Archives for category: Culture

 

With the infallible timing of a playful fairy-tale eager to update us with all-time savvy, the romantic family fantasy musical film Beauty & the Beast opens this March. Everybody recognizes this exciting title but with each revival the details of plot and setting change.

Audiences interpret the message in their own minds according to what they need to know to cope with universal truths under current circumstances. In 2011, novelist Alex Flinn’s Beastly gave the plot a new high school/narcissistic twist. In 1994 it was a Broadway musical based on the animated film released by Walt Disney studios in 1991. Earlier in the fifties and thirties Disney failed at two adaptations  but Jean Cocteau succeeded with his 1946 film. Many people think the whole story is based on two 18th century French fairy tales, one by Villeneuve and one by Beaumont, but this is not true. It goes ‘way back to the Roman writer, Lucius Apuleius, who created it in the second century. It was a very long story called Cupid & Psyche inserted in the middle of his Metamorphoses (aka The Golden Ass.)

It is the third oldest fairy tale in the history of western literature and influenced many other stories, such as Cinderella and Gulliver’s Travels. Florida resident and researcher Mari Ness studied it and advises that it is much too complex and long to read. She decided that Apuleius’ theme, in the end, was about woman’s survival. Apuleius wrote at a time when the Roman empire was in upheaval due to the influx of Barbarians and the proliferation of new religions that appealed directly to the public.

The promo for the ’17 variety of Beauty & the Beast says, “It looks behind the Beast’s hideous exterior, allowing Beauty to recognize the kind heart and soul of the true prince that hides on the inside. A hunter named Gaston is on the loose to take Beauty for himself and hunt down the Beast at any cost.”

Let’s return to real life and this week’s presidential inauguration.

Donald Trump’s verbal monstrosities proliferate in a rabid echo chamber. But his authentic core explains the infallibility of the passionate voter guts that got him where he is. mary-trump-hairHe blew in as the brash, gigantic, orange-haired son of an immigrant pattern-maker mom and her rich Manhattan husband. Mary had been raised in a God-fearing Calvinist village on a literate peat-bog isle in the Outer Hebrides. Donald spent his formative years identifying with his father’s survival instincts as a real estate owner who stood off to the side after knocking on a door to collect rent, in case a tenant shot first through the door. Donald boarded at New York Military Academy for his eighth grade and high school education because only they could discipline his out-size make-up. In the 1980’s, his older brother died from alcoholism, first making Donald promise never to touch a drop of drink.

He worked ’round the clock, vowed to abstain from alcohol, tobacco, drugs and coffee, made a fortune and drilled the same habits into his four children. He settled into a good, stress-free marriage (his third) in 2005 with the wise and beautiful Melania who bore him a third son. She put him through the scrutiny of her family and village in Slovenia before determining he was a gentleman and accepting his proposal. Now Donald’s self-declared challenge was to become as good a husband as he was a father.

At election-campaign time 2015 he declared himself the hero with the best vision for the future of country and expressed the confidence only he could make it great again. He said he had been greedy for himself all his life but now wanted to be greedy for America. He vowed to repeal Obamacare with the caveat, “We can’t let people die in the streets.” He tempered his Mexican immigrant remarks by saying many of them were good people. He  told the Gold Star father he was sorry for the death of his son and was trying to make sure such a thing couldn’t happen again.

He accepted the surprise news he had won by saying he would “unite the country” and be the “president of all the people”.  He said on 60 Minutes he would drop his business because it was not important, “only real estate”, and the people deserved a “full-time president”. Henry Kissinger briefed the president-elect and gave the verdict he was serious, wanted to be a good president and was the only man who had ever come into the office without any “baggage”. That is, he was the most free to act in the individual voters’ interests because of his financial independence. Kissinger warned the people not to hold Trump too strictly to things he had said in the campaign because, after learning more about the job, he should be given leeway to change his positions.

The part of America which sees nothing authentic in Trump and doesn’t comprehend how anyone else could is in shock, hysterics, recoiling and denying. They saw and heard the worst of him repeated and dissected too many times on TV and the internet. On the other side, it was impossible for the people who had gotten poorer and couldn’t find jobs to genuinely, passionately, spontaneously want to prolong the mandate of the party that had been at the helm for eight years. Especially not when they had such a charismatic alternative! Many felt they had seen this very same Clinton picture before. Wasn’t this the woman who had already lived in the White House for eight years in the nineties?

Gaston, the hunter who is determined to take Beauty back from Beast no matter what is the real threat. That would create a revolution and destroy all our liberties. Such a cloud of dim prospects is spoiling the inauguration this weekend.

It’s time we all went out for a good night of magic spells, mirrors, romance and comedy at the theater. As story-telling apes at heart, we don’t personally eat or love empire-building strategies. We thrive amid family, arts, culture, history and villages where everyone knows everybody else. In this helpful atmosphere, society comes to its senses. So let’s take a deep breath and try to get things back into balance. As the old 1940’s hit-parade song goes, “You gotta accentuate the positive. Eliminate the negative. Latch on to the affirmative. Don’t mess with Mr. In-between.”

http://www.amazon.com/author/margaretvirany

http://www.margaretvirany.com

Credit: Library & Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1982-124

Lucky me. I’ll be selling my books and displaying aboriginal artifacts this Sunday afternoon at a site once inhabited by the tribe who greeted the pilgrims on the Atlantic shore. No. The above picture is not a Currier & Ives Christmas card. It is a steel engraving by William H. Barlett famously published in Canadian Scenery Illustrated in 1842. As in the picture,  people will be gathering at the Lake Deschenes bend in the Ottawa River to be warmed and refreshed amid the nostalgic aura of dormer windows, conjoint staircases and veranda vistas.

  • The event this time (Dec. 4) is a light show and artisans’ sale after the Santa Claus parade down Main Street and the Christmas Bazaar at the British Hotel.
  • The Kitchi Sibi Anishinabeg first inhabited this site thousands of years ago. Chief Tessouat was a busy commercial middleman in the years of the fur trade. Champlain and his voyageur explorers rested at this pleasant spot in 1613. They thought they had found a route to China but at least were the first to get as far as Lake Huron. Charles Symmes from Woburn, MA built the Inn in 1831 and helped his uncle Philemon Wright found the townsite. Pioneer settlers made their way to Aylmer from Montreal by stage  coach and stayed overnight before continuing their journey. This was the landing place for busy steamboat traffic.
  • When we moved to Aylmer in 1976 we built a sailboat (from a kit) and berthed it at the Marina (above). One day after sailing I saw one of our municipal councilors, Denise Friend, charge across the parking lot to accost some gentlemen stepping out of a black limousine. They were officials of the Quebec government and had a purse to spend on heritage projects. Soon news came that the historic Inn reduced to rubble after being used as a flea market and consumed by a fire was to be restored. It re-opened in a good imitation of its former glory in 1978.
  • Today it is a Museum with fine exhibits as well as being a heritage gem of the Outaouais region. It will always be at the heart of the townsfolk of the Aylmer sector of the city of Gatineau. That’s why my books, indigenous artifacts and I will be smiling so happily from the inn-side this Sunday. The artifacts I have include a birch-bark basket, two birch-bark trivets, an ermine hat and scarf set and a pair of embroidered moccasin slippers. They’re from my parents’ days as missionaries on the Cree reservation at Oxford House, MN in the roaring twenties. Their story is told in A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void and Kathleen’s Cariole Ride.
  • Merry pre-Christmas season to you too!

margaretvirany.com

cozybookbasics.wordpress.com

photo 2My parents lived the quintessential Canadian dream with their focus on immortality. They took snapshots at significant moments and left them behind with names, dates and locations on the back. They kept diaries, and wrote journals on special trips. My mother locked their love letters and birth certificates up in a metal keepsake box. They were both well educated; my father got an MA in history with Lester Pearson as a tutor. Because I had a BA in English Language & Literature, after our parents died my sisters delegated me to make a book out of our family.

  • The bare facts of their story are that Kay and Jack were an English girl and a Canadian boy; he joined the Navy in world war one in 1916 and was sent overseas to the Portsmouth barracks. Her high school sweetheart had got cholera while fighting in France and died at age 19. She enrolled in the London School of Medicine for Women to become a doctor but dropped out because of a nervous breakdown. Kay and Jack met when her father, a municipal councilor commended by the Prince of Wales for helping veterans, invited colonial servicemen home for tea.
    Her sister wrote to Jack for nine years on behalf of the family but then married and moved to Australia, so Kay took over the correspondence. She was 25 and thought she was going to be an old maid but her letter was perfectly timed.
  • Jack had finished studying theology at the University of Toronto and was going up to Oxford House, MN as a United Church of Canada minister to the Swampy Cree. The job came with a house and he yearned for a wife to keep him company but so far it was a hard sell. No Toronto co-ed seemed interested. He proposed to Kay and she asked him to come over so she could have another look at him. They just had six days and she said it would be too risky. He got her to agree not to make her answer final for a year during which they would write to each other.
  • Jack pulled out all the stops; he really wanted Kay; she was such an exceptional, smart person with a warm heart and an adventurous streak. Canada and the United Church, not himself, were his best selling points. This beautiful, exotic semi-nomadic settlement beckoned with brisk air, splashing waves, colourful leaves, good-looking childlike faces, gold-panning, delicious moose nose and a cosy wood-burning hearth. Enormous potential for her to do good lay among these folk desperately in need of an intelligent, well intentioned person’s interest in them. The merger behind the United Church was attracting worldwide attention as an example of tolerance. The future was full of promise; she was well equipped for whatever lay ahead so need not fear a thing. If only he had her he would be in seventh heaven.
  • She asked him to come over again and this time they got married almost the minute after she made up her mind; they flew over the English Channel to Paris for a 24-hour honeymoon before he had to hustle back 5,000 miles to work. She packed up, said goodbye to everything and everyone she had ever known and joined him in the spring. She met his family on their farm in Cookstown, Ontario and was welcomed by his friends at a reception in Toronto before they went up to the reserve 600 miles northeast of Winnipeg by train, steamboat and canoe. They lived with the Indians, as they were then called by government, helping, teaching, laughing, sharing and exchanging cultural habits, forming attachments and etching indelible experiences both sad and happy upon their hearts. Their first child was born after a five-day, 120-mile trek to hospital at 30 degrees below zero on a cariole (big toboggan for special occasions and people) in January, 1929.
  • They left the reserve in June, 1931 and became an ordinary Ontario United Church minister’s family in Nakina, where a second daughter was born, Lemonville, where a third daughter was born, Fairbank (Toronto), Cochrane, Thistletown (Toronto), Durham and Flesherton. They retired in Owen Sound in 1966 and lived there until Jack died in Kay’s arms in 1988 and she passed away in 1990. They had been married for more than 60 years and left nine grandchildren.
    Kay and Jack had little in common to start a lifelong marriage except that both were avid readers. They were familiar with biblical texts they applied to daily life. They identified with the heroines and heroes of the same classical books and had faith they would succeed if they lived accordingly, doing the right thing towards each other and everyone else in the world.
  • What Inspired Me to Do This Creative Work
    As retired editor and co-owner of my community newspaper in Aylmer, Quebec, in 1996 I took my mother’s keepsake box to a grade four classr on Heritage Day. We sat cross-legged in a circle on the floor and I began reading to them from a journal my mother wrote seventy years before as she was riding up the fur trade route to Oxford House, MN in a canoe. I told the children if they wrote something in a journal today, it would become heritage for children of the future.
  • Then I passed a page of the handwriting around the circle and pointed out that my mother had made a note in the margin saying the splotches were made by drips from the paddle. Involuntarily, I choked up and almost added a tear of my own to the page. The children were all staring at me with their eyes wide open and the teacher, a friend who wrote a column in my newspaper, put her hand on my shoulder and said, “Margaret, you have to write a book.” That was the magic moment I decided to jump in and do it. For the kids. For these kids and all kids everywhere so they will know their heritage.
  • Actually I had been more or less assigned by my older sisters to write a family history but now I went about it with passion. I would do my best to make my parents immortal and please my favorite professor, Northrop Frye. Most of the content was on hand but I had to research an amazing number of facts, maps etc. to make the story absolutely reliable. It was a labor of love, an exercise of my abilities and skills, a challenge I couldn’t resist, an important project for my retirement years.

(I submitted the above as a brief to the Canadian Heritage consultation on Canadian culture and creativity on Nov. 24, 2016)

www.cozybookbasics.wordpress.com

margaretvirany.com

www.amazon.com/author/margaretvirany

 

 

Cookstownchurch

Watercolor by Cookstown artist Jay Kirk-Young

On May Day I fled my computer to go sit in the pew where my grandfather sat when he was raising a family in the early 1900’s in Cookstown, ON, north of Toronto. I was not alone. We were a flock of 200, the size of church needed in 1825 by a tiny rural village of 500 (not counting the animals) which had only three churches.

  • We sang the old hymns. We listened to memories. We seized this last inspiring moment. We and the old building with its organ pipes and choir loft harmonized and rode into the sunset with the Churchill Boys country music group. We squirmed during a too-long yet relevant sermon. We knew after two hours it was time to say the closing prayer’s “Amen”. We lingered over the last potluck in the basement. We hugged our relatives and new friend, the funeral director, whom we will meet again.
  • My grandpa (a speaker had reminded us by citing ‘A Tribute to Our Parents‘ written by my father) read the Bible every morning at the breakfast table.When hushed, everybody in the family, even the two hired men, got off their chairs and knelt to pray.
  • I wonder if I was sitting in the pew where grandpa sat before he died when he fell from an apple tree, where father sat the day he was sponsored as a candidate for the ministry, where mother sat on her first Sunday in a strange country as part of a family she didn’t know, or where I was held the day I was baptized.
  • We say thanks by celebrating occasions like the decommissioning of an old church, or by writing books about our families. The Cookstown United Church people, now comprising only 25 families, will continue to worship with the Countryside United Church people in the town of Thornton just up the highway. The building will not be destroyed because the core of the village, still of 500 but just about to be developed, has been declared a protected zone.
  • This is the heritage I celebrate in A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void. Then I wrote a second book, Kathleen’s Cariole Ride, singling out my mother’s winter bush adventures in northern Manitoba and including pictures.
  • Like the Lady of Shalott in my avatar, my creative efforts died while I fled from my writing web but now they are alive again.

On June 4 I will join other authors selling their wares at Prose in the Park, a wonderful, free outdoor family literary event in the market on Parkdale Avenue in Ottawa. I will be with friends from the Media Club of Ottawa and Ottawa Independent Writers.
What will really make it special is if you can be there too (in spirit, if not body).

www. cozybookbasics.worpress.com
www.amazon.com/author/margarevirany

Abdennour_Bidar_par_Claude_Truong-Ngoc_janvier_2014

At least one man is trying to analyze the big problem at the crux of recent killings in France, and even solve it. Abdennour Bidar (his first name means ‘Bearer and Herald of the Light’) is a 44-year-old French philosopher who has written books and articles. Most famously, after the Charlie Hebdo shooting, he tenderly wrote an “Open Letter to the Muslim World”.
http://pamelageller.com/2014/11/in-open-letter-to-muslim-world-french-muslim-philosopher-says-islam-has-given-birth-to-monsters-needs-reform.html/

Bidar works for the French Ministry of National Education on devising a model curriculum for a lay (non clerical) society. He consults with other governments and organizations wherever it is safe for him to travel. He was interviewed by the French-language newspaper Le Devoir on Nov. 9 while in Quebec and I have loosely translated his nine main points. He said his work in France is going badly and here’s why:

  1.  France cam’t find a national consensus for a multicultural society where people live together in spite of their differences around an agreed set of shared values. 
  2. We seek to find a formula that lets those who believe in heaven and those who do not live together with the same rights and duties. 
  3. An ideal state of equilibrium would do justice to both unity and multiplicity. It would recognize the right to be different and, at the same time, investigate what the people have in common.
  4. We French have never really seized the notion of ‘fraternity’, although we talk a lot about ‘liberty’ and ‘equality’. 
  5. Fraternity is at the heart of the proposed reform because it has an ethical dimension.
  6. Enmity and disunion are evident at the extreme.
  7. He defends an individualizing conception of faith and spirituality — a sort of protestantizing of the Muslim’s relationship with Allah.
  8.  Today, the individualizing of belief has reinvented the ways of belief. From this comes the crisis of the sacred dividing West against East. 
  9. The cancer which gangrenes Islam comes out of Saudi Arabia. This country is charged with being the guardian of sacred places and the center of the diffusion of the true intelligence of Islamic culture but it is the incarnation of anything but.

http://www.amazon.com/author/margaret virany

http://www.margaretvirany.com

Happy Reading from Cozy Book Basics!

 

No good concerts were on in Ottawa when we celebrated our Diamond Jubilee last week, so we put our savings into a Magic Circle and dinner at Hy’s Steakhouse instead. Both were well worth it, for ever.

magiccircle

A custom-made Magic Circle by Iris tenHolder

An artistic photographer and friend who is vice president of the Media Club of Ottawa also designs and knits mini rugs while others sleep. Her husband William tenHolder, former owner of upscale Café Wim and author of the book by that name, hosts open houses in Iris tenHolder’s heritage studio where her work is shown. As a memento of our sixtieth anniversary, we asked her to make a Magic Circle for our home. It’s the perfect gift for people who love to have something unique.

Starting from scratch, she and Wim came to our house with samples of designs and yarn colors to see what blended into our rooms and what we liked. It was completed on time and delivered in person.  Now our ugly little coffee table/footstool is a gorgeous focal point admired by all, a constant reminder of our big day. The price, based on the size, the yarn and the time it takes, is right too.

A serving of Beef Wellington at Hy's Restaurant

A serving of Beef Wellington at Hy’s Restaurant

The Citizen of Sept. 10, 2015 ran a front page headline, “Hy’s Steakhouse Closing in February”. We were shocked to see this hub of the capital’s political life was mortal, like Café Wim. The story said the owners had been unable to come to an agreement with the landlord over the lease.

We discovered it in 1985 after Arthur Mantell asked me and Tom to be his and his wife Kitty’s partners in the Aylmer Bulletin. A weekly newspaper has to hold an annual meeting of shareholders. This meant the four of us went out for dinner at Hy’s and charged it as a business
expense. Since the Mantells ran the business side and we did the editorial side, the decision wasn’t ours to question. From our curved, upholstered couches, we just ate and gaped at the beautiful guests, open fire chamber, fabulous decor and competent staff.

We headed to Hy’s near Parliment for our sixtieth anniversary dinner and dared to order what we really wanted from the menu, i.e. Beef Wellington. It tasted heavenly but the occasion was bittersweet for some. Our waitress said they received news of the closing a few days ago. She had worked there for 29 years and her colleagues were like family. We asked her what she would do and she said she didn’t know but she couldn’t afford to retire. After we finished eating, we lingered to soak up the atmosphere which was not as crowded and upbeat as in 1985.

The Hy website is sweetening the blow for customers by announcing an online contest worth $1500. If you win, you might be able to plan having a blast there before February and inviting all your friends! The contest is Hy’s way of celebrating their Diamond Jubilee, since the company was founded in Calgary 60 years ago and none of its other stores is closing down.

Ironically, part of our family too is closing down. We reach this milestone just as a child of ours goes to court to settle a divorce after 17 years. So life goes on. We celebrate our big occasions as exuberantly as we can while remembering others are not so lucky.

Happy Reading from Cozy Book Basics!

http://www.amazon.com/author/margaretvirany

http://www.margaretvirany.com

JACK in a Victorian dress and hairdo is the hero of A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void written by Margaret Kell Virany

JACK in a Victorian dress and hairdo is the hero of A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void written by Margaret Kell Virany

When my dad was almost two my grandmother came across a fantastic bargain in their farming village of Cookstown. It was a bolt of woolen cloth that could be made into all sorts of useful articles so she bought the whole thing. Then she took it to the local dressmaker and asked her to make a dress for John, the baby.

No account was left of exactly what happened next but one thing is certain. This sole photo, left behind in frames, drawers and boxes since the year 1899, has been the source of much glee and many snickers, all at the price of one adorable, innocent little boy. “Jack in the pulpit!” “A man of the cloth!” “Ha, Ha, Ha!”

Grandma Kell was an Irish Campbell and felt entitled to her wit, flash temper, quick steps, reddish hair and freckles. My guess is it was her idea to name my father John Ambrose Campbell Kell and call him by his anagram. Also, she was likely convinced her Irish luck had put the plaid of her ancestors in her path just for her.

Getting back to the dressmaker, there was a misunderstanding. Grandma expected to get back part of the bolt uncut, to be made into other things. Instead, what she got was this dress. As I dig out this picture for Father’s Day, I wonder how Scarlett O’Hara‘s dress would have looked if it had consumed the entire green velvet curtain she pulled down from the window.

What I see is a brave little boy who is caught up in the youngest child syndrome. Fortunately the teasing never became bullying and his ego was never debased. Even at two he could face his bewildering world of know-it-alls with poise. The underlying love, raw humor and discipline even made him stronger inside. Right now his big brothers, sisters and cousins had the advantage of being able to giggle at “Wee John” or “The Runt” but one day he’d have his turn as a somebody.

The dressmaker knew her job. Dresses were worn by both girls and boys in Victorian times. They were the practical solution to toilet training problems in the days before snap fasteners, zippers and velcro. Not until as old as seven did boys wear breeches. She designed father’s dress with overlaps, pleats and folds to allow for several years of growing. The photographer was likely responsible for father’s hairdo and got it wrong. Often the placing of the part was the only clue to whether the child was a girl (middle part) or a boy (side part.) The Duke of Argyll unofficial Campbell tartan has  a white stripe added to the navy, red and green to lighten it up.

In spite of the challenging start, father was faithful to his family and always attended reunions of the clans on both sides. As for his vocation, the Little Lord Fauntleroy collar was replaced by a clerical one for 60 years. In 1959-60 he was elected President of the Toronto Conference of the United Church of Canada and awarded a doctorate of divinity.

Strange to say, I don’t recall my father ever wearing anything plaid, not even a tie. Happy Father’s Day!

Thank you for spending some of your valuable time reading this post. Please feel free to browse around, click on the Home and About buttons at the top of the page and leave a comment. Find out more about Margaret Kell Virany’s biographical family books on Amazon. 

Being a minister’s daughter is a life full of social and personal pitfalls with exaggerated penalties hanging over her head. Writers seize the juicy topic of a sweet girl as a focus for the battle between good and evil. George Orwell couldn’t decide whether his The Clergyman’s Daughter itself was good or bad. First he banned it from publication, then let it go because his heirs needed the money. In Emily of New Moon, L.M. Montgomery didn’t resist getting a snicker from the idea of a minister’s daughter eating grapes from around a grave and riding on a pig. The whole tragedy of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter centers on a strict religious community’s revolt against an embryo in a womb who turned out to be an accidental minister’s daughter.
1941family

Off to church in Toronto, 1941. A minister, his wife and girls are all set to hop over from the manse to the United church next door to start the Sunday morning shift in the pulpit, at the organ, in the Sunday school and choir.

The latest addition to the literature is Julie Hearn’s The Minister’s Daughter. The reviews describe it as a real potboiler with a surprise ending. One thing is for sure, it has a great cover. hearnministersdaughter

Inside, the reader is reminded of witchcraft, conflicting religions and the perceived sinfulness of sex, children and women in our history. Minister’s daughters came to public notice after the Protestant reformation brought in Christian churches with no policy of celibacy for clergy, just a lot of moral hang-ups around sex.

My book about a minister’s daughter will break the mold because it is autobiographical. First I brought it out as a subtitle but now I have decided to do more research, expand, publish and release it to fly on its own.”Growing Up in an Ego Void” actually means “Growing Up as a Minister’s Daughter”. Right now I’m wondering what the cover and title should be. Book front2

What I hope to add to the world of writing is:
1. Practical tips for minister’s daughters trying to survive.
2. A contribution to the genre of identity literature. Charlotte Bronte, an Anglican curate’s daughter who wrote the classic, Jane Eyre, is credited with being the first to write about woman’s independence, a theme that still resonates today.
3. Insights for psychologists trying to help minister’s daughters who have fallen into depression because of their stressful role.
Conventional wisdom is that the minister’s daughter is clueless about the world but actually she has social skills and has learned how to manipulate a whole community. Jane Austen, an Anglican rector’s daughter, is still guiding us with her books, such as Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility.

My nonfiction story will be dramatic, entertaining and dedicated to all minister’s daughters, especially those who were aborted in a more cruel past because of the delicate situation.

Thank you for dropping by. This blog for all lovers of life and language aims to be useful and entertain. Topics vary from how to build a canoe to how my mom moved from “prince to preacher and fog to bog” as a war bride after world war one. Writing advice is passed on by word and example. To find out more about A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void, Kathleen’s Cariole Ride and Eating at Church  please click here.

Happy Reading from Cozy Book Basics!


rabbitfur2

The magic of writing a memoir is like pulling a rabbit out of a hat, only in reverse. That’s my new theory. When my mother posed for this picture in 1928, just after marrying, coming to Canada and starting life on an Indian reserve, she had no idea I’d write a book from her love letters and adventures some day.

Imagine my joy at receiving these emails from two of the first avid readers of Kathleen’s Cariole Ride in its paperback edition. They’re from Catherine and Fred Dunlop, my second cousins who have a beautiful farm and family.

Here’s what Catherine says about the book, so eloquently:

“Margaret – I have just finished reading this wonderful book and I still have tears in my eyes, it is so well written. Mental images appear with the flow of your words and they transport me, it seems, right into that setting.
I am not a writer, but I am a voracious reader and I so enjoy how you can make a scene come to life with just descriptive passages. I laughed, I shook my head in disbelief many times and, as I said, cried when I had finished. I cannot say enough about this wonderful gift of love to your parents. I am going to order several today. I want to put one in our local library and I also want to give each of our children a copy. Uncle Jack baptized all three of our children.
I often called Uncle Jack ‘the oldest teenager I know’ and he seemed to enjoy that. We also had many discussions around theology topics. He was a man thinking unlike many of the ministers of his time. Aunt Kay was always so quiet and reserved but, once, she and I were talking out in my kitchen as I was cutting meat and she seemed vitally interested in my life, asking me questions about how I was coping with motherhood and a busy husband. Her way of saying “I know exactly what you are going through”?
Anyway, thank you for writing this story, THEIR story, so beautifully.

Catherine”

And here’s what Fred, who sent the photos, had to say:

“Good morning Margaret – we found this picture of your parents in a family trunk that mom had put away. The picture is in a frame made of rabbit skin. 20141225_153140 (1)Mom has written on the back of the picture Rev Kell, Aunt Kathleen, Oxford House. Manitoba, 1925 (about)
love
Fred”

Some people just have all the luck when it comes to parents and cousins, so I have a grateful heart I wanted to share with you.

Thank you for dropping by. This blog for all lovers of life and language aims to be useful and entertain. To order a copy of Kathleen’s Cariole Ride, please click here.

Happy Reading from Cozy Book Basics!

Baby Tanis helped plant the gardens by following along after Daddy and picking up the seeds he dropped. Oxford House, MB, 1930 www.cozybookbasics.wordpress.com

Even Baby Tanis ‘helped’ plant the community garden. She followed behind her Daddy in the row and picked up the seeds he dropped. Oxford House, MB

The radish is the only vegetable to be red-ripe in Canadians’ gardens by the July 1st national holiday. It is annual proof that we have vanquished winter. The celebrations are varied and inventive, as long as the  flag with a red maple leaf on it waves about vigorously. This is supposed to happen only to maple leaves.

Usually the height of a radish’s success is to be carved into something resembling a rose that blossoms when set out on a tray of ice. Joy for a radish is to be nibbled as noisily as possible. Only once on record did the humble radish ever get any such glory.

For a moment on July 1, 1927 this sidekick at every summer feast reigned supreme.  It was our Ronald Reagan moment, when Americans chose Hollywood’s most gifted supporting actor to be their president. On Diamond Jubilee day, The ‘Spirit of Saint Louis’ landed and Parliament Hill in Ottawa groomed itself to greet its guest of honor, the American (of course) Charles Lindbergh. Canadians from sea to sea tuned in to a nationwide church service made simultaneous by the miracle of radio, with biblical passages selected by federal MPs.

Meanwhile, thousands of miles to the northwest, JACK, an Ontario farm boy cultivated into being a missionary, was brimming over with patriotism but wondering how he and his charges on the Cree reservation at Oxford House, MB could step up to it.

He represented both the Church and the Government to the Indians (as they were called in those days and still are in Canadian laws.) He was preacher, spiritual guide, custodian of treaty funds, medical officer, justice of the peace and teacher (if the real one fell sick, as happened, and had to leave the reserve.) It was a lot for a 29-year-old to do but not too much for one energized by good faith and Canada’s potential.

To mount a Diamond Jubilee in style, all he needed was a few practical tools:

A guest of honor with a connection to royalty

  • The old guide who led the Duke of Connaught from Norway House up to York Factory on one of his visits to Canada many years ago came to Mission House for dinner. He was a good mentor for the Indian men and boys who worked as guides and transporters for white people.

Education in Canadianism

  • Dominion Day had to be made relevant so the Indians felt included in this strange thing called ‘Confederation’. JACK told them the word ‘Canada’ was from the Iroquoian word ‘Kanata’, meaning ‘village’ and reminded them that they were already familiar with the word ‘Dominion’ from Psalms 72: v 8. He told them he dreamt of the day when they would be full citizens of the country and have a vote. (This did not happen until 1960.)

Pearsonian vision of Canada’s role

  • He told them the Jews had a vision of what God expected of them and, in the same way, Canadians were chosen to show how a nation may be built in peace, righteousness and sincerity, and show how people of varying religions and races may live together in one nation with tolerance and honor.  Lester Pearson was JACK’s history tutor at the University of Toronto

Proclaiming a Holiday

  • JACK gave the men a day off with pay from their work of building a fence around the community vegetable garden. When he arrived at Oxford House he immediately noticed the Indians never had enough food yet never grew anything to eat in their fertile black soil. As semi-nomadic hunters they  ate meat, berries and baked bannock. With JACK’s help they planted four gardens — one for the missionary, one for the teacher, one for the chief and one for the community.

Conspicuous Red Objects as Symbols

  • Gold ore, not diamonds, lay buried near Oxford House but JACK had an even better idea. The first vegetable of the season had ripened and what was the Indians’ surprise when JACK dug beautiful red radishes out of the soil and handed them out generously. Any real radish-lover can tell you how good they are when they don’t get too much sun and so aren’t too hot. An old friend of mine with poor eyesight discovered that if you want them to taste even better, you should eat the ones with worms in them. Not only that, they are a health food nut’s delight, full of good vitamins and minerals.

O Canada ! If JACK’s story had been revealed in time, what competition the Maple Leaf flag might have had when it was adopted!

This and many other colorful incidents from Canada’s past are recounted in Margaret’s family histories, A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void and its abridged e-book version Kathleen’s Cariole Ride.

Thank you for spending some of your valuable time as my guest. Please press the Home button above to see my archive of 85 blog posts. http://www.amazon.com/author/margaretvirany

http://www.amazon.co.uk    www.amazon.ca

http://www.margaretvirany.com

http://www.cozybookbasics.wordpress.com 

For feedback on Margaret’s books, her reviews,  favorite quotes and favorite reading list, follow her on Facebook, Google+ and Goodreads