Being a freelance writer can be a pain sometimes, when people don't pay their invoices on time or cancel stories or sources refuse to return emails or phone calls...but that's a very, very very small part of my working life. My dear friend and award-winning novelist Ami McKay quotes another writer who says we should all 'Follow our bliss'. I am so blessed in so many ways to be able to do just that.
Late summer and early autumn may irk me in some ways, but in other ways they are great. For the past few years, I've been away for a week or so every year on some kind of adventure or another. A couple of years it's been going to sea with the Canadian Coast Guard Ship Hudson, doing ocean research; one year it was also to go on fisheries patrol and Search and Rescue with CCGS Cygnus (I was away a LOT in the fall of 2005!) For three years I sat on the board of a national writers association and we had board meetings in Toronto in the fall; not the most marvelous place to visit, but China Town and the Royal York are always lovely. Last year, I found myself on a train trip west, courtesy of Via Rail's Garden Route, and some of the gardens on the route. In six days, I visited five cities and many gardens: Montreal, home of the Montreal Botanical Gardens and International Flora;
Ottawa/Gatineau, home of MacKenzie King's Estate
Toronto, where they tear up native gardens, but have the Toronto Botanical Gardens as a salve to their guilty conscience.
Burlington/Hamilton, home of the exquisite Royal Botanical Garden, which next to Kingsbrae is my favourite (of those I've visited); (and not far from Niagara Falls, which is seriously cool, despite the tacky Neon of Clifton Hill;
And the surprise in the bunch, Windsor, Ontario, across from Detroit--a place I'd never been before. The edge of the tallgrass prairie, and home to a wealth of gardens, especially along their clean and restored waterfront. Detroit city fathers ought to take note, given what I could see across the river. I REALLY loved my visit to Windsor, a completely different part of the world from my sea-washed homeland.
Tomorrow, I begin this year's adventure. Back in June, you may recall that I went to see my absolute Hort Hero, Captain Dick Steele. We talked about many things, including his yearly trip to northern Newfoundland and Labrador, and I asked about going this year: was there room, how much would it cost, etc.
I came home from that visit and started squirreling away a little cash here and there...and tomorrow, I'm off on a plant-hunting expedition with Dick and about 14 others, including two of my other hort-heros, several nursery owners from here in the Valley.
I can hardly wait. We are meeting in various locations, as there are several people flying in from the US; but some of us are taking the ferry from North Sydney (Cape Breton Island) to Port Aux Basques, on the west coast of Newfoundland. Then we're driving over several days to the top of the Great Northern Peninsula, through Gros Morne National Park (which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site) and up to St. Barbe, taking the ferry across to Quebec near the Labrador border, and then driving up the Labrador coast to take a ferry to Battle Island, home of Battle Harbour Historic site. There will be many spells of 'Urgent Plant Hunting Madness' along the way, although I'm not going along to collect seed or scions for myself. Rather, I'm listening, watching, taking photos and learning as much as I can from all these marvelous, knowledgeable people. Some of us, including me, will also be travelling to Newfoundland's Other UNESCO site, L'anse a Meadows, home of the first known European settlers/explorers site (where the Vikings landed.)
How great is this: botany, history, geography and geology, all in one awesome trip. The only drawback, of course, is that my longsuffering spouse isn't able to come on this trip--and neither are the catchildren, especially Spunky Boomerang, who knows something is up and IS.NOT.IMPRESSED. But they'll all be fine, and I'll bring back treats of various sorts, including Pure Labrador Bakeapple products. If you don't know what a bakeapple is...stay tuned and you'll learn. Internet connectivity may be sporadic, but I'll do up a few posts and get them out when I can. Ditto email. But there will be lots of stories to tell, so do come back to visit often!