Adapting to Change


I’ve always thought I was quite adaptable to change. Upped sticks when children were young, changed houses many times, lost and obtained new work and friendships over the years, went around the mountain when I couldn’t go over it, among other formidable life happenings.

Now my favourite hiking place has put in a bridge.

A forest with a bridge, over a creek, not near a parking area, deep in the woods. There are, of course, many reasons for doing so, especially with the increased use over the past year–protect flora and fauna from being trampled, protect the creek, accessibility. I’m not for it, to say the least, despite all of the sensible reasons.

There is something inherently just wrong with a cement path choking out the undergrowth and landscaping a wild area.

I used to think I was one of the few who took a deer trail through the woods, was careful where I stepped, and protected the spaces where I walked. There is no way to analyze the quantifiable data on how much destruction has taken place in this particular area. I don’t know what was discussed within municipal and local interested groups. We are trusting they weighed the pros and cons.

I’m one of those who do believe in the sensibility of nature. That trees have feelings, that they communicate with one another, that they have the ability to take care of each other.

I still wish there wasn’t a bridge where I hike, but I suppose I will have to get used to it. These days, I’m repeating the saying, ‘Accept the things I cannot change, change the things I can, and grant me the wisdom to know the difference.’

The forest will work around engineered ideas. It has for thousands of years.

lichen ladies


Backyard lilac

In Greek Mythology, Pan, the god connected to fields, fertility and spring, was smitten by the beauty of Syringa. To escape his advances, Syringa turned herself into the flower we have come to know as the lilac.

Lilacs are often available around Mothers’ Day. You may love their pungent aroma or send them to a far corner of the house after a day, but their lush and majestic totality in a vase cannot be denied.

Rochester, New York is the lilac capital of the world hosting a two-week long Lilac Festival each spring. Highland Park in Rochester contains over 500 varieties in 1200 lilac bushes over 155 acres. Spokane, Washington also calls itself a lilac city. It hosts a lilac parade and festival.

If you want to smell or bathe in the fragrance of this flower, Pacific sells French Lilac deodorants, soaps, and perfumes, and many will be familiar with Avon’s French Lilac bubble bath. Many handcrafted olive oil soaps also mix lilac into their base.

Growing Lilacs

The Syringa (the Lilac’s botanical name) is a hardy deciduous needing sun and well-drained, preferably alkaline soil. They are easy to grow and easily thrive. Remove flower heads from newly planted lilacs and deadhead them for the first few years. The plants are upright when young, spreading into a bushy shrub. Plan your lilac bushes for edging, privacy, and fragrance.

Lilac leaves are heart shaped and green with flowers that can be white, pink, or deep purple. Their time of blooming is said to indicate an early or late spring. I think this is an early spring on the West Coast.

White lilac

Lilac Trivia

Purple lilacs symbolize first love, while white lilacs are said to represent youthful innocence. The Lilac is also the flower of wedding anniversary number eight.

The following books contain Lilac in the title:

Under the Lilac by Louisa May Alcott, White Lilacs by Carolyn Meyer, The Lilac Tree by Helen Dunmore, The Lilac Lady by Ruth Alberta Brown, and Lilac Moon by Sharon Butala.

Lilac movies:

Lilac Time– 1928 and The Lilac Domino-1937

Famous lilac paintings:

Marc Chagall’s Lovers in the Lilacs and Lilac Bush by van Gogh

In One Rainy Wish, Jimi Hendrix wrote about a dream being “misty blue and lilac too.”

The lilac is related to a class of anti-diabetic drugs, Martha Stewart has a lilac named after her, there is a Lilac Street in London, and on a recent episode of House lilacs attracting bees were related to a patient’s complicated diagnosis.

Lilac Superstition

There is some superstition surrounding the lilac. The idea that lilacs bring bad luck may have originated in the belief that fairies were once associated with the lilac tree, and if brought inside, fairies could disrupt the household. The way to keep fairies away, though, is to hang a wind chime, so they say.

The white/pink lilac I planted many years ago under the shade of a Japanese maple is now over eight feet tall, and one of the purple shrubs took a few years to settle before it bloomed. Fussy or fairies?


Gentle Giants

Gentle giantsLogin today and I can’t believe I haven’t posted anything in this long. I’m still visiting the forest, more so lately, and the writing continues, less so in the last few life-changing weeks.
Today I thought I’d check on the tree that fell over the creek in the wind storm about a week ago.

Tree over creet

One of the Saanich workmen, a tall strong looking fellow stopped, 2 metres away, and asked how I was doing. He was of course referring to our collective health and mandatory social distancing. He said he was depressed. He couldn’t even ride to work in the same vehicle as his co-workers. I asked him if coming to work in the forest helped. He didn’t answer directly but proceeded to tell me they’d removed a lot of debris, cut up the trunk of the tree that had fallen into the creek, and set up some screens to prevent more run off and keep the creek moving. As he related the details of his day, his demeanour was energetic and thoughtful. And then a younger co-worker came along and relieved the older gentleman of his pic and shovel, unfortunately not keeping his distance. We parted telling each other to stay safe and healthy. A moment’s brief connection between two people feeling the impact of what we are all living through, and sharing our concern for the creek and forest. Trees fall into the creek in windstorms. Gentle giants remain, and watch over the two-legged ones trying to protect it.

There is a lot more traffic both on the peripheral trails and deep in the challenging ones. As this sacred place exhales what we need to breathe in, give each other space, take care with your pets, and be kind.

Natural painted nails

Seeing through the fog

Sometimes with hiking, as with writing, I have to remind myself that I don’t have to aim for the top of the mountain everyday. And that I don’t have to see through the fog. What is right in front of me is enough.

lone arbutus top of Little Mt Doug

I haven’t been up ‘little’ Mt Doug for over a year, maybe more. I’ve been preoccupied with taking the steep south face to the top of Mt Doug–the bigger–or taking the more familiar vehicle road because it is so handily gated off until noon for walkers only.

The hike up to little Mt Doug has always been one of my favourite paths, with its mossy plateaus and of course the lichen ladies.

lichen ladies

As usual, a few dogs about. Some recognized me, others barked. The fog covered the entire view below and I could hear the fog horn in the distance. The colours this year are especially vivid and there are some changes in the paths with fencing in place to decrease traffic and erosion. After a warmer than usual start to October, today the air was cool and I wore gloves, but they soon found their way to my pockets.

Walking and hiking for me has always been a time of opening up and letting go, a time away from writing and an opportunity to just ‘be’ in the landscape. Sometimes a word or line that has challenged me will present itself more clearly, sometimes I just breathe. Today, I reminded myself, whether writing or hiking, to keep an eye on my path. There may be surprises ahead. You never know when a door might open.

little door in the woods

Also, much less chance of twisting an ankle.







When is a manuscript finished?

Does a manuscript become a novel when someone finally picks it off a store bookshelf? When is a writer through with changing the colour of a character’s eyes, or sending them off to the outback, or possibly removing them from the story line entirely?

I believe it was Joni Mitchell who once said she could never listen to her songs because she always heard things she wished she’d done differently, and at a writers’ festival, Alistair MacLeod, one of Canada’s best loved writers, said that his manuscripts had to be torn from his hands.

Recently, I read somewhere that a manuscript is complete when you’ve given it all that you possibly could, when the story is finished within you. For now, that is the point that I have reached. Over five years of writing and re-writing, fermenting, thinking, re-writing, changing the colour of a character’s eyes, sending them down new roads.

Time to see what other readers think.

Time for a walk in the mountain. Morning fog is setting in, the leaves are changing colour, and I need to breathe some forest air.



Where do all the Jack O’Lanterns Go?

Everyone has arrived for this year’s party. Catch them soon.

Gail Kirkpatrick

One of the seasonal pleasures of Mt. Doug forest is the post October 31st display of Jack O’Lanterns. From the entrance of Mt. Doug Park for about a half mile along the road, carved pumpkins have escaped the compost heap and joined in numbers for a few more glorious days of display.

If, as the web states, these lanterns were “named after the phenomenon of strange lights flashing over peat bogs,” how appropriate that these fruits have reached this destination of soggy leaves and mossy paths.

Enjoy this site in the next few days, as it will soon magically disappear. Perhaps one night the pumpkins gathering together as one to renew the forest floor.

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Spring on Mt. Doug


Like the flowers, I am finding my way back to the mountain. This Easter hike led me to the blooming skunk cabbage, a path and view I had forgotten about, and to a place where rocks define a space. Curious about the rocks in this setting; I’ll try and find out more.

Similarly, in searching for a publisher for the long work (to my mind it will only be a novel when it is published and in book stores) there have been a few discoveries––a few inconsistent rejections, kind personal publisher emails, ‘we like it, but aren’t sure it fits with our list.’ Like the mountain hiking, this pursuit is leading me along some interesting paths. Rejection is hard, but keep believing in the work. Keep the long view in mind.

Strait of Juan de Fuca through arbutus

Strait of Juan de Fuca through arbutus