All posts by Karen J. McLean

Nose in a Book

“Karen can often be found with her nose in a book” was a frequent comment in my childhood report cards.  I smile now, remembering, because that is exactly how I am sitting now — with my nose buried in a book.

I live in a small city on the east coast of Canada, and I am well-known in several circles as a fervent Thoreauvian — one who is more than just a mere fan of Henry David Thoreau, but practically an evangelist.  My Facebook is as decorated with Thoreau as the back of my car is with Thoreauvian bumper stickers.  In short, people know.

So when a friend had come into his possession a copy of a Thoreau ex-libris volume dated 1882, he knew I’d be interested.  “Interested” was putting it mildly.  So he dropped it off at my husband’s computer shop, and my husband brought it in to me just as my online writing group settled in to weave with words.

I rest my nose against the edges of the pages, and there is that heavenly old book smell — of old tables, of ancient church choir rooms, and of vanilla.  (My friend, a museum conservator, told me that the chemicals that break down in old paper are closely related to the chemical composition of vanilla.  I believe her.)

The first thing I did was open it up to see the library markings.  Some people loathe such things, but I am delighted by them.  Like marginalia, these relics show the journey of a book.  How many people had read it along the way to me?  The fact that it is marked “St. John” and not “Saint John” tells me that it was probably withdrawn before 1950 or so.  Where did it go after that?  How did my friend find it?

I now see the Introduction was written by Henry’s friend (yes, we are on a first-name basis) H. G. O. Blake, and I feel the warmth of recognition.

Then I realize the book was published thirty years after the date of the first entry, and twenty years after Henry died.  Suddenly this tome feels all the more precious — an intimate link between me and the man himself.

Last week another friend saw a hard-to-find two-volume set of Henry’s journals in a local used book store, and snatched them up for me, saying I could pick them up and pay him when convenient.

I am blessed and grateful for my friends, who not only know how much Thoreau books mean to me, but go out of their way to put them into my hands.

Henry would approve, I think.


This post was created as part of Two Writing Teachers’ Slice of Life Challenge

You can view other writers’ contributions via the comments here.

The First of July.

Today is the 154th anniversary of Canada becoming a country, rather than a collection of British colonies. Happy Canada Day to those who are celebrating.

I may set this post to “no comments.”   I don’t want to launch into political debate here. I just wish to mark the day while I sort out my own complicated and conflicted feelings.

The Canada I believed in — the one I thought I was part of — does not exist. But I’m slowly realizing that it can.

With a lot of hard work, compassion, education, humility, and — most of all — listening, this can become the country I thought it was.

When Summer Hits …

… it packs a punch.

The thing I love most about living along the Bay of Fundy is the way it moderates our weather here.  In the winter, while the rest of the province is getting pummeled with snow, the words “rain along the Fundy Coast” are music to my ears.  And in the summer, while people a mere fifteen-minute drive upriver are sweltering, life here is quite bearable.

So what the heck is happening this week?!

This afternoon, it was 30 deg C/ 86 deg F, but with the humidex, it was a “feels like” temperate of 40 deg C/104 deg F.  I know that compared to what is happening out on the west coast, this pales in comparison, but it’s just one more thing that is completely unrecognizable to me in this weird decade of the 2020s.

Anyone else of a certain age think we’re going to wake up to find Bobby Ewing in the shower, and the last year and a half was all a dream?

They always say that, while in the Maritimes, “If you don’t like the weather, just wait ten minutes.”

I’m still waiting.

By the air conditioner.


This post was created as part of Two Writing Teachers’ Slice of Life Challenge

You can view other writers’ contributions via the comments here.

Morning Pages and Musings

I was in my late-twenties, I think, when I first heard of Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way, and Morning Pages.

The idea behind Morning Pages is pretty simple: you write — by hand — three pages of whatever is in your head as soon as you can upon waking each morning.

For about twenty years, I tried to get into the habit.  I loved the idea; it was just the execution that took awhile to make a consistent part of daily life.

Then a couple of years ago, two things happened: 1) I found my ultimate Morning Pages destination, the Itoya Profolio Oasis Notebooks (which are a dream to write in, plus assist in improving my handwriting, and 2) I decided that if I could only write one page, due to time or health constraints, then that was good enough!  And BINGO!  The habit was begun!

This morning I finished my first Morning Pages notebook of the year.  Flipping back through all of those pages was so satisfying!

And it was interesting to see, too, how much one can tell by my handwriting on any given day.  Was I rushed?  Was the autoimmune disease strongly affecting my hand that day?  Was my new kitten king-konging up the back of my chair and conducting guerilla hairstyling moves on my unsuspecting head?

Speaking of the new kitten … Bronson has a blog.  It’s a fun project to work for me to work on, when the serious writing has become a bit too hard on the head.

He has been here just five full days, and he has brought so much joy.  I love sitting at my desk, writing, while he dreams away in my lap.


This post was created as part of Two Writing Teachers’ Slice of Life Challenge

You can view other writers’ contributions via the comments here.

Spring Rain

When I was in my early twenties, back before the turn of the century, I was obsessed with a Crabtree & Evelyn fragrance called Spring Rain.

It smelled of no such thing, of course, but the phrase alone reminded me of walking in the rain with my favourite umbrella, amongst the brilliant green trees anchored in kelly green grass.

Spring is my favourite season — as the witnesses to my yearly countdown on Facebook will attest.  There is nothing I love more about being outdoors than taking in as much moist, rich air as I possibly can — as if I am taking in all the newly awakened life around me, feeling it settle into my blood, into my cells, rejuvenating me.

There is something about a spring rain that reminds me that even sadness can be wonderful, that out of every ending comes new beginnings, that some things that seemed lost forever will appear once more.

And each time I forget, the spring rain reminds me all over again.


This post was created as part of Two Writing Teachers’ Slice of Life Challenge

You can view other writers’ contributions via the comments here.