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Wendi Stewart - Wendi with an 'eye'

Wendi lives in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley, but the farm on Rainy River in Crozier will always be her home. MEADOWLARK, her debut novel released September 15, is published by NeWest Press of Edmonton. She is the mother of four daughters who did the unforgivable: they grew up.

Poetry cannot be taught

I'm not sure poetry can be taught. We can be taught to arrange words together that rhyme, just the same as we can be taught to play the notes we see on a sheet of music, but that is not the same as creating magic.

I think writing poetry is a skill as innate as the artist's hand that controls the paintbrush. We can be taught to admire the craft of creating an image, an understanding, with words—words so carefully chosen the result looks effortless.

The two faces of January

I regularly bemoan January's negative qualities and whine about January to anyone who will listen.

How January pulls my shoulders to my ears, my chin to my chest, and hunches my shoulders as I hurry in with wood and hurry “Gracie” as we walk—not to mention how difficult the struggle is to extract myself from my warm cozy bed.

But just when I have had enough of January, January changes the game.

The reasons why I continue to write

I am willing to bet that self-doubt is a common human affliction—and is even more of a hidden struggle for those who display a quality I find most offensive: hubris.

I was at an art gallery in Halifax last year to visit an exhibition of an artist friend of mine. Alan Bateman was in the audience and he made a comment about self-doubt and I was taken aback.

He is considered one of Canada's finest realists in visual art and is the son of Robert Bateman, an international household name. Self-doubt? How is that possible.

Time to level the playing field

I am going to throw some facts at you. The United States is home to 4.4 percent of the world's 7.53 billion population, whereas Canada represents only .5 percent of the world's population.

Some 22 percent of the world's prisoners are behind bars in the U.S. In 2015, the Washington Post reported that 478/100,000 people are incarcerated in the United States, the world's highest rate, as compared to New Zealand's 192/100,000, Canada's 188/100,000, Australia's 180/100,000, and Japan's 51/100,000.

I might be a little bit cranky

The business of being alive takes a great deal of time and some days, not all day, but some days, the business of being alive makes me cranky and I want to head into the wilderness and live in a tent.

Let me explain.

My credit card was hacked last month and so the bank cancelled my card, without letting me know, and issued a new one that took 10 days to reach me.

Perfect in our imperfection

I find myself thinking of those whose hearts are aching; who are pierced with a longing that raises its pain at every breath and who feel the only way to stop the agony is to stop breathing.

It is a hushed conversation. We readily discuss the horrors of cancer and its treatment that ravages the body. I have regular discussion with my daughter on how she manages the wretched diabetes and the byproducts of her daily care.

We ask for specifics about diseases and injuries that are visible to our eye. But meaningful conversation rarely digs into the mystery of mental illness.

Bask in the warmth

'Tis the season of remembering and though we get caught up in shopping and decorating and baking, the remembering is the best part for me.

I was digging through my box of decorations last week and I reached for four separate items that make Christmas for me—one from each daughter when they were children (though they always are children in my eyes, especially at this time of year).

'Tis the season for giving

The holiday season is here and you know what that means: lists.

I have lots of lists this time of year. My Christmas baking list is a good one, though it doesn't always reach fruition. It's a bit like buying a gym pass in January. It seems like a superb strategy but after day three . . . who was I kidding.

I am a hermit 50 weeks of the year. But for two weeks at Christmas, I come out from under my rock to deliver yummy baking to my neighbours for two reasons: to give them my best wishes at Christmas and to assure them I am not lying dead somewhere in my house.

Putting on my big girl pants

I am shocking my drilled well.

It's winter and the cap of the well was buried in snow but I found it and dug it out. The nuts for the well cap bolts were a little rusted (okay, a lot rusted) and took some cranking—and my arthritic thumbs shouted back.

To shock the well, I told it off-colour jokes and swore at it, using almost all the harshest language I could think of and then I poured 133 gallons of chlorine bleach into it. I may be exaggerating but it seemed very much like 133 gallons as the chlorine glugged into the well.

Not ready to be old yet

I was thinking about the concept of aging. It's subtle; tends to sneak up on us and if it weren't for mirrors, most of us would take little notice of our changing bodies.

But some days, Mother Nature, with her wicked side, likes to shout it out. “You're old,” she says, her voice with a cruel attitude, like she got up on the wrong side of the bed and wants to ruin someone's day before her morning coffee.

Today was one of those days for me.