More lichen studies at the scanner (see previous post and comments).

A few days ago, I received my copies of MERCY ISLAND by Ren Powell and I’ve been dipping into the poems at random, allowing a slow digestion of the remarkably rich imagery that Ren Powell evokes with spare words. Today, as I’m composing this blog entry, I enjoyed a review of the book by poet and blogger Rachel Barenblat of The Velveteen Rabbi. The synchronicity in the following lines struck me:

Sacred painting’s
yellow ochre
my skirt
trimmed with lichen

From Ren’s poem A View from an Island. (Please read the whole poem at Rachel’s). I personally like to think it’s of Hornby Island, off the BC coast, since my photo on the cover is taken on one of its shores.

Update: March 31st, 2011: Another most interestingly written review including some gratifying comments about the cover by Carolee Sherwood. Thanks for sending it to me, Beth!

Mercy Island


I am thrilled and honoured to have one of my very favourite and special-to-me photographs on the cover of Mercy Island, a collection of new and selected poetry by Ren Powell and just published by Phoenicia.

Ren (Katherine) Powell is a writer, translator, poet, and native Californian living on the west coast of Norway. She has published four full-length collections of poetry and eleven books of translations, and her poetry has been translated and published in six languages. (more)

See also the press release on Ren’s blog* with which I’ve been delighted to recently get acquainted. I can understand Phoenicia’s editor Beth Adams’ feeling for a certain kind of connection in Ren’s Nordic home and my own Nordic roots and love of rocks in making this choice of image, with Ren’s approval as well. As Beth wrote elsewhere: “I’m so grateful for the artistic cross-fertilization that goes on here!” I am too, with my heartfelt thanks to both Beth and Ren.

Now I can hardly wait to hold and read the book. I hope interested readers will consider purchasing a copy directly from Phoenicia Publishing where more of your purchase goes to the author and to the support of independent publishing. Best of success to Ren’s new “baby” as it goes out into the world!

You may be interested in visiting my old blog post concerning this image, which I’ve always called ‘fetus rock’. Do you see another connection there?

March 24th, 2011: More about Mercy Island, including a review by Rachen Barenblat at my post called lichen

March 31st, 2011: Another most interestingly written review including some gratifying comments about the cover by Carolee Sherwood. Thanks for sending it to me, Beth!

*August 2, 2011: I’ve just discovered Ren Powell has changed her blog and some of its contents. Visit it here.

Marshall McLuhan Centennial


Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980) was already a famous Canadian name for my husband and me in our student days at the University of Manitoba where he too received his first degrees. You may have heard the phrases “the medium is the message”, “global village” and many others that he was noted for as a scholar and critic of modern mass communications.

Now you can hear him speak at this new website. We really enjoyed the excellent introduction by Tom Wolfe. (via)

Lots of resources on the net including the official McLuhan site listing all the world-wide events planned for this commemoration year as well as that of the official publisher. Makes me think I need to add some of his books to my reading list. How about you – are you familiar with McLuhan?

the art instinct

I heard a fascinating podcast quite some time ago on CBC Radio’s IDEAS Podcasts and had saved the link, meaning to share it on my blog. Forgotten though it was, I found it again today as I was going through some files this afternoon. The Art Instinct was aired last February 8th, 2010 so it’s not currently available online. If you have about an hour to listen to it, I hope the link works for you and you enjoy it as much as I did.

Here’s the introduction:

Human tastes in the arts are evolutionary traits shaped by natural selection. So says Denis Dutton who argues that our love of beauty is inborn and shaped by evolution. Beauty, pleasure and skills are essential human values.

Right click to Download The Art Instinct
 [mp3 file: runs 54:01]
After hearing this excellent interview, of course I want to read the book! I know it’s been out for a couple of years. Have you read it?

more Mary Anning

Ichthyosaur skull, Lyme Regis Museum, UK

Some readers may recall a post I wrote about a book which I enjoyed reading while on vacation last spring at our favourite spot on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Yesterday, in my rounds of blog visits, I was excited to see Kris’s Archaeology Blog featuring a review of that same book: Remarkable Creatures.

She has included some interesting links to explore, of which I particularly enjoyed the BBC Audio slideshow: Jurassic woman.

Mary Anning’s fossil discoveries 200 years ago near Lyme Regis are being celebrated by the Royal Society, The Natural History Museum and the town’s museum. I hope you will enjoy the slides and links as much as I did. This all makes me want to reread the book and the next time we visit England, to visit Lyme Regis, home of this remarkable woman!

eBook readers


This Bizarro cartoon is especially for Joe who just wrote about his new eBook reader. It’s also for blog friends Barrett and Hattie and other proud owners of eBook readers. The first time I saw and held one was when we met Barrett in London last year and he proudly showed us his brand new Sony Reader. I’ve had this now-yellowed clipping on our fridge for quite some time and was about to throw it away in a cleaning spree. I knew it was waiting for an opportunity to share smiles. Enjoy!

a volunteer




This datura emerged in my pot of sweet bell peppers, not quite as large as the one that grew in another pot three years ago.

As it did back then, it still makes me think of some prehistoric giant plants, ready to take over the world, maybe coloured by a book that I’m currently rereading some twenty years later: Rumors of Spring by Richard Grant. Highly relevant in today’s troubled ecology, I must say, even as it is fantasy/science fiction.

women who inspire


I am touched and honoured that author Kate A. Laity has chosen me as one of many women who are ‘an inspiration’ over at a new women’s group blog curiously called Women’s League of Ale Drinkers, a repository of creative women.

I’m particularly thrilled to be in the company of a fantastic Finnish musician, Ulla Suokko. And this after having already been interviewed by Kate last year for Women’s Month!

Kate herself has Finnish roots and has inspired me many a time with her blog, Wombat’s World, through which we initially “met” (read my blog post about it if you don’t know the fascinating story) and her wonderful book of stories inspired by the Finnish epic Kalevala: Unikirja. She now has a delightful book trailer out that makes me want to go back and reread her book all over again. Her first book Pelzmantel has just recently been reprinted by Immanion Press and is on my wish list.

bones, stones & fossils


As so many of us do on seashores everywhere, I like to pick up interesting shells and stones and take some home. This time, on our recent little vacation on the west coast, I discovered small stones that seemed more like weathered bone fragments. Our geologist friend agreed. Of what creatures, fish, whale, bird, I wondered?

Oddly synchronous was a fascinating novel I was reading during those days, an historical fiction called Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier:

In 1810, a sister and brother uncover the fossilized skull of an unknown animal in the cliffs on the south coast of England. With its long snout and prominent teeth, it might be a crocodile – except that it has a huge, bulbous eye.

Remarkable Creatures is the story of Mary Anning, who has a talent for finding fossils, and whose discovery of ancient marine reptiles such as that ichthyosaur shakes the scientific community and leads to new ways of thinking about the creation of the world.

Working in an arena dominated by middle-class men, however, Mary finds herself out of step with her working-class background. In danger of being an outcast in her community, she takes solace in an unlikely friendship with Elizabeth Philpot, a prickly London spinster with her own passion for fossils.

The strong bond between Mary and Elizabeth sees them through struggles with poverty, rivalry and ostracism, as well as the physical dangers of their chosen obsession. It reminds us that friendship can outlast storms and landslides, anger and and jealousy.

My findings were not fossils, of course, but I found the story resonated for me and was the perfect enjoyable read for this trip. I’m glad that I learned about this book from a review by Wandering Coyote. She also wrote about another novel about Anning, Curiosity by Joan Thomas, a Canadian author. I’d like to read it sometime later when Chevalier’s book fades in my mind.

Odd how these things happen together. A few days ago I read about this latter book in our local newspaper: What happens when two novelists have the same idea?

Such fascinating connections! And to think I’d never heard of Mary Anning before!

Added 22/11/2010 – more Mary Anning

Alice and algebra

image from wikipedia

As you can imagine, art has been my main interest in my life right from when I could hold a crayon. I took art in high school along with the required variety of academic subjects. In math my marks were in the A’s until the end of grade 11 and my teacher, an old maid as we used to say back then, encouraged me to study mathematics in university. I told her I’d decided on studying art but thanked her for her excellent teaching of algebra and geometry that helped me learn so well, not because of an innate ability or gift in me.

This was proved in my final grade 12 year when I had a male teacher who spent most of the class time bragging about his upcoming potential political career to a select group of favourite male students. As I struggled to understand trigonometry and what else, I’ve since forgotten, I became extremely stressed to find my marks dropping to near failure. I did pass but with a low mark, not good for my final average for graduation. Funny how these two teachers, plus a supportive woman art teacher are amongst the few I still remember from my high school years.

All this came to mind this morning as we were finishing breakfast and reading articles to each other from the newspaper as we often do on weekends. Husband, who’s good in math and has an interest in its history, read a fascinating article from his iPod Touch that astonished and amused us highly, with its references to a mix of arts, literature, mathematics, history and satire.

With another movie just out based on Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, Melanie Bayley, a doctoral candidate in English literature at Oxford has written an article for the New York Times called Algebra in Wonderland. Some quotes to start with to inspire you to read the whole thing:

SINCE “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” was published, in 1865, scholars have noted how its characters are based on real people in the life of its author, Charles Dodgson, who wrote under the name Lewis Carroll. Alice is Alice Pleasance Liddell, the daughter of an Oxford dean; the Lory and Eaglet are Alice’s sisters Lorina and Edith; Dodgson himself, a stutterer, is the Dodo (“Do-Do-Dodgson”).

Yet Dodgson most likely had real models for the strange happenings in Wonderland, too. He was a tutor in mathematics at Christ Church, Oxford, and Alice’s search for a beautiful garden can be neatly interpreted as a mishmash of satire directed at the advances taking place in Dodgson’s field.

In the mid-19th century, mathematics was rapidly blossoming into what it is today: a finely honed language for describing the conceptual relations between things. Dodgson found the radical new math illogical and lacking in intellectual rigor. In “Alice,” he attacked some of the new ideas as nonsense — using a technique familiar from Euclid’s proofs, reductio ad absurdum, where the validity of an idea is tested by taking its premises to their logical extreme.

I realize this may not be news to many of my well-read readers but it was to us. This makes me want to read Alice in Wonderland again with new and adult eyes and then see this new movie! Meanwhile husband went searching online for a certain history of mathematics that he’d read and enjoyed years ago.