Reading, Writing and Reflecting: Porphyry Island, Part Two

My mind is still buzzing from my four-day writing retreat on Porphyry Island. The setting nourished my soul and my writing companions provided constant inspiration…and plenty of reasons to laugh.

Jean E. Pendziwol, author of The Lightkeeper’s Daughters (and numerous children’s books) was our host for the retreat. I knew I’d found a kindred spirit the moment we met. Down-to-earth, witty with just the right amount of mischief, she challenged us to stoke our creativity by trying new media (drawing, painting) and intriguing writing prompts.

Every day we had time to ourselves to focus on our own writing, read or explore the island.

My goal was to write 1500 words a day on my new novel and spend time outdoors becoming reacquainted with the wild wind, crashing waves and soaring birds of the Great Lakes. I grew up at a cottage in a tiny village on Lake Erie, so the sounds and smells of the Great Lakes have always spoken to me.

I awoke early with the rising sun and spent an hour on the rocks of the point every morning watching the lichen grow as the light grew brighter and the moon slowly faded into the blue sky.

rocks and water

At breaks, I went for walks on the black pebble beach, searching for heart-shaped stones as well as porphyries – rocks containing crystals, usually feldspar, for which the island is named.

heart rock.jpg

Some days, I spent time with the Arctic hares, bounding past my feet, or the Monarch butterflies brushing the air around my face.

hare.jpg

Other days, I was happy to sit watching the Sleeping Giant drift in and out of blankets of mist. Look closely at the photo below…can you find me?

me on rocks

I wrote a lot, which of course is the point of a writers’ retreat, but I also healed. I realized that it had been a long time since I had slowed my pulse to the rhythm of the earth and allowed my heart to ebb and flow with the constant waves. Nature teaches, if we are willing to be still and listen.

sunset.jpg

Although I am home again, far from the shores of Lake Superior, Porphyry Island remains raw and rugged in my mind and in my soul.

lone tree

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Reading, Writing and Reflecting: Porphyry Island, Part One

Ah, Porphyry Island, my new happy place!

Recently, I had the exquisite pleasure of spending four days on this rugged island, an hour’s ride by zodiac from Thunder Bay, Ontario. I was part of a writers’ retreat with Jean E. Pendziwol, author of The Lightkeeper’s Daughters.

And it was an adventure, from start to finish!

The other two participants and I met Jean at Pier 3 on Thursday morning for a briefing from Captain Greg and Captain Paul of Sailsuperior.com  They organized the transportation by large zodiac.

orange suit

We donned bright orange survival suits and goggles (such a fashion statement, but necessary for the frigid waters of Lake Superior). Superior is the world’s largest freshwater lake by surface area, and has a maximum depth of over 400 metres (1330 feet).

Flying across the surface at high speed, I had to pull up the hood on the suit and tie it tightly. There I was, an orange blob in a black zodiac, wearing goggles and a wide grin!

The fog hugged the land, the spray from the bleak gray waves was icy cold as the low clouds obscured the horizon.

fog.jpg

We stopped in a couple of bays so that Jean could read sections from her novel that were based on the area.

As we approached Porphyry Island, she pointed out the light tower at the far end.

first sighting of Porphyry

Nestled amid tall trees, I caught a glimpse of a white house with red trim – our home for the next four days.

house.jpg

We followed Paul, the volunteer guide from Canadian Lighthouses of Lake Superior (CLLS), along the lush path from the dock to the lightkeeper’s house. CLLS restores, preserves and maintains three lighthouses on Lake Superior and ensures public access to these historic sites.

The strong winds and cold temperatures have created a micro-climate on the island where arctic plants thrive. I photographed a wide range of lichen and miniature trees along with delicate flowering bushes.

small trees

flowers.jpg

Old Man’s Beard lichen dangles from trees in the forest.

old mans beard.jpg

Monarch butterflies on their migration south pause and savour the nectar from a large lilac bush near the point.

lilac.jpg

Birds call and swoop from the swaying treetops.

When we arrived at the house, and I saw the rocky outcroppings drenched by waves and sun, with the Sleeping Giant resting in the distance, I knew I had found my home away from home.

rocks and giant.jpg

What a Beautiful Morning!

IMG_20180805_084205.jpgOh what a beautiful morning! I woke up to the best possible news…a child has been born. My child’s child. My grandson.

The birth of any child is a miracle. When it is within your own family, your heart expands even wider with love to welcome this newest member into the fold.

Such joy! And heartfelt thanks for the safe and healthy delivery of this precious being into the world.

And so today, I offer this blessing to my new grandchild, and all other children in the world.

“May joy and peace surround you,

Contentment latch your door,

And happiness be with you now,

And bless you ever more.”

(Irish blessing)

 

A Birth Day – September 24, 2017

A child is born.

My child’s child…my granddaughter.

She is precious and beautiful, as are all children. And a joy to behold.

Each child is a miracle – a miracle that takes your breath away, brings you to tears, and fills you with unspeakable awe.

For her, and all the children in the world, I offer this blessing:

May you know peace,

May you have joy in your heart,

May you be surrounded by love and laughter,

and may you always feel at home in this world

no matter where your journey takes you.

Welcome to the world, little one!

sunrise on the day of my granddaughter's birth

Sunrise on September 24, 2017

 

Joy Is All Around

Have you ever been surprised by joy? Picture yourself loading up a canoe with folding chairs and a picnic, and paddling off to a small island.

You arrive, unload the canoe, and set up your chairs. Lo and behold…attached to one of the folding chairs is the chrysalis of a Monarch butterfly!

Just look at the perfection, and the detail, the tiny decorations of gold on the soft green. Only in nature can you find such beauty and magic. And be moved to tears of joy at the wonder of it all.

the chrysalis of a Monarch butterfly

The perfect design of a Monarch’s chrysalis ~ photo by Julie Wise

The Meaning of Life

I used to think that I needed to do a lot of soul searching, look for the deeper meaning in my life, find the “reason” I was on this earth.

While I still believe that self-reflection and slowing down to see things from a new perspective is important, I’ve come to recognize that life’s messages surround us every day. We don’t have to look very far at all.

Recently we were checking into a hotel in a small town. A splash of vibrant colour caught my eye and I glanced over to see this card sitting in a holder on the reception desk. I picked it up, intrigued by the message. On the back, it reads “Keep or pass along to a friend as a reminder to always choose love.”

Although I have kept the card, I’m now passing along the message to you…always choose love. For me that, if anything, is the true meaning of life.

card

Always choose love.

 

Stuart, Dave and Morley

Yesterday, I lost a beloved friend. I’d never met him, but his voice and his stories had been an integral part of my life for over 40 years. Stuart McLean, like Peter Gzowski before him, had a remarkable ability to weave together all the diverse threads that make us Canadian. Peter accomplished this through his Morningside program on CBC Radio; Stuart through his stories of Dave and Morley and smalltown Canada.

Many times, I remember driving home listening to CBC and The Vinyl Cafe with Stuart McLean, tears streaming down my face, laughing hysterically, and nearly having to pull over as he told tales of Dave cooking the turkey, or Dave and his neighbour’s bike, or Dave on the roof.

One year, we went to his annual Christmas show. He would tour the country, sharing old and new Dave and Morley stories with audiences young and old. He’d also feature Canadian musicians, and that’s where I first heard the lilting music of bands like The Good Lovelies and many more.

Yesterday, I drove home, listening to CBC, tears streaming down my face, nearly having to pull over, as I heard that he had passed away at 68.

Thank you, Stuart, for the stories and the memories and, above all, the laughter.

Stuart McLean book cover

Thanks for the stories, Stuart. May you rest in peace.

Embrace!

It’s Valentine’s Day. A day for sharing loving thoughts with those around you. Just wondering…how often do you treat yourself with loving kindness? When you look in the mirror, do you see beauty and joy? Or do you notice extra weight here, a few new wrinkles there, maybe some gray hairs peeking through?

I’ve been following Taryn Brumfitt on Instagram (@bodyimagemovement), an Australian who joyfully embraces all that she is. Through her documentary film “Embrace”, she encourages all of us to recognize that our bodies are “the vehicle to our dreams”.

Tonight, in honour of Valentine’s Day, she has organized a “Girls’ Night In” across North America. You can download her film on iTunes or Google Play or Amazon, watch it at 8pm EST with thousands of people across the continent, and join her for a Q & A session after on social media.

What are your plans for Valentine’s Day? Maybe it’s a good night to snuggle up with the one you love, or host a get-together with friends and check out “Embrace”! I know I will.

poster for Embrace documentary

A Valentine’s Day special just for you!

Sunny Days

After almost a month of days of endless gray, the sun peeked out through the clouds yesterday. I’d forgotten how bright and warm even winter days can be when the sun is shining.

I stood by the window, eyes closed, and soaked up the rays for the few minutes that it shone. Such joy!

And captured the brilliance on the sun-kissed blossoms of my bougainvillea.

bougainvillea blooms

Sun-kissed bougainvillea. Photo by J. Wise