Posts Tagged ‘Elizabeth Yeoman’

Wordless Wednesday 21

Every Wednesday, bloggers around the world post a photo they’ve taken that tells a story without words. I hope you like mine.

If this photo brings to mind a memory or otherwise inspires you to do some writing, please share a comment below.


©2013 Allyson Latta


View more of my photos here.

And drop in on the following writer friends for further Wordlessness:

Cheryl Andrews

Kristen de Hartog (Blog of Green Gables)

Carin Makuz (Matilda Magtree)

Elizabeth Yeoman (Wunderkamera)


Recent Posts on Writing

2013 Courses, Workshops, and Retreats – Memoir and Creative Writing

Interview with Giller Prize Winner Will Ferguson (& writing tips)

Interview with Ana Rodriguez Machado, First-Prize Winner in the 2012 Canadian Aspiring Poets Contest

Quotes on Memory & Memoir: The Age of Hope

Natalie Shahinian’s guest post in the Seven Treasures memoir series

Wednesday, January 9th, 2013

Wordless Wednesday 19

Every Wednesday, bloggers around the world share a photo they’ve taken that tells a story without words. I hope you like mine.

If this photo brings to mind a memory or inspires you to do some writing, all the better.

Happy holidays to you and your family — whatever and however you celebrate — and best wishes for a bright and writing-filled new year.


©2012 Allyson Latta

View more of my photos here.

And drop in on the following friends for further Wordlessness, or as Carin puts it, “photos with a hint of hmm”:

Carin Makuz (Matilda Magtree)

Cheryl Andrews

Elizabeth Yeoman (Wunderkamera)

Kristen den Hartog (Blog of Green Gables)


Recent Posts on Writing

Quotes on Memory & Memoir: The Age of Hope

16 Links for the Writer and Book Lover This Christmas

Natalie Shahinian’s guest post in the Seven Treasures memoir series

“Memories can slink, wraiths from the mist” by memoirist Chris Hazelgrove

The Stories We Tell by Blanche Howard

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

Seven Treasures, Part 9: guest post by Elizabeth Yeoman

Read the series Introduction here.

Elizabeth Yeoman near Nájera, Spain, on the Camino de Santiago (Photo credit: Maria Hernaez)

ELIZABETH YEOMAN is a professor at Memorial University of Newfoundland. Her teaching and scholarly publications are about language, culture, history and memory. Her poetry and travel writing have appeared in literary journals and she has contributed media pieces to the Globe and Mail, the Women’s Television Network and CBC Radio. She is currently working with Labrador Innu elder and environmental and cultural activist Elizabeth “Tshaukuesh” Penashue on a book based on Elizabeth’s diaries. Elizabeth Yeoman also blogs at Dinner in Strange Places.

*     *     *

These are my seven treasures:


The Pictorial Encyclopedia of Plants and Flowers: I won this as a prize for an essay contest sponsored by the Nova Scotia Association of Garden Clubs when I was in Grade 7. I think the topic of my winning essay was the joy of gardening. My father took me to Halifax, a four-hour drive, to accept the prize at a banquet — but when we got there he said he was very tired and would I mind if we just went out for supper by ourselves. Though he was quite a prominent labour lawyer, he was reserved and self-effacing in his personal life, so perhaps after driving all that way he felt he couldn’t face a formal dinner among strangers. I didn’t mind; I too felt a bit reluctant now that we were so close to the actual event.

Instead we went to a Hungarian restaurant called Tokay, which I thought was the height of sophistication, treated ourselves to exotic food we had never tasted before, and drove home again: two shy escapees from public recognition and formality.

The book was mailed to me later and, as the photo shows, it has since been much enjoyed.


A drawing done by my daughter, Ilse, when she was 14: This is us on the top deck of a London tour bus; that’s her on the left and me on the right. She wasn’t very happy at that stage of her life but she liked London and she was dying to go on a tour. Though I didn’t want to, I agreed to go because she was so rarely excited about anything in those days.

As soon as we climbed the stairs of the double-decker and emerged into the sunshine again to see the lions of Trafalgar Square and all of London spread out around us, her face lit up. We spent a memorable day together seeing the sights from our bus-top perch.



My wedding ring: I have lost a total of four wedding rings. The one I wear now is the third, which I found again after losing the fourth.

I can’t remember how I lost the first one; it was so long ago and the details mundane. The second one was more dramatic. I was going to Spain with a friend, to walk the Camino de Santiago, and I said to David, my husband, that I wasn’t going to take any valuables with me, not even my wedding ring. “All right,” he said jokingly, “go ahead and look as though you’re single so you can pick up men.” I thought his joke might have just a touch of seriousness to it so I took the ring after all, but my hands swell when I hike and I ended up carrying it in a pouch with my passport. I have no idea how it got lost. I don’t think it was stolen; the passport was intact. The ring must have fallen out, and probably still lies somewhere on that ancient pilgrim trail.

My third wedding ring is a replica of an early-seventeenth century ring found at the Ferryland archeological site in Newfoundland. I lost it too, and felt so badly that I secretly tracked down the goldsmith and got him to make a copy: a replica of a replica! Later I found this one buried deep in a tiny forgotten pocket of a knapsack. For a while I wore both of them, but still later I managed to lose the copy.

One more and the “Five golden rings!” of the Christmas carol will hold true for me and we’ll move on to six swans a-swimming. “More difficult to lose them,” David mutters.


A patched jacket and a mini replica of it: I bought this jacket to take to Labrador for a week-long trip into the bush on snowshoes. It was 30 below and the jacket was essential, but the very first night in the tent I brushed against the red-hot wood stove and melted huge holes in it. The down flew up like a cloud and my friend Tshaukuesh burst into laughter, then saw my stricken face and clamped her hands over her mouth. She found some fabric and a sewing kit and I spent that evening and the next day sewing, sewing, sewing: tiny stitches to keep the down in. It worked, and I was able to complete the trip.

After I got home to St. John’s, a small package came in the mail. It contained a mini replica of my jacket, patches and all. My Innu doll has worn it proudly ever since. When I look at it, I can imagine Tshaukuesh laughing to herself as she stitched it for me.


Another book, Nigella Lawson’s cookbook Feast: I never expected to like the British cooking diva and domestic goddess. She is too successful, rich and glamorous for someone like me who always sides with the underdog. But as I found out when I finally read one of her cookbooks, she is also funny, self-deprecating and down-to-earth, and she understands what really matters in life. And in death.

Feast has a chapter on food for funerals and I love Nigella for that. When my friend Rita’s father died, she said, “If there’s anything good about a death it’s the sense of community.” A stream of people brought food to her house and her family didn’t have to cook for a week.

My father died suddenly not long afterwards, and it was the same for us. I remember one dear friend walking up the driveway carrying a tureen of lobster chowder and two more arriving together with homemade date squares and loaves of bread. There were plates of sandwiches and cakes everywhere. I couldn’t eat, but knowing the food had all come from people who cared was enormously comforting. And as Nigella puts it, “Any food is a reminder that life goes on, that living is important. That isn’t brutal: it’s the greatest respect you can pay to the dead.”


One red mitten: When I was 22 years old, I spent a few months walking and hitchhiking around northern Europe by myself. I got a very cheap flight from Halifax to Prestwick, in Scotland, explored the Highlands, and then gradually made my way to Wales to visit my friend Joanna. After a week or two in her warm and ebullient company, I left to travel onwards. I really didn’t want to leave but I was afraid of outstaying my welcome and also I think I wanted to test my courage by making this solitary trip. It was a record cold winter and I was under-dressed for it: freezing and lonely, with very little money, but determined to complete the itinerary I had planned.

Several weeks later I arrived in Amsterdam where the canals had frozen solid and everyone was skating, warmly clad, ruddy-cheeked and cheerful. Not having skates with me, I watched from a bridge, spent the night in a bleak military-style hostel, and the next day made my way to the post office to retrieve a small clutch of airmail envelopes with Canadian stamps and, best of all, a package and a letter from Wales. Joanna had noticed my inadequate winter garb and decided to knit me a pair of bright red mittens. But she had finished only the first one and, in her enthusiastic way, sent it along without its mate, promising to send that too as soon as it was done.

I never did get the second one. Still, I wore this single vivid mitten for the rest of that long cold winter and, even if it only kept one hand warm, it was wonderfully comforting.


A photograph of a theatrical setting for Patrick Meyers’s play K2: My brother, Alan, built this abstract replica of the mountain K2 for a performance of the play at the Centaur Theatre in Montreal. He gave me the photo, in a frame he had also made himself, not long before he died of cancer in his early fifties.

Alan had by then built a successful career as a stage carpenter after barely passing Grade 12 (the second time around) and then trying various trades and vocational programs. He had spent most of his high school years playing bridge and pinball, and several months after that carving a single highly detailed stone chess piece. I suppose when he realized how many more there were still to carve and how little the whole set would be worth in relation to the amount of work involved, he decided to cut his losses.

The career he eventually found suited him: creative and meticulous, solitary and independent, yet with the potential, when he wanted it, for the conviviality of the theatre. When he gave me the photo, he said with characteristic understatement and just a hint of pride, “I think when Dad came to the play and saw that, it was the first time he realized I wasn’t just a bum.”

Thoughts? Comments? What’s one of your seven treasures?


Monday, June 25th, 2012

Seven Treasures: a memoir series

Photo credit: Donna at An Enchanted Cottage blog:

Memory fascinates me.

Why do people remember, and forget, what they do? What triggers their memories? If they focus on an object that uncovers a memory, using “involuntary memory” as a springboard to “voluntary memory,” how deep can they go in recalling emotions and details?

What significant personal stories, unique and at the same time universal, can result from this process?

In Remembrance of Things Past, Marcel Proust writes famously about how a squat, plump little cake called a “petite madeleine,” when dipped in tea and tasted, evokes memories of his childhood in Combray. He describes the experience beautifully as it unfolds:

“And as soon as I had recognized the taste of the piece of madeleine soaked in her decoction of lime-blossom which my aunt used to give me (although I did not yet know and must long postpone the discovery of why this memory made me so happy) immediately the old grey house upon the street, where her room was, rose up like a stage set to attach itself to the little pavilion opening on to the garden which had been built out behind it for my parents (the isolated segment which until that moment had been all that I could see); and with the house the town, from morning to night and in all weathers, the Square where I used to be sent before lunch, the streets along which I used to run errands, the country roads we took when it was fine. And as in the game wherein the Japanese amuse themselves by filling a porcelain bowl with water and steeping in it little pieces of paper which until then are without character or form, but, the moment they become wet, stretch and twist and take on colour and distinctive shape, become flowers or houses or people, solid and recognizable, so in that moment all the flowers in our garden and in M. Swann’s park, and the water-lilies on the Vivonne and the good folk of the village and their little dwellings and the parish church and the whole of Combray and its surroundings, taking shape and solidity, sprang into being, town and gardens alike, from my cup of tea.” (Read more of the quote here.)

In memoir workshops I suggest that those seeking a way into their writing begin by looking around their homes, or cottages, at the belongings they keep close. Aside from basic utility items — that vegetable brush is unlikely to elicit emotions, though you never know! — many of the items we refuse to part with, whether used regularly, hanging on a wall, set out on a dresser, or tucked away in a drawer or cupboard, may be keys to memory. Each has the potential to remind us of the distant or not-so-distant past: a person, a place, an experience.

And if we look closely, each tells us something about who we were, and who we’ve become.

For “Seven Treasures: a memoir series,” I asked writer and editor colleagues, former students, and friends to share something about their most memory-imbued belongings. The results have been a pleasure to read, the writers’ choices and the reasons behind them unique, often surprising and always revealing.

I hope these writings help you see anew some of your own cherished items, and find your way to the underlying stories that make them special to you.

~ Allyson

Explore this brimming chest of Seven Treasures guest posts.


Wednesday, April 18th, 2012