Tuesday, May 05, 2015


Yesterday marked 85 years for Nancy Drew books.

Since I still have a few of those old books from yesteryear (a term I’m pretty sure I first heard on The Lone Ranger) I decided to try reading one, The Hidden Staircase.

It turns out, not surprisingly, for a book published in 1930, to be full of words that have long gone out of use – and many beyond the predictable ‘roadster’ so often mentioned in Nancy Drew lore. Two easy examples are davenport and sofa. We know what they mean, but does anyone still use them?

Technology references nabbed my attention, as in this passage where she’s received a gift from a friend with a farm: “Nancy carried the chicken and the eggs to the kitchen and placed them in the electrical refrigerator.” Hard to think of a time less than a century ago when an icebox, complete with a block of the cold stuff delivered by the iceman was more the norm than an 'electrical refrigerator'.

Messages are sent via mail or the now-forgotten telegram. Entertainment consists of reading or conversation, or as Hannah Gruen (the Drews’ housekeeper) makes a special request, “Miss Nancy, if you don’t mind, I’ll go to a moving picture show…”  

Travel of any distance is by train. Not everyone has a phone in their home, say nothing of in their purse or pocket.

Less charming than these depictions of a seemingly more carefree life is that of the not-so-nice ‘negress’ who serves as the villain’s accomplice. Her speech is written out in a hideous dialect, supposedly a Southern accent and is riddled with poor grammar.

On the other hand, Nancy’s vocabulary – even descriptions of action involving her are bloated with inflated words: “So this was the home of Nathan Gombet, Nancy ruminated. She could not help but feel that the dark, uninviting aspect of the structure provided an abode singularly in keeping with the sinister character of its master.” Whew! And I read this when I was a kid?!

But even the ever-noble Nancy runs into trouble now and then – one might even call it prejudice, based on the fact that she’s female. When she tries to convince the sheriff that he must arrest the evil Gombet, he brushes her off, and only takes her seriously when she identifies herself as the daughter of attorney Carson Drew. That makes all the difference and sets him and his deputies into action. To her credit, Nancy’s reply to him is delivered “sarcastically.”

So, maybe there was more to those mysteries of hers than mere diversions for a rainy afternoon.

Yet even if she isn't always sneaking in feminist messages, it’s hard not be at least somewhat charmed by her, typified by this description: “Nancy Drew turned this question over in her mind as she sat propped up with pillows in a corner of the big davenport, the very picture of a pretty girl in a brown study over some knotty problem.” Oh, my, oh sigh. 

Saturday, May 02, 2015


Aside from that word's most obvious meaning -- related to a labyrinth or maze -- it also means convoluted or confusing. While the labyrinth in the image above is another in the mode of the traditional Chartres pattern, it is nowhere near as confusing to follow it as it is to find where I'm going here in the city of Nanaimo, B.C.

Many of the streets here have a change-of-name for no apparent reason. Comox Road becomes Bowen Road. Terminal Avenue becomes the Island Highway. Bastion appears to become Fitzwilliam before it transforms into Third. I guess this constant changing of name is just something one has to get used to.

I'm visiting the city for the third convergence of the Cascadia Poetry Festival, a celebration of a bio-region, of poetry, and I guess, of a west coast way of thinking.

Much of the festival is based at Vancouver Island University, a campus that mostly leaves me confounded. Even the parking lots seem tortuously convoluted. Still, the setting is gorgeous, especially now that so many springtime blossoms fill the air with their potpourri of scents.

But the main reason for my posting the labyrinth image is that today is the seventh annual World Labyrinth Day. Because not everyone has access to taking an actual walk in an outdoor labyrinth, several other opportunities are available online -- a virtual labyrinth walk and even patterns for making your own finger labyrinth.

And speaking of finger labyrinths, the Bethlehem Retreat Centre (here in Nanaimo, BC) has recently opened a finger labyrinth museum, an exhibit that's bound to show up soon among Nanaimo's widely varied tourist attractions.

In the meantime, I plan to stick with the convolutions of mind offered by poetry.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Off the raiils

I'm afraid that's where I've been this month, especially in terms of this poor little blog -- off the rails. Off in too many directions, doing workshops, attending readings and art openings -- all good things, but lacking in focus.

Maybe that's what happened to the engineer pulling the train these cars were part of. It didn't look like a particularly dangerous section of track (though there is a switch some yards back) along the Fraser River in New Westminster.

Luckily, it doesn't appear that the car was carrying dangerous freight. Still, the sight is enough to make me think 'what if'' especially in terms of the often-hazardous materials being pulled through nearby White Rock and Crescent Beach every day.

Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

MagPo Road Trip

Because April is National Poetry Month, I'm going to do my best to feature some poems on the blog. For a start, this one, "Highway Love," grew out of an afternoon stop while we were on our Spring Break Road Trip along the Pacific coast.

Before we left, I'd bought myself a new set of Magnetic Poetry, this time with words about the famous Route 66. Even though I knew we weren't planning to get that far south, it seemed to be a good batch of words to try out on a road trip.

When I opened the kit and saw all those still-in-blocks words, I also discovered that I had a problem. I couldn't find a stretch of metal big enough to accommodate all of my potentially poetic words. The only spot inside that was magnet-friendly metal was an eensy niche on the side of the stove hood fan. Nearly every other surface in the RV was wood or some facsimile.

Even the metal sides of the vehicle must be mainly aluminum, as nothing wanted to stick.

But at last, I was saved by the shining expanse of the front bumper. I spread out the set of words across the entire front width of the truck and, using my little metal clipboard as a notepad, started to work.
The poem I came up with will probably ride around with us for the next while or so, or at least until I can come up with something better.  

One of the challenges you might want to take up this month is NaPoWriMo. As the abbreviated words suggest, the site is dedicated to April also being National Poetry Writing Month. Daily prompts will help nudge you toward the goal of a poem every day. What's to lose? Nothing but your writer's block.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Untangling the labyrinth

This labyrinth in the forest provided a wonderful place for untangling some thoughts about a group of poems I have been working on for too long.

But then, that's one of the purposes of walking a labyrinth -- it's a meditative experience where one may seek answers to questions. As the sign near the entry point of this labyrinth puts it, "The labyrinth is a metaphor for our journey through life."

This one, located in the Oregon forest at Bandon Dunes, was silent and empty, the perfect spot for clearing my mind and finding a focus for going forward. Patterned after the famous labyrinth at Chartres, walking its patterned arcs made me think of the convoluted lines of the brain.

The gift I left at its centre? Two pine cones
that looked as though they wanted to be friends.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Foresty yin and yang

Spring. The vernal equinox. Ostara. The death of winter, the beginnings of things that grow.

I suppose some will find the image on this post not to their liking. It certainly presented me with something I'd never seen before -- a slug waltzing past the still-fresh corpse of a bird, The odd pairing seemed fitting to the cycle of change this day represents.

And really, when could a slug ever hope to pass that near a bird? A reminder that it's time to reach for dreams.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Kreativ spelling

When I saw this sign, I had to think for a minute, as I didn't think a garden centre would have much to do with Seder, a practice that's observed as part of Judaism.

I'm pretty sure they meant that they had cedar trees for sale.

I almost wish I'd spotted this and taken the photo sooner, as I might have entered it in "Signs" a show currently on exhibit at one of our local community galleries. Not that the image would have made the cut, but it might have given the judges a laugh.