A Good Home

Days off in South Africa – Part 1

Reposting this.  It still gives me chills…

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.”

I shivered.

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.” 

She paused.

“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.


A Good Home

A Gardener’s Question to God

When you said we should love all your creatures

And I try – you know that I do

When you told us that we should love them

Did you mean mosquitoes too?


Yes, I know that some humans are awful

And I know we’ve not done very well

And it’s true that I felt some relief, God

When the Vatican redefined hell



Cause I have to confess that when bitten

My thoughts would make even you blush

And I really can wait for your answer

There is truly no need for a rush

Blog Photo - Garden bugs 2

You know how it hurts me to kill them

How I wince and regret such bad things

But please tell me why you made some creatures

Why on earth did you give them their wings?


Take that Japanese beetle for instance

In fact, I implore you, please do

Cause that Japanese beetle’s created

Leafy holes big enough to see through

Blog Photo - Garden bugs1

God, those beetles will be my undoing

As they munch on our healthy green leaves

Did you see what they did to our garden

Do you not think them terrible thieves?

Blog Photo -Garden bugs Greens

And another thing, God, that I wonder

For those earwigs are such awful pests

Who have set up their homes in our veggies

Did you mean them or just all the rest?


So dear God, I must ask you this question

Cause I know you like people with spunk

When you made such troublesome creatures

Were you maybe a little bit drunk?

Blog Photo - Veggie Garden Lettuce

There are people in my blogging network

Who’ll be horrified that I’m so bold

But I really do need to be honest

Cause I like being part of your fold


So again I must ask you this question

And I know you will tell me the truth

Do you not think that some of your creatures

Are a tiny bit mean and uncouth?

Blog Photo -Garden bugs Clematis 1

Blog Photo -Garden bugs Eggplant leaves

I am sorry to bug you with nonsense

And I know that I should never fuss

For some people are dealing with big things

And they never complain, swear or cuss

Blog Photo -Garden bugs Half-eaten Clematis

But dear God could you give me an answer

One day when you’ve got some free time

As to what I should think of these insects

‘Stead of writing ridiculous rhyme


When you said we should love all your creatures

And I try – you know how I do

When you said that we really should love them

Did you mean all the awful ones too?


Somewhat Inspired by Theologian C.H. Spurgeon, and by the current gypsy moth infestation of trees.

© CSReyes

A Good Home

The Freshness of June

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.

Ever thought of gardening as art? Click here.

A Good Home

Back to School


Hello Everyone:

I have been enormously busy in recent weeks and this is one of several reasons why: multiple school visits (virtual).

We had a wonderful time visiting with the students and staff of an elementary school recently.

We read the Myrtle the Purple Turtle books to the students, answered their questions and posed some of our own. They impressed us with their intelligence and eloquence.

Lauren and I received this heartwarming response from the school principal, Mrs. Richard:

May be an image of text that says '" My students and staff adored your presentation today. They loved being able to interact with live authors. overheard a student in the hall say to his Gr.3 classmate, "Do you realize that was a once in a lifetime opportunity." I can't thank you enough. PRINCIPAL ST. JOHN PAUL Il CATHOLIC SCHOOL'

It’s always so good to meet our readers and talk with them! Thank you, Mrs. Richard.