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December 27, 2020

Hope 2021

 
By Maryanna Gabriel

Hellebore or Christmas Rose

One aspect the 2020 year has taught us, is that we do not know what we even had. I am talking about simple things. Like a hug. Mobility. Shared feasts. 

I am trying to apply this principle of simplicity today to what I do have. People who love and care. A setting of natural beauty with clean water. A toasted turkey sandwich with sprouts. The flower I found blooming in the garden.

If I could, I would plant Hellebores or Christmas Roses everywhere as a sign of hope and new beginnings. May their beauty bloom for us all.

December 3, 2020

Hygge

 By Maryanna Gabriel

Hygge is a word meaning contentment with one's environment, associated with Denmark and Norway. They have the dark we experience in Canada, and as we near solstice, I am taking a leaf from their book and making things as inviting around here as I can. 

I figure if I need to be in my home without the usual Christmas hubbub, I might as well make it cosy. I have been busy placing soft lights, candles, wood for the fire, extra heaters, and interesting books and magazines, beside fluffy blankets and poufy pillows. I even went over the kitchen on a counter-clearing spree that was fairly astonishing, and polished the copper. Oh. And I oiled the wood surfaces. It is fairly gleaming. 

Then of course, there is comfort food, and taking time for creating delicious meals whether company is present or not. My thought is to make dishes served in warm places to give me that tropical feeling, anything involving mangoes, oranges, or coconut milk, for instance. 

Interesting white trucks are going up and down the road delivering packages. My porch has quite nice feng shui with a holly swag and a fetching chair for presents in case these elves come. If we are missing family and friends, gotta stay on the bright side. Right? 

November 30, 2020

Dear Santa

 By Maryanna Gabriel




The semester is nearing the finish line and I am surfacing. The furniture has been relieved of an inch of dust and I am just now getting to the sodden mass of leaves outside. The crazy raccoon I keep talking about has been carefully digging around the steps to the front door and I can barely walk as I try and sweep the piles back into place. My back is out. Again. Never mind. 

Important business is afoot. Santa has just received two important letters. North pole business. Lots to do tiddly pom. 

ps what is a snake remote control and a bakuun?



November 29, 2020

Rum & Eggnog

 By Maryanna Gabriel


T'is the season. My cousin came to the door yesterday and as we weren't in the same bubble, she could not come in for tea. She told me that she and her husband are constructing an outdoor glassed patio, with a propane heater. When it is finished, I should drop by. 

"Oh." I said. "A quarantined holding area for visitors. Great." A wonderful decorating feature. We can sanitize our hands, mask, and catch up on news. 

This Christmas is strange for everybody. I find myself grateful for the memory of my father, when times were simpler, and today's news was the stuff of science fiction. He would make eggnog laced with rum, sit back on the couch, and direct me as I moved to and fro decorating the tree.

Somehow doing the tree, doesn't feel right without one. May your bubble be merry and bright. 

Homemade Eggnog Recipe For Two

- the smallest egg in the fridge
- 1/2 tbsp. icing sugar or to taste
- 1/4 tsp. vanilla
- 1 c. milk

Beat. Pour a jigger of rum into the glass, top with homemade eggnog, stir, then add grated nutmeg. A toast to those we love.

November 20, 2020

Camino Publication

 By Maryanna Gabriel


"A bottle of red wine was proudly presented. 
A thimbleful each was poured. I started to worry..."
-"Get Thee To A Nunnery" by Maryanna Gabriel, Emerge2020


Getting so absent minded these days, I have missed three zoom calls. My pajamas have become my new uniform as I work on the manuscript after I wake up, before dealing with interruptions. Or is it rather, life that is supposed to be dealt with, writing aside? Wahoooooo to an A+ on a research paper I had returned today! It took a solid month to craft. Please don't mind me while I float about.

Now for something quite lovely indeed. It is the publication this month, of a short piece entitled "Get Thee To A Nunnery." I wrote about an experience I had on the walk to Santiago, doing the Camino. When I have the soup in a convent I visit, a story unfolds. It is in a journal entitled Emerge2020. How exciting is that? Just beside myself.

This is the link.



November 19, 2020

Gerunds?

By Maryanna Gabriel


 "Substitute damn when you are tempted to write very. 
Your editor will remove it and the 
writing will be just where it should be."
- Mark Twain 


I am labouring over a number of edits, to put it mildly, with manuscript in process, for the Masters, etc.  I thought gerunds were shy creatures who lived in bushes, or perhaps a part of a piano that might need recalibration with little hammers that tapped them obediently into place.

Recently I was given this comment in reply to an assignment I handed in. 

"When we join words with ‘and’ the sentence runs more smoothly, if they’re in the same form. The gerund following the comma helps make that shift from the main action of the sentence to the afterthought. I think of it as a little slide – the energy in the verb sliding down with the “ing” ending."

This takes one right to heart of inspiration and creative genesis. Really. Doesn't it? I am a'quiver now, a veritable Shakespearess in the making - a whole new twist in the road. Who knew such dangers lay lurking? Now I have to watch for "ings" lounging beyond every round in the bend. Damn lurkers.

My life has taken a spiral that only a glass of wine and a quiet night by the fire can remedy. I cannot for the life of me, after a paragraph like that, remember what it was I was trying to say. 


Gerunds are lurking, er, or rather, what I mean to say, gerunds lurked. 


,

November 15, 2020

Kintsugi

 By Maryanna Gabriel

It feels as though something momentous has passed, maybe it is the election south of us, or maybe it is all my assignments being handed in, as though a huge weight has lifted. The other night when I found my front door swinging widely I didn't notice it had smashed into one of my favourite pots and broken it. It was a special container as it had a raised lizard wrapped around it that was sculptural in quality. I have been trying to understand if I could fix it.


 Someone reminded me of kintsugi. Wikipedia writes this is "golden joinery that treats breakage and repairs as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise." The result is far more beautiful. It has occurred to me that I can apply kintsugi to many events in my life. Events both traumatic and beautiful, have been a golden joinery of the soul. 

November 6, 2020

Heart Splitting

By Maryanna Gabriel


I keep trying to watch a show and twice I have had to stop. It is so exquisitely narrated and filmed that it makes me cry. I am trying to articulate why. Maybe it is because this world can be so beautiful and such a sensitive, delicate place, amid so much that is the opposite. What is being depicted takes my breath away. It isn't just the the fantastic and imaginative life forms that exist, a testament to the wonder of this glorious planet. 

The documentary I am talking about is called "My Octopus Teacher." These creatures are extremely intelligent, more intelligent than our domestic cats and dogs. They play. Play? Yes, they play. They use tools. They can open jars - from the inside. They have been know to turn off lights in their tank for their own amusement. They will leave their tank and enter another tank, steal the fish, and return to their tank undetected. They are able to go on shore to catch food. They disguise themselves to maneuver in ways that are surprisingly tactical, requiring planning and forethought. The scene I cannot get past is the octopus trusting the diver to the point where he is sitting on his hand. This is about relationship and the word is trust. It is heart splitting.

When I was in Spain, walking the Camino, pulpo, or Octopus, was offered on menus. I just couldn't order it. Now I know why. 

November 5, 2020

Marauders

 By Maryanna Gabriel

Last night with a high wind, there were banging noises, but I managed to hold the line and sleep through the ruckus by pulling the pillow over my head. I dreamed I was in an airport rescuing small children who had been separated from their mothers.

When I woke up feeling well rested, I found the front door wide open! Good thing it wasn't freezing. The marauders could have had at me. Fortunately, the only marauders with masks are quite fuzzy and more interested in the garden where they turn rocks over looking for bugs. 

Now, I am cosied up in bed writing this with the heaters going full blast. 

October 30, 2020

Frisbee Love

 By Maryanna Gabriel



Samain literally means "summer's end" and as Halloween approaches this blue moon, I find myself hunkering in, for the wind is howling about the house this morning as if seeking entrance, while the power flickers ominously. Mushrooms are appearing on the property like alien life forms, fantastical and misshapen. The cedars are throwing down their branches littering the decks as leaves fly wildly. 

Trying to keep my spirits up, like everyone else on the planet, I was happy when my daughter forwarded a picture my grandson had drawn. He has not seen me in over a year. As with many grandparents and due to Covid, the usual travels back and forth across the country have ceased. For a project at school he drew his family and lo, I am the red figure to the left. It is a great honour given the number of family he had to choose from. As his grandmother, I am not forgotten and look, it has hearts. This is frisbee love.

October 1, 2020

Opal

 By Maryanna Gabriel

I had something lovely, an opal necklace, given to me when I got married. It was from my parents-in-law. I wear it often and deeply treasure it. When I got home I was unpacking as one is wont to do, and realized it was missing from my bag.

I felt sick. I thought back to the steps I had taken and knew it was gone. Have you ever gone through this? Lost something precious and tried not to feel awful? I realized it was a small stone but it was given and received in love. I felt bereft. 

I though about the forest fires on the western American coast and of the people who had lost everything in the recent rampage, and contemplated loss for a long while. I still had my  home and many did not. I let go. 

A day or two went by. I was standing in my bedroom. At the exact moment I was considering revisiting the coffee shop, one ferry and three hours away to look for it, my eye caught something. There it was. By my bed. On the floor. The very opal. 

Oh my. Don't ask me. I haven't taken it off since. 


September 30, 2020

Roderick Haig Brown House

 By Maryanna Gabriel

I had a romantic thing about fly fishing and have read all of Roderick Haig Brown's books. They were birthday gifts from my father. I was pretty excited to be visiting where he lived in Campbell River. I found the museum which was his old house. I went in. I could see prints of fish on the walls. An older woman appeared. She didn't look pleased.

"You should knock. This is a residence." She glared.

"I didn't realize this was private. It says it is a park. It's confusing. I am sorry. I didn't realize..." I slowly backed away. She fiercely stood her ground, saying nothing.  

I fled feeling mortified. I had just picked up a pamphlet at the tourism center that said this was a museum. Then there was the sign outside. It definitely said BC Parks. There is something wrong with this picture. I will have to write a letter. 

So I did. That made me feel a bit better. I am sure the provincial government was pleased to get it. 
Dear Maryanna,
Thank you so much for your letter. We were so pleased to hear from you. How are you? We are sorry about your recent experience with BC Parks and next time you are in Victoria do drop by Parliament. We would love to take you to the Empress and spot you for a wee cuppa. You can tell us all about it then. Please give our regards to your family. 
Yours truly,
BC Parks


I wonder what Roderick would have thought. I walked into Elk Falls that was near by and thought about him and how much the countryside must have changed since he lived here. I felt a little saddened by all of the development. 
















September 13, 2020

Smoke Over Water

 By Maryanna Gabriel




I knew it would be the last chance for me to get out for a bit of a break. I have just gone walkabout. It was only three days but it felt like a long time. From being home, the longest ever, to a drive north up the big island, I made a run for it. I slept in an old inn that had a lovely room with a slanting wood floor and a

view of the ocean. Later I watched an Orca break water and breach. That was glorious. I felt the spirits of the forest, reveled in driftwood, and the lovely rounded granite rocks that graced the shore. 

The smell of smoke had been in the air before I left. As I returned, the entire sky was gray. The smoke has spread for miles, not just up the coast but across the interior of British Columbia. The pain of the people and of the land to the south of us is making itself felt. It is hard just being with it.

Clams I bought, grace my kitchen. I am making chowder and linguine. I am thinking of smoke over water and of the beauty of this wonderful world that is so fraught. 





August 29, 2020

Melon Balls

 By Maryanna Gabriel



Sometimes one has things in one's drawers that are rather remarkable. For me it is my melon ball maker. It might have been my grandmother's. I have had it for twenty years and never used it. Today is the day. It is my birthday and I am having a socially distant party of bubbly and canapes. I made melon balls. I put them on toothpicks with basil.

I figure if one puts tooth picks in things it will be a canape. I also made crab tarts with parmesan, felafel bites, muharra which is a dip with red pepper, walnuts and pomegranate syrup, labneh with smoked salmon and dill, and cheese bites. It is all very exciting. I can hardly wait. It will be fun!












August 24, 2020

I Need Cookies

 By Maryanna Gabriel


Needing cookies is a bit of sign. It means I am craving comfort. It isn't about the men from Duncan although that provided an unexpected reprieve. Remember when I was writing about the crazy man bothering me last year? It turns out they know him or rather know people who know him. I had the feeling he would not be bothering me again. What goes around comes around. 

The cookie thing is something else. I have been working with a supervisor for one aspect of the manuscript I am working on and I have to stop dithering on something that is bothering me. Which is bothering me more. So I am thinking of making cookies. It might help.

The weather has turned and so I made Blackberry Jam. I hope it doesn't mean that I had the last swim at the lake. The good part about last swims is that one doesn't know they are the last, therefore, one does not feel sad. 


August 20, 2020

Men From Duncan

 By Maryanna Gabriel


My writing teacher and mentor, Jane Silcott, suggested this title when I relayed to the class what I was going through. Not that I am ungrateful. They came right away. I had been given the word. The septic was over forty years old and was crumbling. It was time. The news was as exciting as being told I need root canals in every molar. Worse actually. Gritting my teeth, I proceeded. 

It was a shock. What I was being told, and what was happening, was at variance. The amount being excavated grew bigger and bigger. The land that I had carefully nurtured was torn up. I was hoping the trees would withstand the shock for I was barely managing. 

The day after this happened, I looked out my window and saw an enormous crane. I didn't know that was coming either. A sizable rig was lifting a concrete tank into the ground. One neighbour dropped by in alarm. Four men proceeded to lay pipes and while I graciously made cookies and served coffee, I want you to know I managed to maintain calm. 

It is over now. They are gone and I can flush with aplomb. It rained last night and settled the dust. I am glad it is over and I won't be forgetting the men from Duncan in a hurry. Whew.









August 16, 2020

Dreamy August

 By Maryanna Gabriel

Something about the August heat brings on a surreal dreamy stillness. This is what I was experiencing early today, on a Sunday morn. I am up at dawn, on a watering mission for the plants need it with this heat. I am enjoying being home. I have done so much travelling in my life that I am satisfied with the beautiful patio I have created with a garden that is producing far more than I can eat. I am surprised so many people are travelling. The island here is packed with tourists. The summer must invite denial and the desire to flout risk. 

This morning I have been to the lake for a swim. I used to relax and embrace the close time with nature but over the last few years,  I feel the need to gird my loins. There must be an app. Sometimes it is someone naked, meditating and chanting, or some optimistic city slicker with a fishing rod (I have never seen anything greater than the size of a fingerling), or garbage left by party-goers from the previous night. Today it was three huge RV's even although the road is far too narrow and a sign says no RV's.

I dove into still waters and enjoyed the exercise. Nobody is awake this time of day and it the most magical. I love August. 



July 22, 2020

Plums With Fresh Thyme

By Maryanna Gabriel

There is a plum tree I love that is producing wonderful amber coloured plums right now which I have just picked.

I tried this recipe. You halve the plums and place fresh thyme, walnuts, brown sugar or honey, on top and broil. Serve on Greek yogurt with whipping cream. Is it ever good.







July 19, 2020

Linguine Cacio E Pepe



By Maryanna Gabriel

The rolling words cacio and pepe caught my eye and I looked them up. It turns out to be an Italian pasta with the rather splendid ingredients of black pepper, parmigiano and pecorino - complete ambrosia (except there is no garlic). 

Sundays always make me think of my mother for she prided herself in not serving a roast - rather she made spaghetti. We kids loved it. I continue the tradition, a form of ballast and connection to the past. As it is summer, I try to be lighter. I am making the linguine with chopped garlic scapes and snow peas from the garden and anything else that looks good along with the cacio and pepe. Yum. 


July 18, 2020

Needing More Unpacking

By Maryanna Gabriel

It was all very promising. An email from a journal arrived, written by the editor. I read the rejection note and felt elated. He said that my story was a "promising piece" but that it needed more unpacking, therefore they would not be publishing it.

I was pretty excited. You'd think I wouldn't be, but it means I am getting close. If I can ever get through the massive assignments for the MFA I will take another look at my writing and this unpacking business.

Unpacking. Interviewers seem to be saying, "Can you unpack that a bit more for me?" It's the word of the year.



July 9, 2020

Tiger Tiger

By Maryanna Gabriel

"Tiger, tiger burning bright
In the forests of the night."

- William Blake



Last night I dreamed a tiger was stalking me. I pulled children into my studio to protect them but the tiger followed us, interested in going right for me. The tiger held out its two front paws and a nail from each went against my shoulders and held me. I was frozen. Then the tiger let me go. It was as if the tiger wanted to show me how powerful it was, but it wasn't going to harm me.

Stunned by the dream, I thought about tigers all day. Their power. Their beauty. What did it mean, I wondered, to have such a dream? In the end I decided the tiger is a symbol of courage and royalty and that it was a tremendous honour to have one come to me, even if it was in my sleep. They are so magnificent, aren't they?

July 8, 2020

Blue Peas

By Maryanna Gabriel



I have the loveliest blue peas bursting forth in crunchy tastiness in the garden. It is so pretty as we pass midsummer, trying to store light from the sun in our bones for the winter ahead. I will have to remember to save some of the seeds.

As I shoo away the rabbits and plant beans for the third time (this time under a blanket of remay) I am noticing that the potatoes planted upright are doing so much better than those planted in the garden bed. Maybe it is the soil, but it is also a question of taking less space. I am guessing there will be more potatoes as well. Years and years of gardening and I am still learning....

July 7, 2020

100/100

By Maryanna Gabriel

"...there is a time to take back the years you lost 
in high school. The time is now."
-Natalie Goldberg



    Sometimes the message we get in childhood affect us our entire lives and it takes a bit of sorting to reframe beliefs that we might have of ourselves that are simply not true. When I was in grade twelve I had an English teacher I was very excited to learn from. He brought in a student teacher. I remember working on a paper for a long time, the table I worked at, the colour of the yellow paper I was writing on. The opening paragraph was quite splendid and I was proud of it, for I had I crafted it for a long time.

    The student teacher failed me. Why? She said I plagiarized. She decided the writing couldn't possibly be mine. It was too good. I mentioned it to my father who told me to speak to the teacher. I didn't at first. I thought how can I prove it is mine, if she says it isn't? When I realized it was affecting my transcript for university, I did go and speak to him. By then it was too late, he said, the marks were official. He seemed to accept what I had to say- the student teacher had long gone. I continued on at university and studied archaeology but I avoided literature, my first love, for I felt hollowed out by what I had experienced. One inexperienced teacher had redirected my life with her mistake.


    This week I got my writing portfolio returned from Simon Fraser University's, The Writer's Studio. It said 100/100. While there were comments on how I could improve my writing, this dear teacher, a published author who has worked for publishing houses, had encouraging praise. This is the stuff that fuels one; it makes me want to go forward. I thought of that student teacher of long ago, and the English teacher who has since died, and the damage done and wanted to blanket the old scar with care.

    When we are very young we make decisions about ourselves based on the feedback given. Much of it is complete rubbish. How many of these do we carry? We each do, don't we?

June 26, 2020

Being Published

By Maryanna Gabriel

All very exciting. One of my writing pieces is being published with Simon Fraser's The
"Emerging" - Journal Cover Design
Writer's Studio. It is an extract from a longer work that is being shaped and sculpted (in between brush strokes) from my walk on the Camino from Southern France, to Santiago in Eastern Spain.

I have been working with an editor. She rejected one grammar suggestion and was very good about incorporating edits that I felt it needed and I was not too bad in accepting hers.

All and all it is a bit of a thrill. I have also sent cover designs to the journal but not sure how that is going to go over. It was a fun reprieve from my brain to sit down with my drawing pencils and watercolours. 

The Bob Effect



Every summer when the weather is beautiful and people are pulling out the barbeque, I
face my decks. I need about one week of good weather to pull out the tree bits in the cracks, then wash and stain them. I am not really happy during this arduous process, in fact it is best if you don't talk to me at all during this annual ritual.

This year, in a fit of surrender that is rare for me, I hired, well, let's call him Bob. Bob said he would come and I was so happy I felt spurred on with the task and actually made fantastic progress. Bob never showed. He emailed to say he was really busy but did I still want him to come? Why yes, I did.

With this piece of news I felt spurred once again and did another huge section. Again Bob never showed. The truth is we have done this four times now. I am almost finished and Bob has yet to make an appearance. I am calling it the Bob Effect. I have stopped muttering that I need to move into a condo and the place is looking fantastic. Love Bob. Great guy. 
By Maryanna Gabriel 







June 18, 2020

Face Coverings For Travel

By Maryanna Gabriel

      As if the sign wasn't enough, the weird female voice piping through the BC Ferries parking lot
about a global pandemic and it being mandatory to wear a mask to board the ferries, had me feeling I was in a weird science fiction movie. I half expected a Star Wars crew to materialize beside me with their droids. It was something about the sound of her. 

      Do other people experience this feeling of unreality? I felt I had traveled a time warp into a weird alternate future and could I please wake up to well, the past.... I suppose.

      Realistically, given our trajectory, what other alternate realities should I/we be preparing for? Sometimes it is all feels like a bad dream.  

June 16, 2020

Stars On My Toes

By Maryanna Gabriel


I have just come through an online zoom conference of nine days. It was with The University Of King's College as an intro to the MFA.

Rendition of a book reading experience. 
I was glad to be home for it. I think if I was trying to fly from the west to the east coast of Canada to where it was held, which was Halifax, I would have felt mentally thinner. There are some benefits to this strange time we live in with a global pandemic. As it turned out, even with the support of being in the comfort of my own environment, it was intense. I read aloud a section from the walk I did on the Camino. This walk will be thesis for the next two years. A book. It seems so brave to be saying that. 

Of course, zooming from one event to the next required a regimen of self care. Trying to keep the circulation going in my body between sessions seemed important. Now that it is over, my website has come online and is working perfectly after several grief filled episodes with my web host these past few days. Such is life. 

This is my first born grandson's beautiful drawing. I thought it looked so much like how I felt doing my public reading. I felt the love and read with stars on my toes.

June 15, 2020

The Murder Of Jennifer Quesnel

By Maryanna Gabriel
     

     The murder of Jennifer Quesnel, aged 41, on June 1, 2020, rocked the community of Salt Spring Island. Her estranged husband lay in ambush, shot her twice, then killed himself. She was still alive when the RCMP came. Then she died. They used to live at the end of the road where I live. This is a quiet island. The news was a shock.

    I met her once. She came to buy a bed from me. She seemed very sweet. Everyone who knows her says nothing but kind things. My neighbour described her as being "like a madonna, an angel", a delicate beauty, who went to the same high school as our daughters. We talked about how she showed horses and dogs. What, my neighbour wondered, was she doing with  him? "Maybe she was like a horse whisperer with her husband," I said. One can only imagine what she went through. 

 
"Crying" by my 4 year old grandson. 
     He scared me. He smashed his truck through things left at the bottom of a neighbour's drive. He then phoned them and told them it was him. He tried to run another neighbour off the road when she disagreed with him at a public meeting. Once, I was standing at our group mail box with a Valentine's card from my eldest daughter. It fluttered to the ground when I saw him coming. I began to back up. Smiling, he picked the card up and handed it to me. "Thank you," I said faintly trying not to show the whites of my eyes. 

     Mostly I think of her family with the deepest of sympathy and their three boys, how some people leave a legacy of bullying, violence and chaos. This picture, a gift from my grandson, is so expressively beautiful. It goes with the story of Jennifer Quesnel, and the rain that is pouring out of the sky this morning.






June 4, 2020

As If One Virus Wasn't Enough

By Maryanna Gabriel

As if one virus wasn't enough, my website, which some of you may be using to access this blog, has had a nasty attack. Someone was trying to sell viagra on MagicCottageCreations.com which wasn't very nice. You would think if they were so smart with the technology it would be easier to just do their own. Humans, as in nature, have their share of saprophytes and parasites, sucking the juice out of other's, ghost fish without a life of their own, a virus and a scourge, living in dark places.



So with great difficulty, more of it in the mind, than the actual accomplishment, I have had to build a new site that has better security. It will take a few days to show up properly on the search engines.

All of this has been accomplished in a tight window of time as I transition from Simon Fraser University's The Writers Studio to the Master's at King's College, Dalhousie University. School is online fortunately. What I do have to watch is rigor mortis with all of the sitting.... no point in getting heart failure if I have made it this far. Off for a walk this morning. Take good care.