Saturday, June 29, 2013

Why Gardens?....

This past week Gardens have played a significant and necessary role in our life. Though each of the gardens was very different... each was unique in its plethora of beauty. Each  was created by loving hands in its own singular way; each touched my heart and stirred me to try and write this post. I hope that I can do each justice in my post.

The first garden is the largest of all. It is immense and takes in all of the Thousand Islands. This region we live in was originally called "Manitouana". In the language and meaning of the First Peoples who first inhabited this place, that word translates "Garden of the Gods." It truly has that sense of sanctity and spiritual power, as is evidenced by the fact that none of us who grow up and live here in this special place... can move away. We all return... drawn by an inner need to return to regain our sense of "Home" ... and belonging. I am blessed to be home!

The second garden is our own here at "Islesview" in Rockport." I watch (and weed) daily... in complete awe and wonder, as the floral clock created by a previous woman resident  garden keeper/artist moves... bloom through bloom... slowly inching its way through summer. One bloom barely begins to fade... than the next steps forward to replace its beauty and to extend the Joy that we all feel in "watching our garden grow." I often wonder to my Self... whether or not this woman, now living in Kingston misses her garden, or even knows how much pleasure and pure joy that her creation continues to offer to us... and the countless camera-toting touristas who take thousands of photos while visiting Rockport. I wonder....

Ever beautiful... even wet  and dark in the rain!

Beautiful structure... good enough to paint! Hey!... That's an idea!

Inukshuk... peeking over!

Beyond the smell and beauty of this rose treasure... lies the River! It doesn't get any better.... for "Me"!

Deb's latest Krrrrr-azee Kreashun! A gift from Rolly! You did him proud Debs! This ol' clunker now is the main Sony moment in Rockport! A true show stopper!

The third garden we visited was the truly Eden-like garden we were married in. That garden is the joint love and creation of our good Hillsdale pals, Rolly (The Bike Man) Hallyburton and his creative and lovely wife Grace. Revisiting that garden was so uplifting for Deb and I... and its magic and serenity did much to "gird up our loins" for the visit to our fourth and final garden stop in Midland, Ontario. Grace and Rolly's garden... yes ... Grace is mentioned first because it is HER Eden... her vision... her passion... and her generous gift to the world. Rolly works steadily along side her to make her vision emerge... but steps aside at the first hint of controlling its path. The garden is open to the public to visit... and it is visited frequently by people... many strangers 'from away'. It is a floral labyrinth of garden tableaux and niches... each tucked away lovingly... and purposefully to maximize the element of joy and surprise that one feels, as one works their way through this special solitude. It is purely a Heaven ... on Earth! I'll let my pictures and their piece of Creation do the virtual walking... and talking!

The wedding view from the bridge on Saturday, June 3rd, 2007... "My Three Sons"... my Best Men!!! Our Friend and pastor Lois Lyons represents our Creator...

The Bridge scene today... quite different and grey... hushed but still sacred!

We've survived... and prospered... together! I'm feelin' more comfy in my plein air tuxedo!

Pals Rolly, Deb and Grace ... fronted by Roxie... the real Boss!

Recognize this??? Stay tuned....

A bronzed pair of Lovebirds... could it be Rolls and Gracie???

A maritime moment! The three buoys were mine. I brought them with me back from Nova Scotia... thought they'd fit in well here!

There's Peter Rabbit... 'Greeter' on his corner of the meandering boardwalk

Five cents is a bargain!....A small price for the privilege of sharing this Garden Legacy... the photos only introduce the garden in a very rudimentary way! There's so much more... didn't want to curb your appetite to visit... should you ever have the chance!

Welcome... or come again soon!... to the Hallyburton Garden of Peace and Tranquility!!!

The last on our garden tour was a garden I have watched flower... and spent many happy hours in since its inception in the small backyard of Midland friends, John and Carol Phillips. Carol has lovingly added to its beauty.,.. much like Rolly and Grace, over many years. Each year she proudly opens her garden to residents of Midland during their annual garden tour event. It is a quiet... private place of Joy for The Phillips clan... and one end belonging entirely to the their lovely grand girls Jose, Mathilde and Carmel sports a unique large scale doll house complete with their own private deck. It is indeed Carol's version of a magical Neverland. Deb got a personal tour of these special 'digs'. Sorry... there are no pictures available... due to the nature of the visit. That will be another post for another day. Stay tuned....

Our visit this time was for other purposes however, and it was with a considerable sense of dread, reluctance and with heavy hearts that we came to that garden on Saturday, June 22nd. I would rather have not come... events struck too close to home for "Me" personally. But the sad circumstances and our long Friendship demanded that we "be there"... to support John and Carol in the celebration of their daughter Laurie's life and tragic passing; seventy odd other friends and family members felt as we did and responded out of a similar feeling of love and need.

The afternoon celebration began under threatening grey skies, but despite that fact, Fate determined that the predicted rain would not join us... and in John's own words:
"It didn't rain; in fact, everywhere Carol and I looked there was 'sunshine'... and much of it came from the warmth we felt from being surrounded by a loving, caring family... in specific, YOU!!! We both felt at home and uplifted and our sadness was wonderfully tempered by joy. Thank you so much for being there."

That phrase "sadness tempered by joy" strikes a resonate chord in my own heart... for that was the same overwhelming effect the celebration that I experienced... commencing with the drumming ceremony which Carol and her drumming family conducted. I had never been present at a live drumming performance, but the sacredness of the changing cadences of that throbbing rhythm immediately established a deeply felt heart-like presence... that one could easily imagine was "Lor's" (my pet name for Laurie). Its sudden conclusion restored a peace in the garden... which somehow had been missing when I had first entered this familiar place.

John's son Andrew (Andy) assumed a role as 'speaker' for the family... welcoming the seventy-odd family and friends gathered to celebrate Laurie's life, offering all present the opportunity to share their favourite or unique moments and feelings about Laurie's life... and many of us did. After John's sisters spoke... I offered my own sweet memories of Laurie: mine was that of her as my 'Picture Lady"... a memory evoked from John and Carol's 25th Wedding Anniversary party when Laurie was a newly-budded, beautiful teenage flower... just in that magical prime and fragrant fragility that only seventeen year old girls seem imbued with. Flash! Flash!... in my face... every time I turned around. "There were more pictures taken of me than John or Carol".... received many a chuckle and smile.

John and Carol had each opened their hearts and their home to "Me" in those years of my own recovery from a Darkness which had all but destroyed my own will to continue. I dearly needed to assure them that the same love they had offered "Me"... had permitted me to stand before them today 'whole" in spirit once again to honour Laurie's life and tragic passing. "Life is only about choices... and as human beings we all must make our own way and our own choices. Often those choices are not well thought out... and lead to pain and sometimes irrevocable tragedy in the lives of those standing by seemingly helpless and unable to do more than be present and support." And that is exactly what each of us were doing at this ceremony. "We"... as their Family and Friends were simply there to assure them of our Love... and our continuing Presence.

Music has always been a powerfully binding agent of our lifelong journey together, dating back to public school and Teen Town in Brockville in the Fabulous Sixties... when we "jived n' grooved" to our Golden Oldies every Friday night at the Masonic Temple. John and Ian Wilson (also present for the celebration) spun the 45's religiously every dance night. On Saturdays... we "pointed dem canoes to Gananoque"... and repeated the scene at The Canoe Club Saturday evening dances all summer long. Music shaped and banded us together in a 'brotherhood'... which has lasted up to this very day.

Music has formed the very heart beat of life in the Phillips Family over the years. Music has always been omni-present in their lives. A visit to their basement, seconded to house John's collection of musical memorabilia and his 60,000 (and still growing) vinyl collection... lovingly displayed alphabetical... by genre and numerous operative turntables to listen on. It is a veritable musical treasure trove... bolstered from every musical genre. John has 'gone digital' in later years... and has sprawled successfully into Carol's beautifully conceived Kitchen and family room. To some wives, it would be a 'deal breaker'... but for this magnificent and loving couple it is simply 'them'... and "the beat goes on"!

Corin Raymond, the son of John's long time friend Trevor is a young and talented folk and jazz troubadour hailing from Winnipeg. He was performing at The Annual Toronto Jazz Festival with his band, The Sun Downers and showed up on Saturday to offer a guitar and vocal tribute to honour Laurie, John and Carol. Carol and John had hosted a launch for one of his CDs in their kitchen... truly 'kitchen music'! That's how the ball bounces... in the world of j-jivin johnny and Carol ! The lyrics resonated so beautifully with the occasion's underlyoing purpose...."Lord don't take me to the mountain yet... I'm not ready..."  Our gathering of celebrants...swaddled in song and love. Love does indeed conquer all... and indeed "tempers the sadness with Joy." Gardens house the music of all Creation... and Music is the salve of healing... for the heart!

Our celebration ended with a "listening"- a sharing of 'Lor's' Fav Tunes List... as wide-reaching as John's to include the likes of 'her men" Ray and Otis and gal Janice... to her hit men Led Zeppelin. One tune which "Lors" and I shared... and understood well without ever talking about it was "Dream Weaver" by Reo Speed Wagon. "Hear" the words... and you will understand why choices are made... and the pain can finally end.

Dream Weaver,
Just closed my eyes again
Climbed aboard the dream weaver train
Driver take me away from my worries of today,
And leave tomorrow behind
Ooh Dream Weaver
I believe you can get me through the night
I believe we can reach the morning light.....

"Though the dawn may be coming
There may still be some time
Fly me away to the bright side of the moon
And meet me on the other side."

In closing this Garden post....
"Death leaves a heartache,
No one can heal.
But love leaves a memory,
No one can steal."

My love and gratitude for our Friendship will never be far away from you John and Carol. I cherish the moments we have shared and the memories we created together. The most painful of these will pale and fade away in the presence of the Love that your lives has extended to so many of us... and that we will always return to you. And 'Lors'... none of will ever forget your creative gifts that you so deeply loved crafting... that puckish smile...  that sardonic... one-of-its-kind 'Cat Woman' wit... and for "Me"... those fabulous 'Kodak Moments' that continue to light my sweet, special memories of "You"!

See "You"... "on the other side"!
Much Eternal Peace... finally!


"A Bounty of Blessings" - oil on canvas 30x24 inches

Recognize the wheelbarrow? This was a plein piece painted in Rolly and Grace's Garden Sanctuary on the Thanksgiving weekend of 2012. I had given the wheelbarrow which had been my maternal Grandfather Birrell's in his simple... beautiful, well-kept and treasured garden... as a token of thanks to our dear friends for permitting us to be married in their garden. It seemed appropriate for it to remain there as a reminder of our joining together for this celebration.

I had numerous opportunities to sell this piece since then... but it mysteriously (to me)continued to 'hang around'... as some good paintings often do.... until they are really needed.  I decided that this painting be with John and Carol in tribute to their 'garden tending' of flowers... and Friends like my Self and to the memory of this special celebration and their beautiful flower, 'Lors.'

"I" am deeply blessed..... to have such Friends as those mentioned in this post!

"The greatest gift we can offer those who have left us, is to fully live our lives in their place."


  1. Dear Bruce,
    How sad and beautiful at the same time, love, friendship, gardens. You are so right Bruce, "The greatest gift etc."

    All the best to you and Deb,

  2. Good morning Joan!... Thank you for your visit and understanding comment!

    I hestitated in offering this post... partly because of the sadness ... but as well because of the private nature of the post. So many bloggers mask their identities and personal feelings out of fear perhaps of revealing too much... or even offending.

    But my blog is intended as an "open mike" forum for both parties to freely exchange ideas and feelings... without a need for censorship. It is based purely upon personal choice. I like to believe that my motives and intentions are "transparent"... and in no way are intended to put my values above others.

    I choose to live freely... and in peace ... where others will respect and fully embrace that view as their own.

    A belated Happy Independence Day to you and Mike!

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,