poetry and prose about place

Archive for August 2011

the glassed-in porch

with 2 comments

My grandfather lived in a big white farmhouse.  It had rooms and rooms, but the focus of life was the kitchen.  On rainy days, we could play there quietly. 

Sometimes we were allowed to spend the afternoon in the glassed-in porch just off the kitchen.  It was whitewashed, and had filmy white curtains and wide window ledges. 

On those ledges was a fastinating collection of knick-knacks and trinkets.  Examining these items was very entertaining although we were not really allowed to touch anything. 

I have tried to emulate this magical jumble of artifacts in my own home, but some spaces are impossible to duplicate. 

a collection on a window ledge


glassed-in porch in rain


rainy day glassed-in porch

tall windows and white step

down from the kitchen

to linoleum     wicker table    a cot

never-used porch door

at the windows, white ledges

keepsakes and trinkets

‘look but don’t touch’


big clock in the kitchen ticks

red-eared slider frantic against

the frosted sides of his bowl

rain taps at the window


irresistible urge to give the turtle

respite, lift the curtain to admire

the rain, lift the velvet lid

of the purple box, Port Maitland

iron pyrite safe inside, encourage

dippy bird to tip and drink

from the glass of water, blue tulips

and a chip in its rim

nudge the red and yellow-flocked

parrot above the cot, swing him

on his metal perch, rearrange ceramic chicks

to peck at whitewashed window ledge

focus rose bowl ruby light

on china pig, puzzle out flowers

and holes on his back, turn the bud vase over

‘where is Occupied Japan?’

pour buttons from the jar, sort

and match Meteghan sea glass, marbles

in a coffee can, take a ship with scallop shells

for sails along the sill 

trace paths of hesitant rain

droplets on glass


© Jane Tims 2011

Written by jane tims

August 31, 2011 at 7:17 am

in hurricane rain

with 3 comments

Hurricane Irene is past and the skies are clearing after 44 mm of rain yesterday and a very windy night.

I feel so sorry for those who are left in misery after the storm, but our experience was rather tame.  My memories will be:

…bands of rain across the yard…

rain viewed from the window

…waking up to a lawn riddled with leaves…

leaves on our ‘lawn’ of violets…why do they all seem to land upside down?

…a clear sky in the middle of the night.  A star was shining through our window, made alternately non-existent and brilliant by the wild movement of the tree branches in the wind.  The star was so bright it woke me…

the trees above our deck rocked wildly all night long

…our demented windchime.  A mangle at the best of times, the poor thing is so tangled, it may not be possible for me to figure out the puzzle…

my poor tangled windchime …yes it is rusty but it makes a lovely sound

…everything saturated, the bird bath full of clean, fresh water and our driveway like soup…

bird bath and rain

My first knowledge of the power of a hurricane was associated with Hurricane Hazel.  I was born the year it hit in 1954 (October 15), but its ‘bad reputation’ lived long enough for me to hear stories of it as a child.  In its wake, 81 people in Ontario were dead due to flooding, and 4000 people in southern Ontario were left homeless.




hurled northward

toward home

            and me   bewildered

                        wind at the roof

                        rain at the glass

                                    faint imitation

                                    of the rage

                                    described in the encyclopaedia

                        more like the silent eye


I turned the page

saw a photograph in disbelief

            a straw driven

            into the heart of a tree

            still standing


today, I believe


I stand still

while fury lashes around me

and in the quiet, I

am impaled

by a word


Published as: ‘Hurricane’, 1993, The Amethyst Review 1 (2)


© Jane Tims

Written by jane tims

August 29, 2011 at 10:04 pm

edge of lake

with 3 comments

Water is essential to my health, not only because I need it to drink.  I also need to see water.  Whether it’s the water of a stream, river, lake or ocean, being near water comforts and enlivens me.  

I like the transitions too, the places where land and water meet – the seashore, the margins of a brook, or the shoreline of a lake.  Birds and other animals love ‘edge’ – places where the food is plentiful and cover is available.  We go to the lake shore to watch loons diving for fish, deer wading in the marsh grass and ducks ‘dabbling’ along the shore. 

edge of lake


evening edge


of lake

a corner torn

from the loaf of hills

red with setting        


faint click

sun gone

dusk and bread crumbs scattered


nasal chuckle

from the farther shore

arrows etched on glass        


blue-winged teal

under wings a glimpse

of summer night


greedy for crust and crumbs


© Jane Tims  1998

evening edge of lake

Written by jane tims

August 29, 2011 at 7:12 am

trampled grass on a flat-topped hill

with 2 comments

I change the spaces I enter, even when I enter only for a moment.  I am an intruder.  I am certain feet have scurried into hiding just as I arrive.  Sounds have ceased.  Scents and tastes have been altered.

Once in a while, my difference can be disguised.  I can enter before the space can know I am there.  If I am quiet, if I walk softly, some agent will help me pass through the veil and remain unnoticed, just long enough to see and hear and taste the true essence of the place.  Often, the generous agent is the wind.

It was a favorite hike, an old cart track winding up the side of a dome-shaped hill in the Elkwater Lake area of the Cypress Hills in southern Alberta.  The hill had a flat top and a thick bristle of conifers along the sides.  On the flat top was a fescue grass meadow, a bit of prairie perched a layer above the mixed grasslands. 

a hill at Elkwater Lake ... coniferous woods and grassland on the same hill

The track was not much more than two ruts, worn into the grass.  It curved up the side of the hill, so the approach was gentle, gradual.  Then, abruptly, the hilltop.  If the wind was right, I could surprise the deer.  They yarded there, grazing the grasses, etching paths into the meadow.  

If the wind stayed in my favor, the deer would linger, chewing their cuds, watching me, but not registering my difference.  As long as the wind blew I could watch, but if it settled, my scent would reach the deer.  They would lift their heads and tails and be off in a few zigzag bounds. 


 deer yard

on a flat-topped hill



below the hill is the distant prairie  

speargrass and grama grass

and the sweetgrass hills of Montana


the grass at my feet is different

fescues of the Cypress Hills

flat-topped remnants of the Great Plateau

untouched by glacier scour



bless the wind

it sorts the grasses

lifts each hair

ruffles the limp and fine


wind nudges the stubble

the artist’s bristle

the tail hairs of the doe

the chop of fresh grass


her gentle cud

her watchful eyes

wind in the spokes

of the mule deer wheel


the trampled paths

a game of fox and geese

or the part teased by wind

into sun-blond hair



if the wind takes a breath

if the grass or the hair 

settles on the shoulder

of the hill

she runs!


seeks the safety

of the downslope






curious on this flat-topped hill

its rightful place

the ancient prairie


Published as: “deer yard on a flat-topped hill”, 2010, Canadian Stories 13 (76)




© Jane Tims

deer on the grasslands of Nebraska (2002)

Written by jane tims

August 28, 2011 at 8:11 am

a place to wait, out of the rain

with 2 comments

My husband and I love to go for drives in the countryside, and we often turn these trips into ‘expeditions for collection’.  For example, in 1992, we began a project to see all the covered bridges in the province; of the more than 60 covered bridges in New Brunswick, we have ‘collected’ about three-quarters.   Recently, we began a quest to see as many waterfalls as possible (the state of my arthritic knees puts the emphasis on the ‘as possible’).

This spring, we set out with a very reasonable goal, to see the three lychgates at Anglican churches in the Diocese of Fredericton (all of the Parishes in New Brunswick are located in the one Diocese).  This idea came from a short article in the New Brunswick Anglican in 1997 by Frank Morehouse (‘Only three lych gates remain in the diocese).  The three lychgates are at St. Anne’s Chapel in Fredericton, St. James Church in Ludlow, and St. Paul’s Church in Hampton.

Lychgates are an architectural remnant of past practice, dating back to the 13th century.  They were used as a part of the funeral service, a place for the priest to meet the body of the deceased on its way to burial, and a shelter for the pall bearers to stand out of the rain.  The word lychgate comes from the Anglo-Saxon word lych meaning corpse.

A typical lychgate is made of wood, and consists of a roof supported by a framework of two or more posts, and a gate hung from the framework.  Lychgates usually stand at the entrance to the church property or the graveyard.  They can be architecturally ornate. 

Today the lychgate is a picturesque feature of the churchyard, but they also create habitat for wild life.  Spiders tuck their webs in the rafters of the structure where they are safe from wind and rain.  The shingled roof of a lychgate is often a place where lichens and mosses can grow without competition from other plants.

Our collection of lychgates at Anglican churches in New Brunswick is complete.  We found the lychgate in Fredericton on a rainy day in April… 

lychgate at St. Anne's Chapel in Fredericton, on a rainy day

… the Ludlow lychgate on a hillside in early July…

lychgate at St. James Church, Ludlow
…and the lychgate in Hampton beside the church and a very old graveyard in August.

lychgate at St. Paul's Church, Hampton... green lichen on the lychgate roof and orange lichen on the stone wall


a place to wait, out of the rain


as if the rain matters

all of us drenched in tears

best for this to be

a grey day

heaven opened

for two way passage


the Sentences encourage me

to lift my eyes

and in the rafters of the lychgate      a spider

spinning its web


as if it were a tale that is told

about a roof that protected me

the sun shall not burn thee by day,

 neither the moon by night

neither the rain


(quotations in the poem are from The Book of Common Prayer, ‘The Order for the Burial of the Dead’,  Canada, 1962)

© Jane Tims 2011

Written by jane tims

August 27, 2011 at 10:07 am

a map of my grandfather’s farm

with 3 comments

“My grandfather’s farm was like a community itself, a miniature village of buildings.  They included the main house, the big barn and various out-buildings.  In my memory, there were about eight buildings in all, each with its own purpose, and its own sights, sounds, smells, tastes and stories.” (August 1, 2011, on my grandfather’s farm)

a farm near Moncton ... like a village of buildings

Below is a map of my grandfather’s farm, as I remember it. 

The buildings were in a setting of the spaces around them – the orchard, the pastures, the barn yard and the garden. 

Some of the buildings, the barn, the house, the mink pen, the garage and the bird loft, I remember very well.  Other buildings, the wagon shed, the machine shed, and the shed beside the pasture, I remember only a little.  Since my brothers and sister don’t remember these last three at all, or remember other configurations, perhaps these buildings are part of a manufactured memory.   

a simple map of my grandfather's farm (not to scale)


an apple tree like the one I remember, with a branch made for sitting and reading


Written by jane tims

August 27, 2011 at 7:49 am

deep waters – Clear Lake

with one comment

As a result of my work, I have been privileged to see some remote, very special places in New Brunswick. 

One of these is Clear Lake, a pristine lake in the south west area of the province.  To reach Clear Lake, we canoed across Sparks Lake and made the short portage from Sparks to Clear.  The portage crosses the narrow divide between two watersheds – Sparks Lake eventually flows into the Magaguadavic River, while Clear Lake is part of the Pocologan River system.

topographic map showing Clear Lake, Horseback Lake and Sparks Lake

Clear Lake is a deep lake with remarkably clear water.  Lake depth measurements from the New Brunswick Aquatic Data Warehouse show the maximum measured depth to be 29.6 meters (97 feet), although deeper depths have been recorded.  Stones on the bottom of the lake look like they are only centimetres away, but when you put your hand into the water, you quickly realise they are far out of reach.

standing beside Horseback Lake, a small lake just west of Clear Lake, October 1992 (photo by J. O'K.)


Clear Lake


behind us

dry leaves settle

waves on Sparks and Redrock


Clear Lake

bottle blue

silences our chatter

reeds and aluminium



we glide


between islands

group of seven trees

flung southward

quartz cobbles

rim the shore

dark Porcupine

bristles with conifers

tangled in the surface

plunge eighteen fathoms

to a cove

gathered in arms

of granite and pine

a cabin perched green

shadows peering

over the edge                                               


sudden and silent

sunken logs

caressed by crescent suns

cast through ripples

only a touch away


through the mirror


numb fingers search




essence always

out of reach



in the clear lake         



Published as: “Clear Lake”, 1999, River Revue 5


© Jane Tims

Written by jane tims

August 26, 2011 at 6:57 am

a woodland stream in southern Alberta

with 2 comments

When we were children, living in Alberta, Mom and Dad took us for drives on the weekends.  Usually, we explored the prairie roads or the landscape of the South Saskatchewan River.  Sometimes, though, we sought the wooded areas of southern Alberta. 

A place we visited more than once was a small wooded stream in the Cypress Hills.  We called it ‘Greyburn Gap’, probably after the nearby community of Greyburn’s Gap.  The site had a picnic table and shelter, woods to explore, and the little stream. 

The Cypress Hills area is an eroded plateau, rising above the Alberta and Saskatchewan prairies.  It was left unglaciated during the last ice age and has a flora and fauna much different than the surrounding prairie.  Part of the Cypress Hills is protected as the Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park.

Elkwater Lake and the wooded landscape of the Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park as they appeared in 1967

My parents were raised in Nova Scotia and were accustomed to the forests of the Atlantic Provinces.   The Cypress Hills, and the woods of Elkwater Lake, where we had a cabin, must have helped them feel more at home in Alberta. 

mixed woods of Elkwater Lake area (2002)

our cabin at Elkwater Lake (1967)


Greyburn Gap, Alberta


I remember    a brook threaded through the trees like string   

black water in the gap between gossamer and fern

a fence to mark its moving   a fallen fir

to tangle its water    our hands

trailing in the eddy


a jug of root beer   sunk to the neck   to move the brook’s cold shiver

into our summer bodies



 © Jane Tims, 2011

Written by jane tims

August 24, 2011 at 8:04 am

watching the wind

with 3 comments

The wind fills empty air space with movement and sound.  When the wind blows, the void above us suddenly has form and power and dimensionality.  It can lift a kite.  It can steal a balloon.  It can fill the air with dandelion fluff.  It can convince you a seagull lives to soar. 

My favourite way to ‘see’ the wind is to watch clothes drying on a line.  Colourful towels, flowered table cloths, patterned pyjamas, and white cotton underwear. They sway together and lift as the wind catches them.  Surely the whole line will sail away.

 Do you have a clothesline and do you hang out your bedding to dry?

a clothesline in the countryside


Hanging out bedding to dry


by the last acre

of oat field

grown golden in the sun

and wind


wet sheets billow


up and outward

the long husks of the grainheads

sigh like pebbles

sorted by the sea



pegged to a blue horizon

tug at the line

cedar masts are set

firm in the island till


quilts and coverlets

spinnaker and mizzen

carry me

over the wind-washed

waves of grain



Published as: ‘hanging bedding to dry’, Summer 1995, The Amethyst Review 3(2)


© Jane Tims

Written by jane tims

August 23, 2011 at 6:48 am

niche beneath waterfall

with 6 comments

This past weekend, we made a visit to two of New Brunswick’s waterfalls: Erbs Falls and Smith Falls, both on the Kingston Peninsula.   

Erbs Falls begins as a quickening of the water of Peters Brook in a narrowing gorge.

 At this time of year, the water proceeds in one of two pathways, down the labyrinth of the fish ladder…

…or into a deep, narrow gorge through the bedrock…

… to emerge into the sunlight as Erbs Falls.

Smith Falls begins as a series of smaller falls in the brook.  The path runs along the brook, so we saw every ripple and dip.

Upper Moss Glen Falls

The water plunges over the lip of the falls…

…flows past a small cave…

… and forces its way between rocks over the lower part of the falls.

Waterfalls are the ultimate experience of water.  At the base of the waterfall are the mingled sounds of the thundering water and the gurgle of the stream.  The shade and mists are cooling, refreshing.  Sneakers get wet, hands are washed in cold water, and balance is tested as you follow the downward path of the waterfall.

I also like to think about the shape of the rock under the falls.  I watch the spout and flume of the water to see what solid shapes beneath the flow have shaped the waterfall.  I try to see through the white curtain of water to see the rock and stone, and understand how they are both revealed and concealed by the waterfall.

beneath waterfall


what can I do

to cover me

feign a drip of waterfall

from a single eye

or a flume

from the fluid of two


shall I arrange

my hair to hide beneath

my skin a wasp-nest

paper waterfall

hung lightly


who will see me

if I place my hands on rock

freckles are dapples of sun

fingernail glints of mica

or whorls in fingerprint

swirl like water


the spare notes of white-throat

or fluid jubilee of robin

flow over, compose sheet

music of quarter notes

to cover me


sitting here

on the edge of the bed

far from waterfall

electric fan for breeze

electric bulbs for sparkle

down-filled white duvet 

to hide beneath


© Jane Tims  2011

Written by jane tims

August 21, 2011 at 10:32 pm

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