Holding on to happiness

NorthWords annual writers' retreat: Altered Pages with artist Mo Hamilton

Yesterday I got to spend the whole day playing with paints, words, scissors, gesso, Mod Podge, and a luminous group of creative spirits at the annual NorthWords writers’ retreat in Terrace, which this year featured an Altered Pages workshop with Prince George artist Mo Hamilton. I’ll write more about the workshop in a future post. For now I’ll just say it was a blast.

Altered Pages followed what was possibly our best road trip ever: LW and I drove down to the island to spend a few days with family and friends.


I love the Fraser Canyon tunnels! We were blessed with perfect weather both ways, and the autumn colours were spectacular. The CDs I burned for the trip were a bust (I blame my aging iMac rather than the capabilities of the aging technician) so I entertained us on the drive by reading essays out loud from Theresa Kishkan’s sublime new collection, Euclid’s Orchard (Mother Tongue Publishing, 2017).

Our trip coincided with my birthday, and I enjoyed the rare pleasure of sharing cake—an amazing Wildfire Bakery cake—with my family and some of my island friends.



I forgot to ask for someone to take a picture of LW and me and our sons, so I love that the four of us were captured in this photo. This is what my happiness looks like.

And this: my grandbabies at play. (Okay, they’re my sister’s grandbabies, but she shares.)


And then the joy of coming home and seeing LW happily reunited with her gang.


I awoke to a gorgeous morning in Cedarvale (is there any other kind?), savoured a cup of coffee on the porch, journalled for half an hour about inspiration and joy … and then switched on my computer and was assaulted with the news of another shooting. I don’t want to know the details. I want to know this: How can we hold on to happiness in such a world?

When we moved to this farm, we were basically taking John Prine’s approach in “Spanish Pipedream”:

Blow up your TV, throw away your paper
Go to the country, build you a home
Plant a little garden, eat a lot of peaches
Try and find Jesus on your own

It’s a strategy that works really well … until you switch on your computer in the morning—which I have to do because it links me to my work. And which I want to do because it links me to my family and friends. It also links me to others who share my despair at this chaotic, crazy world and are trying to do something about it.

For example, my morning mail also brought a post from Shawna Lemay on Transactions with Beauty, who says, quoting a poem by Miller Williams, father of Lucinda Williams, “there are so many wars going on where the spirit meets the bone.” She is talking about something different here than holding onto happiness, and yet it’s the same, really, and the same response is called for: Restore compassion to the centre of our lives.

Compassion. A little Mod Podge. And blow up the damn TV.

6 Responses to “Holding on to happiness”

  1. Andre Morand

    You’ve cut right to the distressing reality our moment, defined as it is by a digital collective conscious paired with an accelerating appetite for newness and distraction. Increasingly, the darkest, most depraved thing happening at any given moment steals the show. I worry we’re quickly losing sight of our surroundings, of what really matters, and our ability to engage in focused, creative thought. Thank you for your call back to compassion. We could all stand to do the 2017 version of blowing up the TV.

  2. theresa

    I love the Wildfire Bakery. The best bread (and egg salad sandwiches, of all things). And obviously a killer chocolate cake!
    What beautiful sons you have.


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