Thursday 30 April 2009

This I believe

I taught my children well. They all took turns in the kitchen when they visited this month. The spirit of Muskoka is that grandparents often entertain their adult children and grandchildren. A lovely manifestation of the cycle of life.

Josephine gleefully helped me empty the dishwasher during her w/e visit in April.

I love learning. I love learning, especially, from my adult children. For that reason my teaching website is called, Thank Your Teachers!

I learned much from my mother. I learned to love my parent's Muskoka. Mom, however, was a perfectionist and she felt a lot of pressure to do things perfectly. She was of the 'cleanliness is next to Godliness' philosophy. I feel her around sometimes, tsk-tski-ing over the state of the carpet, and I will then pick up the vacuum. My house isn't as clean as Mom kept it, and sometimes I prefer writing to...well, anything!

During this last visit the kids all pitched in at meal times. Jesse, at the computer, was helping the cooks. Honestly! He and his girlfriend introduced me to a new show, This American Life. It is truly interesting. Jess put it on while they were cooking. Being an insomniac, which I used to bemoan, I have learned to embrace my iPod and podcasts in the wee hours, and the early dark or dawn.

I listened this a.m. to their latest show, entitled: This I Used to Believe. It was powerful. I fell asleep after Act Three, quite grateful, and awoke from vivid dreams and some of my own thoughts. One of the sections inspired my previous post, A story of hope.

The premise of the radio show is that we all have beliefs passed on from family, friends, community, society, culture. The featured, "Stories of people forced to let go of their firmly held beliefs." They wanted to know what we used to believe.
How interesting.
  • I used to believe that insomnia was a curse
Now I use the time wisely and gratefully.

  • I used to believe that bad things happen to good people.
Now I believe that things happen, for a reason bigger than I am, and that they are all lessons. I know now that what is - is. I know that 90% is your attitude. The latest murders, accidents, deaths, tragic illnesses, and other atrocious incidents probably warrant ranting, raving and crying, but in the privacy of your own home, and not in the media.
  • I used to believe in the white picket fence and happily ever after.
I wrote a poem after I learned that lesson: You Will Be Happy When...
  • I used to believe, in my teens, that I was fat and ugly, was depressed because I felt that no one would love me.
Now I am middle-aged and in menopause REALLY over weight. If I knew then...
Now I know I have to love myself first.
Now I know that we are all perfect, we are allowed to make mistakes.
  • I used to believe I was a failure.
I always felt that my mother was perfect and there was the wrong way and Mom's way!
Now I know I can do things my way. And that my adult children can do things their way (I had to use this as a mantra over their w/e visit!) Now I know that I am the materfamilias, and do not need to use my power.
  • I used to believe I had to achieve and be somebody
Now I know that I have worth. I know that I am not my car, job (what job!), my tax bracket, or my status in the community. I know that I can do small things that mean a great deal to a few people.
Now I know that to 'achieve' does not mean being a principal! I took the courses, led the workshops, developed a portfolio, attended the meetings, but could not be a 'Yes Man' in the system.
Now I have learned the difference between bosses and leaders (see the full poem by 'anonymous'). Now I know about leaders. Now I know that the universe sends us a teacher when we need one.

I still believe that for those to whom much is given, much is required.
I still believe life is a classroom and these are all lessons.
I still believe that we get what we give and that karma is an explanation of energy flow.

What did you used to believe?
What do you believe now?

"Oh, would that my mind could let fall its dead ideas, as the tree does its withered leaves!"
-Andre Gide, author, Nobel laureate (1869-1951)

A story of hope

Chris Hogan's Faith Christian School football team vs. the Tornadoes of the Gainesville State School (Juvenile Delinquents) in a maximum security facility.
A story of selflessness and joy. The video tells it all, but the link gives some more details:

But there is one football team in Texas that is a little different. When they play on Friday night, their stands are empty, no band, no cheerleaders, no mass of parents or townsfolk wearing the school colors and waving banners and flags. They take the field without anyone cheering them on. When they score a touchdown, which rarely happens, there is no wild celebration behind them… All of it seems hollow and muffled in contrast to the tidal wave of roars and drums and chants that come from the opposing side.

The coach/principal insisted that his families, from the Christian school, act as the visiting team's 'family' and cheer them on. He divided them up in half. The Tornado players were used to playing on the road, with no fans or family around. They were paying for their mistakes, and will do so for years.

This is what one man, a courageous leader, can do.

"Kids from two Texas high schools learn how football can impact life beyond the field, thanks to one game. Story and Coverage by Matt Barrie, NBC Sports, Dallas-Fortworth, TX."

Wednesday 29 April 2009

napowrimo #29: I don’t think I can

napowrimo #29: prompt: I don’t think I can

I don't think I can
or I won't
this is my new mantra
leave out the don't

I will do
what I want to do
I will be positive
I will be true

I will help others
I will have positive thoughts
I will love
I will trust
I will
I must

I will embrace
in my mind's agility
opportunities to play
to the best of my ability

to genuflect
is not my style
to sit and accept
and ponder awhile

I will have hope,
dignity, joy and love
if I choose
and I will

This work is © Jennifer Jilks.

Land, sea and air

I am a regular volunteer and advocate in Long-Term Care(LTC). Here I am visiting my friend. I have doing some work in the area of palliative care. Please visit my other blog; I hope some of this information helps.

Remember to wash your hands. Sneeze into your elbow. Please pass it on!

In the meantime, I hope we don't jinx the fine day today. I worry - since my husband took the car in today to take off the snow tires...

The Muskoka Airport thermometer was at -2 ˚C. this morning. We are by the lake, which moderates the temperature, since the lake water has temperature inertia. We were above zero.
The buds are bursting on the trees.

The wind blows waves across the lake. The water churning underneath as ducks and loons look for dinner. Squirrels frantically look for buds to chew off the branches.

Spring resprings eternal.
The neighbours cruise in and out of properties, hammering, repairing winter damage and getting ready for summer play.
They buzz around like the bugs that have now hatched - ready, nay, anxious and blood thirsty for prey.
Other neighbours help seniors with chores: raking leaves, cleaning up ditches.

The traffic increases on the highways and byways. You can hear the sound of chain saws competing with traffic noise. Wackos, in a hurry to go somewhere more important than my journey, pass two of us in unsafe conditions. Our men and women in blue are running OPP speed traps (see in the distance beyond the police car!). Bless them all who make our highways safer!

I seek the tranquility of the lake, the flowers and my birds, to rest and regroup.

The periwinkle are popping with purple power!
The lilac buds look like little grapes waiting for sun and rain to nourish them.

The miniature daffodils are mimic the sun's rays, shining with the lifeforce.

Geese, ducks, seagulls, crows and hawks, zip by, participating in the cycle of life. I saw a hawk skirt around the house roof this morning. She was cruising for food.
The finches flirt at the bird feeders, vying for position.

The setting sun's rays warm, and reflect off the rock into the water with a delightful fudge-colour.
We settled in for a gentle cup of tea. Life is good!

Tuesday 28 April 2009

NaPoWriMo #28 - Seeing Red

napowrimo #28: Prompt: seeing red

absorb the energy and the spirit of nature
gaia unfolds as it should
drive by deep forests
buds on the trees begin to swell
the lifeforce awakes to nourish
flourishing with the sap as it rises

Mother Nature goes out in the night
a phantom fairy who paints buds
each day another layer
pointillistic poetry
they begin to hide the homes
set back from the road
maple trees with bright red buds
they burst with flower
greens and yellows
hardwoods swell with life
conifers brilliant green

Eventually the homes will be invisible
protection from stranger's prying eyes
pine trees bright green
contrasting the brown of the dead grasses
the bright greens of the clover
the colours are beautiful
an artist's rendering
a statement that life unfolds as it should

Red Post #2

the tourists they pitch
red wallows in ditch

by the side of lakes
man's plastic mistakes

the garbage is strewn
read: neglect and doom

sweet creatures they die
humanity nigh

grandchildren I fear
will miss all I hold dear

abuse of the earth
fight with all you're worth

This work is © Jennifer Jilks.

Monday 27 April 2009

My World Tuesday

Emily sits quite still
she misses her mom and dad
she gazes at her daffodils
dad planted each one with love
crocus, tulips, lupins
they arise from slumber
small green leaves form in the cool air
a carpet of hope

like the buds
nature will soon burst
with life flowers
blossoms blooming in red and pinks and gold
their green leaves begin to form

Emily's feathered friends visit her
Charlie munching thoughtfully on clover
vigilant for human and feral danger
angels watch over her shoulder
as the carpet of clover awakes
leaves decay dead brown
their nourishment feeds the bright green

as tourists return
they leave their garbage
floating along the water surface
how does she convince them?
this is our world
our earth
not to be abused

we must practice good stewardship
many toil to educate
we must show respect
love Our World

Visit other worlds: at the My World meme.

My World Black

Guerrilla Gardening

Guerrilla Gardening: I love this concept. I haven't done it myself - as my former homewe live in cottage country now and gardens abound in natural nooks and crannies of the forest. I have heard some about it, though. This is a post about these places far away from my rural life. I have inherited an extensive garden from my parents, and take delight in adding to it. We lived in a small city house in Toronto (see photo!), and this place was where we all broke free. Mom always called the property a postage stamp front lawn.

Firstly, I should define this act Guerrilla Gardening'', for it is a friendly act to improve a neglected cityscape: planting a garden where one did not exist, in the dark, on public property. While it is illegal to plant on property that is not yours, it is likely ethical with a sense of fun and community. This kind of mischief is something you cannot help but understand! Avid gardeners, some organized- this group in England, some avid planners, others a little less organized. This Toronto group fundraise tools and money for supplies, and plan their attacks. I know that a lot of my blogger friends live in bigger cities. This is a cool concept!

Wikipedia says, "Guerrilla gardening is political gardening, a form of nonviolent direct action, primarily practiced by environmentalists. It is related to land rights, land reform, and permaculture. Activists take over ("squat") an abandoned piece of land which they do not own to grow crops or plants. Guerrilla gardeners believe in re-considering land ownership in order to reclaim land from perceived neglect or On Guerrilla Gardeningmisuse and assign a new purpose to it.
Some guerrilla gardeners carry out their actions at night, in relative secrecy, to sow and tend a new vegetable patch or flower garden. Others work more openly, seeking to engage with members of the local community, as illustrated in the examples that follow. It has grown into a form of proactive activism or pro-activism."

There are many places for information. U.K. expert Reynolds has some on-line tips; he published a book on the topic. He recommends Wellies for comfort and friends for help. Don't forget, too, that you need to water your garden and take responsibility for it! I love visiting place like Niagara-on-the-lake, with its extensive plantings for the tourists.

The big deal in Ontario is the Communities in Blooms competitions that keep amateur and professional gardners on their toes!

Reynolds has a great video on seed b0mbing: wrapping seeds in a package of compost and clay to throw the seeds into hard-to-reach places. He is a character, as he stuff his wee lorrie with plants and goes off to his location. His huge International webring of friends puts out a call when they make a plan to plant. The video is just a hoot. I adore the man, and his followers. What a brilliant way to make My Town a much better looking place every day, including Monday!

Sunday 26 April 2009

my spring garden

Spring is here and I am fervently looking out for our 5 (or so) trillium platrilliumnts, most having been eradicated when the cottage and house were built. Back in the 60s we didn't understand about such environmental concepts. When you drive along the highways, however, you can see carpets of trillium deep in the forest.

I do enjoy the cycles of the garden. Soon we will see forget-me-nots, and violets. My hyacinth are up and the smell is glorious. The trees are in bud and all is well with the cycle of life.

I know other bloggers feel the renewal of our spirits, as much as our gardens, as the cheery, bright flowers raise their heads to the sky and the sun.

I am not a planning gardener. I tend to find things I like and experiment with bringing home new friends for my garden. Some flowers jump off the shelf and onto my cart. Others I plant for their colour or their associations. I do my research and understand the differences between sun and shade plants, those that tolerate drought or humidity. The challenge is to put plants in that stretch the limits of our climate.

Our trips to Niagara-on-the-lake showed me phenomenal magnolia, Rose of Sharon fruit trees, and gardens that benefits from warmer climes. My challenge has been keeping my Rose of Sharon warm. I ended up planting it on the sewer tank. It keeps it above the -10 C. that it prefers when our thermometer goes well below that!

Lately, I have been experimenting with aquaculture by encouraging water plants in our lake. Barriers to prevent the extreme boat wash from washing out the lake's pickerel weed and water lilies and sending minnows and ducklings flying. (More about that later!)

balloon flowerOne year we went to the nursery and all of my children chose a particular plant. Balloon flower (left) was our favourite choice that year. I inherited my mother and father's garden, although they were unable to work in it for many years. I had fun finding plants from my gardens in other cities and trying them out.

My favourite photo of my dad is him hauling things around his garden, on the cover of my book!
he was heart broken when he could not work in his precious garden.

Saturday 25 April 2009

another rainy Saturday

It's another musical day in Muskoka! ♪♫•*¨*•.¸¸❤¸¸.•*¨*•♫♪♪♫

The rain is tapping a rhythm on the roof and the deck. It's melliferous cacophony continues down on the lake. This is spring!

We are just drenched, with puddles on the land. Good thing, as we have been pretty dry and cottagers have been lighting bonfires. We're on our third weather system in a couple of hours! Thunder boomers that rattle the eaves...The cats knew about it and wanted out early to get some mouse hunting in.

The ducks were puttering around the lake and I captured a shot of one landing. One of our geese was quite upset with the boat traffic, moving around the rocks to avoid the boat wash. Unlike the natural waves from the wind, the boat wash is sudden and obnoxious and disturb the egg-laying fish, and aquaculture. I can hear my husband speaking on the Eddie's behalf, as he tends to do, "What are the tourists here for? It's early. They're not due until May long w/e. This isn't right. It's our lake for a few more weeks. It's too cold for those city suckers. They need to go back home. Too wet, too cold. Go home to your city!"

We lost power, temporarily, and and it's only 15˚ C. (40˚ F) yet the tourists are up in the cool and the damp. Boats going back and forth in the lightning.

The one cat insists on going out while the others are content to nap. Oliver came in around 3:30 a.m., he's pretty wiped out - my teenage dauphin.

The birds are active. I spotted the red squirrel snapping more buds off of the trees in the rain. I didn't bother to get a photo, as she did not look her best: fur plastered to her skin, a bit miffed (frowning?) at the dang cat who is still watching her.

The buds on the trees are is striking contrast to our bright green clover. The buds are glorious.

Soon they will fall to our old deck and I will sweep them over the edge. I love these seasonal rituals. I love these little tasks, grateful that I have the time and the energy to do these chores. I moved to find work near my parents, and ended up 'retiring' to do part-time work. There are no bad jobs, and work can be hd if you scour the local papers. Up here RNs, PSWs, and contractors (plumbers, masons, electricians) of all shapes and sizes are needed.

We are fortunate to be living in My Muskoka, its history is an interesting one. I wrote a bit about my family buying this property back in 1960 and now that we have inherited it, we choose to live simply and frugally.

Local lakes are now saturated with cottages, yet new construction is up as people desperate to keep their cottages sever land and businesses attempt to attract more tourist dollars and increase profits. Cottage country will not support any more people. There is much garbage, many plastic floating in the water, and buildings and boat houses too close to the water. I worry about those who violate building by-laws, and flaunt environmental concerns: building or renovating cottages without permits and putting huge cottages on small lots. Golf courses that use pesticides that leach into the lake water, ceremonial balloon releases (the balloons are eaten by wildlife).

I deliberately chose NOT to do an Earth Day post. I think, as with all other 'days' every day is the earth's day. We must protect our land as we are all connected to it. The rape of the land cannot continue. As published in The Bracebridge Examiner last May:
The idea of Earth Hour is a good one, but people can’t become complacent and think that environmental awareness is only necessary one hour a year,” said Glen Hodgson. “We really hope that people will use Earth Hour as the inspiration for a long-term commitment to be environmentally responsible.
We can see where neighbours have not respected the land and still have not followed the legislation requiring mandatory connection to the sewer system. Our septic systems have been deemed grandfathered and cottagers must convert within two years. Yet, in these photos, you can see some sort of run off directly into the lake to the right of the dock.

These are the same people who travel across the lake on crown land and cut firewood. They create huge bonfires all summer and set off fireworks, let their animals roam the area freely, cruise their 4-wheelers around our road at 2:00 a.m. while drinking. Then, young people sit in their boats in the middle of the lake with the radios cranked full-blast.

How can you teach someone to respect the air, the land, the animals, their neighbours, and the environment? I am not sure.

Expansion of Gull Wing Tent & Trailer Park (Gravenhurst - pdf)
12 Jan 2009 ... Because of letters sent to the Township of Muskoka Lakes by concerned ... permits, (2) one Order to Remedy an Unsafe Building pertaining to an unsafe ... that these considerations, coupled with current violations and ...

Peter Victor: Ecological Economics, Managing without growth: slower by design, not disaster


Clerihews are funny poems you write about specific people (your parents, your boss, your favorite movie star, your best friend, your pet, or anyone else you can think of). Clerihews have just a few simple rules:
  • They are four lines long.
  • The first and second as well as the third and fourth lines rhyme with each other.
  • The first line names a person, and the second line ends with something that rhymes with the name of the person.
  • A clerihew should be humerous.
This form of poetry is named after its inventor Edmund Clerihew Bentley (1875-1956) whose first collection of verse in Biography For Beginners (1905):

Sir Humphrey Davy
Abominated gravy.
He lived in the odium
Of having discovered sodium.

--Edmund Clerihew Bentley

Friday 24 April 2009


Emily sits quite still
she misses her mom and dad
she gazes at the daffodils
dad planted each one with love

crocus, tulips, lupins
her mother planted arranged every one
they arise from slumber
small green leaves form in the cool air
new beginnings
a carpet of hope

the time has come

Things are stirring in Muskoka. The birds and bees are active. The fact that the insects are up and about means that many more critters either arise from hibernation, or come back to mate, or for migration purposes to move further north. The spring peepers sing all night, hoping for love.

It is amusing to go out on the deck and call in the cats for the night. The moon and stars sparkle on the lake; peepers peep, wind chimes sing. Lots of times it is the raccoon that comes when she is called, rather than the cats, but we embrace all of our wee friends. It is good that something comes when it is called around this place.

We have had a raccoon we called Butch, then realized he was a she. We call her 'B' now, once we realized she was obviously nursing kits. We recognize her from the awful gouge in her fur/skin from an altercation with something. Last night two of her children (we assume!) were having an argument on the deck over whose turn it was to shove his/her face in the bird feeder. We call them all 'Son of Butch'.

The pair of geese we have had at our lakeshore, Eddie & Eva, seem to be nesting. They visit in early spring and do not come back after a point in time. They had an argument with Anne & Gilbert one day, I captured them on my video, and A & G did not come back! We have seen Lonesome Charlie, though. He was feeding on our clover in the rain. Last year breeding season was a bit later and he and Eddie had a disagreement, eventually resolved. (See the photos!) Animals seldom fight to the death - simply to establish who is boss.

Another delightful critter is the wicked red squirrel. She scolds everyone and everything that comes near her squirrel feeder (the birds are collateral damage!). I watched her the other day as she perched in the tree. She was chewing the buds off of the tree, filling her empty belly. Yesterday, she sat above the feeder in the tree as Oliver (our black hunter-cat) sat underneath on the deck. His tail twitched, he watched intently as she chittered away. Neither budged for 5 minutes. I rattled his food dish and Ollie came indoors.

While I am happy to see the critters, it is the seasonal tourists that make me nervous! We have had a burning ban, with the early melt of snow, the lake isn't very high and the land has dried out. It is important, since many weekend guests do not look at these signs, or read the local papers to take in this information.

Many are burning wet leaves, dug up from pockets where they collect under snow, throwing hydrocarbons into the atmosphere. It is hard for those with any allergies or breathing issues. I know of many who are suffering with high pollen counts as it is!

All winter I have enjoyed the absolute darkness of rural life. When my kids were in their teens I would leave a light on if they went out for the evening. I could go to bed and trust that when I woke at, say 2:00 a.m., I could see the light was out and know they were home safely. It was a great way to ensure a good sleep for a worrying mom! Suddenly, with tourists returning, there are lights on all night. It seems as if they are afraid of the dark! I love the dark, and the peace and quiet, wind churning up the waves. Welcome back, all!

Poetry Month - sources of information

In this, poetry month, I have found several places to find prompts, and/or sources of inspiration, including poetry styles, ideas, photos.

A poem of regret is suggested from Blog Writer's Digest. They offer poetry groups, and sell books, but they also talk about various poetry forms. I found this a good source of a prompt, in that playing with language, rhyme and syllables is good for the brain cells. If you are stuck, go to an on-line rhyming dictionary, there are lots of free ones about!

ReadWritePoem is one constant source in inspiration. Reading other's poetry is another source:
ReadWritePoem Participants. Reading other's poetry always gives me a source. Whether they are 'good' or 'bad', you can learn from what works for you. Some forms work better than others for us, but it is really good to stretch your skills, and add to your writing practice. The Blog Writer's Digest offers Poet's Market updates, too.
A handy piece for some. I just write for fun!

NaPoWriMo: the noises around me is one of the daily prompts (this from April 23). These prompts, that evoke sensory images and immediate sources, work best for me. I like to write from a place of knowledge and immediate inspiration. We write best when we write what we know.

Some are establishing their own groups: Sam Proof, Poetry Dances, as well as the more popular groups mentioned above. Find a kindred spirit and give each other feedback. You need not live in the same city or even the same country! It is a joyful way to play with language.

External links:

Thursday 23 April 2009

Aloha Where you like go?

Aloha Where You Like Go? Aloha!

I have been exchanging self-published books with friends and new acquaintances. I attended a conference for hospice volunteers and exchanged books there. Then, Cloudia Charters and I made such an exchange. This most recent exchange was a long-distance one of over 8,000 km! I am in Central Ontario, Canada, she is in Hawaii.

I know that a book is made of of two-dimensional sentences printed on black and white. But this clever arrangement of words and sentences conjures up the most delicious sensory painting of life in Hawaii. You are sucked into a tsunami of experiences of senses, sounds, colours, and smells that come together to educate and illuminate, in rainbow colours, life in a vastly different culture from My Muskoka. I was prepared for a journey, the setting quite unfamiliar to me, I wasn't quite prepared for the delightful experience. The colours form a quilt, the fabric of Hawaiian culture, history, language and geography, that honours the spirit of a people.

I know I am not adding much to her fan club; already has a 4.7 out of 5 stars rating in 18 customer reviews. For those who have visited or live in Hawaii, the novel rings true. For me, someone who lives in Canada, and has never visited, this delightful story captures a lively and entertaining tale.

Visit Cloudia's blog, Comfort Spiral, for more trips to Hawaii.

Cinquain Quintain Quintet

The cinquain, also known as a quintain or quintet, is a poem or stanza composed of five lines. Cinquains can be found in many European languages; originating from medieval French poetry. (Often, my students would align the poems by centering them. They look interesting.)

The most common cinquains in English follow a rhyme scheme of ababb, abaab or abccb. For some 16th and 17th-century poets check out: Sir Philip Sidney, George Herbert, Edmund Waller, and John Donne (1572 - 1631). It helps to read, or listen to, the best!

Line 1 - one word for the topic - noun
Line 2 - 2 words to describes your topic -adjective
(from Latin: ad - 'toward', + jacere - 'throw')
Line 3 - 3 words that describes the actions relating to your topic -adverb
(place, time, circumstance, manner, cause, degree)
Line 4 - 4 words that describes the feelings relating to your topic - affect
Line 5 - one word that is another noun for your topic - synonym

I used this poetic strategy to teach my gr. 8 writers about grammatical terms. It works well!


Line 1 - two syllables
Line 2 - four syllables
Line 3 - six syllables
Line 4 - eight syllables
Line 5 - two syllables

Read as many poems as you can. It helps set the tone.

The Handbook of Poetic Forms suggests:
  • Refrain from being cloyingly sweet
  • build toward a climax
  • put a surprise into your last two lines
  • be concerned with thoughts and images
  • rather than parts of speech.