A Good Home

SHE HAS TWIGS IN HER HAIR

I simply love this review by Toronto writer Lionel Gayle:

Blog Photo - Lionel Gayle and Bookcase - Header Image

 

SHE HAS TWIGS IN HER HAIR

Plants flourishing in the garden—such a colourful scene.  Perhaps it stirred up envy or stoked admiration in a few visitors and passers-by.  Everything seemed hunky-dory, they probably said.  And the gardener just had to sow the seeds, or plant the seedlings, or stick the cuttings in fertile soil. Plus, adding water if it didn’t rain. A few months later, jackpot! Pretty flowers ready for the vase, and fresh vegetables for the steamer.

Growing a garden from roots to shoots—or by any method—is not so simple.

Ask Cynthia Reyes.  The “passionate gardener” shares a piece of her horticultural world in her latest gardening memoir, “Twigs in my Hair” (2019).

She’ll tell you, “Gardening is much more than growing pretty flowers and nutritious vegetables.”

And, let’s say you decided to garden outside of Toronto as she does, prepare yourselves to wage a helluva war—or wars—with wild creatures, including rabbits and squirrels.

People will say gardening is hard work. But you don’t have to be interested in gardening per se to appreciate this book—157 pages of fun reading, and colourful photographs. Take the chance to snoop into Cynthia’s family life, and find out which member prefers to grow vegetables than flowers.

Just promise you won’t whine because the pictures have no captions. And, don’t liken the images to children without names

“Twigs in my Hair” is a synopsis of Cynthia Reyes’ life journey. A journey that includes her dream of becoming a gardener when she became an adult and acquired her own home. From rural Jamaica, where the failure of her first childhood garden broke her heart, she’s managed to forge a symbiosis with nature, on the outskirts of Toronto.

This little book has lots of real-life gems. As you hide indoors from Covid-19, just use the gardening landscape as a backdrop to some of Cynthia’s lifetime activities. And hide your surprise when she talks frankly about her “days and nights of sin” that turned her into “a dirty old woman.”

What she describes as the “conflict of horticultural proportions” resulted in a bangarang with her husband Hamlin Grange (who supplied the photos in this book). But what was the fight all about? And did they ever learn to garden together?

Did Cynthia ever find out why her gardening teacher refused to see her in his last days? And what was she doing in South Africa when the said tall, white-haired gardener died?

And while you hunt for those juicy bits, find out how the mother and wife, who styled herself as “a fierce gardener” reacted when her gardener friend, Les, pulled a prank on her. And see who saved her from the gigantic humiliation.

Twigs in my Hair: A Gardening Memoir

 

 

 

 

Book launch

SURFACING, IF BRIEFLY!

Sorry, friends! I’ve been a bad girl — not posting or visiting much. 

Books and family are keeping me busier than a one-armed paper-hanger! (And you may recall only one of my arms works really well, so an apt descriptor there …)

Blog Photo - Book Launch Myrtle and Twigs - LRG and CR

The double-launch went very well indeed — a full house, great readings, excellent questions from the audience, all at Toronto’s iconic bookstore, A Different Booklist.

The following photos were taken by the ADB team. It’s great when a prominent bookstore team is so obviously thrilled to host a launch!

Blog Photo - Book Launch at ADB2

Blog Photo - Book Launch at ADB 3

Blog Photo - Book Launch at ADS - Books

Blog Photo - Book Launch at ADB with ML

Then there’s the Festival of the Arts, happening this weekend in lakeside Cobourg, Ontario. My family and I are privileged to both support and take part in this wonderful event. And yes, our books and I will be there!

2019_SOTH_Festival_Brochure_rev2.indd

All this while we await first grandbaby ‘with bated breath’, and also support family and friends, some going through tough times right now.

Thanks for being there, and for your many messages of support. Be kind to yourself and others, please. I’ll be in touch again when I come up for air!

Love,

Cynthia.

 

Book Blessing and Launch, Book launch

Double Book Launch Day!

Hello, Friends!

I’m not blogging as often as I should, but I have good reasons!

We’re in the busy period of launching not just one, but two books: Twigs in My Hair and the third in the Myrtle the Purple Turtle series, Myrtle Makes a New Friend.

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Myrtle Makes a New Friend - Cover Front 3 Sept 2019

This evening, the Toronto launch is being hosted by A Different Booklist, the iconic bookstore and cultural centre that carries exciting books from around the world.  Owners Itah Sadu and Miguel  San Vicente and their team have sold our books for years, and I am always glad to visit with them and their customers.

Blog Photo - Myrtle and Friends at A Different Booklist

All of this is happening as younger daughter Lauren Reyes-Grange, co-author of the Myrtle books, and her husband Dan, are expecting their first child this month.

So we’re all hoping Baby holds off a bit longer so it won’t be a triple launch tonight! 

Twigs photographer Hamlin Grange, Lauren and I started out a few weeks ago in the most special way: our church, St. Thomas’ Anglican, held a double blessing for the books and us.

Blog Photo - Book blessing and launch

Our priest Canon Claire (above left),  and Corinne Sargent, head of the Women’s Reflection Group and the team of volunteers, and dozens of enthusiastic parishioners made it a wonderful breakfast event in the parish hall.

Blog Photo - Book blessing and launch 2019 - Lydia & Francois and Rosie

Blog Photo - Book Blessing and Launch 2019 - Myrtle poster

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Blog Photo - Book Blessing - Muriel and Cynthia and Joanne

Every detail was a celebration of the books and their key messages.

Blog Photo - Book Blessing and Launch 2019 - Rudbeckia

Even the hymn “All Things Bright and Beautiful”, was slightly altered to include a purple turtle!

Blog Photo - Book Blessing and Launch 2019 - Hymn

As always, Canon Claire’s prayer made us feel blessed and supported.

Tonight, at A Different Booklist, we will celebrate with a whole other set of friends and acquaintances (some of whom we haven’t seen in way too long), and meet new people who love books. 

Blog Photo - Twigs & Myrtle - Toronto Launch

Hamlin, whose beautiful pictures grace the pages of Twigs in My Hair, will play a slide show he has created for this purpose. Lauren and I will read short excerpts from the books and perhaps make a few remarks.

Writing is a lonely activity. But I am lucky to have a truly caring and professional team: Lauren and Hamlin as key creative partners, fabulous illustrators (Jo Robinson on the Myrtle books, and Les Lawrence who did the humorous sketches for Twigs), excellent beta readers, proficient editors, proofreaders, and our book designer Clif.

So it’s a double celebration this evening. And we hope the biggest celebration of all — a brand new baby in our family — holds off just a little.

Blog Photo - Book Blessing and Launch 2019 - Hamlin & Cynthia and Lauren

I’ll keep you updated. Meanwhile, please wish us well!

~~

Photos of the St. Thomas’ Church event were taken by Joanne Schuetzl.

Thank you, Joanne!

A Good Home, Twigs in My Hair - A Gardening Memoir

The Story Behind the Story

I remember the day when CBC Radio host Shelagh Rogers and her colleagues Jacqueline and Erin came to interview me at our old farmhouse on the northern edge of Toronto.

It was summer 2014 and a day like the one pictured on the cover of Twigs in My Hair

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My first book, A Good Home, had been recently published, and I, who had interviewed hundreds of people on television, was terrified. Of forgetting, of stuttering, of other painful things resulting from a car accident.

Wise woman that she is, Shelagh asked me to stroll with her around the gardens before the interview.

Blog Photo - Afternoon Tea Shelagh and Cynthia in Garden

Blog Photo - Afternoon Tea Garden

My friend Marilyn Mirabelli prepared tea for everyone. “Everything goes better with a cup of tea,” she said, trying to calm my anxiety.

Blog Photo - Afternoon Tea Ladies

The interview complete, we sat outside and enjoyed ourselves. Marilyn regaled us with stories about the history of the afternoon tea tradition in Britain. We heard names like Queen Victoria and Anna Russell, Duchess of Bedford.

Blog Photo - Afternoon Tea pink cup and saucer

I remember the tea party, but almost nothing of the interview.

Much later, I remembered this:  Shelagh asked if I was writing a sequel.  I said I was terrified of writing a sequel because I’d have to revisit my journals — and that was too painful.

No way. I’d come too far to go back.

Blog Photo - Cynthia Reyes on The Next Chapter

Instead, I said, I was working on something fun — a gardening book! It was, in fact, almost complete.

But life went and did what life does.

Something unexpected happened. It led to the writing of An Honest House, the sequel I had dreaded.

Book cover - An-Honest-House

It went on to win an award and much critical acclaim for its raw honesty. But writing it traumatized me. The gardening book was shelved and forgotten.

Now, five years after I first wrote that gardening memoir, I look at the cover and feel a bunch of differing emotions.

  • Surprise. That we (Hamlin and I) and Mother Nature created such a beautiful garden.
  • Gratitude. That God graced us — my husband in particular – with ideas and  stamina to care for it. Hamlin built those garden beds and created the garden structures by himself.
  • Delight. That the book is finally published.
  • Satisfaction. That Hamlin’s photos and my story reflect a real life. Many images are gorgeous, but because the book is a memoir, we chose photos of real gardens and a real family. No staged or airbrushed photos here!

TWIGS -3D Cover Black BG

I see memories everywhere in this book cover. Most are good, a few are painful, and all in their own way, are precious. 

Almost every object you see has meaning for us.

Look closely at the boxwood semi-circle behind the round garden bed.

Twigs in My Hair - Photo of Arbour and boxwood circle and veggie garden to right

Now look at the biggest of the boxwoods, given to us in the 1980’s by a revered gardening teacher, Donald Moore. You’ll meet him – and the boxwood — when you read Twigs in My Hair.

Of course, I should apologize to Shelagh Rogers for misleading her, and for the book being years late. But hey! We finally got it done!