There’s so much happening in our little corner of Canada this weekend.
You might say that in New Brunswick we are being emancipated from the emergency restrictions put in place to combat COVID. Starting yesterday, the province that cut off non-essential travel not just with Maine but also with all provinces west of here way back in March of last year, is now fully open to Canadians from across the country, with no border checks, registration requirements, or COVID tests. Yikes, that will be a bit unnerving. Masking and social distancing will now be up to individual establishments and individuals to determine. That will take some figuring out. One day in, most people are wearing their masks in most indoor places. Personally, I hope it stays that way.
Tomorrow is New Brunswick Day, a statutory provincial holiday when we all get a summer day off to appreciate how lucky we…
While training TV journalists at the South African Broadcasting Corporation in Johannesburg, my colleague Marie and I were offered a weekend loan of a friend’s cottage a few hours drive away.
We could hardly wait.
While there, we planned to visit another friend at his farm.
There, we’d see something extraordinary.
Just before leaving work that Friday, I ran into a journalist I knew.
“Don’t go, Cynthia” she warned. “A lot of hardcore racists live in that area.”
It was the mid-1990’s and Mandela’s ANC had recently won the election, putting a public end to apartheid. But Marie and I were Canadians who didn’t know the country well.
And now, someone who did was urging me to cancel the trip.
Not Marie. Just me.
The difference in our skin colour had never been an issue between us. Not in Canada and not in South Africa.
Marie and I shared a small apartment near the SABC building in Johannesburg. We shopped, cooked, ate supper, laughed, missed our families, planned the next day’s work together. Though I was the leader on this project, Marie and I were friends and equals, colleagues at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation where we both held prominent leadership roles.
Of course we were aware of race – we were in South Africa, after all.
“I was so proud of you today,” Marie had told me after our first day at work at the SABC.
I’d been thinking the same thing — about her. About how privileged I was to have this wise, thoughtful, brilliant woman as my partner on this ground-breaking project.
“It was great to be there and to see the impact you had on everyone,” she said.
A senior South African journalist, Sylvia Vollenhoven, had explained it on a phone call to my home in Canada one night.
“We’re glad you’re sending your team, Cynthia. But you also need to come here yourself. It’s important to us.”
“You’re a woman. And you’re Black. And you’re in charge of all this.”
Not wanting South Africa’s racial divisions to hang between Marie and me, I did a very foolish thing that weekend.
In a place where race was everything, I said nothing about the warning.
I did not want it to disrupt this trip.
Driving along lonely roads, we consulted our map occasionally, but I was too quiet, lost in fearful thoughts that I didn’t share.
I should have, of course.
My silence was an elephant sitting in the car between us.
The trip was already disrupted.
Dedicated to my friend and former training partner Marie Wilson. Working with you and our S. African colleagues at a crucial time in the country’s history ranks as one of the great privileges of my life.
May is the month of planting, transplanting and maintaining.
And anticipating the month of June.
June brings a lush beauty. The green of ferns and hosta.
Buds on hydrangea shrubs. Flowers on various kinds of dogwood trees and perennials.
The tree peonies, first of the peonies to bloom in my garden.
The Canadian anemone which fetches a good price in plant nurseries but is a wildflower in my garden.
This wild phlox above, seeded by the wind or birds. It has a gorgeous fragrance, but I’ve never seen it in any nurseries.
June is the month of fresh, glorious abundance.
Annual herbs – the dill and basil, planted in May, are at their best in early June – no bolting and going to seed just yet – that’s to come in July.
I walk through the garden, pausing often to examine new growth, new blooms, the newness of it all.
There’s so much to see, that sometimes, I have to take the same path from opposite directions. This time, I pay more attention to the clematis – the ones in flower, and that second clematis we planted in an obelisk and thought had died. But there it is, climbing the obelisk.
There is an element of the divine in a garden – the freshness and abundance, the glory and the mystery of it combined – that makes me stop and stare in awe, every time I stroll through. I find myself thanking my husband, who does much of the work, and God and Mother Nature, both of which, in a garden, seem inseparable.
It’s no wonder gardener Dorothy Frances Gurney said: “One is nearer God’s heart in a garden than anywhere else on earth.” Mind you, I feel a similar awe in Nature’s vast garden, as I behold the water of a lake or natural waterfall bordered by old-growth trees.
The thought occurred to me this morning that perhaps gardeners, without knowing, are trying to capture a bit of heavenly paradise here on earth. It would not be out of order to do so: the origins of the word paradise (in several languages) referred to both a walled garden/orchard and a heavenly paradise.
Paradise is not perfect, however. Like the story of the garden of Eden, there is troubling news for hosta lovers like me: the HVX virus. It’s a destroyer of one of the most beautiful plants in many gardens, infecting not just one but many of its kind.
It’s ironic: we gardeners treasure the peace of our gardens, the beauty of them, the closeness to the divine. Our biggest worries are usually small stuff like slugs, beetles or rabbits that chew the leaves of our plants. Who needs to worry about a virus in the garden? Perhaps it’s a reminder that nothing is perfect – or if it is, perfection cannot last.
Nevertheless, I choose to enjoy the month of June – and the free moments when I can stroll, and inhale, and admire the fresh growth and beauty to be found in my garden.