Thoughts, quirky insights and experiences in my meandering life.

Category: Posts Page 1 of 7

Embracing life, preparing for the inevitable

Last year the brother of a friend of mine died suddenly. In his sleep, and for no apparent reason. Under 60. And he did not have a will, nor did my friend have any way of getting any information from his computer or cell phone because they were locked. My friend, while working as a social worker for a school board (read: huge workload, dealing with kids in difficult circumstances) began a bureaucratic nightmare with multiple institutions while also grieving the last member of her family of her generation.

Eleven years ago I went to Ghana, Africa, to volunteer for my friend Peta who was building a vocational training school there. It seemed a slightly daring destination, after all I had to get special vaccinations for exotic diseases such as yellow fever. So I decided to finally write a will and get Power of Attorneys set up for health and property. I felt like a responsible adult, I had completed a task that most of us feel intimidated by, facing our future death or possible incapacitation. Now, I thought, it would be easier to wrap up my affairs if I died, and for my appointed Power of Attorney’s to look after my affairs if necessary, or so I thought. After taking a short workshop last summer I realized that I had only given them half or less than half of the tools they needed to make their jobs easier and more efficient, not to mention how much stress, anxiety and frustration I had unwittingly potentially inflicted on them.

The workshop, given by Bill Bruce at Trinity Annan United Church was deeply enlightening. Now anyone who knows me knows that formal religion is not my bag, but I immediately knew I had to update my will and POA’s, the workshop was spot on. Thank you Bill for your time and information.

I also knew that I would find it difficult to complete this process on my own, I would be more motivated if others were going on the journey with me, so enter Glenda and Mike. They are friends I have made since moving to Owen Sound. We do the same classes at the YMCA (gym). It took us a while to set a date when we could meet as life kept on getting in the way, but we finally did. As a small group we can divide up some of the issues that have popped up in our discussions. How and who can determine incapacity, what are the current rules about MAID. In Canada we have legislation in place that allows us to have medical assistance in dying, MAID. In some ways it is a straight forward process, very well delineated and regulated. Over 10,000 people have taken advantage of it in the first five years it has been legal, 2016 to 2021. There are many lovely stories from the families of those that have chosen that option. The one that stays with me is of an older couple, in their 90’s, married forever. They had multiple health issues that made them both eligible for MAID. They discussed it with their family, and they chose to do it at the same time, surrounded by family, all goodbyes said and love surrounding them. The husband or wife could not bear be the one left behind to grieve. They were holding hands at the end. I digress, but MAID is an option I am glad that I have. So Glenda, Mike and I have our research tasks and we will meet again after my trip to England. I am writing this, at the moment, from the bed at my sisters house in Durham.

Seaham Harbour, County Durham. The spray is higher than the lighthouse on the harbour wall.

One of the first things that hit me as a result of taking the workshop is that if I had a medical emergency at home and dialled 911 and then passed out the paramedics would not easily be able to get information about my health status, such as medical conditions or medications without rummaging about in my home, wasting time. Once at the hospital the staff would not know who to contact or what my wishes were concerning my care should I be unconscious or unable to communicate for any reason. That is important to me as I have definite views about what care I want and maybe more importantly, don’t want. They wouldn’t know what medications I take, by blood type or if I had any major medical conditions. You get the picture. I was happy to discover it is not rocket science to solve these problems.

How about a sheet of paper in an easy to find place with such information on it? Apparently paramedics look for a piece of paper or envelope on the fridge or near a front or back door. Titled IN CASE OF EMERGENCY, ICE. Easy peasy. Mine is now in place.

Now, what about finding me unconscious while walking my dog. Tucker would bark his head off and attract attention, but how would they know who I was. I have learned that cell phones, both iPhones and androids have ways that pertinent information can be accessed from a locked screen. Paramedics and other first responders know that, but from my conversations with others many people do not. On an iPhone it is accessed

I am sure Tucker would bark and bark and bark if anything happened to me. He does anyway.

and completed on the health app. We did find it on one android quite quickly, so good luck everyone with finding it on yours should you wish to and haven’t already done so.

In the weeks after the workshop it hit me that I had tied the hands of my Power of Attorney for property and health behind their back, so to speak. They needed more information than they presently had access to to act effectively on my behalf. It was a bit of a shock when I thought things through. The POA for property did not know, among a lot of other things:

  • My phone or computer password
  • Where I banked
  • What are my income sources
  • What my expenses were and how I pay them, automatically, manually, and do the bills arrive by mail, email.
  • My credit card or banking pin numbers

Many of these things we are told to keep secret, but my POA for property would need access to them to keep my financial life ticking along if I had an emergency and could not do it for myself.

My POA for health had a general idea of what my wishes were, but mainly in worst case scenarios. What about the not so worst case scenarios, but ones that would significantly alter my quality of life. We had a breakfast meeting and discussed it. We used forms that the Province of Alberta had produced to provoke exploration of various scenarios. Then we went into the nitty gritty of what I absolutely do want, and maybe more importantly, what I absolutely do not want. Interestingly Alberta seems to be the province that has produced the best information to help explore POA for health issues and Bill gave us the one we used as the basis for the discussion. I will now discuss these wishes with my doctor so that it is in my medical record.

I don’t know quite why I feel so compelled to dive into this topic, and then to share it as a blog. Life is good and life is full. I am happy and feel incredibly lucky to have the life I have. For all the usual reasons, family, friends, a dog, an adequate retirement income, where I live, my ability to travel, and time for doing the things I want to do. Some people say “you will be dead, it won’t be your problem”, but I think that statement partly comes from our fear of the inevitable. It is too scary to think about, and plan for. Maybe I want to control things from beyond the grave or while being incapacitated, but is that a bad thing if it empowers my POA’s and executors to confidently act on my behalf, save them time and the stress of wondering if they are doing the right thing? After all, they are people I love and who love me. I want to make their burden as light as possible.

So I have started out on this journey to try and tie the details of my life up with fancy ribbons, beginning with an IN CASE OF EMERGENCY information sheet. Done and on my fridge, and new POA forms signed.

I feel inspired to write about this process as we go through it, and I have developed some forms, and will do more. Presently I have an ICE form and another for Power of Attorney for property. They are Microsoft Word based and I would be happy to email them to you to customize for your own use.

Thinking about why I want to share this information as a blog, as mentioned above is interesting. I want to do a series of them as I go through this process. There is so much to look at besides the POA’s and ICE forms. How do we choose POA’s and executors. I have already mentioned incapacity and it is a bit of a winding road. Then there is dementia and how if affects the eligibility for MAID. Hopefully that will be sorted out in the next review of the MAID law. Then what about our relationships and our belongings and our legacy. Thinking about all that will help me write a much better will, and on a personal relationship level guide me as to who I may want to bring back into my life. Covid has already brought some very old but distant friends back into my circle, but there is more to think about.

I would really enjoy your thoughts about this blog and its contents, don’t hesitate to contact me. It is a big conversation.


I read a book about a Doctor who changed from delivering babies to delivering MAID: This is Assisted Dying by Stefanie Green which I found was very thoughtful and compassionate.

Others recommended at the end of that book:

Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

Knocking on Heavens Door by Katie Butler

The Inevitable by Katie Englehart

Physician Assisted Death, What Everyone Needs to Know by Wayne Sumner

Link to Power of Attorney booklet for Ontario:

Alberta’s personal directive kit:

All the very best in 2022

Bradford On Avon on the Kennet and Avon Canal. A walk down memory lane in November 2021

I am very pleased to write and say that I have made donations to both the The Women’s Centre Grey Bruce and to the David Suzuki Foundation, for those not Canadian David Suzuki is a long time environmental and climate change crusader. The donation, of over $100s comes from 10% of the sales I made during this year. Thank you for your purchases so that I can make these donations.

I chose these two organization for the following reasons:

Women have been very adversely affected by the Covid pandemic. They were trapped in abusive homes, and some were murdered. Many lost their jobs in the service and other sectors and the wage divide between men and women is reported to be widening. They are now talking about women not getting promoted as they may choose to work from home longer due to childcare responsibilities and will not make the contacts and be able to shine in person that encourages promotions. Very frustrating to see hard wins lost like this. Apart from this ongoing plague women are also loosing their right to have an abortion when they need one by right wing politicians who still want to control women via their reproductive systems. When will this fight ever end. There is a very good book exploring the push of right wing conservatives and evangelical religious men against the equality of women, All the Single Ladies by Rebecca Traister that I highly recommend. Well researched and very insightful.

2021 has been the most tumultuous year in terms of weather that I have ever witnessed. From heat domes and fires to winds and floods and more all over the world. I got a registered letter from my insurance company this year saying that my home was no longer covered for overland water damage, i.e. flooding. Luckily that is not likely to happen to this house, but what about the people that it will affect. A good reminder that insurance companies only real goal is to make money. David Suzuki has been a long time champion for the environment, and hopefully more of us are listening and changing our ways. Walking a little more lightly on the earth. It is not surprising to me that people such as Greta Thunberg are up in such arms about climate change and mad at the adults in charge. Children have been educated about climate change, environmental concerns and reducing their carbon footprint with such initiatives as litter less lunches and re-usable water bottles for years. My friend Alan taught some of those lessons, yea Alan and all the other teachers.

Walking lightly on the earth is not a simple as it seems. It is challenging to keep believing that the incredibly small things I do such as recycling, composting, re-using, refusing plastic bags etc has any affect at all. And then there are the larger issues, should I fly, and if so, for what reason. Is the desire to visit exotic far away places justification? Or is visiting family and friends? And what about my fossil fuel burning vehicle? Is an electric car the answer, but how is the electricity generated? Are we on the verge of a sharing society, such as cars and tools, or is that an idealistic folly? I suspect that those much younger than myself will determine that.

This post seemed so negative it was hard to send it out into the world, so I am going to end by recommending another book. It is called Finding the Mother Tree by Suzanne Simard. As usual, I listened to it and it is also available as an ebook as well as in print. I found it in my library. She is a forestry researcher and has revealed the complex cooperative relationship among trees through complex Mycelium (fungus) networks connecting roots underground. The Mycelium facilitate transmission of water and food to trees in need and particularly younger and stressed trees. More recently she is investigating the ways that trees signal danger to each other. The Mycelium are being likened to the nervous system of plant life. I find this thrilling as I first read about bushes warning other bushes about approaching deer eating their leaves. Other bushes made themselves less attractive by increasing tanins in their leaves, but the route of the warning was not known. At the time I wondered if it was airborne, such as an essential oil being evaporated from the leaves as it is with Mediterranean herbs such as lavender, rosemary and thyme, but it is through the roots and Mycelium. Her work is changing the way that forests are managed, and in the future may alter the forests vulnerability to infection and forest fires such as we have seen in recent years due to single species planting. I will never walk in the forest in quite the same way again.

Denise and I enjoying a visit at the Georgian Bay Centre for the Arts cafe before the latest Covid closures.

Til next time…..

Creations for Christmas

Well, I certainly don’t have marketing under my belt as it just occurred to me to day that I should be letting the world know that there are still a few pieces available of the Sauble Collection.

It has been a year of thinking things through in terms of my desire to create items and then how to put them out into the world. Creating and not dispersing would fill my home very quickly. The website and Sauble collection were a good beginning, but I am realizing I do not want to be limited to one medium. I have bought leather and have made some bags, which did not make it to the website, so I have to find a way to streamline all this. I think if I was a computer native it would be easier, but no, I have to plod my way through figuring it out. But I am having fun creating, which is the important thing, to me anyway. I really like my tag line, a Meandering Maker. Meandering all over the place, literally and creatively.

Here is the last bag available. Hand stitched, veg tan leather which I dyed myself. Very organic, not at all the style I made in Florence.

It is based on a bus or train conductors ticket bag and has three sections inside. I am offering it at $90.00 as a prototype. Can be cross body or a shoulder bag. The one I made myself two years ago is now soft and supple and I got a compliment on it just today!

I hope everyone has a great holiday season however you celebrate it, and what better way to end than a picture of Tucker and Piper at play.

Taken by Piper’s dad, Dave Landry of

If you build it, they will come, take two

Available Creations

This August Tucker and I drove from Owen Sound to St. John, New Brunswick to visit long time friends that had recently moved there from Prince Edward County, Ontario.

I broke the journey up into three days in each direction, but they drove from Kingston, Ontario to St. Johns last fall in just one day. In two cars, so there was no switching up drivers. Even dividing it into three days, did I experience much of what Ontario, Quebec or New Brunswick has to offer along the way, no, because I mainly drove on highways. It started to make me think about childhood journey’s by car.

Flowerpot Rock, Fownes Head, Fundy Trail

I would not describe my parents as intrepid travelers, but we had a VW campervan, and the only way that we could see the world as a family of 7 was to camp. And we were lucky enough to have a university lecturer as a father. That meant we could travel for the whole six weeks of our summer vacation from school. In 1965 and 1966, yes, an age ago, we went to the south of France. It took us a week to drive through England and France, and a week to get back, which left us four weeks to play on a Mediterranean beach.

Although I was very young, I distinctly remember arriving in France. Everything was so different from England, immediately. We did not drive by highway, which, if they did exist, and I am not sure they did, we certainly did not use them. Each village had a sign indicating you were entering the village, not unusual anywhere, but when you left the sign was repeated with a red line going diagonally through it. You were out of the village. No inviting sign asking you to return soon. And the villages did not look like English villages, even apart from the style of buildings. There were women walking around, mainly older women, wearing head to toe black, permanent mourning was de rigueur . They were often carrying a baguette, a form of bread that we had never seen before. Bought fresh daily. And the vehicles, Citroen, Renault and goodness knows what else, did not look like vehicles in the U.K.

We stopped every day for lunch, often by the side of the road in a pull off, and it was very common for anyone riding by on a bicycle, yes, were were on very small roads, to call out bon appetit.

So we meandered through France, stopping to look at things along the way. One time is was the Bayeux Tapestry in Normandy. It depicts the Battle of Hastings, 1066, the last time was Britain was successfully invaded. It is 70 meters long, and when we saw it it filled three rooms. Even at the time I wondered at how long it must have taken to create it. I wanted Mom and Dad to rent one of the listening devices you carry round to hear about the tapestry, but Mom quickly dashed those hopes by saying that Dad would be able to tell us all about it. I also remember wondering why the tapestry was in France, not in England, and I have to admit that it just dawned on me that it is there because they were the victors! The Battle of Hastings is such a seminal date in British history, but I never think of it as a defeat!

King Harold, with an arrow in his eye. There is still dispute as to whether this is how he died.

More exciting was the visit to the to the Pont du Gard Roman Aqueduct in southern France. We were able to get to the highest level that is now closed to the public.

Pont du Gard
I thought is merited two pictures

It was built to bring water to the city of Nimes. It carried 8,800,000 imperial gallons of water a day (thanks Wikepedia). An amazing feat, created two thousand years ago! However, for us it was just something to climb all over, which we did. One advantage of being young back then is that a lot of things were easier to explore, now, as I said, the only part you can walk on is the lowest tier. When we visited Stonehenge, again, sometime in the 60’s, it was not fenced. We parked on the road and walked right up to it and played on and around the stones.

Dad made the journey as much a part of the holiday as he could. Not so the trips that my sisters and I took driving across France in more recent years. We definitely used the highways, and we drove as far as we could each day, making it to Provence in two days. As we drove off the ferry into France the cars were no different. Now all makes are available everywhere it seems, and they all look the same to me. Now the French are very clever. Most of their highways are toll road. They make the tourists help pay for them. And yes, if they build it, we will come. There were cars from all over Europe, and we would have opinions as to which were the worst drivers. And as we drove along we passed all kinds of signs for places of interest, but we forged on, just seeing the country immediately next to the road.

On my return trip from New Brunswick one sign in Ontario did catch my eye, and I did go and have a look. It was a lock on the St. Lawrence River, and a freighter was going through it as I watched.

It made me very nostalgic for my time on Little Star, and fueled the stirrings I have for another narrowboat holiday in the future.

Two things before I go.

Firstly, my friends Caroline and Arlene want to spend some time exploring using a camper van, and while we visited Nova Scotia from New Brunswick we went to see a 1985 (or 86) VW Westfalia, or a Westie as they are now known apparently down in Chester Basin.

Although they did not buy it, it sure was a walk down memory lane for me, and probably got me thinking about my childhood holidays. While they chatted to Jeff, the mechanic that restored it, I had lunch at the Seaside Shanty. I had previously had a lovely dinner there years ago with friends that my friend Lori and I met up with while traveling the east coast. The best scallops, and Blueberry Grunt anyone?

Secondly, I am going to be part of a Pop-Up Studio Sale at my home on Saturday, September 25th. Would be great to see you if you are in the neighbourhood.

Fixing the glitches, oh, and here is the website address

Is it a river, delta or landscape?

Wow, I am really happy with the response to the creations. There are little boxes going out in the mail tomorrow. It is exhilarating to know that my pieces are striking a cord and going out into the world.

I am really glad that I am not responsible for the website of a multi-national corporation, but I am sure that they would run a beta version past lots of people first. It was just Kailey and me, and even with Kailey’s experience there are glitches to fix. It was fun today to go through them and find solutions. So, here we go again.

When you get the latest Meanderings there will be an icon you can click on to go the home page of A Meandering Mann and Made by Mann. From there you can click on Available Creations. If you just want to go to the webpage it is I wanted to keep the Meanderings, or blog, as the first place you land when one is sent out.

Some of the pieces have numbers, some don’t. If you want to buy one quote the number and the area, e.g. Stacks, when you email me, and include your address for mailing, and a telephone number you want me to call if you want to use a visa or mastercard.

Now I will be tidying up my studio getting ready for my next endeavour. Nearly all of the Sauble pebbles are now jewellery, just a few haven’t found their home with another pebble or two yet. Some of them are lovely so I will have to think of more ideas. It will probably be a while before pebble jewellery will be on my bench again, although I do have some from the North East Coast of England and other styles of jewellery that will go up in a while. Getting the Sauble pebbles up was enough of a hurdle. But a happy hurdle. My tag line is apt, A Meandering Maker, I will be meandering from one thing to another.

The last blog was a long one, I hope you didn’t get bored before the end. It felt important for me to write so your thoughts and responses are always welcome.

Finally, the new site is ready to go, and the pebble jewellery is ready to launch!

When I learned how to drill holes in pebbles and stones a couple of years ago I knew I was hooked.  The idea of combining a love of searching and finding interesting stones on beaches with an end use, creating interesting and unusual items of bodily adornment was irresistible.  I had owned a Dremel for years and hardly used it, now it is a favourite tool.

The pebbles themselves each have their own story that began millennia before they were picked up on a beach by me, and the exploration of their origin has captured my imagination and curiosity.

The stones in these creations are from the shores of Lake Huron, specifically from Sauble Beach.  Sauble Beach is on the east side of Lake Huron and south of the Bruce Peninsula. It is the traditional land of the Saugeen Ojibway Nation, and slowly taken away from them in treaties that said that they “ceded” their land.  Ceded always sounded to me like a reluctant action, and I think it was, they were pushed into it, but the white settlers wanted more land and their needs were triumphant.

It is likely that many of you know Sauble Beach as a summer beach destination with great distances of sand for sunbathing, building sandcastles and generally having a carefree time.  Maybe you  have even had a summer holiday there.  I could tell from the stores that were closed for the season when I was there, that during the summer it is a very popular beach resort.  The stores were full of beach wear, beach toys, gifts and other memorabilia not to mention numerous food outlets.  Ice cream, hot dogs, cotton candy.  However, until the day I searched for pebbles there I had not stepped foot on it.  And the beach was full of amazing small, flat or slightly rounded pebbles for which the coast is renowned.

Searching for pebbles with Zoey

The first beach pebbles that I collected for drilling were from the Beaches area in Toronto near where I used to live.  I usually collected them in the winter when my dog could run around south of the snow fence as free as a bird, or at least a dog off leash.  I would bob my head between keeping an eye on her and searching the ground.  At the time I had this fantasy that the stones on the shores of Lake Ontario began their life way up along the chain of the Great Lakes.  That they were chunks of the Canadian Shield, which was formed during the Precambrian era which lasted until 570 million years ago.  Yes, lasted until 570 million years ago.  Very old rock which began as mountains and was worn down to what it is today, a shadow of its former self, by glaciers.

To go back to my fantasy, I imagined the stones being moved by the currents and worn away by rubbing against each other in the water and on the beach.  I imagined them flowing over Niagara Falls, traveling down in the swift current of the Niagara River, through the mighty whirlpool in the Niagara Gorge and coming to rest at my feet on the shore of Lake Ontario so that I could pick them up.  Sadly, this is probably not the case, but being eroded by water and friction against other stones is true.

Escarpment rock and tenacious tree

Very likely the majority of the pebbles that I picked up on Sauble Beach began their life as part of much bigger rocks formed much more locally.  Sauble Beach is on the west side of the Niagara Escarpment that extends from Niagara Falls, to the tip of the Bruce Peninsula.  It arcs slightly east, getting quite close to Toronto as it travels north and then returns west to form the peninsula.  I find the stone formations of the escarpment quite fascinating, especially as it relates to Niagara Falls and how the falls are eroded.  However, I can’t talk about that here as it is not very relevant.  Maybe when I make pieces from pebbles from Georgian Bay.  But I digress. 

More escarpment, natural, not made by man

When the glaciers advanced, and hit the escarpment, instead of grinding them down they went up and over them.  Seems amazing to me that they went up and over as the glaciers can grind down granite and the escarpments rock layers are not nearly as strong as granite.  So the west side of the escarpment, the Huron slope, and the Huron fringe, including Sauble Beach have deposits left behind by retreating glaciers.  So my best guess is that the pebbles that I have made my pieces from are predominantly dolomite and granite, dumped by glaciers that retreated 17,000 years ago.  Now, I would love some wonderful geologist who knows this area well to come along and correct or supplement my knowledge.

All in all, I find it a very sobering thought that the pebbles that I pick up did not just appear overnight, but have a long, ancient really, past. I am picking up geological history without really giving it a thought.  It reminds me of my brother in law, Trevor, picking up a piece of ice in Iceland.  It had broken away from a glacier and landed on the shore.  As he picked it up he said “ancient ice”.  As I said, sobering, and very thought provoking.

Talking about the ancient history of the pebbles makes me think that my own process of creating wearable pieces is short and trivial, but it too has a story.  Little did I think when I got hooked on drilling pebbles and make wearable history, as I now think of it, what was involved.  Everything seems so simple at the beginning.  Get pebble, drill hole, make piece, present to the world.  Getting ready to present these creations to the world has been as complex as it was setting up my previous businesses, whether a massage therapy clinic or a massage therapy products company.  And it has been a challenge, and I must say a pleasure to do so.  Re-using the hands originally created for my massage therapy practice business card gives me a sentimental thrill.  Yes, business cards are still used, although brochures have been replaced by web sites.  So I have to have one of them.  Now I really thought that I had avoided the necessity of having a web site, but then again, I also remember looking through the window of the IBM store in the Royal Bank Plaza in downtown Toronto and looking at the desk top computers, $10,000 a pop, and thinking I would never need one of those.  Now I can’t tell you how many computers I have owned.

Dragonflies, or Damselflies eat mosquitoes. They are a good thing.

While pricing the pieces I used the same process using excel spread sheets to calculate the total cost of all the components and the time involved in every process.  Each pebble is washed, drilled, washed again, polished using a museum quality wax, and then assembled.  And of course the stones have a shape all their own.  It takes a lot of trying out combinations to get one that satisfies, that give me that feeling in my solar plexus that says yes, this is it.  After all that, and the piece is made, it has to be photographed and measured and written about.  I am still struggling with the photography, not a natural environment for me.  Then I had to think about how I was going to ship the items.  The boxes were finally ordered and are ready.  And I had not anticipated all of the minute details that goes into creating a web page.  The blog page had been set up professionally by Linn Farley Oyen in Toronto before I began my travels, but now it needed to be expanded for my creations to an outlet to release them to the world.  I have enjoyed the process, working with the multi-talented Kelly Laing, and by the time you are reading this it will be complete and launched, and when I have something new to offer I hope it will be a much simpler process to do so, and that I will be able to do it without having my hand held every step of the way.

Thinking about how the indigenous people of this area, the Saugeen Ojibway, were pushed onto and smaller amounts of land until there are now two small reservations and restricted fishing rights made me think about this in a larger context.  Here in Canada there was a concerted effort to kill indigenous people, and if not all of them, then their culture. The children were taken from their families where they lived a traditional lifestyle, trapping, fishing etc and put in residential schools, largely run by religious orders, forbidden to use their language.  They often did not see their families for many years, if they did not die at the school, so family life and traditions were completely disrupted.  In the sixties was the famous Sixties Scoop, where children were removed from their parents and adopted by non-indigenous families, against their or their families wills.  Horrific actions that have taken place in my lifetime.  So much damage.  Now, however, there is resurgence in first nations peoples reclaiming their language, traditions and culture and building on it.  The languages were almost lost, but now they are being spoken and taught again.  It made me think of my own original country, England and Great Britain and what is going on there.  Growing up, Gaelic was almost a lost language, almost treated as quaint.  Now it is thriving, and the Gaelic culture is being nurtured, taught and celebrated both in the original Gaelic countries, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Isle of Man, Cornwall and Brittany, and in the diaspora.  Ireland has made Gaelic its second official language. The 2011 Canadian census found there were 7,195 speakers of “Gaelic languages”, 1,365 of them in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward island, mainly Scottish Gaelic.  Thank goodness for Wikipedia to be able to confirm knowledge that is vague in my brain. 

In Britain, successive successful invaders imposed their language and culture on the population.  It amuses me that we are called Anglo Saxon as the Angles probably came from the Angelne peninsula, part of the Jutland peninsula, today northeast Germany, Schleswig-Holstein.  And the Saxons came from the south Jutland peninsula, Westfalia, Lower Saxony. (

And that is only part of the British heritage, before the Angles and Saxons there were the Romans, and mixed in with this morass were the marauding Vikings, and the rule by the Danes.  And the final successful invasion, the Normans, from Normandy in 1066. Each invader imposing their own language and culture.  The winner takes all.  And who knows who I have forgotten, picts, for one, and Queen Boudicca, the Celtic queen of the Iceni tribe who tried to defeat the Romans.   There is a wonderful statue of her on her chariot across from the Houses of Parliament in London, but no postcards of her that I could find, only punks with mohawks. 

The Roman Baths, Bath
The Georgian Pump Room, built above the Roman Baths

The Romans, I know, had a clever trick of relating a local god or goddess to one of their own.  They would give them a double name for a period of time, mollifying the locals, and then eventually dropping the local god.  So the Celtic goddess Sulis, of the hot springs in Bath, became Minerva over time.

I do not remember seeing signs like this when I lived in England.

So we Brits, and Europeans in general, are not of a single bloodline, we are mongrels, a common term for mixed breed dogs when I was growing up, from all over the world as people now immigrate from the four corners of the planet. How a round planet has four corners I am not sure. I have a suspicion that although there is some mixed blood in indigenous people and some European blood thrown in occasionally that they will have a much less mixed up genome than most Europeans. But I am not recommending 23 and me testing to find out. And I may be wrong.

Two mongrels at play
Tucker and Piper. They really were having fun.

Language and culture are important to us, and with the resurgence of both in Great Britain, there is a growing desire to break it apart. The Scottish people will probably have another referendum, there are rumblings in Wales, Ireland is getting antsy again. Soon it may not be Great Britain, but four different countries, and so history rolls into the future.

Phew, that was a long one. I hope you enjoy perusing my creations. 10% of the sales of these pieces will be donated to the following charities:

The Women’s Centre Grey Bruce Inc.

David Suzuki Foundation

Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides

Doctors Without Borders

I will update the amounts donated as I make sales and send these pieces out into the world.

Becoming Embedded

Skinner Bluff hike on the Bruce Trail

I think it is safe to say that we humans are afraid, maybe too strong a word, perhaps hesitant, about change. Especially if we do not choose it voluntarily. It is easier to stay with what is known, certain, comfortable, than to embrace, step into, leap into, a new job, new town, even a new country. We do take a chance when we give up the familiar. I did choose to give up the familiar, and after a year of traveling in the UK on a narrowboat, and studying leather work in Florence I moved from Toronto, where I had lived since 1976 to Owen Sound, where I knew only a handful of people. And what happened next? A pandemic, leaving me feeling very alone. Not so bad when everyone was staying home, but when six people could meet I was sunk. I hardly knew six people.

Skinner Bluff hike on the Bruce Trail

But despite knowing so few people at the beginning of the pandemic I now feel embedded in this community. In fact I could call it several communities as mini communities exist within the larger one. For instance Owen Sound has a fishing derby (in non-covid times) but you will never see me on the river bank with a fishing rod. Just not my thing, but you will see me at the Georgian Bay Centre for the Arts, taking a course, having lunch in the Palette Cafe (otherwise locally and affectionately known as the Bingo Cafe as the bingo sign is still outside) or doing a couple of hours of volunteering. I call myself a GBARTS groupie, not sure they approve of that. It is inspiring to be around the centre at close to its earliest beginnings. Every week something is re-arranged, cabinets added, working spaces more formalized. What a challenge they have had, opening just before Covid, but they have pivoted and pivoted to keep themselves going. They have pivoted so much it is almost a pirouette. A cafe/restaurant was not part of their original plan, but there it is.

So I have become embedded. I was going to draw my version of a ven diagram by hand, and then thought, I should be able to do that in Word. Oh, how I have forgotten my skills, and oh how frustrating that I can’t just ask a colleague. Between us all we could usually figure out how to bend those word processing programs to do our will. Then I had to figure out how to put a word document into a wordpress blog. Not as easy a task as it should be. Yes, should be. It involved screen shots, and cropping and a lot of frustration all round. Longer than this whole piece will probably take to write! I am quite impressed and not a little surprised by how many little circles I had to make as I thought of all the ways in which I fill my days and spend my time, and I didn’t put one in for my time creating in the studio. The community garden kind of happened by accident last year, begun by someone asking permission of the city to change a small unused parkette (a word I first saw in Toronto, not sure if I like it) into a vegetable garden. He was given permission and I saw the sign inviting people to plant it up. Now this year it is more formalized and I have visions of canning tomatoes in the fall. There will be a committee, which is usually enough to make me run in the opposite direction, but happily there are competent and knowledgeable people getting involved so maybe I will be the minute taker as I am for the group listed below.

There is Syrian food available at the weekly farmers market in Owen Sound. The hummus is the smoothest I have ever tasted. Question, do you taste smooth? Maybe I should say umami, a pleasant savory sensation. The Syrian stall holder was sponsored by a group in Meaford, a neighbouring town, 5 years ago when Canada accepted a large influx of Syrian refugees. Prior to the pandemic there was a list to sign at his booth for those interested in helping to sponsor his brother, and I signed it. Of course nothing happened during the first lockdown, but I asked him how things were going when the market opened again and became involved in the sponsorship group. It is one thing to hear of the thousands living as refugees on the news, it is another to know the brother of one of them. It kinds of brings it home in a human way that it is no way to live, and certainly not with children and for a long time. So here I am, part of a sponsorship group. In some ways it seems such a small drop in the ocean of the numbers of refugees, and it sure takes a lot of paperwork, fundraising, and volunteer hours to get them over here and settled, but I have to remember that every little helps. So if you can help, the info is all available above.

Stream on 2nd Ave West that I walk by daily with Tucker. One of my visual treats

Living in a small community “cross fertilization” happens between one group of friends and acquaintances to another. I met a couple in the sponsorship group when I was Contra Dancing, and another friend helping out with Sue’s guiding group, and yet another at a covid approved gathering around her fire pit.

If you enjoy hiking here is the place to live! There are endless trails, and of course the Bruce Trail and all of its side trails. And the hikes are beautiful. Escarpment walks with views over Owen Sound, the water, not the town, and Georgian Bay, or through the forests. I am learning more about the geology of the place, so in the future will be able to say what kind of stone forms the ground we hike on, and why there are deep crevasses in the escarpment. For those not familiar with Ontario geology, what I already know is that the escarpement that the Niagara river flows over creating Niagara Falls extends all the way up to Tobermory at the very top of the Bruce Peninsula.

From the Bruce Trail Conservancy Magazine

Working with putting a Word document into a blog post has been one frustration, another has been taking pictures of my newly created stone jewellery to be able to post pictures. The end game of which is that I hope to sell some of them, so the colours can not be distorted. Sounds easy, right? Well, I have spent hours trying to make it work. I have referred back to the meagre notes that I took when Jeff, a neighbour on Hastings gave me a lesson, but that was two years ago now and I have no memory. I have taken a very good class with Kate Civiero, a wonderful glass blower, through the Business of Art course offered by the Southampton Arts Centre, but doing a class is one thing, but doing it yourself, on your own, is another. I find arranging the necklaces and jewellery fiddly, and the lighting a nightmare, and editing is beyond my present skills, but I am getting there. Who knew there was so much involved in launching my new endeavour. Well, actually, if I had thought about it for a minute I would know, because as a small business owner I was chief cook and bottle washer, and developed skills in many areas not related to doing a therapeutic massage. I thought that was all behind me, and was glad I would never have to tackle having a presence on the web, but here I am, working it all out. Including how to easily convey what size the piece is. Thank goodness I like problem solving.

Lake Huron pebbles and Zuni bear

And talking about creating a new endeavour, the products of being an artisan, a maker, a craftswoman, not sure which title fits, I am using the hands that appeared on my massage therapy business cards on the cards for Made By Mann. I am so delighted the keep on using them in this new incarnation.

I am surprised at how quickly I have become comfortable in this community, I even gave directions to the Jubilee Bridge the other day to a lost soul. So if you are thinking about big changes in your life be assured that if you are willing to explore your interests in the new community you will begin to feel comfortable in a reasonably short length of time.

It’s all coming together.

When I set up my blog a couple of years ago the woman guiding me, (actually doing the technical work), Lin, was pretty insistent that I also secure the domain of my yet to be realised artisan company, Made by Mann. I wanted Mann Made but that was already taken, and Lin came up with Made by Mann. So you can get to my blog site, A Meandering Mann by The idea being that at some point in the future the two things, my blog and my artisan site would work together. For the life of me I couldn’t see how that would work, they seemed so separate. How could my thoughts about life and all its quirks, and my experiences meld with what essentially would be the sale of the things that I created. Now I realize that they are intertwined. So how does that work you may well ask?

In my mind, here’s how.

All my life (and this does not just apply to only me by any stretch of the imagination) I have collected stones. And beach glass. It was a bit of a tradition that we went to Seaham Harbour on Boxing day, a shore on the north east coast of England on the North Sea. As soon as we hit the beach down went the heads and we started to pick things up. Mom loved to pick up glass, always looking for the illusive red pieces. At the end of the day we carted our beach finds home. And I have been carting stones home ever since then. From Italy, from Iceland, from France, from all over England and Canada. Some of them quite sizeable. To do what with them? That was always a pretty unanswered question. At my last house I made a small waterfall and stream bed so that was a place to deposit many of my collection, and an excuse to find many more.

Not a great picture of the stream on the left, but a lovely one of Zoey
Early summer and just a little out of focus!

And then I took a course in drilling holes in stones and making them into things, like earrings, and pendants. A whole new world opened up for me. I could transform my finds into something else, something I would enjoy wearing, and something I hoped other people would enjoy wearing. And where I found the stones added to the story for me.

This was my first offering, and it could have said, Great Lakes Collection, Shores of Lake Ontario. My friend sold all of these in her studio in Prince Edward County while I was traveling. And I made the stones I collected on Seaham Harbour beach into another collection which were eagerly purchased by my sisters friends.

The stones have different characteristics depending on where they come from. The ones from Seaham Harbour, above, are very hard, and vary greatly in colour. I wish I had the knowledge to identify what kinds of stones they are, but I know some others are concretions, solidified mud or sedimentary rock and some are igneous, cooled lava, such as granite and basalt.

Georgian Bay stones, drilled and waiting for polish and further creation

Essentially, where the stones come from is as important to me as transforming them into something else and I think it will be for other people as well. It makes the pieces personal.

So my experiences are entwined with what I create on a fundamental level and it is important to me to express that.

I have also had to work through another issue. I like to do many things. I was quite surprised that it took a while to get my dremel back out and begin drilling things. I bought a dremel drill press in England and shipped it back to Canada. I don’t know how many lovely stones I drilled at an angle so that they were unusable, and the drill press gives me more control. But instead of drilling, I pursued other interests, and went down other creative alleys.

This is a “fake” picture because in real life I have to drill with water to keep the stone cool. Which also makes drilling in the middle of the stone hard due to the distortion of the water.

So part of my dilemma was, what am I going to focus on. And I realize I am not going to focus, because I don’t have to. Or not totally. I am interested in doing too many things. So I am not going to push myself to do just one thing over and over. That sounds an awful lot like work, and not creativity, and not fun. So who knows what else will pop up on these pages!

And talk about luck. The Southampton Arts Centre is presenting a series of workshops called Business of Art. It is very timely as the previous course I was going to take at Georgian Bay Centre for the Arts did not happen. By the end of the course I know I will feel more confident to take the next steps in the process of getting my work out into the world. Or my little world at least. I can’t wait.

Owen Sound: A city built on a human scale

Yes, I have find my iphone, ipad, laptop and imac turned on.

There are very few building taller than three stories in the old downtown area of Owen Sound. I live on the south end of main street, 2nd Ave E, the main business district is north of me, and as you can tell from the above picture it is largely buildings that are not very big. The streets and sidewalks are wide so there is a feeling of spaciousness when I walk downtown. A bit like Bloor Street West in Toronto. And it is easy to feel connected to the activities taking place in the town. Not long ago a subcontractor was tasked with stripping the old paint from all of the fire hydrants. (I would have wanted a really good mask for that job given how often my dog throws up his leg and pees on them.) Then they painted them grey and then back to yellow. I watched then do it over a series of weeks as I walked Tucker. When they were yellow again along came city workers and re-numbered them, and did something else that I had no previous knowledge of, they put a coloured disk on the side. One close to my house is blue. Of course I asked about it, and apparently it tells the fire department how strong the water flow is at that hydrant. Blue is strong flow. Amazing the coded messages we live beside and have no clue!

In Toronto all of that activity would have gone un-noticed by me, or largely so, lost in all of the other things happening on the streets. Noisy road repairs, pressure of traffic, house renovations, endless on Hastings Ave. Not that we don’t have those things here, but less so. Although I have been surprised by the number of sirens, maybe I am noticing them more because Tucker reacts and will howl along with them. But there is a Tim Hortons downtown that is known for drug dealing, and there have been an increase in overdoses during this plague. So if there is an ambulance in the Timmies parking lot it is likely that. Human sorrows are everywhere.

Close by my house is the Mill Dam, and alongside the dam is the fish ladder. Salmon returning from the ocean climb the ladder to spawn in the upper Sydenham River. During the height of the fish migration you can see the massed dark shape of the fish under the water and the fins breaking the surface. Quite a sight. Some of them attempted to try and get up the dammed area and wriggled ferociously to try and get to the top, but always to no avail. It was hard to watch them attempting it and being rebuffed by the force of the water, they tried so hard. A local group, I don’t know exactly who, yet, catch some of the fish and milk them for their eggs, and I guess sperm as well. Ok, I don’t know if the eggs are pre-fertilised. Another thing I have to learn.

Catching the fish for milking
Milking the fish
Waiting to be returned to the water, or for milking.
Captured salmon eggs

The eggs are taken to a fish hatchery and released in the spring below the Mill Dam. The men identified the fish that they were catching as fish that they had released four years ago. They mark them in some way. You could tell how happy they were to see them returning. These pictures were taken on a sunny day, one day they were there in the pouring rain, we have had A LOT of rain. Dedicated men. The Mill Dam is to the left of my house on the bend of the river, as seen on the first picture above.

Most of the fish were able to go up the ladder un-molested, and it lasts for weeks, it is just beginning to taper off now. Then they will lower the level of the river above the Mill Dam for the winter. Not sure why, yet.

If I was surprised at the number of businesses that clear snow in the winter from people’s driveways here, it is nothing in comparison to my surprise at how many people here pay someone to look after their lawn in the summer. Never mind the broadleaf weed killer that produce immaculate lawns, but also the lawn cutting. I am sure it is a lot of the same people doing both things, snow and lawns, but there are a lot of property maintenance companies here.

Large cities, and Toronto is no exception, have huge numbers of cultural events, music venues of all kinds, art exhibits, theaters by the oodles. It is easy to feel that you are missing so much, and to feel overwhelmed by it all. What to do, what to do, how to choose. Here it easier to get the measure of what is going on. Of course all the choirs are on hold until this plague is more under control, and Summerfolk went online, pretty successfully, but there is live music outside the market from Wednesday to Friday for a few more weeks. We are pretty spoiled for choice here, but not too much that we feel like we are missing out if we choose A over B. As I like it, a city on a human scale, at least to my way of thinking.

Fall is in full swing here in Owen Sound, and I can’t resist including some pictures. These are my favourite colours in nature. Sad that they portend winter. Winter would be fine if it wasn’t so darn long.

Who can believe the intensity of this red?

I love getting to know the neighbourhood, the cafe’s, the library, the Tom Thompson Museum, The Roxy Theatre, the Saturday Farmers Market, now reopened. The Bruce Trail, kayaking (next summer), cross country skiing, snowshoeing. And it is all manageable.

I loved all the responses to my last post, many talking about creativity. It may look as though I am ranging wide and deep into various new mediums, but it is made very easy by attending organized workshops. The three hour (or so) workshops at the Georgian Bay Centre for the Arts are structured so that you follow their general directions based on the art or craft. It is structured so that you get a taste of the art or craft but do not have to commit to learning it in detail. That would be a much longer process as I am attempting with silversmithing. I feel as though I can dip my toes into many different things without committing. But always end up with a finished product has a selection of great fall workshops, and I may just take:


But there are many others that are tempting. Almost too much choice! Even for a town built on a human scale!

Dreams really do come true

Now, I could have been writing this during the early covid period, but somehow I just didn’t have the heart. I felt lost, and definitely lost for words. There was too much swirling emotion to be able to write a fun and breezy blog post. But that was then, and this is now. We are stepping into a regressive lockdown as the second wave really gets going, but somehow my emotions are more stable and positive (except for that thing which will happen on November 3rd).

These are pictures of my wonderful new addition, the enclosed porch I wrote about in “On the edge of lockdown”.

It, like everything else, was put on hold during the early part of the first lockdown. Luckily I had my building permit, and I had ordered windows on the last day it was possible to order them, and they were ready. Now there are back orders for windows as it is hard to get some of the parts. The supply chain is disrupted, one of the many results of this plague and its effects.

As soon as it was possible, Sawchuk Carpentry got to work, and it proceeded at a rapid speed, something anyone who has had construction work done on their house will appreciate.

June 2, 2020

Interestingly one of the crew members could not return to work immediately as his wife was working from home. He was responsible for their child.

June 4, 2020
June 5, 2020

Every day more progress was made.

June 4th.

The trades all lined up beautifully, the electrician spent a day installing all of the rough in fixtures, and the insulation company came by to pump in the insulation foam on top of the cement floor of half of the old deck in an orderly and timely fashion.

June 12, 2020
They did a great job all round.

It would be an understatement to say that I am happy, I am delighted. I love being able to go into my workroom for a few hours and not have to unpack everything before I start, and to be able to leave it at the end of the session. It is not completely sorted out, I guess that will happen never, but things will find their homes as I use each station and figure out where they need to be. Interesting to me is the fact that it was unpacking my aromatherapy library that finally got me going. I am sure some of those books will never be read again, and they take up a lot of space, but it was obviously important to me that they be there. Go figure.

You would be forgiven if you didn’t know that there were as many aromatherapy books in the world as their actually are. And this is not an exhaustive collection.

Now it was up to me to finish all the projects I had dragged my feet on. Years ago I found this bench in St. John’s Norway Cemetery.

A church in downtown Toronto was closing and some of the benches were brought to the Cemetery for disposal. This is just a bench from Ikea, but it was FREE. I have since put many hours of work into it, sanding all those nooks and crannies. Way more time and effort than it was really worth, but it was FREE. I have discovered I can sew for days on end, knit till the cows come home, but I do not like sanding. But I am glad to say that it now looks like this.

A first for me, I made the cushion cover. Had to figure out the pattern. I used fabric bought in the market in Chester-le-Street, Durham. I paid 2 pounds a metre. Well worth the weight to bring it back to Canada.

The table you see was completely re-built. I had purchased it for Beaches Therapeutics when we moved to a store front location in 1989. Then I loaned it to my glass artist friend Caroline who used it for 20 years in her studio as a wrapping table. Now it is back in my possession but it was too big. Each of the two planks on either side were 14.5 inches wide. A huge tree. With a 5 inch plank in the middle. The 5 inches had to go. I was the apprentice helper to Sue who took it apart, re doweled all the joints and put it back together. I cleaned it up with wire wool and beeswax and oil polish.

It is full of life nicks and character and I love being able to finally use it.

As we came out of the first lockdown, Georgian Bay Centre for the Arts, ramped up their offerings and I feel as though they have become my home away from home. This was an afternoon workshop, transforming old silverplate trays into jewellery. The bangle is from a tray celebrating a marriage that took place in May 1964. Clearly no one wants silver plate as part of their inheritance. Then on to this:

One of the founders is renovating their house and they have piles of old lathe. Why not make it into art?

What blessed relief to spend time with other people doing something new and creative. Here I am socially distanced, hence no mask, but it is close by.

Just two weekends ago I did my fourth or fifth workshop, this time with Albert Cote, fabric artist extraordinaire. One day we dyed fabric with acrylic paint and the next we made layered quilted rugs.

My cousin Cathy’s
And Miguelle’s. Who has the same last name as me, Mann, no relation

They are not finished, but well along the way, and a really fun technique.

We sat like three ducks in a row, wearing our masks and working like demons. There is tremendous energy in the workshops, lots of focused attention.

I know we are in a second lockdown, and visiting is again restricted, but if you are interested in creative things to do I recommend signing up for their mailing list. It is a mini Haliburton School of the Arts, run all year. Staying with me may not be an option for the next while, but there are many inexpensive motels here. This coming weekend I am taking a “How to sell online” workshop. Two and a half days in a mask!

I wistfully call the second addition room my Muskoka room. But as you can see the view is not expansive, nor over water, but at least I have my fireplace……….

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