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I am safely back in my home in Hamilton, unpacked and reconnected. It was a festive few days in northeastern Ontario that I just had the pleasure of passing while presenting Walking with Wolf and visiting friends.  There was also a bit of bush time, some sailing, and, of course, music involved and now all that is left are the memories.  I sold enough books to justify the trip, which wasn’t difficult as I will always jump on the chance to head north to the rocks and pines and lakes, so selling some books and getting the story of Wolf out only makes it that much richer.

The night before I left, my old friend Bob Martinez came to the Hammer. I was driving him home the next day to New Liskeard.  We can now tally one more convert, an innocent seduced by the brick city’s charms.  Sitting in my jungly backyard with the sun streaming through the leaves was beautious.  We then followed the call to go to the bayfront where some folks were drumming.  Bob is a fine drummer himself, just not doing it much these years, so it was good to see him doing the skin thing and enjoying himself. 

 

We then had the delicious favas and shrimp at the Wild Orchid (this restaurant in itself tends to bring my friends back) and then walked up to Pepperjacks.  Watermelon Slim – a truck-driving, union-carded, slide-guitar playing, harp-blowing, incredible teller of tales and interpreter of songs –  was playing and singing and talking.  Though I was falling asleep in my chair and knew I had to get up and drive, I couldn’t leave. The man was mesmerizing in a slippery kind of way. I think it might have been his shiny satin shirt but it was also his buttery voice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday night at the Chat Noir in New Liskeard was warm and comfortable as a cat on your lap.  A number of friends, and others, came out – maybe thirty-five? – and we had a pleasant soiree.  Dave Patterson, one of the sweetest guitarists you could know, played along with Dean Murphy on bass and Dan Dalcourt on drums.  Although Dave has played for decades all over the area, this managed to be his first time at the Chat Noir Bookstore, a cool space run by Jennifer and Paul Fournier.  Besides a large variety of books and other items, as well as a stocked coffee bar, the place has a real friendly character. They have a perfect event space in Liskeard and are real nice folks to boot. (No, don’t boot them. Where does that expression come from anyway?)

A bunch of friends were there – from Temagami came Glen and Diane Toogood who, after more than two decades, have left isolated lake-living for closer access on the highway. We have lived in some bushy places together, and survived camp life at two wilderness canoe camps, along with other trials and tribulations, proving we can survive anything. They brought Heidi Buck, another comrade from past Temagami adventures. I learned many years  while in Costa Rica that Canadians have a very different sense of distance and time – to drive an hour to see a movie or have dinner with a friend has never been much of an issue when you live in the Canadian countryside, just the cost of living in a very big land – that is changing with rising gas prices, but is still part of our very large psyche.

Bobby, Terry, Linda & Bill From further north near Englehart came Joe & Kathy, Linda & Ambrose, Bill & Linda – all my old neighbours and wonderful friends. Even my ex-mother-in-law had been through and bought a book for me to sign.  A pleasant surprise that was. It was all real nice, and although I didn’t feel I talked as clearly as I did in Hamilton, it helps to not be a perfectionist…really, it was fine. 

               Kathy Martin & Heidi Buck with the Wolf.

 

 

The next morning Terry and Eva Graves, who helped me put the evening together, threw the afterparty and gave me a real comfy bed, took me out on steamy Lake Temiskaming in their sailboat.  That’s twice I’ve had the luck of going sailing in the last month after several years of nary a sheet in the wind. The lake, at the inevitable end-of-the-summer, was warmer than the air that morning, and the sun was beaming down, so there was a lot of mist and cloudy fog in the distance. What a way to start the day.

As it turned out, this was New Liskeard’s Fall Fair weekend. There were all the prerequisites – horses, chickens, cows, the midway and candy floss. And a huge crowd with a definite French accent – makes me think that the Quebecois (the border between provinces is less than half an hour away) really enjoy homegrown community-driven entertainment. With their band, Headframe, Terry and Eva played a set in the afternoon on the Harvest Queen stage.

 

 

 Our friend Dave Patterson, recently of Chat Noir fame, played a little violin with them.  Or was it fiddle? … still a question that.  Dave is very sentimental about the whole community fair thing.  It was real nice walking around with someone who wasn’t cynical but instead enthusiastic and downright tender with the spirit of the fair.  

Tom Preston &  Eva of Headframe & Dave Patterson

 

Alec Morrison of Crank Radio, Jeff Lundmark & Terry of Headframe

Near the end of the night at the Chat Noir, I realized just how well the Hammer was represented – I live here and Terry, my longtime friend, former boss and committed activist extraordinaire, who very kindly introduced me, is from here, as is Dave Patterson. Who said it’s only slag that comes from the Hammer? I spent the night with my pals Linda and Bill Murray up in Charlton, relaxing, eating mmm-mmm food and drinking a precious little bottle of Don Julio tequila they had given me for my birthday – I brought it back north to share with them, in Bill’s very tasty margueritas. That must be why there are no photos to document the occasion.

Sunday afternoon’s book show was about a three-hour drive away in Mattawa at the Moon Cafe. Lorne Mick and Bev Bell have a perfect recipe – great food, great people, great building.  They’ve only been open a year and a bit, and it is a struggle in a small northern town like Mattawa, but hopefully they’ll do well and the Moon will become a stop on everyone’s journey west from Ottawa on Highway 17. There wasn’t a big turnout that afternoon but it was a quality group.  I stayed with my friends Patti and Leo Lessard – Patti and I being old friends from the same neighbourhood and high school in Burlington. It was while visiting her back in 1982 that I got the job that landed me in that northeastern area of the province.

 

The youngest participant so far at any of the book events was the lovely Lily, their grandaughter, who seemed to enjoy the show.  There was an impromptu concert following the readings by Haley and Chanel, the granddaughters of our friends Terri and Ted Kennedy. Chanel promises to be a talented songwriter and Haley, well, she’ll just be a star. 

 

 

 

  Bev, K & Lorne of The Moon

 

 

The next day Terri and I took Little B and Trula, her bear-like dogs, out on the trails at Eau Claire Gorge. A new place for me, it was beautiful.

Autumn is in the air, there is no doubt.  You feel it faster up there, compared to here in Hamilton – and I’m feeling it here too.  Crisp walks in the woods at this time of the year is some of the best walking you’ll do – you can almost hear the sighs of the flowers as they fade and twittering of the leaves changing colour. The river was pretty high, what with all the rain that has fallen.  No drought this year in that area.

 

The last book talk happened at the Hibou Boutique in North Bay on Tuesday night.  Liz Lott and Christine Charette have a very friendly shop, eco-wise and people-wise, specializing in their own creations (restyled/recycled clothing, photography and porcelain jewelry) and very deliberately chosen smart products. Once again it was a small crowd out, but a warm one in a lovely space. Bob and Anna Gibson-Olajos came down from Temagami, carrying their 7-month baby melon with them (well, Anna is the vessel.)  I stayed with the Northwatch folks, my friends Brennain Lloyd and Phillip Penna and their daughter Beatrice who was headed to her first day of junior kindergarten.  A big day in the Penna-Lloyd house.

 

  Inside Hibou

 

 

I drove home as the green forest shifted colours in front of my eyes. This is the time of year I feel the most Canadian – it must be the red maple leaves everywhere.  The temperature is just fine for a northerner. And you know you need to enjoy every minute before the winter comes on.  Thanksgiving is coming up and ideas of fall food start to invade your mind’s taste buds…potatoes, brussel sprouts, turkey dressing, apples, pumpkin pie. I’m feeling tired and I don’t think it is from the trip – my natural rhythm tends to follow that of the world around me – and the days are getting shorter, the nights are coming on strong, my body is preparing for hibernation. Slowing down, slowin dow, slow...

If one must travel, one should at least try to make it worthwhile.  Now sometimes, for some people, for their sanity – which is something that affects all those around them and therefore the world – a trip to the Caribbean for a week of sun, endorphins, rest and relax is worth the footprints.  If you must spend them then you should try and trade them off by good ecologically-sound behavior at other times.  I think that the fact that I gave up my car four years ago, don’t have an air conditioner, very seldom use my dryer, turn off my lights, control my general consumption – well, that will have to balance out the fact that in the next while I’m going to be doing a lot of traveling.

Tomorrow I head to northeastern Ontario (in a small rental car).  This is where Temagami is, which is a small community and large lake I mention a few times in Walking with Wolf.  It is also the area where I lived from 1982 until I left my husband in 1990, on my way to Costa Rica and a changed life. Might I add that I lived without electricity or running water for seven years – kaching! in the carbon bank for me.

I worked at Camps Wanapitei and Keewaydin through the 1990s, two canoe camps on beautiful Lake Temagami.  At Wanapitei, where I worked for six years,  I would stay at the camp the better part of four months of the year, two of those while camp was in session and two when there was only a handful of us enjoying our isolation in the bush at the northeast end of this huge body of water. I then worked at Keewaydin, an all boys camp at the time, for one summer at the end of my canoe camp career, cooking for a dining room full of grateful boys who would come to my window and sing for extra pieces of dessert – how cute was that.  Life at both of these camps allowed me to spend the summer in the north, on water, with groovy people.  It all involved a lot of work and chaos, but I loved it.

I am going to be an hour north of there in New Liskeard on Friday night, presenting Walking with Wolf at the Chat Noir Bookstore.  Because I lived in the area, I should know alot of people there – it is the third presentation (after Monteverde and Hamilton) where I feel I’m bringing the book home.  My friend Dave Patterson, of the Wabi Delta Band,  is playing a set before and after my little book talk.  It’ll be great.

Then on Sunday, I go a bit south to Mattawa.  Friends own a colorful new cafe there and I’m presenting the book in the afternoon – at the Moon Cafe at 2 p.m. Once again, I know enough folk in the area so will be happy to see friendly faces.

On Tuesday September 16 in the evening, I do one more presentation at HIbou Boutique in North Bay.  I have never been there but friends tell me it is a good space and community with sound eco-practices so I look forward to that.

After the Pearl adventure, the rest gets easier, and really, that was an easy night.  Traveling and talking is what I do best.  I’m not shy and I’m proud of the book and privileged to tell Wolf and Monteverde’s story, so this is fun for me.

I have October booked up but I’m running out of time and will write when I’m through this northern tour.  But coming up:  Barnesville, Ohio; London, England; Barcelona, Spain; Kingston and Guelph, Ontario. Did I say carbon footprint? – maybe a coalmine worth of bootprint is more like it.  Sorry about that.

Any minute now the phone will ring and it’ll be Pierre, at Transcontinental Printers, giving me the final amount of the bill that I need to pay before they release Walking with Wolf.  Thanks to the power of VISA, that little transaction can take place instantaneously and very shortly after, a skidload of books – 1280 to be exact – will be sent by truck down the highway to my home in Hamilton. I am trying to visualize how many books that is – one skidload doesn’t sound like so much, but in the confines of my small house, it might just seem like a mountain. I think I’ll make furniture with the boxes, throw a few blankets over the cartons, and rearrange my home to be a functional and comfortable book warehouse.  Some of those books will go with me on the plane to Costa Rica so that we can get right to the celebratory launch shortly after I arrive. I have considered and reconsidered the numbers – how many to ship where – another in a long line of decisions that, at the time, seem extremely important. In the end, I’ll live with whatever I’ve done. So the other 720 books are heading down on a leisurely boat cruise to Limon, hopefully arriving a few weeks after I do, to be sold around Costa Rica.  I’ve had to make arrangements to store them in “dry closets” – in the humid land of the rain forest, you need to keep a lightbulb burning to keep the moisture down or I’d be the proud owner of a buncha musty books in short order.  The Hammer is a pretty humid place too, but nothing like Monteverde, up on the wet, green mountain, and here, dehumidifiers tend to do the trick.

One of the details I’ve been consumed with before I leave Canada is to decide on when and where to have the official book launch when I get back.  At this point it is looking like Saturday, September 6 at the wonderful Pearl Company.  A grand old three-storey brick factory building close to downtown Hamilton, it has been renovated with love & spirit by Barbara Milne and Gary Santucci and now houses not only their loft living space but a stunning art gallery, art shop and performance venue.  The couple also runs a fantastic service – the Art Bus. It heads out on the first two Fridays of the month when, for a very reasonable $15, you are driven from gallery opening to gallery opening in the greater Hamilton area, exposing curious art-lovers to a wide range of studios and spaces, local creations and culture. The bus leaves from the Pearl Company, and it was when I went on the bus back in January and saw the beautiful old building that I first thought what a great place to have a launch party for Walking with Wolf.  So I went the other day to talk to Barbara and we came up with the September 6 date. I’ll actually be having a trial run at my 50th birthday party on August 23, but that’s a whole other story.

Last night I went to the Lionshead Pub to see my friend Lori Yates play along with her friend Lynn Buckshot Bebee.  Heart-grabbing voices, irreverent spunky women, great great songwriters. They played a set together, along with Chris Houston, as the Evelyn Dicks – named after a notorious murderess from Hamilton’s past – and blew me away.  And this was only part of their band that I saw. I immediately got the idea that this would be a great band to play on the night of the launch – some real hometown Hammer hustle, with lyrics full of literary story lines and surprises, and rocking women (Mistah Houston was the exception). By the end of the night we had a plan, to collaborate on a great night in September, celebrating Walking with Wolf, and cranking up the steel city attitude with the Dicks.  Lynn started her last set with a song that ended with the line “Going to read a good book” and I gasped.  She later told me that she just finished writing that song the night before – and I found it totally prophetic.  I hope that this all works out – Walking with Wolf – Book Celebration with the Evelyn Dicks – Musical Event at the Pearl Company – Community Center – in Hamilton, September 6, 2008.  Many more events will follow, but I’m feeling like this is the just the best way to introduce the book in the Hammer.

Suggestions are coming in from friends further afield: the Chat Noir Bookstore in New Liskeard, the Moon Cafe in Mattawa, Gullivers Bookstore in North Bay – if I can line up some local music to augment the book presentation in each case, my work will be done! In my little world, you can never have too much music, and no night is complete without at least a little shimmy on the dancefloor. Dave Patterson of the legendary Wabi Delta Band in the Temiskaming area has offered up his services for the New Liskeard show. I’m loving the generosity and enthusiasm of people towards the coming out of Walking with Wolf. For my part, I plan on creating a multi-media kinda presentation while I’m in Monteverde.  It will feature images from the tropical forest, video of Wolf and a variety of Costa Rican music.  I hope to add a little colour and character to your typical book-reading.  I believe so strongly in the value of telling Wolf’s story that going out in the world and talking to people about the book is easy.  If I can make a connection between the book, the past and the future of conservation, be it in Costa Rica or anywhere else, while plugging the book, then it will be even more satisfying.

Now why hasn’t that phone rang? 

 

January 2020
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