Poets in my Garden

Four people seated beneath an apple tree

Poets sur l’herbe

I have been hosting Planet Earth Poetry workshops in my home and garden for the past 8 years or so. It is a glorious time for me, feeding creative spirits and having poets roaming around the property.

This year the workshop was led by Jenna Butler, who kindly and carefully led poets of all levels of experience through some difficult environmental territory, under the theme “Songs for a Changing World: Writing Our Hope and Grief About Place”.

Two people writing at a tableParticipants spent some time introducing themselves and reflecting on their relationship with land (and water) before embarking on studying poetry models and being sent off at intervals to write.

My role in these events is Chief Eavesdropper and Provisioner, and it gives me a chance to do some recreational cooking and try out some new recipes. It’s also an opportunity to relive a past life: long ago I spent weekends and holidays enjoying the warmth of the kitchen at Strawberry Creek Lodge in Alberta, cooking alongside my remarkable mentor Tena Wiebe at workshops, retreats, wedding celebrations and meetings.

There’s a favourite New Yorker cartoon of a kitchen, captioned “So this is where the magic happens“. Here’s my version, showing my PEP workshop catering preparations. Kitchen countertop with messy arrangement of baking ingredients

One of my tasks is to provide a lunch to the poetry mentor, and this was Sunday’s lunch for Jenna: Watermelon Gazpacho, Pepperwiches, and Plum Panna Cotta (with fresh blackberry sauce). I was relishing the opportunity to use some summer ingredients, including plums from my garden, some salad vegetables and local blackberries. My nutrition training also influenced the menu which was strong on colourful vegetables and containing no ultra-processed foods. Tena taught me the powerful lesson that serving food made from scratch, with love, is a truly satisfying way to live (and eat)!Tray with food dishes as described

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Eco-lit in Portland

I’ve gone to quite a number of ASLE and ALECC conferences over the years. This year’s ASLE conference – its first post-pandemic gathering – was in Portland Oregon. Unusually for an organization that normally meets on campus in a smallish college town, it was a more corporate affair, a joint event with The Association for Environmental Studies and Sciences (AESS), at the Oregon Convention Centre. Which was itself a model of environmental building (LEED platinum) and stunning public art.

Eco-conferences do delve into sobering realities and there was no shortage of these in Portland. The plenary sessions included one that provided a lot of ecological context for concerns around deep sea mining. Which is being proposed to provide minerals for our ‘green economy’ – building batteries for our ‘sustainable’ electric cars and bikes, for example. Ocean mining companies have already been securing contracts in the waters around smaller coastal countries but the major headache was under discussion in Jamaica during the time of the conference: what about international waters? All a bit ludicrous in light of the fact that our oceans are all connected, so any damage done – destroying habitat for unknown species, creating plumes of silt that can choke the ocean floor for hundreds of kilometers – will in fact tamper with the substance of life on this planet, since we rely so heavily on the ocean to provide us with a breathable atmosphere.

Another featured two first nations speakers from Yakima Nation, who spoke on concerns around the Yakima, an important salmon river in Washington state. As I’d learned years ago when I studied permaculture, salmon are the reason our coastal rain forests flourish – they provide the nutrients for local wildlife which in turn scatter nutrients on the forest floor. So it’s no small matter to learn that global warming will heat salmon rivers to the point where salmon cannot survive their spawning runs. What’s to be done? The modest efforts to remove dams along these rivers offers a small hope that the water can be cooled sufficiently in the short term at least. Beyond that, who knows.

One popular feature of ASLE conferences have been the workshops and field trips before or after the main events, that are geared towards the themes or interests of the participants. This one featured a sake tasting at a local sake shop. It took me back to my wine tasting days at Unisg. All the sakes but one were offered slightly or well chilled, which was a different way, for me, of enjoying them.

And finally, early on the last morning of the conference, I read some of my poetry on the Poems & Poetics of the Commons panel, together with Lori DiPrete Brown, Sandy Feinstein and Trey Moody. As inevitably happens when random poets are placed together on a panel,  surprising conjunctions of mood and subject emerged from our readings. So it was a good way to wrap up the conference for me!

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Canada Day on the Gorge

There’s been construction all year – since last October – on Gorge Road, the third time in my life here that the road’s been dug up. This time it was for replacing storm drains, and altering the road to include concrete barriers for bicycles, removing some bus stops and narrowing the driving lanes. In the contract was a clause requiring the construction company to have the road cleaned up or finished in time for annual Canada Day festivities, and they did get it to a workable state. Here’s how it looked with people on it!

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Earth Day Poetry!

If you’re in Vancouver next Saturday April 20, please come to our reading! It’s at the Capilano Branch library, 3045 Highland Blvd, North Vancouver (Registration link: https://nvdpl.ca/node/5884/register) Please pass the word to North Shore poetry pals!

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Winter Market, Vancouver

I’ve made a couple of delicious visits to Riley Park Winter Market and here are some of the sights I’ve seen…..

My first foray was in early March, when Vancouver had received an unwelcome dump of snow. Which didn’t deter shoppers or stallholders!


Market stalls and people with snowy foreground

Baker at market stall

Lisa Virtue, baker

Different varieties of winter squash displayed in boxes

Lovely winter squash

Cabbage and assorted radishes in boxes at vegetable stall

Exotic radish varieties

Carrots and root vegetables on display at market stall


Different boxes of apples on display at market stall

Organic apples

Customer filling bag with stinging nettles at market stand

Self serve nettles

Mobile cheese seller

Say cheese…

Whistler Harvest mushroom seller with boxes of mushrooms


Cardboard box with mushroom assortment

Shiitake, Lion’s Mane, Oyster, Maitake (Hen Of The Woods)

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