reading & sleeping


I’m taking it easy this week nursing a cold. With tissues and tea beside me, I am really enjoying the guilty pleasure of more reading time with a timely receipt of a library book I’d placed on hold: P.D. James’ Death Comes to Pemberley. More than half way through and loving it, the only one of this grand dame’s books I’ve ever read. A dear friend is a keen fan of James so I’d given her a copy of this for her birthday last year. As a Jane Austen fan, it was high time to read this for myself and what a pleasure!

As you know, I love textures and stone, and this scan I once did of marble seems just right today, an illustration of the condition of my brain cells this week?

paleo cartoons

Bison from the End Chamber of Chauvet Cave – from Bradshaw Foundation

This is fascinating news:
Prehistoric cave artists used cartoon-like techniques to give the impression that their images were moving across cave walls, two French researchers have suggested. A new study of cave art across France – in which animals appear to have multiple limbs, heads and tails – has found that the paintings are actually primitive attempts at animation. When the images are viewed under the unsteady light of flickering flames the images can appear to move as the animals they represent do, the research claims.

Mr Azéma, after 20 years researching Stone Age animation techniques, has identified 53 paintings in 12 French caves which superimpose two or more images to apparently represent movement.

More at Daily Mail, UK. The animations created by archaeologist Marc Azéma show how the paintings might look to our eye in the flickering fires in those very ancient caves.

This study makes me recall Werner Herzog’s film Cave of Forgotten Dreams. (The image above is reposted from that blog entry but is not necessarily identified by M. Azéma as an example.) Also my beloved Earth’s Children series of books by Jean M. Auel. Her last book especially has vividly described scenes of paintings being created in the caves, as well as the sacred rituals taking place in them in flickering firelight and in darkness.

Kiitos, thanks to Finnish author and blog friend Anna Amnell for her post on this, one of my favourite themes on my blog. As Anna said, the more we learn about these early humans, the more we are amazed by their intelligence and creativity.

Finnish ABCs 2


As mentioned earlier about this old Finnish primer, I became most fascinated by the variety of fonts shown side by side. Imagine a young child just learning the ABCs and beginning to read, also learning to read along with what I would call a regular print text, a German Gothic or fraktur font and a copperplate style script. I used to be able to read the Gothic in my childhood because the Finnish church in Winnipeg had very old hymn books with that font. Now I struggle with some of the letters, though the little tales in this reader really help with context. Hand writing styles surely aren’t that easy for new readers either.

I’ve zoomed in on a few pages of the alphabet itself below, so you can see how complex it all is. Vieraat kirjaimet translates as foreign letters, that is, those not part of the native Finnish alphabet. Aakkoset is alphabet.




(Apologies with the varied colours of each page as I struggled to make the letters appear clearer and sharper.)

I just had to go find my own Finnish Aapinen, printed in 1954, to check out its fonts. The first part of the book has all capital letters, then soon after the small case are introduced along with it. Though there are a few other fonts later in the book, they are all fairly standard and easy to read. One page near the end shows a handwriting exercise on ruled paper like we see even today. Gothic and copperplate were not to be found.

Finnish ABCs




When I found my mother’s old Finnish cookbook, with it was a little aapinen, a Finnish ABC book or primer. A sad little thing without a cover, unlike this one, so I don’t know when it was published, possibly in the 1940s. I don’t recall if it was one of my books. Next time I will show you more pages of the fascinating fonts.

a Finnish cookbook-2

a look inside my mother’s old cookbook:

some pages on cake making

a handwritten recipe on a blank page – a naughty habit of mine as well

many loose bits of paper inserted throughout, some with handwritten recipes and some clippings from newspapers – also my habit

traces of a child’s colouring with crayon – mine? my little brother’s?

Why do I find such beauty in disintegrating paper?

a Finnish cookbook




This was my mother’s beloved cookbook, a 1948 edition, which came with her on our emigration to Canada many decades ago now. After her passing, I have kept it all these years safely tucked away. I’ve thought of photographing this well-worn artifact many times, especially after doing so with the similarly disintegrated English-Finnish dictionary.

As I wrote about that dictionary, this cookbook was in some ways also:
an immigrant’s tool, an almost-bible, a book of days
a history of heartache, homesickness, hope and a new home

I was recently re-inspired to finally do this when daughter Elisa asked for a certain favourite family recipe which she wished to post in the spring quarterly of her newsletter. (If interested you may request it from her!) I may put up a few more photos of the book’s interior in another post.

Remembered and added next day:
my beloved worn book of Grimm’s fairytales in Finnish
and my first Finnish alphabet book

Added later: Please visit part 2 for views inside the cookbook

white camellias


Marly Youman’s latest book, A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage, published by
Mercer University Press, and winner of the Ferrol Sams Award for Fiction, is coming out on March 30th.

From the flap: After a death at the White Camellia Orphanage, young Pip Tatnall leaves Lexsy, Georgia to become a road kid, riding the rails east, west, and north. A bright, unusual boy who is disillusioned at a young age, Pip believes that he sees guilt shining in the faces of men wherever he goes. On his picaresque journey, he sweeps through society, revealing the highest and lowest in human nature and only slowly coming to self-understanding. He searches the points of the compass for what will help, groping for a place where he can feel content, certain that he has no place where he belongs and that he rides the rails through a great darkness. His difficult path to collect enough radiance to light his way home is the road of a boy struggling to come to terms with the cruel but sometimes lovely world of Depression-era America.

Author Ron Rash writes: Marly Youmans’ new book is a vividly realized, panoramic novel of survival during The Great Depression. There is poetry in Youmans’ writing, but she also knows how to tell a riveting story.

I was delighted to be given an opportunity to ask Marly a question about her book:
“White Camellia” is an unusual name for an orphanage -where did that come from?

Marly’s answer:
I’m not entirely sure, since the orphanage seemed to name itself, but there are two main strands of meaning that I see. One is important to the setting, and the other is important to events.

The name is connected in my mind to the sharecropper’s house where I spent time with my paternal grandparents in childhood summers. I pilfered that Georgia house and its fields and outbuildings for my rural, cramped orphanage. The house was unpainted, a box divided into four rooms. Outside, a porch ran across the front. Did I say that Georgia is hot in summer, blisteringly hot? Shielding the porch from the sun and filtering breeze was a gigantic hedge that my grandmother always called “camellia.” Like many things about the orphanage in the novel, the name was better than the reality. The shiny green leaves were starred with small, insignificant white flowers rather than lovely camellia blossoms, but they had a sweet fragrance that hung in the air and increased with heat.

Another element in the name probably came from bumping into references to the K. K. K.’s charitable efforts while noodling around with research. The second, nationwide phase of the Klan (from 1915 through most of World War II) was rather different from either the Reconstruction-era Klan or its later incarnations–not focused on terror as a main goal, the members did some of the work of what we would call a fraternal organization (advancing their own careers in the process, as members of fraternal organizations do), including sponsorship of orphanages for white children.

How does that second-phase K. K. K. business connect with white camellias?

In its Reconstruction-era incarnation, the K. K. K. was associated with another group, The Knights of the White Camellia. Upper-class Southerners were Knights, tilting against the national Republican-party government and, we might say, upholding white knighthood-and-white-ladyhood. (Maybe that’s where all the hoods came from! And here we blamed D. W. Griffith for Klan fashion!) Although that group vanished not long after the Civil War, the names “The Knights of the White Camellia” and “The Knights of the White Kamellia” are still in use today by K. K. K. clans or “klans.”

So “White Camellia Orphanage” suggests a whole complex of things: the Georgia landscape around Lexsy with the rickety, unpainted house and outbuildings where I spent some time each summer; the shining “camellia” hedge that turned out to be no camellia at all; the Knights of the White Camellia; the Invisible Empire of the K. K. K. and their ideas about white rule, white purity, and miscegenation. All those things, though not “spelled out,” exert force on events in A “Death at the White Camellia Orphanage”.

I am really looking forward to reading this compelling and exciting sounding novel! You may pre-order it at your favorite brick-and-mortar independent, chain, or online bookstore (probably just the latter here in Canada at the moment).

I’ve become well acquainted with Marly through her blog of the most magical name The Palace at 2:00 a.m.. Do visit and note what a prolific writer she is with a long list of published books of poetry and many kinds of fiction. Congratulations and best wishes, Marly, may your latest creation fly into numerous homes and hearts!

education in Finland

Finland’s education system has received a lot of international attention from educators the last decade or so. I’ve read much of it with great interest, being a Finn, a former teacher as well as a parent. I’m also a product of the Canadian education system which is rated as fairly good but has much room for improvement especially in education for immigrants, first nations and the learning-challenged even as constant cuts in funding of education take place.

Besides the excellent results of ‘no child left behind’, most remarkable is that all teachers have at least a masters degree, have freedom to teach as they wish and have the highest support and respect from governments and parents, unlike here in Canada and the USA, and yet education still costs less in Finland.

There’s much more so please read this article in the Smithsonian magazine. It is the best in-depth one that I have seen and I recommend it to anyone interested in education. Is education not the most important thing each country needs to provide for its young people and immigrants, and the best investment for the country’s future? Many thanks to Gabriolan for the link.

Related links:
A series of articles called Finland Diary by Robert G. Kaiser for the Washington Post in 2005, which I wrote about here.

Addendum: We purchased and read Pasi Sahlberg’s Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland? Excellent – well worth a read if you are interested in education. The main conclusion would be that there would have to be quite a cultural change in order to achieve a major transformation in the education system in Canada, USA and many other countries. Private schools, charter schools and the like are not the answer.

an artist’s garden


About a week ago I wrote about some garden art we’d installed to hold up some flowering plants. One commenter in that post mentioned Derek Jarman’s garden in Kent, England, including a link to wonderful photos of it as well as mentioning Jarman’s book. I was immediately captivated.

A few days later, a package arrived at our door, containing the book Derek Jarman’s Garden! It’s a lovely surprise gift by that commenter, J, who is our son-in-law, presently working in England (our daughter and their two girls are visiting here). I knew artist, filmmaker and writer Derek Jarman was a hero of J’s just from seeing his large collection of that artist’s books and films.

I didn’t know that gardening was a life-long passion of Jarman’s and that he spent the last years of his short life building this unique garden at his cottage on the shingle beach of Dungeness, next to a nuclear power plant. He kept a journal about the experience, while photographer Howard Sooley captured rich images of him and the garden, even assisting in plantings. Jarman hunted and carried back many stones, weathered wood pieces and rusty objects from his walks on the shore and created magical installations amongst the plants and shingle. Jarman’s partner Keith Collins wrote a lovely preface and assisted in the publication, done after Jarman’s death.

Only a few hours after receiving the book, and it being a very rainy day, I was drawn into this little beauty, absolutely swept in and loving the photos and the writing, finishing it at bedtime with a happy glow. Here is one of many many favourite passages from Jarman’s writing:

At first, people thought I was building a garden for magical purposes – a white witch out to get the nuclear power station. It did have magic – the magic of surprise, the treasure hunt. A garden IS the treasure hunt, the plants the paperchase.

I invest my stones with the power of those at Avebury. I have read all the mystical books about ley-lines and circles – I built the circles with this in mind. The circles make the garden perfect – in winter they take over from the flowers. There was magic and hard work in finding the coloured stones for the front: white, difficult: grey, less so; red, very rare.

I was amazed at how much beauty was achieved in such a harsh environment. By no means can I compare myself to such a wonderful gardener (as well as writer and artist). I think the lush rainforest of our Pacific Northwest area is one huge garden of its own, in the midst of which we try to make our own little mark, our little piece of paradise on earth. This book has inspired me to look at my garden in a slightly different way, encouraging me to continue to add more personal touches after installing the rust pieces mentioned earlier. I unearthed some forgotten artifacts in the garden shed, like these rusty old garden tools and Greek goat bells, very modest things to add to the various stones and rocks from beaches here and there. Time for more beach and junkyard combing, methinks!

Thank you so much for this inspiring book, J, I will treaure it!

Oh, and isn’t it interesting that this conversation started with the other son-in-law making the wonderful rust garden supports, with daughter Elisa‘s suggestion? I am lucky.


Later: J sent me some excellent links for further reading and viewing if you are interested:

article by Howard Sooley
Howard Sooley’s website
more writing at the Guardian
a “letter” from Tilda Swinton, the actress, and good friend of Jarman’s mentioned a few times in the book

Plus, I forgot to add this article about the Dungeness area

Gabriola Petroglyph Park

Back to our visit and explorations a month ago (already!) on Gabriola Island. I previously featured a few images taken of some petroglyphs we found on one forest trail.



The next day we visited the Gabriola Museum. Though closed mid-week we enjoyed a stroll on the grounds, named Petroglyph Park with its numerous reproductions of many of the petroglyphs found on the Island, with the aim of preventing further erosion of the originals as well as showing less eroded images than those originals are now. Most are flat stones and some are upright, all placed in a natural setting with spreading moss and lichen.

The Museum’s pages have information about the history of the petroglyphs and about the background on the reproduction project.



Some years ago, when I became interested in learning more about BC’s own native petroglyphs and pictographs, one of the books I acquired is Gabriola: Petroglyph Island by Mary and Ted Bentley. The back cover states that the Bentleys have explored and recorded the rock carvings of Gabriola Island since 1969. They discovered a major site of over fifty carvings in 1976, then thirty more glyphs at four more sites. They are committed to the preservation and to promoting an understanding of the native culture that produced these and have been very involved in the reproduction project at the Museum.


I’m so thrilled to have at last seen even a small fraction of these works on Gabriola, both the original and the well done reproductions. Perhaps one day we’ll go back to see more.