I saved the last dance for me.

Dear Vi,

I’ve been feeling kinda blue lately, so to remind myself of what I’m capable of, I thought I’d do a little time travel today. Because, you know, some things are too good to be forgotten.

In 2011 I choreographed and performed in my final show. I wanted to showcase the two things I loved doing the most in the world…playing in The Big Band, and bellydance.

And so Rockin’ the Casbah was born. Saba Middle Eastern Dance Ensemble together with The Big Band, all on stage together in a blend of traditional and very contemporary bellydance. My husband, the love of my life, was the band leader, I was blessed to have vocalist Fawn Fritzen perform in two numbers with my dancers, and my dear friend Doug Rutherford did a marvelous job as MC. And my dancers! Oh, my, the dancers! It was my last show, and it couldn’t have been more perfect.

The clip above is video of the Grand Finale of Rockin’ the Casbah: the very last time I performed…my very last minute, in fact. It makes me feel good to watch this.

My stage may have changed, but I’m still out here!

What stage do you dance on?

It was hard to stay in touch

Dear Vi,

Obviously I haven’t been around for a bit!

It was hard staying in touch with you while we were in Dawson City last summer because I had even less access to wifi than I did the year before. So blogging was …difficult.

Since we got back last fall, I’ve been hunkered down: dealing with health, struggling with some big questions & working things out in my mind, doing lots of writing, doing lots of critiquing, a little quilting. I’ve pretty much been keeping to myself here in my little corner of the world.

I’ll catch you up on all that really soon.

Tippy Canoe and Broccoli, Too

Dear Vi,

I thought you might like to hear a bit of what I’ve been doing.In case you can’t tell from the picture, I planted a garden!Actually, I created a garden completely from scratch.I purchased bags of soil, plants, and seeds when we passed through Whitehorse last May………and when we got here I scrounged some old cement forms to hold the dirt.My neighbor Sally very generously let me shovel out several buckets of dirt from her dirt stash to supplement what I brought with me.Yes, people in Dawson City have dirt stashes. And least you think otherwise, I’d like to inform you that romance is alive and well up here – her boyfriend bought Sally a pile of dirt for her birthday one year. And also in case you’re wondering, yes, it was the perfect gift. I’ve been sharing salad greens and produce which is really cool, considering.Everyone has been enjoying the greenery. Amazing, who knew you could grow a kitty cat in only 4 inches of dirt?And of course there are flowers……how could there not be flowers?How’s your garden growing?

ps you’ll need to excuse any typos…I’m posting on my phone!

Tulips and other Small Things that bring Joy

Dear Vi,

Yesterday was the official first day of spring.  The sun has crossed the celestial equator, moving northward.

I celebrated the Vernal Equinox by going outside to inspect my flower beds. Were my tulips poking green tips up through the chilly dirt yet? Yes! Yes, they were.  Small, green tips about an inch high, full of promise.

I can’t begin to say how happy that made me. Even though we’ve had a pretty good winter (by my standards, anyway), I still felt a burst of joy at the first sign of the flowers the deer find such a delicacy each spring. I am crossing my fingers they forget to check the edges of my driveway this year.

Tulips confirmed, I came inside, made a cup of tea, and tidied my sewing room. As I ran a damp dusting cloth over newly cleared surfaces, I appreciated all the things I love about this space: the way the lace curtain hangs to the side of the glass door leading out to the deck, my shelves with their bins of colourful scraps, the sampler blocks I found while tidying and impulsively arranged on the design wall, Samson watching me from his pillow in the corner, the sight of Bastion Mountain rising up into the sky, stone grey and green against the blue sky right outside my window.

Here, I’ll hold my camera up to the glass and show you:

Sometimes it’s the simplest things that bring the most joy.

What small things bring you joy?

Good Bye, Dawson City (until next year)

Dear Vi,

Our Yukon summer sojourn is over. We drove away from Dawson City two days ago.

Tomorrow will see the Yukon behind us for another winter.

I took a lot of walks, saw two parades, read a lot of books, made my 60,000 word goal on the next novel, made some new friends, and learned some interesting things this summer. And I still haven’t told you what brought us up here in the first place.

It would be so easy to stay and make a home here…so easy to knit myself into the community.

We’ll be back next summer, for four months this time. Four!I’ve got some planning to do! Maybe I’ll teach a dance class, see if any local writers want to get together, join the fitness club, make a quilt by hand, start another novel…

Life is grand and full of possibilities!

The Streets of Dawson City

Dear Vi,You might have heard that the streets of Dawson City are paved with gold,but the truth is, they aren’t paved at all.Here’s evidence: boot brushes outside the door of every establishment.And miles of boardwalk.This summer has been a writing retreat for me. I left home with a sketchy idea for my next novel, and today I’m well over halfway there. I’m writing about 1,000 words every time I sit down, which has been about 5 days per week. Sometimes more, sometimes less. When I’m not writing, I’m reading All The Books, which is so incredibly delicious – a summer of unlimited time.

And I’ve been accompanying Sam on his walks, of course. We love to walk up and down the streets, the boardwalk sometimes booming under our feet, sometimes squeaking , often soft with age.

I brought quilting projects and everything I need to sew a blouse, but haven’t taken my sewing machine out even once. And that’s just fine. It’s okay to stop once in awhile to wade in the water and smell the grass.

Don’t you agree?

Dawson City, Yukon: old and new, side-by-side

Dear Vi,

Dawson City sits at the place where the Klondike and Yukon Rivers merge.

The Klondike River is on the left, the much larger Yukon River on the right

In many ways, the town itself mirrors this merging. The rivers flow side-by-side for a ways, the line between the muddy Yukon and the (slightly) clearer Klondike easy to discern. And the city flows side-by-side, too. Old and new holding hands the way you did with your best friend back in kindergarten. Yes, Dawson City is a historic gold rush town, fun to visit.

The community library is located within Robert Service School. How cool is that?

But it’s also a town where people live and work and raise their kids. Old and new are side by side everywhere you look.This is where I buy my groceries:And the liquor store (in the old harness shop!):My favourite restaurant:The local community radio station (with proud show hosts):The Gold Rush, past and present, all coming together where the rivers meet. And the First Nations…don’t assume I’ve forgotten them. Their story is the oldest of all. But I’ll save that for another time, another letter.

Living Small in Dawson City

Dear Vi,

You probably already figured out that Kelly and I are spending the summer in Dawson City, Yukon, where Kelly is flying for Great River Air, but I heard you were wondering what our housing situation is like. We are living in company-provided housing…a very comfortable 26-foot travel trailer on the company lot in a residential industrial area (that’s an oxymoron if I ever saw one!) four kilometres outside of town.

As you can imagine, it’s a dusty place.

This is our little home-away-from-home. That’s us on the right. We share the outside space with our neighbours, fellow pilots also working for Great River Air.It didn’t take long to settle in. Throw a handmade quilt on the bed and it’s quite homey. This is a scrappy maple leaf quilt with blocks from the We Bee Canadian quilting friendship group I belong to. I finished it just in time to travel north with us.

There’s another handmade quilt on the back of the couch: Garden Party, which I made a couple of years ago. It’s astounding, really, how easy it is to live in such a tiny space.

It’s so easy to get caught up with stuff. We all have so much of it! But living here for these couple of months, I realize how little I really do need.That’s not to say I don’t appreciate or miss the luxuries of home!

Home is where the laundry dries in the sun. No matter where I am living, I still avoid the electric dryer, lol. I’m such a hippie girl.

Doing without certain conveniences for a period of time reminds me to include them on my daily gratitude list.

Things like internet access and not having to conserve water, for example.

What conveniences do you take for granted?

Dawson Blooms

Dear Vi,

This morning, the radio reported that it was overcast in Dawson City when in reality the sky was blue, blue, blue with not a cloud in sight. Our weather reports come from Kelowna, BC, over a thousand miles south. And this morning we had the news feed coming in from Yellowknife, about 1,000 miles to the East. Serious distances.So how would they know the weather was completely wrong , way over here? Heh heh heh.Well, such a beautiful day requires pictures of flowers, don’t you agree? My neighbour brought me a bouquet from her lovely flower garden:And I even have a few pots growing beside our travel trailer home.One of the things I’ve always loved about Dawson City is the flowers. Along fences and other creative places…Summer is short in the Yukon.The first leaves come out in mid May and they start to change in late July.Mother Nature has a lot to do and not much time to get it done.When you live in a landscape where you’re always dealing with winter or preparing for winter, colour is very important.

Dawson City used to be known for its beautiful vegetables. I remember walking the side streets and alleys, gasping in admiration of the back yard gardens, the giant cabbages and lush trellised peas. But times and priorities change, along with the population. The old timers are mostly gone, and the new people moving in aren’t here for the long haul, and so don’t garden. That’s my guess, anyway.

But thank goodness the flowers remain as bright and plentiful as always.

Good Grief: when the story is over

Dear Vi,

I just finished reading the Best Book. Really good. You should read it, too.

Except…I was nearing the end when I read the last two words on the left hand side: “It’s okay.” And then I shifted the book a bit in my hand as my eyes slid to the next page on the right and what I assumed was the next chapter.

But instead of the next chapter, I read the word “Acknowledgments,” and “First, thanks to Frank…“.

There was no blank page to signal the book was over. Not even a good old fashioned The End in fancy flowing script.

Here’s the thing: when I finish a book – especially a good book, I like to savour the ending.

I like to set the book down on my lap and gaze at the ceiling for a few minutes, absorbing what I just read, reflecting on it a bit. Maybe I have a little introspective smile on my face. Maybe I think about turning the book over and reading it again.

So, in the absence of a blank page following those final words, I was robbed of all that delicious savouring.

I tried to go back and read the ending again, capture the aborted moment, but it was gone. Forever.

In a funny little way that I’m embarrassed to admit, the entire book was diminished for me. Instead of that final minute of reflection, of easing back into the ordinary world, the transition was abrupt and jarring.

I need to take a minute to savour what I’ve read…then turn the page when I’m ready to ease myself back into the world, and read the author’s thank you’s to everyone who helped along the way.

However…the book really was excellent and I’m glad I found it in the library. Give it a read and see what you think.

How do you like to finish a good book?

Bye, Sam! Leaving the dog at home

Dear Vi,

Every time we leave the house, we have a conversation with Sam first. Sam sees us getting ready and starts his little happy dance.

Sam: oh boy oh boy oh boy, we’re going somewhere!

Us: Oh, Sam. Mommy and daddy are going to work and you have to stay here. (“Work” means going away without Sam)

Sam: ears go down, slinks away to jump on the bed.

Us: (following Sam into the bedroom) You’re in charge of the house. Don’t let Spooky invite her friends in. Be a good boy. You’re a good boy, yes you are, yes you are. (Said with smooches)

Sam: ducks head to escape smooches.

Us: We’ll be back in a while. Two whiles. Okay, probably more like three. Three whiles. Okay? (Said in overly bright happy tones)

Sam: climbs into the pillows, digs himself a nest to wait out the long desolate hours.

Us: Okay, well. Bye.

Sam: follows us with his sad eyes.

When we pull out of the driveway, there he is, watching through the glass door. We wave. “Bye, Sam.” Then we sigh.

Sometimes I seed his toy basket with treats before I go , creating a sort of doggy Easter egg hunt. When we get home, he’s always found them all.

I know, I know. But I bet you do something similar. Am I right?

Two Quilts for Two Sisters: warming the heart with hearts and chains

Dear Vi,

Last spring I made two quilts that I haven’t shown you yet, and since it’s getting close to the end of the year, and considering these are the only quilts I finished in 2017, I thought maybe I should get their pictures posted!.

The quilts were made for two adult sisters in my family.

I wanted the two quilts to share common elements while also speaking to the personal tastes of each sister, so I chose a versatile pattern: the Irish Chain with hearts.

The first quilt is made with sweet floral fabrics for a soft, comfortable, old-fashioned feeling.

It is the most basic of the Irish Chain versions: a simple 9-patch alternating with a plain square. Except instead of a plain square, I pieced a heart using the same fabric I’d sewn the 9-patches with.The quilt is finished with a mix of machine and hand quilting.

The center of the hearts are hand quilted, as is the looped row of hearts running along the bottom edge of the quilt.

The 9-patches are done in straight-line quilting, and I practiced my free-motion quilting by making loops and hearts in the borders. I’ve only tried free-motion quilting a couple of times and I really enjoyed it. The stitching isn’t perfect, but neither am I, lol!

The second quilt is a Double Irish Chain in a soft grey neutral palate.

I tried to enlarge this so you can see the print. It’s very sweet, and reminds me of France, for some reason. Perfect, because its new owner is bilingual!

I hand quilted hearts into the plain squares. The chains were done with my walking foot.

The soft, neutral tones in this quilt were a challenge to photograph. I apologize for the poor lighting.

It was a pleasure to make both quilts, and I know they are being enjoyed.

Now I think you’re all caught up, as far as finished quilts go, anyway!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you and yours from me and mine. May you always have a warm quilt to warm you, body and soul. ♥