Archive for Celebrations

My Two Mothers

Springtime is here!The fact is that I sort of had two mothers, growing up. One is my real mother, Lee, who has always been the rock upon which my two brothers and I stand. The other is my aunt, Rena, who I consider in many ways to be the mother of my intellect. Certainly she’s the mother of my reading passion. I would not be who I am today without either of these two strong women, my mother and her sister.

Lee, my mom

Lee, my Mom, in the 1970s

Lee, my mom, has always been there and always been a staunch lover of her children, from the very first day any of us were born. (Sorry about that breech thing, mom. Honestly, I saw no sense in plunging head-first into things. I preferred to come out sitting down, so I could ponder thoughtfully.) When mom found herself supporting us three kids pretty much on her own, around the time I turned 17 (my brothers were younger), she buckled down and did it. She had occasional help, but she was the one who took four people who were pretty separate beings at the time and kept us alive and melded us almost single-handedly into a close family.

The truth is, though, that we argue a LOT. Our personalities and beliefs are extremely different, so the clashes are inevitable. And yet the one day that I think best exemplifies my mother was the day after I had to take my sick cat, Pieces (‘cause we loved her to pieces), to the emergency animal hospital because she’d become so sick that I knew it was time to say goodbye.

Mom came to get me the next morning, and spent the entire day driving me around, to the mall, out for coffee, and visiting my brother and sister-in-law and their new baby. Mom was the driver, but she let me take the lead. When I felt like talking about Pieces, we talked about Pieces. When I got the sniffles, she let me cry. When the topic wandered away to other things, she wandered with me. She was a cloak of support the entire day, not pushing about anything, not intruding, but just holding me.

That’s how my mom is. I have always said she is probably the kindest person on the planet, to almost everybody. And anyone who has worked with her or known her would tell you I’m not just saying that because I’m her daughter.

Rena, my aunt

Rena, my Aunt, in the 1970s

Then there’s my aunt, Rena. A survivor of polio which she had contracted as a child, she went on to get a university degree and become a highly respected teacher. She sensed very early how much I loved to read, and loaned me her hardcover Hobbit and Lord of the Rings books when I was ten years old. And she loaned me her Chronicles of Narnia too. She introduced me to several writers as I grew up, and I grew fascinated by her enjoyment of history and art.

Rena was the only one of the five sisters who went to university, and I think she was disappointed that none of her nieces or nephews followed her. Then I started university at age 25, a bit late, and I was always extremely proud that I, at least, valued higher education as much as she did. Her love of knowledge was part of what spurred me on. I used to phone her every week, my first year, and talk about the great things I was learning.

When Rena moved into a smaller place and gave away a bunch of things, I got a lot of her books. I have the copy of Hamlet that she studied in university. I have her Faerie Queen and Silver Poets of the Sixteenth Century, and her hardcover copy of John Donne’s poetry sent me over the moon. These were some of her textbooks from the 1960s, and they are my treasures.

Tiger Lily closeRena helped my mom sometimes, as mom had to take care of us three kids alone. These two strong women have always been an integral part of my life – there for every birthday, Christmas, and other special occasion, right up until ten years ago when I moved to Toronto. I sometimes feel like these two women literally grabbed and dragged me up from being a kid until I was finally an adult. I don’t know how I would have gotten here without the two of them. Granted, I’ve done most of the work of creating myself through my adult years, but they set my feet on the road and walked along it with me.

So really, if anyone thinks I’ve turned out okay, I should point to them and say, “Yeah, well, they started it.”

Happy Mother’s Day to my two mothers!

* * * * * * * * * * *

This post would have gone up for Mother’s Day anyway. But it was originally going to be part of the Twitter Chats Blog Tour, and then I couldn’t get it done in time to be part of that. However, if you’d like to read the tributes, poems, stories, and posts about mothers from the members of that blog tour, start with Anne Tylor Lord at the Don’t Fence Me In blog, and follow the tour from there. It’s really very special.

Two Books for Earth Day

Happy Earth Day! I hope the earth is having a very good day today as we celebrate. If you click on that link, you’ll see lots of people making pledges to do green acts or change their habits, and see larger campaigns you can get involved in if you want. Every day should be Earth Day, don’t you think?

But in honour of today, I wanted to mention two books, one of which I’ve known about for a while, and another I only heard of this morning.

The first one is The Geography of Hope, a Tour of the World We Need, by Chris Turner, a Calgary writer and researcher. I wrote at some length about him and the book two years ago, at my Confessions of a Cultural Idiot blog (Chris Turner: Wielding the axe of hope), when he visited Toronto to present the book and talk about his discoveries.

In essence, the book describes what he found when he travelled the world, looking for what people have already done to change to new, greener technologies. It’s easy to get discouraged about global warming and whether it might be too late to do anything to get off the fossil fuel treadmill we’re now on. If you’re in that state, read this book or find somewhere where Chris Turner is speaking, and go hear him. You will come out of that event uplifted and inspired.

One of the greatest, most hopeful examples Turner describes is the Danish island of Samso, which has not only become carbon neutral but is trying to become carbon negative, producing more energy than they consume. But that’s just one of the many examples Turner found. Something can be done to change to green energy. Something is being done.

To that end – and in case you think switching to green technology is a hope entertained only by tree-hugging lefties with no real sense of business – there is the second book, whose author I heard interviewed only this morning. Tom Rand, currently the Cleantech Practice, Lead Advisor at the MaRS Discovery District in Toronto, is a venture capitalist who founded a private venture fund called VCi Green Funds in 2005. This is part of the description of the fund, taken from the website:

The fund provides seed and venture capital to companies developing technologies that reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from energy use, particularly CO2. Efficiencies and alternate sources are each considered target areas of application.

So Mr. Rand has knowledge not just of how to make the green switch, but how to fund and profit from it. And he’s sharing that knowledge with the wider public now, in his book, Kick the Fossil Fuel Habit: 10 Clean Technologies to Save Our World. (See also the actual website for the book: Kick the Fossil Fuel Habit, and Mr. Rand’s YouTube Channel.) Just reading the Table of Contents gives me shivers of happiness:

  1. Solar
  2. Wind
  3. Geothermal
  4. Biofuels
  5. Hydropower
  6. Ocean (Tidal and Wave)
  7. Smart Buildings
  8. Conservation
  9. Transportation
  10. The Energy Internet

I think, if you read no other books in celebration of Earth Day, these two should be the ones you read. Turner’s Geography of Hope for examples of how well the green energy switch has worked for countless people already (and, incidentally, without violence or financial ruin), and Rand’s Kick the Fossil Fuel Habit, for firsthand information about how this switch can be done on a large scale, in a way that not only won’t ruin the economy but could energize it and create profits for capitalists with vision.

Happy Earth Day! And with the last word, here’s Google:


Bookishgal Happy Anniversary!

Bookcases with Guardian

Books with Guardian

A couple of weeks ago, I checked to see when I made my first post on this new Bookishgal blog. April 8th was the day! So of course I had to be extremely busy yesterday and couldn’t make an anniversary post.

Meaning it’s a day late, but I’m very glad I’ve had this blog for a year. I have, um, six other blogs (or seven if you count LiveJournal), but this one, which was started at That Other Place kind of on a whim, has turned into my very favourite blog (with Confessions of a Cultural Idiot being a very close second).

Bow Down And Worship Me

Queen of High Bookcases

If it weren’t for my dear friend Kevin, I wouldn’t have been able to re-establish Bookishgal here, and I am forever grateful to him. He’s been so much help in so many ways! And he really came through in the emergency when I suddenly lost the spot in the original location, and had to recreate the blog here.

It’s really been a lot of fun so far. I love exploring book-related things — not just reviewing, but finding out fun tidbits, learning some history, whatever. My favourite moment in the past year? Hm. I’d have to think about it, and review the posts, but the first thing that springs to mind is being able to link people to the Neutra Face YouTube parody of Lady GaGa’s song, “Poker Face.” Funniest thing ever, when you can make a whole song about a typeface!

More exploration of the bookcase

Books and Previous Guardian

And, when I can happily scrape out the time, which unfortunately is less often now than it was last April, I love reading other blogs (mostly book-related but not all) and getting great stuff from them too. I’ve gotten to know the thoughts of a lot of great and interesting people. So that’s been a side benefit of this blog too.

I hope I can keep finding interesting things to share for a long time yet. I’m glad for everyone who visits here, and I hope I can be entertaining.

Happy anniversary!

Guy Gavriel Kay and my reading history

The Fionavar Tapestr

It was the autumn of 1985 when I walked down an aisle in the book store of the University of Calgary, and one particular book cover caught my eye. In fact, the cover of The Summer Tree, by Guy Gavriel Kay, didn’t merely catch my eye, but I felt like it snagged my whole soul as I came to a dead halt and grabbed the book off the shelf.

I only needed a cursory reading of the blurb before I was buying and devouring the book. And since I was buying it a year after it had been launched, it wasn’t long till the second book, The Wandering Fire, was also bought and devoured whole. And not long afterward, as Guy travelled around for the promotional tour for the the hardcover of book three, The Darkest Road, I got to meet him and ask, in breathless excitement, “Where did you get this mythology??

With my reading of the three books, which comprised the trilogy called The Fionavar Tapestry, the only way I could describe how they made me feel was to say that I felt like my veins were filled with light. Twenty five years later, I can still pick up that trilogy and feel the same way.

What was amazing to me about the original cover art for all three books, painted by Martin Springett, was that they seemed to be one with the feel and soul of the books. The reason I was struck by that first cover in the book store was that it felt exactly like what was inside the book — and since what was inside the book affected me so deeply, that cover inevitably affected me too.

Eventually, because of that cover snagging my eye, I got introduced by Guy Kay to the eccentric writing of Robert Graves. And for the first time in my life, I found out about Celtic mythology, which I love madly.

And when Guy told me that one of his characters, Diarmuid, was patterned in tribute after Dorothy Dunnett’s main character in the Lymond Chronicles, I immediately rushed out to read those books too, because I wanted to see this character who was “like Diarmuid.” Ha! Anyone who reads here regularly knows how that turned out. Diarmuid, in fact, is “like Francis Crawford,” at least to some small degree. Because although Guy did a good job, there’s just nobody, in the end, who is “like Francis Crawford of Lymond.”

So I owe a lot to Guy Gavriel Kay and that first book, and to Martin Springett for being able to take the spirit of all three books and paint them, for the covers. I’ve been, once, to Martin Springett’s house, and seen the huge originals of those covers hanging on his walls. And I’ve got my own posters of all of them too.

This all came to mind today because I saw a notice that Guy’s latest book, Under Heaven, will be published in April. And that led me to this little “The Summer Tree 25th Anniversary” blurb on Guy’s website, from last year. You can see him and Martin together, with the very first painting, the one that caught my eye that very first day on that original book cover.

Much of my reading and study history in the past twenty five years has been because of these two. I never forget this.

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