Archives for posts with tag: A Book of Kells

Prospects for selling my book at the Byward Market in Ottawa when I arrived at 10 a.m. Wednesday looked as dim as the thunderstorm forecast. Still, I bet myself I could sell enough copies (five) in the next six hours to buy tickets for a big treat. I defied the skies to clear in time for a picnic with our granddaughters and their parents before watching the preview performance of theater under the stars on the banks of the Rideau River that night. mmarket.jpgWork crews carrying partitions, shopkeepers rushing with arms full to set up for the day, twosomes and threesomes speaking languages other than English brushed past. Where were my buyers?

  • The atmosphere enlivened at lunch time, with music and dancing in the adjacent square attracting a noisy, lively crowd. A quarrel between someone not quite in his right senses and a big truck disrupted the self improvement, creative atmosphere I was trying to inject.
  • A dreary-eyed, homeless man with his bundles and bags slouched up against the bricks, heritage plaque and sesquicentennial posters on the market building facing me. Where were my readers?

It was discouraging and my devoted hubby of 61 years decided I was crazy and he might as well abandon ship and go home.  While he hesitated, I was ready with my elevator pitch to summarize my book in two sentences.

  • Anyone drawn to the table for a closer look at my framed newspaper article headlined “Call of Love in the Wilderness” got it. An old toothless man mesmerized by a 1904 picture of my mother as a child in a sailor outfit stayed because he wanted to hear her full story.
  • With a cheery “Hi Margaret!” up strode author Stevie Szabad, eager to buy two of my books and pick up advice from someone she perceived as having accomplished things she wanted to do. We plotted to sell together at the Galeries Aylmer Christmas market. 

Hubby stayed when I reminded him I was there to get my parents’ exemplary story out, not just sell the product. A take-out lunch of chicken sandwiches and smoothies fortified us both. 

  • Then a ray of sunshine, a tourist from Vancouver, suddenly appeared. He wanted to know more about why I called my book “A Book of Kells” and gave me advice on genealogy. He bought a signed copy as a gift and souvenir of Canada’s 150th.
  • A particularly friendly face came to the table confidently and I was able to engage her in conversation. For the next twenty minutes Tom and I found we had much to share with her and vice versa. Gale O’Brien is a lovely, avid reader who lives in Britannia by the Ottawa river. She now owns one copy of A Book of Kells and one of  Kathleen’s Cariole Ride which I hope she will enjoy reading.
  • When Kelly Buell turned up because she had been following me online, Tom was getting the car because it was 4 p.m., time for us to pack up. Kelly and I chatted and hope to help each other in future as writers so often do.

When I first met her, the organizer of the Byward marketing team told me she is a ‘Kell’ on her mother’s side. I was able to tell her that, in fact, we are second cousins twice removed. That was my final sale of the day.  It is a good omen for my much-anticipated return stints at the Byward Market on August 2 and 3.

By the way, the outdoor performance in Strathcona Park was superb. The Amorous Servant by Carl Goldoni staged by Odyssey theater plays until late August. My granddaughters, aged 10 to 16 were absolutely thrilled with it. Grandpa and Grandma enjoyed its humor and sensible advice for all ages, too.

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Happy Reading & Writing from Cozy Book Basics until We Meet Again!

 

10186066The radish had its moment as a symbol of Canada even before the Maple Leaf flag.

The radish is a reliable, tasty quick-growing snack, often the first vegetable in Canadian gardens to be ready to eat by the July 1st national holiday. It is annual proof that we have vanquished winter. Canada Day is celebrated in various, inventive ways, always with the flag with a red leaf on it being waved vigorously. But 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 Canada’s Ronald Reagan moment, when Americans chose Hollywood’s most gifted supporting actor to be their president. This was 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. 

It happened on the diamond jubilee of Dominion Day ninety years ago. The Spirit of Saint Louis landed in Toronto as Parliament Hill in Ottawa groomed itself to greet guest of honor Charles Lindbergh. Due to miraculous radio technology, Canadians from sea to sea tuned in simultaneously to a nationwide church service with biblical passages selected and read by federal members of Parliament.

Meanwhile, thousands of miles to the northwest, JACK (John Ambrose Campbell Kell), an Ontario farm boy assiduously cultivated into a missionary, was brimming over with patriotism. He wondered how he could create a feeling of joyous belonging in his charges on the Swampy Cree reservation at Oxford House, MB.

He represented a Church that strove to evangelize the ‘Indians’ (as Canadian law called them) and a Government that wanted to make its citizens more homogeneous and had to fulfill treaty obligations. He was preacher, spiritual guide, welfare officer, 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 handle, but not too much for one energized by good faith and the potential of Canada’s youthfulness, beauty and exuberance. All he needed was a few practical tools:

Proclaiming a holiday

  • JACK gave the men a day off with pay from their work of building a fence around their community garden. When he had arrived at Oxford House he immediately saw the people didn’t have enough to eat yet never grew food in their fertile soil.  They were semi-nomadic hunters who ate meat and baked bannock made from fat and berries. JACK got them to plant four gardens: one for the missionary, one for the teacher, one for the chief and one for the community.

A guest of honor with a connection to royalty  

  • The old guide who had led the Duke of Connaught from Norway House up to York Factory many years ago lived on the reserve. JACK got him to tell the young boys about his adventures and what their lives might be like too.

Educating the Indians in Canadianism

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

Preaching a Pearsonian vision of Canada’s role

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

Conspicuous shiny, glittering or 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 gave one to each person. Anyone who really knows radishes knows how good they taste when they don’t get too much sun so aren’t too hot. My old blind Aunt Suzy discovered that if you want them to taste even better, you should eat the wormy ones. 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!

Happy 150th anniversary of Confederation this Saturday, Canada!

This and other colorful incidents from Canada’s past are recounted in A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void and Kathleen’s Cariole RidePlease press the Home button above to see my archive of blog posts or take a look at www.amazon.com/author/margaretvirany or www.margaretvirany.com

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Shangri-La … any earthly paradise – a permanently happy land, isolated from the outside world. (Wikipedia definition)

Tip: An author’s success depends on infiltrating as many communities as possible, both online and in real life (which, for some authors, at times feels like paradise.)

photo 1

No, this picture is not from Shangri-La but from Quebec’s magnificent Gatineau hills. I fulfilled lifetime ambitions to sit in a rattan swing chair and devour the best high tea in the world. Ten fine colleagues and myself were celebrating the centenary of the Canadian Women’s Press Club/Media Club of Ottawa.

What a wonderful week, exchanging reclusive writing for a sales stand at Prose in the Park (thanks Ottawa Independent Writers) and a seat on the top of the world (thanks home-owners Colleen and George)! To make paradise complete, wonderful people even bought copies of my book. I hope Fredericka, Jacquie, Susan, Wim and the young Australian couple enjoy reading A Book of Kells as much as I enjoyed writing it.

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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).

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Public domain image, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Public domain image, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Is it time for Celtic Swirls of Love to Replace Straight Roman Lines in Our Infrastructures?

In Copulating Cats and Holy Men: the Story of the Creation of the Book of Kells UK author Simon Worrall sees parallels to our times. He approaches “the most richly ornamented book ever created by man’s hand” as a riddle full of a series of visible clues.

It is a “holy comic strip,” a “beguiling Noah’s Ark of animals and birds that kick and flap and stamp, like the blue wolf that pads along a path of Latin script; or the moths that flit behind a curtain of braided ornamentation,” Worrall says. The monks saw in the cat an analogy to godhead.

Google’s doodle page used a Kells detail as a welcoming image for St. Patrick’s Day. Computer scientists and art historians digitalizing its pages for popular applications have posted their  video on YouTube.

By 791, A.D., Western civilization had been brought to the brink of destruction by barbarians and Vikings. Everything must be coded into a visual data bank and saved. One genius Irish artist had his fingertips on the entire repertoire of Celtic art and metal work. Another, a southerner, knew the art of the ancient Mediterranean world. Nine artists worked together.

It celebrates the facial expressions of love instead of power and preserves the continuity of European culture. After centuries of victimization, abuse, burial, romanticization, neglect and oblivion until it was miraculously stored at Trinity College, University of Dublin, the relic is being cast in a new role.

Worrall sums up, “The Greco-Roman world order and all that it brought us — straight roads, the subjugation of nature and other civilizations to our material will; cultural narcissism — is faltering. The new house of Europe, open from Manchester to Moscow, is the Celtic geography restored.”

Is the oldest, most tenacious of European cultures your  “in” look  too?

This blog post adds to the mystery of why anyone would entitle their family memoir A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void. (Our surname was Kell and I grew up as a preacher’s kid. There’s some doubt over whether or not our family originated in a community of ninth century monks).

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Marty again

Marty gets a sneak preview of his Christmas presents

Marty is the pet of a loyal fan of this author. He wants to be the mascot of cozybookbasics and I think I’ll take him on. He has wonderful, fuzzy white fur, reminiscent of the snow we’re not getting here this Christmas. He’s serious, intelligent and appreciates the good things in life.

We hope you will have a wonderful season of celebration in your home. May many good books come your way as gifts!

As a treat, here are poems about two things besides books that come to mind with the word pets and love.

The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea
In a beautiful pea green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
Wrapped up in a five pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
And sang to a small guitar,
‘O lovely Pussy! O Pussy my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you are,
You are,
You are!
What a beautiful Pussy you are!’

Pussy said to the Owl, ‘You elegant fowl!
How charmingly sweet you sing!
O let us be married! too long we have tarried:
But what shall we do for a ring?’
They sailed away, for a year and a day,
To the land where the Bong-tree grows
And there in a wood a Piggy-wig stood
With a ring at the end of his nose,
His nose,
His nose,
With a ring at the end of his nose.

‘Dear pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling
Your ring?’ Said the Piggy, ‘I will.’
So they took it away, and were married next day
By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon,
The moon,
The moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.

The Owl And The Pussy-Cat
Edward Lear

If thou must love me, let it be for nought
Except for love’s sake only. Do not say
‘I love her for her smile—her look—her way
Of speaking gently,—for a trick of thought
That falls in well with mine, and certes brought
A sense of pleasant ease on such a day’—
For these things in themselves, Beloved, may
Be changed, or change for thee,—and love, so wrought,
May be unwrought so. Neither love me for
Thine own dear pity’s wiping my cheeks dry,—
A creature might forget to weep, who bore
Thy comfort long, and lose thy love thereby!
But love me for love’s sake, that evermore
Thou mayst love on, through love’s eternity.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806 – 1861)

Happy  Holidays from Cozybookbasics!

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martycat

Marty is a very intelligent cat. Anyone can see that.

Sometimes real things happen that are very mysterious.  You can call it extrasensory perception (ESP), if  you like. When my mother Kathleen Kell, a very intelligent woman,  heard these family stories she just said, “I wonder,” with a faraway twinkle in her eyes. They’re from the lives of the characters in A Book of Kells and Kathleen’s Cariole Ride.

A Grieving Sailor in a Lucky Port

As 19-year-old Jack Kell left for war in 1916, his tearful father told him he would never see him again. Six months later, Jack got the sad news aboard ship in the English Channel, where he was manning guns and minesweeping, that his father had died. An apple tree limb he sat on broke; he lurched forward and a sharp tip pierced his lung. Kind souls consoled Jack at Portsmouth Methodist Chapel’s Christmas At Home for servicemen, where fatherly Walter Ward also invited him for tea with his wife and family.

A Nervous Mother-to-Be with Good Instincts

Pregnant Kathleen Ward Kell felt a little nervous her first Christmas in Canada in 1928. She told husband Jack she thought it would be best for their baby to be born in a hospital, not a teepee on the isolated reservation where they were missionaries. Her instincts were right. Even the trained nurse and doctor were challenged.

reindeer

Only startled wild creatures saw the threesome of man, woman and guide pass by in an ingenious, unconventional fashion

It was well worth having made the 180-mile trek that startled only wild creatures as a threesome of man, woman and guide passed by in an ingenious fashion rigged up by Jack.

A Midnight Summons to Duty

One winter night in 1936 Rev. J.A.C. Kell, in a Toronto duplex doubling as a parsonage, woke with a jolt. His mother was calling — she had no phone on the farm — and summoning him. Jack woke Kathleen; they bundled the three little girls up and into their 1929 Ford. His brother Clifton had never recovered from war wounds but, this past Xmas, had got up off the sick couch to give the girls a one-horse, open sleigh ride. From afar, Jack saw the porch light on and his mother’s silhouette at the window confirming him in his worst fears. Now she had only Jack left out of her four men.

A Doomed Captain’s Last SOS

On Nov. 19, 1941, His Majesty’s Australian Ship HMAS Sydney was mutually destructively engaged with the German cruiser Kormoran and lost with all 645 crew members on board. As he went down in the South China Sea, Capt. Joe Burnett sent a mental message to his wife saying he loved her. Enid Ward Burnett got it, and then the official, tragic news. The Toronto Star knocked on Kathleen’s door to ask for her brother-in law’s picture. She sent a Xmas parcel to her bereaved sister, niece and nephews who carried on heroically.

Reader Mary Groome of Wakefield, QC writes, “Thank you so much for writing Kathleen’s Cariole Ride. I enjoyed the history and the examples of courage and love these people exhibited.”

Season’s Greetings & Happy Reading from CozyBookBasics!

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HandWhen my parents had their sixtieth wedding anniversary in 1987, I thought they must be sad to be celebrating their last big occasion before certain death. Later I wrote A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void, which ends dramatically with what was really stressing them. Happily, my husband and I have now reached that milestone. We were conspicuous co-eds 60 years ago when he gave me a ring made from a loose diamond smuggled out in a sponge from Hungary. We were so much
in love we paraded around from one end of the campus to the other with our arms around each other’s waist.

In those days behavior codes were strong and he was not the type to force himself upon a sheltered Protestant girl who was president of a girls’ residence nicknamed ‘The Bastion of Virginity’. We agreed we would keep sex to the area “from the collar up” for the nine months of our engagement. That did not prevent him from educating the novice on the basis of his year of field work in Rome while waiting for a visa to Canada. He was not allowed to work or go to school so he did what healthy, energetic, attractive, idle young people naturally do.

With our anniversary coming up on Sept. 10, we once again find ourselves conspicuous. At the sailing club’s lobster party we were accosted by a beautiful young blonde psychologist out on her first date with a French Canadian dynamo. She conducts life-success classes for companies and wanted to know our secret. She loved the way we sat together, ate together and treated each other tenderly. She wanted to see us walking, holding hands. She said we reminded her of her grandmother who had always had faith in her to succeed but she hadn’t done it the traditional marriage way; she was a single mother of a six-year-old girl. She wanted to come to our home and visit us so we invited her.

On a trip around America we dropped into a restaurant in Virginia where my husband lined up cafeteria-style and brought the food for both of us. I thanked him as always, with manners and respect. A lone woman at the opposite table moved over to join us. “Today’s men aren’t made that way”, she said, “they don’t treat women with courtesy”. She congratulated me on having such a nice man. “Who are you? Where do you come from? I never had a boyfriend like that. My life didn’t work out”. “We’re so sorry,” we said and hugged her. “We wish you all the very best.”

As a celebration, I invite you to take a look, or another look, at A Book of Kells which readers tell me ends poignantly and dramatically. Strains mount during such a long relationship. The couple looks back and compares what happened to what they had dreamed and vowed would happen 60 years ago. Just as falling in love with the right person can happen in a flash, so can forgiving and finding happiness if the couple have been true to themselves.

A diamond stone has carat, cut and color. But most of all it must have clarity to make the “inclusions” or inner, natural characteristics shine through the outer “blemishes”. Only then does it glitter and become fabulously valuable.

With divorce, free love and new lifestyles all around us, I’ve decided not just to grab our certificate of congratulations from the Queen of England and relax. I want to reveal secrets and add to the clarity of what really goes on inside this brilliant phenomenon of lasting marriage.

Snatches from my new novel about the adventures of a couple with coincidental resemblances to my husband and me will pop up in this blog as the long process begins and needs your encouragement.

Happy Reading from Cozy Book Basics!

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IMG_1461Here it is in a hotel room in Edinburgh.

In World War I Kathleen Ward of the city of Portsmouth, England meets Jack Kell of a farm in Cookstown, Canada. From love letters, journals and photos left to her, the author unfolds their romantic, daring story in A Book of Kells. It starts with William and Mary Kell who immigrated to rural Ontario in 1850 and follows the lives of their most adventurous descendants. The subtitle Growing Up in an Ego Void reveals the other-worldly expectations put on a minister’s daughter in her growing-up years. This book of love is wrapped in a reference to the ninth-century monks who copied and illuminated the famous holy manuscript, The Book of Kells. Generations of the author’s devout family of the same name strove to illustrate the gospels by the way they lived their daily lives. 

Happy Reading from Cozy Book Basics!

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IMG_2692At the 79th Kell family reunion in Churchill, Ontario I was one of eight cousins who posed in a picture of those who attended the reunion the year it began, 1936. (That’s me just off center). This wasn’t quite truthful; I’d been taken to England that summer, but women heirs have always been scarce in the Kell clan and, besides, I like cameras. I looked for someone else of my sex to join us and spotted Helen Coutts (far right). She said, yes, she had been at the reunion that year but it was a secret. Her mother was pregnant and still hasn’t told anyone. Helen is well known now as the former Reeve of the township of Springwater. Meanwhile, Sylvia Goodfellow (standing) snuck into the picture but, shame to say, In 79 years I haven’t yet found out her story. Next year for sure. It’s a big family! Ross Kell (far left) introduced himself to me for the first time this year. He said he had been my father’s neighbor in Owen Sound for years but they never visited because of an overhanging cliff.  Beside Sylvia is William M. Kell, my favorite cousin who loves to introduce me by saying, “We were born in the same bed.” Quite true! My mother had no sooner given birth to me and rested for a few days before the staff at Mrs. Marling’s Nursing Hospital in Cookstown told her she had to move out because Ruby Kell had just checked in and it was her baby’s turn. William M. could wait no longer. His t-shirt says, “I’m 29 … but this is an old shirt.” Sitting on my left is Gordon MacKenzie who remembered how we used to play croquet together in their backyard in New Toronto many years ago. Keith Kell on my right likes to brag that he has traveled around in his life. He was born in the dining room of the family homestead and now his wife has installed him in the kitchen. William J. with the cane is the 91-year-old multi-millionaire patriarch of the family. He has written a book about his startling success as a farmer and startling shortcomings as a husband and father. It is called A Farming Life and can be purchased via monika.harmathy@sympatico.ca. Like a needle in a haystack, it’s an unexpected, unforgettable find. Full of trivia, fun, nostalgia and great potluck, the family reunion is irreplaceable. Many of them, however, are badly in need of new blood to keep the annual event happening. Dr. John Kell from Toronto (he’s on Facebook) has been organizing ours for many years but no hands went up when he asked for volunteers to take on the role of president. We eight oldies, now feeling powerless, were saddened by that. If  you don’t have reunions, how will you ever be able to keep on relishing the unforgettable characters and priceless humor your shared genes have produced?

In World War I Kathleen Ward of the city of Portsmouth, England meets Jack Kell of a farm in Cookstown, Canada. From love letters, journals and photos left to her, the author unfolds their romantic, daring story in A Book of Kells. It starts with William and Mary Kell who immigrated to rural Ontario in 1850 and follows the lives of their most adventurous descendants. The subtitle Growing Up in an Ego Void reveals the other-worldly expectations put on a minister’s daughter in her growing-up years. This book of love is wrapped in a reference to the ninth-century monks who copied and illuminated the famous holy manuscript, The Book of Kells. Generations of the author’s devout family of the same name strove to illustrate the gospels by the way they lived their daily lives. 

Happy Reading from Cozy Book Basics!

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