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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


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 her's.

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 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. 

June 3, 2020

A Little Crazy

By Maryanna Gabriel

When things seem a little crazy it is always good to bake.

We have had a murder suicide here on the island. It is pretty shocking because they were former neighbours. Then when I heard that a friend down the road had slipped and fallen, breaking a few bones I knew that I would feel better if I did something for someone else. So I baked a fruit crisp and a comforting dinner and took it to her.

It was a good idea. It seemed helpful to be able to share the events with a bit of a consoling chat. With world goings on being what they are this week, it is best to look out for the eclipse on the full moon this Friday. Not that I want to go live in a closet. However, it might be advisable. 

May 24, 2020

Yellow Sticky Notes

By Maryanna Gabriel

My class mates have been telling me I have been holding back in my writing. It is interesting feedback as I have been doing nothing but write about the world as I see it through my eyes. I would think this speaks volumes. So now I am searching for the threads that connect my story to a deeper part of myself.

Sometimes I might be doing something else completely and fragments come in. I think, "I should put that in." I rush to a yellow sticky note and scribble a few phrases down to help jog my memory. Later I return to where I was and stare at the sticky notes in dismay. Gibberish. It is like a dream sequence that has melted away as one pours the morning coffee, an encryption, a mysterious message from a dream portal that makes absolutely no sense. I put it in a folder and hope that the message will come through again.

Somehow it feels as though something precious is not being made use of, that I have missed the boat and the ship has sailed, that the book is off writing itself somewhere with a more attentive authoress and I am not at the other end of my own pen. 

May 16, 2020

Improving The Shlepping Around

By Maryanna Gabriel

I was so inspired by the beauty of a hotel I saw last night on the Amalfi coast, in Italy. It was converted from a convent built in the early 1600's. It only had twenty rooms, each room named after a medicinal herb used by the nuns that lived there. Past 400 hundred year old gardens, the infinity pool on the edge of the cliff, blended with the Mediterranean beyond. It was so beautiful it made me gasp. I got up, made a lemon balm tisane, and decided to change into heels and a more elegant dressing gown. It felt fun, as though I was participating in graciousness somehow.

If I were Barbara Hutton, one of the richest women in the world, I would have gone there. Then again they had no internet when she lived, but if I were her, and being me, I am sure I would have made it to the Amalfi coast. I would have gone disguised, and travelled with pseudonyms, disappearing into beautiful settings, reading my book under lemon groves and reappearing in the cafes of Portofino, or on the Orient Express, leaving big tips and hearing people's stories. (Barabara had several marriages, was relieved of most of her fortune by her husbands and died of a heart attack.)

I feel as though I have been on vacation. It beats shlepping around. 

"Pots" by Maryanna Gabriel 

May 7, 2020

Slowing Down Time

By Maryanna Gabriel

Things are starting to heat up. Dalhousie has accepted me into a master's program. This is great, right? There are many stressful details to attend to as a result. Such as where to put commas. I should know that. One has to say soothing words to oneself, and hum quietly from time to time. Commas are not a priority, I say, as I try to stand away from where I work.

Chapter 32
I am doing my best to slow down time. A small window of freedom is left to me. I need to get past Chapter 32. How does one do that?

I have been stuck on this chapter for days.... it is tangled - I have been too long away. I understand about a certain author who sleeps with her book while she is writing. I almost need that. There are so many ways to get distracted, not just distracted, downright derailed.

So I have a new strategy for slowing down time. 1) Not checking my email until past noon.  2) And shopping... forget the seven in the morning grocery shop. For some reason all those people with face masks and hand-wipe rattle me. 3) I set my timer so that I get up and walk or do exercises. (I have writer's bum, sometimes confused with cookie legs.) This alarming diagnostic is accompanied by joint stiffness.

Often though the timer will beep on and on. I am on a train of thought I cannot drop. So the timer sounds off and I write. It is odd, I know, but I do feel better about making progress. 

May 3, 2020

Garden Solace

By Maryanna Gabriel

A garden is a delight to the eye and a solace for the soul.”  
- Saado

Tomato With Scrambled Egg

I notice myself regressing. Thinking of simpler times. I realize my thoughts of Cheerios and Shreddies are a reversion to childhood, seeking comfort in the memory of a world that was less complicated.

So I have been escaping to my garden. Recently I read that a cracked egg under a tomato plant produces a much lusher plant, so I have tried it. I hope the raccoon leaves the plants alone.

I also have implemented a new way to grow potatoes that is space efficient. I am supposed to put straw down, then compost, then a layer of potatoes and repeat. I have gone from what would take 16 square feet to one square foot. If it works I can grow so much more.... vertical gardening is on my mind. It is healing. 

Basket For Growing Potatoes Upright

April 28, 2020

The Corona Matrix

By Maryanna Gabriel

I didn't know what to say. I was gob-stopped by what I was hearing. A trusted friend was reciting her reasons why she thought the Corona Virus was a hoax. She was Face-timing me from her home in the central prairies of Canada. Her tone was aggressive. Angry.

I was fascinated by the reasoning. When she came to the end, I cleared my throat. "Try to keep an open mind," I said. 
It was a shock. I thought she was smarter. 

"You look upset," she said.

I was. It is tempting to go this route. It feels surreal, as though we are characters caught in someone else's bad scenario of the future. We want to think we will wake up one morning and say, "Oh, it all felt so real." A matrix, one where we are being controlled, and within which we must strive for freedom. Sure. Help yourself. Go right ahead.

Demonstrate. Protest. Yell at the restrictions. You must think this isn't real. Obviously. Ignore safety measures. Open up businesses. I'll just be sitting tight here trying to figure out if I can get a cantaloupe into my new green houses while you do, as the death count rises. I'll be keeping to my own matrix, thanks. I didn't entitle this blog "Travels In A Different Sort Of Way" for nothing. Gosh, there is so much misinformation out there. This is some ride we are on. 

April 21, 2020

Self Sustainability

By Maryanna Gabriel

I was listening to a podcast from New York city and was a little startled to hear "there were no vegetables" and thought about planes being grounded and how this might be disrupting the supply chain. Here on Salt Spring Island we are having our first Physical Distancing Farmer's Market today which seems like an important concession on the part of the local authorities.

With everything that is going on, the garden is a wonderful place to get lost in, as each day grows longer. Usually the garden is a more of a dalliance but this year there is an urgency on my part to protect what I am creating not only from Mr. Bunny, who hopped by one morning when I was writing, but rather a wish to speed growth along. I have built a mini-greenhouse which I am enormously proud of. I have enough greens growing in it to feel self sufficient. 

April 20, 2020

A Funny Thing

By Maryanna Gabriel

A few days ago I came into the garden and stared. It was puzzling. Why were the edging stones
My artist's sketch of the suspect. 
displaced? My first thought was that someone with ill intent has been in the garden. As I put them back I noticed more stones moved. I walked around. Other stones were moved too. Not all of them. Just randomly and slightly out of alignment. My heart started to pound. It wasn't a nice feeling to think that someone was messing around on the property with me inside. I walked to the front. All was intact. Well, that was good. Then down at my little cottage - it seemed that every second or third stone was moved. Then I just knew.

It wasn't a person. It was an animal. What animal would do this? As the fence is six feet high it could only be a raccoon. He would be looking for bugs or worms. A quick internet search affirmed that they do this. What a funny thing.

April 19, 2020

Timing Is Everything

By Maryanna Gabriel

I have an indoor garden growing where I am hoping to see the emergence of cucumber and squash. I have been watering the soil for some time now. I am surprised there has been no emergence. I ask myself how many days has it been? It doesn't matter. My mind is rushing ahead of the event. Seeds stir and unfurl when they are ready. No amount of hurrying ahead of something before it is meant to happen changes anything.

Time is like that. Our minds rush ahead and we want to see the result. We want to control events and make the moves that are needed accordingly. I have no choice but to surrender. The seeds grow when they are ready and not before.

When I am impatient with people or events in my life I try and remember this.

April 18, 2020

Slow Time

By Maryanna Gabriel

"This is the slow time..."
-John O'Donohue

I have a path that is rife with buttercups. It sounds sweet but this plant has been invading for 25 years and spread itself throughout the garden. I keep madly weeding other flowers thinking they are the dreaded buttercup. In exasperation, the delphiniums are now in a separate pot to prevent me from hurling them vicariously into the wood beyond.

Today I went to work and weeded all of the buttercups. I don't believe I have ever seen the path clear. I am trying to grow creeping thyme amid the tiles. It seems a huge accomplishment mastering these few feet.

Time isn't really creeping but 25 years is rather a long wait on the garden To Do List.

April 17, 2020

Garden World

By Maryanna Gabriel

      A New York paramedic said this is a war with an invisible bullet. A world war where one cannot see the enemy. Some days after a writing session I wander into my garden. Another passion. When I am engaging with the land I get completely lost in what I am doing. Hours pass. Lately I have been thinking about seeds. There is something so hopeful about them. Planting seeds is like an antidote. It is saying that I can feed myself, that there is a future, and that I am the creator of my own world. It is a slow meditation that is out of beat with time. It takes me to the real news of there being much to be grateful for with the miraculous unfurling of leaves. Seeds need time to do what they do. As I stir the earth and plant, a deep calm takes up residence.

April 2, 2020

Finding Comfort

By Maryanna Gabriel

Remember the days when cookies meant a word that was nice and cosy? I have been making some really good ones. Then I take my cookie legs and walk. I notice something. People are waving. This never happens here. It is as though one human is saluting another with genuine joy. It is comforting. Last night I knew I was really trying to soothe myself after creating a curry during which I watched three movies consecutively. The new star wars movie is really good. This morning I am baking. I am trying to make home made Danish's. One has to keep one's spirits up. 

April 1, 2020

Not April Fool's

Post Office Closed
By Maryanna Gabriel

Well, it was no joke. Closed until April 6th. The post office was darkened. Was somebody sick? That's the conclusion. Anybody could have anything and think they had the virus. The fear among the workers last week, when I did my Easter mail, was visibly palpable. Trying to be calm in such an atmosphere was challenging. So I used Fedex.

They have just announced that there are to be no more trips on our ferries unless it is essential. Another shock. Of course, planes are not arriving in the harbour either.

The movement of goods being restricted is serious. Above and beyond all of the changes we are experiencing in communities everywhere, 
this is all serious. I am finding my own restriction at the moment, is limiting my time on the media, an act of extreme self care, for it is all so difficult to bear. It does not help, not to stay calm.

March 31, 2020

A Riot Of Daffodils

By Maryanna Gabriel

Well we can still go for walks. That hasn't been taken away. I walked to an older historic part of Salt Spring Island where there is a point of land and daffodils are riotously crowding. There is no structure on the point as it is now a park. I don't know the story of the old garden, but above  the point are apple trees. The setting is in a grove of Gary Oak which is very precious.

On the way I passed a building that is still standing that used to be a dairy. One day the roof will fall in and the park will take it down but at the moment it has a haunted feeling of yore. I stopped and took photos on such a beautiful spring day.