Creating the (Physical and Mental) Space to Write

This one caught my eye. It’s an old question…where do you write?

I handwrite in the journal that lives beside my bed to capture dreams and bits of books and moments of spirit. But when writing it’s on my laptop in some kind of reclined position — not good for my body but needed by my mind. No music, no kitchen clatter, and definitely no conversations; only silence, perhaps pierced from time to time with the raucous cries of gulls. And before this, comes miles of rambling and rumination in my forest by the sea and voices on the wind. Writing does not happen in one single time or space.

The Daily Post

Over at Discover, editor Mike Dang asked five bloggers to describe and take photographs of their writing spaces. Read their responses.

When you write, are you typing at your desktop computer in your home office? Drafting a blog post on your phone, right in the WordPress app? Or are you like Deborah, below, creating your desk for the day at your favorite coffee shop?

To write in, I like a cafe with wooden floors, high ceilings, and tables with ample space. Once committed, I make the place my own. I give myself over to a familiar wafting aroma. I order an Americano, no milk, no sugar please. I arrange my piping hot coffee and writing accoutrements on my “desk,” and then I take in the sounds around me. An espresso maker sputters and whirs to an undercurrent of percussion-driven electronic beats and the indiscernible vocalizations of a female singer. Voices murmur, mostly in…

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The Girl on the Train

Something I’ve decided to do, to revive my passion for words, is tweet best lines from books I have loved, or am currently reading.  An intriguing line does not always fit into a 140-character block, so I’m taking some license with what to cut and what to keep. Yesterday, I finished reading The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. The line I posted comes quite near the end, on the second last page. Our protagonist, Rachel, is walking along a cold deserted beach at dusk and passes some beach huts:

When the wind picks up they come alive, their wooden boards creaking against each other, and under the sound of the sea there are murmurs of movement: someone or something coming closer (315).

UnknownThere may be movement; there may not. It’s hard to believe Rachel. The movement may only be in her mind–the someone or something a manifestation of her fear, her desperation. Rachel is not always believable, not always trustworthy. She drinks, she confuses things, she blacks out and forgets where she’s been and what she’s done, she fantasizes–and she’s just lived through a nightmare.

Rachel is The Girl on the Train. As she commutes each morning and evening she passes her old neighbourhood, the house she once lived in with her ex-husband, Tom. Her fantasies about the couple three doors down soon become her reality. She names these people, gives them lives. It’s all just a game until she sees something off, and then the woman disappears.

Rachel tries desperately to sort out in her muddled alcoholic brain what’s real and what’s not. But, she’s not the only unreliable character–Rachel’s ex-husband and his new wife; the couple three doors down; even the therapist–no one can be trusted. With shifting viewpoints carved out as journal entries, Paula Hawkins offers us a glimpse into the minds of several psychologically disturbed people, along with a little murder and mayhem. Curious yet?

The Girl on the Train is a breeze read. Hawkins worked as a journalist. Despite the beach sheds quote, her language is not poetic, not literary. She delivers this psychological thriller with straight-forward ease and detail as she delves into the minds of characters who appear to be normal people living a normal life on a normal London street.

Except they’re not.

Watch the movie trailer here







Reclaiming the Reiver: the Carr Clan

I inherited much from my father beyond a name. Three things that spring immediately to mind: blue eyes, fleshy lips, and a gap between my front teeth. I was fortunate to inherit only the gap: my father had a small extra tooth, a mesiodens in dentist-speak.


My dad with his third tooth. He was an RCAF tail-gunner in WWII.

These traits I passed on to my son. But the physical is superficial–it can be masked, bent, and altered, until we are cosmetic replicas of the original.

What is more difficult to change are the invisible propensities that define us. Of these, I inherited a tobacco addiction, the need for natural solitude, and a spiritual quest to understand the soul, perhaps even to know God.

There was a time I did not want my father’s name and cast it off. A relic of the patriarchy, it did nothing but remind me of the war we fought when I was a wild and raging teen and he a bewildered controlling father. But time passes, wounds heal, and perceptions change.


This summer, I stood atop a rise 100 kilometres east of Toronto and surveyed a vast expanse of farmland and pocketed forest running south all the way to Lake Ontario. By chance, I had booked an Airbnb north of the town of Cobourg, near the village of Baltimore. It was a long weekend and everywhere else was booked. I knew from my ancestry research that my father’s family, the Carr clan, had farmed in Cobourg for 150 years. As kids we’d visited a cousin there. The Carr farm was located at the corner of Concession 4 Lot 3 Baltimore, north of Cobourg. What I didn’t know was that I was standing virtually on top of that land. Nothing happens by chance.Cobourg Land.jpg

If you believe, as I do, that the natural landscape absorbs and holds the memory of all it experiences; then you must also appreciate that we can feel those memories when immersed in that landscape. As I stood there, I felt them. A tickling in my consciousness,

a gentle nudge, a whisper that said, “You know this land. This is the place of your people.”

Of course, the Carr clan didn’t start here. This is where they ended up.

Stephen Carr moved to Cobourg from Yorkshire, England sometime between 1850 and 1860. He married Margaret Carr in Cobourg on 27 November 1861. He was 30 at the time and Margaret was his 17-year-old cousin. My great-grandfather, Mathias John was born in Cobourg on 08 Dec 1861. Error or very pregnant cousin?

Carr is a common Celtic name in Ireland, Scotland, and Yorkshire. I’ve traced my Carr clan through parish records back to 1600 where they farmed near a village named Bolton-by-Bowland in the Ribble Valley for several generations. The village is due west of York and just downriver from the Scottish border.

The Carr Clan in Yorkshire were known as “Border Reivers” —  a lawless gang who ravaged the border towns between Scotland and England.


As a surname Carrs are commonest in Scotland and the north of England where they were once a notorious border reiving clan. Like most border folk of the Elizabethan period, the Carrs lived in fortified houses called pele towers. Pele towers were virtually impregnable stone built tower houses with walls three to four feet thick. The peles had two or three upper storeys accessed by a narrow spiral staircase, which in most cases ran upwards in a clockwise direction. This gave an advantage to right-handed swordsmen defending their peles. The Carrs were different, they were noted for being left-handed, so their stairs ran in an anti-clockwise direction.

Similar to the Reavers in the film Serenity, the Border Reivers were outlaws who survived by raiding not by nation, but by necessity. Cattle, sheep and anything moveable was fair game on both sides of the English-Scottish border. After years of plunder by the armies of both nations they had nothing left, and a man must provide for his family.

When James I took the English throne in 1603, he determined to put an end to three hundred years of reiving and conducted mass hangings along the border. The reivers who did not submit to the English King, lost their land, their homes, and their lives. Those who survived were forced to flee.

These are my father’s people. From rustlers and thieves emerged farmers; ever resilient, creative, and independent, they found a new home and a means to survive.

For now, I think I’ll keep the name. The Carr in me has tales to tell.







Happy Lughnasadh

Green Magick is an amazing creator and inspiration.

Green Magick


July was a hot blur of summer herb and garden crafts, canning and distillation.  Oh, and trying to keep up with crabgrass from outer space.  They have to be as they were three feet in diameter!

I know it is autumn at last,  because the Elderberries are finally ripe.  I’ll make syrup and hard candy lozenges from the berries as they help my family stay healthier.

IMG_3485 Distillation for Mosquito Repellent

The distillation above was lemon balm, elder leaf, clary sage, lavender, holy basil and peppermint.  It only produced a little bit of essential oil, which I added back in to the hydrosol.


The bug spray seems to work rather well!  I added a few drops of Eucalyptus Citridora essential oil to the distillation. Scientific studies recently tested it in comparison to Deet and other leading bug sprays.  They found it as effective against mosquitoes as Deet.  We don’t normally…

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