Thursday, 9 July 2020

The 'Lilac Lady of the Lake' ... or ... The Way of a Good Story

The summer that we leased a cabin, at a lake in the Okanogan, has the quality of a child's bedtime story, now, in recollection. A good children's bedtime story should be pleasant and comfortable, I think, though there should be an undercurrent of suspense ... as if something totally out-of-the-ordinary is about to happen ... or perhaps, is - in fact - transpiring ... if only you could put your finger on it.

Bedtime stories should kindle flashes of images like crackling sparks and glowing embers from a campfire. Best of all, even though you know that you aren't actually part of the story, a good bedtime story leaves you feeling as though you figure into it ... somehow. And later, when it comes to you on midnight blue slippers, it tip-toes to mind with the same velvety soft familiarity of all good faraway stories ... be they fact ... or fiction ... as is the way of 'The Lilac Lady of the Lake' story.

There were three public beaches on that lake, configured in such a way that - although they were all on the same body of water - they were not visible one-beach-to-the-other. The first beach was the busy beach - a wide, sandy expanse with an awesome dock to jump from and climb onto. The second beach was shorter and narrower with no dock - and thus - less children squealing and splashing and kicking up sand as they raced each other into the water. The third beach was barely a beach, at all. It was only about five or six feet wide and about forty feet long ... though it looked out upon a vista that was more remote and pristine ... which, for me, made it all-the-more-special. It was reached by way of a wobbly path that twisted acrobatically through a fragrant wall of needled trees that, no doubt, contributed to its lack of appeal to fellow campers ... all but one, that is ... the Lady in Lilac.

The very first time I wended my way down the wobbly third beach path ... and theatrically parted the boughs on the last of the evergreens ... she was there ... sitting on the sand, in lilac shorts and a t-shirt. Her face was turned to the lake and her back to me, She spoke without turning, "Beautiful Day," she remarked ... a salutation, I recall, that sent a faint shiver down my spine ... for her lack of curiosity as to who I was and what I was doing, invading her seclusion, was so anomalous ... it was, somewhat, off-putting. Surely, the flight-or-fight stuff of human nature would compel any 'normal' mortal to, at least, peek ... at who ... or what … was standing behind them ... in the middle of the wilderness. Nevertheless, I hid my consternation, and in my nice-as-I-can-sound voice ... as even then ... she did not turn, I replied, "Yes ... Perfect". After several more seconds, she, at long last, stood  and threw a glance in my direction. She was smiling. As the days and weeks went by, I came to realize ... she always smiled.

She always smiled ... and she always wore lilac ... different outfits, of course, but always in lilac ... though her name was Iris. "I love all the hues of purple but, I am completely wild about lilac," she explained. "It's such a glad colour, I indulge myself in it - intensely - when I'm on holiday ... though I do sprinkle a bit of purple magic through my 'other life' ... how could I not ... knowing the good of it."

She was mad about the poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, who had died on the day that she was born - she told me - and occasionally whispered a line or two from her poems. Words that mingled in lake scent and floated across the lapping blue waves ... soaring over the trees on the other shore ... from then on, forever to appear in my mind's eye, at their reprise. "Poetry … we memorize by heart ... is a gift we give ourselves ... to open, again and again ... all the days of our life," she enthused.

All through that summer, we talked about our lives ... about our likes and dislikes ... of how we filled our hours ... about family and friends ... and the places we had travelled.  Iris had far fewer commitments than I, and had had many adventures ... some of them bordering on epic. She was fascinating ... even mystifying ... for many reasons.

But the most extraordinary thing about her ... and this is where Iris becomes 'The Lilac Lady of the Lake' ... was not her daring tales of captivating exploits and pursuits ... nor her penchant for poetry ... nor even, her unbridled enthusiasm for all things purple ... it was when she appeared.

In my mind, of course, I know that it was simply a strange coincidence ... that coincidentally happened over and over again. But all that summer, Iris only appeared to me when I came to the third beach alone. And while it is true, I often went to that beach alone ... I didn't always.  And yet, if someone accompanied me, on my walk to that place ... 'The Lilac Lady of the Lake' was no where to be seen.  At first it was uncanny ... and then it was mildly remarkable ... until, by summer's end ... it was - flat out - astonishing ... and heading for mystical heights ... as in: The Legend of 'The Lilac Lady of the Lake'.

Such chance encounters and happenstance, occur in life with regularity and are easily dismissed. The thing is: when - by chance - events take on an aura of mystery ... with a sense that something out of the ordinary is afoot .. when moments unfurl - happily - in laughter and lilac, in lake scent and evergreen ... and in lovely lines of prose and poetry ... when they come back to you, in wonderful words, that never grow old … and become like a book that is never quite finished … lingering passages to be revisited and augmented … as time goes by ... then ... as we all know … THAT is a good story ………...

photo: Beautiful Osprey Lake Wendy Bourke

© 2020 Wendy Bourke 

Saturday, 27 June 2020

Getting There ... Slowly

Pausing for a minute here ... between happy dances … I have actually gotten my first book to the point of signing off on the proof. In a sea of bad-news-days, this feels like nothing-short-of-a-miracle.

Hopefully, in the next few weeks, I can get back to the 'Whatnot' website and attempt to bring some organization to it.  We are still working on trying to get an explosion of info tucked in under 'click-on' prompts that folks - just-starting-out and established writers - might find helpful ... things from: literary forums to getting isbn/ismn numbers and bar codes for your book(s) … as well as,  new mediums (such as textiles and film) for poetry and prose:  basically, those things that broaden and add so much to the writing experience, but can be real 'hair-pulling head-scratchers'. 

I took on writing 'in earnest' 10 years ago and it has become my 'go-to feel-good place' ever since. Now, it seems, I am embarking on the next leg of this journey. Having written almost 400 pieces, I am finding that inspiration is flowing a little slower than 'early days' and I am interested in publishing more of my work in the hopes that, at least some of it will survive. 

Thus, while I intend to always continue writing, the plan is to concentrate on these two other priorities, at least until I see signs that they are 'coming together'. And as I have learned - the hard way - things come-together best when you begin with a plan.

lament to slow progress

it all began, without a plan ...
and then I hit a wall ...
at first, I just ignored it ...
but it never budged at all

I thought I'd go around it ...
but, alas, there was no end ...
I tried to meet it half-way ...
but that brick wall wouldn't bend

the catapult was overkill ...
I realize that now ...
pole vaulting might have worked
- I think - if only I'd known how ...

the tunnel was a waste of time ...
likewise the rope that broke ...
sledgehammers were gawd-awful ...
and the ladder was a joke

until - at last - I came ...
to where - the snafus - first began ...
to question-question-question ...
and to make myself … a plan

Graphic – W. Bourke 

© 2020 Wendy Bourke

Wednesday, 10 June 2020

the stuff of magic

much in the way ...
that a speck of sand ... clasped ...
in the heart-to-spirit winds
of a moment in time ...
is carried to a land

far flung from
that first burst of flight

so it is ...
that a memory
hour-glassed away
from scent or sight
lies still ... until
… the dawn of a new season ...
when ... the glass turns
and spills again ...
spilling sands

borne to present
from the past

and then ...
a deep inhale of lake scent
or the touch of snow on cheek ...
or ... the taste
of a mcintosh apple
... under-the-moon-in-raindrops ...

becomes ...
the stuff of magic

photo:  Graphic - photo edited by Wendy Bourke

© 2020 Wendy Bourke 

Thursday, 28 May 2020


These days ... I rest ... with a fan gently stirring the air around me. With eyes shut ... it creates the allusion of lying on my heavenly chaise lounge ... in my backyard ... in the halcyon glow of a perfect late spring day.

When spring came earlier this year than it had come, in over a century, it seemed like a good omen. Alas, it was an omen to-be-sure ... but, sadly ... not a good one. The Corona Virus, has robbed most of us of many of the season's simple pleasures. Thus, we have had to create our own spring ... In my case ... trapped in a high rise .. sans heavenly chaise lounge ... to say nothing of the missing back yard.

I can ... however ... conjure up breezes. And conjure them up, I do. Sometimes they come to me scented in floral emanations from my oil infuser. Sometimes they waft round me in notes of birdsong from the Sounds-of-Nature Channel. As with many things, the Spring of 2020 has produced a corona-ized version of something we love, put can't ACTUALLY enjoy ... The Zoom heads-in-squares visit ... without ACTUALLY visiting ... The shared Easter meal ... without ACTUALLY eating at the same table ... The Mother's Day Trip-to-the-Spa gift ... without ACTUALLY leaving the bath tub ... The time spent on the phone and in emails, to children and grandchildren ... without ACTUALLY hugging ... without ACTUALLY making memories.

In an email to my grandson, I reflected back on some wonderful trips that people in the family had taken and remarked that most trips begin with people dreaming about going to a place that has captured their imagination ... and I asked him if there was a place that he dreamed about. He answered that his dream was to go to a lake with his family - but that dream can't happen.

The unhappy truth about life is that there is seldom a substitute for the 'real' thing That's why we dream while we wait for reality to land on 'our joy'.

In the words of Rogers and Hammerstein in the musical South Pacific:

"You gotta have a dream
if you don't have a dream
How you gonna have a dream come true?"

photo:  The Family at Lake Cowichan, Southern Vancouver Island - July 2016 - Wendy Bourke

© 2016 Wendy Bourke 
* * * * *

note: This is not part of the Prose ... but is rather, an update on the Poetry Project (for anyone interested) ... which moils on ... and is slowly being added to (and I do mean: slowly) ... rejigged ... and even, in places, flat-out done over from scratch. Like many new endeavours, it has required far more effort than imagined (and Pandemic Angst is not helping). It seems as if you just clear one hurdle and a brand new learning curve stretches out before you ... but we are learning a lot, as we ride those curves. 'A Walk in the Woods: A Tanka Celebration of Life Lived ... with a Dog' is now posted on the 'Whatnot' Website ( Check it out, if you like the idea of exploring poetry rendered in alternative-mediums (in this case: video) ... or simply just feel like checking-it-out. ~ smiles ~ 

As well, I am continuing down the path to self publishing some of my pieces ... which I also have found to be fraught with dead ends and missteps ... but, hopefully I'm getting closer ... to achieving that dream. Regardless, I can't think of a more feel-good way to shelter-in-place than ... embracing creativity.   

Thursday, 23 April 2020

Earth Day Anniversary

number of cases ... number of deaths ... jack-of-hearts-on-queen ... 50th Anniversary of Earth Day ... April 1970 ... Michael ... the banana split we shared the day he left ...ten-of-spades ... and the smell of hyacinths that filled the kitchen on Oliver Road ... number of cases ... number of deaths ... as we pledged weak promises – we doubted life would let us keep – that we'd find our way back to each other ... number of cases ... number of deaths ...

sometimes ... when the world is fast asleep ... solitaire is the last place open for a mind that will not settle ... I remember there were posters all over the University ... that 1st Earth Day ... the day the world would begin to heal itself ...the dizzying thrill of being lifted up by a movement for positive change ...the sense of personal empowerment and the synergetic zeal of joining together with like-minded human beings ... the palpable heartbeat of activism ... number of cases ... number of deaths. ... four of clubs – and there's that suit out ...

after midnight ... this city ... these days ... is as quiet as a tomb .... quiet as a tomb .... most hours of the day ... except for 7:00 in the evening when people – interned in prickly apartments – open their windows and cheer and bang pots and clap ... to thank the COVID front-liners who … with extraordinary valour … put themselves out there to save lives and stock grocery shelves and drive buses so that the rest of us can ... live ...

Michael goes to the window ... most nights ... and joins in for a bit ... he's always been one to try and do right by people ... “It's the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day today,” I mentioned earlier, as he closed the window. “I heard,” he had replied ... pausing at the edge of my deep well of aching incredulity. “I know, how you feel,” he added with a ragged sigh ... as a voice from the TV chimed …

 "analysts say it is too early to know if coronavirus will push global CO2 emissions onto the downward path that is needed if the world is to have any hope of keeping global heating to a relatively safe level of 1.5C above pre-industrial levels.  That depends on how far the outbreak spreads, and whether the economic effects are prolonged?"

number of cases … number of deaths … three of diamonds … almost there …

note:  The excerpt (in italics) is not my writing.  It is from an April 2020 Guardian web article (that unfortunately, brings me slightly over the 369 word limit) … but editing was not an option.  It was not mine to edit.  And its message is one of the most cruel and haunting ironies, the human race has ever had laid before it.  

The 50th anniversary of Earth Day was Wednesday, April 22, 2020.

Photo:  from a rather small and blurry picture taken of Michael and I standing on the stone wall that edges the Bluffs of Thunder Bay (Port Arthur, back then) in 1970 (it really was taken in the early spring of 1970), edited in the free fun effects section of - W. Bourke

© 2020 Wendy Bourke

Thursday, 16 April 2020

Bear in the House

Linked to Weekly Scribblings #15 and Writers' Pantry #16 (with apologies to Magaly for not finishing (barely finishing) this piece in good time for her excellent COVID-19 history prompt … I'm currently filling the hours by sewing 18 COVID masks for my circle of nearest and dearest - several of whom are taking turns, grocery shopping for Mike and I)

How is the world dreaming these days? My dreams are often a reflection of my state of mind. Lately, of course, COVID-19 is on my mind.

A couple of nights ago – after what seemed like hours of angst – I finally, dozed off. And then ...

I was in the backyard of the home where Michael and I had raised the kids ... with Mike, the kids and one of my sisters ... everyone as young as they were ... back then. Suddenly, as five or six people – I did not know – arrived carrying birthday presents for my sister … I noticed a medium-size black bear. From that moment on, I was terrified. Yet everyone else – family and strangers – seemed fine with it. I insisted that we move the party into the house away from the bear – but, even then, I didn't feel safe.

And I said to the strangers: “I think, you people brought that bear to my house.” Immediately, I felt embarrassed, as if I was disrespecting the bear – to say nothing of the guests. And my sister said: “Relax, it's not as if we've never had a bear in the house before.” She was right ... well, sort of right.

And I clarified her remark : “That was just one of Grandma's stories. A bear got into her house when she was a girl and carried off one of her brothers.” And then I noticed ... Michael wasn't there.

Oh-my-gawd, where is Michael. Petrified ... I started to search for him ... going through every room in the house, until I concluded that I would have to look for him outside.

“Oh-my-gawd,” I gasped aloud: “This is a nightmare” ... and then ... I woke up ... and, instantly felt a balm of relief wash over me ... much like Goldilocks, must have felt, I'm sure, waking in Baby Bear's bed to discover Papa Bear glowering down at her – before making her hasty escape from that fairy tale.

A strange dream ... in a strange time ... tinged with disturbing headlines, family history and lore and the ever-present wish that all-will-be-well, when we awaken from our nightmare.

Note: (This is not part of the prose - just posted for those who might be interested in a bit of P.E.I. history.) My Grandmother grew up at the turn of the 20th century on Prince Edward Island – and what a tough coming-of-age it was. Though, there never was an actual bear in her house, her stories of that time, were filled with – almost unimaginable tribulations – terrible diseases that ravaged communities (between barn dances and strawberry socials). She, herself, had her tonsils removed, while lying on her family's kitchen table, anesthetized with a few gulps of spirits that her parents kept at the back of the cupboard for 'emergencies'. When she was 10, her father was killed, before her eyes, when the blade of the axe he was using to chop wood, flew off and hit him. Interestingly, her family was near-neighbours of Lucy Maud Montgomery, writer of the Anne of Green Gables books ... idyllic stories of life on 'The Island' – back then – which, to hear my Grandmother tell it: had a bit of fairy tale pixie dust, added to the pages … because … in those days … for, almost all ordinary folk … life was very, very hard … almost all of the time. 

photo:  Vera May Campbell - circa 1915. 

©2020 Wendy Bourke. 

Friday, 3 April 2020

The Poetry Project

Greetings Poetry People:

I have taken a break from posting to my blog, as Mike and I self-quarantine. Finding oneself, firmly in the 'most vulnerable sector' in a densely populated metropolis, at this time, has been challenging. Suddenly a fire has been lit under my 'to-do' bucket list. I have been working on two books for what-seems-like forever, and am resolved to finish them – NOW – if I possibly can.

As well, one of my sons, Patrick and I fast-tracked a project that we have been tossing around for years: that of short webcasts of poetry. Websites are a better vehicle for this than blogs, and so, Whatnot Press and Productions was born. The seed for the website was planted years ago when a friend, who was convalescing, mentioned that my poetry was 'just right' in length and content, for a brief respite.  That got me thinking about all the wonderful qualities poetry has that are so restorative,  

The worldwide CO-VID 19 pandemic was the catalyst, that got this moving – an idea I would love to see 'catch on' with other writers. I would so appreciate it, if you could find the time to take a peek at our first video (a tanka sequence) – at:

                           dog walk at day break (

If you choose to leave a comment, I would ask that you leave it there (no email will appear). This project is totally a lovely act of generosity on Patrick's part.

Obviously, the name of the website comes from my blog name but the other reason we chose it, is because it is a 'Whatnot' work-in-progress. Poetry videos and books (if I ever get them finished) will be posted there, of course. I'm kicking around ideas that will inspire creativity and calm in others (possibly in people who would like to begin writing) such as 'Why is this a good time to explore writing tanka' (for example). As well, links to websites and blogs that promote creativity and calm, might be a possibility. As I mentioned, the site and video went up quickly and we are still fine-tuning and exploring directions to go in. - Thanks, Wendy

Photos: Dog Walk at Day Break and Jackson the Dog - P. Bourke

© 2020 Wendy Bourke

Friday, 13 March 2020

Friday the Thirteenth March of Twenty-Twenty

I have forgotten

all the conversations

I have had with myself

about courage ...

they too have passed

note:  a Tanka Piece

© 2020 Wendy Bourke

Thursday, 20 February 2020

the big truth - a tanka sequence piece

a dewdrop
dangling from a leaf –
mesmerizes me
as I await ...
the inevitable

in that pending small reveal
the certitude ... the big truth
from minuscule to monumental –
all things change

nothing remains the same ...
the last hope
in the worst of times –
the shadow cast
upon the happiest of hours

photo:  Dewdrop on a Leaf - W. Bourke

© 2020 Wendy Bourke

Wednesday, 12 February 2020

lost in space

I sigh ... as I open up a blank page on my computer and begin the transition to 'writing-headspace' ... that indefinable level of consciousness ... far away from where one's body sits ... that must be gotten to, in order for fingers to land on the keyboard and words to appear on the screen.

I stare at the empty white rectangle perched before me ... and sigh again.

That is (primarily) because … (I confess) ... I'm a natural-born sigher ... I suspect I have sighed from the day I was born … Who knows ... perhaps I sighed before that ... sighing and sucking my thumb in utero. (Though, I have long since abandoned thumb sucking ... the sighing thing, has pretty much stuck.)

Sighing is a language onto itself ... a language that I speak, fluently ... I sigh when I switch paths … I sigh when I can't come up with an answer.  (I don't immediately sigh  ... but 20 to 30 seconds into a good ponder … if I'm still clueless ... I sigh.} ... Then I change direction and ... you've-got-it, I sigh, again … Having altered course, I wonder: where should I begin ... and yep ... another sigh ... And so it goes, fluttering like a befuddled butterfly flitting from pillar to post ... in sighs.

When I'm writing … I'm a sighing machine.   

Many people …  I have come to discover … believe that sighing is an indication that the sigher is experiencing some level of distress ... a bashful cry-for-help, if you will ... Thus, all my life, I have been asked:  'Is something wrong?(Always by new acquaintances … never by old friends … who – over time, it seems – become sigh-immune.)

I am asked that question, it catches me unaware ... and I think to myself: 'Dang, I just sighed' … Once, after, what I gather, had been a particularly epic sigh, a co-worker remarked: 'After a sigh like that, I gotta believe, you must be thinking – as God is my witness, I'll never be hungry again.' ... but no … as I explained ... the Liquid Paper was lumpy.

Sighing ... it is true ... is open to interpretation … but, at least, it is a fairly quiet quirk … Who among us doesn't know a natural-born throat ticker or tongue-clicker, or pen-fidgiter, or finger-tapper ... Then there are the natural-born blurters ... people who blurt out the oddest remarks ... completely out of context.

Like the sighers, the tickers and clickers, the fidgiters and tappers, et al. ... they too, are ... temporarily ... lost in space ... in a place ... far, far away ... The blurters, of course ... the farthest away, of all.

photo:  Same Place/Different View (Rocky Point Pier Benches in Port Moody) - W. Bourke

© 2020 Wendy Bourke