May 6


You know the old saying that goes something like this? If a tree falls in the forest and there’s no one around to hear the noise, was there any sound made at all? An old oak tree fell close to our house during last Friday’s high winds. Surely we’d have heard it. We slept through it.

We didn’t realize what had happened until Saturday morning. And there it was, a hundred-year-old beauty that I remember as a kid. I camped under it ’way back when, and it weathered many more storms over the years before we built this cedar log home.

The old tree had begun to show its age a few years back. It developed a large hole right through middle. It didn’t affect its leaves from blossoming each spring. There are many trees around, oaks and maples; this one was special.

Many years ago I was talking to my nephew, Michael Storey (cinematographer: TV’s Designated Survivor) who lived down the road. He was in his early to mid-teens when I asked if he’d design a dog house for out by the tree.

He brought several sketches a few days later. One, very country. Overhanging slanted roof, solid flooring. I supplied the 2x4s, planks, weathered barn board, and leftover thick cedar shingles. What he built was such a solid piece of work that it is still with us. Intact.

I can’t recall what I paid him, but knowing how pleased I was, I made it worth his while. Nathaniel would later pitch his pup tent close to the tree, and next to the doghouse. He’d say g’night, much to his mom’s distress, and wander out alone in the dark to bed down.

Why I bring this up is this: How the oak tree missed landing on the doghouse (see photo) is beyond us. Sure, a few smaller branches grazed it, but see the size of the old tree to appreciate the doghouse remains in one piece.

Author’s comment: Rosanne saw the felled tree first, spread across what little open space we have up here. I’m sure she crossed herself and said a little prayer because when she dragged me out to see it, she murmured. “It could easily have fallen this way and whacked the house. The deck.” There are things in life, I said to her, that we can’t control. And this was one of them.

Photo credit R Wallace

Posted on May 6th, 2018 by Clarke
Apr 29


It happens to us all, at some stage in our lives: Failure. When things don’t work out. You question yourself. Worse, you think you were on the right track. And low and behold, the axe falls. Pick up your personal things; there’s the door.

Second thought: why didn’t you see it coming? Or maybe you did.

I was working in Montréal for a business magazine, after having spent four months travelling around Europe. A national business magazine, Canadian Business. A biz writer I am not. I go for the informative, lighter stuff. I lasted six months.

Among other assignments I wrote one definitive piece on Québec’s burgeoning winter sports and the money it generated.

There’s an irony here. The magazine’s cover illustration that month showed small figures and snowy mountain terrain, skaters on frozen ponds, cross-country skiers, revelers soaking up the sun; a steam train pulling into the local station.

I lost count of the small characters, after I hit one hundred of them. The irony? It was a wonderful, light- hearted approach to a story. The artist’s signature was simply ‘Jeff’. He gave me the original, maybe as a going away present. It hangs  in my office today.

I’m writing now, prompted by how devastating it can be to lose one’s job. I’ve never found a way to comfort those who’ve been let go, other than with the usual ‘pick yourself up, dust yourself off’…etc. Or ‘something will come along’.

I stumbled on someone whose demeanor and words were so much more comforting, truthful, empathetic than mine.

It came in a TV interview with Mike Babcock, coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs. The team had made a valiant attempt to win a second-round seventh game against the Boston Bruins. The Leafs fell apart in the third period. Here’s what he said:

“Perhaps the best growing opportunity are the little speed bumps in life. They lead to the next step because they challenge you mentally and physically. Getting slapped down is the best thing to grow.”

Author’s comment: Who could put it better than that? You watch him from behind the bench and he’s alive, empathetic to his players and you feel the effort they display on the ice, win or lose, is support of their coach.

Posted on April 29th, 2018 by Clarke