December 19, 2012 § 1 Comment



Coming home today when pulling into fulford harbour, you see a white capped Reginald hill, you’ve grown up with this harbour, with this ferry, how many trips back and forth did it carry you on over all the years of your youth?

Pulling into the dock, two swans glide over the water of the inlet and you watch them, wings spread, angelic, bow then land on a ripple in unison. Year in and year out, every season, they too are witness to the continuous story of home.

Your car is stuck in the snow today and so you take the public bus where you meet an old friend.  In your mind flashes a memory of the piggy-back ride he gave you when you were 13 years old, playing in the yard at night, his parent’s party rauckous inside their tiny wooden cabin, aglow under the shadow of cedar trees and freshly sprung maples, a leering moon, translucent  night, the last month of grade eight, cool, crisp, and clean darkness.  Dew on the grass and your bare feet. Memories flash rapidly in and out of your mind as you speak to him, but you wouldn’t mention them now, on a public bus in the snow, or perhaps ever again.

Instead, you talk about your lack of employment, his property and failed marriage, the mortgage.  Childhood flashes like a dream when you blink, as far away and as close as that night you spent together and all the others that you don’t remember.   Where does your past end and his begin in a history shared so deep?


At Dukes Road, your gumbboots crunch onto fresh snow.  This moment is so pristine, you think, realising that’s a word you have come to define as yet untouched by an LCD screen.  You are stunned, humbled.  Birds dart inches from your chest across this snowed-in narrow country road; it blends into the forest unifying the landscape.  The snowfall drapes a stark white curtain behind a life you’ve too long missed out.  You walk past hoof tracks where a deer has turned a concentric path and continued into the brush. The road is narrow and the trees are overhung, heavy with the weight of the snow. You notice the silence. What exactly has been hushed, you wonder, and where does silence go when the snow melts?


Walking home you feel something you haven’t felt in eons, and realise there are two of you these days, the one who came before, and the one who comes after.   A journey back to nature is a long road, a relearning of a language you used to speak, though sometimes, it appears in a moment of grace when the snow falls.


When you arrive home, you notice there are tiny fragile bird tracks on your snowy doorstep and see how close life has been to you all this time. You want to stay outside forever, here, where the story of home is being told by a woodpecker high in the cedar trees and maples.


You notice that you’re not scared anymore of what’s outside – the cougar sighting last summer or getting lost in the forest is not nearly as frightening now as what is inside.

Of all the strategies to find a moment of sanity, none has been granted as easily as this: a sudden heap of heavy white.  A moment trudged through a path without argument.   Today, you don’t even call it a homecoming; you call it coming back to life.



A Work of Poetry

April 6, 2012 § 1 Comment

My documentary film was shown at The Fritz two nights ago.  Raffi Cavoukian and his Centre for Child Honouring hosted the event as a fundraiser for the non-profit.

Taxi Casablanca, as the film is called, had its world premier at the same small theatre on Salt Spring Island, to a sold-out house of friends and family, exactly three years ago.  At the time, I was so bewildered by the project, that had spanned three years of tireless work leaving me utterly exhausted, even broken and damaged from within, that I couldn’t face the crowd who had come out in droves to support me.   I couldn’t receive their love and warmth.  I sat in the back row and during the movie chugged back straight vodka — can you believe that! I don’t even drink.  I just needed to escape how overwhelmed I was inside.

At the end of that first show, a group of women gathered around me. They were so touched by the film that we — all five of us– broke out into tears.

Tears for what? For the story of Zakia Mezzour, for her courage, for  her beauty, for her honesty, for her willingness to live.

Tears for what? For the unlived freedom inside of ourselves? For the stories of women that unite us across the world? For the stories that point to our common humanity, our common need to be ourselves and live with freedom, safety, dignity and self-respect?   Or maybe tears for our opening hearts — the ways that we come to love people who have nothing to do with us, who live on the other side of the world, whose paths with ours may never intersect.

Were we crying perhaps because “whether we say it out loud or not, or to ourselves or not, or to each other or not, we all know, we all understand in our hearts that women are the soul of the world,”  as Sharon Butala wrote in her exquisite memoir Perfection of the Morning.   Or because we know on some basic gut level which is often not even conscious or able to be expressed in words, that this, this soul of the world, has not expressed its full potential, is in so many ways, in so many countries, in so many families, in so many governments, not allowed its freedom, or worse yet, is deeply damaged.   Flashes of dire poverty, sex-trafficking, violent pornography, forced marriages, domestic violence, rape…  We try to force these images and feelings from our minds as we feel helpless to change what has, in our world, become all too commonplace.

We cry because a woman who drives a taxi is a woman who can leave when she wants to, and go where she pleases.  In the film, she drives to the sea to escape the noise and pollution of the city.  Just this simple choice alone, the decision to go where she must go, to experience what she must experience, means she is a woman with autonomy, in touch with her own needs and values, in a relationship with her own life.

For me, the tears were for all of these reasons, and for even deeper reasons:  I missed my friend, Zakia Mezzour, a woman who drives a taxi six thousand miles away from me who I loved and who changed my life.

At the end of the film screening two nights ago there was a Q&A session with the audience. Unlike three years ago, I had the courage to face the supportive and loving audience.

After some time, I was pleased that Raffi (famous children’s song writer and advocate for children’s rights) stood up on stage and said:

“For me this film is a work of poetry.”

To hear him say this in front of the entire audience made me feel that what I had been trying to accomplish over all those years of work and struggle had finally been recognized.   Perhaps the only way we can change the world is through poetry, through seeing and feeling the things that can’t be verbalized, categorized, or compartmentalized. Poetry allows for complexity and conversation and paradox, it allow for feelings to emerge inside our hearts; it allows for inner transformation — the only thing that has ever changed the world.

Earlier that day, another person had said something to me equally meaningful.

I have often questioned what the impact of this film was on Zakia’s life. I know it wasn’t necessarily a positive experience for her.  And at the end of it all I hadn’t succeeded in saving her life, that is, I hadn’t bought her a new home to live in, I hadn’t lifted her out of her poverty, I hadn’t secured her an old age pension.   Perhaps our friendship had for all of these reasons been a disappointment to her.

It wasn’t until yesterday when my mom said,  “Through this film you let her know that she is important”  that I realised this was the gift I had hoped to give to Zakia all along. This was the goal of my three years of hard work.    And this, in fact, is all that we can ever give to anyone.

The “work of poetry” that is Taxi Casablanca is my meagre offering to Zakia Mezzour.  It seeks to tell the world that there is a person you have never heard of, who you will probably never meet, who is extremely important and valuable and precious.

She is Zakia Mezzour, and she is also all of us.

Finally, this month I am moving into a new cabin.  I found out a few days ago that this cabin, which is on a gorgeous pastoral farm, used to be a Turkey shed (perhaps more on this later).  It was the home of one well-fed and happy turkey, the place where she lived out her life in the sun and the rain.

Next month there will be a new turkey moving in, her name is Mary Flowers and she is looking forward to more poetry.

March 31, 2012 § Leave a comment

I love this reminder… not sure if I’m supposed to be re-blogging my own blogs, but I can’t help myself

Safran Films

“The most perplexing and elusive mystery about love is that we can show it totally and yet we can never really know how much we love someone or how intensely we are loved.

It is deeper than we can imagine or have ever imagined.

Sometimes a wink, a touch, a word, or a gift reveals a depth of love we never guessed was there.  But not even then do we know the full extent of the love, only of its striking, sustaining and momentary manifestations.” – David Richo

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Taxi is returning to Salt Spring… more info soon…

March 29, 2012 § Leave a comment

March 25, 2012 § Leave a comment

Remembering all the amazing things that have happened to me in March, like this dizzyingly beautiful rainbow that stretched across the sky.

Safran Films

I lay in the darkness listening to rain, thinking about a big wave that’s said to be travelling all the way from Japan to the shores around here.  Suddenly, Japan doesn’t seem so far away, no longer just a point of reference on a map, but something alive and real across the ocean, something essential, like a heartbeat.

It’s my last week here in this little cabin. I lay in the darkness, a half-moon is covered by an overcast night sky, but a few minutes after I turn off the lights, lying in the total blackness, a glow illuminates the windows and skylight.

I am not alone.  I know, for example, that in this moment, right now, there is a little brown bunny who lives under the cabin. I saw her yesterday, soft and swift, darting through the woodpile and into the darkness of the crawlspace.  There’s a family of…

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March 9, 2012 § Leave a comment

Safran Films

International Women’s Day, it’s not another hallmark occasion, it’s not a celebration of the “feminine mystique”; it is a time for us to affirm our belief in and our commitments to the rights of all people. As women, we spearhead this vision by declaring that we matter.

As the old adage goes, “Feminism is the radical notion that women are people.”  It wasn’t so long ago (1920) that even in our own liberal country, women had to fight to be referred to as “persons” in our legal system, a “minor detail” that disallowed our right to vote!

So the acknowledgement of International Women’s Day isn’t something we do as women, but as individuals who refuse barriers that prevent us from living out our unique destinies.  As we free ourselves, we allow for -we stand up for – the freedom of all people in all times and all places.

The most…

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On Writing a Daily Column

February 27, 2012 § Leave a comment

On January 23,1963, [Jack] Scott [my grandfather] wrote in The Sun: “The essence of columning is the highly personal, sometimes intimate, expression of impressions or convictions.

“Most columns answer the question, though the question is hardly ever asked, of “how it looks to me.” This means that the subject must always be one that the writer is genuinely interested in, even though the subject may be of no great importance, and the conclusions, if any, should be a kind of individual discovery, or revelation …

“The best advice I can give is to write of anything that’s close to your heart, whether it’s a serious matter or a gay one. In either case, it is surprising how often that approach brings out a little bit of truth.”

Special thank you to writer Nicole Parton for digging out these words and bringing them back into our lives.


February 26, 2012 § 4 Comments

“Do things always need to be fair?” someone in my life recently questioned.

What an interesting question to ponder.

What is the opposite of fairness?

The opposite of fairness is inequality.

A world of winners and losers.  Where some are better than others, more deserving, more entitled.

The opposite of fairness is humiliation.

The opposite of fairness is anger.

The opposite of fairness happens at the expense of others, even those you love.

Children know this: “It’s not fair!” they cry.

They know what is fair, they are born knowing.

If you believe in god, you might say he has a master plan, you’re not the loser after all, just wait, you’ll see…

You might say there’s a system of equality that can’t be measured, that invisible things count too, like the quality of your spirit, your ability to love

You might have to believe in god just to get through it

What are we telling one another, what are we telling ourselves, what are we telling ourselves about one another, when we say being unfair is okay?

Listen and Love

February 25, 2012 § Leave a comment

Writing is about listening–listening to others, listening to nature, listening to your heart and the story there, listening deeply to what is true.

Writing is about paying attention to the voice in your head when it comes to whisper ideas; it’s also about getting out of your own way–quieting that voice–when it comes to whisper fears.

Writing is about learning to love. As the heart opens, stories and characters, their passages through time, and their journeys of change become more complex and authentic.

Writing is most fruitful when an artist is at one with pleasure: the aesthetic qualities of a writing desk, a warm cup of tea, solitude, or the particularities of a beach, tree, or a flock of birds, that pull words into our lives from a source we cannot name.

Post by Mary Fowles (TWS 2012). You can find her online at

Photo courtesy of the author.


My Own Struggle

January 20, 2012 § 3 Comments

“I didn’t turn to Peter. This was my own struggle, and it was too profound, too wholly and intimately mine, to turn to anyone else.  Had I been in a city, I might have sought out an analyst, but I wasn’t in the city, and as it was I knew this was a labor I had to complete myself, in my own way and on my own terms.  It was not something Peter had ever gone through; I suspected that if I told him, he wouldn’t be able to understand because his own life was so clear, so satisfying and psychically untroubled. Possibly I was a little ashamed of my own pain, which was taking place in the midst of the abundantly good life that I had been fortunate to find but with which I wasn’t satisfied, because I was too inadequate a human being.

During all of this I never considered leaving, or rather I considered leaving every second of every day and always found such a departure unimaginable. Returning to my old life was no longer possible, but when I looked around and told myself, This is my home; this is my home till I die, that, too, seemed equally unimaginable. ”

Sharon Butala, The Perfection of the Morning

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