Little Black Box to you." "Oh," she said, "..but I did review it! Here let me show you." We both peered into her phone. Nada. Nix. Nein. "There has been some mistake," she said. She promised to queue it again. 

I floated over for more canapes feeling somehow like the world had taken on a golden glow. It was a distinctly different paddle of the heart but just as intense. 

August 26, 2016

Circumnavigating Salt Spring Island: Salubrity

By Maryanna Gabriel 

"Live in the sunshine. Swim the sea. Drink the wild air's salubrity." Ralph Waldo Emerson

I have loved this little spot. It is wild and feels very safe. I have been able to totally relax. It is funny what one becomes undyingly grateful for. A slip of pebbly beach. Sleep. Memories that surface and loosen as the sun and the sea churn over them. Tide lines that are below one's gear. Silence. The book I have been reading. Milk that has not gone off. I have cherished this time with the sea. It is almost over.

I paddle to a waterfront pub and make the call to be picked up by a friend. It was time to reenter civilization and say good bye to the silent beauty that has been such a healing salve. I order a Caesar Salad savouring the fresh crunchiness with appreciation. The waitress stared at me oddly when I told her she was the first person I had spoken to in several days. My daughter was glad to see me. Everything that was my life seemed heightened by a renewed and keen appreciation. It was good to be home. 

August 19, 2016

Circumnavigating Salt Spring: No Mind

By Maryanna Gabriel

I have been paddling and not overly far into the morning have found an island. It is a very special place. I have been fortunate to have it to myself given it is now the weekend. I feel replenished now. I am remembering the last day of school and how I cried. I do not do well far from nature. What has meant the most to me doing this trip is the silence. No words. The phone has been hounding me lately like a snapping dog. The psychic peace is a salve. I feel more balance. Out
here it is so easy to just let go. I yearn momentarily for a waterproof match holder and then let that go too. As the evening falls a heron perches on the shore in front of me, silhouetted against the sky I admire his zen beauty. A flock of Canada geese come. They make funny little noises and overriding the sound is a more basal honking as if their calls are gender related. Just as I am drifting off to sleep some fireworks start up. Some big time spender on the waterfront is treating his guests. Rather than being entertained I resent the intrusion and I imagine I sense the fish retreating into the depths. The geese are alarmed. In spite of the hullaballoo my peace abides. I have a sense of being taken care of. I fancy the universe continues to deliver to me the sweetest of gifts, the way that I got going on this journey, the northern lights, the heron, the seagulls staring stupidly with long dangling things coming out of their mouths (locking eyes and consciousness with a seagull is a bit of no-mind place to be), the sweet juniper grove that I am resting within, staring at a moving jellyfish and feeling like I am looking into the membrane of a spaceship, watching mink swim right by me only to suddenly veer as he sees me, the amazing endless stars where it is said that a part of our soul resides. My heart is singing with the beauty around me. The Canada Geese talk to me for hours. I say very little in reply. Feeling I am in safe sanctuary, I drift off to sleep. 

August 13, 2016

Circumnavigating Salt Spring: Sleep

By Maryanna Gabriel

I awoke at first light as one is wont to do when sleeping on a rocky cliff perched over the ocean. I blinked and sat up. My eyes took in an unforeseen sight. The water in the inlet, all of it, was gone except for a small rivulet in the  muddy center. Rapidly, I readied to launch. If I did not want to be stranded I would have to leave immediately. Adrenalin pumped through my tired body once again as I trotted the kayak across the sand and back out of the hook. My exciting vacation, I muttered to myself. What is wrong with a nice Adirondack chair in the back yard with a lovely latte? I coaxed myself past the squirting of clams who also were interrupted with a morning lie-in. They did not seem to care what my opinion was on the need for coffee. Once back on the ocean, I began to search for a place where I could pull up and sleep. I was totally depleted. My requirements were few. I needed a place that was wild, where I felt assured I would not be disturbed, and it had to be far from houses. After a couple of hours such a place presented itself. Strange white gooey duct-type creatures hung like white glue suspended from the underside of rocks. How enticing. It would do. I spread my bag and flopped down. I slept, slept, slept. I slept the rest of that day and all of the next night. I was on the final leg of my journey. 

August 5, 2016

Circumnavigating Salt Spring Island: Silvery Moon

By Maryanna Gabriel

"The rock and pool, is nice and cool, so juicy sweet. 
Our only wish, to catch a fish, so juicy sweet."
- Gollum's Song from "The Two Towers" by J.R.R. Tolkein

The water was inky black as I paddled. I heard a calling from the forest. It made my blood chill. It was localized and from the shoreline, not like a bird, and not like any animal I was familiar with. It seemed to be crying, and it sounded like something was lost to it. The creature was mourning most grievously. The sound felt broken hearted to me and I wondered what could make such a call. Animal in sound but human in complaint I fancied it was one of the silkies, a human turned into seal form. There was nothing I could do to help it. I was barely managing myself. This was proving to be an unforgettable night. 

eeling quite disoriented and overcome with fatigue, I realized suddenly where I was. This was the hook. I knew there had to be a place to land. With relief I turned inland and I 
entered the calm protection of the inlet. Being out of the wind and roar of the surf felt like a reprieve. Moonlight shimmered and the water was as still as glass. As I paddled, silvery fish jumped. They seemed to live in the mud and I fancied that Gollum would have liked these morsels for the whole vista seemed to me to be akin to a magical scene out of Lord Of The Rings. Weariness rolled off of me in waves and my arms felt insensible. I arrived at the end of the hook. I almost cried with disappointment. What I fancied would be a sandy beach was marsh. I waded briefly in disbelief in the sheer muck of it. Desperation threatened to overwhelm me. I had no idea how far away in time morning light was, but I knew that I needed to stop. Backtracking more carefully now, I traversed the hook once again, and finally found a ledge where it seemed I could lie. This was an unusually high tide. I pulled the kayak up beside me. I was so exhausted I collapsed and asleep as soon as I unrolled my bag, only to jerk myself awake in order to watch the hypnotic movement of the water wondering if the tide was still climbing. I could not risk losing equipment or being overcome by the surf. I blearily eyed the sea for what seemed like an eon, trying to decide if the tide was advancing or receding.  At last, reassured the tide was going out and thankful I was still in one piece, I let go and lapsed into deep, dark, unconsciousness.

July 30, 2016

Circumnavigating Salt Spring Island: Milky Way

By Maryanna Gabriel

"Now you have gone, gone to whatever kind of place it may be,
the place where all are shorn..."   -  Aztec Prayer

The ferry was bearing rapidly towards home port, the engines chugging in the darkness, the lights growing larger by the second. I paddled for dear life. A ferry would never see me. I would not even look like a log on their radar. How could I be so stupid as to not carry a watch? One more bad decision in a breathtaking series of them. This must be the last sailing from Tsawwassen and this ferry must be very late. Waves and wind were minor considerations as I fully concentrated on moving the kayak as fast as humanly possible out of the shipping lane.

I managed. The ferry pounded by me, massive and unaware.  My heart thudding, my body aching, my mind a dull roar, I cast my eye along the new surf’s edge for reprieve. There was none. The waves roiled against rocks.  Rounding yet another tip of land, I began a strange paddle the likes of which haunts me still. I was beyond fatigue. The wind and water were unceasingly restless. Hugging the shore had always been my comfort. I found here that that I had to move further out to sea in order to be in the moonlight. The shore itself was as black as ink and the high tide covered all possible landing sites. I knew where I was. It was a gated community and not conducive to camping. I had to keep going. 

It seemed like I was paddling for a long time. A sea lion came up beside me. These creatures can be longer than my kayak and fear once again flooded me. I started to sing. I sang to him and told him I appreciated his escort but that his immediate departure was greatly appreciated. He rose and fell beside me, snorting and curious. I sang some more. Eventually he left. I relaxed just a little.
The Milky Way & Northern Lights 

Then something absolutely amazing happened. The Northern Lights began to play across the sky in bars and flames of wavering pink and green, a curtain of shimmering movement. I was overcome with awe. Everything seemed surreal. I started to feel that fatigue was playing tricks with my perceptions. My arms continued to move rhythmically and I became aware that my spatial sense was not working properly. I stared at the stars and the play of colour with the Milky Way as wonder and gratitude filled me. The lights danced. I paddled on through the night. 

July 22, 2016

Circumnavigating Salt Spring Island: White Caps

By Maryanna Gabriel 

Ganges Harbour

My heart warmed, the kayak restocked with provision, and with the exciting addition of a cook stove, I paddle in style out of the harbour. Darkness falls and I make my way contentedly in the moonlight. The harbour is dotted with islands and I knew where I was going. The water was as still as glass. I am headed to a beautiful beach on Third Sister Island, a very special place. I sleep deeply in spite of someone hacking and vomiting on a nearby sailboat. The next day dawned, and I explore with pleasure. Later, the day brought teenage boys, drinking beer and making a ruckus. I decided peace was a priority and putting my book aside I made the decision to leave. Immediately I knew I had made a mistake. As I crossed the water to shore, I found myself in whitecaps which threatened to swamp me. Cursing the lack of a hatch cover, fear welled up inside of me as waves broke against the kayak. This was clearly dangerous. 

Prayer flew from my lips. Shakily, I made it to the other side and rested in the shadow of a dark looking house that seemed to have eyes although there was no visible sign of life. There was no other spot readily apparent for the tide was high. While waterfront is public at beach level, it seemed I had no choice.  I watched the surf warily and the wind only picked up. Reluctantly I made camp. Dinner was delicious. I settled back, my stomach at least satisfied, and stared at the strange upright piles of stones and "found" objects that littered the beach. They seemed to be fetishes. It was downright creepy. I could not shake the feeling I was being watched. The moon rose and I drifted off to an uneasy sleep.

I awoke with a start. Something was very wrong. Wind or no wind, I wanted out of this place. It was giving me goose bumps. I had no clock but I judged it to be past midnight. The sea boiled around me as I launched. I crossed a bay and heard something that made my blood run cold. There were sucking noises as waves arose out of nowhere and lifted and crashed. Never before had I experienced such a grim sound. My blood ran cold. I paddled with all my strength through boiling cauldrons of water as I struggled with whirl pools, the winds roaring around me. In my minds eye I imagined what it would be like sitting by the fire reading about this epic, wishing very much I was in that armchair. It crossed my mind I might die. If swamped, I thought in all probability I would be able to swim to shore, once the kayak sank. I imagined knocking on one of the doors of the houses, a sorry sodden mess, spending years of my life paying back the lost equipment. Somehow, carrying on like this, and muttering implications to heavenly hosts, I made it to Long Harbour.  I would not go down it, I decided. Too long. I was tired. It was late. I would save time and go across the mouth of the harbour in search of a beach on the far side. All of the ferries were berthed by now.  A third of the way across I noticed lights on a boat far off in the distance. As I stared these lights began to loom. It was a ship. Oh oh. Could this really be a BC Ferry? All of the ferries were not berthed. Oh no. I could hear the thump of engines. It was coming rapidly. It was bearing down on me faster than I could paddle.

July 15, 2016

Circumnavigating Salt Spring: Baked

My soul was dry and my heart a wisp. I was on empty, craving refilling. The wind, waves, and water were very healing. The sun warmed my bones and cooked my brains. The quiet was bliss, away from the drone, where I could soothe my jagged emotions and where the great mother sea and earth held me in grand orchestration. 

Seals sunning themselves. 
Days pass. My lips are swollen from the sun. I swim. I find an oyster for my supper. Wildlife visit me at night, a family of otters and then a deer came right to me where I lay trying to sleep. During the day the steady rhythm of paddling takes hold of me absorbing me into a trance-like peace. I paddle companionably by seals sunning themselves. My eyes drink in the shapely Arbutus and Gary Oak as I pass small islands and watch the shore with curiosity. It was a whole new experience to see the wildness of where I lived from this perspective. I was entranced. A dank bay offered me silty reprieve from the surf and gave me pause to take stock of the supplies, a very odd assortment of food and limited water. Clicking my tongue in alarm, I chastised myself for giving my power over to my friend who assured me there was ample. I would have to restock. I would try and make contact with my daughter, probably from Ganges. One day melted into the next. My arms gained muscle tone and my mind relaxed more deeply than it had in recent memory. I settled into the glaring sun, negotiating the surf taking my time around the bays and inlets, cursing my inadequate eye wear.  

I found myself heading down Ganges Harbour, captivated by the waterfront houses and by the wildlife, feeling hardened and baked by the summer heat. Ganges assailed me, an insult to the senses. The streets teamed with summer tourists and the heat came off the pavement in waves. Normally, 12,000 people live on the island, but in the summer, the town swells with visitors. I located my daughter working at her summer job. She agreed to meet me later, with the food that I needed at a nearby beach. I waited. She greeted me with pizza and supplies and we fell into each others arms. Restocked with hugs and food, and reassured all was well with her, I launched once again. 

I wait for my daughter at Churchill Beach in Ganges Harbour. 

July 9, 2016

Circumnavigating Salt Spring: Decisions

By Maryanna Gabriel

A course I had been attending was finally done and I had my certificate in hand. You know what its like. Being done with it all. The heart is heavy and the soul weary and all one wants to do is soothe the senses. I mostly craved silence. The absolute peace of it. I yearned to be away from mindless chatter and a busy schedule. I had been thinking about circumnavigating the island for a long time and kind of talking myself out of the idea the way one does. Salt Spring island is 184 kilometers long and has 135 kilometers of shoreline, pristine and beautiful. When a friend suggested some time out together on a two night trip, I accepted. It would not be a circumnavigation but the timing was perfect for what had lately been on my mind. 

Launching from a beach, not far from where we lived, we set out. Whether it was the wine that
The decision is made. 
disappeared on the first night, or my thoughtful silence and monosyllabic responses, she announced without warning  her dog did not have enough food and that she was heading up Fulford Harbour towards home. I was dismayed. She told me to continue if I wished, that it would be alright with her that I use the equipment, just to mind I took care of it. I recognized this as an opportunity, and that a solo kayak was what I wanted more than anything. The clear skies beckoned, we said our good byes and her parting comment rang in my ears that I had no hatch cover or float bag. What? Mildly disturbed, I weighed in my mind the risks and turned inward with the question. Do I keep going with the knowledge I was handicapped? Food was also a problem. I got the inner nod. It was a go. 

July 1, 2016


By Maryanna Gabriel

My credit card and I are languishing in tremulous quiet here in the garden while we both recover from all of the to'ing and fro'ing as visitors flock to the island on this long weekend. I contemplate the wonders of rubbish bins in my travels. It is so exciting to conveniently come upon them so frequently as if other places feel it their responsibility to provide them. Imagine. On the island here we tend to be quite miserly about this as a provision. The scant collection is barred with grates and tiny holes as if to unwelcome the matter and further impede entry. It must puzzle visitors who look around for one that is nowhere in sight as they madly stuff ice cream napkins back into their purses. That's the idea, I suppose. There is a side effect which entails a lot of citizen participation from the locals. One feels quite reckless and gleeful on the mainland. It's the little things but not the sole reason I leave, of course, but never mind all that now. I want to tell you about when I kayaked around the island. You see I had been attending school on Vancouver Island....

June 26, 2016

Ontario, Warmed By The East

 By Maryanna Gabriel

I board the deluxe train. 

Both of my daughters have really nice refrigerators. I know because I have just been to Toronto visiting amid all of the previously mentioned singing. After admiring her appliances and enjoying the St. Lawrence antique market, I boarded a train to visit a friend I have known since I was five years old. The train was deluxe and I enjoyed watching Lake Ontario go by as we headed eastward into rural Ontario. There is something about connecting with one's past when so much time has gone by that is quite precious. 

Ruby, turns three.*

Ontario is a place where I spent part of my childhood and memories assailed me as  my friend and I made the rounds of her beautiful home and acreage chatting companionably about our mutual histories accompanied by her astonishing dog, Ruby, who along with her pretty face is characterized by being quite voluminous. It was delightful. As my friend was showing me the barn and horse, the horse began to snort anxiously and reverse with ears back. We followed the horses gaze and as we looked into the forest trying to understand, a handsome Mr. Fox dashed out of the trees in tearing fashion heading madly towards us. We stood watching mesmerized from the paddock. When almost upon us the fox veered, his white-tipped tail twitching cheekily, as he sailed and bobbed away into the tall grasses. Now that is a sight we islanders never see. I am home now and as I look into my refrigerator wondering at what point the word antique may be applied, my heart is warmed by the east. 

*Photos credit mm.. 

June 14, 2016

Ann Mortifee

By Maryanna Gabriel 

"Silence is the wellspring of everything,
from silence comes sound."
  - Ann Mortifee

Virtuoso Ann Mortifee. 
Ann was stunning and we rose to the occasion. She seemed to draw the best out from us and nodded, winked and smiled, frequently blowing kisses towards the choir as we prepared for performance. I felt greatly honoured to be able to sing with this amazing talent and person. She seemed to pull an enormous energy from deep within the earth creating a vortex of sound amid a liquid rise and fall of notes that seemed impossible. We were at once entranced and spell bound. The hall seemed to beautifully amplify the harmony of hundreds singing, the stained glass windows creating a spell of their own. Delicately coloured light streamed through the tinted panes and curving balconies. Curvaceous staircases laced with delicate wood filigree pleased and teased the eye. 

We all concentrated and followed the directors. The cadence of lyrics issued forth as one. I learned that a beautiful and haunting love song we were doing, "Rhada's Song" from the poet Rumi, had been performed by Ann and this very choir for the Dalai Lama and that it had been written and arranged by our director Dennis Donnelly. A baby grand, cello, flute, and guitar complimented her solos which were at once mesmerizing and electric. I wept. I felt disembodied, transported, a visitor to an unseen world as the music played on. Today, I retrace the threads back to the outline of myself as the chords fade away, the sounds cease and foot lights dim. Seeing her perform is the experience of a lifetime. The choir has raised over $400,000 for education in Mozambique.

The "Gettin Higher Choir" Performs With Ann Mortifee, Alix Goolden Hall, Victoria, BC. 

June 4, 2016


By Maryanna Gabriel

"I don't sing because I'm happy; I'm happy because I sing."
~William James

Shivaun Robinsong is the founder of the choir. 

I have been madly traipsing back and forth to Victoria groping for notes as I prepare to perform with someone I greatly admire, the illustrious Ann Mortifee, with the Gettin' Higher Choir this week. It is a bit of tumble of lyrics and sounds in my head right now and some of what we are going to 
Dennis Donnely is co-director with Shivaun.
produce is still mysterious as orchestra members and other musicians do not appear until dress rehearsal. Ann has a voice that can blow the roof off and more talent than most people I know. I consider it an honour to be able to sing with her. We have been preparing for months and proceeds from this concert are going to assistance for Mozambique. Somewhere I read that art decorates the walls and music decorates the soul. It's true.  

Performing at the gracious and beautiful Alex Goolden Hall, Victoria BC.

May 14, 2016


By Maryanna Gabriel 

"The mountains are calling and I must go." John Muir

The nice thing about travelling in the middle of May is that everything is open and hardly anyone is about. Waterton, in southern Alberta, was stunning. Imagine my surprise as I drove into town only to face a huge Big Horn Sheep, bold as you please, walking down the middle of the road. The sheep seemed to be milling about as if this was just what they do. As I looked at the scat later on the sidewalks I realized that, yes, they do just make themselves at home in the streets here. Overlooking the lovely town that is poised in a mountainous valley, consisting of a chain of lakes, is the striking Prince Of Wales Hotel.

Unfortunately, the hotel was closed but as I walked around the outside there were sheep wandering around there too. I read that the Blackfoot believed a wind god protects Waterton and that when the hotel was built in 1927, 100 kilometer gales lifted the hotel off of the foundation by 20 centimeters. The hotel is still operating so maybe the wind god changed his mind. The beauty in this special place filled me. I felt revived and refreshed. I retrieved from within myself what I was searching for and so was able to depart with gratitude from this stunningly beautiful shangrila.