My church, Highlands United, has sponsored a refugee, Hasna from Ethiopia. What is it like to arrive in a foreign country and not speak the language. I think one of the first words she learned was toilet. What is it like to be alone without family members? To eat food strange to the tongue? In order to brighten her days I took her to Van Dusen Gardens.  It was the beginning of the summer drought and only the roses and water lilies bloomed. Even so, she delighted in taking pictures. On another adventure we walked around the Quay. In the beginning she couldn’t communicate and so I pointed out tree, leaf, flower and she repeated the words after me.  I took her back to my apartment and drew the letters of the alphabet: a apple, b boy and so on. She slipped the list in her pocket to study later. When we went to the Ethiopian festival she was warmly welcomed and took home a whole tray full of food  that her country men and women enjoy.

This year the churches in North Vancouver plan to sponser a family of seven, Syrian refugees. I have been invited to sell my two collections of short fiction: Llamas In The Snow and In The Dry Woods. The proceeds will go to the committee in support of this exciting project.

 I have neglected this website for a long time but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing.

I have been busy polishing up manuscripts and sending them out. Recently, Presence, published a poem called Companion on the Journey and Hay Maker, a short story, appeared in The Dalhousie Review.

            Thomas Merton, the great writer and mystic, warns in his book Echoing Silence that we should not write for the gratification of our own ambitions. But what writer doesn’t want to see his or her work in print. Do we write simply to satisfy our own ego? Some of us write because we feel compelled to do so. I took up the pen when I was a child.

My first book was a picaresque novel. Of course, I didn’t know that word then. The story takes place when the first Canadian pioneers settled in the wilderness. The heroine Madeleine searches for her father who has been thrown into prison in a far way town. Wakhan Thanka, the brave and Zonta, his horse, encounter many adventures as they guide their friend through the forest to her destination. I wrote to Ottawa and asked for a language dictionary but the return letter said there was no such thing.  I looked in the indexes of the story books I was reading and chose those words. Zonta means trustworthy and actually belongs to the Sioux language. Wakhan Thanka is the Lakota word for the Great Mystery or Great Spirit.

            Perhaps I wrote that book because my own father went away for a year to study in England. I missed him sorely. When he came home, he regaled me with stories of his own grandfather who was a missionary to the Ojibwe and translated the Bible into their language. He loved and married a woman of the tribe. I have always been proud and fascinated by that heritage. Sadly, my first novel was lost in a move.

            Today I am still writing.



The killing of the innocents in Connecticut and the gang rape and death of the young 23 year old Indian girl in Delhi clouded this Christmas for many of us.  Wrestling with these tragedies, I came across a book by Shelly Rombo called Spirit and Trauma: A Theology of Remaining.  She argues that we need a new theological language to comfort survivors of intense suffering.  Here is a brief summary of her complex and layered thinking.

The pain of the families and loved ones never ends. Haunted by flashbacks and night mares, they live in the time between death and life; they exist in the middle space between, crucifixion and resurrection. Rombo critiques the church when the Easter story is read in a linear fashion and assumes victory over suffering and death.    The survivors see life through wounds.  They live in the territory of remaining where the death of their loved one is always present in the midst of their own lives.

One of the images she uses to comfort survivors is the scene of Jesus’ decent into hell.  Holy Saturday celebrates a divine love story when Christ totally identifies with those who are forsaken in hell. God’s loves sustains these survivors and gives them the power to persist not triumph, to bear not conquer.

A second important image in Rambo’s book comes from the scene in which Jesus tells John, his beloved disciple to remain in his love.  This word is often translated as abide.  I recall the old hymn, “Abide with me, fast falls the evening tide.  The darkness deepens, Lord with me abide.”  Rambo suggests that the Spirit remains in the abyss with the survivors and calls us to do the same.   God’s love is not extinguished as we stand by each other in the shadow of Holy Saturday.

I see a hopeful element arising out of these tragedies.  The public outcry demanding gun control in the United States and justice for rape victims in India is a way of witnessing and remaining in the abyss created by these violent attacks.

People who have suffered trauma find healing in the telling of their story but the truth of their pain is often unspeakable.  It is up to us as caring people to remain with those who live in the territory of remaining.   We are called to witness and to listen to their brokenness and not give pat answers.  We need to sense or track where love is visible at the point where it is invisible. We need to help those who exist in this middle space between life and death to imagine the future and begin to create life from the starting point of death. Redemption is not about deliverance from the depths of hell but a way of being that senses life arising out of what remains.

Recently I attended a panel discussion on violence at a meeting of UBC alumnae.  Many views were offered as to why there is violence in our society and what can be done about it.

The next day I saw the photo in the New York post about the man called Han who was pushed into the subway and killed by an oncoming train. The man who took the picture claims he hoped the flashes would warn the conductor and the train would stop. Many people, including myself were offended that the photographer took the pictures at all, and that they appeared in the paper. The photographer states he had been pushed against the wall and had 22 seconds to help. He claims that other people who were closer just stood by.  Apparently, many people took pictures with their cell phones when the doctor was trying to perform CPR.

Why did people react this way?  Our panel at the evening I attended on violence told the audience that people today want instant gratification. Such things as twitter encourage this attitude.  “We need filters to stop us from acting on impulse,” one of the speakers said.  I wondered what one of these filters might be. I pondered that question over refreshments afte the programme had ended.  Someone said that the speaker meant that people need motivation to do something other than take pictures.  Where might that motivation come from?

We used to be taught in churches the story of the Good Samaritan, the tale about a foreigner who was the only one on the highway who stopped to help a man who had been robbed and lay unconscious on the desert road.  But children or their parents don’t hear those stories any more. They don’t attend church.  Many in our society don’t know the beautiful narratives in the sacred literature of any of the enduring religions that speak of the need for compassion.

If values are not taught in the church, synagogue or mosque because they are empty, where will they be taught?

Surely the family nurtures children and teaches them to be caring individuals.  But our panelists stated that violence is born and bred in many home environments. Domestic violence begets more violence.  There are long waiting lists for children and families to get help. Schools in vulnerable communities need more counselors. Low self-esteem is a major factor in violent behavior.  We need more services that facilitate empathy and the making of emotional bonds.

Instead of building more jails, we need to invest in children.

These were only some of the thoughts I gleaned in the fascinating evening that focused on the problem of violence in our society.

I remember the folk song Odetta sang:  Love Oh Love Oh Careless Love.  There are a number of versions but the lyric I like includes the line: I used to wear my apron low…Now my apron strings don’t tie.

I thought of the song when I watched Sarah Polley’s film, Stories We Tell. This documentary unfolds the family secret that the film maker is the daughter of her mother’s lover.  It was not Sarah’s search for the biological father that moved me.  It was the vivacious young wife, Dianne who touched my heart.  Her husband appears to be rather heroic. He states in the film that he would have happily raised Sarah whether or not he fathered her. But what kind of man casually says that it’s okay if his wife had an affair. To me his tolerance is repugnant.  Why wouldn’t he feel even a little anger? If he had known what was happening in another man’s bedroom, would he have fought for Dianne?

Fascinated by Polley’s focus on infidelity, I watched an earlier movie she directed, Take This Waltz. This comedy-drama, tells the story of Margot, a young woman also unsatisfied in her marriage.  She seeks a more passionate lover, an artist called Daniel.  The marriage ends.  Again, the husband, Lou, is not distraught.  He responds with philosophical sadness.

Odetta’s folk song kept running through my head. You can see what careless love has done to me. Dianne becomes pregnant with another man’s baby and keeps the secret and shame.  At the end of the second movie, Margot appears to be regretful that her marriage ended. Both women suffer for what seem to be rash actions. After I watched these movies, I asked myself who are the careless lovers?    In my mind, it is the husbands. In both films passionate wives are left to their own devices by inattentive husbands. What a pity to be loved in such a cavalier and careless fashion.

My friends in Billings, Montana know how to make a person welcome.  Recently, I was the key note speaker for a fundraiser.  We raised $7000.00 for the University of Montana’s Chaplaincy programme.

 I presented a power point called A Spirituality of Laughter.  I was also invited into an English class and read from my collection of short fiction, Llamas in the Snow. Then, off a few of us went to Yellowstone Park.  The geezers are gorgeous and the grizzly bear we spotted, quite a surprise.  How thrilled I was to make such good friends and to maintain these relatioiships through the years.

Good news:  I’m off to Billings, Montana in October.  I’ve been asked to be the guest speaker at a fund raiser for Montana State University’s campus ministry.  The subject is my favourite: A Spirituality of Laughter.  Comics have done a great service to humanity through out history.  They’ve poked fun at incompetent politicians, contributed to social movements and encouraged humility by making us look at ourselves and laugh.  A good giggle enriches both body and soul.    

            The members of the committee who are planning the event, are great fun.  We’ve only had conference calls, but I feel as if I’m getting to know them well. They are arranging venues where I can offer readings. They are so hospitable they are even planning a trip intoYellow Stone Park.

What a lucky woman I am!

I have been reading the verses of Hafiz, a Persian lyric poet of the fourteenth century.
Of the many lines I read, this is one of my favourites.


passion pray,
with passion make love,
passion work,
with passion eat and drink
and dance and
Why look
like a dead fish
this ocean

Honestly, I don’t think I can say much more about that.

This Easter season has been difficult.  My husband died and between the trips to the nursing home and the funeral parlour, I felt exhausted and discombobulated.  In the long and lonely evenings I treated myself to Woody Allen, The Documentary.  I was strangely comforted by his attitude towards the great mysteries of life and death.  Woody admits in the film that he would like to have been a gifted tragedian.  Therefore, he asks the great questions.  Is there a God?  Why is there so much suffering in our world?  Always the comic, he takes the clowns approach. About the question of God the interviewer asks, “Can’t you take the leap of faith?”

“I can’t even take the leap of faith about myself,” says Woody.

Personally, I have always appreciated his attitude to death. 

“I’m not afraid of death.  I just don’t want to be there when it happens,” he says.

A reporter asked if his relationship with death remained the same.

“I’m strongly against it,” he said.

So am I Woody.  Cheers.

Thanks for the memories

This Easter took on a special meaning for me.  My husband Charles Craver died on Good Friday, after a two year struggle with dementia. My two wonderful children Alex and Rhiannon gave me great support at the graveside and memorial service.  Their spouses and the grandchildren, though not present were with us in spirit.  Kind friends saw us through this difficult time.  Chuck and I had three happy years together and many adventures in foreign ports.  His illness came like the blast of a winter’s wind. But at last that season of pain and confusion is finished. His death was quick, almost a blessing.  At the graveside we could see the budding leaves and flowers.  I asked that in the programme for my husband’s memorial service a verse from the Bible be recorded. 

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life… nor anything in all creation can separate us from the love of God.”