Tuesday, September 16, 2014


Camp Morton, 1920.  This former children’s ‘fresh air’
camp is now a provincially-run park with rustic log cabins in a beautiful setting by the lake. It was probably even more beautiful back in the twenties and thirties when the buildings were new and the stone walls, (built from shoreline rocks in Italian style), weren’t collapsing. But maybe not. There’s something compelling about ruins—something that evokes melancholy, and a sense of time and forgotten memories. Lake Winnipeg crashed then like now against the shoreline and silver moons lit night time highways over the brooding depths of this huge lake. (Lake Winnipeg is one of the largest lakes in the world.)

 
I’ve come back here every fall for more than twenty years.  It’s peaceful, it’s rustic, it’s ghostly, it’s magical.  Disadvantaged children from the Winnipeg area would come to this Catholic-run camp for the a week in the summer. Old steps lead down to a crumbling beach house. A few of the other old buildings still stand—the water tower, the former chapel, the arcade. The sunken garden still blooms.  


I’d like to think I can hear the sound of children laughing on the swings, but maybe that’s just some bird twittering.  And is that the sound of a homesick child crying on a windy night?  Probably just a drafty window.

Camp Morton is an hour and a bit north of Winnipeg on the west shore of Lake Winnipeg. It's now closed for the season...(for us regular folks, But who knows what memory does when left alone in an empty place?)





Wednesday, September 10, 2014


You know how a novel has several sub-plots—just to keep things interesting? A life is much the same. My meandering has led to a few unplanned detours with unexpected views. (Oh how I love metaphor!) I’m of the firm belief that no experience is bad, but some experiences are more challenging, more tiring, more confusing, than others.

I'm thrilled to share that I’m focused on my main trail again...that of exploring my roots. This has been a lifelong preoccupation of mine—to find the family that was crushed in another place and time. Always I’ve wanted to see the unseen, hear the unspoken, feel the untouched.

Things are never simply as they appear. There’s a story to everything...to the geese flying overhead, to the murder headlines in the paper, to the photos in my mother’s old photo album. I feel compelled to find story. The beauty of being a fiction writer is that I can make stuff up, I can embellish. I’m grateful for this gift of imagination. I’m not always able to transpose this into perfect words, but I’m working on the craft called writing and perhaps with practice I shall improve.

I’m over-the-moon grateful for the opportunity gifted to me by Rebelight Publishing. Not only are they publishing my sequel, East Prussian Princess, in the spring of 2015, but they’re simultaneously re-publishing The Kulak’s Daughter which went out of print soon after it was released due to the closure of its Texas-based publisher. And not only that, but there’s a third book in the works. More about that later.

It’s possible that this is all a dream, a made-up reality that my overly active imagination has invented. I’ll let you know.  On another path...this one now six months long and therefore truly real...my day job is done. No more walking through rain and wind and snow delivering mail. Finished. Over. I can finally claim to be a full time writer. Now I’ll just meander with my dear canine through rain and wind and snow. Walk on!  

I intend to continue sharing some of my story research on this blog. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Remembrance Day

My dad painted this when he returned from five years in a Soviet POW camp.  He'd been a Luftwaffe pilot during WWll, later ending up on the Eastern Front with the Military Police.



Remembrance Day's become more complicated for me over the years.  Robert Fisk's article in the Belfast Telegraph, most closely mirrors my changing attitude. Bottom line:  war is wrong.

http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/opinion/columnists/robert-fisk/wearing-a-poppy-why-remembrance-rituals-make-me-see-red-29737005.html

And in case you don't read the whole article, here's a clip from his conclusion:  "The poppies were there to remind us of our duty to kill more human beings."

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Change

My dogs and I have walked these fields and stopped by this pond countless times. It's part of our neighbourhood, part of our routine. I never stop being in awe of the colours, of the timelessness of nature.


But change is in the air, and I'm not referring to the coming winter.
This area will soon be destroyed so that a new development can take its place.
Soon the pond, the woods, and the farmer's field will become houses for families. This is not a bad thing. It just is. And so I wanted to post these photos to remind me of my meanderings when this pond is replaced with a new neighbourhood called Ridgeway South

South of the Harte Trail

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Seems I meandered a bit off the blogging trail in the last year. Well, I'm back, back to meandering and musing.  Nothing earth-shattering to report. No new book contract.  I'm still hobbling along in that general direction, though.  In my case, I guess it's a long and winding trail full of potholes, and various other little detours. But, I'm still on it and have met some wonderful fellow travelers. It's a journey, not a destination—a lifestyle. And like that philosophical tree that falls in the forest, I will continue to write, whether someone reads my words...or not.

A book I've been reading is called When the Gods are Silent by Mikhail Soloviev. I've got the German translation which I found in my father's book collection. It's a well-used book, taped up with a tattered homemade cover, and filled with pencil markings and notes which I assume are my dad's. I love the idea of reading a book he once read. I can still see him sitting at the kitchen table with his mug of instant Nescafe coffee, and a piece of homemade raisin cake, head immersed in a book.

This book was published in 1953. (Originally in Russian.)  It's an amazing narrative that follows a main character and his family through the Bolshevik revolution up until the end of World War 2.  As I read I have to keep googling places, people and events. It's an eye-opening look at how communism attracted the Russians and then became their worst enemy. I can't find any information about the author, Mikhail Soloviev. If anyone can guide me to some, I'd be grateful.





Saturday, February 16, 2013

Chelyabinsk

When I heard about the meteor crash in central Russia I was immediately curious about where it was. Ural Mountains? Okay, I know where those are. Chelyabinsk? Near Kurgan? I went to my map of Russia, and sure enough, it's the same place that I pinpointed years ago. My mom spent a couple of years in a prisoner of war camp there. Helping the Soviets with some major project. It was all quite vague. What she did remember was the hunger, the cold and always, the bugs.

Chelyabinsk. Google it. It's set in a heavily industrialized area. Miserably cold in the winter, just like here in Winnipeg. Mom became the Starosta in her camp barrack--possibly because she could speak both German and Russian. The all-women labour camp had to supply coal for one of the factories there. Chelyabinsk was a major tank and tractor producing facility. It's nickname once was Tankograd. The area is considered the most polluted place on earth. In a Globe and Mail article, a teacher is quoted as saying, "The city is a place where people always seem bitter with one another."

There's another Chelyabinsk. It's hidden underneath the ground and called Chelyabinsk -40.  It was the first Soviet plutonium production complex. Construction for this underground nuclear facility began in 1945. Could my mother have been helping build this complex?

She shared the odd story about her experiences. It's where she learned to kill a crow with a stone so that she'd have some meat to eat. It's where she lost all her hair from some herbal remedy she took when she was sick. It's where she watched a friend burn and then roll in the snow, becoming a human ice cube in the process. Mom said, "she went crazy after that." It's where she helped sober up a campguard so that he'd be presentable to his superiors. It's also where Mom spent a memorable Christmas Eve in a freezing cold barn. I'll have to share that poignant story sometime. Chelyabinsk. I finally know how to spell it. I wonder what Mom would say, now that the whole world knows where it is. She'd probably shrug her shoulders. It was a place she wanted to forget.

Mom got to leave Chelyabinsk in 1947. By then she was quite ill and the Soviets figured they'd get no more labour out of her.

This meteor crash just might enlighten the rest of the world about Chelyabink's history.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Remembering Day



Today was once my Uncle August’s birthday. ‘cept he died and stopped counting birthdays. My mom says he came home (Kreuzberg, East Prussia) to visit on his 21st birthday – November 11, 1943 – and disappeared soon after – missing in action for Hitler’s lost cause.  I don’t know where he’s buried. Somewhere on the Eastern front, I suppose. Thanks to the internet - his name exists - even if his body was never found. Check here for the stats on his birth and death.  His name is listed at a Russian memorial site called Sologubovka - near St. Petersburg. 

I’m baking a Streuselkuchen (crumb cake) today – in August’s memory. 

My friend, Sara, has just published a book, Jimmy Muir from Trois Rivieresabout another young man's war death. He was a fighter pilot  – and was once her mother’s boyfriend. This is a poignant, sad, love story and a well-researched tribute to a young man who was fighting other young men – like my Uncle August.  Jimmy’s buried in Belgium, far from his home. 

Twenty-something and dead. Lives unlived.  I’d like to think that if both had lived, they might have become friends here in Canada where people could start over.