Posts Tagged ‘memories’

Wordless Wednesday: January 6, 2016


Drawing by Bernadene  (Dene) Jeffrey, circa 1940

Drawing by Bernadene (Dene) Jeffrey, circa 1940


Each week on Wordless Wednesday, bloggers around the world post a photo they’ve taken that tells a story. I hope this one will bring to mind a memory or stimulate your imagination. Perhaps it will even inspire you to try your hand at some flash (super short) or long memoir or fiction, or a poem. If it does, please let me know in the comments or by email via the Contact tab on my home page!


Scroll through more of my photos here.

And check out this week’s Wordless Wednesday contributions from some of my Canadian writer-photographer friends, coast to coast:

Allison Howard

Barbara Rose Lambert

Carin Makuz (Matilda Magtree)

Cheryl Andrews

Elizabeth Yeoman (Wunderkamera)


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Recent posts on writing

“There was a writer living inside me”: Interview with Memoirist Cea Sunrise Person (parts 1 and 2)

12 Tips for Interviewing Seniors About Their Lives, by historical novelist Elinor Florence

Literary Journal “Don’t Talk to Me About Love” Launches Inaugural Issue

A Rewording Life Launched November 17 (a wonderful gift for the word-lovers in your life)

Off the Shelf: Greg Walker on recognizing “the sacred meeting place of memory and reality”

“Identity is a difficult thing when you’re in between spaces”: writer Sonja Boon

Wednesday, January 6th, 2016

Wordless Wednesday photo: 110


©2014 Allyson Latta

©2014 Allyson Latta


Each week on Wordless Wednesday, bloggers around the world post a photo they’ve taken that tells a story. I hope this one will bring to mind a memory or inspire your creative writing.

Scroll through more of my photos here.

And check out this week’s Wordless Wednesday contributions from some of my Canadian writer-photographer friends, coast to coast: Read the rest of this entry »

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015

Happy Canada Day! (Wordless Wednesday: 105)


©2014 Allyson Latta

©2014 Allyson Latta


Each week on Wordless Wednesday, bloggers around the world post a photo they’ve taken that tells a story. If my photo brings to mind a memory or inspires your creative writing, I hope you’ll share a comment below.

Scroll through more of my photos here.

Read the rest of this entry »

Wednesday, July 1st, 2015

A Seven Treasures post by Sabrina Ramnanan

Sabrina Ramnanan

Sabrina Ramnanan

SABRINA RAMNANAN was born in Toronto to Trinidadian parents. She completed her BA in English and BEd at the University of Toronto. Sabrina is also a recent graduate of University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies Creative Writing Program and the recipient of the 2012 Marina Nemat award. Her work has appeared in Diaspora Dialogues, Cerulean Rain, Writing in the Margins, The Caribbean Writer, and Joyland. Nothing Like Loveher debut novel, will be published in April 2015.



Four years ago a dear friend gifted me a copy of Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Journal. It lives in my office, as most of my treasured things do, facing the door so that every time I enter the space I can’t help but notice it. I have made what I consider a valiant attempt to write one happy sentence a day since I received it. I haven’t always been successful. In fact, there is at least one day marked with an angry X for a reason that now eludes me. But for the most part I have chronicled in this journal four years of random snippets of joy that I can flip back to and relive as many times as I like. This simple act of penning my gratitude makes me appreciate things big and small, reminds me to smile on days I’d rather not, and calls to mind a friend with a spirit as lovely as this gift.


I adore my collection of the Thousand Paths series of books. They are stunning little things full of simple wisdoms, and I am constantly arranging and rearranging them on my bookcase and desk because of how cheerful and pretty they make every space. I hunted these down in a used bookstore one summer, tiny gems in big bins of throwaway paperbacks. It’s funny that I haven’t actually read them all — or even one in its entirety — but every page flipped to at random holds just the perfect message, and I can’t imagine writing in my office without them.


officeprintsI had these prints custom made for my office about the same time I decided that I was going to be a writer — and tell people about it. Both quotes perfectly encapsulate how I felt when I made that decision, and thankfully, how I still feel now. They are reminders that I chose right, which for a person as vacillating as me feels like an Olympic win.


Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. 
― Robert Frost


Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined. Henry David Thoreau


courageAt a conference a few years ago, I was asked to close my eyes and choose an engraved stone from a box of maybe one hundred. My fingers could have closed around a Truth or Peace stone, but instead they found this Courage stone and hung on. I needed courage then. I was at a crossroads in my life, trying to figure out how seriously I should pursue a career in creative writing, and if I did, how far I should veer from the only career I’d ever known: teaching. I struggled, went back and forth on the decision a million times, it seemed, and for just as many reasons. For months I kept my Courage stone at my bedside table, and then gradually, as I felt more compelled to write, I moved the stone into my office, where it has remained ever since. I still need courage now; I need it every day, to write, to teach, to be a mother and a wife, to balance my roles and still look and feel like a normal (whatever that is) functioning person in society. And so, this stone is always relevant, special, and holds all kinds of meaning for me. This Courage stone chose me, and so I keep it near.


My yoga mat isn’t the most expensive mat in the world, and these days I don’t use it quite as often as I’d like, but still, it is dear to me. On this mat I have discovered pleasant and unpleasant truths about myself, the strengths and limitations of my own body, and how to find stillness in the chaos. It is a symbol of my growth and a gentle reminder that my journey is only just beginning. This mat, so much like a magic carpet for all the places it has taken me, never fails to deliver just what I need, even if I don’t know what that is before I unroll it.


In my filing cabinet lies an envelope in which author Lawrence Hill once mailed me feedback on a short story. I haven’t opened it in years, but it is tucked away in my writing folder along with all the other kind words instructors and writing mentors have given me over the years. When I feel discouraged, or begin to question just what it is I think I’m doing, pretending to be a writer, I glance at the file and know that all kinds of well wishes are tucked away in there just for me. They are like silent cheerleaders from the past and present, endlessly bolstering my spirit.


pondMy Canadian home backs onto this lovely pond framed by just enough trees to give it a rural feel, even though it is a dot in a suburban maze. In the autumn at least one flock of Canada geese glides across the pond’s surface; in the winter it is a Narnia wonderland; and in the spring and summer a blue heron perches on a rock in the middle to witness the unfolding of warmer days. There is always something to see on the pond. I can lose myself in its simple beauty at any given time of day, and when I walk away from the window I am always, always just a little stiller.

Read an excerpt from Nothing Like Love here.

For more writing inspiration, browse the Seven Treasures series.

Friday, March 13th, 2015

Tokens of War: A Seven Treasures post, by Pat Irwin Lycett (#22)

Pat Irwin Lycett is a former creative writing student of mine. In fact, she participated in one of my first memoir writing workshop series for North York Central Library, seven years ago, and has followed my website and kept in touch. Her beautiful Seven Treasures post below ventures a little beyond the series’ usual form — but you’ll see why I want share it with you.

♦     ♦     ♦


This morning I hung my father’s Second World War army blanket on the line to air. During the winter it sits on the veranda in an old trunk filled with grandkids’ toys. A few days from now, for our outdoor family party, it will be attached to a tree with clothes pegs, enclosing a See-Your-Future booth, courtesy granddaughters Cassie, Emma, and Keara.

It’s made of harsh, sturdy fabric, iron-grey with black stitching. I send a silent word of thanks to our Canadian Government for providing this amenity, hoping it gave some warmth to my poor father, in France or Holland, in those days of long ago. One wonders where they bedded down, young and old (my dad well over 40), so far from home. In the movies, fortunate soldiers found a barn, breathed in the warmth of living animals, or sliced into a vein to suck out mineral-rich blood, hoping the animal was healthy.

“This is Lowell Thomas with the news at six,” blared the radio, as I climbed onto my grandfather’s knee to be updated on the latest atrocities of the war, dimly aware that my father was over there, somewhere, keeping those bombs from our house. We sat together in Grampa’s old wicker rocker (now a fixture in our home, eyed by my son Matt and his son, Alex), heads wreathed in smoke from his pipe, a shared and comforting experience for a four-year-old. Grampa struck a match on the right rocker, the worn spot visible to this day, and I got to blow it out.

Other tokens come to mind. Still in my mother’s jewellery box, packed in a bottom drawer, are small buttons from his uniform, and the pin from his breastpocket with attached tiny cap, a replica of the one tucked into his epaulette. In the last picture taken before he left for overseas, he’s in full uniform, cap in place.

I recently unearthed a small khaki sewing kit, about a foot long and three to four inches wide. Made of strong cotton, it’s divided into three pockets that fold up and tie with the attached heavy string — a small flat bundle assigned to soldiers, part of their army gear. We used to call it “kharki” when I was a kid — don’t know where the r came from, but I remember it clearly.

The kit contains one very large needle, and one much smaller for reattaching buttons, still threaded with dark grey. The needles are woven into white patches of flannel, folded over. A strand of thicker thread lies across. A large circle stamped on the closing flap has lost its print over time, but still holds the word Ottawa, and the date — 1940 — the year I turned three. On the outside, the number B28976, issued to him when he joined up, remains very clear.

I’d seen this little kit before, somewhere in my past, and it surfaced again lodged beneath Mother’s recently discovered family history. I’d never checked beyond the needles, thought the three pouches were empty, until I had a better look this morning. Searching through the pockets — strange that I hadn’t done this before — I find a small advertisement, showing purple diagrams on a buff-coloured background. It purports to interest the reader in solder repair, inviting him to “Write Today for Free Sample and the Method.”

I can imagine my mother, concerned for his return to civilian life and about the availability of jobs, offering suggestions by mail. Sitting at Gramma’s little oak desk (mother and I still living with her parents), she may have written, Jim, perhaps you could get interested in car repairs as a line of work. More and more people will be buying one. And his possible reply — negative and disgruntled, beaten down by life and the war — I don’t think so. Anyway, not many people will be able to afford cars.

On his return in 1946 he became a postman, a job open to many vets. I don’t remember his ever looking really happy. I do remember his stifled tears on the death of our little dog. My father had spent many formative years in a Catholic orphanage, and I realize now that Brownie was likely the only dog he was ever allowed to own.

In the early ′50s Mother asked him to leave, concerned about his losing his job and worried that his gambling debts would cut into her hard-earned nursing income. We never really saw him again. We learned in the mid-′60s that he died in an institution, thirty miles from our home.

Life buried my father way before his time. Who knows, had things been different he might have lucked into a thriving business, “repairing cracked cylinder heads,” right there in our hometown.

I fold the little buff-coloured paper and put it back in his sturdy sewing kit, which now sits, intact, near my desk.

♦     ♦     ♦

PAT IRWIN LYCETT is a retired nurse, real estate broker, nutritionist, iridologist, tai chi teacher, and owner of a book and crystal store. She has 7 children and 20 (and counting) grandchildren. She is author of the blog, and is writing a loose collection of family memories from 1892 to the present.



Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

A Seven Treasures post by Janis McCallen

The Seven Treasures series is back by popular demand, with this guest post by Janis McCallen.

As a young girl, JANIS MCCALLEN began writing about her life in small diaries — the kind with a little brass lock and key. At eleven she wrote her first novel on a Royal portable typewriter set up on a card table in the basement. In her teens, she wrote angst-filled poetry, and she has continued to write ever since.

Currently Janis writes poetry, short fiction, and memoir. Both her poetry and prose have been published. During the warmer months, she can be found in her writing studio tucked at the back of her garden. She is the Membership Coordinator for the Writers’ Community of York Region and a member of the Writers’ Community of Durham Region. Together with Elaine Jackson, Janis co-facilitates day-long Writing from the Centre yoga and writing retreats. Every other week, she pens a writing-related blog post on the Writing from the Centre website.


My sister and I waited several months after my mother’s death before we could bring ourselves to sort through her cedar chest. There we found it, wrapped in brown paper: her wedding dress. It is cream-coloured satin, gathered at the bodice, with a full skirt and a long row of satin-covered buttons down the back. The Second World War had delayed my parents’ marriage and the ceremony took place in October 1946.

Sixty-one years later, on a sunny June day in 2007, I wore that dress when I married my longtime partner, Tom, in our garden. With a few minor alterations, it fit perfectly. Although my mom had passed away the previous year, as I walked down the garden path and under the honeysuckle arbour, I felt she was with me in spirit. She probably smiled to see her gown in the spotlight one more time.


As a child I loved kindergarten — especially the art-making part. I recall the satisfying squishiness of the clay that my pudgy fingers teased into shapes. And I remember the smooth satiny feel of paint as I spread it with my fingers over waxy paper and watched patterns emerge. A painted wooden robin is one of the few pieces of my early artwork that survived. It’s made from wood scraps I glued together, fastened to a spool, then painted. It reminds me that my five-year-old Inner Artist is still alive, and that I need to let her out to play more often.


My husband surprised me with a gift of this hand-painted porcelain brooch when we attended the Augusta Heritage Festival’s music camp in Elkins, West Virginia, over fifteen years ago. A guitar, banjo, and mountain dulcimer adorn its luminescent surface. For many years during our summer vacations, we attended such gatherings in the U.S., where we studied and played Southern Appalachian music.

Music is still a part of our lives. And the sounds that surrounded us during those heartfelt weeks come back to me whenever I wear this brooch. I hear guitar, banjo, mountain dulcimer, autoharp, fiddle, and stand-up bass along with the haunting sounds of southern singing. I also hear the teary farewells that were shared at the end of each meaningful camp experience.


3. Photo of my GrandparentsThis photograph of my grandparents was taken in the backyard of their home in downtown Toronto in 1911. My grandfather, with his impish Yorkshire grin, looks so proud of his family: his wife Elizabeth and their children, Greta and baby Norman. Six more children would follow, including my mother in 1917.

I wish I could step into the photograph and talk with my grandmother about the unusual circumstances of her early life. In the late 1880s, she and her older brother were placed in an orphanage in Leeds, after their mother died and their father couldn’t keep them. They were sent to Canada, along with about 100,000 other “home children,” through the British Child Immigration Scheme. My grandmother was placed on a farm outside Stouffville, Ontario. I “found” her in a copy of the 1891 census in that town’s library. Her age: 10; her occupation: domestic servant.

So far I have been able to piece together only fragments, but I’m now embarking on more research so that I can write my grandmother’s story.


6. Hand-painted Buddha DSC02269AOur image of the Buddha — just 12 centimetres square — was painted for my husband and me by a young Tibetan monk named Tseten Dorji, who lived in Kathmandu, Nepal. We began sponsoring him in the late 1990s and our monthly contributions both supported his religious and art education in a local monastery and assisted his parents. His family had seven children and lived on what Tseten’s mother could earn selling religious trinkets at a local market. His father was ill and unable to work.

We corresponded with the family over a four-year period, and have a scrapbook filled with letters and artwork we received. Through them we learned about daily life, religious life, school, holidays and celebrations, local plants and animals, and the political instability within Nepal, including the regular violent actions of rebels. After Tseten’s father’s health improved, our support was no longer needed, and eventually we lost touch. When I look at this framed picture Tseten painted for us I wonder what he is doing now, and if he is still in the monastery creating beautiful art.


A delicate strand of cultured pearls is stored in its original blue velvet Birks jewellery box. My mother’s best friend, my “Aunt” Gloria, began putting pearls away for me at Birks when I was born. On my sixteenth birthday she presented me with this box wrapped in silver paper. I can still feel the coolness of her fingers and the happy chill that ran up my spine as she placed the pearls around my neck and fastened the silver clasp. I ran to the dresser mirror in my parents’ bedroom to admire them. I felt so grown up.

My aunt was like a whirlwind. She never sat still during her visits, smoked Sportsman cigarettes and left bright red lipstick rings on the butts. And she laughed a lot, throwing her head back and freeing what sounded like musical chimes interspersed with bursts of air. When my aunt was around, my generally sensible mother turned into a teenager. Her voice became high-pitched and her face flushed. Sadly, my aunt developed dementia later in life, and my mom watched her best friend of over seventy years slowly fade beyond her reach. I think of my aunt, so full of life, every time I wear those pearls.


7. My Hiking Knapsack DSC02299AI bought this royal blue knapsack twenty-five years ago as I prepared for a two-week hiking trip in England, and it has accompanied me on countless other trails since that time. Some of its badges are now frayed, and in a few places it’s been lovingly re-stitched.

If the knapsack could talk, it might prefer not to recall exhausting climbs, sudden downpours, heatstroke, sweat, blackflies, and mosquitoes. But I think it would happily share memories of wandering on the rolling moorlands of Yorkshire, amongst black-faced sheep with wild locks. It would surely recall being on a rocky outcrop in Algonquin Park and spotting a moose grazing in a calm pool below. And it would certainly remember standing beneath the ancient red and white pines, two to three hundred years old, in Temagami. My knapsack will gather new stories when my husband and I return to Algonquin Park to hike this September.

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013