A Good Home, APTN, Artist, Canada, Canadians, Country Living, Couples, Creative Writing, Docudrama, Flowers, Home, Home Decor, Homecoming, Interior Design, Joyful Moments, Life Challenges, Life in canada, Lifestyle, Maple Woods, Nature, Rex Deverell, Rita Deverell, Rita Shelton Deverell, Trees, Vision TV, Women leaders, Women's Studies, Writers

At Home with Rita Deverell

For many years, Rita Shelton Deverell wanted to produce a docudrama about a remarkable woman. But other careers got in the way. Blog Photo - Rita at PodiumThe actor, playwright and docudrama-maker has also worked as a TV presenter and head of current affairs for Vision TV, the Canadian network she co-founded; news director (mentoring her successor) at APTN, the Aboriginal People’s TV Network; professor of journalism and women’s studies in  two Canadian universities;

Her achievements earned her a place in the Order of Canada – Canada’s highest honour.

At last, Rita is writing the docudrama screenplay about Florence James.  She’s writing it at her country home in the ‘Sugar Bush’, outside Toronto.Blog Photo - Back Deck and Chairs “We bought the country place 22 years ago when our son graduated from high school. Thereafter we started to rent apartments in Toronto.  There have been five Toronto apartments in 22 years (plus two in Winnipeg, and one in Halifax where I worked three-year stints). The ‘Sugar Bush’ house remains home throughout these moves and always welcomes us.” Blog Photo - Rita Living Room closer Like Rita, Florence James found a productive life and award-winning career in Canada.  Rita came to Canada from Texas as a young woman, but Florence came here past age 60, after some terrible events.

“‘McCarthy and the Old Woman’ is about a feisty, resilient real-life heroine who lost everything because of the communist witch-hunts in the USA.  Florence James was blacklisted and bankrupted.  She survived the loss of her money, reputation, life’s work, her home and the death of her husband.”

The planning, creative thinking and writing for the docudrama are taking place here. Two writers live here. Rita’s husband Rex is a well-known playwright. Each has an office on the house’s lower level.Blog Photo - Rita Dining Room “Sometimes I write and plan in longhand at the drum table. But I have to get the feeling that I’m ‘going to work’. Rex has never gone to an office, so I have to keep his joke-telling self away from my work space.” Blog Photo - Desk Rita’s homes – country and city – are beautifully designed – by her.  They are bright, comfortable, unpretentious places, where history, art, houseplants and flowers mix. Many objects were passed down from Rex and Rita’s parents. Blog Photo - Rit's Small table “Every place in the large five-area living space is for my favourite leisure time activity, reading detective fiction. Blog Photo - Rita in CountryEntrance “We have lots of family pieces by now: the drum table was my mother’s. Blog Photo - Rita Drum Table in Sun Nook “The small desk and dining room table were Rex’s mother’s. The rocking chair was Rex’s grandfather’s, though not upholstered in leopard print. Blog Photo - Living room side shot “Outside, the yellow Muskoka chair is really the place I love to sit and dream and have nothing to do.” Blog Photo - Front Deck and Chair “I’m a home addict. The trivial side is I love to look at houses, read the real estate ads all the time, adore interior decorating, and can be cheered up by having a design idea.

“The important thing though is I’m an introvert, and actually draw my energy by starting each day from home base. That’s a place where my life is ordered, feels controllable, and beautiful. Then I can go out into the world and deal better with the dis-ordered, un-controllable, and sometimes ugly.”

Recently, another of Rita’s projects was launched to positive reviews.  It’s a multimedia, educational kit called ‘Women, Contemporary Aboriginal Issues and Resistance’. Free and downloadable, it includes a DVD:

http://www.msvu.ca/en/home/research/centresandinstitutes/IWGSJ/Events/ToolKit.aspx

Photos by Rex Deverell.

A Good Home, Easter, Easter Flowers, Fairies, Family Matriarch, Family Stories, First Home, Flowers, Garden, Gardening, Home, Homes, Jamaican countryside, Lifestyle

A Child At Easter

I’m dedicating this story to the child within each of us.

**

My first garden had everything we children needed:  tall trees with big outstretched arms, a wide stream and acres of fields to play in.  All this stood beside and behind a tiny pink farmhouse where a mother and father and five children lived.

A pink farmhouse? Yes.

Seven people in a tiny pink house? How tiny?

Two bedrooms, two front rooms.

Must have been crowded, I hear you thinking.

But this was a land of mild temperatures and hot sun.  Children spent many of their waking hours outside.  Nature – the wildness of it, the near-danger of it, the freedom of it – was our garden.  A child’s own garden.

It wasn’t until our family moved to our grandmother’s much larger house in a nearby village that the first memories of a flower garden — the kind that people tend — lodged themselves in my seven-year- old mind.  It was in front of the house, under a window.

via public domain.net
via publicdomainpictures.net

I remember that garden now as a small space full of pretty flowers.  Roses, zinnias and dahlias,  Joseph’s Coat of Many Colours  and other things grew there, each cheerfully elbowing out the other, competing  for space and sun.

Crocus in Spring
Photo by Hamlin Grange

And I remember these, above everything else: the fairy flowers.

Clusters of tiny flowers bloomed in gentle colours: pink, white, yellow, mauve.  Unlike the other flowers in the garden, these huddled in small patches, as if supporting each other   — or seeking warmth from the cool, early-morning mountainside air.

“Luminous”, I’d call them now, because their petals seemed to glow, as if someone had polished each one very tenderly till it shone.

via telegraph.co.uk
via telegraph.co.uk

It was magic: they simply appeared one day, as if a fairy had waved her wand above the soil.  The size of them – about three inches tall — and the magic of them made me think that these were the sort of flowers that fairies would have growing in their own garden.

Image via
Image via self-reliance-works.com

Then, when I wasn’t looking – perhaps when I was at school during the day, or asleep during the night – the flowers disappeared completely.  When that happened, I imagined that the fairies had brought them to another garden where other children could enjoy them.  It was a sad and hopeful feeling all at once.

The timing of the flowers’ arrival always seemed spot-on: Easter time, or Holy Week, as church-going families called it.  And so, surrounded by the mysterious stories of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, my sisters and I decided that the tiny flowers were to be called Easter Lilies.  Easter lilies — brought by fairies.

Image via

It wasn’t the first time – or the last – that I’d get my magic and miracles mixed up.  For a child who is told ghost stories and biblical tales of miraculous resurrection finds it easy to believe in fairies.

Unknown to my parents, I even thought of ghosts and fairies in church.  When the pastor  got too fiery, or too boring, or glared at me for giggling and whispering to my sister, I imagined a kind ghost or fairy – or maybe God himself –  putting him to sleep right there in the pulpit – just for a while.

Now – with a garden of my own – reality overtakes imagination, most days.   I know that pretty gardens take a lot of work.   Those magical moments of my childhood were hardworking times for my parents.

It was my mother who tended the little garden and made sure the flowers would bloom.  It must have given her great pleasure, but it was work — along with her other duties as a mother, wife, designer and seamstress of women’s dresses, and active church member.

Still,  I hope Mama would forgive me for wondering — at least when it comes to the little garden — if she got a bit of help from the fairies.